Monday, September 26, 2011
LOS ANGELES LAKERS 92-111 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (09/04/10)
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
Lets look back a calender year at the Lakers visit to England's capital London. This is one for the diary. These Great Britain's may have only got to see Kobe for six, scoreless minutes but fans from all over the world navigated through foggy London's rain, tube strikes and rail replacement stresses to catch a glimpse of one of Hollywood and basketball's brightest stars. Fans who payed hundreds and thousands to see him may have only received a sprinkle but what they did see instead is an underdog team beat the top dog while the doberman was in his kennel.
If this was back in the 50's than the Lakers would of been OK because Minneapolis came out on top. These two sides may share associations with the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' but on Monday October 4th 2010 they were separated by a river of 19 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA Europe Live exhibition game in London 111-92. Still even in a loss the Lakers won a lot more fans, so their time overseas is worth a recap. So let's take a look. Here's how it went down.
Metta World Peace-then Ron Artest-is dancing like a star on the baseline during warm ups, no one can eliminate him now. The once party hard Basketball player has shed this image in order to achieve more excellence on the court with Los Angeles. In the 02 arena in London the Lakers look all business in one of the new money making staples in the NBA, the Europe Live tour. A tour that not only helps promote basketball globally but also helps the fans see the stars that are normally too far out of reach. It doesn't get much larger than life or global than Kobe Bryant and as he walks on court with an air of coolness that only comes with people like Michael Jordan or Frank Sinatra the fans go crazy. Even a glimpse almost seems worth the price of admission, but oh does everyone want more.
The Jumbo-tron is showing 'Top Ten' plays of the week from last years season. The fans go wild when Corey Brewers dunk over Derek Fisher plays. Remember the one where Fish hits the deck so hard it looks like he's been Jazzy Jeffed? Well Fisher remains unmoved by this video as he quietly hits jumper after jumper. A top play for Kobe comes up next and this seems to get him in the mood and rhythm as he works the fade away for the crowd while in his warm up sweats. Sasha Vujacic plays keepy up with the basketball, I guess the soccer fever that gripped some of the players with Chelsea FC is kicking in even more. Kobe and Kevin Love of Minnesota address the crowd before the game Kobe stating that he hopes this won't be the Lakers last trip to London. I guess taking in another Chelsea game wouldn't hurt. Than the Laker girls come in to raise the interest in basketball even more and fill in some Truman Show-esque, 'what's going on behind that screen' break in entertainment time while the teams get ready and guys like Brian Shaw go from the sweat's to the suits like Nelly.
The show starts with some Magic in little time. Seconds in Kobe steals the ball and assists Lamar Odom with a dunk for the deuce that is fresh out the box like a new pair of Nikes. Luke Walton (suited up just like daddy in the late 70's) is proud. The game starts with none of the usual rust. Beasley catches and shoots on a difficult angle, Fisher picks a sweet spot and reels it in and Pau Gasol shows his strength inside, (the strength that bettered him against the Celtics) and one. Kobe attempts a few shots before being taken out midway through the first. Kobe however is as cool as Andre 3000, ice cold from the field. Odom however is hot scoring 6 in the first 6. As timeout hits and one Laker legend leaves the floor another one by surprise takes to it. Big Game James Worthy is introduced to the British fans and then is led off by the Laker girls. What a player! Shannon Brown comes in for the game and the former dunk contestant slams home a play of the game contender. Corey Brewer tries to out wow Shannon but a Pau Gasol block shows this up as a ludicrous move, 'Move B****, get out of the way' plays on the PA. At one the lakes are still at 27 apiece.
As Phil Jackson and his new beard look more like their ordering KFC than running plays a team of 'Crazy Dunkers' entertain the crowd before the 2nd, with their high flying, trampoline act. Shannon Brown cant take his eyes off it, he wants in. He does the opposite of the Staples Centre floor in the 02 lighting up in the 2nd. New Laker Steve Blake also looks strong for the Lakers hitting from all angles, whether acute or obtuse. Kobe, however is playing throwback Ronny Turiaf, congratulating and cracking jokes on the pine, logging no time.
Corey Brewer drives home a breakaway dunk to drill home the fact that Minny are within 1 (41-42) with 5 minutes to go in the half. Derek Fisher is sitting next to Kobe glad he wasn't underneath that one. Odom drives to the basket but is fouled by Kevin Love's blocking. There's no love for Kev however as he hits the deck, hard. There's little love as well for Arsenal Football club, who's players are in attendance. I guess the London faithful are with Kobe on this one. The Lakers rookies are showing up. Devin Ebanks is impressing more than he did on the layup line going in for a strong and 1. From the nosebleeds this number 3, athletic, swingman almost makes it look like Trevor Ariza never left. With hard work, hustle and an impressive bank shot from Ebanks in the second period the Lakers seem to be cashing in on this talent.
Darko Millic is playing hard making 'I'm Still Here' plays even if some of his shots are about as good a look as Joaquin Phoenix's beard. Lamar Odom put on an exhibition en route to 17 Points, 6 Rebounds and 3 Steals proving that he wasn't treating this game like an exhibition. Now nobody should call this man lazy. Another written off player Michael Beasley proved key with 24 points off the bench. Late in the 2nd quarter Michael hit a shot reminiscent of Michael. There are chants for Kobe from deep mobs in the crowd as the game reaches a quiet storm. As the seconds tick down and the backboard illuminates red Trey Johnson scores the rock off the roll but doesn't beat the buzzer. No dice. Halftime!
As most fans head for hot dogs and merchandise an illusionist and his assistant perform for those still in attendance. Their old school magic is still classic like Earvin with that wonderment and amazement. As the 3rd act starts Sasha is in for Kobe and Artest is hustling for everybody. There's no lull in the third as Lamar Odom shakes and bakes and then crosses Beasley. LO leaves B on the floor stepping over him carefully but like Iverson over Tyronne Lue. Odom than kicks it out for Fisher who is as clear as the Hudson but hesitates and is rejected by that 'bust' Darko Milcic. Next play down the floor though Fisher takes the bait again but this time sinks the line. Back down on the other side of the floor and down low Darko posts up impressively before going up for air. I guess the boom is over. Still Wesley Johnson throws in an alley oop and the fans begin to see that they’ve neglected the fact that Minnesota is leading 65-58.
WHERE'S KOBE? Right now he's missing and in demand like Bill Clinton on the new NBA Jam commercials showing on the Jumbotron. The Lakers second option Gasol is also not looking as perfect as he was in practice but the Lakes are still in the show. Minny point Luke Ridnour works the new school pick and roll with Beasley, hitting him behind the back for the assist on the open 3. Then off a steal he wipes the ball off the glass to Johnson for the dunk. Even Artest has to give it up, you can’t stop that. Then Barnes comes in for Ron one enigmatic, controversial, former thorn in Kobe's side, defensive player deserves another. The score is 78-65, Timberwolves. This is no mini run in the third quarter, it's a Minny run. The action is still punctuated by chants for Kobe but his knee is Ruben Patterson.
The Lakers second and third units begin to lack cohesion. Sasha's clear for three but isnt open for business. The Lakers need a spark, so they plug in Shannon Brown, who re-enters the game to a half Kobe ovation. As the Kobe cheers get louder Kobe flashes that Michael Jordan smile and for just a second it looks like he's going to shed his warm ups. The Lakers sure need him as this new look Minnesota team are leaving the Lake show lost in the woods like Kanye West sampling Bon Iver. Minnesota are playing like a monster team-no one man wolf pack, no Alan-while the Lakers are looking a little hungover. Los Angeles sober up however with a Barnes burner from the corner and a follow up to close the gap to 87-74.
The iPhone’s and Blackberry’s are on pause as Kobe remains on ice. Surely he's not about to return now, coming into the game cold, risking another injury. The show must go on however and Brown and Barnes work some 80's Forum magic. It all seems a little too late however. Most Lakers are polishing pine and when Barnes slaps the ball in frustration it can be heard in the upper decks, the Lakers aren’t playing their full hand. There are more Kobe chants, and those smiles again, complete with raised eyebrows, he loves it, the fans don’t, both parties want to dance. The game begins to get real scrappy beyond the meat. The Lakers take too many steps, elementary stuff as the master gets schooled by the pupil. Than Matt Barnes gets messy around the hoop and really wishes his layup was a pass as Brown clears the table for him. It's just one of those bad days at the office. At 9:02 it's Minnesota 92, Los Angeles 78.
