Archives For November 2004

Commenting Change

 —  November 23, 2004

I have made a change and switched to the more user-friendly Haloscan commenting tool for this blog. Your comments on old posts remain, just check out the archive page for that item (click the # next to the end of the entry).

If there are problems with the new system, as I had in the past (upgrades have allegedly fixed the issues I had), please let me know. Or, if you like it, put it in the comments. Thanks.

Staples Center Melee?

 —  November 22, 2004

Would it happen at the Staples Center? Could it?

Through the avalanche of coverage of the stupidity and lack of self control on display in Auburn Hills the other night, those and similar questions were the ones I kept asking myself. Could things get out of control like that Staples Center? Would fans near the court throw beer (or whatever) on players here in Los Angeles? Would fans run on the court here? Is there enough security at Staples?

My gut reaction is that it couldn’t happen here, but I’m not completely sold that is the case.

First off, I wouldn’t try to predict how Laker or other players would react at Staples if the situation arose, I don’t know them. The question we can probe more is would the players have been provoked in the same way here in L.A.?

I’d like to think that Laker fans wouldn’t act in the atrocious manner a handful of Piston fans did, but that’s based in part on me not being able to picture myself acting that way. There are plenty of liquored-up people sitting near the floor at Staples who possibly could lose it and throw the $8 Coors Light (of course, if those people get a drop of beer on Jack Nicholson they’ll never work in this town again).

I want to convince myself there are other reasons that Laker fans wouldn’t act that way. That starts with the overall perception that fans here in Los Angeles are a little more mellow than other parts of the nation. We love our teams, we fill the buildings, but we are not the “fanatics” that you see in other parts of the nation. And with that mellowness would come fans that are less likely to be as boorish as what we saw in Michigan.

Thing is, Los Angeles fans can act poorly. There were small riots after the Laker championships. And lest you think Los Angeles fans wouldn’t act that way during a game, remember the 1995 incident at Dodger Stadium where the Dodgers had to forfeit after fans pelted the field with baseballs following a disputed call.

Another factor is that it costs so much to sit near the floor at Staples (at least $130 to be close, $200 in the really good seats, and if you have to ask the price of court-side…) that people wouldn’t risk being tossed. People that pay that much are less likely to react physically, is my assumption underlying that thought. Problem is there is no proof to back that up — rich people are just as likely to be violent as any other people (just look at domestic violence numbers). Plus it isn’t cheap to sit near the floor for a Piston game ($115 to be on or near the floor, $85 in the next level up), and those people clearly can act like buffoons.

Another issue is security — there appears to be plenty at Staples near the court during games. (Laker officials said they did not add security for the Bulls game, insert your own joke here about nobody caring to show up for the Bulls game.) How good Laker security is in that situation is tough for me to judge, just because I’ve never seen it tested.

So, could it happen here? I’d still like to think it couldn’t, but…..

House of the Rising Suns

 —  November 20, 2004

Some thoughts and observations from last night’s Lakers’ loss to the Suns, plus some other flotsam and jetsam in my head:

* This Suns squad lived up to their billing — they are an entertaining team to watch. Steve Nash has really helped coalesce a team that was already athletic, plus he seems to have instant chemistry with Amare Stoudemire.

That said, have to say that they strike me as the Dallas Mavericks for a new generation — fun to watch but a team built for the regular season that can’t play playoff basketball. Time will tell.

* Despite his sore foot, Kobe played 45 minutes against the Clippers and 45 minutes against the Suns. So much for cutting back his minutes….

* Rudy T. and the Laker staff must have seen something they really liked on film, because from early on the plan was to feed the ball to Lamar Odom in the low post against Shawn Marion. It worked like a charm early — he had nine of his 18 points in the first quarter and the Lakers were up by 12 when that was the primary option. When the Suns adjusted, the Lakers never really found the other openings.

* It’s weird to say this about a guy with a triple-double, but this was not one of Kobe’s better games this year. He fell in love with the jumper and didn’t penetrate enough — he had 33 shot attempts, 10 from behind the arc, and just five free throws (he had averaged more than 12 a game coming in ). He shot 30% for the game.

Apparently, Rudy T. blames the refs for this.

* Could the Suns’ new center-court logo look more like the House of Blues logo?

