By DJ Toney Blare 2-29-08
Things done changed. In the street between the N.O. Arena and the Superdome, the Hornets’ FanFest is bumping, with a band playing hometown music and the line for $1 beers longer and decidedly younger than in months past, and the buzz no longer a bad pun. Hornets games feel like the beginning of a new thing, the crowds growing game by game like fast-moving clouds. Snarky national columnists should take note that tonight is the 4th sellout in 6 games. Hopefully the wannabe cultural anthropologists dig this phenomenon as eagerly as they predicted the team’s demise.
Local trombone-based funk band Bonerama plays the anthem. Lang’s man, Trombone Shorty, is not present, but remember his name—he’ll be the next big national star to come out of our music scene. Tonight, though, the Jumbotron flashes the word “Bonerama.” Yep.
Anyway, man, I’m amped for this one. CP3 vs. DWill, front row, Friday night!
-Early free throw attempts by David West gives us AK-47/Peja/Okur waiting on one side of the key. That’s a lot of political turmoil in the last few months.
-Things are a little tight for the first few minutes, but the Hornets turn it on with a Peja 3 to make it 15-10. CP3 has him permanently on the radar lately, and the success of that connection is a big part of the fate of the Bees. Chris drops a 3 of his own and Sloan wants a timeout.
-Tonight, folks, a father will explain every play to his son and wife, directly behind me, along with the thunder sticks. You know, I think my dad let me figure it out for myself, boss, and check out these seats.
-The TO fails, and the Hornets’ run continues. I don’t have the best view of him, but it’s amazing how focused Sloan is. He stands in a semi-crouch and watches the ball like he was out there rebounding. This is the 1st Quarter, but he’s obviously studying and re-planning. He better come up with something for Chris Paul, though, cause he just changed speed about 6 times on DWill, finishing with a dish to Motel 6. 28-10. Dwill sits.
-Peja +1 and a Pargo 3 in Ashton’s face make it 36-11. Sitting this close, I note that Hugo the Hornet’s giant turquoise head is getting a little grimey after almost 60 games and who knows how many freaky parties in the Quarter. Better wash your face for the playoffs, player.
-Quarter ends 38-15 N.O. and CP2 sports a 13-7-3 line, with 2 steals. So I guess now the entire debate switches to his side for a few minutes, right? I mean, if Skills Challenges count and all, don’t first quarters in regular season games?
-The crowd is rocking to start the second. I wonder how that looks on ESPN. Please advise.
-Both teams bring out 5 reserves, a sign that the Hornets wore themselves out shooting, and that Sloan is figuring on a long game. Either that, or he’s flat disgusted. Speaking of dirty, we’re looking at Rasual Butler-Mike James!-Pargo-Hotel 6 Armstrong-and the ill gym teach, Ryan Bowen VS. Korver-Collins the …?-Georgia Peach Matt Harpring-Ronnie Price-Paul Millsap.
-Beyond my obvious excitement of a reunion with a SLAM Radio star, I’m down with Mike James’ ability to slash and act completely nuts to replace Bobby Jackson, who at this point is an older Jannero Pargo (crazy, isn’t it?). He hits a lay-up for 44-17. “Ask Matt Harpring how he feels when he plays Mike James!”
-Jadakiss in the house! We rarely have NY rappers in the arena, but there’s a CP3 shoe release party tonight. Also here-CLUUUE!!
-David West returns and gets a put back, 47-23. The All-Star confidence manifests in a new scrappiness. While the beginning of the season made me wonder if DWest was enough of a banger to play the 4 in the West, now I’m thinking he’s up to whatever route this team takes. The difference between him and Boozer is no longer a negative for the Hornets, a big change in the CP3-DWill saga.
-Which is seriously physical. The refs mostly let it happen, too, which means slapping and hip-checking. Obviously Deron is the larger, but he doesn’t have the many different gears of the #4 pick, who’s doing things I haven’t seen all year in terms of tricks and handle. Wow.
-Maximum respect to the Hornets for bringing in “HDL,” the Hornets drumline, made up of high schoolers with 3.0+ GPAs. Byron Scott really digs them. I mean, more than, say, talking to his team during a timeout.
-The last half of the 2nd, the Jazz show life, with an Okur 3, the Hornets cooling off, and DWill bucking Chris successfully. He hits a long 3 to close the half at 58-45. Daron: 9-1-3 with 3 turnovers. CP2: 19-3-7, 1 turnover, 2 steals.
Yeah. The Xavier Prep Marching Band is the show tonight. That’s what I’ve been talking about since last year, getting that local talent involved. And they play “Backstabbers” by the O’Jays. Dope.
-Speaking of local talent, whenever Mo-Pete scores, they play a clip of “Fresh-fresh-f-f-f-fresh” from Mannie. No one mentioned this in their ASG recap, but when I noted a Hot Boys reunion at the SLAM Sunday lunch, someone correctly asked, “How can it be a reunion without Young Turk?” A short debate ensued re: Young Turk’s feelings at a time like this.
-The game threatens to tighten up. Okur cuts the lead to 67-55 and Brewer catches a Deron laser under the basket. As a team, the Jazz pass really well, and Okur is a lot craftier than I thought, more than just an outside big man, but with duck under scoop shots and other post moves part of his ill-shaven arsenal.
