Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Seven Years

Seven years.

The time it takes to develop an itch according to Marilyn Monroe.

The time Brad Pitt claims to have spent in Tibet.

The time it took for England to beat France in the war of the same name from 1756-1763.

Hard to believe but 9/11 is already EIGHT years ago later this year.

The Lakers worked their way back from a 3-peat in those same seven years. When Shaquille O’Neal was granted his request and traded from Los Angeles to Miami not many thought the Lakers would ever see the promised land again. Shaq went on to almost instant glory in teaming up with Dwayne Wade for his fourth ring and Kobe watched. The Lakers missed the playoffs for the for the first time in his career, Karl Malone retired, Gary Payton followed Shaq and Phil Jackson went off to meditate in a cave somewhere between book signings and free agent Kobe signed to stay. Then came Kwame Brown and Smush Parker a seven game first round loss to the Phoenix Suns followed by a second round exit at the hands of those same Phoenix Suns after putting a 3-1 series scare into the Nasty ones and Kobe bristled in parking lots. Steve Nash won back to back MVP awards those two years with an All-Star loaded squad while Kobe carried the not ready for prime time purple and gold to back to back playoff appearances with no other All-Stars on the roster, won back to back scoring titles and still Bryant practiced.

The following year Derek Fisher came home but The Big Ticket of the off season, Kevin Garnett went to until then 26 year dormant rival Boston after flirting with Los Angeles for months. Despite that blow, the title talk started in the Southland anyway because Andrew Bynum looked to be the answer to the Lakers prayers by having a breakout first half of the season before disaster struck in the form of a torn ACL and those hoop dreams went out the window. The keen eye of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak saw something in little used L.A. local Trevor Ariza, whom he had been watching since Ariza’s UCLA days and duped the Orlando Magic into trading him for a cup of sugar and a tip of the hat though it seemed like only lateral movement at the time. Just when all seemed bleak, the Lakers, still needing the missing link pulled a PAUer move and the problem was GASOLved when lay-up challenged Kwame was shipped off to Memphis for a Neanderthal from Spain. What can Brown do for you? How about score Batman a Robin?

The fit was like a glove and brought Kobe his first NBA MVP award but as luck would have it, as has so often happened in Laker history, those pesky Boston Celtics were there to thwart them once again…And it happened in ugly fashion. A 39 point loss in the Final game is like being kicked in the face, having your woman leave you for your best friend, take the dog and let you know by text message. Then you come home to a messy bed and no beers in your fridge to cap it off.
The off season brought no big roster changes, no panic, just let it resonate and hope for pride to kick in. Let it Burn. Just when the acceptance came The Big Old Pal Shaq’s rap asking him how his ass tasted and saying he couldn’t win without him. But he already had, he won an Olympic gold medal without him. Still Kobe said nothing and practiced some more.

This year they roared through the regular season, stumbled at the end coughing up the leagues best record to the Cavaliers and the new MVP late in the year. Then the post-season saw Kobe win his first college title by beating Duke Blue Devils at record pace.
1st round: The Utah Jazz and Blue Devil Carlos Boozer.
2nd round: The Houston Rockets and Blue Devil Shane Battier.
Western Conference Championship: The Denver Nuggets and Blue Devil Dahntay Jones.
NBA Finals: The Orlando Magic and the latest and greatest scoring Blue Devil in Duke history J.J. Redick.

Oh and in the process, won the NBA title, Finals MVP and more importantly REDEMPTION.
So there you have it.

It takes three licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop and Seven Years to climb out of basketball purgatory and back to the mountaintop that is NBA glory.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Revisionist History

The Los Angeles Lakers controlled their own destiny in this defining game 5, just as they have all year. The Lakers have been their own worst enemy in practically every loss this season. Their 2009 postseason consisted of numerous ups and downs, extreme peaks and valleys, a virtual rollercoaster of highs and lows that had this diehard agreeing with Kobe in referring to his beloved team as bi-polar.

