Except there are no paddles used, a zillion more balls on hand, and the winner gets a chance to either catapult their franchise's future... or select Michael Olowokandi. So even though this game (which ROCKS!!!) involving ping pong balls is somewhat more riveting than ones like this, don't let the latter's wallflower atmosphere fool you. There's plenty at stake with each ball's bounce, even if the action's more "Merchant-Ivory" than "Bruckheimer-Bay."
Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold
I'm never terribly confident about projects involving David Arquette (although thankfully, it sounds like the spazzy one will remain behind the camera), but I'd tune in to check out Rick Fox's work. Fox is that rare athlete-turned-thespian that can actually act his way into a puppet show. He did a nice job in a small "He Got Game" role and was absolutely terrific as prisoner Jackson Vayhue on "Oz". I have a few movie geek friends who are huge "Oz" fans and don't follow sports whatsoever. They assumed Fox was a professional actor who happens to be very tall. Considering how critical these guys are, thems are hard earned props. I talked with Fox a few times about acting when he was on the team and it's a skill he treats with respect. He took (and may still take) private instruction and wasn't satisfied simply cashing in on his famous name (the "Kazaam"-esque route most athletes use to get into film).
Last night, much of the Laker Nation was convinced they'd somehow smoked some serious crack, despite having no recollection of ever sucking on a pipe. But how else could one explain seeing one Jack Nicholson, a Lakers fan nobody can accuse of faking the funk, sitting courtside in Phoenix to cheer on the Clippers? For many a card carrying member of the Laker faithful, this sat worse than Lindsay Lohan trying to negotiate her chair after an 11th appletini. The only thing worse than bandwagoneers wearing newly purchased "Bryant" jerseys come playoff time is seeing a theoretically "true fan" putting his Ocho jersey in a drawer and throwing on a red afro wig. Such actions prompt cries of "unpardonable sin!" But does it actually deserve such wrath? Can a Laker fan, their team now done until October, actually hold his head high while yelling, "Go Sam I Am!" Would you be okay with it?
My personal opinion? No worries. The Lakers are hands down my favorite team in the NBA, but the Clippers have always been my runner up, other than a brief phase when my appreciation for KG made me a semi-Wolves rooter (unless they battled the Lakers, of course). I've always had some love for the Clips. Truth be told, there's not a ton to hate about them, especially with the Kandi Man now on the east coast. Dunleavy's a good coach and a pretty nice guy. Great young players like Maggette, Kaman, Livingston, etc. And as my MVP vote made clear, I certainly admire Elton Brand's game. But even if I didn't appreciate any of those elements, I still don't think there's anything about the Clips worthy of prompting Lakerdom fury. Yeah, there's a legit rivalry in the making. A few years (and a few heated series) down the road, I may snarl at Sterling's Soldiers the way I rooted against Team C-Webb/Bibby/Mr. Jackie Christie. But for now, I don't understand how a Lakers fan could truly hate the Clips. They've been too harmless. I totally understand why a Clippers fan would hate the purple and gold. The franchise has (rightfully) made anyone rooting L.A.'s "other team" feel somewhere between eighth class citizen and delusional masochist. It's enough to make you hate yourself, much less an organization in the same area code that's contintually flirting with dynasties. But a Lakers fan hating the Clips? Why bother? It's like a St. Louis Cardinals fan actually loathing the Cubs. Chicago's been to the playoffs 4 times since the first Reagan administration and remains powerless to the curse of a goat. They're hardly worth mustering up the energy required to hate them. And when it comes down to it, the Clippers are representing your city. They make noise. L.A. makes noise. Simple as that.
Unless you'd prefer silence, thank you very much. Many folks believe a Lakers fan roots one team and one team only. The Lakers. From the start of the preseason until the season ends. Then said fan goes into hibernation until Bynum and Wafer are suiting up for Summer Pro League. And if you did somehow justify rooting for a second team, it ain't gonna be no squad sharing quarters with the purple and gold. That's borderline incest, man! You wouldn't root to hook up with your cousin, would you? (And if you would, just keep it to yourself!) Besides, the further the Suns advance, the more street cred the Lakers get for losing to them. It's a lot easier for some to handle losing to the Western Conference champs than some clowns eliminated in the semi's. By osmosis, the better the Suns postseason, the better the Lakers postseason. Hell, let them win the whole thing. Yeah, it would really suck to see Raja Bell slip some bling on his finger. But if it somehow grants more credence to the Lakers' '05-'06, there's comfort to be had.
So where do you come down on all this. Happy to see Jack in Phoenix representing L.A.? Or pissed enough to toss out your DVD of A Few Good Men? Be sure to explain either opinion.
