A stunning reversal that needs you
You can chalk this up to the middling desperation of witnessing the NBA season dwindle down to a mere four teams. Or a need to make these rounds as distinctly viewable as the early ones were, since even I can't justify turning away from any sort of Finals. But what you are about to hear could very well uproot the light rails upon which FreeDarko dogma doth glide, and I want you to all prepare yourself to suddenly question my existence. Without further ado, then, some quixotic thoughts from several quarters worth of off-hand Heat/Pistons watching.
a. A moment for everything
I want to insist here that I am not going back on any number of seering things I've written in the past regarding Dwyane Wade. I still could not give less of a fuck about his destylized rapier of a game, and think his execution as drained of flare as any explosive off-guard I've ever seen. But in the playoffs, he most definitely is someboday. It was only last week that I recalled how swept away I was by his demolition of the Pistons in '05; flourish or no flourish, serpent or not, his ruthless effectiveness is enthralling when, well, success really means something. The law of playoff basketball is that nothing comes easy, that the situation is itself is an invisible barrier against regular season entitlement. Yet while even LeBron had to fight to put up his customary numbers against the Pistons, Wade is demolishing the most hallowed defense in the land. Shaq figures into this equation, yes, but on an experiental level, there's nothing quite like seeing Wade splinter and raze the very Detroit figures we're used to classifying as "defensive menace"—despite being very much the focus of their efforts.
b. The hunter sings
Wade during the regular season can often seem disingeuously flat. In the Playoffs, though, he not only shows raw emotion and the ability to seeth (and bitch about calls as much as anyone); he's overflowing with enthusiasm, love of the game, all that shit lacking not only in Duncan but also sometimes in the most performative of basketball souls. Call it a telling bit of gee-whiz reflection, but more often not it's a jolt that threatens to dislodge all of his style's bloodless connotations. What this means to me is that Wade is not the orderly soldier or Arenas-like underdog many want him to be, nor the kind of unchained seraph I expect of my mega-stars. Plain and simple, he's a regular dude with an upbeat attitude and an untrammeled feeling (and feel) for the sport, the sort of personality that very rarely coincides with his level of athletic ability. There's not the same walking clinic vibe you so often get from Duncan, or the tacky bouts of Rick Ross-ness that usually come with non-swoll-headed players in this league; Wade dominates and he knows it. Even today, though, he's still that star on a mid-major, killing cats with ease but keeping it all in perspective. All that energy that can, and maybe should, go to his ego and individuality instead goes to passion for being there at all, the game he loves, the fact that he stands around Shaq every day. I can't really speculate as to why it only shines out in these later months, but don't expect to hear me complain about Wade's demeanor until next season.
c. I weep when I prosper
Lastly, I really don't want to dwell on this, but I felt kind of bad for the Detroit last night. Though there's supposed to be no sympathy in sports, I forget just how much I liked a lot of these Pistons before they were a new century dynasty, or even the scrappy mirage that came from beneath. I don't want to watch them anymore, but the Wallaces and Billups, at least, deserve better than a sub-par postseason showing that'll leave them open to all sorts of off-season questions about their worth.
Also, maybe Brick can help me on this one: the San Antonio area doesn't seem to realize that its team got knocked out. Still flags and shirts everywhere, a sort of ominous "you're all just renters on our seasonal turf" feeling to it all.