“Kaminsky with the dunk. Cox with the assist, now flirting with his fourth triple double of the young season!”
Of course, by the time Jack is ready to don the purple and teal, Kaminsky will be a grizzled veteran. Right now, “The Tank” is a 22-year-old rookie out of Wisconsin, and, at this very moment, he is standing about 15 feet away in the tunnel leading back to the locker room, where he is patiently signing autographs for a cluster of fans leaning over the railing. He signs T-shirts, programs, caps, and whatever else fans give him.
I ask Jack if he wants to join the fray, but he declines. I guess there is some kind of “code” or something about getting an autograph from a player you might one day have as a teammate. So we settle back in our seats and watch Hornet guards Kemba Walker and PJ Hairston swish one long-range jumper after another as a couple of assistants pass basketballs to them as fast as they can catch and shoot them.
“They never miss,” Jack says. “Kemba is en fuego.”
Kemba Walker is one of the NBA’s quickest players. He can get from the top of the key to the basket in about half a second, leaving his defender wondering what happened.
“That’s because of his crossover dribble,” Jack explains. “He’s unstoppable. We still have about 15 minutes before the game starts. Can we get some Dippin’ Dots?”
As we make our way to the Dippin’ Dots, we move through a swarm of fans wearing Hornets jerseys and tee shirts, as well as several members of the Hornets dance team, the rather conspicuous Honey Bees. Fans are lined up in different lines throughout the concession area to get their pictures made with members of the Honey Bees.
“Dippin’ Dots,” I say, when Jack pauses a moment too long to look. “Keep on moving toward the Dippin’ Dots, buster.”
“Dad, can I use my Christmas money to get a Frank “The Tank” jersey?” he wants to know. Last year, he was all about Big Al Jefferson, but this season, Big Al has been out for a spell with an injury, and the 7’0” rookie has stolen his heart.
“Frank can swish it from outside,” he informs me. “So can Nic Batum. So can Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb, both Jeremys. I will need to be able to shoot threes before I can be a Hornet.”
“Just remember what I told you,” I said, while we are waiting in line for the Dippin’ Dots.
“I know, I know,” Jack says, rolling his eyes. “I’ve got to make my free throws. You’ve told me that about 10,000 times.”
“If you want to be a Hornet,” I said.
When we get back to our seats, the teams are about to take the floor. We see Dell Curry, the former Hornet great and current broadcaster, jog across the floor. Dell is one of the best shooters in team history, but he is more famous these days for being the father of Stephen Curry, who just might be the best shooter in the history of the game.
When we play Xbox at home, Curry’s team and reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, are one of the only teams that can give the Hornets a run for their money. In the driveway, when we are playing one-on-one and I am Curry and Jack is Kemba or Frank “The Tank,” it is no contest. He fakes left, drives right, and nails a leaning one-hander. I lose again.
Although the Clippers get off to a quick start in tonight’s game, the Hornets battle back again and again until Los Angeles finally pulls away late in the fourth quarter. Jack is not so much disappointed as he is philosophical and pragmatic.
“Well, J.J. Redick was en fuego tonight,” he says. “When MKG (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) comes back, he’ll put a stop to that. And we didn’t have Big Al or Jeremy Lin. The Clippers were actually pretty lucky.”
On the way out, we stop off and grab one of those Kaminsky jerseys, which Jack promptly pulls on over his T-shirt.
“What do you think?” he says.
“I think they could have used you out there tonight,” I said. “Redick wouldn’t have had a chance.”
“Dad, if I get drafted by the Hornets, do you think you’ll come down and watch the games?”
“Of course,” I say, as we drift out with the crowd into the cool Charlotte night. “But can we get you through the fifth grade first? Even Kobe Bryant and LeBron James didn’t play in the NBA until they were through with high school.”
“OK, OK,” he sighed. “I’m just excited to have a plan. We’ll tell Mom about it on the way back home.”