They Can't All Be Winners, Part 3: Houston Rockets

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FROM: vangundy@pistons.com

TO: faaaaaaaaarts@yahoo.com

Look, Dwight,

I’m gonna need you to stay focused, here. Put down the Froot Loops. Turn off Cupcake Wars. Quit texting Rondo quarter-baked business ideas like “pet buffet” and “boat organizer.” Read this whole thing, start to finish. Don’t you dare skim it and write back to me saying “Yup. Got it, Stan. All of it. Really. Do you think hummingbird poop tastes like syrup?” I’ll know what you did, Dwight. I’ll fucking know.

Christ.

I didn’t say anything at the time, because by then I had learned that you need to make your own mistakes, but I could have told you the Lakers thing was never going to work out. Earlier this summer, my six-year-old son Ralph and I were at a Times Square Disney Store, and he was eyeing a stuffed animal that looked like Simba. He’s big into The Lion King these days, just like you were from 2007 to 2009, and when he whined for the toy, I asked him, in what I thought was a calm and curious tone, “WHY THE FUCK DO YOU LIKE THIS SIMBA FELLA SO MUCH?”

Now, I don’t think that inquiry merited a security guard ejecting us from the store, but I don’t make the rules at the Disney Store. Anyway, once we were on the sidewalk, I repeated my question, and Ralph, who’s a sharp boy, told me he likes Simba “because in the movie, he learns to be brave.” You know what I did next? I walked us right over to the Disney Store across the street and bought him a goddamn Simba. He earned it.

My point is, when you left for Los Angeles, you hadn’t yet learned to be brave, Dwight. I remember late in the season before you left, when you had completely checked out on the team, and you strode around the practice facility in a tiny cowboy hat you insisted was hilarious, bragging to anyone who would listen that you were going to “live in a house like the one Vince Entourage has.” You were so naive then. I could see that LA was going to scarf you down like a midnight snack, that Kobe was going to be your Scar, that your house was going to be stupid.

But it’s okay to fail, Dwight. It doesn’t mean all those cruel things people say about you are true. They’ve called you dumb, and I know you’re not dumb. They’ve accused you of unseriousness, and, sure, that season when you showed up to every practice in full-body Shrek makeup was a bit much, as was the road trip where you carried an unwilling Rafer Alston around in a baby bjorn the whole time. And you learned the hard way that putting bubble bath in a fuel tank is more like an act of terrorism than simple hijinks, but your understanding of help defense principles is impeccable. Your post-up game is better than you ever get credit for. Do the bastards think that magnificent body of yours built itself?

Even when the team was embroiled in that civil suit filed by the bus driver’s widow, my belief in you didn’t waver. “I could lose the franchise!!” Rich DeVos said. And I told him, “Listen, Rich, Dwight is the best Shrek a coach could ask for.”

I meant that then, and I mean it now.

But it’s time to live up to that belief, Dwight. It’s time to gain strength from the failures and be brave. You’re nearly 30 now: a man. I hear you’re expanding your horizons, going to restaurants that don’t serve mozzarella sticks. That’s good, and I’m proud of you, ordering honest-to-god, adult-food entrees, but this year, you’ve got an even more difficult task, and that is: GIVE JAMES HARDEN SOME FUCKING HELP, GODAMMIT.

Your bearded buddy is dying out there, Dwight. Carried the team on his slumped shoulders to a two-seed while you were pissing away the regular season mending yourself back to perfect health. You and I both know you’re not the same athlete you were in Orlando. Hell, I’ll level with you: my once-beautiful body has gone somewhat to shit, too. But your shortcomings have as much to do with your knees as they do with my plum-shaped abdomen, old friend.

You’re like Simba in the middle of that Lion King movie, before he meets the slender guy and the pig: in exile, too dazed and afraid to fight. I understand you’re diminished, and that playing in James’s shadow is comfortable, but you can’t wander the savannah forever, Dwight. There’s a time for wound-licking, and there’s a time for righteous uncle-murder. You’ve got a team that can really do something; you’ve got a superstar at your side; and you’re not a kid anymore. The kingdom’s there for the taking. Dare to roar, motherfucker. Show the world what I’ve always seen in you.

Okay, pep talk over. You can go back to your Froot Loops and your Cupcake Wars now. I’d tell you to stop talking to Rondo altogether, but I know you wouldn’t listen. And just to head this thing off at the pass: don’t ingest anything that comes out of a hummingbird’s ass, Dwight. I’m serious.

--Stan

Previously on TCABW: Charlotte Hornets | Philadelphia 76ers

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