Wednesday, February 20, 2013
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
'Rest In Peace Dr. Jerry Buss. Your Laker legacy lives on'. That was my Twitter tribute to the legendary, late owner of the Los Angeles Lakers who sadly died this week aged 80 years old. The Twitter feeds have been running with tributes for days from everyone from ex-Lakers to sportswriters and celebrities and fans alike. Still, a man who built a team for the decades ages before hash tags, top trends and social media dominated every world, (even the sports one) deserves more than 160 characters in his honor. This is for Jerry.
Today it doesn't matter that the Lakers are fighting a losing battle. It doesn't matter that the dream Dwight Howard trade is turning into an uncertain nightmare. It doesn't matter that Steve Nash is getting older before our eyes. Today it doesn't matter that Pau Gasol is on crutches, weeks away from giving this team hope. It doesn't matter about D'Antoni, or Phil Jackson. Today it doesn't even matter that Kobe Bryant is still on the best form of his career, no matter how great that is. Today is in remembrance. Today is for a man as legendary in Laker legacy lore as the Magic's, Kareem's, Shaq's, Wilt's, Baylor's, Worthy's and first namesake West's. Today is for Jerry Buss.
We're sure he's up there talking in purple and gold colors with the voice of the Lakers Chick Hearn and the word of Los Angeles basketball Jim Murray. Watching down as his proud daughter and Buss family continue his vision for the future of the Lakers. A future this man built time and time again. Bringing his mustache and long hair to Hollywood and buying the Lakers off the Lakers Red Auerbach (complete with cigar) of the time Jack Kent Cooke. A man who came into Los Angeles in a Mercedes, with a playboy lifestyle perfect for this city and a hard work dedication paramount for this style and substance franchise. A man who left this town and sport as one of the greatest owners in basketball or any professional sport...ever.
A man who brought the slick Pat Riley and Showtime to the movie city, making Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the big blockbuster everyone wanted to see. A man who convinced Jack Nicholson and all the stars of stars that this game and team was something they'd want to pay a lot over and over again to see every night. A man who brought Shaq and Kobe, Phil Jackson and three more championships in when everyone thought Riley, Magic and 'Cap where as good as it would get. A man that swung a trade for Pau Gasol when everyone thought it was over and another one for Dwight Howard when they thought it was all done and dusted. A man who even ignited the Sparks and the WNBA with Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker. When it's all said and done, in the history of this team you could never count them out thanks to Jerry. Sure it's players and coaches that win championships thanks to general managers, but it's men like
like Jerry who owned all the success too. That's why he richly deserved to hoist every gold trophy he held.
A man who was always there to help and guide. A man who was more than the money that brought him the Hollywood lifestyle. He earned everything he made. Coming from poverty to perfection and showing he had more heart and soul then the straight business world basketball is turning into now. This is the same Doctor who earned his doctorate before his 24th birthday...on the side. His 10 championships was his real estate but like Earvin Johnson he was a man of may hats, maybe that inspiration of Jerry's trick of the trade rubbed off on Magic. A poker player that donated 7.5 million to USC, an all round guy. A man who took his $67.5 mill investment into an influence and inspiration that can't be quantified.
A man who deserves his place in the Hall Of Fame without ever wearing a jersey. A man who needs his own dedicated banner raised to the STAPLES rafters with the retired jerseys. A man who even deserves his own bronze sculpture with the rest of the immortalized Lakers statues outside the back of STAPLES. Give him a street name, nearby, a banner on Hotel Figureou even. A man who from the Forum to downtown L.A., the white and purple Mitchell and Ness trim to the new era jerseys was still here. No throwback, even now in his tragic passing all he's done will last generations like his famous family. This man is the Los Angeles Lakers. Let's hear it for him. This is for you Gerald Hatten Buss. Thank you. Rest peacefully.
Monday, February 11, 2013
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"We are losing Los Angeles"! Nick Nolte's grumble in the latest cop and robbers classic motion picture 'Gangster Squad' may as well be applied to the current state of the damsel in distress that is the L.A. Lakers. This Summer blockbusters where made to take this Hollywood team back up to the Miami Heat talents of the NBA. Yet almost halfway through this season this gang of All-Stars is losing it's city, players (the alumni of Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes and the always what could have been of the nixed Chris Paul) status and STAPLE to the Clippers of all teams.
