Anthony Davis Is A LA Laker

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Well! That was fast. The ink is barely dry on the NBA championship certificates and teams – er, make that the Lakers team – is rushing in to pan for 2020 gold. In other words, the Toronto Raptors barely finished prying the Warriors’ fingers from the Larry O’Brien Trophy when the Lakers Organization proceeded to claim dibs on winning the 2020 NBA Title.

And here’s the news on the NBA’s latest blockbuster trade: This just in — The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to trade the farm, er, make that the farm animals, for Anthony Davis. No offense to Brandon Ingram who is a legitimate, up and coming star, but Lonzo Ball is a bust, and Josh Hart is, well . . . just who is Josh Hart again? Anyway, the Lakers have come into this offseason looking and smelling like the city dump but will come out of this trade looking and smelling like a rose. For their part, the New Orleans Pelicans (I almost said the New Orleans Jazz – it just sounds better) – anyway, the Pelicans have the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, and so getting Zion Williamson, for now — aka, on paper — is fair compensation for losing Anthony Davis.

We’ll see how this one works out. The Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in six years. Six years. And this past year was LeBron’s first with the proud but now pitiful franchise which has had the offseason from hell. For the Lakers it’s been rough sledding. This past season, the saga has been sordid: Magic comes and then goes; Walton goes; potential coaches come and then go. The toasts of Tinsel Town couldn’t write a more soapy script.

But if — that’s IF —  the Lakers can pull off a turnaround next season, it will be one for the record books. And that’s the lesson. From the world’s perspective, if you just turn things around, you will be forgiven and all will be forgotten. It does not matter how bad it looks or how bad it gets, just turn it around. And all will be forgiven.

Spiritually, it works for us the other way. Just accept God’s amazing grace, and then He will turn you around and He will turn things around for you. All is forgiven when you accept his grace. Don’t try to do this at home; that is to say, don’t try to do this on your own. It takes the toast of Heaven, our Lord and Savior, to turn things around. It does not matter how bad it looks or how bad it gets, He can turn it around for you. He can and He will, if we trust Him and believe.

Can Magic Pull A Rabbit Out of His Hat?

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Is it Magic or is it just make-believe? Is it live or is it Memorex? (Remember that one?) Is it possible or is it just probable that Magic Johnson can turn the Lakers around?  And soon?

 The LA Lakers are 19- 42, tied for second to last place In the Western Conference. The Lakers Organization, and Laker Nation, and everyone living in Southern Cal are used to winning basketball games, and NBA Championships, in June. The Lakers have a long and storied history of success, dating way back. Jerry West won. Wilt Won. Kareem clobbered. Magic and then Kobe (and don’t forget Shaquille O’Neal) all won multiple championships and have multiple rings.

But can Magic work a miracle? Can he be the savior and save this sinking, stinking, reeking and reeling team in need of more than a trim here and there? Yes they have young Luke Skywalker, err . . . I mean, Luke Walton on board, plus several young promising players like D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram; but . . .  The Lakers have room to grow as they have nowhere to go but up. However, it will be a steep climb for Johnson, who has no NBA front-office experience, to turn this young core into a championship team.

So, the question is this: can Earvin “Magic” Johnson sprinkle some pixy dust and wave his magic wand and pull a rabbit out of the hat?  The Lakers sure do hope so. 

So, if you missed it, here’s the news flash:

“The Los Angeles Lakers announced that they hired Magic Johnson to become president of basketball operations, firing GM Mitch Kupchak and Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss.

The move comes weeks after the Lakers named Johnson an advisor to the team. Shortly after, Johnson admitted he would like a chance to “call the shots.”

In a statement announcing the hire, Lakers president Jeanie Buss said, “I took these actions today to achieve one goal: Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself. We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again.”

Johnson said in the statement, “Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

 Go Magic. We’re all pulling for ya.

Why Was I Doing My Taxes Instead of Watching Kobe Score 60 Points In His Last Home Game?, a.k.a., The NBA Now Stands for “Not Bad Anymore”

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I don’t have a good answer. I don’t. But my taxes are done and I don’t owe. That’s what matters. But I missed the game. Kobe’s LAST GAME! Seriously!? So . . .

The NBA is BACK! The Warriors broke the Bulls record for wins in a season, Steph Curry broke his own record for 3 Pointers in a season, and Kobe went out with a bang.

