TIME TO WAKE UP, SMELL THE DEFICIT

Rrriiinnng.

“Mmmphht … hullo?”

“Good morning, Mr. Ben Wallace. This is your 7 a.m. wake-up call.”

“I didn’t order any–“

“The weather today will be fine. Your game should only be as good. If you continue to score in single digits and miss countless free throws and persist in guarding Shaq but not really stopping him, by midnight storm clouds will arrive.”

“Hey, who is this?”

“Have a nice day.”

Rrriiinnng.

“Mzzpllpy … ‘ello?

“Good morning, Mr. Billups. This is your 7 a.m. wake-up call.”

“You gotta be kidding, m–“

“Don’t say it. We heard it Sunday. The refs didn’t call a foul despite your bloody nose and mouth. Tough break. But Mr. Billups, really, a technical? You? And fouling out? And missing all kinds of shots you usually make? You simply cannot go 6-for-19 in these playoff games, Mr. Billups. Do you want that Miami guard — whose name we shall not mention — to steal all the glory?”

“Hey, I’m just–“

“Please. Wake up and be who you are. Take over a game. Hit the big shots. By the way, breakfast is served until 11 a.m.”

“Who is thi–“

“Have a nice day.”

And now for the other Wallace

Rrriiinnng.

“Whozit?”

“Good morning, Mr. Rasheed Wallace. This is your wake-up call.”

“I don’t need a w–“

“Well, yes you do. It’s not enough to play half a game, Mr. Wallace. Not enough to have a highlight here or there. You are a dominant player. You need to be one all game long. Stop shooting those three-pointers and get in the middle and mix it up. Otherwise, that belt you carry will be wrapped around Shaquille O’Neal’s waist — even though on him it would be tight.”

“Now you listen–“

“By the way, housekeeping will come by in a few minutes. Try not to scream at them. They’re only doing their job.”

“Hey, who–“

“Have a nice day.”

Rrriiinnng.

“Yeah?”

“Good morning, Coach Brown. It’s your 7 a.m. wake-up call.”

“Gilbert? I told you not to call me here.”

“The weather today will be fine. Your reputation, however, is another story. If your team does not play tonight with the kind of defense it is known for, if you do not get your players to realize that Miami is not a wind-up toy that eventually runs out of batteries, if you can’t get them to concentrate on helping out, making sharp passes and keeping role players like Eddie Jones from getting 19 points — well, then, you will leave this team with a dark cloud over your head, which is a shame since you won one title and by our accounts, you should win two.”

“Hey. You’re not Gilbert–“

“And let’s lose all the extracurricular stuff, shall we, Coach? You have your hands full with this job, not the next one.

“By the way, the health club is open until midnight. A massage might do you good.”

“Is this that New York Times reporter–“

“Have a nice day.”

And this is for that TNT guy

Rrriiinnng.

“Mmphzz … this better be good.”

“Good morning, Mr. Charles Barkley. This is your wake-up call.”

“Is it noon already?”

“No, but it is time to smell the coffee. Stop telling people how easily Detroit will win this series. Stop telling them Detroit ‘almost’ won Game 2 despite Dwyane Wade’s 40 points. Stop saying that in Game 3, even when the Heat shot 58 percent in the first half, the Pistons were ‘only two points behind.’ Don’t you see how that feeds into complacency? Don’t you know the difference between being ‘close enough’ and actually winning? Didn’t you ever win a championship? … Oh, sorry, Mr. Barkley. We forgot.”

“Why, you &%$#*&*!!”

“Have a nice day.”

Rrriiinnng.

“Speak.”

“Good morning, Mr. Referee. This is your 7 a.m. wake-up call.”

“Thank y–“

“Not so fast. You may find a problem with your door this morning. We are checking it for maintenance. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get out of your room until 11 tonight. We regret any inconvenience. Sometimes, the breaks don’t go your way.”

“But there’s a game tonight!”

“Yes. A game. Unlike Sunday. Ninety-seven free throws isn’t a game, it’s a joke.”

“Hey, now, listen–“

“Have a nice day.”

Click.

“Ahrrgh. Work, work, work.”

“Mr. Davidson? Are you ready for breakfast, sir?”

“Yeah. Just one more call. What’s David Stern’s number?”

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com”

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