The Grinch, CP3 and the End of a Lifetime Love Affair

NBA1

My love for NBA basketball goes back 32 years, along with with my love for the Los Angeles Lakers.  I watched it flourish from the drug infested rep it had during the 70s, through the resurgence with the help of Magic, Larry, and Isaiah; the glory years of Jordan, Hakeem, and finally Shaq, Kobe, Duncan and D-Wade.  The current NBA has plenty of stars to peek the interest of old and new fans.  As bad as “The Decision” was for LeBron and The Heat, the NBA had its peak year of interest, and then like a hammer, the owners imposed another lockout!

This was the first blow to my love for the NBA game.  Not that the owners wanted more cheddar; that’s just the American way.  But the way they went about it, with their various threats to cancel the season.  After a blockbuster year for everyone, they acted with an arrogance that clearly showed many owners cared nothing about the fans that pushed their popularity to where it is, so that their revenue could be as substantial as it’s been.

I had it in my mind not to care whether the season was cancelled or not.  I felt that for the sake of labor, the players should get a fair deal that reflected the value they bring to the franchises.  If the owners wanted to bluff or cancel the season, then let them.  And then see if the game ends up like the NHL.

hunter fisher

With Christmas and it’s primetime schedule looming, the players and the owners were able to get a deal done and cram a 66 game season in just a few short months.  Initially the stain of the lockout was still in my mind.  I knew it would take me a little while at least to become interested in the league again.  I was more excited to continue watching NFL football and college hoops.

Once the deal was agreed upon and the moving and shaking began where clubs and players would be changing places, the buzz peeked my interest a bit more.  Chris Paul to the Lakers?  Tyson Chandler to the Knicks;  Pau Gasol to the Rockets, Lamar Odom to the Hornets, damn!  Talk about blowing up some teams!  I knew the Lakers needed to make some changes but Odom and Gasol?  That sounds drastic!  (Unless they were going to gun for Dwight Howard but still that was no sure thing!)

I said to myself, Del Demps (the GM for New Orleans) is no joke!  He’s sitting with a team that is owned by the league and where no one seems to want to go, and yet he just set himself up to have a strong team for this season with Odom, (the reigning sixth man of the year), Luis Scola (a double-double man), and guard Kevin Martin! This core gives a potential owner a very competitive team to begin with.  The Rockets having Gasol would make them instant playoff contenders since Yao Ming retired.  And as I said about my Lakers, it helped our backcourt tremendously but left our front line very light with a heavy load being put on Andrew Bynum’s knees.

Del Demps

Ok, maybe I do want to watch on Christmas.  But then at the behest of so called small market owners like Dan Gilbert, The Grinch David Stern killed the deal!  WTF???

It seems that though Demps was told by the league that he had the freedom to make deals as any other GM would, The Angel of Stern at the behest of Gilbert and the likes decided that Chris Paul going to the Lakers under any circumstances was bad for the league.  Part of the owners lockout strategy was to restrict star players from choosing their own destinies.  The problem is that they can’t stop free agency.  If a player is in the final year of his contract and is not going to stay with the team he’s on, he’s going to have a certain amount of power in choosing his trade destination if he doesn’t agree to re-sign with his new team.  That is just the nature of the beast.  Most players in any of the major sports have but one chance in their careers to have serious influence on where they go and how much they can make.

Stern said that the deal was not good enough for the Hornets and that his decision to block a great trade didn’t have anything to do with other owners.  He also thinks Jerry Sandusky only likes to ‘horse around’ with young boys.  But I digress!  Phil Jackson the former Laker coach brought the Paul issue up a year ago with the league owning the Hornets which is a clear conflict of interest.  He was fined by the league for predicting the cluster f#@! that eventually panned out.

clusterfuck

Fast forward a few days later with trade proposals flying like bullets and players being amnestied left and right, the Lakers gave away Lamar Odom to the World Champion Mavericks for a 40oz.  Neither Stern, Gilbert or any other small market owners said a word about that.  Instead of Demps doing the negotiations going forward, Stern took over negotiations from New York rendering the Hornets GM a GM with no clothes.  Oh and this just in: Paul goes to the Clippers instead; the team with historically racist owner the the league has never addressed.  That makes a lot of sense!

