I'm Growing with Jesus
FreeDarko really doesn't get much traffic, so my guess is that our enemies don't read us much. However, if they did, they'd probably accuse us of making shit up and being in a non-stop state of collective denial. I can think of one case in which they'd be delightfully right: Until yesterday, I'd refused to admit that Amare Stoudemire is no longer the same player. I'd rave about his new versatility, intelligence, and effectiveness, and point out that Amare is still always one of the two or three most athletic fellas on the floor. He's also scoring at roughly the same clip as before; when he claims a gargantuan plot of attempts, he still hits those 2005 numbers.
But at long last, I am ready to say it: Amare has indeed lost some of that ineffable volcanism. He's still explosive, just not in a "mine faculty doth deceive me" way. I used to have to adjust my eyes for the replay of Stoudemire elevating. It was abrupt, without beginning or end, and yet somehow always about to happen. Presently, he just jumps at and over opponents, like so many other six-foot ten high-fliers the world has known. There's a point A, a point B, and plenty of time for ambition and self-satisfaction to unfold. Before, they were collapsed as one. The dunk itself became a perfect circle of infinity, the thought of the next one feeding off its own completion.
Realistically, Amare probably didn't have to develop a jumper and get wise about angles during his recovery. He could've coasted on his remaining athleticism, and would've been a pretty good player. Pine for Kenyon Martin? That's what Amare would've been, had he not opted to compensate for his loss—athletic, and reliant on it, but not capable of dominating through it. And yet compensate he did, which is why today he's undoubtedly a more useful component on a championship contender.
After that Spurs series, plenty of folks thought they'd glimpsed the future of the PF position. I can stand before you today and say that now, Amare has a much better shot at embossedness. Let's visualize what things would be like if Amare had never been hurt: he would've continued to throw seizures at everyone, and eventually teams would figure out a weakness, or the Suns would want more of a plan. Either way, it would not have been June 2005 forever, and as age set in, Stoudemire would very quickly recede.
Before his surgery, Amare was as raw, or real, or whatever as any player I've ever seen. Now, he's a student of basketball, someone who views it as a craft. We might've wanted Amare to remain a wild man, but ultimately it was in his best interest to get his shit together. If you hear some racial connotations in there, good for you. Those obsessed with authenticity also frequently want the best for its exponents; of course, this can put them at cross purposes with themselves. All of this is made more complicated, and concrete, by the fact that Amare is genuinely interesting as a person. How can we not want to see him extend his career, improve his reputation, and, perhaps relatedly, do shit like get a college degree? The former Amare astounded us, but in the end, he was best as a transitional stage. While it might've been like that anyway, the injury practically ordained it.
Point two, lighter this time: As we gear up for the season, I'm realizing that the Warriors are not going to disappoint. If anything, they're poised to push themselves even further over the fringe. After crystallizing their identity and setting the world on fire, how does the organization respond? By shipping out their one-time franchise player (who, if you check the archives, has always bored FD) for Bosh-lite. Wash on that. But then, they draft a deranged Mediterranean gunner and their pre-season could belong to Pietrus's benevolent twin Kelenna Azubuike. Think about it this way: In last year's playoffs, Jason Richardson was pretty much an anonymous three-point shooter. Toss that aside, mix in these three blitzed wild cards, and I think you're about to see a more layered Warriors team—even if these newbies only occasional deliver. If they could possibly last season be branded black-and-scary, here's where they bust out and become an all people's team of artful derailedness.
Parting observation: This city is unusual in so many ways. One lady who does nights on the sports talk station has a Joe Henderson/Bobby Hutcherson modal Iberian joint as her theme music. Nothing says PAC-10 football like multiphonics calling out in the background.