Another Week in the D-League

Another Week in the D-League
Mar 06, 2007, 02:02 am
I’m in Las Vegas. I’m warming up in a gym that’s bigger than any I’m used to playing in. There are more college coaches in the stands than I’ve ever seen before in one room. I see Roy Williams in his Kansas blue and red. I see Jim Boeheim and Gary Williams. My team, not known for having any talent (actually, probably not known at all), has come this far only through heart, will, and hard work. Our coach calls us into one last huddle before the game. He says “I guess there’s some kid on the other team who got top 30 at ABCD camp. Doesn’t matter, play your game.” I walk out onto the court and match up with the guy who’s closest to my height – I’ve got the 6’8” kid with the braids. First play down the court he gets the ball on the wing, drives right past me, and makes a tough lay-up in traffic. That was the first of his 30 points which included 14 spectacular dunks (only 8 counted because we kept fouling the alley-oop passer). That kid, I would come to find out months later, was Carmelo Anthony. The final score was 98-55 – them. That was the most embarrassing loss I had endured – until we played the Colorado 14ers last Monday night.

As soon as I checked into the game, it seemed we were down 30. 3 balls were raining from the sky at a frantic pace. The fans were in full trash talk mode the whole time. At halftime one of the fans says “Hey Benson! Yea I bought you a beer.” I look over and he has a beer in his hand, and one sitting next to him untouched. That A-hole. I managed a smile (you can never let the fans know they’re getting to you, obviously). When we came back out for second half warm-ups it was still sitting there. It sat there the whole game. This guy, drunk as he was, managed to not drink the beer. I think he knew that I continued to glance over every now and then and see it there. They say that in pro basketball everybody makes a run. Our “run” never got us closer than 16, so when the final buzzer rang and the score was 119-94, I looked over. The guy was gone. The beer was not. What poise and self-control it took this guy to execute such a good insult. I think our whole team could have used one at that point. First place team? Really? No we weren't, not that night.

The next day when we got back to “The Biz” as I’m calling it now, one of my closer friends on the team, Curtis Stinson, was released. I guess that’s how it goes. A few of us went to our local watering hole called “Bucks” to show him one last good time. We stayed at Buck’s until closing time (not without dancing for 2 hours straight first) then headed back to the apartments to play monopoly until 3 am. Bright idea I know. Well, we had to get up at 6am for a flight to Sioux Falls, but my retarded self forgot to pack the night before. So I had to pack in the morning running on empty – an event I don’t even really remember. The whole pack job is a complete blur in my mind. When we got to the airport I noticed that everyone else had big bags with them. I had two backpacks -- hmm first sign that I didn’t do it right. I say to Kevin Lyde: “Hey, Kevin, how many days is this trip?” “Four,” he replies. Oh snap there couldn’t be FOUR DAYS WORTH of essentials in my backpack, no way. I open up my bag and look inside. Ok, there’s one collard shirt, one pair of jeans, a pair of sweats and a jacket. NO WAY I didn’t pack ANYTHING else. No Underwear. No Socks. No toothpaste. No deodorant. No Phone charger. Obviously it was the best packing job of all time. If it weren’t for the fact that our flight was cancelled due to a big time blizzard, I would have ended up in Tulsa smelling like burnt hair and Tabasco. Lucky for me our trip was cut short and I was able to return to The Biz for a fresh set of clothes.

Our next game (after the Sioux Falls loss) was against Mateen Cleaves and the Bakersfield Jam. As you recall from the last time we played him, he talks a lot of nonsense. Since the last game, I’ve come to understand that he does this to get himself going a little bit. He text’d Kevin Lyde with “Tell the kids daddy’s coming home,” and “Now that I got my game right I’m goin for 30 on yall.” Well I guess that just doesn’t always work out. In the middle of our 20 point drubbing of the Jam, Mateen was shooting free throws. I swear we have some of the funniest fans in the league (maybe the cold air makes the brain wittier) because one of them says to Mateen: “Mateen, isn’t there an age limit in the D-League? Does David Stern know about this?!” I was on the bench with 4 fouls at the time so I was just dying laughing. Mateen turned towards our crowd and said something back that nobody could make out. The fan continued. “Does Tom Izzo know you’re here? Is he disappointed in you?” Mann our fans are great, huh?

After the game, Mateen, 7 of our guys, and I went to this bar I had never been to called “Sidelines”. It was there that I realized that he’s a pretty cool guy. For one, his chain is the brightest, shiniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The diamonds, platinum, and gold were wayyy too big time for a random bar in a random place as far as he’s concerned. Second, he was part of the funniest event of the whole night. So there’s this girl at the bar. She’s 6’3”, 275-300 lbs. I kid you not this is her size. As soon as I walk in, Corey Williams says to me “Hey Rod, ask her to give you the hug.” She then says “Oh you want the hug?” I look at her from head to toe then I look at Corey the same way you would look at Steve Irwin if he asked you if you wanted to hunt crocodiles. I say to Corey: “THE hug doesn’t sound good. If it was A hug that’s one thing, but THE hug sounds like it’s a little too much.” Right then she just grabs me and picks me up about 5 feet in the air in the middle of the bar. My body is so long that I swear my limbs must have knocked over a couple drinks and smacked someone in the face. I don’t get embarrassed easily, but right then I was about as flush as a black guy could be. She finally set me down and I went about my business as if nothing happened. I guess nobody else in the place seemed to care, maybe this was her gimmick and she was the main attraction at the bar. Anyways, she did the exact same thing to Matteen. This guy, no joke, screams out like a 13-year-old girl at a scary movie. He bobbled his drink and everything he was so scared. It was funny because she got him from behind. It wasn’t long before she had picked up everyone. Yes, everyone, including 285 lb. center Kevin Lyde who was helpless to fight back. The only surprise was Darius Rice. This kid is lighter than me, yet, when she tried to pick him up, he locked his legs in some weird sumo stance, and picked HER up. They were almost wrestling it looked so awkward. Other than that it was a pretty uneventful evening aside from officially meeting one of the cooler guys in the league, Mateen Cleaves. I take back what I said about his head being big, with a hat on it looks proportional.

We play Idaho on Wednesday, and then go to Little Rock, Arkansas Friday. I hope you know that I’ve already bought new travel sized toothpaste and deodorant and put it in my travel bag. Basically I’ve already packed, so now I can concentrate on trying to get my 4th double double in 5 games. Wish me luck and check me out on

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