For awhile now, there was a growing sense from some observers of the negotiations that there was no way that this would get done without losing games, since the owners feel that the players won’t truly begin to fold until actual games (and thus player payments) were lost. I hope that that is not the case, and this is just a matter of the two sides legitimately being far apart on their positions and not a negotiating tactic. Either way, though, it really does not matter too much as at the end of the day it means the same thing – fewer Knick games for us to watch. And that’s a damn shame.
In the first “Bock to the Future” running diary, we took the trusted DeBusscherean (Who needs a DeLorean?) way back to Game 7 of the 1970 Finals, the night of the Bockers’ first NBA title. Keeping with untouchable cinematic tradition, I felt it was only appropriate to have the sequel involve a glimpse into the future, of sorts. No hoverboards, though. So please don’t ask.
The subject? Saturday’s much-anticipated South Florida All-Star Classic exhibition between Team LeBron and Team Wade. Like most of the relatively laid-back pickup games played throughout the summer, Saturday’s match-up was organized more for the sake of entertainment, exercise, and charity than anything else. But with last week’s labor negotiations hitting an impasse, and with the specter of missed games having breached the inevitable, the game would end up taking on something of a serious tone, at points.
Florida International University — home to a certain reviled, disaster-addled, pill-popping lecher who cost the New York Knicks franchise millions in legal fees and sapped years off of many of its fans’ lives — played host to the extravaganza. So if you’re looking for a fun little side activity while watching the game (or reading this transcript), take bets with your friends to see who can predict Isiah’s cameo to the nearest minute.
Oh, and Stat, Melo, and CP3 all played on the same team. Which is just capital.
7:41 — Our announcing team tonight: Jim Berry and George Sedano. Yeah!
7:42 — Berry reminds us that one of the charities set to benefit from tonight’s game will be Mary’s Court, which seeks to help families in poverty. It was also founded in memory of the late mother of Isiah Thomas. Now we can’t hate the guy, right? Right?
7:49 — Berry says that, among those on the roster tonight, are comeback hopeful Damon Jones — self proclaimed “world’s greatest shooter“ — and one eddycurry. “Yeeeaah, Eddy — not available to play tonight,” Sedano quips. I’m somewhat tempted to cut off the diary right now.
7:50 — LeCommercial: “It doesn’t come in a bottle… it doesn’t come in a big package… you don’t need water to take with it… it’s just one strip.” It’s a piece of Gatorade gum, basically. And the box has a logo with a white cartoon mouth that looks like it’s dropping a strip of acid.
7:52 — Berry and Sedano tell us that LeBron’s team is “not fair.” Sedano: “…Whereas Dwyane has to play with Carmelo and Amar’e…” Gee whiz, that must really blow.
7:54 — Florida native Amar’e Stoudemire gets a rousing round of applause from the crowd. Rajon Rondo? Not so much. Sedano: “Who gets booed at a CHARITY EVENT!?”
7:57 — Right before the tip, I notice one of the scorer’s table advertisements, a red phone number reading: 1-800-411-PAIN. It strikes me immediately that 411 Pain should’ve been the title of a Public Enemy album.
7:58 — Melo pulls down the game’s first rebound on a King James miss — sans flab, it should be noted — and outlets to CP3. Amar’e blows right by Bosh on the baseline for an easy deuce. Shockingly, he also wanted a foul. Sedano: “IT’S FOR CHARITY, AMAR’E!” George Sedano is serious about not taking charity games seriously.
7:59 — Melo sticks a 20 foot baseline jumper. Smoove. Team Wade up 4-0.
8:02 — Amar’e moves his feet on defense, stifling a Chris Bosh turnaround. This is not an acid gum-induced hallucination…. Or is it?
8:05 — They play the LeBron Acid Gum commercial again. This time I actually get to watch LeBron throughout. He peels out the sheet, puts it on his tongue, and bobs his head up and down, slight smile streaked across his face. He’s clearly enjoying this a little too much. How this commercial ever got green-lighted would be a running diary unto itself.
