You crazy, Drew.
I guess I’m still debating whether or not Tracy McGrady’s recent performances changes everything.
Everything, of course, being the outlook on the rest of his career. As much as I hate to say it, Detroit was supposed to be where McGrady’s dream of a triumphant return to NBA-caliber basketball went to die. T-Mac’s one-year deal with the Pistons made little sense when it happened. For the first month of play, there was almost nothing to latch onto. He was a middling third-stringer. It wasn’t sad; it wasn’t anything at all. It seemed as though we were witnessing the end of a spectacular run. Of a magician whose magic outlasted its crumbling vessel.
Of course, T-Mac at his absolute peak was the decade’s most frightening offensive maelstrom. No distance was too far to launch from, no angle was too obscure. To say that basketball came easy to McGrady would be an insult to his talents. The game itself flowed through McGrady’s fingertips. Gilbert Arenas’ flaring imagination held true to Adidas’ vision, but only McGrady’s preternatural gift could convince us that impossible is nothing.
Keon Clark is 35 years old now. He’s in prison. He’ll be in prison until 2013.
It’s an unfortunate situation for a man blessed with so many natural gifts. Little did we know then how much his vices would consume his fledgling career. Actually, that’s a lie. We did know; we just collectively chose to ignore. The NBA is at the mercy of talent, and Clark was very little if not talented.
Clark has spent much of the past decade and a half in a dizzying haze, learning nothing from the consequences that have plagued his collegiate and professional career. For as long as he played basketball, he was impervious. His nonchalance and ripe innocence always shielded him from too much harm. For all of the suspensions and negative press he garnered in college, he still managed to be a lottery pick in 1998. He was 6’11 with a 7’5″ wingspan and a 40-inch vertical leap. He was a shot blocking extraordinaire with good enough touch and form on his jumpshot. You just don’t find that every year. He was the unlabeled elixir. You didn’t know what would happen with him on your team, but it was always worth the risk.
It was worth all of the fact checking reports citing his attendance at four different colleges due to academic trouble, among other things; worth all of the drug-related suspensions in college; worth all of the confounding questions.
When the “B-Team” ventured back to the United States from Istanbul adorned with an unfamiliar gold medal, the world watched as the NBA’s proverbial royal throne vacated. Subjects from across the globe were all too eager to hand team leader Kevin Durant the scepter for his tremendous efforts. He was the light that would subdue the darkness that had infiltrated the league’s elite. Kevin Durant was the knight in shining armor. LeBron James was the fat and ugly dragon hellbent on the destruction of all mankind. Or something like that.
Boy, what a difference three months makes.
In the not-too-distant future (present), Miami’s notorious band of brothers is in a state of disarray. Kevin Durant, the preordained champion of everything that LeBron isn’t, has yet to build upon the hyper-efficiency of last year’s Oklahoma City Thunder team, and last summer’s FIBA World Championship team. He is still producing numbers, but nothing near the gaudy stats that made him a beacon of hope last year.
It’s a reasonable conclusion that the international scene changes a player. We’ve seen it time and time again. Gates of previously locked talent discovered overseas (e.g. Vince Carter after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Carmelo Anthony after the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Japan, LeBron James after the 2008 Beijing Olympics) become full-blown realizations during the subsequent NBA season. After Durant’s incredible string of games in Turkey, we all assumed whatever international elixir his elders were drinking overseas would work miracles in the same way for him.
Well, there is definitely something in the water outside of America. It has left a significant mark on a certain player. We just weren’t looking in the right direction, or more specifically, at the right jersey number.
Danny Chau writes about basketball at Plantar Fasciitis. If you haven’t been reading his stuff over there, well… catch up because it’s awesome. I recommend you start with his latest piece, which is about this year’s Golden State Warriors. Anyway, I’m extremely pumped to announce that he’s not just the biggest Semih Erden fan in America and the world’s foremost basketball/food writer, he’s the newest member of the OTN team. -Ed.
Surrendering your conscience to the game is an indescribable feeling. Focus is insular, every motion is predetermined, and the mind becomes the most powerful weapon. It’s the feeling Brandon Rush must’ve felt in the fourth quarter of his first game back after a five-game suspension.
Taking down a defensive rebound, Rush glided down court like a wraith pulling up for a quick 3-point shot. It was a perfect instance, in the aftermath of one of the most compelling offensive performances in NBA history. Rush stopped. There wasn’t a Nugget in sight. In that one moment, Brandon Rush was water. 5:51 left in the game. Pacers with a 128-96 advantage. Rush, who hadn’t sniffed the court since last month, scored his 16th point easily. It was just one of those nights.
The Pacers, who entered the game with one of the worst offensive ratings in the league, tore a dimensional hole with their (almost) flawless third quarter shooting performance, sucking the life out of a tired Denver Nuggets team on their second game of a back-to-back.