Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mile High

The Denver Nuggets couldn't escape the cold Rocky Mountain air, as they paid their annual visit to a cold, and rainy, Washington, DC, to take on the 15-37 Wizards on Friday night at the Verizon Center. The Nuggets were coming off a 97-90 win in Boston on Tuesday night, and were looking to build some momentum in the Western Conference playoff race with a victory in the nation's capital.

Meanwhile, the Wizards were coming off a 96-88 loss to Toronto on Tuesday. Washington was active at Thursday's trade deadline, shipping Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the expiring contract of Brazilian combo guard Leandro Barbosa, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The Wizards also received veteran center Jason Collins, who has only been averaging a mere ten minutes per game this season.

I was able to enter the arena a few minutes before five o' clock, and made my way down to court-side for a couple pregame photos. It wasn't too long before I was joined by my supervisor. Apparently, he was under fire by corporate headquarters, because his group of photographers wasn't meeting the quota for  number of pictures during Capitals games. So, after explaining to me how much his ass was in trouble for not getting enough photos out of his workers, we proceeded to watch some of the Denver Nuggets get their pregame workouts. At one point, Quincy Miller, a rookie forward out of Baylor had spilled his Gatorade, much to the amusement of my supervisor, who immediately called out, "We saw that!" Miller laughed, and said something slightly muddled in heavy breathing. In all my time working as a fan photographer, it was one of the few times I had any direct correspondence with an NBA player, even if it was my supervisor who had initiated the conversation.

Nuggets center Kosta Koufos was born in Canton, OH, but has represented Greece internationally.
Nuggets forwards Quincy Miller, left, and Jordan Hamilton, right, warm up before Friday night's game against the Wizards
Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, is averaging a meager 2.9 points in 10 minutes per game this season in Denver.
My supervisor was eager for me to get started on the job tonight, in order to compensate for a poor performance at the Capitals game on Thursday. After picking up my camera for work, I embarked on a quest to get at least 400 photos for the night. During pregame warmups, I overheard that a group of people representing the Italian embassy would be sticking around after the game for a meet-and-greet with Danilo Gallinari, the sharpshooting Italian forward for the Denver Nuggets.

I was able to get over 150 photos before the game started, and ended up setting a personal record of 513 pictures on the night. My supervisor was very pleased that both me, and another photographer, had eclipsed the 500 mark, so I took off a little early to catch the end of what turned out to be a 119-113 victory for the home team. The Wizards had led by 18 at the start of the 4th quarter, but weathered a late Denver run to hold on for the win, thanks to doubles-doubles from both Emeka Okafor, who had 17 points to go along with 13 rebounds, and Bradley Beal, who also scored 17 points and hauled in 12 boards.

Wizards forward Trevor Ariza is defended by Nuggets guard Andre Miller
Kenneth Faried, nicknamed the "Manimal," has quickly become known for his tenacious defending and rebounding, in still only his second year in the NBA.
Wizards guards John Wall, left, and Martell Webster, right, share a light moment towards the end of the game.
Nuggets swing-man Andre Iguodala has averaged 13.2 points per game in his first full season in Denver.
Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, a native of Clinton, MD, has averaged a spectacular 16 points and 7 assists so far this season.
A native of Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Italy, Danilo Gallinari has averaged 17.3 and 5.5 rebounds per game in his 2012-13 campaign with the Nuggets.
Denver was led by Clinton, MD native Ty Lawson with 27 points and 12 assists. Wilson Chandler contributed 22 points off the bench in defeat.

After the game, Gallinari visited with the conglomerate representing the Italian embassy. I wasn't really supposed to be there. In fact, I should've had a ticket for the event. But, I was able to blend in with the crowd get a chance to witness this meet-and-greet, which really turned out to be pretty unspectacular. "Gallo" emerged from the locker room to greet some of his most adoring fans, fully showered, sporting a black jacket, and his trademark gelled-up hair. He didn't say too much. Instead, he signed some autographs, and took a few pictures. This was work for him. I think it would've been a little cooler to have a more candid, non-superficial conversation with the Nuggets' star, but then again, I don't know if Danilo and I would really have anything much to talk out.

"Gallo" stuck around after the game to mingle with some admirers from the Italian embassy in Washington, D.C.