March 30, 2007

Practice make perfect

There's a thick layer of yellow, sticky pollen covering Atlanta. Mothers have outfitted their kids with masks. Hotel workers use a leaf blower to clear the air conditioner vents and if you take a running start you can slide a good five feet on the smooth pavement outside the Hyatt.

Mahogany in Motion wowed the crowd at half time.

That's what I was doing today, playing in the pollen, when I lost my balance and slid right into two guys passing by. Sorry, I mumbled, before I realized that I was staring up at Acie Law and Alando Tucker. (When the opportunity arises, always use a "Ghost" quote: Alando, is that you? Baby, what'd you do to your hair?)

That's just how it goes in the ATL on Final Four weekend. One second you're slip sliding away and the next your hanging out with a first team All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year. Love it.

Today's what we like to call a practice day. We make our way over to the Georgia Dome just in time to catch the Ohio State open practice. There are a surprising amount of people on hand, including the Buckeye band, and everyone's screaming Oden's name. Boys, girls, grown men, old ladies, they all want a piece of the big man.

Very quickly we realize that there is only so long a man can watch Greg Oden shoot foul shots before losing interest, so we wander around and look for something a little more entertaining. And, of course, there's our old friend, sitting courtside, Mr. Billy Packer. Packer must be in a good mood today 'cause he not only shakes my hand, but invites me to take a seat.

Hoops Odyssey finally caught up with Lute Olson.

Rather uncomfortably I sit down and talk to Packer about - of all things - my father. Turns out, my dad's high school basketball team, the Palmerton Blue Bombers, beat Packer's high school team, Liberty (originally named Bethlehem High School), back in the '50's. It's all very cordial, but I'm just waiting for him to bite my head off.

After a few minutes, Packer releases me from his company and I wander over to talk to a much less intimidating Chuck Klosterman. He's rocking camo shorts, a t-shirt and white shoes with orange laces. Hoops Odyssey digs the Klosterman style. Anyways, Klosterman and I both decide that it's tough to blog about practice. I mean, no matter how talented the players, it is after all, just practice.

This has got to be the ugliest picture of Mark Cuban ever.

Ohio State goes back to the lockerroom and is replaced by the Florida Gators. Joaquim Noah stops to tie his shoes at the scorers table. What size? I ask. Too big, he responds. Good answer.

Finally, we end up at the NABC All-Star Game in Philips Arena. Basically, it's a chance for senior ball players to show off their game to the few fans and NBA scouts in attendance. I can see Danny Ferry, Danny Ainge and Lute Olson taking in the action.

This is the first time I've seen Coby Karl, George Karl's son, play and I'm impressed. He shoots well from outside and penetrates with ease. Just overheard Jim Larranaga name Karl his MVP - turns out Larranaga was overruled and the award went to Torrell Martin, but Karl played well nonetheless.

And that's it, folks. Less than 24 hours till the Final Four kicks off. We can hardly wait.

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Posted by Jacob Osterhout at 09:41 PM | Comment