I Bought My Hairshirt for the Silver Lining
I have yet another reason to abhor March Madness: shit rocked me to sleep so hard, into such an unforgivable stupor, that it's numbed me to all basketball. Especially the motionless lunk that is the right now's NBA. I couldn't be bothered to switch on Kobe's Friday, even once I saw his halftime numbers. And while I watched the Nuggets trample Suns (note: running Nuggets are amazing), Detroit/Dallas barely flickered across my memory banks.
I also can barely remember a single game I watched this weekend, but that's as much on me as the sub-sport itself.
But I'll still take a second to burp up on behalf of my league of less-fleeting substance. Remember a little ways back, when I suggested that Durant's ease on the court would hurt his rep in the pros? Well, I'm now wondering if that day might not come sooner. Witness this quote from the phenom, following The Great Arrestation:
"I have a sour taste in my mouth from ending the season like this," Durant said. "I kind of regret not playing as hard as I could today."
As the Recluse points out, in college people say this kind of thing all the time. It's not so much an admission of half-assedness——it's the kind of desperate, determined soul-searching that seeks to wonder if maybe, just maybe, you could have found an extra ten percent to tack onto 120. That self-lacerating impulse is laudable, since, you know, it shows an even deeper commitment to effort and honor than anything you can do on the court. Plus claiming responsibility, looking deep within for the unknown sin one might have ventured, this is all the utmost in perfection-through-frailty.
When Roy Williams does this, it's a neurosis of drive that demands respect. If a college player speaks these words, it's the unaccustomed flailings of youth, an earnest soul wishing, praying he can find an easy hypothetical to change. Being defeated is hard to deal with; throwing it away, not so much so if you can stand tall and admit it. In college, games are lost and not won so everyone can feel better about themselves. They've tried their hardest, and wish they could try hard enough to make their best better. Certainly that beats acknowledging one's inferiority.
Coming from Durant, though, we're given a window into how this statement would work in the NBA—and why it's never uttered during the playoffs. NBA players are supposed to be perfect, with the mind itself supposedly the first cause of any lapses. If anything goes awry within the context of an NBA game, most likely it will be attributed to an individual player's psychological make-up. Stars are critiqued for personality and character reasons, as if these were the path straight away from everyone achieving Wade-dom. Wade, incidentally, is painted more as a warrior of the heart than a flat-out athletic fiend.
It's impossible for a sane person to watch Durant and not, on some level, wonder where his head is at. Obviously, smooth play does not equal languor, but KD's almost wistful shyness makes his psyche, in effect, property of the NBA. Maybe his youth is the cause of it all, making him just the most extreme variety of the perfect-imperfect college mind. That's cool and all, if you accept that Durant could have the polished, rational game of a 30 year-old and the mind of a teen. Simply put, it's difficult to imagine that kind of basketball IQ not correlate with some slightly more advanced competitive profile. I'm not saying that this is the case, only that Kevin Durant, more than even LeBron at 18, plays grown.
And so the quote coming from him seems not like the generic marvel of the young, hungry soul, but instead the kind of fissure we base our reading of NBA stars on. Their mental imperfection is the pox upon their physical games, as opposed to being the noble technicality that redeems their earthly limitations. In both cases, the mind trumps the body. But at the NCAA level, the mind chastises the body for letting it down, while in the NBA, it's assumed that the mind keeps the perfect body from traveling unmolested into goodness.