Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bobcats 105, Nuggets 101

First of all, sorry for the delay—I’m even later than usual with this recap, and it’s not because I’ve spent the last 36 hours in orgiastic celebration over our road victory over the Nuggets. Nor is it because I was semi-mourning the fact that our win prevented me from opening with the phrase, “Things to do in Denver when you’re dead tired.” No, the reason is quite simple: after sputtering around for a few weeks, my 5-year old Dell (which means it’s, like, 80 in computer years) finally crapped out. Definitely can’t say I didn’t see this coming, as it was getting steadily more decrepit and senile over the past few weeks. So after getting tired of carrying around a beadpan for it, I decided to pull the plug. And now that I’ve got my cute new laptop (I feel like Carrie in Sex in the City), here we go…

According to Wachovia, the Pivotal Moment of the Game was Gerald Wallace’s block of Carmelo Anthony’s layup late in the 4th to help preserve the Bobcats’ stunning road victory over Denver. I disagree. I say the pivotal moment came about midway through the third when Wallace got no call from the refs while driving to the hoop, despite the fact that he was leveled by Allen Iverson, who did everything but strangle G-Dub with one of Francisco Najera’s kneepads. Watching at home, I was terrified that Wallace, already operating with one technical for arguing an equally ridiculous charging foul earlier, would get up, proceed to start swinging at the officials—possibly armed with one of the arena’s numerous “Pepsi…Perfecto” billboards—and get himself ejected.

Instead, in a great camera shot that someone needs to send to NFL Films so they can repackage it in slow motion and set it to an appropriately dramatic score, Gerald sat in place, took a breath, resignedly shook his head, and continued on. It was apparent that Gerald had accepted his fate and understood that in basketball, as in life, certain VIPs get better treatment than the rest of us. So G-Dub turned the other cheek and kept playing.

And at least last night, practicing non-violence paid off. Gerald had one of the greatest games of his career (25 points, 13 boards, 2 steals, 2 assists) and the Bobcats beat a top-caliber team that fields two of the League’s reigning superstars. It was downright inspirational. Oh yeah, I’ll say it: I’m inspired!! I wish I had something to get inspired about right now. Let’s see…I have a case study to prepare in one of my marketing classes…there you go! By god, this is going to be one of the greatest marketing case studies ever seen!

We beat a Denver team despite putting Iverson on the free-throw 12 times. In fact, if the game plan was to force AI to beat us, we were definitely successful. Often he was so omnipresent I thought he was cloned (although that's also possibly because everyone on Denver seems to have a headband and does look vaguely alike on my crappy late 90s TV). He was their entire team (31 points, 8 assists, 4 steals), and as I mentioned, he is a foul-drawing savant. He’s practically slutty about it; he doesn’t care who fouls him, and it seemed like everyone had a piece of him. I think even Sean May got called for a reach-in, and May didn’t even suit up.

And speaking of May, I hate to sound like a whistle-blower here, but what’s going on with him? I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I would guess he missed approximately a million games last year with sore knees, and now he’s got them again? Perhaps after seeing Carl Pavano and Dan Morgan essentially miss two straight seasons with my beloved Yankees and Panthers, I’m a bit paranoid. But as talented as May is, if we’re only going to get Tony Soprano-level work hours from him, I’d rather he be on someone else’s payroll. May’s absence was exacerbated by yet another missed game from Primoz Brezec, out with a bulging disc (though I fail to see how anything on him “bulges”). On the other hand, Jake Voskuhl played some key minutes, and appears to be all the way back from his stomach illness, which must have been less serious than originally thought (perhaps all he’d done was see that new Ben Stiller movie).

I’ve gotta be nervous right now if I’m a Nuggets fan. They’re like a sit-com with two great actors but a pretty poor ensemble; they’re the NBA’s 227. Granted, all the roles are represented: JR Smith is the 3-point shooter, Marcus Camby is the shot-blocker, Steve Blake is the decent point guard, Nene can be the rebounding center, and Reggie Evans is the wacky next-door neighbor, but will any of them step up and be the surprise scene-stealer—the Jackee, if you will? Remains to be seen…

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Warriors 131, Bobcats 105

“After an emotional win last night,” commentator Matt Devlin said in the middle of the Bobcats blowout loss to Golden State, “you could see a game like this developing.” This game didn’t “develop” so much as it “detonated.” I didn’t hang around long enough to find out what the official Wachovia Pivotal Moment of the Game was, but my vote would have been for the tip-off. The Bobcats got off to about as good a start as those troopers jumping out of the boats in Saving Private Ryan, trailing 21-2 after about 30 seconds. And then it got worse. How bad was it? Garbage time lasted long enough for Walter Herrmann to score 19 points.

Players are fond of likening their great performances to video games. “It was like a Playstation game out there,” Gilbert Arenas will say after scoring 40 points. The Bobcats were like video games too last night, except they were a bunch of Atari 2600’s out there. Admittedly, a three-game West Coast trip is brutal, and they were playing for the second night in a row after an OT-win, but they looked positively asleep out there. They left the Warriors open to hit 10/17 3-pointers, turned it over 22 times, and were lazily outscored 30-5 on fast breaks. They were twice whistled for delay of game calls for not being in proper uniform—presumably they’d forgotten to tuck their pajamas in.

After giving up 40 in the first quarter, the Cats—to their credit—actually cut the deficit down to 7. Gerald Wallace put in a spirited 19 points, and Okafor, who may have proven that he can literally get a double-double in his sleep, had 10 points and 12 boards. But Raymond Felton had just 3 points, Matt Carroll had 1, and then there was that pesky thing known as the second half…

Just a few games removed from their 8-player Extreme Makeover trade, I’d say Golden State is poised for a run. They made me a believer, at least; I feeling like calling them Golden Shower State for the way they pissed all over us. They already had a strong nucleus (or “nuculus,” as the President would say) with B-Davis, Monta Ellis, Mickael Pietrus, and up-and-comers Andris Biedrins and Matt Barnes. Now you add Al Harrington, who dropped us like his Mohawk with 29 points on 9/11 shooting, and Stephen Jackson, who had 17 points? Yikes. It wasn’t until late in the 3rd quarter that the delighted Oakland crowd demanded—and got—Sarunas Jasikevicius, but he’s also fully capable as well. As long as Jackson can avoid more headlines such as this one on a few days ago: “Judge: Strip Club Incident Violated Jackson's Probation,” (question: isn’t that headline kinda missing the main gist of that affair, which was that Jackson fired a gun several times at a car?), the Warriors will be fine, especially when Jason Richardson returns…

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bobcats 106, Lakers 97 (OT)

“What was going on last night?” My wife asked me this morning, “I kept hearing you scream something about ‘the mamba.’” Indeed, last night illustrated exactly why I could never be a sports announcer. With 9 seconds left in regulation, the Bobcats up three points, and the Lakers in-bounding, here’s how it would have sounded if my comments had been on the air: “Watch the mamba, watch the mamba, NOT THE MAMBA…(Bad word, screamed repeatedly)!!!”

