Tuesday, June 20, 2017

NBA Mock Draft

1.     Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz, Washington
The Celtics’ motives behind this trade are a little more complex and layered, but for the Sixers it was really quite simple. The process has been trusted, and now it’s finally time to get a little better. Or maybe a whole lot better. They feel as though Fultz can help them immediately and also blossom into a superstar. If he, Simmons and Embiid all pan out, they could be a contender in five years or so. In my opinion, Fultz will be a very solid starter but never a true superstar. He has some Jamal Crawford and some James Harden in him, which is like a pickup superhuman, but I’m not sure he’ll be efficient enough or consistent enough defensively to be by far the best player out of this class.

2.     Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, UCLA
At this point, I’m pretty sure the average basketball fan knows more about LaVar Ball than Lonzo. I’m not entirely sure how that happened. It’s probably a bit of LaVar’s unconventional brilliance combined with Americans’ thirst for anything remotely over the top. For as obnoxious as LaVar is, though, Lonzo is every bit as good. He’s the real deal. I’d be extremely surprised if he ends up being a bust. His natural passing ability reminds me of Steve Nash’s and Jason Kidd’s. He’ll need to bulk up, improve his defense and become a better finisher around the rim, but I think he will. I expect that in his prime he’ll be a 16-point, 8-assist, 4-rebound kind of guy. If the Lakers take Ball, which it looks like they will, that might mean D’Angelo Russell is out the door, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing for Lakers fans. Ball, Paul George, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle in 2018 is a pretty decent core for the future.

3.     Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum, Duke
When the Sixers-Celtics trade surfaced Saturday night, I was out with some friends and they screamed in frustration when they heard the news. They had no idea why the Celtics would do such a thing, but I reassured them that it’s all for the best. Here’s why: Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson are not much worse, if not as good as or better than Markelle Fultz. Jackson is uber-athletic and could become a really good defender. He can play the 3 or 4, and if he develops a reliable jumper he’ll be an all-star in no time. But that’s not who I think the Celtics will take. I’ve been saying all along that Tatum should be their guy, so this trade made me nod my head because I speculate Danny Ainge sees it the same way. Here’s what you need to know about Tatum. First off, and most importantly, he’s really good. Like really, really good. He can shoot the 3, beat you off the dribble, pass and block shots. He’ll need to work on his defense and rebounding, but those are things you can teach. He reminds me a little bit of Paul Pierce, in that he plays at kind of an off pace. He’s a capable high flyer like Jackson, but that’s not really his game. He’s got the old man game, and I think he can come off the bench and contribute right away for the Celtics like Jaylen Brown did last year. In my opinion, Brown and Jackson are too similar. I think Tatum gives them a wing scorer, which is something they really need whether Jae Crowder stays or goes.

4.     Phoenix Suns –Josh Jackson, Kansas
To me, this pick is a no-brainer. Fultz, Ball, Tatum and Jackson are the four best players in this year’s class, and I think the Suns have to operate under a best-available mindset. They actually have some really good building blocks for the future, but they’re not anywhere close to contending right now. Bring in Jackson, get him minutes off the bench right away and help him improve. My best comparison for him is a rich man’s Justise Winslow, but Suns fans will be relieved to see that he’s a lot more versatile offensively. It appears as though his jumper’s not quite there yet, but in fairness he had Frank Mason, Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham around him at Kansas, so there wasn’t much of a need to shoot. I think he can be a 17-point, 7-rebound, 3-assist, 1.5-steal guy for a long time, and I could see him being the third or fourth best player on a championship contender later in his career.

