I purchased two tickets in the row directly behind the Wolves bench. I did so for numerous reasons including my desire to see Ricky, Kevin, Rick Adelman and Nikola. Another huge reason I bought the tickets was because I consider CHers my brethren of sorts, and I wanted to have a unique vantage point of the Wolves that I could share with all of you.
I donned my black Ricky Rubio jersey with pride, despair, joy and sorrow, and my wife put on her black Kevin Love jersey after spendting about 20 minutes looking for it. We left Sunnyvale at about 4:00 PM and arrived in Oakland around 5:00 PM. Tip off was at 7:30 PM and we wanted to have dinner prior to the game, and I wanted to meet Jack (dropstep on CH) before taking my seat. I made the egregiously insipid mistake of deciding on the restaurant we would eat at by punching "restaurants" in my GPS, and choosing one that looked appealing based on name, and that was in close proximity to Oracle. We ended up at a restaurant called Francecso's. It was an enigmatic restaurant in that every server was over the age of 60 years of age, we were seated at a booth, but it was clear the restaurant was trying to masquerade as a fine dining establishment. There were napkins neatly folded in wine glasses that were elegantly placed on ornate tablecloths. The entrees ranged from 10-40 dollars each, and the appetizers were approximately 10 dollars. My wife and I ordered two diet pepsis, a calimari appetizer, chicken linguini and spaghetti with meatballs. If I did not know I ordered calimari, I would not have been able to identify the fried fish that appeared before us as calimari. The chicken linguini was horribly dry, and the dish would have been more aptly referred to as "lots of noodles with a scant amount of meat slightly resembling chicken and occasional mushrooms". My wife's dish was arguably worse, so much so that we basically paid 60 dollars without eating anything. Thus, if any of you are in Oakland, I advise you to stay the HECK away from Francesco's.
We arrived at Oracle arena around 5:45 PM. Just prior to that I called dropstep (Jack) so we could meet up. Parking at the arena was $18, but I think I was shafted in this regard because the guy who sold me the tickets probably should have included the parking pass he gets with his season tickets (more on this later). The line at the North entrance was exceedingly long which I didn't fully understand because we were nearly two hours early for the game. While at the end of the line I found out it was Chris Mullin bobblehead night, and people arrived early because only a few bobbleheads were being given out (what is it with free bobblehead dolls?). Thankfully, I called dropstep who informed me I was in the wrong line given the section I was in, and he told me to go the East gate. He identified be my Rubio jersey, and was kind enough to let my wife and I stand beside him and his brother-in-law in line. Dropstep is a great guy and is handsome in a Robert Redford sort of way. We spoke of our scientific pursuits, marriage life, etc., as we proceeded through the line. When we reached the gate I was a bit concerned because I was trying to sneak my newly purchased Canon Eos7D and associated lens into the game so I could take pictures and take some video of the game. Oracle arena has a rule that precludes you from bringing a camera with a lens that's greater than 3 inches (yes, size apparently matters). The lens I brought with me was a bit longer than 3 inches, and extends to 5-6 inches when I adjust the zoom. Fortunately, David Kahn inadvertently provided the cover I needed to get my camera into the arena. I gave my wife the camera bag in lieu of her purse. Our wallets were placed at the top of the bag with the camera placed beneath them. As the gate checker opened the camera bag and looked at the wallets, David Kahn was walking out of the arena in an adjacent line. The gate checker stopped him and yelled at him because he failed to display his courtside pass. David was somewhat dumbfounded because the gate checker chastised him until he reached into his jacket to pull out his pass, and then reprimanded him thereafter. In the tumult the gate checker neglected to check the rest of my bag and waved me forward. He then asked me who the man was because I had yelled out, "Mr. Kahn" to no avail, as he was yelling at David. I told him it was "David Kahn, the general manager of the Wolves that has basically been screwing us for the last three years." He chortled and that was that.
