An Appleson production fresh for ’07. Oscar night. The Continental Airlines Arena. Snow. Local teams battling for supremacy (mediocracy?). Jake taking notes on his laptop, me cracking wise with Chris Sheridan for half the game. Vince Carter. Jerome James and Jason Collins contending for “worst NBA starter” honors. Lots of complimentary bottles of Aquafina. And an inexplicable 6 p.m. start.
Anyways, gonna try something a little different today—Jake with the majority (normal type) and Russ with the annotations and parentheticals (in italics). Just gonna let it do what it do baby yeah.
• For some reason—laziness I guess—I haven’t updated my iPod mini to include my most recent music, so some really old stuff that I don’t usually listen to is on there. I had it on shuffle, and when I was on the bus line at Port Authority waiting for Russ, Sam’s first SLAM Radio freestyle came up. Just as it came on, Russ appeared, coming up the escalator. I just started cracking up. Once he got to the line, I gave the earphones to Russ and he started cracking up. [I’d never heard it before, and let me just say that Sam can battle.] For the rest of the afternoon, I felt how one must feel when they smoke crack. I was wired! So, um, thanks Sam! I can’t imagine how great I would have felt if his second freestyle—which I don’t have and he should post on the internet because it’s great—came up. I might have spontaneously combusted. Just a weird day all around. I think I had an adrenaline carry-over from the incredibly entertaining Madrid derby that I watched yesterday with a bunch of screaming Spaniards. There also might be some White Rapper karma in there.
• Russ and I are chatting with Steve Francis and he says something along the lines of, “ya’ll are slipping cause you don’t have any magazines with you.” I tell him I’ve got a copy of the new issue with me if he wants it. He does, and he even follows me half the way to the media room before realizing that he probably shouldn’t be putting that much stress on his knee. I go to fetch the mag for him, only before noting out loud that he gets the mag over Russ because he makes more money. [I can’t argue with that. Somebody send me an issue, though.] Speaking of “out loud”, I think I really must have been smoking some crack that I didn’t know about [DISCLAIMER: Jake does not do drugs. It did seem like he was on a dozen or so Krispy Kreme high, though.] because when David Lee, lying on the trainer’s table [in shirt and tie, inactive], asked why he couldn’t get a SLAM cover [he seems to think—most likely in jest—that we don’t like white people. When we mentioned Dirk and Nash, he amended it to white AMERICAN people. Keith Van Horn, stand up!], I started talking about how we should just run a cover of him that says, “Why Don’t I Start?” across it. Francis whispered that D-Lee plays better when he comes off the bench, perhaps to avoid any sort of incident. Still, this went on for a LONG time. Only did I realize afterwards that Jerome James was sprawled out on the other trainer’s table RIGHT NEXT to D-Lee. I think he was wearing headphones, but I’m not sure. How did I not notice JEROME JAMES—like I said, I think accidentally smoked some crack. For more details about this wonderful experience, here’s Russ:
• There’s really not much more to share other than either a) Jerome was wearing headphones, b) Jerome wasn’t paying attention, or c) Jerome James doesn’t care because he’s an NBA starter making $6 million per and we’re just a couple of lousy journalists who don’t even get per diem money. I’m kind of leaning toward c). And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t notice Jerome lying there either. Which is odd, because I DID notice Kelvin Cato across from Francis, and Eddy Curry in a back corner with Jamal Crawford. Who else could it have been on the other table? Willy?
• Just shooting the breeze with Francis (who I’ve gotten to know fairly well after doing the solo Rockets cover story with him a thousand years ago) he mentions that his year is probably over due to his chronic knee problems. Here’s hoping he makes it back anyway.
• Even the Fajita beef tasted great. I love corn! B+ [As we’re getting served, I tell Jake that I need to get both the beef and the chicken in order to get my Ruth Reichl on. He has no idea what I’m talking about.]
