Monday, August 18, 2008

Offseason Ball Movements: 8.18.08

Just keeping in shape.

Activating Systems ... Wade V2.0, Status .... ACTIVE: From here on out, we're just calling him 2.0. Because this is not your younger self's Dwayne Wade. The new model has buried the 1.0 in the backyard and taken his identity. And we don't miss him. A few months ago, the rumblings started. Wade was done. He had peaked too early. He was overrated. He was another player to have injuries wreck his career.

Wade had two choices: adapt or die. But he was facing not only his own stubbornness, but the desperation of a GM/coach that relied on him for salvation. I lobbied hard for Pat Riley to shut him down last season when it was clear that not only was he not right physically, but that there was nothing to play for. Allowing him to come back, even briefly after the Shaq trade, was sheer wankery. He basically sacrificed Wade's longterm health to try and sneak into the playoffs to lessen the disaster of last season. When the reports started coming in that he'd hit the weight room, I was hopeful because what Wade needed more than anything was reinforcement on the frame.

The "Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight" Wade was dynamic, and he was exhilarating to watch because of the effort and sheer abandon he employed. He was brilliant from everywhere on the floor, to be certain, but it was that idea of the guy who would come at you until there was nothing left that added the charm to his arsenal. But eventually the body gave way, as everyone had predicted. You can only shoulder so much for so long. He needed body armor. Wade needed, more than anything, to sustain the contact and follow through. He needed to be able to go through his opponent, not ricochet off. If he tried to shy away from contact? Vince Carter. If he tried to plow through? The infirmary.

We're early into 2.0's existence, and we don't know how the wear and tear of the regular season will take its toll. But the muscle he's added hasn't cost him his speed, his quickness, or his agility. And now when he lands, there's no struggle to find the resolve.

What's more frightening for the Eastern Conference is that it's not simply a physical improvement. Wade has come out and said publicly that he's determined to prove everyone who doubted USA wrong, and who doubted him wrong. He links the two. And whether you think that's right or wrong for his Olympic aspirations, it hasn't hurt him on the court. He's committed to being the best player he can be, and if that means making the extra pass, then that's what he'll do. But for Wade, more than any other member of Team USA, this journey to Beijing is personal. Many of them are there for the experience, or pride of their country, or, though they'll never admit it, to expand their global iconic status. But for Wade, this is something else. It's personal. Wade reflects the attitude of Team USA at its zenith. They have no hatred for their opponents, which is why you rarely see them piling it on at the end of blowouts. It's why they don't seem driven to fury. They're not there to destroy their opponents. Their opponents honestly don't matter: What matters is taking care of business. It's about proving everyone wrong and reasserting themselves as the best in the world. For Wade, when he sees USA's goals set before him, he sees himself.

With Beasley, Marion (or whatever assets come from his inevitable trade), Chalmers, and Haslem, Wade is in the best position to let 2.0 release next season. Wade 1.0 was forged with no expectations. Wade, Caron Butler, and Odom. Misfits. Wade learned how to be a warrior with no expectations. He learned how to be a champion with Shaq to anchor him. Now that he's the leader, the anchor, it's his time to determine his legacy.

Jesus, I'm ready for the season.

Certainly Not Overpaid, I'll Tell You That!: Iggy got a ridiculous amount of money. I'll keep shouting to the heavens about the value of sub-superstar shooting guards and why they're not worth breaking the bank, but my cries will go unheeded. There's a tendency to fear a lack of offense in a game that's, you know, offense-centric. But let's just go ahead and review. Luol Deng, Monta Ellis, Josh Smith-- all worth less than Andre Iguodala. Cats and dogs. Living together. Mass hysteria.

The Secret To Our Salvation Is Clearly A 22 Year Old Slovenian Point Guard: Suns fans are somewhere between ecstatic and weary over the arrival of Goran Dragic. Just so you know, according to his Wikipedia page, Goran runs a successful cigar and tobacco shop with his brother. So between assistant coach Dan Majerle's restaurant and Amare Stoudemire's restaurant, Goran's cigar shoppe (you know it's got the extra "pe" at the end), and whatever the hell it is that Steve Nash does in the off-season, you just know that the Suns have the market cornered on everything except actually winning basketball games. As Steve Kerr further drives the franchise into the ground, I have to remind myself that this team still has Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Raja Bell and Grant Hill. I know they'll be good. But it sure as hell doesn't feel like it to anyone outside of Phoenix. And Slovenia.

The More Things Change, The More LeBron James Has No One To Rely On: I like Mo Williams. He has good numbers. He's got a lot of the skills that you want in a point guard. But for a club that constantly talks about adding a marquee player, they keep making lots of moves without actually going anywhere. It's not that Mo Williams isn't a good addition. It's that when you swing for Michael Redd or Baron Davis and walk away with Mo Williams, you've created high expectations and you end up with something relatively underwhelming. Ferry keeps swinging though, with Wally Szczerbiak and Ben Wallace and Mo Williams and Delonte West (who we actually like and they're stonewalling). One of them has to work out, right? Right...?

Add to Technorati Favorites