by Holly MacKenzie

Buried within the comments yesterday was a comment that stuck out to me and of course, I feel like I have to address it. From Tarzan Cooper who upon hearing that I have never suited up and tightened my laces to hit the courts, was the suggestion that I am not in love with basketball, but am instead in love with being a fan of basketball. While I probably should let this be as it is an opinion and opinions are never really wrong, I am unable to and have been successfully baited into responding to this one.

I would agree 100% that I am madly in love with being a fan of this game. I love going to sports bars and rooting for my guys (unless of course, it is the Lakers, in which case, I go it alone with the exception of perhaps one person I can handle watching with), I love being able to have a topic to converse about with people wherever I am. I love how sports links us. I love getting swept up in playoff Sundays, late night Thursdays, Inside the NBA, SLAM, SI, ESPN The Magazine, HOOP, Handle and everything in between. I love loving the game.

Now, do not get it twisted. I will make it very clear that just because my love affair with this game has followed a different path than yours, it does not lessen my love or appreciation of it.  The notion that because I’ve never played for hours on end in the dead heat of summer I couldn’t understand the pure need to have basketball in my life? Four years of a university career I was a basketball manager. Was this a glamorous profession? Ask Lawrence Frank, I’m sure he’d agree with me. The furthest thing away from glamorous as you could get, but the closest you can get to the game when you don’t suit up yourself.

As part of that title, I washed laundry. Dirty, gross, basketball-sweat soaked laundry. Every. Single. Day. Of. The. Basketball. Season.

Sometimes twice a day if there were two-a-days over Christmas break or shootarounds and run throughs on game days.

In addition to the 2+ hours spent at practice six days out of the week before season starts, plus the hours spent nightly when it does, I’d average another two hours daily, doing laundry. Laundry that wasn’t my own. We all know how much college students love laundry. Most of us don’t do it until we go home on the weekends. That’s another thing. Going home. When given the choice between going home for Christmas vacation or staying at school to assist the team with practice, I chose the latter. Home for four days out of a possible two weeks and then back to school to get to work.

Most of my non-instructional hours during the day were either spent in coaches offices or on the court where a member of the coaching staff was going through a workout with someone else. When I had a question, I got an answer and it was by far the best decision I ever made as someone who IS in fact, in love with this game. Maybe not as a player, but definitely in love with the game.

Sure, I understand the essence of what was being challenged. I have never hit a game-winner, never stepped in for a charge, never felt solely responsible for a loss, nor partially responsible for a victory. I get it. I’ve never wiped sweat off of my brow because I was exhausted after pouring out my soul onto the court.

Instead, I pour out my soul each night, while the rest of the world is sleeping, as I share my thoughts with you all because it’s the only way I know how to be.

I’ve laughed and cried with a group of players during the course of a season. I’ve seen the delicate balance a coaching staff has to maintain between keeping athletes focused but not fearful of making mistakes. Of being confident but not overly cocky. Of keeping players within the system, but also teaching them how to make the simple play to ensure that at the end of the day, they are playing basketball.

I’ve had the joy in seeing firsthand how basketball imitates life and how boys can become young men, and young men become grown, as they learn life lessons from the game. Getting to see star players become humbled, role players rewarded, and the tutorials of life being taught within those 94 feet.

While my love is different than many of yours, it most certainly is love. Love of the game. Love of the logistics of the game. Love of the fans, the freedom that can be found for those 48 minutes when a game is on. The escape I can feel from everything, as long as my eyes are facing forward, everything else forgotten, or at the very least, put on hold.

People say all of the time that basketball is their first love. I am one of those people. Rather than just saying it though, I’ll tell you why. Of anything and everything I’ve encountered in my life, it is basketball that has taught me the most about my self and it is basketball that continues to provide experiences and lessons every step along the way.

When I think of my childhood, it’s a miracle of sorts that I found basketball. I like to think that the game found me. I grew up in a one-parent household where my mother to this day still does not understand what a foul is or why it isn’t cheating. She doesn’t have a clue how this game works. I don’t even think there WAS a basketball league available, besides the junior-high boys team at my high school that I helped coach. There were no asphalt courts, no banged up, torn nets. If Canada is a hockey country, my hometown could have served as the shrine.

I think my proudest moment in high school was when my coach left us when he had a job transfer and he called me personally to tell me that he appreciated my love for the game. That above all else I respected it and I acted as a sponge and as long as I did that, as long as I tried to soak up as much as I could from the people around me I wouldn’t ever have to give the game up. So far, he’s been right.

I could go on for pages, but I’m sure you’ve already had enough. If at the end of this little bball history of mine, my love is still challenged because I’ve loved from afar rather than experienced in in full, well, that is quite alright with me. At the end of the day, I am the game and the game is me. That’s my truth. Pure and simple, just like Ray Allen’s jumper.

