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Lakeshow Episode 05: The View from Houston

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Wednesday, 3:07 pm.

Dammit, I think I'm stuck...

My buddy from Portland, Go-Go, found out that Southern Culture on the Skids was gonna be playing a show on a Wednesday night in little ol' Corvallis, Oregon — where I live — and he was reserving a room at a motel downtown first and calling me to get tickets second. This wasn't a "Can you go?" or a "Would you like to go?", this was a "We are going to go" deal. Nicely played, might I add...

Well, I've done my best for several years to maintain a real Ted Kaczynski vibe, with surprisingly good effectiveness. Too bad for me that Go-Go is one of a handful of people able to call my bluff. So we are, indeed, going to go.

The show starts at 10 pm, an hour earlier if you wanna catch the opening band and drink some beer, which we do. No problems so far, right? Ah, but here comes the issue...

(whispering now) Go-Go is a baseball fan.

I've been a baseball fan in the past, I'm man enough to admit: collected baseball cards as a kid, went to dozens of games in exotic locales like Oakland and Seattle, ingested thousands of hours of sports entertainment programming... Yep, I know a curveball from a slider from a straight change, I understand the strategy, I'm encyclopedically versed in the rules...

I also haven't watched a complete baseball game since opening day of the 2008 season and I hate the god damned Yankees and their fans for being the nauseating plague upon professional sports which they are. Go-Go is a Red Sox guy, so we've got that in common — but I just know that smug little git Pay-Rod (recognized and correctly identified as Satan's little brother by sports fans in the Pacific Northwest) is gonna win tonight. And I really double extra don't want to see it.

Thus my dilemma...

Click through to find out whether Krazee Kaczynski will blow off his pal or cave in to peer pressure...

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I've sort of decided to dodge at least half the game and to meet up with Go-Go around 7 pm to gobble a delicious Squirrelburger™® and start pounding the Rogue Shakespeare Stout.™®

This means, of course, that I'm gonna be missing the beat-up back-to-backin' Laker elders getting run through the meatgrinder in Houston. A mitigated disappointment, to be sure.

I've also gotta go to work tomorrow, too, so it's probably not in the cards that I'll be able to watch the carnage expeditiously. (If the Lakers keep it within double digits it'll be a good night for them, methinks.)

So forgive me for mailing it in a bit today, but these things happen once in a while.

Addenda, 3:51 pm.: Go-Go just called. He's on his way shortly. I'm gonna meet him at 6:00. Crap.

Addenda, 5:27 pm.: Go-Go is in town and needs a playmate right now. Crap.

Addenda, 12:43 am.:  First off, pardon my French, but I've gotta say it: FUCK THE YANKEES! And that goes for you and your little dog, too, Pay-Rod!. Fortunately, Go-Go and I  got clever and averted our eyes from reality, moving upstairs to shoot some pool (poorly). We heard the chorus of boos at the end. Nobody likes the Yankees here.

As for Southern Culture on the Skids? Go informed me that this was his 6th time seeing them (they're kicking off their West Coast tour in Corvallis, amazingly) and he'll see them again on Thursday night in Portland. "They never disappoint," said he. Go-Go is pretty much a hipster, plays in a little Portland surf band called Mars Needs Women, and he knew the Southern Culture folk a little, being a gregarious sort. We hung out with bassist Mary for 10 or 15 minutes beforehand, shooting the shit. She regaled us with the tale of a 1 gig European "tour" that they did — flying to Belgium to play an outdoor festival, then turning around and coming straight home practically the next day. Weird, wacky stuff.

Then it was 45 minutes of a local zombie-themed surf band, They Won't Stay Dead, complete with super-lo-budget makeup and a saxophone player. It seemed to work.

Chapel Hill, North Carolinians Southern Culture came on and — holy crap... Ho-lee-crap! They've got the geek look down tight, that's for sure — the frontman wore white loafers. Goofier looking banjo-pluckers you've never seen... Mary had donned her big red bouffant, tastelessly accented with a thin rhinestone tiara (or whatever you call those Sasha Vujacic/Mike Miller hairkeeper things) and over-the-top costume jewelry. Her make-up job was well-studied Mid-20th Century Trailer-Trash and she casually primped with a hair brush and a little blue plastic compact every third song or so. She also wore low black Chuck Taylors.™® Hilarious.

