Sunday, April 29, 2012
Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers
THE GOOD: Just when everyone thought the L.A. Lakers where down and out they upped the ante. To begin this lockout shortened campaign a trade for Chris Paul and the best purple and gold point guard since Magic was nixed by the NBA powers that be and after almost half a year and season of trying to lure Dwight Howard away from the magic kingdom the Lakers ended up looking like a mickey mouse outfit. Still Andrew Bynum showed everybody in the league that the Lake Show are more than alright without Dwight, whilst a mid-season trade brought in Ramon Sessions and the future of the Lakers point play. This young inside and out tandem can hurt other teams and that's still with the dynamic duo of Kobe and Pau Gasol and glue guys like Matt Barnes in reserve. No wonder they won a morale boosting double overtime game over West and league favourites Oklahoma.
THE BAD: With all that going to war however the Lakers don't have World Peace. Metta has received a 10 game suspension by the NBA for elbowing James Harden in said Thunder game. Many Laker fans hope to have him back. Some doubters think he's done for the season and possibly his Laker career. Either way if the Lakers make it past 10 games they'll need to the artist formerly known as Artest to take them further. Plus apart from players like Troy Murphy, Steve Blake and the potential of Jordan Hill, Josh McRoberts and Devin Ebanks the bench is wafer thin. Can the Lakers survive another potential breaking point?
THE GOOD: The Nuggets know all too well about indecision situations like Dwight Howard. Or should we say the LeBron James syndrome. Carmelo Anthony left them hanging for a year before heading to the Knicks for a New York and an empire state of mind. Now purgatory isn't a great place to be, especially with a bitter taste in your mouth but the Nuggets have still managed to mine themselves some success. Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov all came over from the Melo trade and add that to the underrated star power of Al Harrington and Andre Miller to go along with good guys like Corey Brewer, JaVale McGee and Rudy Fernandez and you really have a good team here. Plus the birdman Chris Anderson is still here. What more do you want?
THE BAD: A franchise player perhaps. This really would make this franchise a top team again. The loss of Carmelo has calmed down the Nuggets competitive advantage and taken the air out of the team. Without Anthony how can a team like this go toe-to-toe with the Kobe's and the Durant's of the West, let alone the LeBron's. Even the famous rocky mountain thin air won't be as much as an advantage as it used to be. The Nuggets will have to get used to the fact that there are hills to climb and the road is going to be rocky and tough. Sure they secured a solid playoff spot but its trades like the 'Melo one that make the 'West best/East least' days a thing of the past. The Nuggets are going to find it real hard to get past Kobe and his Lakers.
THE SKINNY: The Nuggets have a chance of surprising the streaking Lakers like they did the top seeded Sonics back in the day, but Kobe's ready for war without World Peace looking to prove every critic wrong making the Lakers right for the second round.
TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Call Them Up.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
The purple and gold Los Angeles basketball team have secured their place in the Finals! OK Laker Nation don't get your hopes up (just yet), you haven't slept through two months of basketball to the best awakening ever, instead the Lakers development team the D-Fenders are taking their really evolving squad to the Finals of the NBADL (the 'NCIS' to the NBA's 'CSI').
Not bad for a team that took last year off. Now you can call that a comeback. This year the experienced and great Eric Musselman led D-Fenders have had a record amount of players called up to the big leagues of the NBA and also have helped home and hone impressive Laker Devin Ebanks and currently newly signed Christian Eyenga become even better players.
The team this year has also featured NBA All-Star dunk participant Jamario Moon (recently singed by the Charlotte Bobcats), former dunk champ Gerald Green (now headed to Brooklyn with New Jersey) former NBA Indiana starting Point Guard Jaamal Tinsley and former Pacers guard Brandon Rush's older brother Kareem, who was a real sharp-shooter for the Lakers in the Shaq and Kobe days (wouldn't it be great to see him back in a Lakers uniform) and recently quite nicely had a foray into R&B During some of his R&R with the nice single 'Hold You Down'.
Its clear to see that the development league (which is also giving former All-Star Antoine Walker a second chance) is no shortage of talent. Especially on this team which once had both former Lakers Jordan Farmer and Coby Karl play for both them and the Lakers on the same day.
This D-League is definitely the place where raw talent gets whipped into shape. The National Basketball Association's Development League has really helped the league and players previously hurt by untapped potential. It shows just how much basketball potential is out there and just how expanse the wealth of talent is. A talent the D-League promises to turn into A students.
