Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Lightning Strikes Twice

Remember over the summer when I described the pick-up basketball game at the JCC where I shared a court with a former Wildcat and fed another ex-college hoopster for a dunk? At the time I was sure that would never happen again. But yesterday afternoon, to my great surprise, it did. After a few two-on-two games featuring my usual interludors, the brothers whose family runs the restaurant Gandhi on Fort Lowell and who wait tables there from time to time, we found ourselves in a three-on-three contest with people who were fast, tall, and good.

Luckily, they were on my team. We outclassed our opponent, despite the mad three-point skills of the Gandhi brothers, and leapt to a huge lead. Actually, I shouldn't write "we" without using quotation marks, since I was the weak link on our team. At any rate, during a broken play, when everyone seemed confused about where to be, I got the ball to one of my two hop-happy teammates, who drove the lane and slammed the ball home with ease. Pretty breathtaking, all in all.

Once the "Gandhi guys," as Kim and I refer to them, had called it quits, I ended up in an even more intense game in which I was the only person with more than 3% body fat -- I did my best to supplement everyone else's lack -- and had to run myself to exhaustion defending a muscular, if somewhat short, guy who insisted on running the baseline. I got some rebounds, had several nice assists, and had one sweet drive to the basket culminating in my sole "move" of consequence, an underhanded reverse layup on the left side of the basket in which I put my table tennis-derived experience at applying spin to good use. For the most part, though, I was lame. I missed numerous shots that I typically make and passed the ball too quickly out of my hands, panicking the way I did a decade ago instead of letting the action reconfigure itself around me like Tim Duncan always remembers to do.

Like that game from the summer, I also struggled with what is usually my strong point: setting screens. The people I play with all the time know how I roll -- or not -- after setting a pick. But my new teammates yesterday were perplexed. Worse still, I ran into that macho, "I don't need your fucking screen, loser-boy" attitude on a number of occasions. That's the one where I set the pick, obviously, but with feeling-- I've come to realize that players are more likely to use a screen they recognize as such, even if it's not subtle -- and make myself into a brick wall for my teammate's defender to run into. I'm not good at that much on a basketball court, but screening is my specialty.

Today, however, I saw pick after pick waved off or, more depressingly, scowled off. Considering that my teammate's defender was intent on using all his weight-room lower-body strength against me, meaning that I was actually forced to cede some ground from time to time, this rejection of my gift hurt my feelings. I mean, I know that there's something a little old-school and unsexy about using a screen from an overweight, balding eccentric wearing an Einstürzende Neubauten T-shirt to get open for a jumper or a headlong assault on the basket, but that doesn't mean it's bad. The recently retired Karl Malone had no compunction about setting screens for John Stockton or using the much smaller Stockton's screens himself. Of course, it could be that my teammate didn't want me to set a pick because I had already proved myself incapable of scoring consistently off the ensuing roll. Now that's a really vexing thought.

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