The first time I covered a Warriors game — I’ll admit it — I was pretty nervous. Not because I was afraid of talking to professional athletes, or even semi-professional beat writers (I kid!). The nervousness came from a fear of the unknown. From the moment I crossed the pedestrian bridge from BART to the Coliseum, I had no idea where to go. Then I got into the arena and I was shown where to go, but I didn’t know if my efforts would be treading on the toes of more experienced reporters, and so on.
Last night was my third time at this, so it was old hat. Not exactly, but I was definitely not nervous enough to shy away from the fried chicken, salad and surprisingly delicious potato leek soup in the media room. Now I know why a lot of reporters have radio-friendly bodies. Too many times partaking in pregame meals and I’m going to look like the last belly dancer that shook her Don Nelson-like torso last night during halftime (Ethan Sherwood Strauss, who was sitting next to me all game, remarked that he wasn’t “ready for that jelly.”).
The game itself was quite entertaining for a game featuring lily-white bigs for both teams until Ekpe Udoh and Brandan Wright started getting some minutes. Mike Dunleavy excited the crowd by still existing in the NBA (loudest boos I’ve heard at Oracle this year, other than for the refs during those times when Bob Fitzgerald starts gesticulating crazily after a Warrior gets called for an offensive foul). Truthfully the Warriors should have beat the Pacers at home by at least 8-12 points. But back and forth the game went, with the Warriors getting horribly out-rebounded yet shooting well enough to keep themselves close, before a couple runs in the second half gave them the chance to win the game on Monta Ellis’ game-winning 17-footer.
I refrained from cheering when Ellis’ shot went through, and after Mike Dunleavy’s inbounds pass to Jeff Foster (of all people) with 0.6 seconds left led to a predictable miss and angry facial expression from Foster, who has been in the Association longer than Converse it seems. You just don’t cheer at the press table. But I was excited to see what would be different about tonight.
The first game I covered, the Phoenix Suns won a fairly close game. The second game I got access to was a pretty lethargic loss to the Houston Rockets for the injury-ravaged Warriors. The locker room after the game was the same both times: maudlin, quiet, and kind of depressing.
Last night, it was totally different. There was someone’s little kid in there (Dorell Wright’s, I think) yelling “Go Warriors!” You could hear chatter throughout the room, including the showering area (which thankfully, us media slobs can’t see). Everyone was smiling. Monta’s jewelry was on full display, and David Lee was a total chatterbox (wait, neither of those occurrences are really different from when the Warriors lose — never mind).
Also different was Keith Smart’s press conference. Smart’s an interesting guy. He definitely isn’t a fan of giving non-answers, but he also doesn’t hide his displeasure if the question asked is one he feels is leading or ignorant. I asked Smart about a time in the second half when Lee was at the scorer’s table. At the time I wondered aloud whether Lee would go in for Vladimir Radmanovic, who had really accomplished nothing up to that point, or Brandan Wright, who in limited minutes had made a solid contribution (4 points and a couple boards). Then Wright made an aggressive move and scored on a layup, and I saw Smart and Lee talking.
I asked Smart whether Wright’s bucket changed Smart’s mind (because Lee ended up going in for Vlad). While Smart’s answer (that he had already made his mind up to keep Wright in the game because his length was needed on defense) was hardly rude, one can sense that he guards against any type of insinuation that his rotations and substitution patterns aren’t well thought out and decisive. I guess that’s understandable since that’s been an oft-questioned subject during his tenure.
However, compared to the last two pressers I attended, Smart’s mood was much more jovial. He made a joke when Stephen Curry’s terrible and-1 foul on Collison with 18 seconds left was brought up. He showed praise on Monta. None of this is surprising, but even though I’ve only covered three of these things, the NBA is a massive grind. 82 times they go through the same routine, and any slight change in demeanor is noticed and analyzed to death (like I’m doing here).
Other things I noticed: the hype man at Oracle has to tone it down a little. I’m not talking about the PA announcer, but the guy (Franco Finn?) who introduces the season ticket holder of the game by shrieking into the microphone as if it isn’t working and he wants everyone in the top row of the second deck to hear him. When he interrupted a perfectly fine timeout by yelling “WHOOP! WHOOP!” like KRS-One, I jumped like the police was actually behind me.
Much more enjoyable are the dunking, um, short guys. I really need to get to the bottom of where they find them. Is it a Craigslist ad that says something like:
Wanted: diminutive trampoline enthusiasts with great hand-eye coordination needed by professional basketball organization. Looking for candidates whose strengths include “raising the roof” and headband accessorizing.
After listening in on interviews with Lee, Curry and Monta, and conducting my own with Brandan, it was off to the media room to see if I could bang out a game recap in the same amount of time it takes the pros. Well, I failed. Rusty Simmons, Geoff Lepper, and pretty much everybody else was out of there by the time I published last night’s story. However, I don’t think any of the other writers had to edit their own copy, let alone edit a Flip Video interview, download it to YouTube and embed it in their story. Multimedia baby, BASG is the wave of the future. I think for that I deserve some more fried chicken, or at least another bowl of potato leek deliciousness.