Monday, February 28, 2011


At Verizon on Wednesday, talking to Georgetown alums after the tough loss to Syracuse on Saturday, and again tonight at Bender Arena, Georgetown's supporters voiced the same negative theme: the Hoyas have made too many reaches on local talent nice guys -- Jerrelle Benimon is not good enough to play in the Big East; DeMatha's Mikael Hopkins is not aggressive enough to play in the Conference and will not help the program; and making an offer to DeMatha's James Robinson was a mistake and a misguided effort to curry favor with local AAU teams and the WCAC.

The Benimon criticism kills me. As soon as Jerrelle is introduced, the grumbling starts. No matter where I sit in the stadium, inevitably someone will audibly, obnoxiously groan "Why does Thompson play him?" Benimon's numbers are pretty meager and he has not progressively built on the promise he's shown in a few performances, most notably against Memphis this year. But he always plays hard and, as a sophomore, his efforts and JTIII's obvious faith in Benimon should be enough to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Hopkins and Robinson criticism seems crazy. Admittedly, I've seen both play a grand total of two times -- Monday against St. John's and this afternoon against Paul VI in the WCAC Semifinals -- but I want to see how both develop under Georgetown's coaching staff.

The ESPN Profile of Mikael Hopkins includes this analysis of his perceived weaknesses:
Hopkins must be more physical and learn to welcome contact. At times he seems not into the game and untimely disappears on the floor. He is a very capable rebounder on both ends but at times watches the action instead of perusing the ball sometimes the only rebounds he gets are the one that come right to him. Hopkins must play with more energy and urgency on a consistent basis to obtain the production he is capable of.
From the limited sample set I have, that seems about right. But, two things are important to keep in mind in relation to this criticism: first, he is immensely physically gifted and is unquestionably a good high school basketball player and second, if he wants to fully harness those talents, he'll be able to do that at Georgetown and, if he does, he's going to be a very good D-I college player. This is a kid who got scholarship offers from Kansas, Texas, West Virginia, and Maryland. The fact that he is local means that Georgetown alums can dissect his game and its purported flaws up close. But that doesn't mean that their negative reaction somehow invalidates what is immediately evident to anyone who watches him play (he is a very talented basketball player).

The ability to see the player first hand also plays a huge role in the rush to denigrate James Robinson. Robinson may not decide to come to the Hilltop. He's got a ridiculous number of scholarship offers: at least five schools in the ACC (Maryland; UVa; NC State; Boston College; Wake Forest), at least six schools in the Big East (Gtown; WVa; Pitt; Marquette; Rutgers; and Notre Dame) and Oklahoma. Robinson's the type of prospect who is thinking about how to cut down the number of schools he's considering. But if he decides that Georgetown is the right place for him, color me excited. Indeed, the prospect of just getting to see Robinson for another season at DeMatha makes me happy.

Watching Robinson play basketball is a pleasure. He controls the game, makes good decisions on the floor, and is the type of player that makes everyone around him better. He's faulted for being slow, but he is able to beat opposing players off the dribble and can get to the rim fairly quickly. He's also a big point guard, who is not afraid of drawing contact or playing physically.

Today, DeMatha struggled with Paul VI. Josh Barr's summary for the Post correctly and appropriately focuses on the role Robinson played in avoiding an upset.

Setting to one side the future of Georgetown, both WCAC boys semifinals games were great. In the first game, Paul VI's junior guard Patrick Holloway very nearly beat DeMatha with a tremendous performance that had everyone at Bender buzzing. But as good as Holloway was, Bishop McNamara's senior guard (and WCAC boy's player of the year) Marcus Thorton was even better. A series of missed open perimeter shots put the Mustangs in a major hole against Gonzaga, but a frenzied comeback in the fourth quarter took place after Thorton's shots started falling. Thorton doesn't need a lot of space to get his shots up and when he hits a groove, he is deadly.

What I liked most about watching Holloway and Thorton (and most everyone on the floor) was the way they play. Thorton was hitting ridiculous shots and was pulling McNamara back into the game, but it would have been very difficult to tell from his reactions whether he had hit or missed the shot he just launched. I doubt that I could have ever show similar restraint, but as a neutral at the games, it is refreshing to see kids this talented approach the game with respect.

