Andris Biedrins

Location Sensation

When I found out tickets were available to the tomorrow’s Warriors/Timberwolves game at $75 apiece, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical.

Um, the T-Wolves? Sure, they have some youngsters like Al Jefferson and Corey Brewer that are worth checking out, and the possibility of an awkward handshake between Mark Madsen and Sebastian Telfair is an undeniable selling point. But the game has one of those early Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 1:00 p.m. starts, so I figured they were floating around my girlfriend’s work for a reason, especially at that price. I was thinking we should decline the offer and look for a better setup in the near future, maybe when the Warriors host a better squad than the NBA’s version of the Royals.

Then I found out where the tickets are: Lower Box, Row 11.

Eleventh row! I’ve never been closer than 25 rows behind the basket at an NBA game. When I started thinking about all I might see at such close range, I knew if I didn’t go, I might as well buy a stamp with the word “chump” on it, place it directly onto my forehead, and push firmly.

There were several reasons why this decision was made surprisingly easy:

Antoine Walker’s shimmy-shake
Apparently he’s only unleashed his signature “dance” once this year, and it was against the Warriors on Tuesday. If he even gets close to matching what was by far his best game of the year (26 and 10 with 4 three’s in 25 minutes), he’s almost a lock to trot it out again in Oakland. Who could blame him? It’s the closest thing to Merton Hanks’ “Funky Chicken” Dance since the days when Merton played so well for the Niners that nobody thought it odd that his name was “Merton.” If Toine is going to bless anywhere with his brand of shoulder and neck spasms, it has to be the Bay.

Andris Biedrins – Is the tan legit?
It’s always nice to see an NBA player who appreciates his good fortune. You can tell Andris is enjoying The Life; whenever he’s on the floor it seems like he’s always suppressing a huge grin. Part of the reason might be his high intake of Vitamin E.

I realize Latvia is the sun Mecca of Eastern Europe, but that still doesn’t explain how Andris always has the same skin tone as Brooke Hogan. On Monday I want to find out if Andris is so happy because he has enough free time to lie out regularly (fat chance, with the weather lately and the Warriors’ recent Midwestern roadie) or if he’s spraying more Mystic on his skin than the Olly Twins.

Mark Madsen – the end of an era
I’m going to throw out something that will probably be disproved within five years. OK, here goes: you’ll never see an NBA player like Mark Madsen again. That means I need to take advantage of the opportunity to watch a species that’s nearly extinct in the NBA.

One thing about the NBA’s sudden and inspiring resurgence has been the realization that it’s near impossible to make a roster now unless you can run AND play. With international teams getting better by the hour and the new 19-year-old draft rule, there are far fewer question marks entering the league, and mediocre veterans are becoming dinosaurs in more ways than one. Where 15 to 20 years ago guys like Greg Kite or Mike Smrek could be a solid end-of-the-rotation player, they don’t even make a roster today.

Madsen was sort of grandfathered in to the modern NBA. He is almost criminally well-spoken with the media, he came from Stanford (by way of Danville), and has a great nickname (Mad-Dog). Phil Jackson gave him a job because his ability to grasp the triangle and more importantly because he reminded the Kobe/Shaq Lakers that hustling is actually an option. After earning a championship ring, Madsen was guaranteed a long NBA career several more talented players could only dream of.

It’s not that Madsen hasn’t had a nice career, it’s exactly that: he’s had a nice career. The NBA’s too good now; nobody gets a chance if their ceiling is “nice.” While the Association is certainly reaping the benefits from their global marketing campaign of the last two decades in terms of talent, I hope I’m proved wrong about Madsen. Without hustling Mormons who dance like Elaine from “Seinfeld,” the NBA has a little less soul.

Baron and Monta
ESPN’s Dan Shulman, who’s quickly becoming the best play-by-play announcer in the country, said something so astute regarding Baron Davis and Monta Ellis that I had to steal it.

Calling the Warriors/Bulls game on Friday with Jeff Van Gundy (also outstanding – if Bill Walton gets playoff games over JVG this year I’m going to boycott SportsCenter…wait, I pretty much already have), Shulman said that with Baron and Monta, it’s like the Warriors have a fullback and a halfback.

Switching sports for a second, could you imagine that offense? Forget the fact that both players would be injured before the second quarter in any football game and pretend they’re as durable as…wait, no running backs are durable (Anybody else predicting an HBO Real Sports expose on the health of NFL running backs in five years? Me neither). Baron and Monta would be like a taller, more explosive version of Deuce McCalister and Reggie Bush, and Baron would be available to throw passes as well. I can’t wait to watch Baron bull through the lane and Monta leave everyone in the dust on his way to a layup at warp speed tomorrow.

If he gets into the All-Star Game or not, Baron is in the midst of one of the most inspired contract drives ever. The best part about it for Mully/Nellie is that Baron’s always been this type of player. He’s not Ray Durham, he actually wants to play hard all the time, but now he’s playing through everything instead of letting minor aches and pains sideline him.

And yes, if Baron tears ankle ligaments during Monday’s game, I will be on a plane to Mexico by 5:00 p.m. I don’t want the guys from trolling the streets of San Francisco trying to find me.

Who else, you dumb bastard?
If he never even gets past the first round of the playoffs, Don Nelson is still a Bay Area treasure. In his first stint with the Warriors, Nellie was either sarcastic to the point of being caustic or fully lying when speaking with the media. Now Ralph, Tom or whoever else on KNBR is lucky enough to get a little Nellie love are blessed by the best ten-minute interviews on the radio.

I’ll remember this when I’m sitting in the eleventh row and watching the only NBA coach who won’t wear a tie: as great a timeout as Warriors games are now, in the Mike Montgomery years Golden State fans felt like a bunch of five-year-olds receiving a parental timeout for spilling grape juice on the carpet.

And that’s what makes me absolutely giddy about Row 11 – the Warriors have somebody at the helm who makes you believe. I’ll have all the pertinent and trivial details after the game.

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