Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lakers take 3-2 series lead

I spent the extended weekend camping at Pismo Beach,
so this blog will cover the last three Laker games.

It’s been 24 years since the Denver Nuggets last appearance in the Western Conference Finals. Thursday night constituted a moment in time that a young team could make history. They could snatch the confidence and aura that accompanies the Los Angeles Lakers, an organization that has been there more than any other team. On Saturday night Carmelo Anthony and friends could have shocked the world…but didn‘t.

Not on this day. The Lakers roared back from a two touchdown deficit to take a 2-1 lead in the best of seven match-up. I found it fitting that on Memorial Day weekend a veteran stepped up. A veteran whose age, agility and ability may sometimes come into question -but never his heart, effort or commitment.

He is a pros pro.

A professional.

A leader.

A player who made 0.4 an iconic number in Los Angeles…and infamous in San Antonio.

Sunday night saw that Derek Fisher show up.

After trailing for most of the game the Lakers woke up late due to a game time decision by Fish to rally the troops and remind them exactly what it was that was at stake. He gathered them close to block out the noise of the Denver crowd and let them know it was now or never. They had to send the Nuggs back into irrelevance, if only for a single game. Kobe, Pau and Lamar soaked it in and then exacted it on the floor, leaving behind beads of sweat on the hardwood and Kobe doubled over in exhaustion during the post game interview. His critics will point to such things as contrived, but what actions of his don’t they see that way? He may well be the single most critiqued player in history, spending his entire career under a microscope. We tend to forget he grew up before our eyes coming straight out of high school to the league as a 17 year old kid in 1996, the same draft class as the veteran Fisher, who played four years at his hometown college of Arkansas Little Rock.

The series wasn’t won or lost on that game but it would make it a much more imposing task than being down 2-1. Instead, Kobe and the four dwarves put things back where they should have been since dropping game two at home and with the Denver tonight, it’s back to being a push. It is now down to a three game series, but the Lakers have been down this road a millions times. This evening the home team played with more intensity, sense of purpose and urgency and came away with a win. It took a huge rebounding advantage, several elbows, Birdman flying all over the court, some intentional foot tripping by Dahntay Jones, some elbow locks by K-Mart, and a bevy of over-reactionary technicals and hard playoff basketball fouls being deemed flagrant.

The officiating crew seems to want to keep a lid on emotions yet fuel the flames of discontent with their inconsistent calls.

Denver’s flamboyant JR Smith provided scoring, energy and plenty of showboating for the Thuggets. He made it a point to savor the moment and enjoyed each and every one of his 24 points, and made sure to let the visiting Lakers know who’s house they were in…and when he made a three, he made sure anyone viewing knew it as well by extending three fingers and dancing his way back down the floor doing the crip walk and whooping it up….Maybe he thought this was game seven, but in reality it’s only 2-2 with lots of basketball to be played yet and visions of a hot-dog dancing in the heads of the Los Angeles players.

I can only hope L.A.’s coaching staff runs these clips on a continuous loop on the plane, at practice and again before tip-off on Wednesday to provide the spark that was missing in the Lakers step last night. If that won’t suffice, maybe audio of Thugget coach George Karl saying over and over to his players that they are the better team will. Another lethargic showing like this zebra induced snore fest (49 free throws for the Thuggz and 35 for L.A.) could bring about more Denver posturing and rap video antics…hell, we might even see a superbowl shuffle type clip from these clowns. I can hardly wait for that new JR Smith chicken dance craze.

Why he would want to draw the ire of a sleeping giant is beyond me, the bipolar Lakeshow was content just getting out rebounded, out hustled and out muscled, but if his act got me riled you can be sure the Lakers and staff took notice and intend to quiet the yapping mutt on Wednesday night.

The only way to do that is to win game five because if the Thuggets win in L.A. you might just get to see JR bust out his best T.O. performance at Staples Center….Maybe he’ll even get his own puppet and crash the LeBron/Kobe Howdy Doody commercials complete with three finger wagging, shouting about who’s house it is and some goofy dancing…maybe even some new ink to savor the moment.

Memo to Lakers: My TV screen won’t survive another assault like the one it saw tonight, so I implore you to take this affront personally…I know I do.

