Thursday, April 19, 2007

Knicks 94, Bobcats 93

Well there’s some sad things known to man, but they ain’t too much sadder than the last game of the NBA regular season. Goodbye, Bobcats, I’m going to M-I-S, S you much. Just think, when we tipped off in November, aging ex-President Gerald Ford was remembered chiefly for his clutziness rather than as the wise and noble leader that he suddenly became once he died, global warming was a liberal conspiracy theory, Donald Rumsfeld was one of the most powerful people in the world, Tim Hardaway was presumed to have at worst an ambivalent attitude regarding homosexuals, and the thought of allowing a drooling, excreting dog into my house seemed laughable. Five months later, that’s all changed, but one thing that hasn’t is my love for the Bobcats. And though there’s a smile upon my face as I write the final entry, it’s only there tryin’ to fool the public.

Speaking of tragedies, the Knicks were our final opponents of the regular season. After closing out their campaign with a 3-15 run, Stephon Marbury recently reassured the New York faithful by promising, “Us as a team, we're going to be together for next year,” which I’m not even sure Knicks fans would consider to be a good thing. I got a chuckle out of it though, because it reminded me of an old Far Side cartoon in which the Founding Fathers are standing around a draft of the Constitution and one of them says, “Now, should it be ‘Us the People,’ or ‘We the People’?”

Fittingly, we ended this season just like we started it: with no local television coverage. The Bobcats did a little closing ceremony of their own, capped off by a speech from…Othella Harrington?? This makes no sense for two reasons. First, he talked for about as many minutes as he averaged playing this year; the guy's not exactly the face of the franchise. Second, he asked for the obligatory continued support over the summer and next year, when it’s practically a given that he won’t be here next year. Anyhow, all of our favorite Knicks were on-hand to entertain us: Eddy Curry, Steve Francis, Jerome James, Nate Robinson, Jared Jeffries…brother, what a freak show. No Stephon Marbury though, for reasons that were never made a clear, and this was a shame, because I always get a kick out of it whenever commentator Walt Frazier uses phrases like “overly ostentatious” to analyze a Steph play.

For the Bobcats, Gerald Wallace (12 points) made a cameo appearance and Emeka Okafor fouled out with just 17 minutes to his name. The night flew by like a dream and had all of the sights that made the year so memorable: Primoz Brezec missing more layups than should be humanly possible for a 7-footer, Ryan Hollins goaltending a shot that was at least a foot below the plane of the basket by the time he swatted it, Jeff McInnis passing to a referee, and Coach Bickerstaff’s priceless grimacing. And in fact we were bombarded with some of Coach’s best looks in his final game, as the Cats got off to a horrific start and trailed by 8; it was almost like Coach was doing one of those big finales they do with fireworks in order to send us home happy.

But these are the Knicks, they’ve worked hard for their reputation, and by golly they weren’t about to screw it up in one night. The Bobcats went on a 16-0 run in the second quarter that culminated hilariously with a wheezing James staggering to the bench like a man emerging from a desert. Leading by 2 at the half, the Cats stretched it to 9, but let New York take a 4-point lead late in the 4th quarter. However, Herrmann’s trey got us to within 1, Robinson (18 points) answered with one of his own (then followed it up with the type of reserved and dignified celebration of which only he’s capable), and then Wallace hit a three, Raymond Felton completed a 3-point play to give us the lead with 9 seconds to play, and then Eddy Bleepin’ Curry tipped in a shot with 0.6 left to steal it away—sonofa…!

