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Aces, Johnny! Aces!

I'm sitting at computer, trying in vain to type while ignoring visions of pocket aces dancing in my head. In about 7 hours, I'll be attending Lakers Casino Night, the 3rd annual extravaganza benefiting the Lakers Youth Foundation. Glamorous sponsors, glamorous people, glamorous setting and... The K Brothers. Well, it mostly all fits.

As BK and I have mentioned from time to time, we play in a weekly no-limit Texas hold 'em tourney, mostly made up of people who play 3-4 times a week and/or work for the World Poker Tour. They're all very good, and while BK and I don't always finish in the money, we can definitely hold our own against them. In my humble opinion, we're solid players who enjoy a little competition. And the entire team (save Texas-bound Von Wafer) should be in the house this evening. From what I've heard, many will be pushing around chips and trying their luck at the tables. Thus, there's always a chance I could end up sitting to the left of some Laker, deciding whether to re-raise him or fold. Obviously, nobody's winning any money tonight, since all proceeds are for charity. But there's still pride at stake, along with my fleeting shot at potential greatness. I mean, let's be honest. How often am I ever gonna get an opportunity to beat Kobe Bryant at anything? While the chances of having a showdown with every member of the roster is remote, the smart player nonetheless does his homework. Better believe I've spent the last couple days talking to players and scouting out info.

Like most things in sports, it all begins with the coach. Before last night's game against the Warriors, I asked Phil Jackson about his prowess at the gaming tables. He smiled, then revealed this tidbit. "My game is cribs, but I do like backgammon. I don't know if either one is going be offered."

Okay.

Unless "cribs" is short for "cribbage," I have no idea what game he's talking about, either. Phil seemed to recall Luke Walton playing pretty well in last year's event. Walton's name actually popped up a lot as a quality cardsman, so I put him on my radar as one to watch (and judging by word of mouth, Devean George is also worth taking seriously). After reminding Phil of the book he bought Wafer earlier this season, he agreed it was indeed unfortunate for tonight's patrons that Von is helping the Ft. Worth Flyers during their playoff run (and when I asked Brian Cook at Tuesday's practice to forecast the likely "fish", Von was also his man. Then again, Devin Green predicted Cookie himself would be easily taken out, so who knows?). Phil thought Sasha might fill the void nicely in Wafer's absence, but guessed that the fellas will likely just avoid that game altogether.

Despite a lack of endorsement from Green (who doesn't gamble much and mostly just wants to enjoy fellowship with his teammates), B.Cook seemed more than confident about his chances. Asked about potentially matching up against Kobe, he's never played Ocho in the past, "but would probably take him. Me and him are real competitive. I always win all the shooting games, so he might get me in Texas hold 'em. But I doubt it."
Kwame Brown's definitely got his own style. "I don't play the cards. I just play the people. I bluff everybody." It sounded like classic poker strategy until Brown revealed the true origins of this method. He doesn't really know the rules and simply relies on pricing people out. "I've played one or two times. I just folded people out of the game. I kept raising, until they found out I didn't know what I was doing." Kwame's gonna wear sunglasses to maintain his poker face (and "try not to laugh"), but admitted his is not a great strategy for going the distance. And speaking of bluffing, Kobe boasted of his ability to get it done with smoke and mirrors. "I'll bluff the hell out of you. I'll win with a pair of 2's!" After years of watching Kobe square off against opponents he's clearly got outgunned, the idea of watching him battle with a metaphorical rusty butter knife sounds pretty fascinating.

On the flip side, Ronny Turiaf confessed that he can't bluff to save his life. In news that should shock roughly nobody, he's a bit too animated for playing possum. "I don't do well with my facial expressions. I give it up pretty easily." That said, don't underestimate the rook. He's recently made friends with professional players Phil Ivey and Erik Lindgren. "I've tried to get some tips from them and stuff." But after sifting through the gossip and hearsay, I've decided there's only one player in purple and gold truly worth fearing in heads up.

Aaron McKie.