The DeMatha-Gonzaga final tomorrow night (8:30 pm at Bender) should be highly entertaining. Of all the players we saw today, I was most impressed by Gonzaga's Kris Jenkins. I would be surprised to hear that Jenkins plays in the final as an ill-considered late block attempt in the middle of McNamara's run seemed to have resulted in a bad injury that prevented Kris from putting weight down on his leg. Without Jenkins, Gonzaga misses a potent offensive post and perimeter threat.

Bender may be the place to be for DC Hoops fans tomorrow, but for me, the place to be is the Verizon Center for yet another chance to see Derrick Rose and the Bulls live.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bball Frenzy

In advance of the Bulls second visit to DC this coming Monday, I've gone a bit basketball mad. Monday night: DeMatha vs. St. John's; Wednesday night: Georgetown vs. Cinci; Tonight: (sitting on the couch) Chicago vs. Miami. More high school hoops (hopefully) tomorrow and Sunday.

Sitting at Verizon last night and absorbing a tough loss made far worse by the injury to Chris Wright, I spent a lot of time contemplating how blessed folks are in this area in terms of basketball. The Wizards are a long way from making DC relevant in the NBA, but Georgetown and Maryland boast decent college programs with occasional flourishes from George Mason and George Washington. And then, sounding the same repetitive theme, basketball at the prep level is stunningly good.

I went to the Georgetown game with a Duke alum. As we watched Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Julian Vaughn, Jason Clark, Henry Sims, and Markel Starks represent the DC-Baltimore metro area as six of the ten man rotation on the number eleven team in the country, I realized that local kids also make up one third of the rotation of the number one college team in the country (Nolan Smith, Tyler Thorton, and Josh Hairston). And there will be more local products (Mikael Hopkins and Quinn Cook) joining these two programs next year.

Two years ago, I marveled at the number of D-I basketball players that hailed form PG County. Broadening that out to the DC-Baltimore metro area further underscores the depth of the talent pool in the region.

I may be late to this realization, but I'm certainly enjoying taking advantage of it -- as a passive fan of the sport -- now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



I wrote something last week contending that the annual Duke - U.Md's women's basketball matchup at Comcast was the best area value for a sporting event.

That assessment probably fails to appreciate how rich the sports offerings are in the DC metro area.

I finally got around to going to a DeMatha high school basketball game tonight, despite the fact that the school's home stadium is only a few miles down the road on US1. We could not make the DeMatha - Gonzaga showdown on Sunday, but DeMatha - St. John's was still well worth seeing.

And all it took was $5.

I went to the game looking forward to seeing future Hoya Mikael Hopkins play on senior night and to see sophomore big man phenom BeeJay Anya. And both were well worth the trip, but I was not suitably prepared for the ridiculous talent that DeMatha boasts.

At the end of the first quarter, I was most impressed by DeMatha's junior point guard, James Robinson. At 6'3", Robinson is a big player at the point, solid defensively, and a good passer. He had a bad turnover in the third quarter, but other than that performed very well directing the Stags attack. I read a bit about him after the game and I think this ESPN profile description is particularly apt. He definitely can run a team, he seems like a very mature basketball player for his age, and he has a surprising ability to block shots with a quick, explosive leap in defense.

While I was pointing out the things that I liked about Robinson's play, my wife keyed in on the third 6'7" plus player DeMatha had on the floor at the time along with BeeJay Anya and Mikael Hopkins -- Jerami Grant. Grant's face looked familiar, but I couldn't place it. As the third of Harvey Grant's sons to go to DeMatha, there is no reason that I should not have known his pedigree. In any event, I would generally agree with this ESPN write up. Grant's got pretty good ball handling skills, his perimeter shot seemed to be better than what the description would have indicated, and while he doesn't hold the post, he does crash the boards well.

St. John's were no pushovers either. I was very impressed with Julian DeBose and when Danish international Soren Dossing started hitting from the outside, St. John's looked like they might be able to pull off an upset.

But the stars of the show were DeMatha. The Stags host a playoff game Friday night (time to be determined) and if they advance, they'll play in the first game of the semifinals doubleheader to be played at Bender Arena on American University's campus on Sunday (4:30 pm; game 2 of the doubleheader, likely featuring Gonzaga, at 6:15).

