I never knew how to summarize my taste in movies. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a mild annoyance whenever I find myself talking about motion pictures with friends. I love plays by Lubitsch, Hawks and Sturges and silent comedies by Buster Keaton; John Ford of the West is as poetic as basically every classic novel ever made; Wong Kar-Wai’s longing portraits and Ozu’s family life snapshots. If there’s one unifying feature of these unique genres and styles, I’m not sure what it is. But there is one thing that I look for and cherish: the feeling that a movie is made by individuals. The Auteur theory goes too far in some ways of looking at what it means to be a mid-range co-production – especially during Hollywood’s Golden Age – but despite that, it celebrates how many of the best films are bold. Personal imprint, a lively spirit. make it as it is.
I don’t like watching the Dallas Mavericks. I will readily admit that Luka Doncic is a marvel, one of the rare players capable of turning any franchise into a playoff team on his own. And though I’m often in awe of his individual accomplishments, I’m left chilled by the context in which they’re performed. Watching the Mavericks, everything seems to boil down to one question: Will the people playing their roles earn enough 3 points to make up for the fact that they’re a heavyweight team that lacks stylistic diversity or versatility? It’s true that basketball has always been a profitable game, but in the case of the Mavericks it was so awfully bad that it seemed boring, somehow being questioned.
Many of the Mavericks’ support players – Dorian Finney-Smith, Davis Bertans and Maxi Kleber – have all left me unknowable despite their obvious abilities. They mostly just stand and wait for Luka to pass them on, which makes it hard for them to get excited about them even though they’re both pretty good at what they do. In the Mavericks attack system, they are all sandblasted until they become one dimensional. Of Reggie Bullock’s 104 goals this season, 90 are three, as are Finney-Smith’s 83 of 115, Kleber’s 59 of 80, Josh Green’s 20 of 24 and Davis’s each of 37. Bertans. At least Reggie Bullock is doing something fun with her hair.
I know this can make me sound like an idiot, a persuader lamenting a lost era that never seemed as romantic as nostalgic. But that’s not to say I disparage the overall direction of the NBA, with its growing emphasis on three-pointers. That war was lost years ago. The three-point revolution itself has ended and we are bound to live in its wake forever. However, despite the uniformity of overall priority with everyone taking three more than ever, there is no reason to worry about this resulting in every team playing the same. together. Despite the superficial similarities, each group takes different steps to create those looks, and some do it in better ways than others.
The Golden State Warriors – rivals to the Mavericks’ Conference Finals – also fired three in a heavyweight clip. In fact, Golden State is averaging three more points per game than the Mavericks have done this year. But their style could hardly be different. Although the Warriors have a number of catch and shoot players, they are led by Stephen Curry, whose off-the-ball movement and distinct methods of space are as creative and fun as anyone. There’s also Klay’s lithe art and Jordan Poole’s madness. Even if one can recreate their contributions, they can never replace them. It’s not about quality rather than style, it’s not about the photos being attempted rather than how they were taken. Is it brutally effective or is it filled with verve and elan?
When I watch a basketball game, I want to see a personal touch, a style that marks a unique individual’s performance. While Doncic has mastered it personally, I didn’t see this while watching the Mavericks. Their approach certainly worked, but it still judged me as useless. What the Mavericks are betting on is that, over the course of many nights, the percentage will turn in their favor and enough of their shooters will catch on fire simultaneously to bring them to victory. This bet has paid off so far, leading them to the Conference Finals, but I’m not eager to see it continue. I know that the goal of playing a sport is to win, not to create beauty. Despite being a fan, I’m much more interested in the latter than the former.
I will drag the Golden State during the Conference Finals, and not just because I used to live in the East Bay. The Warriors are a collection of exceptional and talented players, whose gifts are brought to life in the context of Steve Kerr’s criminal action – the different divisions act as one unit while still retain what makes them unique. It’s not quite the same old studio system, but at its best, it can conjure a similar kind of magic.