Tag Archives: Lakers

Lakers: Having A Ball

This Monday night, some of you may have flipped through channels and because of curiosity, boredom or a “secret guilty pleasure” you viewed WWE’s Monday Night Raw.  Personally, I stopped watching Monday Night Raw since Charlotte Flair was moved to WWE Smackdown on Tuesday nights, but for a few others, they might have stumbled across something that to some may have seen as “over-the-top” and to others may have been “entertaining.”  Regardless of what you felt, watching LaVar Ball take off his shirt in the middle of the wrestling ring flexing some kind of shadow-martial arts talent, was a sight to behold.

LaVar Ball, the famed (or in some circles “infamous”) father of Lonzo Ball, this year’s number two pick overall draft pick, selected by the Los Angeles Lakers, has been making waves for some time now.  You have heard him claim that his son is better than Steph Curry and how he himself, LaVar could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one.  Of all his ridiculous claims he’s made, there was one that he nailed:  that his son would be a Los Angeles Laker come draft night.

To effectively, truthfully and respectively break down what the Lakers got on draft night comes not only in the form of Lonzo Ball, but also his father LaVar.

It’s a package deal.  If you get Lonzo, you get LaVar.  And if you get LaVar, you’ll get the swag, the Big Baller Brand, the mouth and the confidence.

But lets start with the basketball side of things.

The Lakers sent former first round selection, D’Angelo Russell packing to Brooklyn, which brought along veteran center Brook Lopez.  The Lakers felt it would be fine to move Russell, who team president Magic Johnson said what they needed was “a leader,” because of the talent they have in Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram – two young players who have shown growing potential in the Lakers organization.

On good days, Lonzo Ball has been compared to Jason Kidd, and although Kidd may have been the physically stronger of the two, Ball is a wiry, athletic type and in terms of instincts and passing ability the comparison is valid.  Ball has an awkward jump shot but in college shot 55% from the field and 41% from three-point-range.  His free throw percentage of 67% is a little off-putting but one would think with his shooting ability, that will improve to at least 75%.

The Lakers, at their best, are known as the Showtime Lakers.  Los Angeles loyalists have been waiting for those glory days to re-appear, and although there is still building to do (even making the playoffs won’t easy – remember, it’s the Western Conference) – LaVar brings  a lot of Hollywood, to those fans clamoring for “showtime.”

LaVar ball is in the  belief that good or bad press, is good press at the end of the day and what he has done in establishing a market not only in the basketball world but outside of it, is remarkable.  The Big Baller Brand may not have a lot of purchasers due to ridiculous price tags attached to their merchandise, but everyone knows the name, and it’s a topic more times than not in basketball discussions.   The Ball “presence” has been felt by the NBA and Lonzo hasn’t even played in a scrimmage yet.

LaVar has already made himself nearly a regular guest on the ESPN and Fox Sports networks, and although the things he says waver on the “ridiculous” it’s entertaining.  For this Lakers team, they take on probably the biggest personality in the league in LaVar Ball.  He has already spoken against Lonzo’s college teammates publicly – who’s to say that pattern won’t repeat again with the Lakers? It will be interesting to see how the Lakers “handle” LaVar Ball.  Will there be any sit-downs with him, restrictions, etc. ?

The LaVar Ball antics, might actually be tolerated now because, Lonzo and the rest of this Lakers team is young – and barring any ridiculous acquisitions or multiple key injuries on other teams – the Lakers will be lucky to hover around being a 9th or 10th seed in the Western Conference.  With that being said, LaVar may be the best show in town – BUT – if and when the Lakers become a more serious contender LaVar may have to be quieted down, or maybe the return of the Showtime Lakers, will be enough to silence anything else in the city of Los Angeles.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Brook Lopez: Class Act

It’s crazy to think that back in 2008 the New Jersey Nets selected Brook Lopez in the first round of the draft.  Lopez has never gotten the credit he deserved while on the Nets.  Mostly because playing for the Nets is generally a curse to those who are doomed to play for the franchise – but mostly because Lopez was consistently under-the-radar his entire career.  Maybe it’s because he’s a finesse-type center, soft-spoken, kind of doofy looking – whatever it may be, the spotlight was never on Lopez.  Even at times when it was obvious he was the best player on the Nets roster, the spotlight was always on somebody else: Kris Humphries (for all the wrong reasons), Deron Williams (for all the wrong reasons), Kevin Garnett or even Joe Johnson.

