Tag Archives: NBA Finals

Summer Holiday Day 5

28 May

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East Coast Trippin’ Day 9: Heightened Sensations

3 Jun

“I’m going back to New York City I do believe I had enough”

~Bob Dylan

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I never thought a city with so many universities could be so whack. The minute I got on that 4:45 Megabus for New York I fell asleep in relief. It was getting muggy and my head was pounding. Outside of my time spent at the MET (a really awesome organization that helps youth find alternatives to regular high school), I didn’t do much smiling. I found the locals to be either stuffy, or sketchy. Imagine a town like Topeka, Kansas suddenly having a couple of universities built downtown. That is what Providence is like. The buildings and architecture were neat, but the people themselves??? No thank you.

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I had a roommate in Oakland who attended Brown university and he said that he hated the east coast and had no desire to return. Now I can understand why. 4 years in a place like that would ruin my perspective forever. That being said, I had two random strangers (one a Peruvian woman, the other a bald early forties, white man) offer me rides to my hotel and my campus tour. Which proves to me that even in hostile environments, a positive attitude will attract the right kinds of people.

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After my meeting and lunch, I took advantage of my remaining free time and did some busking along the canal on Rhode Island School of Design campus. Then I jumped on the bus to New York, thus fulfilling the last leg of the David Byrne east coast swing.

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Our bus driver was a professional and he got us into the Bronx in 3 hours, when it was supposed to be a 4.5 hour drive. The bus dropped us off on 7th Ave and 28th st. I deftly navigated the Times Square traffic and found my subway train without any problems (I only had to ask one cop for directions to the Flushing train).

Can you believe it was only 20 years ago, when the Rangers and and Knicks were both in the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals?
I was looking around at all the lights, tourists, billboards, and hockey jerseys, and happened to pass Madison Square Garden. I was 15 years old when Adam Graves and Mark Messier (who has the same birthday as me–no wonder he was my favorite hockey player of all time) hoisted the cup. That was the summer of OJ Simpson and the white Bronco, the Beastie Boys’Sabotage video, and my mother getting free Pay Per View.

I spent that summer alternating between watching “A Perfect World”, “Dazed and Confused”, and taping every single lesbian scene I could stay awake for on the Spice and Playboy Channels. I had yet to venture outside of Texas, and at that time never dreamed of visiting New York (or traveling anywhere outside the state to be honest). Now I’m in the NYC–a place where the senses are heightened ten-fold.

This has already been the best US vacation I’ve ever taken. The Stanley Cup Finals (which the NY Rangers are back for), the NBA Finals ( GO Spurs! GO!) and the World Cup (Cameroon anyone?) all kick off in within days of each other this week. There is also something being held out on Randall’s Island called the Governor’s Ball. I’m only going to Friday night’s festivities featuring Outkast, Damon Albarn, and Phoenix among other acts (kind of wanna see Washed Out). I can’t think of a better place to end up during the first week of June. This is a going to be a really good summer–been pretty kick ass so far. I fucking love this place.

Lovable Losers: A New Series of Installments

18 Aug

I’ve been a basketball fan since I was about 12. I grew up in Dallas during the Mavericks worst years when they were owned by a guy who ran car dealerships and bowling alleys. The mavericks sucked and though I rooted for Popeye Jones, Tim Leger, and George McCloud to be successful, the brand of basketball they played was not in the least bit entertaining.

This forced me to open my eyes up to the national scene to find out what good basketball was elsewhere. 1992 was a pivotal year for me and sports: The Ticket radio station became Dallas’ first all sports station. The Cowboys won their first Super Bowl since I’d been born. My mom got me a subscription to Sports Illustrated. I had a Sega Genesis to geek out with Madden, Hardball III, NHL, and Bulls vs. Blazers. My obsession with sports began and here I am today, blogging about my favorite teams that did not win a championship (on a Saturday night no less).

There is only one team a year that can win a championship. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair, especially when a team is thoroughly fun and the brand of ball is oh so entertaining. But entertaining doesn’t always win championships and doesn’t always bring accolades. So this is my way of honoring those teams that didn’t quite have what it took to win it all, but nevertheless won my heart (Yea I know–shit’s corny but it’s true. I guess I’m becoming sentimental in my old age). This will be a series of installments of teams ranging from NFL, to MLB, to the NBA to NCAA.

To kick this bad boy off let’s reflect on the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns.

Phoe

Head Coach: Paul Westphal

Key Starters- Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle

Key bench playersDanny Ainge, Richard Dumas, Tom Chambers

This was the first team I watched thoroughly during their playoff run in which they finally lost to Jordan’s (3-peat) Bulls. They were a lot of fun to watch. Dan Majerle and Danny Ainge with their long range threes. Richard Dumas and Cedric Ceballos were athletic slashers who could get to the rim. Charles Barkley of course was just traded to them and made them immediate championship contenders. The America West arena was a raucous place to watch a game with fans that went ape shit every time the Suns dialed one up from long distance.