They showed all the signs of it. Where there’s that much smoke there is usually fire.
The Houston Rockets took them to the full seven games allowed with the Lakers pulling two disappearing acts that rank right up there with Houdini and D.B. Cooper. Failing to compete whatsoever in games 4 and 6. The Lakers were so unpredictable that the lowly Denver Nuggets even had the pundits claiming the Lakers were going to get bounced in the Western Conference Championship round by a franchise that hadn’t smelled that air since Michael Jackson was considered normal.

Even with a strong showing in the Finals the Lakers still had us all guessing coming into game five. Game one was the only game in this series that didn’t go down to the wire. This series could have easily been 3-1 in favor of the team from Florida…or so they said. Would they respond with a strong effort and crush the will of the Orlando Magic or would the Jekyll and Hyde Lakers rear their ugly head once again by mailing it in and fuel the fire of the non-believers. The doubters were out in force all over the internet these past few days and with their 6th consecutive all out effort in as many games, Showtime has returned to Los Angeles. The title now resides in LaLaLand for the fourth time this decade. It took 6 tries to get it, but much like the Olympic “Redeem Team”, the Lakers now have their much sought after day of redemption…sing it Bob, sing it.

Had they lost this game, especially in the manner in which they lost games to Houston and Denver, they would have perpetuated the cycle of doubt, pouring gas on the fire of those who say they aren’t a team capable of such things. Instead, they made a statement and left no doubt that the best team in the NBA is the Los Angeles Lakers…The argument is in the refrigerator –The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butters getting hard and the jello’s jiggling.

In this one game, the past is forgotten and the path to the championship looks much different than it did yesterday. Yesterday they were capable of failing, but as of right now they are defending champions who dispatched a team that toppled the reigning champion Celtics, brought down a King yet couldn’t “Beat L.A.” as so many arenas around the league seem to want to do so badly. The chant did surface tonight, but the Lakers have heard that song countless times before and were not going to be denied.

No letdown, no lackadaisical half-ass effort from the purple and gold clad visitors this time, just pure unadulterated power of will. In a concerted effort to shed the doubt and slay the demon of doubt that they created themselves, the Los Angeles Lakers seized the moment and did not let up one iota all when all the marbles were at stake, they played like champions should play and TOOK what they felt was theirs.

Revisionist history sees the Lakers we all watched with baited breath, with the back of the brain questioning, the corner of your eye uneasiness that they may let you down or forget to take out the garbage that a child might bring out of you and instead looked every bit the dominant lion of the pride…Roaring back at the challenging young male, putting him in his place and claiming the throne for his own. They were the Lakers that beat the Celtics on Christmas Day, the Lakers that came back and beat them again to break double digit winning streaks by the Cavaliers and Celtics that some called fluke victories. Hard to say such things now. In retrospect, the things that stand out aren’t the voids in the heart department or soft labels attached to our big men, but a 4-1 Finals domination of a worthy opponent a team that followed each and every post-season loss with a victory and changed perceptions about them that they brought on themselves.
More importantly, they did it as a TEAM with much maligned players like Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom playing important roles along the way. Kobe deservedly wins the MVP for being the leader, but make no mistake, this is a TEAM victory. The individual accolades like Phil’s 10th title or Kobe’s first ring without Shaq pale in comparison to the culmination of the reversal of perception the Lakers pulled off by winning in such convincing fashion.
They have come full circle and can now by unequivocally called “Champions”, without any doubts, contradiction or asterisks.

The 2008-2009 Los Angeles Lakers:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Orlando runs out of Magic

The resilient Orlando Magic bounced back in their must win game 3 as they have all playoffs long. They held home court with the greatest shooting display in NBA Finals history, a blistering .625% on 40-64 from the field with only five of those being this squads bread and butter - 3 pointers, of which they attempted 14. A very uncharacteristic stat for a team that jacks up treys like rabbits breed. The home team had five players score 18 points or more, yet was outscored in the painted area by L.A. by four 40-36. Pau Gasol was an efficient 9-11 from the field, just imagine what might have happened if the Lakers actually made a concerted effort to get him the rock close to the rim. I am as adamant a Kobe fan as anyone, but when you have a post player with a proven track record like the gangly Spaniard, you would think a coach as astute as Phil Jackson would deliberately run more plays for him…I would.