No name garnered more respect than this cagey vet's. Word is, dude can play. Hell, he even taught the entire team a spades-five card stud hybrid called "Boo-Ray," which he's apparently also the team honcho (Lamar Odom and Kwame are big fans of the game as well). And when I asked McKie about this evening's festivities, his eyes lit up like saucers. I don't recall him looking that excited when the Sixers played the Lakers in the 2001 finals. "I play it all. Black Jack. Hold 'em. Stud. Dice." Asked if he could school some of his co-horts, he played it cool. "We'll see, because everybody's gonna let their secrets out." I'm guessing his poker face is better than his "Gee, I'm genuinely worried about my chances against these guys" face, because I didn't buy it for one second. When it comes to bad folks to run up against while you're short stacked, McKie is the consensus McKing.

Finally, Chris Mihm said his ankle wasn't bad enough to keep him from hitting casino night. Let me tell you right now, don't matter to me one bit if he's gritting his teeth and playing hold 'em through injury. If we end up at the same table, I'm taking it right to him. I'm like that bad sensei in The Karate Kid. "No mercy." I'll refrain from actually sweeping his leg, though, since the team really does need him healthy for the playoffs.

Remember, there are tickets still available at ticketmaster.com. If you've got the dough and feel a bit generous, plunk it down for a good cause. It's the closest you'll come to seeing Andrew Bynum in a casino setting for another three years.

AK

Note: The title is an inside joke (and not even a very funny one, at that) between me, BK and our friend Steve, who likely won't even be reading this post. Sometimes you just gotta amuse yourself.

 
Comments () | Archives (41)

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Sounds like a kick, wish I could afford to be there. Represent the blog well K Brothers!

good luck K bros...hope you win (money you can't take home...lol...jk)

Sounds like fun, but way too rich for my blood. The "general seating" is more than a week's pay, "reserved seating" twice that, so once again only the wealthy get to really enjoy this Laker team the way the rest of us would like to. At least the money goes to s Charity in this case, so it's not quite as annoying, but the way the Lakers require a certain income in order to go to games, attend events or even afford cable/sattelite to watch at home etc. is really a bummer sometimes.

If there's ever a Backgammon night with Phil though, I'm there.

That's a good way to earn money for charity. Everybody just have fun, and spend dough, great. I want to hear some results when you guys are done.

Good LUCK K brothers!!

Quick question... who are the voters that determines the NBA MVP? is it the coaches and media?.. thanks

I hope you won alot Andrew K, I hope you lost a lot of money Brian K.

bUCKY, it is the media (especially the basketball journalists media)

You only get 50 chips??? That's tough.

Has anyone seen Kon? He hasn't been here for a while. Not that I'm complaining but I worry that the plushie-doll that is his body keeps on getting run over or being mistaken as a girl by his little sister. Sonnybelfast I could tolerate, realnbafan is alright. Kon I don't know but heck his name after all is Kaizo Konpaku or "modified soul".

hey sonny, if Kobe don't win MVP then there is one other person: Steve Nash. As much as I want Kobe to win, Nash helped beat the Queens. Go Steve Nash! Hope Kobe wins instead!

thanks faith... you know your stuff!

I would be fascinated to watch that event. I wish I could be there. Personally, I think Kobe should play without any sort of sunglasses. When he's angry and giving that glare of his, he has a very intimidating look.

Although in all honesty, I would remember the ages old adage:

"Which is more dangerous, a tiger that looks like a tiger or one that looks like a mouse?"

Or the more commonly used, "Don't judge a book by its cover."

Lucky I can't afford to attend that Casino Night thing the Lakers are having. Back in my home town I'm known as "full-house" mike. I once was at the poker table in a small bar playing against these old guys, I had them going...I swear I pulled 7 full houses that night. You have to talk to the cards! You have to demoralize the opponent! You have to believe that the next card coming to you is the one you need. LOL! You have to be a gambler...Like all those posts I did on Kwame...I was gambling that the kid was going to come through...LOL!

mike

Anybody that sees Buss at Casino night,

Tell them Jason Williams from Duke is planning his return to the NBA. He is the perfect piont gaurd for a team like the Lakers.

