Colonials Journal

Missed free throws, mixed feelings
12:30 a.m., Saturday, March 19

There were a few hundred people from Foggy Bottom here tonight, from the coaches and players to administrators and fans who made the trip, and by the last few minutes of GW’s first-round NCAA Tournament game against Georgia Tech, every one of them shared the same look of frustration.

Not because GW was expected to beat last year’s national championship runner up, and not because they were pitted against a team they could not compete with. It was worse than that. It was the frustration of knowing they had so many opportunities to advance to the second round of the tournament and simply could not put the ball into the hoop when they needed to.

For all the pre-game speculation on how the Colonials and Yellow Jackets would match up, it really came down to free shots at the basket. Not open shots. Shots when no one was allowed to even guard the shooter. Shots they had practiced thousands of times before. The Colonials missed 12 free throws and lost by 12 points.

After the game though, players expressed a mix of emotions, trying to put aside the frustration of tonight and reflect on the team’s first Atlantic 10 championship season in University history. Karl Hobbs, looking emotionally drained, spent several minutes after the game in a separate room with his coaching staff. He then went in to address the team.

“I didn’t talk about tonight’s game at all,” Hobbs said. “I just wrote on the board, 22-8. I wrote on the board, A-10 regular season championship. And I wrote on the board, A-10 Tournament championship. I wanted them to know how proud I was of them and that they were champions.”

And with that, some of the bitter taste of tonight’s frustration began to ware off just enough for the Colonials to leave the Gaylord Entertainment Center with their heads up. The mix of emotions was most evident in senior T.J. Thompson, who worked for four years to get to tonight only to shoot 2-for-11 from the field.

Thompson said it will be hard “watching the games on TV, particularly Sunday, watching Louisville play Georgia Tech knowing that we played with them for a good portion and that we almost had it.”

But, he added, “I may not have shot the ball well, but I ended my career pretty high … (The NCAA Tournament) is better than what you think. You can never imagine something like this. You can always think about it, but it’s never the same until you get there. Most people go through college and don’t get this opportunity, and I’m just fortunate that I had it.”

His teammates who will return next year will likely have the opportunity again, which is why it only took about a half hour after the game ended for them to start cracking jokes and relaxing. With several TV cameramen and reporters doing interviews in the locker room, Pops Mensah-Bonsu chided J.R. Pinnock for forgetting to mention him as a key returning player next year.

Carl Elliott jokingly asked a reporter to interview seldom heard from freshman Maureece Rice, saying, “Look at this guy. Maureece Rice is the thickest point guard in college basketball. Show them your chest, Mo.” Rice sheepishly turned away and said, “Don’t listen to him.”

No one will ever accuse this team of being too serious, and their sense of humor served them well at the end of a night of frustration they will likely think about for months to come.

NCAA, Inc.
3:42 p.m., Friday, March 18

For some reason, maybe because it involves games and college kids, I sometimes think of the NCAA as something different from your typical corporation. But being at the NCAA Tournament quickly dispels that notion.

As I was walking out to the press seating area to watch the Villanova-New Mexico game a minute ago, I was stopped by an arena security guard who told me I could not proceed any further with the can of Diet Coke I had in my hand. The drink was fine, he explained, it just had to go in an official NCAA paper cup, and the can had to go in the garbage.

This soda stuff is serious business here. Every NCAA-sanctioned paper cup has two logos on it: the NCAA and its official paper cup sponsor, Dasani. If by some chance my drink appears in the background of a CBS television shot or a newspaper’s photo, the NCAA is taking every measure to ensure that the brand you see is the NCAA and Dasani, not Dasani’s evil Coca-Cola company sister brand, Diet Coke.

No joke, there are at least two security guards armed with a stack of paper cups right now, fending off culprits headed to the floor area to protect the NCAA against non-sponsor brands. GW players have also been asked to turn their head bands inside out to hide the Nike insignia from camera view, and permanent advertisements inside the Gaylord Entertainment Center have been covered by black canvas.

In fairness, though, now that the NCAA has solved all its academic problems with that new formula, there isn’t much else for them to do.

This message has been brought to you by the NCAA and Dasani.

3:06 p.m., Friday, March 18

I don’t know what impact this is going to have on tonight’s game, but in listening to Georgia Tech players last night, it doesn’t seem like they are all that concerned about GW. Maybe they’re looking ahead to Louisville a little bit, but GW, at least outwardly, seems to be a lot more focused on the Yellow Jackets than Georgia Tech is on them.

