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Courtside

Reader Fly Gerald Fly scored some ridiculous tickets to the Celtics/76ers game on Monday March 24th. He sat on the court, 4 seats to the left of Boston's bench. I sat directly behind him in the second row. Let's just say the seats were expensive and leave it at that.

Kevin Garnett: Prior to the game KG did not talk to anyone. He shot jumpers while the strength coaches, Glen Davis and anyone else below him on the pecking order, rebounded. At some point he sat on the bench by himself, put his head down and refused to talk to anyone. During the introductions a few of the other starters approached him for daps. That was about it for his interactions with other human beings until he did his powder routine. By and large KG did not talk that much. He did commandeer a few huddles, spoke on defense and had a particularly memorable reaction when he pressed and forced Samuel Dalembert to travel. But he is not as vocal as I anticipated. Rather he is more not stop motion once the game starts.

Referees: Joe Crawford, Scott Wall and Zach Zarba got the call. Of the three Zarba appeared to be the youngest and he was definitely the most fit. Crawford brings out the worst in people and has a painful to watch gait as he makes his way up and down the court. Both Crawford and Wall were aggressive in their dealings with players and coaches. I was torn on how I felt about their demeanor. Part of me felt like they were jerks. At the same time they have to put up with so much bitching, whining and criticism. If a referee is not assertive he could get run over easily. Interesting to watch. Although I believe now, more than ever, that there are times when referees need to just walk away.

The Truth: A while back I linked to a David Aldridge article on Allen Iverson's return to Philadelphia. I was impressed by Iverson's take on his departure from the 76ers:

"When he was asked about seeing old ball boys and security people again, he said, `One thing about it is, if I would have did things a lot different, then maybe I would still be seeing them people on a daily basis. I had a big hand in me getting traded. Like I said, I always wanted to finish my career here in Philadelphia. The opportunity was there for me to do it. In a lot of ways, I made sure that didn't happen.'"
I thought about that as I watched Paul Pierce go up against Iverson's former team. Prior to the game Pierce threatened to knock Cedric Maxwell's pre game meal out of his hand. Then during the halftime the Truth briefly went into a shadow boxing routine and Maxwell encouraged the Celtics star to take a swing. Cornbread said this would lead to a nice payday. Pierce is a guy who was rumored to be on the trading block more than once during his first 10 seasons in the NBA. And he allegedly pondered a trade as last season came to and end. I just found it interesting to think about some of the peripheral factors that go into switching teams.

Meanwhile, Pierce played pretty well in the game. Granted he should definitely take more than 6 shots in a game. And his final line - 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers - was not eye popping. Furthermore, 9 of his points came on three pointers. I can only imagine that Tommy Heinsohn was begging Pierce to drive to the basket. Yet on the way home I heard more than a few callers to a talk radio show criticize Pierce's poor play and praise Leon Powe. Powe (more on him later) deserves all of the positive press coming his way. But several times he received a pass from Pierce, was fouled, missed the shot and got to the line. If he converts those Pierce all of the sudden has at least 6 assists. I love Powe's game and I'm not even sure how he got some of those shots off due to his height and how hard he was fouled. Those passes don't show up in the boxscore though.

The Coaching Staff: Prior to the game Rivers said, "What's up guys?" It caught us a little off guard and proved to be an aberration as we did not speak to any other members of the coaching staff or the roster for that matter. I always think of Rivers as a bit of a yeller but he was calm throughout most of the game. He did get upset about a goaltending call at the end of the first half. But that seemed partly inspired by Joe Crawford's ability to take an argument and bring it to the next level. On the other hand Thibodeau's approach to coaching is more similar to Garnett's style of play, right down to their liberal use of the F word. Thibodeau yelled on seemingly every defensive possession, even when the Celtics were on the opposite end of the court and had very little chance of hearing him. Finally Clifford Ray was reserved for most of the game. At one point he got animated and yelled "make him pay!" several times on a Celtics possession that resulted in a dunk. I can't do justice to just how awesome that was.

Brian Scalabrine: At one point Doc sent Scal to the scorer's table to check in and then called him back before he could even get his warm up off. That was as close as Scal got to playing. Later KG kicked Scalabrine out of his seat after being subbed for. Overall Scal spends a lot of time hovering outside the huddle and greeting players well beyond the bench during timeouts.

New Commercial?: Early in the season I was ecstatic when the following commercial ran on YouTube:

I'm waiting for the sequel from this game where KG repeatedly yells, "Let's keep rolling these mother fuckers!" I don't imagine it will be coming anytime soon.

Highlight of the Night: At one point the Celtics ran a play that looked disoriented at best and ended with Leon Powe firing up a baseline jumper as the shot clock wound down. As the shot clanged off the rim Doc Rivers looked at the bench and said, "How does Leon forget his own play?" That is the type of thing I miss when I watch the games on TV or in a normal seat at the TD Banknorth Garden. I'd argue that fans in general miss that. It makes me think about demanding playing time for certain players, criticizing others and my blogging overall. Intriguing...

The View: It was surprising how much of the action was blocked by Doc Rivers and the referees. In fact two days later I sat in the 25th row of the loge and got a much better view of the game. Still I would sit courtside any chance I got. From there I had a much better understanding of the rhythm of the game as well as a better appreciation for the players' skills. For example everyone is big, the court is small and getting to the rim is no small feat.

Perception and Stats: The 76ers defeated the Celtics, Pistons, Spurs and Suns en route to an 11-4 record in March. Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks are 0-9 against teams with winning percentages above .500 since acquiring Jason Kidd. Yet I doubt I could have sat in those seats if Dallas were in town. It may be time to give Philadelphia some respect. The franchise has won 19 of its last 26 games. Meanwhile, everyone watching got to see Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala put up play well. Iguodala has that LeBron James like ability to elevate on a dunk and put on a show. I'd bet he could easily dunk if the rim were raised a foot. Still Miller and Igoudala have cart blanche when it comes to getting their shots. It reinforced how impressive the third or fourth options' stats are on an elite team.

Thanks again to reader Fly Gerald Fly for making this happen. It was one hell of a night, even with Boston's ice cold shooting in the fourth quarter and Philly's victory.