Apparently the team in which they cover is a little more sadistic, but we'll get to that in a moment. If these folks are going to survive the season and come out on the other side of it OK, we should know a little something about them just in case...Martin and Dennis are as talented as they come in this business of ours. Martin always cuts to the heart of a story and he sees things that most people miss. He and I also spent a long May afternoon wiling away the time at Pimilco before Smarty Jones ran to a record-smashing victory in the 2004 Preakness. Since there were a slew of races on the undercard before the big race and they had a betting window in the press box, Martin and I decided the only logical thing to do was to study the race form and put a few dollars on a horse or two.
If I remember the day correctly, Martin did OK with the horses and the writing. I did better with the writing than I did with the horses. On the plus side, I came away with a better understanding of the phenomenon known as, "The betting window in the press box." I'm on the pro side of the argument (if there is even an argument).
Deitch is the most clever dude covering sports in Philadelphia. That’s not hyperbole or blowing smoke, either. Facts are facts and if there is anything remotely interesting going on with the 76ers, Deitch is the first place to check. That’s not a knock on anyone else, it’s just that Dennis sees through all the traps and talking points floated out there.
So when I finished watching the Lakers and Celtics play in one of the more entertaining NBA games this season, I flipped over to watch the Sixers face the Nets…
Yeah.Let’s just say there was a bit of a difference in the quality of play in the two games. After watching the Lakers handle the Sixers last Friday night, my interest was piqued enough to want to watch how they measure up against a better opponent. Better yet, it was quite a treat to see a stellar performance from Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo. That dude can play.
Meanwhile, up at the Meadowlands it didn’t take very long for my heart to sink into the pit of my stomach and immediately feel a bit of empathy for Martin, Dennis and the rest of the gang. Did they get hazard pay for traveling to North Jersey to watch that game? Do their eyes still ache more than a day later?
I can only imagine that Deitch probably had to drop to one knee in order to catch his breath and re-organize his thoughts shortly after the final horn sounded. Poor guy.
The Sixers beat the Nets on Sunday evening, but not by much. Thanks to… well, thanks to no one in particular, the Sixers dealt the Nets their 42nd defeat (83-79) of the season in 46 games. For those scoring at home, the Nets are on pace to finish 7-75 this season, which is two wins shy of the all-time worst season in pro sports by the 1972-73 76ers. Frankly, it’s amazing that any team in this age of sports (with expansion and a salary cap) outside of the Los Angeles Clippers could flirt with a record that seemed like the NBA’s version of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak.
Yet like the ’73 Sixers once were, the Nets are 4-42, but just missed pulling off their second win in three games. If the Nets could have won on Sunday night, it seemingly makes the record for the worst season safe for another year. But if there was ever a game the Nets should have won, it was the one against the Sixers. After all, the Nets’ defense held the Sixers to 36.5 percent shooting from the field and out-rebounded them, 50-47.
Looks like the Nets might have a date with destiny.
“I looked at the stat sheet and saw we shot, what, 36 percent? And still won the ball game? Man,” Allen Iverson said. “Obviously they didn’t play well at all for us to be able to win a game like that.”
What about the gang who had to sit there and then write about the game afterwards? How demoralized are those guys? Do you think it’s easy watching bad games night after night? Having seen the 2002 and 2004 Phillies up close the answer is an obvious, no. Losing is a communicable ailment that is airborne and contagious. It infects all that it comes in contact with and ruins the good will of kind-hearted people.
Worse, a game like Sunday’s in the Meadowlands can break a man’s spirit. When the game ended I was worried about the writing corps and feared that something bad was going to happen. Maybe after filing a story they would go to their car in the parking lot and find that the tires of the car had been slashed. Maybe after watching the game someone developed a rash and needed to rush down the Turnpike in order to get something lanced?
These are the times that try men’s souls.
Fortunately, morale appears to be high. In the Delaware County Daily Times, Mr. Deitch looked at the game from a historical perspective. Sure, the Sixers won the game, but in the process they nearly took the sport back to its peach basket days.
If you said that this abomination set the game of basketball back 50 years, Wilt Chamberlain would crawl out of his grave and smack you for disrespecting his era.
Burn the tape. What, they don’t use tape any longer? Melt the memory card.
If you witnessed this game, seek therapy. And you might want to enter a decontamination shower, like Meryl Steep in “Silkwood.”
It really was that awful.
Here’s the ugliness Double D describes: The Nets scored just two fastbreak points in the game and were whistled for a shot-clock violation when trailing by two points with less than two minutes to go in the game. With feats like that one has to wonder about the Nets’ chances against the Washington Generals.
It wasn’t too much better on the winning side, either, with the Sixers missing 16 shots in the final quarter. More telling was the fact that the Sixers didn’t break into double-figures in scoring in the final quarter until the final minute. By that point the Sixers had to score because the Nets kept fouling them to stop the clock.
And to think, after the game some of the Sixers had the nerve to talk about how bad the Nets are.
“It is a frustrating thing. We just can’t play down to the level of our competition,” Iverson said.
“I’ve been on some pretty poor teams, but never that poor,” said Elton Brand, who went from going 66-7 in two seasons at Duke, to 15-67 in his first season in the NBA with the Bulls.
To be fair, maybe Sunday’s epic wasn’t the worst game ever or set the league back a half century, but it wasn’t one to be proud of, either.
So, maybe the fog of time just made it seem like Sunday night's game was the worst. But trust me -- this was a once-in-a-decade display. There were at least five shots that hit off the side or bottom of the backboard. (I'm still trying to figure out where the hell Willie Green was aiming that fourth-quarter shot.) The general sloppiness and disorder was brutal to watch, and the fact that both teams saved their worst play for the fourth quarter -- you know, when you're supposed to put your best foot forward -- made it a form of torture to watch.
Send the video to Abu Ghraib.