Hey. Two big games this weekend. Massive. Gargantuan. No question, the kind of games you'd normally have two live blogs to from which to pick and choose. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if that's what you'd rather have anyway) you only get one. Some long planned, unchangeable, unavoidable, unbreakable travel plans with my fiance will keep me out of LA on Friday and Sunday.
So bring home a couple winners, and I'll be guaranteed a shot at Game Six... or better yet, take two at home and Game Five in Phoenix, and hopefully it'll set up a Lakers-Clippers Round Two that will create more buzz in Los Angeles than news of Brad Pitt leaving Angelina Jolie for Billy Bob Thornton.
Okay. Enough on programming notes, more on hoops. Here's today's question. Phil Jackson has developed a game plan that has managed to, paraphrasing PJ's own words, stymie and befuddle the Suns. In Game One, the Lakers had a chance to steal the game with a better showing on D and a couple clutch shots. Didn't happen. Game Two was another story entirely- an often dominating performance forced Phoenix to play catch up, no fun for even fun-and-gun NBA teams.
So here's the question. You're Mike D'Antoni. What adjustments do you make going into Game Three? How would you break the Lakers D, or force the Lakers offense to play to your tempo. Would you try to force the purple and gold to rely on Kobe? Would you have to see a shrink just for thinking of that sort of strategy?
And more importantly- because no Lakers fan wants to think of a good idea and give it away to the enemy- afterward, after removing your sombrero de D'Antoni, put on your PJ hat. What adjustments should Jackson make in anticipation of D'Antoni's moves? Or is it a question of, "You know what we're going to do, but we're betting you can't stop it?"
If cliches have taught us anything, it's that the playoffs are a chess match. What moves are coming next?
This kid rules.
Question: If Magic wins an Oscar for producing this film, will he keep the trophy in
a) His home
b) The Lakers Offices in El Segundo
c) The Magic Johnson Foundation offices
d) His TGI Friday's
e) One of his Starbucks
f) One of his movie theaters
g) One of his Burger Kings
h) One of his co-owned banks
i) A business location to be acquired later
j) None of the above
k) All of the above, with the golden man in a steady rotation
BK and I are at Staples right now, doing a little scouting of the Lakers' potential second round opponents. Of course, the Lakers gotta get past Phoenix first in order to play either the Clips or Nugs. Obviously, Kobe's gotta play his game (and play it well) or this team ain't going no place. But even the sickest of players need a little help come playoff time, and Kobe's no exception. It's up to Bryant's teammates to bring it this series. Which brings us to the $1,000,000 question.
Of the entire supporting cast, who absolutely, positively, hands down, period needs to step it up the most?
Is it Kwame Brown, who reportedly will be fed early and often in order to exploit Phoenix's softer middle? Maybe it's Lamar Odom, whose versatility and quarterbacking plays a huge part of Kwame's ability to do his thing in the first place? Does it all come down to Smush sticking with Steve Nash? The Lakers' bench has been erratic all season. Will Devean George's playoff experience and triangular knowledge make him the second unit's all-important anchor? Or does that honor actually belong to Brian Cook, the most reliable scorer among the subs (unless you consider Chris Mihm even more dependable)? But lest we forget, the Lakers are the underdogs. When it comes to fighting big odds, encouragement never hurts. There's no better cheerleader in the league than Ronny Turiaf. Maybe it all comes down to the power of his enthusiasm and sideline dancing.
Then again, perhaps the mystery man is someone yet to be mentioned.
Give us the who and why. And while you're at, how about a prediction for the series. Who's the winner in how many games?
From Andrew Z, who posted this question at the end of last week:
"I have a question for everyone, and try to be as honest as possible. Do you consider this season a success if the Lakers just make the playoffs? Do they have to win a series? Does the late season progress of Luke, LO, and Kwame make this year a success? If you would have told me at the beginning of the year we would have this amount of wins, be in the playoffs, and those three guys would be playing at their current level, I would have asked "where do I sign up?" Just wondering if you all feel the same."
While some of you have already answered, AK and I thought it was a good question and didn't want it to get lost in the comments. Now that the Lakers have clinched a berth (and with a couple days before their next game), now is as good a time as any for a little reflection.
Phil has said a few times that the first time he saw this bunch play, he wondered if the could win 30 games. He's revised that estimate upwards as the season has gone along. Me? I've done the opposite. Before the season, I said they'd win 46, then and get bounced in the first round. At midseason, when they were on a nice lil' winnin' streak, I bumped up those estimates to around 47 or 48. Then the Lakers went into the tank and I wondered if they'd even finish .500, forcing me to go back and delete the earlier predictions from the site. Now 45 wins is a strong possibility, and the playoff spot is locked up. Considering the roster has less experience than a roomful of computer geeks at freshman orientation, it's hard to complain about those results. Now the younger guys will get a taste of the postseason, which will be valuable for those who are still around when the rebuilding is complete.
