I spent Wednesday night at the AT&T Center. For those of you not "in the know," watching sports live in "enemy territory" is probably the best experience ever. I loved doing it when I was in New Orleans, and I loved it when visiting San Antonio, as well. And while I usually ended up (bizarrely, because it was unintentional) in the middle of contingents of Rockets fans while in NOLA, that has never been the case in SA. But being by your lonesome (or, at least, only with your crew) is a lot better.
I think there's a weird sort of commonality between the visiting team's fans and the home team's hardcore fans. That's not always the case (I never really felt all that much in common with the drunken, abusive and obnoxious Cubs fans who filled up MMP before their team sucked as much as the Astros; maybe it's a success thing), but I think it's true more often than not. Anyone who has decided to turn up and see the visiting team must have a more-than-passing interest in the sport -- they didn't just get the tickets from work in the charity raffle, probably -- which means they're probably a better conversation than any of the more casual fans in the house.
So for the three hours of Wednesday's game, I was going at it verbally with the loudest Spurs fan in my section. I'd chant "MVP" for Scola at the line, he'd laugh and mock. I'd laugh at Manu's flopping skills, he'd start his own MVP chant. I never have that kind of thing happen at home games. Not if I'm sitting in the lower bowl, anyways. The fan interaction is one of the best parts of a live sporting event, and when you're "with" the visiting team, you've placed yourself right in the middle of that as visibly as possible.
Anyways, my favorite part of the night was when this happened:
I don't remember what I said when that happened -- I think it was probably just a guttural "Oooh" like everyone else in the building, but followed by cheers for "Squid" -- but I remember very clearly what the boisterous Spurs fan said: "Unnecessary!" That had me laughing for a while.
That joke might have had me chuckling for the rest of the night, but even the next day, while driving back to Houston, that dunk had me shaking my head and muttering "sick" to myself. It was easily the best dunk I've ever seen in person. Just shockingly amazing. It probably shouldn't, but that dunk (and his very smart play that night) made me believe a lot more in Williams.
More after the jump!
SBN's very own Mike Prada has released his NBA Watchability Scale for the shortened season, and the Rockets don't look so hot to him (we're a "Hipster Choice," which I'll take as a badge of pride):
21. Houston Rockets: The Rockets tend to appeal to the crowd that loves to talk about how efficient Kevin Martin is, how Kyle Lowry never gets the respect he deserves in a league of point guards and how Luis Scola always throws people off their games. Me? I'm one of those people. I love watching Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola play. But seeing as the Rockets have spent several years now in this stage of mediocrity trotting out those random productive NBA players that never catch mainstream acceptance, the hipster shine's bound to come off sooner or later. Once that happens, what do you really have here that catches the eye?
I would point to Terrence Williams. Holy shit what a dunk. Sick.
Seriously, though, I think the Rockets have a lot of young pieces who are absolutely worth watching. I think, in all seriousness, that they will be more watchable than the Lakers this year, who will only be watchable out of morbid curiosity. Of course, Prada only has Los Angeles ranked #19.
Bill Simmons has done a full season preview. It's comprehensive, he makes a lot of good points, and I enjoyed listening to it. On the other hand, he always does these with one of his dumb friends rather than someone who knows their shit (best part: House continuously showing he doesn't know how to multiply and divide; he can't really figure out how to convert 82-game win totals to 66-game totals).
Simmons' prediction for the Rockets is a slightly-below .500 record and (naturally) no playoff berth. His most important points: the Rockets have "too many guys who expect to get minutes" (a point he's been making for years now) and that the schedule is very conference-heavy, so Houston won't be able to feast on the soft underbelly of the East like they usually can. Unlike Simmons, I don't think depth is every really a problem, but the second point is a crucial one. The Rockets' record against the West was below .500 last year.
However, Simmons keeps emphasizing the value of youth and depth with the other league's teams, and these are things the Rockets have in abundance.
Terrence Williams reads ClutchFans.net, and he got a bit miffed when somebody said he sucked.
"I’ve been reading you guys’ blog, ClutchFans.net," says Williams. "I read it throughout the day."
Williams said he started doing it recently, then offered a very unique and candid perspective — one of a player reading fan comments about himself on the internet. He cited a specific example of criticism — a post on our site made early in Saturday’s preseason opener about how he "sucks" and to "get him out of here."
I knew exactly the thread on our forums he was referring to. A user had reacted prematurely to T-Will’s rough first half against the Spurs only to get clowned by the community for the rest of the game as Williams hit 7 of his last 9 shots in the second half.
"As you see as the game goes on, the posts start to change," said Williams. "My whole thing is it’s easy to critique a basketball player going to your 9-to-5 and sitting behind a desk when we know when we put our shoes on, we’re subject to get criticized from those that never played the game, or they played in a School of the Blind League or church league when they were younger."
I sympathize with Williams, but the guy probably needs to stay away from Twitter and the internet for a while. You know, until he retires.
ESPN has a series of discussions on tomorrow's season openers. The Rockets won't start their season until the 26th, but I'll be spending much of Christmas watching the other games, which all promise to be good ones for different reasons.
The New York Times has a great article on the American Basketball League, which introduced a variety of innovations to the game that the NBA eventually adopted:
"It was a ‘spite league,’ " said the Cleveland sports journalist Dan Coughlin, who recounted the early days of the league in his book "Pass the Nuts." Saperstein’s league was hastily thrown together, and teams relocated and disbanded before a season was completed. The league survived for only a season and a half. But give Saperstein credit; the A.B.L. pioneered the wider free-throw lane in the professional game and introduced the 3-point shot, both of which became permanent additions to the pro hoops game with the more successful American Basketball Association later in the 1960s.
I didn't see this until last night, but Basketball Prospectus released its 2011-'12 edition a few days ago. It is well worth the $9.98: it includes projections and commentary on every team and player in the league, several articles on different NBA-related subjects (my personal favorite is one revisiting the relationship between pace and usage), and excellent explanations on the statistical methodology BPro uses. The link will take you to BPro's free preview, which includes the book's introduction, forward, and commentary on the Wizards and Wolves.
That's pretty much all I've got right now. So here's something from a few weeks ago: EvilTed's (of Basketbawful fame) guide to LarryLand: