We Have a Dream

The Warriors sleepwalked through this game against the woebegone Nets, which is only natural on a holiday day-game against a cellar-dwellar. So I’m just going to give a pocket recap of the game, before moving on to other matters that affected me more deeply on this Martin Luther King day.

Monta is right now playing with an unselfishness and efficiency that is nearly unmatched in the league. As a result of raising his free throw percentage, he has been the #1 player in fantasy basketball for the last couple of months. Number one. And in the real world of NBA basketball, I rate him in the top 10 players in the league. There is no doubt in my mind that he could lead a team to a championship.

David Lee is finally returning to the form he flashed earlier in the season. I am tempted to say that his offensive efficiency, when you include his preternatural passing ability, is every bit as remarkable as Monta’s, if not nearly so spectacular. On the defensive end, his trenchwork on the Lopezasaurus will probably go unnoticed by the media, but I noticed it.

Stephen Curry continues to struggle with foul trouble against the quickest guards in the league. Which prompted my usual thought: Why in the world did Smart have him guarding Devin Harris when he could have easily guarded the non-scoring Stephen Graham? In my opinion, that decision made this game far closer than it should have been.

Reggie Williams continues to blossom in the role that Don Nelson invented for him, point forward. And Vlad Rad continues to blossom in the role Nellie envisioned for him (but was too unlucky to actually get), spread-four. The offensive flow of the Lee-Vlad Rad lineup is something to behold. They can do anything on the court: drive and dish with Monta, drive and dish with DWright or RWilliams at point-three. Pick and roll or pick and pop with Curry. 40% from three from FOUR spots on the floor.

It’s a lineup that cannot be defended by any team in the league. Not the Lakers, not the Heat, not the Celtics. It’s not a championship lineup. Not yet. But I like it against all but the elite teams in the league.

That’s all I have on Warriors basketball.  I do have a few thoughts on Martin Luther King day that I’d like to share, though. If that’s not of interest to you, you can safely stop reading here.

MLK day this year has really resonated with me. This year, it falls at a remarkable moment in our nation’s and our world’s history. The aspirational struggles we are currently witnessing in Tunisia, and across the Arab world, and that we recently witnessed in Iran, are closely connected in my mind to Dr. King’s message of freedom, justice and equality, of hope and understanding. Dr. King addressed himself to Americans, but his message was universal.

His message was also recently taken up, I believe, by our President, in the wake of the tragic Arizona shootings. In a speech that I think will live on in posterity, Barack Obama exhorted his fellow Americans:

Let us expand our moral imagination, … sharpen our empathy, remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.

Could we have experienced President Obama’s inspirational message had it not been for Dr. King? Would Obama’s election to the presidency of the United States have even been possible if Dr. King had not lived?

Whatever your politics, I think everyone can agree that Barack Obama’s election sent a powerful message about the essence of our democracy resonating not just through our land, but around the globe.  His election reaffirmed our nation’s leading role in the world, not as a superpower, but as a shining example of a land where all men and women are truly equal, and all things are possible for those who dream, and work hard to achieve their dreams.

On the day of Obama’s election the United States of America relit what the man we honor today might have called our “beacon light of hope.”

Years ago, a white friend of mine and I were discussing Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing during our lunch break from trading options at the Pacific Exchange. Out of the blue, he asked me who my greatest hero was. I said, “Abraham Lincoln.” (Which was true, at that time I read everything I could get my hands on about him.) Then I asked my friend who his greatest hero was. He replied, somewhat smugly I thought, “Martin Luther King.”

I was taken by surprise by that answer. Part of it was annoyance. This friend always had to one-up me!

But kidding aside, I have never forgotten that simple exchange. And it affected me deeply. It got me thinking, and in the end, prompted me to widen my circle of heroes. I had always greatly admired Martin Luther King, but never really considered him as a personal hero. He didn’t belong to me, I felt. But why not?

Did Gandhi belong to me? Nelson Mandela? What about Jesus? For someone raised by agnostic Jews, that was truly a radical thought. After Jesus, thinking about Siddhartha came naturally.

I have grown since that time. If someone asked me now who my greatest hero is, I would give several names. And one of those names is Martin Luther King.

He belongs to me now too.

16 Responses to We Have a Dream

  1. Very fine perspective, change of pace, FB. Thanks.

  2. Hope that was a joke. (awkward silence.)

    Anyway, nice piece felt.

    Funny to have a game where we were the ones in the position of knowing all the time we would win; just a matter of how and when. We’re used to being on the other side of that.

  3. Our Team was referring to a comment that I have deleted. As a former lawyer steeped in civil libertarianism, it pains me deeply when I am forced to make these decisions, but make them I must. There are some images that are too shocking or frightening to be appropriate in a simple blog on basketball. If this offends the poster in question, I respectfully request they take their material elsewhere.

  4. One of my best friends in the world, who is Palestinian-American, just shared this article with me about a remarkable Palestinian who is working for peace:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ryan-j-bell/to-cure-the-world-of-hate_b_809950.html?ref=email_share

    Here is the full article referred to in the piece:

    http://hillhurstreview.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/our-enemy-is-our-ignorance/

    It was amazing to me that this is the first article I’ve seen about a man who was just nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I think that says something about the mainstream media.

    A Palestinian Martin Luther King would be a remarkable development indeed. Does he have an Israeli counterpart?

  5. I agree about your point about Tunisia. I too, favor Abraham Lincoln save for the fact he kept the South as part of America. If only they were not part of the electoral college, the USA would be a better more progressive, more Lincoln like place.