Now Mardy Collins, Zach Andrews, Elijah Milisap (brother of Utah Jazz top forward Paul) and the rest of this hard working, impressive bunch hope to show just how good this league and they are in an exciting finals with the top tier Austin Toros team. One that features NBA talents like D'Andre Blair and Ronald Murray, ready to show the big time of this league why they belong in the above one.
What a finals its set to be too. A matchup that promises great battle and grand games. Even though the D-Fenders have lost more players then New Jersey this year they could just do it against Austin after their inspiring and impressive season following a one year lay over. This could give the city of L.A. a winning basketball franchise before their parent team the Lakers try to make it a family affair.
Even if neither Los Angeles ballclub took home the gold this year they still show us just how an integral part of each other they are. After the final buzzer sounds after the final finals game, one outcome will be certain. That this great influential and developing league and its D-Fender team are here to stay. No matter who come and goes.
Kobe's new Jordan.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Who would of thought that one day Jordan would play alongside Kobe?
Well that eventually happened when Laker coach Mike Brown finally gave Jordan Hill some burn during L.A.'s massive, double overtime win against West and league favorites the Oklahoma City Thunder and burn did he. Hot like fire Jordan shone so brightly, hustling hard with an aggressive double double of 14 points and 15 rebounds and showing along with young stud Devin Ebanks just how good he is no matter the time or team. The kind of big numbers that show that this kid could be another weapon for the versatile loaded Lake Show is he performs like this most nights.
These numbers where just in the spare change of bench minutes. can you imagine how much more he could afford with more time? This former Houston Rocket raw talent could soar and propel further. From the fresh locks to the high socks, he could give the Lakers a Renaldo Balkman type dirty work, garbage rim collecting, enthusiastic energy player. A guy this team has sorely missed since Rony Turiaf danced away from the STAPLES bench. Like his second namesake Jordan could be another Tyrone Hill type Power Forward. Slight in build but strong in heart and basketball smarts.
From being another big body off the bench to joining Josh McRoberts lay up line spark of plugging some dunks to energise and pick up his team and fans while Bynum and Gasol take a seat. Jordan Hill could soon get a standing ovation as a fan favourite. Not only that, he could also be an off the bench and surprise X-factor for those opponents who play Mike Brown and fail to realise at first just how good he is.
Let's just hope the Lakers utilise him the right way and right away too come next week after breaking him into the big time this weekend gone. If not it'll be Los Angeles not Houston with a problem. We have a different, outstanding option and power player here primed for the playoffs. One that could really tie some of the squads weakest links together before stronger teams wink them goodbye.
After all what did they trade Derek Fisher for?
Sunday, April 22, 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Andrew Bynum is the Los Angeles Lakers next great centre and right now is creating a lasting legacy that will go down in history of purple and gold big men legend down the same line as Laker greats George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal. Standing on the stilts and running on the diesel of giants Andrew Bynum is carrying the tall torch of the next post presence of this storied franchise.
The paint punctuater is just that good at the young age of 24, standing next to number 24 Kobe Bryant with pride and power. Minus some Dwight Howard trade rumors and knee and growing pains 'Drew looks like being not only the Lakers but the greatest centre in the National Basketball Association for at the very least the next decade. He's just that good and the last (alongside the oft-compared and contrasted Howard) of a dying breed, keeping one of the most pivotal positions on the basketball floor alive and fighting...dominating in fact.
Sure there is still some maturing years before this kid reaches his prime but the fact that he's looking this good now is just crazy. Sure one week he was jacking up threes and getting tossed from games like he was acting his jersey size not his age but the next 7 days saw the number 17 join the exclusive company of Mikan, Wilt, Kareem and Elgin Baylor by taking 30 rebounds away from Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. The big legendary Shaquille O'Neal didn't even do that. Now do you think the young baby Shaq, Bynum is ready for the playoffs, the big time and another championship? You bet!
This week gone Andrew Bynum led his Los Angeles Lakers sans Bryant (while Kobe showed he was 'The Zen Mamba' of sideline coaching), just like he led the Western All-Star team this year. Standing next to fellow February star Bean Bryant, the former 'Western Conference Player of the Week' Bynum has shown the league it's best, one-two punch, inside and out not called Kobe and Pau. Minus a few years of experience and a youthful, more Afro sporting Kobe this post and perimeter dominance is almost reminiscent of the dynamic duo that was Shaq and Kobe...minus the arguments. O'Neal and Bryant where arguably the NBA's greatest partnership ever but on this new versatile Laker squad Bynum forms more than one great couple on this complete team.