• The game’s first possession: Carter comes around a screen and misses a three. Makeable shot though. He seems energized.
• Jerome James throws an over the top one handed pass that gets deflected. The Knicks retain possession and James gets it back, before hitting an awkward, stumbling one handed layup. He picks up a foul on Jersey’s next possession. I’m still hoping he didn’t hear me earlier. I could be his Oscars dinner. [He somehow has two points, a rebound, a foul and an almost-turnover in just over a minute. Productive night so far.]
• Russ and Chris Sheridan are talking about Vince Carter’s tights. Keep it up, fellas. [It’s just hard to tell what Vince is wearing. I know tights are supposed to be illegal and all, but his legs are entirely covered with some combination of compression shorts, tall socks, what I think are knee wraps and maybe even those neoprene calf wraps. What kind of difference it would make if he were wearing one piece instead of six, I have no idea. Oh, and to make it clear, I think I was doing all the talking on that subject. Chris was probably as confused as Jake.]
• Mikki Moore drops in a top of the key jumper. He’s hitting that with constancy now. If Moore can somehow go to the 17 foot jumper patent office and get Kurt Thomas’s signature, he’ll be all set for his new contract. [It strikes me that Mikki does everything Channing Frye does—and provides toughness in the post—yet he was an NBDL pickup while Channing was a lottery pick. I don’t get it either.]
• Starbury still has that blazing speed when he needs it. He’s been getting healthy for a while now. [Make no mistake, I’m sure Steph also gets up a little more to play in the Continental against Kidd (who apparently is still playing with that cracked rib). Cracked rib, bitter divorce—can anything slow this guy down? He should be part of the Justice League or something.]
• 9:12 left in the first quarter and I finally noticed Antoine Wright. [I didn’t.]
• Steph plays tough screen and roll D on Kidd and Moore, recovering quickly. Worth noting.
• Jerome James hits another putback. Mikki responds with a dunk off a feed from VC. James comes down and misses a jumper. JEROME JAMES. [Tonight, at least, Jason Collins is worse.]
• The Knicks fans in the house are buzzing. [And there are a lot of them. It’s pretty much a full house.]
• That’s twice now that Antoine Wright has gone to the hole hard and flipped up a flimsy shot. The second try gets emphatically sent back by E-City.
• I’m *$#*&#$(*P#$U(EI()(@#$@$#*()$#*()$#*()$#)(*#$)(*$#)(*# wired right now… [It’s worth noting here that Jake—already buzzing on the bus—grabbed two “Energy” from the complementary Vitamin Water cooler in the press room. This, perhaps, was not such a wise choice. I’m just saying.]
• Channing Frye wins round one of the length matchup, drilling a jumper over Mikki Moore. [Except Mikki Moore already hit a long jumper of his own. Jake is a hater.]
• Gary Sussman is sidepocket.
• Boston Snackbar checks in for the struggling Wright. VC slides to the 2 and is now guarding Jamal Crawford in the gunners mathcup (matchup…I’m choosing to keep that typo). Related: If there was a gunner’s mathcup, Chris Bosh would probably win—you have to consider his ability to score from anywhere on the floor and his proficiency in math. However, if guns were a part of the gunner’s mathcup, I’m not sure I’d go with CB4. [Jake is from hereon out cut off from the Vitamin Water cooler unless there’s a brew called “Sanity.” And I don’t think there is.]
• Knicks are up 20-17 with 2:50 left in the first quarter. Marbury drills a three to put them up 6. Boki gets those 3 back. And then he dunks on four people. Onyx plays over the loudspeaker. Raise your hand if you have friends that, against your wishes, call you “Onyx.” I just raised my hand. (Just for the record, when David Lee greeted us in the Visitor’s Locker room with, “SLAM!” I followed it up with “duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh.” [I missed that. Worth noting that Snackbar hit his three from the corner right in front of the Knicks bench. Then, on the next play, he caught it in the same spot and IMMEDIATELY drove the baseline and dunked on the aforementioned four people. Good sequence for the Snackbar.]