The Lakers try to run. Blake to Brown for the bucket but Blake is a little too fast and a little too offensive as the referee charges the foul. With 5:58 the Lakers 58th pick in this year’s draft adds some 'character' to the Lakers D, blocking twice to try and keep Hollywood acting in this picture. All the times that Derrick Caracter has practiced with defensive maestro Theo Ratliff have seem to have paid off for the young buck. The Laker girls come in for some real entertainment while NBA legend Bruce Bowen is sitting courtside complete with a cold and an even colder bowtie. Even the Lakers would want their old rival to shed his bowtie and suit up right now. The Lakers cant blame Bruce Bowen on Kobe being locked down this time however. Back on court Gasol throws down a dunk that the good Doctor J ordered in an attempt to breathe life into himself and his team. Still however the Lakers are getting caught in a Webster of 24 silky smooth points from Martell.
As the 5 minute to go mark arrives Minnesota hit Taco country, reaching 100 points while the Lakers are yet to make 90. Now Ridnour is making baskets look like a piece of cake en route to this lottery team blowing out the defending champion. As fans begin to walk out to beat the traffic and the tube strikes the game draws to a close. The players drop the ball and embrace before the final seconds run down. So the brethren of thousands in its purple and gold in the 02 may have left the game disappointed but that one Minnesota fan in attendance will be undoubtedly happy. The Timberwolves made a great star to both their Europe tour and their underrated season (they tested the Lakers again) but as the Lakers travel East to Barcelona they hoped to get things right, although they lost again in what would end up being a losing season. A lockout year later and Pau is heading back to Barcelona to hone his game. It's funny how things work out sometimes. Expect this Spanish bull and the Lakers to be back though after this European vacation some stars are taking to show the Dallas Mavericks and the rest of the NBA that the honeymoon is over. Then when the Lakers are back at full strength, they'll be no joke and it'll really be no fun and games, forget the lockout. TIM DAVID HARVEY
Sunday, September 25, 2011
The good, the bad & the beautiful game.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
They say there is no such thing as bad press. Yeah right, check the NBA headlines right now and then tell that to Javaris Crittenton. He faces a murder charge and his talented NBA career is most likely a wrap. Rewind a couple of calendar years and he and former Washington Wizard teammate Gilbert Arenas got into it with guns in the locker room over a game of cards. Now we all know how bad that got. What are young men in the league getting into these days?
What of Antoine Walker as well? His recent problems with the law involved gambling debts like Gilbert and DUI charges that we've heard about all too many times before. The conversation no longer is on reminiscing about the way he used to hit threes but about whether he can shimmy out of some potential jail time.
This seems to be the problem these days in the league. Log on to any basketball news wire and the per usual will be found. Kobe will have scored 30, Boston will have won, LeBron will have made things happen down the stretch and some coach will be on the firing line. More than often however there will be some negative news about some current or ex-player and their troubles with the law. Assaults, DUI's, drugs, and so on. The list goes on.
Now in this life we all have to take the good with the bad and the news is the medium that always presents us with both sides of this coin. With that being said however isn't everyone tired of seeing the same old news like this on a regular basis? It is important to know what's going on. It helps us to be aware and we can all take something away from each story we read and learn from it. Then again years past the news of Gilbert and Javaris' situation was on a constant loop it takes the focus off of basketball. When did it stop being about the game? The primary reason we are invested in this sport. Any casual observer or overseas fan struggling to keep up with limited amounts of basketball coverage won't have much of a clue about how any of the recent games have played out, and this isn't because of the lockout. It's because of all the other bull****.
Legal matters surrounding the league do demand attention but the press should still focus more coverage on celebrating the guys that just get down to business and avoid bad press. The attention should be shifted more to guys who are as ‘all ball’ as a Kobe Bryant foul at the Staples Centre. Speaking of Kobe, look at him for example. He has had his legal problems in the past and on top of that received bad press for his public feuds with various players. Today however tells a different story. He makes the news for the right reasons and his play and his relationships with his teammates are better for it. Take a look at what all that positivity brought him, a championship.
The rest of his Lakers squad echo this idea. Star players like Odom, Gasol and Bynum fill out the stat sheets and not the rap sheets. They seem to avoid bad press, especially taking into account these guys ball in the entertainment frenzied city of Los Angeles and one of them is even married to a Kardashian as well. Bar an ill-advised Spanish team photo you couldn't find a speck of dirt on these Angelinos. It’s because they just get down to what matters, the game itself. They leave all the other stuff behind.
Everyone thought that was about to change when the Lake show added Ron Artest, the All-Star with the biggest blot on the NBA's permanent record. Take a look at Ron-Ron today though however and he's focused like his Los Angeles co-stars. The strange antics are still there however, such as a couple of years ago appearing on the Jimmy Kimmel show decked in only his draws or injuring himself on Christmas Day by falling down the stairs (Easy on that egg nog now). Or of course most recently 'Dancing With The Stars' and standing up for comedy. Apart from that however everything is kosher. If Arenas is offered the chance to redeem himself in this league he would do good to look at Artest for an example (Try saying that a couple of years back). Ron is in the good books right now and looking at a potential first ring. To do this he didn't have to compromise himself either, he just had to keep out of trouble.
Is this exciting? Well to some people it isn't. Some people just love controversy and the media feeds in to this. In some respects controversy keeps things going and interesting but in the grand scheme of things it's unnecessary. Yes it can serve as a conversation piece to relieve boredom at the office or on the playground the following day but so can a half-court heave or the latest output from Brandon Jennings. These are true basketball highlights. Sport should be in the back pages of a newspaper, not the front.
Some of these legal matters are problems that many people have (Alcoholism, gambling etc). These aren't matters to be glossed over; these are problems that need solution. Gambling is an addiction, Jordan loved it and top-flight players like Arenas earn so much that it must feel like they can gamble with an unlimited reserve. NBA players are celebrities and some celebrities love living the high life with clubbing, alcohol and money all on tap. When this life gets too much however and the private becomes public the situation then becomes much worse. In analysing the situations arisen from the various legal or personal troubles that occur it seems that the scandal rather than the solution is what is sought after the most. This is because scandal sells, especially with celebrities. People seem to care less about the decent numbers Michael Beasley is putting up this season and more about what was going on in his head a few Summers back. Is that right?
There are far more players in this league putting in work then playing around too much yet the focus is rarely on these guys. What a great team the Portland Trail Blazers are these days but what a shame it is that they made the headlines more when they were dubbed the 'Jail Blazers'. Surely hearing about players smoking weed isn't half as exciting as hearing about Brandon Roy smoking opponents?
What happened to appreciating old-fashioned, decent, blue collar hard work? Sure there are a lot of things happening off court right now but what about the real action on court? The reason the fans follow these players, the real reason they were ever worthy of this attention in the first place. When fans grew up watching basketball they were only concerned with Michael Jordan's loyalty to the game not his extra marital affairs.
Sure the cream always rises to the top and true talent will always be recognised and celebrated, but yet it still feels like more coverage is given to the negative downfalls of a player than their positive achievements. In this league superstars are players who leave it all on the floor and it should be left at that. This isn't reality T.V. and Perez Hilton doesn't blog for the NBA. The next time the life and times of Gilbert Arenas et al is brought up around the office why not change the subject to real basketball news? Like the countless number of role players who put in 100% each night to little recognition outside their teams fan base. Gilbert's a top tier player who deserves recognition even in turbulent times but there are a lot of other players outside the spotlight who deserve coverage too.
There are many examples of this but the best has to be Tim Duncan. What great talent, more than 20 and 10 over a dozen years. The best power forward ever, period. Sure he is respected deeply as one of the elite but often times when other superstars are considered in discussion he's lower down on the pecking order. OK so his trademark bank-shot doesn't make posters and he isn't at the top of the first returns of All-Star votes but why? Just because he’s more about reliability then excitement? His status, his play and the results can not be denied, even with his better years in the rear-view. He is the prototype of an NBA big man; he is the model of consistency. Instead of making the headlines for his off court antics he climbs the record books for his prolific endeavours on the court. So what if that isn't gangster, it's real. People are often too quick to bring a player with troubles down rather then put the ones that deserve recognition on a pedestal.
