Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

“Bock to the Future”: The South Florida All-Star Classic

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.

9 out of 10 non-reptilians agree: People miss hoops.

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.

Stat comes at the throne.

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.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

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!

 

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