Game 4 of a series in any 2-1 state has always been my favorite playoff game. If the trailing team wins and ties things at 2-2, each of the following games obviously takes on its own sort of hyper-drama. But for this moment, at 2-1, a single game determines the entire feel of a series, with a giant perception gap between outcomes. If the Spurs win tonight, the series begins to feel like a blowout. The city will have a full 48 hours of downtime to drink, eat, reflect, and prepare for a potential championship celebration on Sunday. And if that win comes with another subpar LeBron James effort, the hysteria level around Miami will reach 2011 Finals volume levels again.
And if Miami wins, it’s 2-2 — dead even, guaranteed to return to DOS MINUTOS territory, with the Heat likely having “found themselves again.” This is what we get to ponder for the next 12 hours or so. What fun.
Before Jay-Z took the stage September 28, on the Barclays Center's opening night — before he christened the building, before he consummated his home borough’s ascendance — we got a short video ticking off a selective list of Brooklyn’s accomplishments. “1862: BROOKLYN RAILROAD BEGINS OPERATION” and “1893: BROOKLYN BRIDGE COMPLETED” and “1895: BROOKLYN MUSEUM FOUNDED.” We saw “1913: EBBETS FIELD OPENS” and “1945: JACKIE ROBINSON JOINS THE BROOKLYN DODGERS” and “1949: MARCY PROJECTS BUILT.” And then the jouncy jazz riff playing under the montage cut out for the bone-crunching guitars of “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” and a string of Brooklyn babies were trumpeted: Basquiat, Biggie, Jordan, Aaliyah, Tyson, ODB, and Adam “MCA” Yauch, born in downtown Brooklyn in 1967. Twenty seconds later — before the montage picked up speed beyond decipherability, as if to suggest the borough’s simply overwhelming success rate — we saw Yauch again, along with The Beastie Boys: “1986: LICENSED TO ILL RELEASED.”
With the 2012 NBA draft completed and free agency now under way, several teams have given us glimpses into the direction of their offseason strategy. Let’s take a look at a few.
You! No, You! OK ... You!
Similar to a desperate man prowling Lavo after last call, the Nets spent the beginning of the week searching frantically for someone willing to spend the night in their spanking-new Brooklyn industrial space (really, the yet-unfinished Barclays Center resembles an oxidized armadillo carcass). As other teams cuddled on banquettes with players already under contract, the Nets bought $16 vodka sodas, disingenuously complimented gladiator sandals, and negotiated cab-fare deals to convince a potential partner to ride over that bridge. Exactly like real life.
A few days ago, photos surfaced of Jay-Z in a shirt emblazoned with the new logo for the Brooklyn Nets. Despite his very public ownership of a very small stake in the NBA franchise, there was reason for skepticism: mostly, the insignia appeared as if it were designed in MS Paint by Canal Street bootleggers. One expected a CD-ROM pre-loaded with 1,000 free hours of AOL to tumble out of Jay-Z’s pocket.
On Monday, the unfamiliar Nets logo was disappointingly confirmed as the genuine article. Shooting for aggressive simplicity, the stark logo — a “B” inside a basketball, topped by the word “NETS” — has a simple black-and-white color scheme. Outside of the vague “B,” there are no visual markers to indicate the team hails from Brooklyn. In comparison to NBA logos from the past, it resembles the emblem used by the Rochester Royals, a franchise that later leapfrogged across America until majestically morphing into the Sacramento Kings.
I have only hazy memories of my time in the tri-state (PA, N.J., DE) area, but I could have sworn I once spent an otherwise forgettable night in a South Jersey watering hole with a guy who looked A LOT like Chris Christie and, dollars to doughnuts, I would bet this dude had a tattoo of Kerry Kittles on his arm. But then I could be wrong.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Sources reported that Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device installed in his suite that allowed him to eavesdrop on the headset conversations of opposing coaches. "Listen, I know this looks bad," said Loomis, wearing a wide grin in an attempt to mollify the media, "but the truth is that 10 to 20 percent of the time, I couldn't even relay the plays to Sean in time for us to do anything. So, you know ... chillax, everyone. As my kids say. Non-story. Nothing to see here, move along, as a cop would say. Better get back on this bounty thing, right? That's the real deal. Where there's smoke, there's fire. I won't mention any names, but I've got it on good faith that Gregg Williams put a bounty on sleeping with other player's wives. Wink-wink. Who does that? That's sick, if you ask me. That's front page pornographic material. That's career-making, for a journalist. This electronics stuff belongs in an iPod newsletter, if anything. It's boring, guys. And let's be honest, you're boring enough already. 'Hey, look at me, I'm Dweeby McNewspaper, I play with walkie-talkies because I make no money and wish I was an Army grunt.' Not that I think any of you are dweebs, mind you. And please don't print that about the Army, I love and respect the Army. Big time. Well, don't say 'love,' because, you know, don't ask don't tell and that whole can of worms, but let's just avoid that issue altogether and focus on the heart of the matter, which is that Gregg Williams looks in the windows of other player's wives with binoculars on nights with no moon. Quote that as anonymous, if you would."