5.     Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Fox is a fitting name for this fleet-footed point guard. He has incredible speed, and his first step will help him get by slower point guards at the next level. His midrange game is money, and he’s a terrific passer. The Kings need a lot of things, but one of them is a steady point guard. Fox can be just that. When he was at Kentucky and Malik Monk was in a rut, Fox would often take over games. He was the one who frequently willed them to victory both against SEC teams and in the NCAA Tournament. He’s a bit skinny, but don’t confuse that with weakness. He’s tough, physical and has a knack for making big-time plays. Pair him with Boogie Cousins and you’ve got yourself a dynamic duo. Oh, wait…

6 . Orlando Magic – Dennis Smith, NC State
It’s always funny how we try to find an NBA comparison for every elite college player. I’m guilty of it, too (who am I kidding? I love it), but sometimes it can be a bit much when they’ve never played a professional game. In this case, though, I think neglecting to compare to Smith to Chris Paul would be a mistake. Paul’s an all-time great, but Smith could end up being that as well. They have very similar builds, and they both have a natural feel for the game. This is a point-guard heavy, top-heavy draft, and Smith is one of the more underrated of the bunch. He has a really nice mid-range game, and he’s a player I could see averaging a double-double someday if the cards fall into place. Smith may not be as explosive as some other guys, but he’s steady and doesn’t have many weaknesses.

7.     Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
Pairing Isaac with Karl-Anthony Towns could be a recipe for success for the Wolves. They’re getting closer and closer to making the playoffs, but they need another rim protector to go alongside Towns and Gorgui Dieng. Isaac is a human springboard. He reminds me a little bit of Aaron Gordon, with maybe a bit more upside as a shot blocker. Some people disagree on this, but I feel as though the Wolves are too good to be bad much longer. I predicted they wouldn’t make the playoffs last year and was right, but I think that changes this year. With Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Towns, they’re set 1 through 5. Isaac could be a spark off the bench right away and eventually slip into that 4 spot if Dieng is traded.

8.     New York Knicks – Malik Monk, Kentucky
Monk could end up being the best or second best pure scorer in this draft, if everything goes according to plan. He has a really pure jumper and can create space for himself off the dribble. One concern I have is that he sometimes disappeared for long stretches in big games at Kentucky. He’s very streaky, which has its perks and downfalls. He reminds me of Devin Booker a little bit, with a hint of Quentin Richardson. His wingspan is only 6’0, which is interesting more than anything else. He could be a bit of a liability on defense, but he’s the kind of guy who will get burned on one play then poke the ball away for a steal and dunk on the next. The Knicks need help at most positions, but I think if Monk’s still there at 8 they’d be wise to take him. And if it’s wise, we know the Knicks will do it…

9.     Dallas Mavericks – Zach Collins, Gonzaga
Collins looks more like a frat boy than a future NBA star, but that doesn’t mean he can’t ball. It was a classic example where he wasn’t most people’s radar as a surefire lottery pick in February, but when March rolled around and he went off in the NCAA Tournament everything changed. I like Collins. I think his ceiling is Kevin Love and his floor is Andrew DeClercq, but I suspect he’ll be somewhere in the middle. I think his best attribute is his touch around the basket, and his footwork is a close second. He’s pretty skinny, so if he wants to throw bows with legit 7-footers down low, he’s going to have to bulk up a bit to keep pace. He’s the kind of guy who appears unassuming, but then you look up and he’ll have 14, 6 and 2 in 17 minutes. Mark Few really trusted him in the Tournament, and if Few trusts him so do I. Dirk can’t play forever, so the Mavs might look for a big man to take his place. I’m not saying Collins will ever be that guy. No one can replace Dirk, but he might be a good place to start.

10.  Sacramento Kings – Luke Kennard, Duke
Kennard was one of my favorite players to watch last year. He’s a rare mix of tough, skilled and savvy, and he can score at all three levels. His ability to finish around the rim is impressive. I’m not sure whether he’ll end up playing 1 or 2. He’s not a true point guard, but he’s a bit undersized for an NBA shooting guard. I suspect he’ll be a combo guard but mostly gravitate toward the 2, but he might get swallowed up trying to defend bigger, stronger shooting guards. I don’t see Kennard becoming a star, but I suspect he’ll be in the league a long time as a bench scorer and glue guy.

