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Sunday, March 19, 2006
Updated: March 20, 2:36 PM ET
Sunday journey of a 'faloup'

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN Insider

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. and NEW YORK -- Anybody else hate college basketball? Kindred souls, this column is for you.

It may seem strange that any NBA writer would not want to watch the nation's pre-eminent college basketball tournament on the one weekend per year when it can actually draw in a few casual fans, but my days as a casual fan ended a long time ago -- somewhere around the time when I was a college intern for the Milwaukee Brewers and caught a glimpse of Cecil Cooper's pay stub.

Given a choice between doing laundry and watching college basketball, I'll choose a tidy stack of fresh, clean tighty whiteys 10 times out of 10.

So you can be certain I wasn't going to spend the day staring at players I've never heard of on the tube, and the Queen of Babysitters, Carmen from El Salvador, had already knocked off the laundry duties a day earlier. Sure, I had a chance to go see kids' musician Dan Zanes at SUNY-Purchase, but the thought of hearing the lyrics "all around the kitchen, cockle-doodle-doodle-doo" one more time inspired me to take on a rare daily-double that was a lot more to my liking -- Mavericks-Nets at the Meadowlands at 1 p.m., then Heat-Knicks at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m.

The first game was lame; the second was interminable, but I decided along the way to revisit one of my column ideas from earlier this season: The highlights of covering two NBA games in one day.

11:10 a.m. Not one, not two, but three different members of the East Rutherford parking lot authority wave me into the press parking lot despite my temporary misplacement of this season's parking pass. This is no small thing, because if you have to park in the main lots with hoi polloi, you're looking at a 15-minute trek through a howling, cold wind to make it to the press entrance.

11:30 a.m. Stop courtside for a chat with Mavericks assistant coach Del Harris, who I spent a lot of time with in 2004 when he was coaching the Chinese National Team and I was covering men's basketball at the Olympics.

12:20 p.m. Harris looks up at the clock and realizes he should have been inside the locker room five minutes ago. I retreat to the press room to begin working on this blog entry, stopping for just an instant to see a television in the press room tuned to the NCAAs. The score box in the lower right-hand corner of the screen tells me Brad is playing Pitt, but there's still nothing that can convince me that it's a good-looking game.

1:04 p.m. Glance up from the computer screen to see the Nets-Mavs game is already two minutes old. ABC doesn't mess around when it says the game is starting at 1 p.m., I guess.

1:22 p.m. Interrupt my conversation with a Japanese reporter about the troublesome size of hotel rooms in her country to watch Vince Carter knock down a 3, Jerry Stackhouse miss a 16-footer and Richard Jefferson bury a 19-footer. That makes the score 29-8 in favor of the Nets as Dallas opens 3-for-21 en route to a 10-point first quarter, the Mavs' worst of the season. The conversation along press row turns to how late the Mavericks must have stayed out in Manhattan on Saturday night.

1:26 p.m. The Nets dancers come out, and p.a. announcer Gary Sussman announces they are sponsored by "Applebottoms by Nelly." It's the strangest thing I've ever heard Sussman say over the mike, and that's saying something.

3:43 p.m. Josh Powell steals the ball from Zoran Planinic and finds Darrell Armstrong for a breakaway layup, and suddenly Dallas has used a 15-0 run to pull within seven after the Nets pulled their starters (Sussman announced it as a "line change.") Coach Avery Johnson re-inserts Dirk Nowitzki and draws up a play in the hopes it will lead to a four-point play, but Nowitzki is short on his 3-pointer and does not get fouled.

3:57 p.m. Coach Lawrence Frank walks into the press room for his post-game news conference, only to see all heads turned the other way to watch the final seconds of the Cavs-Lakers game. After a few uncomfortable moments, Frank decides to begin.

3:58 p.m. Kobe Bryant nearly knocks down a 30-footer at the buzzer, but the shot rims out. Coach Frank is not watching.

4:18 p.m. Nowitzki is dumfounded in trying to come up with an explanation for his team's slow start, noting that the Mavs also had a putrid opening quarter late last month in Toronto before coming back from a 24-point deficit to win in OT. "Maybe we need to get up a little earlier and run around the block six times, I don't know," Nowitzki says.

5 p.m. Arrive at Madison Square Garden following a 30-minute drive in from Jersey. (My Winston Wolf alter-ego does not come out to play on Sundays. Too much traffic, especially coming into the city from the Garden State).

5:06 p.m. Enter the press room, where a few boxscores are lying around from the city championship games played earlier in the day. (Epiphany Prince was held to 33 points, 80 below her career high, but her school Murry Bergtraum, still defeated Francis Lewis 81-66.) In the boys' game, the next great point guard to come out of Brooklyn, ninth-grader Lance Stephenson, led Lincoln (Stephon Marbury's alma mater) past Grady 73-51.