-AK-47, however, disappoints. He does hit a long 2 to cut it to 81-71, but overall, his D on Peja isn’t that impressive and all that “glue guy” sht is nowhere to be found tonight. Of course, maybe he’s been enjoying the wonders of New Orleans…
-…although the whole “AK-47 gets a freebie” joke is a little old now. Is the whole “Boozer shouldn’t have betrayed a blind man and the King” just as dated, or will we always wonder? Four years later, he’s still the best teammate Lebron’s had.
-When a DWill 3 makes it 85-77 at the end of the 3rd, I start to wonder if a timeout 2 possessions ago would’ve been wise, and what the playoffs and the resultant chess matches will look like with Byron in control and laissez faire. And I wonder how the ultracompetitive CP3 will suffer this foolishness.
-During the break, a guy climbs a ladder to fix the backboard camera. You wouldn’t believe how jerry-rigged that thing is, attached to the glass with a wad of black duct tape, like a grasshopper stuck in tar.
-Aggrey’s Motel 6 moniker is pretty on point for Hilton Armstrong, who should lose minutes when Bonzi gets healthy, though I lean towards “Nicky,” for the way he’s too skinny, often gets played out by stars, and the actual slight improvements in Motel 6’s the last few years.
-Sloan doesn’t put DWill in for the 1st 2 minutes, which is an ungodly smart move. The lead is now at 8 and the point guard gets an extra breather and time to watch things unfold, then dives back in with the lead shrinking. That’s a coach. DWill immediately hits from the top of the key, 89-83, then follows a Chris miss by getting fouled.
-After a timeout, it only gets rougher. Bodies fly in a battle for a loose ball, ending with CP3 and a few others on the ground. An AK-47 is perfect for such brutish times, and his 2 makes it 89-85 with 6:30 to go.
-But here’s the thing lately: Peja is back. Not quite 2004 Peja, but the kind of timely assassin who drops a 3 to explode the crowd and spark a counter-offensive. Really, if he keeps hitting game-changers, this is not the team anyone wants in the playoffs.
-We seem to be on the verge of what the Hornets TV announcers lovingly refer to as “Pargo Time!” He hits a big two, and counters the Jazz with 7 points in a row. Myself, I think “Pargo Time” sounds like an ad for spaghetti sauce. Peja hits another 3 from the corner to make it 102-91. Utah calls a timeout, and for some reason CP3 is left standing in front of the Utah huddle, barking something at someone (DWill’s at the other end, so it’s not him). Perhaps he’s asking, “How does Pargo Time feel now, son?” Perhaps not.
-Either way, the fans are freaking out. If this doesn’t get us another ESPN game, nothing will. What’s going on is so seriously hopeful, with such a defiant edge, you feel like the entire crowd is cheering for New Orleans, the city as well as the team. Like, “F*ck everything, this is our place!” The World Wide Leader is missing out on the best drama in the L this year, and god knows they love them some drama.
-Out of the timeout, Brewer again catches the ball under the hoop and dunks. What follows are the most important possessions of the game. Tyson’s had a good night so far, but really beasting on this one, snatching a rebound that leads to a DWest miss on the break. CP3 grabs another steal, and West hits the putback, 106-93. AK-47 drops a 3, but Paul to West to Pargo for 3 makes it 109-96 with 1:29 to go. Cue the shower of MVP chants when CP3 gets to the foul line a few seconds later. I don’t know if anyone who watched this game could argue with that sentiment at this point.
-Utah has collapsed, with the Bees grabbing the rebound on CP3’s second shot. This insane quarter and game ends a few ticks later, 110-98. Wow.
-CP3 finishes with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 16 assists, and a loony 5 steals. DWill gets 22, 2, and 10, and was almost as impressive. I don’t think we’ll get to the bottom of this debate for awhile, and that’s the best thing about it. We just saw the next 10 years of Western Conference title clashes. Pretty sure we all win.
-Jerry Sloan is a little depressed, saying, “They were all over us, they wouldn’t let us do anything and we just stood there and watched.” I think he means the 1st Quarter, because things did get a lot better than that.
-I am the lucky observer of the first meeting of owner George Shinn, his son Chad Shinn, and Bonzi Wells. Man, if only they allowed photos in here. That is a Where….Happens moment if there ever was one.
-And you know I hit Mike James up about boxing. He said he needed to find a gym and I told him about one uptown on Freret St. Mike seemed happy and very into body lotion, and so I moved on.
-I asked Tyson, “Can you feel the crowd changing the last few games?” “Definitely.”
-Peja has a burly guy from a Greek newspaper at his locker, and the duo sorta reminds me of Borat and his agent. In serious matters, I ask Peja about the situation with Kosovo. He obviously has strong feelings. “I don’t know what to say. That is our (Serbia’s) heart. You’re talking about something that goes back to the 14th century. I mean, where are you from?” “Pittsburgh. There’s a lot of Serbs there.” “Well, it’s hard to explain. I just hope the world sees the truth about this.” He looks genuinely concerned and a little pissed, as, regardless of your take, any of us probably would be if our country was in that very murky situation. “Nice game,” I tell him.
-Being the ambassadorial fellow I am, I take the opportunity to welcome Bonzi to New Orleans.
“Thank you, playboy, I appreciate that.”
And I’m out.