Of course they said you can’t afford to look past anyone in the NCAA Tournament, and that GW is a very good team, yada yada yada. But it sounded more like things they believed they are supposed to be saying rather than a genuine concern about the problems the Colonials could pose.

In fact, the only thing Tech players really seemed to know about the Colonials is that they are athletic. And they beat Maryland. And Michigan State.

“At this point we can’t take anyone lightly,” senior B.J. Elder said. “It’s going to be a tough game for us. It’s going to be up and down and a pretty physical game.”

“I got to watch them play on a couple of occasions,” junior Jarrett Jack said. “I think everybody’s familiar with the stretch they went on to beat Maryland and then Michigan State.”

“Obviously we know they’re pretty athletic,” senior Luke Schenscher said.

“They’re real athletic,” Jack said.

“Practice. We’re talking about practice.” -Allen Iverson
9:38 p.m., Thursday, March 17

GW just finished its open “practice,” and for Karl Hobbs and his staff, they could not get off the court fast enough. The team has been practicing the last couple days at nearby Tennessee State, so there was not a lot of actual work to be done. In fact, the coach said during an earlier press conference that he would rather not go through the charade, but as people so often say as a reason for stupid things that college teams must do, it’s NCAA rules.

So the Colonials did some lay-up and shooting drills before taking off after 30 minutes (the official practice time was scheduled for 50 minutes). The last scheduled practice of the day at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, the atmosphere was pretty dead, and GW did not look particularly excited to be here. Whereas Georgia Tech had a full, relatively intense session a couple hours earlier, GW’s was like many of their players: light and quick.

The dozens of fans who sat near the court earlier during Louisville and Georgia Tech’s practices were mostly gone, and all the autograph seekers went home, perhaps an indication of what people are expecting from GW tomorrow night.

Karl Hobbs, who is in full game mode already and looks like he hasn’t slept in days, stood cryptically at center court, just watching his players intently without saying much.

“With this basketball team, and the team being as young as it is, my job, and every coach’s job, is first and foremost to understand the pulse of your basketball team,” Hobbs said before the practice. “I’m a feel kind of guy. I feel the mood of the group. I feel the mood of the situation, and I coach that way.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of mood the team will be in by gametime tomorrow after waiting all day and through the early evening for the (approximately) 9:40 p.m. start. Even with practices, they’ve had a lot of time to kill this week (the team even took a trip to the nearby Opry Mills shopping center to keep busy yesterday). The wait between now and tip-off tomorrow will likely feel like an eternity.

The unlucky five seed
8:55 p.m., Thursday, March 17

After UW-Milwaukee beat Alabama today, a No. 12 seed has now upset a No. 5 seed in 16 of the last 17 NCAA Tournaments, a fact that was not lost on four teams here in Nashville that will play in a 5-12 match-up tomorrow.

“It is definitely a scary spot,” said Jay Wright, coach of the fifth-seeded Villanova Wildcats. “I am not great at studying the odds of all the different seeds. However, I think the 12-5 seed, even for someone like me who follows it as a fan knows that every year there is at least one 12 that get a No. 5. I think that a lot of times you have a team that is the 12th seed that is perceived to be the second best team in that league and they’re not.”

Billy Donovan, whose Florida Gators drew a No. 4 seed and a match-up with Ohio tomorrow, said not enough credit is given to many 12 seeds.

“I think sometimes because a school at the 12th seed, quote unquote isn’t from a major conference, (people think) that there is a huge talent gap. That is not the case. There are a lot of really, really good conferences out there,” Donovan said. “I think we all realize as college coaches that it is a lot easier being a 12 than it is being a five.”

GW head coach Karl Hobbs, for all he’s had to worry about in preparing for Georgia Tech, is at least glad that unlike during the Atlantic 10 season, the pressure is clearly off his team.

“We don’t really feel the pressure as much as we did two weeks ago,” junior Pops Mensah-Bonsu said. “We went into the A-10 Tournament and were successful and I think we’re taking the same approach here.”

Music City, USA
7:02 p.m., Thursday, March 17

Greetings from Nashville, country music capital of the world and site of tommorrow’s NCAA Tournament game between how-on-earth-are-they-a-No. 12 George Washington and they-were-this-many-points-away-from-beating-Duke-No. 5 Georgia Tech.