8:07 — LeBron with a ball-stopping, fadeaway three. Clank. I mean, who needs a post game, AMIRITE!?
8:08 — I’m sure you all probably knew this already, but it should be noted: There will be no defense in this game. Ever.
8:10 — Right on cue, LeBron demands the ball on the high post against Wade. He takes two dribbles, tries a fadeaway, and gets stuffed by a guy a full six inches shorter. Somewhere, Hakeem Olajuwon glowers.
8:11 — Wow, they’re really going to show the Acid Gum commercial at every break. Sorry — “Energy Sheets.” There are basically three commercials they play at every break, in various sequences: Acid Gum, ads for The Big Bang Theory, and Dwyane Wade talking about something. Don’t really care what.
8:13 — JONNY FLYNN EVERYBODY!
8:16 — Damon Jones, World’s Greatest Shooter, fires one up from 25 feet and… barely grazes the rim.
8:18 — Commedian Kevin Hart, Team Wade “Coach,” is taking this game way too seriously — screaming very loudly and already sweating, not even a full quarter in. Sedano: “KEVIN, IT’S FOR CHARITY!”
8:20 — James Harden hit’s a long three at the first quarter buzzer to put team black up 26-23. Oh, and Amar’e got the assist. Begrudgingly.
8:21 — ACID GUM!
8: 23 — Melo with the nice assist to a cutting Dorrell Wright. Point Forward? Point Forward? Point Forward.
8:26 — Melo follows up a couple pretty dimes with maybe the worst alley-oop pass I’ve ever seen. It went over the backboard. You know what? Small Forward works just fine.
8:30 — LeBron posts Melo up down low, hit’s a nice 9-foot turnaround. It’s basically the same post move he’s used three times already. Hey, post moves, post move — whatever works.
8:32 — Amar’e gets an entry pass from Paul cutting across the lane, jumps higher than I’ve seen him jump in maybe seven years, and dunks over Kevin Durant — complete with black goggled stare-down. Easily the highlight of the night so far.
8:33 — Rajon Rondo actually tries an alley-oop off the hardwood from about 20 feet, with a professional basketball player defending him. Basically, he throws a bounce pass to James Harden, who quickly bolts the other way. Harden gives it up to CP3, who tosses the oopiest of oops to a streaking Melo. That was delicious. May I have 500 more of those and a championship plz?
8:34 — ACID GUM!
8:38 — Amar’e gets taken out of the game by Kevin Hart, and immediately tosses his goggles to the ground. He now has the top two highlights of the night. Team Wade up 55-51.
8:41 — ACID GUM!
8:45 — It might be my horrible computer, but the color and texture of the court makes it look like puke yellow foam. I recognize I’m glad Isiah Thomas coaches here.
8:48 — Halftime. Team Wade — and the hoped-for future Knick triumvirate — leads 62-57.
8:50 — Berry and Sedano give Kevin Hart the headset. He says his troops are running his offense to perfection. “You have an offense?” Berry Asks. Hart responds: “Oh yeah! It’s a… umm.. the Flex Offense.”
8:51 — “What happened with Amar’e there?”Sedano asks. “Well, basically, Amar’e gave me a little attitude coming out of the game,” Hart says. “Bottom line: you’re not rebounding. Means you’re not going to play.” Good to see some things never change.
8:58 — A flurry of dunks from Team LeBron — two by James himself — put the guys in white up 76-71. Kevin Hart needs a time out, presumably to be funny and yell at Amar’e.
8:59 — ACID GUM!
9:06 — Durant hit’s an effortless 18-foot fadeaway along the left baseline. He makes that a regular part of his repertoire, it’s all over.
9:08 — Stoudemire heads to the stripe for what seems like the 20th time tonight. While many have poked fun at Melo’s supposed “letting it go,” Amar’e seems to be fully recovered from his worrying back injury, and looks to be in fine shape. Super!
9:12 — Come on Rodgers! You have to see that!… Damn, wrong game. Sorry. I really needed that though.
