He's too fat to play point guard too well anymore, but you kind of feel like he could. He never plays small forward anymore, but he's so wide that he can actually guard small forwards straight up. Even larger ones. He's a credible rim protector whose only flaw is that he's a few inches too short and a few steps too slow.
Minor limitations of form aside, Boris Diaw can play any position in any game in any situation. His passes are savant-level and he's easily the best big man passer in the league. He has the most loping, child's-first-dribble, bouncing-up-to-his-belly penetration game of virtually any professional basketball player, and yet it works. It works. I just can't fathom how, but it works.
I watched every assist Diaw made with the help of the new nba.com clickable box score feature. And so, on one play, he started at the top of the key and sort of lost his dribble: the ball was about 3 feet away from his body. And yet he spun and continued to dribble. And, as he spun, he moved forward towards the rim; forming one oscillation in a sort of ponderous time helix, moving at 20 feet per rotation and one rotation every 5 seconds. After he made his way -- with the ball in geosynchronously wide orbit -- to the hoop, he stopped his spin and his forward momentum. And so now Boris was roughly at the low block, his lack of speed guaranteeing the presence of defenders. And from that situation he'd begotten (with his own macro-level clumsy girth and sloth), Boris Diaw found a way out: For just as his spin stopped, Diaw immediately slipped a pass (from the end of his lever-arms, with the fine pinpoint touch of his magic-hands) to the waiting arms of Tiago Splitter, in the exact right place to dribble into a now-empty lane and flip in a little hook undeterred by the slightest defensive pressure.
I think I was in shock at that point and couldn't properly see what was in front of me, but I like to think Tiago pointed at him on the way back, in the ageless custom of the assisted. Pointed at that eidetic anarchist that overthrows all customs at a whim, and said "Thank you."
Boris does something like this every time he's in the game. He uncorks some next-level pass preceded by a move that for 99% of players means the death of a possession. The arms and legs of NBA athletes -- the lengthiest in the world, and ever-capable of explosive fast-twitch movements -- should rightfully end Boris' possession. (And perhaps even Boris' game, assuming a sufficiently-impatient coach.) Instead it ends in success, inexplicably often. And even the next-level intuitions of coaches -- who can likely predict the outcomes of possessions when the ball is just crossing half-court -- find no purchase in a tenth viewing of the mercurial passing of Boris Diaw.
He does something like this every time he's in the game, and yet ... this season, this unselfish, blessed individual apparently saw a guru in India and at once reinvented himself as a scorer. Those spinning dribbles, once purposeless even to their master, now have a definite destination.
He wants the rim. He wants buckets. He screens because he wants to get open, not just because the angular momentum of a collision pleases his detached, eclectic visual sensibilities. And he spins in the post. He spins in the post like Hakeem (with his homage to Olajuwon we like to call the Cream Shake) and even dunks on occasion, and goes for his own boards if he sees that he's missed. I've now watched every Boris Diaw field goal attempt, just as I had with his assists, and every touch is its own little adventure to everyone in the arena attuned to his special energy.
And how does it end? I'd like to think that -- right before he decides to sign what might be his final contract in the Association, right before that moment, pen in hand -- he eats something at a lunch stand that's so delicious that it makes him at once decide to become a chef. He trains all summer at the best academies, becomes a passable saucier, and his dishes are seen as being as transcendent (and as doughily fattening) as his dishes on the court. He is seen as a top 15 chef. But then he gets challenged to a pick-up game by, like, his nephew. He proceeds to quit his culinary ambitions, re-join the league, and become as much of a passer as he ever has been. Just in time for training camp, to the endless, complex ire of a waiting Spurs team, his seasoned coach shuddering more with every play.