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Los Angeles Lakers Pre-Game Report by Jeff Little

October 26, 2010 1 comment

It’s the season opener for the 2010-2011 Los Angeles Lakers; but before the journey to repeat commences the squad will receive their championship rings for last seasons exploits. This past off-season was the quietest off-season ever for a two-time defending champion in any sport.

The Lakers have no problem with being under the radar with all the pressure being on a certain team that plays in the east. While the majority of the NBA was enamored with a super team being assembled with the three biggest names in free agency landing on the east coast.

The spotlight, scrutiny and high expectations will hover over the Heat all-season and like it or not the move ushered in a new era in the NBA. The super team that Miami is chasing is already assembled and in place on the west coast. However, the purple reign is far from over, but it has improved. The purple and gold didn’t rest on their laurels and stand pat. The two-time defending champion Lakers retooled and are now two deep at every position.

The Additions of veterans Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff and impressive rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter provide a needed mixture of versatility, experience and youth. The Lakers bench was a weakness last year and now should add better outside shooting as well as produce 35+ points per game.

The additions have also extended the careers of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher as well as provide the Lakers with the ability to match up with anyone. Facing the Rockets; the Lakers have to prepare to play two different teams; one with Yao Ming and one without.

It has been widely publicized that Yao will be limited to 24 minutes per game. Yao is a huge presence in the post and will get the majority of his touches in the half-court offense the Lakers have to minimize his impact on this game.

Los Angeles needs to control the tempo and not allow the Rockets to get out and run. It is a must that all five Lakers get back on defense to eliminate transition baskets. Los Angeles will have to do a good job defending the screen and roll as well as rotating out to their three-point shooters. Los Angeles needs to control the boards and play defense without fouling.

It is imperative that the Lakers take care of the ball, limit their turnovers. The Lakers can out-work the Rockets with a combination of excellent ball and player movement.  When the Lakers do a good job of sharing the ball; effectively moving it from the strong to the weak side and moving the defense in the process, they’re tough to beat. The Lakers need to trust their offense and get into a rhythm early. Los Angeles will run their offense through Pau Gasol in the post and he needs to accept the challenge and be much more aggressive.

 

Prediction: Lakers 102 – Rockets 94

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: TNT
  • Houston: TNT

Radio

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
  • Houston: 1140 AM KHTK (Gary Gerould)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Andrew Bynum (Knee) Out
  • Luke Walton (Hamstring) Out
  • Theo Ratliff (Knee) Listed as Day-to-Day

Rockets

  • C Yao Ming (Foot) Listed as Day-to-Day
  • PG Kyle Lowry (Back Spasms) Listed as Day-to-Day

 

Jeff Little is the mid-day host of the Locker Room on the Sports Journey Network.  Based out of Los Angeles, he is also a writer for Laker Nation.

With the “Answer” there are more questions By Reggie Williams

March 10, 2010 3 comments

Published reports are circulating that Allen Iverson is suffering from an alcohol and gambling addiction. This disturbing information arrives on the heels of a report that Tawanna Iverson, Allen’s wife of 8 ½ years, filed for divorce citing the marriage was “irretrievably broken.” On the day that Mrs. Iverson decided to call it quits with her high school sweetheart, Mr. Iverson’s working relationship with the Philadelphia 76ers was terminated; that marriage may also be irretrievably broken.

With A.I., who has affectionately been known throughout his career as “The Answer,” there appears to be nothing but questions.

During this 2009 off-season the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up Shaquille O’Neal, the Los Angeles Lakers scooped up Ron Artest, the Boston Celtics grabbed Rasheed Wallace and the Orlando Magic snatched Vince Carter for a run at the 2010 NBA championship, but the only teams remotely interested in the talents of A.I. were the Memphis Grizzlies and that other Los Angeles team – the Clippers. The question that bears asking is: what was wrong with A.I. that teams, potentially one player away from competing for a championship, wouldn’t covet a sure 1st Ballot Hall of Famer with some game left in his tank?

The question that bears asking is: did Mrs. Iverson asked for a divorce because Mr. Iverson indeed is dependent on gambling and alcohol and the destructive behavior that accompanies such addictions has made their marriage “irretrievably broken?”

The question that bears asking is: why might A.I. have a drinking and gambling addiction; is it because his once brilliant career is heading south in a runaway Toyota Prius?

The question that bears asking is: has A.I. penchant to “keep it real,” – cornrows, tats and cronies who may have never understood that A.I. was a brand name with whose potential was limitless, really kept him in a dark place where now he seems to be stuck?

