Game Notes: Hornets at Pistons

January 19, 2009

AP Photo

AP Photo

 *There’s nothing like meeting a superstar and chatting with a fellow FLINTSTONE…click on the pic to check out my notes on Slam Online

by Eric Woodyard

With under a minute left in the 4th quarter against the New Orleans Hornets, it’s déjà vu for the Detroit Pistons.

Flashback to this past Tuesday when the Bobcats defeated the Pistons, 80-78. Knotted at 78 apiece, Raymond Felton controls the ball with 8.5 seconds left in the 4th. Rodney Stuckey guards Felton. He gives Stuckey a slow dribble which leads to a between the legs dribble, in and out with the left hand, crossover back to his right, and finally pulls up for the 20-foot jumper…money! The Pistons could never recover, and that would be the dagger in their hearts.

Fast-forward to Saturday night’s game against the Hornets. The Pistons are once again in a clutch situation with a point guard controlling the pace. This time, that point guard happens to be Chris Paul, a little more of a handful, to say the least. With 31.4 seconds left, the Hornets hold an 87-84 lead as CP3 goes into his move.

Stuckey guards Paul at the top of the key as Tyson Chandler sets a pick on Stuckey around the 3-point area. This pick switches Antonio McDyess onto CP3—an obvious mismatch. Paul gives McDyess an in and out with the right hand, crossover dribble back to the left, then back to the right, followed by a blow-by to the basket for an easy layup. The Hornets lead 89-84! This was a little different from Felton’s situation, but just as successful.

This loss was the Pistons’ fifth straight, the first time a losing streak like this happened since Feb. 2004.

Pregame

Forks are scraping the glass plates, making a soft clinging sound. There are personalized chitchats at every table from all of the different sets of media, covering the game. Grilled burgers and seasoned steak fries are steaming, the fresh salad is chilled, the napkins are stacked, the condiments are sorted, and the refreshments are being kept cold in the freezers as I watch two college basketball games on the three large high definition screens.

With 32:55 remaining before tip-off, instead of experiencing the sites and sounds of the locker room, I chilled in the media room instead. The horrible road conditions caused by a massive Michigan snowstorm forced me to miss the pregame media availability.

“Can I get in there to get a couple of interviews?” I asked the security guards.
“I’m sorry, we just closed,” the guards responded.

Walking into the dining area/media room, I see Rasheed Wallace doing the same. After finishing his shoot around, draped in his cut-off sweat pants and patented Nike Air Force One’s in his North Carolina blue makeup, Rasheed peeks into the room right before me. As I step in, he went back into the locker room. There’s no point in asking him for an interview because one of the Palace’s 10 commandments is that Sheed doesn’t do pregame interviews.

Morris Peterson in the raftersAfter fixing and later finishing a plate of food, I decide to find my center court seat. Sheed is the first noticeable player during warmups, wearing two headbands (…vintage Nelly). On the other end, Morris Peterson is on an emotional high after getting his jersey retired at Michigan State earlier in the day. Almost everyone congratulates Peterson, from the players to the broadcasters.

Just before the player introductions, the PA announcer exclaims it’s “Kid’s Night.” Instead of the professionals doing their jobs, kids help out, including a kid doing the pregame introductions.

First quarter

– From the time the game started, CP3 sought out to put the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers behind him.

– He took on the challenge of guarding Rodney Stuckey.

7:41– Paul schools Stuckey with a driving layup.

2:30 — James Posey walks to the scorer’s table to check-in and the heckling begins:
“Why did you leave Boston? Why did you leave a championship team?”
“Shut Up!” Posey responds.
“You can’t beat the Lakers!”

0:32 — Posey drains a 3-point basket and momentarily shuts up the heckler.

– Chris Paul finishes the quarter with 6 points and 3 assists.

– Mo Pete didn’t play in the 1st quarter.

Second quarter

– The heckling shifts to head coach Byron Scott as he ignores it:
“Get Mo Pete in there for Posey!”
“Hey Byron, when you guys signed Mo Pete, did you tell him he wasn’t gonna be playing?”
“Look how sad he is!”

5:20 — Posey is not bothered by heckling as he sinks down two free throws.

4:39 — CP3 switched to A.I., they both are the same height but CP is a little bit stockier.
Hornets lead, 39-37.

Third quarter

7:33 — Iverson steals it from Chris Paul and goes up for layup as Rasual Butler blocks his shot A true Bad Boy.and he hits the ground hard on his knee.

– Iverson would have to be helped off of the floor.

Fourth quarter

– Iverson returned to start the quarter.

11:41 — Posey quieted the hecklers with his opening jumper of the quarter.

5:58 — During Detroit full time out, Hooper, the Pistons’ mascot, is shown on the large screen doing the Beyonce “Single Ladies” dance with two obese guys by her side.

– The fans were laughing very hard as Posey and Byron Scott watched the screen emotionless and focused on winning.

3:55 — Allen Iverson is called for an 8-second violation.

3:36 — Rodney Stuckey enters the game for AI.

– Iverson would not play another second.

– The Pistons lose 85-91.

Postgame

Despite Byron Scott’s decision not to play Morris Peterson on the night that he had his jersey retired, I still decided to talk to him. For what it’s worth, Morris Peterson is one of my idols as we both grew up in the streets of Flint, Mich.

