Go Candace! Now THIS is insider stuff (but it still doesn't say anything about the best soul food on the road, so really no better than Wells )
Access with the Pacers
by Candace Buckner
The Indiana Pacers are playing as the best team in the NBA. That, you already know. But there are moments happening beyond the velvet rope, if you will, that fans don't normally get to see.
This particular blog will change that. They've given me an all-access press pass and I'm going to use it.
You read the quotes in the game stories but rarely understand how they were delivered and the context behind them. So, periodically, I will write a behind-the-scenes blog intended to color in all the edges of this 16-1 season.
There will be some statistics and commentary added every now and then, but I will mostly concentrate on the human element. Enjoy and please free feel to leave feedback.
The Pacers had a plane to catch and the locker room was clearing out after their 105-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. I always enjoy working the room at this time. The camera's flood lights are turned off and most of the tape recorders and microphones are long gone, so in response, the players shut down their sound bites. They just talk. Naturally and freely. It was at this time on Sunday afternoon when I spoke with George Hill about the difficulty in beating the Portland Trail Blazers at home, and his teammates decided to add their two cents as well, and just talk.
"I've won there before but it's just hard. That's probably one of the toughest places to win in the NBA," Hill said.
So, I wanted to get Hill's opinion on why exactly it's so hard.
"I don't even know," he said. "The whole city. They sell out every game no matter if they win or (lose)."
David West, pulling on his adidas sweatshirt, turned from the locker on the right.
"You'll see," West told me. "You'll see it."
"Even when they weren't great they still would win at home. Like, it's just - they have great home-court advantage. They sell out every game and this year…"
At this point, Paul George, to the left, overheard the conversation and cut in.
"That's going to make it worst," George said. "They're playing good, too."
"…they're already playing well," Hill said, picking up where George left off. "It'll make it 10 times harder. So we've got our hands full."
Whenever someone speaks in hyperbole, there's a new name for that: it's called 'pulling a Vogel.'
Does anybody ever in the history of mankind like to share compliments morethan Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel? I doubt it. (See, I just pulled a Vogel). Now he's taking it to a new level. No longer does Vogel praise players, defenses, places, things, etc. as being the best in the league. Oh, no. Vogel has stepped his game up – now it's the "best in the world."
Vogel on facing the Clippers, who average the second most points in the NBA: "We know what they could do. They're one of the best offensive machines in the world."
Vogel on the Pacers' NBA-leading unit: "We trust our defense. We're the best defense in the world." (Vogel actually dropped that line twice).
Vogel on Thanksgiving dinner: ""This is the greatest spread in the history of spreads. This is going to be a smashmouth dinner. I have nothing negative to say because I am physically incapable of expressing a negative thought in public. You guys want to see me spin a basketball on a toothbrush?"
Okay, that last one was the very brilliant joke from Bob Kravitz's recent column (Ughh! I just pulled another Vogel.) Last Friday, Vogel had read the story and per usual, with good humor responded to it: "Tell Bob Kravitz, best Thanksgiving sports column ever!"
Alright, another story, but this one from pregame.
NBA locker rooms open up before the tipoff for media availability – which means us reporters get to stand around and look awkward as guys sit at their stalls listening to their Beats headphones and pretending to be occupied in really important matters. (Most of the time they're just on their cell phones. Chris Copeland, for instance, plays dominoes on his iPad.)
So, it's a pretty laid back atmosphere. In Los Angeles, no one looked more relaxed than Luis Scola. He didn't stay in the visitor's locker room, but rather popped a squat on a cart in the hallway and held court with three Spanish-speaking reporters.
The diversity of the NBA shines through in the major media markets so it was no surprise to see the international gathering for Scola.
"I guess the fact that we speak the same language maybe opens (him) up a little bit," ESPN Deportes reporter Gonzalo Aguirregomezcorta said. "I speak to him every time he comes … So I think that's always (helpful)."
I wanted to listen in but my Spanish is regulated to "que pasa" and "¿dónde está el baño?" Even so, body language breaks all barriers and I could see how comfortable Scola was while communicating with those who shared a common bond.
To be honest, my dealings with Scola have been pretty limited this season. The Pacers' locker room is filled with professionals who are easy to work with but if there was one guy I haven't quite cracked yet, it would be Señor Scola.
So after their lengthy conversation, I wanted to learn from the reporters who have broken through to Scola. Fellow Argentinian Rodrigo Azurmendi and the Spaniard Aguirregomezcorta were kind enough to share their insights on how Scola expresses himself to them.
"I talked to him exactly a year ago when they came with Phoenix and they lost to the Clippers, badly. And I talked to him after the game and his face was like, 'Shoot me! Get me out of here.'" Azurmendi recalled.
Azurmendi said Scola remained a pro and answered the questions in spite of the loss. On Sunday, however, with the good times rolling, Azurmendi noticed a lighter and brighter Scola.
"That's what I told him first. 'Hey, a year ago you were like you didn't want to be there and now you find yourself on winning team so he was talking about how happy he is," Azurmendi said.
"I would say that he don't like (B.S.)," Aguirregomezcorta added. "Now we have a really good conversation about basketball and it was cool before the game. His feelings were not touched. So it was really cool, but he don't like (B.S.). If someone asks something that's not a suitable question, he will be very 'yes' or 'no.'"
Duly noted. Must come correct with Scola, because the veteran is a student of the game and certainly knows his stuff. Besides talk about Scola's happiness, the reporters said the conversation turned to statistics – the Pacers' stats, opponents' stats, whatever. Scola could quote them all.
"It's like he wrote an article yesterday about the Clippers," Aguirregomezcorta said.