It's official: JA Adande's blog sucks! He had a live blog that no one showed up to! lol!

i hope when chris mihm returns, they bring him off the bench! i would much rather have kwame continue playing with confidence than have him relegated back to the bench and the land of 5 pt 5 rebound games. chris is good enough, and will always have the confidence in himself to produce whether its off the bench or starting. obviously, starting makes it a lot easier, but at this point, it would be much better for kwame to continue playing with this newfound confidence. besides, phil doesnt ever have to run plays for him, or run isolation sets for him, lie they do for chris. kwame is basically, there as an option or a bailout for easy attempts around the hoop. anyways, i dunno if this has already been discussed, cuz i havent been checking the forum lately. been kinda busy at work.

here's praying to God that mihm's return doesnt screw up kwame's game!

Hey AK,

Good luck tonight!!! As for your D-Wade loving brother, I hope he loses his life savings!!!

Just jokin, BK!!! I'm over the Wade thing, this blog is my refuge, keep up the good work!!!

Good Luck K Bro's

You must tell us honestly how you did.

AK & BK...hold on to your wallets, you might walk on the freeway....LOL!

Did you read Bill "trying-to-imitate Murray" Plaschke, he's talking about the Lakers again? I remember he was the first guy who convicted Kobe before the start of the trial in Colorado. I don't know what had happened to LA times, they have "fair-weather" sportswriters from Adande, Simers, Plaschke, with controversial views that were unpopular with Laker fans. Breshnan took over the Laker beats for the past two seasons. Next year, I hope they will consider AK or BK eventhough they go against Kobe for MVP, at least they have conviction with their choice and could provide a veritable knowledge of basketball and balanced reporting.

In the article of Bill Plaschke, he quoted Mitch Kupcake who said "he was happy that Fish grabbed the Golden State offer two seasons ago"...as if he was saying we didn't intend to negotiate with our offer or have plans of bringing him back cuz' the owner is consolidating his resources till '08. It was Kobe who phoned Da Fish because the owner and the GM preferred cheapo players like: Atkins, Sasha and that journeyman guard who was cut-off (I forgot his name) than Da old Fish'. Boy, they would not even reward the fellow who spurned the Spurs with 0.4 of a second. So what, if they go beyond the salary cap for this special individual. Sorry to say, this GM has no backbone to go against Jerry Buss or with Phil Jackson.

realGM just posted an MVP poll, which Kobe is currently leading with 45% of the vote (only 119, but its early). Its on the lower left of the front page.

http://www.realgm.com/

This just in, LBJ has an ankle sprain. Will be just a few games, but nevetheless he got injured in the Cavaliers huge loss to the Pistons. Him gonna miss a few games might hurt his chance to MVP. Kobe has only missed 2 games this season and that was because of a suspension. Kobe did get banged up so far in this season and that includes: a sore ankle, wrist, knee, back, calf and hip, and the shin from last night. Yet he still plays. Almost like A.I. Keep going Kobe.

Still early but Portland is up on the Clippers 28-22 end of the first. Would be nice to see a Portland win tonight...inchining closer to a #6 seed.

Utah beat the cr@p out of Denver tonight so the Lakers will have to wait for Friday's Utah vs. Hornets to see if they'll clinch (of course the Lakers would have to win too :)