So therefore although just like Javaris we shouldn’t treat his current situation lightly sometimes all the talk and news in the league is too heavily focused on the wrong thing. Javaris has turned himself in and until a verdict is passed not much else will really happen. This is for the court of law, so let's focus our basketball talk back on our court. So whilst waiting on this isn’t it time that people focused on other things in the league? Why not focus on the finer things in basketball? That’s what this game we all love really is about.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Sometime back in the Sixties legendary sports anchor Howard Cosell was interviewing his close personal friend and the greatest figure in sporting history; Muhammed Ali about his refusal to declare for the draft to go fight in the Vietnam war. An interview that was depicted by Jon Voight and Will Smith in Michael Mann's movie 'Ali'. There was a mutual respect between these two men and it was highlighted at a time Ali's legend was under controversial scrutiny. During the interview Cosell made the mistake of calling Ali by his former name Clay saying, "Cassius, in my opinion". "My name ain't Cassius Clay. That is a slave name, and I am a free man. I am Muhammad Ali," the greatest declared. "You know, I apologize. I apologize to you on the air. Your name is Muhammad Ali. You have a right to be called whatever you want. I apologize to you.". You have a right to be called whatever you want.
Ron Artest...wait I apologise, I apologise to you in this article. Metta World Peace you have a right to be called whatever you want. You have the right to do whatever you want and be whatever and whoever you want to be. I mean besides Lloyd Bernard Free changed his name to World B. Free due to his aerial amazing antics in the NBA and NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson legally changed his his to his 85 jersey number in Spanish to Ochocinc. Hey even music legend Prince changed his name to everything from The Artist, TAFKAP and a symbol.
Metta it's not only the courts that recognise your name, we do too and no traffic tickets are going to restrict that. Not that you need our validation but we respect and accept your decision, your Buddhist beliefs and the personal reasons behind them. Sure in some ways you'll always be Ron Artest to us, but your Metta World Peace now.
"Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world," you told us. Your name meaning loving and kindness toward all, what you have continued to show. Just like how your love and kindness has helped you become an amazing advocate for mental health, being a face and an aid for those in need. Turning your past problems in solutions for not just yourself but other. Taking advantage of your celebrity in a way that benefits others raising awareness like you raise spirits.
Raising spirits like you to everyday from your tweets to the character of your interview soundbites. Raising spirits and enthusiasm from the locker room to your invitational events for the public. Your boundless energy that keeps you and us going. Like your rap records that keep us moving, your stand up that keeps us amused or your Dancing with the Stars that keep us entertained. All your energy that allows you to indulge in so many off- court activities but never effects your productivity on court.
The type of productivity that made you a Defensive Player of the Year in Indiana. The type of productivity that made you a star from Sacramento to Houston. The type of productivity that has helped your Los Angeles Laker team achieve two championships, behind your dominating D, hustle and warrior like attitude. The type of enthusiasm and play that has made you turn ill-advised shots-that others would be too scared to take-into game-winners. The type of play that translates into a game that demands respect. The type of respect that takes you from one of Kobe Bryant's biggest rivals to one of his best friend. In the past he knew you only a Artest, now like us all he calls you by your first name, your new government name; Metta.
Metta you really have changed and come a long way, from Hennesy half times to full purity. From brawling in Detroit to motoring on and fighting to make amends. You've dared to be different and your brave and bold behaviour is a gamble that has played off. Metta World Peace is more than just a statement, it's an inspiring declaration of love, unity and most of all peace. It's more than what some see as egotistical, it's something that inspires confidence in everybody. Some people may see it as strange but like you said if they hate on you they can't say 'F%$# World Peace'. You see now they can't touch you or the positive notion. Metta World Peace is more than just a statement...it's you. It's offical.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
NBA history live in your living room.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
OK, so if basketball movies aren't your cup of tea and you still need to cure those lockout blues how's this for a brand of cognac? Over the years the NBA has released it's fair share of DVDs so which ones should make your rack? What follows is a definitive DVD menu of those 'where amazing happens' moments so legendary that they had to be recorded and kept in the library of basketball history.
KOBE DOIN' WORK: Spike Lee has directed some classic films from 'Mo Better Blues' to 'Inside Man' and 'Do The Right Thing' to basketball drama 'He Got Game'. Still when the die-hard New York Knick fan Spike went coast to coast and put over 30 camera's and a narrators microphone on Kobe that's when his movie moments really became legendary. As Kobe takes us through his Hollywood game from confusing his opponents-by talking plays with his teammates like Gasol in other languages-to the reason he constantly rubs his hands on his jersey, this is informative as it is cinematic in all the black and white, jazzy Lee trademark cinematography.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2008-2009/2009-2010 NBA CHAMPIONS: From Ariza to Artest, Derek Fisher clutch bucket to lutch basket and Kobe's celebratory leap to round up court celebrate the Lakers latest double up with these back-to-back DVD's.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS-THE COMPLETE HISTORY: Or why not take the greatest six disc trip down Laker memory lane from Shaq all the way back to Mikan? This DVD is big like Wilt, Magic like Johnson and cool as the ice of Jerry West. It's an epic marathon of history that may leave you needing Kareem goggles after watching.
MAGIC JOHNSON-ALWAYS SHOWTIME: Fun and entertaining just like the man himself. Earvin 'Magic' Johnson's story will amaze you like his passes (the opening highlight montage is incredible) and even leave you shedding a tear or 32. This is a one of a kind story of a one in a million personality narrated with class by Danny Glover. Time to really be told about the Lakers most lethal weapon.
SHAQUILLE O'NEAL-LIKE NO OTHER: The only thing that's bigger or more entertaining then this DVD is the daddy himself. Filmed during the day Shaq's talents where in South Beach, O'Neal talks life and basketball. With highlights to remind you of just how good he was and appearances in the community to show you just how genuine there is. There's truly no one like him, the NBA's biggest icon.
LIGHTS OUT: If you like your highlights with added shine then this NBA reel is the amazing choice you need to happen. This set goes in depth and behind scenes with interviews and spotlights on everybody from A.I. to Mike or some extended trips with Air Canada. There's a lot of Hollywood moments too from Robert Horry clutching at victory and Kobe Bryant's Babe Ruth attitude as he swings for 81. There's also magic from...well Magic. This truly is showtime. Lights out! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
A reference to the definitive reading list.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
With Jerry West's highly anticipated, long-awaited autobiography ('West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life') just a month away our new 'Read To Achieve' feature takes you through the library of some classic basketball reads with Laker themes. Take what you please, just make sure you return in October for the review.
FREEDARKO PRESENTS THE UNDISPUTED GUIDE TO PRO BASKETBALL HISTORY: A different but delightful look at the history of roundball, written with passion and compassion and illustrated with style and substance. Pure poetry and art comes out of every page. This book is full of tidbits and great tales that you may have not heard. Such as the time after a Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber Nike advert mocked C-Webb's dunk on Charles Barkley, Sir Chuck dropped 57 in a game on both players and backpedaled past their bench and yelled; "put that in a commercial". Need any more advertising for this book?
HOOPS: A big, beautiful photo album that takes you through the history of the National Basketball Association with perfect portraits of everyone from Wilt Chamberlain to Kevin Garnett. This book says a thousand words.
NBA COACHES PLAYBOOK: For coaching candidates and promising purists alike this textbook is the perfect study and revision of all basketball plays from Tex Winter's infamous triangle to Kareem's notorious sky hook. Why? Because they and every other legend of the NBA dry-erase writes these chapters you should constantly go back to for inspiration like Bible verses.
50 AMAZING YEARS IN THE CITY OF ANGELS: Young writers looking for inspiration need this book like those who bleed purple and gold. From the style of legendary Pulitzer prize winner and basketball story-teller Jim Murray to all the definitive articles and portraits of Laker success. This truly is the words of the Los Angeles Times.
SHAQ TALKS BACK: Shaq's autobiography-written during his L.A. days is funny, frank, insightful and inspirational. The man who can make you laugh and see his point too really has something to say and if that isn't enough his Hollywood nights have some telling tales of everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Robert Downey Jnr.
WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS: Who better to speak on the rivalry, friendship, force and revolution that was Magic and Bird in the eighties then the men themselves? This dual autobiography really keeps Larry and Johnson together with stories better than what Grandmama could tell you. A slam dunk hit as the two come-together converse like their sneaker deal.
MY LIFE: We picked this book up on from a side street seller in New York for two dollars but in reality it's worth it's weight in millions shipped. Earvin Johnson shows he's got the Magic for writing too with the tales of the tricks of his trade. A book as entertaining, enigmatic, magnificent, moving, inspiring, insightful, influential, and as real as the man himself.
THE ART OF A BEAUTIFUL GAME: Chris Ballard's book of this brilliant game of basketball is a beautiful ballad of sports writing. Every chapter is like a separate sonnet of praise to all the in's and out's and idiosyncrasies of different facets of the workings of legendary players minds and games. From Kobe Bryant's killer instinct to Steve Kerr's shot it's all here and it's never been told or explained better.
THE LAST SEASON-A TEAM IN SEARCH OF A SOUL: Coach Phil Jackson's classic and controversial book about basically the season of Shaq and Kobe's break-up drew rave-reviews and ravenous readers. It's revealing and honest, thorough and forthright as everything is taken to task with a gentleman's class. Sure as Phil and Kobe got back together in the name of two Larry O'Brien's some now render this book insignificant, but this story serves as more than a footnote to the careers of both Bryant and Jackson, plus many more too.
CHARACTER DRIVEN-LIFE, LESSONS & BASKETBALL: Derek Fisher's story extends further then the range of one if the Lakers and the leagues most legendary clutch playing, role-players. His life and times feature more hardship and positive looks towards inspiration than a Jay-Z song sampling 'Annie'. OK, boys and girls this man may have spent his career in the shadow of today's best Kobe, but even the greatest wouldn't have had half the hits without his perfect producer in his corner. Derek Fisher's tale is one that needs to be told. Are you sitting comfortably?
KAREEM: They say he's too closed off, but Cap really opens here. They say he's boring, but Kareem will make you laugh. They say he's dull, but this big-book has colour. They even dared to say he doesn't have a lot of love, but this book has as much heart as it does soul. Arguably the greatest basketball player turned writer gets shows so much personality in his most personal piece of published prose.
THE WINNER FROM WITHIN: From the cover to the preface this book looks like a self-help guide and in a lot of ways it is. Still, Pat Riley's autobiography is as slick, serious and sincere as the legendary coach and man himself. This book will inspire and influence you like no other but it will also tell you all about this one in a million, genuine guy. To hear the story of his whole life within and beyond basketball is to help take you further with yours and learn a little something extra about the game too.
WILT, 1962: One of the most important stories in basketball history told with truth by Gary M. Pomerantz. Different peoples takes and stories help document a moment taking us back to that infamous night in '62 when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single, legendary basketball game and iconic moment in sports history. This game may have never been televised or taped but this biography brings this subject alive for the record. This is fact not fiction. There you have it. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Friday, September 9, 2011
One and the same.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Call them crazy but Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman share more than a few eccentricities and playing time for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. The two enigmatic and entertaining ball players, personalities and all-round stars, have a lot more extra curricula activities and facets of themselves that meet the average or critical eye. There's just something about these two. They seem to have done just about everything and anything they want. Where do we start?
You think Ron Artest is cuckoo for appearing on a Jimmy Kimmel interview in just the bare essentials of his boxer shorts? Well Dennis Rodman showed up to his own wedding as the bride, veil, gown and everything. Speaking of which the woman he married was Carmen Electra in a bizarre marriage that lasted as long as Ron Artest's latest dose of reality might. Ron is literally 'Dancing With The Stars' for a season (damn this lockout) with Lamar Odom's beau's brother and Cher's daughter/son Chaz Bono. Still don't rule Ron and his left feet out, stranger things have happened, my moneys on him and his excellent defensive footwork to win.
Stranger things have indeed happened. Queensbridge native Artest has released rap records, OK so he's no Nas, but he can sure rap better than Kobe, while Dennis D.J.'s everywhere from Madrid to Tokyo, sound strange? Well, how about this? Ron's successfully done stand up, sure he was no Dave Chappelle or Jamie Foxx, but he was no Doug Williams either. Rodman's also made us laugh out loud with the best story about his old flame Madonna. He's also successfully taken to the Hollywood stage with Van Damme in the blockbuster 'Double Team', amongst other films, we can't wait to see Artest in a film either. Dennis has also penned several entertaining and curiously titled autobiographies, even promoting one by sitting in a coffin. These boys sure kill us laughing, we can't wait to see and read what Ronny has to say.
Ron infamously brawled with fans in the 'Malice Of The Palace', which he has since made humble amends for, but Rodman has thrown it down with Hulk Hogan and believe it or not NBA strongman Karl Malone in a WWF wrestling ring. 'W.T.F' indeed! Ron has one different but generous things like hold open invitational Venice Beach football games via Twitter, while police helicopters once had to stop one of Rod's beach block parties. Ron Artest recently changed his name to Metta World Peace, Rodman's groundbreaking, creative and at times gender, defying dress has made it hard to figure out who he is, but he dubbed himself the 'devil' to Jordan's 'God' and Pippen's 'Jesus'. It's all in the name of fun however, like when Dennis would change and spray his hair a different colour and pattern each game. Something Ron's experimented with once or twice and even convinced D.J. Mbenga to do.
Call them what you want but this proves nothing but the passion and creative expression of heart of the pair. The type of unique, individual and specialist qualities that helped them become legendary all-round and classic, irreplaceable niche players in the league. The two have given (and in Ron's case still give) many top franchises their sensational, serious services. The two have even agreed to play overseas with British franchises in their time. These comic clowns sure know how to have fun, but they're no joke. They take their game and business seriously. This is why they are two of the greatest NBA players of all-time, Hall of Fame approved and waiting. From Ron's multiple 'Defensive Player of the Year' awards to Dennis' countless rebound accolades the pair have grabbed and stole the limelight from those looking to star big on the offensive side in more ways than one. Don't front on the offence of these two either, they could and can score big too. There numbers game goes beyond the constant jersey changing Artest (he once sported '37' in honour of the number of times Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' went platinum) and Rodman's bizarre requests (he once was refused the chance to wear '69' or '007' by the shaken and stirred Dallas Mavs who felt screwed around).
Still statistically speaking these legends have gone beyond the box-score, with their hustle, hard work, passion, persistence, skill, will, drive and dedication. Ron Artest has owned every opponents best player like Dennis Rodman owned every loose ball. These defensive dynamo's have become benchmark pioneers for the 'other' side of the court. These two men also provided immeasurable, incredible help to the two greatest basketball players of all time; Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. From opponent to teammate Ron has gone from Kobe's worst agitator to his greatest motivator, while in the eyes of critics Rodman's had Jordan's back, through the days he was wrongly hated, to the days he was rightfully, finally celebrated. Some may not understand the tributes and talents of this pair but that's what makes these enigmatic players and personalities that much more individual and unique.
Now how's this, in the list of outgoing behaviour? Ron Artest has acted as an advocate for mental health even selflessly auctioning off a players most valuable possession in his championship ring to raise money for the cause he's down for. He's not the only one who turned his biggest honour around to others. This year when an emotional and genuine Dennis Rodman was inducted into the Hall Of Fame he gave the most humbling, honest and heartfelt speech ever heard as he admitted he thought he needed to be a better father and man. Dennis sacrificed his moment for a poignant and profound declaration to his loved ones. What both these dedications by these two men show is heart and a hell of a lot of it. An under appreciated quality of both individuals that show just the players and men they truly are.
All in all the personalities and complexities of Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest are more than what meets the stereotypical eye. Sure this pair of eccentric characters may not be squeaky clean and cut, but from the screeches they make on the court to what they do above the rest off it they really are something special. Replace crazy with the word charismatic and you my just begin to figure out what makes these two individuals be the players and men they are. Two men with so much passion, talent and dedication with more heart than the critics give them. Forget about the hate, you have to love guys like this. Similar but all in all their own men.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Joe Smith is not your average Joe. Joe Smith is not your average Mr. Smith. Joe Smith is not your average NBA journeyman either. He's been one of the association's most unique, dedicated and hardest working talents over the last two decades, helping more teams then you can count and remember and taking his regular name to households all around and across America.