9:18 — Durant drives, bobbles the ball half way into dunking, recovers, and throws it down anyway. Because he’s half alien. End of the third, with Team LeBron up 98-96.
9:21 — Melo, who has 21 points through three quarters, plays well enough for Berry to exclaim: “He really looks like he’s in midseason form.” I’m tellin’ y’all: checkers accentuate the pudge! I’m 6’4″ and weigh about 120 pounds, but even I look hefty in flannel.
9:25 — With 10 minutes remaining, Team Wade leads 105-100. At this point, I’m prepared to retract my earlier statement about there being “zero defense.” I’m actually quite surprised at the overall level of intensity, particularly after the opening few minutes.
9:27 — It might just be my imagination — or the Acid Gum — but this court looks about 50-feet short.
9:30 — Oh Jesus, Berry and Sedano just handed the microphone over to Zeke. He doesn’t say anything controversial, obviously, but he does gush over Chris Paul. Which is… nice? I guess. No, it’s just creepy.
9:35 — Amar’e with a nice, quick move to the basket for the and-one. Team Wade now down three. I’d love to tell you how Team LeBron recaptured the lead in the first place, but Isiah’s soft, soothing voice has practically lulled me to sleep. I will now check my beer for traces of Ambian.
9:36 — Now Melo converts the and-one, giving him 24 for the night. Game square at 116.
9:38 — Chris Bosh pulls off an utterly pedestrian dunk completely unguarded by anyone, and celebrates like he just cured Alzheimer’s.
9:40 — Isiah Thomas still talking. I stopped paying attention right around the time he began pontificating as to how we need to bolster the educational system to assure today’s youth grow up to be model, upstanding BLLLLLAAAAAARRRF!
9:41 — Berry throws out a barrage of Clyde Frazier rhymes to the rhythm of a Melo turnaround. It’s completely awkward.
9:42 — It should be noted that neither team has led by more than 10 the entire game. As far as these completely non-serious charity games go, this one seems to harbor some sneaky stakes for all involved.
9:45 — If no one turns this LeBron commercial into a million-hit YouTube spoof within a month, I’ll seriously be shocked.
9:46 — With his team down three, Wade misses a pair of free throws. Paul gets the board, kicks it out to Melo for the three. Miss. Both sides then manage to miss 19 straight shots in less than 10 seconds, before LeBron gets fouled — rather hard, it should be noted — by Melo. He hits them both. Score: 125-120.
9:48 — CP3 converts an old-fashioned three pointer, cutting the lead to two. Crowd actually started chanting “defense.” After a Team LeBron turnover, Melo goes to the line again, hitting one of two.
9:50 — LeBron posts up Wade on the left baseline, holds the ball for what seems like a minute. Spinning free, he gets fouled at the rim. He hits one of two. Wade misses on the other end.
9:51 — After a Durant miss, Wade races the other way, only to be fouled by Jamal Crawford. Oh yeah, Jamal Crawford played in this game! Team Wade calls time.
9:53 — Down a triple, CP3 brings it up with eight seconds left, dishes to Melo on the left wing, just beyond the arc….BANG! Game all tied at 129. After a quick timeout, Bosh hoists up an errant prayer at the buzzer. Miss. Overtime.
10:01 — Less than a minute into OT, Melo goes down, holding his right leg. After a minor stroke, Berry and Sedano inform us it’s likely little more than a cramp. I blame Isiah anyway.
10:06 — Harden hit’s a three pointer from Key West, putting Team Wade up 132-129.
10:08 — Sedano: “These two teams have put a heck of a product out there today!” No, George, LeBron and LeBron alone put a heck of a product out there today. It’s called Acid Gum! It’s not a shot. IT’S A SHEET!
10:09 — Stat hit’s a soft one-hander in the lane to put Team Wade up 134-129. Jamal Crawford answers with a corner three to cut the lead to two.