Let this be said: all three of them can play. No, check that: they can really play. Tight. Very, very tight. Ramones-1-2-3-4-tight. The crowd of 200 or so crowded into Squirrel's Tavern were shaking their thangs nonstop...

Whattawe call it? In the late 70s there was a subgenre called "country rock" that was around for a couple years... Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet and a few inferior bands... SCOTS did indeed dish uptempo R&B-based rock'n'roll, laden with distorted guitars and a country twang, all poured over top of a big beefy bass line that made your tummy tingle. It was rock and it was country so I reckon it was kinda sorta country rock anyways... The drummer played standing up, drums and cymbals totally flat, parallel with the ground a la Keith Moon. Try putting all your weight on your left leg and pounding your right foot hard while your arms are going crazy for 90 minutes without more than about a 15 second break and tell me if you think this is not special.

Their change of pace songs were straight surf instrumentals, with clean guitars, played at the very top level. Absolutely first rate and one of the best bar shows I've ever seen — up there with The Dickies and X. GRRRRREAT show! 

I got home to learn the Lakers had snuck by the Rockets in OT, contrary to my earnest expectations. Nearly a perfect night — 'cept for Pay-Rod and those damned Yankees.

 

Channel Surfing.

Nov. 3, 2009.

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Utah at Dallas. Big happenings in the Big D, with Dirk going off for 29 points in one quarter, so I reckon it's worthy of an exhaustive and exhausting revisit. 

Hmmm, 37 to 35 Utah at the half. Sounds like a Bobcats game. Looks a little like a Bobcats game, too, there are quite a few fans disguised as empty seats in the lower level of the Mavs' arena. But it's a sellout, so they claim. Maybe people are standing in line at the toidy or something...

Dirk was 3/7 in the 1st Half. He hits a couple and airballs one. By the end of the 3rd Quarter, it's the Jazz up by 67-52 — a 15-point lead, with the Jazz on a 9-0 run. Game Over according to The Timbo Rule ("a 15 point margin is the point at which a 4th Q deficit becomes insurmountable"). However, it should be noted, both of the Jazz's PFs, Millsap and Boozer, have 4 fouls — limiting their defensive effectiveness.

Dirk doesn't even touch the ball for nearly 2-and-a-half minutes of the final quarter. Then, finally, the onslaught begins... Dirk drives the lane and gets fouled by Fesenko at 9:37. A blocking foul on Williams puts Dirk to the line with Utah ALREADY in penalty at 9:06. That will help, the Large German Man does not miss those. With a timeout at the 8:32 mark, Utah is still up by 14 and the Utah announcers are feeling pretty good about life.

At 7:30, Dirk takes a wide open look from behind the arc — and misses!

At 7:01, Nowitzki reggiemillers Mehmet Okur and toddles back to the FT line to can two more freebies. So far this quarter, 6 points, all from the charity stripe.

At 6:30, Dirk cuts it to 10 with a a short li'l thing, AND ONE. He drives it again at 6:00 for his 22. He drives it again and gets fouled by Boozer at 5:30, fifth foul on him. Zip-zip, two more FTs.

Kidd steal and Dirk gets a freebie as the trailer on a break at 5:11. Corner 3 at 4:39 and the lead is down to 3. Utah announcers are pissing themselves over the 16-3 run. Boozer hits one. "The key here is not to panic," says the Utah color guy... Mavs fail to score and Boozer strokes a jumper again, pushing their lead back to 5.

A steal each direction and the Large German Man drives the lane and flips in a goofy little hook AND ONE. "Can you believe that?!?!? This guy's Houdini!!!" the Utah play-by-play guy bellows. "Amazing. A six point first half by Nowitzki. 32 now with just over 3 minutes remaining to play in this ballgame. What was a 16 point lead is 2 for Utah." 

Jazz slings and Dirk rebounds. Kidd hits Dirk rolling to the rim and the game is tied. The Large German Man has really only hit one jumper throughout it all, everything else has been a shot in the paint or a swish from the foul line...

