Archive for the ‘NBA’ category

The Real Losers

November 16, 2011

If you’ve been following the sports world the past several months then you no doubt are aware of the current labor dispute in the NBA between the owners and players which has cost the league all scheduled games through December 15.

Like 99% of you out there I can’t relate to a fight between billionaires and millionaires.  Some of you side with the players while others side with the owners. As for me, I honestly don’t care and will openly admit that I haven’t been following every single detail.

All I know is that the players have rejected the owners latest proposal and now the players union is taking steps to decertify thus putting the 2011-2012 NBA season in serious jeopardy.

As I began to think about not having professional basketball this fall through spring I began to think about the people that are the biggest losers in this situation.

Chances are if you were to ask people who the losers are in this current dispute, many would say the fans are those who are hurt the most.  While I do agree, I think that’s a superficial answer.  Sure the fans are the most loyal customers of the product who pump  hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars into the NBA machine through ticket sales and merchandise just to name a couple of  revenue streams.

For them getting the receipt of a labor dispute that’s forcing the cancellation of games is not exactly the kind of payback they were looking for.  While the fans do indeed come out on the short end of the stick I think there are those who lose out just as much if not worse.

Let’s start with the player who had planned to play his final season this year.  Like many of you no one wants to be forced in to retirement due to circumstances beyond their control.  Everyone wants to end their respective careers on their own terms.  Because of this labor dispute that player will no longer have that ability.  Circumstances are forcing him to end his career in a less than ideal fashion.

When we think about the players in this dispute, we undoubtedly think about the superstars like Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Lebron James.  They are the faces of the NBA and deservedly so.  Does anyone think about the guys at the end of the bench who are making the league minimum on a one year contract?

With no NBA team to play for, this player must now look for alternative ways by which to make a living.  Now he is forced to play in a foreign country if he wants to continue to make a living.  Moving from one city to another or from state to state can be a tough adjustment.  I’ve done the latter twice in my life.  I can’t even begin to imagine the experience of having to move to another country and either uproot my family or spend months at a time away from them while being halfway around the world.  If you’re a player that falls into this category I in no way envy your position.

However, the biggest losers in all this are the arena worker.  The common, everyday, middle class person so many of us can relate to.  With no games to work, these people are now amongst the ranks of the unemployed.  No longer do they have the means they were counting on to pay their bills or provide for their families.

These are people we see all the time at a game but pass by with hardly an acknowledgment.  These people are your parking attendants,  ticket scanners,  food vendors, attendants and the person selling you programs.  They are the faceless people who without them you would not have some of your most cherished memories and wonderful experiences.  They are the biggest losers in the NBA Labor Dispute.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

Follow me on twitter @joesclubhouse


Lakers Use Celtics M.O. To Top Boston In Game One

June 4, 2010

The difference between 2010 and 2008 was noticed in the opening seconds of the first quarter.  Two years ago, Boston used tough, physical and aggressive play to impose their physical will over the Lakers en route to winning their NBA best 17th championship in franchise history.

Fast forward to Thursday night where Ron Artest and Paul Pierce were battling for position underneath the hoop.  Both fell to the floor entangled in each other and a double technical was called.  It was at that point the Lakers established they were not the same team from two years ago. 

Ron Artest could not be more of a different player than Vladimir Radmanovic, who was the Lakers starting small forward in the 2008 Finals and was matched up with Pierce who took advantage of the mismatch all the way to becoming Finals MVP.

Los Angeles gave Boston a taste of their own medicine Thursday night on their way to winning Game One 102-89.  In addition to the physical tone established by Artest in the opening seconds, the Lakers dominated the paint by out rebounding the Celtics 42-31 and outscoring them in second chance points 16-0. 

Another huge factor in the Lakers Game One win was the play of Andrew Bynum.  If you look at the box score nothing jumps out at you as Bynum finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds in 28 minutes.  What I saw was a player the Lakers sorely missed two years ago that was able to give them productive minutes by staying out of foul trouble and absorb the physical punishment by Boston’s big men and most importantly allow Pau Gasol to have a more favorable matchup against Kevin Garnett and Boston’s other power forwards.  Gasol finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds (8 offensive) and 3 blocked shots. 

