TRAVEL BLOG, GAME 1: ATLANTA
ATLANTA – Between the third and fourth quarters of the Clippers’ 107-97 loss to the Hawks, 500 stuffed plush dogs attached to white parachutes were slowing descending from the rafters.
Pigs may not fly, but apparently canines do.
It was part of a promotion called Lucky Dog that happens every Wednesday at Hawks games and sort of served as a euphemism for the first stop on the Clippers’ seven-game December road trip. The rain, the plane rides, the 3-pointers allowed.
The team stayed in Atlanta for three days, two nights. The idea was to help assimilate to the Eastern Time Zone, which frankly the Clippers will be spending too many hours over the next two weeks. They arrived in the prime time hours of Monday evening, in plenty of time to catch Monday Night Football between the Saints and Seahawks and the Hawks-Spurs game. There are plenty of places to watch sports on TV in Midtown where the Clippers stayed, but the weather not willing to accommodate it was not ideal walking conditions.
A day later, when it was still rainy and windy and the golden leaves were soggy and stuck to the sidewalk, someone at NBA TV joked that Jamal Crawford brought the rain with him from Seattle. Maybe he did. Crawford, the player Steve Smith nicknamed the “Dance Instructor,” does have a way of conjuring rain with his high arcing 3-point shot. So, you never know. Maybe his arrival in the town he spent two of his best seasons as a pro was the “Rain Dance.”
Either way, the weather changed from wet to brisk and sunny on game day. It was easy to walk from the hotel to the Georgia Tech campus where the team held shootaround Wednesday morning. The campus itself sprawls on the opposite side of I-85/75 from downtown. The basketball facility is even closer. McCamish Pavilion, Tech’s home gym, is across the street from the NBA TV studios and on the back end of the arena is Zelnak Center where the Yellow Jackets practice.
The Clippers worked out there, too. The building is newly constructed and has pictures and jerseys around the interior, honoring Georgia Tech’s numerous NBA players from Kenny Anderson to Chris Bosh.
Speaking of images honoring former players, Doc Rivers, who like Crawford played for the Hawks, had plenty of those inside Atlanta’s arena. There was a shot in the media room with Rivers and Dominique Wilkins with newspaper headlines from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in bold font behind them. And in the hallway, coincidentally immediately outside of the Clippers’ locker room, was a photo honoring Rivers’ 15 assists in the first half against the Celtics in the Playoffs on May 16, 1988.
Shootaround on Wednesday was brief and the team had plenty opportunity to eat lunch (my choice was South City Kitchen) and rest before traveling to Philips Arena in the late afternoon/early evening before a 7:30 p.m. start locally.
There are normally two buses to the arena from the hotel. One of them on Wednesday had a hat rack inside next to the driver with ball caps for each of the 30 NBA teams. Of course, the driver was wearing a Clippers cap on Wednesday.
As the team heads to Memphis for the second half of their back-to-back (one of two on the trip), something tells me the bus driver there won’t be wearing one.