The Eastern Conference Dance-Off
LAS VEGAS - I strolled over to the Eastern Conference practice Saturday morning with no real purpose other than I was bored and I don't gamble (except for the quarter slots and who really wants to bother with that with all the ballers in this place?). I really just wanted to hear Eddie Jordan explain the Princeton offense to Shaq, D-Wade and LeBron. Of course, I know better. These "practices" are really nothing more than light shooting and running drills. And, often they are quite boring. Not this one.
After the players concluded practice with their silly halfcourt shots - LeBron and Vince Carter both made one - Shaq challenged his teammates to a breakdancing contest. O'Neal hit center court and channeled his inner Ozone and Turbo - that's reference to that hip-hop classic movie, "Breakin' " for you youngsters - and started popping and locking. He did the wave, the snake, then he dropped to the floor and broke into the windwill. Broke it down to the very last compound. He got up from his spin and laughed. Then, he folded his arms and got into his b-boy stance. It was an awesome show, well worth the price of a press pass. Or an all-star invitation. "Shaq killed it," Caron Butler screamed.
Who was going to challenge him? The players scattered to different ends of the floor, laughing and giggling but no one was willing to step up, except LeBron. He sauntered on up to Shaq and did his "Business LeBron" dance, rolling arms, thumping his chest, but The Big Baryshnikov was not impressed. He jumped right in front of LeBron and began pumping his arms profusely until LeBron had to back off. He brought out more of his moves. He turned and did some sort of booty bounce and LeBron couldn't do anything about but accept defeat.
"I did not beat Shaq," James said later. "He cut a court out there. I would say cut a rug. But there wasn't no rug out there."
If there was, Shaq would've got rug burns. After Shaq destroyed LeBron, no one wanted him. Wade tried to urge Gilbert Arenas. "I wanted Gil to dance, man. He's got some stuff y'all ain't seen," Wade said. Arenas didn't budge.
Shaq then whispered into Dwight Howard's ear. The young fella stepped to Shaq, then Shaq did some more popping and locking and tried another move, where he put his hand in Howard's jersey and made it appear to be a heartbeat. His teammates were going crazy. Howard struck back with some arm rolls of his own, then the Atlanta native went back home and snapped his fingers, did his step, and he did it all by himself. Hey!
Shaq let Howard do his move then he hit the ground and did the catepillar, bringing an incredible applause from the crowd. It was a wrap. "I had to put on a little show for the people who got me here. I appreciate their support. That's what this is all about. To give him back to them," O'Neal said. "They already know I can do that. I've been doing that my entire career. Every now and then I like to take it coast to coast. I've been doing that since 88 or 89. My 14th one, I'm out here enjoying the people and enjoying the fans. You don't know if you'll get that chance again. We were just out there having a good time."
But why no Gilbert? I asked him later why he didn't dance. He said, "They wanted me to compete with him, but it was break dance music. I'm not a breakdancer. I clown walk. I stomp, all that, that teenage stuff."
I have no idea what Gilbert is talking about, but I sure wish I could've seen it.
Oh yeah, Gilbert went through with his plan to distribute 100 "Agent 0" jerseys at the practice yesterday. It was a little funny seeing Wizards public relations director Zack Bolno pulling a dolly with a box filled with jerseys around the practice court, while Arenas tossed them into the stands. Arenas said he plans to give out more each year from here on out. Oddly enough, before fans scrambled to get those jerseys - and they were the high quality, $175 variety - a few fans at the practice actually booed him.
During one of the breaks in practice, Arenas was asked about his catchphrase - "Hibachi!" A gentleman asked Arenas whom has he "hibachi'd" the most this season. Arenas thought about it for about five seconds, then said, "Nobody on the Lakers." Booooo! That's all you could hear. Afterward, I asked Gilbert how it felt to get booed at an all-star practice. "I got booed? Must've been Laker fans." Gotta love that guy.
Side note: I asked Wizards assistant Mike O'Koren about the beatdown the rookies took Friday night. In case you didn't know, he was the coach of that team, which lost - by 41. "We got handled pretty well," O'Koren said. "We just got to make sure it doesn't happen tomorrow."
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