I can remember the cover of SI that year and the feature story about Barkley (my favorite player in the world not named Chris Webber–the only pair of Nike’s I ever owned were Barkleys) finally having a legit chance to compete for an NBA title. He was at the peak of his game then and looking back its crazy to think that year was as good as he was going to get. That Finals was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Every game was competitive and entertaining. Though many point to that game 6 with the John Paxson shot that sealed the deal, I remember the equally competitive game 4.

Jordan took over at the end of that game (he had 55 pts that night and Barkley fouled Jordan on a layup attempt and couldn’t keep him from making the bucket and getting the And 1. The game was over after that and Phoenix had to eek out a 3 OT thriller just to force game 6. But they were in every game and could have easily won that series had it not been for timely mishaps and missteps which the savvy Bulls took advantage of (but I guess that is what separates great teams from championship teams isn’t it?)

If you go back and look at this roster, its easy to see why they didn’t have the horses to win. The Chicago Bulls had a better bench than they did and the Suns sucked at the center position. It was a 4 on 5 game pretty much the whole time Mark West and Oliver Miller were on the court. I have tried playing with this classic team on Xbox when me and my homey match-up and its a tough one to manage.

Usually I would play small ball with Tom Chambers playing center, Charles Barkley at the 4, Dan Majerle at small forward, Kevin Johnson running point and Danny Ainge at shooting guard. On offense this spread out the floor and opened up the court a bit (its actually pretty fun because there are so many 3 point opportunities). The problem was that defensively this lineup sucked and nobody could protect the rim and fatigue usually forced me to put in West, or Miller. They only went 8 deep and only 5 of those guys were legit offensive threats. So imagine trying to coach this team in real life instead of a video game. Paul Westphal had to get creative with that lineup.

I was incredibly annoyed to see Jordan rip their hearts out, but now with a little bit of hoops knowledge I understand why it didn’t happen for them. They were facing Jordan and Pippen and Phil Jackson, and they just weren’t balanced enough to win. Ce la Vie. I still remember the stunned feeling when this happened.

Bang! Season over that fast.

That would be the closest Barkley, KJ and company would ever get to sniffing a championship with that group. Dumas would never match the stats he put up that year (15.8 pts and 4.6 rebounds per game) and would end up finishing his career in Greece. Ceballos went on to create the “Lake Show” up in Los Angeles with Eddie Jones and Sedale Threatt. Chambers never did much after season and the core players left never seemed to get over the hump.
The Suns would bring in Danny Manning, and Waymon Tisdale to try and bring Phoenix a title, but it never happened. Mario Elie slammed Phoenix’s championship window shut with a 3 pointer in 1995. The Suns had commanding 3-1 series leads over Houston two years in a row and let them slip away twice.

In 1997 Barkley would try to team up with Drexler and Olajuwan in Houston, and that team almost made it to the Finals but someone let Stockton take a wide open 3. Once again Sir Charles was sent home to go fishing.

Though the Suns never won it all on the basketball court, some of the key players found success off the hardwood. KJ is the mayor of Sacramento and much to the chagrin of Supersonics fans was able to help keep the Kings in “Sad” Sac-town. Majerle is the head coach at Grand Canyon University according to Wikipedia. Danny Ainge helped rebuild the Celtics franchise and get them a title in ’08 as the GM (he is in the middle of another rebuilding job as we speak). And of course Barkley is ubiquitous. You see him on commercials, you see him on TNT. He is on every talk show being entertaining. So there you go, as Jalen Rose likes to say, “There is the score on the scoreboard and there is the score in the game of life.”

62 regular season wins and a thoroughly enjoyable playoff run, culminating in one of the greatest NBA Finals I have ever seen; I wouldn’t necessarily call them losers.

Jordan would soon wipe that smile off Barkley's face.

Jordan would soon wipe that smile off Barkley’s face.

NBA WEEK IN REVIEW: The shock’s slowly wearing off

3 Nov

Can you recall a more interestingly bizarre first week of the NBA season?

One week ago the questions going into the season were spicy enough topics:

Was this the begging of the Lebron dominated ascendancy where he’d win 3 of the next 5 NBA titles?

How long would it take for the Lakers to gel on their run to grab the Western Conference title from the OKC Thunder?

Ray Allen defecting to the Miami Heat, adding fuel to the recently developed rivalry with the Boston Celtics,
and the additions to the Celtics roster in wake of Allen’s departure; with Courtney Lee and Jason Terry.

A week ago about this time in the afternoon, I was smugly sporting my OKC Thunder playoff shirt, having excited discussions about the rapidly approaching San Antonio game on Nov. 1st. OKC was the defending champs of the West, and even with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, I felt like it was still their title to lose. It would be just a matter of getting better during playoff moments and adding another year of experience under the belts.

