There’s a whole essay to write about what is going on with the Lakers, and the profound insanity of playing LeBron and AD at the 3 and the 4 instead of the 4 and the 5. I’m interested in why the players insist on it. I’m interested in why the coaches are willing to let it happen. On its face, it makes no sense whatsoever, and it’s going to cost them games like the one it cost them last night against the Clippers. Psychologically, it’s interesting to me, but I’m not going to write about it, because I’m going to write about Lou & Trez.
The idea of the 6th Man is, at this point, a timeless basketball archetype. John Havlicek, Bobby Jones, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton, Ricky Pierce, Detlef Schrempf, Cliff Robinson, Ben Gordon, Manu Ginobili, Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams: these players constitute a lineage of singular bucket-getters and rhythm-alterers who sacrificed the dumb glory of starting for the true glory of kicking ass.
What feels unique about Lou & Trez is kinda simple: there are two of them; they are together. Also, they play, like, the whole fucking game. These dudes played 37 and 38 minutes last night—most of anyone on either team, just slightly more than LeBron and AD. Basically, once they checked in, they didn’t come out.
Lou & Trez are a rich combination of stylistic strangeness and harmony. Lou is a technician, all staccato jabs and slices. He’s a genius at taking what you give him. You drop back, he pulls up. You lurch forward, he knifes by you. He’s a master at the extra dribble; he’s a master at the wrong foot. Trez is a goddamned bulldozer, but he’s light on his feet. He’s relentless, but he’s got touch. He’s the kind of player about whom you find yourself pontificating, “Ah, yes, you see: energy is a skill.” Together, they make screens sing. To Lou Williams, a defender is just a traffic cone in a river, and he is the water itself. To Montrezl Harrell, a defender is a statue of sand in a storm.
The Clippers! What a great team! They get to be so many things. They’ve got the standard issue basketball team: Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet or Mo Harkless depending on how you want to play, Kawhi, PG, Ivica Zubac or JaMychal Green. Patrick Patterson and Rodney McGruder filling in gaps. Mfiondu Kabengele and Jerome Robinson waiting in the wings. You can do really competent, regular basketball shit with those guys. Fuck: that team might be a title contender already. How wonderful to also have Lou & Trez, a joyous cyclone of smarts and fun, an offensive system in and of itself.
Often, when we talk about great players, we talk about how they make their teammates better. Last night, I started thinking of Lou & Trez as their own kind of great player unit. Together, they create a hub that lets everyone else just play basketball. Alongside them, Green gets open 3s, Harkless sneaks and cuts, Shamet comes off screens shooting or attacking closeouts. It just works, and in a moment in basketball in which we seem to be veering towards various forms of stylistic hegemony, it’s nice to see this kind of searing, enlightened madness rising off the bench for the Clips.