Boozer botches a pass. Dirk dekes the hapless Okur and hits a simple 6-footer in the paint, with Memo running away with his hands down. Next time down, Memo ticky-tacks the Large German Man and he's back to the line for two more net-rippers. That makes 38.

Utah chokes again. The crowd remains on its feet. Dirk goes ISO Memo and kicks out to Kidd for a wide open-look trey, Assist to Dirk. Dirk rebounds another miss and Deron Williams commits a frustration foul on Kidd.

Joyful half an hour previously, now the Utah announcers are panicked about Utah throwing the towel in on their entire season. There are still quite a few games remaining to be played, they decide. Dirk is intentionally fouled with 34.3 on the clock, and there you have it, 40 points for the Large German Man. A bunch of drives to the rack and foul shots. Not what I expected. 96-85, Jazz lose, Jazz lose.

Nov. 4, 2009.

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Lakers at Houston

Okay, like I said, I didn't get a chance to see the events in real time, so let's just drop any pretense that I noticed anything offbeat or interesting to blather on about and get straight to The Popcorn Machine GAME FLOW CHART. Please turn your hymnal to page 153, or better yet, give that little link a quick click. Thank you.

Observation 1:  The next clueless analyst that I hear talking about the "incredibly deep bench" of the Lakers gets punched in the face. Remember yesterday's minutes for our middle-aged warriors — over 40 minutes for Kobe, LO, Drew, and Ron-Ron? Well here, the very next night, it's over 40 minutes each for Kobe, LO, Drew, and Ron-Ron. No rest for the weary, that's for sure. The top minutes guy for the bench players, in a road back-to-back, was Jordan with about 15-and-a-half. Wow. Don't get hurt, anyone.

Observation 2: A really close game with the Lakers playing catchup, eh? A 7-0 Laker run down the stretch saved their bacon, it would seem.

Observation 3:  This was a Kobe game, plain and simple: 15-of-30 shooting en route to 41 points, together with 4 assists, 4 steals, and just 2 TOs. Sasha made it into the game for a little over 3 minutes out of the 53 total, which raises one really big question I have about him: does he wash his hair after that much burn?

And now, before we get on with The Main Event, the story of the game as it is being told by Texas Types in their various newspaperies and bloggerations, please genuflect and join me in watching the latest installment of THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD:

 

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(1)

Ariza's Shot at Victory Never Comes:Bryant's 41, free throw by Bynum spell the difference

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

Four months, four quarters and all but four seconds of overtime had passed since Trevor Ariza had learned he was not invited to return to his hometown team when he turned toward the lane and the heart of the Lakers' defense.

The Rockets had taken their first meeting with the Lakers since last season's Game 7 — and since Ariza and Ron Artest traded themselves for one another — to overtime. The Lakers had taken a one-point lead. Ariza, who had insisted he only wanted a win, had the ball and his chance.

He never got there. As he tried to split Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, Fisher slapped the ball loose and time ran out on a 103-102 Rockets loss to the Lakers on Wednesday, as Ariza ran out of time to make the sort of play he came to Houston to make.

"I looked up on the clock and I saw that there was four seconds left," he said. "I tried to get a good look. The ball got stripped. It was frustrating, definitely. I wanted to win. Everybody here wanted to win and we didn't." * * *

"Whenever you have a team like that — a great team, a great team that played its butt off — on the ropes, you have to finish it, have to take advantage of the situation," [Point Guard Aaron] Brooks said. "We let them off the hook."

 

(2)

Lakers 103, Rockets 102: Is Morey Right? Is Playing Hard "A Skill?'

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

Daryl Morey is fond of saying that playing hard is a skill, like any other.

That never seemed quite right, but he might have a point.

Perhaps it's more a 'quality' or a 'talent' than a 'skill.' But moving beyond the semantics, we can consider the Rockets five-game test to start the season, the stretch we knew would go a long way toward measuring the Rockets' no-stars style while Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady watch in suits, and draw certain conclusions.

The Rockets really do play hard, and that has been the key to their wins against the Warriors, Trail Blazers and Jazz and Wednesday's 103-102 overtime loss to the Lakers.