There were bloopers, turnovers (the Knicks had 22), and poor shooting galore. The game was pretty horrendous, but it became bizarrely compelling because a) the crowd was jacked, and b) Malik Rose (10, 15, and 9) nearly notched a highly unlikely triple-double. Brevin Knight had 12 points and 13 dimes, Raymond Felton had 19 points, Herrmann had 22, and the forever young Derek Anderson had 14 points and 6 assists. “I’m going to play two more (years) at the most,” Anderson said before the game, “maybe three, but I doubt it.” Um, so that would be three more years at the most, but either way, it’s been a pleasure, DA.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, your 06-07 Charlotte Bobcats. Although the season’s over, I definitely plan to keep blogging throughout the summer, so be sure to tune in. It’s all part of my plan to keep my brand out there, because I want to be thought of as a Blogging Icon. I don’t necessarily need to be a "Global Icon" like LeBron, I’ll settle for just being a "Regional Icon," like Harris Teeter supermarkets. Thus I’ll be chiming in with thoughts on our draft picks, the new coach, any transactions, re-signings, and of course any brushes with the law and/or strippers. I’ll also probably post any random thoughts I have concerning the playoffs. And finally, there’s a certain New York-based, pinstripe-clad, overpaid, underachieving, professional baseball team that periodically causes me to break major appliances in anger, so don’t be surprised to see some confessional-style postings on that front. But I can tell you, my love for the Bobcats will still be strong after the boys of summer have gone.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bobcats 113, Bucks 92

Saturday night’s telecast opened with a strange sight: Andrew Bogut standing at center court with a microphone—was it Karaoke Night at the Bradley Center? Nope, turned out the Bucks players were just taking a moment to thank the fans for their support. Mo Williams took the mic next, and he must have left his speech notes in the locker room, because he simply giggly promised repeatedly that the team would win “soooo many games next year,” although he didn’t attempt to quantify his prediction. It was a perfect mood setter for the screwball comedy that followed, starring the Bobcats and Bucks in a game that was played about as seriously as a Naked Gun movie. To their credit, Milwaukee sports fans have really shown me something this week. First they turned out in droves to watch two out-of-town MLB teams play, and then they packed the Bradley Center for a game that couldn’t have been more meaningless. For their sake, I hope Williams will deliver on his promise (assuming “soooo many” is greater than or equal to 40).

The usual faces were out for the Bobcats: Carroll, Wallace, Voskuhl, and Morrison (who—with his shaggy, partially combed hair and thrown-together suit—looked vaguely like one of my hick cousins at his third wedding, bride already four month pregnant). The Bucks, on the other hand, were playing without just about everyone on the team who has a clue what they’re doing: Redd, Bogut, Villanueva, Skinner, and Simmons (question: if Simmons comes back next year and plays awesomely, could he win a second “Most Improved Player” award?). The result was a game in which both teams often played like they were trying to dribble a football, totaling 41 turnovers and at least two separate occasions in which the refs signaled “out-of-bounds” by indicating the ball had gone off a player’s face.

Former D-Leaguer Alan Anderson must have felt right at home in this environment, as he notched 24 points, 8 rebounds, and just 5 turnovers. And hats off to Derek Anderson for zipping around the court like he was on a Quidditch broom en route to 21 points and 5 steals. But the game’s Leslie Nielson Award belongs to Walter Herrmann, who had his first 30-point game on 12/15 shooting (6/8 on 3’s). Herrmann also brought home 9 rebounds and severely frustrated counterpart Ruben Patterson: The Walter Stopper shot 3/8 for 10 points and had 6 turnovers.

Herrmann’s herroiccs made up for another off-night by Emeka Okafor (10 points and 5 rebounds), who was frankly outplayed by the spectacularly clumsy Dan Gadzuric (14 and 14), who gave new meaning to the phrase “crash the boards.” I would describe Gadzuric’s game as similar to Anderson Varejao’s, except less graceful. With 4 turnovers (which is kind of hard to do for most centers, except of course Eddy Curry), 5/12 shooting, and 4/9 on free throws, Gadzuric was more of a threat to get his head stuck in the basket than the ball, but you had to like his energy.

