July 06, 2010
Which is fine, you know. Chris Duhon always sounds great in the summertime. You can always talk yourself into Chris Duhon in the summer. You'll read a few books, work on that thing in the yard with the weeds and the fertilizer and the sweat, or maybe baby-proof the house in time for the kid's sixth birthday. But no matter the price (a reported $15 million, over four years), and no matter the convenience, he'll always be Chris Duhon.
Which, again, is fine. But he's the second car. It isn't nearly as fast, it isn't nearly as resplendent in terms of luxuries or ease of use; and there's a reason the stained and dented beast is the clear second. A reason you go out of your way not to drive it. And as sound and appropriate as Chris Duhon seems in early July, agreeing to terms with the Orlando Magic, he still has to play for them.
He still has to back Jameer Nelson(notes) up. He still has to play the actual minutes, perhaps up to 18 a game. And despite the sometimes-good streakiness of that jump shot, he still has to line that thing up, and hope for the best.
This is a good acquisition, for the Magic. A very, very good one, I'd say; and that's coming from someone who has spent a good chunk of this decade ruing Duhon's very presence and the strange hold he had on a very good (but very flawed) pro basketball coach and the resulting minutes allotment with a team located in the American Midwest. Chris can play, he can pick up plays very quickly, and he gives good effort.
The trick is that jump shot. Because as often as we thought those Jason Williams(notes) bombs were going in — something had us hoping, perhaps it was a little nostalgia — Duhon's arc is farther off. He's a terrible shooter, and on a team like the Magic (in spite of all the other options), he'll get plenty of looks from long range, and because he's Chris Duhon, he'll miss quite a few of those looks. Short range doesn't help, either, because Chris is crap at finishing in the lane.
What he can do is try to do everything right. And because (speaking from personal experience) it's so damned hard to find a proper pub in Orlando that isn't situated inside of a chain restaurant, Duhon and his big-boy contract will pick up Stan Van Gundy's offense, try to make the extra pass, work a bit of quickness in transition, and provide expert defense. That last part will be a huge upgrade on what Jason Williams gave the team last year; because while we appreciated J-Will's effort in that area, he was still a step or three short in close outs or recovery times.
It's just that, as sound as a hire like this seems, "sound" is "sound" (and not "great") for a reason. This is still the man that shot a combined 27 percent in October, November and January of last season. He still, for all his cerebral play, makes errors that you wouldn't even associate a Sacramento-era J-Will with. He still manages to make you forget his attributes — small contract, small minutes, adaptability, good defense, good teammate, good fit — with one play gone terribly, terribly wrong.
But he's also a backup point guard, and often has the ability to work as one of this league's best in that particular realm. He's Chris Duhon, he's below average, and he'll be working for below the league average in terms of pay. Such a deal.
Just be ready for all the things he does on the court that will drop his stock, so suddenly, to the ranks of the below average. Just be ready, Orlando, for him to get all Chris Duhon-y on you, in an instant.