Hate the game. . .
Shakin' sticks, Vol. 1: Tonight I was up in the sports bar, talking shit with a friend of mine. I believe at one point I actually let fly the sentence "any league where Nick Collison can drop thirty is not for me." There was some fiendishly average kid sitting next to us, trying to concentrate on his Celtics getting stamped by the woeful Sonics. Didn't pay him no mind until I noticed he was frantically texting someone; after about the third loud flurry of key-punching, I looked over and saw he was complaining about us to some faceless third party. For a second I felt kind of guilty for, umm, shouting about sports in a sports bar when nothing worth watching was on. But then I noticed that he pumped his fist and chirped breahtlessly every time Scalabrine made one of his patented decent, well-deserved, one-for-the-team-when-they-need-it buckets, and in that instant it became one of the great validating experience of my many years of constant teething. Official.
Back to business. I've come to the conclusion that redeeming Melo's game is a waste of it all. At best, he's a blotchy, failed effort to remake the classic three for the new age. The Alex English's of this world were smooth, fluid, and elegant; someone like Richard Jefferson is economical and dangerous, the shrewd sidekick answer to off-guard badness. Melo, though, is smooth only because he moves so little, but doesn't have enough burst to make those few steps into burning holes of statemant-making. Doesn't hush himself, doesn't hush others, he's just kind of dumb-founded and dumb-founding. If you want to be less charitable, Melo's the spare parts left over from the Frankenstein experiment that gave birth to Kirilenko, Marion, KG, and all the other rabid and weird 3/4 hybrids who make this Association a place among strangers.
But is there seriously one among us who does not positively adore Melo the person? There will never be another Iverson on the court, but I will now drop a gem of immeasurable proportions: Melo is Iverson II off of it. Not the thugging, or the bleak background, or the hip-hop tie-in—it's the love. He's honest, charismatic, winning, engaging, and genuinely soulful in a business that's got its share of idiots, enigmas, and jerky-brained pretenders. I'm with the Recluse on the wonder that is Rashad McCants and the media, but compared to Melo's ease and expressiveness, McCants might as well be butchering a florid monologue of his own making.
And then there's the city. Basketball is a game of cities, city spaces, city environment. Iverson's real as fuck not just because his friends got shot, he spent some time in the pen, and his crew is mega. That's one of the reasons you'd call him street, say the streets are a captive audience, whatever. But beyond all that, Iverson's like the city walking, "the streets" and "the corner" before pop music made them famous. He has that kind of authority of neighborhood blocks, old folks sitting outside, restaraunts that might as well be monuments. I would call it wisdom, but it's more in the bones, veins and voice than the brain, and it's nothing you could ask about. And this isn't just a black thing. Come to Philly, as much as I hate a lot of things about that place, and you'll know in a second why he's its Jordan (right down to half of the population bitterly criticizing him, which they would've done to MJ, and the terminal coming up short in spite of the back-break).
The new Melo commercial gets at just why he's next in line, or at least it did on the strength of my one viewing. If Iverson is Philly, his adopted hometown, Melo is straight B-More, from Stop Snitching to infinity. And the spot gets this dead-on. Melo strolling through shadows and decay he makes his own, Jim Boeheim big upping him at a bus stop, a helicopter circling suggesting The Wire if the show (or the police there) had a budget. He steps out into light, delivered. But then the riddle: "B. More." He leaves the city, but it's what's made him; he's beyond it, but it's gotten him there. Boeheim and Baltimore indistinguishable, a love thang.
(I apologize for any Scoop-isms there. We all have our moments of weakness. Perhaps you'll find it reassuring that I did put a comma between "indistinguishable" and "a love thang," since a period would've been way too much. I also might've been flying high since, in succession, I just watched Kwame twirl down the lane looking like #1, Curry dunk in his face, and then a typically sublime Odom drive that outdid both of them in the "the small things that remind me why I do this" department)
THC called Larry Hughes a bitch yesterday. Or ventured that Hughes might be "kind of" one. The thing is, I've never liked Hughes as a person (or personality), but his play last year gave me goosebumps. It's kind of a relief to see him no longer the basketball avatar he was in '04-05, largely because I can once again create harmony between my (irrational) dislike for him and what he does on the court. O the tension in mine soul as I was stuck with a prototypical case of hating the player, loving the game. And not as in "T.O. is such a phenomenal gamebreaking receiver, too bad he's also an egomaniacal headcase." That comes with the territory, gift and the curse and all that. Hughes, it was like personality and style were two different people, thus breaking one of the cardinal rules of my NBA cosmology.
Melo 2006: Love the player, hate the game.
(Is Tolbert really talking about "biggest buttocks in the NBA?" I guess that's okay if you're reminiscing, but to bring an active guy like Curry in is wrong. And not only because I think that Toine is the alpha and omega of disproportionate rears in this league.)