Saturday, March 7, 2009

In Search of Yang...or Yin: Part Seven

For Part Six, I shed a little insight on the Gift and Curse that is Michael Jordan's career and his perfect balance of yin and yang. To be honest, I thought about not including the subject matter for this Part Seven as part of the series; but the bond between these two players is too strong...and too perplexing to me at some points of it. More after the random picture...

At the very beginning of the series, I recognized that Chris Paul and Deron Williams are the premier point guard yin/yang pairing in the Basketball Realm. The consensus is that with Paul's guidance of the Hornets to the near-top of the West last season and Williams' injuries and slow start this season, he has surpassed Williams and is the better player. But Deron is closing the gap was between them; however wide it may be. But here's the interesting twist to their relationship: Paul, by most accounts, is a top-10 player while Williams isn't even mentioned in the discussion.

But why is that so? I'm guilty of it, too. I can name ten players who I confidently believe are better than Williams, and that doesn't include Paul. I won't do it here in the post, but I will if asked to do so in the comments. Let's get back to Williams. His stats are very comparable to Paul's, minus CP3's gaudy steal numbers. His jumper is more feared, and can get into any spot on the floor he desires--with the size to withstand more contact in the lane. He even appears to be the only player in the world that puzzles Paul, and trumps Paul in head-to-head matchups when their two teams meet. Yet it's Williams who's seems to be that guy that just can't seem to get his name into the conversation of the Association's elite, where Paul is firmly entrenched, even though he compares favorably to his New Orleans counterpart.

It can't be because he's in Utah. Stockton-to-Malone, and even Williams' teammates--Kirilenko and Boozer--have received their share of recognition despite being in Salt Lake City. Plus, he is at worst the unqestioned second-best point guard in the League, despite Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups' best efforts. But somehow, he can't usurp Paul in the minds of the majority.

To me, I reference the mainstream juxtaposition of Lebron and Kobe. I wrote that Lebron is the deity blessed with limitless gifts and given the Basketball Realm since his inception. Kobe is that lone warrior, the samurai that spends time in the wilderness sharpening his mind and footwork, down to the degree of spin needed for his pivot foot. He is naturally infallible, but a flawless human. This is how some may see Paul and Williams. Paul seems to be the floor general that others love to follow because he has a certain regal aura about him. It's as if he was born to lead men; born to dribble off screens and throw lobs to rolling big men. This isn't to say that Williams isn't gifted; but maybe people don't see him as the transcendent player in the way they see Paul. To them, Williams is great, but doesn't quite have that godly presence. That maybe Williams was able to come across the Super Soldier Serum, but while it's amazing, it isn't the Power of the Gods that Paul possesses.

One thing that Paul does have over Williams is that he is a symbol of hope to an entire city. Paul came to New Orleans in the season of Katrina, while The Jazz had been a staple of NBA consistency for going on two decades, with the only setback being the year before D-Will was drafted. That may add to Paul's mystique. He's the leader of a team of a city so decimated by tragedy and managed to lead them into Western Conference contention. The Jazz have been blandly consistent. Even Stockton-to-Malone used the most simple play in Basketball. There was no flash, no flare. It was all substance and very little style. I don't know why, but Williams gets boxed in by this blandness, even though his game is far from it.

This brings me back to the oddity of their yin/yang relationship. Everyone knows in math that if a > b and b > c, then a > c. So let's say that a is Williams is better than Paul, and b is that Paul is a top-10 player in the Association. Then that must mean that Williams is at least among the top 10 as well, right? This is the nature of their connection. It's on a level beyond mathematical comprehension, and regardless of where one elevates the level of point guard play, he can't leave the other and become vastly superior. Even though I side with Paul over Williams, I get the sense that Williams is forcing his way into everyone's conscience—demanding that he will get the respect that his counterpart already garners.


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