It's not just their faint hope for this season or a marketing effort. The Rockets have inspired those reviews from Nate McMillan, Jerry Sloan and Phil Jackson, three of the league's best coaches. Two are in the Hall of Fame and all three played just as the Rockets now must. They know.

The Rockets did not have everything going on Wednesday. They did not shoot 3s the way they had been, hitting 7 of 24. Trevor Ariza struggled in every way offensively. Chase Budinger was out, reducing the rotation to basically seven players. They can be and have been better than this. But they did all the things that come from hustle, outrebounding the Lakers, scoring more in the paint and more on the break. * * *

 

(3)

Same Old Story: Rockets Still Lack True Finisher to Replace Yao & McGrady

by Tom Martin, The Dream Shake (SBN)

You couldn't ignore it. The Rockets countered with baskets, but you still weren't convinced. And then, when it came down to the final 13 seconds of the game, you thought about it yet again.

Who is going to take the final shot?

With the final possession determining the outcome of the game, the Los Angeles Lakers weren't about to let anyone score the easy way.

How about sending Aaron Brooks through the lane for a dwarf-tastic layup? Nope. Andrew Bynum wasn't about give Brooks any space by stepping up late to help again.

Or how about giving Trevor Ariza space to isolate his defender? Nope. Ron Artest wasn't going to give an inch of room for Ariza to beat him off the dribble.

In the end, the Rockets got caught in between both options, and it resulted in a turnover. When we finally got our answer to who was going to step up at the end, it was pretty clear: Nobody.

As extraordinary as they've been, the Rockets lack a go-to guy when it counts, and there's nothing they can do about it. * * *

 

(4)

Lakers-Rockets Rant

posted by Air Korea to The Dream Shake (SBN)

Did I expect to win this game?

No, but we had a very good chance to. I'd say a 45-55 chance, and hell I'd take that against the Lakers.

If we lost by 10, no big deal. Losing by 1, in overtime, due to a turnover...kind of makes me want to kick a midget.

Everybody played fantastic, with the exception of a bad shooting night by Ariza. We out rebounded them, bench outplayed them, shot a higher percentage, frustrated the Lakers (3 techs). But the turnovers late in the game are what cost us the game.

I don't think the downfall of Trevor Ariza is his ball handling, I think it's the way he tries to win over the refs. In every game I've watched, he would slash into the lane hoping for a foul which sometimes causes a turnover or a bad shot.

Still glad we took the champs to a very close game. * * *

 

(5)

Kobe Sinks Rockets... Silver Lining Anyone?

by Anup, Rockets Buzz (TrueHoop)

* * *
This game was too wild, as evidenced by my thoughts:

  • I think blaming the refs for a loss is a cop out — even after reading the excerpts from Tim Donaghy's book. But just think of this. The Lakers committed just two fouls from the start of the fourth quarter until the Rockets final possession, while the Rockets lost both Chuck and Luis to fouling out. I'm not sure what to think anymore...
  • Trevor Ariza went to the Lakers bench 3 times before the first quarter was over. I know he's committed to being a Rocket, but that can make Rockets fans uneasy - especially considering the way Artest was jawing at his former teammates for the rest of the game following his obligatory handshakes at the start of the game.
  • Good stat: Rockets had six guys in double figures again. Landry had 20 off the bench. And they outrebounded the Lakers 54-48.
  • Bad stat: Rockets lost the turnover battle 20-9; missed seven of 25 free throws (including 2-for-5 from Brooks); and the three-point line was far less friendly today than in the last 4 games (7-for-24).
  • Ariza again — I'm realizing he's not as good a ballhandler as I thought, but he is a better facilitator. As for the former, he seems to dribble out of the palm of his hand rather than his fingertips, but who am I to criticize? But as to the latter, he did have his moments where he executed the pick and roll perfectly or threaded the needle to Chuck or Carl for an easy finish. All in all, he still has a long way to go.
  • I don't want to hear people blaming Aaron Brooks for this one, saying he held the ball too much at the end or that he took some bad shots. The guy broke down the Laker defense several times, and if only the Rockets had a finisher taller than 6-8, then maybe the Rockets would have gotten some calls and Aaron would be the model point guard.
  • I wanted to throw this Artest tidbit in. Before the final Rockets possession, the ref gave the Lakers bench a sideline warning. Ron, being Ron I suppose, taps the ref on the shoulder and points all the way on the other side of the court and says that the Rockets bench should be kept at bay as well. The ref walks halfway over to the Rockets bench before he realizes "What the hell am I doing?" and turned around without a word to the Rockets. Not important whatsoever to the game, but it boggles my mind that that even happened right before the final possession. * * *

