20 minutes to gametime

By Ben Osborne

Note: Konate’s new favorite song, “Party Like a Rock Star,” is blasting like it’s Summer Jam as I type this up.

For a variety of reasons, this is the first Finals game I’ve been at since the Spurs played the Nets in NJ in ’03. And it feels great to be here. Lang and I walked on to the court at 5:40 local time, greeted by the sound of Sasha Pavlovic and Zydrunas Ilgauskas shooting jumpers. I say sound because that’s how pure their shots are. Nearly every jumper that goes up—all from 20 feet or further—rips through the net with a whap that a crappy shooter like myself can only envy. After all, the sound that usually accompanies my shoot-around sessions is a clang off the rim. The other thing to note about seeing these guys—joined shortly thereafter by Damon Jones, wearing some absurd, too-short sweatpants but also straight cash on his shots—is that it would probably warm LeBron James’ heart. After all, you have to figure the Spurs will force the ball out of Bron’s hands and into the hands of these teammates, and if they wet shots like they’re doing right now this just may be a series.

While the Cavs keep shooting (while Oberto gets some shots up at the other end), Jordin Sparks takes the court to practice the national anthem. I’ve had a soft spot for her since I learned that her father is former Giant DB Phillippi Sparks (a 90’s favorite of mine on my favorite football team)…tonight I learned in person that she has a great voice (duh) and is definitely cute. For the sake of healthy girls everywhere, I’m hoping the women’s mags don’t force Jordin to starve herself as she becomes a bigger star.

Back to hoops. While Lang disappeared to politic with his boys in the locker rooms, I got wrapped up in David Stern’s press conference. The guy has his flaws and has made mistakes with the League we love, but man, you have to trust me that he is an absolute wizard when facing the press. Alternately argumentative, intellectual, witty and resolutely positive about the NBA, he answers every single question with aplomb. For comparison’s sake I look at the other sport I truly love (baseball), and think about the debacle that ensues every time Bud Selig fumbles and sweats his way through a press conference. Tackling a range of questions that included topics such as LeBron, the lottery, New Orleans and Sudan. I think veteran writers—which, technically, I am at this point—roll their eyes at the way he handles these questions, but I remain impressed by his skill in such a setting, and I am positive that the average Slamonline visitor—who has never been in the same room as Stern—would be impressed too. Some of his gems tonight include: the lottery (“Portland could certainly use the pick”), New Orleans (“we’re wrestling now with how we can cross over and make a contribution there beyond having a successful event”), and LeBron’s role in the future of the League (“think of him as representative of the future, whether with his class of DWade, Carmelo or Chris Bosh or the other young players that have excelled in these Playoffs, whether it’s a Carlos Boozer or a Dwight Howard, or a young kid like Chris Paul. We couldn’t be in better shape.”)

Yes, the praise is a little over the top, but seeing it in person—at least in rare doses—is pretty entertaining.

Less compelling but still interesting to a hoop nerd like me were Gregg Popovich and Mike Brown, who answer the commensurate pregame questions about energy levels and strategy. The press conferences wrap up at 7:15 local time.

Check back later as I may update during the game, and definitely log on after the game and tomorrow when Lang will be all over the site with his travelogues and game notes.

Now let’s play ball! (Go LeBron!)