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“On the Origins of Sports” with Gary Belsky

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Uncategorized |

So how exactly did our favorite sports come to be?

That’s the subject of a great new book — order it on Amazon, here — from Gary Belsky and Neil Fine, the former Editor-in-Chief and Editor-at-Large at ESPN The Magazine (and, it should be noted, our former bosses). All the quirky origin stories, original rules, and a lot more. Belsky joined us in studio for a great conversation about why we play the games we do, and where they come from. Everything from baseball to basketball to stock car racing, even kickball and ultimate (which has a fantastic connection to a Hollywood giant).

It’s a lot of fun, particularly for those with an appreciation of history to go with a love of sports.

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Land O’Lakers Podcast: Does D’Angelo lead? Is Phil a good idea? NBA players and bear fights!

Posted by on Mar 2, 2016 in Lakers Audio, Podcast, Uncategorized | 1 comment

We’re back!

We vowed not to podcast again until the Lakers earned their 12th victory of the 2015-16 season, and Tuesday, it happened! And we were so confident, we recorded before the purple and gold took the floor against the Nets.

On the agenda…

NBA News. Does Kyrie Irving really want out of Cleveland? Who loves Chuck the Condor? Is the Dirk Burger an appropriate culinary honor for Nowitzki? And how much has Phil Jackson actually helped the Knicks?

Lakers. Before D’Angelo Russell blew up for 39 Tuesday against Brooklyn, the big conversation of the week centered around his leadership skills. How good are they now? How good can they become?

We introduce the Lakers Statue Game. Everyone gets one, but where? And how big? This week, Nick Van Exel!

Finally, AAK! You ask a Kamenetzky, and we answer. Oscar talk — Did Spotlight deserve best picture? Which NBA player takes down the bear from The Revenant? And finally, choosing between Iron Maiden and Rush, in concert.

 

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The Lakers and Little Jerry Seinfeld

Posted by on Jan 24, 2015 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

From my column on Sheridan Hoops, following Kobe’s injury. Fair to say, it’s time for the front office to embrace reality.

“There’s a moment in the classic 1997 episode of Seinfeld, “The Little Jerry,” when Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer are crammed into the back of Marcelino’s store, about to send Kramer’s rooster (which he named “Little Jerry Seinfeld”) into a cockfight.

Elaine, meanwhile, has been dating a man she thinks is bald by choice before learning he’s actually losing his hair. He asks her to marry him, before the follicular end comes.

“Well, it’ll be a couple of years before he’s completely bald,” Elaine says, considering the offer. “Those’ll be good times.”

“Marriage is a big step, Elaine. Your life’ll totally change,” Jerry replies.

Elaine pauses. “Jerry, it’s three-thirty in the morning. I’m at a cockfight. What am I clinging to?”

I mention this because for the Lakers, we’ve reached the end. It’s three-thirty in the morning, and they’re at a cockfight.

It’s time to stop clinging.”

Read the rest here.

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Words of Wisdom from Erica Wilson

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Kobe Bryant, Uncategorized | 3 comments

The first twelve years of Erica Wilson’s life were pretty uneventful. She developed a love for dancing, and went about her days like the rest of her peers. Then, upon experiencing extreme cramps in her legs after a gym class, Wilson was rushed to the hospital. An MRI revealed she had transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder that took away use of her legs. Soon afterward, Wilson was introduced to wheelchair basketball. Initially pessimistic about her acumen and enjoyment for the sport, she nonetheless gave it a whirl. Before long Wilson was hooked, then quickly shrunk some of the experience gap between her and other teammates through sweat and effort. By season’s end, she was a starter. And while her chair skills and overall prowess admittedly still need sharpening, Wilson describes herself as “probably a co-captain on the court,” because of a natural ability to communicate. As part of Alabama’s Lakeshore Lakers, she lent a hand towards winning the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Junior National Invitational Tournament.

Wilson attended Lakers practice on Thursday with Gatorade, who’ve featured her as part of “Win From Within: The series,” a group of shorts about athletes overcoming huge odds. (The emotional video can be seen here.) Hers is obviously a powerful story, and everybody on hand couldn’t help but be moved by her circumstances and resolve. (But lest anybody fear the morning got too schmaltzy, Wilson used some face time with Kobe Bryant to get a few pointers for improving her left hand, because… well… he’s Kobe Bryant and she isn’t stupid.)

In the “Win From Within” video, Wilson says she wouldn’t change a thing about her life, including her battle with transverse myelitis. The notion of choosing a life that doesn’t include walking is difficult to wrap your head around, and I asked why she felt this way.

“I walked for twelve years before I got T.M., so I know kind of the best of both worlds,” explained Wilson. “What it’s like to walk and what it’s like not to. Before I did wheelchair basketball, I did dance. My life was very average. I didn’t really have any big experiences like this right here, and I wasn’t very passionate towards anything. It was just kind of going to school, going to dance class, hanging out with friends. Nothing super special.

“But after I got transverse myelitis, and being pushed to playing wheelchair basketball, because this wasn’t initially what I had in mind. (laughs) I just kind of wanted to lay in bed all day. Just something about wheelchair basketball makes me not want to change anything, because I really do love this sport so much.

“If I had to choose between being able to walk or not being able to play wheelchair basketball, I’m probably gonna choose being able to play wheelchair basketball because it’s just more important to me than walking, because walking doesn’t make you who you are as a person. But the experiences I’ve learned through wheelchair basketball have made me who I am as a person.”

Pretty profound for a sixteen year old.

