This past weekend, as I conversed with colleagues and acquaintances about the deadline deals struck across the league, the one trade most lingered upon, time and time again, was that of Perkins to the Thunder. Without fail, almost all sought to glean some sort of understanding as to why and how the Celtics could trade the very heart and soul of their team. I knew the reasons stated–the injury, contractual status, the Heat–but was at a loss myself, dumbstruck by the occurrence.
There’s just something about trading an “enforcer” that evokes emotions unparalleled. Perhaps it’s subtle guilt, the knowledge that a man whose primary purpose was sacrifice of his body for team betterment had been discarded like an old shoe, worn of its past value.
From the lens of Garnett, who described the news as similar to “the loss of a family member,” the tragedy is imminent. Imagine raising a helpless child into a grown man and then working beside the man to prosper in your craft, eventually gaining complete dependence upon him; then one day the boy is gone forever. That’s what the Perkins trade meant at the human level to Kevin Garnett. He had raised Perk from a boy into a man who helped him win a title and whose loss in last year’s Finals deprived him of another; that child was now gone.
I think back to the Oakley-Camby trade and imagine similar ethos following Otis Thorpe’s banishment from Houston. There is quite nothing like trading defensive big men.
I think we often unnecessarily suppress consideration of the human element of basketball, or even life. Perhaps subconsciously, we consider it anti-intellectual. Consider: the natural assumption is that Hakeem/Mutombo would be willing to invest substantial time into tutelage of Thabeet. But many are dismissive, claiming cultural affinity could never lead to such altruism.
I think of my parents who have never turned a blind eye to others walking in the same shoes they wore some thirty years ago upon landing on these shores. If you’re Hakeem or Mutombo, and you see this boy of similar heritage and similar build, struggling in the craft that you conquered, is there not almost an inherent yearning to offer aid? I imagine almost a claim of ownership, a sort of “no one else gets him, but I do, I was there, I did it, and he needs me; he is me.”
Few who have walked this earth have been blessed with the opportunities presented to Thabeet. Youth. 7’3 size void of the structural deficiencies plaguing other giants. Athleticism. The legends of his craft waiting before him, willing from a primordial bond.
There are some in life who lie content with survival. Others strive for fulfillment on the strength of the tools they are dealt. Still others gain urgency when it is far too late. Time will tell what path by Thabeet is chosen. For now, we will wait and place hope on the human element.
‘Huq’s Pen’ is a daily column of musings written by Red94 editor/founder, Rahat Huq.