Timberwolves 92, Spurs 121: Memories Can't Wait

Oblivion-2013-Movies-Poster

(Once upon a time, friend of the program Matt Moore wrote a wonderful post about why the Oklahoma City Thunder fell short against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last year. He looked at everything: the departure of James Harden; the perpetually woebegone Scott Brooks; the injury to Serge Ibaka. All of it. And what he found is that none of that was really to blame, although each thing certainly plays its part in ways. At the bottom of all of it, the Spurs were just better. So just take that article and in place of the Thunder — a team with one of the two best players in the league, two of the top 15 or 20 and probably three of the top 40, plus many years and many playoff runs together — and substitute a Wolves team whose ten available players together have played 297 minutes (or roughly six games) more than Tim Duncan alone. They played the Spurs tonight and lost, badly. To quote Gregg Popovich from after the game, “It wasn’t a fair fight.” Wiggins got aggressive and good in the third quarter, Bennett had a career high with 20 and several strong dunks. That’s my recap.)

Earlier today I needed a break from basketball-related activities. This is maybe something that sets me apart from your real “hoops junkies,” which I am definitely not. I am not a “cannot get enough of basketball” person. I can get enough. So I just wanted to dial up a movie on HBO GO and watch it, maybe take a little nap along the way.

I didn’t want something heavy, but I also didn’t want something completely brainless, so I settled on the Tom Cruise sci-fi movie “Oblivion.” It seemed vaguely familiar, although as it turned out, I watched it for half an hour before realizing that it wasn’t “Edge of Tomorrow,” which came out more recently.

I’m not going to be able to entirely avoid spoilers here, but this is what I found most interesting about the film, and also a lot of sci-fi films: the way it deals with memory. For comparison, let’s talk for a minute about “Inception.”

In “Inception,” Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has a wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), except the Mal we get to know in the movie is not his actual wife, but rather his mental projection of her. (This all makes total sense if you’ve seen the movie and if you haven’t, what are you doing? Go see it. It’s flawed but very watchable.) At one point, Cobb talks about how she can feel so real to him, but he knows it’s not her, that some fundamental part of her is missing.

This I find interesting because of the way it plays on a particularly seductive aspect of memory and knowing: the gap between the way we think of someone and who they “really” are is constant, but almost insignificant, if you think about it. There’s a way a person you know exists to you and so long as that conforms reasonably well with the way they exist in the world, everything’s cool. When that’s upended — for example, in a breakup, where this person you thought you knew suddenly seems so different — it’s very disruptive precisely because it gets at this foundational mirage of human interaction. But once the storm has passed — the breakup or whatever — the other person’s image kind of settles back down inside you. They go on with their lives but you keep carrying this realer-than-real sense of them with you.

You see this played with in a variety of ways in science fiction, especially once you involve things like cloning or resurrection through scientific means. In most cases — in my unscientific opinion — the attempt to bring back or duplicate a person usually results in that kind of gap I talked about before. “He looks like my husband but … something’s off.” “You’re not the woman I married.” And so on. One of science fiction’s real strengths is its ability to use things like cloning to make physical and vivid some of the more internal, existential crises like that emotional disconnect that can happen in a breakup.

“Oblivion” does this, but it goes the other way, cuts against the grain. When we discover [SPOILER ALERT] that the Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) we’ve been following throughout the film is not the original Jack Harper (no relation to our own Zach Harper, by the way) but in fact one of millions of clones, the revelation is brought on by the sudden appearance of his wife, Julia Rusakova Harper (Olga Kurylenko). When the chain of events her arrival sets off culminates in two Jacks fighting each other, I expected Julia to freak out, to go down the path of saying, “You’re not my husband.”

But she didn’t.

The movie had opened with Jack explaining a dream so real it felt like a memory — a dream about being on top of the Empire State Building with a woman — even though his memory had been wiped five years prior. Julia reawakens that memory in him, fleshes it out until he can remember it all. As he begins to doubt himself in the wake of discovering his double, Julia says something to the effect of, “All those memories you have: that’s all you are.” I’m probably misquoting that, but that’s the essence of what she’s saying: there is no ineffable other thing to a person. Their memories make them who they are and if they have those memories they are that person.

Each of these ways of interpreting memory seems viable to me, and again, that’s one of the great things about science fiction because it allows you to toy with these ideas, to tease them out and see what turning them from abstractions into concrete things does to them.

Are we only the sum of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves? Or is there enough of a gap between those stories and what happened to fit in something else, some animating force that’s doing the telling but is not subject to it somehow? Sometimes it feels like one and sometimes like the other.

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19 Responsesso far.

  1. dud says:

    I think this is a tolerably well-written version of a trite meditation on science fiction movies, and I think you should lose your job for posting it on a sports website.

  2. farnorth says:

    If you meant to watch Edge of Tomorrow and got stuck with Oblivion. You were screwed.