There's the unstoppable force meets the immovable object frontcourt tandem with Spanish fighter Pau Gasol and then there's the future of this Showtime ballclub that is Andrew and the Lakers new point Ramon Sessions. Long when Pau heads back to Spain for retirement and Kobe lands somewhere in Italy for a post-sneaker unlacing trip back down memory lane, number 17 will still be in L.A. with the teams new number 7, showing the Buss family and the rest of the league that trading for Dwight Howard would have been an unnecessary move.
Still that's a long time from now. As Bynum dukes it out with Dwight going elbow for elbow with the new Superman like he did Shaq in his rookie year. He'll be Kryptonite to this generations man of steel and whatever else the league of superheroes has to throw at him over the next few years. People can expect more golden years for the purple hearted Lake Show. From Kobe to Pau, Sessions and more the Lakers have double team threats everywhere, like their renaissance men and defensive duo of Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace causing war and hell to pay for the oppositions offence. Still point for paint point, pound for muscle pound, standing at the centre of it all will be Andrew.
Team USA will sure miss him this Summer, but if this knee issue is finally cleared up in Germany like Kobe's was then this young man can finally show us just how good he can really get. From the zen of Phil Jackson's mastering to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's legendary teaching and tutoring the torch will well and truly be passed. Sure not carrying the Olympic flame for the U.S. may singe his status a little bit but once Bynum shows us more of the fire inside he will look to burn brighter than most of the illuminating, hot star talents in the league.
From being the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game to rounding out to being a solid 20 and 10 threat this young man has achieved so much but still has so much more to do. Once he stops flagrantly ripping off his jersey you can count on that number 17 one day being raised in respect next to the 13 of Chamberlain and the 33 of 'Cap. Right now he's just that good. Give it a few years and he could be truly one of the greats.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Watching the throne.
By Tim David Harvey
Defence 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 last 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. are stepping 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 it is 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 and Bynum are good defenders in the post and as for the backcourts ability the Ramon season is in session. 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 2010 acquired free agent Matt Barnes. They've got former 'Defensive Player of the Year' and former Ron Artest, Metta World Peace 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, especially now Barnes has pinned down a solid position and Metta has taken his career off the ropes with some new moves. 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.
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, Andrew and Sessions) 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' and guard does he.
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 Metta World Peace back off Houston. Ariza was a big reason the Lakers won in 2009 but Peace 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 Metta's calm slowing things down on defence isn't exactly a bad thing. The small forward formerly known as 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 Metta Worlf may not move with the quickness but what he 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 the exhaustion of managing to elude Kobe after being chased around the court only to be hit and bounced by World. 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. Metta World Peace got his Pat Riley on again to begin this campaign, promising another championship like when he took the blame for 2010, the one time Artest may have not had the form or the fitness to back this statement up to begin this season, but now his conditioning and predictions seem to be working their way into shape.
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 the same offseason pick up of Matt Barnes in 2010, 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 the unstoppable force of Gasol and the immovable object of Bynum 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 Peace. 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 both 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 perimeter preventing 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, World Peace 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 World 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 Peace showed they weren't fazed by this legend they garnered 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 World Peace 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 Metta and a Matt from say 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. Adding 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 potential new 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 the next competitor.
The Zen Mamba.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Who would have thought that a Kobe-less Lakers would have been greeted with a winning record and such favour from the Lakers fanbase?
Well it has...the Lakers shot off to a 4-1 record, looked solid and ready for the playoffs. Pau Gasol has played like the star some doubt he is. Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions have been given more room to 'wow' further and show the present just how much they are the future of this ballclub. Defensive maestro's Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace have brought their 'A' games back to league scouting reports and Trevor Ariza look and play alike Devin Ebanks has been called up for more minutes and exposure.
Still everyone wants Kobe Bryant and his league leading 28.1 points per game back for the playoffs. From the players on the court to the fans in the stands, they can't do it without him. Despite recent wins San Antonio, Dallas and especially the titan Thunder in Oklahoma will be too much to bear without the leagues reigning iron man.
Still Kobe's recent suit and tie role has made for an interesting side-story and a gaze into the looking glass of the legacy of the legends future. From the phantom masked Mamba to shrugging off the ESPN 7th best player in the league credit, Kobe Bryant's 2011/2012 season has had a lot of intriguing side-stories but none as lucrative as this. Back in the day before the dress code, NBA players would don all sorts of fashion courtside while on the chilling list, but since the commissioners stern Sunday best policy, players are looking more like assistants. Still, Kobe (who has been known to sport some of the finest designer wear courtside while on the injured lists of seasons past) is taking it to the Coach K, Cap, or even Phil Jackson extreme looking the part of player coach.
