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Dave Murphy —  June 19, 2013

It seems almost silly to write anything basketball that isn’t purely about last night’s epic Game 6 OT slugfest. In the end, Tim Duncan’s 30/17 front loaded night couldn’t quite outlast LeBron’s 32/10/11 – the latter doing much of his damage late in the game. You could almost hear the collective groan of keypads everywhere – suffice to say there were stories being written in the last few minutes of regulation that did not end up being used.

In an era of quick-bite news feeds, Kevin Arnovitz’s longform article about the San Antonio Spurs stands out. The premise is nothing new – centering on the recalcitrant nature of a team that plays by the fundamentals at the cost of mega popularity. Arnovitz steadily peels back the layers though, getting to some essential truths about choices made and a determination to stick with authenticity.

The Grantland staff put together their NBA Finals Shootaround: Just Like Heaven and there’s not much to say except just read the piece – classic sample observation, “basketball is a drug.”

On to Lakers business. You’d have to be living under a rock not to know of the parade of injuries visited upon the Los Angeles Lakers this past season. Often blared and sensationalized, the subject is illuminated through a terrific Mike Trudell interview of Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

Somewhere between the polar ends of self-parody and hard cold business lies an essential conflict. Using the framework of the new film comedy “This Is The End”, Andy Kamenetzky from the Land O’Lakers examines the act of Dwight.

This year’s draft is sneaking up fast. With only the 48th pick to play with, the Lakers’ challenge will be to find a player who can actually function at an NBA level. Ben Rosales has been writing cogently about the process for Silver Screen & Roll – here he looks at six prospects who came in for a group pre-draft workout.

Sasha Vujacic made a unusual two-year commitment to Anadolu Efes during the 2011 NBA lockout. This past April, the 2012 Turkish All-Star MVP was suspended for disciplinary reasons in the middle of the Euroleague quarterfinals. The team failed to advance to the next round and has yet to elaborate on how things went so wrong. Last Friday, Vujacic said goodbye to Istanbul on Facebook, adding that “the truth will come out”. The former Machine is hoping to resume his NBA career. Here, Matt Agne for Sports Media 101 hypothesizes about a place for Vujacic with the Knicks.

I know, how can you follow a paragraph about a man who once reigned supreme at the charity stripe? Nonetheless, basketball life does go on. Tomorrow night will bring Game 7 of the NBA Finals in Miami. There will be no lack or predictions between now and then but if the first six games were any indication, this one will be another war. Are you fired up? Ready to go?

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  June 14, 2013

So you’ve got a car with some years on it but you’re still paying it off. And, the mileage is really stacking up. And things are starting to go wrong with it. In fact, things have been going wrong with it for a while. And you are determined not to take on more debt right now because your current load is a killer. You know that in the summer of 2014, a lot of your debt will be paid off. What do you do? Do you keep eating all the repair bills, hoping to get by until then? What about that one last cross-country trip you wanted to take with someone special? Someone that may not be around in another couple years. You don’t think the car will make that trip. What do you do?

This is essentially the challenge facing the Los Angeles Lakers. Worn-out tires, a year left on the loan and the glue still drying on a new head gasket. There may not be enough left in the tank to make a run for Kobe’s sixth ring. And then there’s the Dwight dilemma.

From Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie, Chandler Parsons talks to Dwight, ‘a lot’.

From Eric Pincus at the LATimes: Phil Jackson tells why the Lakers’ offense should go through Dwight.

C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll writes that Dwight and D’Antoni are perfect for each other.

Drew Harrison at Silver Screen and Roll examines reports of Dwight and Chris Paul’s supposed desire to play together.

From Ross Gasmer at Lakers Nation, Dwight supposedly adds the Spurs to the list.

On the Steven Lebron tumblr, Dwight Howard: In Another Life.

In non-Lakers/Dwight news, remember Jordan Farmar? Dan Feldman at ProBasketballTalk has the story.