Sparked by Gadzuric’s play and some guy named Lynn (Greer, 14 points off the bench), Milwaukee played it close for most of the first half, before we ended the second quarter on an 8-0 run. Then we blew it open in the third, outscoring the Bucks 32-19, with all but 6 points coming by way of Herrmann and the Andersons. The Bucks made something of a comeback in the fourth, but the game was never really in doubt and the Bobcats coasted to their 33rd victory of the season. Asked afterward about his thoughts on the team’s strong finish during his final days as head coach, Bernie Bickerstaff was clearly moved: “I don’t have any,” he responded. Well said, coach, but you’re no Mo Williams.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bulls 100, Bobcats 81

The Bobcats traveled to Chicago on Friday the 13th and got carved up worse than a post-coital teen at Camp Crystal Lake. Throwing up more D than Rich Boy, the Bulls held us to 81 points on 40% shooting from the field (and even then only if you round up) while out-rebounding us 42-29. And I didn’t keep count, but that had to have been a record number of air balls and shot-clock violations on our part. Pick your cliché: the Bulls were swarming, stifling, suffocating, etc. Man, why couldn’t we have played someone crappy again like the Heat?

With no Gerald Wallace in the lineup (tendonitis) and the Bulls fighting for the number two playoff seed, all blowout systems were a “go.” Actually, the Bobcats kept it respectable for most of the game, hovering around the 7-to-13 point deficit range. Replacing G-Dub was Derek Anderson, whose entire left leg was wrapped up in bandages, mummy-style. And Othella Harrington made his first appearance this calendar year, if I’m not mistaken. Rounding out the patchwork lineup was Primoz Brezec, who didn’t score at all, although he did almost hit the rim a couple of times. Some bad shooting buy Raymond Felton (3-13 for ten points) and a sub-par night from Emeka Okafor (9 points, 11 rebounds, and just 3/7 from the foul line—one of his free throws missed so badly it actually bounced out of bounds) sealed the deal.

Individually, the Bulls aren’t and weren’t particularly daunting. But they assemble like Voltron to form a pretty impressive collective unit. Leading scorer Ben Gordon had 20 points, but also 6 turnovers. Ben Wallace had 12 and 12, and Kirk Hinrich (18 points, 8 assists) and Luol Deng (14 points, 6 boards) provided steady, complementary play. They’re going to present problems in the playoffs for their opponents, especially with Nocioni back, but I still think they’re a “go-to” guy away from championship contention. On the other hand, someone has to win in the East…

Well, if G-Dub was looking to use this game to demonstrate his importance for negotiation leverage, I think he made his point. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just popped a tape of this one in during the contract talks; after about five minutes of watching it, Bob Johnson will probably be begging him to sign a max deal. In the meantime, I’ll just pray Wallace is back in the lineup on Saturday, because I see we’re playing Milwaukee—yeesh, that’s going to be like watching a scab game from the ’87 NFL strike season.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bobcats 92, Heat 82

A ton of personnel matters to report. First, no Shaquille O’Neal in the lineup for the Heat, because he was attending to family issues. This had to be music to Primoz Brezec’s ears, because last game Shaq manhandled Primoz the way Bob Barker used to handle that skinny microphone on The Price is Right. While I’m thinking about it, has anyone ever noticed that O’Neal looks exactly like a black “Stone Cold” Steve Austin? Perhaps I’m the only one who thinks so, as was the case in the late 80s when I seemed to be the only one who thought Michael Landon looked like a white James Brown, but I swear one could play the other if they ever decided to remake Soul Man (not sure why they would, but after they remade The Hills Have Eyes, who can tell?). Udonis Haslem was also out (attending to groin issues), and James Posey was benched for drinking-while-driving issues—was he at the same club as Warren Moon?

For the Bobcats, Adam Morrison was fined $25 grand for making an obscene gesture during the last game. The report didn’t say why he made the gesture, but I’d like to think it was for protesting the labor conditions of Columbian peasant farmers or some such left-wing cause. My question is how come the reports don’t ever specify what the obscene gesture is? 9 times out of 10 it’s going to be your basic middle finger, but you never know—maybe he was doing it the “slap-the-bicep-with-your-other-hand” way, or perhaps he was making the “jerk off” motion, or maybe even the old “fist-to-the-mouth-while-bulging-your-cheek-with-your-tongue” routine. I had a buddy in college who—I don’t remember how exactly he did it—could use both hands to create a remarkable likeness of a vagina. The point is, don’t these reporters realize that’s the kind of critical information fans need to know? On a positive note, Derek Anderson was back on the scene, crispy and clean. He’s been gone so long I can’t even remember why he was out in the first place, but he played like his usual self (17 points in 13 minutes).

