I'll get back to the title of this post in a second. But let me first just provide a little background. So like I mentioned a little while back, I've been going to Rucker Park in Harlem a bunch as of late, working on this story about the regular dudes who play in the Entertainer's Basketball Classic. I finished the story, and we'll just have to see if my editor likes it and actually puts it in the paper so I can make some cash flow off it. But since I've been up at Rucker a bunch, the guy who runs the EBC, Greg Marius, kind of knows me now. This helped out yesterday when 2K Sports decided to film the motion capture stuff for NBA 2K8 at Rucker Park. This meant I got some inside access with a bunch of guys from the league. My editor also sent me there to get these players' opinions on this whole Tim "I piled up too many bets and foolishly thought that anything less than paying the mob back would get me off the hook" Donaghy thing. And predictably, the players there didn't want to even touch this question. Here's a sampling of their responses:
Andre Iguodala: "David Stern addressed it and I think he made his point. As players we just need to move on from this."
Gerald Wallace: "I'm not really paying attention to it. I'm on vacation right now."
Chris Bosh: "I haven't been watching TV, so I don't really know."
Chris Paul: "Man, I'm not even going into that."
Rudy Gay: "My whole rookie year is a blur. I don't know what is what."
Donaghy officially has cooties. Nobody wants to talk about him.
And what's funny about all that is those are the best answers I got from each of them. I seriously re-worded the same question about four times to each of them, probing them for some kind of quote since I was the only member of the New York print media there. It would have made my summer if I had gotten some sort of controversial quote that set off a new firestorm in this situation. But alas, all of these guys have been very well trained by their agents and lawyers. What gets me though, is how are these guys not outraged? This is their livelihood that they work so hard at and it all could be bullshit conspiracy stuff. I figured Bosh would atleast give me something because Donaghy was a ref in Game 6 of the playoffs when the Raptors got eliminated by the Nets. I sort of understand considering this is an FBI investigation, but I just wanted a good quote dammit!
So Iguodala, Wallace, Paul and Gay were all at Rucker to film the motion sensor stuff for the video game. They were all wearing those funky weird spandex suits with these little balls that I assume picked up the various cameras positioned around the court. The video game geeks had them doing various moves on each other, as well as some cool dunks.
I'm not really sure why Chris Bosh was there because I was bored just watching them most of the time, and I was in my starstruck "Holy Crap NBA players!" mode. Bosh literally sat on the side with his girlfriend for a good hour and a half and then just left before it ended. He told me he was there to just say hello to the guys in the commercial, and yet the only person I saw him talk to was Chris Paul.
Why were you even there? Funny face though.
The highlight of the night for me came at the end. The 2K Sports guys separated the four guys for a 2-on-2 game. It was Chris Paul and Gerald Wallace against Andre Iguodala and Rudy Gay. After Paul and Wallace went up like 6-0 courtesy of a couple 3-pointers by Paul, Iguodala and Gay actually started trying. And from there the game actually got really competitive, but Paul and Wallace held up their early lead and won. I forget what the final score was, but it was really cool to see these NBA guys get the fire in their eyes up close.
And speaking of Paul, he told me after the 2-on-2 game that this was the first time he had played basketball since getting a screw inserted in his foot following the season. To be honest though, he didn't look all that rusty. In fact, I now know what all the analysts are talking about when they mention his awesome first step. The guy is lightning guy, although I question whether he can dunk because he was having trouble on a 9.5 foot rim. But maybe that was because of the foot injury. For the record, he did dunk once. I was kind of curious what sort of money these guys make doing things like this 2K Sports thing. My friend Dan from the Daily was with me last night, and he guessed $10,000. That sounds pretty good considering these guys essentially fooled around with a basketball for a couple hours.
