The Count took me to the cavernous, charm-free Staples Center for a Clippers game last night (more on that later, great 4th quarter effort sparked a comeback win vs. the Thunder), where we had floor level seats across from the Clipper bench. Great perspective, good crowd (Clippers have sold out every home game since February of last year) for a premier matchup of two youthful, energetic teams.
The highlight of the game, however – aside from the kid (Lefty’s friend?) celebrating his 21st birthday who hit a half court shot to win a jeep – was the running commentary of the fan(atic) who sat behind me. Most of the time, this behavior is not only annoying, but intrusive & detrimental to the enjoyment of a game (or anything, for that matter). This time, however, was different. The man, early 40′s and with a vast knowledge of basketball and a voice/delivery that sounded like Jay Pharoah’s Denzel, was so astute in his observations and had such panache & flair. . .
It started with references to the ground-based James Harden, who was deemed “Old Man Game,” perfect for his Wooden Center approach to the sport – an array of crafty dribbling, deft passing, and a set shot lifted from the 60′s. Continuing on to Blake Griffin and his, umm, quirky free throw method, Denzel/Pharaoh launched into a “snap your wrist at the top of your release,” clearly audible in the Staples doldrums. This of course, was followed by a howling “watch this uglyyyy freeee throowwwwww” on another clanger.
What really clinched it for me was the silly crowd-involvement games the Clippers do during timeouts, such as “fan shoots to win prizes.” In this particular case, a nattily attired Angeleno stepped to the court to attempt the usual array of shots: side bank, free throw, three pointer, half court shot for some Chumash Casino Bucks. The man, wearing pristine fat tongue Air Force Ones, was lauded by Denzel Pharoah: “my mans got his sneakers on, he’s got his game kicks.” Sure enough, the dude hit the first three shots and stepped the the three point line for his final attempt, which bricked. The 5% of the crowd that was paying attention to the shenanigans groaned softly, while my man yelled “shouldn’t have had your skinny jeans on,” inciting a small eruption of laughter.
As the Clippers drearily played like a team that had seven consecutive games – sloppy, turnover prone, disorganized, shot clock violations, forced shots – for the first three quarters, Denzel barked out:
“the good thing about these seats is the Clippers go the other way in the second half!” This was followed up by an errant alley-oop attempt, inciting a “Lob City?!?!? More like Lob Nada!!!”
For his final barb of note, during one particularly hideous outfit change by the Clipper Spirit, featuring pants like these:
the ladies ran of the court to the thundering applause of nobody, and perfectly timed, Denzel shouted: “those pants look like blake griffins free throws – UGLY!”
A fun evening for all, specifically the balanced Clippers, who shook the cobwebs in the 4th quarter, outscoring the ice cold Thunder 26-11 (Westbrook only two points post-first quarter, Durant 6 in second half) to take him a win. . .and more importantly, the sixth Playoff Berth in franchise history.
. . .has there been a player with the ferocious fearlessness of Blake Griffin.
Here are the NBA.com selections of Blake Griffin’s Top Ten Dunks of the Year. . .through only 25 games. Oh my.
The irony is that today’s L.A. Times reported this:
“My preference is to be here in L.A.,” Camby said. “It’s always good to be wanted [but] I would love to finish my career here.”
We woulda loved to have you here too, big guy. Always need a Dr. Dre lookalike with tenacious boarding & shot-blocking ability.
Wow. Just when it appeared that Sterling was ‘getting it,’ they reach out to Isiah Thomas for the head coaching gig? It’s not enough that he ruined the Knicks, Pacers, CBA, Raptors and Magic Johnson?
J.A. Adande, L.A. Times alum, reports for ESPNLosAngeles that Mike Dunleavy was (finally) fired today.
Long overdue, and kudos to Sterling and the Clippers – maybe they’ll take their robustly talented roster and pick a good leader that can make ‘em mesh. Is this the first sign that the Clipper Curse may be ending?
Is Byron Scott the next coach of the Clippers? Good fit – Los Angeles second-tier hero, proven coach, good roster that can win immediately. . .
Kudos to Ramona Shelbourne on her new gig for EspnLosAngles.com, espousing on the inconsisent, difficult-to-read play of both the USC and UCLA hoops squads.
That said, folks back in the Tri-Valley of Eastern Washington are disappointed reading about the upstart Bruins defeating the Cougars, 74-62. Again, the continued scrappy play of Mustafa Abdul-Hamid provided a constant spark. The Bruins are now one game out of first place – and two games out of last – in the Pac-10 conference standings. The conference Champion will get a bid, but will that champ be the only team from the Pac-10 to make the tourney?
I’m telling you, how can you not harken back to this guy during times such as these:
Oh yeah, that’s right.
I will tell you this, however, Kevin O’Neill is doing a helluva job in obscurity (and sanctionville) after the implosion of last year’s Trojan squad. I’ll bet even this guy is proud:
Bytheway Dodger fans – have you checked out Dylan Hernandez’s Twitter yet?
As far as the Angels are concerned, an unemotional goodbye is in order for strangely estranged Native Son Gary Matthews Jr., traded unceremoniously for Brian Stokes, another California kid. Matthews never really fit under Arte’s regime; always the fourth outfielder, sort of in a Juan Pierre-esque fashion – Matthews definitely is good enough to play centerfield wherever he wants, but his hitting just hasn’t been the same since the suspiciously successful 2006 year he had with the Rangers. The HGH accusations didn’t sit too well at home, nor with the Angels’ brass.