Fast forward to Wednesday night…After watching the first three quarters at the sushi bar (and three large Kirin’s later) I’m now picking up at the 7:40 minute mark of the fourth and on my drive home the Lakers have pulled away for an 89-81 lead since playing to literally a stand still previously. Los Angeles may sleep walk through half their games thus far this post season but have answered the call in must win situations. The Shannon Brown show, including facial slam dunk on the Birdman has the Staples crowd on their feet. Linus Urlacher continues to be a force for the Thuggz off the pine and is keeping them in the game but the Lakeshow is now up by 10, 91-81 by outscoring the visitors 15-5 so far in the fourth. Lamar Odom even came out of hibernation earlier for a left handed monster dunk in traffic, he even sacraficed his body just now to dive for a loose ball. I’m putting this game in the refridgerator with just under five minutes minutes left and an 8 point spread…When Odumb is actually awake the Lakers can’t lose……Or can they?

Kleiza and Melo just cut the lead to 4, but The Predator: aka Nene just fouled out to join Chris Anderson on the bench and the horrible hairdo’s and ink per square inch just increased for the blue and gold. Ariza banks in a nice and one for a three point play the hard way to extend the lead back to 7, 96-89. Odom swats Kenyon Martin at the rim for his fourth shot attempt of the evening on ly to see Martin return the favor on Gasol on the next play on the other end. Replay shows the backboard did the work for L.O., but he would have snuffed it anyway. Melo lets out a squeak while whining to the officials that sounds like the three year old girl I spent the camping trip tolerating…I thought I was done with that now that I’m at the Ponderosa, thanks for the reminder Melo. 19 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three assists for the ever puzzling #7 in purple and gold. He may be an egnigma, but when Odom plays like this, the Lakers are the best team in the league bar none.

Five Lakers in double figures and a dominant fourth quarter put the Lakeshow back in control of this WFC, much to my pleasure. I guess they took it personally. One more win ends it, but Denver won’t go quietly into the night and the Jekyll and Hyde Lakers might come out sedated next game…who knows? Will L.A. close it out or will the Nuggets force another game seven for the Lakers? Last year’s champion Celtics had several gut wrenching seven game series before reaching the promised land last year, maybe the Lakers will do the same this year.

We’ll find out Friday night when the series shifts back to Denver where the home team figures to fight like a cornered animal. I can’t tell you which Lakers squad will show up, but I can tell you it’ll be exciting.

The Los Angeles Lakers,


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Colorado here he comes

Game one saw the Lakeshow outplayed by the Nuggets, yet they held home court and got the win. This despite the fact that everything went right for baby blue clad visitors. Scoring machine Carmelo Anthony exploded for 39 points and let everyone know he was feeling it with his on court antics…tongue wagging, tooth flashing, high fiving and generally having a good time in the Lakers house…no smiling for Melo after the end of regulation though, the Lakers made sure of that with timely shots by veteran leader Derek Fisher and clutch free throws by The Black Mamba who was 9-9 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter alone. Had the Nuggets not missed so many freebies at the charity stripe, they would have won this game and put the purple and gold on their heels for the second straight series. After having their heart publicly questioned by many (myself included) during the seven game Houston war, the Lakers responded with a display of tenacity that saw them slowly dig out of an early hole once again because they fell behind by 13 in the opening quarter. They chipped away during the middle two quarters, gaining steam before the half om a deep three buried by Fish going into the half. The third quarter ended with them down by seven and they trudged forward with soldier like efficiency the rest of the way, eventually extending their playoff dominance over Denver for their eleventh straight post season win over the scrappy Nuggets.

Chauncy Billups was hitting the kind of clutch fourth quarter shots that earned him his nickname; Mr. Big Shot. Kenyon Martin was a defensive presence in the paint and saw multiple frozen rope J’s flutter through the twine, Nene looked like Shaq half the time by throwing down uncontested dunks in traffic. The cockatiel…I mean, the Birdman wasn’t much of a factor, but at least he was fun to look at and JR Smith was a non factor but it still felt like the Lakers withstood Denver’s best punches and somehow managed to come out on top regardless. It was exciting and went down to the wire, but in the end, the Lakers merely did what they were supposed to do and won at home.

Game two could re-open old wounds if the bi-polar Lakers allow their bored side to resurface, but the first quarter saw a focused Lakers squad compete like it was the 5th quarter of game one, which was encouraging to this diehard. BrokeJake Gyllenhaal was courtside without his Legally Blonde gal Reese, Trojan alum WillyBobby Farrell wore a purple GO LAKERS t-shirt, Tom Cruisentology actually curbed his Katie enthusiasm and stayed seated and the home team dunked their way to a 23-16 lead before the sponsors took over for two and two. Big Bird dunked on the knee high black socks sporting Birdman to make it 27-19 before Chauncey leaned into Sasha to draw a foul…surprisingly Vujacic didn’t agree with the zebra and prayed for a minute while doing his best Danny Ainge face. Bryant drops 14, the Lakers work the paint and end the first 12 minutes with an encouraging 31-23 spread.

