Posted May 18 2012 10:02AM
SAN ANTONIO -- He could have been left in a wicker basket, hidden and floating among the bulrushes. He might just as well have fallen out of the sky.
That Boris Diaw practically landed on the roof of the Alamo was not just providential; it is proficiently typical of the way the Spurs have always gone about building championship contenders.
In Los Angeles, the Lakers are to that point in the season when they'll be hoping for a Kobe-fueled miracle. In Miami, the heft will again sit like a grand piano on the back of LeBron amid a roster that's so skinny it might be diagnosed with rickets. Yet deep in the heart of Texas, the Spurs are deep enough to give you the bends.
"It's what this team, this organization, has always tried to do: make great acquisitions," said Manu Ginobili.
So far in the playoffs, Diaw has looked like a winning lottery ticket bought with some leftover change.
Two months ago, a dispirited Diaw was wasting away on the roster of the Bobcats in Charlotte, Michael Jordan's feckless club would finish 7-59 and set a league record for lowest win percentage. Charlotte bought him out on March 21, San Antonio signed him two days later and it's been a snug fit as the Spurs are 26-2 since he was added.
"When Pop was trying to recruit him, I told him that we do the same plays on the French national team," said Tony Parker. "For five years we have been doing the same stuff. I knew when Boris came here there would be no problem for him to adapt because he is used to those plays."
In Game 2 against the Clippers, Diaw was a stealth bomber of sorts. He shot 7-for-7 from the field, scored 16 points, grabbed four rebounds, dealed four assists and spent much of the night slam-dancing with Blake Griffin. All this behind the backdrop of Parker celebrating his 30th birthday by toasting Chris Paul and Duncan continuing his rebirth as a 36-year-old teenager.
Diaw doesn't do it with flash or speed, just efficiency and precision. To see Diaw hold the ball in one outstretched palm, wheel across the lane and reach toward the basket can be like watching an ocean liner try to turn. It takes a while.
The French Revolution could have been fought in less time than for him to rise up and let fly with a 3-point shot. But it goes in. To see him peek through traffic under the basket, find a cutting teammate and drop off the perfect pass is as natural as dropping a clove of garlic into a pot of bouillabaisse.
"Because it's pretty easy to adjust to this team, the way they're playing," Diaw said. "They're playing smart basketball and it's easy to recognize to see what to do, where to fit and try to be an addition. So it is a pretty easy role. There is no expectation. I am just trying to do my best, play good defense and try not to turn the ball over too much.
"I wasn't surprised. That's a big reason why I choose to come here. I knew it was a short period of time. I knew I had to adjust pretty quickly because of the playoffs were right around (the corner)."
It was more than poetic that NBA commissioner David Stern and ex-Spur Robert Horry were in the house for Game 2. It was Horry who hip-checked Steve Nash into the press table back in the 2007 playoffs when Diaw played for a contending Phoenix team.
But when Diaw and Amar'e Stoudemire reacted by taking a few steps away from the Suns bench and toward the scene on the court, they both were suspended by Stern for the next game. Phoenix lost the series and San Antonio went on to win it all. So it was the Spurs who deprived him of his chance to win his only title and now, Diaw is critical in San Antonio's bid for a fifth overall.
It is, perhaps, more than serendipitous that Duncan is having this late-season spring in his step during the autumn of his career now.
"For whatever reason, I'm healthy and feel great," Duncan said.
Could a part of that reason be Diaw -- a big, hulking body that can both create havoc and make smooth plays? How much easier is it for Duncan to make those turn-back-the-clock spin moves and slick bank shots when he doesn't have to go chin-to-chin and chest-to-chest with the brute force of Griffin?
"He is a very smart basketball player," Duncan said. "You play the way he does and it's easy to fit in. He is unselfish. He understands what we want to do. Defensively, he is solid. He can pass the ball better than many of the big men I have ever played with. He is starting to shoot the ball and get his confidence in that respect."
The NBA era of assembling the super team on the run has the Knicks already steamrolled out of the playoffs, the Lakers cracking like old china and the Heat threatening to come apart at the seams with Dwyane Wade raging at Erik Spoelstra.
In San Antonio, they've always known that a championship firmament requires more bodies than just stars to shine. And sometimes, like Diaw, they can just fall out of the sky.
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