 

(6)

Random Ramblingz

by THE Random Guy, Fourth-and-Fifty.com

The Rockets. Happy start to the season, but so many things up in the air. For full disclosure, I should say that I fall asleep before halftime of every game and then I wake up at 1 am and try to figure out what happened. But the lack of accurate information has never stopped me from opining before, and it sure isn't now. Here is what we know and don't know so far.

Playahs:
Aaron Brooks. Playing really well, and he is just what the doctor ordered — good shot, quick as lightning, gets into the paint at will, and is a willing passer and decent team player. But not a point guard. He does a good job masquerading as one, but he doesn't have the instincts of a real PG. You can see this especially when he gets into the paint — real PGs see a progression of movements and counter-movements, like in chess. If I go here, this guy's man will pick me up, then my teammate will slide to the corner, then when I pass it to him, the guy at the top of the key will leave his man to close out on the shooter, then the shooter will swing the ball to the top of the key, where our 3rd option will have a wide open shot. In this very common scenario, the PG doesn't get the assist, he gets what is known as the "hockey assist" — the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the bucket. So the "real PG" qualities don't necessary show up in traditional statistics. Brooks is a fine player, and his numbers look fine because he is quick and skilled enough to make up for this natural deficit, but it is certainly there. So far, he has been great for us, and this is an observation, not a complaint. I do worry about him "Going Franchise" (overdribbling and trying to do too much) down the road, but he seems to be a good kid.

Kyle Lowry. Now that's my type of point guard. Brooks and Lowry are perfect compliments to each other —Lowry is tough, quick, strong, and pass-first. He's like Eric Snow 3.0, although I hate to even put Eric Snow on Lowry. Lowry could start for a lot of teams, and he should start for the Rockets when Yao comes back — that way we can bring AB off the bench for some Vinny "Microwave" Johnson action. We really do have the perfect PG situation, although you'd like one of the two to be a little taller. But he who is 5′9″ should not throw stones in a glass house. "He" is me. The glass house is...I don't even know what I meant by that. Let's move on.

Trevor Ariza. In season 4 of The Wire, Marlow and Chris are talking about the potential for a little corner kid named Michael. They were talking about how much upside he had in the drug business because he was smart and tough and self-reliant and they used a very interesting phrase. They said, "that puppy has big paws". That is a fantastic expression, and I feel it fits perfectly for Ariza. It intimates the potential for incredible growth, but also the clumsiness and growing pains the inevitably accompany a puppy. It might seem strange to bring this up when Ariza is lights out from 3 and playing tremendously overall, but at some point this season teams are going to focus their defensive principles on him, and he is going to look lost for several games. He'll grow into his paws. Future multi-year All Sta, and off to a great start.

Shane Battier. Teh Moneyballz. I still want him to do more offensively — he is just too comfortable with his role.

Luis Scola. The strangest player so far this season. I assumed we'd run whenever we could and then run the half-court offense through Scola like the Divac/Webber Sacto teams that almost broke up the Lakers' dynasty. So far, he hasn't seemed to be the center point of the halfcourt offense, but he isn't playing poorly. I feel like the Rox don't know who they are yet, and ultimately they'll settle down and use Scola as a point forward more. We can't win shooting so many jumpshots, can we? Please keep in mind that I have yet to stay awake past halftime this season.

Chuck Hayes. The following clip sums up my feelings for my road dog Chuck Hayes: *  *  *

Rookies. Chase Buddinger?!? Great white hope, circa early Brent Barry. The Coog in me wants to hate him. My mind is telling me no. But my body. My body's telling me yeeeessss! David Andersen is going to be a good player in this league - he already has the offensive firepower and just needs to learn how the refs call fouls. They call some bullshit on him, but every rookie goes through that. He's not very good on D, but he seems to try pretty hard, and that's good enough for me. I already forgot about Jermaine Taylor, which is a good thing.Again, let me reiterate that I've watched 38% of the season, so this 1/3 ass analysis may be way off. I feel pretty good about understanding what is going on in the 1st quarter, that's for damn sure. If you aren't excited about the Rockets (and I still think they're a .500 team), then you don't have a pulse. Those puppies have big paws. Until next week...