11.  Charlotte Hornets – Frank Ntilikina, France
I won’t pretend that I watch every Strasbourg game in France. I’ve never seen Ntilikina play, but those who have say he’s versatile, has long arms and can score in bunches. The Hornets could use a combo guard to play behind Kemba Walker, and Ntilikina could be a nice fit.

12.  Detroit Pistons – Lauri Markannen, Arizona
Markannen is a deadly shooter. He’s really a stretch 5, in essence, which is a rarity in the NBA. Picture a less clumsy Kelly Olynyk and you’ve got Markannen. He’s actually a better defender than one might think, and I’m pretty confident he won’t be a bust. He might have a little trouble creating his own shot, but I think he’ll get better at that with time. The Pistons have a lot of good pieces in place, and Markannen’s shooting touch could complement Andre Drummond’s lack of shooting touch and ferociousness quite nicely.

13.  Denver Nuggets – OG Anunoby, Indiana
I think the some of the best available options at this point will be big men (John Collins, Harry Giles, Ike Anigbogu), but the Nuggets don’t need a big man. Nikola Jokic is the real deal, and I’d be surprised if he goes anywhere anytime soon. People forget the Nuggets weren’t too far from a playoff berth last year. They can’t really attract a marquee free agent quite yet, so they need to keep stockpiling assets and getting better. Anunoby is recovering from injury, but when he comes back he’s a weapon with supreme athleticism and a nice in-between game. He could develop into a lockdown defender, and I could see him being a really good sixth man down the road.

14.  Miami Heat – Harry Giles, Duke
Pat Riley likes to think big, and Harry Giles is the definition of a guy oozing with potential. We didn’t really see a whole lot of him at Duke, but it was easy to tell why he was the top recruit coming out of high school. Not a top recruit; the top recruit. Injuries are a major concern, but when healthy he can definitely hoop. He has a pretty solid back-to-the-basket game and is a really smart defender and position rebounder. His agility concerns me. He consistently looked a little gimpy last year in limited action, but I hope he stays healthy in the NBA. I could see him becoming a Tristan Thompson-like player if things go according to plan.

15.  Portland Trail Blazers – John Collins, Wake Forest
I could see John Collins emerging as one of the 5-10 best players in this year’s draft. His story was kind of interesting. He started off as really underrated, but then everyone talked how underrated he was, which made him overrated. In reality, he’s not a nobody and he’s not a once-in-a-generation player. I think he’ll be either a really solid starter on a bad team or a steady contributor to a playoff team someday. He’s long, has excellent footwork and boasts a high basketball IQ. He’s never really played with great players, so having Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum around to feed him inside is a beautiful prospect.

16.  Chicago Bulls – Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
I’ve never been a big Donovan Mitchell guy. Nothing against him, but I just don’t see him becoming a star. I feel like his success was more a product of Rick Pitino’s coaching and having good players around him. That’s not to say I think he’ll be a bust. I just don’t see him becoming a star. His offensive game is somewhat predictable, and I think he’ll get swallowed up inside in the NBA if he tries to do what he did in college. He’s a solid shooter and athlete, but he’ll need to improve in both aspects in order to make the investment worth it.

17.  Milwaukee Bucks – TJ Leaf, UCLA
Leaf’s an interesting one. I suspect he’ll be a solid 10 and 4 guy for a long time but never become a star or be out of the league. He’s an extremely talented offensive player and has every trick in the book scoring-wise, but he may be exposed defensively.

18.  Indiana Pacers – Justin Patton, Creighton
Patton has tons of potential, and his length and athleticism could help a team out in a major way in the future. He’s got plenty of room to grow, so he could be a nice long-term project for the Pacers.

19.  Atlanta Hawks – Ike Anigbogu, UCLA
He’s going to be a really good hustle guy and defensive-minded player. I don’t see him ever averaging more than 10 points per game, but he could get you 8 and 8, probably. At 6’10, he’s a bit short for a natural center, but at 250 he’s not quite mobile enough to be a 4, so that’s the only concern I have.