The multi-talented, double team, triple threat has built a career off versatility. Whether it's perfectly portraying basketball legend Connie Hawkins in the movie 'Rebound', or acting as and channelling other versatile big man greats like Bob McAdoo on the court. Or whether it be releasing a real rap album with his lyrical skills under his Twitter alias Joe Beast, or whether it be his basketball skill-set 'Stutter' stepping like singer Joe, while leaning back like Fat Joe, to 'Pump It Up' like Joe Budden, Joe Smith does this. Truly not your average Joe.
In the matrix of his NBA career, Joe's been everywhere like Agent Smith, ready to step in and be whatever he's needed to be, do whatever is needed to be done. He's done this for 12 out of 30 of the association's franchises, almost half the league. He shares the record for playing for the most teams in his career with speedy guard Chucky Brown, physical forward Tony Massenburg and top star Jim Jackson and soon he could hold it. Just like his co-record holders, he's been able to do this because of his hard-work, job dedication and versatile talents. He's been more than trade bait, this journeyman is always destined to help anyone. Accepted everywhere like credit cards, to the debit of his opponent, he's always guaranteed to work and you can cash in on that. He's been the leagues prototype of the best 21st century big man, athletic, strong, fundamental, with long arms and an even longer, stretch-Armstrong range too. With a slender but strong frame, Smith can run and dunk like a guard, but also go inside and bang with his fellow forwards and centres. Joe really is a beast.
Coming out of Norfolk, Virginia this 6 foot 10, 225 pound, 'Naismith College Player of the Year', Maryland marvel was the perfect specimen for a basketball player. It was almost like he was created for a video game. It's little wonder, he was taken 1st in the 1995 draft by the Golden State Warriors, Joe Smith's name was ready for the big, bright lights. He was a star, made. Smith's all rookie year saw him took before stars Kevin Garnett, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse in the draft and although he came second to mighty mouse Damon Stoudemire (another guy he was taken before) in the 'Rookie Of The Year' voting he still showed and proved that he could stand next to all these legends.
Smith was looking strong as a Warrior in Golden State, but then after a brief pit-stop in Philadelphia came the Minnesota Timberwolves years. Following the last lockout Smith was a top prize in the 1998 free-agent market and Minny stole him with a bargain sign. Then with fellow third year man and legendary forward prototype Kevin Garnett, Smith would form a frontcourt tandem for the ages that would cure K.G. and Minnesota's problems and bad luck. That was until the genie went back into the lamp as salary scandal hit.
After Minnesota where severely punished and the NBA voided the last year of Smith's contract the unselfish star was on the move once again. Michigan became Joe's home for a year to start the new millennium. Smith played well as a backup for a Detroit Piston's team that was getting deeper and deeper and stronger and stronger. Journeyman Joe got his Marvin Gaye on calling home wherever he laid his hat. Then Smith had to give up Motown for his chance for career redemption in his return to Minnesota. Like Marvin it was time to get it on.
After two great seasons this travelling man's journey really began, as the buck started from Milwaukee to more stake in Philly, by way of a nugget of time in Denver. The Bucks, Sixers and Nuggets sure needed him, as did the wind and wine of the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Joe was always a big contributor and difference maker to a team, able to put up significant minutes and statistics. His valuable veteran presence solidified a team, his size bolstered the frontcourt and his name gave significance to the bench and the box-score when it was called. Trades then sent him to Oklahoma and then New Orleans (but the trade was rescinded), but either or-the Thunder or the Hornets-Smith brought his worth and value with every transaction and transition.
In his season in the A with the Atlanta Hawks, Smith was a much needed elder-statesman on a young, raw but hungry bunch of Hawks in the ATL. In that year Smith made history as well becoming the 92nd player in NBA history to reach 1000 games played. He achieved this under century, grand record in a game against the New Jersey Nets who he was then traded to. Only in Joe Smith's career would something like that happen. Then only three months later Smith's bags may as well have remained unpacked as he then headed to sunnier California climates as he headed to the Los Angeles Lakers for Sasha Vujacic in a big, complicated trade that also involved the Houston Rockets. Proving to be a vital cog for the then reigning champion Lakers, Smith replaced the machines big contributions off the bench. He is a key member of this L.A. Team, again giving them depth and veteran leadership, making his points and rebounds in his minutes. He is the passionate, energy guy, motivating his team from the bench that the Lakers missed since charismatic characters like Ronny Turiaf and Mark Madsen left. The number one pick with the number one jersey, giving all he has, first and foremost, front and centre.
Smith has made it a great career with averages of 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds (including 18.7 and 8.5 in a sensational sophomore season in Golden State) and his campaign to be one of the best veterans, role-players and hard workers this league has seen continues. It's only going to get more legendary. The Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a whole owe him a debt of gratitude. He's been through it all and done it all and he 'aint done. He's giving it all to his teams with that family type love. Yes sir!
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
We all know the road to the NBA is never easy and there are no guarantees. Luck has nothing to do with making it. Like Von Wafer you have to claim your place. 13 is just a number, but it's the number of a great player. Give him a week and he'll give you a career, doing more before Friday than most do in a season.
Lets take it back. It's early 2008 and the Denver Nuggets are amidst a road trip which now has them inside the Staples Centre taking on the one Los Angeles team that nobody wants to face. As per usual in Hollywood everyone is sticking to the script like Jay-Z. The leading man in this picture is Kobe Bryant who channels Magic and deals a season high 11 assists to his fellow Lakers en route to a 116-99 blowout. Kobe for a player like he is has a quiet 17 but still plays like the MVP he will become that year. His former understudy and then Nuggets backup Von Wafer has just four. The Lakers rout is punctuated by a big shot from Bryant which puts Denver down for good. Who does Kobe hit this shot over? The same guy he used to hit shots over again and again in practice, a guy that the Lakers waived just over a year prior, the then Nuggets backup Von Wafer. If this wasn’t embarrassing enough for Von on his way back down court Kobe slowed down, spun him around and playfully slapped him on the backside. Welcome back to the NBA young fella!
Still remember when Shaquille O’Neal was torching Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the first game of the 1996 Eastern Conference finals until he slapped Jordan’s backside mockingly after one particular play. M.J. saw that as a sign of weakness and then decided to return the favor on the court, extinguishing the diesel and eventually sweeping his Magic team? OK, so what happened in January of 2009 may not have exactly been of the same magnitude. Still when Kobe and the Lakers came to play Von’s then new Houston Rockets team, Wafer showed he aint’ no joke and earned the God, M.V.P., Kobe’s respect paid in full. He went 10 out of 14 from the field for 23 points including three from downtown. This was second only to Kobe’s game-high 33. What a difference a year makes.
This career high didn’t stop the Lakers from winning the game 105-100, but it did give them a serious challenge with Wafer when the Lakers were probably too busy focusing on a game plan for Yao Ming. It also made everyone sit up and take notice. NBA legend and now Rockets commentator Clyde Drexler reckoned that Kobe and the Lakers would be wondering ‘who is this kid with the Mohawk that’s lighting us up’? Still ‘The Glyde’ was wrong on this one. Kobe remembered and recognized his old Laker teammate. “Any time you play against somebody who was either traded or left the ballclub, they have extra incentive” Kobe said postgame admiring Von’s performance. “I told him I was proud of the way you’ve been playing”. This time there was no slap from Kobe. You earned your spot young fella!
Vakeaton Wafer certainly has earned his place in this league, lockout and international duty aside (Von recently signed with Vanoli Cremona of Italy). The 26 year old started his basketball career out at Pinewood State High school averaging a mean 32 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in his Junior year. He also finished second to a certain Lebron James in the McDonald's All-American slam-dunk contest. This kid was making an impression in high school and this would continue in College too, where in his sophomore year with Florida State he led the team in scoring. Still, however Von wasn’t making the same positive impression in his studies. Cutting classes led to Von being suspended for games, hurting his rep in the process. This could be a reason why this promising youngster was drafted so low in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft. He was still taken with the 39th pick by the Los Angeles Lakers. A great place to start your career…expect when you’re a guard. A guard isn’t going to take many minutes off Kobe Bryant, especially when your playing time is decided by Phil Jackson, a guy notorious for handing rookies more ‘DNP-Coaches Decisions’ than plays.