The question that bears asking is: those cronies that A.I. “kept it real” with, will they “keep it real” and support the dude who supported them or will A.I. become contagious to them like his hometown boy Michael Vick became infectious to his “keep it real” boys?

The question that bears asking is: can one of the hardest, toughest players – arguably the hardest and toughest player when you consider his stands just 6 feet and weighs a buck-sixty, end his career has a quitter. He quick on the Grizzlies after just 12 games; quick on the Detroit Pistons the year prior and while Messiah, his 4-year-old daughter, has been ill and I do believe family is far-far, way far more important than basketball – it’s fair to ask did he quick on the 76ers using his daughter’s illness for cover?

The question that bears asking is: what does the next chapter of the Iverson’s novel read when one considers that A.I. is on the verge of a divorce; his wife will probably seek a handsome alimony – does he have it? Will the next chapter reveal that he has failed to endow any assets into a subsequent career after pouring his heart and soul into a 13-year career? Will the next chapter become even more compelling when A.I. has to compete against a divorce and a declining career all while the troubled star allegedly battles the gripping addictions of gambling and alcohol.

The question bears asking: will A.I. fight the way he did when he would challenge a 7-footer in the paint, or will he become a fade away memory?

For 10 years (1996-2006) whenever Iverson stepped on the court he provided the answer. During the course of his first 10 seasons in Philly Iverson scored 28.9 ppg, dished out 5.5 assists and made victims of opponents with 2.3 steals per game. He led the League in scoring four times (one of only four players in League history to capture at least four scoring titles); named League’s MVP in 2000-01; a 10-time All-Star and two-time All-Star game MVP. Iverson was named to seven All-NBA Teams and if we “keep it real,” he’s public perception wasn’t as rebellious as the reputation that preceded it. Unfortunately now, there’s nothing but questions swirling around the Answer.

Reggie Williams, an award-winning editor and journalist, is reachable at rwilliams@itsflawless.com

There’s no gold in Denver By Reggie Williams

Entering last Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Denver Nuggets trailed the Lakers by 4 ½ games in the loss column for the No. 1 playoff position in the Western Conference.

Having provided L.A. with two of their 15 loses, the Nuggets appeared poised to swagger into the Staples Center to take a commanding season series lead, with just one game remaining against the “Champs.” The plot was set for this matchup that has developed into, at least, a semi-rivalry launched last season in the Western Conference Finals. But after watching the Nuggets cough up – did I say choke – an 11-point third quarter lead it appears that the Nuggets may not have all that it takes to win the coveted gold.

To begin with, despite what’s been said, Carmelo Anthony really isn’t an MVP candidate. This was proven when Courtney Kirkland, one of the game’s official, whistled Melo for his sixth foul with 2:13 remaining in the hard fought matchup. Not only was it an absolutely ridiculous call, it was a call that would have never been whistled on Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

While Kirkland’s phantom call was indeed egregious, nothing beats the nefarious performance down the stretch by Chauncey “Big Shot” Billups, considered one of the game’s headiest point guards.

With 6:12 left in the game Aaron Afflalo converted on a 3 from the right corner. For the next 5 minutes and 22 seconds no Nugget other than Billups attempted a shot. At the 5:30 mark, Billups threw up a shot from the arch with 19 seconds left on the shot clock (fortunately he was fouled by Derek Fisher). On the next possession Mr. Billups throws up a second three, this time with 16 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Billups converted the shot, but that was the second consecutive possession that he attempted a shot without anyone on the team, including Melo, the MVP candidate, touching the rock. Melo, on the ensuing possession was called for an offensive foul. The following possession Billups attempted and converted a shot; 13 seconds remained on the shot clock, again Mr. Point Guard was the sole Nugget to touch the rock on that possession. With 2:53 left and the Nuggets trailing by a 3, Billups with 19 ticks left on the shot clock hoisted an unbelievable terrible 3-point attempt. He was off balance as he attempted the shot and not one teammate was in position to haul down a missed attempt. Needless to say, no one touch the ball but Billups on that possession.

Billups wasn’t finished with his atrocious display of leadership.

With Denver down by just five points and 2:26 remaining, Billups pulled up once again, attempted and missed a shot from the arch – 21 seconds remained on the shot clock. During that 5 minute and 22 second span Denver, under the leadership of Billups, either committed a turnover or launched a questionable shot.

Billups’ performance in and of itself was pitiful, but what made it more shocking were two sideline reports broadcasted during the game. First, in an interview with Billups, he challenged those analysts who anoint Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the League’s best point guards. Billups argued that it is he who is the “most complete” point guard in the League. He definitely didn’t demonstrate the gamesmanship of a complete point guard on Sunday. When Billups collects his check for that game he should wear a mask because he straight jacked the organization.

