Triage, So They Might Lead
Some major shifts on our cosmological landscape this weekend. No, I'm not talking about the Hawks, which was a truly transcendent human occurrence that, justice willing, is irreproducible. I'm thinking instead of my new take on McGrady, which began when he made his side-splitting "beer is my fault" comment. He seems strangely free at this point. If the media wants to paint him as a loser, or a slacker, that's fine; the fever pitch it's reached has only allowed him to step back and either confront it or shrug it off as hysteria. As I've said a few times, it's just the first round. Once he does do it, it's not like a parade is waiting in the wings. Then the championship cringe begins.
I suspect that McGrady, like most players, is concerned mostly with winning and losing what in front of them. When he got knocked out in Round One last year, the crying wasn't about his implacably morose place in history. It was because they had just lost a close series that could have been theirs. If he's not more upset this season—as the curse gets thicker and thicker—well, chalk it up to the fact that the circumstances at hand aren't nearly as tense. It's the difference between backdrop and background; the series at hand is what registers most with him, and what T-Mac reacts to primarily. That other thing occurs to him out of the corner of his eye, but isn't forever crushing his spirit. That's for each individual game, and the rest of the immediate future, to do.
I also have decided that, somehow, Josh Howard had suddenly entered McGrady territory. I don't expect this pot thing to last, but his play has been absolutely miserable for the last few months. [Insert tennis pro Tennenbaum brother reference here]. The back problems, the recent deaths, the burdened "just speaking my mind," Howard is nothing like the ball of spikes, rubber bands, and gangles that's won us over since '03-04. Howard's an even more complicated figure, because—no disrespect meant to Tracy—the young Mav isn't so easy to paint as merely an imperfect athlete. If there's one thing this whole weed episode taught us, it's that Howard just wants to kill the bullshit. This isn't about swagger. It's the past's radical athlete principles delivered with this era's off-handedness. And Howard, I'm beginning to think, speaks out because he's upset, not angry.
For today's Josh Howard, tune into the Julian Wright Show. Tayshaun Prince waited till crucial playoff games to make his rookie year count for something. With last night, Wright started to do the same. His game is every bit as awkward and elastic as Howard's, but somehow steely and capable of square-jawed wonders when you least expect it. Wright also has that thing that the younger, less stricken, Howard had, where his every move seemed to kind of freak out all the other players on the floor, who weren't ready to let their every pore combust.
(Here's a book teaser: When you see it, you will understand why these events are kind of making me nervous)