Where Damon Stoudamire gets his pot.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


This is the first post for The Cold Draft, and while I have no grand manifesto in place, I'll kick around a few ideas to start. (The title of the blog itself is loaded. Intuit what you will. Beer, NBA drafts, faulty caulking, etc.) By and large, the topic will be NBA basketball, and while I could bat around some theories as to why it's the only professional sports league I truly give a damn about, I simply don't have the time. Chalk it down to the personalities, race relations, globalization, and sheer physical prowess (amongst others). Expect the posts to run a wide gamut.

To start on the topic of Amare Stoudemire is puzzling. There isn't another player I can think of off-hand that I meet with such indifference. At one moment his abilities are transcendent and awe-inspiring. At another, a more rational side would indicate that his skill-set, borne from the genesis of athletic freaks like Darryl Dawkins and Shawn Kemp, really doesn't have a chance at winning (especially considering how defensively-challenged he finds himself). I would never buy his jersey, go out of my way to catch a game of his, and, despite possessing athletic gifts few players in the history of the sport can/could match, my attitude towards him remains blasé. But he is a new model, a new prototype I expect to be replicated in the future, though, up until this point, hasn't had a close follower.

How I got onto Amare Stoudemire, and the consideration of his skill-set, actually came from watching Rafael Nadal and his emergence this past season. The cross-sports comparisons are tricky. To completely dominate your sport has you labelled as Michael Jordan, whether it's Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, or whomever. But it's tricky because things really don't add up. They're different games, requiring different skill-sets, within different rules, regulations, and parameters, etc., etc. In the case of Nadal, however, I find an extension of Stoudemire, or at least a more plausible venue for Stoudemire's abilities. Between the two I haven't considered stylistic similarities in how they play their respective sports, because that's besides the point. When speaking of Stoudemire, for instance, the discussion inevitably returns to how he impacts the game, other players, etc. Few can describe his game. Like mentioned earlier, you find the genesis in guys like Kemp, power players who could finish with acrobatics, but that only scratches the surface. Kemp, no matter how glamourized and fetishized his game remains in our nostalgia, never had the capability of averaging 26 and 10. Without reference points, description of Stoudemire remains elusive and inevitably turns to his impact, or, perhaps more importantly in this case, how players adapt to him.

Which is the crux of the whole argument really: how players adapt to him. Nadal, in much the same way, has taken an electric, aggressive style of play more conducive to clay courts and successfully implemented his skill-set to other surfaces with success (albeit, not nearly as successful as his clay record, which will surpass Borg's in due time). His success actually has little to do with implementing a surface-specific game and more to do with imposing a style of play on his opponent. The surface, quickly following the lead of an inferior opponent, also plays to his style. Nadal, like Stoudemire, is a new model.

Stoudemire, though it's tough to compare accomplishments across sports, has definitely not had the same level of success as a guy like Nadal. He is a new model of player, impacts the game in new ways, and causes his opponents to adapt to him. Defensive schemes are dedicated towards him. They have to. If he pulls down 42 & 16 the game is over. But even on occasions where his statistics reach haughty levels, which is frequently, his team is liable to lose, as the Suns have for the past few post-seasons. And that's the whole thing: the team concept fails to fully express his potential on some scale of wins/losses, championships, individuals awards, etc. A guy like Nadal can impose his game on another player, force him to run with a new model of execution, and thus demolish someone for even attempting to do so. In Stoudemire's case, he's still one cog on the hardwood. As much as his model can be imposed on the overall framework of an individual game, statistical areas will prove how Stoudemire is just one part of the Suns machine (a big part, but, alas, only one). Not to mention the ball runs through Nash's hands. That is why I believe Rafael Nadal, as an extension of Amare Stoudemire, is a more successful individual to execute that particular brand of physical, athletic, dominant imposition. Like the human body in its levelling with homeostasis, a team can implement their own compensation to deal with dominant athletic forces. In the individual game you're just hung out to dry.

I have more thoughts on Amare, but that's more than enough.

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