Love in Exile
(WARNING: Women's bare asses below. "NSFW" but absolutely necessary here.)
For a good time, watch Kings/Bobcats on a Wednesday night. That which barely need be spoken: Kevin Martin is insanely underrated, quick on his feet and to the basket more like any other top scorer than "next Reggie Miller." Crazy unorthodox with every shot, and plenty of his movements, to the point where I think he confounds even really good defenders. His mechanics are their own language, like Sacramento were a basement he's been locked in for years, but chosen to continue his education nonetheless. Like a cross between dictionaries in jail, Kasper Hauser, and someone who assimilated our Periodic Table of Style on a micro-level. Plus his whole pre-hood, Fresh Prince-era look makes him all the more displaced, foreign, alien. Where else could he exist but the nether-place that is the Kings? That's a true original, or space beast hiding behind the cloak of "the artist" and our over-dependence on reading cues of appearance.
As predicted, Francisco Garcia is vital and just does it all when given confidence-through-minutes. Those announcers' whole "Nocioni and Gooden are the future" talk is serious back-sliding, though I'll forgive them since they obviously don't know shit about Gooden past where he was drafted. It was nice to see that Wallace, once unsung, can now have opposing teams shook from end-to-end after one or two possessions. And what's really funny is that, rather than stalking the floor as a possibility, the mature Wallace is a real presence, having finally married his non-stop grinder's grind with a quixotic string of applied highlights. No one else in the league makes you feel that splitting defenders for a dunk is as much "effort" as "skills," but that's what Wallace has finally become. He doesn't scrap, or hustle–he exerts. Plus, as much as it pains me to make analogies like this, he's become the Predator, right down to the vaguely shamanistic appearance and sado-masochistic tendencies. This is where country and funky opens out onto an atavistic future, impossible to trace far enough back or locate on the horizon. No shit this is the second Predator movie, which is like a combination of Dead Presidents, The Jerk, and Left Behind. I have watched it twelve times.
The point of this post, however, isn't to remind myself that there is joy in visiting old friends and finding out that, on some level, you kind of don't know each other anymore. It's to remind us all that, while Wallace became more guard-like and fluid over the last few years, it's under Larry Brown of all people that's he found some measure of consistency, or at least a way to remain constantly relevant rather than maraud when the chance presents itself. Brown didn't even want Wallace at first, but now, he's created a more focused GW—even if the numbers are down. You could chart a similar arc for Diaw, who irony of all ironies, has seen his career rescued by Larry. Once thought to be the ultimate SSOL player, Diaw's now shown that he's capable of taking advantage of his myriad point-center skills while holding down the middle with some authority. On paper and in person, he's more productive than with D'Antoni, the coach who invented him.
But let's not forget that this maturation is taking place UNDER LARRY FUCKING BROWN, who despite his tempestuous relationship with Iverson has never exactly been one to suffer dynamism or template-busters. It's almost as if, after the utter fail in New York, and the subsequent hit sustained by his reputation—at best, LB was over, if not permanently open to criticism—he's sublimated his outlook, made it less literal. Brown doesn't preach "The Right Way" as a serious of dictums or proscriptions, but as a way players can tailor their individual games to some of the abiding necessities of playing the game of basketball. Which is to say, he's gone from authority figure to mentor, trusted by players who want to win and want to get better because he uses who they are to run common sense basketball.
This may be premature, and based entirely too much on two players. And yet in Charlotte, Brown has the chance for a new beginning; over-sensitive nut-case that he is, or subject to burning out/mellowing with age as are all men who push themselves and others too hard, it's not implausible that he's had a change of heart. It certainly beats phoning it in, which is certainly impossible for a coach like Larry Brown. You could say he's compromised, but I prefer to see it as a great basketball mind having finally discovered the principle of compromise. Or as the ultimate proponent of coach-centrism coming to terms with a player's league, something that's kept Popovich on top for as long as it's been.