In this morning’s Charlotte Observer, Rick Bonnell wrote that Kobe Bryant “forced overtime by hitting a three-pointer over (Matt) Carroll with less than two seconds left in regulation.” This was not technically true, as Bryant actually hit his trey over nobody. That's right, with time winding down, the Bobcats somehow forgot to cover the most deadly clutch shooter in the game, which is a little like your friend inviting you over to a barbecue but forgetting to mention that he also slaughters his own cows beforehand—not sure how you could forget a thing like that. In fairness, it looked like Derek Anderson and Matt Carroll got confused in coverage, but if you’re going to err with Bryant, you’d prefer it to be with more guys than less. If the Bobcats had mistakenly quadruple-teamed him and left Sasha Vujacic all alone, for instance, that would have been more understandable.

Nevertheless, Charlotte pulled it out in overtime and did so with surprising ease, outscoring the Lakers 15-6 in the extra frame. I was really proud of them, as I kept having the image of the team getting off the bus prior to the game and sizing up the Staples Center like a bunch of wide-eyed Axl Rose’s at the beginning of the “Welcome to the Jungle” video (complete with Carroll chewing on a straw of hay). Plus Lamar Odom returned from injury and Andrew Bynum had 11 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots, which was the first time I’d ever seen him demonstrate such prolonged effectiveness; normally, he’s collected two fouls before they’ve even finished with the player intros.

Fortunately, the Lakers were without Kwame Brown, who I seem to recall hearing had recently injured himself on a cake—either that or he injured a cake, I forget which. Either way, Emeka Okafor had enough freedom down low to put up 20 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots of his own. Okafor made up for a rare off night by Sean May (6 points on 3/10 shooting) but was helped out by a rare on night from Adam Morrison (6/17 for 13 points). Carroll had 24 points and 6 rebounds (yawn), and Gerald Wallace also continued on his tear with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. I actually breathed a sigh of relief for Wallace when this was over, because it was the kind of night in which you fear G-Dub might end up needing a leg amputation—very physical and chippy, with both teams screaming about the lack of calls, even though there was a total of 61 foul shots.

The Bobcats have got to be the unofficial league leaders in Number of Times Opposing Announcers Have Said About Them, “The _’s have got to be careful, because the Bobcats are hanging around.” This has become the second-most annoying line to hear (the first, by the way, is when a GM gets asked in an interview if there are any trades he’s considering, and he says, “Well, first of all, let me just say that we’re always looking to make the team better…”, as if that’s somehow deeply insightful). There’s something vaguely insulting about being described as “hanging around,” because it implies that the other team should just be blowing us out, and the only reason we’re in it at all is because they’re making mistakes. I suppose it’s one thing if the announcers for the Suns or Mavericks say it, but are the Lakers (and ESPECIALLY Cleveland) good enough for their announcers to be saying it? We did sweep them, after all…

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pistons 103, Bobcats 92

Somehow the Bobcats ended up playing the Pistons on Wednesday night for the fourth time this season. I’m beginning to think the schedule-makers must be under the impression that we’re the Green Bay Bobcats or something. Either that or they believe Charlotte is located in western Pennsylvania, because it seems like we've played more Central Division teams than Southeastern ones this year.

The Pistons had revenge on their minds after we ran our record to 2-1 on them with a win last time in Detroit. I’m not sure what the Bobcats had on their minds, but it was undoubtedly deep and poignant, because they really looked distracted at times. Perhaps they were concerned over the worsening situation in Somalia, but whatever it was, 18 turnovers and just 63% from the foul line indicate a lack of focus. The other excuse being tossed around was our paucity of available big men. True, Jake Voskuhl was sick and didn’t play, so that was one key injury. And if you count injuries to Primoz Brezec, Melvin Ely, and Othella Harrington…well, that’s still just one key injury because those guys don’t play much anyway. I mean, we ought to just call them “Dwayne Casey” Brezec, “Shine” Ely, and “Scooter” Harrington if we’re going to use them as the scapegoats for this loss.

The one bright side was Gerald Wallace, who had 29 points and 11 rebounds and seemed like a one-man band at times. Just call him Herbie Hancock, because often he was directing, producing, and performing all of our offense by himself. Occasionally G-Dub collaborated with Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton (the usual 17 points and 8 assists), and an efficient Sean May (14 points and 6 boards in just under 28 minutes). But we could have used some more guest appearances. Adam Morrison doubled his output from last game, which sounds good until you realize he only had three points against Toronto. He also appeared unable to keep up defensively with Chris Webber, which is kind of disturbing when you think about it. Meanwhile, Matt Carroll, who has been “unconscious” lately, finally came to last night with just 4 points, and it was Tayshaun Prince’s defense that provided the smelling salts.

I was pretty bummed out by such a flat performance at home. Needing something more lighthearted and cheery, I flipped over to HBO and watched Munich. Oh well, I’m sure we’ll see Detroit again. Considering the schedule thus far, it’ll probably be next week...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Raptors 105, Bobcats 84

The Cats traveled to Toronto on Monday night to take on the Raptors, who are named after the dinosaurs who stole the show in Jurassic Park despite sharing the screen with several higher-profile creatures, such as the T-Rex, the Triceratops, and Jeff Goldblum. Though I miss Toronto’s distinctive purple uniforms, which were ditched for a more conventional red, I think the standard striping along the shorts is much better than the old version, which caused the players to look like they were getting groped in the ass by two giant fossil claws. The team also shed PG Mike James to start the season in favor of TJ Ford and Jose Calderon, and their performance and record are substantially better. On the other hand, without James, who once memorably compared his abilities to that of a high-priced hooker, their post-game comments are a shell of their former selves.

On any normal day, getting outscored 23-8 in the 3rd quarter would mean defeat for the Bobcats. Unfortunately, it was a normal day. The Cats were only trailing by three to start the second half but fell victim to All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who sat most of the first with foul trouble but erupted in the 3rd quarter to finish with 20 points. Meanwhile, the speedy Calderon continuously streaked to the hoop like a little Spanish spitball en route to 19 points and 11 assists. In fact, with five guys in double figures, Toronto distributed the scoring equally in a way you’d expect from a country with socialist tendencies. The Raptors also converted 16 Bobcats turnovers into 26 points.

For the Bobcats, instead of tracking points off turnovers, the team would be better off measuring turnovers off turnovers. It seemed like after every Raptors giveaway, the Bobcats would hand it right back, resulting in multiple shots of poor Coach Bickerstaff giving his classic “who farted in the elevator?” look. Forget assists-to-turnover ratios, Adam Morrison actually had as many turnovers as points (3), narrowly edging out Jeff McInnis (4 turnovers, 5 points). Raymond Felton at least returned for 19 points and 8 assists, and Gerald Wallace (19 points and 9 rebounds) seems to be less than 100% in the same way that Amare Stoudamire is.

