Regardless of what I have to do to ensure it happens, the next Raptors game I will be there with more than enough time to grab my media guides, make my rounds and then go into the pregame locker room sessions when they start, not scramble to get in before they finish.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m one of those people, unfortunately, who always seems to get held up when I’m on my way somewhere. In university I lived across the street, literally, 45 steps or so from the building where all of my classes were. I’d leave 15 minutes before class and still be 10 minutes late.
Get to the arena, most of the guys were shooting around, but I decided to peek inside the Raptors locker room. Nothing going on in there. I make my way into the Heat’s room and get heckled by the locker room attendant who so graciously lent me a pen last game when I was stuck. I’m now realizing he lent it just so he would have a reason to heckle me the next time he saw me.
I like the ACC staff. Game day staff, security, everyone who works in that building, specifically the regulars are so comforting. They become familiar on game days and it’s so nice to be able to say hello and get a routine down that they are a part of. I’m a fan of the ACC.
In the Heat locker room, Chalmers and Blount are getting changed and Beasley is talking to a media guy from Miami. Beas’s hair is much longer and eyes much brighter than I’d expected. He’s a big guy, but he is also a young one.
1989. The guy was born in 1989. This means that next year, rookies will be born in 1990. This officially makes me feel very old. The 90’s? really? Eeek.
When it became clear that Shaun Livingston would not be hanging out in the locker room I made my way back out to the court to watch guys warm up. Having rooted for Shaun since his first appearance in SLAM so many moons ago, I wanted to talk to him and see how things were going, now that he finally is back on the court and has been given another chance at his dream.
Udonis Haslem is a big, big guy up close.
I make my way to the media gondola and look to my left and right. I am all alone. Not quite “All Alone #33”, but close enough. I settle in and begin to write these notes.
Both teams are out shooting around now.
JO and Bosh stay to sign stuff for the fans. Seeing that never gets old.
Starting line ups. It’s Canadian Forces Appreciation Day here at the ACC and the national anthems are sung by Second Lieutenant Cpl Scott Newlands. One thing that really makes me uncomfortable, or, maybe unsettled is a better word; the cameraman getting up in the players faces during the anthems. Sure, we all like seeing those shots of our guys, but with the technology we have, can’t we do it without shoving a camera in their face?
Wade has got a whole lot of fans here. The screams are all ridiculously high-pitched, as it appears he has got plenty of takers willing to try his championship ring on. I can only speak for those females I know, but it seems as though the consensus shows that Wade is that guy.
Onto the game.
Raptors do not have Jose Calderon available after the hamstring pull against Philly the other night, so he is on the bench in a suit and my guy Will Soloman gets the start, his first NBA in six years. Bargnani is also slipping into the starting lineup for Jamario Moon.
First play of the game Will Soloman gets the steal and feeds Bosh inside where he is fouled. Lets keep this up Will. We need a solid game from you. Nothing crazy, just be calm.
Bargnani takes Beasley to the hole and gets the layup. Where that speed came from I’m not sure, but I sure hope it is here to stay.
Haslem with a nice rejection of JO.
I had absolutely no idea Soloman was 30. I knew he’d put in his time over in Europe, but my goodness.
I also love that 30 is considered old in the NBA. Kobe is 30. This does not make me happy.
Chalmers looks good early. Active and aggressive, he is all over the place.
Will cross court to Barg, who swings it to AP on the three point line, swish. Beautiful ball movement.
Marion’s got that facemask on. He doesn’t look happy.
Wade with an easy J over bargnani. Effortless. First basket of the game. 7:12 in the first quarter.
Heat need bodies inside to rebound on transition or it is going to be a long night for them.
Raps call a time out and Mitchell and Triano are heated. They spend about 30 seconds making the carrying motion in the direction of the refs as they say Wade should be called for carrying the ball.
Joel Anthony (Team Canada, whats up!), with a block on Bosh and I feel proud. Not sure if that makes sense.
Joel with another block on Bosh.
Joel Anthony with a pretty dunk baseline.
I am enjoying watching his five minutes to shine tonight.
Wade with a pretty move but misses. Moon takes it to the hole and instead of settling for the jumper, he takes the contact and goes to the line. This is what we need to see from Jamario. We need the aggressive toughness, drawing fouls and getting to the line.
Haslem. Is. Underappreciated..
Wade with the steal and break away dunk, forcing Mitchell to call a timeout with the Heat up 49-46 and 2:28 left in the half.
Wade goes baseline for the huge dunk. Bosh screams at Moon who fades out into the backgound. . I love to see this passionate side of Chris leading his team.
And my laptop battery is out.
I’m back. Postgame. Trying to decipher the rest of my notes. Anyone else have a macbook with a battery that absolutely does not last for two hours. Not even an hour and a half. Suggestions?
Okay. So, the Raptors pulled away in the fourth after being tied at 78 at the end of three. The play of the game was a block by Jermaine O’Neal (his second straight block on that play) that led to a three-pointer by Kapono.
When this happened, the Raptors went up 13 points and the entire crowd went absolutely insane. The momentum was shifted, the building alive and reenergized. From that point on, it was not a matter of if the Raptors would win, but rather a question of, by how much.
Another nice moment came after a Will Soloman three-pointer. Jose Calderon hops off of the bench in his suit and makes his signature “three ball” symbol with each hand.
In the end, the Raptors took it 107-96 as Bosh finished with 27 points while JO hauled down 18 points. Jose’s sub Soloman finished with career-highs of 15 points and 11 assists while Dwyane Wade had 29 points and 8 assists in the loss.
Some notes about the victory:
-First time the raptors have reached 100 in regulation… and they did it without Jose.
-31 assists on 36 field goals.