First, the Golden State Warriors have indeed made the NBA fun again. They play with pizazz and shoot with sass and pass with panache. They’re the golden team from the Golden State that is sitting on a golden goose of a future if they can keep this pace up. They’ve beaten the NBA’s best, and so the only drama for the playoffs is to see if San Antonio can give them a run in a seven game series or if Cleveland can in fact reach the Finals for the relished rematch we all rave to see.

Steph Curry, the darling denizen of the NBA’s elite echelon, is only 28 years old. He’s got more than a few good years left on those legs, and he can carry his team like only Mike and Kobe could (with an honorable mention to LeBron and Bird and “Magic” and of course Wilt “The Stilt” and Bill Russell). That said, His team won 73 games. Do they have it in them to win another title? That is the ONLY question. But it’s a question worth tuning in for to find the answer.

And finally, Kobe. Yes Kobe. His sayonara send-off tour got more press than his play, but his play ruled the day on the last night of his consummate and accomplished career. Kobe knocked down 60 – that’s right 60 – points in his final act at Staples Center. What a way to go. And I didn’t see it. But we went over that already. Anyway, Kobe couldn’t miss, and Utah couldn’t stop him, so we had one of the most epic and epochal ends to an ecstatic and euphoric 20-year career.

Kobe scored 33,643 points over 20 seasons, the third most all-time. He was surpassed only by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Hall of Famer Karl Malone. Mike came in at number four, and Wilt Chamberlain is No. 5 on the all-time points list. Not bad company. In fact, it’s rarified air indeed. AND, he scored the most points in his now legendary last game. In other words, Kobe scored more points in his last game than any other NBA player, EVER! By Far! And I missed the game! (As you can see, I’m still not over it yet). And so, like him or lump him, you cannot deny him his place in the annals of basketball lore.

So, the lesson is this: just when you think things are bad and bottoming out, here comes a Steph Curry to carry the League. Just when you think Kobe doesn’t care and the NBA is not relevant, you have records being ripped and story book endings being written. It just goes to show ya, the tango of sports and life are inseparable, not insufferable.

Tribute To Kobe Bryant: A Liked and Loathed Treasured Trove

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Kobe has more than his fair share of fans and foes. More than many or any other player, Kobe has a long list of likers and lumpers and lauders and defrauders. He’s won big and he’s lost bad, and yet he’s still as enduring a player as there ever was in all of sports. He’s won five NBA championships, two early and three later; first the three -peat from 2000 to 2002 and then the back to back in 2009 and 2010, with two distinctly different teams. The first three came with Shaq and the later two with Paul Gasol. And now he’s riding off into the sunset.

Kobe entered the NBA directly from high school, and he has played for the Lakers his entire career. He came in young and he’s going out old (for an athlete) and in between his bush and his bald head, he’s weathered many a storm and has tethered plenty of lukewarm admiration from us all.  

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Kobe’s done it all. In addition to 5 Larry O’Brien Trophies, he’s an 18-time All-Star, and he has won the All-Star MVP Award four times (2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011), tying him for the most All Star MVP Awards in NBA history. He’s a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. He has led the league in scoring twice, and he ranks third on both the league’s all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring lists. And at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team.

But the current Kobe isn’t the Kobe that we once knew. By his own admission, the retiring 20-year veteran is “old as hell,” he said, laughing. Kobe continued to be among the top players in the league through 2013, when the 34-year-old Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon. His body, now an old 37, has aggressively waved the white flag, making this the only time that any part of Kobe has given up. Therefore, what you’ll see on Sunday is a museum piece, and a somewhat fragile one.

All-Star moments are rarely crystallized and preserved in our memory banks, mainly because the game itself is a simple exhibition. You’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Some are exceptions: Magic Johnson in 1992 after his HIV announcement being the most pronounced.

Kobe’s first All-Star Game might be No. 2 on the unforgettable list. It was the Passing the Torch game, meaningful for that and other reasons. Kobe was just 19, the youngest All-Star ever. The setting was New York and the arena was the Garden. It was 1998 and Jordan was making his final appearance as a Bull (though no one knew for sure at the time). With Jordan on the East (coached by Larry Bird no less) and Kobe on the West, the square-off was just too irresistible to ignore, and the pair fed everyone’s appetite by trading baskets.