One last thing: I've read a bit about the reservations that some Hoyas fans have developed regarding Mikael Hopkins. From what I saw tonight, I would take those concerns with heavy grains of salt. The most remarkable thing about DeMatha's team is how most (not all) of the players carry themselves. There was not a lot of individualistic celebration during the game, players did their jobs, did them (for the most part) well, and moved on. I think this approach has been interpreted, in Mikael's case, as a lack of drive. That would not seem to be a fair assessment.

Hopkins appears to be a very bright basketball player. He has good instincts on defense and in rebounding and may develop into a good shot blocker. Any comparison to Henry Sims would be inapt. I don't know what he may eventually offer on offense, but Hopkins will be a solid contributor as an underclassmen for his rotations in the post.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


A week and a half ago, Cameroon's national football team walked out on a poorly maintained pitch in Macedon for an international friendly. Remote locales in Eastern and Central Europe are not foreign to The Indomitable Lions; par for the course for a West African FA and a chance for those in Macedonia to see some of the world's greatest footballers up close.

The starting lineup for the team featured Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o, Mallorca's leading goal scorer Pierre Webo, Olympique de Marseille's Stephane M'Bia, Ajax's Eyong Enoh, Tottenham's Sebastien Bassong, AS Nancy Lorraine's Landry N'Guemo, RC Lens' Henri Bedimo Nsame, AS Monaco's Nicolas N'Koulou, and AFC Valenciennes' Gaetan Bong. But as the final whistle blew the only goal scored during the game was credited to Matthew Mbuta. As in the Matthew Mbuta formerly of the club formerly known as Crystal Palace Baltimore.

Mbuta not only got his first international cap for Cameroon, but logged his first international goal after a good showing at a special prospect camp held for uncapped Cameroonian international players in December.

First off, congratulations to Mr. Mbuta. The biggest loss for us with the collapse of CP Baltimore is being deprived of the opportunity to see Matthew play live. Ever since the night that Mbuta electrified a few hundred spectators at a high school in Annapolis as a third-division football team knocked the Red Bulls out of the U.S. Open Cup, we've traveled all over Maryland to see him play. Beyond just being a ridiculously skilled player, Mbuta is also an extremely nice person and was regularly one of the first to wade over to the fans at the end of matches at UMBC.

When I have tried to get friends to make the trip up from DC to see CP Baltimore, the principal selling point has always been "you've got to see this guy play." And, on the few occasions that I was able to get anyone to bite, Mbuta made the trek worthwhile.

Because of my limited knowledge about the game, I have generally accepted that my judgment about the relative value of players is slightly impaired. But Mbuta's performances always stand out and I have struggled to understand why he has not gotten more of a look in the MLS. He failed to secure a contract after an extended trial with D.C. United and could not get playing time when he won a contract for the Red Bulls. The question has bugged me to such an extent that when we kept seeing Ben Olsen at Ludwig for Maryland games last season, the only thing that I ever wanted to approach him with was why Mbuta was not playing at the top level of U.S. soccer.

The fact that a Cameroonian international player struggles to obtain contracts in the United States makes little sense. Someone, somewhere in the MLS can use Mbuta's prodigious talents.

Or perhaps, Mr. Mbuta's trials and tribulations in the U.S. should come to a merciful end. When IFK Mariehamn dropped another League Cup match earlier this week, the team featured U.S. club soccer castoffs Josh Wicks, Mike Zaher, Mason Trafford, and Joe Funicello (my Swedish ain't good, but I think Josh gave up a penalty for the only goal of the game). Mariehamn's not managed a great goal-scoring record to begin this new campaign, so if the club (or any Scandinavian team for that matter) needs to upgrade its attacking options, Matthew Mbuta should be in the mix.

I hope that he sticks around and we get a chance to see him compete in the top flight here. When I look at D.C. United's roster, I think Mbuta would be a good fit as a late game option off the bench to attack down the wings against tired fullbacks with his great pace and on-ball skills. But he is probably an even better fit on other rosters in the MLS or NASL.

Whatever the future brings, best of luck to Matthew. Congratulations on a tremendous opening bow as an international footballer and we hope that this is the beginning of bigger and better things for his career.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Back in the Fold

My disappointment with D.C. United over the release of Julius James lasted all of 24 hours.

