Gilbert, the Gil Zero and the Mystics
The idea of Gilbert hovered over Mystics practice today. For one thing, there was Alana Beard's ridiculous fourth quarter Tuesday night; 18 points, all of her team's scoring, the second-best quarterly performance in league history, a truly Gilbertian outburst. Several of her teammates had no idea that she had done this, didn't know that she had scored all their points, or that the number was 18. Apparently, they were more concerned about the win.
"Child, we're trying to make the playoffs," as Tamara James put it.
Still, I was asking Beard about that scoring onslaught, and whether she felt anything special as it was progressing.
"I honestly didn't. Literally, I took what they gave me," she said. "I was just in the moment. It wasn't any feeling. I was just playing ball and I took what they gave me."
(More interesting was our discussion about her newly dyed but still spiky hair, which has led James to refer to her as "little boy."
"Shut up," Beard said. "I hate when she does that. If we're on a plane and we're walking down the aisle, she's like 'Excuse me, sir, can you sit down'?"
James had earlier told me she was taking charge of Beard's hair this year; I asked what happened to that promise.
"Ugh. I don't know what to do with that," James said. "Look at it, it just looks like a carpet."
"It doesn't even matter," Beard said. "When I'm in a game I'm good, when I have my street clothes on I'm good, no one says anything. I have a hot funky look. This is my bedhead look when I wake up in the morning, so they deal with it.")
Beard had to run off to some public service event, and so I attempted to learn more in her absence. About how, for example, she used to eat pancakes before every game, but how she recently switched to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after an off-night. About how her butter knife and peanut butter and jelly containers were confiscated at the airport before a recent flight. About how she also drinks two Red Bulls before every game. About how she will only use one ball during her pre-game shootaround, and how she has to touch another ball and then give it to Nikki Blue before they go out on the court, and how she only wears Nike socks but has to tuck the logo underneath to avoid WNBA fines.
"Very superstitious. It's got to be like clockwork, kind of like Gil," said the team's athletic trainer Navin Hettiarachchi, who also works with the Wizards. "Gil comes in the training room and has to have the same table, same guy, same routine. 'AB' is very similar to that....Same personality, same everything. Gil is 110 percent basketball, AB is 110 percent basketball. Stick to routines, work hard, great people, fun to be around, really cool, amazing superstars, but so down to earth.... Both of them are just crazy."
So then we peaked around the corner, and sure enough, there was Gilbert, chatting with AB, who was on her way out the door.
"She went for 18, and then she doesn't even want to give you a story?" Gilbert said to me. "How you not going give him a story when you went for 18 in the fourth quarter to win the game?"
Also, I pointed out, she had scored all her team's fourth-quarter points.
"That's a record, right?" Gilbert said. "C'mon girl, give this interview, an exclusive."
Like he should really talk about granting interviews, but that's another story.
"I did the interview already," she told Gilbert. "You need to get in there and work out."
I asked her why she had taken to peanut butter and jelly; "you've been reading my bios?" Gilbert asked her.
"That's what you do?" Beard said.
"Yeah, she's been reading my bios," Gilbert said.
"I didn't know that, I just like peanut butter and jelly," Beard insisted.
"No, she's been reading my bios," Gilbert said. "Go girl, I feel you."
Beard left, and then we moved on to the next topic: Tamara James and Nikki Blue have been wearing the Gil Zero, Gilbert's signature sneaker, during Mystics games.
"They're just comfortable, and we're showing some support for Gilbert," James said. "Actually I've been asking Gilbert for these shoes since training camp, and I'm just now getting 'em."
"He gave me mine right when I asked him," Blue told me. "Because I asked nicely; TJ doesn't ask very nice. Well, plus my foot is way bigger than hers; I wear a size 11 in men's."
I asked Blue why she wanted to have the Gil-Zero; "Maybe if I wear his shoes I can be like him, go from a zero to a hero," she said.
"But you're not a zero," I said.
"Well, maybe I'm a one," she agreed. "A one to a hero. They're comfortable, they look good, they're light and they match our uniforms," she continued. "I think they're really cute. Don't tell him I said that. They are cute, though."
Moments later, Gilbert appeared again. I immediately told him Nikki Blue thought his signature sneakers were cute.
"Cute?" he asked "Cute, like, cute? Mice are cute."
I asked him whether he thought other WNBA ballers were wearing his shoes.
"Probably, yeah," he said. "You know my swag's phenomenal."
So I've heard. One more Mystics note: James has dubbed Monique Currie "MoStank," because of her on-court scowls.
"That's funny, huh," Currie said.
"Just look at her," Beard said. "She needs circles during the day. C'mon, circles, boo, you need circles."
"Circles," if you're a dummy like me, means you get a sort of light hug while the other person rubs circular patterns on your back. Currie didn't appear to want any circles.
"She always got a stank face when the ref call a foul on her, always a stank face," James explained. "She had it today in practice, the stank face."
I asked Currie whether she liked her new nickname.
"Love it," she said. I think she was being sarcastic.
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