In a sense, that scene will be repeated Sunday because Kobe will have so many torches in his hands, he might burn his fingers. There is Steph Curry and LeBron James, Paul George and Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and others who were raised on basketball by Kobe.

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Like him or lump him, you can’t ignore him and his long legacy of winning, even if it came with plenty of cheese and a lot of “wine.” It seems as if Kobe’s complained about just about everything along the way. Most infamously, he complained about Shaq. But he made a comeback. And that’s what really matters. He’s endured teams and teammates and highs and lows and ups and downs and ins and outs. And for the rest of us, he’s shown how one can take a likin’ and keep on tickin’.

What Happened To Lamar Odom?

It’s all so sad.  It’s seems so senseless. And it’s certainly a serious, somber and sobering situation. We don’t yet know what exactly happened to Lamar Odom, 35 years of age, who is now in a coma.

Odom’s coma was possibly drug induced, but it certainly was not anticipated, predicted or expected. We do know that Lamar took cocaine and 10 doses of a Viagra-like medication, and now he’s fighting for his life in a Las Vegas hospital with his family at his side, including his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian.

Friends and former teammates have visited the hospital, including Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Jesse Jackson.

In 2011, Lamar is quoted with saying this: “Death always seems to be around me,” Odom said in a low tone. “I’ve been burying people for a long time. When I had to bury my child, I probably didn’t start grieving until a year and a half later.”

His mother, Cathy Mercer, died of colon cancer when he was 12. His grandmother Mildred Mercer, who reared him, died in 2004. His son Jayden, not quite 7 months old, died of sudden infant death syndrome in his crib in 2006.

And in August of 2011, Odom’s cousin died while he was in New York to shoot a television commercial. In another incident  during the same visit, the vehicle Odom was riding in hit and killed a 15-year-old motorcyclist. “I think the effects of seeing [my cousin] die and then watching this kid die, it beat me down. I consider myself a little weak. I thought I was breaking down mentally. I’m doing a lot of reflecting.” Odom said he didn’t eat much for “eight or nine days” after the events. All the while, thoughts of dark moments in his life consumed him.

There are aunts, cousins and friends, Odom said, all of them “taken away from me.”

You never really know and never fully know what people are going through, battling with, or struggling to overcome. You just never know. What drove the former NBA star to a brothel is currently a mystery that we may never know the answer to. And lest we rush to judgment, the deep, dark, surreal secrets of all of our lives are misty, murky mysteries as well.

Life has its way of beating us up and beating us down, and if we don’t have a good coach or corner man, a good colleague or co-worker, a close by confidant, comforter or consoler  — someone or anyone to lean on or turn to, we’re all liable to throw in the towel.

When asked about how he was coping with the tragedies of his life, Odom is again quoted with this bold statement: “It’s what it has done to me emotionally and physically . . .  I’ve had to tell myself that I will get through this. And I will. I have to.”

Amen to that Omar, amen to that.

What’s Wrong With The NBA?

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What’s wrong with the NBA?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong. The Philadelphia 76ers are 0-10, and since I’m from Philly, that’s a BIG problem!  The Los Angeles Lakers are 1-9, and therefore all of LA Land is in meltdown.  The Oklahoma City Thunder are 3-8 (sans Kevin Durant, 2013 NBA MVP), and The Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers are 5-4. On the other hand, the Memphis Grizzlies are 10-1; the Toronto Raptors are 8-2; and the Washington Wizards are 7-2. Go figure. Age-old and perennial powerhouses are at the bottom of the heap, and wishful-thinking, wanna-be teams like the Wizards and Raptors (they were a good team a LONG time ago) are first place in their Division?  So what’s up with that?

LeBron James and Kevin Durant are what’s right with the NBA as they are the faces of the NBA franchise. One has won championships recently and the other is the reigning League MVP, but they can’t hold down the fort all by themselves. Durant is hurt and LeBron is back in Cleveland with a new team and new teammates who are trying to find themselves and figure it out.

What’s wrong with the NBA?  Who can watch these games?  It’s too early in the season to really pay attention, as most games end too late in the evening to stay up and watch. There’s too much competition from the NFL and college football, and there’s too little interest from middle-aged men like me to warrant any viable discussion about a bunch of overpaid, over privileged, over-hyped “kids” playing what amounts to a slowdown, one-on-one style of game with no “teamwork” in sight.

