Tuesday might have been the real Opening Night for the NBA, but Wednesday was my Opening Night. The wife was working. The Pacers on early; LeBron vs. the Kings late. With some help from some rare evening caffeine, and the picture-in-picture button, I made it through the night.
8:00 – Pacers vs. Pistons on local TV. Scot Pollard, the hometown team, and Larry Brown. Magic vs. Knicks on ESPN. Drew Gooden and Tyronn Lue. How do I choose? Maybe I should do it based on announcers. The local team is Al Alberts (how many Alberts announcers are there?) and Clark Kellogg. On ESPN, we’ve got John Saunders and Bill Walton. Looks like I’ll be watching the Pacers game.
Loads of plot lines in Detroit. Rick Carlisle, coaching his first game for the Pacers, gets to watch his former team raise their conference championship banner he helped them win last year. Benching Jamaal Tinsley for Kenny Anderson. Larry Brown starting what could be his last opportunity to get back to the NBA Finals. Good stuff. Unfortunately neither team seems interested. 6-3 Pacers at the first time out, five plus minutes into the quarter. Eastern Conference basketball!
I flip over to ESPN and hear Bill Walton call Drew Gooden Dwight twice. Walton sucks, but I never thought he would sink to Fred White’s level. HOOOOOOORRRRIBBBLLEEEE!!!!
Clark “I Have a Metaphor for Everything” Kellogg compares the Pacers learning Rick Carlisle’s system to moving into a new house. Fascinating!
Unlike sleepy midwestern towns like Indy, games in big cities like Detroit bring out the big stars. Tonight, Kid Rock is courtside. Apparently he sang “God Bless America” before the game. I’m sure that was a touching moment rivaling the Irish tenor who sings at each Yankees game.
For the ER watchers, remember Dr. Pratt’s roommate the last couple years? The extremely large fellow who was mentally challenged after taking a bullet to the head? That actor is now doing commercials for Bank One. I wish I had known that when we secured our mortgage through Bank One. I would have asked for an autograph or something.
Coaching moves I like: Larry Brown forcing Ben Wallace to become more active on offense. He’s a phenomenal athlete. There’s no reason he shouldn’t contribute more than just rebounds. He doesn’t have to be great, just demand attention from the defense. Rick Carlisle benching Jamaal Tinsley. Tinsley has been erratic over his first two years. Kenny Anderson has reached crafty veteran status, and has played for Carlisle before. He will be steadier as the team attempts to learn a whole new offense. This is the first time Tinsley has ever not started a season opener. It’s time to figure out whether he’s the long-term answer at the point. I think this is an excellent way to challenge him to compete every minute he’s on the court, as well as take some pressure off while he learns the offense.
I said I couldn’t become a Pacers fan until Reggie Miller retires. I’m wavering on that. Reggie is still a whiny little bitch, but the Pacers have a ton of young talent. Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, Ron Artest, Jonathan Bender. I almost wish they had hired Larry Brown back just so I could watch him try to trade every player on the roster. I fear I’ll turn into my man E-bro in NoCal (which would make me D-bro in Indy). Sure, E-bro is still a Uge KU fan, but he knows more about what NBA big men have sweet drop steps than the next recruiting class. He understands the intricacies of the illegal defense call more than the race for the Big 8+4 title. The Lakers, not the Tigers, are his most hated foe. Our cable operator better carry ESPN Full Court or I’m getting the dish we inherited hooked up so I can avoid that fate.
Forget picture-in-picture, I had to switch to split screen late in the game. In New York, Tracy McGrady finally decided to start playing and the Magic stormed back to send the game into overtime. Simultaneously, the Pacers decided to stop scoring with 2:30 left and allowed Detroit to come from ten down to take a lead. Fortunately, the Pacers closed things out. They’re 1-0 since I moved to town!
ESPN is great. They switch away from overtime to show the first 30 seconds of the Cavs-Kings game. “Must show first 30 seconds of LeBron’s career!” Appropriately, as soon as they switched back to the game in New York, LeBron started going off. Serves them right.
I’m not totally buying into the LeBron hype, but I do lean towards being pro-LeBron. I like him because of his imperfections, his vulnerability, and his attitude. Jordan came into the league polished and dripping with confidence after three years of college and a superlative performance in the Olympics. He looked perfect, he played like no one before, and had a savvy that belied his age. LeBron, on the other hand, has a hint of nervousness and uncertainty about him. You can tell he knows he belongs, but he’s just not sure what to expect yet. He has that little under bite and some stubborn acne that make him seem like a kid. He’s a work in progress and I’m interested to see how it pans out. Even the young fella taking Jordan’s number tells you something about his makeup.
This whole King James thing, though, is a little much. In a couple years there are going to be little heathen kids like me that go to their grandmother’s, see her King James Bible, and think it has something to do with the life and times of LeBron.
Bill Laimbeer in the studio for ESPN? Please.
When is Carmelo Anthony going to blow his hair out and let us see the real deal?
I’ve said this before, but I think if you’re sitting in the front row at a basketball game, you’re talking on your phone, and you stand up and wave at the TV cameras constantly, you deserve to be shot. I want military marksmen in the rafters. It will be good practice for them. OK, OK, that’s a little harsh. We’ll use rubber bullets, mini sandbags, or paintballs and just put massive welts on people. That should teach them a lesson and help fight terror at the same time.
Day After Reaction:
Good gracious, I guess LeBron was ready for the NBA. Utterly ridiculous, 25 points, 9 rebounds, six assists, 4 steals, 2 turnovers. He looked steady and composed all night. After Sacramento ran out to a 19-point lead, he calmly led the Cavs back. They even took the lead in the fourth quarter before losing in one of the most difficult places to play in the league. The kid still needs a lot of work, but he’s clearly ready physically and at least for now, mentally. We’ll see how he holds up after a few bad games, or in late February when his season would normally be ending. I was struck by LeBron’s form on his jump shot. From the shoulders down, he looks exactly like Jordan. He has that 45-degree turn that Jordan always had. One foot slightly higher than the other. He even threw in an old man Jordan turnaround, fade away jumper in the first half. If he can just get the shoulders and arms to do what Jordan’s did, the shots will fall consistently.
The savior has arrived, and it looks like we get to believe the hype this time. Stay strong, LeBron! Don’t be Kobe!