Impressions: Hitting the Target (Center)

Wednesday was an awesome opportunity to head downtown to a place where you are allowed to gawk at really tall people. So I felt like it would be worth posting about. It’s taken me this long to write about it because I wasn’t quite sure how to structure this but I think I’m going to attack it a person or aspect of the event at a time (note to Kurt Rambis…you probably want to skip the section on you):

Kieran’s Irish Pub – Three words… Cheesy Artichoke Dip. I’m telling you, it’s worth stopping off for beforehand.

The Seats – I imagine that if you were in the upper deck of the Target Center for this game you wouldn’t run home to write about it. However, when you are 3 rows from touching the hardwood, the vantage point really changes your perception. it’s probably an indication that you have good seats when Tubby Smith is about 5 rows behind you. It was INCREDIBLE. To really see how big these guys are, how athletic they are, and to be able to really read facial expressions and body language really alters your interpretation of what is taking place on the court. Amazing. It was also a clear reminder that they are on a court and playing on baskets just like what I did from Middle School on up. It’s the same game, just played by the elite…well, it was the Wolves and the Grizz so I’ll alter that to the near-elite. An extra bonus? Getting to see people react or look over toward you after you yell something because you are close enough and it is too quiet for them not to hear. Great times!

Dick Bavetta – There are very few officials that stand out as instantly recognizeable. Ed Hochuli in the NFL and Dick Bavetta in the NBA are absolutely two of them. So I was amused when I saw Bavetta on the court when I walked in. If you are wondering how I can recognize him, the fact that he is over 70 years old is generally a good starting point. It was interesting to watch a veteran of that many years work. He was good natured as he would talk to a few fans during a timeout. He always listened to the complaints of players, while calmly and clearly making his counterpoint with a smile. And, as is his reputation, he blew plenty of calls. It’s always fun to not be let down.

    The Grizzlies:

Jason Williams – White Chocolate is looking old. Not enough left in is game to say much more.

Hasheem Thabeet – Worst… Big Man… Ever. Makes Shawn Bradley’s talent look like Bill Russell’s and Wilt Chamberlain’s combined. Pure unintentional comedy.

Mike Conley Jr. – Conley has a beautiful stroke on his shot. He was better than I had anticipated and was a key to the game. And annoyingly, I couldn’t come up with anything good to chant or yell at him. Huge disappointment.

Marc Gasol – Um… Pau he is not. I’ll get to more on Darko later, but watching the two of them executing their post moves was like watching me making post moves when I was in middle school, only Gasol is much taller and has a better beard than I had back then. Oh, on a personal note to Marc, it was nothing personal when I was commenting on your body odor…but you have to admit, it got more than a couple chuckles from the crowd.

Darrell Arthur – Taller than I would have guessed. And less important.

O.J. Mayo – Seemed to reinforce to me that trading Mayo for Love was a very wise move by the T-Wolves. Mayo has skills, but didn’t even look like the 3rd best player on the Grizzlies on a night where Rudy Gay was injured. Oh, and to the guy in the second row, “Are you OJ or are you Mayo? I’m confused” is one of the dumber things you can yell. If you can’t do better than that, just keep your mouth closed.

Zach Randolph – Random observation first… his calves are small for a guy his size. Anyway, Zach was clearly one of the best players on the floor. He’s a tough matchup for anyone defensively, he has good range, a solid body, and if nothing else gives you effort on the defensive end even if he isn’t a special defender. There is plenty of history with Zach, but he is clearly a key reason that Memphis is sitting in the 8th playoff spot. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to make a bunch of weed jokes but there were kids around.

Tony Allen – Surprisingly with Rudy Gay out, Tony Allen is the guy that passed the eye test as the most important person on the floor for Memphis. His harassing defense on Michael Beasley kept Beasley out of a rhythm all game long and his offense was solid. It was clear that he was trying harder than everyone else on the court and when you have these teams on the court that matters a great deal. He seemed to have all of the energy from his years with the Celtics and he brought that championship mentality.

