Friday, November 03, 2006

Pacers 106, Bobcats 99

Transitioning from Yankee fan to Bobcat fan, I have to keep in mind that victories are now measured differently. Sure, the scoreboard says we lost, but the good news is Gerald Wallace appears to not be a drooling vegetable after getting fouled in the 2nd quarter landing square on his head—somebody cue “We Are the Champions!”

The ‘Cats kicked off their Season of Glory at home against the Indiana Pacers, who would make a team of Tasmanian Devils look plodding. First we must thank News14 Carolina, who decided NOT to broadcast this one on TV. I understand the Bobcats are having difficulty securing a long-term television contract and all, but c’mon, they can’t get someone to cover Opening Night!? Which reminds me of another thing, the Bobcats actually played one of their last preseason games against the Hawks at the Smith Center here in Chapel Hill, but basically decided not to tell anyone. I didn’t even hear about it until roughly two days before the game, when I saw a tiny ad for it in the corner of the local paper under one for a strip club. Trust me, when one of the few people down here in Research Triangle Park who openly refers to himself as “Bobcat Fan,” who actively searches for the latest Bobcat news, doesn’t even know the team’s playing in his town, you’ve got marketing problems.

So anyway, back to the game. I watched it on Indiana’s FSN affiliate, where Chris Denairi and former Ohio State star Clark Kellog play the parts of Matt and Adrian. I’d like to thank both of them for not making some sort of stupid pun about Stephen Jackson having “shooting problems”—it had to be on the tips of their tongues.

Tonight’s riveting subplot: which pathetic streak will get broken first, Coach Bickerstaff’s 0-7 home opener losing streak, or the Pacers’ winless streak at the Bobcats Arena? Also, Primoz Brezec is a last-minute scratch with “fatigue,” which for some reason got fewer headlines than Kobe’s DNP. My immediate impressions were all follicle-related. Rank-ordering the hairstyles in order of importance:

Al Harrington: now sports a Mohawk. Ever since this style improbably exploded a few months ago, I’m starting to wonder, will Mohawks soon be as common as tattoos? Remember how surprising it was when tattoos suddenly starting flourishing about 10 years ago? It seemed startling at the time. I seem to remember an entire Sports Illustrated article devoted to Jason Williams’ tats alone. But at some point they became totally routine. More startling was…

Matt Carroll: has gone from short and conservative to floppy, mid-80s Andrew McCarthy style. After seeing Vladimir Radmonovic sport a similar feathered ‘do the night before with the Clips, I wonder if this is a shoot-first white-guy thing. I’m suddenly tempted to flip over to a Magic game and check on JJ Reddick.

David Harrison: has gone “Shaft” with the mini-, semi-balding, small-sideburned ‘fro look.

Adam Morrison: in the pre-game interview was sporting a positively Rambisian headband, although he was thankfully not wearing it during the game. Man, this has got to be the most creative and richly diverse hairstyle era in, what, thirty years?? That’s it, I’m prepared to call this a Golden Age of Hairstyles.

Rounding out the haircut wrap-up: Sarunas Jasikevicius. No change here—same semi-crew-cut with mini sideburns. But I wanted to throw him in there because, combined with his perpetually squinty/scowling expressions, I’m always reminded of one of the rich, preppie “bad kids” from the rival camps in old “Meatballs” movies.

And basically, we might as well stick with SJ, because this was his ball game. He came in off the bench and went for 20 and 5, including two spectacular shots: a buzzer-beater 3 and a crazy lay-up-and-one that bounced off the top of the backboard. After a stellar first-half performance in which the only thing he didn’t do was flagrantly foul Wallace out of the ballgame, Rick Carlisle mysteriously benched him for almost the entire third quarter. During that time, the Bobcats got back into it, but once SJ came back in the gap widened to blowout levels (we got it close again long after it was over). It’s too bad because between foul-trouble and our typically scrappy defense, we kept Jackson (18 pts) and O’Neal (20 pts and never looking more like Gary Coleman) fairly neutralized.

As for that flagrant foul on Wallace, poor Danny Granger makes for a pretty weak villain, although the crowd did its blessed best to boo him. It was actually a pretty innocuous play, and Granger looked completely remorseful, obviously not realizing that Wallace is dangerously prone to landing on his head on even the most routine plays.

I suppose I should at some point I should mention something about the Bobcats. Adam Morrison nailed a fabulous turnaround jumper from near mid-court, which looked even more fantastic considering he spends most of the time on the court—even when he has the ball—staring at the floor. He had some great catch-and-shoot looks a la Rip Hamilton, and I’m confident his percentage will go up in time. The same goes for Okafor and May; they’ve got to get a softer touch and knock down some of those close-rangers.

For the brief time he was in there, Wallace was tremendous. If he could just work on his free throws…I’m starting to wonder if he’d have more success if he were required to do some sort of triple-flip first, rather than simply stand there.

Up next are the Grizzlies, at Memphis, fresh off a 3-OT loss to the Knicks. Can you say “Bobcats” and “.500?” That’s what I’m talking about!

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