The following is an excerpt from my annual pre-season interview with NBA Hall of Famer and professional point guard engineer / mechanic, John Stockton.
A rainy night in Tacoma, WA, in a brightly lit machine shop, John Stockton is bent over a sleek, polished hinge joint. He’s wearing a Jazz purple and gray mechanic coverall, streaked with motor oil and singed on one sleeve. He peers through watch-maker’s magnifying lenses and operates a tiny motorized screwdriver. Next to him lies an inert human form, approximately 6′ 3″, wearing capri pants and a tiny backpack. I can tell John’s not ready to talk yet, and there’s no point rushing him. I set up my recorder and watch as he tightens a piece in what must be the broken knee joint. Russell Westbrook‘s empty, lifeless eyes stare up at the fluorescent lights. It’s creepy when John turns off the point guards to work on them. I remember 2008 when Chris Paul was like this. John does good work. After eight minutes of intense concentration, he sighs and pushes back from his work.
Jason Palumbo – How’s it coming, John?
John Stockton – Hmm? Oh. Hi. Good. Shouldn’t take but 5 or 6 weeks to get him running again.
JP – It took longer with Rose.
JS – The DR-1Model taught us so much about the limits of these new designs. We took a full year to really understand the unit. Maximum torque, minimal drag, minimal weight. There’s no steel left in the design. Carbon fiber, titanium, just a few aluminum struts for support, naturally grown human tissues. We’re close to perfecting these new hotrod models. Remember the SF-3?
JP – Yeah, that was the one who almost won the dunk contest, except he ran into Vinsanity.
JS – Exactly. The Steve Francis prototype was just a test to see what the limits of the turbo-PG could be. But he was heavy. Steel-allow chassis, the old meat and potato power cells, limited three point range. These new point guards are the future.
JP – You think they’ll be better than Chris Paul or Steve Nash?
JS – Well… The operator matters, J. I can’t lie to you. We can make the best robot point guard in the world, but there is a ghost in the shell, and it makes a difference. SN-13 lasted this long for two reasons: operator brilliance and that Canadian engine. Nash runs on completely macrobiotic fuel now, burns totally clean. Those older parts are starting to wear out, but the processor and the motor will run forever.
JP – You never cease to amaze me with this stuff, John, but I’ve got to ask you about the season. For the kids, John.
JS – Shoot.
JP – You’ve got six point guards on teams that people expect to contend.
JS – Six? Let me guess. The Formula One Racer, DR-1, CP-3… Not old Nashy. Who else? 2nd Gen Curry, I guess. I’m really proud of that one actually, J. We got his targeting system so finely calibrated, he’ll be the best shooter the game has ever seen if the gyros in the ankles don’t go. Had to keep them tight so his balance wouldn’t disrupt his shot, but now the whole ankle joint array is sensitive. Who else?
JS – No. I don’t do shooting guards. He’s organics anyway. You know he’s an Italian make? Of course he’s got German parts now.
JP – Okay, well you’ve still got two more to guess.
JS – RW-0 here? (He holds up Westbrook’s mechanical knee)
JP- Yeah. That’s five.
JS – The last one must be Lin. Jeremy is based on an older model, and there’s a hitch in his shooting wrist from a malformed strut. Operator thinks too much on defense too, gets beat by guys who are slower than him. Still, he’s a solid build that’s worked in the past.
JP – Not who I meant.
JS – People don’t think the Rockets will contend?
JS – Don’t disregard the importance of the point guard, J. The point guard runs the offense.
JP – Noted. Can you guess who the actual number 6 point guard on the list is?
JS – Not old DW-8?
JP - Deron Williams! You got it!
JS – I thought people had forgotten about him. We made a mistake in that model, J. Coach Sloan asked me to make him better than CP-3, so I beefed up the power output and added more mass to increase the leverage. The whole unit is just a touch too heavy now. Suffered a series of breakdowns, and now the operator isn’t sure how to pilot the point guard. It was bound to happen after Jerry left. I put Gary Payton‘s old model, JKidd, in charge of Deron, and I hope that helps. JKidd lasted a long time. Payton built him really well, and I’m hoping Kidd can get the DW-8 operator back in the saddle as Karl would say.
JP – Karl Malone would say that?
JS – Yes. He would say that. Let’s go over the breakdown again before you go and I get back to work on RW-0. So Formula One is still a Spur, and the operator is pick and rolling at a Nashian success rate.
JP – He’s Stocktonian.
JS – J. Don’t sass me. Anyway. I can see San Antonio winning. If Bernard King had built that small forward of theirs to a higher free throw standard, they would have won last year. DR-1 is on the best defensive team in the league with the best depth that the team has had around him since he was activated. Chicago is going to be tough, J. We were not screwing around during that year-long rebuild of his knee. He’s fully upgraded. All of his operations should be functioning at peak performance. Rose is as finally-tuned a robot point guard as I’ve ever built.
JP – Good enough to beat LeBron James and the Heat?
JS – Don’t say his name, J. He can hear it when you say his name.
JP – Ooookay. Let’s move on. How about Curry and the Warriors? Can they win the West?
JS – If that darned ankle holds together. Tell Mark Jackson to get him in for regular tune-ups, and I’ll do what I can.
JP – What about the Thunder? Is Russell Westbrook really going to be ready to go inside of 6 weeks?
JS – J, I told you: We have mastered the turbo model. The torque was too high before, but these new shock absorbers we’ve designed are going to revolutionize the explosive point guard as we know him. Westbrook will be back, and he will kill John Connor.
JP – What?
JS – Nothing. Can we wrap this up?
JP – Sure. Do you think the Clippers can come out of the West?
JS – Listen, J, I know former point guard Doc Rivers was getting really frustrated with my 9Green model.
JP – Rajon Rondo?
JS – Yes. We constructed the Rondo model with the widest possible field of vision to maximize assist potential, but it compromised the targeting at distance. Even at a range of 15 feet with no defense his shot is suspect. Doc will enjoy working with CP-3. He’s not the new turbo design, but he has no flaws, and the operator knows his business. That’s a point guard.
JP – And can any of your point guards defeat LeBr… I mean Him. Can anyone beat the Heat?
JS – How can a simple machine, no matter how perfect in form and function, contend with the divine? Karl and I faced the last basketball demi-god in two Finals. I looked into his eyes, J, and I saw my ghost aflame, my gears and chassis smitten upon the hardwood. Man’s works cannot stand against the NBA devil. This one is the same as mine was. Oh, he discarded the 23 to try to blind us to the truth, but he’s the same. Those eyes, J. Pitiless. What hope has a point guard against something like that, J? What hope have any of us?
Tags: 2014 NBA preview, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, gary payton, Jason Kidd, John Stockton, kobe bryant, lebron james, Mark Jackson, Michael Jordan, point guard, point guards, robot, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, steve nash, Tony Parker