Their crowns in a gnarl
I'm not just an incredibly uneven, amateurish sports sage—I am also a man. That's why, from time to time, I find myself engaged in some embarrassingly earnest basketball soul-searching, most often of the "when am I actually going to appreciate smart, veteran teams that have a prayer of winning a championship variety." Yesterday, though, as I stepped into the shower and congratulated myself on having lived through another day of triple-digit Lone Star heat, I was struck by a brand new strain of conscience: the booming question of "am I losing my NBA edge?" The parcel that held this proud fact, dear reader, was none other than the impending Miami Heat mega-roster, Finley or no Finley.
I've already begun to back pedal on some mid-summer assertions that the Suns will still be the most breathless show in town (thanks for nothing, Mr. Hollinger), and I'm about ready to concede that, post-Hughes, the Wiz will often slow to an uneventful crawl. But these are the trials of a man and his faith, and quite frankly are none of your fucking business. I wore the cross for these pirates, and I certainly have the right to have some over-emotional reactions to their off-season upheavels. Ditto for Kobe, who I've been such a tireless supporter of that I think I've earned the right not only to criticize him, but also to flagrantly contradcit myself and confuse others on the subject of him. Theological debates are spirited internal debates on the fine points of a system of belief, not shattering attempts to reconsider the nature of things from scratch, and if you want good, sound scouting on the Wizards and Suns, you've come to the wrong Wizards and Suns-obsessed blog.
But what truly tears at my fine, fine inner fabric is my complete and total inability to warm up (take the pun, stab me with it) to the new Heat roster. When it all went down, my reaction to it was surpsingly conservative—I thought it was a bad move that seemed like a surefire exercise in how not to build a contendor, much less put a near-Finalist over the top. Even when Andreo and some of the FreeDarko faithful called me on my uncharacteristic plea for sanity, order, and responsibility, I stuck to these guns I had never before fired as my own, to the point where I began to wonder if I wasn't secretly making myself the victim of an inside joke.
The thing is, I've always been a Toine supporter, largely because of his incongruous mix of versatility and single-minded retardation, basketball IQ-heavy leadership and abysmal decision-making. And White Chocolate, well, you simply can't find a more complex player in the Association, from the standpoint of racialized politics and total style overload. Poesy, too, gets the thumbs-up, for having logged some of the least meaningful triple-doubles in NBA history (during his Denver days), and just generally teased us with his ability so much that we've taken his inconclusiveness for granted. Put these three with Shaq, who can make anyone teammate credible (Damon Jones, anyone?) and Wade, who isn't nearly as much of a one-trick pony as Amare, and you've got the ideal collision of style and substance. In short, a motley crew for the ages.
Yet still I balk. Maybe it seems to easy, the idea that Toine and J-Will could find redemption through Shaq's forceful benevolence. Maybe I want to see Wade fight, work, and grow into a Kobe or LeBron-like virtuoso, rather than be pencilled in as a known quantity that's unstoppable off the dribble (that or I want to change to be proven wrong for having ever slighted him in the first place). The bottom line is that these are uneasy negotiations, where Toine and J-Will's eccentricities will be a constant threat to what the Heat have in mind. They will live in fear, and I will bite my nails as I wait and see just how much fun this team will be allowed to have, how much things will revolve around Shaq (did anyone actually enjoy watching the Lakers close out games by dumping it inside six million times?). It's also a little disturbing to me that, while the backcourt could set the world on fire several hundred times over, it's the Shaq-anchored frontline that's the Heat's key to ultimate victory. And with tension already mounting over exactly who will start at the fwd's, you've got to think these are the first signs of a battle that, even if it in the end involves a good deal of style and uncontrollable basketball joy, will live in the shadow of "the right way."
I'd rather see them die than see them fly.