* Lots of press about Fred Roggin’s interview Thursday on 1540 am (The Ticket) with Laker owner Jerry Buss. Two quick thoughts:

1) He said he made the changes to the team because he feared ending up like the Chicago Bulls, riding the dynasty too long into a long rebuilding process. As I and others have said before, that fits his style. So does the effort to return the Lakers to a more fast-paced team, reminiscent of the Showtime era. To Buss’ credit, he’s been right far more often than wrong over the years.

2) He also said that Kobe never said anything or asked for Phil and Shaq to be pushed out, neither did his agent. Of course they didn’t — they didn’t have to. It was clear already. Do you really think that if Shaq had been resigned Kobe would be a Laker right now?

* I had the chance to hear Staples/AEG honcho Tim Leiweke speak Thursday morning at an event, talking about AEG’s plans to bring shopping, residential, hotels and more to the area around the Staples Center (and, more importantly financially, the Convention Center). Leiweke said one of the things he’s trying to lure to the project is a West Coast headquarters for ESPN (note that he never mentioned the company by name, but the implication of the “worldwide leader in sports with an office and studio in Time Square” was pretty clear).

At lunch, ESPN employees there can go over to the Fox Sky Bar for some food. Just a thought

Musical Chairs

 —  November 19, 2004

Slava has come off the IR, giving him a court-side seat for the Clipper game, we’ll see if Rudy T. lets him off the bench Friday night. His return is not alone — right behind him Jumaine Jones and Vlade are set to come back to the active roster, providing much needed depth and help in the front court.

But all good things come with a price — who does Rudy T. jettison to create room on the roster? He needs to find two spots now, three when Devean George returns.

The first (and one seemingly sure) candidate is rookie Sasha Vujacic, who will head to the IR (according to Joel Meyers). He has played only three percent of the Laker minutes this season, by far the smallest percentage of any player on the team, and is really more of a developmental project. The down side to this move is, it leaves you with just two point guards — Atkins and Brown.

Clearing the needed second space is more difficult.

If you take the person next on the “playing the least list” you get Kareem Rush, who has earned his lack of time on the floor by not being sharp at all this season. However, we’re talking Kareem Rush of the garuneteed $1 million contract and Kobe’s primary backup. In fact, there’s only one Laker without a guarunteed contract — Tierre Brown. Of course, take him and Sasha out of the mix and now you’ve got just one pure point (Atkins). Plus, Brown has played well at moments and is the kind of player you’d like to keep around and develop.

No easy answers for Rudy and Mitch here.

My guess is that we will see Sasha on the IR and, sadly, Brown released (and likely to quickly land on his feet somewhere). With that, expect to see more of Kobe playing the point guard position at times during the game.

The Myth Of Kobe

 —  November 18, 2004

I’ll admit that I bought into it — the conventional wisdom that with Shaq gone this year’s Laker squad would be all Kobe all the time. He was going to take all the shots, covered or not, and everyone else was a glorified caddie.

Nine games in, while sometimes it feels that way, the statistics don’t really bear that scenario out. Kobe’s numbers are not dramatically different than last year, outside of how often he gets to the free throw line. Lets break this myth down, Snopes style.

So far this year, Kobe is taking just one more shot a game this season than he did last year (19.2 to 18.1). He is averaging just 3.7 more points per game so far compared to last season. However, with the team scoring down slightly and Kobe’s free throws up, he is accounting for 29% of the Lakers’ scoring this season compared to 24% last season.

It’s not that he’s passing much more either, Kobe is currently averaging just .2 assists more per game than last season. His much-discussed field goal average is up to 40.5%, down from 43.8% last season (but up from 37% a few games ago).

As has been noted before by many, the big difference is that last season Kobe shot 8.2 free throws per game. This year it is 12.3.

Maybe the the feeling that this is an “all Kobe all the time” show is in our perception. In past years Kobe had high shot/points totals, but Shaq also had gaudy numbers. Everyone else really was along for the ride. This season, the lights are all on Kobe and we are given the perception it is he is the only show in town. His numbers stick out even more.

All of that said, when the Lakers as a team — and Kobe in particular — are sharing the ball the Lakers are a far better squad. How consistently they do that over the course of the season, and in the coming weeks as players start coming off the injured list, will determine how successful this season becomes.


On a side note: Maybe my favorite play of the season so far took place against the Clippers Thursday. Near the end of the first half (as I remember it, although maybe it was the first quarter), Kobe dribbled the ball up court and slowed down near the Laker bench, as if he was talking to Rudy T., who was standing right there. Marco Juric took the bait and relaxed his defense while the conversation took place, and the second he did Kobe turned it on and sprinted right past him, down the lane for the layup and the foul. It was pure playground.

