A Jersey trip to Remember. Part 2.
A TRIP TO JERSEY: PART 2
NEWARK, NJ: As I settled in to cover the New Jersey Nets against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, January 9 at the Prudential Center, what occurred to me was that while this was covering sports at the highest level, it felt a lot like any other game I have worked over the last 12 years.
I had the same feeling when John Nestor and I took a trip down to East Rutherford in mid-December to catch a Nets practice.
Once in the gym, it was go time. Time to work.
Time to get the feel of what was going on, what would I pass on to the readers about what happened that day.
Yes, the music, the lights, the crowd and the shear amount of media, dwarfed anything we cover on a local level, but it was still just a game.
A game played at warp speed, but a game none the less.
Funny, television makes everything look so big. In person, the court shrunk, the players got faster and taller and you really didn’t have time to look away from the action for long.
You just missed two possessions.
As had been their custom so far in the 2011/2012 campaign, the Nets got off to a miserable start, falling behind by 16 mid-way through the opening quarter.
Hawks forward Josh Smith owned the first quarter with 10-points on jumpers that found their mark from all over the floor.
That 13-point hole proved too deep for the home team to climb out of, even though they outscored the visitors 83-75, over the next three frames.
Each time the Nets made a run, the Hawks had an answer. New Jersey cut the lead to just four at 43-39, with just over three minutes left in the half but point guard Jeff Teague (20 points) nailed a three to keep them at arms length.
Our objective on this night though, was to see Torrington’s own Jordan Williams in an NBA game but with the Nets in real need of some “W’s”, only a big lead by either side appeared to offer our best chance of seeing him in action.
In the second half, fellow rookie MarShon Brooks showed why he has been ranked as one of the top shooting rookie in the league so far this year by scoring 13 points in the frame, including three straight three-pointers that kept his team in the game.
New Jersey stayed within striking distance throughout the half but on a night when their offense woke up, finding that big stop remained elusive.
When Teague hit a running jumper with under a minute to play in the fourth, the Hawks were up 100-98 and I though it just might be time for the Torrington native to take the floor.
Nets guard Anthony Morrow had other plans though, as he finished a personal 8-0 run that brought his team to within seven at 100-93.
A Chris Humphries bucket with 55.7 seconds to play made it a two possession game again and this Nets team that has struggled to find their chemistry so far this season, was fighting hard down to the wire.
Deron Williams (15 points, 14 assists) and Morrow drained trey’s with under 10 seconds to play but five Hawks free throws gave them a hard fought 106-101 win.
No Jordan, but one heck of a finish.
When the final horn sounded, it marked the start of the next round for me as I wrapped things up on the site and on Facebook before heading into the briefing room for Johnson’s post game thoughts.
From there, it was time to hit the locker room one last time and get Jordan Williams thoughts on what he had just gone through.
This is all so new to any rookie, and Williams is no exception.
Having to stay ready and supportive of your team becomes your job when your team is simply in need of wins.
“I have to be the best teammate I can be,” Williams said, “We fought hard tonight but got off to that slow start and just couldn’t recover from it. My job is to support my teammates at all times.”
The fact that this kid from the Northwest Corner of Connecticut, not exactly the hot bed of the NBA, was sitting inside his own locker with his # 20 name plate displayed above it is a remarkable story in itself.
He understands that it is his job to work hard each and every time he goes to work doing what he has been dreaming about almost his entire life.
As I left the locker room, I said goodnight to the Williams family members who had made the trip.
Mom, Dad and Desmond were on hand and are still pinching themselves every time the see their son take the floor; who wouldn’t?
I found my wife and daughter and we made our way out of the Prudential Center and back onto the road.
A fast stop on the Jersey Turnpike at the Vine Lombardi Rest Stop (a must on all trips to NJ) for a terrible couple of fast food burgers and some terrific shots of the best skyline in the world, and it was time to get back to CT.
A tremendous way to start a vacation and another example for me of why I can’t wait to do what we do at Litchfield County Sports.com on a full time basis come August of 2013.
573 days , but who’s counting?