Never discouraged however, Von still looked good when he played. A real energy guy when he played, hitting buckets, difficult shots, driving hard to the basket and being tenacious on D like Jack Black is on the acoustic with comedy, Von played with the Lakers in perfect harmony. The thing about Von is he made the most of his sparse minutes. Even in garbage time with the game decided he cleaned up and took the rubbish out, playing like he was trying to make a game-winning play. Go and Youtube Von Wafer against the Toronto Raptors and you’ll see an example of this tenacity. Kobe takes a free throw as everyone remains still, watching, expecting it to go straight in. Von's magic however sees the game before it happens as he darts out of nowhere anticipating the miss. Before anybody registers what has just happened, he runs into the paint and tips in the rebound without breaking stride. That’s a big play, an Iverson, or legendary play. With that being said however, the Lakers had a lot of legends and guys that could make big plays. So Von was expendable and released soon after, but he got his taste of the NBA and he was still hungry.
Some D League time was a required appetizer first though. So Von honed his skills with the Colorado 14ers. Then the Lakers neighbors the Clippers called Von up to the L for a week. This next shot at the association resulted in only one minute of playing time unfortunately, before he was again placed on waivers. Where others would be frustrated and give up Von kept grinding to earn his place back in the league that had already shown him the door twice. Hard work, hustle and of course talent pay off eventually and things got better for Von. First he played out the season with Denver. Then he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2008, showing that he was a valuable commodity to this league and not just another 10 day contract player anymore.
It was when Wafer joined the Houston Rockets however that he was able to cement a new reputation for being a key backup on a top tier ball club. The Rockets had a lot of options from three all-star players to a deep bench, but when Tracy McGrady went down with an injury it was time for Von to step up. Von's explosive, passionate and often clutch play was very refreshing for the Houston fans who were starting to have their doubts about whether T-Mac was the same player he once was, even before his injury, this led to fans McGrady number one jerseys being defaced to a number 13 in honor of Von. Unlucky for some. The Rockets still needed an All-Star like Mac to help them go deep, but Von showed an unwavering enthusiasm and energy that gave Houston a real spark in those mid-second quarter type moments of the game where others switch off.
Just like Vinnie ‘The Microwave’ Johnson of the 80’s era Detroit Pistons, Von heated up at any given moment when his number was called. Just like when he averaged 14.3 points one month, just like when he net 21 against Northwest powerhouse Utah and just like when he hit a game-winning three against the previous years champions. This kind of play earned him a great substitute year with the former Eastern champs and NBA legends; the Boston Celtics.
Before he took off from the Rockets however, Houston found that missing energy player off the bench that kept them going when Yao, T-Mac, Ron et al where out of the game. Back in 2009 Houston made it to the second round of the playoffs, after many years of first round heartbreaking losses that Tracy McGrady knew all too well about. The Rockets and Von faced their biggest challenge yet. A Western Conference second round clash against the red-hot, championship favorite Los Angeles Lakers team that had home-court advantage. The last time Von played against his former team Kobe was proud of him, this time he was aware of him. As daunting as it was for Von, this is a guy who still made it on a playoff team as a significant contributor after being written off and waived twice early in his career. Many other players would yield under this sort of pressure, but Von didn't give up for anything, or anybody. Even in in a series of losses, Von won even more respect and set his career off on a winning path, that would lead him to Kobe and the Lakers Boston Celtics rivals.
Today Von is the same lose-hard, everything for his team to win, key player. Even if the tempo of the game is slow Wafer can step in and reset the tone of the game providing a boost for his team, just like he does when he’s barely sitting on the bench and encouraging his starters to go hard. This type of tempo change can help his team change the flow of a game and even the momentum of a playoff series. Even after being bounced around the league from team to team it seems that Von Wafer still has a basketball home in America, even though like most players he'll have to segue abroad until certain negotiations open up. Still, when Davis Stern unlocks the doors to the NBA you can bet Von Wafer will return with more than his foot in the door, kicking it in with his notorious B.I.G. talent. Then we can alll say; welcome back to the NBA young fella!
Monday, September 5, 2011
From a Lake Show starter to finisher.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"If there’s a ball somewhere and you know its been bobbled around, ama get it". Trevor Ariza-2008.
Trevor Ariza speaks with the confidence that is needed to be the type of role player who steps up and makes clutch plays in the NBA playoffs. Let's take it back to '08 for a second of nostalgia. It is the following morning after Trevor made a critical steal against the Denver Nuggets for the second time in the Western Conference Finals, sealing the victory for his Los Angeles Lakers side. Swarmed by reporters at practice the following morning Ariza is now stealing the spotlight from Kobe and the rest of the Lakers elite. This is no wonder as without those two steals the Lakers might have been heading to the fishing lakes instead of the NBA Finals.
The first steal came in the tightly fought game one where the Lakers prevailed thanks to that clutch steal and some crunch time free throws. Trevor Ariza uses two of the most important facets of his game in these key plays; anticipation and acceleration. Trevor can see the game before it happens like Magic Johnson, telling us; “Just staying locked in defensively, not having any mental lapse on the defensive end, and try to execute often” and he can turn it up like big game James Worthy. Anthony Carter threw an inbounds pass to Chauncey Billups that would ordinarily be routine, but Trevor read the pass perfectly and with gazelle like speed sprinted down court drawing a key foul.
These are the plays that NBA championships are made of. These are the plays that all-stars make. Former NBA MVP Kobe Bryant acknowledged Trevor stealing away for his teams win, “He made a terrific read, he had tremendous speed, great energy and great anticipation, it was a heck of a play”. Real recognizes real and having the best player in the league recognizing your talent speaks volumes for the type of player you are. Trevor looks familiar. For the Lakers playoff picture in 2008 and championship creation in 2009, the former UCLA bruin Ariza was as significant as leading man Kobe’s two co-stars Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and even 'the man' himself. The director of this piece, Lakers coach Phil Jackson appreciated Trevor upping his performance at the aforementioned game ones final curtain, saying; “Trevor had really a frustrating night but he made two plays that were very instrumental in helping us win.”
Two games, forty seven minutes and twenty five seconds later in the series the Lakers needed someone to stop one last run by the Nuggets. So again Trevor Ariza stepped up defensively. In an almost identical play, Trevor anticipated, accelerated and stole an inbounds pass from Kenyon Martin intended for Carmelo Anthony, game Lakers. Ariza gave his all in this play so the Lakers would prevail, adding; “We’ve come too far in the season to fail, If I do that I’m letting my team down”. Trevor thinks like the type of big playoff contributors the Lakers franchise has been churning out for decades and championships. Trevor comes from the same school of stepping it up that Lakers greats Michael Cooper and Robert Horry and more attended.
Trevor knows that the playoffs are a different game to the rest of the NBA season and that’s why he made and still today-for his new, New Orleans team-makes big plays when the time calls for it, despite often being a background contributor to guys like Kobe or Chris Paul. The important thing Ariza knows is the importance of making the most of every chance he can get. So even if he has a game where he isn’t one of the biggest contributors, or if he is having an off night, every possession is still another opportunity for him and his team to prevail. Trevor Ariza has a great mental capacity for high pressure games, "Just forget about everything that happened the play before and just worry about the next play, can’t cry over spilt milk” he says and believes. This is the attitude of a guy who gets up after being knocked down, no matter how many times. This is the attitude of a winner.
These clutch plays that Trevor made is further reason to why he was given a starting position on a Lakers team littered with big time players as he helped lead his former franchise to an elusive championship in 2009 following their 2008 losing effort against Boston. Trevor earned this blood, by blood, steal by steal, sweat by sweat, dunk by dunk, tear by tear and big-play by big-play. A starting position which resulted in a then career high 26 points against the Dallas Mavericks, coupled with 3 steals, 3 rebounds and 2 assists across the board. Fans, teammates and opponents alike all didn’t expect this much from Ariza. His contributions has Marv Albert repeating one of his famous catchphrases, “How about Ariza?”.