Today is open practice day at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, a beautiful arena in the heart of downtown Nashville. Built for hockey (you get the feeling they’re not terribly heartbroken about the cancellation of the NHL season down here), the arena goes up vertically more so than out horizontally. It also has a blue and buff color scheme, which if you believe in karma is great news for the Colonials. The bad news: as Georgia Tech is walking out to practice right now, someone just pointed out that they have the same colors. Could these two teams get any more similar?

We only got here for the Louisville practice a little while ago, a scene that ended any illusions I had about watching any actual basketball practices. I believe there was some shooting and dribbling taking place, but I wouldn’t call it drills. And with media and several dozen fans watching, Rick Pitino certainly was not about to get into some kind of strategic discussion with his team.

Pitino, in fact, barely spoke to the team at all. He spent most of the 50-minute “practice” leaning over a table talking to CBS announcer Bill Raftery, who will call the games tomorrow.

From the Atlantic 10 Tournament, March 10-12

Final thoughts
12:30 a.m., Sunday, March 13

The Atlantic 10 Tournament could not have ended any better for GW this week. But if there was one disappointment, it was the empty seats throughout the tournament. The listed attendance of 7,162 for the championship game is a joke. There were maybe 4,000 people there, hardly an atmosphere befitting a game of this magnitude.

Cincinnati has been fun as a city, but the U.S. Bank Arena was equally lacking in character and crowds. The championship game featured two eastern teams playing in western Ohio in front of unenthusiastic locals and small, loyal contingents from St. Joe’s and GW who made the trip out here. All of which left me wondering, what are we all doing out here?

So as the league looks ahead to where it will move the tournament two years from now, there seem to be two options: Dayton or Philadelphia. Dayton was great the last two years (those people will watch anything involving a ball and a hoop). Philly is home to three A-10 teams but drew poorly in the past, so something would have to change from the last time it was held at the Spectrum. Or, if Charlotte makes a bid after UNC-Charlotte joins the league, that could be a possibility. But this is still a league in search of a permanent, viable host for its conference tournament.

Must get a few hours of sleep before driving back to D.C. in the morning. Cheers.

Williams’ big game
10:20 p.m., Saturday, March 12

In leading the GW men’s basketball team to its first Atlantic 10 championship in school history, junior Omar Williams did a lot of things he doesn’t normally do tonight. He scored 20 points, a career high. He finished with 10 rebounds, tying a season high. He even started the game with a three-pointer, just his fourth of the season.

But after grabbing a rebound and drawing a foul with 36 seconds left in a game that was then all but over, Williams did something even rarer for him on the basketball court: he flashed a wide smile.

In a team of personalities – from the intensity of Karl Hobbs and J.R. Pinnock to the passion of Pops Mensah-Bonsu to the goofiness of T.J. Thompson and Mike Hall – Williams’ is often unnoticed. He came in highly acclaimed as a freshman in 2002, the “top priority” recruit for Hobbs when the coach was hired, but most of what he has done since then, he has done quietly and with little fanfare.

But in the most critical game of his career, he was more noticeable than anyone on the court, except for maybe Pat Carroll.

“I just came out and wanted to be aggressive because I didn’t play that well in our last game,” Williams said after the game. “I knew in my mind that their big guys couldn’t guard me, so I just wanted to attack them at every chance I got.”

It seems fitting for this team, which boasts more depth and less superstars than most of the teams that will join them in the NCAA Tournament, that the guy who would lead them in their biggest game would be the player people would least expect to do so.

“Omar was huge,” Hobbs said. “He had a couple of big rebounds, he made all the key free throws. They were defending us very well, and he made some terrific decisions in terms of taking his guy down and getting to the basket. I thought he was huge and that’s what’s nice about this team. We get different situations, and different people have to step up, and today was his day. And I thought he responded beautifully.”

Still, though, in the locker room after the game, Williams was characteristically nonchalant. Carl Elliott was holding up a video camera, soaking in the moment and recording it on tape. Others were still deliriously laughing and hugging, shouting in jest to arena employees as they left the locker room, “A-10 champs coming through. A-10 champs!”

And Williams, asked about the magnitude of his own performance, said this: “I feel good that we won. We have so many different guys that step up every game, and I just wanted to do my part.”

