Boris Diaw's unlikely arc of triumph

The capper comes from Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, who, like Quinter, was an integral part of the Suns' front-office team when Diaw was acquired in a sign-and-trade for Joe Johnson orchestrated by then-Suns personnel chief Bryan Colangelo.

"Boris walks into the gym one day wearing flip-flops and holding his customary cappuccino, which was a staple for him every morning," Griffin recalled. "It was during pre-draft workouts, so he sees the Vertec [machine] and asks what it is.

"We tell him it measures your vertical leap by determining how many of the bars you can touch. He asks what's the highest anyone has ever gone, and we tell him Amare' [Stoudemire] cleared the entire rack.

"Boris puts down the cappuccino, takes off his flip-flops and clears the entire rack on the first try. Then he calmly puts his flip-flops back on, picks up his cappuccino and walks away, saying, 'That was not difficult.'"


The French Magic Johnson

The myth is somewhat exaggerated. The Atlanta Hawks really didn't draft Diaw with the belief they were getting a 6-foot-8 point guard.

He was undoubtedly billed as the closest thing France would ever have to a Magic, in terms of size and playmaking instinct, but Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts -- who coached Diaw as a rookie in Atlanta -- insists that the Hawks pegged him "as a point forward more so than a point guard."

"He was a three man," Stotts said, "but we played him as a point forward with Jason Terry and Dion Glover in the backcourt. He'd initiate the offense, and it was obvious that he had a high basketball IQ. He picked up things as fast as any rookie I've ever been around.

"We didn't bring him in for a [pre-draft] workout, but he was always in the mix. We really liked him. [ACC star] Josh Howard was still on the board, but we just felt like Boris was the best basketball player with all the things he could do.

"He wasn't a bad shooter when we got him. He just didn't shoot very often. And, to be honest, I thought he was always very underrated defensively. It seemed like he was always in the right place at the right time. I think more and more people are becoming aware of it now."

Truth be told, family members were as much the inspiration as Magic for all those playmaking things Diaw can do.

As Diaw recently explained to our own Doris Burke, it was his mother -- former French national teamer Elisabeth Rioffod -- who taught him that the game is only fun if the other four players on your team are involved. And it was his older brother, Martin, Boris says, who made him the passer he is by demanding that his little brother get the ball to him every time down.


Let Boris be Boris

The way Griffin's all-timer tale ends also happens to capture the highly casual nature Diaw brings not only to the job but also to life.

You could convince some of his past coaches, starting with Paul Silas back in Charlotte, that Diaw actually was the Frenchman who invented the Gallic Shrug.

The trouble is problems tend to bubble up from that casual nature if Diaw lands with a team that doesn't understand and accept his unique approach.

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