In the other report, George Karl during a timeout – about seven minutes left in the game – instructs his team to discontinue forcing up the first shot that they get.

“Run the entire shot clock out if you have to get a good shot; not to take a bad shot and not to turn the damn basketball over,” implores Karl.

Sitting directly in front of Karl was Chauncey Billups with a look of “I got it coach.” Billups may have heard Karl, but he definitely did not understand his instructions.

The Nuggets, right now, have the tools needed to win the championship – a superstar who can flat out get it done, good role players like Afflalo and Birdman Anderson; tough players like Kenyon Martin and Nene, and a proven point guard in Billlups. But if they continue to lose the battle of intelligence, they’ll find that you can’t find gold when there is no mind, and Denver has proven that they are capable of playing mindless.

Reggie Williams, an award-winning editor and journalist, is reachable at rwilliams@itsflawless.com

King Kobe! by Lake Lewis

February 25, 2010 1 comment

Earlier in the year after watching Kobe Bryant drop 42 points on the Chicago Bulls in the “place that Mike built”, I could not help but think that he was a victim of the guy who won those 6 championships in Chi-Town.  Having watched his late game heroics against Memphis in his first game back after being out of action for a few weeks, Kobe Bryant in any era of basketball could be mentioned as perhaps the greatest of all time.  But we now must say “could have” and that’s because any player who plays after Michael Jordan will never get their just due.  Just like we date things in history from BC to AD, we now need to start looking at basketball history the same way.  There is the before Jordan era (BJ) and the after Jordan era (AJ).  Depending on when you played will determine how fans can place you historically.  I have said on numerous occasions as great a player Kobe Bryant is I can not put him in my top five as of yet.  When I actually said that on my radio show was during last years NBA Finals that Kobe and the Lakers won in convincing fashion over Orlando.  At the time I had Kobe ranked seven on my all time NBA player list.  That’s right I had him trailing Jordan, Magic, Bird, Chamberlain, Russell, and Kareem.  No one can argue that these guys at best can be mentioned with Kobe.

What keeps these players at the top of most NBA fan lists is that these guys played (BJ).  Kobe is the lone victim who is playing (AJ).  Sure LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony are great young players now, but they are not benefiting from playing in the Jordan era.  Kobe is the last link to this greatness.  He actually played against Jordan and had the torch passed to him directly.  This helps his cause along with his great game to be mentioned along side the greats.  All of the players that are on my list had one two special things in common.  Dominance on the floor, and championships.  At no time is Kobe the second best player on the floor.  Never!  He is at worst the second best player on a particular night if things are not going well.

Here lie the problems with me putting him ahead of these great players at this point in his career.

  1. He has benefited from a water downed league where he does not have a legitimate rival to his greatness.  Until James and Wade came along there was no other player who had the burden Kobe has to carry Jordan’s torch.  This may not seem fair to Kobe but that is the way it is.
  2. There has been only one “dynasty team” opposing Kobe’s Lakers during his entire career.  That team is the San Antonio Spurs.  All of the great players mentioned above had two and sometimes three “dynasty teams” that they had to conquer in order to win their championships.  Magic and Kareem’s Lakers teams had to go through Boston and Detroit.  Bird’s Celtics had to go through the Lakers, Detroit, and finally MJ’s Bulls.  Michael Jordan’s Bulls had to go through Boston, Detroit, L.A., and to a lesser extent Utah who had a great team.  Chamberlain and Russell had to go through each other and the Lakers when Wilt was playing in Philadelphia.
  3. Until last year when LeBron won the MVP there had not been a player or non-center to rival Kobe’s greatness.  Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal are the only players that could be mentioned with Kobe but the world would have liked a real rival from the non-center position.

Should Kobe win another championship which is highly probable I would have to put him in the top three trailing only Jordan and Russell?  His career averages of 25.2 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assist put him in this select category.  More importantly he will have 5 NBA Rings to back that.  That is where only the true greats can be mentioned because they dominated and won championships.   Take nothing away from Kobe because he did not choose which era he was going to play in.  He has been a true student of the game and has never shied away from greatness.  When he plays the best players in the game you can see him take it upon himself to show those players that he is the “man”.  This is what all of the games greats have done over time.  They would rise to the occasion to show that they could not be equaled.  At least in the (AJ) era Kobe is establishing the (KB) era.  That’s not such a bad deal is it?