The lead afforded Kobe some pine time and the solid play of the new backcourt tandem of Shannon Brown & Jordan Farmar kept him there for a nice chunk of clock. Celebrity round-up part two showcased Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher, a smiling and glad to be on the ground after that thing on the wing scare John Lithgow, The Governator’s favorite Kennedy, Skeletor Shriver and of course, the Jackinator at his customary spot along side his pal who owns nothing but white rimmed glasses- Lou Adler. The Nuggz Brian Urlacher twin Linus Kleiza had to hack Dumbo Farmar for Kobe to rise up from the scaffolding with just under 5 minutes left and the home team still sporting a twelve point spread. He wasted no time hitting a two footer in the lane countered by Melo’s quick retort to make it 49-38. A Bynum cherry pick dunk for his 9th point made it 51 and then Ozzy Osbourne tried to sell me a cell phone before I hit fast forward to spot a Jerry Maguire step kid rocking a Nuggz jersey in the crowd. Lakers all time #2 playoff scorer Bryant continues to chip away at Jerry West’s record before Chauncy drills an open trey and Odom goes Kwame, missing a six inch cripple and the pesky visitors cut the lead to only one point behind a 12-0 run. Lamar redeems himself with a 15 foot jumper and a blocked shot before Billups clowns Bryant on the inbounds play by tossing the ball off Kobe’s rump to himself for an easy lay-up…55-54 at the half…looks like it’s back to sleepwalking for L.A. Will they EVER learn? Mr. Momentum always wears the colors of the team that stays with the EFFORT. Closing the half, that team wore shiny powder blue and gold.

After some tug of war to open the 3rd, in which Denver briefly snatches the lead, Trevor Ariza hits a couple shots then hit’s the deck hard, but gets up like Rocky…CUT ME MICK!…That’s the kind of heart that earns rings. I think we’re in for a dogfight…75-71 Lakers after Kobe takes flight from the baseline for a two handed yam. No let up Lakes….no surrender….no quarter….know your enemy…it’s YOU. If they keep fighting like this they will go up 2-0. But the ink heavy, headband sportin Nuggz are going to do everything in their power to steal one…and snatch home court advantage in the process. Carmelo and Kobe each accept the challenge and guard each other showing why they’re considered two of the best in the game and Olympians with clutch shots and hustle but Denver builds a seven point lead early in the final quarter. Shannon Brown’s three gets the Lakers back to within one 92-91 with 6 minutes remaining. Lakers nut Nicholson is seen berating the zebras in the background while Nuggcoach Karl chills in the foreground. I always feel a fair game will be called when Dick Bavetta’s on the floor…problem is, Steve Javie’s in the building too….yin and yang….where’s Donaghey when you need him?

Looks like it’s going to be a free throw fest the rest of the way….better play some defense Lakers.

Calls going Denver’s way…Kobe said before the game he was done getting techs…somehow I don’t believe him. Ariza continues to look like Micheal Cooper’s clone with a steal…then K-Mart goes Thugget and bumps Gasoft into the stands and again, the zebras swallow the whistles and I start scanning the crowd for blonde concierges because I could swear by the calls this game is being played in Colorado…ooop…3 pointer for Kobe gets him to 30 for the evening, it’s now101-99 Nuggz. Here come that man…The Mamba stops and pops from 12 feet out to find the bottom of the net to tie it up. Melo creates one for Martin to snatch it right back 103-101 then the muggz by the Thuggz starts and still no whistles…I scan the crowd again, but the floor reads Lakers…my confusion grows along with the Denver lead. Game over.

So much for home court advantage…Congratulations to the Mile High City.

They say a series doesn’t really start until a team loses at home…

Ladies and gentlemen, we have another series.

…Kobe...back in Colorado.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lakers shoot down the Rockets

The question coming into this epic game seven was: Which Lakers team would show up?
The lackadaisical, uninterested, barely an effort ones of games four and six or the aggressive, relentless, knock your socks off juggernaut of game five.

Any more questions?

