Changing of the Guard

resizeBefore the Lakers lost to the Pacers, the inevitable announcement finally came: Kobe declared his retirement at the end of this season. I am going to use this blog post to personally thank Kobe for making me the Lakers fan I am today. Kobe has been a Laker for 20 years, so I do not remember a time when he didn’t don the purple and gold. During his reign, many greats have come and gone from the Lakers (Shaq, Pau, Malone, etc.), but he has remained. He is always in the conversation for not only “Greatest Laker of All Time” but also “Greatest Player of All Time.” I can sit here and spew all the stats of why he is so incredible, but those deserve their own blog post.

This blog post is about love and appreciation. Kevin Durant said it best when he called out the media for treating, “One of our legends like shit.” I have been so angry listening to people complain about how Kobe is playing. This man has thrown everything into basketball. He has played through countless injuries and came back from one of the worst injuries imaginable. Many people forget that when he tore his Achilles he actually went to the free throw line to make those two shots. They were necessary to make the playoffs and he did it on one leg. Can you imagine any other player in history who could have the composure to make those shots? I remember watching those free throws and crying. I thought that was the last time I would see Kobe play, but that just shows how naïve I was being.

Charles Barkley loves to say: “Father Time is undefeated,” so now it is time for Kobe to join the ranks of players who eventually succumbed to the losing battle. Can’t we take a moment to praise him for fighting for so long? Instead of criticizing him for playing for 20 years, let’s simply say “thank you” for giving it your all. People love to complain that he is a shell of his former self and not worth watching anymore, but when he finally hangs up that uniform and walks away, we will all miss him.

Michael Jordan came back and had an uneventful run with the Wizards, but we don’t remember that. Instead, we speak fondly about how he was the GOAT. We talk about how he played with the flu, took on the “Bad Boys” of Detroit, and created a dynasty. That is the legend we remember.

This season has been incredibly difficult to watch. The Lakers are a terrible team, and Kobe isn’t the same dominant force he was a few years ago. I will admit that this blogger has not watched many games this year. However, I am making a new vow to rededicate myself to watching because after April, I will no longer get to see #24.

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How the NBA Reporters Almost Ruined My Finals Night

LeBron James giving his post game interview

LeBron James giving his post-game interview

I woke up very tired this morning, and it is not because I was emotionally exhausted after watching an intense series between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to an exciting conclusion. Instead, I was tired because I stayed up late watching the post-game coverage. You might be wondering why I stayed up to watch this coverage since I have no allegiance to either team. Well here is the answer: I wanted to see LeBron’s interview.

There were 2 questions I wanted to hear LeBron James answer:

  1. You have a player option to come back and play for the Cavaliers, are you going to come back, or will you explore free agency again?
  2. You said throughout these playoffs that you had a secret motivation. What was it?

I sat watching post-game coverage for an hour before LeBron finally took his seat at the podium, but no one asked either of my 2 questions. The closest anyone got to asking either of those questions was when one reporter asked LeBron how quickly it would take him to start thinking about next year, to which LeBron replied he isn’ thinking about next year yet. My 2 questions are the only ones that really matter. Instead of asking my questions, the reporters took the opportunity to ask the most frivolous questions.

One reporter actually asked LeBron how much this finals loss hurt in comparison to his other finals losses. Seriously? First of all, that is just a dick question. Way to shit on a guy when he already feels terrible. Second of all, who cares? LeBron actually did a very good job of keeping his composure during these redundant and idiotic questions, but I love the fact he actually gave this “journalist” some attitude. He told him that they all hurt the same, and that an elimination from the Finals hurts no matter what team you are on, or where it happens. Burn! (In text you can’t tell, but there was some sass in his voice).

In case you haven’t figured this out yet, I absolutely hate the basketball “reporters.” I think they ask the stupidest questions. Whenever my dad and I watch the games together we actually make fun of Doris Burke the whole time. The only reason why she gets the brunt of our abuse is because she “interviews” during the game, so I have no choice but to hear the horrible questions she asks the coaches and players. I rarely watch post-game interviews for that very reason. I try to avoid these interviews as much as I can.

I actually love how Greg Popovich and Phil Jackson normally answer their questions. Pop always gives a one word answer, and Phil normally shows some sass. I wouldn’t have a problem with players pulling an Allen Iverson and going off on reporters when they asked these ridiculous questions.

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You know that old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all?” Well I would like to revise that rule for NBA reporters: “If you don’t have anything intelligent to ask, then don’t ask anything at all.”

Players and coaches do not like giving these interviews, but they are contractually obligated to do so. I think we are doing a disservice to these men by making them endure these stupid questions. Instead of having these mandated interviews, why don’t NBA officials actually talk to these reporters and ask them if they have any real questions to ask. By the way, I am totally in favor of punishing reporters for asking bad questions. Remember in school if you repeated a question you got in trouble since you were clearly not paying attention? Why not make that rule apply to the reporters as well. Let’s eliminate repeat questions, and if a reporter doesn’t have another question then he can simply pass his turn. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I felt so bad for LeBron last night. Not only did this man endure a heartbreaking loss, but he then had to sit there and answer the same questions asked 10 different ways. Every single reporter asked (in some variation) about his feelings losing the game and how the loss of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love affected the outcome. Only one reporter had an original question and asked him to analyze how Andre Igoudala played defense against him.

