Saturday, February 9, 2013

Year Of The Snake

After downing the New York Knicks by a score of 106-96 on Wednesday, the Washington Wizards hosted the other New York basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets, on Friday night at the Verizon Center. On their last visit to D.C., the Nets narrowly escaped with a 115-113 double overtime win, capped by a Joe Johnson jumper with 0.7 seconds left to play.

The Nets rely on forward Reggie Evans for his rebounding and defensive tenacity.
 Nets center Brook Lopez will be making his first all-star game appearance this year in Houston, replacing injured Celtics guard Rajon Rondo on the Eastern Conference squad.
Nets star point guard Deron Williams is averaging 16.8 points and 7.7 assists per game this season.
The Nets are hoping their nucleus of Williams, Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace can make them legitimate title contenders.
Nets rookie guard Tyshawn Taylor grew up in Hoboken, NJ, not far from Brooklyn, and even closer to the Nets' former home at the Meadowlands.
Nets rookie forward Mirza Teletovic, a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, takes time to sign a jersey for a young admirer.

It was a festive night at the Verizon Center. The Wizards were hosting their Chinese New Year celebration, and the arena was decked out in all the related decorations. There was even a parade featuring dancers dressed up as Chinese New Year's characters. Apparently, 2013 is the year of the snake. I was so interested in the parade circling around the concourse, that I ended my photography of the Brooklyn Nets warmups early just to go take a look at the festivities.

The NBA provided the Wizards with this on-court decal in celebration of Chinese New Year.

 Once I actually started work for the evening, some of my first subjects were people who were still in, or had just changed out of their costumes for the pregame celebrations. There was loud drumming as a part of the parade that could be heard all around the arena, which added an almost hypnotic soundtrack for pregame fan photography.

Costumed dancers parade around the Verizon Center concourse, as part of the Wizards' Chinese New Year celebration
This man on the left, who had performed in the pregame parade, poses for a picture with his traditional Chinese New Year costume.

It was an eclectic group of fans on hand tonight. There were a sizable number of Chinese-Americans present to take part in the New Year's celebrations, including the Coordination Council of Chinese American Associations.

There were also a considerable number of fans representing both teams. The contingent of Brooklyn fans was not as substantial as that of the Knicks, but there were still a fair number of people decked out in black and white Nets gear. There were still more Wizards fans than there were Nets fans, though, which was not the case on Wednesday night when the Knicks were in town.

It wasn't until during the game that I realized I was no longer permitted to enter one of the areas in the arena that I usually pass through several times over the course of the night. The Acela Club level restaurant was now off-limits to fan photographers. My supervisor had informed me of this just before I was about to make my rounds on the second floor. Apparently, some of the season ticket holders had complained to the ushers that the fan photographers were a distraction to the dining experience. I couldn't help but shake my head and laugh. I mean, its a basketball game. Quite frankly, I have very little clue as to why one would desire, or even try to attain an intimate dining ambiance at a sporting event, surrounded by thousands of other people.

I was able to take most of my pictures on the first floor, which was ground zero for the New Year's celebrations, but took a couple of excursions to the upper levels. Fans were pretty laid back tonight, and were more than willing to get their picture taken. That may have been because it was a definitively festive Friday night, or it may have been due to the fact that the home team was hauling some serious ass against the boys from Brooklyn.

When I finally stopped working, I watched the final 2 minutes of what turned out to be a blowout 89-74 win in favor of the Wizards. Bradley Beal, who made his return to the lineup tonight after being out with a sore right wrist, ignited Washington to victory with 24 points, while Jordan Crawford chipped in 23 off the bench.

Sophomore Slump? In his second year in the league, Nets swing man Marshon Brooks is averaging 7 points and 18 minutes less per game than in his rookie year.

Marshon Brooks, right, is greeted by Brook Lopez, left, as he leaves the court and heads back for the locker room.
No worries: Nets center Andray Blatche was all smiles after the game, despite Brooklyn's 15 point loss to his former team.
The Nets were led by Brook Lopez, tallying 27 points and 13 rebounds, along with Deron Williams, who contributed 24 points and 10 assists in what was Brooklyn's 21st loss of the season.