Archives For August 2006

Lakers I Miss: Cedric Ceballos

Kurt —  August 18, 2006

I look back on Cedric Ceballos the way I look back on a couple of crazy ex-girlfriends — when it was good it was exciting and wild, when it went bad it crashed and burned spectacularly.

There was thee 50-point game against the Timberwolves, the start of the 95/96 when he scored 25 for six straight games, the highflying dunks, the explosive offense. There was no defense. And there was the trip to Lake Havasu.

I think most NBA fans remember Ceballos as a Sun — in fact he still works for the team, as the public address announcer. Most of the photos on his Web site are from the Phoenix years. And with good reason, those were good years for him, complete with the spectacular blindfolded dunk that won him the contest in 1992.

But not surprisingly, I picture him from the couple years he wore Laker colors. And, just like those first few months with the crazy girlfriend, his first year or so in Los Angeles were a lot of fun. His first season with the Lakers he shot 39.7% from three point range, had a true shooting percentage of 57% and averaging 21.7 points per game.

It was a fun team with Sedale Threatt, Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Anthony Peeler George Lynch and “Pig” Miller just to name a few.

The next season, 1995-96, the Lakers were a 53-win team with a powerful offense led by Ceballos — those Lakers averaged 111.5 per 100 possessions (compare that to last year’s Lakers rating of 109.8). It was another high-wire act with a lot of dunks and Ceballos seemed to drive the lane more (his TS% climbed to 59%). They finished the fourth seed, but were knocked off by Rudy T’s Houston Rockets in the first round.

That summer Jerry West made two big moves — signing Shaq and drafting a kid straight out of high school named Kobe Bryant. We Laker fans pictured Shaq alongside Ceballos and thought of an unstoppable offensive force.

But instead, a spectacular crash and burn was in store. Ceballos bought a couple new Jet Skis and took his family to Lake Havasu — eight games into the season. He missed a team flight and game against Seattle while being completely AWOL (he did blame mechanical failure for being stuck out on the water, unable to make a flight). Fans and the media were in an uproar.

Within a few days he was gone — traded for Robert Horry. The Lakers still won 56 games that season and the foundation was set for a championship run a couple years later.

Years have softened the edges around Ced for me, I look back at the Lake Havasu incident and laugh the way I kind of fondly look back at how crazy some of my ex-girlfriends were. I kind of enjoyed those days — but I’m glad I moved on and don’t want to go back.

What NBA Player Are You?

Kurt —  August 15, 2006

Here’s a fun little sumer diversion (via the always amazing Henry at True Hoop): Over at the site Rum and Monkey you can answer a few questions and, just like that, find out what NBA player you are.

I’m Jason Kidd (although I swear I have never hit my wife).

Staples Apathy

Kurt —  August 14, 2006

I was there the night the building opened, when Bruce Springsteen walked on stage for the first notes of “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” I cheered later when he looked out at Staples Center and said “too many (luxury) boxes.”

I was there for maybe the defining basketball moment in the building’s history — the fourth quarter of game seven against Portland in 2000.

I’ve been there for hockey playoff games, U2 concerts, tennis matches and gone to the SkyBox bar just to meet friends. I’ve driven there and taken the Blue Line. A lot of great memories were formed there.

So, why am I so ambivalent about the Staples Center?

I never expected I would have the sentimentality for it I do for Dodger Stadium. But I have more emotional attachment to the “Fabulous” Great Western Forum, even though I have no real desire for the Lakers to play there again. I understand the need for revenue streams that the “too many” luxury boxes provide. I get that the locker rooms and team facilities are a huge upgrade from the Forum. I get that the food offerings for we visitors are improved. I like the exterior architecture, which I think has a nice rhythm with the urban downtown. I like the view from the third-floor outdoor dining area.

But it still feels generic. Once inside it feels like the Fleet Center in Boston, the MCI Center, the Pond, just about every other NBA arena I’ve been in. It’s like the Wal*Martization of NBA arenas. There is nothing that makes me passionate for it.

Staples has a few special little things that bug me. Usually my seats (at any event) are in the 300s, above the luxury boxes. When you’re taking the escalators up to the upper echelons — where your choices for food are the usual stadium fare of dogs, burgers, nachos, fries and the like — you get a perfect view of the chef, complete with the poofy white hat, thinly slicing roast beef or turkey right on to the bread for the people in the luxury boxes.

That’s always grated on me because it feels like a caste system, the kind of segmented society we like to delude ourselves into believing doesn’t exist in the United States. Maybe it bugs me because it an accurate reflection of what’s outside the doors of Staples.

But ultimately, that’s not what keeps me from loving the building. It’s just a general lack of charm. The fans that come to the games still make it fun, still create a fun atmosphere I wish I could attend more than just a handful of games a year. But the building seems to do nothing to add to it.

Am I alone in my apathy to Staples Center?

Carnival of Movies

Kurt —  August 14, 2006

The new blog Maverick Moneyball has put together the newest Carnival of the NBA, and done it with a movie theme. It’s great to see what the other bloggers are doing here in the slow season. And he made an oddly ironic choice with pairing this blog and “The Matrix” — my brother-in-law won an Oscar for his part in helping make that film.

Quintessential Jerry West

Kurt —  August 11, 2006

Not a lot of basketball to watch these days, so why not enjoy maybe the greatest shot in Laker history one more time — Jerry West in the 1970 NBA Finals.