    The Timberwolves

Eddy Curry’s Expiring Contract – I was terribly disappointed that the Wolves didn’t put an empty chair with Eddy Curry’s actual expiring contract on it.

Sebastian Telfair – Over lunch I was walking through the skyways downtown with one of my cohorts (who we will refer to as Brett Favresheimer to protect his identity) and we cruised right by Bassy. Brett gave him the wave and Telfair gave him the head nod back, so he won some points there… in fact those were about all of the points that he scored all day!

DARKO!! – He only needs the one name. Keep in mind, this is the guy that was drafted right after Lebron and before Carmelo, Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. All I can tell you is that he is worse in person than he is on TV. And he’s BAD on TV!! Darko made Marc Gasol look way more talented than he is. Darko cannot finish, he can’t dribble, he always whines about any contact… he’s simply awful. It was mesmerizing to watch. The only way someone can convince me that his draft choice was merited is if there are tapes proving that David Stern told Detroit that his only two choices were Darko and Thabeet. In that matchup alone does Darko look like a Hall of Famer.

Anthony Tolliver – I was unfamiliar with Tolliver before this game, but he represented the Creighton Blue Jays very well. His hustle was better than most of the Wolves combined. Now if only he hadn’t dribbled off his foot on a breakaway…

Michael Beasley – First off, Beasley broke out the wild hair for this one and it was an attention grabber. Albert Einstein was definitely jealous. It seemed clear that Beasley has to get in a groove early and Tony Allen made sure that he couldn’t. Beasley hit some shots, but overall he was frustrated early and never got in the groove so he started shutting down. Combine that with his lack of defense, and well… he’s not going to be an alpha-dog on a team any time soon.

Kevin Love – Here’s the heart and soul of the Wolves franchise. It was clear that 80% of the people were in the arena because they wanted to see Love extend his double-double streak to 44 and tie Moses Malone. Randolph definitely made it more difficult on him (though not as difficult as a certain coach did…) but in the end Love did exactly what I came there for and then was able to tack on a put-back dunk to finish off the night. Love is the real deal and I hope that the Wolves either get more pieces or I’m jumping on the Sports Guy’s Free Kevin Love bandwagon.

Kurt Rambis – Lemme say that the last thing you should want as a coach is to be a lasting impression on a game. It should be about the players. But Kurt Rambis is not your conventional coach. He wasn’t conventional with his look back in the day, and he’s not conventional now. Most guys would play your best players the most, but not Coach Rambis. He had Kevin Love going for his 44th straight double-double and decided that Love should only play 21 seconds longer than Darko. That’s right, a less confident coach would fear the backlash of giving his best player the same playing time as his terrible center but not Kurt Rambis. He embraced it. 17+ minutes on the bench is the best way to win. He didn’t blink when the crowd was yelling at him to put Love in after an 8 minute stint on the bench. He didn’t bat an eye when I waited for quiet moments and yelled “we want Laimbeer” repeatedly. (Editor’s Note: Rambis didn’t bat an eye but Laimbeer actually did take notice). Nope, he’s that special breed that believes that poor decision-making should be embraced and greatness should be stifled. And before a Rambis-apologist beats me up about momentum, I completely agree that the 2nd team was bringing the momentum, but not at both post-positions. If Love and Tolliver would have been on the floor together it would have been an even stronger group on the floor and there’s no way you can prove otherwise. But Rambis knows best. He even knows that running the triangle offense without the right personnel is also brilliant. I mean, who am I to argue with a coach that has a sub-30% winning percentage?! He’s very impressive.

So what was my overall impression? I had an absolute blast. If you handed me those seats I would be there every chance I got, no matter how bad the team is. And I just ordered my “I Heart Rambis” T-shirt, so an early Christmas is coming soon…

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Categories: Basketball

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