|People vs. the Spurs and Nets|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
Dog here, subbing in for Dub. Starring in "I, the NBA Finals Jury."
Warning: The following hook-up contains bad words, thoughts and spec, is not suitable for children under 13 or people who don't like what Dub calls idioms, colloquals and nervaculars. This column is rated XXX -- the same number of Xs that I drew with a Sharpie through Richie Jefferson's name in the first quarter of Game 4.
First, the Nets should wear green unis. That's how unripe they are.
Today's big green banana is Red Williams. Red is the next-in-line Help guy the Nets must get 75 minutes from, minimum, over the next three runs, since RJ's as reliable as a drug store light bulb.
The Spurs, with Dunc, Admiral and Kev Willis, have 21 feet of defender at the rim. No way in. Mutombo moves in sections. Jason Collins is okay early, as long as he doesn't touch it too much and gets to the garbage; when he tires, get him outta there, quick.
Gotta go with Light Bulb. Good nickname for Red. There was this black kid I grew up with in Brooklyn, he was fair-skinned, sasso borro, just like Red, and we called him Light Bulb. But he couldn't pogo, chase, block shots or finish like Red. Only Red, he be having a stamina problem if you leave him out there too long.
But he's got to play. Hear that, Biscotty? Ya bum, ya.
So. Everybody was slobbing RJ up and down after the game, because he had 18 points and 10 boards, which should be his normal line in this series. He should've had 28. Seriously. He's what's available, he's what the Spurs are giving up. Face it, the Spurs, what they do well, they do damn well, and that is defend, then iso Dunc. That's what they do. Everything works off that. Then they look at you fish-eyed, at least Pop does ... where does Pop come off, being all testy and crappy in his post-game talks?
Hey, Pop, who died and made you Bill Parcells? Parcells didn't.
But I'll tell you what about ol' Pop, and them Spurs. They are true to what they do. They identify what you like to do ... then they take that away from you. That's classic big-league, I don't care what kind of ball it is. Now, should you be able to become NBA champ just off that, and because you've got a beast like Tim B Killin' On The Low Block, Or Facing, How Do You Want It? Maybe so.
I know you shouldn't become an NBA champ if you can't figure out how to beat a zone -- and I mean any freaking zone. If you're an NBA champion, and some stooge team throws a zone at you, and you don't immediately curl your lip and scoff and then shoot them right out of it, and I mean fill the skies with long-distance ammo, bombs, tracers, then what are you? Not much of nothing, is what.
But that's what the Spurs do to you. That's what they did to the Lakers -- they semi-trapped and semi-doubled Shaq and Kobe (they do this better than anybody; first of all, they're good man-to-man defenders, but then they are well-schooled on help-and-recover aspects, the best at it) and took their chances with the rest. That shouldn't be enough for the Nets, trapping and doubling Jay and K, not with RJ having all that ability (but not all that much game, not yet -- RJ has the skills, but no real game, hence the need for the green uni).
The Nets squeaked by like the lab rats they are, 77-76, in Game 4.
Because if the Spurs are going to double and feint-double K-Mart and Jay Kidd, then 18 and 10 ain't nothing special, not when you got those skills, so don't be acting like it is up in here. RJ should get 18 and 10. Believe it.
So don't be bringing me RJ up in here all wrong, and try to make him out to be King Baller. That hurts RJ, not me. See, I ain't Dub. I'm crushing on him until he plays to his ability. Yeah, yeah, he's a great kid, all that and a bag of chips, but we ain't playing Great Kid, we're playing Highest Level Hoop In World. But at halftime, RJ's whimpering, "People should remember, I'm just in my second year in the league ..." Oh, so you looking for an excuse? You're in the NBA Finals, G. If you're there, you're there. What, you want a handicap? How many shots you want? Don't hear Kevin Willis complaining about being 40, or about being seven feet tall with arms no longer than an alligator's, do you? No. Being young is your excuse? I wish. How 'bout being nervous? Or just scared?
You scared? You sure play like it. Loosen up, RJ baby.
After the game, we the people slobbed all over Jeff about that dunk he had over Willis. (Willis was cursing his short alligator arms at the time.) Actually, RJ had very little leverage with that dunk, and it could've been rejected, just like Rose's could have been rejected in Game 3, if Mt. Mutombo wasn't as old as the hills. But RJ was just a-beamin' about it later, talking about how that was get-back for Malik's dunk over Deek. Like it was some big kind of s--- or something. See, that's what's wrong. Make 'em think a jam like that is worth a game. Make him think practice consists of catching alley-oop lobs. Only thing is, how many alley-oop lobs have the Spurs, with their long arses, given the Nets. Exactly zero.
But that's the highlight. RJ's one dunk. Gag me with a spoon.
At this point it was 16-10, San Antone, with 2:43 left in the first, and it finally occurred to Biscotty that he might want to get this bum outta here!!!!! Let him sit and think about it.
