Sunday, January 6, 2013
The number of things that happen during one NBA season equals infinity. You won’t see most of them. (And thanks to Twitter, you don’t have to.) It’s fine that you don’t see a lot of them because a lot of them are Al Jefferson post moves and Kevin Love rebounds and Rodney Stuckey somethings. These are all worthwhile things to see, but also, if you miss them, you still know they happened. No big deal.
But then there are other events, ones that are rare and wonderful. They’re hidden deep in the forest, across the river, past the clearing, under the the hardened roots of two-hundred-year-old trees. They manifest as a shimmer that you ignore on first glance, but it leaves an itch in your mind. You need to scratch it so you look back, and there it is. It's remarkable only in how normal it looks on the surface, but at the center is a rich filling of gooey promise and important basketball. These are the psychedelic happenings that validate all the nights of predictable wins and middling performances. These games are what keep bringing us back, again and again and again (and again and again).
I watched a Charlotte Bobcats game this past November and wouldn't you know it? I am still thinking about the game right now, in January. On that lonely Saturday night, I uncovered this exact type of whirring treasure. It was a watershed moment. It involved a lot of Bismack Biombo blown rotations.
Early in the night, I was considering laying down a chunk of cash for League Pass. A Saturday night spent by myself seemed the perfect time to finally pay up and get to enjoy a full slate of games. But time and whiskey got the better of me and suddenly I was face to face with the vicious, drooling reality of a Bobcats-Mavericks game. Ok. Let's roll.
An hour later, Brendan Haywood is playing a significant role in my life and all I care about is Charlotte winning this game. The franchise had yet to beat Dallas, which just ain't right. When I watch Nets games (my team of choice), I use my hands. Put up three fingers when a long shot goes up. Pump a fist when necessary. Help the refs call a travel or possession. These are all involuntary when watching my Nets, but nonexistent when watching other teams—except for the Bobcats on this night. I love them. How much does a Kemba jersey cost? Haywire Haywood botches two chances in the paint to cut the lead to one, then gets immediate redemption by getting fouled on a lay-in. He misses, but then Kemba continues making his case for this being The Kemba Game and skies for the rebound. Someone misses and MKG gets the rebound, passes to Sessions who drives and scores and can you believe the wonder and joy and merriment the NBA affords us?
In overtime, Kemba refuses to use a Haywood screen because it would taint the majesty of Kemba’s night. Aesthetics matter to this man. He leads them—and me—to terrific victory. We did it. We all did it and everything is great.
Now I'm going to finish off blowing this game way out of proportion, but I do genuinely believe in everything I'm about to say. Does a win by a non-playoff team over another non-playoff team matter? Yes it does. As much as a playoff win or even championship? Sure, why not? In fact, I would argue that this game has to matter, or else we're all wasting our time. Great games with contending teams late in the season or in the playoffs are the minority. The bulk of the NBA season is made up of games like this, games that many people would classify as meaningless. But to make them matter, all you have to do is buy in and suspend your disbelief for a few hours. If you can do this, then every moment of the season that you do get to watch becomes worthwhile. And this is the secret to finding these rare moments of glory during the endless NBA season: Just make them matter. (I don't know what that book The Secret is, but I bet its central tenet is something like this.) That's why they play (and we watch) the games, no?