By Toney Blare 12-29-07

Pre-game

Tonight is Vote for Tyson Night.  Kids receive free temporary face tattoos, the vendors serve up ear-shaped dogs, and Hugo the Hornet just said he wants to eat the Cavs’ children.  Me, I spend some time flying pigeons from the arena roof before coming down to courtside.

Looks like we’re going to have a big crowd.  Also going to have this camera man on the baseline that’s straight up Williamsburg circa 2002, with the leather sportscoat and possibly some powder on his pinstripe pants, but with a slight resemblance to No Country for Old Men star Javier Bardem.  I’m in a dark place for a second there.

Bron and Damon Jones race to the opposite baseline out of the tunnel.  Is that why Damon is here?  Damon rocks the faux-hawk, which should get respect from the cameraman.  So there’s one.  Damon takes shots and lands in different poses (karate, dance, etc), like some crazy dude on a playground.  Former Hornet and native Louisianan PJ Brown is in attendance, finds this act funny, which encourages the man with the 6.7ppg lifetime.

I’m getting a little more used to this whole press cred (thanks Susan), sit-along-the-baseline thing and all, but the idea that I’m front row for the LeBron train for this half just hit me and my 14 year old self just offered a high five and a long stare at the Honeybees.

Of note (and quite important during the game): LeBron threw his birthday bash in New Orleans last night.  As someone who’s celebrated his birthday here a few times, I’m suspicious as to his physical readiness going in, as well as that of anyone else who attended.  This could be one hungover-evening-on-the-couch of a game.

Irvin Mayfield of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra plays solo trumpet for the National Anthem.  If you’re looking for him when you come to N.O., he’s at Snug Harbor on Frenchman Street every Wednesday.   Check it out.

1st q
-Wait, is Peja going to guard LeBron all game?  Zzz hits baseline.
-Peja drops a three on the King, then misses the next time down.  LeBron miss, Mo Pete misses the 3.
-CP3 vs. Larry Hughes should be interesting.  People need to talk more about Chris’s D and the way he roughs up bigger guards.
-DWest misses the dunk, Peja fouls LeBron on the break.  I don’t think CP and DWest play that well together, or at least they seem to disagree at times on-court, and I wonder about a trade.
-Gooden blocks West.  Beard getting wild.
-LeBron just takes a rebound off of Tyson, who is surprised.  Me too.  Put-back is no good, Peja hits another 3.  6-2
-The Hornets’ double on LeBron is looking good, mostly because Peja is a smarter defender than his rep, and the other 4 are athletic enough to get close out the open man.
-Z over Tyson.  Interesting how Tyson guards a guy who can shoot from midrange.
-Tyson hits the hook.  8-6.  Chris steals lays it in.  He might kill Larry Hughes this game.  Speaking of Larry Hughes, my lasting impression is of the dunk contest in 2001, when the then-AI protege missed like 3 attempts, walked off to the bench and announced to everyone on mic, “I hit my head.  I got too high.”  I feel like he said that to his talent ceiling after signing with the Cavs.
-Gooden hooks it.  David West needs to defend better if the Bees are going to contend.
-Hey, there’s LeBron.  He has like 1 shot so far.  Z hits another.  10 up.
-West pump fakes Gooden, hits the little hook.  Nice Mo-Pete to Tyson on the break.  14-10
Cavs TO.
-Our Britney Spears-like promotion girl, the one who shows up on the jumbotron during breaks, talking to people, giving stuff away?  Her name’s Britney, too.  Weird, right?
-Butler, Bobby Jackson in the game.  Also, according to the invite, B-Jax was in da club at Bron’s b-day party last night.  He is, though, a vet, and should be fine at getting 2-3 layups and missing some jumpers tonight, as is his want this season.
-Speaking of, Bron takes it to the hole.  Javier Bardem is photographing the Honeybees.  Be careful, Honeybees!  Don’t look in the closet!
-West again, 16-12.  CP3 steals LeBron’s pass, Peja hits a long 2 on Boobie.  18-12.  LeBron miss, Varejao putback.  Chis rebounds his own miss, puts it back.  DWest blocks Gooden.  Alright.  20-14.
-TO Cavs.  Hypeman DJ Rob Nice has a ball covered in money.  Visiting fan Randy from Hawaii airballs the moneyball.  When you’re from Hawaii, do you ever realllly lose?
-LeBron’s been quiet so far, doing that same cross court pass as he did in the Finals.  Looks slow, distracted.  That’s what you get when you roll with Bobby Jackson and forget to eat.
-Boobie 3.  20-17.  Cp3 fouled.  Loses the ball.
-After another Chris steal, LeBron gets called for goaltending.  Is shocked.  Takes it hard to the basket, fouled.  Continues to argue with the ref while at the line.  Spits out his mouthpiece as he misses the shot.  Hits second.  Those are the details you get down here on press row.
-Weird quarter.  Hornets 24-17, place really crowded, but with LeBron a non-factor (3 pts), the casual fans are probably a little confused.   CP3 and LeBron talk to the refs during the break and choose a new game ball