Within a minute, the Nets tied it at 16, and were off and ... well, not running, exactly. Duncan got a third foul; Admiral sat, too, and it was like they'd let the alley cats loose in the tuna fish factory. The Nets led by 11 at half, off and surviving more than off and running. The Spurs can cool out all that running action whenever they want.
Speaking of off, the low shooting percentages don't bother me. This ain't a street carnival out here. People is so stupid about hoop, man. If this was just some kind of jump-shooting contest, any bum could play in the league. That's what I try to tell these young boys who be trying to come out of high school, or after a year at San Vomit J.C., and go hardship to the NBA. I tell 'em, "Fool, you can't even get your shot off in my league. You can't even get a shot out of your hand." There's a high degree of difficulty of it.
At the same time, people who don't know, they talk about how ugly the game is -- compared to what, their faces? -- and how they can't watch it (hey, then don't watch; go to the opera or the ballet or the porn shop with Pee-Wee for all I care. Just go, so there will be more room for me. When Trane or Monk or Miles, or the Roots, or Mos and kweli, or Terence Blanchard or Wynton and the Lincoln Center Jazz hookup play, or Sun Ra, or U2, or any of the great bluesmen, when they play, they ain't doing it to get no number, or impress you; they doing it because it's what they feel. It's what is. Jazz is swing, the blues, and improv; it's life. That's what hoop at the high level is, too. Don't you know nothing?).
The dill pickles (Dub's screaming, "Dilletantes, you $&%@! idiot!" at me, but I'm 'bout to stuff a rag down his throat if he keep it up) don't bother me much, but when a dude who's been there like Legs starts chiming in, I'm too through. Legs I like, Sean Elle too, Greg Anthony, except for the one blind spot all jock analysts have -- they all still think that their calling card, their master skill, is always the Answer to everything, and deep down they think nobody could quite do it like they could do it. Rare is the one who don't think that. Legs was fulcrumating ("fulminating!" yeah, whatever) after Game 4, and all series long, about the lost art of the 20-footer, blah-yada. Like those shots are just out there uncontested in the NBA Finals, like it's some 3-ball contest or the punkass NCAAs.
On the real? Whole story in a nutshell's in that last set of Game 4.
Nets up 77-74, 4.8 left, Spurs inbounding frontcourt, high right.
Somehow, some way, Richard Jefferson, the Good Kid, the Statue of Quiver-ty, loses Manu, even though the instructions from Eddie Jordan (cc: Biscotty) were clear -- defend the 3-point line at all costs.
FRJ loses Manu right behind the line, slipping and tripping. Manu receives the rock behind the arc, left extended. Compound Dub's misery. RJ then overruns the play, so when Manu launches, RJ is actually off the court, on the left!. His D there was amazing in its incompetence. If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny. (Having said that, if RJ ever gets some awareness, some control over his game, if he ever stops being shell-shocked scared, he's a King Baller.)
Manu locked in (I want Leggo Legler to tell me Manu was going to miss that open shot. I wonder if Legs thinks he can outshoot Manu. I know he knows he can't outplay him, but I wonder if he even thinks he can outshoot him. Legs, I love you, but -- let it go).
Who swooped in to contest Manu's last-second shot? Who flew by and high, to make Manu change the arc, and so leave it just short?
I'll give you a clue. His Native American name, AhKeBoingALot, means "Skinny-Hulk-With-Crazy-Mad-Hops." K-Mart, of course.
I say "of course," because I don't know what has happened to Jay Kidd. I really don't. I mean, even playing obviously distracted by something, Jay still had 16 points, eight boards and nine assists. But Jay was also oh-for-8 from the field in the third quarter. Now it's true, the Spurs key on him and K-Mart. And they double him whenever he's backing down Parker in the low post; Jay passes all sweet out of that, yes, true that, but still ... something ain't right.
Then I looked over and saw Bruce Willis sitting next to TJ "Elroy Jetson" Kidd and his fine mom. Bruce Willis?! I never saw Bruce Willis at a Nets' game, or any NBA game, before this week. What gives? Dub motioned for me to remove his gag, so I did. He said something about Willis having a movie coming out soon on DVD, a movie that they advertised on TV during Game 4, and that at the Stapler, or at the Garden, movie studios and what-not often give courtside tickets to some of the stars in upcoming productions, and how it's all one thing. Dub kept on with all this Entertainment-and-Sports-Is-All-One-Thing noise, until I put the gag back in him.
Besides ... look at Bruce. My friend Superfine, who went to high school in West Holly with Demi, back in the day, before she was Demi, says this guy would get thrown out of the Stapler for impersonating Bruce Willis. How far back was "Moonlighting"?
Still, something's gotta be up, because I know Jay Kidd, and this out there ain't Jay Kidd either. Will the lights at the Continental Airlines Center be mysteriously blown before Friday's game, so Jay can race home to see what's up, if you know what I mean?
Stay tuned. Me and Dub will. You? We've come this far together.
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."