Around the World (Wide Web): Sunday Reading

Phillip Barnett —  July 24, 2011

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: There are natural athletes. There are natural athletes who take an unusual path to the NBA. And then there is Golden State Warriors forward and South Los Angeles product Dorell Wright. To put Wright’s athleticism in perspective, he didn’t take basketball seriously until the 11th grade. Before that, he was passionate about making the big leagues, and even transferred from Washington High School to Leuzinger for its baseball program. A casual invite to meet the basketball coach eventually resulted in a change of athletic priorities. After graduating from Leuzinger, Wright did another senior year at South Kent School, a Connecticut prep school. But rather than better prepare him as planned for the transition to college, South Kent was Wright’s last stop before jumping straight to the NBA.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: In the inaugural edition of TWITL, I confidently declared that there was nothing I’d less rather be writing about than the NBA’s work stoppage. That statement, it so happens, was incorrect. This past Tuesday I discovered a topic even more unpleasant and spiritually draining, involving Andrew Bynum and his fondness for handicapped parking spaces. At this point I know better than to hope this was a low point in the offseason. In fact, I now fear that Drew’s locked in a spiral of criminality that will soon find us posting articles about how he’s been caught: (a) running guns to Kurdish separatists in southern Turkey,?(b) bilking pension funds and rich dowagers out of millions in an industrial-scale pyramid scheme, and/or?(c) presiding over a black market organ-harvesting syndicate.

From Emile Avanessian, Silver Screen and Roll: To borrow a Yankees analogy (a stretch, I know), if Kobe Bryant is the Lakers’ Derek Jeter, Derek Fisher is Jorge Posada. The steadying influence for five title winners, Fisher has provided the kind of toughness, leadership and timely play a franchise is lucky to find once in generation. He’s done it twice – first bridging the chasm between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and later, the only guy in shorts who dared challenge Kobe, helping to link the Lakers’ monomaniacal great with his teammates. Twelve seasons. Six three-pointers in the 2001 title clincher in Philly. “0.4.” A pair of massive triples (one to force overtime, another to secure victory) in Game Four of the 2009 Finals in Orlando. Eleven fourth-quarter points, including a coast-to-coast three-point play that was nothing short of miraculous, in Game Three of the 2010 Finals in Boston, capped off by the greatest postgame interview you’ve ever seen. Fisher is the Lakers’ rock. He has secured his place in Laker lore and, in my eyes, a roster spot for as long as he wants one.

From David Murphy, Searching for Slava: The cicadas drone in staggered waves, the heat brings headaches – suggestions for pickle juice and Himalayan salt remedies. There’s not much going on with the CBA, the latest revelation was the release of BRI figures which only show that profits increased coming out of a recession while player salaries were  actually reduced. The sides proceed apace on parallel tracks, carved like trolley ruts in cement. I’m reminded of our other national dilemma – the debt ceiling talks. The difference is any sense of urgency – the nation faces default while the league’s battles are a matter of choice, greed and good old-fashioned union busting.

From Matt Moore, Pro Basketball Talk: This lockout is perceived as two sides in a standoff with one another, owners and players. In reality, it’s six sides. You have the rich owners, the poor owners, the moderate owners, the superstar players, the role players, and… the agents. When it gets down to it, the agents are the men behind the curtain in this little play. Those escalating salaries that the owners themselves agreed to with ridiculous, long contracts? The owners are on the hook for them, those were the product of the owners’ decisions. But they were created by the work of agents, forever raising value, forever edging the bottom line (and subsequently their cut) higher and higher. It is the agents advising the players on their money to prepare for a lockout, it is the agents keeping the players in line to whatever degree they can.

From Matt Moore, Pro Basketball Talk: This is like “War of the Worlds.” Besiktas is Orson Wells, we’re the poor, unsuspecting public gathering rifles for possemen to go hunt the little green Martians invading from Turkey. Pau Gasol is the Tom Cruise’s little girl. Or something. It’s not a perfect analogy. This thing is going to drag on for a while. Bryant’s going to continue to solicit offers. Supposedly Bryant and Besiktas are going to meet next week when officials come to the United States for Deron Williams‘ signing. But Bryant’s also scheduled to continue his Nike tour in Asia next week. But hey, facts have never stopped a good story before.

From Kevin Ding: OC Register: It’s quiet across the locked-out NBA these days, but there’s even less chatter in the offices of the Lakers, who parted ways with many familiar faces in cost-cutting moves at the start of the month. Now there is already one tangible loss from the Lakers’ decisions not to renew nearly 20 expiring contracts for trainers, scouts and staffers and save money for services not needed during what figures to be a lengthy lockout. Alex McKechnie, who rebuilt Shaquille O’Neal’s body once upon a time and in this era did specialized pregame training for most Lakers including Pau Gasol, has decided to take his innovation in analyzing core strength to the Toronto Raptors.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: With an indifferent expression, stony silence and a downplaying of each milestone, Kobe Bryant tried hard to show that he wasn’t preoccupied with climbing the NBA’s all-time scoring list. But not many believed him, including Phil Jackson. When I asked the former Lakers coach last season which player Bryant wants to pass on the scoring list the most, Jackson replied without hesitation, “Michael Jordan.” Bryant argued that wasn’t true and continued touting his sole motivation entails trying to minimize the gap between Bill Russell’s 11 NBA titles and his own five. Bryant isn’t lying when he says that’s his main motivation, but it’s misleading to act indifferent about it when teammates, media and the general public know he’s driven to be the best player ever.

Phillip Barnett