Now, onto the action from last night.

Bron had 47 points in a one-point loss to the Pacers. He definitely didn’t look amused to see his Cavs drop their second straight, losing 96-95 to Danny Granger’s squad. This one went down the wire (and by down to the wire, I mean, lots of action happened with less than a second on the clock), and didn’t finish until Granger made a free throw with 0.2 seconds on the clock. While LeBron tied the game at 95 with two free throws of his own after the refs called a foul on the Cavaliers alley oop attempt with 0.8 seconds remaning, LeBron was the one to commit the foul on Granger and he was not happy about it. After Bron’s off-shooting night against the Lakers on Sunday, he hit 15-21 from the floor last night, but it wasn’t enough. Troy Murphy had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers while Granger shot only 5-18 for his 16 points. Mo Williams had 15 for the Cavs but shot only 7-18 from the floor and missed all five of his three-point attempts as the Cavs connected on only 6-21 from beyond the arc on the night.

Can someone explain to me what was with no Iverson but Rip still coming off of the bench?

The Wizards appeared to hang with the Hawks early on in their matchup last night, but Joe Johnson put in a strong effort, finishing with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists, to help Atlanta easily roll to the 111-90 victory. The Wizards were just sloppy, turning the ball over 17 times as compared to only 7 for the Hawks. Flip Murray continued his strong play, scoring 16 points off of the bench while Maurice Evans added 14. JaVale McGee had 18 points on 7-10 shooting to go with 11 rebounds off of the bench for Washington as Caron Butler scored 22 points and Antawn JamiBroking ankles regularly.son added 17 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.

The Nuggets rolled to an easy victory against the Heat last night, defeating them 99-82 in a game that wasn’t even that close. At the end of the first quarter, the Nuggets led 32-20 and they didn’t look back from there. Chauncey Billups scored 23 points for the Nuggets as Kenyon Martin scored 18 points and 10 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony added 19 and 9. Dwyane Wade scored 33 points for the Heat while Shawn Marion added 14. It was a tough night for the Heat offense and they had only 13 assists while turning the ball over 19 times. Eeek.

Those Spurs are tricky. I watched most of the first half of this game against the Nets and the two teams appeared to be battling, I thought we’d have a close one in the second and then suddenly, the Spurs were up 15. Of course. Damn you, Tim Duncan for being so consistent and for making me more scared than any other team, besides Boston. Outscoring the Nets 28-18 in the third, the Spurs had this one underwraps by the time the fourth quarter came rolling around. Duncan finished with 27/9/8 on the night as Matt Bonner scored 22 and Tony Parker added 20. The Nets were led by Vince Carter’s 25 points while Devin Harris scored 21 and Brook Lopez added 18 in the 108-93 Spurs victory.

The Raptors looked to be in danger of losing to the TWolves for awhile in the first half. Luckily for them, they turned it around. Had that dropped that one, man, I don’t know what this city would have done. Pretty sure Myles was at that one, so I’ll let him take it from here. I will say that Randy Foye is pretty good and Telfair is fun to watch… At least, he is against the Raptors D.

I may not end up watching much of the end of the Dallas/Sac game because I want to watch the Lakers and KD’s Thunder, but at the half, Shelden Williams has 14 points. Really.

Okay, that game is over, the Mavericks won 118-100 and Kidd finished with 15 and 12 while Josh Howard and Antoine Wright each scored 23 and Dirk Nowitzki added 21. Williams finished with 15 points on 5-6 shooting as Kevin Martin added 18 in the loss.

The Lakers let the Thunder hang around until the final quarter of their game last night, then decided to get serious and go on to the victory. Still, the Thunder put up a good fight, enough to scare the Lakers a little bit, just not quite good enough. Kobe finished with 34 points on his way to 23,000 (really, gah, makes me feel like he’s getting too old!), Pau Gasol scored 20 to go with 14 rebounds and Lamar Odom had 12 points to go with 18 rebounds. The stars for the Thunder were Russell Westbrook, finishing with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals and Kevin Durant added 31 and 10.

Don’t look now, but the Golden State Warriors have their core and they are balling. Last night they blew out the Knicks 144-126 and Stephen Jackson again put together a fantastic line, this time dropping 35/6/10 on New York. Monta Ellis seemed to find his touch, finishing with 17 points as the Warriors overcame a 25-point, 11-rebound night from David Lee and 24 points from Al Harrington, back in his old stomping grounds. Even with the Knicks down 20, Lee was still in the game with 51.3 seconds remaining. Not sure what that was about. 144 points in regulation. Wow.