by Toney Blare and Aggrey Sam
Note: Being that I (Aggrey) arrived at the game right before tipoff and bounced immediately afterwards, the bulk of this piece is the work of Toney Blare. But since I did take some notes, we’re gonna bite off Russ and Jake (like “Shark N*ggas” off the purple tape) and add my comments in italics, making this a GreyTone production. Enjoy. Or don’t.
Outside the arena, tonight’s Buzzfest features the Hot 8 Brass Band, whose founding member and snare drummer, Dinerral Shavers, was murdered a little over a year ago in a drive-by that shook the city. The Superdome provides a backdrop and, as always with this band, you feel a mixture of tragedy and pride when they start to move the crowd.
As anyone living here can tell you, history happens in the weirdest of ways. Take today, for example, when thousands of households will watch the Hornets on the Cox Sports network for the first time via a new deal with the Dish Network. Sounds banal to you, but it means advertising and ticket $ in the future for the Hornets, which hopefully contributes to many more years of NBA in New Orleans. I’m honored to be here for the occasion.
(There’s also talk from George Shinn of a 10-year, no-outlet clause lease–this only two months after signing the current, nerve-wracking deal–but let’s not talk about any of this and jinx everything.)
-Since I just arrived in the N.O., I’m extremely amped about the prospect of this. But I don’t wanna jinx it, so that’s all I have to say about that. Also, while Toney was enjoying Buzzfest, I was sending in my two story assignments for the upcoming issue (relatively on time!) to SLAM Managing Editor Susan Price. All that work makes me thirsty. I could sure use a grape soda.
Speaking of milestones: Rudeboy Bruce Bowen starts and thus plays in his 500th game straight tonight, the longest active streaks in the L. In honor of AC Green, I don’t even look at a Honeybee, I just primp my hair.
Game ball is presented by a guy from the Navy who rocks a blue t-shirt that reads “NAS Basketball.” Probably stands for Navy A.. Something.., or else maybe the great art form of our time is, like, dead or a gifted emcee-turned-would-be-marketing-genius.
Aggrey shows up with some grape soda, which he says is the drink of all black people. I counter with the RC Cola, which I maintain is the syrup of a few white people.
We decide to try some Russ-Jake ish, but I worry if we know enough about Ghostface and speed metal to really make it work.
-Toney comments that Hornets emcee Rob Nice always looks high and while he used to really be on dude’s case for being corny, he now feels bad for him because his job is similar to that of a carnival barker. As he walks by us, I concur with the first part. Also of note: Jacque Vaughn, of all people, is the Spurs’ hype man with the elaborate pregame greetings for all his teammates. Has anyone else ever noticed this? Later in the game, a drunk woman behind us will ask me where he went to college. Kansas, of course, where during his senior year people like Dick Vitale and Billy Packer would say he was the best point guard in the country, despite the presence of one Allen Iverson, who Packer would call “a tough monkey” in the same season. Jacque seems like a great guy, but I’ve always held a grudge over that.
-After what seems an eternity, Tyson Chandler has lost the fro-hawk. Is the Birdman’s return merely coincidental?
-Free Birdman! Let’s see what Melvin Ely does tonight, but the combination of him and Motel 6 backing up Tyson makes me uncomfortable.
-Tony Parker vs. Chris Paul should be interesting, since both change speeds and dart around a lot. Early on, Tony uses the screens well, but Chris seems to have more in his trick bag.
-CP makes a nice steal in space against TP. Saw him do that to Jason Kidd a few weeks back, too. All-Defensive Team? He does lead the League in steals.
-Morris Peterson hits a 3 to make it 13-10 and Pop wants a TO. Pop is not wanting, however, in spring fashion sense, rocking a sort of yachtsman costume. I kinda miss the crew-cut, boxy black suit Pop.-D-West is using Kooky Kurt Thomas, who gets in foul trouble and looks confused…ok, the foul trouble is the thing here. Enter Bob Horry.
-Krazy Eyes Kurt is indeed getting worked, although I think that was an extremely underrated pickup by the Spurs. I remember a Spurs advance scout telling me a while back that David West is an automatic double team for them now, after he gave them hell the last time they played the Hornets. Looks like Pop didn’t get the message. Toney remarks that Bob Horry seems to be playing more than he did last year, when he just started getting burn in time to be a goon/his usual clutch self in the playoffs. Interesting. I also find it interesting that he’s somehow developed a post game in his old age. Seriously, in all his various incarnations–fake Pippen with the Rockets, towel-thrower with the Suns, clutch shooter with the Lakers, cagey vet with the Spurs–have you ever seen him really work somebody in the post using his footwork? Usually, he just shoots jumpers, drives all the way to the rack for an explosive dunk or makes the correct pass.
-Things tighten up to 21-20 Hornets with 1:30 left. Julian Wright does a typically Julian Wright move, blowing an alley oop from CP3, then putting back the rebound. The giraffe calf has come on the last 3 games, which is the latest bright spot in Hornets land.