Rocking their home court Sunday whites, the Los Angeles Lakers replied to the “heart” question with a dominating win that left little doubt that they’re capable of winning a championship. Mr. Hyde didn’t let Dr. Jekyll show his face today, the two faced Lakers only exposed one of those faces in this game…the one that meant business. I spent the afternoon swilling champagne and making multiple trips to the buffet at the Universal City Hilton. I had to wade through the sea of Universal Studios tourists to get there, but the crab legs, sushi bar and prime rib tends to make the traffic not seem so bad. It didn’t hurt that the Lakers game on the big screen plasma followed exactly the storyline I had hoped it would. The Lakers scored the first point of the game on a Trevor Ariza free throw and never looked back, a wire to wire victory for L.A. ensued with the outcome never in question. This game was in the refrigerator at halftime and I was able to enjoy my brunch with in-laws without the stress of a nail biter.

With the threat of elimination looming large, the Lakers responded and sent the overwhelmed Rockets fishing for the off season. Not a dominating performance by Kobe Bryant, but a dominant performance by the Lakers TEAM proving it’s about the name ON THE FRONT OF THE JERSEY and now the chests around LaLaLand are puffed out just a little extra with this convincing victory…but no silicone required…this one was about pride.

Pau Gasol stepped up big by imposing his will in the post. With Houston missing Yao Ming the Lakers have the advantage down low and actually exposed it today at Staples Center in downtown LoHANGelez.
The Doyerz had already set the tone for the day by putting up 6 runs in the first three innings behind young gun Clayton Kershaw who flirted with a no hitter The mojo in The City of Angeles was good and carried over from Chavez Ravine to center court. With all the marbles on the line, Pau GaSOFT was hard as nails in this must win situation with 11 points and 12 rebounds before halftime. He would go on to finish with 21 and 18...Pretty Pau-erful stuff in a game seven for a so-called stiff.

Andrew Bynum finally snapped out of his coma too.
After several sub-par efforts and less than stellar games, young Drew came through when it counted most with 14 points including an alley oop slam from Ariza and blocked a couple of shots.…Granted it was against a depleted Rockets frontcourt, but for Lakers fans…any sign of life out of Bynum is a plus and today, he answered the call like Hef sent the invite.

The Rockets couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn pretty much the whole day and I’m not sure if it was the Lakers extra effort on defense that caused it or game seven jitters. They could do nothing to stop the inside game of the bigger, stronger Lakers. They also lost the rebound battle BIG TIME, 55-33. They were simply out hustled, outclassed and outplayed by a determined Los Angeles Lakers squad who needed a showing like this not only to respond to questions about their heart, but to create momentum for the next series against the red hot Denver Nuggets.

Thus far the Nuggets have cruised through the playoffs by simply outscoring their opponents and have yet to look challenged. You can count on the high scoring Lakers to test them more then any other team they’ve faced thus far in these playoffs. L.A. owned Denver during the regular season, sweeping them 4-0, but that was before Chauncey Billups made his mark on the resurgent Nuggs, who are in their first Western Conference Finals since Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe roamed the floor in the Mile High City back in George Orwell’s favorite year, 1984. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers that year and barring another Lakeshow loss of focus, history should repeat itself this year. Carmelo Anthony will score in droves, Chris “The Birdman” Andersen will fly around and swat a few wayward attempts, JR Smith will hit some impossible shots and Mr. Big Shot Billups will lead them like George Patton, but in the end the Lakers should prove to be too big and too good to be stopped by a team that has an aversion to playing sustained defense. The Enver McNuggets hate playing defense more than Jerry hates Newman.

Though a large percentage of basketball pundits and bloggers are predicting the Nuggets to win the series, I personally can see a Denver style omelet cooking in the immediate future for L.A….I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but the Lakers should beat the Nuggets and return to the Finals for a second straight year. If it were the chowder eating clover pickers, I wouldn’t worry about motivation but this only opens the door for more possibility of even more lethargy on the part of the Lakers…Not that Melo and the baby blue clad ink show or the Crabdribbliliers aren’t worthy opponents, it’s just that, like the rest of L.A., I WANTED BOSTON.

Unfortunately, there is no chance of exacting revenge on the hated rivals because they were Magically sent home by Orlando, who now get the unenviable task of trying to stop the chalk cloud tossing MVP and LeCavs. A David Stern wet dream of Kobe vs. LeBron is still alive and well despite the gutsy performance of the Houston Rockets and the basketball fans of the world salivate at the thought of it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lakers crash land in Houston

Bad omen….The Lakers start the game cold as ice, bungling plays and missing opportunities with bricks and bad passes to the tune of a 13-1 score before the first series of dreaded commercials…dammit, no fast forward…games like this can’t wait for TiVo.

