Running with the Celtics
Mar. 8, 2007 | feedback
After the Celtics inexplicably rolled off a four-game win streak and fell two games behind Memphis for pole position in the Durant/Oden Sweepstakes, I thought about flying back to Boston to kidnap Al Jefferson and stick Paul Pierce with a mononucleosis-infected needle. Instead, I decided to stay home, watch the Rockets-Celts game and jinx the streak with a running diary. Here's what transpired:
7:37 p.m. ET -- Time for tonight's pregame interview with Doc Rivers, or as I like to call the segment, "Dead Man Walking." I actually feel bad for Doc at this point -- for about three months, he's had the same look on his face that Antonella Barba's parents probably had when they Googled her last week.
7:41 -- Tonight's announcers for FSN New England: the veteran crew of Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn. I'd tell you more, but I'm too delighted to see that Jeff Van Gundy finally shaved those five scraggly hairs on his bald spot and went with the Ed Harris look. Do you think it was a personal decision, or did his wife talk him into it? Let's give Mrs. Van Gundy a Tommy Point just to be safe.
7:43 -- Well, I'm positive the Celts are tanking this one because Brian Scalabrine is guarding Tracy McGrady to start the game. "That's a speed mismatch for McGrady," Heinsohn tells us. I think it's more of a speed catastrophe.
7:45 -- Five straight points to start the game for Paul Pierce. Here's what it's like to be a Celtics fan right now: Earlier today, I had a conversation with a friend about the best possible injury for Pierce that would (A) help our Oden-Durant chances, and (B) not damage Pierce long-term in any way. The answer? A broken left hand. So if anyone in Boston has a chance to accidentally break Pierce's left hand the next few weeks by accidentally slamming it with a door, please, feel free. It's for the best.
7:45 -- Shane Battier nails a 3-pointer. He's playing with Roy Firestone's hairline tonight.
7:52 -- Hey, here's a question: Instead of running ticket commercials featuring Jefferson, Pierce and Gerald Green, why don't the Celtics spring for some CGI and run doctored highlights of Oden or Durant lighting it up in a Celtics uniform, with the tagline, "Celtics basketball: There's a 50 percent chance you won't want to miss us next season!"
7:54 -- Delonte West challenges Yao on a wild drive for the second time. The results? A blocked shot and a line-drive layup that richocheted so hard off the backboard that it nearly killed Chuck Hayes. On the bright side, he took over the unofficial league lead in tattoos last week.
7:56 -- Good times so far: Not only are the Rockets leading by 10, but Tommy just compared T-Mac's sleepy expression to the one Willie Naulls used to have. This seems like a good time to mention that Willie retired 41 years ago. Not one, not two, but THREE generations of viewers didn't get that reference. I'm giving him a Billy Point for that one.
7:58 -- Has any athlete changed less over the past 15 years than Juwan Howard? He just drained a 15-footer -- throw some baggy shorts and a box haircut on him and I'd feel like we were watching the '93 NCAA Tournament. Remind me to find a place for him on the Tony La Russa All-Stars this year.
8:02 -- Jefferson swishes a turnaround over Dikembe Mutombo, who's almost as old as Willie Naulls and somehow slaps up these crazy 22-rebound games every once in a while. If he were a baseball player having a similar resurgence, we'd assume steroids or HGH were involved and make jokes about him constantly. With Dikembe? It's being treated like a statistical miracle. Seriously, did you ever think you'd see someone snatch Mutombo off your fantasy waiver wire again in this lifetime? What were the odds on that: 100,000-1?
8:06 -- Just a beautiful, driving bank shot by T-Mac in traffic to end the first quarter (Rockets 30, Celtics 22). Nobody makes it look easier than T-Mac. He's the Carlos Beltran of the NBA. By the way, tonight's game is presented by Tweeter in high definition. I wouldn't know this because only the hometown viewers in New England can access this feature on a special channel; it's not part of my DirecTV NBA League Pass even though I'm paying $180 for it. I mean, there are HDTV cameras there ... I have an HDTV tuner ... why can't I watch this game on HDTV? Does this make any sense?