I had an interesting chat with Tex Winter today, who has spent time working with the team recently.
He was excited about the Lakers owning and controlling a Development League team. The primary purpose, he said, will be to develop young players who understand the triangle offense and get playing time in the system. Right now, the Lakers have a problem because there are so few players in the NBA with experience in the triangle. He agreed with Brian Shaw that one of the big problems this year for the team was trying to develop young players who had almost no experience in the offense. It made the learning curve much steeper. And it seemed to take forever just to get the younger players to learn simple elements of the system.
However, Tex said the coaching staff continues to marvel at the late-season development of young players, that the pay-off for all the work by the coaching staff and the players has been their surprising improvement.
Tex's comments on key players:
Luke Walton has worked extremely hard on his shot lately. As a result, he's playing with more confidence. His move into the starting lineup and his recent solid performances have only boosted his confidence. His play has brought a huge improvement in the team. He still does some wacky things, Tex says, but Luke is a key to this team in the playoffs. His play has been nothing short of outstanding.
Kwame Brown: At first, Tex wasn't sure Kwame had the work ethic to make it in the NBA, despite his physical gifts. But Kwame has made believers out of Tex and others on the coaching staff. Kwame has established that he is a center and not a power forward (he doesn't have the offensive skills to be a power forward). He has a chance, if he really works hard, to be one of the best centers in the league in a year or two.
Chris Mihm is a question mark. Tex said the coaches are concerned that Mihm's return from a sprained ankle that has benched him most of the past month might have a negative impact on Kwame's development. Mihm clearly is no power forward. His playing center might have an effect on Kwame's somewhat fragile nature. The coaches want to make sure that team chemistry, which has been outstanding down the stretch this spring, doesn't shift for the playoffs.
Smush Parker: He has incredible athletics abilities, although his play has been inconsistent of late. Parker is essentially a rookie (who played little college ball) and has played more games this season than he has ever played in his life. He may have hit the proverbial wall a bit. He has been a huge find for the Lakers.
Lamar Odom: Winter likes to closely observe players as people, how they act on and off the court. He says Odom may be one of the finest, most decent humans he's encountered in a half century of coaching. Odom, Tex says, has that rare combination of athletic confidence and genuine humility. That may work against him on occasion, if he gets too nice. But Odom has grown into the triangle and has shown in recent games that he is capable of amazing things on the court. His great nature makes it easy to cheer for Lamar Odom.
Kobe: Tex says Kobe has stunned him with his play this season, that he has clearly exceeded Jordan as a shot-maker. Kobe still has some trouble with the team game, with involving his teammates. That's not because he doesn't understand. Kobe has long understood every facet of the triangle offense. Kobe wants to do the right thing every time. But he's just so impulsive, Winter said, that Kobe will sometimes do the wrong thing out of impulse.
Phil Jackson and his staff: Their work, especially Phil's rescue work with Kwame Brown is one of the finest reclamation jobs on a player thought to be a complete bust. Jackson has never done a finer coaching job, Tex said.
The bottom line? The Lakers are a fun team to watch, to coach, to be around. The mental framework is excellent heading into the playoffs.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Derek Fisher on Kobe Bryant:

"He has obviously put together a tremendous season individually, and he has helped this organization get back to a point of respectability. People are really feeling like this team can continue to improve. He deserves a lot of credit for that." -Derek Fisher

I miss Derek fisher he would sacrifice his body to win a game. I want fisher back on our team!

Faith, the article about "kidnaping Kobe Bryant" MVP talk is just how i perceive the whole situation

Exactly what I was thinking. The Author of that article and I think the same way.

I like AK.
I dislike BK.
No body should ever pick Wade over Kobe. Which is quite retarded.

What I still don't like with the lakers is they keep on shooting 3s, especially like in the 2nd or 3rd quarter against GSW, most of their shots came from beyond the arc, lakers shot 9/29 3s and most of them came from bryant, parker and cook, 3/9 from parker, 2/8 from bryant and 1/5 from cook, and this is just merely 27%, they should limit their 3s or else they won't go far.

Roland, thanks for the nice article, great read.

I particularly liked the comments on Lamar, he really does have that humility thing going. I love his attitude and feel he's the perfect #2 on the team.

Also interesting is Luke's role on the team. Now that I think about it, the new Laker lineup basically has 4 starters with passing skills (Lamar, Kobe, Luke, Smush)

7th seed, 8th seed, San Antonio, Phoenix; Is who you get first important? Doesn't matter to us. It will soon be time to swat them down, in the order they line up. I hope you'll be there.

I know this poker thing is for charity and the players think it's a fun thing, but I think it's sad to see Laker players endorsing this poker craze.

I don't know about the States, but here in Sweden there's total poker insanity. Every other TV channel has a poker show and every other TV show is sponsored by some poker site or betting company. The result? People are spending tons of money on poker (stupid sheep!)