20.  Portland Trail Blazers – Justin Jackson, North Carolina
The Blazers are set at guard and center, but they could use a wing to complement or replace Al Farouq Aminu. Jackson’s a natural scorer, but his ability to shoot over people in college may not be as much of an advantage in the NBA. He was a volume shooter on UNC’s national championship team, but I suspect he’ll have to become more efficient to last in the NBA.

21.  Oklahoma City Thunder – Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
Bam’s a fitting name for this bruiser, who found his niche for John Calipari as a post defender and rim protector. He’s a 7-footer, which helps, but he doesn’t really have much of an offensive game right now. If he gets a little better feel offensively and develops into the rim protector he’s capable of becoming, I could see him having a nice career.

22.  Brooklyn Nets – Anzejs Pasecniks, Latvia
Wait, the Nets were awful last year. Shouldn’t they at least have a high pick? Hmm…Anyway, Pasecniks (whom I’ve never seen play) seems like a natural fit. He’s drawn some Kristaps Porzingis comparisons, and that turned out OK, so we’ll see.

23.  Toronto Raptors – Tony Bradley, North Carolina
I think Bradley could be a steal for whichever team gets him in the mid-to-late first round. He played well when he got a chance last year, and anyone who plays on a national championship team has that going for them. Bradley’s back-to-the-basket game is solid. He’s got a long way to go, but the Raptors could be a good fit so he could learn from Jonas Valanciunas and fight for minutes with Pascal Siakam.

24.  Utah Jazz – Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany
Let’s assume Gordon Hayward stays put for at least one more year. You have George Hill, Joe Ingles, Hayward, Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert as your starting 5, which is quite good. Diaw and Joe Johnson will retire semi-soon, so that leaves a couple big holes at forward. The Jazz play extremely well together and play great defense, so they could use a wing scorer. Hartenstein seem to make sense here. The Jazz can bring him over now or wait a year or two until they need him and his game is more polished.

25.  Orlando Magic – Jonah Bolden, Australia
I don’t know much about Bolden, but the Magic could use a wing scorer who can provide a spark off the bench. Supposedly he has a solid shot is an athletic playmaker.

26.  Portland Trail Blazers – D.J. Wilson, Michigan
I really think the Blazers’ biggest weakness is wing scoring, and it can never hurt to draft two or three options and stick with one. Wilson burst onto the scene in the NCAA Tournament, and his stock has risen ever since. One thing I like about him is that he has an extremely smooth jumper for a guy his size. He’s super athletic, too, and I think he’ll last.

27.  Brooklyn Nets – Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
I love Evans, and he was a main reason why I picked Oklahoma State to go to the Elite Eight last year. Wait, what? Yeah, I know. I’m stupid. Stop reading now. But anywho, I think Evans is legit. He’s supremely quick and could be a weapon in the pick and roll. The Nets need a lot of help all around, and he’s a guy who could come in right away and help as a playmaker and distributor.

28.  Los Angeles Lakers – Ivan Rabb, California
I was really high on Rabb last year, too. I think he would have had a lot better year if he had better players around him. Rabb excels from 10-14 feet, and I could see him developing into a Myles Turner-esque player. He can block shots, move his feet and rebound, and I bet Magic likes him.

29.  San Antonio Spurs – Frank Jackson, Duke
Jackson’s a winner, and the Spurs win. He’s a classic sleeper. Playing behind Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard will do that to you. I’m not sure if he’ll be a star, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t last. He reminds me of Deron Williams.

30.  Utah Jazz – Jarrett Allen, Texas
It’s very possible Allen will be gone before here, but if he’s not I think the Jazz would have to take him. He’s a good post defender and solid finisher in the pick and roll. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This is a dynasty, and we've got to get used to it

By Trevor Hass

Two years ago, when I lived in Oakland, I was all in on the Warriors. They had been one of my favorite teams ever since Steph entered the league, and I was thrilled to see them succeed like they were.

