Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No. 14 in Your Hearts and on Your Ballots

All the talk late last night (that wasn't about those Kevin Durant airballs in the clutch against the Lakers) was about the election results from the various gubernatorial races mayoral battles around the country. And there is something to be said for the significance of those results but for me the real bellwether race to watch is next year. In Oregon. Because that's when former Knickerbocker Chris Dudley will likely be on the ballot for governor.

I don't live in Oregon, am not planning on moving there anytime soon and wouldn't be likely to vote for No. 14 in your 1998-99 Knicks program due to his party affiliation but, still, I was psyched when I heard about this. After all, I was very nearly the proud owner of Knicks jersey with Dudley on the back. Except I couldn't find a store carrying any in my size and "settled" for a Sprewell jersey to wear while watching the 1999 NBA Finals.

Although he had inexplicably notched a 14/12 game against the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs that year, Dudley's greatest Knicks moment came in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Patrick Ewing had been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason due to that Achilles injury after Game 2. The series was level coming back to the Garden and Dudley was inserted into the starting lineup ahead of Marcus Camby, who had been a force coming off the bench. The bleary-eyed Jeff Van Gundy made the call and was taking a lot of heat for it. And when the Pacers assigned shooting guard Chris Mullin to defend Dudley at the start of the game it looked like JVG may have erred.

A fourth round draft pick out of Yale, Dudley was one of the worst free-throw shooter by percentage (.458), Dudley grabbed a few early boards in the game, combining with Larry Johnson for 9 rebounds in the first quarter. Dudley helped keep Pacers pivot Rik Smits scoreless deep into the second quarter (although the Flying Dutchmen did go off for something like 15 straight just before the half) and his high intensity electrified the crowd and his more talented teammates. In 20 minutes on the floor, Dudley notched 5 points (on 2-5 shooting and 1-2 from the line) and grabbed 6 boards, 4 off the offensive glass. He stole on ball and committed five fouls. Although he was not on the floor for Johnson's epic four-point play to give the Knicks the 92-91 win, there was no doubting that Dudley's effort after being forced into the starting lineup was crucial to the win.

The next day, I headed out to a Modell's sporting goods location in Paramus, NJ to find myself a No. 14 road jersey. Alas, this poor-shooting white kid could not find a store (although I spent a few hours driving around) carrying that jersey.

Even if Dudley's lack of political experience or atrocious record at the charity stripe keeps him from making a strong charge at the office then he does seem to have a chance to go backdoor on the voters and still get to the rim. Another candidate, former state legislator John Lim, has made some noise about appointing Dudley to the role of Lieutenant Governor, a role that Lim would create. My read is that he would sort of be like the backup governor to step in when Patrick Ewing goes down in the playoffs.

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