10: 10 — LeBron hucks a ridiculous three that somehow banks in. Team Wade up 136-135. On the other end, Stat is clearly fouled by Bosh, and hits the baseline runner anyway. Sedano: “Wow! No foul call there!” Welcome to last season, George.
10:11 — Stat grabs LeBron’s miss on the other end and gets fouled. Once again, he hits one of two. 139-135, team Wade.
10:12 — During a Team LeBron timout, the camera pans through the crowd. Everyone — literally everyone — is standing. No one has left. American Airlines Arena, this is not. While seemingly trivial, the image throws into high relief the genuine passion being summarily pummeled with each and every locked-out day.
10:15 — Wade hits both free throws, putting the game out of reach. LeBron answers with a three-quarters court heave that incinerates the net on the way through. The irony is priceless. Final Score: Team Melo 141, Team LeBron 140.
10:20 — I click over to ESPN to find that the league and union were set to meet for an 11th hour, desperation attempt at a resolution. After Friday’s news that the league wouldn’t agree to meet again unless the players were willing to set as a precondition at least a 50-50 split of BRI, this came as somewhat of a surprise.
Maybe they’ll reach a last-minute grand compromise, and maybe the won’t. Whatever happens between now and Monday afternoon’s deadline for lost games, hopefully both sides had a chance to see at least a few of the highlights from Saturday’s thriller. More importantly, let’s hope they took the time to follow the camera through the 5,000 or so impassioned fans who packed the gym that night. Because while it’s easy to quibble over whether the players or the owners are the key to the future health of our beloved game, one thing is clear: Without the fans, there is no future, and there is no game. Without the fans, these dunks and swats and threes are little more than trees falling in an empty wood, echoing only for themselves.
Or, if you’re not into koanish platitudes: LET’S DO THIS $#%&*!@ THING!
Author’s Note: Every year since their 2008 inaugural season, the Erie BayHawks have hosted two open tryouts — one in the team’s home city, the other in that of their NBA affiliate (beginning last year, our beloved New York Knicks). Last Monday, The BayHawks held their first tryout in Manhattan. Being a lifelong cager myself, I wanted to see first-hand how well I could stack up against competition not incredibly far removed from the limelight of the NBA. As it turns out: Not very well.
“OK, what’s our next turn?” my wife, having nobly volunteered to drive us into Manhattan at 5:30 on a Monday morning, inquires.
Groggily grabbing the criminally unreliable Garmin GPS, my sleep-deprived brain does a double-take at the screen.
“In a little less than a mile you have to take Sprain Brook Parkway… Sprain Brook Parkway? That’s what it’s called? Sprain Brook Parkway?”
In the pantheon of bad basketball tryout omens, there are maybe two things that would’ve frightened me more:
1) A net-less iron rim crashing through the windshield
2) Accidentally running over a hitchhiking Clyde Frazier
I made it into the city by seven, a full hour before the scheduled start time. This year’s tryout — Erie’s first in New York since officially becoming the Knicks affiliate last year — is held at Baruch College, a CUNY satellite on the corner of 24th and Lexington. Loping down two flights of stairs to the college’s basement gyms, I easily find the registration table, manned by one of the team’s trainers. Luckily, I’d paid my $150 registration fee in advance, determined to make sure I secured a spot. I introduce myself, adding that I was the guy that had emailed the front office about covering the tryout from a first-person, Plimptonian angle, and should I also sign in on the media …
“Oh we know who you are,” the trainer interrupts, cracking a wry, mischievous smile, the kind of smile that says “you, my friend, just paid the equivalent of a Knicks ticket for the privilege of puking in the bleachers.”…
Read the full story at ESPN’s TrueHoop column by clicking here! DO IT!
I’m sure you’ve seen that sitcom episode where one character says they’re short on funds, so another person lends them money. Inevitably the recipient starts buying things that the lender finds to be extravagant, and that inevitably leads to a conflict. Like on Frasier where he lends Roz money, only to see her going to spas and fancy restaurants. Or on Everybody Loves Raymond where Robert borrows a thousand dollars and wants to take a trip to Las Vegas. Heck even the dark drama “Breaking Bad” wrote this theme into a recent episode. Of course in the end of the sitcom, the axiom “don’t count other people’s money” is proven because it’s difficult to evaluate someone’s economic portfolio from a few purchases.
