Allow me to introduce Tyler Parker, who will be contributing a weekly Thursday column to Daily Thunder called The Side Part, named in honor of Nick Collison’s perfectly parted hair. He currently is a contributing editor for TrueHoop brother Ballerball and a Thunder fan to the core. Tyler’s got a unique style, but can write his socks off. Hope you enjoy what he’s got. You can follow him on Twitter here. -ed
Mike Jones, Chili’s, and Bank Cards
Dead Houstonian dreams lay waste in Bricktown streets. Bits of beard hair clog the city sewers. No love coming home, because it’s not home anymore.
* * *
Free razors for everyone. Mach 957 Turbos from Gillette. No beards here. Not today, or any other.
There will be no follicle left behind and there will be no Privaledge on this playlist. UGK are no longer international with their playadom. They’re merely local. Mike Jones is not available at this moment or any other. 281-330-8004 goes straight to voicemail.
These will be the days the music finally died. The walls of Houston are coming down and all the Tex Mex has been thrown in the dumpster and Houston has all the problems.
* * *
You should probably listen to this on a constant loop while you read. This is a thing that is real. It exists. I will not speak for you because, you know, manners, but this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Apologies to the 2 for $20 menu at Chili’s.
If you don’t want to listen to that, then, well, here. Stay French and current.
* * *
Two evenings before Game 1 I’m in a Bank of America. Inside one. Like it’s the 1970’s or something. My card info got stolen and they’re taking their sweet, sugary, whatever was inside Surge when it still existed-y time getting me a new one. So I have to talk to Maribel the Teller about getting some cash to tie me over while I wait on the card.
While I’m there, Maribel the Teller suggests getting a temporary card. I bite and say yes and am told I’ll need to meet with a Personal Banking Specialist. I’m waiting on my meeting, sitting in these blood red thrones they’ve got in the lobby, clicking my Vans on the grey tile floor with increased frequency every moment I’m not yet inside a Personal Banking Specialists’ office. I need to work on my patience.
I’m across from a guy in a pair of black and teal Jordan 8’s. He’s a high schooler. I know this because he’s wearing a wrestling sweatshirt from a high school. His hair looks how Ronnie’s did on The Jersey Shore and he’s also really tired of waiting, constantly blowing out these super long and super loud breaths designed to draw eyes to him.
They’re playing some strange kind of we’ll-label-it-alt-rock-ish-but-not-really-just-kidding Pandora station that’s cued up Wherever You Will Go by The Calling. I don’t realize it, but I’m jonesing to it. Jonesing heavy. Jonesing like Barry White. I hate myself.
Look. I went to public school. I know what it is to be a member of society. I’m not singing out loud. I wouldn’t do that to the world. But, sadly and most regrettably, I know the words to the song. And what’s worse, I’m making it known that I know the words to the song. I’m nodding to it a little bit, mouthing the words “way up high” with an unhealthy amount of passion, completely oblivious to the world around me.
Then I’m hurtled back to earth. I see how awful I am. Faux hawk is looking at me. He’s looking at me, and he’s laughing at me. Hard. I try to make the transition from him laughing at me to him laughing with me, but there’s no dice there.
This is when I realize I’m not cool.
* * *
The First Half of Game 1 Or, The Zingo
And now, basketball.
The coverage of Game 1 begins and oh dear God no. No. Please. No vague Falling Skies promos. What are those? Purple spiders? Come on.
The first half, for the most part, is a dud. We start off strong. Get the lead out to 13-2, then we hit the cruise and the Rockets take advantage. Harden gets going to the smooth but still facially hairy tune of 17 first half points and Patrick Beverley decides he wants to be an All-Star. 2:00 minutes left and we finally try. Instead of making a run we make a sprint. Just like that we’re up 13 at the break.
Basically, the first half is a weird kind of lazy. Good start, good end, everything in between pretty yawn inducing. It is, basically, your proverbial Bell’s Amusement Park roller coaster. The Zingo, if some of you will (918 stand up). It could also be your proverbial Frontier City roller coaster. The Wildcat, the Silver Bullet, et. al. Shouts out to the 405. This is Oklahoma and we exclude no one. We’re together. Our blue shirts say so.