Plus with some Laker fans disappointments with Mike Brown (to be fair he's doing a real decent job) the suit and tie and Italian loafers seem to fit. Phil Jackson knew this would happen. The Zen master would often pass the dry-erase to the Mamba in critical playoff and Finals runs during the championship years ad this is no different. The player some call selfish has not passed on the opportunity to mentor and lead his purple and gold army. He even took to Phil's old seat recently and it all looked so comfortable.
Refusing to talk about his injury to press and even without the precious Spalding in his hand, Kob' has been all about the game and his team. People can stop that selfish talk now. Kobe Bryant sure is making the case of being a good coach one day...but it doesn't end there. When Kobe's diminishing years come in his later thirties, his playbook mind and basketball I.Q. might just make him the perfect Point Guard. Like the man whose career he's followed, or the co-best player in the league and his tries Kobe could look to quarterback his team in the future.
Especially with the development of Andrew Bynum and his paint dominance. Sure Kobe already passes more than most think and Sessions is clearly making a point for the Lakers future guard position but Kobe could potentially switch it up later in his career as the legs get tired and the numbers edge off a little. Kobe's always been off-guard and a double team drawing playmaker and like Jordan in D.C., Kobe will probably still be able to drop 25 plus at almost 40 on any given night.
Still switching from scoring to point guard play during games could give him and the Lakers that extra element and rotation in the Bynum/Sessions new era coming soon that could give them and Kobe more years on the top. Until Kobe permanently takes his place on the bench, leading his team with his drawn up plays it's something the team could run. Either way it looks like Kobe Bryant is going to have an influence on the Los Angeles Lakers for a long time to come.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Jaamal 'Silk' Wilkes was so smooth sometimes his great, legendary play went unnoticed in the golden eighties years of his purple Laker reign. I guess that's what happens when you play in front of a Hollywood celebrity crowd in the Forum of Los Angeles playing 'Showtime' basketball with the greatest scorer of all time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the greatest passer of all time...a guy we all know simply as Magic.
The tricks of Silkes trade where celebrated, but he's still remained an unsung and underrated player. A massive black and white portrait of him hangs in Tom Cruise's characters office in nighties hit rom-com 'Jerry Maguire', yet today his Wikipedia page isn't complete with a photo. Legendary Lakers announcer Chick Hearn coined the 'Silk' nickname along with his 'Slam Dunk' and refrigerator cool phrases, yet some Lakers fans mind will run cold when Wilkes name is mentioned. This lack of knowledge needs to change. The light is on, the jello is cooling...but is anyone home.
Things really look to open up and change now however. The corridors of the Naismith Hall Of Fame look to get even smoother this year as the squeaks of Silkes Wilkes sneaks look to step in and join last years inductee Tex Winter and a whole host of other Lakers alumni in the prestigious class of basketball greats. You know John Wooden will be so proud but not surprised. You'd think there would be no better honour, but in the very same "whirlwind" (as Jaamal put it) week the Lakers organisation announced they'll be raising Jaamal Smooth's number 52 jersey to join Wilt, Jerry, Elgin, Gail, Kareem's 33, Magic's 32 and James Worthy's 42 in the rafters. This jersey retirement announcement coming off the heels of the Hall, couldn't be any better for Wilkes...unless they made his honoured jersey out of woven silk.
Weaving between defenders like he switched between the 2 and 3 spots. Wilkes was that smooth to his basketball touch and that butter jumper was so money it afforded the Hearn nickname and the dubbing of being a '20 foot lay up' (it was that 'good', word to Marv Albert). From a big body and long arms, this Shooting Guard/Small Forward was a wingspan nightmare on defence. While just like Byron Scott and A.C. Green his 'Oop' dunks that finished off Magic Johnson's 'Alleys' really put the 'Show' in 'Showtime'. It was wow time when Jaamal amazed everyone from the players to the fans with his on court skill set. His versatile, tall, do it all presence really opened up the Forum floor for Pat Riley's slick smooth Lakers. Laker nation you thinking Lamar Odom? Plus all the disappointment that came with his departure from LAX, Los Angeles? Well then just think what a shame it was that Wilkes has been under appreciated and somewhat disregarded...that is at least until now.
