Game Notes: Magic at Nets
The return of Appleson. And that Vince Carter guy.
The Last (?) Opening Night in the Swamp
Let’s get right into this, shall we?
The visitor’s locker room, which clearly will retain its Rikers-like charm until the Izod Center goes to that great Xanadu in the sky, is quiet. Too quiet. That is, until Vince Carter briefly emerges from the back room, Biggie clearly audible from his Beats. Guest passes, tickets, that sort of thing. His appearance is a cameo. Moments later, the same door opens with a literal crash as Matt Barnes bursts through it. He looks behind the door to see whether he broke anything—which is funny, seeing that the entire room could be replaced for about $37. “Hey Marc!” (pronounced like “Marcy” without the “Y”—chump, you’re JV) he yells to Marcin Gortat, who’s quietly trying to get through a plate of chicken fingers. “That’s the steroids!” (He’s joking.)
There’s a Phillies fitted on top of someone’s locker, and I wonder whose it is. Oh yes, Jameer Nelson.
Dwight Howard practices running sky-hooks with Patrick Ewing. His touch is soft, and all of the shots I witness go down. That said, I’d be stunned to see him make two in a row in a game. Howard, as always, looks like a chiseled Adonis. Ewing? Not so much. His legs look pretty much the same from his playing days, but he’s packed on a few pounds up top. The Patrick Chewing Snickers ads are more than apropos and it’s not readily apparent whether the emphasis should be on “Chewing” or “Snickers”.
I’m watching this from beneath the basket, chatting with longtime NBA photographer Nat Butler. Gotta love home openers—they’re like the first day of school, only if the first day of school was awesome.
A day after being called “a dog,” repeatedly on PTI—guest starring Bill Simmons!—Vince Carter receives a wonderful, and mostly deserved, standing ovation from the almost-packed house.
I roll up on longtime Nets PA announcer and PR impresario Gary Sussman to ask whether we’ll get at least one “DID YOU SEE…VC!” tonight. “You’ll see,” he says. “Then you can write about it.” Roughly 20 minutes later he introduces Carter first with his traditional and ever-classy “Ladies and gentlemen, he is, Vince Carter.” The applause comes not only from the fans, but from Sly and half-Sly, as well as quasi-Net Sean Williams. Vince has a big smile on his face the whole time. This ain’t Toronto.
The Nets come out to the mediocre “It’s My Time” by Fabolous. Sebastian Telfair’s chain has no comment.
Devin Harris is the Nets oldest starter, and he still gets carded when he tries to get into R movies. Then again, Yi might be 46 years old.
First possession. Vince Carter catches the ball up top, blows by Courtney Lee, and serves up a big helping of two-handed dunk. The game isn’t 10 seconds old yet and the Nets are in a whole mess of trouble.
Tim Donaghy would like to remind you that Dick Bavetta called a foul on Dwight Howard in the first 28 seconds. Sensing that Tim Donaghy probably innately reminded a lot of people of this, Bavetta does a quick 180 and sticks to Brook Lopez’s every move like white on rice milk for the rest of the evening.
Speaking of One B Lo, his D was lacking on the first two possessions, as he got caught half-and-half trying to help Courtney Lee on a VC/D-12 screen-and-roll, and allowed Howard to slip behind him way too easily for a dunk. Leave it at this: it wasn’t his night.
Vince Carter finds Mickael Pietrus for another dunk. It’s too easy. No, no, it’s TOO easy. As Jake says, “How Not To Cover The Pick And Roll, By Courtney Lee and Brook Lopez.”
Nelly’s “E.I.” blares after a made Yi jumper. That’s a big bag of “meh” if you ask me. Now, if Yi wore a tiny band-aid on his face…
Jason Williams enters the game at the 9:06 mark. Must be nice to take a year off, then come back and play with Dwight Howard and Vince Carter. His entire playbook should be “take two dribbles, throw ball in vicinity of the rim.”
Vince’s aggressiveness is so impressive early, I’m going to invent a word: Hellaquent (aggressive yet eloquent). Half Man / Half Re-acclimating to Familiar Surroundings is balling like a ferocious ballerina. Consider: his one near-turnover ended up in Howard’s hands for an easy dunk. That, along with questionable shot-selection on one long three (relatively open), were the only mistakes we saw on the offensive end for Vince.
Vince buries a three, and true to his word, Sussman drops the “THAT’S A V…C… three.” Excellent.
After the game, SVG deadpanned some jokes to convey how brilliant he was early on. Speaking of SVG, he’s the best NBA postgame interview this side of Gregg Popovich. There needs to be a show that’s consists exclusively of people asking SVG and Pop funny and dumb questions.
A question goes along press row as to whether Dwight will finish with more dunks or made free-throws. Um, this is Dwight Howard we’re talking about. He’s got five dunks—and a double-double—in the first quarter.
Courtney Lee, probably pumped to try and stick it to his former team, looks more confident on offense early on than he did in the opener, draining a pair of jumpers and taking it hard to the rim for an and-one.
Pretty sure Chris Douglas-Roberts’s tattoos have footnotes.
Dwight finishes the quarter 2-9 from the line. Konate’s reaction: “he hit two?”
Marcin Gortat and JJ Redick check in and invite you to spend some time at the concessions stand. Don’t forget to tip your beer pourer.
Completely bald up top and hometown New York swagger on full display, there’s something disturbingly “Starbury” about Rafer Alston. It’s not anything serious, just a creepy vibe.
Skip: “Come on, guys, I was the reason they made the And 1 Mixtape!” Teammates: “What’s a ‘mixtape,’ grandpa?”
As for his play, he does a good job running the second unit early in the quarter before everything goes cold, which, as Ben Couch of the Nets wisely points out, illustrates how much the team misses Keyon Dooling. They need Skip to create. If he’s forced to jack up too many shots, the offense, already at a talent disadvantage, can stagnate, which just kills this team.
The Nets continue to sponsor everything not nailed down, and each substitution is greeted by the familiar (to residents of the New York area, at least) PC Richards whistle. It’s only the second quarter of the first game of the season and it’s already driving me completely insane.
So if Brook Lopez gets Roy Rogers during timeouts does that mean Eddy Curry gets KFC?
And does Roy Rogers call the ball a “biscuit”?
One can only imagine: “Keep the biscuit high, Brook. Don’t let them swipe at the biscuit.”
You know what? That joke’s not fair to Eddy, who reportedly lost weight. I should have put Shaq there, but Shaq could make fun of my mom to millions in less than 140 characters and we just can’t have that.
Former Net Ryan Anderson is doing all of the proverbial little things: sneaking backdoor unnoticed, spacing well, draining back-breaking threes, back-tapping rebounds to teammates, etc. Rocking a fresh goatee, he looks older, too. And, honestly, we’re happy for Ryan, who had an up-and-down rookie campaign. If he keeps it up, he should really be able to carve out a niche for himself in the league.
The aforementioned Anderson and Carter hit back-to-backbreaking threes extending the Magic lead to 10 with 3:25 to go in the quarter. It’s looking like a blowout—and then Carter drives the lane, steps on Harris’s foot, and goes down writhing in pain. The Nets score on the other end, and Skip calls a time out. Carter is still down. Judging from his past, he’ll either be out for five minutes or five weeks. Could go either way.
And oh yeah, speaking of Anderson, before the game a certain national writer tells me that “when all is said and done, that trade will be remembered as the deal where the Nets gave up Ryan Anderson.” He’s not joking.
Devin Harris drives, doesn’t get the call, and decides to register an informal protest. By the time he turns around, the Magic break is a cloud of dust, and Redick finishes with a reverse layup.
The Nets dancers gyrate in some black spandex bodysuit-styled outfits with red Skeletor organ imprints on them. A sight to see, and that’s the best I can describe it.
Magic up six at the half. Carter has not returned.
Carter is still in the locker room as the second half begins, but the Magic still manage to open the quarter on a 7-0 run. Did we mention Rashard Lewis is suspended? Lawrence Frank calls a time out, presumably to tell his Nets whatever it is he didn’t tell them at halftime. “Stop sucking” would be a good place to start.
Jameer Nelson, hampered by foul trouble in the first half, comes out resolved to get more into the flow. He draws a foul, drains a three in transition and makes a layup following a Nets’ timeout. All of his contributions help to make up for VC’s absence.
Devin Harris has a drive to the basket rudely snuffed by Ryan Anderson, and Bavetta adds insult to injury by decreeing that the ball hit last off Harris’s head. Magic ball. Clearly Bavetta just wants this series to go seven.
Due to poor shooting, Devin Harris has been more impressive as a creator because all five of his assists have legitimately generated baskets for teammates; pretty sure there were no cheapies there. The only reason Yi Jianlian was the sole Net to shoot over 50 percent from the floor against this vaunted Magic defense is that Devin hit him in stride with a pair of long distance pinpoint passes on the break for easy dunks.
Judging from the injury report that just came down press row, either Vince Carter’s return is questionable or his sprained left ankle is.
Shorten the Nets’ collective penetration to ‘pen’, and Dwight Howard has been their pen’s eraser. Dude looks like Georgetown Patrick Ewing out there, catching shots for blocks, altering everything in sight and covering a ton of space with the quickness. He might not be able to hit a free throw, but the man owns the paint like Home Depot.
That said, a bit of free advice for the Nets: STOP DRIVING DIRECTLY INTO DWIGHT HOWARD. If insanity is defined as repeating the same actions and expecting a different result, the Nets are f**king crazy.
An underwhelming showing for DJ Kool Bob Barnes.
Although he does got rhymes like dimes.
The Magic are keeping the Nets at arms length, which is just fine when you have Dwight Howard’s arms.
The Nets have spaced the floor pretty well most of the night, but on many possessions there just isn’t enough movement. If anyone but Devin is barreling into the lane off of a late shot clock ISO, it’s not a good thing.
Brandon Bass continues a marvelous second half, and absolutely torches Yi on a dribble drive. This following a few midrange jumpers. Bass is a fantastic piece and a great addition, as we noted in July. I consider walking up to him after the game and beginning a conversation with, “so you’re good at basketball, what’s that like?”
Bass should be made an honorary Davis brother.
Devin Harris is NBA Jam on-fire, with a series of top-of-the-key jumpers, but it’s not all that impressive when you start out 4-13.
The Magic are up 11 with 3:11 to go, and that’s all the incentive people need to try and beat the traffic on the turnpike. They file out quietly like they’re leaving a wake.
The Nets can’t make a big shot when they need one to cut into the lead. When the Magic need a stop, they get a stop. Story of the game right there, condensed and boiled down like a hardboiled egg resting on a book of basketball cliches. Or something.
Final score, 95-85, Orlando. Vince never does make it back to the bench.
20, 22, 4 and +16 for Dwight Howard. “That’s not your mother, that’s a man, baby!”
Stan Van on Dwight: “That was the defensive player of the year playing like the defensive player of the year—he took the game over.”
How do you commit only six turnovers and still lose by 10? Shoot 38 percent against a beastly defense and lose your two best players to foul trouble for significant parts of the game.
A reporter sticks his head in the visitor’s locker room and asks Mickeal Pietrus for Marcin Gortat. Pietrus tells the man that Gortat is taking a shower. Jason Williams responds, loudly, something to the effect of: “say he’s WASHING HIS D*CK!” Everyone laughs. It’s funny because that’s what you do when you take a shower.
There’s an actual buffet table set up in the visitor’s locker room. Only Williams appears to be partaking.
There’s a long amazing exchange with Dwight Howard that I’ll post on Monday if it came out nicely on my recorder. Really, it’s rather incredible. That Dwight Howard is a hilarious fellow.
Dwight, Anthony Johnson and Jameer have their own little comedy cipher going. If the Magic locker room were a “Do The Right Thing” remake, Dwight would be Sweet Dick Willie. After a while they’d wander over to Stan’s Famous and wonder why there were so many coaches on the wall.
We were talking about jazz (the music, not the team) on the train ride back, and the two things—jazz and Dwight Howard postgame—led me to coin the phrase “Thelonious Assclown.” For what it’s worth, I’m of the belief that you can put almost any word after “Thelonious” and it sounds amazing. Kind of like Thelonious…