Last night’s win will undoubtedly give the Lakers much confidence going forward as Kobe Bryant and company look to make amends for the defeat two years ago.  However, make no mistake, as this series is far from over.  Boston looked completely out of rhythm.  Garnett was not at his best and Ray Allen was in foul trouble all night and was never able to get on track. 

None of Boston’s “Big Four” shot 50 percent.  I look for that to change sooner rather than later.  The Celtics will make the necessary adjustments and show the heart of a champion to try to keep from going down 2-0 in the series.

Look for the Lakers to continue to try to impose their physical will and continue to try to break the Celtics spirit.  I know past statistics do not guarantee future results but this stat is an impressive one none the less.  Phil Jackson coached teams are 47-0 when they have won the first game in a playoff series.  Just a little food for thought as the basketball world turns its eyes to Sunday for Game Two.

Derek Fisher Hits Amazing 33 Foot Shot

July 22, 2009

Lakers guard Derek Fisher hit this shot from 33 feet away and several stories up while at Nokia Plaza to promote the Lakers upcoming 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament that will be held Aug. 14-16 to benefit Ronald McDonald House of Charities in Southern California.

Lakers Re-sign Shannon Brown

July 8, 2009

Now that free agents can officially sign with teams, the Lakers made a wise move in re-signing  guard Shannon Brown to a two-year, $4.2 million deal.  The second year of the deal is a player option.  Plain and simple, this was a signing that needed to be done. 

Brown provided solid contributions off the bench during the Lakers run to the NBA title this past season.  The first play that comes to my mind was the dunk over Denver’s Chris Andersen.  That play turned the momentum of the series and eventually led to the Lakers eliminating the Nuggets from the Western Conference Finals in six games. 

Brown is still  young and will only be turning 24 this November.  He has shown the ability to play both guard positions and his solid defensive play gives Los Angeles another option off the bench and provides them with insurance in case they have to move Jordan Farmar for any reason. 

 I have read various reports indicating that Farmar could be added to any deal if the Lakers become aggressive in wanting to move the bad contracts of Adam Morrison, Sasha Vujacic or Luke Walton.  In addition, there have been reports indicating that Farmar doesn’t like the triangle offense and that the Lakers are less than pleased with his overall development as their point guard of the future.

Most importantly the signing of Brown brings back another important piece of last year’s championship run and provides continuity for the Lakers as they they begin defense of their title next season.

Lakers Make Right Move In Going With Artest

July 3, 2009

No sooner than I posted up my latest entry Thursday that the news came down that Ron Artest would be coming to Los Angeles and Trevor Ariza would be heading to Houston.  So much for my opinion that Ariza should be the Lakers top off season priority. (For the record, I still feel he should have been if the decision came down to whether to resign him or Odom.)   

For many years I have been a fan of what Artest has been able to accomplish while operating inside the lines of an NBA court.  Lets not confuse this with what Artest has done in his personal life or in the stands while punching Detroit fans.  I am a fan of the Artest that has the ability to shut down your best offensive player while being one of his teams top scorers. 

For several years I have been excited at the idea of Artest in a Lakers uniform.  Every time I would hear a rumor stating that the Lakers were in talks to acquire him, I would become excited like a child on a sugar high in anticipation of the thought of it being true. 

When the rumors became a reality yesterday, how did I react?  Like the child that had come down off that sugar high.  I was sad and a little down because the writing was on the wall that Ariza would not be coming back to the purple and gold next year.  I had finally gotten my wish but was not pleased at the price that was paid to make it happen.  As a fan of the purple and gold, that was me reacting with my heart and not my head. 

I was sad that one of the most important pieces on this years championship run would not have the opportunity to come back and defend the title.  I was always a fan of number three since he arrived via trade a year and half ago.  I loved his athleticism, his defensive play and the fact that he was selfless and willing to play his role and leave the spotlight to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. 