8:10 -- Our first Rajon Rondo sighting. This is where you make a "You idiot, remember when you predicted him as a fantasy sleeper" joke. In the words of Mark McGwire, I'm not here to talk about the past. Or Dikembe Mutombo's present.
(Just kidding, Dikembe's not on steroids. No, really. I do not believe this to be true. It's all for comedy. You have to believe me.)
8:12 -- This is turning into the Mutombo Show. He just blocked a Gerald Green shot and quickly wagged his finger toward the stands like it was 1994. And that doesn't violate the taunting rules ... how??? I think he got grandfather-claused. Literally.
8:14 -- You know, it's strangely fun to watch Juwan Howard (an aging, undersized power forward) defend Ryan Gomes (an up-and-coming, undersized power forward). During breaks in the game, I wonder whether he'll sidle over to Gomes and tell him, "Just keep playing hard, somebody is going to wildly overpay you in a few years, just be patient ..."
8:16 -- Well, the Celts are losing by 18 and we don't have a single guy on the floor who's older than 22. This is the most relaxed I've felt during a Celtics game in two weeks. Let's pull my dad out of the stands and have him guard T-Mac for the second half to really bring this baby home.
8:27 -- Jefferson's numbers halfway through the second quarter: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 fouls drawn on Yao. Tommy sums it up best: "Nicely done by Al. He's getting all those little herky-jerky moves now." Exactly. Took Al nearly 27 months to embrace the power of the upfake and get those McHale-esque herky-jerky moves down. Now every team in the league has to double-team him at all times. And if you don't think he's cracking the top 40 in my annual "Trade Value" column this summer, you're crazy. Check out his splits compared with Dwight Howard's splits the past 10 weeks. No, really, check 'em out. I dare you.
8:29 -- Hey, you know who's one of the most underrated guys in the league? Chuck Hayes, that's who. Bangs the boards, solid defender, makes 3-4 hustle plays a game, doesn't do anything he can't do and his name makes him sound like the star of an ABC legal drama. Just a lot to like.
8:33 -- Funny replay of Gomes (who just twisted his foot) getting feedback on the injury from Wally Szczerbiak, who's really become the league's premier authority on knee, foot and ankle sprains over the years. That was like watching video of a young actress asking Paris Hilton why it hurts every time she pees.
8:35 -- A three-possession sequence for the ages: T-Mac easily beats Scalabrine off the dribble, drives to the basket, draws a foul and hits the shot ... Scalabrine launches an air ball ... Scal fouls T-Mac again on the other end. "Scal does so many good things for this ballclub," Tommy reassures us. He left out, "I just can't think of any right now."
8:39 -- Al's success (18 points, nine rebounds) leads to Tommy's first Dave Cowens story of the night. I had Sam Jones in the ESPN.com office pool.
8:42 -- Our halftime score: Rockets 62, Celtics 49. I'd be much more excited if the Grizzlies weren't getting trounced in Toronto right now.
Which reminds me: Has anyone investigated the Tony Barone hiring yet? Really, that was the best guy for the job -- a former college coach with no NBA head-coaching experience who hadn't been a head coach in eight years? If you're trying to tank the season, why be so blatantly obvious about it? And if you're going to be so blatantly obvious about it, why not go all the way with it and make him dress like Elvis for every home game?
8:50 -- The Sports Gal comes home with a coffee for me and says angrily, "I almost ran over Michael Rapaport again. It's gonna happen one of these times, I'm telling you."
(Should I explain this?)
(Yeah, screw it.)
Rapaport lives in our neighborhood and somehow morphed into the Sports Gal's ongoing archnemesis. Why? Because of his inability to look up while crossing streets because he's too busy talking on his cell phone and acting like "he's a hot s---" (her words). Throw in his general douchey demeanor and his New York roots and he's about three more "not looking when he's walking" moments away from getting pancaked by my PMS-ing wife. I'm not making this up. And yes, these are the things she'd be ranting about if she still had a place to rant. Let's give her a Tommy Point anyway.