Fred's back.

My general impression is that United supporters are split over his value to the team. My daughter, on the other hand, is unequivocal. She loves Fred. Although she has met him only a couple of times, Fred made a huge impression by taking the time to interact with her and show interest in a small child.

I harbor no illusions about why Fred is back, as Kasper's quote within the release seems to say it all:
"Fred was very motivated to return to DC, and we look forward to his contributions."
I had written Fred a few weeks back asking him if there was any possibility that he would be returning to the team and his response gave me some hope that there was a chance that something was in the works.

Whatever road he traveled, Fred is back.

Setting to one side my daughter's adoration, I have always enjoyed watching Fred play. He has never given fans any reason to question his commitment to the team and to this community. So welcome back. We missed you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Horse Manure

As much as I enjoyed going to the Maryland game tonight, I am still pissed about the news that Julius James got cut by D.C. United. Not that this wasn't entirely predictable, as Olsen and the front office have been taking shots at last year's backline for some time (apparently not convinced that James and Jakovic constitute the best option as a center half pairing).

So, no surprise. It still sucks. James was a favorite with supporters because he is a very nice, humble dude and because he played with his heart on his sleeve and with his balls out. Andy Najar may be who we all point to in order to explain why we head over to RFK to watch a horrid team get trounced, but the people's MVP from a lost 2010 season was Julius James. At least he was for me and for those season ticket holders that sat around me (in response to the news of James' release, one of my neighbors' response was "they cut their best defensive back? he outplayed everyone else last season even through an injury!").

But wait, what's this?

James played a lot of minutes on a terrible team and wasn't very good. They shopped him around. No one was interested in relinquishing anyone or anything. He might get picked up at some point.

Posted by: Steve Goff | February 17, 2011 1:49 PM

I'm generally grateful for Goff's work covering the sport. I'm annoyed by the derision he aims at the WPS -- although, at this point, I have to admit it is probably appropriate. But, he covers a sport that few care about and does a decent job of it.

Even with that in mind, the above is inexcusable.

Set aside for a moment that it is, as an objective and empirical matter, wrong to state that James "wasn't very good." The tone of the post is not just dismissive and disrespectful, it reflects a willingness to be complicit in a hatchet job from the front office and/or the coaching staff on a decent person. Reporting that United shopped him around and no one is interested doesn't mean that James "wasn't very good," it may just mean that some within the organization had been effective in trashing him and that it was unlikely that he would be on the roster at the beginning of the season.

Nothing that James did in a D.C. United shirt merited this classless of a summation of his value as a professional soccer player. Reporters are certainly entitled to have their opinions and express them. And reporters will frequently make judgments that are wrong or write things that are lazy. No big deal. But as much as one can, a reporter ought to avoid being flippant and cynical -- if that is what you are reduced to, you ought to find a new line of work; something, perhaps, that is not beneath you.

Craig Stouffer's description of a "good soldier" fits a bit better with what D.C. United supporters saw from James over the last year and a half. Same with Martin Shatzer's recollection of James' tenure:

James was by most accounts the best defender on United’s roster last season. This very community even voted him for the Popie Award by a wide margin. He plays central defender the way a defender should: strong, fast, consistent, quick-thinking.

Also befitting of James' time with United is the general twitterverse's response to the news, which broadly consists of expressions of surprise, disappointment, and appreciation for the time Julius spent with fans around here.

Nevertheless, he's gone and it's a shame. Nothing is going to reverse the fact that James is no longer part of the club, but I do hope that some attention will be paid to the stunningly unprofessional manner with which some in the club appear to have attacked James through an ingenuous beat reporter.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


It is unlikely that there is a better sporting event value in the D.C. metro area than the annual Maryland - Duke women's basketball game. Maryland's hatred for Duke often manifests itself in ugly and troubling ways, which is one of the principal reasons that it is difficult to fully become a fan of the Terrapins athletics program. But the women's basketball match is where it actually seems like there might be a respectful rivalry between the two schools.

Tonight, we sat behind a family of Duke fans fully decked out in Blue Devils gear. While they enjoyed the first few minutes of the game, the rest of it was fairly miserable -- not because Maryland fans hassled them; surrounding fans didn't even tease them. And they were not alone as a number of other people showed up in Duke colors. At Duke-Maryland soccer games at Ludwig, little kids wearing Duke logos get chased down and harassed by students. Since few students show up for women's basketball games, this isn't an issue.

