When I was in junior high and behaved in a way that my father deemed incorrect or beneath his standards, he would banish me to my room. He knew how much I loved watching sports (specifically basketball), and that if I were exiled to my television-less room, I’d be crestfallen, dejected and angry — and the first few times it happened, I was all those things and more.
Then one day I discovered the joys of talk radio, and I realized that listening to the Washington Bullets play-by-play was almost as exciting as watching the game on television. I could create my own mental pictures, I could hear the players’ sneakers squeaking through the sub-standard radio speakers, and the announcers seemed to pay more attention to detail than the TV broadcasters. I enjoyed the experience so much that even when I wasn’t punished, I’d watch the game on TV with the volume down while listening to the radio broadcast. In fact, I was so smitten with the radio that I started using that technique to watch football as well.
Somewhere along the way I stopped listening to radio broadcasts during sporting events and just watched them on TV or via the Internet. But last night, for the second time in two weeks, the Washington Wizards (with No. 1 pick John Wall on their roster) weren’t anywhere to be found on television or by streaming bootleg video on the Web. To the radio I went …
The first time this happened, the Wizards took on the Cavaliers, and for a good quarter I tried to listen to the game intently. But unlike when I was junior high, when I listened strictly for pleasure, trying to analyze a game with the intent of writing about it later was just too difficult. I gave up after a quarter, watched on the gamecast/box score on the Internet, and promptly told my editor that no article (from me at least) would be forthcoming.
Last night I stuck it out for the entire game. I jotted down notes like an eager freshman in college, and now I’ll do my best to discuss the things I heard.
The Pre-Game Chat With Flip Saunders
When I cover games at the Verizon Center, I usually have to wait a good 5-10 minutes while Flip chats with radio guys, Glenn Consor (who sorta looks like Michael Scott from The Office) and Dave Johnson. It always looks like Flip is having a great time with them, and then when he comes to speak with the beat writers, bloggers and television cameras, his excitement wanes. I always wanted to know what the hell was going on with the radio guys that wasn’t going on with us. Well last night, that great mystery revealed itself unto me.
Flip was relaxed, jovial, and it was mainly because of the atmosphere Consor and Johnson created (I’m stealing their technique by the way). Flip talked about how he was impressed with JaVale McGee’s play on defense, but how he was disappointed in his turnovers. He also spoke about how Al Thornton seemed to be shaking off injury and was playing well, and that he would start. And finally, Flip mentioned the challenge of playing in a non-NBA arena (the game was in Toledo, Ohio). But he was also just as comfortable joking around about Toledo hotels and how fun it was to catch up with his former colleagues in the Detroit Pistons organization.
Andray Blatche vs. Austin Daye
Consor mentioned earlier in the first quarter that the matchup between Andray Blatche and Pistons forward Austin Daye would be one to watch. Both players are 6’11″ and they both possess the ability to play inside and out. But as Consor pointed out, Blatche has the weight advantage (he’s 260 to Daye’s 200) and the experience (this is Daye’s second year, Blatche’s sixth).
On television, it’s rare that an analyst can zero in consistently on one matchup, especially when the viewing public can clearly see more compelling battles unfolding. But when no parts of the game are visible, you’re at the mercy of the radio announcers, and that’s how I was with Consor … but in a good way. Throughout the early parts of the first quarter, he commented on how well Blatche was moving (considering he had injured his foot Sunday night against the Knicks), and he noticed how decisive Blatche was with his low post moves. I didn’t hear many Daye highlights, so I’d say Blatche won the matchup.
I’ve seen John Wall go coast-to-coast in person, and I know how much of a blur he can be when he gets his momentum going. But listening to Dave Johnson capture the coast-to-coast experience via radio was even more thrilling. Johnson would start off in a regular tone, and explain to listeners that Wall was flying down the court. But by the time Wall had made his way to the basket, Johnson had worked himself into a full lather (think Gus Johnson) and Consor was right there co-signing (think Bill Raftery). Sure, it made me wish I had seen the play, but I also appreciated the call.
Other Wall observations:
- Former Wizards and current Pistons center, Ben Wallace, seemed to knock the ball away from Wall a few times, which led Consor to correctly observe that Wall is still adjusting to the quickness of all players, not just guards.
