NBA jam-packed full of action

Boston Celtics players Jason Terry, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce enjoy some time on the bench.
Boston Celtics players Jason Terry, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce enjoy some time on the bench.
New York's Chris Copeland takes the ball to the hoop. 				      Photos: BEN WALKER

New York's Chris Copeland takes the ball to the hoop. Photos: BEN WALKER

Boston's Kevin Garnett can't decide which flavour of Gatorade he wants.

Boston's Kevin Garnett can't decide which flavour of Gatorade he wants.

The final destination on my sporting tour of the United States was a place called Hartford, Connecticut.

Sounds like a strange place, considering the city of about 700,000 situated halfway between Boston and New York doesn't have a team in any of the major leagues.

It was for that exact reason it was chosen as the venue for an NBA pre-season match between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks.

It was hoped that having the game half-way between the two big cities would help promote a 50/50 split between fans.

But organisers would have been disappointed because the bulk of the 16,294 fans at the match were decked out in Celtic green.

Compared with the 50,000 plus that watched the New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles baseball game and the 65,000 plus in attendance for the New England Patriots v Denver Broncos NFL match, 16,294 doesn't sound like a lot.

But that is the capacity of the XL Centre, which houses the University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies in the National Collegiate Atheletics Association (NCAA) college basketball competition.

And those 16,294 were just as loud as the much bigger crowds I had experienced along the way.

All this for a pre-season game where most of the big guns (Celtics' Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and New York's Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd) weren't expected to play much.

Pre-season games are generally a chance for the stars to stretch their legs for a few minutes then sit on the bench, have a cup of Gatorade (or in Garnett's case two at once) and watch the next wave of players strut their stuff.

But when you get rivals like Boston and New York on the court, there isn't much in the way of holding back.

For the best part of three quarters, most of the big names spent some quality minutes on the court.

Rondo and Anthony basically followed each other for three quarters before Celtics coach Doc Rivers pulled his star guard (who at 6'1" is short in the land of NBA giants) for the whole fourth quarter.

Garnett and Pierce, the veterans of the team, were played sparingly in the final 12 minutes as Boston rallied from an early deficit to force overtime, which they would eventually lose by nine points as the Knicks kept running their star players.

The atmosphere was outstanding for a game which meant nothing, which only made me think what it would be like in a place like New York's Madison Square Garden or the Staples Centre (Los Angeles) during a playoff match.

Half-time entertainment consisted of the Celtics mascot Lucky, a height-challenged guy dressed in a leprechaun outfit, springing off a small trampoline and slam-dunking, while any stoppage in the game saw cameras around the venue focused on fans dancing in the stands.

The most entertaining of these was when they would play them on slowmo, much to the embarrassment of the subject.

Thankfully, those cameras never focused on me.

In a lot of American television shows, you often see people at sporting events captured on 'Kiss Cam' where those on the big screen are encouraged to pucker up to the person next to them.

Thankfully again, that wasn't the case in Hartford.

It probably came down to the fact that it was played at an indoor arena, but in my opinion the NBA had the best atmosphere of the sports I attended while in America.

The crowd was condensed, the noise was unable to escape and the match was close throughout with the stars getting plenty of minutes.

It is easy to see why basketball is the major American sport that has taken off across the globe.

Dribbling the ball and shooting, while a difficult task in its own right, is perhaps a bit easier than trying to hit a 160km/h fastball the best part of 130m for a home run or trying to evade the human equivalent of rushing bulls while at the same time throwing a football to a teammate being chased by other bulls without him dropping it or having it intercepted.

It is a game that appeals to the masses and the glitz and glamour that goes with it only adds to the spectacle.

In Dubbo we have a great women's side involved in the statewide Waratah League, and in 2013 there is the promise of a mens team being re-entered as well.

There's even talk we may have an import or two to combine with the local talent.

Dubbo Sports World, or the Wool Shed as it is nicknamed, may not have the atmosphere of 16,294 mad, screaming Yanks watching a game but it's a good night out and I'd encourage anyone that takes an interest in basketball at any level to get up and watch our boys and girls in action next year.


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