I’m just disgusted with the NBA right now.  And I’m honestly not sure if there will be any coming back from it.  This is NOT about the Lakers not getting CP3 either.  Since Jerry Buss turned the team over to his son, the way they have treated many of their loyal personnel like Brian Shaw for instance has shown a total lack of class.  Likewise, not even telling Lamar Odom, a man who has taken a lesser playing role and less money for years as a sign of loyalty that the team was seeking to trade him is reprehensible.  That is a side issue that calls into question my respect for the Laker organization.

What is bothersome is that in addition to the lockout, the league’s manipulation of team business is a huge turn off. I would much rather take my team to task for the way they manage, the way they play, Mike Brown’s coaching, etc. My team has been my team for over 30 years and we haven’t won the championship every year.  I’m good with that.  The issue is credibility!  I want to have the belief at least that the product that is NBA basketball is a legitimate institution.  Where if each team plays by the rules established that they can make or break their own clubs, their own seasons, and that I as a fan can watch the games and root from a fan’s perspective.

At best Christmas morning anticipation of the NBA should feel as if I am waking up to love I’ve known most of my life.  Now it feels like a dirty whore being shoved down my throat dressed with promos of players just recently cursed by owners. Where owners who have less skill and attract-ability can dictate to other teams what they can and cannot do.  Perhaps Stern will make Kim Kardashian an ESPN sideline reporter next.  It seems the league has not been less out of touch with reality.  I am a very educated fan and I won’t be given anything and told to deal with it.

kardashian_c

Perhaps it seems I’m taking this all too personally.  But I doubt it.  Even if we the normal fan cannot pay for NBA salaries, the fan base is the foundation that drives the revenues.  The time and dedication given by the average Joe in caring about what happens to his/her team gives the league the core value that the dollars and cents can be worth investing in.  Stern and the likes, have polluted that image.  Now it seems the games are played in boardrooms through conference calls to New York.

I’m not sure how this is all going to turn out for me as a fan.  Right now, it’s looking like the NFL will be the television featured in my house on Christmas Day.  And for that, I’m sorry.

 

SIDE RANT

*****If you examine Gilbert’s letter closely, he details how the initial trade may benefit the Lakers as they were to get Paul, while clearing salary from their books.  And by doing so make themselves eligible later for even more attractive free agents.  Under the rules mind you that the owners just agreed to.  What he didn’t say which is apparent, is that he (Gilbert) was not smart enough to do the same.  And that no attractive free agent will ever want to play for his team because of his ineptness not to mention the way he showed his ass after LeBron left.  What he was essentially saying is, “Thanks to me the Cavaliers ARE the Washington Generals.  Since I don’t have managerial smarts or the ability to make my team attractive so stars will want to play in Cleveland, let’s focus on making teams like the Lakers suffer so that my idiocy is not so apparent.”  I mean, what has he done to date thus far to improve his own situation?  

Redeem Team: Lakers Return to Greatness

 Kobe and family

***Memo to The Godfather: this is my last NBA Finals post. 

As I sat thinking about my view of the Lakers return to The Promised Land hours after their deciding Game 5 victory, I realized that I enjoyed the Lakers most recent success for different reasons.  Normally I am just fan.  The Lake Show has been my favorite for 30 years: win or lose.  

I enjoyed Magic’s five championships, and the return of Laker greatness with Shaq and Kobe.  There was something about this championship that got to me on a more human level though.  I connected with some of the players and coaches that I have watched over the years and felt good for their success.  I can tell by listening to them between games, in interviews etc. how much it meant to be at the top when the dust of the season settles.  

This is especially compelling when I consider the fact that most of our sports heroes make a tremendous amount of money and enjoy a level of fame that gives them privileges that most of us couldn’t imagine.  It makes me appreciate their commitment to excellence that much more. 

Then there is the defense against “hateration.”  In a way, the Lakers are compared to the Yankees for a societal theme that many people hate Goliath and cheer for the underdog.  I never agreed with the premise of, “I’m tired of seeing the Atlanta  Braves in the playoffs every year.  Why don’t they let someone else in it.”  In my opinion as long as no one is cheating dynasties are good for sports.  Excellence is something to be modeled.  Personally I don’t think the Yankees always spend their money wisely, but I respect that George Steinbrenner wants to win the World Series every freaggin year.

