Monday, December 20, 2010

Heat @ Jazz: Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I had the opportunity to attend my yearly NBA (usually Utah Jazz) game last week with my wife, along with both of our families. We drove halfway to Salt Lake City Tuesday night, then drove the rest of the way on game day. Once in SLC, after getting food, the first stop was Fanzz; the "official store" of the Utah Jazz, to purchase jerseys, balls, t-shirts. Just about everyone bought something. Even the Father-in-law puchased a Paul Milsap home jersey (I guess I have the power to convert people to Jazz fandom).

My family has a friendly relationship with Thurl Bailey, ex-Jazz player and current Jazz commentator for the local television and radio stations. We spoke with him before our trip to the game and he mentioned that he may be able to allow a few of us to sit on the Jazz' bench during pre-game warmups. When it came time, we went to the arena at 5:00, one half hour before the doors opened to the public, to meet Thurl. He informed us that he was only able to get permission for one person to sit on the bench. My brother, Brock, and I debated back and forth who would be the lucky fan. Neither of us wanted to make anyone else feel bad, nor have to face the pressure of not getting enough autographs or being assertive enough to talk to all of the players. My brother finally asked, "Can I go?" Sure. It ended up being as simple as that.

When Thurl took us down to the floor in the Energy Solutions Arena, most of us stopped at row 5 and took "our" seats while Brock continued down. There he sat, next to rookie Gordon Hayward, while Deron Williams, "Big Al" Jefferson, and rookie Jeremy Williams shot around on the court. Thurl introduced Brock and Gordon. "Yeah, I know who he is," Brock said to Thurl. "Well, you never know DO live in Canada." They went on to have a good conversation.
"Does it seem real yet, playing in the NBA?"
"Somtimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't."
"Do you love it?"
"Yeah, I get paid to play basketball! What more could I ask for?"
"Were you happy about coming to Utah?"
"I would've loved to play for the Pacers if I could have chosen, but Utah is a great organization!"

I had never watched a full pre-game warmup before; probably because it's mostly not available to the public. I learned a few things: players don't all warm-up on the court on the same time. At most, we saw 3 players shooting around at the same time. It was like they would take turns coming in and out of the locker room and out onto the court. Of course, none of the "Miami Thrice" showed up before the game. Their tunnel was crowded by 100's of fans when the doors opened to the public at 5:30. None of them got their LBJ or D-Wade autographs. We did see Erick Dampier and Juwan Howard up close. No one really cared.

After Hayward's autographs on t-shirts and a team ball and Evans' autograph on the ball, D-Will stopped by to sign the ball and Brock's jersey before exiting through to tunnel to dress for the game. Coach Jerry Sloan, all-time longest tenured coach in any major sports league signed the ball. Their dialogue:
"Hey Sloan, can you sign my ball?"
"Of course! Thanks so much for supporting the team and coming to our games."
"Umm, thanks for playing/coaching the games??"

When Raja Bell exited the tunnel to shootaround, Brock asked him to sign the ball. "Not right now, buddy." After his 15 or 20 minute shooaround, he stopped by and signed the ball. Brock told him, "It's good to have you back on the Jazz." He replied, "It's good to be back." When Big Al, left the court to go to the locker room, Brocks asked, "Hey Al, I've got a few things for you to sign if that's ok." He obviously didn't hear or understand him, as you can see by the look on his face in the picture.

The game itself was excellent. As we know, the Jazz lost. It was close all game until the last 3-4 minutes. Williams and Jefferson kept running the same play and Williams kept passing it into a well-defended Jefferson and turned it over 2 or 3 times. Then to make it even worse, James and Wade drained back-to-back 3's. The end was disappointing but it didn't makes things any less enjoyable. My signed Big Al jersey and the new autographed family Jazz ball will always be fun items to show off.
The gang...with the television cast.


  1. Hey that's awesome. I'm glad Jerry was nice. I could never imagine how he would be to talk to. He seems mean on TV. Also, Hayward looks like a tiny baby. Or just a normal guy that you would see walking around the university. I'm also glad that D-Will sports the homemade cutoffs, much like his fan, T-wah. I just wish he was wearing a T-shirt with Fulgore on it...

  2. This is a pretty cool experience. For some reason if I had the opportunity to meet NBA players in person I'm not sure I would want to. It's weird, I'm perfectly happy viewing them from afar and forming my own opinions about the players without them knowing who I am.
    But t-wah's experience is pretty once in a lifetime which is awesome.
    On another note, is D-will's hair strange in person as it is on TV? My favorite part is that his beard doesn't connect by his ears to the rest of his hair, second best is how high it is shaved up on the back of his head.

  3. Hayward does, indeed, look like a normal guy/tiny baby until you stand next to him and he is a foot taller than you.
    You have a point, Miller; there's nothing more embarassing (is that the right word here?) than meeting a guy, occasionally younger than yourself, and admitting to yourself and/or him that you spend hours reading about, and watching him. It's weird when you see them in normal life, and you wonder why you idolize them on TV. But then you think, "who cares? The NBA rules!"
    Anyway, D-Will's hair was the exact same strangeness on TV and in real life. Why unconnect the beard and hair? That one really gets me.
    Also, I DEMAND a "Regent's Ranking of Power"!!!!!