“What’s up Mo?” I said.
“What’s up, man?” he responds.
“My name is Eric, and I’m from Flint too. I hooped with you one day last summer.”
“Yeah, I knew you looked familiar.”
“Can I ask you a few questions?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”

SLAM: First things first, you got your jersey retired today at Michigan State University which had to be big, how did that feel?
Morris Peterson: Man, that’s an unbelievable feeling to see your name and your jersey go up next to some greats. To be mentioned with Magic Johnson and Steve Smith and Mateen Cleaves is an unbelievable feeling.

SLAM: I know Mateen got his number retired before you, being the type of person he is, did he ever tease you about it?
MP: Naw, he called me and was like, ‘Welcome to the club, you’re officially a boss now.’ That’s what he told me so we laughed about it and talked about his night and he just said it’s going to be a special night for me and it was. I had a lot of people in attendance, a lot of family and friends, and it was just an unbelievable day for me.

SLAM: Coming back home was it a lot of people bugging you for tickets?
MP: Yeah. My phone rings a lot when I come back home, especially that week before I come. A lot of people know I’m coming back so, yeah, they do. I had about 25 tickets today to get.

SLAM: Back to Mateen, I know he’s great and Chris Paul is great. Who is the best point guard that you’ve ever played with?
MP: I got to say Mo Cleaves. I think when we played together and what he brought to the table, he brought that toughness and I see a lot of that in Chris Paul. [Paul] fell out of the sky and into this team and it’s unbelievable watching him play and watching him grow. I think he’s going to be a Hall of Famer one day.

SLAM: Besides the championship, what was your favorite memory at MSU with Mateen?
MP: There’s one day that really sticks out in my mind. You know, a lot of times when you’re trying to reach a goal and you’ve got two competitors like him and I…We had such great respect, if I felt like I should’ve got the ball on a play and I wanted to say something to him then he’s going to say something to me. Well, one day we were playing, I can’t remember who we were playing. I was wolfing him and I said, ‘I was open man, throw me the ball.’ He was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to throw you the ball, but you better do something with it.’ Then the next time down, he threw me a lob and I caught it backwards and I was like, ‘Man, that’s what I’m talking about,’ and he’s like ‘Well, catch it then.’ So we kind of went at it but it was all out of just the love of the game, and I think that’s what it’s all about.

SLAM: Obviously, this organization has roots with Flint with Glen Rice being a former Hornet. Do you ever confide in him?
MP: You know what, Glen is a great friend. Every time I see him, he shows me love, he always gives me pointers. It’s been a couple times early in my career where I might have had a bad game and I saw him and the next time we were playing he was like, ‘Don’t lose your confidence, keep it going.’ The best advice he gave me was: ‘Any time you miss a shot, just always think you’re going to hit the next one and keep it moving.’

SLAM: So with all of the talent in Flint, who was your toughest opponent?
MP: My toughest opponent I ever played against? Man, we have so many great guys to come out of Flint but I would have to say Cory Hightower because we’re the same size and the same kind of body type. He was a lefty, so people often compared us to each other. But one of the guys who I think could’ve really made an impact in the college level and in the NBA level was Jody Allen. He was cold! Jody was ahead of the game even back then and he did some unbelievable things with the basketball, and I just wish he could’ve had a chance to get to this level. He would have been something to watch.

Immediately following our interview, Morris introduced me to Chris Paul.

“Hey Chris, we got another Flintstone in here,” Peterson says.
“Oh, for real? Do you got the Flint tat too?” Paul asks me.
“Naw, I ain’t got one yet, but I’m getting one this summer. Is it cool if I ask you a few questions too?” I ask CP3.
“Go ahead,” Paul responds.

SLAM: You were rocking the Air Jordan XXIII’s tonight, why not the CP3 II’s?
Chris Paul: Because they ain’t came out yet. I’m probably going to wear these until right before the All-Star game.

SLAM: Earlier this year, I seen that you had Obama’s name on your sneakers, do you plan on Nice Jsdoing something else like that with your own shoes?
CP: Nah, not on my own shoe but maybe on the third one. I just wanted to dedicate that game to him that was the day after he won the election.

SLAM: Are you pretty excited about the inauguration?
CP: Yeah, I’m definitely going to watch it. It’s a big day in history. I had an opportunity to meet him and I’m a huge fan of his and I’m really excited about it.

SLAM: Mo Pete and I were talking about Mateen Cleaves in college and who Morris’s favorite point guard to play with and he put you in the same category as Mateen. How does that feel?
CP: When we first got Mo Pete, I told him how big of a fan I was of Mateen Cleaves. Hanging out with Mo Pete, I got an opportunity to meet Mateen Cleaves a few times. He’s a cool dude, I used to love to watch him play, and if I can be Mo Pete’s second favorite point guard ever, than I’m cool with that. (Laughs).

SLAM: Obviously, Mo had his number retired today. What was your reason for wearing the jersey No. 3. Did Iverson have any influence on that?
CP: Part of it, to tell you the truth. I actually just started wearing it when I was real little and then when AI wore it, I was more proud to have it. I used to wear the AI shoes because it had the number three on it, and I’m still a big fan of his today because he’s never the biggest one on the court but always out there playing with heart.

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