• Lawrence Frank is agitated. Then again, that might not be news. [When we first got to the Nets locker room pre-game, Post beatwriter Fred Kerber asked Nets PR director Gary Sussman whether the coach (in the office across from the locker room) was talking yet. Sussman said no. My first thought, for some reason, was of Byron Scott.]
• Russ notes that Marcus Williams was wearing a headband on the bench, but not when he checked in, and that this is strange because this is the exact opposite of what Cliff Robinson was doing. Was Marcus warming Cliff’s headband up? [I did actually wonder that out loud. What’s wrong with me?]
• Josh Boone and Renaldo Balkman simultaneously check in. It’s a big moment for unnecessarily long hair. [Jake initially says “for cornrows,” but I point out that Renaldo actually has dreadlocks.]
• Stephon Marbury (15 pts) is currently leading a Knick team that is BALLLLLLINGGG, up 7 with 9:15 left in the second.
• Mikki Moore is fronting Eddy Curry in the post and his left hand is holding on to E-City’s bulky lower thigh. A little bit further north and we’d be entering inadvertent molestation territory. Not a pleasant sight, to say the least. [I don’t know what Jake is watching.]
• The Knicks simply aren’t missing much. Vince is keeping the Nets in it by going to the basket. It sounds simple enough, because for Vince, it is. I should note that I’m really happy I’m not watching Kwame “Butterfingers Cake” Brown and Jordan Farmar now, not that there’s anything wrong with Jordan Farmar…
• Marbury hits a running floater from the baseline. It’s one of the most impossible angles I’ve seen in a while; dude was fading, as Russ described it, “4 feet behind the basket.” [This happens right in front of us, as we’re sitting about eight rows back from the baseline. The time elapsed (while he was fading out of bounds) between my thinking ‘OK he HAS to shoot it now’ and when he actually shoots it fees like about five seconds. Sick shot.]
• The Knicks are maintaining their lead. The Nets are living off of Carter, Kidd and Moore as usual. Eddie “broken microwave” House is just not cutting it. Jason Collins? Well, he’s on the court. And that’s about all I can say about that.
• From the New Jersey Nets PR dept: Antoine Wright: Bruised Right Elbow, Will Not Return. How bout some minutes for Hassan Adams? Please. Pretty please? With a cherry picked on top? [My theory is that someone on the Nets told Antoine, ‘look, you’re not playing the rest of the night because you’re awful. Would you like to pick out a medical reason?’ And oh yeah, Hassan Adams, DNP-CD.]
• Mikki Moore hits a dramatic jumper at the halftime buzzer off an awkward feed from the Boston Snackbar. The replay shows it won’t count. The crowd (70/30 Nets) is pissed.
• Jason Collins and Josh Boone have combined for the following stat line in over ten minutes combined in the first half: 1 foul, 1 turnover (both Collins). [Which means Boone clocks a 2.45 trillion. Not too shabby.]
• Two quick VC threes and the Nets are within three. 1:30 gone by in the quarter.
• On his way to two points, Kidd penetrates the lane as if he’s walking through a vacant lot. [This despite the presence of the Twinkie Towers, Jerome James and E-City.]
• Vince Carter is officially NBA Jam on fire. He has 23 points, and we’re not even 60 percent of the way into this one. He drives the lane and throws a vicious dunk on a few onlookers dressed in blue. [Before doing his inexplicable ‘yell at the arena ceiling’ thing.] He gets doubled the next time down in the post and kicks to Moore who buries a jumper. Two-point game. A Snackbar three gives the Nets their first lead in forever. THE NETS HAVE WOKEN UP. VINCE CARTER HAS A MENACING GLARE ON HIS FACE. Naturally, this fantastically interesting turn of events is tempered by a Jason Collins offensive foul. But hey, Eddy Curry returns the favor by losing the ball out bounds. Vince is so energized, he’s acting like he’s on steroids. [Or whatever Jake’s on.] Maybe not getting traded is steroids for the brain. He hits two freebies. Then, the Boston Snackbar throws down a SLAMADAMONTH nominee. I’m not even kidding. It was so great that he got so excited (steroids?), he got a tech. Boki’s temper has been visible of late. [On the break, he beat Jared Jeffries by a step, dunked all in his grill, then Boki got his fingers caught in Jeffries’s jersey while pumping his fist in an exclamatory manner. The refs need to chill.]
