So, blow it up? Blow it up real good? Well before Colangelo drops the bomb on this baby of his I hope he considers the possibility of a rebirth. I’m thinking about Slim Pickens riding the A-bomb through the sky like it was a bare-back bronco, at the end of Kubrick’s seminal masterpiece Dr. Strangelove. Slim gleefully depicted the madness of the destruction that was about to occur. But the way he dropped out of the cargo bay like a baby sliding out of the birth canal, spoke to a certain hope for renewal, and the soundtrack music that accompanied the image of the mushroom cloud - We’ll Meet Again as sung by the seminal Vera Lynn - reinforced that sense of duality. (Is there any better way to describe anything other than seminal? If there is I am unaware of it.)
I think Bryan, and all of us really, need to embrace all this baby stuff that seemed to put the final nail in the coffin of the Bosh era, and just go with it. Next season could be…well…very important (see - all the good descriptive terms are duds in comparison). It sounds crazy, but it could be true. Vera Lynn is telling me that we are going to meet up with most of these characters again.
I’ve been waiting for most of two seasons to see this team reach only two benchmarks. I wanted to see a solid winning streak. And I wanted to see them begin to convert good defensive play into good offensive opportunities, instead of merely playing offense until they hit a dry stretch where they needed to defend in order to stave off a big run. Almost two full seasons of choppy waters passed by, in which winning could never be counted on to continue, and defensive stops just brought some respite, a pause, and another chance at missing another shot at the other end, in games that were nothing but a series of shots and never a cohesive two-way whole. But the moment might have arrived. A seed might have been planted. (Yes, seminally. But only metaphorically. Let’s not get carried away into thinking in literal terms as a result of my careless overuse).
I know. This is no time to be happy about a couple of long-awaited benchmarks.They were just suppose to drop as far as they could drop in the standings and be thankful that it was all but over. That seemed the only source of light shining on this season. Ping pong balls. Get lots of them. Put little tails on them and let them swim like little Phelps?. Now they’ve gone and screwed that up as well. They’ve got balls looking around for bongs as much as they?re looking to claim the top talent available.
And yes - I know - these games against nowhere teams at the end of the season mean nothing. Fool’s gold in an empty mine. A witch’s womb filled with sawdust. It just might turn out to be that way. I acknowledge that fully. Chicago will be a pretty good test. As will Orlando. I just think it’s worth watching closely. They won the last three games in the fashion I expected them to handle every game when training camp began. To think that after all of the disappointments, they finally discovered the means, the chemistry, and the identity to carry out what we thought possible so long ago. It is not entirely bad. I’ll take it. If it does in fact take root.
I think it’s possible that Colangelo wanted Marion all along, since last summer anyhow, and that he wanted to do a three-way deal with Miami and Indiana last summer. I think it’s possible that Riley just couldn’t be convinced to pull the trigger while at the same time promising to keep a Marion for O’Neal swap on the table while things played out. That allowed Riley to get the better deal, and it was better for his team to make the change while riding a little wave of success, while coming out of the depths of the east the year before. Colangelo was going to have to suffer the same dip before rising again himself. And if Marion really is his guy, and he pans out in ways that he appears to be able to make good on, then maybe it?s worth the wait, and the Marcus Banks add-on, and less flexibility in the future than we all imagined when JO arrived. As long as there has been some semblance of design in all this then I?m ok with feeling the darkness descend for so long. From a small sense of design some greatness can finally sprout.
The addition of Shawn Marion changes the character and nature of this team. He allows for a certain aggressiveness that entails quickness and smart, instinctual playing as a team with well-defined roles on both ends of the court. With O’Neal, aggressive play was translated into plodding along with little ball movement, a lack of balance, and poorly-defined roles. It certainly helps that Jose is able to defend his own man on two good legs, but he still played far too safe and conservatively while in top notch condition pre-Marion. Now we see a Jose launching long passes, and keeping up with the streaking newcomer. He’s looking a little more like Nash. Bosh’s defense appears revitalized as well, with less of a load to carry on offense and an energy guy he can rely on to supplement his own efforts. Really the whole team has keyed in on the two-way play that Marion thrives on naturally. The game looks easier for everyone. Triano looks like he can coach. Guys like Joey and Roko and Kapono don’t have to shine and overachieve to give this team a chance. And adding a pick and a free agent to what is already here seems more promising than blowing it up. Not to mention that the core of this team is still young and with every possibilty of improving. Bargnani has only just established himself as a guy that can provide consistent numbers and effort. He still has room to become whatever he can figure out from there. Jose is just getting a sense of what playing major minutes all season long entails. And Bosh’s understanding of how to make his team better, too often forgone out of necessity, can become the stuff of true leadership yet. As with all young teams, it was ugly getting to this point, and it’s going to take much more work and commitment. But wouldn’t it be great to see the ugliness pay off?
They will still need to develop a better half-court game to have playoff success in the long-term. And the defense that we’ve seen against weak teams will need to show up against elite teams as well before I can feel certain that they are finally moving forward. And the unknown intentions of Bosh, Marion and even Mensah-Bonsu might make all these thoughts moot. Hell - they might lose by 35 against Chicago and lose every single game left on the schedule. And Colangelo might find himself with an even uglier picture next year. I really don’t want to get ahead of myself. I just want to enjoy a renewed sense of hope.
Rebirth could be upon us, and it might have nothing to do with Bosh’s man-seed or any fertility treatments. And if the losing continues, maybe they can at least change the Best Seat in the House promotion. Maybe they can suspend a clear globe of amniotic fluid beneath the scoreboard. Maybe one lucky winner can slide in wearing a speedo and hook up to a breathing tube and see all the action from the absolute center of center court. And if the game goes south, instead of falling asleep in a seclude recliner, the lucky participant can simply go fetal in full view of everyone in attendance. That could be fun. If things don’t get any better in Raptorland, we could see a whole stadium full of human-sized beakers with thumb-sucking, curled-up fans inside. It could be a whole new trend. We could all walk out of the ACC feeling brand spanking new, and able to wait a little longer for some design to be revealed. Let’s just say that one way or another, this team needs to grab on to the idea of rebirth and go with it.