Last Saturday night, I was watching one of the College Football games when I saw James Harden’s name go across the ticker. I got excited because this was the news I was expecting–that the Thunder had finally reached an agreement with him.

TRADE??????????? TRADE!!!!!!!!!!! TRADE?????????????

What the FUCK?

Everyone in the room looked at each other in shock, my friend who’s a Heat fan laughed in excitement. I was stunned. Trade James Harden for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and two draft picks. My main man James Harden, not only was he my 2nd favorite player on the team, but he was an integral part of last year’s playoff run. He was just going to get better, and when have you ever seen a title contender tinker with locker room chemistry after getting SO CLOSE to an NBA title?

Wow. I was too high to really deal with it the first night. When I woke up, I had to question if I dreamed seeing that news. However ESPN confirmed the awful news the next day when I checked the internet.

I knew last year’s team was special, even then I knew there was a chance that this particular group of guys was going to change. I knew there was a chance Royal Ivey wouldn’t get picked back up. I was hoping Derek Fisher’s Laker ass wouldn’t be returning. I did not see this coming, and was at least hoping they’d give it another run with the core before breaking up RUN OKC.

Tough night to be an Okie. Notre dame waxes the Sooner’s ass and the Thunder trade away one of the major championship cogs


I’d never seen anything play out like that deteriorating into a trade so suddenly. Maybe Presti didn’t want to drag it out? They say he would get the best deal if he traded Harden before the season began. Five days before the season started?

It wasn’t a very public affair, there were no shots traded through the media, so that is what makes it seem so shocking. There was so much time to still work a deal out, why did this seem odd, strange, almost spiteful. Like “Fuck you! We’ll send you to Houston, see how much you like being the man for a losing team.”

I blame both sides, if there is blame to assign. I definitely feel like there were so many avenues for management to take with this:

Give the team another run and then make decisions on who stays and who goes next off-season. This way you could determine whether it was a good idea to pay Kendrick Perkins big money or amnesty him, trade Ibaka Blocka Flame for prospects, find a suitable point guard so Westbrook can move to the 2, or give Harden an opportunity to show he’s worth max money.

The decision to trade him just seems haste. I almost feel like it had nothing to do with what was happening on the court. I wonder if the front office didn’t feel they could give max-money to a young man dumb enough to get filmed making it rain at the strip club.

Maybe this was brought up during negotiations and it put Harden off, causing a behind-the- scenes souring on both parties. Let’s not forget the terrible NBA Finals he had. He was so awful that I wondered if he was partying too much in South Beach during games 3 through 5. Anyone remember this?

If I recall correctly he’d missed a dunk or two that game also. That missed layup though was critical. Had he made that shot, we may only be talking about the nasty game that Westbrook brought that night rather than his gaffe during the endgame that sewed up the W for Miami. Of course they wouldn’t have even been in the NBA Finals had it not been for “Big Game James II” going HAM against the Lakers and Mavs.

Who’s to say after an Olympic year and the memory of that Finals wasn’t going to fuel him to put it altogether during a Contract year? If anyone was poised for a big year it was Harden. If any team was poised to dethrone Lebron and the Heat it was OKC.

Sure you get some future picks and more pieces for the future but you never know what is going to happen. Ask Penny Hardaway if there are any guarantees.

Which is why part of me feels disappointed that Harden wanted to leave a winning team to be the man on a losing team.
Was six million that big of a deal when you could make some serious loot off endorsements and playoff share?
At the age of 23 how much more money do you need? What can you get at 60 million that you can’t get at 54 million?
Reportedly everyone else had taken less to stay with the team except Harden.

There’s no guarantee that the next big contract would be there at age 27 (arguably a player’s prime)so I guess I see the urgency. If Harden is the kind of dude who plays for money and not championships, then maybe he is better off on a different team.

It feels kind of like a nasty break up. Except in break ups you don’t have to wait four years to get back together. Seeing Harden in a Rockets uniform is like seeing a girl you were in love with married to the very next guy she dated, only 2 months after you broke up.

I haven’t even processed the break up and this cat is already putting up monster games for the Rockets. OUCH. Big time. Much like a jilted lover, I’m looking at all the press clippings, calling up my friends in Houston to ask about him.

It’s just too soon.

I ain’t mad at ya mane. Make it rain down there in Houston

The Thunder definitely seemed like a team in shock against the Spurs. I’m sure it couldn’t have felt good knowing that the last time they played on the Spurs court they had Harden to go to war with. They played well enough to win, that is until Tony Parker took over the last minute of the game.