I know poker can be a fun game and you guys kind of invented it, but it's sickening to see the commercial powers at work. Makes me want to puke!

Sorry 'bout this outburst and hope you raise a lot of dough!

And on a nicer note: my Nostradamus spirit has told me that 8th wonder will have one insane game in the playoffs (no, not the usual insane game, but one call-your-friends-or-the-firedepartement-kind-of-game!) This, I hope, means that we won't get swept in the first round ;-)

iout of the topic question:

How are things between kobe and his father?

Roland,
You don't need a lot of offense out of the power forward position, if you are getting enough of it elsewhere. Perfect example: Dennis Rodman with the Bulls and the Pistons. And with Kobe's "extra" offense, you have some room to play with.

Roland, Great article. It looks like Tex sees it pretty much like what we say here. It comes from all our interactions on this blog; even BK's :>)

Kudos for LO as a person.

Next years core: Kob LO Kwam, please no trades for them. For a championship we need a DFish type and a KG almost-type.

Here are two MVP links:

from Ventre MSNBC 'It's no Contest - Kobe should be MVP'
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/12289270/

and another: http://www.asuwebdevil.com/issues/2006/04/13/sports/696647

Read this article about Kobe Black Mamba Snake...be careful, it's poisened.

http://slamonline.com/magazine/features/Kobe97/

Well I was watching the Clippers game last night (Clippers won by 3) and the play-by-play/color announcers apparently have ballots for the MVP. Both announcers have ballots...1 dude already sent in his ballot and he picked Steve Nash. The other dude hasn't sent it in yet but he's not voting for Kobe either.

I know the MVP talks been driven into the ground, but my buddy just IM's me and tells me he's reading an article in the latest Sporting News on MVP candidates and guess who's not on the list? Yep, good ol' #8. LOL, what a joke.

Media bias? What media bias?

Thanks for contributing Roland.

I think Kwame and LO are playing the Lakers right out of the running for KG. At the All-Star break it would have been a no-brainer to make a deal, but they've both shown great improvement and even better yet, seem to have great chemistry with Kobe.

After next season when Brian Grant's contract comes off the books we should be in good shape with a core of Kobe, LO, Kwame and some money to spend.

GO LAKERS!!

Not sure if anyone knows who I can write to in the Lakers front office or the NBA, but San Diego would more than welcome some professional basketball, even if it's the D-League.

Roland Lazenby,

WOW, your article definitely describes what most of us think about this Laker team.
I guess I/We understimated the coaching staff, there is only one thing I disagree with Tex and I think "exhelodrvr" mentioned it too. I don't think that this Lakers team should demand a lot of offensive production out of the power forward position as long as it makes a very strong contribution on the boards and on defense.
Unfortunately we keep basing our hopes in a bunch of "Ifs" if Odom becomes a consistent second force, if Smush becomes keeps atacking the rim instead of shooting all those 3's, if Kwame continues to play at the same level.
But all in all it seems that they all are living up to and going beyond the expectations we first set for them.
Thanks for the nice article.

Thanks as always for your comments, Roland.

I think this recent stretch has been a very exciting time for Laker fans. The team has been really coming together in recent weeks. As Jackson noted the other day, they are peaking at the right time. They could do some damage in the playoffs if they get a couple of breaks, and by next season I believe they can be a very good team with this core group and a couple of solid offseason tweaks.

I have been wondering what the coaching staff was thinking about the Mihm conundrum. I believe the Lakers are a better team with Kwame in the middle (provided Kwame continues to work hard and improve, which I believe he will). It's a shame for Mihm because he has improved quite a lot under Kareem's tutelage and it's unfortunate for him that he got injured. But he may wind up being the odd man out. He is a legitimate NBA 7-footer, a lot of teams would like to have a center like him. I think he may be trade bait in the offseason.

Larry

Brandon,

You mean that announcer that sounds like a male Elizabeth Taylor when he goes "Oh My Goodness!" gets to vote?

That's terrible. I don't think broadcasters that cover one specific team should get to vote, it should be the national media like the TNT/ESPN/CBS people who see a much wider variety of matchups.

Roland,

Great post, thanks for that.


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