Even better, it looks like Kwame Brown has the potential to be a consistent, solid NBA center, L.O. may have seen the triangle light bulb go off in his head, and best of all, Kobe and Phil haven't spent the year keying each other's car. There may just be a workable nucleus in LA after all, a nice change from January when many felt the best plan was keep Kobe and ship out everyone not named Bynum ASAP.
So what do you think? Success or not? Is it championships or bust (the George Steinbrenner approach to fandom)? Will you take what you can get?
Obviously, fans want the whole enchilada. But putting aside the chest puffing, "NOTHING BUT A CHAMPIONSHIP IS ACCEPTABLE!" rhetoric for a moment, I would have to say that even if they're bounced in the first round, this was a successful season for the purple and gold. Not enough to rest on their laurels, but successful nonetheless.
As always, justify your answer.
With ten games left, those who put in for playoff tickets are breathing relatively easy. Not that the Lakers should rest on their laurels or begin starting a Devin Green-Von Wafer-Aaron McKie-Jim Jackson-Ronny Turiaf lineup (they're going really small). But barring injury or some monumental collapse, they're wading in reasonably safe waters. The team's in a pretty nice groove at the moment. And save Sacto, nobody trailing behind seems capable of back to back wins, much less a threatening win streak. No slacking allowed, because every game still counts big and bad. But assuming the Lakers treat their business as such, I have a hard time picturing a 9th seed finish.
That being said, I don't see them rising past 7, either. Never say never, especially since they could do some damage by beating their Staples roommates on April 9th. But both Memphis and the Clips are playing pretty well. The Clips are deep enough to absorb Cat Mobley's ankle injury. Pau Gasol and Mike Miller are making life without Damon Stoudamire pretty tolerable. Therefore, I wouldn't bet your metaphorical farm, much less my own, on a 6 or 5 seed (Unless I just wanted the property off my hands, since I have absolutely no interest in farming).
Happy St. Patty's Day to all! Hope everybody has some big plans for the evening, and remembers to be smart and safe in their quest to drown themselves in green brew. The Lakers will be battling it out in New Jersey tonight, probably killing any chances of a wild night getting their Irish on. But if they had the night off (and a subsequent night off to recover), maybe some guys on the team would be up for a holiday featuring an Irish car bomb or three (for those who don't know the drink, take a shot of Baileys and Irish whiskey, drop it in a half filled Guinness, then slam the whole thing. Yummy!). So here's the riddle. If you could pick one Laker to party with during tonight's festivities, who would it be?
You gotta think about this carefully, though, because this decision will shape your entire bar hopping experience. Let's drop a little insight, shall we?
Been a bit of a ride lately for the Laker Nation. In the course of ten days, the Lakers have beaten Detroit and San Antonio, come up huge on the road against New Orleans, found themselves within spitting distance of the coveted 6th seed, signed Jim Jackson, saw Devean George and Chris Mihm go down with injuries, gritted their teeth during Kobe's current shooting slump and have fallen back to the eight spot, a mere game ahead of the Hornets.
Say that five times fast.
Information and emotion overload for the average Lakers fan, to say the least. And given how the blogging community's confidence is often as inconsistent as the team itself, I'm just curious: At 33-32, with 17 games left, has panic mode kicked in yet? You hyperventilating? Losing sleep? Putting in enough phone calls that your shrink needs a shrink? Or simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, "They'll make it happen. No worries." On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your panic level? 1 equals low blood pressure. 10 means you're this close to entering a bell tower with a rifle.
Me? I'm putting it at 2. I predicted the 8 spot from the get go and never expected them to get any higher. Therefore, my world hasn't been rocked. Plus, Houston's toast with T-Mac gimpy, the Hornets are on life support, the Jazz are DOA, and KG shouldn't be around any sharp objects with a teammate in his vicinity. As long as the Lakers maintain a .500 pace or slightly above, there's nobody scary in their rear view mirror. The only reason things merit a "2" in my mind is Mihm's injury. This team's too thin to lose anybody capable of consistent contributions, much less one of their bets players. And he may be out a long while. I don't see that costing L.A. the postseason, but it doesn't allow me to assess the situation as a lowly 1.
So there you have it. I'm giving things a "2." But that's just me. I'm a cool cat, after all. What number best fits your mindset?