While he was speaking, Mensah-Bonsu interrupted: “O-Williams, 20 and 10, that’s the man right there!”

Hard to argue with that tonight.

Counting down to gametime
5:25 p.m., Saturday, March 12

It’s about 40 minutes before game time, and nothing sums up the state of GW basketball right now more than this: On the court, the Colonials are out shooting around, preparing for the biggest GW basketball game in years. And on the sideline, it’s GW athletic director Jack Kvancz, senior vice president Bob Chernak, a Washington Post reporter and me all looking into a laptop at Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology” Web site, speculating on who’s in and who’s out. And no one, from the so-called “bracketologist” to Kvancz to players and coaches, knows whether GW will be dancing tomorrow night. If they win, it’s a moot point. But if GW does not beat St. Joseph’s here tonight, it seems like everyone is equally clueless whether one of the best seasons in team history will end in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

Stat of the night
2:03 p.m., Saturday, March 12

Just saw they listed the attendance for last night’s GW game at 10,013. Divide by 10 for accuracy.

Also, as we’re walking to the elevator last night in the hotel at around 2:45 a.m., we pass by about a dozen revelers headed back to a room. Some I recognized as people who worked for the A-10. And then there was a guy in the back wearing a baseball cap who looked an awful lot like the guy I saw on the sidelines coaching Temple a few hours earlier. Rough night for Dan Leibovitz I guess.

One guy who wouldn’t be caught dead in a baseball cap on a Saturday night is GW assistant coach Roland Houston. We saw him in the lobby wearing a sleek, pinstriped overcoat. Between Hobbs and Houston, the GW coaching staff definitely takes home the A-10 Fashion Award.

And while I’m making up awards, Restaurant of the Week goes to Shanghai Mama’s on 6th and Main Street. Only place serving good food around here until 3 a.m.

Quote of the night
11:35 p.m., Friday, March 11

Karl Hobbs, in response to a reporter’s question about what problems St. Joseph’s might pose against GW in tommorrow night’s A-10 title game:

“Matt Carroll.”

That, of course, would be Pat Carroll, the guy who torched Xavier tonight for 30 points.

Comcast, get your game on
11:12 p.m., Friday, March 11

Got a phone call from someone back in D.C. telling me that Comcast, which was televising tonight’s game, lost its cable feed with about five minutes left in tonight’s game. Not sure if that happened on everyone’s TV, but I figured I’d end the suspense for those who don’t have a radio and can’t access one of the billion Web sites with college basketball scores.

GW won. 77-58. The only thing you missed was that with 46 seconds left, freshman Pat Joyce – the most popular walk-on since Louie Helton – came into the game with senior Rock Battistoni. On the final play of the game, Carl Elliott was clearly looking to set up Joyce for a shot. But when the ball went to Joyce, open in the corner with a few seconds left, he passed up the opportunity and just held onto it. So classy. So disappointing.

The Final Four
10:20 p.m., Friday, March 11

Savor this sentence, because I don’t know when you’ll read it again: GW has made the Final Four. Competing in the Atlantic 10 Shootout, seniors Michael Tilghman and Laura Longo scored 20 points to advance to the final four teams and will compete during halftime of tomorrow night’s championship game for a $10,000 first place prize.

The shooting competition began at every A-10 school, with the winning two-member team from each university receiving a free trip to beautiful Cincinnati here and a shot at the grand prize. I think they made more shots in 30 seconds than GW did in the first half. The Colonials took a one-point lead into halftime despite shooting just 31 percent from the field.

One shot was significant though. Early in the second half, senior T.J. Thompson made the 224th three-pointer of his career to become GW’s all-time leader in career threes. As I’m writing this, coincidentally, he air balls a three from the corner right in front of me.

Normally, that would be followed by a loud chorus of “aiiiiiiiirrrrrr balllllll” from the crowd, but that would require a crowd. This place is near-empty, it’s quiet and it’s cold. Credit the GW pep band and about 100 Colonials fans who made the trip for whatever noise you hear on TV.

Old friends
9:19 p.m., Friday, March 11

If recent history is any indication, Karl Hobbs should have an easy time landing a job covering Atlantic 10 basketball as a commentator if this whole coaching thing doesn’t work out. Last year, it was Tom Penders sitting courtside during GW’s A-10 Tournament games working for Westwood One radio. This year, it’s ESPN’s Mike Jarvis.