In addition to giving up Harden, they traded Cole Aldrich, Daquan Cook, and Lazar Hayward, and chose not to re-sign “Royale with Cheese” and “D-Fish”

That’s half of last year’s team gone, with a few new faces in Perry Jones III, Lamb, K-Mart, and Hasheem Thabeet.
It’s not easy to defend a Western Conference title with so much transition in the locker room. I imagine the shock is slowly wearing off and by next month, the 82 game machine will be in full tilt and it’ll be less foreign to see Harden in that Rocket Red and not in Thunder Blue ( I gotta give KD credit on how well he has managed to keep things moving forward–He was quoted after the Spurs game as saying “I back the front office fully on their decisions”).

By All Star Break we’ll see them getting comfortable with each other and I think the 2nd half is where we’ll get a true gauge of how this particular group will mesh. “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons is ready to write them off and hand it to the Lakers( kind of funny because I do recall him admonishing the Thunder for “reaching” for Harden when they could have Stephen Curry). I’m still in wait and see mode. This group may not be able to handle the Heat in June, but I think they can still handle the Lakers in April.

The jury is still out on the Lakers. They kind of look old right now, and Nash and Kobe are both already hurt. We don’t know how Dwight Howard’s back will hold up, Jamison and Artest (I refuse to call him World Peace)are both old. They looked terrible last night without Nash. I’m not sold on their bench either.

Maybe this makes the Spurs sleepers as well, but they still lack a big dude in the post to help out Tim Duncan.

So right now I feel like it’s too early to write the OKC boys off. I kind of like the look of this year’s team. I don’t doubt Westbrook and Durant’s drive to be champions. You definitely can’t doubt their talent. Who’s to say Miami stays healthy? Who’s to say Chris Bosh doesn’t come out and do something to ruin the locker room chemistry in Miami? Chicago seemed poised to knock off the Heat until D. Rose’s unfortunate ACL tear. But that is why they play the game. As my favorite sports reporter Chris Arnold used to say back int the day, ” You never know.”

I’m running with these boys again this year, and see where they take me. KD is right, time to move forward. And yes, I will definitely be attending a Rockets game or two this year to see my main man James put up some points. Happy for him that he gets to be 23 years old and get paid 80 million dollars to live in Houston. He’s going to have a good time. I just don’t think it will translate into a championship ring.

Observations from game 2 of the NBA Finals

15 Jun

I debated whether or not it’d be a good idea to go down to OKC and scalp a ticket. I’d already dropped a fair amount on game 6 of the Spurs game. It wasn’t going to get any better than the feeling I had when I left Chesapeake Arena last Wednesday night.

On the other hand I also knew there was no guarantee that I’d ever get to watch my favorite team in the NBA Finals. In life and especially sports there are nor guarantees. I’ve seen teams get so close to the title and think that it’d just be a matter of time before they were back for another chance at it (Dan Marino, ’98 Jets, ’93 Suns).

You just never know how small that championship window is (just ask Blazers fans). So I used my free bus voucher and went down to the OKC. I had a lot of time to kill so I went down to this basketball court down in the park downtown and played some 21. Some guy from the local news came down and took some video of us and the pickup game at the other basket ( I hope they don’t run any of the footage of me airballing 15 foot jumpers my shot was OFFFFF!!!).

After getting some work done at the library I headed to the OKC Hooters to get my wing fix. Sure enough one of the best players to come out of the University of Miami was sitting down and cooling out with this cute Betty at the table next to me. I wasn’t trying to jock him like everybody else was–taking pictures and interrupting his conversation. But I did throw up a “U” with my hands and yell out “2001 Cane’s baby!”  as I was leaving .He threw it back at me and laughed.

The stage was set for an exciting night. The media was in full effect for sure. I saw “Mr. Waxahachie” Desmond Mason in full regale and camera crews lined up all the streets. There were all kinds of banners and signs pointing the event that was the NBA Finals.

Yet still it didn’t hit me until I got into my seat (once again, there isn’t a bad seat in the house I sat in the last row in section 330 and I could still see EVERYTHING) and the introductions began. There was a video montage of past Finals champion and they showed a clip of Pat Riley (looking like Michael Douglas) in ’88 talking about the Lakers repeating. I was the only one who booed the screen.

Chills went through my body as the moment came upon me. The lights dimmed and the “Niggas in Paris” beat started. I was flooded with the memories of being 15 and watching the Bulls and Phoenix Suns player intros on television.

The crowd erupted as they introduced KD the same way the Bulls fans used to lose it when they introduced MJ (fitting in so many ways–especially since a couple analyst say that the ‘Peake is the loudest arena since old Chicago Stadium). When the PA guy said “at 6’9 from University of Texas”, I got REALLY hype and began jumping up and down–screaming like a wild man.

This was the beginning of dynasty and maybe just maybe KD’s era would be like Jordan’s was in Chicago. It got loud in that arena and it only got louder.

Bullet points from last night:

1. I truly hate the Heat franchise. They have now entered my short list of despicable sports entities. They came in wearing their all black uni’s like they owned the joint. Seemed fitting. We were the good guys and they were the villains. So it goes.

