Thursday, July 6, 2017

Black and White

I remember Gordon Hayward from when he played at Butler.  He was the only real stud on the Butler team that came within one shot of beating mighty Duke in the NCAAs.  The next year Butler, again, without Hayward--who had gone to the NBA--went to the finals- this time with no stud.  Nobody who would make a real dent in the NBA was on that second Butler team.

The fact that Butler went to the finals two years in a row with those teams is either the aberration of aberrations, or a testament to the coach--Brad Stevens--now the coach of the Celtics.

As for Hayward, he has made a dent in the professional ranks. He was a strong player for the Utah Jazz and then, at the end of last season, became a free agent.  There was a scramble for his services over the last few weeks.  And the Boston Celtics came out the winners. Hayward is now a Celtic.

In July, months after the Celtics were eliminated and months before the next NBA season will begin, the hoopla in the post Hayward signing days has been such that there is an article in the Globe daily about the impact he will make on the team. Very big deal.  The Red Sox are on a tear during baseball season. Edelman is posing naked in ESPN's body issue, but people are talking about Hayward.

Maybe I am being cynical and could be proven to be wrong with this claim.  I hope I am wrong, but I doubt it.

The hosannahs for Hayward are as loud as they are because he is white.

I do think he will be an impact player for the Celtics, but I don't think he is someone who will carry the team, or inevitably take the team to the next level. With Hayward the Celtics do not compete any better against the Cavaliers or Warriors.  I read in today's paper that in order to sign Hayward the Celtics will need to jettison either Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, or Jae Crowder.  I like all three of these players.  Do I think that Hayward is better than each one? Yes. But not by a hoot and a holler.

One of the things that makes me unhappy about the signing is how the courting of Hayward must have affected Crowder.  Crowder plays the position that Hayward will take and Crowder was a tough quality player for the Celtics.  By going after Hayward the Celtics were saying that Crowder is not good enough. Kind of like seeing the girl you have been hugging, shopping around at the dance to find a better smooching partner.  "Hang on there Louie, I'm trying to snag Rex here who is going to be a doctor. If I can't get him to do the dosey do with me, then I'll be back."

Crowder must be thinking what more can I do than what I did.  And, this is where it gets uncomfortable, Crowder must be thinking--as I am--if he were white would his gifts be seen as better than Hayward's--particularly if Hayward was black.

It's tough for Hayward as well. In a sport where most players are black, a white player is often looked upon as someone who has gotten a shot because of race. I remember Cedric Maxwell commenting that when Larry Bird came to the Celtics a number of black players thought that the hype about Bird was because he was white. Bird soon demonstrated that Maxwell's notions were inaccurate but he had to overcome the stereotype that a white man can't really be all that good.

And I imagine Hayward has to overcome that as well, and it does not help when writers like me suggest that his stock is a function of race.  But I think in a city like Boston with a troubled history of race relations, one has to wonder if the courting of Hayward isn't in part to do with race.  I am sure the Celtics brass would shake their head and scream no. And maybe race has nothing to do with it.

But I think if I were Avery, or Crowder, or Marcus Smart--all terrific players--there could be some resentment.

I hope Hayward proves to be a savior, and I wish my experience on planet earth was such that these possibilities never surfaced to my consciousness,  but they have.

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