Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bobcats 96, Nets 92

I missed the opening minutes of tonight’s game for reasons that were oddly sports-related. We have a big group presentation due in my Marketing Strategy class, in which our grade will be based on how well we can persuade other students to “invest” in this mock business we’ve been running. Personally, I’ve been relishing the chance to give this presentation for weeks now, because our firm, which has competed against other student-run companies via a computer simulation, has quite frankly been kicking the shit out of the other teams. In fact, as our stock price kept going up and up and our market share grew, I found myself wishing the computer program had some sort message board on which we could taunt the other firms. So I volunteered to handle the balk of the speaking on this presentation for my team, because I plan on turning it into twenty minutes of pure trash-talk.

So anyway, the names assigned to all the mock firms are simply random alphabet letters, and as it turns out we’re Firm “U” (anyone who knows my taste in college football can probably see where this is going). So I decided to use Miami’s “U” insignia and to format the slides of our PowerPoint presentation in the 'Canes' obnoxious green-and-orange color scheme. Really, could there be any better way to accentuate a trash-talk briefing than to bathe your slides in green and orange? And thus over the weekend I worked for hours on this damned thing, formatting all these charts and whatnot into the proper colors. Anyone who’s screwed with PowerPoint knows how tedious it can get. And I kept sending my teammates updated copies of it, asking if anyone had any problems or suggestions, etc., and all I got back was stuff like, “Looks great!” and “No problems here” and other responses that were basically business school code for, “I didn’t really look at this and don’t really care because with the tuition this school charges they wouldn't dare fail us, so whatever.”

So I finally finished it all up, and of course, last night, at the last second, all of a sudden people want to change everything. I got pretty pissed, first of all because I thought the format was original--it would certainly stand out among everyone else’s boring old blue-and-white Times New Roman tripe; and second of all because people should have spoken up a long time ago--I worked so long on this on Thursday I didn't even get a chance to see the actual Miami Hurricanes get one of their few wins. We finally reached the agreement that if they want to change it, fine, but it’s on them to do it, because I’m done with the thing. I'm still kind of bitter about it. And I haven’t seen the final product yet, but I’m sure it’ll look nice and I’m guessing it will be blue-and-white, or perhaps—if someone is feeling frisky—blue-and-yellow.

So the other consequence of this last-second meeting, besides me sulking, was missing a lot of the beginning of the Bobcats game. And good lord, I leave the team alone for one quarter and total madness breaks out! Where to start? First, no color commentary from Adrian Branch. Instead, it’s former Charlotte 49er and radio announcer Henry Williams alongside Matt Devlin tonight, and the contrast in dynamic between the two completely throws me for a loop. Matt always does a pretty straightforward announcing job with AB, but with Williams he unveils his “playful” side, good-naturedly ribbing Henry, who apparently didn’t put up many assists during his playing days. Henry, meanwhile, clearly loves the game and did a serviceable job (although no one will ever be able to touch AB’s sunny optimism), but he has a tendency to begin every sentence with the word “Well,” as in: “Well it is, Matt,” or “Well they do, Matt.”

The game’s other jarring aspect was Primoz Brezec, who went from being too exhausted to even suit up to playing 34 minutes in one game—welcome back, PB!! PB's been gone for so long because of the suspicious ailment of "exhaustion," that I was starting to wonder if someone hadn’t stuck polonium in his sushi while he was playing in the summer European tournament. No anecdotes about Brezec bulking up in the off-season to be found here—the only muscle that looks stronger on him this year is his Adam’s apple. But 13 points and 5 rebounds in his first game back? I’ll take it. PB would have actually played even more had he not gotten 5 fouls, most of them for looking at Vince Carter sideways.

The team played incredibly well in the first half (or was it the Nets who played incredibly bad—that’s the problem with Bobcats victories: they almost can’t happen unless the opposing team experiences some sort of meltdown), shooting an astonishing 50+% from the field and making the Nets look like the 1986 version of the team—all that was missing was the red-white-and-blue map of New Jersey on their warm-ups. The Nets, who are going through a bad losing streak of their own, looked utterly disconsolate. Even their arena announcer calls everything in the same dispassionate monotone, whether it’s for or against the home team. In an era where most arena announcers practically start leading a cheer for something as minor as a turnover by the visiting team, calling everything even-keeled sounded almost creepy, like we’re playing this in the USSR or something. Anyhow, with a 10 point lead at the half, I almost didn’t know how to handle it.

And clearly the Bobcats didn’t either, because the second half was excruciating. It was like watching a recovering heroin addict who’d shown signs of turning his life around suddenly relapse and show up at your house strung out and begging for money. The Bobcats went cold, at one stretch going over 6 minutes without scoring a point, and the Nets crawled back into it, mostly via the foul line. In fact, the Bobcats could barely ditch their warm-ups on the sideline without picking up a foul. At least with Miami, even though D. Wade got to the foul line seemingly on every possession, both teams took an equal number of shots. In this one the free throws were 46-25 in favor of New Jersey.

Still, almost in spite of their best efforts to do otherwise, Charlotte pulled out the victory. Taking advantage of foul trouble to Okafor and Gerald Wallace, Sean May came off the bench and scored 20 points, plus he had 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Adam Morrison, during a key stretch late in the fourth, scored 7 straight points, including another tremendous 3-pointer, and pulled down the game-ending rebound. He finished with 22 points and added another 5 assists.

I know I’m not breaking any news here, but New Jersey’s bench is terrible ("Well they are, Matt"). I can’t think of a more damning statistic for a team’s bench than getting outscored by the Bobcats bench 36-7.

On to Hot-lanta tonight, where—and this is an actual line used by a roughly 60-year-old stewardess once to welcome us when our plane touched down in Hartsfield airport, and which subsequently caused me to nearly choke on my peanuts—“the players play.”

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