There's no surprises in this league these days but a few years ago you would have scoffed at this notion. Just like the fact that the best team the Lakers have ever had on paper is the worst performing team in the Kobe era (we hear you Ben Collins of SLAM, 'L.A. Noire' is THE article). Just like the idea that at 34 years of age Kobe Bryant would be playing some of the best basketball his career...then again that's not too hard to believe, it is Kobe after all. The remaining years of his career deserve better. It seems like the pairing of Bryant and Howard really is the new Bryant and O'Neal as these two inside and out stars are fighting like Shaq and Kobe's. If that isn't enough of a one-two punch for you, the great Steve Nash isn't getting any younger and right now the down and out Pau Gasol isn't getting any healthier.
This team shouldn't be like this. Not a team that can leave the likes of Metta World Peace and Antwan Jamison on the bench. Now it seems like the only new stars on the floor are the ones surrounding the team logo midcourt (great look by the way). Just think Phil Jackson was even one stroke of a pen away from fixing this mess before the Lakers traded Mike Brown for D'Antoni. Now everyone wants him and almost everyone else ran out of the door faster then one of his plays and on a 'Buss' out of Los Angeles.
It's not all bad however and there is light at the end of the STAPLE Centre. Besides this is L.A., where dreams are made and the NBA where teams get it together after the All-Star break. Consistency and staying together is the key. The "wrecking ball" has swung enough. Its about Springsteen blue collar hard work in a movie star city. Haven't they learned from Boston time and time, decade and decade again? Some get it, Kobe of course and some others will...eventually we hope. There's a silver lining in this playbook however and like Bradley Cooper possibly winning an Oscar its a real, pleasant surprise. There's one guy in the middle of this hangover that Kobe can be proud of right now. His name is Earl Clark.
Part of the mega Dwight Howard package deal that's an even better piece then the projected, reliable point backup of Chris Duhon. Hell, right now Earl Clark is the best thing about the Dwight Howard deal. That is until Dwight finds himself and commits to not just escaping from Los Angeles once he's a free man this Summer. The 6 foot 10, 225 pound, 25 year old is a prototype, prime-time role player. Wearing the number 6 and standing next to Kobe with a smile. It hasn't looked this good since Eddie Jones. This guy, sure is no All-Star, but he's one of those glue guys the Lakers should really keep hold of and not let go like they've done countless, foolish times before. The winning x-factor Trevor Ariza comes to mind (Devin Ebanks your closer than everyone thinks). Besides this is a team that was better off with Odom, Bynum and Fisher, then Howard, Nash and Jamison.
Straight out of Plainfield, New Jersey this kid knows that 'boss' hard work and is set to ignite the Lakers like gaslight. The Earl of Los Angeles is beginning to show not only his new city, but the league that his 14th pick out of Louisville is more than a sleeper...it's justified. A points, rebounds and steals man with athleticism in limited minutes can maximize his time and potential. Just reference his 22 points and 13 rebounds in 27 minutes against storied last decade Laker rival San Antonio. In a breakthrough game this young buck earned his spurs in a wild-west showdown. This once raw talent is ready now and is an off the bench burner who can give the microwave tasting Lakers a healthy kick.
"Phenomenal" is how Mike D'Antoni put it...and he's right. The walking double double machine had three in six games and has more than made up for the losses of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and last years Laker sleeper Jordan Hill. This frontcourt force has been formidable enough to be a well deserved, more than most starter and his rise on the slumping Lakers gives hope to a purple and gold side of the city that recentely has had to look to the STAPLE ceiling with rolled eyes and a sigh for inspiration. This is a banner year for Earl Clark. Sure he can't do it on his own, not even Kobe can, but amongst all the doubt and uncertainity at least the Black Mamba has some more venom in his fangs. He has a sure thing in Clark. Some say the Lakers are finished and this year they may be right, but right now with Earl they have a little more fight in what's been a losing battle. Now that's at least a start.