To me D-Wade is a punk ass flopper who goes down at the drop of the hat ( they were showing an all time greatest playoff layups on Sportscenter last week and one from Wade’s playoff run against the Pistons made it. He got an AND1 on it but there was no contact whatsoever. This is why people think the league is rigged. More on this later).

I don’t like Lebron. Battier though one of the smartest and fundamentally sound players in the NBA is dead to me. He came off as a real nuisance last night. Chalmers is my least favorite Jayhawk of all time (Quit crying and play basketball!!!).

I could see Mike Miller in a trailer park in Colorado somewhere making Meth with Chris “Birdman” Anderson. Chris Bosh is a buster too (Fuck Dallas Lincoln).

Haslem is an ugly motherfucker. That to me is reason enough not to like him.

I won’t even waste the space in this post to get into the other players. Fuck the Heat. I feel like you have to be a fundamental D-bag to sign with that franchise. I don’t like the ’06 Heat. I don’t like PJ Brown, Jeff Van Gundy dragging Heat teams.

I think Erik Spoelstra is a tool who spits out canned, corny ass responses. He reminds me of a newly appointed substitute teacher who has posters of Gandhi quotes in his office.

I don’t like the Heat fans (they annoy me more than Laker fans–my buddy Adrian a rare exception).

I’ll go as far as to say that I’ll never set foot inside the Miami city limits unless I were getting paid a substantial fee to do so. And fuck the state of Florida for giving us Jeb Bush, and ultimately George Bush.

2.This year’s playoff officiating was at an all time worst last night. It was a joke. It was a fucking travesty. I thought game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was bad. I thought last night’s was equally as bad if not worse (if only because I’m a Thunder fan).

I didn’t pay 300 dollars to see the referees blow their whistles all night. The flow of the game kept getting interrupted because of the official’s interference. It’s the fucking Finals. Let the motherfuckers play!

And if you are going to call the shit, call it both ways. Had the script been flipped and that was Lebron getting hacked, they’d have for sure called it (big ups to KD for not making any excuses during the post game interview–he only would admit to missing the shot). this is what bothers me. Teams like the Lakers, the Heat (hell even Jordan’s Bull’s) don’t need the help. So either swallow the fucking whistle or call it both ways.

There were at least 5 or 6 shitty calls (or no-calls) that had the crowd incensed last night:

There was a bullshit charge call on Harden late in the game when he’d gotten mugged twice on the same possession (only seconds before the call ).

There was of course the  no call during the critical Durant possession at the end.

There was the weak ass goal tending call early on in the game that gave the Heat 2 points.

Shane Battier somehow picked up a foul when he was nowhere near the play that should have been Chris Bosh’s 2nd foul early into the first quarter.

There was a dubious offensive foul on Perkins during the fourth quarter

and a couple of ticky tack foul calls against Durant that got him on the bench early into the game.

The night seemed dangerously close to the officiating in the ’06 Heat-Mavs series, as well as game 6 of Kings-Lakers.

Which makes me wonder if what Rasheed Wallace said about the “NBA being some WWE shit” isn’t true (only makes me love that guy even more–only Sapp’s Tagliabue is a slavemaster quote feel more spot on in my opinion)?

I’m not going to go as far to call David Stern a crook, but it does make you wonder though. I am a paying customer. I have spent hundreds of dollars(and countless hours) on the NBA product. As a consumer I believe I am entitled to receive proper compensation for the time and money spent following the sport.

So if I’m not getting “the bang for my buck” then it means there is an imbalance between what I’m paying and what I am receiving.

And if David Stern knows there is a severe problem with the quality of officiating (and has been for at least ten years) then Stern is ultimately responsible for the lack of quality product on the floor. By not fixing it, either he is apart of the problem (i.e. doing some Vince MacMahon shit) or doesn’t give a shit and only cares about the bottom line ( like Phil Knight of NIKE).

Of course whenever someone yells conspiracy, respected journalists like Colin Cowherd and Mike Greenberg always say, “Why would David Stern (or Bob Arum) cheat? What would they have to gain? That would be a crime, why would they risk everything they have to do such a thing? That would be criminal and they could go to jail for fixing the draft lottery (or Pacquiao fight)”

Which is a valid argument, until you ask the same questions of every crook who got rich in this country. Come the fuck on! They act like the Kennedy family, or Rockefeller family, or Bush family, or ANY mafia head never did dirt to get where they were (and continued to do so in order to maintain that stature). Our government commits severely criminal acts every day and these guys ask the “what could be gained” question.

To quote Ed Lover, “Get tha Fuck OUTTA HERE WIT DAT BULLSHIT SON!!!!”