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So back to the bloated car loan that’s coming to an end. Mitch Kupchak’s made it clear that Dwight is a priority. It’s mostly an all or nothing proposition however. The Lakers can resign Howard because of his Bird rights but can’t otherwise spend in free agency except for the mini mid-level exception and veteran minimum deals. So what happens if Dwight doesn’t return? Are there no other options apart from waiting it out? Well sure, it’s called a trade-in. You might not get your full blue book value back but you’ll get something, including a new loan or two. Ready to talk some turkey?

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  June 7, 2013

Change is a constant, we all know that. Athletes and eras exit stage left and new ones emerge. Jason Kidd recently announced his retirement as did Grant Hill. Members of the NBA class of ’94, their careers were intertwined. It’s a transitional time in many ways – the NBA finals have finally begun with the Tony Parker-led Spurs taking Game 1 in Miami. The draft comes next and then the long hot summer. Coaches are coming and going including the current COY. Another legend refuses to go quietly into the good night, using a book blitz to provoke copy from those who chronicle the sport, ranging from place mat sketches to a San Antonio Spurs prediction. Sports writing has been going through its own metamorphosis for quite some time and will no doubt continue.

There wasn’t always the internet. There was a time when ink-stained hands and visors were common catch-phrases. The term catch-phrase in of itself is just another definition of meme. Some of today’s readers and citizen journalists might not necessarily equate link-fueled breaking news with seminal influences but the connecting dots do exist in the ether. How far back to you want to go? Grantland Rice was known for his elegant prose and Four Horseman mythology while Jim Murray combined heart and biting humor in a career than began during World War II and lasted through the Michael Jordan era. Ring Lardner melded jazz age sensibilities with baseball bush league stories and Red Smith summed up the role of beat writer as succinctly as any when he famously opined that you simply sit down at a typewriter, open up your veins and bleed. If you’re still unsure of how the past connects the present, just ask David Halberstam.

The ‘Page 2′ school of sports journalism has always served as a way to bridge hard reporting and colorful commentary. Simply turn from the front banner headlines and enjoy a respite. T.J. Simers worked a variety of west coast beats before landing at the L.A. Times in 1990. His style often causes blowback from readers looking for more metric truths but there’s something to be said for using a shooting contest between your daughter and Dwight Howard as a framing device. Besides, it translates nicely to ancillary pieces. Perhaps no writer mixed things up as much as gonzo trailblazer Hunter S. Thompson. Late in life he wrote a rambling series of Hey Rube pieces for ESPN that are beyond facile description. Bill Simmons took over ESPN’s Page 2 a decade ago, bringing an accessible Sports Guy take to what had previously been some pretty wooly waters. Simmons’ career has continued to flourish and morph, including his current role as one of ESPN’s talking heads. Are there really six degrees of separation between Grantland Rice and Dwight Howard? I don’t know but it’s an easy segue back to a Lakers-centric topic of conversation.

It’s not just players and writers of course. There’s always the conflict of league-mandated interviews between sideline reporters and coaches and none so treacherous as those involving Coach Pop. Continuing the circular trend is a carousel of coaching updates spinning out from the George Karl ouster. On the odd-couple front comes this story about Jerry Sloan and the Birdman. Indeed, old versus new school debates seem to be anywhere and everywhere these days. Witness the analytics-driven conflict between Lionel Hollins and Memphis vice president of operations John Hollinger. The information highway is long and ever-winding, a morning’s search can lead from a superstar’s continued path back from a devastating injury to the connection between athletes, celebrities and money management.

You can continuing with colliding worlds and emerging stories as long as your index finger has the strength to click but at some point you have to pull yourself away from the luminescent screen. What did Marshall McLuhan used to say, the medium is the message? No, I’m not hyperlinking it. Go, have some lunch, take a walk. Something.

 

A Day In The Life

Dave Murphy —  June 1, 2013

I’m on the phone with an old buddy from Los Angeles and he says, “dude, you should move back here.” I answer in the most predictable of ways. “Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.” An earth-shattering statement? Hardly. Will it lead anywhere? No, it’s just a handful of words during the course of a conversation in the course of a day or a week. The words go hand-in-hand with other statements or conversations that take place in everyday life. Looks like there might be rain tomorrow. I’m going to the store for a few things. The traffic out there is brutal.