As for the game, the first half was a sloppy affair with lots of back-and-forth action, most of which resulted in missed layups and a horrid 13 turnovers by Miami (en route to 22). The Bobcats were up by 17 until the Heat managed to get a hold of themselves, yet they stilled trailed by 12 at the buzzer. “This is the worst I’ve seen them all year other than Sunday,” commentator Henry Williams noted, impressing us once again with his vast reservoir of stored knowledge. Dwyane Wade (14 points, 4 turnovers) was still shaking off the cobwebs and Jason Williams (8 points, 4 turnovers) was completely disheveled, looking and playing like he’d spent the previous hour with an industrial strength leaf blower aimed at his face. Surprisingly, the only Heat player who looked remotely interested was Antoine Walker (17 points, 9 rebounds), which obviously didn’t do any good for Pat Riley’s halftime motivational speech—you can’t tell your team to play more like the same guy you suspended for getting fat, can you?

The third quarter was more of the same, except the Heat got even worse. Riles looked so mad I thought he was going to spring a cowlick. Instead he benched his starters and threw out Chris Quinn, Earl Barron, and Posey, who didn’t look like he’d sobered up yet. The Heat got as close as 14 in the fourth, but Coach Bickerstaff brought back in Gerald Wallace (24 points on 8/11 shooting, 10 rebounds) to ice it. And Walter Herrmann dropped the "hammerr" yet again, with 20 points and 6 boards (we also got the added bonus of seeing his publicity shot, in which he’s sans headband and in one of those old-school quarterback poses, mid-pass). I don’t think beating the Heat this badly will ever get old for me; it’s like how I feel about the Ramones. 20 years of blowouts over Miami and guys in leather jackets singing, “1-2-3-4” is fine by me; both are timeless entertainment.

How about Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer? Props to him for throwin’ a little hot sauce on his comments about Coach Bickerstaff’s handling of Kareem Rush. Wrote Sorenson: “(Rush) didn’t commit to team basketball, so Bickerstaff cut him. Rush pledged revenge, and if the Bobcats play an exhibition in the Development League, at Freedom Park or in Prague, Rush undoubtedly will be waiting.” Owww!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bobcats 111, Heat 103 (OT)

The Bobcats traveled to Miami on Sunday night to take on the Heat. The big news was that Dwyane Wade, the game’s most exciting foul shooter, returned to the lineup! My initial reaction was: Hmm, playing an expansion team of nobodies, nursing a bum shoulder…it’s quite possible we could see a new free throw record tonight. But before I take too many shots at Miami, they deserve some serious credit, as ESPN’s John Hollinger had them lottery-bound, and that was before Wade was injured, leading me to wonder if Hollinger rates his own predictions, because that one was pretty inefficient. Meanwhile, the Bobcats were without Matt Carroll and Adam Morrison, both injured, causing commentator Matt Devlin to worry how they would cope without two of their big “shooters.” I wasn’t as concerned, because lately neither of them had really been “makers.”

Wade didn’t start, and Shaquille O’Neal picked up two early fouls, so in came Alonzo Mourning. I know Mourning has a very serious medical condition, and I’m sensitive to that, but as a native New Jerseyan, I’ve got to side with my native people and hate him just a bit. Therefore, I always find it a little funny and satisfying when Mourning makes a layup, gets fouled, screams dramatically, and then…misses the free throw. Anyway, Wade came in at the end of the first quarter to a rousing ovation, wearing a bizarre, skin-tight, single-sleeved black pad, which made him look like he was in the process of turning into Venom. Commentator Henry Williams described it as if he were a tour-guide: “If you’ll notice the long sleeve that Wade is wearing (which was kind of funny because it was impossible not to notice the kooky getup—it sticks out worse than the misplaced “y” in Dwyane's name), it traps heat and provides protection.” Wade’s first points came on...two free throws. Unsurprisingly, the Heat went to the line 15 more times than us. It got so bad, I was just happy whenever we didn’t get called for offensive fouls. Poor Primoz Brezec couldn’t even get a call when Shaq punched him right in the face.

