Not as quick as elephants but good nonetheless.
Gorgeous morning here in Manhattan, which means no possibility of weather delays on the flight, which means I’ll be back as scheduled early afternoon, which means I can go right from Pearson to the ACC, which means I’ll be courtside for yet another dramatic showdown between the Raptors and Knicks, which means I can continue to chronicle the epic struggle for 13th and 14th in the Eastern Conference.
Yes, I’m living the high life.
On with the show:
Action: Bargnani’s huge afternoon
Reaction: He keeps adding stuff
This from our “Beating The Dead Horse” department but Bargnani does keep impressing in different ways even as the season winds down.
Yesterday, the four blocked shots really caught my eye because a couple of them were from off the ball rather than his usual straight-up blocks.
It speaks to an increased awareness of defence and how to make an impact even if he’s not making shots.
And the coaches have noticed. In fact, they are giving him way more responsibility on defence, as Jay explained to us after the game.
“I think people under-estimate his length … I think that’s part of his development and his evolution. He’s recognizing the defensive end of the floor and he’s becoming good at it because of his length.
He’s a stop-gap back there and he was on Jefferies and that was his job tonight, to be the help guy for everybody and he knows how to do it.”
As some may know, there a lot to be enjoyed in a public house after a game, decompressing for a couple of hours, telling tales, getting caught up on the road with old friends.
And every now and then, you see something you’ve never seen before.
Like someone drinking red wine and Coke.
Yes, a lass asks the barkeep for red wine and Coke and the fellow – rightfully so – is aghast.
“I’ll give you red wine and I’ll give you a Coke, what you do with them is entirely up to you,” he says.
And sure enough, here comes the wine, here comes the Coke, they get mixed together and then consumed.
There is no accounting for taste.
Action: Pops gets five minutes
Reaction: Two bad ones in row.
Yes, Pops Mensah-Bonsu was his usual active self on the boards yesterday, jumping here and there to keep balls alive, getting his hands on errant shots and generally doing what he does best. But a couple of blown defensive assignments got him in the doghouse pretty quickly and we saw Joey at the four in the second half in the minutes Pops would have usually been playing.
During the first timeout after he got on the court, he, Jay and Shawn Marion were involved in quite an intense discussion about the defensive possession that had just occurred.
About two minutes later, Pops came out, never to return.
What’s it mean? Well, maybe it means he’s still got some work to do before he’s regular in the NBA.
Seriously, this whole elephant circus thing that delayed the Raptors from getting into the Garden yesterday was hilarious.
They arrive and the bus can’t go down the usual ramp they take to get into the building because the elephants are walking up to take their daily constitutional and the guard at the top of the ramp says, I’m told, “you can come back in an hour and get in.”
Well, that’s probably not going to work so the bus tries to go around the block to some other entrance and it’s Manhattan traffic gridlock and it’s inching along, giving the players and others a chance to snap cell phone photos of the elephants walking alongside them.
They can’t get in this door or that door and finally Kevin DiPietro, apparently the only guy in the travelling party who can get something done, gets a guard to let them in somewhere. Except they’re told at place:
“Don’t go in that door, that’s where the lions are.”
Finally, they get in, it’s taken about 45 minutes longer than it should and Pops has the best line:
“You know how slow it was? Elephants were passing us. Think about it. Elephants were passing us.”
Here’s a Did You Know.
Watching the various pre-game basketball shows here yesterday and the various newscasts, found out the Orlando Magic, so distraught at that loss to the Raptors, felt compelled to call a players-only team meeting the day after.
That’s how bad they felt.
Of course, they went out and smoked Cleveland and blew out Washington so maybe that meeting helped.
In New York, where my friends are entirely bored of watching and writing about the Knicks, here’s a sampling of today’s items.
A visit to the mail:
Q: Hi Doug, I know you've said at least twice that there are no NCAA rules you would like to see put in the NBA (hopefully, I am not putting words in your mouth!) But, are there NBA rules you would like to change? I for one wonder what tremendous basketball skill is required to call a time out with ???? time left on the clock that somehow moves the ball from the baseline to midcourt??? HUH???? Reward a team for being behind, but at least having time outs left?
Tim H, Windsor
A: Yeah, that’s a rule built more for creating drama, I’m afraid, than for any real tactical reason. Does make for interesting last-second shots, though, and I don’t think I’d change it.
What I’d like the NBA to do is cut down on the number of timeouts – maybe just one in the last minute of a game – and if they wanted to cut the time to get the ball over midcourt from eight seconds to six, we might see more transition offence, which is something I like very much.
Action: Opening Day!
Reaction: Time begins
More digression (what? You want intricacies of the 75th game of the regular season, one against the Knicks?) but what the heck.
And for that, here’s one from the mail:
Q: A non-Raptor, non-basketball question for you! You've mentioned many times that you’re a baseball fan so with the baseball season upon us - who is your early pick for the World Series winner? Also, do you get out and watch any of the Jays games? Finally, what is your greatest baseball memory?
Dave G, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
A: You know what? I’m taking the Mets. I know they’ll probably blow a 10-game lead in the last three weeks or so but maybe they won’t. And I’m a big Carlos Delgado fan (probably from the fact I was doing some seamhead work when he first broke in the majors) and it’d be nice to see him get a ring.
Super Son and I see four, five, six games a year in person, mostly weekend afternoons on games picked for pitching matchups and only on nice days when the lid’s off the ballyard.
Greatest memory? Wow. There probably isn’t one, to tell you the truth. I regret I never saw Clemente play in person but in my mind’s eye I can see him twirling and throwing a runner out at third from the wall in right; I never saw Sandy Koufax pitch in person but I did see Greg Maddux in his prime and there was not much better than that.
I can’t pick one.