The shirts. Let’s raise several roofs in thanks to and honor of the marketing department for having the shirt sayings, unlike last year, make sense. I’m sure they’ll get bored, as people do with their hair, and change things up. You know, just something more flirty and fun. Team is Forever With One Another Sunshine Love OKC Remembrance Dunks Heart Fire Wind 2XL Wale.
* * *
At halftime they show a Buick Lacrosse commercial. Someone in some acting class somewhere told Shaq to really work his eyebrows when he’s on camera.
Also, The Rock totally has those shirts with super flowery, aesthetically pleasing words tucked into a pair of jeans. Which…that’s just…I mean…bro…don’t go all Dad-at-the-state-fair on us. What you’re cooking smells bad.
* * *
The Pinnacle of the Fast Break and The Flop
The second half the Thunder are more to the point. We play stronger and with greater purpose and pace. There’s an energy there that was lacking in the first half. Brooks may have promised no Mickey Mantle’s after the game if they didn’t pick it up. I don’t know. Let’s make wild guesses and generalizations and pass them off as fact. It’s 2013 and this is America.
I should probably tell you my attire for this game is a Thunder t-shirt with a golden “0” on the back and the words “Hustle Westbrook” on the front. This shirt becomes truth halfway through the third quarter when this happens.
Incredible effort by Russ leads to Perk running the break and everyone blacking out. The whole scene looks kind of like in Mighty Ducks 3 when Coach Orion lets Goldberg play late in the game against the Varsity and then he scores the game winner. Anyway, Perk lobs to a flying man from the Congo and Chesapeake Energy Arena justifies its middle name. James Naismith lets out an oooweee from wherever he lay.
The landslide brings the Rockets down and before long we’re up 20. Derek Fisher hits a couple threes and two angels in Heaven are pissed about having lost their wings.
The final is 120-91 in favor of the boys in blue and it was all weirdly easy once we started playing.
* * *
I love James Harden. I own a Harden t-shirt that says “The Beard” on it. I wrote an In Memoriam on him when he was traded. I’ve always felt him a chill, cool dude who sometimes likes taking off his shirt, popping bottles, and wearing cowboy hats that look like they were made out of tiger skin.
At a certain point in the second half, the exact time and score escape me, Harden gets fouled. When he does, he flails. He falls down to the ground with zest and lays there longer than the contact would suggest he should, until he slowly gets up.
The Oklahoma City crowd reacts with boos. Harden was acting. Faking. Something he did all the time when he wore the number 13 for us. We had no problems with the theatrics when he had blue on. Truth be told, I openly loved it when he did in years past.
But on this night, on this night he drew contact and he sold it like Alec Baldwin in that one scene with all the F words in Glengarry Glenn Ross. I sat my remote down on my couch a little harder when he did that. He gave us the medicine we took for so long and I hated him for it.
This is when I realized he wasn’t cool anymore.
* * *
The Art of Mad Russ and Beverley
Game 2 begins and Beverley is now starting in place of Greg Smith and this really matters later in the game.
Apparently the Thunder were established in 2008, or so the shirts tell me. Seattle fans either toss fish and Starbucks coffee at their televisions or thank God we’re not claiming them because they’d rather not be associated with Bennett. I’m not sure. Also, it’s the resurrection of the checkerboard vibe when it comes to the shirt assignments. One section has white, the next blue, the next white, and so on and so forth and Team is Passion Intensity Purity Kisses Ring Season Bagel Dances Billy Simms BBQ Faces.
Durant is sizzling at the start. He’s resembling, for all intents and purposes, the most chill fireball in the world. He scores or assists on 20 of the Thunder’s 29 first quarter points. Dude was, how you say, involved.
The Rockets are playing well, too, though. They took the loss and lessons have been learned and now they’re coming out with a loose kind of aggressiveness that’s as necessary a mindset for them to have in order to give themselves a chance to win as it is surprising for those of us that watched that bloodbath on Sunday night to see.
Parsons is playing with all the efficiency of Santa on NBA Jam and Beverley is maintaining his solid play from Game 1 and this is starting to feel like something resembling a series.
Things turn from competitive to chippy and thank God this game isn’t going to be as boring as the first one was. In the second quarter, Beverley goes for one of those I-see-they’re-trying-to-get-to-the-timeline-to-call-a-timeout-so-I’m-gonna-try-to-steal-the-ball-right-as-the-whistle-blows type of things. It happens from time to time. Doesn’t make it any less cheap, but he’s playing hard. It’s the playoffs. I get it. Nothing comes easy. However, when he does this, he bangs knees with Russ. Russ, believe it or not, takes offense to this and goes, how you say, Hulk after 17 Mountain Dew Kickstarts on him. He’s just furious. He slams his hand on the padding on the scorers’ table and tries to walk the limp off.
