They ran into one very big, very prickly, cactus
I know, I know, back to being tardy. But doesn’t everyone sleep in on a Saturday morning?
Action: Shaq’s still got it.
Reaction: An awful lot of it, too
You cannot imagine until you’re sitting up close just how quick and strong and powerful Shaquille O’Neal is. I know he probably got the benefit of a few calls – the way he clears out space in the paint borders on assault – but, still, he was vintage Shaq and I don’t care who the other centres were last night, they were not going to stop him.
He’s 7-1, probably closer to 375 pounds than the 325 he’s listed at, but he’s quick and when he gets that body and those elbows moving, it’s time to get the heck out of the way.
It’s pretty easy to sit at a keyboard and suggest they hit him, or move him, or stop him in any way. It’s entirely different to do it in person.
This is one of the all-time great post-game quotes and I have to repeat it here even though it’s in the story that’s in the paper:
“I think I’m the only player who looks at each and every centre and thinks that’s barbecued chicken down there.”
Action: Call of the game
Reaction: A hustle play
Biggest moment of last night’s game was not any of Shaq’s baskets; it was a three-point play by Louis Amundson and it was simply a good basketball play.
First Suns possession of the fourth quarter, the ball’s on the left block, Amundson dives from the right wing, take a pass, gets hit by a late-reacting Chris Bosh. It’s Bosh’s fifth foul, puts him on the bench and the play puts Phoenix up by seven.
Bosh could have perhaps reacted more quickly but it was just one of those plays that happens in the course of a game. Trouble was, it was the turning point, as it turns out.
Okay, I’m sitting in the press room at the arena last night and we’re listening to Jalen Rose on the pre-game show before the Orlando-Detroit game.
And I swear I heard him say the Boston Celtics are now favoured to win it all because they added Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury, who are “two big time players.”
Avoided doing a spit take, somehow. Seriously, “big time players?”
Marbury’s never won a thing, he’s been a disruptive factor on every team he’s ever been on and he hasn’t played a real game in, like, almost a year. Yes, he had eight points on Friday night; yes, he will eventually do something to make people in Boston despise him.
Moore? He’ll play, justifiably, behind Garnett, Perkins, Powe, Davis, Scalabrine when he’s healthy, and will likely not have the tiniest impact on a significant playoff game.
Q: Hey Doug - happy travels on this little road trip! I'm curious: do you tend to have more contact with the players and coaches on a 3 or 4 game road trip like this, or during a home stand? Is the routine pretty much the same (except for part of the day being eaten up by planes and buses)? Do you travel with the team or on your own?
Rob E, Scarborough
A: You do tend to get more interaction mainly because there are fewer of us following these guys on the road than there is at home. On this trip, for instance, I’m the only beat grunt travelling and it’s just been me and Jonesy and Eric Smith at the practices and shootarounds, which gives you a much greater chance to have private conversations with players.
In fact, I had a nice one-on-one chat with Chris Bosh before shootaround Friday – it’s going to make a nice, revealing story in tomorrow’s paper – that I never could have had at home, where there are always a dozen or more reporters hanging around.
And I do all my own travel.
Speaking of access, showed up at shootaround about 15 minutes before the team on Friday and who’s sitting there by himself waiting for the bus to arrive? Shawn Marion.
He’s still got a place out here and stayed at it instead of at the team hotel because his mom and some family members were in town, too.
Gave me a chance to stand and have a chat and, I have to tell you, he’s one of the really nice guys I’ve met. Conversation ran the gamut from both our families, the weather, the league, Toronto, his place here, good places to hang out in Phoenix and just general chit-chat.
And then who comes walking up on his own but Jake Voskuhl, who also lives out here and was staying with his wife and kids. He was telling me how cool it was to see them – they’ve been back in Phoenix while he’s been in Toronto because the kids are all under about seven years old and don’t need the disruption.
He was, of course, spectacularly happy to see them and pretty disappointed it’d only be for a couple of days.
Was a nice relaxing time with a couple of guys with more on their minds than just basketball.
Hey, don’t the Chicken but the Gorilla’s got his own dressing room with his name on the door.
Sure, the Chicken’s got a little coop in the back of the ACC but he shares it with some humans and there’s no indication that it’s his own space.
All stuffed animals are not created equal.
Here’s the Shaq love piece from the local publication.
Action: Foul him
Reaction: You foul him.
Got a whole whack of “why didn’t they Hack-a-Shaq” questions and here’s what the thinking is.
Not only does it make a shamockery of the game, to steal a Shaq word, it’s often a faulty tactic. It slows the game even more – and the Raptors were, and are, most efficient when the game has some flow – and Shaq’s actually making his free throws this season. And it only has ever worked if teams foul him away from the play and with a team so thin on the front line – two bigs fouled out, a third was in foul trouble all night, the fourth would have been utterly useless at the other end – having players intentionally commit fouls is folly.
Oh yeah, remember Nellie and the “I’m going to give the kids a nice long look and if I have to throw away this game against a team playing for something, well, screw the other teams in that race” story from yesterday? I notice that every team in the chase of the final playoff spot in the East lost last night except – yep – Charlotte.
And according to my friend Janny, the Nellie idea was bogus. It was pretty much the same old, same old for the Warriors except one of their most prolific scorers didn’t play.
Action: Jake’s quick night.
Reaction: A record setter
I know I put this is the in-game blog last night but I’m not sure everyone here reads there so this requires repeating.
When Jake Voskuhl fouled out in 7:30 it was the fastest disqualification in Raptor history. The previous was nine minutes, but Roger Mason Jr. in an April, 2004 game against Chicago.
And Voskuhl almost fouled for the cycle. Not only did he get the six personals, he also picked up a technical. If he’d got a technical after his sixth personal, it would have been a perfect night.
Oh, in Dallas, this is what they had to say about last night’s Mavs game.
Last mail thing, and we’ll be back with a big ol’ mailbag in the morning, it’ll give me something to do while sitting around the lobby in Dallas tonight.
Q: Are players contractually obliged to play a max of 82 regular season games per year? I am asking if a player is traded and with his former team, he played more games than average. And then he gets traded to another team that has a lot more games left on the schedule such that he would end up playing, say, 85 games. What happens then? He sits out a few?
Ken L, Hong Kong
A: The guy plays 85 games with no increase in pay or anything like that; in fact, it’s part of the reason the NBA schedule is set at so many days as well as so many games.
Jalen Rose, for instance, played 53 games with Indiana in 2001-02 and 30 with Chicago after a trade that season. That made it an 83-game season for Rose.