But back to Chris Paul. so as I was asking him if he told 2K Sports he wanted any specific things to be in the game, he yelled over to his brother C.J. There were these two sketchy looking dudes along the chain link fence which separated the players from the park and C.J. walked over to them. I, of course, looked over and began wondering what was going on. Chris just yelled to his brother "C.J. take care of them". At first I assumed it was some kind of autograph request or something, but I distinctly saw money exchange hands between the sketchy dudes and Paul's brother. Now I'm not saying this was a drug deal, but there was money being shadily passed between a sketchy dude from Harlem with a backpack and Paul's brother. I guess I'll just let you draw your own conclusions. Oh and also, somebody asked him a question about his favorite music right after I was finished talking with him and his answer was Bob Marley because "he's so chilled out and cool". And if you know me at all, you will have quickly gathered that all this new information I have on Chris Paul is just making me a closet Chris Paul fan next year.
But Paul actually had a really funny answer to my question about adding stuff into the game because he had done this motion sensor thing (and he's apparently going to be on the cover). He said he told 2K Sports that in NBA 2K7 whenever he had a fastbreak, the computerized version of himself would always do a layup. Well actually here's the direct quote since I got it queued up on the recorder right now:
"Everytime I get a fastbreak, I'd do a layup or a finger roll or something like that. I don't dunk too much in the NBA, but if I get a fast break, I'm going to dunk. So I told them, if I'm going to be on the cover, the least they can do is make sure I can dunk the ball."
My new favorite non-Wizard. He's still no Gilbert though.
So Paul was definitely a lot of fun to talk to. He seems real down to earth and to be a genuinely nice guy...even though he wouldn't touch my Tim Donaghy questions. I also had a good time talking to Rudy Gay, although it was for only three minutes. I immediately started out by telling him I was from DC and that I think DC hoops are better than Baltimore (he's from the collosal mistake aka BMore). He laughed and played along and I think he thought I was kind of funny. When the 2K Sports guys said he needed to go back to the court, I responded with "Can I just get a couple more minutes?" The 2K Sports guys responded with one of those "We're on a tight schedule" things, but Rudy put his foot down and said, "Gerald isn't done with his interview yet, he's got some time." Of course, we talked about Jerome, seeing how they both are UCONN guys. I asked Rudy what he thought about Jim Calhoun comparing Jerome to Ray Allen at the end of the season, but he didn't know that had been said. For the record, Calhoun did say that. I also informed him that Pau Gasol has been demanding that the Grizzlies try to trade with the Wiz kids for the rights to Juan Carlos Navarro (his fellow Spaniard). Gay didn't know about that, but I guess now he does. Rudy was definitely fun, especially when I asked him why the guys weren't talking about controversial stuff. His response only confirmed my "I hate David Stern" sentiments. He said something along the lines of "David Stern is my boss. He's all of our bosses (referring to all the other players)." I probed him on his grammar with a "So does that mean there is more than one David Stern because you said bosses." Rudy didn't understand, but maybe that's because it was a stupid question. Long story short, myself and Rudy hit it off...I think.
Iguodala and Wallace were kind of boring, just giving cliche answers that I didn't really care about. Wallace does have the deepest voice I have ever heard though, so deep that I had trouble deciphering words on my recorder. And Wallace was the one who didn't seem like he was having a good time at all...even during the 2-on-2 game. Everyone else, especially Paul and Iguodala, were definitely loving the whole idea that their moves were going to be in this game.
I also wanted to mention that the day before this, when I was up at Rucker actually working on my story instead of fulfilling my dream of conversating with NBA players, I got the privelege of interviewing Academy Award winner Lou Gossett, Jr. If you don't know who he is, he was actually the first African American actor to win an Oscar for his work in "An Officer and a Gentleman" where he was Richard Gere's drill sergeant. I asked him if he ever made Gere cry during filming because if you've ever seen the movie, Gossett is absolutely awesome as the brutal drill sergeant. He didn't and called gere "One cool customer". I tried to make a joke about Buddhism, but it didn't work (I'm hit or miss interviewing these athletes and actors, but there's nothing like getting a good zinger to loosen the mood. Seriously, if you make one of these gusy laugh, the quotes are just 100 times better). Gossett said he used to play at Rucker back in the day, although he must not be doing that well because he gave me his card, thinking I was somehow important to the future of his career. Lou, I've got bad news for you. I'm a college student working for a newspaper that people don't have to pay to get. I don't think I can save careers just yet. But get back to me in 10 years, maybe I'll be a somebody by then.
Lou Gossett, Jr. everyone.