It didn’t seem to faze us, though, as we sprinted out to a 16-point lead to start the second half, led by Gerald Wallace, who got his sexy on with 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals. Wallace’s only mistake came when he tried to hurdle James Posey and landed hard on his…front—is it possible to break your groin? Perhaps most encouraging was the fact that we closed out the third up by ten points, despite playing the last two minutes with a downright crazy lineup: Jake Voskuhl, Walter Herrmann, Ryan Hollins, Alan Anderson, and...go ahead, you’ll never guess the last guy in a million tries…Give up? Jeff McInnis! Told you you wouldn’t get it.

Then in the fourth quarter it all fell apart. The Heat were on. On the street. Inside your head. On every beat. They went on a twelve point tear to start the quarter, led by that diabolical Wade—curses, I thought he was dead! Wade finished the night with 12 points (6/12 from the line) and 8 assists in 26 minutes. Crap, Jason Kapono was back too. Who’s next, Rony Seikaly? Why do the Heat all have to return against us? Kapono, channeling Sunny Crockett’s 5-o’clock shadow, knocked down everything he shot (7 of 9 for 19 points). And THEN, we were up by 1 with 30 seconds left and committed a shot clock violation!! The scream I emitted at this point rivaled Sean Penn’s in Mystic River when he finds out his daughter was murdered. Wade gets fouled by Felton (or at least a foul was called), makes 1 of 2, and into OT we go, where I assumed the Heat would inevitably close it out. I swear, this team is evil. This is the devil’s team, and that fireball-through-the-hoop logo at the center court of American Airlines Arena is hell-spawned.

And yet, we somehow held it together! Brevin Knight (13 points, 7 assists) and Raymond Felton (16 points, 6 assists) commanded the team like Jean-Luc Picard and Commander Riker, and Herrmann (15 points) nailed three huge threes to close it out. Unsung hero Voskuhl had 12 points and 7 boards and helped contain Shaq (15 and 9), while sung hero Emeka Okafor had 13 and 8. What a game! What a weird game. The Heat shot just 26 of 44 from the free throw line and committed 26 turnovers. Lecherous Lucifer must be pissed at them for something. Even the post-game was odd, as we saw (but did not hear) Herrmann being interviewed by the Heat announce team—what language was he speaking? Who cares, I’m totally drained…

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pacers 112, Bobcats 102

Charlotte had a great chance to keep their playoff hopes alive on Saturday night, as they hosted the Indiana Imploders at home. Pacers fans must have sensed danger once they began having to clarify which strip club incident they were referring to on radio call-in shows. All the riff-raff are just about gone now though, and pretty soon this will be Danny Granger’s team. This is a good thing because not only is Granger a decent player, he’s been like that one normal guy they have each season on The Real World who spends most of the time just shaking his head at all the nut-cases around him. What’s amazing is, in the latest Dime magazine, Granger actually credits Steven Jackson of all people for showing him “how to deal with on-court and off-court stuff: how to deal with the money, family members, how to deal with different situations that come up.”—huh?? That can’t be right. He must have meant Steven Speilberg or something…or Steven Seagal…Hell, even Steven from the old Dell commercials would make more sense.

Maybe Ike Diogu will amount to something too, although at this point I’m not sure. First he was supposed to be the sleeper draft pick, then he was supposed to be the sleeper gem in the big trade with the Warriors, and now he’s just basically sleeping on the end of the bench, even with Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels not in the lineup (for god knows why). And holy cow, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy have the exact same haircut. Remember at the beginning of the season when these guys looked nothing alike on Golden State? Murphy had long hair and that mask invented by Rip Hamilton, while Dunleavy had long hair and that thong headband invented by Mike Miller. I wonder which one of them is pulling the “Single White Female” on the other?

