It’s late and I’m completely exhausted from what was possibly the most exciting non-childbirth night of my life in Miami Thursday. When it was all said and done, I logged about 14 hours in the car for what amounted to 6 non-sleeping hours in The Magic City and it was absolutely worth every second. I was on hand for Tayashaun’s three-point barrage against North Carolina in 2001 and until Thursday night, it was easily the most exciting live sports event I’ve ever seen. Now, I can rest my fat balding head tonight knowing that I had the honor of watching what could end up being Dirk Nowitzki’s career defining moment in person. Either way, screaming “Finish them!” at the top of my lungs about 20 times in a deathly silent American Airlines Arena when Dirk had Bosh isolated gives me the type of inner peace I haven’t had in years. It was beautiful.
A few UK notes…
– While you were getting lost in the Florida – Arizona State Women’s College World Series game, Coach Cal unleashed his second part of the “State of the Cats” on his official website. You can read the entire entry here, which goes into detail about what he thinks of each of the outgoing players and where he sees some of them landing June 23 in the NBA Draft. Here’s a brief summary and a few thoughts:
Josh Harrellson – Cal’s entry on Jorts was both a positive assessment of what he brings to the table and an endorsement that he could be worthy of a late first round pick. Cal references the Heat, who worked out Jorts late this week, and says he has everything a championship organization needs. It’s still tough to see Josh go off the board that early in the draft, but those championship level teams also pick late in the second round too and that might just be where one will make a play for him.
Enes Kanter - You thought you loved Enes? Read what Cal wrote about him. The student assistant got rave reviews from his boss and a lengthy endorsement as the top overall pick, including a comparison to Karl Malone. Over the past few days, there have been a number of bold statements from Kanter’s camp, including comparisons to Malone, Dwight Howard and Dennis Rodman, and the press is on to get him in the top two picks. He’ll work out with the Cavs Tuesday and if they fall in love with him and believe that either Minnesota or Utah will not let him slip to the fourth spot, there’s a chance. It might not be a great chance, but if he doesn’t jump to the top spot, it won’t be because he didn’t get endorsement publicly and privately from Calipari.
Brandon Knight – Similar to his love fest with Enes, Coach Cal threw out lots of praise for Brandon Knight. Cal said he’s killing his interviews (one team said it was the best they’ve ever had) and that he’s surprising teams in workouts by being bigger and more physically gifted than they thought. Knight is another player who has seemed to benefit from the pre-draft process and there’s now at least a discussion in some circles as to whether he might be a better prospect than Kyrie Irving.
DeAndre Liggins – Liggins has been somewhat of a mystery man since the combine in Chicago and Calipari again gave a little hint that he might slip late into the first round, but noted that he’d be gone by the middle of the second. He compared his game to Tony Allen, who made a nice little name for himself as a defensive star on the upstart Grizzlies squad this season. Throughout the season, fans often compared him to Bruce Bowen for the way he locked down opponents and knocked down timely three-pointers. Interestingly, he worked out for the Spurs last week.
I continue to be greatly impressed and intrigued with the way Calipari uses his official website to control the dialogue of the program’s happenings and creatively market the University of Kentucky and, in this case, the players. This entry, as is the case with nearly every one, appears to be written for the fans, but also has a message for those outside the program. In this instance, it appears to be a greater message for NBA folks. I’d say that “he gets it”, but there’s one guy who gets genuinely furious in the comments section every time we say that. He just wants the damn news! No jokes, no tongue-in-cheek references to overused phrases. Just the news. So, for that guy, we won’t say it. We’ll just say Cal’s doing a good job. And taking the extra time to generate a little extra buzz for guys going into the draft can only help when landing the next Kentucky basketball star.
