Sunday, March 18, 2012

Special Guest Letter: Brown-Eyed Kentucky Gunslingers

Dear Rajon,

I wish I could say I never doubted that we’d both wake up this side of the trade deadline and you’d still be my point guard, but when it comes to the NBA these days, I don’t have that kind of faith. I still wonder if Danny Ainge leaks your name in trade talks to wind you up, because you play so damn well when you think the world is against you. Probably it’s high time for him to develop a new strategy, but this letter isn’t about my problems with the Celtics organization. It’s about you, Rajon, and the particular brand of beauty that comes from being a man born to the wrong time.

When faced with the possibility of a cancelled NBA season, I had to find new ways to justify my cable subscription, which I’d bought for the sole purpose of watching NBA games. I’ve struggled to care about Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead, but the TV show I find myself loving most, despite its more formulaic structure, or its absence of actors with Michael K. Williams-type cred, has been Justified. What I’ve realized, Rajon, while following your trade deadline noise, is that I have a crush on Raylan Givens because he reminds me of you. You and Deputy Marshal Givens share more than just Kentucky roots and lovely, inscrutable brown eyes. He belongs in an earlier time, when being a U.S. Marshal meant you could shoot when you wanted, and you belong in another lost time, when running the point meant it didn’t matter if you could shoot at all. You’re no sharpshooter, Rajon, but you’re a damn good gunslinger, and while your assists won't start you on the All-Star team and I’ve seen them a million times, it still makes me gasp when you stitch a pass through a crowded lane before I even realize you’re passing the ball. Last week against the Lakers, the whole If-Players-Wear-Dark Glasses-Will-We-Lose-Control-of-the-Game debate reared its absurd head, and Jeff Van Gundy was right to devote his commentary to how misguided this is. Nobody can look into your eyes and know how and when you’re going to draw. That’s the point.

Since you’ve always been known to shoot from the hip, both on and off court, it has surprised me this past month to see so much buzz about trouble in the Celtics locker room. Of course, Boston sports media are notoriously two-faced about this kind of thing. Taking shots of Jack Daniels in 2004 was treated as exactly the kind of cowboy antics needed to win big, but the Sox won't crawl out from under Fried Chicken Gate 2011 for a few years at least. (Whenever that happens, and the booze and the wins start coming back to the Fenway clubhouse, I wish they'd consult a Kentucky boy like you or Raylan, and pick a decent bourbon.) Similarly, I don’t believe that all of a sudden, Rajon, you’ve started to jaw at those aging veterans, and all of a sudden, they have a problem with it. Like the frontier, as the Ubuntu Celtics disappear, they are being made into a myth. I don’t buy that anything has dramatically changed since 2008, which was only four years ago, and hardly qualifies as an “era.” Obama, like you, is still campaigning for his legitimacy, and as the President would surely tell you, your J hasn’t improved that much. This is always who you’ve been, Rajon, a sullen and slighted Federal Marshal of the point, and it’s because you’re a dying breed, not in spite of it, that I want you in the Celtics' future plans. No disrespect to Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, who, I suppose, might be better players, but I don’t see either of them having the grit to go one-handed against Lebron James in a playoff fourth quarter, dislocated elbow dangling almost to their knees.

Abigail Greenbaum

P.S. And if you’re a little more on edge this season, who can blame you? Despite his continued grace in horseshoe moments, Paul Pierce looks so gassed right now I sometimes wonder if he’ll have the breath to trash talk while being carried off court in a wheelchair, let alone keep up with your transition offense.

P.P.S. I know plenty of folks who choose their NBA teams because of college basketball allegiances--why else were so many Louisianans on board when a certain former Celtic was grinning and spinning and drooling and drinking while driving and fighting for the last few years? But I’ve always been an NBA fan first, so I don’t see why it can’t work the other way. Pulling for the Celtics teaches you to love teams that the world has seriously good reasons to hate. Go Wildcats.