Coma von Soda
If you think we've been eerily quiet over here, you're right. The calm is not fixity, the thunder shall soon fall. But I had to take a break from our frenzied preseason preparations to comment on this NYT scoop (via Inside Hoops):
Carter will not soon take the starting point guard job from Kidd, a future Hall of Famer. But he will gladly fill in when necessary, helping to reduce the mileage on the aging and often aching knees of the 33-year-old Kidd.
You may have caught grasping for Association-wide storylines heading into last season. The Big Redemption failed steadily, and I think we had every intention of just laying back in observation this time. Though when Silverbird and myself got to talking this summer, the Positional Revolution sprung forth from deep within our collective mind. The evolution of the theory has been steady, taking place here, here, in any number of Dunkin' Donuts up and down I-95, and in little ways across this very blog.
Reading this smattering of quotes, though, it suddenly all came together. To quote a long-lost friend of mine, "all bets are off!" Vince was once considered nearly Kobe's equal in the Next Jordan sweepstakes; if anything, the PR allowed him to become one of the premier swingmen in the game, and thus pad his all-around stats as never before. That he's now being casually subbed in at point guard, still that most specialized of positions, is indeed a harbringer of fury. When he dominated the ball in the Eastern Conference Dark Ages, he certainly displayed an ability to handle and move with the ball; this is also an age of drastically underrated passing skills, and a general poet of fluid motion like Vince is no exception to this. It's quite a leap, though, to go from diversified playmaker to caretaker of science.
Lawrence Frank: "[Vince] really feels like he’s Magic Johnson when he plays the point,” the Nets swingman Antoine Wright said with a smile. Wright, a good friend of Carter’s, added, “He jokes about getting in his point guard mode by taking the 1 off his jersey, turning it into No. 5.”
Majesty of note: Vince does not see himself as taking up the point forward, or slumping to take the abuse inherent in the combo guard experience. He's thinking Magic, the prototypical all-around djini, whose point guard/basketball player dichotomy was a true case of burning chicken, glowing egg. KG may have cut the umbilical ties to traditional basketball order, but Magic exemplified the comedic expansion of positional logic. With Vince, you're not getting a Garnett-like unleashing; instead, he's taking his versatility as license to inhabit a certain position in the spirit of its most ambitious practitioners. But rather than see it as Carter's assuming he can be as outsized a point guard presence as Magic, I believe it's a matter of Magic's uniqueness opening the door for Vince to take a go at it.
This is not the forsaking of positions—it's assuming that they must submit to the will of profligate talent. I honestly have no idea if this represents a kind of conservatism, or an alternate path, in which positional "outsiders," whose main claim to legitimacy is the ability to technically fulfill the demands of the slot, step in and see what they can make of a threadbare tradition. Carter may just be fucking around, or he may be thinking that skill is ultimately as, if not more, important than the sacred point guard sensibility, a goofy myth that in the sole excuse for Eric Snow's still being in the league.
The need for Carter’s versatility will not end there. As part of the Nets’ plan to become a more up-tempo team this season, Coach Lawrence Frank could use a small lineup, meaning Carter and the Nets’ other top swingman, Richard Jefferson, will probably be asked to play power forward at times. Jefferson said it brought back memories of his rookie season, 2001-2, when Kerry Kittles and Kenyon Martin each played several positions.
Contrast this with the entropic free-for-all we're expecting in Toronto, Golden State, and of course, the Land of Fire. It's in some ways closer to Averyball, where positions remain intact but are tinkered with to fit individual talent. Asking Jefferson to play power forward, as opposed to simply throwing him out on the floor to run and jump, implies that he'll be making use of his rebounding and finishing skills, much in the same way that undersized Shawn Marion remains the second-most traditional piece of the Suns' fractal planet. Yes, this is most likely the kind of preseason gadgetry that dissipates in the harsh light of semi-legitimate competition. But to see that this lurks in the backroom of every team's mind, that they'll fight deficiency with sprawling talent, makes me think that something big is afoot.