Mario Hezonja, currently playing entirely too many minutes for the Portland Trail Blazers on account of Trevor Ariza opting out of the bubble, catches a rebound in traffic. He gets the spirit, dribbles down the court, manifests his ideal self in his head. I am Mario Hezonja, he says, and I can make it fucking happen. The viewer, for a second, is convinced. He did block LeBron once, after all. But on that third dribble, where he switches hands and begins his approach to the rim, something is wrong. It’s all too slow, too loopy. He takes the ball to his left, drives into four defenders. His upper body takes on this weird angle in relation to his legs. Is this his move? At the free throw line, he picks up his dribble. He should have… done something else, there. Drove into bodies, looking for contact. Pulling back and looking for Nurkic, who can operate a half court set out of the high post. Maybe toss it back to Gary Trent, spotting up behind the three point line. Maybe he could have just kind of… tossed it to the other half of the court, hope Melo catches it and then does some Melo witch shit and gets two points out of it. What I am certain he should not have done, though, is take a static push shot in the middle of the lane. Look at the ball as it leaves his hands. Where’s the spin? Can a basketball knuckle?
What happens to Justin Jackson, here? There is no way that he was preparing for whatever actually happened. He kind of… stalls himself in the air to keep himself from fouling Hezonja, and then ambles down and staggers backward while challenging this bizarre shot, befuddled at the lapse in reason he has been inducted into by Hezonja’s misguided drive at the rim. He adjusts his shoe. I don’t think there was a problem with his shoe, necessarily. There was just a problem with reality, and fixing something small can occasionally give you the clarity you need to move on with something resembling a normal life in the harsh light of an irrational world.
When I watched this live, for a second there I was jacked and juiced. I thought this could be it, Hezonja breaking through the wall of the self and manifesting as the golden eagle he wants to be in his heart. But once that third dribble hit, I knew it was game over, bad possession for the Zers, get back on defense fellas, this one’s not gonna make it happen.
Mario just wants what everyone wants: love, acceptance, a permanent job in the NBA. But this… wall just hovers in front of him. He tries to wield hubris as a sword to break through like some guys can but when the time comes to try something truly stupid, when JR Smith would be blowing through these dudes in transition, consequences be damned, Hezonja just melts and settles for the worst floater of all time. It breaks my heart every time I see it.
(big thanks to Dave DuFour for harvesting this clip on my behalf)