2nd Quarter
-Apparently, Bardem’s only job is to photograph the Honeybees.  That and kill everyone in his path to the Bedford Avenue stop.
-Pargo is in, with Wright, Jackson, Butler, and Armstrong.  We ain’t deep, but Wright and Armstrong are the keys—if they replace Pargo and Jackson as the 6 & 7th men, this team is a lot better.  Z, Varejao, Sasha, Boobie, Devin Brown.  We sorta miss Dev around here, especially when Pargo misses an easy lay-up, continuing his struggles this year.  Sasha takes Butler to the hole.
-Gibson layup, 26-22.  Timeout Hornets.  Boy, lately, Byron Scott is getting his timeout on when the Hornets still lead, coaching to control the pace or whatever you call it.  It’s like the new trend for him or something.
-Jumbotron: Tyson Chandler: 3 Stooges fan.
-Soulja Boy: a looong 15 minutes for this guy.  Is he this year’s “hip-hop” Ricky Martin?
-Out of the break, Butler hits a three.
-Z is too canny for young Hilton Armstrong.  29-24.
-Bobby Jackson is too wiley for Devin Brown.
-Z is too lurch to be left alone.
-Pargo miss, and Z is in, doin Hilton like a sextape.
-Sound clip: Cab Calloway singing “Hidey hidey ho.”  Hey, Hornets organizational people!   Hey!  Listen! My name is Toney Blare!  I can hook up some more New Orleans music for you!  The Meters!  Lee Dorsey!  Mixed with some Wu-Tang Killer Bees, you say?  I got that for you!  For free!  Get at me!  I’ll bring a brass band to fan fest, too!  I’m not playin!  Let’s hear our sht, not the Doobie Brothers!  Come on!    Let’s make this a New Orleans house party, not Conseco freakin Fieldhouse!
-Pargo fouls Boobie.  Grown men get to yell “Boobie” and there’s still 4 weeks til Mardi Gras.
-Chandler has to come back in to stop Zeee madness.  Rest of the starters for both teams start to filter in, with the exception of CP3.
-Peja hits again.  He’s outscoring Bron.  When he gets it to TC on the break, it’s 38-33, and TO Cleveland.
-Honeybee time.  It’s ridiculous how distracted players and even some assistant coaches get.  I mean, would I act that way if 20 women danced at my job while my boss was trying to explain something to me, or just to my co-worker whose job I’ll never have?  Nevermind.
-Giants up 7-0.  I hope Eli doesn’t break the nation’s heart again.
-Mo-Pete 3 after Cleveland miss.
-Larry Hughes layup 41-35
-Bron has Witness tattoo on his calf.  At this point in the era of global marketing, do we even have to make a branding joke, or stop to wonder what came first, tat or ad?
-Lotta sloppy play, TV timeout.  Capital One Bank is a big Hornets partner, and every game they run this contest to see who can make the best pro-Capital One sign.  One  guy in the lower bowl just reps by holding up his ATM card, while his wife waves a bank statement.  They lose, as they probably do a lot.  Some chick with a giant foam ATM Capital One card wins, likely a fix.
-Score is 42-37 when we hear a clip of Blister in the Sun.  Yep, the NBA:  “Where LeBron goaltends again to a song about pills and wanking happens here.”
-And 2 goaltending calls seems like a hangover sign to me.  On the other end, Bron banks it in.  He’s got all of 7.  The next time down, Bron banks one off of Mo-Pete’s ass to an, um, alert Sasha, who makes it 44-41.
-We don’t get the ball to Peja enough.  Really, after the 1st quarter in most games, that’s the case and a problem.
-14-10 Giants gets a big big applause.  If there was ever a team that the nation couldn’t get behind but then was forced to…
-Bron drives, resets, has Peja looking side to side.  Gets a nothing foul.  No one knows what to say to Peja, it was that dumb.  Chris looks pissed.  Bron hits 1 of 2.
-46-42 after 2 when CP3 is blocked.

Halftime
A puppeteer does the entire Village People songbook using life-size dummies attached to him by four long poles.  His name is Christopher.  And we have many talented musicians who need work.
I take a walk to the press room and grab a coffee.  It’s weird when you’re walking back to your seat with a coffee, thinking about life and things, and a 6-10 Brazilian who successfully held-out for 2 months is walking right next to you.