In my years as a Laker man, I’ve noticed that like many other dynasties people either love or hate them.  There is no middle ground.  When it comes to the more recent players, guys like Shaquille O’Neal were accepted because he was sort of a goof ball.  But cats like Kobe Bryant are horrifically crucified by Laker haters as a man who doesn’t have so much as a soul.  Part of that I think was his fault because he had a bit of a swag that people didn’t understand.  He came from a different country and became a superstar in a beloved American sport.  He had to compete with the likes of guys like Allen Iverson who sold more shoes than he did and Kobe tried to get street cred by not being himself.  He wasn’t a thug like A.I.  He was a sophisticated phenom who lived in Italy and traveled the world when kids like Iverson had barely left Hampton VA before going to Georgetown.  But he grew impatient and tried to be someone he wasn’t.  He didn’t come across well and youth was a part of that.  I think he wanted to do the right things.  But, but he didn’t have the maturity level and ability to bring people with him.  He isolated himself and when he caught that case in Colorado, it didn’t resonate with people to offer much empathy.

When you look at him now, I think he has come full circle in understanding the balance one has to have with being a mega star athlete driven beyond the level of most top level athletes, and being a person who can give and receive love and trust from others.  It seems like ages ago when Phil Jackson wrote that book about Kobe being uncoachable.  But over the last few seasons he has really grown up and I am happy to see that.  I love seeing redemptive qualities in people.  So I will put him as one of the people I am truly happy for in winning this championship. 

Kobe Bryant– for all the reasons I mentioned above.  Kobe is not just a basketball player anymore.  He is a man.  A respectable man with a beautiful family.  He teammates love him and I think he loves them back.  No more talk about him not winning without Shaq – which was ridiculous in itself cause it ain’t like Shaq led the Heat to the championship though he did run Stan Van Gundy in the middle of the season.  No,  that was pretty much Dwayne Wade killing the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.  Shaq was along for the ride.  Kobe was the man already, the best player in the league regardless of what “The Logo” Jerry West said.  This really puts his legacy in place regardless of whatever happens in his career from this day forward.  This team was horrible just a few years ago.  They were smashed in Game 6 against the Celtics last year.  And they redeemed themselves on the shoulders of their most talented player.  Kobe was the leader of the team in every sense of the word – including leading by example everyday.  I am sure he will remain classy during the offseason and we won’t be hearing any free style raps at local LA clubs where Kobe goes with a “Yo Shaq, tell me how my ass taste!” blast.

Derek Fisher– What can you say about D-Fish?  When I visited Staples in February to see the Lakers play the Hornets on my birthday, Kobe had his 39 but it was Fisher who hit the game tying three pointer to send the game into overtime as regulation expired. This guy has been through a lot since he left the Lakers years ago after their first three championships.  He played up north with the Golden State Warriors, then the Utah Jazz before his daughter became seriously ill.  Eventually the Jazz released him so that he could re-sign with the Lakers and be in a city where they had the medical facilities to treat his child.  Big ups to the late Jazz owner Larry Miller for that classy move.  Fisher is a business man, a hard core example of professionalism.  He’s a players rep with the NBA players association and has represented nothing but class during his entire NBA career.  This cat is so serious he put Luis Scola, a man almost twice his size on his ass and missed a playoff game just to send a message.  Remember that? How can you NOT be happy for this guy. 

Trophy

 Phil Jackson– This guy is hated on more than any other coach in basketball history.  The first thing people say is that he coached Jordan, then Kobe and Shaq.  Well I got three things to say about that.  For one, Jordan, Kobe and Shaq didn’t win a damn thing before he started coaching them.   Two, I have never seen a team with average players win any NBA championships.  I do remember after Jordan retired the first time, Jackson took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals and was one Hugh Hollins phantom call that put Hubert Davis of the Knicks on the free throw line away from going to the Finals without MJ.  Three, when you look at a guy like Red Auerbach, hell he coached more Hall of Fame players than any other coach in the history of the game toward his 9 championship wins.  But you never hear anyone say, “Red had that damn Russell, Cousy, Jo Jo White, Sam Jones, and Havlicek – So how was he going to lose?”  No one said Doc Rivers couldn’t coach when his teams weren’t winning crap in Boston before they got Allen and Garnett to help Paul Pierce.  Think about this, in 10 NBA Finals victories Jackson’s teams have never gone to a Game 7 and have won deciding games on the courts of my Lakers, the Jazz, 76ers, Nets, and now the Magic.  To me that sounds like there is a lot of good coaching and preparation going on before the games.

