However, the game at Dallas last night was encouraging for a few, specific, reasons. First, do you hear that sound? It's the Chukwuemeka. Beware the Chukwuemeka.
Emeka Okafor put up another huge night, but the Bobcats couldn't put the game away in crunch time, wasting his 27 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He's been a little up and down recently, depending on the quality of the opposition, but with a renewed focus on his offense, just a little kick to the inside game and a lot of practice on the midrange game, he's become someone opponents have to acknowledge. Even if it's out of necessity, it's a welcome development as long as it doesn't take away from his defense.
I'll keep saying this until I'm blue in the face: Emeka Okafor is an excellent NBA player. If you think his offense "sucks", you're wrong, since he gets offensive rebounds and his scoring is actually right in the middle of the league's starting centers, right now between Rasheed Wallace and Andrew Bogut, guys with much better offensive reputations than Okafor. The only centers ahead of him in both rebounds and points are Dwight Howard and Andris Biedrins. Even his most ardent haters have to concede he's a top seven or eight defensive center (while most would have him easily top five with Camby and Howard the only obvious ones better). Where does that leave him? He's, at worst, a slightly above average big man, and at best he's an elite defender who brings better than average offense, a borderline All Star in the mix with Ilgauskas, Bogut, Sheed, and in a year or two Horford, for the East's second center spot after Howard.
As for the big black hole of suck this night, it was, unfortunately, DJ Augustin. He was 3-16 from the field, and 10 assists simply don't make up for the cluster of lost possessions coming directly from his missed shots and his complete inability to defend anyone other than JJ Barea. My Damon Stoudamire prediction still stands.
Spent the evening at the Watch Party at Cans in Uptown. As always, Rufus proved that he's in the conversation for best mascot in pro sports, along with the Oakland Athletics' Stomper.
I'm afraid there weren't many other people there for it, as this is apparently the third one they've held and they're not advertising it at games or on the web site. I mean, they're giving away downstairs tickets, people. If you're gonna go out to hang with friends, you may as well go somewhere they're gonna give you NBA tickets, right?