After the game, several Bobcats admitted to struggling with the Raptors’ zone defense. This struck me as strange—almost as strange as the Air Canada Centre playing Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” during a timeout (was their Jumbo-Tron camera searching the arena for transvestites or something?); it seems as if 9 times out of 10 you hear that the zone never works in the pros. Perhaps this was that 10th time. “The zone threw us out of character,” said Bickerstaff afterwards. I'm not so sure. Considering we finished the night shooting 43%, if anything, I’d say it threw us right in character.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bobcats 104, Hawks 85

How did the Bobcats manage to sweep their home-and-home series despite injuries to Raymond Felton, Brevin Knight, and Sean May, none of whom played? Three reasons: 1) Primoz Brezec was also injured and didn’t play (ha! see the1's comment), 2) the opponent was the Atlanta Hawks, and 3) newcomer Jeff McInnis has stepped in and completely mastered the intricacies of the Coach Bernie Bickerstaff’s offensive juggernaut machine. McInnis scored 17 points, had 9 assists, and recorded no turnovers in 42 minutes of action. If Jeff were a Megadeth song, he’d be “Symphony of Destruction,” as his inbound passes to Emeka Okafor (19 points) and Gerald Wallace (12 points) dropped like bombs on Atlanta’s crumbling interior defense.

The Bobcats also got some step-up performances out of Matt Carroll (22 points on 9/12 shooting) and Adam Morrison (18 points on 8/14 shooting). In fact, the Cats shot a team record 64.9% from the field, allowing them to extend a 10-point lead at the start of the 4th quarter for a change (rather than what they usually do, which is piss it away faster than a drunk on his 10th can of Coors Light). Veteran Derek Anderson was instrumental in holding the team together down the stretch, capitalizing on mismatches and drawing fouls. I confess my own bias here, as I tend to describe a typical Anderson ploy (e.g., getting a foul on a runner that nobody in the arena—most of all Anderson himself—believes has any chance of going in) as “crafty, cagey,” whereas with Dwyane Wade I would describe the same move as “annoying, irritating.”

Gerald Wallace also continued to be everything he was before the injury, down to and including a lousy free throw shooter. He also warned after the game that his shoulder injury will affect his free throw shooting for the foreseeable future. This is pretty funny, considering he wasn’t any good at free throws to begin with, so I guess it gives him a nice out. It’d be like if Jake Delhomme comes back next year and warns that his thumb injury might affect his ability to avoid throwing terrible interceptions. But who cares, because we don't love for G-Dub for his free throws, we love him for what he did last night, which is getting to the hoop, getting two steals, and getting satisfaction for his male cravings to kill and win.

For the second straight night, the Cats also managed to contain the only real threats posed by the Hawks. Joe Johnson had a quiet 22 points (although he’s so reserved, he’d probably score a quiet 82 points). Meanwhile, Josh Smith put up just two points and—more importantly—two middle fingers, getting himself ejected after only 17 minutes. Whoever plays the Hawks next owes us one.

So no complaints here, as we’ve now crawled out of the Southeastern cellar. The only thing that continues to befuddle me is the Melvin Ely situation. We’re not playing him, nor have we traded him, and yet we’re paying him over $3 million. Only the Bobcats could manage to overpay a player while simultaneously failing to make the League’s minimum payroll requirement.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bobcats 96, Hawks 75

If you had told me beforehand that the Bobcats would win a game without Raymond Felton, Sean May, Brevin Knight, and Primoz Brezec in the lineup, I would have said, “So what, we’ve got Ryan Hollins.” No, of course not, I would have said you’re crazy. I would have recommended you get on some serious medication, and then I would have asked you for some. But that’s exactly what happened last night—er, Charlotte winning, not my drug addiction (which simply continued)—as the Bobcats went on the road and blew out the Atlanta Hawks in front of a packed audience.

Actually, with a pair of 13-win teams squaring off, it was less a “packed audience” and more a “group of innocent bystanders.” The Hawks have Joe Johnson, budding force of nature Josh Smith, and not much else. Royal Ivey (whose first name sounds the same way Samuel L. Jackson pronounces “Royale with Cheese”) actually started at guard for them with Tyronn Lue out. This is a predicament that has to grate Atlanta fans, although I’m not sure why—c’mon, it’s not like there have been any good point guards in the last few drafts. (side note: Isn’t it interesting that in the past two years, New Orleans has drafted two great college players, Reggie Bush and Chris Paul, who were both inexplicably passed over by other teams? If only their flawed levee system hadn't been passed over by the government...)

The Bobcats, meanwhile, got Gerald Wallace back (!). After missing seven games with a dislocated shoulder, G-Dub appears to have re-located it, going for 18 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 steals. Gerald looked like he was still in a little pain (and was wearing some sort of special protective black t-shirt with ripped sleeves that made him look a little like he was a contestant on You're The One That I Want), but he put in 30 minutes. Down low, Emeka Okafor was unguardable (or perhaps simply “unguarded”), notching 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.

The icing on the cake, however, was the rookie Hollins, who didn’t just put up four points—well, okay, with just a rebound and a blocked shot, I guess he did pretty much just put up four points—he also showed some great post-up moves and threw down a slam that was positively Shaq-tastic. I have to admit I didn’t know much about Hollins prior to his debut a few nights ago (especially if you define “not knowing much” as “only vaguely aware he was even on the team”), but he’s showing incredible potential. Imagine if we could turn him into a 10-point/10-rebound guy by the season’s end, how awesome a surprise would that be!? It would be like answering the door, thinking it’s the mailman, and then finding out it’s a strip-o-gram. Do we have anyone working specifically with this kid? We’ve seen what Kareem has done for Andrew Bynum with the Lakers, so we need some sort of special outside consultants over here, stat. Does McKinsey Group have a division that can design winning strategies for 7’ low-post specialists? You know the PowerPoints would at least be pretty cool.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Nets 92, Bobcats 85

A raucous crowd of nearly 200 saw the Bobcats saw take on the Nets Wednesday night. I’ve seen larger crowds at cockfights, although I suppose you could chalk it up to the weather. The “modest” attendance had me wondering if sometime soon we’ll actually hear commentator Matt Devlin say things like, “Good seats are still available for upcoming games. In fact they’re still available for this very game. If you act now, you could probably get here by halftime.” Of course, this is based on the assumption that we’ll actually hear Matt Devlin say anything again, because as usual there was no local television coverage.

Actually, no local television coverage when you’re playing the Nets is not necessarily a bad thing, because it means you get to hear Mark Jackson talk for the YES Network. Quite often I complain about having to listen to “homer” commentators simply cheering on their teams, but with MJ you actually get the opposite; listening to his dry criticism, it’s quite obvious he actually despises the Nets, which is sort of a refreshing change of pace. Perhaps the NBA should try this more often; for instance, when Kobe Bryant retires, let’s see if we can get him to call Heat games.

Anyway, it was nice to see the boys again! Thanks to the blackout against the Bucks, it had been since Friday that I last saw the gang. Looks as if Adam Morrison got a haircut—I kinda liked it, it made him look vaguely like Talia Shire in the first Rocky movie. As for the game itself, the Bobcats took what appeared to be a hopelessly depressing blowout, made some creative adjustments, and succeeded in turning it into a really weird blowout. The goofiness started with inserting Jeff McInnis and Melvin Ely into the game really early, in the hopes that they would be playing with chips on their shoulders against the team that rejected them. McInnis responded by immediately slamming an alley-oop, after which he ran over to Nets coach Lawrence Frank and taunted him with shouts of “What! What!” while giving him the “you-can’t-see-me” hand wave. Oh wait, no he didn’t. In fact I seem to remember that he turned it over. But he did finish with 2 points, and at least was remembered on the active roster. Ely’s reappearance was less successful; perhaps his vengeance was tempered by the fact that the Bobcats have shown they don’t want him either. For the record, the Nets responded by not even bothering to dress Bernard Robinson.

