Dented in the Rain
When I first decided to join forces with Bethlehem Shoals, decades ago, I was following a little team called the Minnesota Timberwolves with a big heart and a big dream. This was the fabled 2003-04 season when KG finally did some playoff dirt, accompanied by the wily gunman Latrell Sprewell and the ninja, Sam Cassell. The key cog to that team, however, was the guy who replaced the injured Wally Szczerbiak for the better part of that season, Trenton Hassell. Hassell became my favorite player for the way he mindboggled Carmelo Anthony in the first round of the PO's and sent Peja Stojakovic's career toward a downward spiral. My first moniker on this very website, in fact, was an homage to Hassell's game.
Hassell is gone now. Traded from the Wolves to the Mavs for Greg Buckner. And I've been privately holding a vigil for him ever since.
Hassell's defense is as FD as a Josh Smith dunk. He doesn't quite have the super-long arms you think of when you think "defensive-stopper," but he moves with the perfect amount of gangliness to really disrupt an opponent. He's as shut-down as Bowen, but far less overt and far less fake-humble. Plus, he does that "I'll defend Dirk and I'll defend Iverson" routine as good as anybody in the game. After 03-04, lots of Wolves die-hards suggested that the new emphasis on handchecking completely killed Hassell's game, but the stats proved otherwise. I can't find the link now, but 82games.com listed Hassell as clearly in the top 3 at his position in 04-05. Because he doesn't have the name of a Kobe Bryant or the rep of a Bowen, he doesn't get the benefit of the calls a lot of the time...but this year, on a high-profile team such as the Mavs, the world will witness his prowess.
This is not to mention that T-Hass's offensive game is a fluid swan. The favorite stat of many Wolves boosters for the past few years is that while in college at Austin P, Hassell led the conference in scoring.
I'm coming to learn that the hardest part of a rebuilding process is not getting over the magnitude of someone like KG, but dealing with all of the casualties that come with it. The Hassell/Buckner deal is clearly just a swap for a more manageable contract. Glen Taylor give me something to live for.
One final note, as Sportscenter leads with the Memphis lineman story closely followed by the Isiah mess, it seems pertinent to put this screenshot up (click to enlarge), which is the type of thing I was referring to in this post: