Game Notes: Cavs at Bulls
Observing ‘The King’ and his court.
by Bryan Crawford / @from_the_chi
So which story do you want from Friday night’s Bulls vs Cavaliers game? The one where the Bulls came into the game having lost nine in a row, with ten almost being a foregone conclusion playing the Cavaliers? Or what about the one where LeBron James came in just three points shy of 15,000 for his career, making him the youngest player ever to reach that mark? How about Derrick Rose’s still injured left wrist? Or Joakim Noah’s foot? Or Luol Deng’s strained calf?
Those things have been discussed enough. This story is more about what it’s like covering LeBron James and his Cavaliers squad and how when they come in, they pretty much make their own rules while taking over your arena in the process.
But first, the game…
Under normal circumstances, without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng, the Cavaliers should’ve blown the Bulls out of the building. But that wasn’t the case on Friday night and both teams were playing under anything but normal conditions. On Thursday night, Jay-Z brought his Blueprint 3 tour to Chicago and he played in the United Center. Players from both teams were there and afterwards, LeBron and Jay-Z were hosted an after party at a hot South Loop nightspot called The Shrine and again, players from both teams were present.
The difference being while most of the Bulls players who attended the after party pretty much got in and got out, some of the Cavs players (LeBron James included) clearly stayed out a bit later than they probably should’ve and it showed before the game and also in their play on the court. The Bulls took advantage of those things and gave them a much closer and much harder fought game than anyone expected.
In fact, through the first three quarters of play, Chicago was right there with Cleveland and going into the fourth quarter, the Bulls were only down four points. The Cavs only had two players in double figures scoring (LeBron and Mo Williams), and Bron was 4-12 from the field and only had 16 points.
But in the fourth quarter you found out why they call him “The King”.
He sat out the first five minutes of the quarter and when he got in the game, the Bulls were in the midst of a 10-7 run and had cut the lead to one. When LeBron checked in, the first play they ran for him was a lob which he converted–of course–and led to him scoring 13 points (he finished the game with 29 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals) which effectively put the game out of reach for the Bulls as the Cavaliers handed them their tenth straight loss.
But enough of that, let’s just go over some random notes and observations from what it’s like covering the best team in basketball with arguably the best player in the game today. I’ve heard it said many times that LeBron James feels a sense of entitlement and likes to be catered to, but it seems that attitude has trickled down to some people in the organization as well.
**Everything for LeBron is laid out for him meticulously before the game. He uses two lockers, one for his clothes and the other for his game uniform and gear. His jersey hung in the adjacent locker and his game shorts were folded neatly on the back of a chair. His rubber wristbands and headband that he wears were also sitting neatly on the chair (brand new in the pack), his very large Nike sandals were sitting in front of the chair lightly dusted with foot-powder, his pristine white and gold LeBron 7′s (available only in China) were sitting next to his sandals, and there were rose petals leading from his locker room to the shower area. That last part was a joke.
** During LeBron James’ pre-game shootaround, KC Johnson, a Bulls beat reporter for the Chicago Tribune asked the Cavs PR person if LeBron James would speak before the game. He answered that he “probably” would, but not until around 6pm or so. That would’ve been fine if only that wasn’t the same time as Vinny Del Negro’s usual pre-game presser. We all kind of joked that the media would leave VDN standing there mid-sentence as we all rushed from him to get to LeBron.
**During his pre-game shooting, LeBron missed just about every jumper he took as he pretty much just worked himself around the horn from corner-to-corner jacking up threes. I predicted that he would score 40 points and get a triple-double. I was almost right on the triple-double part.
**Typically, locker rooms open about 90 minutes prior to tip-off. In this case, 5:30 pm for the Bulls since all of their games start at 7pm. The Cavs PR person didn’t open their locker room to the media until about 5:50pm which left a lot of reporters just standing around for 25 minutes waiting to talk to you-know-who who incidentally didn’t come back into the locker room until 6:10 pm and went straight into the shower/training room area. Media access ended five minutes later.
**Before the teams exited the locker room, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, and Anthony Parker were in the hallway doing some stretching and having a little fun telling stories and cracking jokes. This went on for about 5 minutes until LeBron literally came bursting out of the locker room with the rest of the team following him. He shot a glance in the direction of his three teammates already in the hallway and they instantly became silent and straight-faced and fell in line behind “The King”.
**You’ve all seen Randy Mims before, you probably just don’t know his name. He’s Bron’s long-time friend and personal road manager during the season. He was the light-skinned guy doing the Kid-and-Play kickstep with LeBron in the All-State insurance commercial. If you watch Cleveland’s games, look closely behind the bench and you’ll see him. At halftime, he was ordering food for himself via the Bulls locker room attendant. It was a turkey burger and he was explaining to the attendant that it HAD to be prepped a certain way and that he didn’t want it until after the game. He also ordered a pretzel to eat during the second half and he wanted the attendant to bring it to his seat behind the bench and he wanted it broken up into small pieces and put inside a Gatorade cup. Then he told him, “And wash your hands.” Randy is a cool guy but I wanted to tell him, “Break up your own damn pretzel.”
**Coming out of the locker room at halftime, LeBron caught Danny Green in a corner and farted on him. The look on Green’s face was priceless which made the whole thing hilarious.
**Ten minutes after the game ends, the visiting coach usually does his post game presser with the locker rooms opening about five minutes after that. Once again, we were on the Cavs schedule. Mike Brown didn’t do his post-game presser until about fifteen minutes after the game and the locker rooms didn’t open until about ten minutes after that. When it did finally open up, only the Cavs local camera crew and reporter was allowed in the first (I would learn later that this would be so their camera’s could get prime position to speak to LeBron) and then a couple minutes later everyone else was allowed in. I filmed Bron’s post-game comments on my Flipcam holding it almost above my head and down just to get the shot while I stood behind so many people that I couldn’t even see him.
**After his post-game interview, Bulls legend Bob Love brought some kids with him into the Cavs locker room to meet LeBron and get autographs. I guessed the kids were his grandson’s but I wasn’t too sure. LeBron was very cordial to Mr. Love and honored his request, that is until one of the kids asked to have their hat signed. He almost signed it until he realized it was a Boston Red Sox cap and said, “Uh uh, I ain’t signing that. I’m a Yankees fan. That might be a curse.” The kid kind of looked shocked at first and then asked LeBron if he would just sign it anyway. He responded with, “No. That’s like me signing a pair of Adidas.” He did give the kids high-five’s and told them all to stay up and be good and they seemed pretty pleased, even the kid that got dissed who ended up getting nothing at all signed because the hat was all he had.