In the high-stakes game of professional sports contracts, casual conversations are given heightened importance. It’s the same in the high-stakes game of business or war and peace. Words are how we communicate and they are used, shaped and shifted to suit the occasion. The NBA free agency period doesn’t start until July 1st but the appetite for news and commentary needs to be fed. Or at least we think it does. Isn’t this why I’m typing these words? I’ll proof them and insert hyperlinks and load them into an online queue. The links of course are the blood-filled arteries that attract the hits. We want some, we want more.

The folks in Houston are wading into the discussion. It spiders out to other places which naturally includes the mega-media market where Dwight Howard currently resides. The prize free agent reportedly had a conversation with his buddy James Harden. These things do happen – people send a text, pick up a call, have a communication in some shape or form. It’s rarely on record of course so it’s posited and relayed in the most common of ways – sources close to the process told… and then we get to the heart of the matter which is usually speculation but that’s how the beast is fed, right? One guy says, “dude, you should come play here.” And the other guy says, Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.”

The Dwight saga hasn’t yet begun to approach critical mass in Los Angeles. It may yet or it may not. The Lakers center has only been here for one season and the whole crazy affair was snake-bitten from the start, ending with a first-round exit as the face of the franchise watched from the sideline on crutches. If you’re looking for a full-scale media meltdown, wait a year until Kobe’s contract expires. Bring your sharpened sticks and marshmallows – the flames will be seen around the world.

The NBA finals are still nearly a week away. The draft happens in a month. And then free agency. The need to feed the beast never expires though, it is relentless and will not be sated. Sometimes the news is of a sobering nature. Sometimes it’s a thoughtful debate about a cornerstone athlete. More often it’s simply a random catch-and-shoot. Somewhere an NBA player touches a tiny icon on his screen and smiles. “I read the news today, oh boy.”

 

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  May 31, 2013

The book tour was over, the late night talk shows, radio appearances and lunchtime interviews on sun-dappled patios in select cities. He was back at home, sitting on his high comfortable chair at the breakfast counter. In front of him was a  tablet device and a small case housing his eleven championship rings from his days as a coach and the two rings he earned as a player. His fiancee was in another room. She was on a conference call with an Asian electronics consortium. The topic of conversation had to do with leasing rights for the Los Angeles Lakers. Her father’s will had very strict stipulations about the team’s ownership but there wasn’t anything in there about offshore leasing. Jeanie thought it was a win-win. The conversation was at a delicate and critical stage.

Phil was looking at the tablet screen, frowning. He was comparing several different reviews of his latest book, cross-checking them not only for accuracy but to also make sure that everyone understood the spirit of his communications. He removed all of his rings from the case and carefully arranged them on the counter. He took a cell-pic, then rearranged them again and took another cell-pic. He sighed, called out plaintively.

“Hey Jeanie, are you busy?”

There was an apologetic murmur from the other room. “I’m on my conference call honey. The one I told you about?”

“Oh, okay. I’m not sure all these so-called sportswriters understand the essential truths that I’m trying to get across here. There are discrepancies.”

“Okay honey. We can talk about it at lunch. After I’m done with my call.”

“Oh, okay. Do you know what Portia’s making us for lunch?”

“No honey, but you can ask her.”

Phil sighed heavily. It wasn’t easy being a legendary ex-coach with eleven rings plus two others which made a total of 13. Not that he was counting. He frowned at his arrangement of rings, bent down and flicked a tiny piece of dust off a sparkling purple jewel.

“Hey Jeanie? Do you think Portia might have been dusting my rings earlier?”

There was sigh and a pause, followed by a bright and somewhat tremulous reply. “Not since you had them out earlier this morning, Phil.”

“Oh. I’m not concerned about it. They’re just ornaments.”

“Yes honey, rings are ornaments. Sometimes it can take a long time to get the ornament you want. I just gotta finish up this call.”

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