It almost seemed serendipitous and too good to be true that the summer I moved there was the summer they captured their first championship in decades. I splurged on tickets for game six of the Western Conference Finals, rendezvoused at a bar with the local diehards when they clinched the title and weaved through a sea of people at the parade.

I loved the Warriors. They embodied everything I enjoy about basketball – free-flowing poetry in motion, lethal shooting all over and unending unselfishness. They drafted most of their top guns and assembled their star-studded roster the right way. There wasn’t much not to like, and I was in basketball heaven for a couple months.

Fast-forward two years, when the Kevin Durant-led Warriors won the 2017 championship Monday night. I was back in the Boston area, watching on the couch as they cemented their place in history.

To be totally honest, this whole series was weird to me. It was like watching your best friend from middle school turned bully fighting an equally nasty and burly acquaintance. You’re just standing there, wide-eyed and in disbelief, hoping they beat each other up like crazy but not knowing what outcome you want. Five games later, even now that it’s over, I’m not entirely sure who I was rooting for. That sounds funny to me even as I type it out, but it’s true. I was so conflicted the entire way.

All I wanted was for the series to be competitive, intense and go seven, so once the Cavs went down 2-0 I had no choice but to root for them. What happened to 2015 me? Where was that guy craning his neck at the parade to catch a glimpse of the Warriors as they floated on by? On what planet would I be rooting for the Cavs to beat the Warriors? If 2008 me found out 2017 me was pulling for LeBron, he’d be very disappointed. 

I’ve followed the NBA religiously since I was a kid, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had such mixed opinions on a saga as I do about this one. For the record, I love Steph’s game more than just about anything. I’d never bore watching Klay drain jumpers all day, I respect Iggy and Livingston like crazy and (though his temper leaves a lot to be desired) there’s no denying Draymond’s a wizard when it comes to intangibles. I even love Kevin Durant.

That’s right. I said it. People who have criticized him all year need to give it a rest. It’s his choice. How would you like it if someone said you couldn’t take your dream job at a better company in a better city? Chastising someone for doing what’s best for them is just straight up mean. I think there’s a very fine line between hating Durant and hating his decision. I can’t say I hate either, but I can wholeheartedly say I don’t hate Durant.

Do I love the decision? No, I really don’t, and I think the bulk of my apprehension with the whole thing stems from my deep-rooted infatuation with and gravitation toward the underdog.

During March Madness, nothing gets me quite as revved up as when a mid-major slays Goliath. We all love the unexpected, and the Warriors winning last night was anything but that. We saw it coming months away, and it felt like the playoffs were mostly just a formality.

Once Durant joined the Warriors, the only thing stopping him from getting his first ring was time. Once June hit, whether we wanted him to or not, he was finally going to claim that elusive championship.

When the Warriors won, I didn’t jump for joy and I didn’t scream in frustration. I just kind of sat there and watched it unfold, like a fly on the wall. It was like seeing the end of a really well done movie that someone already spoiled the ending for.

Whether we like it or not (and I’m still not entirely sure where I stand), this is the NBA now. This is a dynasty, and we’ve got to get used to it.   

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why he plays: Wood has family friend and her daughter in mind on field

By Trevor Hass, Sports Editor/Reporter
Twitter: @TrevorHass

Even in elementary school, it was easy to tell Jack Wood was a player. As his lacrosse teammates were still learning the sport, he was honing his craft and distancing himself.

But as it turns out, Wood wasn’t just a player on the field. He was a player with the ladies in fourth grade as well.

This isn’t a story about the sophomore Wood’s commitment to play lacrosse at Brown. It’s not about his goal-scoring prowess for Duxbury, or even about his growth in lacrosse.

This is a look at another side to Wood – a story you may not know. One about an elementary school girlfriend turned middle school best friend, and helping that friend through a tragic loss in high school.

