Monday, October 20, 2008

The Dallas Mavericks and sponsors present Fan Jam 2008!

I hate Dallas traffic. I hate it with every cell in my body, with every beat of my heart. Why? Because of a traffic jam on 35E, the inability to find Victory Ave coming from the east side of town, two wrong turns and the longest stoplight in Dallas county, I didn't get to the AAC until ten to six. At which time, the line for autographs for J-Ho and Dirk had already been cut off. I begged. No dice.

Oh well, the item I really want signed -- a full-sized jacket patch of the MFFL vanity plate -- is still on the drawing board. And there'll be other chances for autographs. I hope.

So fuck it, I went into the lower bowl and sat down. Section 107; wasn't quite the smell-'em-sweat seats, but close. To my surprise, the seats down there are just as uncomfortable as the seats up in Section Never-Mind. The comfy folding seats are on the floor and were barricaded off. Pretty sure those're the ones that cost roughly two months of my take-home pay. Definetely something to add to the When I Become Rich'n'Famous list.

As the place filled up, Champ came out and started, pardon the expression, horsing around. The O on Champ's uni is a closed-off horseshoe. I never noticed that before. He got some kids out of the audience, played some shooting games, got a little one-on-one going, got some two-on-two started. That was fun to watch; one kid, looked about thirteen, was pretty good. Coach Carlisle made an appearance and got a round of applause.

The players hit the floor around sevenish and started warming up. That's gotta feel weird for the guys, having a studio audience for your basic work-out. Jog, sprint, high-kicks. Also some scandalous-looking floor stretches. In related news, Dirk's got a butt, it's just a small one in relation to his height.

The team was split into three squads for practise drills, White Blue and Gold. Coach welcomed everyone and took a second to introduce Assistant Head Coach TJ Kidd. On first brush I like Coach Carlisle. He looked comfortable as emcee without being hammy about it.

Practise drills. Like most things, it looks simple and silly when broken down into details. I can also see where dance training would be an advantage when it comes to developing foot and ankle strength. The highlight of drilling was something Coach called the 4:15 drill. I'm taking this from the Morning News; "With 4:15 on the clock, the Mavericks start a three-on-zero fast break for a layup, then the two wing players who didn't get the layup are fed passes for jump shots." The team tries to score 115 to 120 baskets; they got 107. Faster feet, gentlemen. And I now know why the earliest games were played in cages. If someone's hands had been a half-second slower I'd've spent the night pulling my glasses out of my face.

My respect for pro-ballers trakes a dramatic uptick after watching all that. As I remember -- painfully -- from middle school, this shit's harder than it looks. As a for instance, the court. Because the players are all big guys and because they all look absolutely at ease in what they're doing, the court looks smaller than it actually is. A three-point arc is 23 ft from the basket. To somebody like Dirk, who does this for a living and for pleasure, it's not that far at all. To me, it looks like a fuckin' light year. And one has to do all this while mind-melding with a constantly rotating cast of four other guys. And doing all that with five other lunatics trying to fuck your shit up. It's like playing full-contact chess at mach 3 with your hair on fire.

As drills wrapped up Coach called up and introduced the staff. When one face didn't turn up -- I think it was their strength guy -- Coach asked if anybody'd seen him. Dirk yelled from the floor, "Golfing!" Another guy's an Olympic gold medalist from a seventies-vintage Team USA; Jet started with some I'm-not-worthy! schtick.

Then we got to the players. Jet Terry got the mic. He's going to make ESPN very happy in a few years; the man's a showman. Jet called the rookies front and center. Jujuan Smith took us through the power circle; "Let's say we're playing," Jet thought a moment, "the Spurs." Took some coaxing, but we gave some solid boos. What's a Spur to a Maverick? Nothing. Nothing.

Introductions. JJ was there but didn't participate. Poor guy, I saw that knee hit. Yowch. If there were any boos for J-Ho I didn't hear them. Gerald Green is now Red Bull for instant energy. I think I can work with that. Desagana Diop welcomed back with cheers. Kidd was up second to last and Jet kind of skated over his name. All grins and taken in stride. And if I have to tell you who was last -- and got the screaming ovation -- you haven't been paying attention.

Scrimmage itself was somewhat more abbreviated than I'd been led to expect. Mavs win, naturally. The more I watch the team when Kidd's on his game, the more excited I get about the possibilities this season. And this is the Kidd past his prime? Jesus Christ. Dirk . . . I can see why he's not someone a casual fan would get wowed about. But the more I watch him, the more I love what he does and how he does it. I mean, have you seriously looked at that fadeaway jump shot? Watching him handle the ball's like watching the goddamn Jedi Mind Trick.

After scrimmage the players shucked their shoes and tossed them into the audience. Dirk went them one better and added his jersey. I started yelling the beat to The Strip, hoping he'd go barechested or (gulp) down to his drawers. Nope. Wah.

In any event, I had a great time. The lower bowl was mostly full-up and everyone was ready to go a little bit nuts. It's little things like that -- like keeping the cheapseat ticket prices low and cutting deals with DART and the T-line so you don't have to drive -- that build a loyal fanbase. And -- thank God -- the Organization knows it. I do wish it'd been on Saturday, but that would've been impossible because of the Stars game.

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