Anyhow, the first half was uglier than Tyronne Lue. Emeka Okafor only played about five minutes, as he picked up three personals and then got called for a technical. I sure hope it wasn’t for telling referee Ken Mauer that a circa 1986 Pat Riley called and wants his hairstyle back, because that would be unprofessional. Just once, I’d like Primoz Brezec to act unsurprised when he gets the ball. Even when he jumps for a rebound and gets it, he ends up fumbling it out of bounds—c’mon Primoz, act like you’ve been there before. If not for Gerald Wallace’s usual studliness (29 points, 9 boards, 5 steals), Raymond Felton actually finishing a couple of those 1-on-3 kamikaze drives to the hoop (that are usually about as successful as shooting dice), we would have been down by a lot instead of up 3.

In the second half, both teams went on a rare and totally inexplicable run of decent shooting, but you could feel the Pacers beginning to take over. There were a bunch of bad signs: Granger, after not only getting the ball stolen by Wallace, but also getting pimp-slapped for good measure (payback for opening night, perhaps?), didn’t get mad, he got hot, hitting just about everything he shot (11/14 from the field, 7/7 from the line for 32 points). Then Darrell Armstrong joined in (16 points off the bench), and then…Keith McLeod? 11 points and 5 assists? Are you McKidding? Where did he come from?

This would have been a good night to have Matt Carroll explode, but it didn’t happen. Where’s Matt been lately? You know how many points he had last game? I’ll give you a hint: it’s the same number as Agent Arenas’s call sign. He was marginally better tonight (6 points), but the team in general flamed out at the end. What a hideous loss to a backwards team. Ugh, I’m going to hear Pacers color commentator Clark Kellogg laughing at the final buzzer like Vincent Price in my nightmares tonight, I just know it. Crap, no basketball postseason to care about…the Yankees are looking like garbage…It’s gonna be a cruel, cruel summer.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bobcats 108, Wizards 100

Oy, again with the Wizards…These sorcerers from the magical land of Washington come back more times than Gandalf the Grey. At least they were in their regular uniforms this time (I’m sorry, but those gold-and-black monstrosities are All Time-level ugly; they would have made crowds squirm in 1975). Commentator/Reverend Henry Williams was also back to rock the microphone after what I assume were some faith-based absences. Meanwhile, Matt Devlin has armed himself with some Spanish-related humor (you can never go wrong there), busting out with “La Garra!” (“the claw”), his new nickname for Walter Herrmann.

News14 didn’t have graphics available for the first several minutes, although we thank them for helpfully displaying the temperature (a surprisingly high 79˚--huh!). Maybe the broadcast unit has already clinched a playoff spot and they’re resting the starters. Speaking of which, Gilbert Arenas didn’t start—apparently as a punishment for arriving late to practice—although he ended up making his first appearance roughly the same time as the graphics. Unfortunately, he didn’t last long after spraining his knee on a Gerald Wallace drive to the hoop. The contact served as a harbinger, as there were a lot of bodies flying around all night. In fact, the entire game ended up being one big collision course…with destiny, that is. Read on!

In the second quarter, tragedy struck. More specifically, Etan Thomas struck, flagrantly fouling Wallace with an elbow. Then the wooden floor flagrantly fouled G-Dub’s head when he landed on it. It was a vicious shot, reminiscent of the “bad” hockey player’s move on Patrick Swyaze in Youngblood, but fortunately Wallace returned. In fact, falling flat on his back from 10 feet in the air only seemed to focus him, as he finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals. Wallace is simply amazing. He’s like a Replicant from Blade Runner; he’s more human than human. Incidentally, Wallace’s face wasn’t the only thing Thomas impacted, as the man who looks like Lisa Bonet on steroids put up 19 points, 10 boards, and 4 blocks, and he had his way down low so easily I began to think Emeka Okafor might have gotten poked in the eye with a dreadlock or something.

This one was tight throughout. No Butler and no Agent, who didn’t return from the knee injury, by the way. How bad is this injury? What if he has to give up basketball and ends up becoming “Real Estate Agent 0,” or maybe “Travel Agent 0”? Anyway, it was up to Antonio Daniels, who had 18 points and made more passes (17 assists!) than a drunken sailor in a singles bar to keep it close. AD was also helped out by the 'awns, Ant and DeSh, as Antawn Jamison had 25 points and 11 boards, while DeShawn Stevenson had 14 points. Unfortunately, Mr. “I Can’t Feel My Face” apparently Can’t See Open Teammates either, as he shot just 4/12 and made some costly turnovers at the end, one of which went to Herrmann to ice it.