It’s easy to notice Wood’s fire and competitiveness on the field, but his compassion and loyalty off it aren’t as immediately visible to a fan. When Wood’s best friend, Jamie Souza’s mother, Karen, was diagnosed with cancer, Wood was always around to listen. When Jamie visited her at the hospital for the first time, Wood was by her side. When Karen, 48, died Jan. 7 of this year, Wood was there to console her.

On his helmet, he has “R.I.P. Karen: Karen Marie Souza, 1.7.17.” written on his strap in black Sharpie. It serves as a reminder, that as far as his lacrosse journey takes him it’s all secondary to what transpires off it.

“I think about Karen before and after every game, knowing that I have a why on the field, why I’m playing,” Wood said. Every goal I score is for her.”

Her first Valentine

When Jamie and Jack met in fourth grade in Barnstable, they were immediately drawn to each other. Jack asked Jamie to be his girlfriend, showing remarkable confidence and clout for someone his age.

Jamie, who was smitten from the start, said yes, and they “dated” the entire year. On Valentine’s Day, they gave each other presents and Jack wrote Jamie her first Valentine.

“We’ve been best friends ever since,” Jamie said.

Their initial relationship – as cute as it was at the time – was more important in what it meant long term. As Jack and Jamie grew closer, so did their mothers. Their families became inseparable, and they spent as much time together as possible.

Jack spent his summers working at Karen’s restaurant, Moonakis Café, in East Falmouth. He bussed tables, but mainly it was a way for Jack and Jamie to spend time together.

Karen always made them breakfast as a reward for their hard work. Jack can still taste and smell her specialty – cinnamon French toast.

Jack and Jamie were competitive in everything academically – even spelling bees. Their moms always showed up to cheer them on and show their support. Sometimes they spent more time applauding the other kid than their own. They had that kind of bond.

Whenever the Souzas went skiing at Waterville Valley, Karen made sure Jamie invited Jack. She didn’t want to go on the trip without him.

“He held a very special place in my mom’s heart,” Jamie said. “She loved him.”

“I would always have him”

When Karen was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jamie immediately turned to a voice she knew would provide her comfort.

As Karen battled her condition and Jamie fought with her, Jack was right by her side. Jamie stayed with the Woods family when Karen had her first surgery, and they went to the hospital together to see how she was doing.

“He was very supportive, always checking in on me and always texting my mom, telling her that he would always be looking out for me, no matter what happened,” Jamie said. “I would always have him.”

Whenever Jamie felt down, she turned to Jack – knowing he was always there to talk. Even if he had a long day or a bad game, he’d make time for her. He knew losing a mother was infinitely worse than losing a game, so he did his part to make sure she was OK.

Though Jack moved from Barnstable to Duxbury in middle school, his friendship with Jamie didn’t flee with him. They see each other less often these days, but whenever they hang out it’s just like old times.

Jamie turned 16 last Sunday, and she spent the day with Jack – eating lobster rolls at The Raw Bar in New Seabury. They laughed, reminisced, and celebrated together.

Just like old times. Like they were in fourth grade and it was Valentine’s Day.

'He's my hero': Son plays tennis with father in mind, as elder Gardner battles cancer

By Trevor Hass, Sports Editor/Reporter
Twitter: @TrevorHass

In this precious moment, a father and son are just that.

No one’s frantically driving to the hospital, lying in bed for hours on end or sobbing incessantly. The pain and suffering that the Gardner family has experienced has momentarily disappeared, like a rainbow after a torrential downpour or a feast after a fast.

The feeding tube protruding from the father’s stomach isn’t causing problems, and that’s enough for him and his son to rejoice. Dave Gardner and Dave Gardner – they’re not senior and junior, but they might as well be – are just happy, and for now that’s all that matters.

As the elder Gardner battles esophageal cancer and the younger Gardner wraps up his senior tennis season with the Dragons, sometimes they pause to remind themselves to cherish these moments. On this Thursday in early June, all is right in the world, and they feed off each other’s energy as they share what they mean to one another.