 

(7)

Oh, So Close

by Clutch, ClutchFans.com

The Rockets turned some heads when they rolled the Jazz Monday night, and an even bigger challenge came Wednesday as they took on a well-known former teammate and the defending champion Lakers...

Despite pushing it to overtime, the Rockets didn't have enough juice on their final play as Kobe Bryant (41 points) and the Lakers escaped Houston with a 103-102 win.

Despite LA's size advantage, the Rockets big men thrived as Carl Landry, Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes combined for 50 points and 35 boards, but the Rockets perimeter guys really struggled, especially Trevor Ariza (5-21 shooting).

 

(8)

My Thoughts...

posted by "McLawson" to ClutchFans.com message board

It's not 100% Brooks fault for not passing out of the trap well. It takes someone to pass to, you know. Seemed like everyone just stood around or made bad cuts to the ball that were easily defended.

We couldn't shoot 3s or FTs for crap last night. Normally those shots fall. Last night, we were pushing too hard and rushing things a bit from 3. Shane looked tired since most of his corner 3s were short. Maybe working so hard on guarding Kobe took its toll there. We really could have used Budinger. The FTs...well, there's just no excuse.

Ariza pushed too hard and tried to do too much, despite what he may say in interviews. He needs to play within himself and let the game come to him.

Chuck is awesome.

Refs...sigh. Back to back offensive foul calls on Scola came back to be huge at the end. Ugh. Hand-checking, body-checking, and shoving out front threw Brooks off a lot too. He's got to learn to fight through that somehow if it's going to be allowed like that against certain teams. How that wasn't a shooting foul, I'll never know.

Landry was a beast.

Overall, if we hit a few more free throws (70.8%? Ugh) and/or another 3 (29.2% from this team? Really?) it's another ballgame. We showed some growth and also showed some areas we need to work on. Rick will get it figured out and the effort will always be there. Had you told me before the season started that we'd lose by 1 in OT to the Lakers after having off games from Ariza and Brooks, I'd have called you a dreamer.

 

(9)

Too Many Turnovers

posted by "Rocketsregle" to ClutchFans.com message board

Too many turnovers was their downfall as they pretty much played them even everywhere else. A very a fun game to see in person.

More observations I noticed at the game:

I was surprised Ron Artest got booed every time he held the ball or shot. They booed him louder than Kobe at introduction.

I was very glad Ariza matched Artest's 3 pointer at the end of regulation. There was some dialogue between the two during a stoppage of play and one of the refs over-reacted and warned them to shut it.

There is no love lost between McGrady and Artest. McGrady didn't even flinch or gesture back when Artest went to say hello to the coaching staff and Artest put out his hand to touch his knee.

 

(10)

Every Category Except One

posted by "Sweet Lou 4 2" to ClutchFans.com message board

Wow - what a game.

This game is very positive for us except for the final score. NO reason to be down.

We either clearly won every statistical category or tied with the Lakers. I mean, across the board — FG percentage, FTs assists, rebounds, etc....

Except one — Turnovers.

And a lot of those turnovers are growing pains — so they will come down...all and all, when you can beat the world champ in every other category (and tie in a few) you're doing really great.

 

(11)

Ariza is SUPPOSED to shoot a lot

posted by "Mighty Mog" to ClutchFans.com message board

I laugh how so many of us hate Ariza for shooting a lot. He was our leading scorer on this team and Ric doesn't look like he has an issues with Ariza shooting the ball.

IF Ariza stopped shooting, we wouldn't even be in OT.

  • AB trapped...
  • Landry on the Bench...
  • Scola dealing with Bynum and Odom in the paint...

Who is going to shoot the ball? Shane? Cook? Lowry on the bench?

Rick wanted Ariza to shoot, because he has been our leading scorer on this team.

 

The Bottom Line:

1.