Lopez was a guy who came to work and enjoyed what he did, with whoever was around.  It’s a rare quality in people – let alone a professional athlete.   Brook Lopez somehow managed to be an  unassuming seven footer.  This, as well as his price tag which came with an injury history, is why his name has come up in trades for the last three or four seasons.  On paper trading Lopez always made sense: a finesse-center, with a big salary, lower leg issues, who can’t run the floor – seems like the type to be a welcoming issue on a good team, instead of a player it’s fan-base looked at as “holding back.”  To be fair to Lopez, he was never, holding back this team – the team, eh and Billy King, have put the Nets in a perennial moon-walk avoiding the big dance – but anyhow. . .

The day has finally come for Lopez to be traded.  Reports have come out that on draft day, the Lakers and Nets have agreed to a trade in which the Lakers give up D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov and the Nets give up Brook Lopez and their 27th pick in the first round.  The Lakers relieve themselves of the Mozgov contract and get in return assets – and for the Nets their big takeaway from this is acquiring D’Angelo Russell – a young player with the potential to become a very promising piece to the Nets much needed rebuild.

With Lopez now gone, the Nets have nothing but young guys trying to prove they can hand in this league, and veterans filling in spots and collecting pay-days.

Nets players went on to social media to show love to Brook Lopez as soon as the news came out.

Sean Kilpatrick posted a touching picture of him hugging Lopez during a game followed by: “First player I met once I became a Net & said do what you do best. Thanks for making sure I was always alright. Good luck in LA big fella”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted a video of him and Lopez reinacting theme song from the television show The Wayans Brothers, and you can tell RHJ was really hurt by this move: “Couldn’t sleep… I’ve had a lot of teammates throughout my life and I loved and embraced every single one of them. But this guy right here became a best friend, biggest critic, big brother, smart ass, goof ball, turned me into a Disney lover and more. But the one thing that always meant a lot to me is no matter what we went through on or off the court we always talked to each other. You will be truly missed “BROTHER” good luck with everything and remember “We ride together We die together……. Bad boys for life”

This is what made Brook Lopez special in the Nets community.  Sure, the Nets are on nobody’s radar – ever.  They are the worst team in the NBA today but there are two things nobody can take away from them.  One is, the re-brand is a much better look (from New Jersey to Brooklyn, new uniform, new home) and that Brook Lopez was always a class act.

Back to the trade itself.

As previously stated, for the Nets this was a small price to pay to get someone like D’Angelo Russell.  CBS Sports’ Chris Barnewell says this is good for Russell, in that he gets a “fresh start” in Brooklyn.  Russell bumped heads with Byron Scott, then had that infamous “snap chat controversy” with Nick Young – there was definitely a need for change.  Brooklyn has a bunch of young guys on the squad, but none came into the league with more potential than Russell.

It’s a shame Brook didn’t get a chance to be traded to a contender though. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Brook Lopez and I always said that he deserves better, he deserves to be on a winner.  There is no telling what the Lakers plans are with Lopez, but my guess would be to have his veteran presence in a locker room full of young guys – to help them along the way.  Or maybe, ultimately, to be used as a piece for another trade before the draft or mid-season before the trade deadline.

Regardless, it’s officially the end of an era for a franchise riddled with errors.  Lopez leaves the Nets as the team’s all-time leading scorer and one of the most over-looked stars in the last decade of New York area sports.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Our Guy, Kobe

I went from high school to the pros.  I was anointed as “the future.”  I was a winner.  A champion.  I was Kobe Bryant.  .  .  okay, not realistically, but figuratively and for a generation of us – we all felt that Kobe represented us.

We were young when we watched, in awe of Michael Jordan.  To us, he could fly, he coudn’t be stopped and he was everything a super athlete should be – super human.  Then, Kobe came into the scene and we saw someone like us, and where we could only dream to be.

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Except he wasn’t like us.

While at family dinners, we were the type trying to scheme younger cousins out of their deserts, while Kobe was trying to find his way into a conversation at the adult’s table.  While we watched basketball on TV, Kobe was outside, practicing jump-shots until the sun went down.  Kobe knew what his destiny would be – it was to be an all-time, NBA great.

5 time champion.  Two-time NBA Finals MVP.  Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. Eighteen time All-Star. And shockingly only one NBA league MVP award.  One.

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Sure there have been other great players who only one the award once like Kobe’s old teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, as well as Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett.  All of whom are great players – but for Kobe that’s like sitting in an honors class and still knowing you’re the smartest one there. . .

That singular award given to the league’s best was only given to Kobe Bryant, one time.  Let that sink in.  Let it sink in because that is proof that the world missed on the “big picture” with  Kobe Bryant.  The “Black Mamba”  is without a doubt the biggest sports MEGA star – that sports fans have taken for granted.

There are reason’s for this though.

