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 ChodeLeague.com 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.

All Barnes Myself: What a pass

Venezuela 45 – 80 Team USA

Harrison Barnes: 4p / 0r / 1a

A disappointing game for the United States, who slowly outscored Venezuela without producing a single highlight through the first thirty-eight minutes, and then celebrated two open dunks. For eight long hours, I was lulled to sleep by a bizarro zombie Warriors team kicking the ball out over and over for long misses. This eternity was punctuated by DeAndre Jordan occasionally dunking with both hands, and DeMarcus Cousins committing his five hundredth travel.

I also suffered through a decade-long, detectably fascioid interview that linked parading the bestest basketball team and the very bestestest military as a single, unified point of national self-worth. Death is too kind an escape from certain kinds of lives, including the kind I endured while watching this game. Oh, the things I do for you.

Speaking of wanting to die, how did Harrison Barnes do?

Lowlight: [USA 29-18] Barnes Free Throw 1 of 2 (1 PT) 02:21
[USA 30-18] Barnes Free Throw 2 of 2 (2 PTS) 02:21

“[He] hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” -Nahum 1:3

Venezuela is one tough, crafty team in the half-court. They grind hard on both ends, a Memphis Grizzlies clone in desperate miniature. And dammit, they kept Team USA from ever really getting things going. By any definition, continuing to launch threes until you finish 4-of-25 as a country embodies insanity, and despite a 25-rebound advantage, the Team USA couldn’t seem to buy a clean finish inside either.

It’s against this frustrating backdrop that Carmelo drew an extra confused defender in transition. Barnes cut towards the basket, but seemingly without realizing it: he only looked back for a pass at the final possible moment. By then he was directly under the basket, while somehow facing away from it.

He panicked a bit, spun back towards the defense like some desperate whirling dervish, and glanced the ball off the bottom of the rim. The referee reacted with dull compassion, and you’ll be pleased to know that Harrison made both his free throws.

Without the ball, Barnes always seems to have his hands down, unprepared for a pass. And with the ball, he always appears rushed, further muddling his footwork. So in the fourth quarter, I wasn’t surprised when he drove left and finished awkwardly off the wrong foot. And it made sense for him to airball an open pull-up jumper: he’s still learning to create for himself.

But to fuck up an assisted layup like that was really discouraging.

Highlight: [USA 71-41] Green Layup Shot: Made (3 PTS) Assist: Barnes (1 AST) 03:24

“Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.” -Psalm 60:11

Coming into this game, Barnes had not thrown an assist in 45:37 of exhibition play, despite unquestionably being the worst player on a team otherwise packed with All-Stars. For Harrison to vaguely merit his max contract, he’ll have to do a bit of creating for the Mavericks, and tonight, there were promising glimpses. He sent a lob pass five feet over DeMarcus Cousin’s head in transition. He threw an outlet pass directly to Venezuelan guard Gregory Vargas. But he couldn’t quite break through and record his first assist as an Olympian.

And then, it happened.

Barnes threw a perfect entry pass to Draymond Green, who was posting up just inside the three-point line. Draymond dribbled, dribbled, dribbled again, and spun. Five seconds and twenty feet later, he laid the ball in with his left hand.

Assist: Harrison Barnes. The crowd went wild!

Harrison’s pass was so good, the scorekeeper was still thinking about it after Draymond’s extended passage through all that time and space. If he can throw perfect entry passes like that consistently, and then stay the hell out of the way for the next five to ten seconds until Nowitzki scores, Barnes might average a double-double after all.

Can you say All-Star?

Harrison Barnes looks to eviscerate Team Nigeria this Monday at 7 pm central.

All Barnes Myself: WARRIORS

China 57 – 107 Team USA

Harrison Barnes: 7p / 3r / 0a

Tonight at Oracle Arena, the Golden State Warriors led Team China from wire to wire. Kevin Durant opened with Team USA’s first ten points, including an effortless three off the opening tip, and an overexuberant Warriors crowd ate up every minute of it, only dimly aware their three heroes were 6-of-17 from three, and never quite seeming to notice that it was DeMarcus Cousins and Carmelo Anthony who finally blew the game open.

But how did Harrison Barnes do?

Lowlight: [USA] Barnes Jump Shot: Missed 09:23
[USA] Barnes Jump Shot: Missed 08:54

“There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” -Matthew 24:2

In response to an increasingly sloppy first half by the Warriors, Barnes finally got to open up the second quarter. And boy was he quick to disappoint, immediately jab-stepping left, driving right, and overshooting a stumbling, running hook by a thousand yards. The play-by-play scorekeeper noted it as a “missed jump shot” out of some misguided combination of ethical care, wounded patriotism, and theory-laden confusion, producing a harsh jumble of words so conceptually pre-situated, one could feel it straining to resurrect the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. And I hope neither of you enjoyed that strained “joke.”