Then in the second quarter Coach Bernie Bickerstaff was ejected. In a way, he was the lucky one, because it meant he didn’t have to watch anymore. I was almost jealous; it’d be cool if reporters could get ejected from games like these. I suppose I could if I started swearing really loud at the television to the point that my wife “T’s me up” by turning it off on me.

Instead, I watched scion J.B. Bickerstaff take over and…wow, I’ve got to give him credit—you certainly can’t accuse him of just doing the "same old, same old." For starters, he threw Ryan Hollins into the fray. That’s right, RH made his rookie debut and scored 7 points! In fact, if you turned the game off at halftime, you really missed out, because Hollins later committed one of the more spectacular goaltending violations you’ll ever see. In the fourth quarter, Hollins violently spiked a Vince Carter bank shot after it actually struck the backboard UNDER the rim. Technically, by the way it bounced off the glass, Carter’s shot appeared to have a better chance of going into the Bobcats basket before Hollins knocked it down, but I loved the energy.

Meanwhile, J.B.’s other coup was to pull the old “Hack-a-Shaq” maneuver on Nets inept free throw shooter Jason Collins. The Bobcats began fouling Collins when he was comically nowhere near the ball, forcing him to brick foul shots. Interestingly, Lawrence Frank had no idea how to handle this; it was like finding a move that repeatedly trips up the computer in a video game. The Bobcats actually sliced the 23-point lead all the way down to 6. We couldn’t quite close the gap though, and the Nets won out. Interestingly, for once our loss came in spite of the refs, who appeared to be doing everything they could to give us the win. The Nets were over the foul limit only about 4 minutes into the 4th quarter on calls that weren’t just zany, they were downright bonkers.

Well, in the end, I suppose it was all good theater. You should check it out if you get a chance (assuming you can find tickets).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bucks 99, Bobcats 91

Well, it finally happened: I missed my first Bobcats game of the year. News14 didn’t cover the game, and NBA League Pass didn’t either. In fact I’m not sure if anyone did, because even the highlight package on NBA TV Daily looked like a bootleg copy of someone’s home video. But if you’re going to have to miss a game, this would be the one to do it. Failing to defeat a Bucks team that doesn’t even have Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Charlie Villanueva, and Bobby Simmons (not to mention Lew Alcindor) playing is no way to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hmm, I see from the box score we only had 13 turnovers, shot 22/28 from the line, and out-rebounded them 46-44, so what happened? Is this just one of those things that nobody can explain, like Nickelback selling 20 million albums? Well, we did only shoot 39.5%, which obviously isn’t anything to write home about, but still…And, well, apparently Earl Boykins scored 30 on us, and that’s kind of pathetic, not to mention hard to fathom—how was he getting that many shots off in the first place? You’d think with all those injuries, he’d be practically the only one you’d have to focus on, so shutting him down wouldn’t be a problem. Was he hiding in Ruben Patterson’s shorts and jumping out at the last minute or something? Okay, and I see Andrew Bogut had 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists and must have played inspired ball (perhaps this was Paul Hogan Day in Australia?). And, good lord, Brian Skinner played 31 minutes—that right there is an embarrassing stat if you’re the losing team. So there you have it, I guess.

And it looks like the Bobcats thought the holiday extended to them as well. "You're supposed to produce, and when you don't produce, someone else gets the chance,'' coach Bernie Bickerstaff said of sitting Emeka Okafor for extended amounts of time. The problem is, I’m not sure who that someone who got the chance was, as Melvin Ely continues to stay home and collect unemployment, while Sean May and Jake Voskuhl only played 16 minutes and 13 minutes, respectively.

Anyway, I’m pretty depressed about this. 4 straight wins would have been special, it would have brought a smile to my face during these troubled times. Glancing at, I see the headline “Bush: Congress can't stop troop increase.” Though I don’t know if the President later added, “They can only hope to contain it,” I worry that we can’t rely on anyone to get the job done anymore. It's not just that the Bucks are a bad team riddled with injuries, it's that name: "Bucks." I’d argue it's the worst name in all of sports. Let’s face it, they’re named after an animal whose sole point of existence is to be shot and killed for sport or accidentally run over by trucks. Their symbol is literally a deer in the headlights. And we blew what might be our only chance at a 4-game win streak against these guys—ugh!!

Monday, January 15, 2007

NFL Thoughts, Divisional Round

I had the Chargers winning this week, because other than “Quarterback” and “Coach,” I felt San Diego had the edge in most categories. The problem is I left out one: “Mastery of the Dark Side of the Force.”

The Patriots had the clear upper hand on that one, and though I can’t prove this, I also have no other explanation for:

1) Marty Schottenheimer electing to go for it on 4th-and-11 rather than kicking a 49-yard field goal
2) Marlon McCree’s interception-and-fumble to give the Patriots a first down
3) Schottenheimer blowing a timeout to ask for a review of McCree’s interception-and-fumble—what was he disputing? This has got to be the first time a coach ever asked for a review of a play simply because he can’t believe his own bad luck
4) Drayton Florence’s inexplicable head-butt to—you guessed it—give the Patriots a first down

So in a way I feel sorry for the Chargers, who appeared to be competing against an unstoppable evil force rather than a football team with one Pro-Bowler. On the other hand, no I don’t, because San Diego isn’t a very sympathetic team. Shawne Merriman complained afterward about the Patriots “disrespecting” the Chargers by celebrating the win on their home field. "It was upsetting to see because they won three Super Bowls," Merriman said, according to the Boston Herald. "It's like a guy on a fast break in basketball and dunking the ball and getting excited. You've won three Super Bowls. You don't do that." This was funny because a) it doesn’t make any sense, b) after failing a drug test for using performance enhancers, Merriman is the last guy who should be complaining about poor sportsmanship, and c) after mailing Jason Taylor a “Lights Out” hat and telling him to enjoy watching the playoffs from home, Merriman is really, REALLY the last guy who should be complaining about poor sportsmanship.

This leaves Peyton Manning as the only one left who can stop the Patriots Empire. Even though the Colts are at home, Peyton might as well be Luke Skywalker in Cloud City, and all those unknown Patriots receivers might as well be wearing Storm Trooper outfits. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if midway through Bill Belichick tells Peyton he’s his father.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bobcats 89, 76ers 83

At long last we got to play the woeful 76ers Sunday night, a team that was down and ripe for the kicking. With the football Eagles playing at about the same time, this game was probably viewed by about 200 people in Philadelphia (an estimated three of whom don’t actually work for the 76ers). Sixers coach Mo Cheeks has got to be presiding over one of the worst situations in the League right now, as his team has no go-to players at all; I can only imagine his pep talks: “Kevin Ollie, we need more from you!”, “Willie Green, you’re just not getting it done!”, “I’m looking for you to lead this team, Samuel Dalembert!” And if and when they ever do get done rebuilding, VP Larry Brown will almost certainly “pull a Riley” on Mo, down to and including leaving the next year for surgery. I’m quite possibly either the 1st or the 1,001st person to draw this parallel, but I find Cheeks’ situation comparable to Alan Trammell’s with the Detroit Tigers a few years back: 80s hero returns to manage terrible team, fails.