Why is Phil criticized so much?  Because he is just smooth with his game.  He doesn’t scream at his players like Stan Van Gundy.  It’s not sexy television.  He has this anti-establishment tone to him.  It’s like he loves the game of basketball, is hyper competitive to be the best, but understands that it’s still a game and that there is more to life.  This is the same guy who after the Lakers won their third championship rode his motorcycle from Los Angeles to his ranch in Montana as a way to come down from the grind.  But look at the results.  He is his own man and that is why he left Chicago after their 6th championship.  Jerry Krause didn’t like the attention Phil got.  Phil didn’t give a flip anymore.  He gets it.  His players don’t tune him out, and his assistant coaches have remained loyal and stayed with him throuought his career.  And dammit he passed Red Auerbach.  Ten championships is ten championships.  Period.

I could go on talking about how I am happy too that Pau Gasol redeemed himself after having his manhood taken against the Celtics last year.  I called him Pau Gasoft.  Not anymore!  Or how Lamar Odom stepped it up when it counted and earned himself a ring.  I know they appreciate this.  Guys like Trevor Ariza don’t quite understand how hard it is to get to this place year in and year out.  He’s only 24.  But he played his ass off too and is about to get paid!

Mitch Kupchak got from underneath Jerry West’s shadow.  And his trade for Gasol was the reason why.  That is geting it done. 

So its for these reasons, the human factor to borrow a phrase as to why this championship for me means a little more.  Players are human too.  And though I don’t know these guys personally, I can still see some of the history, the background, the hard work, commitment and most of all the soul of the men who show that in spite of the multi-million dollar salaries, winning and winning the right way still means something.  It’s a great example for our youth.  It’s a great example for the nation.  It’s part of why I love sports.  Not merely for the sake of the sport.  But for the way sports brings people together, give of their talents, and sacrifice selfish motivation in order to accomplish a goal together

Congratulations 2008-2009 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers!  You earned it!

Phil Jackson pregame

 

 

cmac on sports – pre holiday rants

I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and as such hated the Dallas Cowboys. (Especially during the 80’s)  But I came to appreciate the 90s version with the likes of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Jay Novacheck, Nate Newton etc.  A lot that love came for Irvin in particular because of my love for the U.  (University of Miami) That was my college team during the glory days.

Anyway – since then I always felt it was good for the league if the Cowboys were good.  And I haven’t liked or disliked them.  But I have to admit that since Terrell Owens, (T.O.)  is about to implode another team, I have come to root against Dallas. 

I was glad when Baltimore beat that ass the other night.  Now if the Eagles can do the same, I won’t have to suffer this child during the playoffs.

Some of this is Dallas’ fault too.  Not just owner Jerry Jones who totally empowers this ridiculous behavior, but guys like Tony Romo the quarterback who won’t tell it like it is – that T.O. is whinny lil BEEaach who throws teammates under the bus during tough times!  They continue to cover for this fool and it just feeds the monster. 

Jason Garrett the offensive coordinator allowed a clandestine meeting to be held with Owens, and fellow receivers Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams, where Owens accused Romo and his boy TE Jason Witten of plotting to keep him from getting catches.  This in spite of the fact that Owens leads the team in catches and touchdowns.

Former players Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders have never publicly called Owens out on his continuous team destroying tactics from calling Jeff Garcia gay when he played for the 49ers.  Nor for throwing Donovan McNabb totally under the bus, starting a fight with Hugh Douglas – prompting the Eagles to send him home and be relegated to drive way push-ups for cameras while agent Drew Rosenhaus postured for this pathetic cancer of a teammate.

Next came the sleeping pills incident. (he took too many of them obviously in a fit of depression) Instead of dealing with whats wrong with the cat, they all covered it up and glossed it over.  An example is in the aftermath of Pill Gate, his publicist said, Terrell has 25 million reasons to live.” 

Earlier this year I knew for sure that T.O. was a selfish jerk when I saw him yelling at an assistant coach after a Dallas victory over Green Bay.  It was a great win for the Cowboys, but Owens only had a few insignificant catches while other guys shined during a prime time nationally televised game.  That told me this would be business as usual for T.O.

GO EAGLES!  Please remove this dude from my sports page to begin the 09! 

Boston Bustin Out on L-7

Kevin Garnett Picture

I got to give it up to the boys from Beantown.  For any team to win a world title, only to come out and win 26 of their first 28 games including 18 straight!  Talk about NOT resting on your accomplishments.  This reminds me of the Bulls teams who won championships and managed to chase 70 wins the next couple years.  Kevin Garnett is a beast.. making plays and making teammates cry on the bench.  (Side note, I honestly think Garnett has this image of Hall of Famer Bill Russell looking at him evaluating his effort every night.  He wants to please Russell like a kid wants to please his father.  Garnett wants to live up to Russell’s standard.  I think this is fueling his intensity even more to never let up.)  Back to the rant…..