And how about Herrmann? He finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds, calmly sank four consecutive free throws in the final seconds, and basically energized everyone with his intensity. He reminds me of the little guy in "Metroid" (who ended up being a girl, or was it simply a guy with long hair—long, flowing, blond, Fabio-like hair? Hmmm…) the way he runs frantically all over the court. Henry was impressed with Herrmann as well. “They’ll lure you to sleep, those Europeans will,” he gushed after one of Walter’s numerous backdoor cuts, presumably before Matt leaned over and gently reminded him that Argentina’s in South America. Okafor turned in his standard A+ performance as well, grabbing 10 rebounds to go with 17 points.

Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just cracked the 30-win barrier...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bobcats 122, Wizards 102

I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray. Now that baseball season has started, I’m feeling completely overwhelmed. I’ve got the out-of-market package on my computer (because of course it’s not available on TV to cable owners—have you heard Bud Selig’s responses when he’s asked about this? Don’t do it without a washcloth and some Q-tips, because his answers are so slimy that you’re actually going to need to clean the ooze out of your ears afterwards). I wish that either MLB could hold off for a few months or the NBA could raise its playoff requirements (it's about as hard to make the playoffs as it is to enlist in the miltary) to shorten the postseason so that I didn’t have to deal with both simultaneously.

For the record, I couldn’t disagree more with those yahoos who made that ridiculous claim in “The Paradox of Choice” about how having too many options in a modern consumer society leads to confusion, overburdened customers, and depression. Personally, I think anyone who condemns having a surplus of options needs to take an all-expenses-paid trip to someplace like Cambodia, but this seasonal sport overlap is the type of scenario that can almost cause me to see down their dopey path of dislogic.

Anyway, the Wizards were in town on Tuesday night, a team for which I’ve never cared. Maybe it’s because Gilbert Arenas goes to the free throw line even when he doesn’t get hit with anything harder than Adam Morrison’s dandruff, or maybe it’s because they represent a city that has determined “Bullets” to be a more offensive team name than “Redskins.” Either way, when I heard that they lost Caron Butler to a season-ending injury a few days ago, I reacted about as sympathetically as Tony Soprano did when he heard about Phil Leotardo’s heart attack.

The one downside to Butler being out is that we have to look at more of Washington’s bench players in action. Is there anything more graceful than the down-low play of Etan Thomas and Jarvis Hayes? Perhaps only two rhinoceroses fornicating. If I’m Greg Oden, I’m not worried about how well I stack up against Shaq or Tim Duncan, I’m concerned about guys like Thomas or Michael Ruffin turning me into Leon Spinks. Eerie Wizards Benchwarmer Moment of the Game: midway through the second quarter, I was remarking to myself how much it looked like Darius Songaila looked like an indoor soccer player wearing shinguards, when he actually headed the ball into the Bobcats’ goal—er, net.

Speaking of unlikely events, it was that kind of the night for the Cats. Even when it seemed like we were trying to lose, the Wizards refused to allow us. It was kind of hard to explain—is there some advantage to being the 5th-seeded playoff team rather than the 4th? We put the Wizards on the foul line more often than Rod Stewart remarries, but they only hit 16/24. Arenas had 33 points, but only made 4/11 3-pointers. Not that we just woke up and won this one. Using a short bench, the Cats had six guys in double figures, led by Gerald Wallace with 32 points, 13 boards, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. Raymond Felton had 17 points and 14 assists, Brevin Knight (remember him?) had 12 assists off the bench, Emeka Okafor had 17 points and 14 boards…Jesus, I’m just now realizing how much we really rang this one up! I haven’t even gotten to Herrmann’s 21 or Jake Voskuh’s 13. Wow, maybe the season isn’t really that long after all, because it seems like only yesterday Coach Eddie Jordan was going on and on about that defense-first philosophy his team was going to have this year.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Raptors 107, Bobcats 94

The Bobcats were in Canada on Sunday to take on the Raptors. Though we were on foreign soil, it was nice to have a friendly announcing team for the first time in a while, rather than the out-of-market commentators. Matt and Stephanie were calling the action—did Henry have visa issues? It would have been nice having him around, as I’ve grown fond of one of his favorite phrases, which is “Now let’s say you’re the Bobcats…” It makes the game feel like I’m reading one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books I used to have as a kid with titles like, “You Are a Shark” and “Invaders of the Planet Earth,” and several others that often involved vampires, spaceships, and/or ninjas.