As for the game itself, commentator Henry Williams had the line of the night with about eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. “If there is one mistake the Bobcats have made tonight,” Henry said, “it’s…” And I don’t know what he said after that, because I was laughing too hysterically to hear him finish. This is because the Bobcats didn’t make just one mistake last night. In fact, chances are they didn’t just make one mistake on whatever play Henry was describing. The Bobcats littered the game with mistakes, and some of them were downright creative. The stand out mistake was Jeff McInnis getting ejected in the first quarter because—get this—he wasn’t listed on the active roster!! Boy, we sure know how to make a newcomer feel wanted, don’t we? Yep, we somehow miscounted poor Jeff, the Sixers caught it (and props to whoever on their bench noticed it—is that what they’ve got Shavlik Randolph doing these days?), and he was ordered to leave the game. I’m not sure if Jeff then went back to his mansion and foiled a burglary by two bumbling robbers in a series of slapstick hijinks, but they ought to call this the “Home Alone Clause.” It’s just a darn good thing a) it happened late in the game, b) we weren’t playing back-to-backs, and c) we’ve got all those extra guards…

So that was the winner for Lead Mistake, and it was great, but it couldn’t have done it without an excellent supporting cast. Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, when we built an 11-point lead (mostly by virtue of missing much less than Philly): Kyle Korver and his knee-high black socks (Korver apparently takes his fashion hints by old men in Bermuda shorts) hits a three-pointer, Emeka Okafor commits an offensive foul, Korver makes two free throws, Bobcats turnover, Andrei Iguodala slams it, Sixers defensive rebound, Iguodala makes one free throw, Adam Morrison travels, Morrison gets a technical, the Bobcats bench gets a technical, Korver hits both technicals (this is about when Williams mentioned the possibility of a Bobcats mistake), Dalembert slams an alley-oop. 11-point lead, say hello to a 1-point deficit. Total elapsed time: 1 minute, 58 seconds. It was enough to make you splash aftershave on your face, put both hands on your cheeks, and scream.

Yet the Sixers would only score three more points and the Bobcats pulled it out, after which a graphic on the screen quite needlessly pointed out that this was the team’s first 3-game win streak of the season. Raymond Felton, who better not be complaining about not getting to play enough, had 14 points and 10 assists (technically he only had 9 but I’m giving him an unofficial one because I’m assuming he’s the one telling Walter Herrmann that those horrible “thong-headbands” sported by Mike Miller and Mike Dunleavey are a bad idea). Sean May, Okafor, and Morrison all played well, and Derek Anderson (15 points, 3 steals) has become our George Michael-ian father figure.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bobcats 126, Knicks 110

On Friday the Bobcats returned to the site of their most arduous disaster (and that’s just describing the 3rd quarter) this season: Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have improved to the point that losing to them is no longer shameful, but they still have a “Bad News Bears” look about them: a comically tiny kid (Nate Robinson), a comically fat kid (Eddy Curry), an evil coach, etc. They’re also in the process of buying out Steve Francis, which would complete an epically, biblically horrible personnel move by Coach/GM/Supreme Chancellor/Sith Lord Isiah Thomas. And they still inexplicably refuse to start David Lee over Jared Jeffries, which has now surpassed last year’s “Why won’t Andy Reid hand the ball off more?” question as the one sports mystery everyone on the entire planet seems to be wondering except the coach himself.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats played their second game in a row in their alternate jerseys, which has me wondering if—like alternative music—they'll soon become so popular that they ironically become the regular choice. (side note: the uniform’s blue-and-orange scheme, combined with the thick black line running down the side, combined with my crappy, non-HD television, all created the weird effect of making it look at times like the Knicks were playing on the road against themselves). Other weird, tangential factors that I pondered: anyone else find it strange that McDonald’s has now taken to advertising individual burgers along the scorer’s table (e.g., “Quarterpounders, now for only $1.25")? Does this signal a shift away from urging customers to go with combo meals, or do they simply worry we’ve all forgotten that McDonald's sells Quarterpounders? Are the product managers for Hot Apple pies and Happy Meals getting jealous about this preferential treatment? Also, what’s with commentator Matt Devlin announcing rather ominously in recent fourth quarters, “Still to come, Wachovia’s Pivotal Moment of the Game.”? Does this mean they haven’t selected the pivotal moment yet, or do they truly believe it hasn’t actually occurred yet? And why does Wachovia wish to associate itself with the concept of “pivotal,” anyway? Will this ever get us to think there’s anything “pivotal” about depositing or withdrawing cash from Wachovia? You’d think they would stick to something obvious like, “Wachovia’s Bank Shot of the Game.”

Anyway, enough taking away the spotlight from Derek Anderson. DA put up 29 points, had three huge steals, and made 6/8 3-pointers, every one of which seemed to be at (hint-hint, Wachovia) a pivotal moment. This was Anderson’s 17th game with the Bobcats, which we know because Devlin* curiously mentions this running count every game (makes me wonder when he’s going to stop—two years from now will we be hearing, “You know, this is now DA’s 183rd game with the Bobcats”? It’s kind of like wondering how long parents will continue to refer to their newborn child’s age in months). Anderson has almost become a real life “Mr. Cooper” from the semi-successful Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper sit-com of the early 90s, except that DA’s actually managed to stay in the League (and, as far as I know, Charles Barkley hasn’t made any cameo guest appearances congratulating him). The night’s other hero was Emeka Okafor, who was just one rebound shy of a triple-double (20 points, 9 rebounds, 10 blocks--this year's single-game record).

Someone who needs to be called out, however, is Primoz Brezec. 12 points and 1 rebound for the big guy is not going to cut it. Plus he allowed Curry to handle him like a 7’ submarine sandwich all night. I realize that telling Brezec to step his ball game up is a little like XXL magazine a few years ago telling Murphy Lee to step his rap game up, because Brezec isn’t the greatest player in the world to begin with. But his size alone should get him more than one rebound, considering Matt Carroll grabbed six.

Other than that Brezec, however, what is there to complain about? Over 50% shooting, some more brilliant play by Raymond Felton and Carroll, an MSG crowd booing the Knicks at the end (although the Knicks were probably happy that people are at least showing up enough to make their boos audible), and I love how every Bobcats win seems to cause opposing teams to completely lose control of themselves towards the end—this time it was Quentin Richardson and Stephon Marbury carrying on like babies—as if poor refereeing is the only conceivable explanation for why they lost.

*I need to stop picking on Devlin, because I actually love the guy. I love all our announcers for that matter, and I get pissed and defensive any time an outsider makes fun of them. I’m kind of like the Bundy family on Married…With Children in that respect: the Bundy’s were constantly at each other’s throats, yet they would always rally around each other anytime another family went up against them in some sort of competition (which seemed to happen a lot).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bobcats 103, Pistons 96

Somehow, the Bobcats found themselves playing their third game of the season against the Pistons, despite the fact that we’ve only played some teams in our own division once. I don’t like to look at what’s ahead on the schedule (mostly because I envision them all being blowout losses and then I get depressed), but at this rate we better close out the season by playing Atlanta, like, 5 times in a row.