    Wolfies hung tough in the first half, Then the Vets got serious and that was the end of that. Let’s not kid ourselves no one thought this game was going to be close (no one with a clue that is) 4 starters gone facing the world champs was as Pop stated not a fair fight.

    I know we all want to see the kids play and I am all for that. But I am glad Chase got some burn tonight. Let’s face it he’s here to stay. No one is going to rescue us from that contract unless he gets some time on the court and shows he has value. So I am glad he had a chance to work off some of the rust.

    Absolutely done with Turiaf on this squad there is just 0 reason for him to be drawing a paycheck in the NBA. There has got to be at least a dozen better options in the D league.

    Other than that it’s really too bad we lost so many guys so early. You can see glimpses of how we could have been if we would have had that blend of youth and vets for a longer period of time.

    I know a lot of folks are all about the losses and high draft picks. I am a firm believer in going out and giving it your best every game (even if it’s not going to be enough) and letting the chips fall where they may. Case in point I really wanted KCP last year but we won just enough games that Detroit picked him right before us. The chips landed where they did and we ended up with Shabazz and Dieng. I would not trade Dieng stright up for KCP right now. My point is I hope when we finally do get our vets back we can make a run and show some serious improvement with no regard to next years draft.

  3. Paco3791 says:

    @dud: you must be new here.

  4. William Bohl says:

    Mr. Dud:

    Something to know about us at A Wolf Among Wolves: we’re a writer-based website. There are no editors or advertisers, just the four of us covering the Timberwolves in our own unique ways. This is rather liberating and fun, because we’re free to create what we want, and the only standard we have to live up to is the great work being done by our fellow writers. Sometimes, that leads to some really great x’s and o’s analysis. Sometimes we like to talk about our other interests instead, with loose connections to the game itself.

    Basically, if you’re looking for an in-depth, hard-hitting recap of a 29-point blowout between the defending champions and a woefully young, inexperienced and shorthanded Wolves team, you came to the wrong place (this time).

    And yeah, no, we’re not going to fire Steve.

    Sincerely,
    William Bohl, AWAW

  5. William Bohl says:

    Mr. Far North:

    I agree with pretty much every point you made, with the exception of Turiaf. He’s a lot of fun to watch on the bench and really keeps the guys loose, and I for one am convinced that he does a good job relating to and mentoring other young big men. He is not much of a functional player at the moment (he just can’t seem to shake the hip issue) but he brings some value to the end of the bench.

  6. farnorth says:

    William, then we should hire him on as a coach because I just do not see what he brings to the court and that’s where he is supposed to be earning his pay.

    That’s going to doubly apparent tonight as we only have Dieng and probably Bennett to go up against Cousins who will probably score 40 in the paint tonight.

    Also I had already posted when I saw Dud’s post and it was late and I did not feel up to it. But Steve McPherson is one of my favorite writers and I would be bummed if he were not posting here any longer. As Paco stated. Dud must be new here..

  7. gjk says:

    I didn’t expect a win, but the contrast between the teams sums up why I like Popovich and am “meh” on Flip. The Wolves have athletic players and, now more than ever, have to play them. Yet they weren’t the team extending their halfcourt defense to contest passes along the perimeter. At least being aggressive while being outsmarted would turn a 30-point embarrassment where even Austin Daye and Aron Baynes got whatever they wanted into a 20-point loss that may have forced Pop to play his starters for part of the 4th.

    That Spurs offense works so well without any real one-on-one threats. Everything is planned out 3 steps ahead of the defense and doesn’t expose their guys’ weaknesses. Yet the only thing that comes out of Flip’s mouth when it comes to their culture/success is how they got lucky with Duncan. Yep, to think that all the Wolves needed to be like the Spurs was a Hall-of-Fame PF…

    Turiaf is a tough call. He’s one of my 5 favorite Wolves and better than many teams’ 2nd-string centers, but it’s getting sickening seeing 2 centers injured at the same time when their PFs can’t slide down there. Everyone was concerned about having not enough time for the wings, but the opposite side of that coin was a lack of depth with ballhandlers and in the post, and that’s what’s torched any slight hopes of making the playoffs.

  8. farnorth says:

    gjk, there is no possible way you can compare coaching styles between a guy who is 11 games into a season with a bunch A BUNCH of second year players and rookies vs a coach who is 16 years with the same team full of veterans who have more combined playoff minutes than the Wolves team has regular season minutes (that may or may not be true but the fact someone would need to look it up to disprove it illustrates my point).

    I am in no way saying Flip is on the same level as Gregg Popovich, That would be like trying to compare Zimmer with Belichick. But C’mon man 4 starters were missing from that lineup, and you’re going to call out the execution of a bunch of guys who have barely practiced together let alone played any meaningful minutes?

    The team is young and I will give you imbalanced, although a roster with 3 centers should have been fine. Rubio going down exposed the lack of ball handlers but we were never building for this year anyhow. Although there was a chance we could have competed for a playoff spot, that always hinged on everyone staying relatively healthy.