The very next play, Harrison rushed a wide-open corner three that caromed in and out. He yelped in frustration, but his nosediving play thus far had screamed for a swift benching like a Stuka bomber. How would I ever continue growing my popular new blog feature without a single Harrison Barnes highlight??????????

All the while, the commentators would not stop marveling over how many Warriors jerseys Kevin Durant would sell (seven thousand so far!), and how many Warriors games he might win (seven million!!)

By the time the broadcasting crew acknowledged that Barnes had checked in, he had already missed two shots so convincingly, using 100% of Team USA’s offensive usage, that he looked like Homer Simpson standing knee-deep in the waste of an imploding nuclear reactor, twin marionette arms hanging lazily by his sides.

Highlight: [USA 33-17] Barnes Cutting Dunk Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: Durant (1 AST) 06:57

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” -Matthew 24:13

Following Barnes’ slow start, both teams looked increasingly rushed and sloppy. In particular, the score seemed to hang heavy on American shoulders, crushed by the unmovable weight of Warrior fans’ expectations. For an eternity they led 31-17, as dawn turned to dusk, as civilizations rose and fell from the grave in turn, as the announcers dimly tried to explain that the United States had too many ball-handlers to even make a play.

When Cousins and Durant checked back in on a dead-ball, I couldn’t believe Barnes was allowed to stay. And as two superpowers continued to exchange turnovers, fouls, and international debts, a single voice from the upper bowl spilled into a thousand throats, willing together to make America Great Again.

“Warriors.”
“WARRIORS.”

“WARRIORS!”

So this is how democracy dies. As I adjusted my television set, the ball swung from Kyrie, to the popping Durant, to the cutting Barnes, who floated slowly upwards for a completely open dunk.

The crowd erupted into applause — and the cries for Golden State, those manic shouts from the halls of death, were immediately snuffed out. In an instant, I felt some misplaced emotion. Was it paternal pride? Patriotic identification?? Sheer relief that I could guiltlessly visit with old friends??? What a dizzying moment. I was almost happy to be an American, and to have watched Harrison Barnes.

And that’s when I finally knew everything was going to be alright.

Harrison Barnes looks to dismantle Team Venezuela this Friday at 8 pm central.

All Barnes Myself: David and Goliath

China 57 – 106 Team USA

Harrison Barnes: 6p / 1r / 0a

In tonight’s blowout, DeMar DeRozan only solidified his need for even more minutes ahead of Harrison. And in tonight’s broadcast, Marv Albert only solidified his need to retire forever. We could discuss the frozen vertical image of Barnes’ dunk, or his three-point miss pinballing endlessly over the top of the backboard. We could wonder how he still isn’t in the official Team USA box scores, and draw up bets on whether anyone over the next hundred years will ever notice. But certain patterns of play have recurred two games in a row, so I’d like to sum up Harrison Barnes for you in twenty seconds of play:

Lowlight: [CHN 36-60] Peng Jump Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: Jiwei (1 AST) 06:17

“And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.” -1 Samuel 17:44

Zhou Qi is 7’2, but weighs just 218 pounds. Scouts worry his listed age is questionable, and insist that he lacks strength, quickness, and mental toughness, so obviously the Rockets drafted him with the 43rd pick this year. Amazingly, Harrison is already seven pounds heavier, with a center of gravity half a foot lower to the ground. So who’s hunting who? Well on this play, Barnes makes Qi look like the goddamned leviathan.

To be sure, it’s not all Harrison’s fault. As team captain Peng sprints to his left,  Qi feloniously slides about five feet into Barnes, burying him with a screen. Barnes crumples like a crash test dummy failing a rollover test, but the ref chooses to forever hold his peace. Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan takes three useless steps towards Barnes’ corpse, effectively abandoning the play as Peng curls around for the open look. Draymond turns to uselessly recognize the shooter from beneath the basket; three days later, Barnes rises from the dead to fly by his open shot.

Baudrillard would have a field day. Here, the whole of the team defensive concept is constructed from the effortless swapping of disjointed projections of effort itself. This is the end of use- and exchange-value. There remains only the economy of signs, the empty back-and-forth of mere reproduction. The end of the era of defensive production is at hand, and it’s mostly DeAndre’s fault for valuing the hollow statistic of his three blocked shots. Which were admittedly pretty bad-ass.

