The Charlotte Bobcats and Boris Diaw have reached a buyout agreement, making the versatile forward a free agent. This is good news for those who embrace versatility's literal meaning, because Boris can come to you in several shapes and sizes, with different levels of motivation, declining to make an impact or completely taking over the game in a positive way. He can be brilliant, and he can be terrible. He can help your team, or absolutely waste its time. He could be in shape, or maddeningly portly. He's versatile.
Charlotte Observer reporter Rick Bonnell first reported the news on Tuesday morning, but this has been in the offing for two weeks, especially after Bonnell quoted Bobcats coach Paul Silas' infamous description of Diaw after his removal from Charlotte's active (a loose definition, to be sure) roster on March 7th:
"I like a player who is really committed to not only the team but to himself and then doing the best he can as a player,'' Silas said. "Some of the things that would go on, like not shooting the ball, passing all of the time."
The popular perception by those who are really looking forward to college basketball on Thursday night is that the NBA is a league full of players who are shooting "all the time," and not passing the ball; so Diaw's unique take on the pro game would seem to be a breath of fresh air. The problem with this is that, since being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2003, Diaw has made an unfortunate career of passing up shot after shot; completely frustrating both fans and teammates with his refusal to utilize his profound gifts as a low post scorer.
The guy's a great passer, always has been, and it says a lot about Diaw's commitment to craft that he was originally thought of as a Grant Hill-type point forward before thickening up and becoming a low post threat. Heading into the post and using guile and wily ways is a typical career arc for most NBA players as their ages advance, but this dude's only 29. Come on. He's been the old guy in the post at the pickup game since before he was legally allowed to rent a car.
His career has been one big taunt. We'd get just enough taste to keep us going -- a nice touch dish as a Hawk, a couple of rolling hooks in Charlotte, his brilliant 2005-06 campaign with the Phoenix Suns -- and it would be enough to keep us coming back. Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated pointed out on Wednesday morning that Diaw attempts one free throw for every 36 minutes of basketball he plays (one!), and yet you're considering it. You're a fan of 29 other NBA teams, and you're wondering if your team couldn't use that help up front, and someone to hit cutters.
Diaw will hit your cutters. He can't help it, despite his attempts at remaining completely anonymous. Even on Charlotte's 30th-ranked offense (perhaps better known as The Worst Offense You've Ever Seen) over a quarter of the possessions Diaw used up ended in an assist for the center. That would leave you enthused until you remember his 41 percent shooting, or the fact that the guy that doesn't shoot enough somehow still shoots too many three-pointers.
It's maddening. Diaw's 2005-06 campaign was one of the more enjoyable runs (he did run, back then) we've had as a fan of NBA big men. His quick hits and work in the post kept the Suns in championship contention despite playing almost an entire season without Amar'e Stoudemire in Stoudemire's prime years. Not only did Diaw make himself a threat, but he established that he could work with someone else (in this case, Steve Nash) dominating the ball. When the play breaks down, dump it in to Diaw and cut. See what happens. Get your hands ready.
We're six years removed from these nice things, and Diaw has let it all go to waste. At 29 he should be utilizing nearly a decade's worth of NBA know-how and a body that should still be in peak form, and yet one of the worst teams in NBA history wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
Nine years in, and it's clear that this is the Diaw we should come to expect. He might still provide those exhilarating hiccups, especially for whatever team he chooses to play for as 2011-12 winds down (the San Antonio Spurs, with close friend Tony Parker running the offense, appear to be the early leader), but Boris Diaw has spent 80 percent of his career betraying his gifts. By this time, there's no point in expecting anything else.
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