Cavs-Pistons Redux

by June 06, 2007
4

By Jake Appleman

My surreal Game 5 Cavs-Pistons experience:

Last Thursday afternoon I told Samonline I was a no go on game notes because my 3 on 3 team Both Teams Played Hard were set to take the court during Game 5. (Hey, if you can’t watch it, play it, right? Thankfully, Vincent Thomas came up big.) We planned to hit a bar immediately after our 4-set of games finished so we could watch the end of the game that could change the series.

Unfortunately, our plans were somewhat derailed. Late in our final game, our hustle and bustle, another prodigious Sam, went for a loose ball and ended up horizontal like Dennis Rodman before crashing into an electrical outlet jutting out of the wall. Blood gushed liberally and it seemed he was going to need stitches. We eventually relinquished our lead before winning in overtime and then I took Sam to the hospital.

I waited with Sam as he sought treatment for his gash, periodically checking the score of the game on my cell phone. When he was finally able to see the nurse, I hit the waiting room to catch the rest of the game. This was about half way through the fourth quarter. Almost on cue, teammates JE and Butters arrived from keeping score of the night’s final game with supplies: Vitamin Water and Sun Chips.

We settled in to the emergency room waiting area and began to watch some of the most epic basketball any of us had ever seen.

We ooh’d and ahh’d at LeBron’s two vicious dunks in the fourth quarter; alright, I’ll admit, I actually squealed. Almost as surreal as the experience of the back and forth at the end of regulation and overtimes were the people that stopped in to gawk at the TV.

Doctors and male nurses came out when they heard what was going on, staring on in disbelief before returning to the reality of their night shifts.

We’re also pretty sure a pimp was in the hospital as three bonafide hookers—though they may have been too hot to be hookers—strutted in sporting teency weency skin tight skirts replete with Chris Rock’s favorite, clear heels.

Friends of the pimp (presumably) and others entered and were wowed by LeBron’s exploits. We engaged in discourse about Bron’s grown-ass-man-ed-ness which was blossoming before our very eyes. Another man with what sounded like appendicitis moaned in pain, but he wasn’t nearly as vocal as we were. It got so loud that the receptionist actually had to tell us to shut up.

While the experience of watching this legendary performance in a hospital lobby was a bit strange, it was completely outdone by my 3 trips to fill Sam in between periods. Sam was stationed at the very back of a wing on the hospital’s first floor. To get to him I needed walk past all sorts of hospital patients. There was the guy lying on his side, catheter and corresponding urine easily visible to anyone walking by. There was the guy knocked out preparing for a surgery of some sort. There was the guy that seemed to be living his last days. And there was the mentally challenged fellow that couldn’t help but shout obscene things at anyone walking by. He was quite adamant about his demand that a female nurse fellate him and he also hurled a racial epithet at a Puerto Rican nurse.

The juxtaposition was completely freaky. Each time I walked through this hallway of lifelessness I couldn’t shake how alive game 5 was making me feel—somewhat impressive considering I had just worked a 9 hour day and played 2 hours of basketball—and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It didn’t matter what I walked past.

As for Sam, he got four staples in his scalp.

Trooper.

A few more very late Cavs-Pistons thoughts/ramblings:

–I said it before the Cavs-Pistons series to anyone that would listen: I couldn’t understand how a team coached by Flip Saunders with Chris Webber replacing Ben Wallace in the middle could actually be such overwhelming favorites. NOBODY—or at least so it seemed—even gave the Cavs a shot. I told our French connection, Pascal Giberne, on the bus back from the Cavs series clincher in Jersey that I wasn’t sure that Cleveland would win, but it would definitely be a tight series. I didn’t see how it wouldn’t be at least as competitive as last year. It wasn’t only Saunders’ track record that scared me; it was the added softness in the middle that would have to deal with LeBron on high pick and rolls late in games. (See the Game 5 winner as proof in the proverbial pudding.)

–Here’s what bothers me about the way many people assess the Cavs: “Pundits” complain that A) LeBron has no supporting cast and/or that B) Mike Brown is a terrible coach. Neither of these arguments is ever wholly accurate and, truth be told, they often reek of inarticulate plagiarism. I.E., “Oooh, sportswriter/blogger X (pick one) said it so it MUST be true.” The truth of the matter is that Mike Brown isn’t a bad coach. He especially isn’t a bad coach if you buy into the “LeBron has no Pippen thus he has no supporting cast” BS. (And yes, I’m talking about the many arguments that were made before Daniel Gibson started lactating.)

Flipping it, you can’t argue that the Cavs supporting cast sucks if you think Mike Brown is a bad coach either, because as much as you’d like to have your cake and eat it too, even LeBron—the guy you may think is out there on his own solitary island most of the time—would tell you take those excess calories and shove them.

LeBron James is a superstar. Mike Brown is a very good defensive coach. Defense wins championships. And LeBron is surrounded by good team defenders and a bunch of overall decent basketball players. That’s the truth.

By the way, I’ll say Spurs in six, but I’m giving the Cavs a 30% chance of winning the series. In other words, if Cleveland wins, I won’t be surprised. At all.

–During Game 4, when Drew Gooden when on his scoring spree, it conjured up memories of Charles Oakley being left open and burning teams that thought he couldn’t shoot late in his career. It’s not that Gooden’s J is as ugly as Oak’s was, but the defensive preference to leave him open and the subsequent poor rotations were eerily reminiscent of Oak’s glory years.

–One final random note: I’ve been randomly catching a lot of Inside The Actors Studio recently. While James Lipton’s job as the studio host appears on the surface to more or less orally please his famous guests, what makes the show eminently watchable is that the actors actually take his questions and expound with great stories, emotion and insight. The reason I bring this up is because I think we need an Inside the Athletes Studio. Bill Walton would the perfect host to shower his guests with excess superlatives. I think a show like this could actually bring various athletes out of their clichéd shells. Can you imagine LeBron, ten years from now, reminiscing honestly about his Game 5 heroics with added tidbits and details that we never knew before? It’d be amazing.