Jaamal won't have to reside in the unsung ranks of 1980's Lake Show greats that where just as much a part of the legendary legacy like Norm Nixon and Bob McAdoo for long. This pillar really helped the Forum become a coliseum of gladiatorial basketball. Now his place in the hall and the rafters is guaranteed by the Los Angeles Lakers and National Basketball Association powers that be...and will. The Berkley born California bred, UCLA grad, really epitomised L.A. and the city of dreams (3 times an All-Star, 6 times a champion (2 in the NCAA)) and its about time the town of stars and angles and the basketball world woke up and saw the light shining on this sleeper star that deserved more illumination. This ABA team president really is a Los Angeles Star. This smooth operator is finally going to be heard like Sade. The polite, courteous, motivational speaker will finally have someone taking to the microphone for him. At almost 60 years of age the former Golden State Warriors 'Rookie of the Year's' steady play has finally produced the individual rewards he finally deserves. Its all silky smooth now.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
The Art Of Stepping Up.
"And the Lakers are the 2000 World Champions", Laker fans remember those commentators words like it was all yesterday. It is hard to believe its been more than a decade in the making though. As an Afro sporting Kobe complete with a boyish grin, leapt into the big arms of a tearful Shaquille O'Neal the Phil Jackson led Lakers beat Reggie Miller and Larry Bird's Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the first NBA Finals of the new millennium, christening the new STAPLES Centre and new uniformed Lake Show with their first championship and dynasty since Earvin Johnson brought, Magic, Showtime and a Forum of championships to Los Angeles in the Eighties.
The dynamic and dominant duo of Shaq and Kobe went on to win two more trophies even with the twin towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan and a double dose of problems and troubles standing in their way. Throughout these championships they had their fair share of help however from former champion A.C. Green to serious shooter Glen Rice and former assistant Brian Shaw to Kobe's mentor Ron Harper. Even Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone joined on board to help carry on tradition. Still however three was the magic number like De La does. Before LeBron took his trois talents to South Beach and even before L.A. bred Paul Pierce reignited a historic rivalry with his own trio the Lakers had a mini big three of their own (and we're not talking about the great Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum yet) in the form of three big time role players who stepped it up while sitting behind their two stars.
You see when Derek Fisher was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder recently for as little as a seldom used but seriously talented Jordan Hill this was more than just another fan disappointing, Lamar Odom front office decision. It was truly the end of an era and we're not just talking about the class of 96 career ending, backcourt partnership with fellow 1996 draftee and close friend Kobe Bryant. Derek was the last active purple and gold wearing member of the role playing big three of Rick Fox, Robert Horry and he.
Shaq and Kobe may have been all the Lakers needed in some armchair fans minds but the critics and the purists know that the champion L.A. team needed Fisher, Fox and Horry at the Point Guard and two forward spots respectively. From their tough play on both ends of the floor to they're clutch plays that saved the day these guys where big hitters masquerading as regular Joe's. From 0.4 to Sacramento seconds, as the buzzer sounded everyone knew who number 5, 2 and 17 belonged to. Arguably these jersey numbers should be raised to the rafters along with Shaq and Kobe when their jerseys are retired but just like other greats like Byron Scott, Michael Cooper and more sometimes they're just isn't any more room or justice.
Sure it was ultimately Shaq and Kobe that brought Larry O'Brien home to California but we all know this game is really more than the power of one...or two. The video game and youtube, iphone highlight generation sometimes need to go beyond the style and look into the substance of success. O'Neal and Bryant did the dirty work and little things too. They're more than deserving of their grand scale but from every loose ball to charge Rick, Derek and Robert deserve to be celebrated with first name status too for all their super hard work that really did do more than just help win games. Rewriting the script and game conclusions these guys directed things for the big names. Even in the vast Hollywood make or break world these guys are stars.
Now let's look at why.
First there was Rick. Straight from the Foxhole this guy was a sly talent. Trapping people defensively off ball, unseen and underrated. It really was the intangible and blue collar dirty work which turned the little things into big moments for this Small Forward and his Lakers. Beyond his massive 2000 Finals, Game 6, Reggie Miller dared three, Fox hounded every teams best player with or without the rock. It was the kind of play that made Lakers like Glen Rice want to pick him up and hug him and make Kings like Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic want to pick him up and shake him.
