Before the game tips off and even before the players take the floor to warm up, Rick Carlisle has his pre-game press conference. Today, he's running 10 minutes late, but I’m told that’s the usual. When he does arrive, Carlisle's in basketball sweats, like he just got done getting up some jumpers. He walks up on stage and sits on a foldable chair he's too big for. He's slightly hunched, his eyes sullen, as if he’s been up all night studying for an organic chemistry final. I guess that’s the kind of effect the Golden State Warriors have on a coach. It's a casual atmosphere between him and the media sitting just a few feet away.
Attending an NBA game as a member of the media has always been personal dream of mine, and I did so on Saturday, earning a credential for the first time to help cover the Mavericks play the Warriors.
As for the actual game played, it was quite an eye sore, but that only took a little bit off the experience. I took an elevator with an actual elevator operator—something I've only seen in Mad Men episodes—up to the press box. It has a great setup for game viewing, with a perched viewpoint that allows you to make great basketball observations about positioning and defense that you can’t really get from a television broadcast. Several TVs hang down hang down in front of the press seats showing other sporting events—the Kentucky-Wisconsin game happened to be on. At halftime we all went down to the media dining room to get a bite to eat. The room had several large tables where the media could congregate with the atmosphere of a high school cafeteria.
The game ended. I made my way down to the underbelly of the American Airlines Center to hopefully catch both Steve Kerr and Rick Carlisle’s post game pressers. I waited outside the Golden State locker room with some other writers for a bit. Marc Stein walked by and I noticed he was pigeon-toed; I am also pigeon-toed, so this amused me. Kerr's presser was running a bit late, but the door to the Golden State locker room was open and I saw Steph Curry skipping down the hallway. Then I suddenly realized why Kerr's was running late: He was drenched in water and Gatorade from a post game celebration. That team was nothing but pure, unadulterated fun all evening. Any time I saw anyone from Golden State they were smiling; 60 plus wins will do that.
When I walked into the Mavs locker room, I was reminded of Michele Roberts' comments about the amount of standing and waiting in NBA locker rooms. I was an athlete in college, so the locker room scene felt normal. However, I could see how Roberts' comments about the standing around have some merit. The blowout loss made for a somber locker room, but all the players I would consider leaders on the team stayed to answer questions: Devin Harris, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo, Dirk Nowitzki and Amar'e Stoudemire. Seeing Stoudemire's attire in person was really quite amazing: the bowler hat, the eclectic gold chain, the original Jordans. Dirk was the last player to speak. He answered questions about Shaun Livingston's groin shot with his usual Nowitzki charm.
I came away from this experience with a new appreciation for the community that basketball creates. Not just the teams themselves, but every group around them felt like a family: the beat writers, the PR staff, the training staff, the bloggers. During the course of an NBA season, all of these people probably spend more time with each other than with their own families. It's a special dynamic that I'd like to be a part of someday.