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Being super-rich means the Lakers can be super-patient

Posted by on Jul 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

If you haven’t read the breakdown by Zach Lowe on Jason Kidd’s exodus from Brooklyn for Grantland, it’s well worth the time. But beyond some excellent details of how that whole unquestionably strange mess came to be, the story contained an eye-popping little nugget sure to interest Lakers fans:

“The Thunder are indeed paying into the revenue-sharing system, rare for such a tiny market, but they’re slated to make nearly $29 million in profit when everything is netted out. That’s the fifth-best projection in the league, trailing only the Lakers ($100.1 million), Bulls ($61 million), Rockets ($40.7 million), and Celtics ($33.1 million)… Holy cow, the Lakers! They end up with that huge profit despite contributing a league-high $49 million to revenue sharing.”

Yes, the Lakers cleared $39 million more (!) than any other team in the league, despite suffering the worst season on record since packing up the trailers and moving from Minneapolis. Despite Kobe missing all but six games, despite failing to sell out every game at Staples, luxury tax payments, and the aforementioned revenue sharing bill.

Yowza!

With free agency officially underway, the Lakers have been connected in one way or another to just about every name on the market, from the obvious big fish (LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh) to the guys a tier below (Kyle Lowry, Greg Monroe, Luol Deng, and so on). That’ll happen, in part because the Lakers, who don’t even have half a roster, are probably interested in just about every name on the market, and also because every name on the market has a vested interest in making the Lakers appear interested. Without question, the Lakers would like to figure out a way to beat the odds and improve quickly, whether by straight signings or trades absorbing players into their vast, verdant meadows of cap space. I can accept the possibility the Lakers become a decent enough team next year. Title contending, no. Playoff contending? I can accept that (even while not betting on it).

What I can’t accept, though, is the thought process stating the Lakers MUST do something bold, because they CAN’T POSSIBLY go through another year like last. Fans will revolt! They’ll stop showing up! Ratings will tank! And so on! Except assuming Kobe plays, a lot of that won’t happen. Watching the team again struggle would suck but with likely only two years of Bryant remaining, people aren’t going to skip their last handful of opportunities to see him live, whether at home and especially on the road. That’s part of the value he has to the organization.

But let’s say I’m wrong. Let’s say people don’t show up. It’ll look bad for people to see empty seats, but those tickets will still be sold. The Lakers have a wait list for season tickets thousands of applicants deep. Anyone giving theirs up in a fit of pique won’t be getting them back. And even if the Lakers lose sales for a couple years, and they won’t, at least in any meaningful way… they have to figure out how to lose $100 million in profits before landing in the red.

There will be angst. There will be anger. But if the Lakers can’t hit a home run this offseason and are forced by circumstance to keep their proverbial powder dry (or most of it, at least), absolutely nothing will happen that won’t be instantly be cured by getting good again in a year or two. Lakers fans aren’t going to abandon the franchise over a couple years of necessary futility, and nor should they. So the Lakers can do what they think is right, without worrying what media types, or celebs in the lower bowl, think. Yes, it’s uncomfortable for fans not to know who’s next after Kobe. I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for the Lakers, too. But finding a good answer is far more important than finding any answer.

The idea is to build a genuine championship contender, not to compete for a six-seed every year, and to that end the news passed along by Lowe has the potential to be a positive force for the Lakers.

A few more thoughts on free agency…

  • I get waiting to see what Melo and LeBron do, but the Lakers need to be careful about waiting too long. There’s a good chance most of the big action, whatever it is, happens after James and Anthony are off the market, but teams who don’t feel they have a shot at either won’t stand still, and secondary players interested in security might snap up solid offers sooner rather than later. The Lakers have to balance the home run swing with the need to make contact. The cheap, young, lesser known players of the world – think Kent Bazemore – could be gone quickly. There are opportunity costs associated with trying for, and not getting, the superstars.
  • The idea LA won’t sign any non-elite FA to deals longer than a year or two, and there’s been plenty of chatter about that, basically means they won’t get any of them. Jodie Meeks got three years and nearly $20 million from the Pistons. Golden State gave Shaun Livingston 3/$16 million. Do the Lakers really think Kyle Lowry is going to take two years? Or that two years might be enough to get Greg Monroe to sign an offer sheet, or have the Pistons not match? In the end, I don’t really believe the Lakers will limit themselves to that degree for players the genuinely want and believe can grow with the rebuild.
  • That the Lakers would want to keep a clean cap sheet to woo the Durants and Westbrooks of the world makes sense, but at the same time they have to build a real team to attract them. The “blank slate, we’ll build a winner around you, we always have and always will and look at the pile of money!” sales pitch doesn’t really work these days, it seems. Elite players want to join a team with infrastructure, meaning the Lakers need to build some even if (ok, when) James and (probably) Melo end up somewhere else. Assuming they don’t wildly overspend on Genuinely Bad Idea Players, it’s ok to shell out three or four years. Most good talent can be moved in a pinch.
  • Whatever the Lakers can do to absorb talent through trades, they should. As we’ve already seen with the Meeks deal, player contracts can inflate quickly. The Lakers could, and probably will, have to pay more than performance might merit, particularly with any restricted free agents. It’s the price of doing business.
  • My appreciation for Anthony grew a ton this year, given how he handled a dumpster fire of a season in New York. That said, the idea of giving a 30-year old Melo $96 million for four years, knowing it might not be until the third year the Lakers are title-competitive, makes me squeamish. Not saying I wouldn’t do it, but his will be a giant contract on the books while his skills are, at the very least, not ascending.
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