Cavaliers 97, Wolves 86
Season record: 1-8
LeBron James has a tattoo across his back that violates both traditional rules of modesty and AP style. It reads: “Chosen 1.” The point being, LBJ—we’d call him “King LeBron,” but we’re not looking to vomit in our mouth today—is a preternaturally cocky guy. But with games like Wednesday night’s effort against the Wolves, it’s hard to argue much with the man. He scored 45 points on 26 shots, and he hit six of 10 three-pointers, including back-to-back treys in the middle of his minute-and-a-half personal 10-0 run that extended a four-point lead to an insurmountable 14 with less than two minutes to play.
Indeed, James hit shots all night long. He also penetrated at will, drawing fouls, and finding the open man with nifty, seemingly effortless no-look passes. Not only was he the best player on the floor while barely breaking a sweat, but, to bring out an old chestnut, he made those around him better.
The Wolves, by contrast, struggled. Depleted (Foye still out with that troubling knee injury, Telfair attending his grandmother’s funeral), they relied on Marko and Buckner at the point. Not helping matters was a dreadful performance from McCants, who forced his shot on a night when it wasn’t there, and turned the ball over with impunity. Four minutes into the third quarter, Wittman sent him to the bench, where he remained for the rest of the game.
Truly, Madly, Deeply
With Ratliff’s gimpy knee keeping him out another game, the Wolves rotated three players at center. They put up a combined one shot for zero points (albeit with only one turnover and eight boards). But one of those centers was Mark Madsen, making his first appearance this season after a jet-ski accident over the summer. And while we enjoyed his array of charcoal and off-blue courtside suits, it was nice to see the Mad Dog on the floor. He was like a puppy who’d been cooped up all day finally set free to spaz out on the lawn. He was running here to there, there to here. Going for the ball, getting offensive rebounds. It made us tired just looking at him, and sort of hopeful.
After the game, Wittman was the most pissed we’ve seen him this young season. It wasn’t so much the refs (“We’re not getting calls. Jiminy Christmas, I don’t want to get into that,” he said, referring to the 33-13 disparity at the free-throw line) or even players showing up late to shootarounds (Corey Brewer sat out the first half as punishment, but played the entire fourth quarter). It was more Rashad McCants, who Wittman implied was playing like a petulant wuss. “We’re not talented enough right now to just play and hope that it happens,” said Wittman, who spoke ominously of looking for five players who wouldn’t quit when the team “gets punched in the mouth.”
“I found some guys there at the end who at least fought back,” he said. And who, pray tell, was Wittman talking about? Primarily, Gerald Green.
Last Friday, we spoke to Green after he logged zero minutes in a loss to the Wizards, his latest in a string of DNP-CDs. He expressed his frustration, talking about how hard it was to ride the bench when he could be out there helping his team.
Well, tonight he got his chance. Green responded with easily his most productive game of the season. He wasn’t looking to shoot immediately, he moved well without the ball, and he took good, open looks at the basket. In 20+ minutes, Green hit 6-8 shots for 13 points, including a thundering dunk after a floor-length run off a tipped pass. As Wittman put it, in a barely veiled shot at McCants, “He didn’t care what the score was or who was guarding him. He just played.”
After the game, we asked the Green Monster if he thought the performance was a harbinger of things to come—if coach would have to keep putting him in the game.
“I’m just here to help my team any way I can,” he said, clearly having cranked up his platitude machine in preparation for questions from reporters. “Every decision that coach makes is always going to be a great one.”
But look for Green to get 15+ minutes in Friday’s game. And if he responds, look for him to keep getting minutes. And look for those minutes to come at the expense of Rashad McCants who, only nine games into the season, has already exasperated his head coach.
Locker room notes
After the game, we popped by the visitors’ locker room to catch a glimpse of LeBron James. As we were waiting, we saw: Zydrunas Ilgauskus, with both his legs in buckets of ice water, looking sage and a little sad and, also, 7’3”. An aside: 7’3” is very tall. 6’10” is like, shit man, you’re a tall dude. But 7’3”? It’s like, do you live in one of those houses with telephones the size of television sets and television sets the size of sideways refrigerators? Wow. But he was very nice, and said nice things about Al Jefferson, who he’d guarded for much of the night.
Also, Drew Gooden. You probably remember him as the guy with the awful round nubbin of hair surrounded on all sides by shaved scalp just north of his rear neckline. He’s shaved it off, which we should all be able to agree is a good thing. But why, we were curious, had Gooden leveled his terrible hair island?
“I was getting jealous of it,” said the affable, approachable sidekick to the self-appointed Second Coming. In an instant, his friendly nature made us regret many nights of making fun of the dude’s unsightly misplaced hair-poof.
“Yeah, it was getting more attention than I was. And it was causing too much grief for my family.”
Apparently, his mom was getting shit from her friends about it. So it had to go. Rest assured, Gooden is focusing his attention elsewhere, follicle-wise. He’s growing a full beard, which gives him a measure of gravitas. (As for who it makes him look like, says Gooden: “I’ve been getting a lot of Common.”)
Oh, and LeBron eventually came out of the shower, but was immediately surrounded by a swarm of reporters asking questions like “How did it feel to be so awesome tonight?” and “Is it awesome to be so awesome? It must be. Tell me about that.” We’re paraphrasing, but you get the idea. We left before Adrian Peterson, who’d taken in the game courtside, came in to pay his respects to the Chosen 1. We’re sorry we missed their conversation. No doubt it was totally awesome.