April 10, 2017

Odyssey at Oracle


The charity auction went well.  As a member of the board of trustees I'm obliged to bid periodically, but there was no danger of my winning anything.  Palo Alto is rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and serious money was out for every item that came up.  Treasure hunts for kids were going for $6,000, week-long vacation rentals in Paris and Lake Tahoe were well into five digits, and a holistic health consultation went for a price that might also have bought a ranch in Argentina.

So, when the two front-row Warriors tickets came up, I placed a few perfunctory bids without much thought.  Flashing my paddle inattentively, I meant only to get the price up into the normal rarefied zone where the market was clearing.  But I had miscalculated.  A sudden hush brought me to high alert, a moment just long enough for me to reflect on my own ineptitude before the auctioneer fixed me in his gaze, pointed, and pronounced judgment:  "SOLD!"  As cheers erupted and a local tycoon high-fived me, my mind had already grasped in toto the double calamity of a deeply disgruntled spouse, and a straitened retirement.

From Quonset to Quonset in three generations

Only later did it occur to me that some good might come of this.  After some lively family dialogue,  two more tickets were procured at reasonable cost, and the boys took their seats along radio row.  The elders ascended to a more economical spot in the upper reaches of Oracle Arena.

Act 1:  A word from our 6th-best player

For a meaningless late season game, this one had some unusual overtones.  With John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Washington Wizards are one of the few teams that can match the Warriors' fine guard play.  They don't lack for size or toughness, either: they have a giant center named Marcin Gortat who sank every shot I saw him take in warmups, while chewing on a shot put he had in his free hand.  Also, he almost broke Kevin Durant's leg when the teams met in February.

Before the game the Wizards also were:
  • In possession of their first division title since 1979
  • In a position to sweep their (two game) season series with the Warriors, which no other team has done this year
  • But...flying in from LA on the second half of a back-to-back
We got off to a nice, competitive start, and then Shaun Livingston ambled onto the court.  I will not clutter this blog-post with yet another enumeration of his virtues, but geez he is good.  His feats in this game included a play where he beat the Wizards downcourt on his one good leg, received a touchdown pass from Draymond Green, and executed this tasteful and understated reverse dunk:

Wizards now plan to draft guys who can run fast next year

Livingston celebrated in his usual manner, jogging unobstrusively from the scene while bowing his head slightly in shame that he had not quite lived up to the Platonic ideal of the perfect basketball play, then sternly resolving to try to do better next time.

Here are some of the other things he did:

Let's analyze:

So, seven-for-nine, with most of his points in the paint.  Not bad for a guard off the bench with physical limitations.

Act 2:  The Wizard's Ball

You hear it all the time listening on the radio, but in person it was even more obvious:  Every Warriors game starts normally, and then, like a well-crafted horror movie, odd things start happening, usually in the vicinity of Steph Curry.  Curry gradually whips up the winds of madness until the very fabric of time and space is distorted and one questions one's own sanity.  He's like Cthulhu with better endorsement deals.

Here is the complete opus (embedded below), from which I would draw your attention to...
  1. The now-immortal quadruple-fake humiliation of Gortat (1:30)
  2. Finishing that crazy play by Iguodala (3:30)
  3. That mind-bending reverse layup (4:01)
    •  Jim Barnett:  "You don't see other people do that, do you?"  Bob Fitzgerald: "No." 
  4. That weird finger roll (4:25)
  5.  That other mind-bending reverse layup (4:50), and...
  6.  The bizarro floater (5:59) at which point no one seems to have the slightest interest in guarding him.

At some point you just don't know what to say, or you end up babbling.  Late in the third period I looked a couple of rows down and saw Ludwig Wittgenstein waving his arms and screaming like an idiot.

Now, calm in my study with my books around me, I can analyze the game dispassionately.  I have determined that Curry did in fact play very well, by which I mean he rained fiery death on the Wizards from all over the court:
Curry had 42 for the game.  Next-best on the Warriors was Thompson, with 23...

Act 3:  I Accuse Myself!

Even before the final act, the Wizards were facing a long flight home.  Then it became much worse.  In addition to defeat, the Wizards found in their visit to Oracle...shame, dishonor, ignominy, disgrace.  Albert Burneko, a Wizards fan who writes for Deadspin, picks up the story:  
I am going to hold my nose and take a deep breath and summarize this as quickly as I can: In the closing seconds of the one-sided beatdown the Golden State Warriors put on the Washington Wizards last night in Oakland, Wizards guard Brandon Jennings committed a flagrant foul by shoving Warriors center JaVale McGee as the latter attempted a three-pointer.  

After the game Wizard's players spoke of honor and of unwritten rules, of not letting the other team show you up.  This sort of made sense until people started posting videos of them doing exactly what they claimed to despise, all season long.

Burneko concludes:
The very worst part is, you know the Warriors are loving this. To whatever extent they were making a deliberate statement by leaving Steph Curry and Draymond Green in the game in the closing minutes, they could scarcely have hoped it would work quite this well: to prompt one of the top teams in the East to blow out the back of its diaper and then blame them for it. The Wizards have given a megaphone to that statement. They have highlighted it in fluorescent yellow. We fucked up one of the East’s top teams so bad its players tattled on us to mommy. 
In my capacity as a person who does sports blogs for a living, NBA players giving heedless quotes about how their opponents are big meanies for stomping them too hard is the grade-A good shit. Mewl forever, pissbabies! On the other hand, in my capacity as a Wizards fan, I am going to wear a paper bag over my head for the rest of the month.


"What should we do this weekend?" I asked my wife.
"I don't know," she said.  "Could we go play some basketball?"
"Sure," I said.

And we did.



Blogger VMM said...

Very cool.

April 10, 2017 at 6:22 PM  

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