Even in their darkest moments, the Gardners are optimists. They know their situation is bleak, but they prefer to focus on the silver linings – reveling in the small victories and soaking in the precious moments. That’s the kind of people they are, and it’s the only way they know how to live.

As long as they have each other, they can battle the sickness together.

“He means the world to me,” the father said.

“He’s my hero,” the son squeaked out. “He’s the greatest person I’ve ever met.”

Family man

To this day, Dave Gardner is forever indebted to his in-laws. If his wife Liz’s parents hadn’t retired and moved from Minneapolis to their summer home on the Cape full time, he and his soul mate likely never would have crossed paths.

Dave, who grew up in St. Louis, moved to the Boston area and signed up for a tennis class in Cambridge. One day, Liz – who almost never worked on Saturdays – thought about going into work. She decided to play tennis instead, and it’s a good thing she did.

“I looked over and I said, ‘She’s pretty nice looking,’” Dave said. “I went over and said, ‘Would you like to play some tennis?’ We played, and then we went out to dinner. Next thing you know, we had three kids.”

Dave and his younger siblings, twins Annie and Peter, are Liz and elder Dave’s life. That life, albeit a complex one right now, has always revolved around sports.

When younger Dave – who is a captain and steady doubles player for Duxbury – was a kid, he tried just about everything. He dipped his toes in hockey, football and baseball, but he was always drawn to tennis. 

As Dave continued to improve his skills, he ultimately earned a varsity spot, and his overjoyed father marveled at his growth every step of the way. Dave never forced his son to play tennis, but he was thrilled when that was the path he chose by himself.

That meant a lifetime of hitting together and a never-ending source of satisfaction as Dave continued to succeed.

“He just breathes through the success, enjoyment and hard work of his kids,” Duxbury boys tennis coach John Bunar said. “His greatest accomplishment is his family, and his family does him proud.”

His escape

If you approach the tennis courts at Duxbury High during any given home match, there’s often a car parked in a precarious spot right next to the fence.

If you peer inside the car, you’ll see Dave, beaming with pride as his son dazzles 50 yards away. Dave, who was diagnosed in December, gets chemo about once a week. When he comes home from the hospital, he’s exhausted and typically trudges right to bed. Sometimes he stays there for three, four days, but he plans in advance so he can get out of bed and mosey down to those courts with Liz whenever possible.

“It’s a big deal,” the father said. “Absolutely. I get away for two hours while I’m watching him play tennis. I don’t have to think about this dumb thing.”

Sometimes Dave will peak over toward the curb to smile at his father or give a thumbs up. Even when he doesn’t, just knowing he’s there can make all the difference. Or even if his father can’t make it that day, having his support can sometimes get Dave through a difficult match.

“It’s tough,” the son said. “It’s heartbreaking, but there’s two really positive things that have come from it. One, he’s fighting really hard, and that’s inspiring. If he’s doing this, which is life or death, I should do well in the small things like tennis and grades. I have no excuse. The other positive is that he’s going to come out the other end of this stronger than ever before. I’m sure of it.”

“I’ve got to get through this, and I will”

Watching your oldest graduate and shipping them off to college can be a daunting experience as is, but Liz and Dave have to deal with that while also driving to and from the hospital at least once a week.

Just this past Friday, Liz had to whisk Dave to the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s. He had an infection, so he needed his feeding tube removed immediately.

Even at his weakest, though, Dave is always there for his kids. Seeing them reach new milestones helps him keep going. When his energy is gone, his desire to help them never wavers. As the tennis team continues to move forward, so too does Dave.

He may not be their loudest supporter, but he’s one of their most passionate. In tennis, sometimes keeping the point going for one more shot can be the difference between a win or a loss, and the Gardners extend that metaphor to life.

Dave and Dave are in the fight together, and their bond is stronger than ever.

“It’s a battle,” the father said. “I know, because I’m going through it, it’s a long battle. I’ve got to get through this, and I will.”