The More Things Change….

 —  November 18, 2004

My favorite Laker team pattern for this season continued in the overhyped “Battle for Los Angeles” last night at Staples Center — in the Lakers five wins they average 21 assists per game, in the four losses 14.25.

Last night, 24 assists. Kobe had 11 himself. Lakers win handily.

It sounds simple, but remember there are really several parts to any assist. First, somebody has got to drive the lane or do something to draw multiple defenders, then spot the open man and then get him the ball. Finally, somebody has to hit the open shot. In the Lakers losses some part of that equation came undone (missed early shots led to fewer passes later, for example).

Last night the Lakers shot 51.3% from the field, taking advantage of Kobe and other’s generosity. Six players end up in double figures. It appears to me Kobe and Chris Mihm are working especially well together, on pick-and-rolls (or pick-and-pops, if you prefer) and with Mihm moving without the ball and getting into open spaces near the basket. When Vlade starts taking some playing time down low next week, it will be interesting to see if he and Kobe can generate that same chemistry.

On the Clippers side of the ledger, this was the first time I had seen them at length this season, and I was really impressed the energy and aggressiveness they are getting inside from Bobby Simmons and Chris Wilcox. They are both young players (Simmons 24, Wilcox 22) who may be very good players some day. Whether or not that will be with the Clippers…..


Among the things we Angelinos like in our sports franchises are tradition and consistency. That includes on television, and the Lakers are giving us that.

The Lakers have extended their contract with KCAL (channel 9) through the 2011-2012 season. That contract was to expire by the end of the year. The Lakers also will stay on Fox Sports through that season as well.

By that second season of the next decade, the Lakers and channel 9 (through its several owners) will have been together 35 years.

Forum Blue?

Bill Bridges —  November 17, 2004

Commenter Icaros (who gets the honor of being the first commenter here, and with that a lifetime supply of Rice-A-Roni) asked about the name of this site. Then, my sports-knowledgeable wife asked me the same question: Don’t the Lakers wear purple not blue?

I only had to be hit in the head a couple times before dawned on me that some Laker fans who come here may not be familiar with the phrase “Forum blue and gold.”

It is a reference to the late, great Chick Hearn, who, back when the team played at the Fabulous Forum, used to refer to the home uniform colors as “Forum blue and gold.” Why? I’ll let commenter Jon explain”

Former Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke loved the color purple but, for whatever reason, refused to say that was the color he liked. He called it blue. So, to deal with the problem that the uniforms were clearly purple but the owner didn’t want it called that, Chick Hearn (or maybe Cooke himself) came up with calling the Laker purple “Forum blue.” And it stuck.

Gatinho adds to that:

Heisler says that Jack kent Cooke called it that, not Chick. (Chick and Cooke also fought over who called it the “Fabulous Forum” first, as well.) He changed the color to purple, “forum blue”, when he bought the team and built the Forum. The blue is obviously from the Minneapolis days and early LA days. Witness the Lakes wearing the powder blue ’56 uni’s this season.

Donovan Moore from the Society for Sports Uniform Research adds this:

“Forum Blue” was the designation given to the Lakers’ Purple back when they played at the old Forum – as many here have stated. That said, the “Forum Blue” designation was dropped after the 1979-1980 season; from 1980-1981 on, this color has been referred to as “Royal Purple”.

In addition, for a number of seasons starting around 1976-1977 through 2000-2001, the Lakers used a lighter shade of Purple for their logo as opposed to the Purple in their uniforms.

While the designation may have been officially dropped, Chick Hearn continued to use it all through the Showtime era and beyond. And, this blog’s name is a little tribute to him and Laker history.

Uno. Dos. Tres. Catorce.

 —  November 17, 2004

I’m feeling a bit of Vertigo from all the cold medications currently pulsing through my veins, but here are a few thoughts as the cuatro y cuatro Lakers (who may end up catorce y catorce) head back to the court after three whole days off in a row.

* Everyone seems to want to make tonight’s game the start of a “real” rivalry between the Lakers and the Clippers. Right now, I’d say this rivalry is more akin to the good-natured ribbing between Dodger and Angels fans than the animosity you see between the Oakland Raiders and, well, everyone.

For this to be a real rivalry, these two teams will need to either compete for the same playoff spot or meet in the post-season. The heat of the playoffs is where rivalries are forged. Until then, the Lakers and Clippers are just friendly competitors.