In my life I’ve found that someone’s financial situation is a private matter. At my day job, no one has revealed exactly how much their paycheck is, nor have I divulged that information to any of my coworkers. I’m not sure how much my closest friends have in savings accounts, retirement funds, or credit card debt. Rarely is money owner-less, seeking someone to claim it. It’s always my money, your money, or their money. With money comes ownership.
Enter the second decade of the twenty first century, where everything is about counting other people’s money. Republicans say there is too much restriction on businesses for them to create jobs. Democrats respond with the rich have too much money and don’t pay their fair share of taxes. The Koch brothers fund the Tea Party and the ‘Baggers get lots of play on mainstream media. Meanwhile AdBusters start Occupy Wall Street, but struggle to get the national news to report about it.
Currently our country is undergoing a fascinating game of rock-paper-scissors, with the upper, middle, and lower class all at each others wallets. Middle class Americans believe the poor are getting off easy (see: Yes, It’s Absurd That 46% Of Americans Don’t Pay Income Tax), while fighting off the rich through their unions. Yet even though the middle and lower class spar with each other, they can both agree that they want to tax the rich more.
If the US were twitter, #classwarfare would be trending. It’s even permeated into our sports. Recently the NFL settled its dispute just in time to start their season, and so far they are reaping the rewards (are the Bills and Lions really a combined 7-1? Does that mean this is back in vogue?) Unfortunately the players and owners of the NBA have intensified their work stoppage by recently canceling a chunk of the preseason and threatening to end the season. The last time these two sides fought over money, they lost a third of the season.
The curious thing about these major sport labor disputes is the skew of the playing field. Usually when unions are fighting companies they are representing the working class. However in the NBA talks, the middle class is made up of millionaires (primarily). So although the public tends to side with the union in labor battles, in this case there isn’t as much sympathy for them. That’s because we, the fans, are essentially the underclass in this turmoil. For the most part we get to feel like America’s poor, we are marginalized without much of a say in the matter. There is a seat at the table for the owners and the players, but neither of them care much what the fans think.
Sure some will say we as fans get to choose where we spend our money. Unfortunately that just isn’t the reality. Tom Ziller talks about how the relationship between the public’s money and the NBA:
The people of Oklahoma City have spent more than $100 million to build the Chesapeake Energy Arena and a practice facility for the Thunder. They deserve to know why Clay Bennett is holding out for more money from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The people of San Antonio have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to build and renovate the AT&T Center, and have turned out in droves to celebrate the Spurs’ success. They deserve to know why an ownership committee headed up by Spurs owner Peter Holt has made so little progress in negotiations that a shortened season seems inevitable.
In the NBA, fans aren’t just customers. We are investors. We bankroll the whole operation. Of the $2 billion spent on building and renovating NBA arenas since 2000, $1.75 billion of it has been public money. Without a public willing to play Stern’s extortionist games — ask Seattle what happens if you refuse to build a gym on the league’s terms — the NBA would be hosting its biggest games in rinky-dink arenas, or worse, on college campuses. Instead, the public plays along and bites on the threats, Stern’s NBA rakes in $4 billion a year and owners have the luxury of demanding a bigger slice.
Both the owners and the players have been so successful at getting people to throw money at them that they can cease operations to fight each other on how much each side should earn. The stream of cash of the NBA is so secure that a loss of games, even a loss of season, won’t ruin the league. Yup, and to prove it, look at the NHL’s attendance since their lost season. The only losers in this game of tug-o-green are the fans. Our source of entertainment is potentially gone, and even worse we’ll hand over our wallets once they do return. And like a syndicated sitcom, in a few years when the next CBA expires, we’ll go through the whole thing again.