• Mikki Moore is automatic from 17. He’s so close to that Kurt Thomas patent/license; he’s got his learner’s permit, maybe even his junior license. A Snackbar three puts the Nets up 11. Time-out Knicks. The Nets receive a standing ovation. The Knicks have completely collapsed. The Nets are conjuring up memories of the recent glory years. This is FUN. It’s a 28-8 run that feels like 50-8. [UPTEMPO COLLAPSE.]
• Taking everybody by surprise, Jared Jeffries scores.
• ME: It is things like the Rocawear t-shirt toss that makes Americans forget about the war in Iraq.
RUSS: If we had just thrown them (people in Iraq) Rocawear t-shirts, we would have won their hearts and minds. [For the record, I take it a step further by calling them something like Iraq-a-war t-shirts. Yes, I do.]
• A Jared Jeffries dunk—he has six points, WHERE DID THIS BARRAGE COME FROM?—brings the Knicks within six. The Knicks fans in the house make some noise. Lawrence Frank wants to talk.
• Kidd and Carter are shredding the Nets with the dribble drive. The Knicks perimeter D has been atrocious in the second half. They’re sliding their feet like infants that can’t walk attempting a choerographed dance-dance revolution. The Nets are partying. Eddie House has also joined the party. I’m not sure he was invited, but he joined…
• 6:46: A Jamal Crawford 3 brings the Knicks within 3. I think I briefly fell asleep. [Oh yeah, and Eddy Curry? The should-have-been All-Star? On the bench.]
• 5:34: Boki and J-Kidd work a nifty give and go. Snackbar lays it home. That’s a big bucket.
• The Knicks throw the ball away twice in crucial situations.
• It’s pretty boring the rest of the way. [It is. Nets cruise. 101-92 final. Vince finishes with 40 points, nine boards and eight assists. Snackbar has 15 points and 10 boards. And Kidd ends up with 11, 14 and 4. Over on the Knicks side, Steph sizzles early and fizzles late, with 22 points, only two assists and five turnovers. Jamal Crawford has 13 points and a dollar. Somehow Eddy Curry, Jerome James and Renaldo Balkman combine for fewer rebounds than Quentin Richardson (nine). And Nate Robinson gets that DNP-CD.]
• I ask Mikki Moore about his patenting of the Kurt Thomas 17 foot jumper. He laughs, and then talks about the fact that he used shoot from wherever he wanted when he played in the NBDL. According to Mikki, he’s always been able to shoot the ball, but he hasn’t always played for teams where he’s been an option. Now he is, and he’s relishing it.
• The Knicks over in the Nets’s visitors’s locker room is NOT a good look. The worst visiting locker room in professional sports (that’s an assumption I feel safe making) with the biggest press mob. It’s made worse by the fact that the Knicks have a pair of trainer’s tables and a table of food taking up precious space. (That stuff is usually in the trainer’s room—I have no idea what’s going on back there tonight.). Instead of braving the crowds, I stop to talk to David Lee, who’s sitting by the door. I mainly want to congratulate him on his MVP performance in the Rookie/Sophomore game over All-Star weekend. “That was fun,” he says, “but I should have left right afterwards.” Instead he ended up doing a bunch of appearances and being Nate Robinson’s second in the dunk contest. “And anyone could have held the ball for him.” With luck, he’s back in the lineup tonight.