Every time I walk into a hardware store, among the Leathermen, utility sets, adjustable wrenches and multi-head screwdrivers, I expect to see a new, versatile product on the market, “The Amazing Boris.”
Boris Diaw could be the key to a Suns championship this season. (NBAE Photos)
The marketing for such a product would be simple: “It does everything well – scores, rebounds, passes and defends.” Below that blurb, it’d read: “When operating to full capability, extremely dangerous to other team.”
Boris Diaw can (and has) played all five positions on the court, and he’s a matchup nightmare at each one. He’s too fast for most centers and power forwards, too strong for most small forwards, and too big for most guards. He’s given us tantalizing glimpses of awesome skills, most notably a couple years ago in the playoffs when he came from nowhere to be a focal point of the Suns’ offense and defense in the absence of Amare Stoudemire.
But, “When operating to full capability.” That’s the key phrase, right there. Boris has taken a lot of abuse from Suns’ fans and the press for not always living up to that performance in the years since. Some of it has been deserved – He admitted to not being in the best of shape prior to last season, and he never really found his legs during the year. Plus, there was the adjustment of playing alongside Amare, healthy once more. Boris wasn’t sure how aggressive he needed to be, or what exactly his role was. I think he’s still figuring it out.
But when fans are inclined to complain that Boris doesn’t score more, consider this: The Suns don’t need him to score more. They have plenty of scorers. They don’t need Boris to pile up huge numbers of assists or rebounds – The Suns have players who excel in those areas. What the Suns need is for Boris to augment all of those categories across the board, to do a little here and there, whatever it takes, whatever is needed on a given night.
Think about it: Just about every championship team has had a great role player, without whom it would have been impossible for the team to take home a title. For the Bulls, it was Dennis Rodman. For the Lakers and Spurs, it’s been Robert Horry. With his skills in every area, as well as his intelligence (everyone who’s spoken with him knows how smart he is), Boris should, and I predict will, become the ultimate role player.
Consider his statistics from the other night against the Warriors: 26 minutes, 8 points, 8 rebounds (3 on the offensive glass), and 7 assists. Do any of those numbers jump out at you? Not particularly, but with another bucket, two more boards and 3 more dishes, that’s a triple-double, and there isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t take a player capable of such production with such apparent ease on a night-to-night basis.
(Yes, I’m aware the Suns lost to the Warriors, but that had more to do with an uncharacteristically large number of Phoenix turnovers and some lights-out shooting by Golden State’s big guns than anything Boris did or didn’t do.)
He’s a one-man bench, the ultimate luxury, the ultimate plug-and-play hoopster. And there are 29 general managers around the league praying Boris never realizes consistency for his oh-so-tantalizing “full capability” we’ve all glimpsed, because if he does, they might as well cancel the next two or three seasons, because there won’t be much point in playing. Just leave the championship trophy in the desert for a while, and take a few years off, everybody.
I’m a Boris Believer. I’m convinced that he’s the key to the Suns’ fortunes, that Nash, Marion, Stoudemire, Hill, Barbosa, Bell and everyone else are going to give them exactly the excellence we’ve come to expect, but if Boris blossoms, that’s what’s going to send them over the top.
“The Amazing Boris.” There’s no one like him, and he’s not available in any store.
And ain’t I glad.