* I’m not one for predictions (if you saw my work football pool, you’d know exactly what I mean — a tic-tac-toe playing chicken would have crushed me last week), but I’ll throw this one out there: Lamar Odom will have a huge game tonight. Players love to rub how good they are in the face of teams that let them get away.

* Also, catching the Clippers in the second game of a back-to-back doesn’t hurt.

* The other basketball team I actively root for, besides the Lakers, is from my alma mater — Cal State Northridge. You know it’s supposed to be a good year when we land on the front page of the LA Times sports section before we even play a game.

* And while we’re talking Northridge — coach Bobby Braswell is my hero. Taking a team with the worst facilities in Div. I college ball and making the team a respectable part of the Big West, plus giving us the magical year where we beat UCLA and made it to the NCAA Tournament, is more than I expected in my lifetime.

* In case you didn’t see the USA Today article, Kobe is the NBA’s biggest beneficiary of the new rule enforcement on the perimeter. He is averaging 5.1 more free throws per game than he did last season. Right now, 40.6% of his points are coming from the charity stripe.

* While we’re quoting other people, the Sports Guy over at ESPN put up one of his “War and Peace” length posts on the NBA yesterday, and he had one observation I liked a lot:

With so many teams dumping coaches, making panic trades and wasting money on shaky free agents — it’s like 80 percent of the league at this point — the teams that keep building around the same nucleus (one bona fide star, four or five supporting stars, one coach) have an enormous competitive advantage over everyone else….When the subject of NBA problems comes up, everyone points to poor shooting, over-reliance on three-point line, overzealous defense, high schoolers … to me, the lack of continuity is THE biggest problem in the sport right now. None of these teams knows how to play together for more than four-minute stretches. Of course a team like San Antonio will win 60 games. Why wouldn’t they?

The Lakers need to spend the next couple of seasons building that core, then, in the summer of 2007 when all those salaries come off the books, fill out what is needed to make this team a champion again.

* But with the good also comes the bad — the Sports Guy also said:

Q: How has the city of Los Angeles responded to Kobe and the Lakers in the post-Shaq Era?
Ambivalently. When Kupchak and Buss made their big choice last summer, they underestimated three things:

A.) The city’s sweeping affection for Shaq.

B.) The number of locals who would blame Kobe for Shaq’s departure.

C.) The number of locals turned off by Kobe’s involvement in “CSI: Eagle, Colorado” (even if charges were eventually dropped).

He then goes on to talk about LA fan’s the (true) love of Shaq and standoffishness with Kobe. He even speculates about what would happen if the Lakers fans get frustrated with a slow start and turn on Kobe.

I’m not one who will spend a lot of time being critical of other writers — it’s a hard gig and they are welcome to their opinions. But in this case I’m going to comment.

I think he misses a key part of the point, something somewhat unique to Angelinos — Los Angeles sports fans love their stars and, while maybe disappointed with him right now, they will never turn on Kobe. Also, LA fans can come off as ambivalent toward any team that is not a winner. Oh, they show up — the Dodgers drew 3 million a year despite the disastrous ownership of Fox — but the passion doesn’t come to the surface (except for some diehards) until the team starts to win consistently. (And by the way, you don’t see most of those diehard fans on television because they have to sit above the luxury boxes at Staples.)

Rather than turn on him, by the end of this season and in the heat of a run to the playoffs, LA fans will be fully behind Kobe.

* Finally, a thought on finances. A recent article in Forbes Magazine talking about the NHL and its lockout also discussed ancillary income hockey team owners get (that often does not end up on the profit/loss statement). This included Los Angeles Kings and Staples Center owner Philip Anschutz:

Perhaps the best example of using your hockey team to create wealth is the Los Angeles Kings. Billionaire Philip Anschutz bought the team for $113 million in 1995. He used the Kings, which lost $5.3 million last season, to get the go-ahead to build Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles; it was completed in 1999 at a cost of $400 million.

Anschutz also bought a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association in 1998 and rents out his building to basketball’s Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League. When you add in tennis, gymnastics, concerts and other events, Staples Center is busy almost every day or night during the year. Premium seats for corporate fat cats are cross-marketed for the teams and events. Documents related to a bond offering on the building show that bankers estimated Staples Center would generate operating income of $50 million last year, only a fraction of which shows up on the Kings’ P&L statement.