Ugly loss on an ugly day
The thing about being a beat writer covering a pro sports team is that you always wind up being half sports writer/half pyschologist for the devastated fans who love the team you cover. When I lived in Kansas City and covered the Chiefs, I often found myself consoling crushed Chiefs fans after their beloved team gave up 550 yards and lost 45-44 on the last play of the game.
"Yeah, but Priest Holmes had a nice day," was my classic response. It didn't help.
Such was the case last night, after I watched the Wizards go down in one of the strangest basketball games I've ever seen. Vince Carter hit a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, the Wizards fell apart and New Jersey got out with a win. After pounding out a story on deadline, I headed to the local watering hole to down a few brews and watch Bears/Giants. Wasn't there long before one of my boys, Norm, walked in, took a seat and started shaking his head.
"Sorry about your Skins man," I said.
"Forget the Skins, they're done," said Norm, who was wearing an old-school Bullets hat. "What happened to my Wizards? How do you let Vince Carter take a three pointer like that? Shouldn't you be guarding the three-point line? And why did they get 10 seconds to inbound the ball? And have you ever seen a ball stick on the glass, stay there, and then fall into the basket? Don't tell me that something isn't up with that new ball. It sucks. We should never has lost that game."
All I could do was buy Norm a brew and let him vent. Tough, tough loss. To understand how tough, all you had to do was see Eddie Jordan's eyes in host postgame press conference. I've seen Eddie mad, I've seen Eddie frustrated and I've seen Eddie analytical but I've seldom seen him that crushed. His eyes were red, his voice was shot and his comments were as short as they've ever been. When someone asked him why he didn't consider fouling Carter before he could get a three off, Eddie came as close as I've ever seen to pulling a Jim Mora Sr. by going off.
Anyway, the Wizards pretty much got what they deserved. They came out flatter than a drive through western Kansas, missed a ton of wide open shots and allowed the only guy who could hurt them (Carter) to get open for the game-tying three. Verizon Center was dead the entire night and the Wiz never gave their fans a reason to get hyped up. It was as though every person in the building wished they had stayed at home under a blanket on the couch and watched football.
That said, I am finally ready to concede that something is up with the new basketball. Did you see how that thing stayed on the glass before dropping through on Carter's shot? Unreal. I've played basketball, watched basketball and covered basketball now for most of my life and I've never see a ball behave like that. With the old ball, Carter's shot would have banged off the back of the rim, landed somewhere around the free throw line and the Wizards would be celebrating a win right now.
For you hoop heads out there, is there a person on the planet you would rather play with than Jason Kidd? 18 assists? If he's on your team, all you have to do is flow to the open spot on the floor and wait for a perfect pass. The guy is terrible shooter but man can he pick a defense apart. He's like basketball version of Peyton Manning.
Funny tale from the lockeroom: Some of you are aware that the Wizards have a "hustle board" in the lockeroom? Anyway, the board is posted on a wall right next to Gilbert's locker which makes for some controversial moments. Assistant coach Harvey Grant is in charge of updating the board with stats detailing individual steals, deflections, charges taken etc. but somehow, Gilbert always ends up with lead in most stats. Also, the handwriting on the board often appears to be different than Grant's.
"It doesn't matter what you put up there for me Harv," Antonio Daniels said before the game. "If it's a higher number than Gilbert, he's just going to change it anyway. It's ridiculous."
At that exact moment, Gilbert emerged from the training room and joined the argument. "Why is it always ridiculous when I'm winning at something?" he said. "I can't help it if I hustle more than anyone else. I'm a winner baby."
"You cheat," Daniels said. "That's not winning."
The argument continued for several minutes as Daniels disputed Grant's method for tracking steals and deflections and Arenas argued that his numbers should actually be higher.
"I don't have any steals," Daniels said. "I don't go for steals. I've never been about steals."
Arenas: "I should have more charges on there."
Daniels: "And why are there so many deflections for me from the last game? If I had that many deflections, wouldn't I have at least one steal?"
Arenas: "I had more steals than that last game Harvey. You're cheating me. It doesn't matter anway. I won last year and I didn't get anything. Thanks Gilbert, here's nothing. Good job."
After several minutes of this, Grant just shook his head and pulled a Don Rumsfeld.
"I'm outta here," he said. "This isn't getting any better."
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