5:07 p.m. Notice a college game on TV between "Conn" and "UK." Make mental note to question what the heck the Brits are doing in the NCAAs.

5:35 p.m. Run into Michael Lee of the Washington Post, who covered the Olympics in Athens with me two years ago. One day we stopped at a small café across from the American College of Greece where the U.S. team was practicing, and Lee asked the waitress if they had any chicken. Judging from the reaction of our waitress, Roxanne, it appears no one had ever ordered chicken there before.

6 p.m. Larry Brown walks into his pre-game news conference and I needle him with a two-word question: "George Mason?" "Hey, they've got a Baby Shaq in the middle, and he's a pretty good player." After rehashing why Marbury was not on the floor for the game-winning shot against the Pistons on Friday night, Brown goes on to explain why he won't be going to any set rotations in the final four weeks of the season. "We're not going anywhere, so I don't get caught up in rotations too much. I'm going to play guys, see what we have and move forward."

6:15 p.m. Walk into the Knicks' locker room, where the other reporters are in a tizzy after Marbury had just called people in the media "faloups." It's easily the most mysterious f-word thrown out by a Knick since Tim Thomas added 'fugazy" to the NBA lexicon.

6:40 p.m. No one in the Heat locker room knows what faloup means, but Gary Payton really wants to know. "I'm going to ask Steph during the game," he says.

6:41 p.m. The conversation turns to Brown, and Payton recalls playing for him on a U.S. Junior Olympic team that played in Italy in 1988. Payton goes on to tell how his teammate on that club, Dwayne Schintzius, grabbed a bottle that someone had thrown onto the court and whipped it back into the stands, which prompted the crowd to hurl every projectile they could find at the U.S. team.

7:25 p.m. Payton can't contain his curiosity, so he walks over to Marbury at midcourt and asks what "faloup" means, and Marbury tells him it's a euphemism for people who are full of baloney. Silly me, I thought it was a new item at Taco Bell combining the fajita and the chalupa.

7:34 p.m. Run into Knicks p.r. official Dan Schoenberg, who introduces me to the two women he's escorting to the celebrity seats. They're both supermodels, and they're both much taller and younger than me. Sometimes it sucks to be married, 40 and less than 6 feet tall. I later learn that Marbury fell on the two models while going for a loose ball during the game. Bet he didn't call them "faloups."

7:50 p.m. Jason Williams throws a long, long alley-oop pass to Dwyane Wade, who rises high above the rim -- seemingly 4 feet above it -- to grab the pass and flush it. The crowd goes nuts.

7:59 p.m. Malik Rose dunks on Alonzo Mourning and gets a technical foul for being a little too demonstrative afterward.

8:03 p.m. Jerome James dunks on Mourning and actually gets a call, then converts the three-point play.

8:04 p.m. During a dead ball with the arena completely quiet, referee Joey Crawford yells to both teams: "Everyone stop their moaning!" The whole building can hear him.

8:42 p.m. Halftime arrives. And since they were serving fried fish fillets as the pre-game meal, I go out for pizza, re-establishing a connection with my Inner Mr. Wolf and zipping down to Greenwich Village to make my purchase from Famous Ray's on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street, the only pizzeria that was paying attention when the good Lord created the ultimate recipe.

9:20 p.m. The game is dragging like no game I can remember, the Heat staying ahead by five to 11 points throughout the third quarter as Crawford, Violet Palmer and Jack Nies are giving their whistles a workout.

9:26 p.m. The game ain't dragging anymore. J-Will tosses an alley-oop to Wade from near midcourt, and Wade reaches behind himself to get the pass and flush it. Stunning.

9:28 p.m. Jamal Crawford feeds Eddy Curry an alley-oop pass, and the big heavy fella is able to get up and dunk it. Wade answers with a jumper from 22 feet and a pretty feed to Mourning for a dunk. Mourning closes the quarter with his eighth block of the night, and Miami is up nine.

9:46 p.m. Jerome James goes one-on-one against Shaq and gets off a shot that hits the bottom of the backboard.

9:46:30 p.m. Shaq scores over James, putting the Heat up 13.

9:49 p.m. On the Knicks' first play out of a timeout, Jalen Rose fires up an airball from the corner.

9:54 p.m. Wade gets ahead of the field for an uncontested dunk. He has 30.

9:54:30 p.m. The Knicks are called for a 24-second violation, and the first boos of the night are heard. Miami calls timeout, and half the fans head for the exits.

10:02 p.m. Wade goes one-on-one against Steve Francis at the top of the key, gets around him and threads a pass to Shaq for a dunk.

