Praising the Bull, Savouring the Curry

There were no great surprises in the first round of the NBA playoffs, though two series rose above the others for interest and flavour. I would cheer for the laundry of the Golden State Warriors – their regular duds, not the short-sleeved jerseys with the weirdly non-matching pinstriped shorts – even if they didn’t have Stephen Curry and several other players I find easy to like. Meanwhile, what the Chicago Bulls did in taking a seven-game series on their opponents’ court was heartening evidence that coaching matters. (Thibodeau may not lead the most balanced of lives, but his Bulls teams are superbly prepared.) Character matters, even in the star-tossed salad of the National “Big is Here” Association.

Derrick Rose, Chicago’s dynamite point guard, hasn’t played in a year. (Loved his teammate’s sincere “shaddap” to Mr. Rose’s couch-bound critics.) His backup, Kirk Hinrich, missed the last two games of the Brooklyn Nets series with a bum leg, as did their Mr. Everything small forward, Luol Deng, who has been

The little fella has driven coaches nuts, but he’s been clutch. Boozer and the young kid, Jimmy Butler, have been aces, too.

seriously ill. Third-string point guard Nate Robinson is shorter than me, though he is a mighty mite and an absolutely conscience-free scorer. Centre Joakim Noah has been gutting out his minutes because of plantar fasciitis (sore feet). I hadn’t seen much of the Nets/Bulls collision, the only first-round matchup to go seven games, but I’d read most of the fairly astonishing accounts of how the Chicago men were getting by on focus, cohesion, toughness, and last-ditch defensive efforts that lasted entire games.

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A Night With the Raptors

I’ve made the big trip to The Big Smoke, seen lots of fine things and met some great and interesting people. The Raptors game was a mistake, though. Watching the Raps/Bulls from the upper deck of the ACC (Air Canada Centre, not the Atlantic Coast Conference, for anyone out there in the Bozone who might care about the difference) was an isolating and disappointing experience. Don was (W)right: it is better to watch it on TV.

It’s been years and years since I’ve seen a game live. The sideshows at an NBA game, even one as undistinguished as this one, are sociologically interesting; annoying to an Actual Hoops Guy like me, but still fascinating in an I’m-only-here-for-tonight way. The Dance Pak tries so hard, and I wonder where they think they’re headed, what they think they’re auditioning for: musical theatre? the arm of a well-paid athlete? Or are they just keeping fit and funding their medical education? All that hair-flinging must be a chiropractor’s nightmare. (Hey, look, what else was I going to look at during timeouts?) The music pounds, would-be VJs ask inane questions, scoreboards give me noise-making advice (with helpful video handclapping graphics), and at regular intervals a ballgame breaks out.

It’s been so long since I’ve been at a game that I thought I might be able to get down close to the floor during warm-ups, maybe even get in a quick word with Jay Triano, the only Canadian coach in the NBA. I’ve followed his career since he was The Big Stuff of a high school tryout camp where I was the short plucky unknown. There’s this idea I have, but I’ll have to find another way to pitch it. The security is pretty tight, Artest knows why …

The MapleRaps lost, by the way. Their unfortunate draft pick, Senor Araujo, still starts but is utterly free of confidence when the ball is in his hands. (I was in the upper deck, but the fear was obvious.) They don’t defend very convincingly, even the fine young star, Chris Bosh. And here’s a thing: I watched for Mr. Triano to speak with players, during timeouts or while on the bench. Didn’t see it. Don’t quite get it. What do assistants do during games, other than charting? I sure hope he’s not a lameduck Canuck, the token local who wouldn’t have an NBA job in any other city. I think he was stiffed from the National Team headship, and the jury is going to be out for a long time on Leo Rautins in his, apparently, first coaching job at any level. It’s amazing to watch the ins and outs of elite basketball in a hockey-mad country, even when not many of us do.