All Barnes Myself: A man in transition

Nigeria 66 – 110 Team USA

Harrison Barnes: 8p / 2r / 0a

Four years ago to the day, I was on layover in Heathrow Airport. The Olympics were in full swing just a few miles away, but my personal bankruptcy was even nearer. I’ll never forget watching golden morning light stream over the television replay as Team USA virtually reenacted its positive trouncing of Nigeria. Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points in 14 minutes. The Redeem Team shot over 70% from the field, and over 60% from three. I still rewatch from time to time to recall that rush of invincibility.

And as Londoners gathered round to ask why the fuck I was still watching a game between two teams separated by forty, fifty, sixty points, I could only smile. Surely this congenial passivity explained the sun’s setting on the once-dominant British Empire. Surely this pusillanimous country would deserve #Brexit2016, just a few bewildering years away. Surely this commemorative U.S. team couldn’t outperform the Dream Team, but it did, obliterating the all-time Olympics record for points scored, and 2n+10ing a modern opponent 156-73 in the process.

I’ll always cherish watching the Redeem Team smash Africa’s powerhouse squad en route to winning the gold. But, will I remember how did Harrison Barnes did four years later?

Highlight: [USA 9-2] Barnes 3pt Shot: Made (3 PTS) Assist: Lowry (1 AST) 07:57
[USA 78-41] Barnes 3pt Shot: Made (6 PTS) Assist: Anthony (1 AST) 2:03

“I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” -Psalm 119:60

With Kyrie out resting a minor thigh injury, Barnes — who up until now had never played in a first quarter — suddenly earned his first start. And on the opening play, he left his man wide open in the corner off the threat of a cut, realized his mistake as the pass zipped by, spun around like a shadow with his arms unfurled behind him, and then closed out so hard he narrowly avoided fouling the shooter, who, to be fair, did miss badly. Just like that, our hero was off to another roller-coaster start!

We’ve talked before about Harrison’s tendency to rush moves, but I suppose there is a time and place for everything. For instance, it almost works in transition. On both of these threes, Harrison caught the ball and immediately started shooting without the slightest trace of hesitation. He was open, but not overwhelmingly so. And both times, he buried the shot.

Barnes often seems to shoot in the half-court out of some sort of reluctant moral compulsion, or an egoic burst of self-awareness. Even, or especially when he is wide open, Harrison’s shot grows stiff: he looks intent on getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible. The fast break, however, opens the possibility of a suddenly vulnerable choice. Shooting even an open three in transition is never truly mandated by conventional basketball wisdom, with its (Michael Jordanesque) Bull-headed emphasis on finishing strong inside, or at least drawing free throws, on each and every fast break. As such, every three pointer attempted in transition is a radical departure, a moment set aside to freely indulge the Self’s own Will without subjection to the hypercritical lens of Idea. Curry and Thompson led the league in transition threes last year, but the “Black Falcon” is coming.

Conclusion: When cleaved from the preconceptions of his exogenous shooting conscience by the momentary acknowledgement of his own radical freedom to make and unmake himself, Harrison Barnes’ talent really shines through. (But only when he lets his basketball existence precede his basketball essence.)

Lowlight: [NGR] Umeh 3pt Shot: Missed 01:26
[USA] Barnes Rebound (Off:0 Def:1) 01:25
[USA] Barnes Driving Reverse Layup Shot: Missed 01:17

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” -Proverbs 18:1

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Barnes stumbles blindly into a simple screen-and-roll. His man, Michael Umeh, dribbles left and would have found himself wide-open; but he forgot about Dray, who has spent so long playing alongside Barnes, he’s already running out hard. Umeh airballs several feet to the right, and Barnes scoops up the uncontested rebound. He takes off down the court. The ball is in his hands! He is the Master of his Fate, the Captain of his Soul!! And every dribble is a chance to consider that weighty fact, hanging like an anchor about his neck.

When Barnes has to create for himself, he starts thinking, and when he starts thinking, he becomes painfully predictable. Without even watching the play, you might guess he’ll try to go left.

He’s a man down on the break, so he posts up just inside the three-point line, waiting for something to happen. It doesn’t. He tries to spin off to his left and drive hard to the rim, and the broadcast camera dramatically shifts to an under-the-basket angle for the incoming dunk. Barnes swoops into frame. Finally, he smacks a reverse layup hard off the glass. It never touches the rim, and Team USA earns a team rebound when Nigeria fails to rein in its violent trajectory.

(To be fair, I think this might have been an uncredited block.)

I come away genuinely worried that Harrison Barnes cannot be trusted to make decisions, nor to be placed in positions where decisions are pre-fabricated for him (e.g. open corner threes.) Right now, he looks at his best when decisions as such are never made at all, when he catches the ball in the chaos of the open-court and responds with the unflinching celerity of unfiltered Will triumphing over Idea.

From Schopenhauer’s opus, The Basketball World as Will and Idea, this formulation precisely opposes the true test of basketball genius (roughly, the apprehension of Idea via Will-less knowledge/unfettered Platonic conceptual acquaintance).

Conclusion: Old Boy Arthur would be committed to calling Harry B a goddamn chode.

So the next time no one tries to tell you that Harrison Barnes deserves his max contract, be sure to tell him or her: “Shut up, weirdo. That intentionally confusing guy on said something that probably disagreed.”

You’ll be right.

As Olympic pool play officially begins, Harrison Barnes looks to conquer Team China this Friday at 5 pm central.

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