Lake Lewis is the President and CEO of the Sports Journey Broadcast Network.  He was a host on ESPN Radio 1060 Orlando, ESPN Radio 1080 Melbourne and the Drive Time host ESPN Radio 1240 Maryland and WMET 1160 in Washington DC

James will wear blue and orange in 2010 by Reggie Williams

February 22, 2010 9 comments

With 1.9 second remaining in the game and the Cleveland Cavaliers trailing by a 2-point field goal, LeBron James, upon securing the inbound pass from Anthony Parker, slipped, regained his footing and then hoisted a 30-foot attempted that rimmed out.

The missed 3-point attempt resulted in the Cavs losing 118-116 to the Denver Nuggets, just their 12th lost in 55 games.

After missing the winning shot James, looking upset, disappointed and like he wanted to cry, hurried off the court. He failed to congratulate his boy Carmelo Anthony, who moments earlier converted the winning basket with James guarding him. James also ignored his teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who tried to dap him up as he exited the court.

Now if King James gets this bent out of shape with a loss, especially considering that the Cavs were and are the procurers of the best record in the League, what would make someone believe that he will go suit up with the dysfunctional New York Knicks.

Folks who believe James will take his sword to New York need to just stop it.

If it wasn’t for the eternal ineptness of the Los Angeles Clippers the Knicks would be the laughing stock of the League. Larry Brown gets fired as the head coach after just one season. Isaiah Thomas in the midst of that firing found himself on the hot seat by being sued for sexual harassment. Stephon Marbury, who would eventually become entangled in a bitter and ugly divorce from the Knicks, was engaged in the Thomas lawsuit; and then just last year the Knocks – I mean Knicks, hired Mike D’Antoni, who was unable to win anything of significance with a more talented roster in Phoenix. Since 1999 when James Dolan, chairman of Madison Square Garden, took over the reign of my favorite team as a child growing up, the Knicks have compiled a record of 348-472. They have taken stock in the bottom tier of the League since Dolan’s inaugural year when they won 50 games and played in the NBA Finals before losing to the San Antonio Spurs. Needless to say, but I will, the losses have been plentiful, while the wins have been few.

With all these facts, how I ask, do New Yorkers and many pundits believe James will exit Cleveland in 2010 and land the new “Flight 23” on the runway of Two Pennsylvania Plaza at basketball’s Mecca?

I don’t get it and here’s why!

The Mission

King James has an intense desire to win. That was obvious as he pouted after losing a regular season contest. In that fire to win the Lawrence O’Brien trophy, James is nearer to accomplishing that goal with the Cavs than he’ll be with the Knicks. While analyst continue to yap about Bron-Bron not having anyone to play with in Cleveland, I submit that if James is a varsity player and his teammates play like the J.V., then those dudes playing at the Garden must be the intramural squad. Yes the Knicks have $21 million in cap space and could add on some other attractive free agents, and the Cavs are paying the luxury tax, which means they really need to win now, but it’s my guess that no other marketable free-agent is interested in coming to the Big Apple to become rotten in Dolan’s barrel.

The Mecca

If New York remains the Mecca of basketball it’s only because of reputation. There hasn’t been a championship team in New York since 1972; New York hasn’t fielded an All-Star in 10 years (can you guess who they were?), nor have they had a player be named to the All NBA team since 1996-97. At this point Chicago, Los Angeles or San Antonio is more of a Mecca than New York. As a matter-of-fact, Cleveland has been to the Finals in more recent years than the Knicks – Cleveland, with James, is more of a Mecca.

The Money

This is a no-brainer. This ain’t the New York Yankees or the MLB were any team can throw any kind of cheddar at a free-agent. No team is able to back a brinks truck up to James’ bank with more cash in it than the Cavs. However, is money really a part of the equation?

The Meticulous Notoriety

Once upon a time an athlete, a la Reggie Jackson or Wayne Gretzky, coming to New York meant a tremendous boost in fame and fortune. Buy did we forget that James, who entered into the League as famous as those already in the League, signed a $90 million contract with Nike and a multi-million deal with Sprite before he left Akron. Madison Avenue executives can MapQuest their way to Cleveland. Derek Jeter plays in New York with the most prolific baseball franchise ever. He’s won several World Series; is articulate, debonair and has that New York swagger, yet he possesses no more commercials or endorsements deals than James does. So what is the draw for James? Oh yeah, and how many times have you seen the Knicks playing on TNT or ESPN in the last seven years?

If there is truly a reason for James to pack up his talent and move East will someone school me because I’ve yet to hear one! The Cavs have a lot more time remaining on the clock. James will continue to don blue and orange in 2010; except it will be Cavalier blue and orange, not the blue and orange of the Knicks. But the Cavs’ management need not miss their attempt to convert shots on enhancing roster moves for the years moving forth.

Reggie Williams, an award-winning editor and journalist, is reachable at rwilliams@itsflawless.com