The road beckoned and we went
And so it ends, the road portion of an abomination of a season, with too many games in too few nights, too many oddities abounding, silliness to the Nth degree.
Thanks to My Man Kelly, only had to do 28 of the 33, which was fine with me, seeing how it felt like there was a game every day.
So as we’re sitting around sipping one last road Post-Game Decompression Beverage, the mind wanders:
Well, there really wasn’t one but the lone western trek wasn’t bad.
Two nice wins to see in Phoenix and Utah, both snapping long streaks of futility, might have been the two most satisfying road victories of the year for them.
Toss in a delayed flight at LAX to Phoenix that afforded us some extra time for a bartender to tell us about the time the guy showed up in the lacey dress and nylons while we watched Giants-49ers in a playoff game and it was kind of cool.
Throw in the annual trip to Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix as part of that journey where the guy regaled us about the visits of the likes of Steve Nash for his birthday party, Chris Bosh and a guy he thought was Rudy Fernandez except it was Jose Calderon and it was a pretty good one.
It’s hard to get out of my mind the sight of Andrea Bargnani sitting on the bench during overtime in Utah with his head in his hands, his calf screwed up for the second time and wearing a look of despair I had never seen before.
Felt terrible for the kid, whose season was effectively over at that time.
He’d just had 30 the night before in Phoenix and was a huge part of an upset win at Utah before he got hurt again.
Sports sometimes pulls at the heartstrings; it did that night.
Thanks to a delay in Toronto that would have caused a missed connection, having to ultimately go Toronto-Atlanta-Oklahoma City-Memphis-Indianapolis-Detroit-Toronto to cover two games on back-to-back nights was horrific.
It was the You Can’t Get There From Here Tour and robbed me of a Saturday night out in under-rated OKC and, thanks to the back-to-back, missed a night on a stool having shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s in Indy.
Since we’re talking about the road and my mind tends to wander a bit, how about One Of The Greatest Singalong Songs Of All Time (especially if your at some house party and it’s really late at night and the refreshments are flowing.
The night they lost by, oh, 70 or so in Boston at the end of a back-to-back and Dwane came out a bit seething and announced they were flying home and would practice the next day because, and I’m paraphrasing here, “they don’t deserve a day off after that; they need to representing the city and the franchise better.”
Good on him.
Good start, good finish
Finish the first game in Cleveland way back in December and a gaggle of us stop by this Irish joint about a three-pointer from the arena.
Not only do they serve Samuel L. Smith’s organic lager (third place I’ve ever seen that sweet nectar in North America), there’s a little scuffle at the door involving five or six women and men pushing and shoving and getting into it and there’s nothing like a little brouhaha to get the season off to a rousing start.
Then it ends with a quick flight to Milwaukee and a late breakfast at one of the great greasy spoons on the road: George Webb, a 24-hour diner in the middle of desolate downtown Milwaukee.
What’s the place like? Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if Flo and Mel were arguing in the kitchen where I’m sure the cook has a hairnet and record.
Pretty good omelet and greasy bacon, though. And the coffee was strong.
New Year’s Day brunch in Isleworth thanks the graciousness of Butch Carter and his family. Great company, great food, great tour (yes, I saw the fire hydrant Tiger backed into) and the most calm three or four hours on the road this year.
Much, much appreciated.
Best cab ride
Back to Phoenix and a 15- or 20-minute chat with a cabbie who used to do some boxing and knew all about George Chuvalo and who had worked unloading luggage off planes at Sky Harbour Airport next to Ellis Valentine.
No word on whether Valentine simply picked up the suitcases and threw them on to the belt with that stunning arm of his.
Things we missed
No game at Golden State, no time in San Francisco; a night off in Philly to go see my friends at the Palm.
Things we didn’t miss
Having to go to Sacramento.
Oh yeah, they played last night.
Figured there really aren’t three things that stood out.
They played hard, were over-matched in many regards, faded late in the game and lost a close one.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Most interesting thing got into the game story for second edition and was Dwane talking about the technical and ejection that DeMar DeRozan got in the first half.
“That’s one of the growing moments for him. No matter how tough it gets or how much frustration sets in, fatigue, whatever it is, you’ve got to buckle up and roll with it.
“This was a teaching moment for him and that’s part of his maturity process. When you’re the man on the team, you’ve got to be responsible.”
And then there was the technical that Kleiza got late in the game, when the outcome was still in doubt, another move that miffed the coach.
“LK had a tough technical in a close situation down the stretch, we can’t let frustration set in, we have to finish the game in a professional way and play the game the right way … That’s what we’re teaching for now, when these games count, we can’t have those mental mistakes.”
One more thing on the DeRozan play.
A Raptors official talked to the referee after the game and found out that tossing a ball that ends up in the stands calls for an automatic ejection. It’s probably a silly rule that needs to have some room for interpretation because it was obvious DeMar was just ticked and didn’t rifle it into the front row. He tossed it the length of the court, it bounced a couple of times and probably really warranted a simple technical rather than an ejection. But intransigence in the rules didn’t allow any leeway. Too bad.
Okay, rather long and odd travel day (you have to trust me, the decision to drive to Detroit, fly here, fly back to Detroit and drive home made the most sense) but I’m not likely back at Casa Doug until dinner time so I may not see many comments between, say, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. I will get to them, though.