What I Saw Before Fainting
(HOLY FUCK Gasol part at the bottom)
So I tuned into Pistons/Lakers last night for one reason alone: To watch Amir Johnson, who finally has his spot in the rotation. He lived up to it, looking like he belonged and regularly wowing myself and others. Dude is basically everything every tall lottery pick of the last five years wishes he could be, and all that Bynum's got over him is a few inches and a (Kobe-inspired?) will to self-discipline. I also have to give it up for Rodney Stuckey, who played the way his last name sounds. I'm beginning to think that "combo guard" isn't an inherently flawed concept, just that it's an art in the same way pure PG is. It's not like all "undersized SG's" automatically become combo guards—they can only aspire to that. Stuckey could do it.
If Johnson displaced McDyess, and Stuckey somehow got 25 minutes a game, I'd watch Detroit regularly. You can put that on your graves.
But the real reason I've come back to this wasteland of image-less ruin is the Rip Hamilton/Kobe relationship. During halftime, the Pistons network ran some light-hearted clips of Rip advocating for himself as a Three-Point Shootout candidate. He looked cheery, and said, more or less, "people think I can's shoot threes, but I can. Check the numbers, not the lies snakes tell." Then Kobe, in full fur coat regalia, had on his serious face as he commended Rip on developing past the three-point line (something that once bugged the hell out of Shoals). And then the sillies: "he belongs in there, but I'll take him down."
The Rip/Kobe relationship is endlessly fascinating to yours truly. You know how, whenever you get around your parents, you act like you're sixteen? It seems like these two All-Stars instantly revert back to their days of regional HS battles. You can see it on the court, definitely, where Rip's defense borders on zealous, his offense has an edge to it, and that reptilian glaze is decidedly absent. And Kobe, he almost loosens up in a way that's somewhere between foolhardy cockiness and backyard ease.
It's weird, the whole NBA Brotherhood thing dictates that players' interactions bank on shared pasts. With Kobe and Rip, though, that past is one of rivalry—one that, however low-stakes and goofy it seems now, still awakens in them something awfully vital. Paradox: In all their youthful fronting, you get a whole new kind of vulnerability from the two. They really opened up, didn't they?
UPDATE: Now, it's been well-proven that I don't know shit about basketball. And that anything exiling Javaris Crittendon makes me sad (unless, of course, it's the beginning of a completely amazing and non-sensical Crittendon/Conley backcourt, with Lowry at the three). But this has to be the definition of mid-season monster. Who gives a fuck if Gasol's back is kind of bad? He's a legit All-Star 4, who can do a bunch of shit, and gets paired with that Bynum guy. And Kobe. And Odom, now free to be three (you like that?) That shit is SCARY, and delirious in the way that the best style melanges always are.
Lakers clearly don't care about long-term anymore, since their concern is winning with Kobe—hence those draft picks avalanching away from their person. I'd say that this gives them as good a chance as they'd ever find. And, at the risk of blasphemy, this makes me happier than Kidd would've. This is skilled size—times two—to go with Bryant. They were winning with just Kobe/Bynum, and now you've thrown another Bynum-like presence into the mix. And allowed Odom to be as fluid as he wants to be. Man. I am stoked and I don't even live in California! Might is rising. Boston has an enemy.
If you had ever told me that one day, there might exist a Gasol/Odom/Grown Bynum frontline, I would've thrown up on the ceiling and then cleaned it off with my own tears.
[INSERT IMAGE HERE OF ME SPENDING ALL MY MONEY ON PLANKTON AND GUNS]