Friday, June 24, 2005

TATB Notebook: 06.24.05

Touching all the bases (NBA Finals edition) while casting Dustin Hoffman as the lead in "The Larry Brown Story" . . .

Well, I guess it wasn't a bad game. I was looking forward to tonight's Game 7 more than I have any NBA game since the Celtics season ended, hoping that it would come down to a Robert Horry or Chauncey Billups shot in the final seconds. Alas, Tim Duncan - the best player in the NBA, still - snapped out of his awkward funk in the third quarter and took command, scoring 17 of his 27 points in the second half, and the Spurs claimed the Pistons' title belts with a mostly suspenseless 81-74 victory. At least the classy Spurs won. There would be something inappropriate about Pistons fans celebrating a championship in the same year of the Artest incident.

Duncan is from the Virgin Islands, but his stone face is straight outta Easter Island. Even after the championship had been secured, he looked more relieved than happy. Then again, if you noticed the grotesque, deep scratches up and down his arms - courtesy of the Wallace, Wallace, and McDyess trio, no doubt - you understand why he'd be relieved to be done with the Pistons. Duncan was so clawed up, he looked like he'd just helped Siegfried pull Montecore the White Tiger off Roy. (Yes, I knew the tiger's name without Google's help. What of it?)

The old-schoolers, grumps, geezers, and especially my dad like to moan that the NBA needs to start calling traveling more often. It's a legit gripe, I suppose, but if you ask me, my number one request for the refs - other than to pull their heads out of their bleepin'. . . whoops, never mind - would be to start calling more fouls. The Pistons and Spurs are actually two extremely skilled offensive teams - if you don't like watching Manu Ginobili slash to the hoop, as far as I'm concerned you don't like sports - but all the slapping, clutching, grabbing, hissing, biting and so on that is permitted by the refs has seriously detracted from the aesthetics of the game. If David Stern gave orders to start calling fouls on everything that - well, on everything that's a foul - we'd see every team's starting five foul out in the first half for about two weeks. Then, gradually, the game would return to the flowing, graceful style of the NBA's 1980s heyday, I just know it.

I'm not saying ESPN's Mike Tirico looks plump, but I'm pretty sure I saw him trying to peel back the golden metal exterior of the championship trophy to see if it was milk chocolate underneath.

Spurs swingman Brent Barry was toting around his preschool-aged children during the postgame celebration. If college hoops recruiters are as savvy as they are supposed to be, the Mini-Barrys are already receiving scholarship offers based on their genes alone. Same doesn't go for Scooter's kids, however.

Why did I get the sense that the frame of reference for most of the Spurs "fans" in attendance last night begins with the debut of David Robinson? I bet James Silas could walk through that building without being stopped for a single autograph . . .

. . . especially if he's had a haircut in the last 30 years.

So much for Billups's burgeoning big-game player reputation. The most successful of the Rick Pitino Rejects likely would have been the playoff MVP (for the second straight year) had he played reasonably well in a Pistons victory last night. But he was held to just one field goal in the first 45 minutes, finished 3 of 8, and had a three-point attempt blocked by the relentlessly annoying Bruce Bowen with 51 seconds left. Not his finest moment, but at least he has had his share, and he'll probably have more.

Who says Al Michaels doesn't seem like he enjoys calling NBA games? He dyed his skin the color of the basketball, for heaven's sake! How can you be more committed than that?

Sidenote to the wizards in the ESPN production truck. One way to make the viewing experience more enjoyable? More closeups of Desperate Eva. Fewer of Gregg Popovich. Thanks much.

Rip Hamilton is Reggie Miller minus about 8 feet of range. I'd say 14 of his 20 or so nightly points come via this route: Run through a screen (or a lead block, if we are to be accurate), run through another screen, curl, catch, shoot, swish. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Has it ever adequately been explained how the Pistons' Tayshaun Prince lasted until the 23rd pick in the 2002 NBA Draft? He was an excellent four-year player for a strong college program (Kentucky), versatile, smart, someone who obviously had skills that would translate well to the NBA. Yet on draft night he was selected after such luminaries as Nikoloz Tskitishvili (that's a name, not a sneeze), Marcus Haislip, Melvin Ely, Qyntel Woods, and Jiri Welsch. Something tells me that if he were a European or a high school kid with the same ability, he'd have been a high lottery pick. It's a shame if there's an unintentional bias against four-year college players, but in Prince's case, the argument is easily made.

