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Thursday, September 9, 2010
Putting Russian on the ball

By Henry Abbott

A few months ago, I went to Bristol for some meetings and things. NBA editor Royce Webb invited me to a pickup hoops game in the evening, which was a lot of fun.

Webb has a bunch of nifty ways of scoring the ball -- all manner of runners, leaners and bankers that kind of make you scratch your head as they fall through the net.

That night, he made one of the greatest layups ever. He drove across the lane, encountered some defense, and kept on going -- past the hoop and way beyond the point of being able to attempt any conventional layup. Just as he was running out of backboard, he put up a shot that went from his hand more or less straight up a foot or so until it hit the bottom right corner of the glass. It touched the backboard ever so briefly and then -- owing to an insane amount of spin -- then somehow took a hard left traveled entirely horizontally, right to left, until it bee-lined straight into the hoop.

Webb turned and ran back on defense.

I stood there dumbfounded.

"Did you see how much English Royce just put on that ball?" I asked, to no one in particular.

"That wasn't English," replied ESPN.com NBA coordinator Chris Ramsay. "That was Scottish."

So much English it was Scottish.

I can't remember ever hearing a pickup basketball line I liked more.

In any case, something kind of like that happened to Andre Iguodala today. He, too, has experienced the reality of doing something so hard, so perfectly, that it appeared to change nationality.

Chris Sheridan has the story from today's U.S. win over Russia at the World Championships:
The inclination for a player in foul trouble is to hold back, even just a little. Not so for Andre Iguodala, who played with so much energy and passion right when the Americans needed it that one of the Russian players actually thought he was swearing at him -- in Russian.

"He say in Russian a bad word. I don't know how he know this. I won't even translate it. It's bad," said Russian forward Andrey Vorontsevich, who got yelled at by Iguodala after being a little too physical with Lamar Odom.

"All I said was, 'watch it, watch it,'" Iguodala said, bewildered. "I don't speak any Russian."

Apparently (according to bilingual Russian journalist Vladimir Gomelsky of NTV+, the Russian all-sports cable network), if you say, "watch it, watch it" fast enough, it can be misconstrued as the Russian euphemism for a female canine.