-Only 2 turnovers from the Raptor bench.
-The Raptors out-rebounded Miami 52-35.
-Toronto attempted 34 free throws as compared to only 15 attempts for the Heat.
“it doesn’t matter who starts it doesn’t matter who finishes, it matters that we got the W. We play together, as a team.”
Jamario Moon who was adamant that he was okay coming off of the bench. He said he was used to not starting in some of the minor leagues he had played in and stressed that when you are on the bench, you need to be ready so when your name is called you can contribute. Consummate team player.
Will Soloman is standing at his locker as the media scrum beings to surround him. Having been able to escape each game without ever getting a microphone stuck in his face, Soloman now has to deal with the demands of being a reason for the W. He says that he’s happy with the game, happy to be a part of the win and has no idea the last game that he started.
Doug Smith from The Star refreshes his memory and tells him it was against the Wizards. Almost before Smith gets the words out, Soloman says, “Oh right, Michael.”. Of course. No one can forget MJ, not even the guys who play against him. Thought that was cool.
Chris talks about the play of Andrea Bargnani and says that the front line of himself, JO and Bargnani is a lot for opposing teams to deal with and if Bargnani can continue to improve on what he has been doing he will help their team out a great deal.
He spoke of the point guard play and said that Will knew before the game that he had their support, but they didn’t make a big deal out of it because they all know that he is a professional and would be fine.
Jermaine O’Neal has on some of the biggest diamond studs I’ve ever seen in my life. They are honestly larger than my thumb nail and brilliantly bright. He’s in a great mood after the victory and says he is going to dinner with his wife where they will watch his Cowboys play.
He then says that he played in high school and was really good. Says that he’s been watching both NFL and some CFL and that hey could play in the CFL. He then backs up by saying no disrespect to the league.
He’s a funny guy.
He also talks about the blocks and the momentum shifting and says that when he plays, if you ever notice that he is talking to himself, he is trying to get himself angry. Said he is saying mean things to himself that he will not repeat because they are not appropriate (but, “if you look at me, I’m pretty sure you can tell EXACTLY what I’m saying”), to get himself hyped up.
Onto the Heat locker room I go, in search of Livingston. Instead, I spot the media crush and know immediately it’s Dwyane Wade’s turn to answer questions about why his team lost.
He is wearing Converse 3 shower slides. Basketball players always have the longest, narrowest feet. Maybe this comes as a result of being tied up in basketball shoes so much? Wade is no exception. He looks tired. Says he rolled his ankle in the fourth and it feels tender, but they’ve got two days off so he hopes it doesn’t swell up on him.
Dwyane’s face is so sharp, angular and chiseled; I am again surprised at how lean he is. This happens more often than you’d imagine with these guys. Such big, strong athletes, but so very lean; A testament to both, how hard they train and the wear they put on their bodies over the course of a season.
Wade spoke about the game being close and said it was only a matter of time before one team would turn it up. Tonight, that was the Raptors.
Dwyane has on a white wristband that has “Zion…Zaire…Zion…Zaire…Zion” on it. This is, of course, the names of his children. For whatever reason, this makes me think of the end of Noyz each issue. Sign you’ve grown up on SLAM #5453.
Mike Beasley hasn’t seemed to have had a moment’s peace. Every time I glance over, he’s got someone talking to him.
Shawn Marion. Shawn is in and out of the locker room quickly and he looks happy to be able to breathe without that facemask (sidenote: just automatically typed “Facebook” there. This is a strange world we live in).
The young guys on the Heat roster chat as they get dressed and share quite a few jokes.
The topic of the weather seems to be popular as these South Beach boys don’t seem to be fans of the freezing cold snap we’ve had and the snow that is threatening to fall.
Finally, Livingston is dressed and sitting in his locker. I introduce myself and as always, the SLAM name works, a huge smile spreading over his face. I tell him that before I get into asking him anything I’m very happy and thankful that he gets to be in an NBA locker room and that he has been able to play again.
Genuinely thankful, appreciative and aware, Shaun thanks me for that and then we talk about his knee. He feels good right now, is on the active list and is able to play basketball. He said the struggle to rehab was tough and that it was something you get through day by day. That there have been setbacks since the injury but you just keep on fighting, keep on doing it right and taking your time to ensure you don’t have any futher setbacks.
He says, “I believe, no wait, I know I will be back to 100%.”. I believe him.
We talk a little bit about when he was first in SLAM, “Waaaaaaaay waaaaaaaay back”, and then I ask him how it feels to be back playing basketball. He smiles, fully happy to say how thankful he is to have this blessing. Before I let him go to catch the bus he thanks me again and I tell him I hope to see him on the court the next time they are in town.
I mean that. Shaun Livingston’s story is one of inspiration. Not only for athletes, but for anyone trying to overcome. He is a fighter.
I wanted to talk with Beasley about “Gunnin for that #1 Spot”, as well as ask him how the transition to rookie life is going, but I wasn’t able to grab him one on one. Hopefully next time, when I’ve actually seen the documentary.
After leaving the Heat’s locker room, I took one last walk into Toronto’s to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. Sam Mitchell and his staff are in his office with football on. Both TV’s in the locker room have football on. There is a note on the whiteboard that says the bus will be leaving at 2:30 then they will be flying to Orlando.
It’s been a long day, but a good one. I’m thrilled for Will that he got a chance to show he belongs and I’m also happy that the boys got this win without Jose. Hopefully he will be ready for Tuesday night, but if not, maybe now they will feel more confident in their ability to rest him.
Thanks to a horrible night against Charlotte, a disgruntled Dwight Howard will be waiting for the Raptors in Orlando. If JO continues to talk mean to himself, it may not matter.