  6. Andy from Athens

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    In response to “MLK too”, I’d point out that if Lincoln had not kept the South as part of the USA, African-Americans might still be enslaved today, and we’d have a possibly hostile, rednecked, gun-bristling neighbor to share our continent with. I think Lincoln made a good tradeoff.

  7. Good to hear from you Andy ;)

  8. maestro felt, komrades, it’s historically probable that the nazarene (‘joshua son of joseph’ acc. to some sources) later mythologized into jesus came in contact and was influenced by buddhist philosophy and ethics when his family sojourned in Egypt. Egypt was a center of learning and discourse at the time, ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty, an inheritance of Alexander’s empire. There was a side of that great soldier’s personality fascinated with philosophy and he brought teachings back from India into the Hellenistic milieu. Those interested in textual correlation can examine the ‘sermon from the mount’ along side the ‘diamond sutra’.

  9. Very interesting, moto. I’m fascinated by the possibility of the connection.

  10. My hero of MLK’s time was his acquaintance Malcolm X. It is so important to have leaders of integrity and courage; unfortunately so many of them once they start changing the world meet an assassin’s bullet. Makes me grateful (for their sakes) that admirable men such as Kucinich and Nader have been marginalized and so are still available as fonts of rationality. The Palestinian fellow you linked who had his home blasted by tank shells and lost his daughters there…Hmm. Maybe I’m just cynical, today.

    Good topic, Feltbot.

  11. Warriors coach Keith Smart said before Monday’s game that he could foresee situations in which he would go long stints without point guard Stephen Curry on the floor because of the height disadvantage he and backcourt mate Monta Ellis create.

    “Guys are going to have to buy into the fact that, at certain times of a game and at certain points of a season, one of the guards won’t be on the floor because of a matchup situation,” Smart said. “You have to grow the rest of your team toward moving that way. Your roster has to develop to that point.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/17/SPRB1HA1G6.DTL#ixzz1BUeviIMw

    Does Keith Smart really want to go down this road? Does he really want Curry to be traded? Or is this some kind of motivational technique?

    All I can say is that these opinions read just like they are playing on the court: like idiocy.

    Don Nelson would have KILLED to be able to play this backcourt, with this team. KILLED. And he would have protected Curry in the backcourt matchups, in order to keep Curry and Ellis both on the court for as long as possible.

    I saw him do it in 2003, with Nash and Van Exel, in what would have been a championship season, but for Nowitzki’s knee injury in game 3 of the Conference finals.

  12. We’ll never know how much more a difference Curry might have made in the NJ game because of the simple fact that he wasn’t in the game that much. Curry’s numbers weren’t impressive that night. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Smart keeps this plan–forces Curry to run this constipated offense, limits his shots, and puts him in tough defensive match-ups–that he does appear to be a mediocre player, and thus expendable. I can hear it now–”The kid’s lost his touch,” “The kid’s lost his desire,” and so on. How much of a stretch? It’s an instance of forcing a conclusion on the situation, of self-fulfilling prophecy.

    And we’ll never know how much better the Warriors might play if the full potential of this backcourt is not tapped, which hasn’t happened yet.

    The other effect of such a plan is that it will further increase the load on Ellis, his minutes and scoring. As goes Ellis, so goes the team.

  13. for the duration of the season, curry will struggle against two major inhibitors, his coach, and the possible re-injury of his ankles. if the second factor makes him only slightly tentative at times it fuels the first. we can only hope riley sees through it and doesn’t make a stupid move based on a temporary situation. should curry be unable to return to full capacity, it will probably keep the team below .500 this season, and probably end smart’s tenure, depending on how well lacob has done his homework and what he really wants.

  14. feltbot and rgg: I wholly agree with your views re Smart and Curry. I am very concerned that Smart will continue to muck this up. Anyone who thinks that Reggie Williams is a viable alternative to Steph Curry for long stretches of a game, or at the end of a game, is not of sound basketball mind. Nellie (like Bobby Knight) could appreciate the brilliance of a player like Curry and understand how you optimize it. Smart doesn’t get it. Describing his offense as “constipated” is apt. As I have said before, Smart is a lab technician, not a scientist. If we get to the point where Smart is cutting Curry’s time regularly in the fourth Q, I expect Lacob to step in and do something.

  15. Smart’s first priority this year should have been to develop what just about everyone says is its greatest asset now and in a long future, the explosive offensive potential of the backcourt. Maybe it would have taken some experimentation and gambling, maybe a few wins might have been sacrificed, but given the efforts we have seen from Curry last year and Ellis the past several years, it would not have been a gamble or sacrifice at all.

    Instead, we’re getting diffuse discussions of rebounds, turnover control, and defense, not directly related to the talent we have or the team’s potential. And now limiting Curry’s minutes in the name of defense. I won’t pretend to have the answer how to do this–but this is why we hire coaches with vision. Yet we’ve seen evidence of how it’s done last year, sometimes this one, and it begins with running and opening up the court and shooting. Yet it doesn’t seem the lessons have sunk in.

    Certainly the answer involves bringing the other players in who could most help further this potential, and the player we most look at is David Lee, who’s shown us all kinds of possibilities. Several others have as well.

    Both Ellis and Curry are working hard to get Biedrins in the game–Curry especially the NJ game. What a waste of talent, and this is not how it should work. Biedrins should play at a level, work and show enough to bring himself into the game so the others can come to him, not the other way around. The play that most sticks in my throat this season is seeing Curry drive into a packed lane and dish out to the open player — Amundson. What a waste.

    But note where we heard the words about the importance of defense and rebounding: Lacob.