From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: It goes without saying Tina Thompson is a women’s basketball icon. The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, she has been a member of the league since the 1997 inaugural season. But she’s also a Los Angeles basketball icon. The Culver City resident was slated to attend Palisades High School, but the desire to play elite basketball prompted a transfer to the famed Morningside High School in Inglewood. (“When I tell you they’re worlds apart,” says Thompson of the schools and the demographics, “they’re worlds apart.”) She enjoyed a storied career — right on the heels of fellow legend Lisa Leslie — after which she graduated as the 1993 California AAA Player of the Year, with over 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in her pocket. At USC, teamed with Leslie for one campaign, her four seasons concluded with her as the fourth-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder in Pac-10 history.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Lakers guard Trey Johnson is heading to Italy to play basketball next season. Johnson, a late-season call-up by the Lakers from the D-League last year, signed a one-year deal with Teramo Basket of the Italian League on Wednesday. Johnson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPNLosAngeles.com that his client’s contract does not include an opt-out clause to return to the NBA should the lockout be resolved in time for the league to hold all or part of the 2011-12 season. Johnson averaged 25.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 39 games with the Bakersfield Jam before the Lakers signed him for the end of the regular season through the playoffs to provide backup point guard depth to the roster while Steve Blake was sidelined with the chicken pox.
From Jonathan Abrams, Grantland: There is only one outcome that really matters when sports and work stoppages collide. With apologies to tales about decertifications and labor lawsuits, play-by-play simply isn’t as invigorating in the court room as it is on the court. Pundits will pretend to care about lawsuits and sports talk hosts will call lawyers to kill time, but all anyone really cares about is when the dispute will end and play will resume. Tuesday’s courtroom activities included an unfair labor practice charge and a federal lawsuit against the players’ union, which the league alleges is not negotiating in good faith. (See? Even with all the drama, it’s just inherently uninteresting …) Both actions signal the end of bargaining. At this point a fingers-crossed, best-case scenario is the NBA and the union reaching a resolution in time to preserve a handful of regular-season games.
From Ben R, Silver Screen and Roll: For the past decade, Kobe Bryant has borne the weight of the hopes and expectations of the Lakers, providing the most definitive bridge between the two most recent Laker eras of championship excellence. Time and time again, he has answered those calls with fervid and dominant play that has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players ever to set foot on a basketball court. It is for this reason that last season was jarring to many Laker fans, as they were treated to a painful display of Kobe’s mortality, or at very least, a growing image of how the career of an all-time great enters its twilight stages. Naturally, comments to the effect that Kobe is finished at the moment are grossly exaggerated, as his competitive spirit, diverse skillset, and expansive basketball mind will keep him among the league’s best performers for the next few years. Nevertheless, it is a given that those same years under Mike Brown, in which Kobe will have to adapt to a new system and his declining physical skills, will be a transition period that will determine the nature of the team as it moves forward.
From Mark J. Spears & Adrian Wojnarowski: Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is engaged in far more substantive contract talks with teams in China than he is Turkish team Besiktas, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman tweeted Sunday that the team made an official offer to Bryant last week and plans to meet with Bryant’s agent in Los Angeles this week. However, a source close to Bryant said he hasn’t had conversations with the Turkish team in two weeks, and labeled Bryant’s chances of playing with Besiktas at “zero percent.” Bryant, sources said, is still listening to offers to play overseas during the NBA’s lockout, and considers China a more likely option. He has exchanged proposals with Chinese teams, and one source said it’s unlikely Bryant would accept any deal that pays him less than $1.5 million per month. Bryant would be free to rejoin the Lakers as soon as the lockout ends.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Nearly 20 years after learning that he had tested HIV-positive, and 20 years after his initial retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson has a major regret. He wishes he hadn’t retired from the Lakers directly after learning of his diagnosis. And, knowing what we know now about the virus, he’s probably right. Magic could have kept playing. Two things are important to remember, 20 years later. First, to the uninitiated, testing positive for HIV back in 1991 seemed like a sure death sentence. I recall sports-talk radio hosts, not shock jocks, hoping Magic would survive long enough to see his NBA friends play in the 1992 Olympics some 10 months later. Even though a goodly chunk of the public knew that, with proper attention, Magic wasn’t putting teammates or opponents at risk by playing NBA hoops with HIV, retirement seemed like the only possible step after a diagnosis like this.
From David Murphy, Searching for Slava: It’s easy to point out the millions of dollars paid to NBA ballers and dehumanize them as a result, making the argument that they’re getting paid plenty and what about the average Joe? I don’t find it convincing, it’s too easy. Money and respect are married, everyone’s getting divorced. How many ways can one human being look at another and say, “fuck you.”? As many ways as there’s hours and minutes in the day. There are unexpected friendships and support. There is disappointment. And sometimes, a time to move on. Everybody knows that the war is over, everybody knows that the good guys lost. Not necessarily. The other side wants you to believe that you have no recourse, that they own you and can discard you. Sometimes they can, sometimes they can’t.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Every time talk centered on the current Lakers or the ongoing NBA lockout, Magic Johnson simply flashed his signature smile. It turned out to be an effective defense mechanism. See, Johnson may have sold his 4.5% ownership stake in the Lakers to billionaire season-ticket holder Patrick Soon-Shiong last October, but he kept his title as vice president. So that means he isn’t immune from the NBA’s wrath of issuing petty fines for team officials discussing players or personnel during the league lockout. The issue angered plenty of fans Saturday at Loyola Marymount University in a one-on-one conversation with Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who warned the crowd he couldn’t ask specific questions about the current Lakers thanks to NBA Commissioner David Stern.