I don't know how many of you MMB readers are regular enough to know the MOs of all the different writers, but to the extent that you do, I'm sure you think of me as the buzzkill: the cold, calculating guy here to kill your fun with cap numbers, statistics, and realities about complications and difficulties that make hope way less fun. I am, to that point, known to be called Captain Buzzkill in the MMB email thread (at least when Kirk isn't around).
So, I found myself surprised about my immediate reaction to the Rajon Rondo trade news. In the moments leading up to the trade -- as rumors leaked and the pieces starting to come together -- I broke down what it would mean for the team both in my head and on Twitter; I rationalized and analyzed, as I am wont to do.
When the actual news broke, though -- when Rondo officially became a Dallas Maverick -- my reaction was very different. I was sad. Deeply, personally sad, in a way that had nothing to do with how Rondo would affect the team, and how he would do so in Wright's, Crowder's, and Nelson's absence.
I was sad because Brandan Wright has been my favorite non-Dirk Maverick since JET left (and because I've enjoyed banging my head against a wall at Crowder's expense). This has nothing to do with whether the Mavs will be better or even if they'll be more fun to watch. Watching some of my favorite Mavs go to a new team was just really hard.
There's something curious about how emotional it was, it is, to think about Wright and Crowder in Celtics green. I've expended a lot of time and energy on this site explaining how bizarre it is that we never get to know really anything about our favorite basketball players, for all our borderline obsession over them and their performance. For all our posturing and interest, we never get a sense of who these players are.
But my emotional reaction has little to do with that, I think. For all the hand wringing I did over how much we fawn and care about people we never get to know, I don't think that "knowing" these guys mattered much to me, in the end.
What mattered instead was the knowledge that I wasn't losing a friend, or something akin to one, but that I was losing a great experience. Hearing that Wright and Crowder got traded was like hearing that owner of your favorite small-town restaurant was moving: it's not like you knew the guy, but you had so many nice meals with family there, so many memories of laughs shared, and somehow it felt like the memories of those moments that you cherished would be harder to access without the restaurant, and without the owner there, vaguely aware of your existence, giving you the thumbs up as he passed the table.
I know there's video access, and certainly memory serves, but I'm really going to miss Brandan Wright soaring to what seriously seems like impossible heights to slam an alley-oop pass, and I'm gonna miss the gleeful confusion of watching Jae Crowder snag a rebound on a beastly box out, and then immediately clang a wide-open three on the other end.
Missing all this has less to do with missing the players than missing what they gave us as fans. It's hard to remember, sometimes, because we make so much more out of basketball than this, but these guys are, most fundamentally, entertainers. And Wright and Crowder in particular were so good at it.
I mean, for as much as Jae has been frustrating over the years, he's also been a part of so many of the Mavs' best lineups, great in spurts, the source of many articles, the source of many jokes, and generally fun to wrestle with for the better part of three seasons.
Wright has just been incredible to watch: a soaring, explosive monstrosity of fun who could've come out of the lab of the guy who made Flubber for all we know. He was just a joy, in every sense.
Perhaps this article makes for a nice sequel to my musings a year ago: with Brandan Wright finally leaving, I think maybe what's so much more important than us ever really getting to know what's going on with the guy is to appreciate and understand that him -- and Crowder -- were genuinely putting together an experience for us. That, for all the "we do it for the fans" stuff, they genuinely gave us a gift to be enjoyed night after night, and as cliché as that may sound, I'm now finding it difficult to shake how special that is.
I'll miss them both because I'll miss how hard they both worked to give us (and, in fairness, themselves) an experience to remember, and I'll miss the times in which they both succeeded; times that were both myriad and special, and should absolutely be remembered as such.
Jae Crowder can still be a really solid NBA player -- and when paired with Smart and Bradley the Celtics shouldn't be letting a single damn player get near the rim -- and his sheer insanity and bizarre playing made the Mavs in turn head-bangingly irritating and explosively awesome, and his contribution to what has made this team so chaotic and incredible to watch shouldn't be lost to time.
Wright, though, is a special player. It's hard to say more. He helped the Mavs win on a technical level, but he was also a bright spot when they weren't winning, and any time he was on the court. I'm sure he'll be special in Boston, too, and you can only hope that Marcus Smart is even half as good at throwing lobs as Wright is at grabbing them from Mars.
Best of luck, you two. You gave Dallas everything you had, and you had a lot to give. It's hard to thank you enough for that, but this is my attempt. The Dallas Mavericks, as an experience to be had, were sincerely better for every moment you were on the court. I, for one, won't forget that.
I hope you enjoy Boston and give them the same joy. After all, you do it so well.