As fans we demand greatness from our teams, and I think we should hold the reporters to the same standard.

East Coast v. West Coast: The Battle Between the Lakers and the Knicks, and a Free Agency Update

Carmelo and Kobe Staying PutThere has always been a rivalry between LA and NY, and I’m not just talking about Tupac and Biggie. People have always taken sides in the battle of the two cities. This spring the battlefield was on an ice rink, as the LA Kings took down the NY Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals (Ranger fans can suck it! Sorry I am still in cutthroat mode).

Personally, I’m torn. While I’m from LA and love living here, I definitely have the NY spirit since my family is from the Big Apple. As torn as I am between my love for the two cities, I am not at all torn in my allegiance to LA sports teams or my feelings about Phil Jackson going to the Knicks. I was furious the Lakers dropped the ball and allowed him to go to the Knicks, taking our basketball culture with him.

So far Phil signed Lamar Odom (of course he also waived him today), made Derrick Fisher head coach, and stole Kurt Rambis to make him an assistant coach. He tried to lure Pau Gasol back to his side and is planning to establish the triangle in NY.

When he signed with the Knicks a few months ago, this was my biggest fear. Now we are literally fighting with the Knicks over free agents, and so far Phil’s Knicks have been victorious in every battle. His latest “win,” the “coveted” Carmelo Anthony.

I have already expressed my opinions about Melo; he is both overrated and overpaid. Basically, that was one battle I hoped we would lose. I’m glad they’re stuck overpaying him (Phil Jackson knows it and tried selling Melo on a smaller contract last month, but failed); better them than us. Meanwhile, we re-signed Jordan Hill and Nick Young, two moves which make me very happy.

That brings me to Jeremy Lin. People seem to be happy that Linsanity is coming to LA, but hold your horses everyone; we are simply renting him for a year. He is massively overpaid and his contract expires in 2015. He is a solid player and will be entertaining to watch, but letting him go after one year will give the Lakers space to go after the plethora of available free agents in 2015 (management must be listening to me).

Unfortunately, I need to talk about Pau Gasol since his departure is imminent. He just tweeted that he has chosen to play for the Bulls (sorry Teri), and it is happening without a sign and trade deal. Back in February I said we needed to trade him in order to get something rather than just lose him in free agency. We didn’t, and now he is leaving. It’s unfortunate that the Lakers and Bulls couldn’t work out a sign and trade deal with Pau for Boozer and a draft pick. Chicago could have dumped Boozer’s contract and I honestly would have had no problem with us taking Carlos Boozer for one year plus a draft pick. Like Jeremy Lin he is overpaid, but his contract also expires after this season. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen so the Bulls are stuck with Boozer, and the Lakers lose Pau and get nothing in return.

On that happy note, I would like to point out that the Lakers are now 0-2 for keeping our players in free agency under “new” management. First Dwight walked away, and now Pau is leaving. This morning my mother asked me who is really running the Lakers now. Is it Mitch, Jeannie, or Kobe? She was not convinced that Jim was in charge. I told her he is, in fact, running things (which is why we are in our current state), and Jeannie’s recent public involvement is purely meant to appease the fans, players, and analysts. My mother sighed, rolled her eyes, and walked away. I feel that sums up how all of us Lakers fans feel at the moment.

Before I end, since it is the biggest NBA story right now, I feel it is my duty to mention LeBron. I take great pride in being right about my basketball analysis; just see my “I Told You So” blog. However, I have to admit I was wrong about LeBron. My Miami based Grandma Barbara called Thursday night in a panic over the prospect of LeBron leaving the Heat. I assured her that was not going to happen. Sorry Grandma. Although I prepared her months in advance for the Heat’s defeat in the finals – I told her they’d cruise there and then get crushed (sound familiar?), I did not prepare her for LeBron’s departure. In fairness, I was unaware that LeBron had changed his priorities. When he went to the Heat, he said he expected to win more than 7 championships while he was there. In his recent SI article, however, LeBron made it clear his legacy and heart are in Cleveland and that is more important than winning, “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball.”

Since this blog is all about us Lakers fans, here is the good news about LeBron’s return to the Cavs: comparisons between Kobe and LeBron now end. While I am intrigued to see how LeBron will play with his new young teammates, I highly doubt that they will win a championship. If they do win, it will not be for years. I do not think LeBron will be able to get free agents to come to Cleveland. He couldn’t do it the first time around, and I do not think the 2 rings he won under Pat Riley in Miami will change that. Kobe will, and should, be compared to Michael and Magic, not to LeBron; 5>2.

