A shot of bourbon chased with a mug of Molson. The Toronto Raptors bridge East and West. Or, more precisely, South and North. The NBA team unites Kentucky and Canada.
The Raptors' coach is Dwane Casey, former UK player and assistant coach. Two of his players are former Cats Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes.
Casey has another former UK standout, Jamaal Magloire, as the team's player development coach.
So far, it's one big happy UK reunion for the Raptors, who led the NBA's lowly Atlantis, er, Atlantic Division going into this weekend.
"Chugging away at it," Casey said last week. Now in his third season as coach, he sounded content with the progress his team has made.
The roles played by former Kentucky players suggest the importance of growing as a player after college.
Patterson, who spent three UK seasons trying to expand his offensive game beyond the low post, is a "stretch four" whose perimeter shot commands respect, Casey said.
"High level of energy," Casey said. "He's giving us a shot in the arm."
Hayes, who is in the autumn of his NBA career, provides veteran know-how.
"Highest basketball IQ on our team," Casey said.
Magloire tutors Toronto's big men.
"Jamaal stands for everything I'm trying to develop here," Casey said. That might sound like a head scratcher for those who recall Magloire's reign of error. Multiple technical fouls, capped by a head-butt of an opponent, marred his otherwise standout play. Now, he is Casey's trusted aide.
Magloire instills toughness, physical presence and other big man necessities for Toronto's power players.
Now as then, Magloire places importance on being an enforcer.
"That's his mentality," said Casey, who remains grateful for having Magloire on his side. "Three years ago, he set the tone to help me sell our defensive program."
A recent telecast of a Toronto game against the Indiana Pacers produced a startling comment.
Quinn Buckner, who provides color commentary on the Pacers' TV network, noted that Casey was born in Indianapolis. Casey was 3 when his family moved to Morganfield.
Buckner then added that for all his Kentucky ties, Casey was really an "Indiana guy."
"Noooo," Casey said. "No. No. No. That's Quinn talking. I'm still a Kentucky guy through and through."
As they used to say in Baptist churches, there has been some backsliding.
John Adams, the national coordinator of officials, said that recently referees have not been as strict in calling fouls. The much-discussed "new rules" were designed to reduce physical play, thus increasing scoring and crowd-pleasing action.
"I thought we'd made significant progress on reducing the amount of illegal contact," he said. "In the last two weeks, I've seen us giving back some of the ground we've gained. By no means in all games, and by no means is it in every league."
But in some games ballhandlers have had to deal with more contact. As Adams suggested, league play suggests there should be more diligence, not less.
"Generally more intense than nonconference games," he said of league play. "More intense. More physical. More drama. The games are closer. A lot of ingredients that feed into how the game looks and how it's played."
Adams said he might remind referees and conference supervisors to call fouls when there is contact. Specifically, he said he'd seen more instances of defenders:
■ Using one or both hands to contain ballhandlers.
■ Using an arm bar to impede dribblers.
■ Continually jabbing at ballhandlers.
All are fouls.
"The rules don't say only when games are close or only in the first five minutes," Adams said. He noted that the final five to eight minutes of close games appear "much closer to the old-style, rock 'em-sock 'em basketball than to maintaining freedom of movement from the beginning of the game to the end."
Overall, Adams said he was pleased with how games have been officiated so far this season. Scoring has increased. There hasn't been a dramatic increase in fouls.
"The direction we're headed is good for the game," he said. "I've said this is about a two-year process. Roughly this time next year we will not be talking about new rules and the effect new rules have on the game."
Leftovers from Wednesday's public meeting on the proposed "re-invention" of Rupp Arena as a centerpiece to an entertainment district in downtown Lexington:
■ Vincent Swope (a junior majoring in business management and marketing) noted how the Rupp atmosphere would be greatly improved if UK students sat, say, in the first five or six rows all around the court. Michigan State does this with its so-called "Izzone."
Discussions on where students should sit continue between city leaders and UK officials.
Robert Mankin of NBBJ, the architects leading the redesign, said students provide a lot of "the energy of the game."
■ The fan experience has evolved.
It began with a quaint notion. "Sitting in seats and watching the game," Mankin said.
Now, it's become a "street to seat" event, the architect said. "Technology is almost as important as the game itself."