10:04 p.m. Antoine Walker hits a 3 with 1.4 seconds left, the final points in the Heat's 111-100 victory.

10:22 p.m. Riley compares Wade to Michael Jordan without mentioning Jordan's name, although it's plainly clear who he's talking about. "[Wade] will one day make his place in this game, and we're seeing it day-in and day-out."

10:39 p.m. Wade emits an embarrassed chuckle when asked if he believes he'd go No. 1 overall if the 2003 draft was done over. "You can't do drafts over, but I'm sure Jordan wouldn't have gone third. LeBron deserved to go No. 1 to Cleveland, and I deserved to go fifth to Miami."

10:42 p.m. O'Neal ducks out the back door of the locker room and is about to sign autographs for two fans with hallway passes, but a Heat security official waves them off. O'Neal walks away and ESPN's Stephen A. Smith emerges a second later from the same doorway, walking over to the two fans and making sure they don't leave without someone's John Hancock. Having now officially seen it all, I call it a night.

Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.

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Dimes Past: March 10 | 11-12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18-19




Superstar Showdown
claxton
Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant pointed the way with 38 points, but LeBron James kept up his dukes for a one-point home win for Cleveland.



Elias Says
min

The Timberwolves snapped one of the most frustrating streaks in NBA history on Sunday, taking a 40-35 halftime lead and defeating the Kings 95-89. Minnesota had lost each of its previous seven games, despite leading at halftime in all of them. No other NBA team had ever suffered more than five straight losses, leading at halftime in every one.

• Elias Sports Bureau | More Elias Insider



NBA Intelligence Report
smith

Call Him Big Shot Josh
What's gotten into Hawks forward Josh Smith? Friday night he stroked a season-high four 3-pointers in a loss to Utah. But his biggest shot from deep came late in the game Sunday. With the Hawks trailing 105-100 and 70 seconds to play, he nailed a 3-pointer that sparked the comeback win. And that was after missing from nearly the same spot a possession earlier. "I probably wouldn't have taken that shot two months ago," Smith said after sticking the Magic for 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. "Coach [Woodson] has put confidence in me." -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Read the entire NBA Intelligence Report Insider




Motion: Flip Answer

Kobe and LeBron were on center stage, but Flip Murray was the closing act. He hit a free throw with 3.4 seconds left and scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter Sunday, leading the Cavs to a 96-95 victory over the Lakers.

Flip Wills 'Em



Slamming The Mavs

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
Vince Carter slams over Erick Dampier during the Nets' 100-89 win over the Mavs.



Extreme Behavior
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Sunday's Best
Joe Johnson, Hawks guard: The best thing about his performance in the 108-107 win over the Magic? Dishing 11 assists with zero turnovers. Not to mention 40 points on 17-for-24 FG shooting, including all five attempts from beyond the arc.

west

Sunday's Worst
Sixers without AI: Fell to Warriors, 98-89, as Allen Iverson's team went winless on their three-game road trip while The Answer stayed home with a bruised right foot and sprained ankle. The Sixers (31-35) may yet cough up the final Eastern playoff spot to the Bulls (29-38) or Celtics (28-39).

pierce

Quote of the Day
"We led for 46 minutes. It was a basic collapse by our team in the fourth quarter."
-- Lakers coach Phil Jackson, whose team led the Cavs, 91-80, with 6:03 left, only to lose, 96-95.

-- Andrew Ayres

See how all 171 who played stacked up
The current NBA Playoff matchups



Wary Of Washington
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Don (Wash, DC): Given that Washington has beat Detroit twice this year, do you think the Pistons would rather see a higher seed like the Nets or the Cavs instead of the Wizards?

Chris Sheridan: Yes, I think they'd prefer to play NJ or Cleveland, but they'd handle the Wizards in a seven-game series. Detroit would have won that first meeting if Ben Wallace hit a free throw at the end of regulation. Instead, he missed and they lost in OT.

Dino, Mather, CA: Has Peja Stojakovic said he wants to stay in Indy? He can walk away to ANY team, why don't the Pacers try and sign him to an extension NOW?

Chris Sheridan: Peja hasn't said anything definitive, but I believe the Pacers wouldn't have acquired him if they didn't believe they'd be able to keep him. That being said, the Bulls are a team that might lure him away (Peja played for Scott Skiles in Greece when he was a teenager), although they already have a logjam at small forward and would be better served by getting a big man.

David (Pembroke Pines, FL): Dwyane Wade is playing at an exceptional level. What do think are truly his chances of being selected as MVP?

Chris Sheridan: As much as I like him, his chances this year are zero. I get the feeling Steve Nash is going to garner more support than anyone else, although it'll be interesting to see how Tony Parker does against him tonight. I still feel Parker merits some serious MVP consideration, but if I had to cast a ballot today I'd probably go with Nash.

