José Alvarado is about my height. If you’re reading this, you might be about the same height. We have a word for it: normal. Or, perhaps, slightly above average. That’s not how we usually describe an NBA body, and Alvarado wasn’t one until recently. A four-year-old at Georgia Tech, the New York native went undrafted and struggled with the G League’s Birmingham squad for several months afterwards. He’s exactly the kind of irritating 6-0 that fires up a lot of March Madness hardwoods and then better work his way into practice or the broadcast or really indulge in some kind of local economy. small business endorsements – because we don’t usually see these guys doing much of anything on NBA soil.
There is, of course, plenty of glory to be had in the NCAA alone. As the sport’s college realm winds down its annual tournament spectacular and makes way for the NBA’s more grueling and rewarding second season, we’re being reminded just how mythologically and collectively powerful the 64 bracket can be. Even for some with Hall of Fame careers in the pros, like Grant Hill, there are moments in the single-elimination pressure cooker of a spring college game that can’t be culturally eclipsed by anything you could do afterwards.
That’s all very well, even great, but the sheer gross fact of exploitation underlies the whole enterprise with an undeniable dark energy, and we’re here today to celebrate the great relief Alvarado took from it. : it was paid . An unpaid player is now a multi-millionaire. Usually, we regale these young amateurs-turned-high-paying pros with their flowers on draft night, where everyone cries next to the family, but Alvarado’s bow is the least-noticed kind. He won his money in March after being called up by the New Orleans Pelicans in January.
In November and December, he had also seen some action. Alvarado just saw the floor for uneven fill-in time, however, averaging five minutes a game while the other players were out and usually returned straight to Birmingham. It wasn’t until he arrived in earnest and made real waves in his hometown of Madison Square Garden that people really started to take notice. The 2021 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Alvarado played the most minutes yet in the road win over the New York Knicks, collecting four interceptions as the Pelicans began to turn the tide of their season started disastrously.
Barely a week after finding meme fame by declaring in court that “Yes, [he] can shoot,” Alvarado has been a fixture in New Orleans’ rotation ever since, and the team nearly cemented a spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament after appearing to have nothing to play for early on. of the year at 1-12 . Averaging 17 minutes per game in the new year, he’s a plus-sub spark plug in the vein of Alex Caruso, knocking ball handlers and the team’s overall basketball savvy off balance. opponent; this is never truer than when it does the thing he is now known forlurking in the corner as a team casually enters the ball and sneaks past the point guards for the sneakiest interceptions you’ve ever seen.
In attack, Alvarado can also do a rare thing, providing both pace and care: he averages three assists per turnover, which puts him in an elite realm of stealth on the ground. It’s not the superhero gravity that the injured Zion Williamson would have brought to the team, but it’s exactly the kind of soothing second unit presence that an otherwise undocked team can use to get back to level. of the sea. Combined with the frenzy with which he renders the other team, Alvardo’s steady hand gives the Pelicans a new advantage in the liminal moments of dog shows.
Perhaps more important than anything that can be explained statistically, however, is the 23-year-old’s sheer loyalty. Before signing his big NBA contract this week alone, his established pro teammates Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart bought him 20 tickets to gift friends and family to his return game in Manhattan. They did the same when the team visited the Brooklyn Nets. Before the Pelicans’ front office made a multi-year commitment to him, the NBA fraternity had already opened its doors.
Alvarado’s ancestry has been a much-needed injection of wholesomeness, joy and straight-forward love for a franchise whose status quo could have easily turned historically sour in the wake of Williamson’s injury. The point guard’s measurable impact on the floor may only be marginally positive for the Pelicans, but his presence means something more important, which is that unexpected good basketball things can actually happen at New Orleans.
And for the amount of sunshine it brings to the situation there, there’s a wonderful contrast in the amount of rain it brings to fans of the teams playing the Pelicans. The man really knows how to ruin your day, if you’re on the other side; you’ll shake your first, lamenting the skies, sadly wondering why fate had to show up in this little guy’s hyper-slick cunning. He’s an undercover magician, messing up the trajectory of date night by making your food disappear right in front of you, and smiling while he does it. He’s a new classic NBA character – a guy who, for as long as he is, we’ll surely remember, and be blessed to have in our lives.