Man, what a night it has been. Attending a game this way is absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that leaves the fan in me wanting for more. It might be just another game to the veteran reporter, but to this rookie writer? Nothing but an absolute eye-opener.
Ninety minutes before the game, I made my way to the security entrance. Identified myself, got the media pass and went, “Now what?” Celtics-land, so close yet so far away. I was facing a locked door with no clue. Thankfully, tips from the friendly ladies saved this clueless bloke.
Made my way up the stairs, on to the right level, and got my first Celtics-celebrity sighting – Molly McGrath was at a corner rehearsing her opening speech. Now, would any C’s fan in his right mind pass up a chance to talk to the resident lovely lady? I didn’t want to seem too stalkerish, so it was just a polite question about where I should be heading to next. She was very helpful on pointing out where the media room was, and so it came to be that I finally found the room where the media people hung out. (Sorry Francis, no picture.)
The media room
This room had two purposes; room to eat, and space to work. You got your pregame meal here, watched a bit of TV if you liked, and another area of the room served as work spaces for everyone to think, write, abuse the internet, charge their various devices – you got the idea. It was quite unnerving, trying to eat while Tommy and Mike sat at the next table, leisurely having theirs. And then Danny strolled in and started discussing draft prospects. (No, I couldn’t really hear the details so no juicy rumours.) And Globe legend Bob Ryan was sitting by himself at another table – unreal, just so unreal.
After that came the pregame interview. Doc appeared out onto the corridor, and everyone was ready and waiting. KG’s disappearance in this game was a surprise to everyone, but Doc talked about “putting our five best” from the team against the Bobcats tonight, which meant the insertion of Jeff Green in the starting lineup. He also commented on how the Bobcats “beat us in every way”, which included poor defense on off-the-dribble movement and rebounding. He also commented on DJ and Shavlik not having done enough to differentiate themselves so far, but that he would go with DJ for now.
Doc’s interview was short, everyone got ready and soon enough it was time for tip off.
I managed to make my way to the assigned press table (official media and temporary guys sit separately) after some weaving to and back, sat down with a reporter from Ecuador named Bolivar from The Daily Hoy, and it was show time.
The first quarter started out with solid Bass jumpers (6 points), money shots. Avery however had a tough mismatch with Henderson on defense. The team held together well enough on defense, especially on the rebounding end – 11 rebounds, 8 defensive. Careless turnovers (5) however caused the lead to be closer than it should have been, and the team did not space as well on offense without Pierce.
Second quarter saw JET doing many things: defensive rebounding to shooting the three to making the right pass. We saw Crawford trying to be more of a passer, firing a no-look pass to DJ White that resulted in an and one finish. Shavlik Randolph came in, missed two bunnies at the rim and redeemed himself right after. He nabbed the offensive board and drew contact on the resulting finish, nearly getting an and one (nearly, because he missed the FT).
There was a careless push from Pierce passing up court that got picked off by Walker, and ended in a three point swish. I don’t know about you, but turnovers that end up in an open shot make me cringe. The Bobcats were obviously capitalising on the lack of size the C’s had especially with KG out with Mullens/Biyombo/McRoberts, but the presence of DJ/Shavlik made up for it somewhat in the rebounding department. Green gave a much-needed finish at the rim, Lee gave a highlight reel-worthy block on Kemba, and that was half-time.
During the game, I could barely tweet or post because the Wi-Fi was intermittent at best. 3G wasn’t exactly flying either, and dropped out at times. Went back to the media room for a break at half-time (and got lost along the way), Celtics PR head Jeff Twiss checked if I was good with a smile and a pat on the arm, and after a quick drink it was back to work, only it didn’t feel like work. For the stat geeks, how good is it to have box scores for every quarter delivered promptly? And if only you’d seen the game notes that were compiled pre-game; massive, simply massive.
The third quarter saw a big surge, as the starters made a huge push and scored 27 points. Lee had consecutive baskets all over the place, all kinds of awesome was happening. Along with JET’s 6 points off the bench on back-to-back three pointers, it made for a dominating 33-23 frame, and none of that “turd” quarter stuff we always screamed about. Could this be it? I was really looking forward to my first Gino time at this point.
The final twelve minutes featured a grind between the Bobcats starters and the C’s bench. Bass and Lee were inserted in the final minutes to inject some offense into a sputtering bench unit that were not getting stops or making baskets due to a variety of reasons. Crawford was still trying to facilitate baskets, but just could not get it going. TWill was spreading the ball well, but could not get his offense going. Randolph over-helped on defense in one possession, and gave McRoberts an open dunk with the and one. Shavlik tried to be aggressive, but got stripped on two possessions without a whistle in the paint. Pargo was turning into a force of nature with 13 points in that quarter – what the hell?
Thankfully, the guys put it together long enough to get the win sealed and done without Pierce or Bradley checking back in. A solid revenge win with the starters playing minimal minutes, without KG at that. I’d take this win, no questions asked.
“They had an emotion to them. They didn’t like losing to us twice and they showed that. The other plus that everybody in this league has is that they were waiting on us. We had a game last night so it was a double whammy in that form.” – Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap on playing the C’s four days earlier.
By the way, I love our new big guys Shavlik and DJ. Both can shoot from a distance, rebound hard and can likely defend well within the system with more practice.
The post-game conference room turned out to be smaller than I’d imagined it to be, so everyone was either seated comfortably, or squashed along the side of the room. I was stuffed somewhere near the door, with just enough room for the door to be closed without me being part of it. After a while, Doc took the stand and talked about doing well in three areas: transition, dribble penetration, rebounding.
He wasn’t very convinced on the game pace however.
“I thought we gave up on ten to fifteen breaks that I thought we had, and we gave up on. We just went into the walk-it-up or middle pace and I just said, just push it up every single time and see. If we can’t get nothing there then we got time to run it. And we scored a ton.”
He wouldn’t give up anything on KG though, leaving it up in the air for now. Let’s hope the Big Ticket shows up on Monday (or Tuesday).
Have you ever imagined yourself stepping into the C’s locker room? This was never even a dream as I’d deemed it an impossibility. To be able to be standing right where the guys winded down post-game, it was simply unreal. Granted I didn’t interview a single Celtic player because of shell shock, nervousness, and the fact that I was simply relishing in the experience. I was looking around the room at how the players were relaxing after the game. Some guys probably showered and took off ASAP, others took time to ice themselves the way Jeff did. One thing about height, it never hits you as hard on paper as it does in reality – the guys were literally larger than life. I was a midget compared to Jeff Green. Wilcox and Bass were huge, as was DJ. Avery was unassuming and quiet, but sounded steadfast as always. Just doing his thing as usual, on and off the court.
The interviews were over soon enough, with every media member swarming over the key players (Pierce, Green, Bradley) and the rest mostly being spared. JET had a quiet one-on-one session, and that was it. Everyone left to finish up their own pieces, and I made a quiet exit.
Just like that, the press pass was over. Did I enjoy it? Most definitely. Could I have done better? Undoubtedly. I was just overwhelmed by the things that were happening, did not make the most of my opportunities. Most importantly, I’m reasonably confident that I’ll be better prepared and do better the next time round. My thanks once more to US Sports Down Under, NBA, and to the Celtics organisation for making this experience an unforgettable one.
A good win at home, and I’m looking forward to the Heat game! It’s time to get back to being a fan, and hopefully everything goes well on that day – that means I get to deliver the gifts to the players without a hitch, the Heat lose in a major C’s victory, and shamrock-shaped fireworks explode across the skies in celebration. (Just kidding about the last one.)
Until the next time! Here’s your rookie reporter signing off.