As I was attempting to put Robert (Big Shot Bob) Horry's six championships in perspective - perhaps even by sacreligiously invoking the name Bill Russell - ESPN flashed this graphic: Robert Horry is the first player to win six championships with three different teams since John Salley. Wait a minute. John Salley won six championships? That John Salley? The smarmy, Arsenio-wannabe host of "Best Damn Sports Show, Period?" Spider? Him? I knew he won a couple in Detroit and another as a Shaq Daddy caddy in L.A., but I had no idea he coattailed his way to six rings. Upon further review, Horry needs to get Title No. 7 before he can claim to have unique significance.

I was going to give Stuart Scott credit for an understated, professional postgame interview with a remarkably candid Larry Brown. Honest, I was. But wouldn't you know it, ol' DJ Boo-Yeah went and blew it at the end, signing off with one of his patented cloying cliches: "Coach, if you look up the word 'class' in the dictionary, you'll see your picture." What a boob. If only Brown had responded: "Yep, and if you drop the 'C' and the 'L', Stu, why, look . . . there's your picture!"

During the 96 television timeouts, I switched over to HBO to catch bits and pieces of "Bull Durham." Though it's on virtually every night on one HBO channel or another - I suspect the network has no more than 20 movies in their library - it remains my favorite baseball movie, one of five or six flicks that the TATB clicker always seems to stall on. ("Swingers" and "Dazed and Confused" being tied atop the list.)

Three observations:

1) The recent list of the 50 Greatest Movie Quotes included the speech by "Bull Durham" protagonist Crash Davis (Kevin Costner, in his best role) at the end of the movie. The speech is too vulgar at the beginning to publish here but it ends as such: "I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days." It's memorable if a little (okay, a lot) chick-flickish. Ask me, there were 50 better quotes in this movie alone. A few:

Crash: "Nuke's scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man is here. We need a live roost . . . was it a live rooster? We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose's glove. And, nobody seems to know what to give Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present. Is that about right? We are dealing with a lot of sh--."

Larry the pitching coach: "Well, candlesticks always make a nice gift. And, maybe you can find out where she's registered, maybe a place setting, or maybe a silverware pattern is good."

Crash:"Man that ball got outta here in a hurry. I mean anything travels that far oughta have a damn stewardess on it, don't you think?"

Bulls manager:"You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!"



Nuke:"A good friend of mine used to say, 'This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.' Think about that for a while."

2) Which current major league pitcher most resembles the character of flaky phenom Nuke LaLoosh? I say it's Florida's A.J. Burnett, a likable, cocky space-case blessed with a multimillion-dollar arm. I suppose you could also make a case for Oakland's Barry Zito, although he strikes me as unusually comfortable in his own skin more than anything else. The Red Sox nominee would have to be rockin' Bronson Arroyo, no?

3) Remember the scene when Crash is so infuriated that Nuke is shaking off his signs that he tips the batter off to the pitch? Here's the dialogue to jostle your memory:

Crash:"Son of a b---. He's throwing a two-hit shutout and he's shaking me off. Believe that s---? (Looking at the hitter.) Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak of me well."

Remember it now? Well, turns out the batter in that scene is an actor named Paul Devlin - the same Paul Devlin who is now an anchor/reporter on NESN SportsDesk. He's not the Red Sox's only link to the film, either. The consultant on baseball scenes was the Durham Bulls manager at the time: Grady Little. Name is only vaguely familiar.

* * *

Other stuff . . .

I don't know if this 2005 version will be the best Patriots team of their run, as some TATB emailers have suggested recently. So much depends on Tedy Bruschi's status, because in my view he's one of two utterly irreplaceable players. (I imagine you can guess the other.) But this will undoubtedly be the deepest squad the Belichick/Pioli Braintrust has put together. When the punt returning options are fast (Chad Morton), faster (Tim Dwight) and fastest (Bethel Johnson, if he even makes the team), you know a lack of talent at the bottom of the roster will not be their downfall.

Could just be wishful thinking on my part, but is there any chance we'll see Pokey Reese in a Sox uniform this season? The pieces seem to fit: There's no room for him in Seattle, where young Mike Morse has taken over at shortstop, and the Sox are desperate for a utility player since Ramon Vazquez teeters between injured and useless. Reese, who has been out all season with a shoulder injury, has been long-tossing and is expected to begin a rehab stint soon in the minors. I hope Theo finds a way to bring him back, presuming he returns to good health. He's the best defensive player the Sox have had in my lifetime, and he'd be perfect for this role.

I'm seriously wondering if the KFC Cowboy's annual torrid streak has decided to take this summer off. To put it another way. Dave Roberts (5) has more home runs than Kevin Millar this season.

Stat of the week: Derek Jeter has made the last out in five of the Yankees' 12 losses this month.



(Win some, lose some.)

(Yup, tough luck for Jetes.)

(Still waiting for an intangibles joke, aren't you?)

As for today's Completely Random Basketball Card:

Yo, Spurs fans: Do you recognize this man?