Just past the gate was a bar where a lot of people I perceived as affluent gathered to eat and drink. I conversed with Mark, dropstep's (I'm calling him Jack from now on) brother-in-law, who has been a Wolves fan since before the arrival of KG, went to Woodbury high school, and formerly lived in Cottage Grove, while I waited for Jack to come through the line. As we waited for Jack, David Kahn walked through the line, this time he readily displayed his courtside pass. I yelled out to him, "Mr. Kahn, the Ricky Rubio injury devastated me". He walked up to me and shook my hand as he said, "don't worry, he's going to be alright", and walked off. Twenty minutes later Jack came through the line. Apparently, they made him take his backpack all the way back to his car for reasons I consider ridiculous. At this time we parted ways to take our seats.
I don't go to sporting events often largely due to time constraints. As we were walking to our seats it was a bit surreal because all the ushers and security officers treated us like VIPs. When we finally sat down I couldn't believe how close we were to the court and the Wolves bench. On television the space between the first row and the Wolves bench appears to be about 2-3 people in width, but in reality, only one person can fit in the aisle between the bench and the first row. Anthony Randolph, Martel Webster, Anthony Tolliver, Wes Johnson and JJ Barea were warming up at about 6:30 PM when we took our seats. The rest of the players were presumably in the locker room. AR actually did a lot of post up work with Bill Bayno while the other guys took numerous shots. Twenty minutes later they vacated the floor. Shortly thereafter Tom Hanneman walked in front of me and we had a cordial conversation. He pointed at my jersey and said, "I wish he was playing", to which I replied, "I miss him a lot; he's such a good kid". Even though my conversation with Tom was exceedingly brief, he seems like a very decent man, and I will no longer be criticizing his broadcasting style, because decency counts for a lot in my book. About 5-10 minutes later JPete walked right in front of me and shook my hand as he said, "wow, look at these seats". I think he almost broke my hand with how hard he shook it, but he was as good as billed. At about 7:10 PM the teams were introduced, and some pretty lady I don't know, did an excellent rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner".
During the shoot around just prior to the game Anthony Tolliver said hello, and Martel, Malcolm, Dwill, Michael, Wayne and Nikola smiled at me when they saw my jersey, but we did not converse. In fact, when I initially took my seat one of the security guards gave me a stern lecture on how I could not use the zoom on my camera because the lens would be greater than three inches, I could not speak to the players and I could not swear. Well, you guys know me (kind of), and I can tell you that pissed me off for numerous reasons, particularly when the guy then promptly started conversing with Martel. I almost wanted to say, "which of us spent 800 dollars to be here?", but I settled with surreptitiously extending my lens, intermittently swearing and conversing with the players only when they initiated conversation. Just prior to the game, a man affiliated with the Timberwolves that I did not recognize engaged me in a conversation. He had grey hair, was probably 50-60 years old, was wearing a nice suit, and was seated in the chairs just behind the assistant coaches. I don't know his name, or how he is affiliated with the Wolves, but he was very kind. I suspected he was the head trainer or maybe he had some ownership stake in the team, but you guys probably know better.
The first several minutes of the first quarter were abysmal. I read through the CH game thread, and you guys basically saw what I did. In the pregame they had third grade teams competing against each other, and I swear I couldn't tell if that game was still going on or not. The thing that tipped me off was that the third grade teams often had 7 or 8 players on the court at the same time. Suffice it to say the officiating of the third grade game was terrible, but I was not convinced that would differentiate it from the game I was watching. It was amazing to see the Warriors had 0 points after nearly 5 minutes of the first quarter, but I was not complaining. Fortunately, Kevin was tearing it up which allowed me to cheer loudly. In fact, I was even more vociferous than normal because every time Kevin made a bucket, this 18-year-old annoyance seated behind me would yell, "Kevin Love sucks!". Prior to the game he asked me how I could root for someone who blatantly stepped on Louis Scola's face to which I replied, "everybody makes mistakes". At the end of the first quarter Kevin had 12 points, but the kid was still yelling that he sucked. It wasn't until his dad, who was seated next to him, pointed to the scoreboard and showed the kid was on pace for 48 points, that he kind of shut up. That, and the fact I counted off Kevin's points. It was great when I said, "32... 34..." Prior to the game Nikola didn't look himself, and in the first quarter he was off and he was partially favoring his ankle.
