When I was watching the Warriors rout the Spurs in the third game of the Western Conference FInals this Spring, I saw something that temporarily deconstructed my reality. At the start of the fourth quarter, a big man made a dunk. His name was Anthony. He was big and wide and bald. For a second, I wondered, “Huh, who is that?”
I looked closer. It was Joel. Joel Anthony. You know, from the Heat.
I was broken. Not only was Joel still in the league, he was on a team in the conference finals, and I just… I had no idea. I knew he signed a contract a few years back with the Pistons or something, but I figured that the league had washed him out at some point or another, the way it does to outmoded big men who have vague skillsets and seem to be getting fewer and fewer minutes. But, here he was, still in the league, on the Spurs, thirty-four years old, riding the pine, and eating garbage minutes in the conference finals.
He even got himself a highlight package on NBA.com that year.
Joel was signed after Pau Gasol fractured his hand, two ten-days and a rest of the season type situation. He played in the Spurs training camp and was, apparently, the “first guy” they called when Gasol ran into injury malfeasance.
“He’s a real pro,” said Pop, “The guys respect him.”