The Lakers are a resilient bunch as well, following every loss this post season with a win. Should they find a way to pull that off here in game four the Magic trick of the greatest shooting show on earth that we witnessed on Tuesday will mean little. Phil can usurp Red, Kobe can gain continue his quest to be like Mike and the Los Angeles Lakers will shed the 800 pound gorilla that has haunted their playoff fortunes since before the OTHER 800 pound gorilla demanded a one way ticket to Miami.

Should the Lakers lose in these Finals, we’ll never hear the end of “Kobe can’t win without Shaq”
Whatever, on with the game…

The first half of this hotly contested game 4 belonged to Dwight Howard’s defensive prowess and ability to leap over Laker big men in a single bound and a dash of help from the zebras. The swamp was bubbling, the crowd loud and loving it, the Lakers on the receiving end of a 49-37 twelve point deficit. I know Orlando’s All Star point guard Jameer Nelson was reactivated for the Finals from what was deemed season ending shoulder surgery and is hungry to prove he’s good to go but why is he incessantly chewing his mouth guard. If my Mother saw me chewing my gum like that she’d crack me in the yap quicker that those pesky wabbits I mentioned earlier get busy.

The third quarter saw Mr. Mamba get some of the help he so desperately needs when Trevor Ariza recalled that the team he’s facing, the Orlando Magic was the very same team that had the audacity to trade him for an Evans and a Cook…it was his duty as a purple and gold soldier to make them realize it was a huge mistake to insult him in such a manner. He got his revenge by disrupting plays on defense and raining threes to the tune of 16 second half points and the Lakers snatched the lead back before the end of the third quarter.

The final quarter of regulation saw a spirited burst by both teams…one fighting for their playoff lives and home court pride the other fighting to steal one in the swamp and crush the others ring dreams. The Black Mamba had no problem getting Rikki Tiki Tavi with his Olympic teammate Howard when he took exception to Dwight wrapping him up. The two exchanged some pleasantries while trotting back down to the other end after Superman was assessed a foul on the play. Several tense moments and dramatic Kobe shots later, the see-food flasher Jameer Nelson forgot that mercury heavy food can kill you and let a Fish gut him at the end of regulation. Mr. 0.4, Mr. Warrior, The Little ROCK from Little Rock, Mr. Big Shot Droppin Derek FISHAAA made him pay for not getting a hand up and buried clutch a three with moments left regulation to force overtime.

Kobe can‘t do it alone, everyone needs a sidekick –
“I ain’t gonna shoot you Frank…Manolo, choot that piece of chit”

The five minute overtime was only exciting if you’re a Laker fan. It was four and a half minutes of grind it out playoff basketball, a Bryant elbow to 4 foot whatever Jameer Half-Nelson’s jawbone that dropped him like Quittick Bowe and once again there was Fisher doing his best Robert Horry impersonation by swishing his second back breaking three pointer from the top of the key to break a 91-91 tie. Poor Rashard Lewis will now end up on posters a la Chris Webber, hand extended to contest but everyone knowing it’s in vain. A Hedo Turkoglu clang off the rim and Pau Gasol finds himself alone for a breakaway slam dunk and a five point lead with 21.6 remaining. Another Hedon’t Tukeyloo brick finds Pau cherry picking and slamming it home again when the flying Frenchman Mickael Pietrus, who had been gaining my respect with his play in this series shows, some of that French military might and take a two fisted cheap shot into the lanky Gasol’s spine. The Spaniard got into Pepe Le Pew’s grill to let him know that the Tour De France leader always wears a yellow jersey and if Mickeal Mouse wanted to dance, he was ready to go Michael Jackson on his croissant and spit in his café latte for him.

No need though.

The 3-1 series lead makes another loss inevitable for yet another Frenchman.

On the next episode of the Magic’s Greatest Secrets Revealed…Even blind zebras can’t stop a Clydesdale‘s championship run, Purple Reign clouds have hovered over Los Angeles for the last week for a reason, Orlando’s Superman has fallen victim to Kob-tonite and the evil Lamar Luthor and the real truth is…

The rich get richer, schedule the parade, order the 15th banner, size the rings, close tha shop maing.

I tried to tell you…But no ju wouldn’t listen…Well, you stupid f**k. Look at you now.