Indeed how about Ariza, who has been coming up as big as any other player throughout the playoff campaigns over the years. Whether it be the defensive plays, hitting big three pointers or the emphatic, rim breaking, opponent confidence shaking, energy of team awakening dunks. Give this guy even a hint of an inch of room and he’ll take it and force the ball to the hoop with authority. Despite the angle, despite the degree of difficulty and despite the players in front of him. He wont be denied and he’ll defy gravity in the way he powers to the basket. From the defensive end to the offensive end, there's few better runners, starters and finishers, whether that be of his teams play or opponents.
Trevor’s moves have been on replay in fans minds and on YouTube collectively since the start of his career when he was taken at a criminally low 43rd overall in the 2004 draft by the Knicks. Still, however if he wasn’t getting the exposure he deserved as an exciting rookie in New York, or his time in Orlando, he’s certainly getting it now following his time in the celebrity capital of the world. Despite playing in an arena full of famous fans like Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington and of course Jack Nicholson, night-in night-out in 2009, Trevor was the one who drew the crowds gaze.
In late 2007 the Lakers gave up the promising talent of Maurice Evans and Brian Cook for the proven talent of the Orlando Magic’s Trevor. Then just over a month later, on December 25Th, Ariza gave them a great Christmas present. He unwrapped an amazing facial dunk over Grant Hill and the Phoenix Suns, giving the Lakers the enthusiasm and motivation needed to take the victory. This kept bloggers busy but also injected a new sense of excitement to a Lakers squad that was beginning to come together. It was now evolving from a blossoming team into a championship caliber unit in full bloom.
The last time the Lakers where a contender they had Shaquille O’Neal. In 2009 they went back to the top thanks to Kobe and the right compliment pieces that where running a lot more in a fast paced, exciting offense. This offense is reminiscent of the classic ‘Showtime’ era of the Lakers in the 80’s. These 21st century Lakers can run and finish strong whether it be Kobe, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Still, however with great first step acceleration and electrifying dunks nobody on the Lakers roster epitomized the Showtime style of play more than Trevor Ariza did in his time (sorry Shannon, your still real close). That’s right, whether it be starting or finishing a fast break when Ariza was involved every seat in the house was vacant. Running as smooth as Jamaal Wilkes and taking it hard to the basket like Byron Scott, when Trevor was on top form it was Showtime baby!
It all seems like yesterday that Ariza was wearing the Lakers three on the teams quest for their own trio but it was two years, two teams (Houston and New Orleans) and two alike replacements in Ron Artest (defensively) and Devin Ebanks (physically) ago. Still despite the filled voids and the valid championships, Trevor Ariza is still missed and was a big part of the Lakers who would be a piece that would help them so much in the playoff puzzle. His speed, steals, hustle, determination and tenacious passion will always be missed by the Lakers and cherished by who he plays for. Even though Trevor may never don purple and gold again, he'll always be certified as an iconic Laker member and one of the prime reasons this team was successful in returning to their glory days. On this court he'll always be a star, thanks to his walk to fame. The championships belong to him as much to anyone as he played his supporting role to a tee on the fairways of Hollywood.
“Everyone has to contribute if we wanna win, everybody has to do their part”Trevor Ariza-2008.
Trevor certainly did his.
Honoring the alumni.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
With last years three-peat hopes finding no feet and a lockout not opening up anybodies chances for next season, Laker fans will be forgiven not to look to the championship past. The team still have their biggest stars intact but the Lakers still miss the players they lost to free agency over this last year. To begin last season on ring night Phil Jackson (a man who is missed the most) and the Staples crowd recognised this when the Zen mentioned and the crowd motioned towards these four. Farmar, Powell, Mbenga and Morrison may nave to wait for their championship rings in the post but they don't have to look too far for the love from Lakerland, as does another part of the Laker machine.
JORDAN FARMAR: Jordan could of been the heir to Derek Fishers starting point job. Still Farmar needed more than heavy rotation guard minutes. That's just how good he is. You better watch Jordan as he breaks out. He could be a star. Sure Steve Blake is a great replacement but it'll always be intriguing to know what could of been with this Los Angeles native and UCLA grad. His speed, tenacity, defence and shooting make him an all round scouts favourite. The Lakers loss is New Jersey's net gain however. Jordan and Devin Harris could give the Brooklyn to be Nets one of the quickest, most potential filled backcourts around, by way of a years experience overseas. Look for the Meadowlands to soon become Farmars boulevard.
ADAM MORRISON: He may have been the butt of many jokes for years, but despite the tears and 'tache Mo is no joke. Despite the highlight reels made by Jimmy Kimmell, Adam Morrison can play. "He can really go", Kobe told Kimmel and take it from me this guys got more sharp shots than suits and more twine than pine. This former lottery ticket is no bust. Adam can score like a starter but with all the options the Lakers had he had to take his ticket and wait in line. Sure a few more years here could of helped both parties but it's the Wizards however that made the real pooper to begin last years campaign. Morrison may have been cut but he's got plenty more tricks up his sleeve. Lets just hope another team can provide the vest.
JOSH POWELL: Josh may be a quiet guy who seldomly played for the Lakers but he will be missed. He will always be remembered like Mark Madsen for coming in and giving the Lake Show everything he had in any minutes he got. He even put up big numbers in Bynums absence. When it was time to step up Josh answered a call that wasn't even meant for him, but he received and connected. A fan and team favourite, Powell's good sounding taste in music provided a playlist for the team and Lakers.com. As a player too J-Peezy sounded a lot better than most people are willing to hear. He clicked in a shuffled Lakers rotation as he helped the team repeat. Josh plays like a tall guard or forward in a big mans body, is raw and seasoned with championship experience. Now this young Hawk is still in the playoff hunt as the necessary cover required to help this running and winning team flow. All Hawk eyes are on him.
D.J. MBENGA: Sure with just a mere mention of the word 'taco' Mbenga may provide more entertainment then when the Lake Show hit 100 on burrito night but D.J. will be missed for more character 'hits' than that. Sure Mbenga may have been posterized more times than Shawn Bradley acting like a camera man in a dunk contest but D.J. could put it down too. Now yes when he died his hair gold with Artest, Mbenga may have looked more like the other NBA wild man, Dennis Rodman was ready to hit a retirement home but when D.J. was requested he manned the boards and helped the Lakers rebound from injuries etc. Baby Mutombo is an ambassador to defence and now he serves for the sensational city of New Orleans where he'll show the nest what a real king looks like.
SASHA VUJACIC: We can't forget about Sasha, who was traded in the middle of last season. Sure this machine gunner at times was in a funk and was wild and erratic but he still served well like Maria Sharapova. Speaking of his beau-like Gasol-we saw him courtside this Summer in London for Wimbledon but we sure do miss him at times on court in STAPLES. Earlier on in 2011 in London after the big trade he hit many big clutch shots or his new, New Jersey Nets as he helped thaw the Toronto Raptors in their international double-header. Even when the Lakers hit England's capital last year the Slovenian still drew cheers and charges despite all eyes on Kob'. A popular character because of his shot, style, defence and passion. Erratic but enigmatic, inconsistent but still a champion. The title and praise speaks for itself. The machine motors on along with Farmar in New Jersey. No sleep 'till Brooklyn.
Bottom line all these guys will be missed as we wish them well. They will all be an asset wherever they play and even if the Lakers rebound to a championship next season, somehow it just won't be the same without them. Take good care guys. All the best.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Watching the throne.
By Tim David Harvey
Defense wins championships. Sure it's a boring notion but it's an accurate one as well. That's why the Boston Celtics have so many banners. That's why Ron Artest won Game 7 in the 2010 NBA Finals and that's why Bill Russell remains the real lord of the rings.
The Lakers three-peat run was brought to an abrupt end in Texas this year, but before that they where back to back champions and you can't spell 'double' without 'D'. Historically they are known for their 'Showtime' offence and Kobe Bryant is one of the associations greatest ever players and offensive threats, but the Lakers are much more than prolific scorers. In defending the throne that now crowns the Dallas Mavericks, L.A. will need to step up their defensive play once again. You can't spell 'dominance' or 'dynasty' without a lot of 'D' either, first and foremost. The Lakers have become a great defensive team and have learned from their 2008 Finals loss to Boston and their 2004 heartbreak in Detroit, now ts time to learn from last years disappointment. They have learned that you can score on someone all you like, but if you can't stop them, it's all Dirk and it's all over.