Which brings me to my frustration with sports. Sports is supposed to be the last vestige of fairness we have in society. It is the one place where talent rules supreme over everything else. But politics and corruption (see NCAA, MLB, NFL, FIFA, NBA,Olympics)is everywhere in sports. Normally I can ignore that shit and just concentrate on the beauty that is occurring on the court, or field. But the politics is threatening to overtake the sport.

I should be talking about how I had the chance to see Dwayne Wade, Lebron, and KD put on this incredible show of speed, power and creativity in person instead of mulling over the rumor that Dwayne Wade is 21-3 in games that Danny Crawford officiates.

And that is what frustrates me. It wasn’t just Thunder fans and players who were robbed last night. NBA fans were robbed of what could have been a fantastic finish and NBA Finals Classic moment. How bad ass would it have been to see if Durant makes those free throws and see how the heat would respond? Perhaps it’d have been an overtime classic that would be a small footnote in what could be a finals match-up?

Now we’ll never know.

With all that being said, I still thought the Thunder would do it. I’d been to nothing but victories this year and seen this before. Early deficits turned into a classic comeback victory because of clutch defense and KD’s silky smooth offensive skills.

Even with how badly we’d been playing even with all the iffy officiating, I didn’t think we could be denied. Every bad call that went against us whipped the crowd into a bloodthirsty frenzy. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, leaving it all in the rafters. Giving the boys my all because win or lose I wanted to do my part as a fan.

And when we cut to 2 points and had the ball with less than 15 seconds left and Gary Glitter’s “Rock ‘n Roll 2” was blaring, I knew it was about to be over. The Thunder were going to win and everyone whipping their T-shirts around were about to erupt when our boy KD did his thang.

But it didn’t come. The shot was off and the Heat fit their final two free throws ( I was on the other side of the court and didn’t see the foul until I got to a TV later that night). The crowd booed lustily for Danny Crawford’s head. People emptied out onto the street gnashing their teeth in frustration.

In a less civilized league/society/city I could foresee a rain of objects being tossed onto the floor as players and media alike escaped the carnage for the safety under the tunnels. I wanted blood. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

With all the bitching about officiating it has to be said that the Thunder didn’t play well enough to win that game. Head coaching great Jimmy Johnson used to say that, you have to play well enough where a ref’s call won’t lose the game for you.

They spotted them a 16 point lead early in the first quarter. There were missed defensive assignments as Battier destroyed it with open 3’s. Too many free throws could’ve eaten into that deficit. The inability to get those 50-50 balls and defensive rebounds hurt the team’s chances as well. Lastly there were too many bad possessions.

I thought about the night in its entirety on the way home. I wasn’t sure if I had fun. The refs’ whistles were a constant disruption. I think also the stakes of the event led to some anxiety early into the game. Having the ‘win or die’ mind frame made it difficult to enjoy on one level. But I was able  to adjust that mentality and just dig the fact that I was at Finals game, seeing my favorite team play.

What a great bookend for the season. I had the pleasure of seeing them opening night on Xmas with one of my best friends. I had been able to see them blow out the Chris Paul Clippers on a night that Obama was in town on business. I was luckily enough to have floor tickets and see Kevin Love put up a nasty line (he had 50 and 20) against the boys in  triple overtime thriller (KD had put up 40 plus points himself).

I had the pleasure of seeing the legendary Spurs get closed out the week before. Now I was attending game 2 of the Finals. I was a lucky man. I didn’t have to go to Oakland to see a Warriors game anymore. The best fans in the NBA were in OKC.  I could picture myself living in “the city” owning season tickets. What a treat that would be.

Who knows? I could just as easily see ticket prices going up (which would be justifiable if they could keep Harden and Ibaka after next year) and people getting priced out next season.

Regardless I had been a good fan and it left it all in the arena. My head was pounding and my throat felt raw, and my team had lost. But before the playoffs started I had told myself that no matter where the Thunder had placed, I was just going to enjoy the ride, and keep expectations to a minimum.

That being said, I still feel confident about the boy’s chances. They played arguably their worst game of the playoff’s, the Heat had gotten the majority of calls, KD never was able to get into a rhythm because of foul trouble, and yet still the Heat barely escaped with a four point win.

The Heat should be very afraid. They have a dog fight on their hands and it will only get harder when they come back to Oklahoma City. Whoever wins the title this year will have to earn that motherfucker. We are in for a classic one.

Eating crow never tasted so good.

9 Jun

When I bought tickets to game 6 I knew there was a chance that it may not happen. Game 3 was a guarantee but there weren’t nearly enough good seats to choose from. I had predicted the Spurs in 6 so I knew that if there was indeed a game 6 then that would probably be the night they’d clinch. I didn’t think it would be the Thunder who would do the clinching.

There were a couple expensive lessons that I learned from this round of hoops:

1) You never know. I felt so sure about both series that I bet on both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. I thought a Heat vs. Spurs Finals was in the making with the Spurs dispatching Miami in six. ERRR WRONG!!!!