But mostly, I just wish Barnes wouldn’t explode on every fucking screen. It’s gonna be a long year.

Highlight: [USA 62-36] Barnes Driving Layup Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: Lowry (4 ASTS) 05:49

“And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine” -1 Samuel 17:48

Under Mark Jackson, Klay Thompson struggled to create for himself, appearing one-dimensional. In 2013, he was projected to be just the 83rd best NBA player in 2017, and the criticisms are worth noting. But then Steve Kerr established a gliding motion offense designed to maximize the strengths of his two prized shooters, and Klay has grown into the league’s most proficient cutter. He even looks dangerous driving for himself when he catches the ball with a running start. Encouragingly, Barnes pulls off a very similar move here to challenge Qi at the rim.

Off Lowry’s kick-out, Barnes doesn’t even pause to survey his 3-on-2 advantage. Instead, he immediately swerves towards the bucket, though he picks up his dribble a step too early. He’s funneled left: disaster is imminent. But then, he smoothly bumps Qi, twisting and tumbling a wrong-footed layup softly up and in. Clearly his handle and footwork are lacking, and his decision-making is still a work in progress. But Barnes made an almost identical move at the end of the Argentina game, hinting that maybe he really can make off-the-dribble plays in an offense designed to give him quick-hitting opportunities.

Is there hope for Barnes yet? Can you really build the Six Million Dollar Man?? Stay tuned for the next hundred episodes as we painstakingly find out. Just kidding, you don’t have to read this shit forever.

But don’t forget to watch Harrison Barnes bludgeon China again this Tuesday at 9 pm central. I really will keep writing. Because who needs use-value anyway?

All Barnes Myself: In the Corner

Argentina 74 – 111 Team USA

Harrison Barnes: 4p / 2r / 0a

In today’s nationally broadcasted dose of patriotism, ESPN proudly displays, on continuous loop, the tremendous fourth-quarter shooting of Kevin Durant, fiery enough to shame the Las Vegas sun. Don’t forget the courageous return of a Paul George, grateful for his chance to return from horrific injury! And who could forget the familiar face of Olympic Melo, playing shocking bits of defense, one instant at a time, here corralling a loose ball, there delivering an obvious foul with both forearms?

All the while, the voices of old men react with unsuppressed awe and wholesome surprise. My god, Team USA really has vanquished an Argentinian national team that is collectively 342 years old, with over a century more basketball experience than the United States Constitution!

But how did Harrison Barnes do?

Lowlight: First half DNP, Coach’s Decision.

“For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then [Harry] said unto them, ‘My time is not yet come: but your time is alway (sic) ready.'” -John 7:6

In a first half where every other American player recorded between six and twelve minutes, Harrison’s moment never quite came, mirroring only Carlos Delfino on the Argentinian side. To be sure, NBA wings seem particularly unafraid of the Zika Virus, as a squad with two point guards (Kyrie & Lowry), two real bigs (Cousins & Jordan), and one other huge bitch (Draymond Green), nonetheless features a total of seven wings. In some order, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and DeMar DeRozan all stand indisputably ahead of our hero in the rotation. And just like that, Barnes, the ideal 3-and-D player, abruptly discovers himself the fourth best defender, and the fifth best shooter at his position. One can only surmise his vertiginous panic, the utter collapse of his own self-concept into nothingness.

But someone has to quietly take the fall for his country, and if that man is earning 0.75 cents per second over the next fours years, so much the better. Barnes carries tremendous strategic value as a stashed weapon of second-half misdirection, suddenly emerging from the shadows of Team USA huddles to play far worse than the enemies of America ever could have expected. While I was eating, I think he shot an airball; hours later, he doesn’t even appear in Team USA’s box score. What a selfless American hero.

Following Freud, I will also keep an eye on his developing castration anxiety.

Highlight: Harrison Barnes checks into the game, spreads the floor.

“He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Team on three.” -John 7:18

Coming out of halftime, coach’s decision finally changed — to starting Barnes! And eight seconds in, Harrison was dramatically crucified on a screen, allowing Ginobili an easy left-handed layup as the commentators apologized for him. “Manu is so good at going left!” they gasped, awestruck in the wake of a left-handed 39-year-old man.

But Harrison never plays for himself. He seeketh not his own glory.

After three and a half quarters of playing even fucking worse, Klay Thompson finally hit the bench for good. Team USA turned to its unlikely hero in Harrison Barnes, who helped the team claw out a 37-point decision on the back of Kevin’s supermundane shooting.