8:55 -- My random halftime question: Did anyone else notice that Kobe has taken cheap shots at two foreigners (Marko Jaric and Manu Ginobili) and Mike Miller (who really SHOULD be a foreigner and probably could pull it off at parties) in the past calendar year? I'm waiting for Kobe to pull a Hardaway in an interview and tell Dan Le Batard, "Look, I hate foreigners. I hate them. I just do." Just remember we had this discussion when he knocks two of Carlos Delfino's teeth out in a couple of weeks.
8:58 -- Starting the second half, Houston quickly extends its lead to 20 ... you can almost see Pierce thinking to himself, "That's it, if we don't get Durant or Oden, I'm demanding a trade this summer." By the way, Yao is NOT moving well and is lugging around a knee brace that's the size of Verne Troyer. Don't rush to Vegas to slap down money on Houston's title odds just yet.
9:00 -- T-Mac shifts into "Screw it, we have this game, I'm not driving to the hoop anymore -- I don't want to get knocked over by this klutzy redheaded dude" mode. Probably the right move.
9:04 -- Seven straight from Pierce cuts Houston's lead to 12. Could somebody shoot him with a BB gun or something?
9:11 -- FSN comes out of a commercial with a "Gerald Green vs. Tracy McGrady for the first 90 games of their careers" graphic ... and wouldn't you know it? The stats are "remarkably similar" (Gorman's words), although they don't account for the fact that T-Mac was always an excellent defensive player for Toronto and Gerald is currently an atrocious defensive player. "I think Gerald is gonna be a replica of McGrady," Tommy reassures us. If you don't think Tommy has any qualms about comparing struggling Boston players to six-time All-Stars at the drop of a hat, obviously you're not familiar enough with his work. That's why we love him.
9:16 -- Seems like a good time to mention that Battier is 5-for-12 on 3s and Hayes has seven offensive rebounds already. Stick this one in the loss column. The only thing keeping me going? I'm waiting for one good Celtics play, followed by a cut courtside to Celtics superfans Mike Rotondi and Marty Joyce standing and cheering at midcourt and eventually exchanging one of those awkward white-guy high fives like the ones Phil Mickelson has with his caddie after a big putt. Those always kill me. They're like the Larry Bird and Fred Roberts of the courtside fans.
9:20 -- More bad (or is it good?) news for the C's: Not only are we trailing by 25, we lost Gomes (sprained foot) and Delonte (groggy from an errant Mutombo elbow) for the night. If I can cause two harmless injuries with every running diary, I might have to keep this going for the rest of the season! When's the next game?
(Random request: Somebody needs to launch a Web site listing everyone Mutombo has ever maimed, injured or knocked out with an elbow. ... It could be like the Web site that keeps track of everyone Jack Bauer ever killed.)
9:22 -- Tonight's Legal Sea Foods trivia question: Who's the only person who won consecutive MVPs playing for two different teams? That's easy: Moses Malone. I own the Legal Sea Foods question. Which reminds me, what about Henry Abbott leaving Moses off his top-10 centers ballot on ESPN.com this week and inadvertently setting the blog movement back 10 years? I know I abstained, but regardless of the scoring system, no Moses in the top 10???? Is there an explanation forthcoming? I'm deleting True Hoop from my favorite places until we get one.(Note: You can read Moses' angry response to Henry on Moses's blog at www.mmmbdgshhbshhmmmmvsbbsmm.com.)
9:23 -- Leon Powe hits a jump hook to cut Houston's lead to 25, followed by Tommy telling us, "He's such a nice kid, Leon." It's been that kind of season.
9:29 -- 9:29 -- The fourth quarter kicks off with a Sebastian Telfair cameo. It's like seeing Locke randomly appear out of nowhere on "Lost" this season. ... You don't even notice him anymore for a few minutes until you remember, "Wait, I thought he was supposed to be one of the stars of the show?" Just for my own sanity, let's look at Telfair's post All-Star splits compared with Brandon Roy, who was obtained by Portland with Boston's pick (No. 7) in the Telfair trade last summer:
• Roy: 7 games, 36.6 minutes, 16.6 points, 7.1 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 51.1 percent shooting.
