Lone Wolf Without the Cub

I have said some preposterous things in the past about Julius Hodge, so let me fire off one more before lowering the veil of reason: Odom, as many flowery shrines as I have constructed in the place where his name once was, belongs to L.A. or South Beach. Much like KG only makes sense stalking the tundra, he’s got an easygoing guile that agrees with the limelight. But imagine Odom transfigured and hunched by the harsh glare of NYC, stuck on the train with his stomach growling, and bounding onto the courts to hustle cats for days. Multi-skilled and spectral as ever, but with a hunger, fire and cockiness that practically screams Harlem World.

(If someone wants to try and argue that Odom is indeed the heart of Queens, or that Queens is much more like Miami than I think, go ahead. Just please don't tell me you read that entire paragraph thinking that I didn't know where Lamar Odom hails from)

As much as I support Julius Hodge in all things he does—especially in his ongoing, nearly epic planetary rivalry with McCants—I’m not blind to the facts. He’s got a wiry frame minus the outlandish spring and tension that makes Odom, KG, and Miles into their own brand of human engineering. This does add a touch of Iverson to his player profile, but AI’s small, not fragile. And at the moment, he’s got no shot to speak of, a luxury afforded only to defensive specialists. Despite his impractical rise from second-rounder to near-lottery (without the scouting report on him ever changing all that much; it’s like the world just decided they were pulling for him), the twenty-two year-old Hodge ends up without a role on a team already overstocked with middling guards and swingmen. Way too late along in his life to stash him away as a project—that’s both an insult to a man who, if nothing else, deserves none from the NBA, and would tempt some team to try and start signing prison ballers.

Earlier this season, I half-guessed that the Nuggets might have brought Hodge on in as an “act like you know” consultant, to keep Melo focused and bring K-Mart down from the molten clouds of toughness that seem to have enveloped his brain and his game somewhere between New Jeruz and Kiki’s Town. Little could I have anticipated that this joke would have buried deep within it a kernel of prescience. For while he may have failed to become Denver’s Moochie, Hodge’s recent request for an NBDL assignment is about the most grown-ass thing anyone’s done for years in the Association.

When the DL was handed down from up on high, I refused to give in to the throngs who demanded I have an opinion. It was second-class citizenry in a league that’s one big walking piece of the pie, fucking with the glacial divide between the guaranteed and the guaranteed-not’s, and just generally insufficient for developing high-priced investments in a controlled environment. No more recently than yesterday, second-rounder Monta Ellis confidently to reporters why he sure as hell wasn’t headed there:

"I'd rather this, not playing and working in practice, instead of being in the D-League and playing," Ellis said. "I just feel like the D-League is just not my level of play. I feel like this here is going to be better. I like to be pushed. I like for people to go at me and make me better and I make them better."

Now witness Hodge, New York legend, blacktop terror, college stallion, flat-out authority, on his decision:

“I think it was pretty easy," said Hodge, who would not take a cut in pay to drop to the D-League. "I'm a basketball player. I work hard on my game and continue to get better every day. It doesn't matter where I'm at, just what I'm on the team doing."

Prior to Hodge’s revolutionary act of civil obedience, there had been exactly one and a half stories in the new look NBDL: Marcus Fizer, he of the endless downgrade, counted as half since he should probably just be in the Association, and Dennis Johnson, from interim Clip Show skipper to his usual role as the Wandering Black Jew of the Celtics Greats Tribe. Lo and beholdeth, DJ will be coaching none others than my(?) Austin Toros. But Hodge’s move (also to the Toros, incidentally) is more than mere human interest. With it, he’s doing what no team had the guts to do, and certainly what no flimsy Euro or stuttering high schooler could do: in deciding to accept a demotion and live the farmed out life, he’s actually admitted that he needs to get better. If Hodge were just a humble guy, he would’ve been content to—and quite possibly needed—to stay within the sightlines of the father figure. But striking out on your own to hone your craft, undertaking adversity in the name of self-improvement, that presents the challenge of the NBDL as an exercise in fierce maturity, not infantilization.


At 12/14/2005 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for touching on fizer, a guy who i can't help but feel bad for. I mean, he's a banger who looks like he's really working out there and he somehow puts up 10-4 in limited minutes. He's definitely a good bench guy to have and deserves to be the 7th/8th man on an NBA team.