On the other hand, we’ve now taken 2/3 from Detroit, so go figure. Perhaps at halftime Coach Bickerstaff had the team sit around the television and watch the President’s speech, which then inspired them, but Charlotte’s victory probably had more to do with Chauncey Billups being out with an injury, Rasheed Wallace barely playing, and Rip Hamilton getting ejected after arguing a questionable foul call.

Strange game. The Pistons put us on the foul line 23 times in the fourth quarter alone. Even stranger, we made 20 of them. I’m starting to think that a better free throw percentage must have been the team’s New Year’s Resolution, as it’s suddenly become one of our stronger suits. In a way I’m kind of sad, because our abysmal foul shooting always used to be a guaranteed joke-producer, so now I’m going to have to look elsewhere (this must be how all those comedians felt in ’92 when Dan Quayle left office). Matt Carroll is now the #1 free throw shooter in the league, for goodness’ sake, which begs the question: why aren’t the Bobcats marketing him more? I mean, if the league’s best free throw shooter won’t put butts in seats, then I frankly don’t know what will. And if any of the team’s marketing officials are reading this worthless column, that last line was a JOKE. I say this because commentator Matt Devlin announced that Saturday night’s home game will be “NASCAR Night,” which just about takes the cake in terms of All-Time Worst Cross-Promotion Ideas. How much NASCAR/NBA overlap could there possibly be—5 fans? 6? What’s next, “NHL Night”? How about “Opera Night”?

Anyway, the game was Wallace-less. Gerald apparently is only just now able to lift his arm above his head without screaming (although according to the team's trainers, somehow this puts him on track to start Friday or Saturday at the latest), and Coach Flip Saunders benched Rasheed because he was late to a team meeting. The announcers didn’t say if Saunders also gave Sheed a week’s detention, but the move struck me as somewhat juvenile and insulting. This is because Sheed was also punished in the Pistons’ last game, which happened to be against the pitiful 76ers, so my question is whether or not Sheed would be sitting if Detroit played back-to-backs against, say, Dallas and San Antonio?

Whatever the answer, the Bobcats made them pay. Felton had 18 points and 7 assists, Okafor had 10 points and 10 assists, Carroll had 17 points (and 7 rebounds!), and Sean May had 14 and 8 off the bench. Adam Morrison had 16 points, continuing his odd pattern of playing much better on the road. Morrison seems to think he plays better on the road because there’s less pressure, although I have no idea why he feels a half-empty Bobcats Arena is more pressurized than a packed Palace full of hostile Kid Rock lovers. Perhaps it's because Mr. Rock wasn’t there in person (and neither was Eminem or Bob Seeger or the White Stripes. Heck, we can’t even get Insane Clown Posse to show up when we’re in the Motor City—where’s the love, Motown?).

10 wins! We cracked the double-digit barrier! If there was a down note at all, it’s that color commentator Adrian Branch is no longer with the team—what happened?! Adrian was one of the best commentators out there! He was also relentlessly--pathologically-- sunny and cheerful. We could be losing to Milwaukee by 30 on a Tuesday night and AB would have something positive to point out. I'm seriously ticked off by this. In a world in which Tommy Heinsohn and Red Kerr have job security, how am I supposed to explain to my children that Adrian Branch got fired? No offense to his replacement, Henry Williams, who’s a good guy and apparently receives the same amusing wardrobe advice as Shannon Sharpe (HW had a suit last night with pinstripes that would best be described as “powerful”), but I demand an explanation!

Monday, January 08, 2007

NFL Thoughts, Wildcard Round

Though it was arguably the worst of the four games to usher in the postseason, there was at least one interesting aspect of the Chiefs-Colts game. And though that aspect encompasses the irony that the Colts defense—against all expectations—completely shut down Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, it’s not the entirety of what was interesting about the game. In fact, in a true testament to the shortness of our memories, the Colts run defense has already performed this exact same “miracle” once this year, and not even that long ago. If you can somehow journey mentally far, far back into Ancient Times, a.k.a. “Week 14,” you may remember that what started the entire Colts-Can’t-Stop-the-Run movement in the first place was their horrendous performance against the Jaguars. This led to a succeeding week of near certitude that their impotence against the run would spell their doom against their next opponent, Rudi Johnson and his band of Bengals. And what happened? The Colts limited R. Johnson to 79 innocuous yards en route to a victory on Monday Night Football.

No, what made the Chiefs-Colts affair interesting was that it took the storyline that had been leading up to the game and immediately replaced it with its near-perfect antithesis once the contest actually started. The out-gong storyline (“erstwhile storyline”? “ex-storyline”?) was, of course, “Can Peyton Manning overcome what will be undoubtedly a horrible showing by the Colts run defense?” But in a Hitchcock-ian plot twist, the compelling question quickly got turned on its ear to become, “Can the Colts run defense overcome a horrible (that’s probably a bit harsh—more like “mediocre”) showing by Peyton Manning?” And best of all, the game remained faithful to this conflict, carrying it out to a tidy conclusion (that conclusion being, "Yes").

I say “quickly” because the Chiefs got the ball first, handed it off to Johnson on the first two downs for negligible gains, and ultimately went 3-and-out. Meanwhile, on just his third drive, Peyton threw a costly interception. That these counterintuitive trends happened early is key, because they allowed the viewers at home to delete their presupposed notions of what would happen, upload the new ones, and become involved in the game as a coherent, evolving story. Their consistency is crucial as well. If at some point in the third quarter, Larry Johnson began busting through holes and chewing up the clock (and finishing the day with, say, 105 yards), while Peyton overcame his first half problems and went for 300+ yards and four touchdowns, we would have had nothing for a story, except maybe the old “it was a tale of two halves” deal, which has been done enough (it’s like football’s version of movies involving an underachieving team of kids who rally around a charismatic coach to win the championship). But this didn’t happen, as Larry finished with just 32 yards and Peyton threw three interceptions that, if they weren’t horrible, were certainly “un-Manning-like” (unless you’re talking about Eli, that is).

Thus we were treated to an interesting, “alternative reality” story. The game still wasn’t great, though. If I had to name its cinematic equivalent, I’d say it was White Man’s Burden or possibly Vanilla Sky (the gold standard being Memento).

One other surprise of the weekend: when I woke up this morning, there were NOT approximately 450 articles on,, etc. analyzing Tiki Barber’s downright cheerful demeanor at the end of the Giants loss to Philly. Evaluating and judging football players’ momentary facial expressions on the sideline in full-length articles has become a journalistic bonanza lately—saying someone looked too upset or not upset enough is easy action for a sportswriter, I suppose. Thus after Fox showed several shots of the future talk show host smiling repeatedly despite the clock winding down on the game and his career, I could sense the upcoming controversy. As Troy Aikman would put it, “it was to the point where” I could practically see all the Monday headlines criticizing Tiki for his shallowness/selfishness/disinterest, followed by an opposing group on Tuesday insisting that it’s his right/his life/none of our business. As it is, no one said much of anything—weird...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Magic 106, Bobcats 74

The Magic had revenge on their minds Friday night after (and how weird does this sound) the Bobcats humiliated them a few weeks ago on national television. Okay, Emeka Okafor, you’re going up against that Jolly African American Giant, Dwight Howard, so it’s imperative you box him out, not let him get off to a head start, and…not IMMEDIATELY get two fouls and head straight to the bench for the rest of the first quarter. Whoa boy. After Okafor collected his second personal only a few minutes into the game, you could actually see Howard’s eyes light up; you might as well have put a flashing neon sign up over the hoop reading “Slam it here, Dwight.” The rest of the first quarter was a highlight reel of the God-fearing Howard slamming and rebounding with a very un-Christian-like wrath.