The marketing arm of the athletics program offered us additional tickets to encourage fans to bring out more people to see the women's team. And it is a great showcase. We were able to get some friends to come out to the game and the environment was fantastic. We were not, I am certain, the only people that spent some time after the game heralding the $145 family of four season ticket package offered by the school.

I spent the much of the second half chasing children around Comcast, but what I was able to see was impressive. Bouncing back from two tough losses at Miami and at home to Virginia, Brenda Frese's young squad blistered Duke's more experienced team. At first, Maryland's players made a series of poor decisions and routinely turned over the ball, falling behind early. But in short order, the tables were turned and the Terps ended up forcing 20 turnovers.

Maryland has one more home game -- against Virginia Tech next Thursday night -- and then Comcast will host first and second round games in the NCAA Women's tournament. Reserved seats for the games are $30, which is a ridiculously inexpensive way to see three good college basketball games.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dropping Like Flies

I took a late lunch today and dropped by the Elephant and Castle to watch the Barcelona-Arsenal Champions League tie. I walked out of the restaurant two hours later elated -- it was a game I plan on trying to watch with my daughter again this weekend, just to try and give her a sense of why I love the game.

Although it is a pale vestige of today's spectacle at Emirates, the match got me excited for the seasons of local soccer to come. I finalized an expansion of our season tickets to DC United so that our toddler would have her own seat. I tried to figure out how to increase my support for Real Maryland FC for its inaugural season in the PDL (while, at the same time, getting a little excited about the prospect of seeing Julia Arjona and others at Richard Montgomery). And I am trying to temper my expectations of what seems to be another strong recruiting class for Coach Cirovski -- including three products from the NY Red Bull Academy and U-17 phenom Alex Shinsky.

But that will likely be the extent of our opportunities to follow the sport in the region. Freed of his contract by the collapse of Crystal Palace Baltimore, the gem of the squad, Korey Veeder, has now joined the Columbus Crew for the upcoming MLS season. Howard County's Maryland Red Devils, which had played their inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League (4th Division) last year were not amongst the teams announced today by the NPSL as populating the league in 2011. The club has announced that:

The TSC MD Red Devils be sitting out for the 2011 season and are planning to be back in 2012.

And so much for my hopes of taking my daughter to see women's professional soccer. Our Game Magazine confirms what everyone who is not an idiot could have foreseen (I, being an idiot, did not) -- Washington Freedom is no more and the team will be playing all of its home games in Boca Raton this season. I hope that Dan Borislow is able to make his vision work down there, because the women's professional game is going to need a lot of help to survive, but it is a shame that the WPS will proceed without a DC-area presence this year.

What does that leave? It is now absolutely imperative to support those teams that are here -- DC United, Real Maryland, and the Northern Virginia Royals. United's signing of Charlie Davies makes the team immediately more interesting. The folks at Real Maryland are doing a great deal to try and make the club relevant to the local soccer scene. Whether the club will be able to draw people and get support remains to be seen, but they are trying. Whether I can convince anyone to trek out with me to Manassas also remains to be seen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


While watching the USL2 championship game on FSC between the Charleston Battery and the Richmond Kickers last August, I was struck by the same thing that stuck out to me when the Battery and Kickers visited Real Maryland: I enjoy watching Tiyi Shipalane and Mike Zaher play and will root for both wherever they end up because of their short time on DC United.

I was also impressed with Lamar Neagle's work up top for Charleston -- that Neagle would eventually end up at IFK Mariehamn alongside Mason Trafford and Joe Funicello was a pleasant surprise.

Now, a fourth former USL alum is vying for a spot on the Finnish club as Mike Zaher is on trial with Mariehamn.

In all the time we watched Zaher try to break into United's lineup or attempt to take seriously playing ball on a high school football field in Rockville, I had not realized his singular claim to fame as the jerk to JoJo's heroine in Too Little, Too Late. But nothing gets past the Aland Islands press.

The prospect of a Zaher/Trafford/Funicello/Wicks defense for Mariehamn is intriguing for us because we've been able to see each of them play -- in difficult circumstances -- and each (to us) truly deserves a shot at demonstrating that MLS clubs messed up by failing to appreciate their abilities.