I didn’t foresee Scotty Brooks outcoaching Popovich during this series. Now I’m not saying He made better decisions than Popovich. Pops did the best he could with what he had. I just didn’t foresee Brooks putting together a game plan and the boys sticking to it.

Somehow I never saw the Sefolosha adjustment coming, and I definitely never saw it being a pivotal turning point in the series.  I didn’t think old Russ would have more assists than Tony Parker either.

As for the Celts-Heat series. I just thought the C’s were too banged up to keep up with the Heat. I gotta give credit to Doc Rivers for his great job of coaching them this series.

I didn’t give Spoelstra enough credit for being the overwhelmed coach he is. I just thought the Heat would out muscle the Celtics. After watching how badly game 2 was called, I was sure the fix was in.

I thought it was a done deal before the series even started. I wasn’t even going to bother watching it except to see the greatness of Rajon rondo. I sure as fuck wasn’t going to bother previewing the series in a blog.

As of today the C’s are sitting pretty with a 3-2 series lead, and with game 6 being in the Garden tonight, It could be  a wrap. Once again, never a sure thing. I ‘d say I wouldn’t bet on it but I already did.

Which brings me to lesson number 2) Don’t bet against teams you like. I bet with my head and not my heart, and normally this is a good thing. Betting against your favorite team is just not a good idea. All it did was mix me up inside. I wanted the Thunder to win but I also didn’t want to lose 50 bucks.

It created a struggle within me and finally I just made peace with the fact that neither outcome was going to completely feel good (as is much of life isn’t it?).

I’m not a Celtics fan  but I do like a lot of their players. I’ve always dug Garnett’s passion for the game, Rondo is a sick motherfucker–probably the sickest they have right now.

Pierce and Ray Allen of course are two guys I have followed for years (even open debating why the Mavs took Dirk instead of Pierce but I guess it worked out for everyone involved).

So its hard not to root for them and root against Miami.  My money and heart were in two different places and that is probably not a good thing.

Expensive lesson # 3 is that the scalping game has flipped since 1999. No one buys tickets at the games anymore. The best place to scalp and be scalped is the internet. The game has changed son!

My boy tried to tell me this but I didn’t listen. I could get anyone to pay me what I had bought for my extra ticket and ended up selling it at a loss of 80 bones.

Every venue and city has different laws governing the world of scalping and it pays to know what they are. It is important to know where the buyers are and where the sellers will be.

I got taken for sure but it was 7:30 and it was raining. I wasn’t going to be spend all night trying to get rid of the ticket. The best offer I got was 120 (I made sure to ask the guy who sat next to me how much he paid. He said 150.)

In some out of the way venues like the Cynthia Mitchell Pavillion in the Woodlands, Texas, it is quite possible to walk up and get a ticket for cheap because it is out of the way.

I’ve often heard of people showing up 5 minutes before the start of an event and see scalpers giving away tickets because they weren’t nearly as easy to sell as they thought (ME).

This made me realize that the venue in OKC is a seller’s market and that I could’ve walked up and gotten my ticket for way less than I paid on the internet.

I have the feeling that I can get Finals tickets for a fairly reasonable price if I’m patient. Unfortunately I won’t be able to see them clinch in person. all the home games fall on nights that I work except game 2. So if I go (which I probably will)

that will be the one I attend.

Quick notes from being in attendance for game 6:

Can’t tell you how excited I was to see my playoff t-shirt waiting for me in my seat. I put it on before I even sat down and joined the throng of hungry fans there to see the dogfight that was about to commence.

True I had bet against my boys, but in every way I was there to support OKC. Everyone there for the game seemed to have the same attitude. They were going to bring the series to a close, and the fans were not going to let the Thunder lose.

It’s pretty cool to be part of a fan base that can actually affect a game. I grew up watching those Arco arena games where the Kings would fucking light up the scoreboard.

Those fans were loud. It was awesome to see how into it they got. Sometimes the noise would reach 120 decibels.

I wish I could have watched the game on TV to see how loud it translated for television. It was bananas inside that arena. The first half was loud in waves.

I caught myself being captivated by the flow of the Spurs offense in the first half. There they were, Tim Duncan (who I’d watched play since he was a freshman at Wake Forest), Manu Gonobili ( My homey Lou’s favorite player) and Tony Parker. Their execution the first quarter was flawless.

I couldn’t help but stare in awe as Tony Parker carved the Thunder defense up for 21 first quarter points. It was unreal. It wasn’t like I was cheering for the Spurs, but I was digging the sometimes breathtaking plays they were making. Stephen jackson was drilling every open three available.

It was crazy. Yet despite how good the Spurs looked, there still was no doubt that the Thunder were going to come back. When Durant nailed the deep three on two defenders with .4 seconds left, it was clear that the Spurs were in trouble. During halftime out in the corridors every patron had the same look, like “WE GOT THIS!”