Matt (atl): Is Big Al Harrington really the best free agent on the market this summer? What teams are going to be bidding for his services and what will the hawks demand in a sign and trade?

Chris Sheridan: If the price is right (a multi-year deal starting at around $9 million), I believe the Hawks will keep him. If he feels he can get more, Al will have his agent look at every sign-and-trade scenario imaginable. The Knicks are very interested, but I don't think the Hawks would do a deal with them unless Channing Frye was in it. The Knicks would also have to throw in another $8-9 million in salaries to make the trade work, and they don't have much other than Frye that Atlanta likes. I believe the teams with substantial cap room (Bulls, Raptors) think Al's price is going to be too high.

Read the full Chris Sheridan chat Insider



Artest On Indy Booing: 'It's Cool'

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Ron Artest now knows how Ben Wallace felt two Christmases ago and how John Starks was treated a decade earlier.

Those were the only comparisons longtime Pacers employees could fathom after Artest returned to Indiana as the villain Friday night -- and the fans let him have it like they rarely do.

Jermaine O'Neal had predicted there wouldn't be more than a couple of boos, and this reporter predicted a dominant performance by the Kings. Boy, were we both wrong.

The hate began raining down on Artest during player introductions, and the boos kept coming strong every single time he touched the ball. Artest claimed it had no effect on him, but there was certainly something that got into his head as the Sacramento Kings blew an early 16-point lead and lost 98-93 to the Pacers in the most anticipated game in Naptown since the Pistons made their first visit following the infamous brawl of 2004.

"It's cool. That's what they're supposed to do. I'm a Sacramento King, and if you come to Arco Arena, you already know how it's going to be," said Artest, adding that he couldn't remember anyone being treated quite so harshly by the fans when he was playing for the Pacers.

When it began, the tenacity of the booing was the thing you really noticed. Indiana fans had never really had a chance to vent at the one particular person who caused so much of the past two seasons to turn so sour, and that fury was unleashed in one big, strong crescendo.

"It's definitely unfortunate that your own fans would boo you, and booing him because he came back?" asked Stephen Jackson, the only player from the Pacers to spend time with Artest on Friday afternoon in the hours before the game. "I'm happy to see him happy and in a situation where he wants to be. That's my guy, and I wish him the best. But the fans showed a sad side by booing him."

The fans actually booed the Pacers, too, when it appeared the game was getting away from then at the midpoint of the first quarter. Sacramento hit its first eight shots and was ahead 36-20 at the end of one quarter, but the fluidity they showed in the opening minutes began to disappear once Artest tried to take on a little too much of the load by himself.

Early in the second quarter, Artest found himself isolated at the 3-point line against Peja Stojakovic, the player he was traded for, and decided he was going to try to show him up. But Stojakovic's defense -- along with his rebounding -- is better than what the Pacers had been expecting, and Artest soon discovered the same thing. He was able to free himself for a jumper, but the shot missed everything -- an airball that delighted the partisan crowd.

That was the beginning of the end for Artest, who followed up a 4-for-8 first half by shooting an abysmal 2-for-14 in the second half as the Kings were outscored 57-41 and couldn't find a way to stop Indiana rookie Danny Granger, who scored 14 of his career-high 23 points in the final two quarters.

Read the full Chris Sheridan story Insider



Why Nash Is The MVP
anthony

If you would've asked me last Wednesday who my vote for MVP was it would have been Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers. But Wednesday night I broadcast the Phoenix Suns-Los Angeles Clippers game and watched Steve Nash perform. Nash led his team to a 126-95 win, contributing 25 points, 12 assists and three rebounds. But the stat line doesn't tell the entire story of what Nash did in that game and throughout this season.

He's quick, always keeps his dribble alive no matter how many guys are on him and is the best off-hand passer I've ever seen in my life. As great as those attributes are, it's his decision-making that makes him the best player in the game. He can make great decisions at a high speed in an instant. It's amazing to watch him whipping down the court and then see someone flash open for a second and then get them the ball without hesitation before anyone has time to react.

It's tremendous that this guy is bettering last year's MVP numbers and at the same time validating an MVP that not many people thought he deserved last season because he beat out Shaq. After this season there should be no doubt in the minds of the voters that he deserved the MVP last year and certainly deserves it now.

Right now he's playing without three main guys from last season: Amare Stoudemire (injured), Quentin Richardson (traded to the Knicks) and Joe Johnson (dealt to the Atlanta Hawks) and is still dominating the opposition and will probably lead this team to the Western Conference championship game and possibly beyond.

-- Tom Tolbert