And who was there in the left corner, time and time again, to create space for Durant? Who spread the floor from the short corner three, hands limply at his side, as though to say, this isn’t my moment?? You should shoot again Kevin; don’t pass it here????

That’s our very own #8, facilitating à la his childhood idol, Kobe Bryant.

Harrison Barnes takes on China this Sunday at 7pm central.

All Barnes Myself: An Introduction

In our Baudrillardian SportsCentric world, God knows you’ll view each Curry lob to Durant from all conceivable and inconceivable camera angles. You’ll gaze deliriously upon every anti-heroic triple-double of an embittered and self-consciously abandoned Russell Westbrook. You’ll curse as Rondo, Wade, and Butler hesitantly pass the ball between themselves for one unconscionably wide-open look from deep after another. Take these as givens.

But what you don’t already know is what Harrison Barnes will do.

 

Highlight: GM Donnie Nelson cuffs himself to Harrison Barnes.

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” -Joshua 1:9

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Witness Donnie Nelson, son of modern smallball’s infamous progenitor, linked at the wrist to new free agent acquisition and NBA Champion Harrison Barnes. It is little secret that the Mavericks have long appeared in need of high-flying, youthful athleticism (consider it equally obvious for now that DeAndre Jordan is a huge bitch). But try as he might, Harrison will never get away from the Mavericks now; what a catch!!

At eighteen, Barnes was the consensus #1 recruit overall; at twenty, he was the #7 pick in the NBA draft. Now at twenty-four, he remains a solidly above-average small forward, the worthy starter for a 73-win team. Slotting in for ex-Mav Chandler Parsons, he will be lengthier, more agile, and genuinely attempt to play defense. He is already Chandler’s equal as a quality streak shooter, particularly from the NBA corners, but three years younger. With less hitch to his shot and eight inches more bounce to his step, he may yet make the leap that Chandler never could.

Most importantly, Harrison Barnes is the prototype of the modern 3-and-D forward, and a true two-way player. In his day, Barnes would have inspired the original Don Nelson to try then-unthinkable lineups, pairing Barnes at the 4 with Bogut or—God forbid—Dirk at the 5, should the Mavericks wish to eschew all rebounds for a thousand generations. More likely, he spends most of his time in the wings alongside his possible future avatar in Wesley Matthews, although with Dallas’ apparent eagerness to play an eight-point guard rotation, he may ultimately play more 4 as the season goes on and Carlisle starts tinkering to rest Dirk’s aging, $20-million-a-year legs. In any event, the Mavs are going all-in on Harrison.

 

Lowlight: Harrison Barnes cuffs himself to GM Donnie Nelson.

“And she said unto [Harrison Barnes], I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.” -Joshua 2:9

And that’s a bit of a problem. With the NBA announcing that the 2016-17 salary cap will be $5 million lower than expected, Dallas is left fielding yet another team of wily, mismatched veterans and overpaid free agents that Carlisle will cleverly exploit to their maximal potential of just-over .500 ball and a hard-fought first-round exit.

Harrison is already a scapegoat in the aftermath of the NBA Finals, and a laughingstock well in advance of the 2016 Zika Games in Brazil. There, he will rub elbows with Klay, Draymond, and Kevin, and in the heat and pressure of such intense closed-doors competition, he may finally acquire the adamantine sparkle of a nascent diamond; he may also shatter on sight, shimmering away under the pressure. There are whispers within the Mavericks organization that Harrison may average twenty points for them as a go-to scorer; it is hard to imagine better than an inconsistent seventeen.

For years, an aging Dirk has willingly sacrificed up to $78.7 million in salary to populate the roster around himself with further talent and remain competitive. Now, the unadulterated weight of this burden falls squarely on Harrison Barnes’ shoulders, who has come to take the mantle from such fire-to-ash stars as O.J. Mayo, Monta Ellis, and the still-lingering Deron Williams, who yet remains suspended between death and undeath. With one final roll of the dice, Dallas’ all-too-mortal 38-year-old stretch forward is obliged place all his faith and hope in a 24-year-old who reached twenty points just 6 times in 89 appearances last year, and finished 5-of-32 from the field as the Cavaliers clawed their way back to steal history.

Harrison Barnes could fuck everything up, slowly imploding upon himself like an office building whose designated time has come, the millstone of his contractual expectations dragging him further downward, floor by floor. Or he could develop a purposeful off-the-dribble game with a mean streak; he might take accountability for this squad, and lead the Mavericks by the throat right back into relevance. And that’s why just in case, I’ll be watching every moment.

So whenever you’re ready to read about the most mysterious man in the NBA, I’ll be right here. All Barnes Myself.