I sent that exact text to my boy in Portland who replied ” Naw man its going back to San Antonio. You can’t give up 63 first half points and expect to win.”

I wasn’t surprised with the reply. He hadn’t the fortune of seeing as many Thunder games as I had this season. He hadn’t seen what Durant had been doing all Post-season, turning it on in the last quarter to take it from cats. There was no doubt that they’d make a run. 18 first half points was a joke. A lead that early cannot be taken seriously.

Besides, old dude was Portland what did he know? His franchise were the ones who passed up on Durant to get Oden. They were like the cats on Star Search who chose some random ass dude over Dave Chappelle.

I went to concessions and grabbed a Coca-Cola and caffeinated myself. When the second half began I made sure that not only was I into it, but that everyone in my section was as well.

I hi-fived the little kids and old folks nearby. I yelled at the top of my lungs, jumped up and down. The crowd didn’t sit the whole second half (vaguely reminiscent of Warriors fans in Oracle) and things went from loud to obnoxiously loud once the boys had trimmed the first half 18 point deficit to 10.

When we cut it to five I knew it was all over. There was no way the Spurs were going to win.

The third quarter was the best spurt of basketball throughout the game. The thunder made a run, then the Spurs made one, then the Thunder countered. There were some brilliant plays, and some athletic ones and honestly everything kind of blurred together.

I couldn’t even tell you one particular moment from the quarter. But it was an awesome sight to see and clearly I was in the right place at the right time. It was loud and it was exciting and it was euphoric. I looked up at the scoreboard and realized that KD already had put up a quiet 29 points.

Unfortunately the fourth quarter didn’t flow as well. There were too many stops and starts between officials whistles and TV timeouts.

There was a lot of dancing in the aisles during the timeouts and everyone had fun, but the officials and their questionable calls marred what should have been an outstanding ending. It was a bit unsettling how one-sided the calls were going (When I saw Joey Crawford I knew the fix was in but not FOR the Thunder).

I almost felt sorry the Spurs. Then I remembered this and the resulting suspensions (bullshit interpretation of the ‘leaving the bench” rule) that cost the Suns a chance to truly compete for the NBA Finals. So then I was like fuck ’em.

They had benefited from some calls so no reason to feel bad that Durant was getting Superstar treatment now ( a guy in the stands joked that Durant always misses 1 of 2 free throws if he got to the line because of a bad call–almost as if he felt guilty about it).

The end of the game was pretty sweet–punctuated by a Perkins dunk that send the crowd into a frenzy kinda like this one. It was all but over.

The Thunder had vanquished the Spurs. And I couldn’t think of a more worthy opponent (after the game KD said that it was the toughest win he’d ever had  as an NBA player).

Being in the arena for the trophy celebration was a bit unreal. Seeing everyone in the crow in synch, cheering as one, moving as one was a sight. KD couldn’t even talk because we were shouting MVP. He stopped and just took it all in.

I was taken back to the moment when I first saw him his freshman year at Texas, warming up for a pres-season game against some small college.

There was no way I could have imagined that we’d both be in Oklahoma City celebrating (albeit differently) the success of a pro basketball team.

I started thinking of other post championship celebrations. The ones like I’d seen on the Madden video games. The time I watched jealously as Houston celebrated the Clutch City Rockets (which Scott Brooks was a member of). It was an incredible thing to be apart of.

There is a festive atmosphere that rivals collegiate sports at a Thunder game from the  outlandish outfits to the fevered pitch of the crowd (I guess this makes sense because up until recently they only had college teams to root for).

And though there are some high toned people who attend, it is nowhere as bad as attending a Mavs game. Everyone seems overdressed for those things.

In the form of celebs I saw no one but radio personality/former Cowpoke Doug Gottlieb and former MLB manager Tony LaRussa.  People aren’t there for a fashion show.

They come to see hoops and even those who are there for the scene have no choice but to represent. It’s a great experience and if you ever get a chance to go to an OKC game in the future, I recommend you do so (though tickets are much harder to get than when they first got here).

Of course things didn’t go perfectly. I had lost 80 bucks on my extra ticket. Before warm ups some dude tried to pick a fight with one of the people sitting next to me (he was so drunk that he passed out in his seat before the start of the 2nd quarter).

The water fountains weren’t turned on upstairs so I was hella thirsty throughout the 4th quarter.

But it was worth every dollar spent and every inconvenience I endured to be there to celebrate the team’s success. The jubilant high I felt leaving the arena was unparalleled (And I have tried many a drug and gotten many a laid).

My favorite basketball team of all time was going to the NBA finals. Now it was only a question of who we were playing next and if I was going to attend any of the games(More than likely).

I didn’t know it could feel so good to be so wrong.

Team is One!