  9. gjk says:

    Please. They. lost. by. 29. at. home. Rebuilding season or not, the Spurs grew their lead in the 4th with Danny Green playing PG and guys who are much less talented getting any shot they wanted. In general, NBA players are the best basketball players in the world who have spent years going through the process of preparing for an opponent. And if my main strategic complaint was that they could’ve used their athleticism more effectively to make the margin closer, that’s not really a stinging critique or that high of an expectation.

    As for the idea that these guys have barely practiced together let alone played any meaningful minutes, 4 of the 5 starters last night have played 58 minutes together this season, the 4th-most-used combination on the team. They were the main bench unit until all of the injuries hit. Lack of talent is one thing; they didn’t play as a cohesive unit, and it’s reasonable to expect that they’d be able to do so.

  10. dud says:

    @William: I wasn’t looking for hard-hitting or in-depth; I access this site via espn.com, so I was just looking for something remotely sports-related. What you said makes sense. I guess my beef is with ESPN for publicizing you.

  11. Pyrrol says:

    The whole non-basketball related topic thing was cute one time after the 48 point loss. Maybe no need to try to be cute after every bad loss… Just a suggestion. When you guys remotely focus on the wolves or a game you are a great read for fans.

  12. farnorth says:

    gjk, if you’re incapable of understanding why the Wolves bench (that’s what’s left when you lose 4 starters) was not able to compete with the NBA world champs then is there really even a debate going on here?

  13. farnorth says:

    dud, give it a rest. If you don’t want to read AWAW then don’t. If the best you have to add to the conversation is BOO WOO you didn’t write more regarding a 29 point loss then what exactly are the rest of us going to miss when you’re gone?

  14. dud says:

    You’ve written 11 paragraphs about the 29 point loss, so I feel like we’re on the same side here: we both want to talk/read about basketball. I just got confused.

    In terms of Turiaf, something this team does seem to have going for it is everybody appears to like each other, and by all accounts Ronnie is important to that dynamic. I can see how chemistry could become expendable when injuries force Shabazz to start at the 4, but IMO our shot at making the playoffs (which, even if it forfeited our lottery chances and resulted in a sweep, I think is important for the players and the fans to taste after all these years) went down with Ricky, so we should keep him.

  15. gjk says:

    The only reason there wouldn’t be a debate is because you’re ludicrously defending the idea that losing by that much is completely fine and acceptable and that it can all be chalked up to youth and inexperience. Nowhere did I mention that they should expect to win. You keep moving the goalposts and accusing me of statements that weren’t made.

    My comments in a nutshell: Losing by 29 at home to any team isn’t good and indicates the team did some things wrong. Even a young team should have higher expectations than that.

    Your comments in a nutshell: What? You thought they should’ve won? That’s insane!

    I’d have had no problem with them losing by 15-20. That would accurately reflect the situation both teams currently face. Losing by 29 indicates something else.

  16. farnorth says:

    No gjk, the goal post has never moved… Not once. it remains exactly in the same position since my original post. It is completely unrealistic and even unreasonable to expect a young inexperienced team to be anywhere near on par with a veteran squad as elite as the world champions. chastising the coach because he made a comment regarding Duncan and the Spurs luck in winning the lottery and extrapolating that out to Flip saying “all the Wolves needed to be like the Spurs was a Hall-of-Fame PF” is ridiculous.

    The Wolves were down 4 starters playing the best team in the NBA and you’re acting surprised they lost by 30. It’s the purest definition of delusional. I am not defending it. It doesn’t need a defense. I am saying I expected it.

  17. shlabotnik13 says:

    I’m hearing what gjk is saying. I didn’t see the game but I agree with the point that the Spurs should not be expanding their lead in the 4th with Danny Green playing PG. I don’t know if Flip is to blame, but the defensive woes of this team are huge. Every team is shooting more than 50% against the Wolves. And hitting 3s at a high rate. Any thoughts on why, folks? I know we don’t have a rim protector. But that doesn’t explain it all. Even before Rubio went down (a small sample, yes), teams were racking up points against us. Again, why??

  18. brady skog says:

    First off some people need to separate personal life and business life. Wolves are young, I bet some of the players couldn’t sleep, adrenaline pumping the night before. If you asked me I would communicate with the players to make them feel more comfortable towards the NBA in how our young guns going to adapted in a more of a positive environment, excell in the level of play as well. In the NBA these young guys need better nutritional supplements in vitamins, milk, cheese, bread, meats, fish, vegetables… I believe in this team, the athleticism is there but there are certain plays, shots that will digest and right now the learning curve to play at a higher level is coming quick can tell by watching games on mute it is showing improvement. the more minutes they play together the better our Wolves will get.. watch kevin love hands on knees…Washington Wizards is a great example. …

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