When I started to think with my head I realized that as much as I love Ariza and will miss him in southern California next season, the Lakers got better by acquiring Artest.  No matter how you slice it, he is the better player of the two.  Artest is better offensively, a former defensive player of the year and a perennial NBA All Defensive First or Second Team member.  He is one of the few talents in the league that is capable of shutting down your best offensive weapon while putting up 20 points or more on any given night.  Most importantly he gives the Lakers a toughness and grit that they have not had since early this decade when guys like Rick Fox, Horace Grant and Robert Horry fulfilled those roles. 

Despite winning a championship this year, I thought that was something the Lakers lacked.  Historically many of the championship teams have had a player that will figuratively “punch you in the mouth” and use tough, physical play to take you out of your game.  Players that come to mind who fulfilled that role on championship teams are Danny Ainge, Kurt Rambis, Dennis Rodman and Bruce Bowen.  When teams try to intimidate the Lakers, they now have a “patriot missile” to answer the physical “scud missile” of the other team. 

Its obvious that an “arms race” was taking place around the league.  The Spurs picked up Richard Jefferson, the Cavs landed Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando traded for Vince Carter.  The Lakers could not just sit back and rest on their laurels of what they accomplished this year.  Everyone else around them was trying to get better and they knew they must do the same. 

Are there risks with Artest that don’t come with Ariza?  Without a doubt.  Artest is known to make selfish plays by taking shots out of the flow of the offense, not to mention that he is capable of going off the deep end mentally.  However, I think there will be enough strong minds on the Lakers to keep him in line.  

The accomplishments of Phil Jackson as a head coach and Bryant and Derek Fisher as players speaks for itself.  Those guys command respect and if Artest is as serious about winning a ring as he claims to be he will stay right mentally and fulfill his role.  Artest is only making $6 million per season for the next three years, which by NBA standards is cheap for a player of his caliber.  So if he doesn’t fall into place, he should be easy to move.    

The Lakers realize that their championship window only has about three more years left in it.  Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak knows that his window will only last for as long as Bryant is at his peak.  Thursday’s move clearly signifies that the Lakers are going for broke to maximize the potential of this window.

Thank you Trevor Ariza for your role in bringing championship number 15 to the Lakers franchise.  I think I can speak for all Lakers fans in saying that you’ll be missed.  On that note, everyone’s favorite NBA soap opera, “As The Laker Turns” just got a whole lot more interesting.  See how next seasons drama unfolds starting in November.

Why Ariza Should Be Lakers Top Offseason Priority

July 2, 2009

It is often said in sports that the only thing harder than winning a championship is defending it.  The Lakers and their front office find themselves currently in that position. 

After resigning Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga, Los Angeles has committed $75.9 million to the 10 players that they currently have with guaranteed contracts for next season.  While the salary cap has not yet been established for the 2009-2010 season, according to NBA writer Eric Pincus at teams are operating as if the cap is projected to be set at $56 million. 

While I admit that I am far from being a salary cap expert, it only takes simple math to know that the Lakers are significantly over the cap based on the committed salaries they already have.  The NBA has a luxury tax penalty that they assess to teams who go over the salary cap number.  Teams are penalized one dollar for every dollar they exceed that number.  Another important piece of information to know is that the league requires a minimum of 13 players on each roster.  Regardless of how you spin it, the Lakers will be paying a substantial tax to fill their roster next season. 

This brings me to their free agent situation.  As of this writing, three important pieces from last years championship are missing from next years roster, forwards Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza along with guard Shannon Brown.  I’m sure the Lakers would love to find a way that makes sense economically to sign all three, especially Odom and Ariza.

Based on what I have seen from him on the court since Mitch Kupchak “gun and ski masked” him out of Orlando back in November 2007, Ariza should be the Lakers top free agent priority this off season.  While Odom is the better all around player and the better player statistically, he is also six years older than the quicker and more athletic small forward in Ariza. 

Odom has shown flashes of brilliance at times.  Some that come to mind were his performances against Denver in the playoffs and against Cleveland in which they handed the Cavaliers their first regular season home defeat.  But the problem with Odom is just that, he only shows you “flashes”.  After 10 years in the league, we have seen enough of him to know what we are going to get, which is a player that has all the talent in the world but overall is inconsistent on a nightly basis.

