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So Many Roads

Posted by Kelly Dwyer

Yesterday SI.com had a few articles devoted to road trips, trips taken by teams (as in Marty Burns' piece) or fans (Andy Gray's). I thought I'd add my own thoughts on the sort of road trips I, the guy with an irrational fear of driving, wouldn't mind taking part in. More after the jump ...

We’ll cop to it: we don’t travel well. Re-circulated air wreaks havoc on our prominent proboscis, travel entertainment (be it an in-flight movie, or AM radio chat shows) is usually an affront to our carefully-honed sensibilities, and why would we ever want to leave the comforts of home, especially with what that satellite dish pumps into our living room?

And yet, there has to be some reason to get out and explore this beautiful country -- four by our count – and take in an NBA game or two along the way. Here’s our list.

Find a Home for Oden

Right about the same time Greg Oden’s Ohio State Buckeyes might be playing deep into the NCAA Tournament, you could venture a trip around the our nation’s right coast and take in some truly lottery-worthy NBA hoops. Start on March 23rd, when the lowly Portland Trail Blazers head to Atlanta to visit the Hawks. Revel in the action, as both teams sit key starters, and keep an eye out for banked-in free throw attempts. Also, ask yourself why the Hawks selected Duke forward Shelden Williams with the fifth pick in last June’s Draft, instead of hotshot Washington scorer Brandon Roy, who went to the Trail Blazers one pick later.

Immediately following that contest, you’re probably going to swear to yourself that you’ll never want to see another NBA game for the rest of your too-short time on this mortal coil, but this feeling should dissipate as the days draw on. By the 28th, when the same Hawks fly into Charlotte to play the lowly Bobcats, you’ll be back on the horse. No regrets, coyote, as Othella Harrington gets meaningful minutes in a classic that should leave you wondering – just why did the Hawks take Marvin Williams two spots ahead of Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft?

Because your appearance (unshaven, bloodshot eyes, indifferent approach to personal hygiene), expression (glazed-over eyes), and mannerisms (mumbling ceaselessly about Jake Voskuhl) will alarm airport security, you’ll have to drive your way up to Philadelphia from there. Boogie, lead-foot, because the hometown Sixers are due to take on the Boston Celtics the night of the 30th; in a meeting of once-proud franchises that could combine for 40 wins on the year. From there, you’ll probably want to head to Columbus, in a last-ditch effort to try and persuade young Mr. Oden to stick with the amateur hoops for another year.

Who Wants to Woo Mutombo?

40-year old Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo can’t play forever, and what better way to liven up the doldrums of mid-February than taking in a tour of our country’s southern states, and potential suitors for Dikembe’s retirement years? Start deep in the heart of Texas on February 21st, where Mutombo’s Rockets will welcome the visiting Miami Heat, a team that will no doubt speak highly of Dade County’s many assisted-living communities, and welcoming tax laws.

From there, the Rockets head east to combat with the Hawks on the 23rd, and the notion of Atlanta’s lovely mix of modern-as-tomorrow urbanity with the quaint touches of southern hospitality may sit well with the agreeable eight-time All-Star. And then it’s off to Orlando, on the 25th, for a matinee game that would leave plenty of time for Dikembe to get in a late round of golf at one of the many Orlando-area courses, or even a trip to Epcot Center! As you can imagine, it’s good to be Dikembe, especially as he shuffles through the winter of what has been a Hall of Fame career.

Take in Some Ancient Coliseums

They’re the NBA’s relics; “old” stadiums built some 15, even 20 years ago! Their current inhabitants call them outmoded, lacking in luxury boxes and other amenities relevant to the fiscal bottom line. These buildings were even built before giant corporations figured out that their logo looks really, really good on the outside of the building, or the front of the game program, or the tickets, or on the hardwood along the baseline …

One of the most celebrated of these halls is Sacramento’s Arco Arena, built in 1988 AD, and home to the Sacramento Kings. California’s capital actually seemed in line to vote towards raising taxes and building these Kings a new arena last September, but that was before co-owner Joe Maloof made some unfortunate comments regarding the viability of that venture, which allowed for Sacramento residents to overwhelmingly defeat the proposed hike with a vote on November 7th. Well, forget all your troubles with a trip to this homespun, 17,317-capacity building on December 4th, to see the Kings take on the equally-as-angry-about-their-arena-but-just-as-civically-incompetent Orlando Magic.

After that contest, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Sacramento arena issue, check out some blueprints for the proposed rail yard site that could have been their new home, and count how many minutes the Maloofs actually spend in the city by keeping tabs on their private plane from outside the Sacramento International Airport. Be sure, however, to mosey on up to Oakland by December 9th, when the Golden State Warriors will match up against the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

The Warriors play in the former Oakland Arena, which celebrated its thirtieth year of existence in 2006 by changing its name to the equally-inspiring, “Oracle Arena.” Though the building took on a major infrastructure change prior to the 1997-98 NBA season, there are still some whispers about the structure’s NBA-viability, similar to the sort of things said about the team that plays within its confines.

Follow the Warrior team plane from Oakland on up to Seattle after that, there’s absolutely nothing scenic of note that you’d see in any car ride from Northern California up to Washington anyway, and hurry on over to KeyArena in time for Golden State’s game with the SuperSonics on the 10th. Though KeyArena only holds a little over 17,000 people for NBA games, there should be good seats still available. KeyArena was originally built in the early 1960s, for the Seattle World’s Fair, back when they had those sorts of things. The most recent upkeep on the building was finished in 1995, but that’s hardly enough for the SuperSonics to afford another Calvin Booth-type signing, so check the team out before it heads to Oklahoma!

From there you’ll have a few days off, so familiarize yourself with ferry tours and fish throwing, but make it down to Portland, Oregon by December 15th. The hometown Trail Blazers play in the Rose Garden, where the Los Angeles Clippers are visiting on this Friday night. This particular building was also finished in 1995, but Blazers owner Paul Allen wouldn’t exactly turn down a new facility – if the tax payers were to, hypothetically of course, offer one. And even if the Rose Garden sticks around, be sure to hang on to those ticket stubs: this is a building just ripe for a tactful corporation to swoop in and rename, so those things will instantly become collector’s items, perfect for selling on Ebay. In fact, let’s kill two birds with one expensive stone – Ebay-rena! I like it!

Sounds really, really, boring. What happened to you?