Comedian and improv-theater founder Chris Trew is a New Orleans Pelicans superfan who has a single season ticket directly behind the visitors’ bench inside New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, where he often heckles the opposing team’s players and coaches. He will be documenting some of his interactions with players and coaches here for us in a regular column called, Behind the Bench. You can follow his in-game interactions live on Twitter at @Trew2theGame. The Pelicans’ opponent in this column: the Denver Nuggets, who visited the Smoothie King Center on Nov. 17.
The Denver Nuggets are not flashy. They don’t jump out of their seats on an and-1 basket, and they barely fraternize during the game. Team spirit was severely lacking until the game was completely out of hand with a few minutes to go, when it was safe to show enthusiasm. Here are some notes I made about the team during the course of the game.
— Near the end of the first quarter, Mike Miller was sent into the game by coach Mike Malone. While the 12-minute mark passed before the Florida alum was able to check in, he didn’t let that get him down. He returned to the bench with a big grin on his face, pestering his teammates with “How did I do?!” questions. Their reactions — which were half-assed chuckles from a few, blank stares from most — told me that Miller has definitely made this joke before.
— The last time Jameer Nelson played basketball in New Orleans it was for the Dallas Mavericks. Our interactions were playful enough that he followed me on Twitter later that day. At our reunion last night, Jameer approached me wanting to know if he was safe from my wrath. He was. However, the Pelicans were spared from his wrath as Nelson sliced us up pretty good in the 4th.
— Mountain Dew paid for lots of time on the big screen throughout the game and the first time that logo appeared, Nuggets assistant coach Ryan Bowen elbowed the coach sitting to his left and said “look at that Mountain Dew.” This happened a few more times throughout the night. I was never able to ask what the interest was in the soda sponsorship. Maybe Ryan Bowen just really likes Mountain Dew.
— If I had to choose one member of an NBA coaching staff to join me for a road trip it would be Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess. When the Smoothie King Center stats intern hands the coaching staff the box score from each quarter, Hess hands one back to me without making eye contact. He’s also overheard me talking about my personal life and at one point turned around to speak to me, bringing up specific points from my personal life conversation. He does these things because he’s a nice guy, sure, but he’s also playing his piece in this chess game between the Denver Nuggets bench and myself. He’s trying to endear himself and the team to me so I’ll go easy on them. At one point, he engaged me in conversation in between shouting at Ryan Anderson just as his free throw was released from his hands, something most coaches don’t bother doing. Ryan’s free throw clanked off the rim, and Steve fist-pounded a fellow assistant for his tactical victory.
— The main event for the evening was Kenneth Faried, who got into foul trouble in this one. As he made his way to the bench after he was whistled for his fifth, I held up five fingers to playfully taunt him a bit. In response, Kenneth barked back at me, “I make more money than you do!”which, while true, was an out-of-context response. Those types of responses, I have learned, are big indicators that you’ve gained admission into a player’s head. It’s just like when a fan telling a player “you suck” (or some variation of it), or saying “keep riding the bench” to a player who’s on the bench in that particular moment. When you resort to these tactics, you have lost.
When the game was over I made sure to politely acknowledge the Nuggets’ win to Kenneth and his “I told you so” response just reinforced to me that while the Nuggets bested my Pelicans on the court that night, Kenneth Faried absolutely succumbed to that guy behind the bench.