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He came in right after the Jordan-Era.  That was a tough spot for anyone to be in.  Michael Jordan is considered in most circles (and rightfully so) as the greatest ever.  It wasn’t supposed to be for many, many years that someone could even be mentioned in the same breath as “His Airness.”  Folks didn’t want to believe that Kobe Bryant was the closest thing we’d get in comparison to Michael.  Similar playing styles, intensity, position and they were both polarizing.  Also, an important fact that is ignored in comparing great players – they played in era’s that over-lapped and weren’t too far from each other’s.  Add to the fact that Kobe’s game was influenced by Michael –  we were given the closest thing to Jordan that we could’ve received as fans.  Many just didn’t want to believe it.

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Another reason for Kobe being taken for granted was that he became the bridge from Jordan – to LeBron.   LeBron brought a different kind of dominance and athleticism never seen before, in the modern basketball era.  Kobe became an after-thought as comparison’s of LeBron James to Michael Jordan seemingly leap frogged Kobe Bryant on the NBA’s All Time great-timeline.

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Kobe realized a fall from grace that no other athlete of his caliber had come across, while still being relevant and in his prime.   A rape charge, that had turned itself into a story of adultery on Bryant’s part.  It didn’t shock folks that Kobe, the world’s biggest basketball star in the world was unfaithful, but his public image took a shot to the ribs.  Sponsors dropped him quicker than one could imagine – who could blame them?  The word “rape” is a hard one to shake off.  Kobe came back from that though.  Winning championships and in turn winning back fans and endorsements.

So why is it Kobe Bryant is taken for granted?   Could it be that in the two season’s prior to this one, his body has not been able to keep up with the physical demands of the sport and has limited him to 41 games?   Could it be that sports-pundits point fingers at him and his contract as the thing holding the Lakers back from rebuilding?  And could it be that questions like those are the ones people have been waiting to throw in Kobe’s direction?

The wanna-be Jordan.  The guy who broke up the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. The adulterer.  The loner. 

The Legend.

You’ll be hard pressed to find another one like him.  The game is changing and personalities like Kobe’s are too “honest” and “upfront” to be taken with the right amount of sarcasm in today’s “over-emotional” and touchy sports-media.

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Some of us grew up with Kobe in the NBA.  As the new class of players came in, we rooted for Kobe because it was how we could fight against the inevitable losing battle to father time and the uprising of a new generation.  We saw our dreams come to fruition and our lives become humbled through Kobe Bryant.  Every generation has their guy.  This one was ours.  We were just lucky enough that it was Kobe Bryant – and nobody else.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

The Social Media Merry Go Round

Sometimes we speak out of anger.  Sometimes we speak just to hear our own voices.  Sometimes we don’t even mean the things we say and still say it.  When you find yourself in one of those moments, stay off of social media.   When your blood is boiling or you feel overcome by the sudden urge to take a jab at someone – take a minute and think about it.  Should you let your hands run rampant on a keyboard?  Should you pull out your phone and “keep it real?”  Or should you just keep it to yourself?

With access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and numerous other social media outlets, it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and say something that was better left unsaid.  For Larry Nance Jr., he’s learning that the hard way.

It’s been well noted that in May of 2012, young Nance sent out this tweet:

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Pretty harsh attack on the “Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant.

Three years later, Nance is drafted by the L.A. Lakers and finds himself in the Black Mamba’s snake pit.

Luckily for Nance, when he apologized to Kobe about words said three years ago, Kobe accepted his apology and said : “We all say things we regret.”  Maybe our usually venom-infused-basketball -reptilian is getting tired in his later stages.  Or maybe, Kobe really just doesn’t care what the 27th pick of the NBA draft had to say about him, 3 years ago.  Whatever it was that let Nance, slip out of the wrath of Kobe – a lesson should be learned to all.

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This isn’t the first time an athlete made a statement on social media and was publicly crucified for it.

Sure, sometimes it’s fun – like when we see Richard Sherman beefing with the likes of Darrelle Revis or Patrick Peterson.  We even enjoy it when the Twitter handles of organizations take cheap shots at each other – but some of these kids have to chill.

Social media has become part of society and has made a huge impact on journalism.  Blog sites can write a two paragraph piece on a single tweet and try to blow up a meaningless joke as something harsh or disrespectful.  Athletes, especially younger athletes – need to understand this.

Some coaches in college like Rick Pitino of Louisville, frowns down at his students who update their lives on social media, because of the risk of saying something stupid that will come back to burn them.   It may seem ridiculous but maybe some college coaches should be hiring social media coaches – or social media regulators on their staffs just to make sure these 18 or 19 year old kids aren’t saying anything reckless for the whole world to see.

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Larry Nance Jr. is just one instance and there will be many more that follow.  Young men like Nance are more concerned with “retweets” and “likes” then maturity.  It’s not totally their fault though, it’s encouraged to be outrageous on social media – those things can make you a star in today’s world.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio