Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dollar $ign of the Times

T-Wolves (Possibly) Offering $1 Tickets

Desperation is a stinky cologne. Unless mixed with the proper proportion of inventiveness and salesmanship. In that case, it's alluring enough to almost convince me to buy a 29-game ticket plan for the Minnesota Timberwolves just in case I find myself in the Twin Cities for another conference of historians during the NBA season.

Ever since I bought one ticket to one T-Wolves game - they played the Heat that night and Shaq was lumbering while Garnett was wiry if I recall correctly - a few years ago, I have received emails from the club about their various promotions and happenings. Generally I delete such missives without even opening them. But not this one. Not the one whose subject line read: "Ticket Packages As Low As $1 Per Game." That caught my attention. After all, around here the Yankees have been selling tickets that are literally worth their weight in gold.

The Minnesota ticket package in question includes one night with each of the 29 clubs in the NBA. You get to see everyone when they come to town. And each game is just one buck? I can't think of a better deal this side of the ramen I ate for lunch. Like my Nissin Cup Noodles, $1 tickets sound almost too good to be true. And, they could be. Depending on how the ping pong balls pop during the upcoming. NBA draft lottery. You see, the promotion allows fans to pay per seat the number of the pick the team receives. If they land the No. 1 pick in the draft? Then the seats are just 1 dollar. If they land the No. 2 pick then the seats are 2 dollars. And, so on. "Thanks" to their 24-58 record (fifth-worst in the NBA) the Timberwolves have just a 7.6% chance of actually taking home the top selection and awarding their fans with 100 cent tickets. The deposit is $29 and becomes the total cost if the team can pull off a surprise upset at the draft. Odds are that Minny will land the fifth pick and that fans will have a chance to score $5 ticket plans. That's still not too shabby considering that there are approximately 17 tickets priced at $10 for each game at Madison Square Garden and that they sell out immediately. I like to think of them as the Unicorn Seats.

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Vinny Del Negro. I know that his team lost last night. But c'mon. The balls it took for the Chicago Bulls Head Coach to draw up that endgame play for Brad Miller (which did work the way he drew it up) made him the star of Tuesday night in my book. With his team trailing by two points in OT and just three seconds remaining on the clock, Del Negro sent his team back onto the floor following a timeout. He'd looked Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose in their faces and told them that the play was for Brad Miller, who was going to be inserted into the game for Joakim Noah. The Celtics gravitated towards the two outstanding Bulls guards as the ball was set to be inbounded. And then there was Brad Miller all alone above the elbow. He received the pass. Three. Took a few long, big-man strides towards the rim. Two. Was thwacked across the face by a late-arriving Rajon Rondo. One. As he tossed a shot up at the rim. Zero. Miller, a career 80% free throw shooter, was at the line with the game in the balance. At least, he was at the line once the blood flow leaking from his mouth was stilled. And it was all thanks to the just-so-crazy-it-might-work play called by Coach Del Negro. With that little time he could have done the obvious thing and just gotten the ball in the hands of Gordon, who would have taken a dribble or two before lofting up a contested shot from deep beyond the arc. It might have worked. But probably not. So, Del Negro got his team two FREE throws instead. So what if Miller did miss the free throws? That wasn't on Del Negro. That was on Miller. And, actually it was on the officials, who should have called Rondo for a flagrant foul on the play. He clothes-lined Miller and made no realistic attempt on the ball. I'm always against officials deciding games but I know that if John Starks had laid the wood on Luc Longley like Rondo did on Miller that it would have been a flagrant foul. Miller should have gotten the free throws and then the Bulls should have gotten the ball. Maybe Miller makes the free throws in that less-pressurized situation. Maybe not. Either way, great call by the Bulls coach.

2. Paul Pierce. WIth Kevin Garnett preening on the sideline, Ray Allen fouled out, and Stephon Marbury and Tony Allen terrified of actually having to shoot the ball, it was all about the Truth down the stretch in Game 5 versus the Bulls. And, the Bulls could not handle the truth. Pierce scored the Celtics last four points in regulation, including the jumper to force OT, and then he put up the C's last six points in the extra session. The beauty of his performance was the way that he was getting his shot. He was going to the right side of the key and shooting out beyond the elbow from about 18 to 20 feet. You just know that he practices that exact shot each day. Over and over. So that when he gets in these situations he can rely on muscle memory. Watching him get to his spot for those clutch shots reminded of the way that I imagined Bill Bradley hitting shots for Princeton after the first time that I read about his practice habits in John McPhee's excellent A Sense of Where You Are.

3. Chelseas FC. Only in soccer is a 0-0 tie a huge win for one of the teams involved. That was the case when the Blues held the Barcelona to a nil-nil tie in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal at the Nou Camp in the Catalan capital. Critics would say that Chelsea played "negative" football, looking only to deny their opponent rather than to create anything for themselves. I would not disagree with that. But this strategy allowed the Chelsea defense to hold Barcelona's fearsome striking troika of Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Sameul Eto'o in check. That threesome has netted 90 goals this season in all competitions. The two teams match wits again in a fortnight. At that point, someone will have to score.

4. Carolina Hurricanes. It was the third period of Game 7. Elimination's bad breath was fogging the face guards of the Hurricanes skaters. Until two goals in the final eighty seconds lifted them past the NJ Devils. In Newark. Jeez. That is some playoff hockey, right there. And, I didn't see any of it. I checked the score with about five minutes remaining and then went back over to hoops.

5. Dallas Mavericks. There was nothing flashy for the Mavs last night in their series-clinching win over the Spurs. They just dispatched San Antonio with the knowing confidence of a better team. In other words, they handled the Spurs the way that the Spurs usually handle others. Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle has had his team marching to one drum (being carried by lil drummer boy JJ Barea) ever since halftime of Game 1. His team fell behind early in the first quarter of that opening game. At that point, the Spurs looked like the Spurs. And the Mavs looked like the post-Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Finals Mavs. Until Carlisle flipped the script.

Benched. Kevin Garnett's F-U Face. I'm sick of seeing this guy sticking out his chin and glaring from the bench like he just did dunked on someone's head. And, if he's not going to stop making this face, even though he's nattily attired on the sideline rather than participating in the Celtics playoff games, then I implore TNT and ESPN to stop showing me this guy's mug.