-I prefer the moniker “baby colt” for Julian. Toney is funny as hell, telling me a story about Julian in the locker room. The rook said he could run to the West Bank (about 10 miles from downtown N.O.) in about 40 minutes, making him damn near superhuman.
-But Chris Paul is the sun, hitting a jumper to put the Bees up 25-21 with 40 seconds to go. Parker comes back with a basket to end the quarter. He has 13 pts, no assists to CP3’s 10, 4, and 2 steals. This is prophetic.
-TP gets to the rack and finishes at will, but he definitely isn’t running the show like a pure point, no matter what Gilbert Arenas tells you. CP is having problems checking him, but the opposite is also the truth, with Paul knocking down jumpers as Parker continually goes under screens.
-Bowen-Ely-Bonzi-Pargo Tyme-Giraffe Calf vs. Mighty Mouse-Ginobli!-Oberto-Udoka-Horry in a big time Western Conf match-up. That right there is why I love the NBA.
-Ryan Bowen was recently photographed at a Chris Paul-Jordan Brand party wearing a long sleeved, collarless, blue and green plaid shirt that may or may not have come from LL Bean or my seventh grade closet. You say, huh? I say, real.
-Ryan Bowen is a G.
-Michael Finley hits over Bonzi. There are a few vets from earlier playoff battles in the West Conf—those two, Peja, Mighty Mouse, Horry. Pretty much all of them have probably hated Horry at some point.
-The starters filter back in, until the Hornets 1st unit is there with Bonzi, which might be where things are headed for the Hornets come May. Moments later, Bonzi catches his 1st CP3 alley-oop.
-For awhile now, I’ve thought that Manu’s game is AI-influenced, and Aggrey concurs as Manu gets hits a layup +1. He’s reckless, clutches the ball the same way, and draws a lot of contact. He’ll also get on fire from outside and inspires love and hate. Were the Sixers on Argentine television?
-Think about it. They’re both unorthodox, incredibly hard to guard, excellent at drawing contact and have tremendous motors. The word you’re looking for to describe the brilliance of this GreyTone revelation is “astute.”
-Peja drops a 3, but the Spurs come back, and when West gets to the FT line with 1:21 left in the half, it’s 44-39.
-The whole Big Fundamental moniker makes way more sense in person. The Robot drops a flawless turnaround bank shot, as designed.
-The half ends with Kooky Kurt hitting the floor and his man, D-West hitting a reverse lay-up for 48-41.
Some bucket players from Chicago show up and Aggrey recognizes them from bygone halftime shows. I say it’s cool and all, but when we have about 8 million drummers in town, why exactly do we get this? The NBA must contract acts for several cities. Does anyone know? We dip and hit the cookie line in the press room, where a Honeybee keeps saying “sugar, sugar.” Indeed.
-I saw those dudes last spring, when I was at the Roundball Classic. Plus, no offense to Chicago or New Orleans, but I’m from the place where the best bucket drummers in the world are produced. Word to Slim Charles’ first occupation.
-This and that, and then CP3 hits 3 shots in a row to make it 58-49, and Pop calls a timeout, then shoots TP a look like a wife does an errant husband. Speaking of, where’s Eva been lately?
-I saw Eva during All-Star, at that EA Sports video game challenge that Parker won. She’s so tiny, I could put her in my pocket.
-Huh. Byron Scott just yelled at a ref. Where am I?
-Byron was my favorite Laker back in the day. Chill, I was a Pistons fan, so it makes sense. Isiah was my guy. Don’t ask. Anyway, my man refuses to get out of his B-boy stance for entire ballgames. There are timeouts where he watches on-court entertainment like those hamster ball races, while CP and an assistant run the huddle. Does he not see history repeating himself? How can a man associated with arguably the three top point guards of their era (played with Magic, J-Kidd in Jersey, CP for the future?) be so clueless? He will be expendable if this keeps up, depending on how far the Hornets go in the next postseason or two. My vote’s for Eddie Jordan (not the former New Orleans DA; Google it, it’s crazy like Spitzer) in 2009-10.
-Dope, too, to see the Big Fundamental in person raising his hands to protest a call. That’s an icon, people.
-Bruce Bowen starts doing his BS, and the game threatens to get outta hand. In the slow evolution of our post-Katrina fanbase, I do believe this is the loudest booing I’ve heard from an N.O. crowd. An old lady in a sky blue sweater is seen on the jumbotron heavy trippin’, and when Bowen stands over a fallen CP3, then knees him in a chest (I mean, 500 games and no one—NBA or team enforcers–has put a stop to this?), the place gets downright ugly. Good. We’re gonna need some rage come playoff time.
-Toney: “I feel like these fans are just learning when to boo.” That could be true, but at least they’re learning. And as far as an enforcer, I think Bonzi fits the bill.
