Growing up, my favorite Marvel Superhero was always Spiderman. And no, not the crappy Tobey Maguire version, or even the slightly less crappy Andrew Garfield version. My favorite was the original. The web-slinging, wit-wielding, wall-crawling, Stan Lee version. In truth, though, I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because he was a nerd-turned-hero. Maybe it's because he's a journalist. Maybe it's because he's so close with his elderly caretakers. Anyway, whatever the case I now find myself, at 27, with both an extensive collection of random knowledge and, an even more extensive collection of random comic books.
Which brings me to tonight's Manoa Summer League Games. Three quarters of the way through the second game I had the depressing realization that I had literally nothing to write about. No Aaron Valdes dunk, or ShamWoW pass, or double overtime thriller. Nothing. And then I looked down at the stats that I was taking. Which led me to a train of thought that went something like this:
"Wait. No. That can't be right…Negus is really 13-15?? Holy shit. He is!"
I had been sorta just absent-mindedly making check marks on the spreadsheet I'd made and not really paying attention to the numbers that developed. You see, the lovely ladies at the summer league scorers desk (shout out to Erica) do a great job of keeping track of points, but not really anything else of relevance. So, I've been trying my best to fill in the blanks.
On the night, Negus played about 35 minutes and scored 30 points, which might be good as far as summer league goes but, which is literally just average for him (he's right around 29-30 points a game, every game.) More impressive was probably his first half, when he went 9-10 from the field and 4-5 from three. So in about 16 minutes of play, he scored 20 points and missed one shot. One. Which might be noteworthy if he was, you know, just a shooter. His skill set, however, goes far beyond that. He creates for himself. He rebounds. He passes. He gets steals. He plays defense. He gives a crap (a trait that is far more scarce than you'd think. Believe me.) If he played baseball, he'd be a 5 tool player. If he was into entertainment he'd be a triple threat. Since he plays basketball and, more importantly since I'm writing this article, he's Spiderman. But why?
The easiest comparison to make is probably the trash talking. The best (and funniest) part about Peter Parker is not just that he beats the bad guys. It's that he makes sure they know he's doing it, while he's doing it. Which is exactly what Negus does. The first time I saw him play in person, I thought that maybe he was just chatty. In a friendly way. And, to be fair he absolutely is…when you're off the court. On it? I have a pretty good feeling it swings the opposite way (and it's wonderful.) So much of basketball is about your physical skills that I think the ability to talk trash (and to subsequently get into the head of your opponent) gets largely overlooked. Maybe it's because most fans never get close enough to the court to see/hear what's going on? Not at the summer league though, where you can stand close enough to hear every single word uttered by every player on the court (most of which could never be repeated in a public space.)
Next is the build. Unlike some of his other famous brethren (Colossus, Thor, Beast, Hulk, Cable, Bishop, Juggernaut etc.) Parker's body type stayed the same even after he got his powers. If you saw him on the street you'd think he was a normal guy. And you'd be very wrong. Which applies to Negus here as well. This trait is most often on display when he's in the lane. Tony Selitto always says, the best players play the game like they don't need to try. And it's so true. Isn't that what they say about Lebron? That he "makes the game look easy"? That to me, is one of the easiest ways to tell where a player stands. Aaron makes dunking look easy. Keith makes passing look easy. Nikola makes shooting look easy. Negus is cast from this same "make it look easy" mold. Everything he does on the court is smooth. Like he's jogging, even as he's sprinting on the break. Like he's shooting a layup, even when he's out at 30 feet. Negus Chan, Negus Chan, does whatever Negus can? Okay sorry, that one was lame.
In truth, I'm finding it really hard to adequately describe his game here, if only because no amount of hyperbole will ever to justice to the real thing. Which brings me to my final point. This summer league will be your only opportunity as a fan to watch him play, in a game, for the next year. As a transfer from Mizzou, he's required to sit out the season and will be eligible beginning in 2014-15. So do yourself a favor. Come out and watch (both him and the rest of the guys). You won't regret it.
Also as a sidenote, although Warrior Insider is up and running (thereby proving that Dayton is still alive), the place is a little emptier without him there. Come back Dayton!!! (Check out his commentary on tonight's games here.)
For pictures and videos of this, and every, summer league game, go here.