– After most assumed that he was a lock to return to their front office, Knicks president Donnie Walsh resigned Friday afternoon, ushering a rare second set of Calipari rumors in the same offseason. Walsh’s dismissal leaves head coach Mike D’Antoni hanging in the balance and, given rumors a few weeks ago that Calipari was a possibility to replace them both, makes this talk likely to continue to be circulated. Cal’s still a safe bet to be roaming the sidelines in Lexington next season, but if I’m the Knicks and I’m determined that Calipari is the guy I want running my team. I let D’Antoni ride it out this year, let Cal make his push for a title and then throw a tantalizing combo of cash, bright lights the possibility (no matter how small) at another superstar through free agency and a shot at NBA redemption. It’s not a lock by any means, but it’d be
– After the coaches decided against reducing the number of scholarships offered in a single football class, the presidents and chancellors decided to go in a different direction and voted to change the maximum number of signings in a football class to 25. There are still loopholes, as ESPN pointed out, but the SEC has decided to take a stand on the issue and hopes that other conferences will follow their lead. For a school like Kentucky, you have to hope that this could potentially be a beneficial move. The Cats don’t gobble up the elite prospects like many of their SEC compadres (love that word), so this limitation, no matter how small it seems to be, could help the Cats grab a player or two who might have headed to a bigger school if signings were not limited. Joker and Tee Martin were thrilled to land Darryl Collins out of Alabama and though he wasn’t available because of this rule, he’s the type of player who could hypothetically be available for Kentucky to grab away from larger football programs. In that regard, this might end up helping Kentucky over the next few years.
– If you want to keep up with all the happenings leading up to next year’s game, you can now follow Derby Festival Classic on Twitter. They’ve been open about trying to raise their profile nationally and as someone who has attended the game in the past, I hope it can grow into one of the nation’s must-play events for top high school players.
– We’ve spent a lot of time making fun of Louisville fans and justifiably so, but there is absolutely nothing on Earth quite like Miami Heat fans. I’m not talking about your regular “I love LeBron” fans across the country, so don’t get offended. I’m talking about the locals. They’re ridiculous in every single way. The entire environment is like every awful dance club on the planet. There’s blasting techno. Excessive use of hair gel. Line beards. Man purses. Guys in giant fuzzy purple boots. Total disregard for the top four or five buttons of their shirt. And while they deserve credit for making a whole lot more noise than it seems on TV, 90% of the crowd wears jerseys of the non-game variety. I’m talking bedazzled Wade jerseys and gold and silver LeBron shirts. I’ve showered three times since and I’m still not sure if I’ve gotten all the douche off of me. It’s about as opposite of a Rupp Arena experience as I think you can find, unless, of course, they’ve started blasting Latin music from Bugatti’s and Bentley’s on Vine Street. And if that’s the case, slip on those white skinny jeans and snakeskin boots and let’s start fist-pumping broski!
– For those of you that have traveled to see the Cats on the road or ever been a fan of the road team at a given arena, you know there’s nothing more satisfying than the deafening silence of an opposing crowd. After Dwyane Wade’s running three-pointer fell short, the American Airlines Arena was deathly silent. It was beautiful. There weren’t enough Dallas fans there to hardly register and from the seats to the escalators to the front steps, it was silence. Not a grumble of “what happened?” or whispers of frustration. Nothing from the guy that screamed “Jordan!” everytime LeBron made a bucket. Not a peep from the obese drunkard in the #3 jersey that I affectionately referred to as “Dwyane Overweight”. Just complete shock and silence. If I could have captured that feeling, I’d stuff it inside a Dirk Nowitzki doll and cuddle up with it every night. Creepy? Maybe. But I’m not going to apologize for how I feel.
– As luck would have it, I ended up sitting in front of a woman from Kentucky and heard her during a break talking to another lady next to her. The second lady noted that she used to be Rick Pitino’s dietician, to which the first woman replied, “Did he try to have sex with you?” The former dietician quickly said, “No. Thank God.” That was by far the most amusing part of the game until about the 7:00 mark of the fourth quarter.
– And only because she’s threatened to out me for almost leaving early, I have to give my wife a little credit for making us stick around and see the Mavericks’ comeback. As some of you might know, she has some health issues and she was feeling extremely sick that night, so I offered to leave when the Mavs were down 17 points and head back to the hotel so she could rest. She told me that I’d never forgive myself if they came back and won and graciously said she’d tough it out. And the rest is history. Clearly she is the better half. She’s been completely forgiven for what was thought to be an unforgiveable mistake – wearing a Heat shirt to the game.
Finally, if you missed the Kentucky Sports Radio show Friday morning, make sure you check out the podcast below. In fact, let’s get caught up together. I’m going to start right now. Click it on the count of three. 1….2……3!
****Don’t forget about the KSTV Casting Call today at Sam Swope Honda in Louisville. It’s from 10:00 am until noon. Make your dreams come true.