3rd Quarter
-Actually, forget what I said about CP3 and DWest, as the latter scores the first two buckets of the half and is on his way to a big game.
-Peja is now on Sasha, Mo-Pete on Bron
-Time out Cleveland 52-42 after a slick CP3 penetration and TC putback.
-16-13 Pats.
-On another fastbreak, CP3 to Peja to Mo-Pete for a 3 is what the last 2 offseasons were all about.
-LeBron misses again.  This is about the time in the hangover when I decide to have some tea, not 15,000 people screaming at me.
-Chris exploits a Gooden mismatch, 58-42.  Gooden hook to end the drought.
-A Boobie 3, running bank shot from Bron.  58-49. CP3 hits two FTs, and when Mo hits another 3, the place explodes.  Whatever you hear about the bad attendance down here, and the general frown that greets us in the national news, know that people in New Orleans can get hyped and form a great crowd just about anytime, especially if you give them dopey contests and a good bit of the beer.  I think this thing is building, despite the low numbers in games vs. Memphis or Seattle.
-Big block by Tyson on a careless Gooden scoop
-Dwest again, he’s got 17.  Creepin to the scorer’s table: Ira Newble.
-Gooden turnaround, 65-51.  DWest top of the key, timeout.  67-51.
– The combination of a 21-16 Giants score and PJ Brown on the jumbotron means a big, raucous standing O.
-LeBron misses a bank runner.  Drink a lot of water before you go to bed next time, Your Highness.
-Tyson is really the only rebounder the Hornets have.  Julian Wright, wobbly foal that he still is, needs to develop fast and give us someone else on the boards.  A lot of times I compare CP3 now to what AI did in 2001, and though I’m aware of the differences, it’s more a reference to another charismatic player taking a team farther than expected.  And on that earlier team, you had Ty Hill and Todd MacCollough and Aaron McKie.  Can Julian Wright be some combo of that–minus the Charles Oakley beef, career-ending illness, and dope nickname (Blue!), of course?
-Speaking of the bench, B Scott didn’t insert a sub this whole quarter.  Huh.
-Devin Brown strong to the hole.  That was the Cavs big off-season pickup, one reason why LeBron can’t just go to bed at 8pm tonight, burn the phone numbers, and forget the whole thing, but has to be out here, after his birthday and everything.
-71-57.  Seimone Augustus, WNBA player and former LSU Tiger, gets the LSU fans on their feet.

4th Quarter
I take a little a little time off from the notes, scan the just-announced sell-out crowd.  It’s important that the Hornets win these high profile games, when non-fans decide to give it a shot.  Two weeks ago, the Suns game felt like a coming out party, there was an edge the whole time and the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this team was real and sticking around.  I think that’s what people worry about here: that we’ll get some fleeting, false hope, then be disappointed again.  That’s not an uncommon story in Naginville, but I really think the Hornets break that cycle this year.
-82-68 when Bron hits a three from the top of key.
-For some reason that triggers a lone voice in the section behind me to yell, “You know what’s wrong, King James?  You’re hungover!  You’re hungover right now!”  People here are experts on such things.  A few minutes later, same soothsayer declares, “You know why you’re losing, LeBron?  Cause you have no teammates!”  Weird to watch those teammates and know that they can 1. Hear this a*hole, and 2. Know he’s a little right on both points.
-TV timeout.  Randomly: the celebrity deaths-come-in-threes thing for this month: Ike Turner, Oscar Peterson, and Benzair Bhutto (A friend of mine swore the third would be Jimmy Carter).
-Again, the dance contest is a hit.  Then after it’s done, another man decides to keep things going, much to our amusement and the displayed embarrassment of his partner.
-12 point lead, but Byron’s leaving everyone in.  I guess they had the 4th off against Charlotte last night.
-Not much really happens to change things, and the Hornets take it, 86-76.  CP3 finishes with 20-9-6 and an amazing 7 steals.  Bron has 21 but probably feels like he’s 81.  West leads all scorers with
27.  Confetti falls, as it seems to do after every win.  I rap with the homey Ron Hitley of Hornets247.com, who confirms it’s 5 in a row for this team.

Postgame
-Pretty low key in the hall and lockers.  Mike Brown somehow changed from his suit to a casual sweater-jeans combo, in which he seems more at ease, more suitably bland.
-Julian Wright theorizes on how long it would take to run the 30 miles home.  Seems to be confused on just what it means to be “a world class athlete,” thinks he’d do the first 10 in average of 4 minutes, which I think would make him a one-of-a-kind athlete, but who knows?
-I’m not real big on the hard-hitting questions to the half-naked dudes, so I try to take down some New Year’s resolutions.  Amazingly, or perhaps predictably, few NBA players have them.
-Jannero Pargo: “Huh, nah, I gotta think about that.”
-Rasual Butler: “ummmm.  (pause) Make more shots?”
-Damon “Freddie Mitchell” Jones: “nah, I ain’t really thought about it.”
-Me: “really, it’s that good?”  And I guess if I was making that to just change my clothes, I’d feel the same way.
-I don’t stick around for LeBron, but I imagine his goes something like, “Never, ever, ever again….”