• Telfair: 6 games, 13.5 minutes, 3.5 points, 2.0 assists, 0.7 rebounds, 27.5 percent shooting.
(Note: These are the things that happen when you deal with a team that initiates trade talks by sending you a DVD of "Through the Fire" with a note that says, "PLAY ME.")
9:32 -- With the Rockets leading by 29 in the final 10 minutes, Powe accidentally tumbles into Mutombo's knees; poor Dikembe goes down in a heap and can't get up. See, this is why I'm not allowed to announce NBA games -- I'd be talking in the Cookie Monster voice right now:
Ahhhhhhhhhh ... my knee hurts ... ahhhhhhhhhhhhh ... me don't like when my knee hurts ...
9:35 -- Boston's five right now: Rondo, Telfair, Green, Powe and Michael Olowokandi. Now that's the look of a team that's about to win the lottery! May 22, here we come! You can't stop us!
9:41 -- I know you've been waiting on my thoughts on the new Nike "Second Coming" commercial for weeks on end. Well, here they are ...
I love it.
Can't get enough of it.
Love the music, love the ridiculous shot of them walking down the airport runway, love the white jogging outfits, love how every guy has to get shown at least once so nobody's ego gets bruised, love Rasheed Wallace's "I can't believe I'm in a Nike commercial!" expression, love the contrived game action, and over everything else, LOVE the ultra-serious closeup of Kobe with the pursed lips. You can almost hear the director telling him, "All right, Kobe, need you to look serious here. Pretend you're walking out of that Eagle, Colo., courthouse. ... And ... ACTION!" My favorite basketball commercial of the decade. Hands down.
9:42 -- Coming out of commercial, we see a replay of Yao's finger getting bent back on a rebound and Yao screaming in pain, followed by Gorman reporting that Yao went to the locker room to get it checked out, then Tommy joking, "That was his chopstick finger, too, he may not be able to eat anymore!" and Gorman changing the subject as fast as humanly possible.
(The lesson, as always: It's never dull when anyone older than 70 is allowed near a microphone during a sporting event.)
9:46 -- After Rondo drains a jumper, Tommy tells us, "I wanna tell you, if Rondo starts making these shots, he is gonna be an All-Star player," keeping alive his streak of making that comment after every made Rondo jumper this season. All 12 of them.
(One of the funny subplots of the season: Tommy's unabashed devotion to Rondo's unselfish game and his thinly disguised loathing of Telfair's shoot-first game. It's been like listening to a father constantly raving about his son at Harvard and grunting every time someone asks about his son who ended up at Bunker Hill Community College. Thank god for Tommy -- he's made the most depressing Celtics season of all time at least 35 percent more entertaining, even during the times when he didn't mean it.)
9:52 -- Still trailing by 25 with three minutes to play, Tommy launches into his "Well, maybe we're getting killed tonight, but we have a good nucleus of good kids here and things are gonna turn around soon and we're in the right hands with Danny Ainge" speech, as contractually obligated by FSN and the Boston Celtics.
9:54 -- Wow! Tommy's still going. He's genuinely ticked at Sports Illustrated for slamming Danny and the direction of the franchise recently, even hissing, "I ... don't ... like ... Sports Illustrated!" Hey Tommy, it could have been worse: You could have eaten the shrimp at their Swimsuit Issue party last month.
9:55 -- After Green misses an off-balance jumper to finish with an ugly 1-for-14 shooting line, the FSN graphics guy quickly sends that T-Mac/Green graphic to the recycle bin of his computer.
9:56 -- Our final score: Houston 111, Boston 80. In other words ... mission accomplished. We're back on track, baby!
Does this mean I need to do a running diary for every Celtics game to make sure we keep losing and get pole position for the 2007 lottery? Nahhhhhhhhh. As my dad said last week, "If it happens, it happens ... you can't go crazy thinking about it." Words to live by. I think he deserves a Tommy Point.