Though we trailed 33-27 to start the second, the Magic had needed to shoot over 70% from the field for the 6-point lead, while the Cats had hit only about 30% of their shots. Thus there didn’t seem to be any reason to panic, because the Magic obviously wouldn’t be able to keep up their pace. What nobody realized, however, was that the Bobcats wouldn’t be able to keep up their pace either. Our final shooting percentage wasn’t just a bad field-goal average, it wouldn’t have even made for a great batting average: 29%. Sean May was just 1/8, Okafor was just 1/7, Brezec was just 3/11 and simply could not get any one of his numerous put-back chances to fall. Not only was it frustrating watching him miss repeatedly from a half-foot out, it was really strange witnessing a man of his size not be able to make those tap-ins—it reminded me of this weird office coworker I once had who could not toss a wad of paper into a trash basket even when he rolled his desk chair right next to it; we all thought that guy had some sort of medical condition. Also Adam Morrison, who was so ecstatic to see the return of his beloved old ball, apparently has more of a complex relationship with it than he let on, because he only shot 4/14. Even Matt Carroll missed a free throw. As putrid as we were though, the Magic are also surprisingly studly on defense; check out the stats and you’ll see Orlando is ranked no worse than 5th in just about every defensive category.

We were still only trailing 56-50 to start the third quarter, and even this was after quite a shocking event: Howard hit a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to end the half. It was a bad omen, as apparently this was Howard’s first ever trey, and he sure reacted like it, running around and hugging people as if he were a fan who’d just hit a mid-court shot to win a million dollars. What really irked me though, was that this cancelled out what I had taken to be a very positive sign only a few minutes before: Carroll blocked a jumper head on, an event that was only slightly less rare than Howard’s make. Carroll did it against probably the only person who would allow such a thing, J.J. Redick, but I was encouraged nonetheless. But Howard’s three-pointer killed the karma, and we were never the same after that.

The third quarter was legendarily horrendous, in terms of shooting—just 10 points for us, which would actually be seen as a somewhat disappointing performance by many individual players. The Magic then went on a 16-0 run that straddled the third and fourth quarters, sending commentators Adrian and Matt off into observations-from-around-the-League mode (Matt thinks the Hawks are a more disappointing Southeast Division team than the Heat, FYI). But it should be noted that Jeff McInnis was on the scene, although he spent the majority of the game on the bench chatting with Walter Herrmann (presumably exchanging headband tips). He also actually does wear number “0” in real life, which I hadn’t realized ( had listed him as “0,” but I had assumed that was just a default number they give to newcomers who haven’t played yet). I’m not sure if there’s any interesting, Gilbert Arenas-like background behind the "0," but I’ll keep you posted. He got about 16 minutes of run in all, most of it coming after the game was out of reach. According to Coach Bickerstaff, Jeff will be eased in because he hasn’t completely mastered the Bobcats offense yet, although the Magic defense sure didn’t seem to have any problem with it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bobcats Trade Robinson for Nets' Guard Jeff McInnis

From the Bobcats’ standpoint, there isn’t a whole lot to analyze here. 1) We desperately needed a natural point guard before Raymond Felton becomes so burnt out that he gets photographed falling asleep at a club wearing no underwear. 2) Jeff McInnis was out there, he’s put up roughly 11-point/5-assist/1.5-turnover seasons in each of the four seasons he’s played more than 70 games at 30 minutes per, and for whatever reason he was on the New Jersey junk heap (the figurative one—not one of NJ’s many actual junk heaps). 3) He has a favorable history with Coach Bernie Bickerstaff, which will hopefully lead to some Tony D’Amato/Willy Beamen-like, lightening-in-a-bottle magic. 4) If nothing else, he’s got an expiring contract. 5) We gave up even less than we thought we would have to (Bernard Robinson instead of Melvin Ely). Bottom line: it filled a glaring hole + it made sense + it didn’t cost much = we made it happen. And actually, when you think of all the other zany, harebrained, Wile E. Coyote-esque schemes that NBA GMs frequently try and fail, we should all probably be really happy any time a simple common sense move occurs.

It would actually be far harder to analyze this from the Nets’ standpoint. Why they didn’t take Ely would be the primary mystery, and though I saw Nets president Rod Thorn discussed the trade with’s Chris Sheridan, I have a personal boycott in place to never hear Rod Thorn again as long as I live. He is so evasive and longwinded it’s like when Striker goes into his past on Airplane! and you end up stabbing yourself when he finally runs out words. Plus, I don’t really care, it’s the Nets problem.

So as long as McInnis hasn’t spent all his hiatus in Jersey knocking down shots of Jack at the Bada-Bing, we should be set. He does have a history of being high-strung, so we all need to make him feel welcome here. Did you see his quote in the Observer? “I have brought some stuff on myself, I'll admit that. I did stuff early in my career. I talked back to coaches and I won't deny it. Now, I grew through it and why is it coming back to haunt me now? Can't a person move on?" Relax, Jeff, you have moved on. This isn’t the NYC media anymore, so don’t sweat it, dude, we'll take it easy on you. And if you feel like beating someone up, no problem, that appears to be what we got Walter Herrmann for...

The only other loose end is Ely, who’s got to be just a little pissed that we tried and failed to trade him. Coach Bickerstaff has kept him out of games and his bags had to have been all but packed, so how is he going to react now? Also, good luck to Bernard Robinson. Whatever his faults, the guy sure looked the part. You certainly can’t accuse him of not getting in the gym! Not to sound homoerotic, but I just wish other ballers realized they’re in a physical business and had the professionalism to get themselves, you know, physically fit.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Timberwolves 102, Bobcats 96

The Bobcats and Timberwolves went at it on New Year’s Day, although maybe they should have temporarily changed their names to the Lab Rats vs. the Guinea Pigs in honor of this being first game featuring the new/old leather ball. Now that it’s run out of regular season NFL games to compete with head-to-head, what’s the NBA scheduling department to do? Ah-ha! Compete in the same time slots as major NCAA Bowl games, of course—good thinking, NBA! Fortunately, my college team, Miami, had already taken the illustrious Computers Bowl in bustling Boise, Idaho, so I had no conflict of interest here.

