February 26, 2013

What Need Not Be Discussed

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What Need Not Be Discussed

Skip Bayless talks about Kevin Garnett’s jump shot. Or rather, he has a problem with his jump shot.

Of course, I have a problem with Skip Bayless.

Not because I like KG. I mean, I do like KG, but I understand why people want to criticize him. He has a polarizing presence on the court. Sometimes he does brattish things, like when he flicked Channing Frye’s testicles. Criticize him all you want for that. But don’t hold his jump shot against him.

To avoid devolving into a reactionary diatribe, I’m going to talk about KG’s jump shot as if Bayless never existed.

First, the mechanics, described as blandly as possible. He squares himself toward the basket, a wide stance, often with his right foot slightly forward, enabling him to create space between him and the defender. He’s probably the lankiest player in the NBA right now, maybe of all time (or second behind Manute Bol), so when he raises the ball above his head and elevates his body, he effectively removes the ball from pretty much everyone’s reach. At the apex of his elevation he releases with textbook follow-through and, regardless of where he is inside the three point line, we see and imagine hearing, more often than not, the shredding of nylon.

Now, a poetic addendum. Words cannot describe how beautiful his jump shot is. It is as close to an aesthetic absolute as the NBA has seen. When he pulls up at the elbow, or backs down a defender, fakes a couple of times, fades away, I feel for once that events are prescribed by a higher consciousness.

So it’s baffling that we now have to think about his jump shot as a potential weakness in his game. Those of you too lazy to go watch the Bayless video, I’ll briefly summarize it by saying Bayless is offended that KG, a “long, tall seven-footer,” didn’t dominate the paint more than he did throughout his career, and instead scored “almost as many” points from midrange as he did in the paint.

At this point I’m going to defer the argument to someone more suited to responding to Skip Blowhard, George Saunders (finally, I get to connect my two favorite things, Saunders and basketball). In “The Brain-Dead Megaphone,” Saunders offers a scenario where a bunch of reasonably intelligent people are having low-volume conversations at a party when a guy comes in with a megaphone and starts blurting out whatever comes to mind. All other conversations must therefore cease because no one can hear anything but megaphone guy. And the things he says are not even things that need necessarily be said — “We’re eating more cheese cubes — and loving it!” Since his touting of cheese cubes is through a megaphone, now everyone is forced to think about loving or not loving cheese cubes. Saunders writes that, “he has, in effect, put an intelligence-ceiling on the party.”

Before bringing this back to KG’s jump shot, I’ll first acknowledge that Saunders was writing about the Iraq invasion, which is to say his megaphone allegory (metaphor, whatever) is used for slightly higher stakes than NBA commentary.

That said, now I’m forced to address Bayless, perhaps one of the last people I want to think about on a Sunday morning, in order to remove the intelligence-ceiling he erected over KG’s jump shot.

KG’s career field goal percentage rounded up by a tenth of a decimal is a tidy 50%. As Bayless himself even said, almost as many of his points were scored from midrange as they were in the paint. So, according to Bayless, this means he has a weak inside game, while everyone else would read that as versatility. Again, using Bayless’ own argument, the majority of his points were scored in the paint, while nearly as many attest to his ability to shoot the ball at something close to 50% efficiency from 15-20 feet away from the basket.

Okay, that’s all. I’m going to ice my spleen now. Go watch this. TC mark

This post originally appeared on THE PEACH BASKET.

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