Shane Battier of the Rockets, fresh off a text message from Mr. Obama is a thorn in Kobe’s side so far with his hand firmly entrenched in his mug. Luis Scola apparently ate his Wheaties today; he’s already got 10 points and sent an uninspired Andrew Bynum to the pine by lighting him up. It’s 17-1 in favor of the Rockets before Kobe hits a little hook shot to break the drought. No sense of urgency on the part of L.A. yet. It seems they love the drama, it’s now 21-3 Houston.


…Maybe I will TiVo a bit after all, because I have to walk away in disgust….excuse me for a moment, medicinal time…I’m in pain.

Jordan Farmar comes off the bench and hits a couple of threes to provide some hope for the indifferent Lakers, closing the gap to 27-15 after Houston lead by 18. The second quarter sees more uninspired ball from Los Angeles, but plenty of intensity from the short handed Rockets. Kobe gets a charging call because Battier jumps in front of him while already airborne yet Battier’s feet are in front of the line. Bad call. I can understand if the defensive player is set but once the offensive player has left his feet and the defender then slides in front of him, it should be blocking. Chalk it up to home court call. Several more lethargic minutes go by before Artest acts his way into a bullshit call by over-exaggerating a bump by Kobe that earns Bryant an unfounded technical. Like our friends screen name spells out for us hoopheads…NBA IS THE WORST. Even the announcers are saying the same thing; hopefully the league does the right thing and rescinds the tech. Despite the slow start and bad calls, the Lakers close the half only trailing 52-36...After losing by 35 and then winning by 40 in games 4 and 5, I can use the word “only” to describe a 16 point spread.

36 points in the first HALF?


The Rockets are taking the advice their hobbled big man Yao Ming gave to Charles Barkley and Dwayne Wade and eating the head. Time for another toke for the Bleeder, I need the calming effect to kick in pronto before my melon explodes….Fhuq HALF-time, I’m smoking the whole damn thing.

After getting my head straight, I hit the play button and watch the Lakers wake up to the tune of a seven to nothing run to start the third quarter, even getting the benefit of some calls from the zebras. I guess Phil gave them what for in the locker room because this is a completely different Lakers squad we’re seeing. In the blink of an eye the lead is down to only four, 54-50 with the Mamba at the stripe…Make that a two point lead.

16-2 Lakers run now….I think performance enhancing drugs may have been used in the Lakers locker room during halftime, who are these guys? The Rockets promptly respond with an 8-2 run of their own to push the lead back to eight, 62-54. I guess this answers the question: Where will amazing happen this year, because this is pretty fucking amazing….The Lakers are the Jekyll & Hyde of the NBA…(Speaking of which, I need to set the TiVo to record the Knicks-loving troll Spike Lee’s Kobe documentary premiering on ESPN Saturday.) Farmar has 10 points in eleven minutes off the bench so far. Landry, Brooks, Artest and Scola keep the pressure on L.A by hitting big shots to close the 3rd effectively fending off the furious Lakers push and propel Houston’s lead back to 9 to close out the quarter, 74-65 setting up a dogfight for the 4th.

The Zenmaster sits Kobe to start the 4th…kinda like dangling a steak in front of a pit bull…Phil’s either a genius or a wing nut for this one. A Gasol left hand hook, a Sasha brick followed by a teary eyed trip back to the pine and a Lamar Odom rebound dunk kill a few minutes and cuts the deficit to 7. Oh joy…a David Stern courtside interview that prompts another TiVo pause button workout and a quick shower for yours truly…I always feel so dirty after witnessing his sliminess…you can’t catch the swine flu through the TV can you?

Still dripping with only a towel on, I hit play only to see Carl Landry posterize Odom with a monster dunk down the middle of the lane, thus causing me to vomit on my freshly scrubbed toes and do the MC Hammer dance…Hold it now, shower time, do-doo-doo-doo, ts-ts-doo doo, ts-ts, doo doo. Who the FUCK is Carl Landry and why is he playing like Sir Charles in 94?? Does he get paid by the bead of sweat or what?…Oh wonderful, a muppet version of Kobe is now taunting LeMVPuppet with cookies and three championship trophies in Nike commercials…Phil Knight must be sopping up his love explosion just thinking about a possible Bryant/King James Finals….too bad no one told the Rockets and Super Midget Aaron Brooks about Nike’s plot to conquer the NBA because he just hit another three.

While Kobe’s busy jawing at the nearest official about a tap on the wrist, H-town and Insta-Star Carl have cranked up the heat and built the spread back up to his red uniform number, 14. Odom slumbers over to the Lakers bench after collecting his 6th and final foul where the Houston fans behind the seating area wear BEAT LA shirts and Ray Charles’ Hit The Road Jack sends the crowd into a frenzy. This game is over…Chick Hearn, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan roll over in their graves…Aaahhhhh, how perfect…another ad for the Kobe documentary…just as the Lakers get shoved into the refrigerator right next to the limburger cheese…but who can tell the difference? They stink with the same potency tonight.