These days from 'The Big Bang Theory' cameos to movie roles Rick Fox is a Hollywood star in his own right. Different to his Laker days Fox is making silver screen headlines and dating 'Doll House' star Elizah Duskhu. This man was always built for the bright light and the big time. Shaq and others used to clown Rick about spending too much time in the mirror, but the real reflections of this guys career sees celebration and championships. Victory has belonged to his versatile talent, locker room presence and grit on determination. Whether offensively or defensively, on the ball or off Rick Fox knew how to play this game and that's why he's where he is today, courtside with rings watching a legacy he helped create.
Fox was joined in the frontcourt by another force aside of Shaquille O'Neal. Powering the Lakers off the bench was Power Forward Robert Horry. Sure from Horace Grant to Samaki Walker, Robert didn't start but that's because he finished games...literally. Mr. Clutch, 4th Quarter owned the last few seconds and teams that dared stand in the way of his hand, the three point line, the Spalding and the twine. From helping Houston with their problems, to clicking with the Spurs in San Antonio Robert won championships with everyone, almost going 'Four For Texas' like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Still with his Rat Pack of Fisher and Fox in Los Angeles, Horry's most memorable and iconic time belonged as a Laker.
Robert could D up, go inside, rebound and do things that go unnoticed in today's game. Still it was his behind the arc ownership that illuminated newspaper headlines as the backboard lit up. From Philadelphia to Sacramento everyone was part of the story. Vlade Divac better read a newspaper or something. Horry made headlines like Drake, taking care of the competition. They said he looked like Will Smith, but this Fresh Prince of L.A. was his own legend and helped in the Lakers pursuit of happiness and history. He barely missed...OK there was that one bucket in San Antonio but even that one went in before it popped out. Robert Horry may have ultimately decided more winning games for the Lakers than Kobe Bryant. He was so money with the final ball he even makes Larry Bird and Michael Jordan jealous. He affords his name to that company. Robert Horry may just be the greatest clutch hitter of all time.
But then again there's Derek Fisher. The only member of this threesome and original post millennium dynasty unit to last with Kobe to the second set of championship years with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and others but now Fish is gone to Laker history with Lamar Odom and legacy lasting, legendary coach Phil Jackson. Before he brought his thunder shot to Oklahoma, Derek was still lighting it up off Pico, downtown in the city of angels. His heaven sent, hail mary plays quarterbacked the Lakers from the Point Guard spot. This marvellous clutch player even avenged the Lakers playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks by hitting a game winner against the reigning champions to dust last years sweep with a new broom. The hammer down celebration from the new Thunder player let out all the frustration of him and his cities fall from championship consideration. That shot made people look the Lakers way again.
The guy may be old but he's still that clutch. The Lakers have made a big mistake losing one of their primary weapons and it may come back to haunt them if Fisher guns them down in the postseason with Wild West favourites Oklahoma City. Derek's most recent greatest hits and his clutch championship contributions against Boston and Orlando dis-respectively may put him one or two plays over Robert Horry as one of the Lakers and NBA's greatest performer through twine throughout the winding down seconds. Put it this way if you put up a list of greatest clutch shots in Los Angeles Lakers and basketball history these guys would be duking it out down the charts with more top hits than Lil' Wayne on the Billboard. From saving L.A. in a record 0.4 seconds (like he saved the locked out league just in time as Player Association President this year) to putting his finger to his lips after silencing the Philadelphia Sixers Derek has rivalled Horry and everyone before to own a lot of the basketball successes from the last decade.
Taking charges and diving for loose balls with his gladiator chiseled frame this 37 year old warrior still looks and plays like a young man. Years gone he overcame season and potentially career ending stress fractures to strap on a headband and tape and shoot down teams with a barrage of net swishing buckets. From clicking the lights off for San Antonio in playoff quarters to doing the same to too many other teams to mention whatever the game, this go to guy is deadly with three point purity and he's still alive in the league today. Until the final buzzer sounds, the ball is his..and he's going to take it. No one should and should ever have bet against him.
These guys where all a sure thing. A supporting cast worthy of awards from the small things to the big buckets and from the tears to the champagne. Three times a Laker these guys are part of a legacy that will last longer than the arguments that they where riding the coattails of Shaq and Kobe's success. They suited up just like everybody and else and earned and owned their purple and gold stripes. When it comes to the rings on their fingers they where part of the championship change which engaged them in a matrimony of victory. Till retirement do part, for better or worse these guys took the Lakers down the aisle. Even without the fame they belong in a hall or class of their own. One that commemorates effort, teamwork, unselfishness and most importantly...success. After its all said and done, they've won.