They called me a homer,
Thet called me a loon,

But they can’t say I wavered on


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Missed free throws cost Lakers

The series moves to the Florida swamp, and the crowd is hostile from the outset…Still grumpy from the non-calls I suppose. It’s understandable, they weren’t without their chances though, the Lakers left the door wide open with a sub-par showing in game two but behind the post duo of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, the grit of Derek Fisher and the relentlessness of Kobe Bryant the home team held home court. A 2-0 Lakers lead makes this a must win game for the upstart Magic. 27 of 30 teams up 2-0 have gone on to win a seven game series only THREE teams have comeback from an 0-2 hole in NBA playoff history, the 69 Celts over the Lakers (damn those little green trolls), the 77 Blazers and Big Bill Walton over the 76ers and D-Wade and the Heat vs. the soft serve Mavs in 06, but the Magic have been underdogs all year. They gutted out wins over a depleted but still tough Celtics squad. They ended LeMVPuppet and the Cavs dream season in quick fashion but have yet to scratch against the determined Lakeshow. It’s now or next year for Orlando.

Let’s hope the refs let them play a little more than was allowed in game 2. Gasol’s first foul of the game is a vicious chin shot to Dwight Howard’s elbow. D-Fish drills a couple of nice jumpers in traffic but Rafer Alston, fresh off extended pine time last game (though I don’t know why) matches Derek’s effort and knocks down two of his own. Kobe then joins the party and makes his first two shots in Courtney Lee’s plastic covered grill…5 points and three assists already for Bryant…Orlando can’t afford to let him get off to a fast start, he’s not the type that cools off later in the game. 19-14 Lakers at the first break.

Andrew Bynum shows no fear early and rings up Dwight with a nice inside move off glass but misses the free throw. Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston thinks he’s at the Rucker...he’s feeling spry and rings up another trey, but again Kobe answers with an sweet Dr. J finger roll at the hole over the Frenchman Pietrus. So far Rashard Lewis isn’t as hot as last game…he’s bricked a couple open looks…I hope that continues. What looks to be continuing is the snake bite that Kobe is dishing out so far…he has already gone 6 of 7 with several highlight shots…the Magic can’t let him continue to do this….WAIT!…Tony Battie just blocked him and there was a snake charmer courtside with a head wrap and all…maybe …just maybe they can….SCRATCH THAT….The Mamba just beat the clock with a last second three after getting the Frenchie in the popcorn machine and free throw to complete the four point play…Sorry Hadji, Johnny is on a Quest for another ring. A big 17 point 1st quarter for Bryant, a 31-27 Lakers lead has me believing like Steve Perry…The Journey continues.

Nervous time when Kobe sits down to start the second….But Luke’s fake jumper/dish to a cutting Lamar for an easy bucket and one helps to keep Kobe resting. Walton, Farmar and the bench hold the lead for the Lakers until Kobe returns, but the Magic keep coming fast and furious. Yet somehow L.A. is still ahead with Howard dunking and Turk playing string music. The Frenchman ties it up at 41 but there’s Kobe to put in a trey to reclaim the lead. Pietrus carries the ball for a breakaway bucket, Gasol hit’s a rainbow J in the lane and the Turk strikes yet again…Great game so far. Eldrick and Coach K sit courtside to enjoy the show. No letdown by Los Angeles yet…bad news for Orlando. Every time they get close, the Lakers answer. Both teams are playing like it means something…after last game I was starting to wonder. Yes, that WAS a pass to Gasol by Kobe…Someone spiked Frenchy’s latte with an energy shot because Mickael looks like a different man tonight putting the Magic up by one on his 8th point before Trevor Ariza tried to crack the glass on his first free throw attempt but he hit’s the second to tie it at 51. Back to back 3’s by Lewis jack the crowd up and Dwight slapping Kobe’s shot into the stands pumps them up a little more before a home court call puts the man-child on the line. A 75% first half shooting percentage helps the Magic to a halftime lead of 59-54 and Skip to my Lou spouts some gibberish during thinterview that even after replaying I still can’t comprehend. Was he speaking English? Whatever, great game so far.