The former GW coach is in Cincinnati preparing to work the championship game on ESPN2 Saturday night and has been hanging around with two GW administrators he is still close with – athletic director Jack Kvancz and senior vice president for Student Academic Support Services Robert Chernak. The three are sitting together courtside during the GW game right now, as they did last night.

Judging by the quietness in here, you would think they were the only three people watching. With Xavier fans gone, it feels like they’re playing this one in the Health and Wellness Center.

The atmosphere at U.S. Bank
7:15 p.m., Friday, March 11

The atmosphere in the U.S. Bank Arena right now is a pretty good one as A-10 Tournament games go, largely because it is practically a home game for Xavier (the university is a short drive north of here). But still, in an arena that holds over 15,000 people, there are a lot of empty seats.

They didn’t list an attendance for the GW-Fordham game last night, largely because it made more sense to wait for all the Dayton fans to show up for the late game and tally the two-game total at 7,221. But don’t think there were that many people at the GW game – you could hear what coaches and players were yelling at each other from any decent seat in the house.

This is the first of two years that the tournament is set to be held here. For the last two years, the U. Dayton Arena hosted it just up I-75. The main difference? Enough Dayton fans filled their arena during games between non-Ohio teams to make for a consistently good atmosphere. Even though it’s getting loud in here right now, and as much fun as Cinci is compared to Dayton, the league cannot keep the tournament here beyond next year with the amount of empty seats there has been over the course of the week.

Xavier, by the way, is hanging right with St. Joseph’s, and the decibel level in here is as loud as at any conference tourney in the country – much louder than during Dayton games last year. Great thing for the league. Not so great for St. Joseph’s, and not so great for GW if the Colonials and the Musketeers make it to the final tomorrow night.

Lunardi: Win or go home
5:54 p.m., Friday, March 11

Ran into bracketologist Joe Lunardi a few minutes ago while he was getting ready to work the St. Joseph’s-Xavier game (he is also a radio broadcaster for St. Joe’s). I asked him what he thought GW must do to make the NCAA Tournament.

His answer: win the A-10 Championship. While he currently has GW listed as his “last team in” the tournament, Lunardi said if the Colonials do not beat Temple tonight and win in the championship game tomorrow, they will be “out.” The bottom line, he said, is that the A-10 is not going to get more than one team into the tournament this year. And GW’s wins, while significant, are not enough to make up for five conference losses in a down year for the league.

Now there is an endless amount of speculation going on right now about what the field of 64 will look like, and I take each prediction with a grain of salt. But Lunardi seems to be right about these things more often than most (how else do you get people to refer to you as a bracketologist?). And that assessment means more than the predicted brackets right now, since they really depend on who each hoops pundit thinks will win the A-10.

It is hard to believe that after the kind of year GW has had, it may come down to winning the A-10 or going to the NIT (I know it kills Karl Hobbs how well some A-10 teams have played against GW only to go and lose to La Salle). But at the very least, you can believe this: GW needs to win tonight to have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Otherwise, a lot of hands are going to be slapping a lot of foreheads in Foggy Bottom between 6 and 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Pops appears in Playboy
4:20 p.m., Friday, March 11

Breaking news from the A-10 Tournament here: Pops Mensah-Bonsu will appear in Playboy. No, not that kind of appearance. The GW junior forward was named among the Top 10 Underrated College Basketball Players by the magazine’s sports editor, Gary Cole (who knew Playboy had a sports staff?).

“Everybody knows the top names in the game, but is offering a look at some of the quiet contributors to victory,” a press release from Playboy said. Does Pops strike anyone as having a quiet game?

The diligent researcher that I am, I had to go on Playboy’s Web site to find out more.

“Mensah-Bonsu is a shot-blocker par excellence, intimidating opponents any time they venture into the paint,” Cole wrote. “He also doesn’t miss many shots from the floor, mostly because his favorite move is a two-handed slam.”

In all seriousness, Mensah-Bonsu has brought the most positive attention to GW for a single player since Shawnta Rogers.

The Real World: Cincinnati
1:29 p.m., Friday, March 11

Staying in the Cincinnati Westin this weekend is a lot like watching “The Real World: Atlantic 10.” In one building, you’ve got all the players, coaches, league officials and media. It should really be its own TV show.

