CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Boris Diaw sticks out among NBA players and it’s not just because he rides a Segway to work or often comes to the practice court holding a cup of coffee.
The Charlotte Bobcats forward was nearly traded twice in the offseason, but talks and acts as it doesn’t faze him. He’s one of the few players criticized for not shooting enough. In an era where diets are scrutinized, Diaw carries extra weight yet hasn’t missed a game in nearly four years.
He also has such versatility he can play every position. His wide skill set is part of the reason the Bobcats are surging under new coach Paul Silas — even if his behavior is sometimes maddening to teammates.
“Because sometimes it’s too nonchalant in situations where you don’t need it,” forward Gerald Wallace said.
Added guard Stephen Jackson: “If he would just have a little more energy out there he probably would average a triple-double.”
Don’t expect the 6-foot-8 Diaw to get upset about those comments.
“Whether you act like you’re mad at him or not, he’s still going to be the same way,” Wallace said. “He’s going to smile and keep rolling, so there’s no point in being upset.”
Born to a father who was a Senegalese high jump champion and a mother who was one of France’s best basketball players, Diaw played professionally for three seasons in his native France before taking his carefree attitude to Atlanta in 2003-04.
Charlotte center Nazr Mohammed was on the Hawks then and remembers how Diaw reacted when he told him to shoot more.
“If you pass me the ball, I shoot it sometimes,” Mohammed said, mimicking Diaw’s French accent. “Sometimes I don’t want to shoot.”
That attitude didn’t change as the 28-year-old Diaw moved to Phoenix and then Charlotte.
“He’s just so talented but there are things I want him to look for, like looking for his shot when he’s open,” Silas said. “But that’s not how he really plays.”
While the Bobcats are 6-2 since Silas replaced the fired Larry Brown, Diaw hasn’t joined his teammates in taking subtle or not-so-subtle shots at Brown’s demanding style.
“Every coach has a different way to coach and a different approach to the game,” Diaw said, shrugging.
Not even setting records gives him a charge.
Diaw was unimpressed when told that last week he became the Bobcats’ career leader in consecutive games played, a streak that’s reached 177 games. He also wasn’t too excited to learn he’s played in 303 straight games overall, third longest active streak in the NBA behind the Lakers’ Derek Fisher (453) and the Hornets’ Jarrett Jack (328).
“It doesn’t mean you’re doing well on the court,” Diaw said. “It means you’re on the court.”
It’s classic Diaw, and nothing like many of his more volatile teammates.
“A lot of us guys, especially (Jackson), we always laugh and joke that we wish we had his personality,” Wallace said. “Things wouldn’t bother us as much. Boris might be the only guy in the world I’ve never seen get upset about nothing. But he’s so skilled and talented as a big.”
Often lost amid Diaw’s reluctance to take open shots or his often expressionless demeanor on the court is how many different things he can do. He’s an above-average ballhandler for his size, has the shooting range of a guard, is an exceptional passer out of the post and a decent defender against scoring big men.
“He can go out to the 3-point line. He can put it on the floor and make plays off the dribble,” Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You can put him into the post.”
Diaw had a key steal in the closing seconds Wednesday to preserve Charlotte’s victory over the Bulls. Two nights earlier, Silas raved at how he defended Memphis’ Zach Randolph. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Washington Saturday.
Diaw is averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds, but he’s perhaps created the most buzz this season by zipping around downtown Charlotte in his two-wheeled motorized Segway. Not even a freak snow and ice storm this week could stop him from using it to get from his condominium to the arena and even walk his dogs.
“He told me he had to drag it over a patch of ice because it wouldn’t make it up the hill,” Mohammed said. “That’s Boris. He’s a special guy.”
Yet it’s unknown just how much longer he’ll be around. Almost every Charlotte trade discussion that becomes public seems to involve Diaw, who was nearly sent to Toronto and then Utah last summer.
“He’s one of the guys who truly embraces that he has no control on where he’s going to be so why worry about it?” Mohammed said. “It helps that he’s single with no kids. He just packs up his one bag, his Segway, and goes to the next city.”