Kyrie Irving

I was watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 tonight after I got home from the Raptors home game and trying to make sense of what I saw on Wednesday night. It was not something I was prepared to see.

But before I get into that, I want to talk about the most tragic character that I see in the Kill Bill movies. In the movie, Michael Madsen (from Reservoir Dogs and of course, the Free Willy movies) plays Bill’s brother, Budd. Budd used to be a part of the deadliest team of assassins in the world. It was comprised of Bill, his brother and four deadly ladies that were all inexplicably named after deadly snakes. Now, I guess it’s not all that inexplicable because I get why you’d name them after deadly snakes. I mean, personally, I’d name my team of deadly assassins after the Teletubbies or characters from The Jeffersons.

(I can picture sending Weezy to Shanghai in order to kill the family members of a crime boss.)

Anyway, Budd is no longer a part of a team of worldly assassins in the second volume of Kill Bill. He’s a shell of the shell of his former self. Instead of being a rich, unique killer he’s nothing more now than a white trash guy living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere. He works at a strip club that nobody goes to. Not only does he work at an empty strip club but his boss hates him and makes his life a living hell. He calls him names and degrades him in front of everybody. He has to resort to begging to keep his crappy job and clean out clogs in the toilet.

This is definitely not where anyone would guess Budd would end up -in a pitiful existence full of failure, disappointment and general suckitude. When they cut to the older shots of Budd in the movies, he’s dressed in a nice black suit with his hair well kempt and his body lean like a killing machine should be. He’s often brandishing a rare samurai sword that very few people could ever possess. When we see the current version of him, he’s overweight, not sharp looking at all and just trying to transition from the good point in his life to his death without having to go through a whole hell of a lot.

While I was watching the scenes with Budd play out on the screen, I couldn’t help but think of Hedo Turkoglu. Raptors fans don’t really know the Hedo I’m familiar with. When the Kings drafted Hedo Turkoglu, it was a complete shock to the fanbase. This was long before European players were being touted as the highest draft prospects in their class. They were an unknown and unheard of commodity. When the 2000 NBA Draft was taking place, Kings fans were hoping for a guy like Desmond Mason to fall to the 16th pick so the team could have an athletic swing man, capable of growing in the Kings up-tempo style of play.

When David Stern announced and mispronounced Hidayet Turkoglu, Kings fans couldn’t have been more confused. They had never heard of this guy. He looked nothing like Desmond Mason. His name sounded more like “hideous superglue” rather than anything the fans had ever heard, so there were no expectations of what he could do or where he might fit in.

As a rookie, he didn’t do much in the regular season. He average five points per game and primarily played during garbage time. When the playoffs came around, he got the same treatment in the first round against the Suns. Even though the Kings won their first playoff series in a very long time, this enigmatic rookie had very little to do with the success.

Then came the series against the Lakers in the second round and even though the Kings were swept, Hedo showed incredible promise. He was one of the few players that seemed to show no fear on the court. He didn’t care that Shaq and Kobe were out there. The presence of Rick Fox or the veteran leadership of Robert Horry didn’t intimidate him. He went out on the court and averaged 13 points per game. He finished the sweep against his team with a 22-point effort in which the Lakers squeaked by with a six-point series closeout. It was his coming out party and he wasn’t shy at all.

Over the next two seasons with the Kings, he was a gunslinger in nearly every sense of the word. He wasn’t afraid to shoot the ball. In fact, there was even a joke amongst my friends and me that if he got the ball, he wasn’t going to pass; the shot was going up no matter what. His percentages weren’t great so his playing time was limited because of it but he showed an innate playmaking ability. He was completely capable of affecting a game in a multitude of ways.

When the Kings finally traded him, they received Brad Miller who completed their big man triumvirate to battle Shaquille O’Neal. They were giving up on a future talent for more immediate success. It wasn’t a surprise to see him blossom in Orlando, especially when they turned him into a point forward type of weapon. He always had the ability and the mindset to be dangerous to his opponents.

So when I saw him return Wednesday night, I couldn’t help but see the broken down version of him. He can’t move well enough to really get by anybody. You can run him in the pick-and-roll and his playmaking will be able to create some scoring opportunities for him and his teammates. His jumper isn’t anything you fear anymore. His defense is as atrocious as ever and he just looks like a liability out there.

I recognize that he’s coming back from an injury and that could be a reason he didn’t move well, but this is something you could see developing over the past year. In Orlando, he had three shooters and an athletic god playing around him so it was hard to truly notice his increasing decline. But in Toronto’s system that doesn’t necessarily maximize his remaining abilities, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

Seeing him in person just reaffirms everything you think you’re seeing on television. He has slow feet and he can’t really jump anymore. He seems ready to go into fun-loving veteran mode instead of trying to fight it out one more valiant time mode. It’s hard to believe he has nearly $44 million (U.S.) and four years left on his contract. His signing was a desperate attempt to put some named players around Chris Bosh to show the upcoming free agent that they’re willing to make moves to keep him on a winner.

You hope that Hedo isn’t the strip club-bouncing version of Budd during the rest of his time in Toronto. You don’t want him relegated to being chastised by his bosses for not being worth much anymore. You don’t want him living some crappy existence in which he seems so alone. You hope that he’ll be able to find his Hattori Hanzo sword and still cut through his opposition on occasion.

Any glimmer of the old assassin Kings fans saw come through Arco Arena would be a welcome site over the clog-clearing shell that I saw on Wednesday.