- Wall struggled in the first quarter when he missed shot after shot, but in the second half, when he started racking up assists and alley-oops to McGee, it felt like he was taking over the game without scoring. Again, Consor and Johnson mentioned Wall’s name so much during one stretch in the third quarter, it seemed like he was the only one out there.
- One of my few complaints about the radio broadcast was their failure to truly capture what was going on with the Rodney Stuckey-John Wall matchup. Stuckey was scoring left and right, but I couldn’t figure out whether Wall was the culprit, whether Stuckey was quicker, or whether Wall was having trouble fighting through picks … none of that. I just kept hearing Consor and Johnson say Stuckey was aggressive, then I looked up and saw he had 34 points.
- Consor spoke to current Pistons assistant coach Darrell Walker about Wall before the game, and Walker said Wall reminds him of a player named Randy Smith who played for the Buffalo Braves. I instantly abandoned the game and spent the next 10 minutes researching the late Smith and his game. His calling card was speed and durability (he played a then-NBA record 906 games between 1972 and 1983).
- The Wall/McGee alley-oop tandem is best enjoyed in person or by television. Every time they hooked up while I was listening to the radio, I just got angry without the vision and uttered unprintable expletives.
Ben Gordon’s Ejection
Early in the second quarter, JaVale McGee fouled Tayshaun Prince. Afterward, Consor and Johnson observed that McGee had a disapproving smirk on his face, and that Ben Gordon noticed it too. Gordon then lobbied to the referee that McGee should receive a technical, but the refs ignored him. Later in the quarter, Yi Jianlian drew a technical foul for doing a little too much talking to the ref, and again, Consor observed that Gordon was clapping. Then, toward the end of the quarter, Gordon was whistled for a foul on Lester Hudson. Consor said Gordon slapped the ref on the butt and told him, “Good call.”
I kept thinking to myself, how had this guy not gotten T’d up yet? So in the fourth quarter, when Johnson narrated Gordon’s two technicals and exit, I actually felt in the loop … like I had seen it coming. Thanks radio guys!
Consor correctly observed that for certain players, this final preseason game would serve as a last audition for them to prove what they could do. Each time one of these bubble players entered the game, they made it a point to highlight what they were or were not doing.
Nick Young and Al Thornton
Consor mentioned (as Flip has mentioned numerous times) that he wishes he could combine the games of Young and Thornton for an ideal “3″ guard. Thornton made hustle plays, but was a non-factor on offense … Young was a factor on offense, but nowhere else.
Remember when I mentioned that Consor and Johnson were mentioning Wall’s name on seemingly every possession in the third quarter? Well, in the fourth quarter Trevor Booker took that title. He was grabbing rebounds, establishing his offense (finally) and hustling all over the floor. As an aside, I would have liked to see him start at small forward with Hinrich and Wall just to see how he handled it. But last night, Booker gave me (radio) flashes of what he could do
Hamady N’diaye and Kevin Seraphin
Consor and Johnson focused on how nice these guys were and how hard they work in practice, and that was mighty gracious of them. But on the court they did nothing special, which is hardly surprising because they just aren’t ready yet.
Lester Hudson and Adam Morrison
Consor kept saying that he viewed Hudson as shooting guard, not a point guard, and that would work against him on a team with Hinrich, Wall and Arenas. Johnson observed that Morrison played his best game last night, but that he still seemed to be recovering from his knee injury last season. There was only a brief mention of Cartier Martin, who I happen to think will make the team over both Morrison and Hudson.
You may notice that I have excluded stats from my brief analysis of the game, and that’s because I strictly relied on the radio for all my information. I shunned the Internet and the ESPN crawl, although I desperately wanted to peek at them to satisfy my stats fix. Johnson and Consor were good at giving out some stats, but I understand that when a game is on the radio, the main focus is on the radio — I can’t hold that against them. They did a great job.
In closing, I will say that this assignment was an interesting experience, but not one I care to repeat. I’m not in junior high anymore, where I can leisurely listen to games for days and days. I need to see Wall’s brilliance, a McGee dunk, a Ben Gordon technical and a Booker hustle play in order to successfully convey what I saw to you, the reader. Still, I thank you for humoring me.
For a detailed account of the game from someone who was there, check out Washington Post Wizards beat writer, Michael Lee.