With the win, it’s another start to finish victory for the never-say-die Rockets and another head scratcher for the Lakers faithful. Congratulations Houston…Clutch City is alive and well for at least one more game.

Now all us Lakers fans get to sweat for another day and a half before the next episode of As The Lakers Turn.
I hope Mr. Hyde is alive and well for all four quarters on Saturday Game 7 at Staples Center Saturday should be riveting television. Be there or be square.

The Los Angeles Lakers,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lakers Arrogance


Yes, the Lakers are arrogant.

Kobe and Phil in particular.

Know why?

Because they KNOW they are better at basketball than most all people they come across. As a player, I know what that feels like…I’m no superstar or playground legend…just a regular guy who grew up playing basketball. Lots and lots of basketball. So much basketball that my wife (who was my girlfriend back when I was 18 years old) still refers to basketball as my mistress. She HATES basketball. She’s jealous of it. She wishes I paid as much attention to her as I do to basketball. I feel I do, but if you ask her you get a completely different perspective on the matter…I’m sure all sports fans can relate. But I HAVE harnessed that feeling known as THE ZONE….Not to brag, but I’ve been there many times. Just a regular dude, barely 5’-10” but I know the feeling of KNOWING there is no one on the court that can stop you that night. The feeling of wanting the ball in your hands when the game is on the line, and delivering.
It’s what athletes play for.

The respect of other players, those who are striving with every once of their will to reach the same goal you are….winning.

There is no feeling like it. After the game those on your team pat you on the back or say, “Nice game” and the other team does the same, or even better….they say nothing at all.
But their body language says it all for them. The look on their face lets you know you took what they had been working for. All the sweat, all the hours of practice in their backyard to improve their shot, all the effort leading up to the soaked with perspiration shirt they’re wearing….The eyes Chico…they never lie.

Any athlete who reaches the pinnacle of his sport is bound to have a certain arrogance.

Think Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods.

To be the best, you have to truly believe you are the best….particularly in the world of sprots.

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce has been quoted as saying he believes HE is the best player in the league…and on any given night…if only for the last couple of minutes of a game, he can be.

Know why?


He truly believes it, so he’s able to perform when others wilt under the glare of the spotlight.
I may crack relentlessly on Pierce because of his Boston Knee Party drama-queen act in the 2008 Finals, but I respect him. He’s a Los Angeles native for one, he’s tough as nails for two…he got stabbed multiple times in a nightclub incident a few years back, yet here he is now, reigning World Champion of the NBA and Most Valuable Player of that series. Tough cat who answers the call for his team…I may loathe the Celtics , but I love the toughness they have displayed in the absence of KG and it all starts with Paul Pierce.

When MJ did it, it was considered greatness.
When told there was no “I” in team, Mike replied,
“There is in WIN”

His Airness was also quoted as saying he felt “different” after he hit that shot at North Carolina that won the National Championship all those years ago. He now had an arrogance that enabled him to become the player he became once he joined the NBA. He went on to say the other players were, “ At my mercy for whatever I wanted to do ”

But when Kobe carries himself with that same type of swagger, he’s gets labeled a jerk, a ball hog and every other name in the book by the very same Jordan worshippers who can’t see the parallel…or simply choose not to.

Kobe is no Michael, nor is Pierce, but they have that certain something that Mike had. LeBron has it too. So does Dwayne Wade and a handful of other elite players.
It’s a belief in your yourself that allows such amazing feats on the hardwood.
I for one don’t think it’s a bad thing for an athlete or a team to have.

So, as Lakers fan, when I hear pundits, broadcasters or bloggers casting judgement on the Lakers for their arrogance, I can only smile. Games like the one the Lakers played tonight at the Staples Center in downtown LaLaLand only serve to validate the arrogant label…the only thing missing is for them to do it in June.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