The third quarter sees Kobe let the rookie Courtney Cox and friends get into his head a bit, Dwight Howard throw bows like Luda and the refs call the game like it’s the Superman show…Oh yeah, then there’s that Rafer situation…He’s having a Fish dinner and skipping all over the Laker D…Phil should put Shannon Brown on him and start force feeding the ball into the paint to Pau, Bynum and Lamar before the refs get into their heads too much…it’s till close despite the favortism by the zebras 74-69 Orlando. Make that 77 on Lewis’ open three. The Magic’s sweet shooting continues, but as long as the Lakers stay within single digits I feel pretty good about their chances. Lamar Odom sparks the Lakers with a nice block and some lay-ups but the Magic pull one trick after another from their hat and keep the pressure on LA on Turkoglu’s back as he hits one tough shot after another…89-81 Orlando. A steal and teardrop lay in by Peitrus makes me think it’s Orlando’s night, but Trevor Ariza follows immediately with a three and the Magic just can’t shake the Lakes, 93-88. An Ariza 3 and Pau’s lefty hook closes the gap to three and the Magic must be wondering what they have to do to shake these guys. Dwight Howard’s free throws fall but Fish’s clutch 3 answers the bell for LA, he then stops Mickael’s dunk attempt with a hack. LO dumps one in the paint to cut it to 2 and the whistles start again. A missed dunk by Ariza, a steal by Odom, a Kobe jumper, more ticky tacks and still the Magic can’t break away 99-97 Orlando and the ride is getting fun….Kobepuppet thinks so too so he jumps into a car. Two Pau charity stripe points tie it up at 99 but the flying Frenchman soars in for a put back jam to reclaim the lead for the boys in blue and I press pause to catch my breath. Gasol bangs one home in traffic, but no whistles tonight for LA, anything they get they earn. The 118 million dollar man Rashard Lewis earns some scratch with a crunch time shot to push it back to 3...104-101...whew.

Kobe’s 5th missed free throw will be the difference…nba is the worst pointed out on the Laker thread that Bryant’s bricks were the difference around halftime…great observation as usual worst. It’ll most likely mean the game and Kobe will be in the gym for hours shooting one after another thinking about this one.

…But the Lakers catch a break when Lewis doesn’t take it hard to the rim and get the ball back, but on the other side Howard gets a hand on Kobe’s crossover and Frenchy gets it….but Gasol gets it back…then Frenchy nabs it on Pau’s pass to Kobe forcing a foul. Kobe shows his frustration on the court and Frenchy hit’s the two gimmes making it a four point lead….I need a drink. On the inbounds play Bryant clangs an open look off the front of the rim, Lamar saves it falling out of bounds and the Lakers call time out still down by four…16.4 About three bricks and three Lakers long rebounds later, Kobe gets a lay-up with 0.whatever on the clock. The game is effectively over, the confetti is already falling even though the game hasn’t been called yet…someone blew it. Despite the loss I now KNOW the Lakers can win here in Orlando. It’ll happen in one of the next two games…write it down.

Credit the Magic for responding to a must win game with a win, but I think we’ll see a Lakers victory in the swamp and an even more determined Lakers squad next game knowing they dropped a winnable game in game 3.

Ladies and gentlemen…we now have a series.

Friday, June 5, 2009

One down, three to go

The 2009 USA Olympic team was dubbed The Redeem Team but that same moniker could just as easily be used to describe the Los Angeles Lakers squad of this season.
Despite the inconsistencies, lack of focus and rollercoaster ups and downs we’ve witnessed from these Lakers this season, heir ultimate goal of redemption in losing last years Finals to the rival Celtics began tonight with an emphatic 25 point victory over the still winless in the NBA Finals Orlando Magic. Orlando’s only other appearance was when the original NBA Superman Shaquille O’Neal was patrolling the paint in Disney World along with the original puppet, Lil Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and the rest of the bunch that got swept by Hakeem Olajuwon‘s Houston Rockets. Dwight Howard is the modern day Shaq in that he’s the most dominant big man currently out there, but he’s not on Shaq’s Most Dominant level just yet. He struggled matching his uniform #12 in points in his first Finals game proves that. This series is far from over, but I’m confident the Lakers are on a mission and will not be denied.