Also I keep saying it – don’t sleep on the Kings this year. NHL pundit Jason Sapir says they still may be too young, but with inspirational wins such as the 3-2 comeback over the Red Wings becoming commonplace, don’t be surprised if they ride young goalie Jonathan Quick to a deep run in the Playoffs. With five Olympians, the squad is immensely talented. And well coached. Even with the rift between negative18er Jack Johnson and stud GM Dean Lombardi, the Kings are playing well, and holding on to the seventh seed in the West.
The Curse Continues
I really, really thought the Clips had a shot this year – with Camby, Kaman & Griffin, they’d be the only team in the League that could match the Lakers’ length inside. Add BDiddy and Gordon, and their starting five is probably the second strongest in the NBA. Thornton, Butler off the bench = Clippers in the playoffs.
Not now, though.
Blake Griffin out for Entire Season (thank you to the underrated Lisa Dillman)
Despite the spate of trouble recently, Tiger Woods celebrated (we assume) being named the AP’s Athlete of the Decade. 64 tournament wins (12 majors) will do that for a man. Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Tom Brady round out the Top Six.
UCLA Hoops is back. . .kind of: Rips New Mexico 100-68. Sylmar High grad Tyler Honeycutt has a breakout game with 14 points in his first extended minutes.
Bill Shaikin comes through again with a promise of “bombshells” in the May 24th trial date between the McCourts. Hopefully the Dodgers can acquire a player or two prior to that date. . .Jamie’s lawyer Dennis Wasser may have crossed a line or two by accusing Frank of having RAIDS: “recently acquired income deficiency syndrome.”
Kobe – broken finger and all – leads the Lakers to another win, this time vs. the Bulls, by scoring 42 points. Pau has only 7 shots, though, and is getting more discouraged by the DAY as he becomes a smaller part of the Lakers offense.
L.A. Kings are on TOP of the Western Conference – 2nd overall in the NHL – after another win yesterday, this time against the Oilers. With Quick in goal, they’re phenomenal.
UCLA football netted more All-Americans (3: Kai Forbath, Brian Price, Rahim Moore) than USC did (2: Taylor Mays, Jeff Byers). . .another sign that the momentum in the crosstown rivalry really is changing?
Now of course Gerhart has little-to-no-chance of victory, especially being out here on the West Coast. . .I won’t even get into the East Coast Bias. Same applies to Masoli, who wasn’t invited to the ceremony; all it took was one (albeit, horrible) game to start the season (Lagerrette Blount, anybody?) to remove him from having a shot at the trophy. . .and McCoy should have weighed in at #2 or #3 but to me, that clock-management at the end of the Nebraska game was unfathomable and unbecoming of a Heisman candidate.
I will say, the voting is going to be exciting this year with the wide-open field of candidates, so don’t be surprised if Suh (or even Tebow?!) wins the trophy just due to being named on so many ballots. Will be very interesting, much like this guy:
“you guys really think I want to coach here?”
and you really gotta read the comments by this guy, who bytheway has a legitimate argument for being the ‘most slept on’ Heisman candidate in eons.
Sticking with College Football, looks like UCLA’s season could keep getting better.
is the battle cry, as a Navy victory secures the Bruins a berth in the Eagle Bank Bowl, and yet another leg up on Pete Carroll’s rapidly declining Trojan Dynasty.
Congratulations to local hero Malcolm Smith of Oaks Christian in Westlake Village for winning the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award. The touching part of the story is that Joe Mauer actually walked into his classroom to present the award, causing Smith to shed a tear.
Lastly, a belated shout to the L.A. Kings – one point out of first place after another rousing victory last night, this one in an eight-round shootout. My man Jason Sapir has been talking since last year about the Kings’ resurgence as an organization and it looks like Wayne Simmonds, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, et al, are really moving the team forward faster than initially anticipated.
That’s it fiends – have a great weekend.
Kudos to Diane Pucin for excellent reporting on the decision by Fox to suspend Clippers Announcers Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith for Friday’s game vs. the Timberwolves.
In the Clippers 106-91 loss to the Grizzlies , the two seasoned announcers had this exchange:
Smith: “Look who’s in.”
Lawler: “Hamed Haddadi. Where’s he from?”
Smith: “He’s the first Iranian to play in the NBA.” (Smith pronounced Iranian as “Eye-ranian,” a pronunciation that offended the viewer who complained.)
Lawler: “There aren’t any Iranian players in the NBA,” repeating Smith’s mispronunciation.
Smith: “He’s the only one.”
Lawler: “He’s from Iran?”
Smith: “I guess so.”
Lawler: “That Iran?”
Lawler: “The real Iran?”
Lawler: “Wow. Haddadi that’s H-A-D-D-A-D-I.”
Smith: “You’re sure it’s not Borat’s older brother?”
Smith: “If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I’m going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part.”
Lawler: “Here’s Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball.”
Smith: “Especially the post players.
Lawler: “I don’t know about their guards.”
Now Ralph Lawler has not missed a game in 25 years. Dedicated, wonderfully enthused and talented, Lawler has been overlooked in a City of Wonderful Broadcasters from Vin Scully to Bob Miller to Chick Hearn, etc. The Clippers pitiful performance as a franchise certainly has everything to do with that, but his case for inclusion into the legendary pantheon has surely taken a hit with this back-and-forth with the equally enthused but far less seasoned Michael Smith.
Were the comments overtly racist? My initial reaction was agnostic, figuring this was another corporate attempt at political correctness.
After discussions with my wife, (whose parents are native to Huanusco, Mexico) who likened the exchange to “white people that thing all Hispanic/Latin Americans are ‘Mexican,” I agree with her to an extent – I think apologies (even of the profuse variety) are required from both Lawler & Smith as well as the organization, but I think the punishment was a bit harsh and will now tarnish the legacy of a solid announcer.
And frankly, isn’t a lifetime of announcing Clippers games punishment enough?
I used to write for things called newspapers,