By Craig Kwasniewski
Got the mad hook-up again and sat in the front row for last night's Clippers-Magic game. The Clippers rallied twice from huge deficits to make it an interesting game, but eventually the Magic won 113-106. Here's some brief takes on the game (one day later as the Heinekens and whiskey sours killed me when I got home):
What a difference a year makes: The past two years, Clipper Nation came out early and often to support their playoff contending team. Well we're officially back to the "Hip to Clip" era as the stadium was 80% empty 15 minutes before the opening tip. There was no real energy at the game and with Staples Center half-empty you can definitely notice the piped-in crowd noise during the opening intros. Maybe the Clippers Spirit really do need to perform naked, because a 60% full arena against one of the top Eastern Conference teams just doesn't cut it.
Well at least the Clippers Spirit tried to "lend a hand." Here's a photo of three of them greeting fans as they enter Staples Center and posing for photos. Check out the guy at the right with the cane... nice view my man!
Dunleavy going out gangsta style: Halfway through the 2nd quarter, Coach Mike Dunleavy drew two very quick technicals (the second for yelling, "awww that's bullshit!!!") for a an immediate ejection. He turned and walked right to the tunnel and out... no argument, no restraint by the assistants and no escort by the security guards. At the time, the Clippers were trying to rally back from a huge early deficit and maybe Dunleavy felt the team needed that extra punch. Whatever it was that was a total straight-up gangsta way of getting ejected.
Sam Cassell with a a rare 4th quarter appearance: One of the knocks of Mike Dunleavy is his decision making down the stretch of games (2000 Western Conference Finals anyone?). Recently he's been keeping the franchise heart and soul, Sam Cassell, on the bench for much of the 4th quarters. THAT makes a lot of sense... bench your veteran leader for the likes of Frodo Baggins (Dan Dickau) and Brevin Knight and their "quality" play.... yikes! Anyway, with Dunleavy out, Cassell played most of the fourth quarter and was a couple of missed shots from rallying the Clippers back. Sure he missed some bunnies, but it's his leadership and poise that got them to the backk. Every time he had the ball he was looking to draw a foul or post up Jameer Nelson. Frodo flat out sucks and Brevin Knight is just a journeyman player.
The Rise of Hedo Turkoglu: No longer is he the weakass three point shooter who'd run and hide in the 4th quarter (like the 2002 Sacramento Kings). He's a got a good feel for the game now. When things bogged down, he drove the lane trying to draw a foul. And his body control after contact is excellent. The Clippers were hitting him hard, but he was still able to get off a well-balance shot for a few And-1's. Plus, the guy had a HUGE contingency of Turkish fans there rooting for him (not a good night to be Armenian). With a frontcourt of Lewis, Turkoglu and Howard, the Magic have size and the ability to stretch the defense and they’re the reason why Orlando is a top Eastern Conference Team.
The best job ever: This guy's (below) got the best job in the arena: cord boy for the camera man. So all he does is make sure the camera cord doesn't get tangled up and he gets front row baseline seats. Evidently, the only job requirement is a mullet.
The end of an era: And finally, last night marked the 10th and last time that Brett will be able to hook me up for front row seats. For a huge basketball fan like myself, it's been awesome to see the action so close up. Great memories range from the size of Yao Ming's HUGE calves, seeing Amare Stoudemire throw down on and over Elton Brand, high-fiving Gilbert Arenas, having a drink at the private celebrity lounge in the tunnel, and walking out of the tunnel next to the Washington Wizards. But my favorite was having Sam Cassell almost take my head off with an errant frustration pass that was originally intended for the basketball support. It's been great and I want to say thanks to my man, Brett for all the good times.
Are you sure I can't talk your way out of quitting your job? Oh well... on that note, I leave with a final shot of some the Clippers Spirit.