The pre-game pep talk by the enthusiastic, Tommy Lasordaesque Magic coach Stan Van Gundy focused on the fact that the media was again making the game about the bigger superstar, Kobe Bryant. The same thing was the case in Orlando’s previous match-up against the LeBron’s.
Prince James may have left the court without the proper congratulations to the Magic team that ended the ring dream so abruptly, but he left it all on the floor and ultimately, that’s what he’s paid for. As so eloquently stated by Charles Barkley over a decade ago, athletes are not role models. That fact is on display nightly with guys like Barriod Bonds, Roger Clemens, T.O., Michael Vick and Pac-Man Jones getting so much attention. Then again, Paris Hilton, Spencer and Heidi and Brittany Spears are what the public seems to want to pay attention to rather than the socialization of this great nation, but that’s for another blog. My point is, Van Gundy was right, this series IS about Kobe Bryant. His indomitable will to win and dedication to the goal of winning will be the difference between the two teams.

Andrew Bynum came out swinging, scoring the Lakers first four points and si of the first ten accepting the challenge of stopping the man-child Howard. For all the criticism young Drew has endured by many, at times even myself, is a testament to his potential. At the ripe age of 21, he is expected to be the stopper of Superman redux and looks to be capable of the task at hand. Some have called him over-rated, soft, selfish, timid, useless and much worse. Most don’t realize this kid is only in his sixth year of organized basketball…but in the era of microwaves, 3g speed internet and instant gratification, some things take time to develop…give it some time and you may find this protégé of the greatest center of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, hopefully will get angry at some point and transform into a monster.

Until that time comes, the deadly venom, the head of the snake, the most driven athlete I’ve witnessed since MJ will continue to carry the young Lakers to the mountaintop. It surely doesn’t hurt that Phil Jackson, veteran Derek Fisher, and a team with a monstrous chip on its shoulder is who he goes into battle with. It was nice to see Orlando guard Jameer Nelson get out there after spending the better part of the season on the injured list with a bum shoulder, welcome back kid. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, KG in Boston is a prime example. Had he not gone down with a knee problem I whole-heartedly think the Celtics would have been the East’s representative in these games. I would have preferred that scenario for payback reasons, but when the rings are handed out it doesn’t say who they beat to get em….just World Champions.

The road to redemption continues:

One down, three to go.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


My mantra has come to pass for a second straight season
Wedding time is here and the Lakers again teasin

I say it high, I say it low, I say it when it's time to go
For it's my sign fateful phrase
My hopes and my dreams, my nights and my days

Team colors I bleed...the purple and gold
NBA titles I need, to have and to hold.

I say it loud, I say it clear
I say it over and over for the blogging world to hear.

This year began, I still uttered the phrase
Though this time last summer, I ached for days.

Those little green men returned once again, to smash my high note, and bring the ride to an end. But with every years close a new beginning blossoms, and with every playoff win the harsh blow of failure slightly softens.

A taste of honey here and there as the season progressed, the thrill of victory, a puffed out chest.

A homer
A diehard
A believer
A friend

So again here go- in the hunt yet again
Time after time The Master of Zen

A rapist?, a headcase, an unproven pivot
A tall mushy Spaniard, the pain of 08' now a divot.

A youngbuck small forward, who's hitting his shots
A triad of point guards playing in spots

The Bench Mob, Lamar's candy, Tyrese's rendition
Jack in the front row, Ko-BE in the kitchen.

What's that smell? - Is it rings a brewin?
Or is it the Magic on a mission to ruin

First the three-peat, then two Finals losses?
Will the ball be dropped or will they be the big bosses?

I don't know my friends, but game one looms
Until Thursday's tipoff, I'll relax with some tunes

I hope you're diggin the vibe that I'm sellin
More so, I hope that the Lakers keep gellin

Los Angeles survived the Rockets and Denver
Now it's Orlando's turn to step into the blender

The Lakeshow's on a mission to bring home the bacon
Supaman and his sidekicks best not be fakin

L.A. is focused and once again ready
Slicin and dicin like that Kruger guy Freddy

So come one come all, bring your knife and your spoon
The special of the day is....