About hodge, i love the man. Great poise, maturity and understanding for the game. He makes up for some of his athletic shortcomings by sure will. In college, i watched him will his nc state team to a respectable record and tourney finish. How he does it, i don't know. A little bit of everything, but everything done right. This act of maturity by hodge didn't suprise me one bit. I fell in love with the man at the 2004 NCAA tournament. The first 2 rounds of a certain bracket were held in Orlando and 2 friends of mine were able to score tickets through connections. Even though they were up top, we were able to move down pretty low in the student sections after a couple minutes. Mississippi State played i believe it was Manhattan the game before hodge's. Manhattan tried valiantly but as you would figure were outmatched. MSU was up about 30 with a few minutes to go and they were still going all out. Their fans were going nuts with their annoying redneck sounding "Go State!" chant that my friends and i mock to this day. The players were feeding off it and seemed hell bent on racking up the points. With 30 seconds left, they played trap defense got a steal, and hit a 3 pointer on the fast break. The crowd went nuts and the players seemed to egg em' on. Truly an unsportsmanlike game from MSU and their fans. Then, golden boy hodge took the stage. I didn't know much about him except that he was a probable lottery pick earlier in what was his junior season. I couldn't understand why as he didn't look that athletically impressive but he was pretty long i guess(The NBA Draft is a DRAFT OF LENGTH..sorry). Hodge seemed to just rally his team around him everytime he was in the game. He was outspoken on defense, getting guys to play where they were supposed to, and forcing guys to move without the ball and run plays. It was a sight to see. At the end of the game, NC State was up probably 20, with about 15 seconds left, the other team through a stupid pass to the perimeter that julius hodge tipped to himself at midcourt and everyone rose in anticipation of the big highlight reel dunk from the best individual player in this bracket. But hodge got to about the 3 point line looking ready to send it home, but then just pulled up when he hit the free throw line, and dribbled it out, handed the ball to the ref and started shaking the hands of the losing team. While there was a lot of unrest because of the lack of highlight dunk, i was completely taken back. He became my favorite player in college basketball after that game, for the way he played on the court and the way he carried himself as the bigger man. I think teams saw this quality in him and saw that he is a leader and a focused individual who will do anything it takes to win. Jerry West was apparently very interested and he seems just like the Battier kind of guy he loves. Why the nuggets couldn't work with him more instead of signing a bunch of guards, i don't know. I think they could use his focus and leadership out there over dermarr johnson and voshon leanord's spare tire. He will get his chance. While a lot of high schoolers will fade into obscurity in the D-league because they weren't cut out for basketball, hodge will rise again, and soon enough, he'll be willing a team to victory in a town near you.

At 12/14/2005 9:31 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

hodge is amazing because he manages to get it done on the court despite having no discernible basketball skills. he's got a decent handle, can pass a little, and plays pretty good defense. but, as shoals and aug both pointed out, he's not a great athlete, and he can't shoot.

i would never say he's a battier type, though. that one play may have been sportsmanlike, but that guy talks more shit than payton.

At 12/14/2005 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, your last photo... could it be an unintended prediction?... the good sleep doctor looks a lot like Riley will in February, just a thought.

At 12/14/2005 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know he trashtalks. He's a passionate player. One of the reasons i love him so much is that i can relate to him. I too have no real basketball skills. I'm an average shooter, not quick enough to hang with speed guards or big/strong enough to hang with real post guys. I'm not a penetrator, ball handler or rebounder, but i do all of those things pretty well and i can step up my game and somehow outperform much more talented players in league/intramural games. I love the beauty of kobe's game and the raw explosiveness or amare's, but there's something to be said for a guy who i can relate to. I didn't mean battier like in skill, mainly in leadership, solid all around and a good team player.

At 12/20/2005 10:07 PM, Blogger willijclinton said...

You don't garner accolades such as NYC prep player of the year, 3 time All-ACC selcetion, and ACC player of the year by having "NO" game. Julius Hodge can play ball in my opinion. Ok, he doesn't have a deadly jumper, or tremendous hops, but dude difintley has game. I recall Magic wasn't much or a jump shooter or dunker either, but that's neither here nor there. I think that Denver has an over load of gaurds. Crzy thing is none of them G. Buckner, D. Johnson, V. Leonard) are playing worth a crap. This is a testiment to Denver's gaudy 12-13 record. By the looks of it, ole George Karl will be gone by seasons end. The luster of last year has quickly faded. And we all know professional sports is a "what have you done for me right now" business. Hodge will go tothe NBDL and work on his game, and be ready to contribute when he is called back up to the NBA.

At 12/22/2005 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a load of crap....the reason hodge 'requested' being sent down is cause he can't face another day under the rule of karl...hodge was luckier than shav randolf by miraculously going in the first round...tuff shit for hodge that he doesnt have what it takes to even get to suit up on an nba team....at least shav is working his butt off and using his SKILLS to get playing time and do his improving on an NBA court instead of practicing carrying joe forte's jock strap...

get real...hodge will be in europe before he sees another minute in the nba..


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