NBA Playoff Potpourri

The Lakers gutted out a second straight victory over the scrappy Houston Rockets Friday night with Kobe leading the charge. The Mamba struck in the waning seconds of the third when on the inbounds play with mere seconds on the clock and Ron Artest draped all over him #24 rose up from about six feet behind the top of the arc with Artest in hot pursuit and buried another buzzer beater in Ron Ron’s face. Kobe also showed more trust in his teammates than usual finding the open man without hesitation even though his 3 assists don’t really reflect the type of game he played on Friday night. Much maligned L.A. local Jordan Farmar of Taft High in Woodland Hills and UCLA filled in for the suspended Derek Fisher admirably getting 12 points and playing aggressive defense in his first playoff start. Lamar Odom had a double double and Pau scored on Yao with a couple of slick head fake jumpers, even dribbling between his legs before stopping on a dime and swishing a 12 footer on one play in the third quarter. Word out of H-town is the 7‘-6” jolly Chinese giant Yao Ming is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a broken foot, bad news for Houston…I hate to see teams lose players to injury, but did you see Kobe block his shot twice before it happened? It seems Kobe does that to The Great Wall a few times a year anymore. The Lakers have been labeled soft by many but are stepping up now that push comes to shove and with this latest victory snatched home court advantage back from the physical Rockets. I can’t realistically see brusier Luis Scola and the rest of these pesky Rockets beating the purple and gold now…not that I could before, but without the Ming Dynasty manning the paint, Houston has two chances…slim and none.

Orlando and Boston will square off again Sunday and I’m still not sure how this series will play out. The Celtics are tough as nails but without a healthy KG they face an unrealistic task of stopping the best center in the league in straight out of high school monster Dwight Howard. The Celtics hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of shooting guard Ray Allen. Paul Pierce will do what he does and point guard Rajon Rondo will continue his ascension to star player status but when Ray Ray’s hitting, the C’ are perfectly capable of topping the Magic, the question is will they?

R.I.P. coach Chuck Daly who passed today at the age of 78 The architect of the back to back title winning Detroit Pistons Bad Boys teams of the late 80’s, he was also head coach of the original 1992 Olympic Dream Team, which should have included Chuck’s star player and engine that drove those Bad Boys, Isiah Thomas. Isiah may be considered a clown now after his soap opera stay with the Knicks but there was a time he was one of the best players in the game. I recall the little pest killing the Showtime Lakers three peat quest in 1989, my senior year in high school. Magic and Byron Scott both suffered hamstring pulls during the Finals that year or that first Bad Boys championship would never have happened.

Dirk Nowitzki’s girlfriend was arrested at his Dallas home after an incident and apparently has used as many as 10-15 aliases over the years….I hope for his sake she’s better looking than Jennifer Gardner. Unfazed, the Diggler went about doing what he does and fluttered rainbow jumpers through the strings to the tune of 33, he‘s as pure a scorer as there is. Carmelo Anthony drilled a three at the buzzer, but only after an intentional foul was purposely committed by Dallas and not called. Too bad Marc Cuban and Josh Howard aren’t as cool under pressure as the Dirkster, they both lost their composure and literally chased down the officials once the game was officially over. The league issued an apology two hours after the game, gee thanks Stern, another case of too little too late and another founded knock on NBA officiating. Mr. Big Shot: Chauncey Billups had 32 for the Nuggs and the Birdman contributed with a couple rebound dunks on hustle plays. Denver’s Dahntay Jones absolutely posterized Erick Dampier on a play that pretty much sums up this second round matchup….Dallas just can’t hang. This Denver team however may just be legit…we’ll find out when they meet Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals.

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their unscathed march to the NBA Finals taking a commanding 3-0 series lead over the quickly falling back to ground Atlanta Hawks. LeBron James had a game for the ages, dropping 47 points, 22 of them in the first half, snatching 12 boards and handing out 8 assists….only the second time in history anyone put up those Jordan-esque numbers, and the first guy wore #23 too. King James played like the reigning MVP should play with a barrage of buckets ranging from vicious dunks, power lay-ups in traffic and a series of late game jumpers to ice the game to keep the Crabs undefeated in the playoffs. His short game is looking a lot like Tiger’s lately, impressive. I always said if he learned how to shoot it’d be like when Happy Gilmore learned how to putt…...shhhhh, quiet on the green.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

One piece at a time

As a red-blooded American male, I’ve always had a love affair with cars. Even as a little boy my favorite toys were Hot Wheels. Quite ironic that when I misbehaved Mommy Dearest would use the two foot lengths of plastic tracks to whip my ass when I deserved it….and I deserved it on a regular basis. My favorite car was the Red Baron, it was a custom body painted bright red with a stainless steel German WWII helmet for a roof, it looked almost like an on field cart that you see on the sidelines at college football fields so often these days, but with a beefy open air engine. I loved that damn car. I have a inkling to go on Ebay right now to re-capture a piece of my childhood.

