You heard the whispers. Too skinny. No defense. Weakest link. But you brushed them off.
You brushed them off back when you attended Oak Hill Academy. The same elite school that housed the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Durant, among others.
You brushed them off when you became the starter as a true freshman for a Maryland squad where you were paired with Juan Dixon and dominated the ACC; back when ACC basketball meant something besides Duke versus North Carolina.
But the whispers kept surfacing. Too skinny. No defense. Weakest link.
Never mind the fact that you were fifth all-time in career assists for the NCAA. Or that you led Maryland to back-to-back Final Fours in 2001 and 2002, winning the NCAA Championship during the latter year. Never mind that, at all.
Never mind all that.
Forget that steal against Duke's Jason Williams, in which you basically taught Mr. Williams to respect your defense rather than look over to Coach K for instruction.
It's easily understandable; point guards come and go. All they have to do is bring the ball up the floor and pass to the scorer.
That's all you do pretty much, and that kind of ability sure as hell wouldn't translate to the NBA. The whispers resurfaced.
But you waited. Ignored the hate. Watched some scrubs get drafted over you. Troy Bell? Reece Gaines? Ndudi Ebi?
Second round came. You were taken with the No. 38 pick. Home cookin'. Hello, Juan Dixon.
Back to Portland for a second go-round. Rip City Uprise, they called it. All hail Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden. Hell, throw in Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye, Rudy Fernandez, and Sergio Rodriguez.
Welcome to the Uprise. Welcome to the 2009 playoffs, Portland. It's been too long.
First round—bust. Too much Aaron Brooks. Too much Yao Ming. Too much Houston Rockets. And the whispers made their rounds again.
Too skinny. Weakest link. No defense.
Off with his head. Portland needed a new point guard. Aaron Brooks dominated that series, all because our point guard could not defend. It's his fault. Apparently basketball isn't a team game anymore.
Team? Wrong spelling. Tiem.
The better tiem won? Nope. Our point guard is garbage, that's why we lost. No shine for leading us to the playoffs at all. Hate him because we lost in the first round.
Offseason comes—something's gotta give. Trade him now.
The hate just won't give up. But the management heads had you stay. And the hate did what it does best.
Too skinny. Weakest link. No defense. Scapegoat. Trade him.
New season. Nov. 8th, 2009. The tiem is 3-3 so far.
What the hell happened? First round playoff tiems in the Western Conference can't make any noise with a 3-3 record. Whatever happened to our tiem from last year, the one that won 54 games? What the hell?
Blame the point guard. It's his fault for everything. Push aside his accolades in lieu of the tiem's faults.
It's okay though, you're used to it. You can't make them understand. You never will. You'll just play your role and lead the tiem. You know you can do it. You've done it before.
They won't praise you. They won't recognize. They won't even acknowledge. When the team is down, heads will turn to you.
You know the routine. You've heard the whispers.
It's fine, though. You know. The coaches know. The teammates know. Your role on this team is much more than what the hate will ever know. And it will never stop.
Until then, you'll do what you do and make the whispers cease—at least temporarily.
You're Steve Blake. You've heard it your whole life.
Too skinny. Weakest link. No defense. Scapegoat.
You're Steve Blake and you play through it.
No matter what the whispers say.