Now the Lake Show is stocked full of great stoppers. Gasol, Bynum and Odom are all good defenders in the post and as for the backcourts ability you can charge that to their warrior Derek Fisher. The Lakers bench may often be overlooked in favour for the Hollywood elite that sits behind them but these players certainly can take offence too, from the points made by experienced veteran Steve Blake or the youthful exuberance of sophomore Devin Ebanks.
To win big games though you need difference makers. The Lakers have that on both ends of the floor but when it comes to defence the Lakers have a three pronged attack that can lock down even the best in the league. Why do they have this? They have this because they've got three of the best perimeter defenders in the league, one of the first lines of defence in Basketball. They've last years acquired free agent Matt Barnes. They've got former 'Defensive Player of the Year' Ron Artest and they've got Kobe Bryant, a Basketball legend on both ends of the floor.
So when you've got three of your best defenders in the L guarding your best player (or best two players for that matter), you've got trouble. The Lakers could play two of these guys at a time, with one guy tagging in off the bench or all three at once. Either way it's about to become real hard for any team to match up with the Lakers as their best athletes wrestle with the competition. Even Dallas' three balls may call shenanigans on a healthy defensive big three, Miami or anybody will find it hard to beat. It doesn't matter who you are. Even if you think you've got the luck of the Boston Irish. Even if your names Tim Duncan or Dwight Howard. Any dream team will suffer a nightmare playing this three headed monster. No player wants to screw with this ménage a trois.
It all begins with Kobe. The franchise player, the' go to guy'. He makes all the big plays, not every time (we see you Pau, Lamar, Derek and Ron) but nine times out of ten. The clutch shots may be remembered and rotated on youtube for decades but his key steals and blocks ice games just as well. See Kobe suffers from the same thing all star players do. People focus on all the exciting things too much that the intangibles get overlooked. Lets take Basketball back to the basics. Kobe is a 'guard' after all, even if he is a 'shooting guard'.
Kobe may have made the NBA All-Defensive team year after year but his work on the 'other' end of the floor is still very much underrated. Put it this way, who do people talk about more, the 'Defensive Player Of The Year' or the league MVP? Sure highlights are highlights but the 'little' things that are done and that don't show up on the stat sheet are just as important. As a matter of fact these aren't 'little' things anyway. Everything in Basketball is a big thing and the difference between achieving the 'W' or being left games behind.
Kobe doesn't just go at the opposing teams best player, he guards them too. Bryant has good wingspan, he's strong, he holds his own and most importantly, he's fearless. Kobe is so competitive and has a killer instinct that is matched by nobody in this league...nobody. Number 24 doesn't just want to beat you...he wants to stop you too. A Black Mamba can kill you in more ways than one and the self dubbed 'Doberman' of the Beijing Olympics doesn't bark, he bites. Just like when he won a gold medal Bryant showed that he is just as dedicated to hounding someone on defence as he is at being chased on offence, even if it was his teammate and friend Pau on the Spanish side. It's all about no mercy. Still, not only do the Lakers have one of the best all-round players guarding their house, they've also let two more hungry dogs off the leash.
The Lakers may have lost some 'Showtime', when they gave up Trevor Ariza in the free agent period of 2009 but they picked up a real 'show stopper' when they acquired Ron Artest back off Houston. Ariza was a big reason the Lakers won in 2009 but Artest was an even bigger reason why the Lakers repeated in 2010. Sure when the Lakers lost Ariza's athleticism they lost a lot of speed but having Ron Artest slow things down on defence isn't exactly a bad thing. Ron can see the game like Magic and blind his opponents outputs with his tricks. See a player who can see the game developing in a much slower way can master the court and therefore the game itself. A player like this sees plays before they happen. A player like this wins championships and becomes legendary. A player like this sees the game like Earvin Johnson. This is no illusion, great minds think alike and great players move in time.
Now Ron, Ron may not move with the quickness but what Artest doesn't have in speed he makes up for 100 times over in strength. He may not look like he could run track but he's built like he could play football. Imagine trying to get round a pick set by this guy. Or imagine exhaustively managing to elude Kobe after being chased around the court only to be hit and bounced by Artest. Now even the strong body of LeBron James couldn't put up with much of this punishment. There's no peace from World, on the war of the court, Metta lays it down with authority like a gavel. When it comes to legendary defence, he's as guilty as charged. Ron is getting his Pat Riley on again and promising another championship like when he took the blame for 2010, Artest is guaranteeing twenty twelve will be the end of the competition like John Cusack films do the world.
Any team in this league can throw anything they want at the Lakers because they have the players to counter. When the Lakers picked up Pau Gasol in 2008 Kobe remarked that he wasn't going to war with 'butter knives' anymore, well now he and his Lakers aren't lying in trenches either. Their standing in a fort. Let's take nothing away from this brilliant Miami team crafted last Summer but with last years the pick up of Barnes, the Lakers can match them, outlast them and even challenge and defeat them. Think about it they match up piece for piece. Chris Bosh has Bynum, Gasol and Odom to deal with in the post while Kobe and LeBron will face off. This leaves Dwyane Wade, not open but closed off by both Barnes and Artest. Checkmate. Denzel sitting courtside knows this. This is chess not checkers.
Barnes can burn his opponents with his play, with his defensive smarts inked in to him like his tattoo's ingrained. Built with a slashers body, sure he can score but he can take more stabs out of his opponents final box score. Plus with the Ariza like replacement of Devin Ebanks in the potential bank, the Lakers perimeter power looks to go forth. Still with all three defenders on the court at the same time the Lakers become arguably the most powerful offensive and the most powerful defensive team in the league. Then, even when Kobe takes five (or more like two) on the bench, the Lakers still have two of the best players in the league disarming the opposing teams primary weapon. When Kobe is back on the court during crunch time he can focus more on the offence when he knows his first and second line of defence has his back.
The reason these guys excel in the lost art of defence is attributed to much more than 'just' their strength, their positioning or their undeniable, proven talent. The reason these guys are three of the top ten defenders in the league is because they share the same three attributes that every player needs to become a premier defender in this league. These attributes are courage, passion and competitiveness. Bryant, Artest and Barnes have the die hard bravery to risk anything and everything to win and they have the passion that goes beyond the 'I Love This Game' slogan. This is because they want to win and rule this game that they love. It's one thing loving something, it's another thing to actually 'want' the thing you love. Now as far as competitiveness is concerned we needn’t get into it...but we will.
How competitive are these guys? Well look at it this way these guys may be team-mates now but before as opponents, there was no love lost. These guys where far from friends. We remember Ron in Kobe's face all series long as Houston and LA sparred in the 2009 Playoffs. Also how can we forget Barnes and Bryant getting into it in 2010 during a Magic, Lakers game? Things got so heated that Barnes even faked throwing an inbounds pass right at Kobe's face! Bryant even one-upped Barnes however by coolly not even flinching at this. Kobe just stared right through the ball and right through Matt owning the moment. Chris Rock knows this kind of humiliation. These friends are anything but when it comes to the competitive nature of the game. Cold as the ice in their veins and cold blooded with a Rick James slap.
Kobe is without a doubt the most competitive player in this league. When Barnes and Artest showed they weren't fazed by this legend they earned more than just Kobe's frustration and attention. They earned his respect. It's almost like it was all written, just like K.B. was testing these two guys, but the fact is Kobe plays like this against everyone. The thing that separates Artest and Barnes from the rest was their willingness to see Kobe's competitiveness and up the ante. Now as team-mates what separates these two from the rest is their willingness to put this old rivalry aside in order to come together with the same passion for the same goal. That's what separates a Ron Artest and a Matt Barnes from a Raja Bell. This is what separates ordinary players from champions.
With three of the most competitive, passionate and aggressive players on the same page defensively the Lakers become as strong as any defensive minded team they've tried to overcome over the last ten years. dding this element to an already championship calibre team gives the Lakers that extra dimension, that Championship x-factor. Los Angeles now on both ends of the floor has a team like no other. A team that is both dominant in the paint and on the perimeter. They may not have a 'Dream' team like in Miami and Dallas may have given them a year off but what they do have is a dynasty in the making. Now that's real. Don't sleep. The giant has woken up. The champ is here. Case in point, the defence rests. Until next season.