Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bullseye

One night after defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Wizards were back home for the second half of their back-to-back, squaring off with the 26-16 Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had been without their star point guard Derrick Rose since April 28th of 2012. Rose suffered a torn ACL in the team's first playoff game last season against the Philadelphia 76ers, and is not expected to return until after the all-star break.

Nevertheless, Chicago has been holding their own thanks to the contributions of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, who will both represent the Bulls as Eastern Conference all-star reserves in Houston. Kirk Hinrich, whom head coach Tom Thibodeau is very fond of, has done a solid job filling in for Rose as the team's starting point guard, averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds per game.

The Wizards had been on a tear recently, which sounds completely unbelievable given the way they started the season. Washington had won 6 out of their last 9 games coming into Saturday night, and were looking to capitalize on the opportunity to take down one of the better teams in the conference in front of a packed Verizon Center.

The Georgetown Hoyas had played earlier in the day in what was a tremendous 53-51 win over the No. 5 ranked Louisville Cardinals. Upon my arrival to the arena, it was clear that there was still some cleaning up and rearranging from that game in preparation for tonight's contest. As soon as the floor was done being mopped, and the press table was finished being set up, I noticed that a couple Chicago players began meandering onto the floor to get some pregame shooting practice. Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer, and Marquis Teague were the first players to make their way onto the floor.

Employees set up court-side seats at the Verizon Center two hours before the game
Mopping the hardwood
Setting up a fixture behind the basket

I had just started taking pictures from my comfortable, inconspicuous perch at the top of the lower bowl, when I looked to the right and saw my supervisor. I went over and showed him the camera I was using to take these somewhat covert photos I've been taking of players. Immediately, he noticed I had a zoom lens, but insisted I move closer to the court to get some quality close-up shots of some of the players. It was a weird situation at first, because suddenly my job and this blog were colliding in away that I never anticipated they would. Somehow, I felt like my cover was blown as an undercover photo journalist, but my supervisor is a great guy, and was very inviting of me to move closer to the court, so I could snap whatever photos I wanted to take.

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich has performed well as Chicago's starting point guard in the absence of Derrick Rose
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer
Bulls rookie guard Marquis Teague, younger brother of Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague

It wasn't until I was on my way upstairs, that I noticed Derrick Rose had made his way onto the court. I rushed back down to the court to get a couple pictures of the injured superstar. Somehow, this gave me a great deal of satisfaction, and made my efforts feel ten times more worth while. It's not often that I get chance to take closeup photos of the big name players, so it was a cool experience being able to photograph someone as high profile as Rose.

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is expected to return from a torn ACL after the all-star break.
The Bulls are hoping Rose's imminent return will make them title contenders.  

Once I had checked in for work, and picked up the Nikon I use for the job, I was informed that my main competition for the evening in terms of number of pictures taken would be absent, so I jumped at the idea of possibly setting a new Printroom record of 500 fan photos for one night. Between the time that hockey started back up, and the Wizards returned home from the West coast swing, the competition between this one fellow photographer and myself had become a little more intense. In the game against Minnesota, we even found each other chasing one another out of our respective designated zones, which become increasingly ambiguous as the night goes on. Of course, it's all in good nature, but the friendly competition has even forced my amused supervisor to look into placing bets with the photographers designated to upper level concourse shooting as to which one us on the lower level will finish with the most shots.

Later in the night, I was pleasantly surprised that my nemesis was not absent, and had only arrived late to the game, but I was able to jump out to an insurmountable advantage before he was even in the building. I had taken around 200 photos before the game even started, so I was well ahead of my fellow roving photographers throughout the night, and had the satisfaction of handily beating out my main source of competition. By the time the game had concluded, I had taken around 460 fan photos, coming up just short of a company record for one night.

The arena was pretty full. There were a ton of Bulls fans in the building, some from Chicago, and others simply Derrick Rose, or even Michael Jordan enthusiasts. Seeing all the Jordan and Scottie Pippen jerseys reminded me of my childhood days as a Knicks fan, in a bad away. Number 23 had broken our hearts, and dashed our championship hopes on numerous occasions. Still, Bulls fans were photogenic and amicable. I've finally moved on from my resentment of that franchise, partially because I like Derrick Rose, but also because I got the feeling from tonight that Bulls fans have pretty laid back dispositions, and are extremely knowledgeable basketball fans.
Bulls guard Nate Robinson dribbles up the floor








Nate Robinson looks for an open man
Wizards guard A.J. Price (12) checks into the game, replacing guard Bradley Beal (3)
At just 5'9", Nate Robinson has still managed to be a three-time NBA slam dunk champion
Wizards guard John Wall goes one-on-one with Bulls guard Marquis Teague
Bulls guard Daequan Cook, 2009  NBA three-point shootout champion 
Because, I had already taken so many pictures, I was able to watch the last 5 minutes of the game from a lower level corner to the left of the Bulls bench. The Wizards were up by a  considerable margine when I picked up the action, and went on to win 86-73 behind 16 points from Nene. Emeka Okafor added 15 points and 16 rebounds, while John Wall contributed 15 points and 7 assists, helping the Wizards to their 7th win in 10 games.


Nate Robinson was the only Bull to crack double digits, scoring 19 points off the bench in defeat.