When only the ends remain
Usually when people talk, I bark back loudly and pretend it never happened. Sometimes, though, I stow away their thoughts for later, until I'm ready to use them to enhance the quality of humanity. So it was with a brave reader who wrote, when we counted down the Top 50, that "all of these players seem to have instantly recognizable stat lines." This was pure charm, and I've waited until today to say my peace on it. I knew it was time when, in an unlikely twist of functions, FreeDarko proved useful as a source of information. StatTracker down, busy with the Rockets game, I found out from the comments section that Andre Miller had posted something ridiculous like 29-8-9.
Andre Miller has never been fun to watch. He drives too much for someone who doesn't force a defense to collapse, shoots too readily for someone with limited offensive versatility, and makes too few noticeable passes to qualify as a sizable point guard. But this season, he has recaptured what made him so facinating to me when he was on the Cavs: the ability to create stat lines that, when coupled when a rich NBA.com mug shot, leaves you with the impression of something stronger than action.
Except for when I used to sneak Bill James into synagogue, I've never been all that much into stats. Fantasy sports hasn't made me love them; on the contrary, it's so thoroughly degraded and ghettoized the numbers that fixating on them religiously seems laughable. I check the boxes like the next man, but I know that it's a lower level of consciousness. There are, however, definite exceptions to this, as with the Andre Miller case above. I avert my eyes when Miller plays, but feel a certain shiver in my glands when I see he's put up one of those lines. Bust-out in points, strong rebounding, endless assists. No three's, and a couple of steals. Maybe Nash produces equally striking stats, but with him, I can't help but see them as the byproduct of beautiful game. Miller, though, seemingly exists only to present me with this crude rendering, so that my imagination might float accordingly.
This is almost certainly a pathetically extreme case. Yet there are players, many of them among the most FD, whose stat lines are a kind of joy in themselves. Ben Wallace before the Sheed was a perfect example of that; I could've stared at those 6-18-7 blocks tallies for days. Josh Smith is actually becoming a very, very good player, but even if I don't catch the Hawks I can content myself with a look at 23-4-9-4 blocks, 2 three's. LeBron's 30-7-7 certainly fits this bill, as has been previously observed. Odom's actual play is a spirit-entrancing mix of sublime and hideous; the box scores, though, preaches nothing but pure poetry.
Nash functions according to his game, and there are the numbers to prove it. We know what kind of player he is, and have clear statistical expectations for it. What makes the above investigators so important is that their novel stat lines only underscore the degree to which they are setting off mini-revolutions within the traditional order of basketball. Producing a singular kind of stat line is further evidence of this larger breakthrough; in fact, it can sometimes allow you to appreciate the profundity of their style in a way that might get lost during the actual game-viewing. Andre Miller may be an aberration in this respect, but my willingness to fight on his lie is only proof of how valuable stat lines can be for true prophets.