Boris Diaw Knows 'The Secret'

I'm American-born, but have lived in France for forty-odd years. I first noticed Boris Diaw when he was a kid on the French national 17-year-old team. I think he is among the best basketball players in the world. In his own way.

Those four words, "in his own way" are the key to understanding him. Boris is an artist. He plays basketball as it should be played. Motion and passing and position and altruism. Yeah, sure. Shooting is important, but basketball in NOT about shooting. It is about motion and passing and position and altruism. The statistical stuff -- points and rebounds and even assists -- come automatically if you have motion and passing and position and altruism.

Boris plays basketball the way it should be played. If he is on a team that plays with motion and passing and position and altruism, he will be very good. And more importantly, so will the team whenever he is on the floor.

(Parenthesis: Statistics do not favor altruists. Over a long period, the only stat that really covers everything a player can do -- or not do -- for the team will show up in his "+/-". Does anyone calculate "cumulative +/- per minute played"? Against L.A. Boris was +19 over 24 minutes, or +0.79/minute. Duncan 1.0; Parker 0.71; Manu 0.6. Just one game... but I think you'd find similar results whenever Boris has significant minutes.)

I followed the Bobcats while Boris was in Charlotte -- dear Lord, what a painful experience! A bunch of mediocre players who have BBIQs somewhere around freezing. What is motion? What is passing? What is position? What on Earth is "altruism"?? Never heard of it!

Larry Brown tried for a while, realized that the situation was hopeless, and bailed. I have no idea why Paul Silas agreed to jump into the meatgrinder, but he did. Like every coach who has had Boris on his team, Silas recognized that Boris can do more or less whatever he wants to do on a court. Silas saw the problem as how to get Boris to do what Silas wanted. Ain't happenin'! Boris plays the game as it should be played. What the coach thinks is irrelevant.

So in about two months, Silas went from "Boris has the keys" to "Boris is why this team is so bad". Boris said nothing, negotiated a buy-out, joined a potential champion, and... continues to play the game the way it should be played.

Coaching at the professional level is not about teaching guys how to play. It is about managing their heads, individually and collectively, so that they end up being a team instead of a bunch of individuals. That is The Secret, as Bill Simmons would say. All the long-term coaches have known The Secret: Jackson, Sloan, Auerbach ... Gregg Popovich is a brilliant coach on that criterion. He has recruited "team" players as first priority. He could not have recruited a better fit than Boris.

And another way of looking at the situation is: There probably isn't any team in the NBA that does motion and passing and position and altruism better than the Spurs, so it is the very best place for Boris. Boris is very, very smart, so he knows that he won't find anything better.

Also, this is a contract year for Boris. :-)




Boris’s nickname within the French national team is Baback (accent on the second syllable: ba-BACK). Slang for "meat" and a permanent commentary on his waistline worries.

Baback is also slang for the sort of gorilla who keeps the peace at a nightclub. Boris is the enforcer on the French national team. The guy who corners any player who forgets The Secret.

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