Heading into Friday night’s game against the Jazz, I had three critical questions:
1. How would the Bobcats respond to the Wednesday night Knick-ocaust?
2. What’s worse, being unable to sell your arena’s naming rights like the Bobcats, OR selling them to a toxic waste disposal firm, as the Utah did with their newly-christened “EnergySolutions Arena”?
3. Is Jazz forward Mehmet Okur’s first name pronounced “meh-MAY” or “meh-MO”?
We all know the answer to the first question; the Bobcats dominated the Jazz in nearly every facet of the game. I’m not a gambling man, but I’m willing to bet the Bobcats covered the spread on this one. Seriously, even though I’m elated with the outcome, a part of me is afraid that the NBA is suddenly becoming completely unpredictable. Think about it: the Heat are (is? I hate non-pluralized team names) awful, the Clippers are terrible, and the Nets are dreadful. Meanwhile, the Lakers, Trail Blazers, and Raptors are suddenly highly respectable. Yes sir, the NBA: it’s the new NFL.
As for the second, the jury is still out. We probably won’t know the answer until the Bobcats actually do sell the arena’s naming rights. If the highest bidder ends up being something normal, and “Charlotte Bobcats Arena” becomes, say, “IBM Arena,” then it’s always better to sell the naming rights. But if it ends up being called “Paco’s Bail Bond Arena,” then I’d prefer we keep it sponsor-free.
As for #3, I STILL don’t know how you pronounce that Turk’s name, which is even more incredible considering I watched this game on FSN Utah (not that I had a choice, thanks once again to News14's 1-outta-3-games-ain't-bad telecast policy). As it turns out, even Okur’s own announcing team can’t seem to agree on the pronunciation. The only sure thing is that Okur gets my vote for “NBA Player Who Most Looks Like He Just Rolled Out of Bed.” Memphis’s Pau Gasol and Toronto’s Jorge Garbajosa keep it close, but Okur gets the edge because on top of being slovenly, he also looks stoned. In fact it’s easy to picture him on off-days lying around on a vomit-stained frat couch, eating a box of Frosted Flakes, milk dribbling into his goatee.
Anyway, I don’t want to detract any further from this upset, because this is a great Jazz team we just beat. And they’re huge too—they’re average size has got to be 6’8”. Even their guards are "guard"-gantuan; if star PG Deron Williams played for us, Coach Bickerstaff would probably be rotating him in at power forward. Up and down, the roster is solid. Besides Okur, Carlos Boozer is having a great year (interestingly, he was booed so lustily by the Charlotte crowd, you’d have thought it was us he’d stabbed in the back a few years ago rather than Cleveland). They’ve also got stat-machine Andrei Kirilenko (fun fact: thanks to the good folks at FSN Utah, we learned that AK currently has the longest shot-blocking streak in history going: 28 games. Is it me or does that seem low? I would have thought that Wilt Chamberlain would have had a block in, like, 200 straight games.) Derek Fisher’s a cagey veteran, Harpring and Giricek are solid off the bench…Plus they have phenom Paul Millsap, who is so highly-touted that for the past three weeks it seems like ESPN.com analyst John Hollinger can’t go to sleep at night without writing at least two articles on what a travesty it was that Adam Morrison got the November Rookie of the Month award over Millsap. Hollinger’s been so outraged by this decision, by the way, that after he got done showing how much better Millsap is than Morrison in every statistical category, he began making up his own statistical categories and had Millsap dominating those as well.
So even though we led by an astonishing 20 points at the half, there was no reason to be particularly optimistic—especially after Wednesday. I was treating this very much the way my buddy, a die-hard New Jersey Devils fan, did in junior high school when he actually dated the Devil’s coach’s daughter (who also happened to be totally hot): it was unbelievably awesome but couldn’t possibly be expected to last long, so just try to enjoy it while you can.
And sure enough, in the third quarter the wheels started to fall off. Emeka Okafor got into foul trouble, and a groin was pulled—guess who’s? Yep, Brevin Knight is out again after “aggravating” his groin; he and his groin are like an old married couple at this point. “Bad Boy” Primoz Brezec also fouled out again for the second straight game (although not before getting 14 points and 11 rebounds—I’m kinda digging this new high-foul/high-scoring version of PB). But Jake Voskuhl of all people stepped up with 8 big points (at one point he scored 6 straight for us, which had me thinking it would have been cool if FSN had put up a “Voskuhl on 6-2 Run” graphic). The announcers were psyched that the quarter ended with the Jazz only trailing by 14, but I was frankly surprised that they weren’t ahead.
The fourth quarter was about one man: Matt Carroll, Jedi-Knight. On this night, the force was with young Carroll, whose perpetual sweatiness causes him to resemble Luke Skywalker on Dagobah. After the Jazz cut the lead down to 5 and all seemed lost, Carroll bailed us all out in one spectacular play: he hit a three pointer, drew the foul (and later made the free-throw), AND knocked out Kirilenko’s tooth. It was a four-point play at a time when we couldn’t buy a basket. It was the equivalent of Skywalker’s triple-flip off Jabba-the-Hut’s plank to save the day in Return of the Jedi. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anything like that before. The only down side of it was we had to watch the ref pick up AK’s tooth off the floor and bring it to the scorer’s table—gross! And the ref did it with his bare hands and was all casual about it too; it reminded me of Reservoir Dogs when Blonde cuts off the cop’s ear—the only thing the ref didn’t do was jokingly talk to the thing.
Anyway, Okafor looked great (21 points, 10 rebounds), Gerald Wallace had 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals, and 1 block (and a partridge in a pear tree), and Raymond Felton (18 points, 12 assists, 3 steals, and even 5 rebounds) is fully in command of this team. We’ve now taken out the Cavs, Spurs, Jazz, Pistons, and Nets. Just keep us away from those Grizzlies and Knicks…