On Point

Anybody who had the privilege of watching the Spurs-Hornet game last night will realize that the greatest glory of NBA basketball is not the big dominant centers (much less that unstoppable plodder, Shaquille O’Neal), or even the sublime swingmen like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Nothing is more exciting in pro hoops – and perhaps in all of sports – than a versatile, athletic point guard. In the matchup between Tony Parker and Chris Paul last night, there were more heart-stopping moments of hard-to-believe athleticism than I could count. Parker is more or less unguardable. His crossover is almost too fast to see, much less defend. Often, in transition, he simply pauses a moment and then just blasts by two or three guys. And Paul, who’s almost as fast and stronger, is also, in the words of John Lennon, a f***ing genius. This is a guy who orchestrates a pick-and-roll alley-oop, against the best defensive team in the league, entirely inside the key. (I’ve never seen another NBA guard make so much happen in such small spaces.) It’s only the small men who you get to see dismantle a whole defense with a sequence of ankle-breaking crossovers and then finish against a guy a foot taller. With Kobe, you experience a sort of long-range aesthetic appreciation when he swoops to the basket and reverse-dunks on his hapless defender. With Parker and Paul, you’re literally startled by what you see – that a move, or a decision, or a move and a decision, could be made that fast. Cheers, anyway. The playoffs are here.