Paul “The Truth” Pierce ain’t lied yet, Ray is Ray – and Rajon Rondo looks like Tiny Archibald.  If he continues to play the way he is, pencil these cats in the Finals in June.  I got nothing but mad respect for the Celtics and the way they go about their business!

Can’t sleep on the Cavaliers though.  Damn does LeBron James ball now or what?  I haven’t been able to see ESPN’s First Take over the last few months but Skip Bayless may as well get up off of his nutsack cause dude is putting up MVP numbers.  I hear Bron Bron is up to 274 pounds of 100% man now – and by FAR he is the fastest most athletic cat in an NBA full of fast and athletic cats.  The Cavs are just waxing fools and Bron is putting on a rock concert not seen since dare I say…… MJ?  It will be interesting to see how well the team does after the new year and specifically how they fare after the All Star Break.  This is where we always separate the men from the boys in terms of who is seriously going to contend.  Will Lebron’s legs give out on him?  Remember he did spend the summer in Beijing winning gold.  Only time will tell – but I am a believer.

Derek Fisher, Anthony Johnson

Uhhhh which brings me to my boys the Los Angeles Lakers.  They won last night in Memphis thanks to Kobe.  My boy Blue drove his son down yesterday to see the Lake Show down 55 south, and will call me later for the details.  They have one more game on the 4 games in 5 days road trip tonight against CP3 and the Hornets before that Christmas Day match-up against the above mentioned Beast of the East.  They lost last Friday against the Heat and then followed that up with another uninspired performance against the Orlando Magic.  All and all we are probably playing like the worst 22-5 team in the history of the NBA.  I don’t have to talk about how bad the D is…  I will let Lamar Odom speak for himself. 

“It’s just like when we used to play against Phoenix two seasons ago.  “We always felt like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get back in the game. They are playing an offensive style of basketball.’  I think that’s how teams right now might be looking at us.  We’re not making it hard enough for teams, as far as around the basket, as far as our defense. At the beginning of the year, maybe the first seven or eight or 10 games, we had teams that quit.  It was like, ‘This is too hard. We know we can’t stop them.  And they’re making it hard for us on defense.’  Now, I feel like teams feel like we’re going to let them back in the game.”

Translation… Get the house in order fellas or you will be the Dallas Mavericks come playoff time.   

New Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia during his introductory press conference.

In the “Don’t hate the playa” category, I got to send love to CC Sabathia the pitcher who inked a 7 year 161 million deal to don the pinstripes.  I remember when we used to say that the CC stands for “Captain Cheeseburger” because of his weight.  Now it stands for Cha Ching!  The Yankees initially offered CC a 6 year deal worth 140 million, and it sat on the table for a month cause he really wanted to play on the West Coast – preferably for the Dodgers.  Team LA wasn’t even close, and Artie Moreno the Angels owner had his eyes on Mark Teixeira. (The Yankees signed Teixeira for 8 years 180 mil today – Maybe CC needs to have his deal re-worked!)  The Yankees then added another year with an even 23 million per.  (9 million signing bonus)  And please, spare me the economy talk.  Any one of us would take it if we could throw the rock like him and someone offered it to us.  I ain’t mad at you brother!

The Story of the Year!

This is the story that has me the most hyped for 2008.  No, its not Michael Phelps and his 8 gold medals.  That’s nothing compared to the feat the Gridiron Gang from Motown is about to pull off.  A PERFECT SEASON…. in reverse.  That’s right for the first time in NFL history a team is flirting with backwards perfection:  an 0-16 season.  Detroit is a tough town… the Pistons have rings, and Tigers have had their ups and downs but were in the World Series a few years ago.  The Red Wings dominate!  Now the Lions are about to make their mark.  Just one more tank job against the Packers this Sunday and its a done deal.

Memo to Lions Players:  Anybody can go 1-15.  That’s not what you’re after.  Finish the job.  I know you are not the worst team in football cause if you were playing the Rams you would smash them.  But still, this is no time for semantics and nitpicking.  Man down.  Roll over.  Make history! Quit for godsakes!  Remember what Kevin Garnett said after he finished his season….. “Anything is possibleeeeeeeeeeeee.