Living and dying with the New Jersey Nets in 2012 is like riding hard for a pet goldfish — it's not gonna be around very long, and it'll never amount to much, so why bother? On Sunday, I went to the Prudential Center in Newark to find out.
"Last year, the Nets are playing the Celtics, and our arch-enemy Paul Pierce comes to the line," says Mr. Whammy, 76, from his regular seat behind the visitors' basket on the floor at the Pru. It's just before tip-off in one of the last games the Nets will ever play in Jersey.
Whammy's real name is Bruce Reznick. He's wearing glasses the size of side-view mirrors and a red Nets jersey that hangs to the middle of his thighs. "Pierce comes to the line," continues Whammy, "and I start yelling, 'I'm gonna put the whammy on you, 34! Whaaammy on you, 34! And Pierce, he says to me, '34? What's my name? You know my name!'" Whammy chomps a chocolate chip cookie. "And Pierce misses the free throw! The whammy worked!" Then what? "Pierce makes his next 11. It's the Nets. Whaddya expect?"
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
According to sources, the Indianapolis Colts will release Peyton Manning after 14 years of service. Team owner Jim Irsay informed Manning of the decision on Monday night, after which the two flew together to Indianapolis, where they'll announce the news at a press conference later today. "I promised myself I wouldn't cry," said Manning, "because then I'd have to touch my head to wipe the tears away, and that is so, so painful. Wait, why are you don't write that down. I'm fine. I'm good to play football."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Kobe Bryant, the Masked Mamba, scored 33 points as the Lakers avenged his broken nose with a 93-83 victory over Dwyane Wade and the Heat. "From this day forward, I shall never be seen without a mask," Kobe said after the game, "and it won't be this admittedly feminine Mardi Gras feather mask, either. I left my cool ones at home."
This past weekend was a phenomenal time to be a faux New York sports fan. Although I walked into a Manhattan Super Bowl party wearing a newly gifted Falcons shirt, my verbal allegiances throughout the game became more and more aligned with the Giants. As it progressed, I joined in with many a Giants chant, and when it ended and "We Are the Champions" blared out the sound system, I embraced the lady across from me and sang my heart out.
While New York was a beautiful sight last night, Part 1 of this city's amazing sports weekend took place in Madison Square Garden on Saturday, when the Knicks played host to the New Jersey Nets. While there is usually nothing of worth to note from either of these teams, this night was one Knicks fans could be talking about for a long time.
Locked in a tight game with the Detroit Pistons earlier this week, the New Jersey Nets found themselves up two points with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Looking to score and make it a two-possession game, Deron Williams brought the ball downcourt. Even though Williams was the point guard on this play, it was designed for him to work away from the ball. This misdirection, along with smart player positioning by Nets coach Avery Johnson, allowed New Jersey to get an open 3-point look.
On Monday night, Blake Griffin dunked so hard on Kendrick Perkins that the Mayan apocalypse was called off. So emboldened were some NBA players with this new lease on life that they too decided to start dunking on the skulls of their peers, so as to bring about more Armageddon-halting joy. I know that people have been dunking on each other since the mid-16th century, but it's getting very intense out there.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
In what may have been his last home game as a Colt, Reggie Wayne grabbed the game-winning touchdown reception in a stunning 19-16 win over the Texans. The Colts are now tied with the Vikings and Rams for the worst record in the NFL, ensuring that we'll probably have to hear the spiritually unsettling phrase "suck for Luck" over and over in the next two weeks until we suffer a mental breakdown.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The emerging month-long nightmare for the Boston Red Sox is closer than ever to being realized. With a 6-3 loss to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, Boston is now tied atop the wild card race with Tampa Bay. Their September record fell to 6-19, they no longer have their best pitcher available, and tonight's starter, Erik Bedard, is just 5-9 on the year. "But at least we've got our dignity," said manager Terry Francona, not realizing that Jonathan Papelbon had drawn the word "FART" on the front of his hat.