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4:40 PM ET, 5/13/06
Taking the scenic route for Game 3
Posted by Arash Markazi
Sights and sounds from the Suns' 94-91 win over the Clippers in Game 3 at Staples Center:
-- Before the game, I stopped by the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), located in the adjacent Los Angeles Convention Center, and checked out all the new video games that will be hitting stores this year. From playing Madden 07 on PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii to playing NCAA Football 07 on Xbox 360 and PSP, it was a pretty neat experience. The highlight, however, was catching up with my main man Method Man, who was in the middle of a hotly contested game of NBA 2K6 on Xbox Live. After rapping with him about his new album 421, which will be out next month and was produced by The RZA, Scott Storch and Erick Sermon, I gave him heat for picking the Suns and losing to the Pistons in the virtual NBA Finals he was playing. "I should be winning," he said, while wearing the Xbox Live headset above his white Yankees hat. "The cat I'm playing says it's his first time but I think he's lying. His name is Punisher."
While he tried to forge a comeback, I asked him for his picks in the actual playoffs. "Man, I'm conflicted," he said. "I'm a Dallas Mavericks fan because I like Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley. Now Finley is on the Spurs, but I'm sticking with the Mavs. I was pissed after Game 1. They came out all jittery, but that's the ups and downs of the playoffs. That's why they be questioning the Suns when they were down against the Lakers. The playoffs are all about ups and downs."
Considering Finley isn't usually atop most people's lists for favorite player, I asked Method if he and Finley were boys. "You know, it's funny, Finley's my favorite player, but I've never even met him," he said. "I don't know him, but I love his style. He reminds me of this kid Rashon I used to play with back home. We used to play ball around the way and they both got that same killer instinct."
Before I headed to Staples for the game, I asked Method -- whose credential for E3 read, "Name: Clifford Smith (his real name), Affiliation: Method Man" -- for his Finals prediction. "I like Detroit, man. I can't even front on them," he said. "They got one of the best teams ever. I saw that picture you guys had in Sports Illustrated where they showed four of their starters at the All-Star Game. That's crazy. When was the last time that's ever happened? They just know how to play. The key with them is that they're a team first and all the players know no one man is bigger than the team."
And as far as the Suns-Clippers series across the way? "I want to go with the Clippers, but I know the Suns are going to win, but Brand is playing, yo. After everything he's been through, he just wants to win a ring."
-- In the Suns' locker room, Amare Stoudemire was having his usual pregame meal of a Quarter Pounder with cheese, fries and a Sunkist while he talked about his offseason plans. "I'm going to Israel this summer," he said. "I heard it's beautiful over there. I want to go there and see the country and walk on the ground Jesus walked on." While he talked about scheduling the trip around his Team USA commitments, Nikoloz Tskitishvili said he wanted to go to Israel with him. "I've been there before," the Phoenix forward said. "I can show you around."
While they were talking, Raja Bell walked by in cut-up black basketball shorts that looked too short even for John Stockton. "Nice shorts, buddy," Stoudemire said. "Thanks," Bell said as he showed them off. "You like it?" As Stoudemire laughed, Stephen A. Smith popped up on the television in the center of the locker room, harping on how Tim Thomas needed to show up if Phoenix was going to win Game 3. "Shut up, Stephen A.," Thomas said as he was putting on his uniform. "I've seen your game. I played with him over the summer and he got his best job: Talking [stuff]."
-- Celebrity Watch: Bruce Willis, wearing a Wichita State University T-shirt, sat courtside with Suns fan and two-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson. Gary Shandling, David Duchovny, Penny Marshall and Keenan McCardell were also in attendance. I grabbed a seat next to McCardell during halftime and talked some hoops with the Chargers' receiver. "I got Detroit winning it all, but it all depends on Shaq," he said. "If he's healthy and Miami is playing well, it's going to be tough. In the West, I got the Clippers." When I asked McCardell if he was serious, he said, "Why not? Who's playing better than them? Besides, it's good to see them do well. I got to go with the Clippers. They're a blue-collar team and I'm a blue-collar player."
-- After the game, Rob and Scott Niedermeyer of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks went up to Steve Nash to congratulate their fellow Canadian on a great game. Nash, however, almost didn't recognize Scott with his long locks and playoff beard. "Of course," Nash said after Scott reintroduced himself. "I couldn't tell with all that hair. How are you?" After talking a bit about their respective playoffs, Scott and his wife, Lisa, took a picture with Nash and told him he should come out to a playoff game if he had a chance. "I'd love to," Nash said. "I haven't gotten a chance to see too much hockey this year since the Coyotes don't play in the same arena as us anymore, but I want to go."
-- While walking to the Clippers' locker room, I caught up for a bit with Terrell Owens, who was wearing a red Sam Cassell jersey. I teased him because he was wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey in the last series. He laughed and explained that he's been working with Alex McKechnie, the Lakers' athletic performance coordinator, and Jason Powell, the Clippers' athletic trainer, during the offseason in Los Angeles. But it was clear if he had to pick allegiances, he'd go with the Clips. "Jason and I go way back," he said. "I've known him for the past 11 years. His first year with the 49ers was my rookie year, so we've been working together since then. So I've been coming to a lot of Clippers games and I've gotten to know them all real well, like Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, Elton Brand. When Corey Maggette was rehabbing his injury, we were working out together at the Spectrum Club, getting him ready to come back."
When I asked T.O. what he would do if his Clippers went up against his new hometown team, the Dallas Mavericks, in the Western Conference finals, he took a deep breath before answering, not wanting to get off on the wrong foot with his new fans. "I don't know. I love Avery Johnson. I'm glad they gave him a chance to do his thing. I'm probably going to wear neutral clothes if that happens."
-- After discovering the mystery of Owens' multiple jerseys, I went to confirm with Tim Thomas that he was doing the Tony Yayo Dance after every shot he's made with the Suns. "Oh yeah, that's for Tony," Thomas said. "I started that this season. When I was on vacation time this season due to Chicago [which waived him], I was spending a lot of time with him in New York and I told him that once I got back in the league I was going to do his dancing on the court."
While Yayo hasn't attended any playoff games, Thomas said the G-Unit rapper has loved the move, especially after the big 3-pointer against the Lakers in Game 6 of the first round. "It started when one of his guys came to a Knicks game," Thomas said, "and I had a guy who was doing security for me who went and did security for Lloyd Banks when he came to the game, and it kind of just went from there and we got cool. You know millionaires like to hang out with other millionaires. They got a lot of money and I got a lot of money so we just hang out."