Monday, February 7, 2011


On the way out of Comcast Sunday, I asked my daughter what her favorite part of the game was (she is an avid Dora fan). She said: "When the players got in trouble." We asked her what she was talking about and she said "When there was a timeout on the floor."

My favorite part was having her sit next to me -- for the second day in a row -- while watching a basketball game.

I do not take lightly the privilege afforded by close proximity to an elite women's college basketball program. I am treated to great basketball and my daughter gets to see women playing at the highest level cheered on by thousands of enthusiastic fans.

It helps that this unique state of affairs appears to be fully appreciated by the program's participants. Coach Brenda Frese's contribution to the celebration of the National Girls and Women in Sports Day emphasized the resources made available to student athletes seeking to be the very best at what they do. And for those women that take advantage of what the school offers and can fully harness their talents -- well, that leads to some pretty remarkable things. As Coach Frese marvels:

One of the most incredible things I’ve watched in my time here at Maryland is how young women can grow into incredible role models and heroes that transcend gender. I’ll never forget being at a wedding reception and watching little boys and girls pretend they were some of our more prominent players. I’ve seen people of all ages wearing the jerseys of our players in the stands. And I’ve had people stop me in the street to tell me a story about where they were and what they were doing when one of our players or teams had an incredible moment. Each time, it crosses my mind that these are young women that are inspiring all sorts of folks.

As Maryland steamrolled the Wolfpack with a 67 to 26 run, our two year-old wandered into the team store and picked up a basketball jersey that she wore for the rest of the day.

I don't care whether she'll ever actually want to play basketball or if she ever will want to be an athlete. But there is something pretty cool about having her female role models extended beyond Disney characters.

One of the books in regular rotation at bedtime is Jane Yolen's Not All Princesses Dress in Pink. It is a neat little book and something that our daughter took to immediately. For her, there is no conflict between wearing frilly dresses and playing soccer with the neighborhood toddler boys. Football helmets go perfectly with tutus. And we can watch Sleeping Beauty while she wears her Terps basketball jersey. Long may it continue.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hoop Dream

Saturday began with a surprisingly entertaining ESPN broadcast of the Sunderland - Stoke City tie and was followed by reports of Charlton Athletic's maintenance of Chris Powell's perfect record (three wins in three fixtures) and household-favorite Gregory Tade's brace that gave Raith Rovers another three points.

And, yet, most of my thoughts today have focused on a sport other than soccer. I am tapping this out while watching the remarkably entertaining first half between my Chicago Bulls and the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls play like a finely-tuned machine; for whatever reason -- and I would imagine that it is a confluence of many different things going right -- everything has clicked and their current form has to put them in the top four in the NBA.

But the appointment television of Chicago Bulls game, tonight, follows the privilege of having seen Marshon Brooks' ridiculous performance at the Verizon Center this afternoon.

My daughter joined me for the game and, consequently, my attention was not always on what was happening on the floor. Nevertheless, even distracted, it was impossible not to notice what Brooks was doing. Throughout the first half, it seemed a novelty. At halftime, the friend that had given us the tickets and I reminisced about Quincy Douby. Douby's final game against the Hoyas in DC a little less than five years ago -- where he dropped in 29 of the Scarlet Knights' 50 -- left an impression.

As it turned out, another Douby -- Brooks comparison would have been more apt. Three weeks before his last trip to Verizon, Douby went to the Carrier Dome and nearly carried Rutgers to an upset victory in overtime. Douby accounted for 41 of Rutgers' 84 points, but a Terrence Roberts' three at the death negated Quincy's ridiculous effort.

This afternoon, Brooks' 43 (of Providence's 81) put the Friars in a position to win a game that, by rights, they had no business contesting. I think I get what JTIII was trying to do by shutting down everyone else not named Marshon, but the strategy seemed to backfire when the game came down to a single shot on two separate occasions. Both times, Chris Wright did enough to disrupt (and perhaps foul) Mr. Brooks to deny the storybook ending.

Years of watching Big East basketball mean that performances like Brooks' today are particularly savored. He managed to keep all of us on the edge of our seat -- including my two-year old. Thoroughly entertaining. It's nice to love basketball again.