When we got in last night, one Temple player was picking up a stack of Domino’s pizzas from the delivery girl outside, while acting Temple coach Dan Leibovitz was in the lobby on his cell phone.

The Owls will face GW this evening at 8:30 p.m. following the St. Joseph’s-Xavier game at 6:30. Said Leibovitz after his team’s win over Dayton last night, “It would make sense that (GW) would play the same way against us because they were successful the last time. We think they’re a great time and it’s going to be a great challenge.”

If the quotes coming out of the A-10 Tournament sound pretty bland, like that one, it is largely due to the nature of big press conference setups at tournaments like these, which are about as conducive to conversation as the glass wall between prisoners and their visitors.

The press conference room is in the bowels of the U.S. Bank Arena in what looks like a large concrete bunker. Blue curtains, bright spotlights and a nice little fake plant do little to make for a cozy chat after games, not when everyone must speak through microphones to hear themselves over the ventilation duct in the back.

Take a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter’s question for Hobbs last night, asking whether the coach was surprised at how much GW dominated in the paint, to which he responded, “No, because Pops is a good player.”

It’s kind of like doing a White House-style briefing, but instead of being in the East Room, it looks like when you used to watch WWF and see some guy in the back garage of the arena chasing another dude with a chair.

On to tommorrow
10:30 p.m., Thursday, March 10

While the Colonials are back at the Westin Cincinnati Hotel following their win over Fordham tonight, associate head coach Steve Pikiell and assistant coach Darell Brooks are sitting courtside right now scouting a tight Temple-Dayton game.

Temple, playing without suspended head coach John Chaney, jumped out to a big lead early and went into halftime ahead 28-16. But Dayton, fueled by what is essentially a home crowd, is currently closing the gap.

Pikiell said GW’s strategy, which the team will discuss at a morning shootaround tomorrow, will vary based on who their opponent is. But he said there are certain things coaches will stress regardless.

“Tonight was a great example,” he said. “Our guys got on the ground for loose balls, they played with a sense of urgency. We played with terrific defensive intensity throughout the game. We’re going to have to do that tomorrow no matter who we play, challenging shots, making it difficult for guys to score points, and we gotta run.”

Asked about the impact of the Ohio crowd on a possible match-up with Dayton, Pikiell played it down. He also said the recent controversy surrounding Temple and Chaney could make the Owls a very dangerous team right now.

“You’re talking about the best coach maybe in Atlantic 10 history, so I think it does affect a team, but I think some teams rally around that and obviously these guys have done that,” he said. “They feel like maybe they’re against the world a little bit, and they’re coming to play.”

Thompson off to hot start
7:37 p.m., Thursday, March 10

With GW leading Fordham 33-26 at halftime, T.J. Thompson is having one of those games. He’s got 12 points, two assists and a steal so far, but more than that, he’s got that swagger going that often comes with big games from him. It’s a swagger he didn’t have during a dreadful postseason slump a year ago, and it’s one he’s going to need if his team hopes to win three in a row here this weekend. He’s got another half to play, but consider this: GW is 10-1 this year in games where Thompson scores 15 points or more.

Unfortunately, not too many people will see how the second half turns out in person. The building is half empty.

Bye bye birdie
7:20 p.m., Thursday, March 10

When we first got to the U.S. Bank Arena this evening after driving all day from Washington, the place reminded me a little of the old Philadelphia Spectrum, a former site of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

The layout of the arena is better suited for hockey than basketball, functional but nothing glamorous. And the crowd, like at the Spectrum the last time A-10s were held there in 2002, was significantly outnumbered by empty seats.

But the one distinct thing I remember about the Spectrum – birds flying inside the arena during games – didn’t seem to be a problem. Or so I thought.

But when the public address announcer began introducing the starting lineups, he was quickly interrupted by a loud noise from the ceiling that sounded like a machine gun. Then, in a bizarre scene, little feathers began falling down onto the court. No one in the building wanted to be the first to say it: a bird had gotten caught in a ceiling fan, and its remains were now being displayed at center court.

Some laughed, others looked up in amazement, but the funniest thing about it was listening to the PA announcer try to continue with the starting lineups, as if everyone – players and coaches included – was not watching this extremely loud, feathery display. You’ve got to give the guy credit for trying.

After a few minutes, arena officials were able to shut the fan off, and maintenance workers scrambled to sweep away what was left of the little creature. Rest in peace. Let’s play ball.

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