Before the tip-off, word on the street was that Gerald Wallace’s injury would only cost him about a week, meaning the shoulder separation was of the Kid Rock/Pamela Anderson sort rather than the Mike Tyson/Robin Givens kind. Jeff McInnis is also still a New Jersey Net, although I keep thinking that’s going to change soon, considering Melvin Ely didn’t play again last night—unless of course Coach Bickerstaff thought it would be simply impossible for Ely to add anything to the 4-point/5-rebound/11-foul combined brilliance of Jake Voskuhl and Primoz Brezec. I know I’m probably hanging too much on McInnis, but I can’t help fantasizing him as this year’s Tim Thomas.

As for the game itself, the Bobcats led at the end of every quarter except the fourth. The Cats blew a 20-point lead again, but at least they had the common decency to lose in regulation this time. Still, it was a frustrating night, considering we had an 11-point lead to start the fourth before unleashing a staggering array of turnovers to let the Wolves back in. Check out this series of possessions with 11 minutes remaining, which I will introduce to you in chronological order of appearance: offensive foul, 24-second violation, lost ball out of bounds, traveling violation, offensive foul—there’s your ballgame...

Adding to my annoyance: (1) the ridiculous Minnesota television announcers crediting their team’s defense after every Bobcats blunder—no matter how unforced—from missed open layups to palming calls; I’m surprised they didn’t praise the T-wolves after every Charlotte missed free throw. (2) Ricky Davis, who talks a surprising amount of trash considering a) Minnesota forged its “dramatic” comeback against a team who’s won all of 9 games, and b) this is a dude who was essentially deemed unworthy of playing for the Boston Celtics. (3) Mark Blount. Nothing against him personally, but you hate to lose to a team that makes him its linchpin. By the way, is this how it normally goes, T-wolves fans, or did I just catch your team on a weird night? Is Mark Blount always this crucial for you guys? This is the same Mark Blount who, along with Davis, was cast off by the Celtics, correct? I swear, it was just “Blount, Blount, Blount” all night long, and anytime he wasn’t in on a play for more than 2 minutes the announcers would begin fretting about how he needs to be more involved—maybe it’s just me, but that seemed really strange. Imagine not seeing a Bobcats game for a month, then flipping it on and noticing that all the offense suddenly seems to be flowing through Jake Voskuhl—that’s how I felt. (4) This had nothing really to do with the Bobcats game, but in the NBATV late game, Boston managed to hold off Portland, thus ruining my golden opportunity to see Celtics GM Danny Ainge, who was guest announcing, have a potentially electrifying on-air temper tantrum, one that I really would have savored. It was just a frustrating night all around…

The Bobcats at least saw some positive trends continuing. Adam Morrison, who has publicly professed his love for the old ball more times than Tom does for Katie, is now a happy camper, and proved it with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Emeka Okafor had the standard 12-14 double-double, Sean May was solid off the bench (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists), and the overall shooting has been better lately (52%), despite the second half meltdown. But best of all, Matt Carroll had 23 points off the bench, including 5/8 on 3-pointers. One of the sillier expressions to make its way into the sports lexicon lately has been the use of the word “unconscious” to describe a player’s hot streak. Well, if people are going to keep throwing it out there, I’d argue that Carroll’s play in the past few games has been “comatose.” If he gets any hotter he’ll soon be “vegetative.”

Monday, January 01, 2007

NFL Thoughts, Week 17

Good-bye to the 06-07 season, and good riddance from a betting standpoint. As I have mentioned before, around week 10 I attempted to develop a regression model to see what (if any) factors might best indicate a team's weekly performance. Though I haven't completely abandoned hope, as of right now I'm the black trooper in Spaceballs combing the desert with his pick: I ain't found shit. I mean nothing. I've tried total offensive yards, total defensive yards, passing yards (gained/allowed), rushing yards (gained/allowed), sacks (made/allowed), takeaways, giveaways, home field advantage (not just no correlation on this one, by the way, but a NEGATIVE correlation--how?!), bye-week advantage, short week advantage, Atkins Advantage--you name it, I tried it.

And if you're the type of aesthete who shuns statistics and thinks I was wasting my time, well, you're...absolutely right. On the other hand, the sexy intangibles weren't really a reliable predictor either. Just look at the final week: who could have had more intangible advantages than Denver, Dallas, and Cincinnati: all three playing at home, all three with huge playoff incentives to win, all three playing crappy and/or indifferent teams (you could argue that Dallas's opponent, Detroit, actually had an incentive to lose in order to get a higher draft pick). And all three lost! That Denver game played out like the old Cold War nuclear-cautionary movie Fail-Safe: the Broncos had a ton of backup plans--and to top it off only needed a tie--but still couldn't avert an apocalyptic disaster. At the same time, if you're a trend-bucking rebel who liked underdogs, the Patriots crushed the Titans, the Giants stomped the Redskins, and the Jets un-ironically torched the Raiders.

If there's any consolation to us all, I still don't think you could just pluck a space alien out of a flying saucer (or even an illegal alien out of a midwestern meat-packing plant, for that matter) and have him/her/it choose winners better than you. I base this conclusion on how I envision my wife would have performed had she bet this season. First, she would have put the most down on the Dolphins all year (Dolphins are cute), then the Colts (ditto), then Oakland (where her favorite band, Green Day, is from), then Green Bay (sounds like "Green Day"), and then Minnesota (purple is pretty). Her only consistent successes would have been San Diego (her best friend is from there) and Baltimore (a wannabe goth, the whole Ravens/Edgar Allen Poe/violent and bloody death thing appeals to her). So you still have to know something about football, but paying $7 for special "insider" magazines and researching obscure efficiency rankings--not that I do any of these things, of course--will probably do nothing for you (other than anger your spouse--again, so I'm told).

So while I'll miss football, I'll also be happy to retreat full-time to the NBA, where the round ball takes no weird bounces, the weather plays no role, home court is not really an advantage (or a disadvantage), injuries are limited, crazy plays and unforseen turnovers can only lead to at most 2% of the total scoring, there are only 13 players/head-cases on the entire roster, and the good teams crush the bad ones darned near every time (as a Bobcats fan, I'm only too painfully aware of this fact)--in short, where outcomes are safe and predictable.

There's a reason why movies with bad and/or ambiguous endings rate poorly with audiences: we want logical closure. We want evil punished (especially if the punishment involves hanging the evildoer on a fighter jet's missile and firing him into a helicopter--the more imaginative, the better) and girls to eventually realize their shy and thoughtful guy-friends have actually been their soulmates all along. And if we can get hilarious cameos by Will Farrell thrown in, all the better. But give us something like Eraserhead, and we demand our money back (or, in my case, become so troubled after seeing it that we hang a poster of it on our apartment wall for five years as a twisted way of inoculating ourselves from nightmares, then wonder why girls won't talk to us).

Offensive Player of the Week: Jon Kitna, Lions. 28/42 for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns. Kitna probably played well enough for the Lions to think they don't need a quarterback and hence can blow yet another high draft pick on a receiver. Calvin Johnson in Detroit blues? How could Matt Millenresist--it'd be like telling a drug addict you've got an extra ticket to see The Grateful Dead.

Defensive Player of the Week: Walt Harris, 49ers. 2 INT's, one for a TD, to ruin the Broncos season. Because of Harris, at the post-game press conference Mike Shanahan looked disturbingly like Anthony Perkins at the end of Psycho; I just hope one of the stadium security guards was able to give the poor guy a blanket.