What’s wrong with the NBA? The great NBA legends of the game are long gone, such as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Willis Reed, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, John Havlicek, and of course, the greats from my generation such as Dr. J, Moses Malone, David Robinson, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Walton, George Gervin, and of course, Michael Jordan.   Without them, the game is just not the same.

So what’s right with the NBA? We still love the game and we will still watch, but not until after Christmas.  I mean, the regular season for the NBA is about as exciting and enthralling as watching paint dry. The new kids, such as Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose and of course LeBron James have charisma and chutzpah, but it’s just not the same as it was before. Many of the newbies in the League lack character and don’t have a reputation for being solid and stable people.

And many have a problem with Christianity as well, for just the same reasons. Many Christians lack muster and metal, moral fiber and spiritual muscle. The lack of integrity and veracity, legitimacy and authenticity turns people off. So, the challenge for Christians is to be true to the fundamentals and foundations, the nitty-gritty and nuts and bolts of our faith. 

I may be old-fashioned an old fuddy dud, but I believe that character still counts. I really don’t care how good you can play ball if you stink at playing the game of life.

PS: I thought this article (see below) spoke to why we as Christians are sometimes given the cold shoulder by unbelievers, because we should be willing and able to share our faith (the verb) with those who question and query our Faith (the noun).   Anybody?

Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians

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There Is No “I” In Team

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And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Acts 2:1, KJV

Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal has a doctorate in education.  Go figure.  But he is best known as a huge former basketball all-star, and is mostly known for his size and stamina, standing 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and weighing 325 pounds (147 kg).  Better known by his nickname “Shaq,” he was one of the heaviest and heftiest players ever to play in the NBA.

Throughout his 19-year career, O’Neal used his size and strength to overpower opponents for points and rebounds.  He won four NBA Championships; three consecutive with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and one with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in 2006. But for all of his hulk and bulk, Shaq could not win on his own. He knew the power of the team.

Shaq played on great teams, but great teams don’t just happen.  And scrumptious meals don’t cook themselves.  Just like custom cakes, winsome wins and triumphant triumphs are cooked and baked and good food is simmered and sautéed with only the best and finest of ingredients.

As big as he is, Shaq must know a little bit about good home cookin’, right? But how many know that good cooking doesn’t just happen?  And neither does winning.  All the right amounts and just the right components are required for success.

Shaq eloquently speaks about the ingredient of “team.”  Much has been made of his falling out with Kobe, and rightly so.  The team could not hold together when Shaq and Kobe were falling apart. And so Shaq went looking for another team, and he found another great team and another great teammate in Miami, where the blending of elements once again produced a championship team.

The ingredient of team is often overlooked and mostly undervalued.  Yes team is the sum of all the parts, but it is also the particular part that makes up the total sum.  You often hear commentators and coaches speak of teams as family or fraternity, and as a fierce fellowship of friends.  On the other hand, teams are not a fractured, frenzied fraction of foreigners who just so happen to be on the court or the field at the same time.  Unless a team is a bond of brothers, winning probably won’t happen, and winning really doesn’t matter.

Rarely is the component of a tried and true, great and genuine team stressed or even pressed.  It’s as if “teamwork” can just come along for the ride. Au contraire: teamwork must be driving the bus.  It seems that since teamwork is so vitally important, the necessity of a team working together must be mandated and made mandatory at the beginning of every season.

My loving wife is a great cook, along the lines of my mom and mother-in-law.  I, on the other hand, can barely boil water or toast bread. Well, maybe I’m not that bad, but you know what I mean. Likewise, some athletes don’t have a clue or give a hoot when it comes to playing on a championship team, or participating in a championship season. I, on the other hand, might not be a great cook, but I know what a good team looks like and I sure as heck know what a bad team looks like. And I think I know what it takes to build a team, and a winning team at that.

The spiritual tie is easy to make but hard to maintain. Together we stand; divided we fall. This truth applies across the board. Winning teams take chemistry and alchemy, symmetry and synergy and a whole lot of “the right place at the right time” kind of stuff.  So be a great teammate. Be a total team player. Put the team first, put others second, and put yourself last. And you will most certainly reap a ripe reward.