Ariza brings a more consistent effort from game to game.  He dramatically improved his outside shooting and has shown that he is more than capable of providing outstanding defense on the perimeter.  Besides Kobe Bryant, the Lakers don’t have a wing man with that kind of ability.  The Lakers gained athleticism and became better defensively as a team when Ariza became the starting small forward.  To be without him in the starting line up would be a huge loss for the team. 

Los Angeles already has depth on their roster at the power forward and center positions with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum along with their backups in Powell and Mbenga.  If Ariza leaves that puts Luke Walton back into the starting line up and his back up would be Adam Morrison.  The small forward position would instantly go from an area of strength to weakness.  Even though Ariza would be getting a pay raise of at least double what he was making last year, it’s still cheaper than the pay cut Odom is willing to take to return. 

In a perfect world, it would be great if everyone from last year was able to come back and defend the crown but unless Kupchak can find someone to take the contracts of Sasha Vujacic, Morrison or Walton off his hands, there is no way that’s going to happen.  Even if one of the three I mentioned were moved, it would still be a tough challenge.  No matter how you cut it, Dr. Buss is going to be paying a huge chunk of change to fill the Lakers roster.  Might as well have last years starting five together when you do.

Lakers Make Magic Disappear To Win NBA Title

June 15, 2009

To steal from the immortal Chick Hearn, “This season’s in the refrigerator.  The lights are out, the eggs are coolin’, the butters getting hard and the jello’s jigglin’.  For the 15th time in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions!” 

With a 99-86 victory Sunday night, the Lakers road back to the top ended by dispatching the Orlando Magic in five games to become the 2009 NBA Champions.  Kobe Bryant was named Finals MVP after averaging 32.4 points, 7.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game in the Finals on his way to winning the fourth championship of his career. 

For Bryant and the Lakers it was a long road back to the top of the NBA mountain.  A seven year journey to be exact.  The travel included Bryant dealing with rape allegations, a Finals loss to the underdog Detroit Pistons in 2004 that was followed by the trading of Shaquille O’Neal to Miami and Phil Jackson stepping down as head coach, thus ending a dynasty. 

The low point was 2005 when the Lakers missed the playoffs.  Although Jackson returned as coach after a one year sabbatical, 2006 and 2007 both ended in first round playoff defeats to the Phoenix Suns which resulted in Bryant publicly requesting a trade from the team. 

Last year things began to turn around for the Lakers as they made a return trip to the NBA Finals before being eliminated with an exclamation point at the hands of the Boston Celtics by 39 points in Game Six.  But it was that painful lesson that gave the Lakers the motivation and focus to return to the Finals but get different results. 

That result was the Lakers winning the fifteenth championship in their storied history.  Phil Jackson moved into a class by himself winning his tenth title as a coach passing Red Auerbach.  For Kobe Bryant, he put to rest the biggest criticism of his career.  No longer will he have to hear that he couldn’t win a title without O’Neal.

Credit must also be given to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak for having the patience to stick with his plan despite the pressure from both Kobe Bryant and Laker fans alike.  The team would not have reached this moment without the draft picks and trades that he was able to make.  Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar all made contributions during the season.  All were draft picks made by Kupchak. 

Two major pieces to this years championship puzzle were made via trade under Kupchak when he outright “gun and ski masked” Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza from Memphis and Orlando respectively.  The talent that he received in exchange for what he gave up for those players was downright criminal.  Do any Laker fans even miss Brian Cook, Maurice Evans and Kwame Brown?

Laker fans will rejoice in the glory of another title and many will head to downtown Los Angeles Wednesday to see the parade featuring their championship heroes.  The legions of purple and gold followers will have lots to celebrate over the next few days.    Enjoy it while you can because if the last seven years have taught us anything, it’s that these championships fade into the rear view mirror just as fast as they appear on the horizon.  This Laker fan will milk the next couple of days for all they’re worth.