Bringing Down the House

Pau Gasol and Mike D'Antoni

Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni

There is drama brewing in LaLa land, and unsurprisingly it is being played out in the media. This is nothing new. There has always been more media attention surrounding the Lakers. They are based in LA so by location alone the members are subjected to more media and paparazzi. I mean Kevin Durant is a super star, but how many people in the media are going to follow him to dinner in Oklahoma?

It is just the nature of the game when one is a Laker. However, this has resulted in things playing out in the public eye that should really be kept behind closed doors. Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni brought their feud back to the public forum this week. Once again Pau complained about being underutilized by D’Antoni, while D’Antoni publicly criticized Pau for bringing this issue to the media instead of to him directly. I am going to take a minute to let you all ponder the irony of that sentence.

Mike said that Pau needed to “keep it in house.” Again, I would like you all to take a minute to laugh about the fact that Mike is telling the MEDIA that Pau should keep their problems “in house.” Sometimes I chuckle at his stupidity.

The sad thing is that I do agree with him. Pau needs to stop complaining about D’Antoni in the media. The Lakers are a team and despite their record, they need to keep a united front. Listen, I agree with Pau. My readers know that I am not a D’Antoni fan. However, I am not a member of the Lakers organization. Despite my awesome insights, I am not paid by the Lakers. My opinions are mine alone. I do not represent anyone but me. Even Magic Johnson came out after criticizing D’Antoni, and vowed to stop because he felt it was unhealthy. Magic is no longer a player or owner of the Lakers, but he still represents them. He is free to make any comments that he wants, but he recognizes the power of his words and realized it wasn’t good to add fuel to the fire.

I came out against Magic for keeping is mouth shut. I understand why he did it, but I do feel that he is at a point where he can make those comments. However, I will respect his decision to practice his free speech.

Pau on the other hand needs to be careful. He is a free agent, aging, and has had some tough streaks. He has suffered more injuries and the league is moving away from big men. Therefore, he should not get a reputation for speaking out against coaches and management. Even the super stars who have done it have suffered. Williams has gotten the reputation of getting great coaches fired after doing it in both Utah and New Jersey/Brooklyn. Pau is not at the same level as Williams. This could damage his brand and contract options when he is negotiating with any team this summer.

The Lakers and Pau have said that they have not ruled out him returning next season. I personally think that is a long shot simply because of all the drama. I would love it if Pau came back, but I highly doubt he and D’Antoni will be able to weather another season together. The Lakers are going to have to make some big decisions this summer, so lets see where Pau and D’Antoni land.

Kobe Season 17: The Raptors Strike Back

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The Toronto Raptors spoil Kobe’s return to the floor

Since I already used the “Jedi Returns” analogy, I thought I would end this series of Kobe returning posts with one more good Star Wars movie (and don’t worry, unlike George Lucas I know when to stop).

So Kobe returned, and boy did the Lakers utilize the hype machine. That was one hell of a production video they created. Everyone was so excited. The announcers kept mentioning his 81 point game as if they expected him to replicate it after recovering from a torn Achilles for 8 months. Well that was both amusing and foolish.

As God-like as Kobe acts, at the end of the day he is flesh and blood. He needs to recover like a human being. That is why I was not surprised by his rusty return. What did surprise me was Mike’s decision to play him in the fourth.

I anticipate some comments disagreeing with me on this point, so I will preemptively address the arguments and my responses. Here are the arguments I expect to hear:

How could you possibly not play one of the greatest closers in the fourth? Why would you keep a guy in the game whose name you can’t pronounce, as opposed to the lifelong Laker who we are paying millions of dollars? Kobe needs playing time so he isn’t rusty, so why wouldn’t you play him?

Well here are my answers:

Yes VINTAGE Kobe is one of the greatest players in the fourth. I want him taking the last shot of the game. However, right now Kobe isn’t Kobe. He is trying to regain his strength, speed, and timing to be that player again. Right now I don’t want to put him in over the guy who is the game’s leading scorer. That brings me to my next point. I have no idea how to pronounce Henry’s first name. I pronounce it like the school, but the announcers seem to think he is Spanish and pronouncing it like Javier. Therefore, I have no idea which is correct. However, Henry has been playing with the bench all season, and that bench single-handedly kept the Lakers both in the game and in the hunt this season. They are the number 1 scoring bench in the league and were in a good rhythm last night (for more of my insights on the bench see: The Lakers Silver Linings Playbook post.) I believe in playing who is hot, and last night that was Henry, not Bryant. Lastly, there is no need to rush Kobe. Mike is supposed to be monitoring his minutes anyway, and last night he played 2 more than Mike wanted. Also, we have 61 more games to get Kobe in “Kobe shape” so there is no need to force it. Lastly, the only purpose for trying to get the real Kobe back, is to both make the playoffs and then make a run, and since the Lakers are in the western conference, this will be a tough task.

I said this with my previous Kobe post, and I will say it again, “be patient.” Kobe is Kobe and he will get back to his usual ball hogging, almost superhuman player when he is ready. The Lakers would not have given him a nearly $50 million extension if they didn’t believe that, and after watching last nights game and seeing the little glimpses of his old self, I believe as well.