I Saw Darius Miles Play Last Night
With my own eyes...and it wasn't pretty, but whatever. It was cool. He's perfect on the Grizzlies.
Starting a tad late on my one New Year's Resolution (to blog more), and with no good reason. I admit that I've struggled quite a bit this NBA season, mainly as a result of breaking Free Darko's primary tenet of liberated fandom. I can't help it. I'm a Timberwolves fan. I hate when they lose, I love it when they win. I still struggle with KG's departure. I had to grit my teeth and simmer through those hotly contested weeks of the masses wondering whether KG is a punk. So, this has been a season of learning for me, learning to resolve cognitive dissonance, come to grips, and restructure formerly firmly held beliefs.
One of those beliefs was that I hated the Nuggets, both in an angry and pitying way. I hated them for the undeserved arrogance of Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, young Melo, and an even younger Francisco Elson. That team is gone now and with little to show for itself. Then, I pitied them for being a capable group of players fatally subjected to the stubborn dead-end run-n-lose coaching style of George Karl. The personnel on paper was unstoppable, but they were helmed by a coached who preached none of the necessities for winning in the postseason (spoiler alert: they are headed for yet ANOTHER first round exit this year).
Then I came around on Melo and recognized him to be perhaps the most unstoppable player in the league--a fitting third head to the Kobe-Lebron-? triumverate (Christ I've been throwing that word around a lot lately). Melo after his stop-snitching/weed-carrying missteps became virtually unguardable in that early season before the pissy brawl in New York that netted him that ridiculous suspension. Before the suspension, Melo looked like Charles Barkley but with an actual winner's pedigree and the capacity to play defense when absolutely necessary. He came back, though, to an Iverson-ed team that put him in a terrible position. Alongside James, Melo is perhaps the one player who could be THE ONLY GUY on his team and lead them to glory... and with the addition of Chauncey Billups, it looked like the Nugs might finally have a shot.
And then the fracture. Sure, three weeks is only three weeks. But if you peer a little more closely, Melo is not-so-slowly becoming the NBA's next great tragic figure.
2008 was a year of victory and redemption for so many. KG, Ray Ray, and Allen got theirs. Kobe was redeemed (not to mention Pau). Vince Carter became (was forced to become) an alpha dog once again. T-Mac was absolved for his failure to make the postseason because everyone blamed the Yao's absence instead. Now it looks like even Marbury might get another shot if the Celtics pick him up.
This leaves Carmelo. I said it when I hated him, but now I think it might be true: Bosh could get a ring before Melo does. Carmelo still plays third fiddle to Wade even after Wade has proved fairly useless in the post-Shaq era (not an overstatement--as weak as the East is, you would expect a Wade-Matrix-Beasley trio to dominate). Carmelo has yet to be placed in an ideal situation, what with the ins and outs of Iverson, K-Mart, Camby, and Nene. Even with Billups as an ideal sidekick, Coach Karl will forever hold him back (not to mention that Billups is in likely his last viable year). Perhaps he is simply playing the role that the league so badly needs right now: the tragic figure.
And with Chris Webber's retirement officially in stone, we might be welcoming in an entire era of NEW TRAGICS: Carmelo, Amare? Oden? Baron Davis? Let 2009 be that grimacing mask next to 2008's wide smile.
[Also, in case heads forgot, Shoals writes A LOT. HERE]