The second quarter began with us leading 21-14. I was pleased because good Beas made an appearance and was playing very well on both ends from where I was sitting, but then he hurt his toe on a drive and that was that. On a side note let me say that sitting in the front row kind of sucks if you are not actually seated courtside. The traffic directly in front of me was ridiculous, and I could barely see through the wall of players and towel boys sitting in front of me. In fact, if you want to actually watch the game, I would advise you to buy courtside tickets or to sit further back. I was very pleased with the fact Wes made several shots in the second quarter, and I honestly started to feel bad for the Golden State Warriors. I almost felt like I was kicking a wounded dog when I cheered loudly every time the Wolves made a basket or a defensive stop. I actually was pretty silent towards the end of the first half because of this.
The halftime show was freaking brutal, and I almost asked the waitress for a cot so I could catch a nap while the Mullin lovefest was taking place. I was surprised to see that JPete was in the ceremony as I didn't recall he was a GS Warrior. I was also shocked by how much the fans loved run DMC. I liked them too, but only because they were entertaining. I don't remember Mullin or run DMC actually winning anything, but maybe my memory is failing me. The best part of the ceremony was the way the fans booed Joe Lacob. It was actually quite shocking. Joe Lacob was given the microphone to speak about Mullin and help unveil his retired jersey. As soon as he picked up the microphone the arena erupted in boos and chants of, "we want Monta Ellis". I swear Joe was in shock and almost started crying because he couldn't get a word in edgewise. The chants and boos rained down for several minutes before Chris Mullin got up and reprimanded the fans for their behavior. This was actually hilarious because as soon as Joe handed the microphone to Chris the fans started cheering, but the moment Chris handed the microphone back to Joe, the boos and chants resumed. Five minutes later another Warriors retiree picked up the microphone and he adamantly chastised the fans, but they basically booed him as well. In the end Joe barely spoke and the ceremony concluded with Chris' youngest daughter counting down to the unveiling of his jersey in the rafters. A little later on I actually shook Chris' hand as he passed in front of me, but I didn't really care that much even though he seems cool. After all, he's no Ricky Rubio!!!!
In the third quarter I actually felt like the wounded dog who was being kicked. I saw in the game thread that Cynical Jason implored me to stab JJ, and I can tell you I almost did. I have no idea what the hell he was doing, but I created numerous in game euphemisms with which to express my anger. The fans to my right, left and back were absolutely giving it to me in the third quarter, but I tried to stay strong. When Kevin made that bankshot 3 pointer at the end of the third quarter, I merely raised my fist in the air, but I stayed silent largely because I was worried that the Wolves would play terribly in the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter had me biting my nails until the last minute. Kevin played tremendously, and I was thankful to see "the real Anthony Tolliver?" finally stand up. By the end of the game most of the fans seated next to me had already left. When the game concluded the aforementioned gray-haired man went out of his way to say goodbye to us. In addition, a man named Bob something or other, who identified himself as one of the Wolves owners, graciously came to us and thanked us for rooting the team on. Ultimately, I was pleased that we won minus Ricky, and largely minus Pekovic and Beasley, but it was Golden State minus Curry and Bogut.
Some side notes:
1) Eshold was right on when he identified me and my wife in the first game thread. I was seated behind the Wolves bench, and I was touched that some of you guys looked for me.
2) I will try to put pictures up when I can, but I'm too lethargic to do so now.
3) I can see why Michael's attitude can be so maddening to a straight shooter like Rick. He basically laughs the entire game. He was poking Wayne and playing around with some of the guys during the game. He was dancing as he went into the game in the second quarter. I'm not saying these things adversely affect his game, but I can see why Rick thinks he has a maturity issue.
4) This team is very close. It's obvious that the players on this team genuinely care about each other by the way they interact.
5) For all the reasons we have spoken of as to why Ricky's absence hurts the wolves so much (his perimeter defense, passing, help defense, etc.), one thing I overlooked was the winning culture Ricky brought to the team. In the third quarter when the Wolves were down by 1, I was shocked by how deflated the team was. Michael was walking to the players saying, "it's not over yet", which was odd to me because it was only the third quarter and they were only down by 1, but when I thought about it I realized that everyone playing had grown accustomed to losing last year, except for JJ. I'm not saying they necessarily accept losing, but they don't hate it the way JJ does, and definitely don't hate it the way Ricky does. Indeed, I would argue nobody loathed losing as much as Ricky. It's evident in all of his after game comments, and it's evident in the way he played nearly every fourth quarter this year. He would go into "f this" mode, and kill himself tying to do whatever it took (getting in passing lanes, doubling down on defense, penetrating on offense, etc.) to win the game because he hating losing so much. This team misses the winning attitude Ricky brought with him immensely. Fortunately, Kevin made that 3 at the end of the third, and as he was walking back to the bench, he said, "we're back!". I never really thought they had left.
6) Rick Adelman rides the refs from minute 1 to the end of the game. When I watch games on TV I see him do it, but I didn't realize he does it too such a large extent. He screams at them nonstop throughout the game which I am all for, but I was worried he would get a T this game.
7) Adelman has strange movement patterns. I still have no idea what compels him to stand up, walk to the other side of the bench, walk towards the GS sideline, etc., because there is no rhyme or reason to it. Just as you would suspect, he is very animated, and he wears a scowl on his face all the time. However, there was one time when he gave Ridnour a high five of sorts after he made a running jumper with no time left on the shot clock. In the third quarter when he was forced to call a timeout after the Wolves lead went from 14 to 7, he said, "God damnit" and was overtly pissed. During timeouts he stressed ball movement and defensive rotations more than anything else. Sometimes during timeouts it appeared as though nobody except Kevin, Martel and Luke was listening to Rick, but it might be due to the fact many of the other players didn't think they were going back in the game.
8) Pekovic clearly reinjured his ankle in the third and he might just need a few games off.
9) Beasley obviously was having issues with his toe and he might be gone for a little while as well.
10) A very vocal Wolves fan was screaming, "Michael Beasley", throughout the game. When the game was no longer in doubt he yelled, "Rick, Michael Beasely is the best player on your team, put him in the game, I love Michael Beasley". Michael smirked and raised his hand in acknowledgement just as a Warriors fan shouted, "I thought you were traded!" Michael is such a loveable dingbat.
11) Wes smiles for inexplicable reasons throughout the game. I see it on TV, but it was increasingly evident in person.
12) I bought my tickets on stubhub a little under face value. The guy who sold me the tickets, who I never met prior, came down and sat next to me. He wanted all of my info in case I wanted to go to games in the future. He was a CPA who purchased the tickets as an investment. Interestingly, his name was engraved on the seats, and he had ensured his CPA title was on his nameplate. I thought that was a bit pretentious, but I played along. The guy was clearly a "mover and a shaker", and he even had the audacity to ask my wife if were going to stay for the entire game because he wanted to sit in our seats if we left. Well.. whatever.. it takes all kinds to make the world go round.
13) The GS cheerleaders and many of the women sitting courtside and in the first several rows were gorgeous. I had to be quite clandestine in stealing glances of them with my wife sitting next to me, and I got caught at least twice.
That's all I have guys. I'm sorry this was so long, and I will just assume you have read as much of it as you wanted to. Please look for Eric in Madison's report card which should be coming soon.