-I worry, though, that the Hornets will get pushed around then, too, and that maybe they’re too young to handle it. Instead, David West hits 2 shots in a row to stretch the lead to 64-53 with 4:00 to go, but then rolls his ankle and disappears in the tunnel as TP hits 1 of 2 FT’s. West looked OK, but you’re reminded that the Hornets can’t afford to lose anyone for the next month and still make the post-season.
-Peja drops a turnaround, then Julian Wright hits a beautiful, perfect spin and pop jumper. Right before our eyes, a calf becomes a…uh, an adult giraffe.
-During a TO, two guys in inflatable hamster wheels race to a tie and Aggrey comments on how good they both were at that. Both look like the-boy-in-the-bubble types, so I’m not surprised.
-I guarantee y’all that Byron Scott could give you more insight on this than either of us. He was paying rapt attention to this.
-Timmy and Manu hit, the lead is 72-60, and right when I think a run is coming, Peja hits, then answers TP’s 3 with a jumper. David West returns to general applause and buries a shot for 76-65 and audience explosion.
-Quarter ends 76-67. CP3 has 26 and 15, Tony 26…and 4. And that right there is why the Finals MVP never comes up in debates over best PG.
-Oberto, you can’t handle Melvin Ely and, as in many other things, you are quite unique.
-Bonzi Wells fast-break lay-up, then West again. 82-69. Jacque Vaughn drops a 3. We’re a little stunned.
-Then, Jacque shoots another trey on the next possession. A little trigger-happy, aren’t we?
-On the Hornets end, Bonzi hits someone with a hard pick and visibly shudders. Aggrey says he jiggles, but either way, Bonzi Wells is bodying dudes up out there. He and Ely sandwich Ginobli twice, and then Bonzi hits him with the forearm shiver for no good reason and a foul on the Spurs end. I’m OK with that.
-Bonzi is the one “non-nice guy” on the team (unless Mike James’ insanity puts him in that category) and the Hornets need some of that. Manu is an irritating cat, so it’s nice to know somebody on the squad can put him in his place.
-Where, SLAM wonders, is Mike James?
-Toney: “He was never the same after that SLAM Radio interview.” There’s your answer.
-We note that, unlike several other alumni—Damon, Sheed, the Nanny Stopper, gangsta Sabonis—Bonzi really never left the whole Jailblazers mentality behind, and now he’s griping to the refs something awful. Aggrey adds that Qyntel Woods was the original Mike Vick, and I say I heard Mike is now friends with the head of PETA, but how good of friends can you be with a guy in jail? I mean, you’re not watchin movies together, or whatever.
-Why was Qyntel’s dogfighting bizarre and Vick’s was heinous? Why are there double standards like Quincy Carter being on dope was irresponsible and Birdman being on dope was battling an addiction? Why’d McGreevey get caught with a lizard? Why’d Spitzer spend 80 G’s on whores? Why?
-Anyway, when David West hits a baseline jumper with 4:00 to go to make it 88-71, the crowd is on their feet, growling and cheering. West follows the timeout with a 3, and Pop pulls his starters. Miraculously, and just after we were both complaining about him, B-Scott follows suit.
-Finally, some coaching. As Toney said, one day he’s gonna leave the starters in too long during a blowout win and somebody will get hurt. Maybe I shouldn’t write that.
-Garbage time ensues, which means Red Rocket Matt Bonner shoots a couple FT’s and Mike James brings the slick lay-up, everybody wishes we’d dressed the Birdman, and things collapse to a close, 100-75 Hornets.
-While Aggrey angrily confronts the Honeybees’ coach, I stand around and watch the last bit of confetti fall. CP3 and TP both finish with 26, West and the Robot get 29 each (amazing that we’re at the point where they cancel each other out), and Ginobli only has 11. The difference: Chris had 17 assists and, at least tonight, the Spurs bench looked a lot weaker than the Hornets’.
-I wasn’t angry. I just look mad sometimes when I’m really not. My mind thinks my face is making an expression connoting urgency, since I go about a lot of my life in a very laissez-faire fashion. Just a glimpse inside my soul. Anyway, I was doing it for y’all, the SLAMonline.com readers. Don’t you want Honeybees? Don’t you want justice? At this point, I left the arena. Hope you enjoyed this GreyTone production. Take us home, Toney. Chef and Ghost couldn’t do duets any better. Pleasure working with you.
-Pop emerges from the visitor’s locker room. “Defense, they shot the ball well, any way you slice it, they did a great job.” There’s something unassuming yet intimidating about him, though he’s not as big a guy as I thought.
An awkward pause from the beat writers follows, and then one asks, “The Hornets opened up a big 17-4 run in the 4th quarter. What was the difference?”
Pop looks at him dead-eyed, and says, “Um, the Hornets shot the ball and it went in the hole, 17-4….great question.”
Pop glances at me, and I break out laughing, and then I break.