Despite my admiration of the beauty of automobiles, I never got into working on them. I built models in my youth…you know, the kind that required painting each individual part and using plastic cement to assemble them. I must’ve done twenty or so all told. Suprisingly, I never acquired a taste for racing or NASCAR, but the dramatic ending a Talladega recently was pretty cool.

Of all the cars I love, the 63 Cadillac holds a special place in my heart, something about the sleek lines, aggressive looking grill and of course, those fish tails on the rear end…like icing on the cake.

Another one of my passions is music. I grew up in the early 80’s as a hard rock loving Southern California kid who worshipped Eddie Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. Then rap burst onto the scene with Run-DMC, Eric B & Rakim and Public Enemy and I was hooked like a trout on a line. As a city boy, I never gave country music the time of day, it seemed foreign to me but that all changed after 9/11. The Dixie Chicks sang a song during the Concert for America that touched my soul at the time. I was entranced by the sound of their voices, drawn like a moth to a flame. The song was called I Believe in Love and it opened a whole new world of sound for me. I felt like Morgan Freeman's character Red in The Shawshank Redemption when Andy played the Italian opera over the loud speaker. I immediately went online and downloaded a copy of it and several other songs from the Dixie Chicks. To this day, I really have no use for the majority of country music, the twangy up-beat cuts annoy me for the most part….In my humble opinion, country should be borderline painful and slow in tempo, (think Patsy Cline, who my mother played endlessly during my formative years, she did nothing for me at the time but now I love her music). The exceptions to this self imposed slower tempo rule are Hank Williams Sr. and The Man in Black, Mister Johnny Cash. I could listen to any record these two made over and over again. I never would have thought that possible ten years ago.

I digress.

Believe it or not this blog is about the Lakers and how they were transformed back into a championship calibur team…A Cadillac - One Piece at a Time.

Once upon a time, Los Angeles took winning rings for granted. As a kid I watched Magic Johnson literally redefine basketball and make watching each and every Lakers game an event. Later, we had Shaq and Kobe and all the role players needed to rule the NBA three straight years in a row, but all was not well in Camelot. This town wasn’t big enough for both players egos so one of them had to go.
As it turns out ,The Big Egotistical’s mouth made the decision easy for Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Shaq actually asked for a trade, which was just what the good Dr. Buss wanted anyway. Shaq was knee deep into the business of burning bridges at the time by criticizing management and mouthing off through the press.
Kobe Bryant was younger and played a more exciting style of ball than Shaq, so O’Neal was quickly shipped off to Miami for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler (who has since made a few All-Star teams with the Wizards), a draft pick (which turned out to be Jordan Farmar) and Bob Marley.

The next off season, rasta man Brian Grant was tossed aside, Butler was shipped off to Washington for Kwame “Brick- up” Brown (Kwame never met a lay-up he didn‘t try to brick), who was later sent to Memphis for Pau Gasol. Ending up with Gasol, Odom and Farmar for The Big Lip-Flapper isn’t too shabby but I’m getting ahead of myself again….continually digressing, sorry.

Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher are the only remnants of the 3-peat squad. And both Fish and the Zenmeister took a leave of absence before coming back to don the purple and gold. The foundations for this latest Lakers group came through the draft and trades. The lottery picks started with Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Andrew Bynum and Farmar. Prodigal son D-Fish, who was originally drafted by the Lakers the same year as Kobe, came home due to his daughters eye condition, followed by the barely noticed at the time yet brilliant in hindsight acquisition of former UCLA Bruin Trevor Ariza in exchange for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans.
Who you ask?…Exactly my point.
Another Lakers steal.

Josh Powell was signed to replace Energizer Bunny Ronny Turiaf after the disappointment in last years NBA Finals and has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers, hitting his midrange jump shot consistently and willing to bang bodies down low. Vladimir Radmanovic was jettisoned to Charlotte in what seemed like a salary dump for college stud Adam Morrison and defensive minded Shannon Brown who looked like a toss in to make the salaries match up….only, I think Brown was the target all along and his play of late has again made the Lakers scouting team look genius. Cro-magnon blackbelt DJ Mbenga has even contributed impressive minutes off the pine this year. Sun Yue is the import from China who represented his country in Biejing this past summer but can’t get much court time in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense and barring injury it should remain that way.

-One piece at a time, Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers find their way back to the upper echelon of the NBA.

-One piece at a time is how Kobe Bryant crawls out from under the huge shadow cast by Shaquille O‘Neal.

-One piece at a time is how Phil Jackson passes Red Auerbach.

-One piece at a time is how good teams become great.

One GAME at a time…is how championships happen...I hope.

Win or go home.

I love this game.