We come back from a Degree commercial with Kevin Durant telling us to “do more” and on the next Rockets possession Beverley has the ball. Then he doesn’t have the ball. He doesn’t have it because Russ took it from him and went galloping down the court and laid it in and is a dadgum immortal that you cannot wound. I just knocked on every piece of wood in sight.
Later on in the quarter Beverley knocks Russ down again. This time he tries to help him up. Russ, shocker, does not like this either and voices his displeasure by slapping Patrick’s hand away like it’s a wasp trying to sting him. Friends forever. I’ll make the bracelets.
The more I watch Beverley the more I’m convinced he’s the second coming of Tyronn Lu. You can argue with me on that comparison, though. I’m down to hear other opinions.
Westbrook, despite his shot not falling at times and despite the injury, just keeps coming at the Rockets. He’s relentless in his ability to annoy the cuss out of a team when he’s in transition. Such fun to watch.
* * *
And God Bless Mommy, and Daddy, and Kevin Garnett
The second half comes and we extend the lead and it seems like all is down in Bricktown until the Rockets switch to a zone and we treat it like I treated girls during slow songs at my first dance in middle school. Just no clue what to do. A 17-2 run by Houston and it’s back to QuestionMarkLand for the Thunder. Harden is playing and giving all watching with Thunder allegiances a serious amount of déjà vu and it’s getting very scary in the Peake.The better part of the fourth quarter was like watching someone pee on my Nintendo 64 and throw it out a window 64 stories off the ground while they also make out with my girlfriend on top of my Nick Collison jersey while listening to a Pitbull song.3:30 left in the game and we’re down four. As he does, Durant saves us. First he dimes Ibaka for a dunk. Then he chases down Parsons on the break and blocks a layup.A couple possessions later a monster three from him puts the Thunder up one. Then, after a stop, he dimes ThaBro SefBroBrosha with a three to put the Thunder up four and TNT knows drama and takes us to a timeout.
Cue up The Hero and Pain & Gain and, geez, Castle? For real? Dude.
Coming back from the timeout Fratello’s yapping about something and oh man this Cherry Coke I poured tastes great and OH WOW PERK HELD PARSONS SOMETHING AWFUL MY GOODNESS HOW DID THEY MISS THAT CALL THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING HOUSTON I’M SO SORRY I DIDN’T WANT TO WIN THIS WAY. That’s why ThaBro was so open. Perk was holding hands with him like he was in kindergarten and trying to cross the street.
Real quick, just want to take this time to say thank you and God bless Kevin Garnett. Without your tutelage on how to exploit the system and play on the fringes of the rules rather than squarely within them, Perkins would have never thought to hold someone so flagrantly and the Thunder may not have won this game. Consequently, I’m cool with someone getting Garnett a statue right outside Harkins that should stand tall and proud and scowling till movie theaters no longer exist. I don’t care who wins The Rock’s show, Big Ticket. You are the real hero.
Harden gets fouled the next possession down but only makes one. Then Serge hits a huge, Hasheem sized 18 footer. The Rockets have a terrible last possession that ends in them taking too much time off the clock to do any damage even after their made floater and OKC escapes the clutches of the big, bad, hairy upset monster.
The state with the panhandle exhales.
* * *
Weirdly, it’s nice to have a series with some competition. The narratives and story lines that stream and wind along within it are owed that. Something at least with the look of a classic. The scorned lover scenario is one that plays. Many a box office has been overrun because of it. You saw Fatal Attraction and Unfaithful. I know you did.
I experienced joy during Game 2. Or, at least, the closest thing to real joy sports fandom would allow. Joy is a shapeshifter. I don’t wanna pretend I have a bead on it because a team I root for won a game.
Still, the joys, however unwarranted, I experienced within Game 2 were felt because it was a reminder of what it is to watch a playoff game that matters when it takes place within those concrete walls right there at the corner of Reno and Robinson.
Let’s all go part our hair like Nick Collison and write thank you notes to Matthias from Southern California.