Anyway, the dominant advertisement lining the scorer’s table is strangely not Molson, Air Canada, or even Steve Nash’s Fundamentals of Basketball DVD series; it’s “Ford: Built for life in Canada.” I’m rather unimpressed by this boast, because I’ve never really thought life in Canada to be substantially different than it is here in America. But whatever it means, the slogan could also apply to TJ Ford. TJ finished with 11 points, 8 assists, and darted in and out of more hairy situations than TJ Hooker. Especially irksome was his end-of-the-half, coast-to-coast run that resulted in Gerald Wallace’s third foul with .8 seconds left.

“When you’ve got a (big man) who can set a screen and still step out and shoot it,” Brevin Knight told the Observer afterward, describing Chris Bosh, “that’s a problem.” Indeed, on Sunday the Bobcats had about 99 problems, and Bosh was one. Needing the win to clinch a playoff spot, Toronto played like it, hitting 26/29 free throws, keeping turnovers down to 11, and out-rebounding us 48-34. Ford, Chris Bosh (24 points, 16 rebounds), and Juan Dixon (15 points) had the Bobcats flummoxed and in foul trouble. Coach Bickerstaff spent the night desperately pleading with the boys to keep their fouls under control, but it was all fruitless; it reminded me of how doctors always try to warn my 91-year-old grandfather that his pack-a-day cigarette habit is going to end up killing him. Out of luck in the paint with Wallace on the bench most of the third, the Bobcats were forced to rely on their perimeter game, which is like asking Young Jeezy to forego making songs about selling drugs and simply rely on his rhyming abilities.

The positive big positive continues to be Walter Herrmann, whose game is blossoming after he spent most of the year threatening to become Argentina’s biggest flop since the Falkland Islands War. “If you didn’t know (his) name before,” Matt Devlin pointed out, “you know it now.” Although he left out the fact that we still might not know how to pronounce it, Matt was on point. Herrmann had 22 points and 8 boards and combined with Okafor (16 points, 7 boards) to partially offset a down night by Wallace (13 points, 6 rebounds) and especially Matt Carroll (3 points on just 1/9 shooting).

Oh well, in honor of Sunday’s Wrestlemania, I wanted to ask if anyone had noticed that LeBron James seems to be in the midst of a textbook “heel turn” right now, one that Vince McMahon couldn’t have crafted any better. It’s all been really subtle--just how the WWE has done it before with The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. First, word trickled out about LBJ’s obscenely large new mansion, which will allow him and his children to relax and unwind in the family casino, and where not only can his kids play ball in the house, they can actually bowl in the house’s bowling alley (question: will LeBron end up scolding his children by saying things like, “How many times have I told you to take your shoes off before you come into the barbershop?”). This can’t sit too well with your typical blue collar Clevelander. Second, he even gave himself a heelish-sounding nickname, “The Global Icon,” which opens the door for a sort of updated “Million Dollar Man”shtick (his finishing move could be the “Product Push” or something). Plus he now seems to even have his own “manager”: Warren Buffet.

And then, last week LBJ trash-talked Stephon Marbury’s $15 sneakers with some snooty remarks about how they’re beneath his standards of quality. Not that I ever watch depraved trash like the WWE, but this is exactly how it goes: one guy goes heel while another guy goes babyface. In this case, the other guy switching up is Marbury, who went from referring to himself in the third person last year (or in the third person nickname, “Starbury”) to the populist hero who is trying to save the kids with low-cost footwear. LBJ is some personal entrance music and a couple of head- and wrist-bands with “$”-signs on them away from being a terrific bad guy. He could even form a tag-team with Kobe.