A re-imagined Rupp would have a large scoreboard that includes video boards over center court, an electronic ribbon board at the top of the lower arena, new sound and lighting systems.
■ A "Cat walk" separating Rupp Arena and the Hyatt. This walkway would resemble the fan experience beyond right field at Baltimore's Camden Yards.
■ An area called "Lincoln Square" along Main Street west of Triangle Park. Mankin said this could be a "more subdued" area that could be a setting for private events.
■ The main entrance facing a re-imagined Triangle Park.
■ A glass exterior over parts of Rupp Arena. Or as Mankin said, "Peeling away (the arena's) skin." Fans can see outside the arena, and, maybe more importantly, people outside can see activity inside.
"Even if you don't have a ticket, you can feel the pulse of the event," Mankin said.
■ Brighter color, lighting and graphics at the top of the upper arena. It's too dark up there.
The big question remained unanswered: How to pay for the redesign. Specific ideas should surface by the end of January.
On his radio show last week, John Calipari dusted off an old chestnut. The UK coach said that Darius Miller hardly played as a UK freshman for Billy Gillispie.
Then during tryouts for the new coach in the spring of 2009, Calipari became convinced he had a hidden gem in Miller.
We've been down this road many times. It could be that Calipari does not literally mean what he says. He's speaking of a larger figurative truth: at that early stage, he saw how Miller would blossom in the next few seasons.
But if you're a stickler for facts, Miller played quite a bit as a freshman. According to UK media guides, he averaged 21.2 minutes as a freshman for Gillispie, and the same 21.2 minutes as a sophomore for Calipari.
If you extend the long division a few more spaces to the right of the decimal point, Miller actually averaged more minutes for Gillispie in 2008-09 (21.222) than for Calipari in 2009-10 (21.158).
Awful 'P' word
Former UK sharpshooter Jim Master likened free-throw shooting to golf. Practice is one thing, but actual competition produces a new set of challenges.
"Lots of people can hit the ball in practice," he said of hitting golf balls at a range. "When you get in the game, there's pressure. The awful 'P' word: Pressure. Just like in golf, it's brutal."
UK fans can add to the anxiety, unwittingly. When a UK player misses a free throw, the crowd's sigh is audible.
"It doesn't help," Master said. "It's awful."
Kyle Macy, who along with Jodie Meeks holds the UK record for free-throw accuracy for a career, likened the crowd's reaction to fans waving their arms to try to distract a shooter.
"You're aware of it," he said. "But you don't pay any attention to it."
In the latest NCAA statistics, Kentucky ranked 264th nationally in free-throw accuracy (66.3 percent). Going into this weekend, that was better than four SEC teams: Florida (66.1), Mississippi State (64.7), Vandy (64.3) and Georgia (64.0).
After a loss at Notre Dame, Duke fell from No. 7 to No. 16 in The Associated Press top 25 poll. Duke had been in the top 10 for 122 straight weekly polls.
The record for consecutive weeks in the top 10 is 155: UCLA from 1966 to 1976.
The AP poll began in 1949.
There are sportswriting icons. Then there's Sid Hartman.
Hartman, 93, has been synonymous with Minnesota sports journalism for a half century or more. His many "close, personal friends" have included Bob Knight, George Mikan and just about everybody else who has passed through Minnesota with the home or visiting teams.
Hartman cleaned out his closets for an estate sale this weekend. The sale continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at 6900 Oxford Street in the Twin Cities' St. Louis Park. He was scheduled to sign autographs for those who make purchases for two hours on Saturday.
In addition to his column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Hartman also does a daily radio show. Knight joined a recent show.
Suits, shirts, pants and shoes are part of the estate sale. There will also be autographed copies of books he authored and bobblehead dolls.
Dana Arvidson, owner of Estate Sales Minnesota, told Twin Cities Business that estate sales usually take place when a family member has died or someone is moving into a smaller home or apartment. However, she said Hartman's sale is designed simply to unload his excess clothing and he isn't planning a move.
To Shagari Alleyne. He turns 30 on Tuesday. ... To Jay Shidler. He turns 56 on Wednesday. ... To Mike Scott. He turns 47 on Tuesday. ... To Terrence Jones. He turned 22 on Thursday.