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Monday, October 13, 2008

The LA Sports Blog: C-H-A-D

The ArmchairGM Burns

By: Nate Gordon

Generally I am a fairly consistent writer; two times a month minimum in slow times, once a week during busy times, three times a week when highly motivated. On the contrary, however, I’ve been stymied by a real life event that I both never though I’d have to endure at this point in my life, nor would believe the magnitude of it I did experience such a thing. My close friend and neighbor Chad, who I’ve known since I was 10, passed away on September 7 th due to complications of substance abuse. It’s been a troubling, sobering, anomaly of an experience. A diehard Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Broncos fan, I’d often draw motivation to write off of a conversation I had with Chad. The last 6 weeks have been to say the least, an experience, an experience I’ve been unable to write through.

That is until this afternoon. Sitting at my desk, reflecting on the previous weeks sports events my mind wandered into a faux conversation with Chad. I could see and hear his excitement over the Dodgers and his corny jokes about the Raiders. As I thought about this I was quickly drawn into side thoughts about each team, Dodgers and Raiders respectively. What came of it was an analysis of the state of each team currently. I’m going to share the thoughts on the Dodgers with you today, but I’m going to write in the spirit of Chad, so the language and grammar might not sound like my voice, but it’s only because you’re talking to Chad. So without further ado, here is Chad’s take on the Dodgers:

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are NL West champions, and 3 wins shy of their first World Series since I was 2. I’ve been attending Dodgers games since 1990 and there are “5 best of the last 20 years” on this team. I’m certain of that have made this team what it is:

  • Manny Ramirez is the best player to play for the Dodgers the last 20 years.

You think this is obvious right? Manny is a lock Hall of Famer having one of his best statistical seasons while wearing Blue. However there is more to this then one may see. You see, I’ve watched tons of great players in a Dodger uniform, but not all of them played to their potential, or were in their primes when they were with the club. Pedro Martinez and Vlad Guerrero, both as farm hands/fringe big leaders were moved to Montreal. I’ve seen Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza both come through here and put up their respective numbers. But no one has played as hard or as well as Manny.

Now the next caveat purposed would be that Manny won’t be here next year. My answer? So freaking what! If he helps us win a ring, thank you for your services and have a nice day! I don’t see past this season, not when I’ve endured 20 years of losing from a proud and successful organization. If I was a Giants fan I could cope – not as a Dodgers fan.

  • Joe Torre is the best Dodgers Manager of the last 20 years:

Now this is unfair because it would technically reach into Lasorda Era. So excluding Tommy Lasorda we’ve been subjected to Davey Johnson, Glen Hoffman, Jim Tracy and Grady Little. So enough said, Joe is the best since Tommy.

Derek Lowe, Dodgers Ace
Derek Lowe, Dodgers Ace
  • Derek Lowe is the best Dodgers Pitcher of the last 20 years:

I’m not going into stats, ERA, sabermatrics or anything like that. I’m going off of what I’ve seen with my own two eyes and no one since “Bulldog” Orel Hershiser has been more consistent than or as talented as Derek Lowe. Lowe, the textbook sinker-baller, has been automatic the last two months and is playing his best baseball since arriving in LA. He’s been the true Ace of the staff on and off the mound and has brought a calm and consistency to that clubhouse by ensuring the position players that at least once ever five days they are getting a quality start from their pitcher.

James Loney, Dodgers First Basemen
James Loney, Dodgers First Basemen
  • James Loney is our best first round draft pick of the last 20 years.

Loney was a highly regarded High School pitcher but was assumed to be unable to play position baseball. Logan White, Dodgers scouting director, had a different idea. Called a “waste of valuable talent” at the time, the Dodgers selected Loney in 2006 as a first basemen. Two seasons later Loney was starting in Los Angeles as the first basemen, batting over .300 and showing a prowess for defense and power.

Russell Martin, Dodgers All-Star/Silver Slugger Catcher
Russell Martin, Dodgers All-Star/Silver Slugger Catcher

Russell Martin undid a childhood of Pizza and LoDuca memories in his rookie season alone. This season his continued his solid pitching staff management while putting up consistent numbers at the plate. The kid is gifted with unnatural speed for a catcher and a leadership quality that borders on arrogant. While that attitude has rubbed some veteran teammates the wrong way, it has thrilled fans and emboldened other young teammates. Martin seems poised to be the franchise catcher well into the next decade and I for one will be thrilled to go see him at Chavez Ravine year after year.

So if Chad was still around this is how he would see the current state of Dodgers affairs. Success behind 5 of the best Dodgers of the last 20 years, all at pivotal positions: Catcher, Pitcher, First Base, Left Field and Manager. I’ll never get my friend back, and I’ll never to get share another memory with him like the ones we made. But hopefully, if you have a friend that is special to you like Chad was to me, you’ll cherish the time you have together, because it can be gone tomorrow.

Mr. Burns, AGM Burns Mascot
Mr. Burns, AGM Burns Mascot

Sunday, February 3, 2008

LA Sports Blog: Good Friday

This was orginally posted 2/1/08 and is being reposted due to an error.

By: Nate Gordon

I'm sitting on my buddy Steve's couch this afternoon watching ESPN after stopping by the rental office to pay the rent, it is the first of the month after all. After the relief of paying for the housing and partaking in some after class activities Steve and I stare into the television and allow the PTI guys to inform us of the days events. The problem was that neither of us were focused on what was actually on the television, Steve was ignoring his girlfriend who was talking to him from the other couch, and I was just staring off thinking about everything that had happened in my life in the last 24 hours. I come out of my day dreaming slightly because I see Lakers on the TV but I can't figure out why; then the words at the bottom of the screen jumped out and inject me with a shot of excitement: "Gasol traded to Lakers". I payed attention just in time to hear Korn-hole say that the deal was for 2 picks, Javaris Crittenton and Kwame Brown and Aaron McKey's contracts.

Futility be damned! No longer shall you haunt the halls of Staples Center! No longer shall you turn sure dunks into missed lay ups, and easy And 1s into missed a lay up plus two missed free throws! Kwame Brown had finally been traded from the Los Angeles Lakers and no longer would the fanbase, and team have to suffer through his uselessness and offensive impotencey that could only be compared to another different impotence. I had to call Jeff (who is home sick with the flu) right away and let him know that the days of Kwame Brown were finished.


"Jeff, the Lakers finally traded Kwame Brown"

"What? Are you serious?"

"Ya man, they traded Kwame, two picks and J. Crittenton for Pau Gasol."

"What!?!?! Dude..."

"What? You don't like it?"

"No dude - J. Crit. is going to be a star man, that was a big mistake"

"But dude, Pau Gasol -"

"Dude, Kwame, whatever, J. Crit is gonna be huge." *click*

I'm thinking to myself the fever has gotten to Jeff's brain, one of the big reasons this blog was started was that Kwame sucked and needed to be traded. We finally got what we wanted and the kid is hung up on J. Crit? *ring*

"Yo Jeff."

"Dude, I'm sorry, the flu must be getting to me, I didn't even realize you said Pau Facking Gasol!"

"Ya dude can you believe it? The Lakers get an All Star big man in his prime to go with Bynum, Lamar, Kobe and D-Fish, this is gonna be huge"

"Ya man Pau can help the Lakers make the Finals"

"And like Steve said to me Jeff, J. Crit would breakthrough before Kobe is done in LA and he will leave for bigger money, this way we get a top notch player for his potential."

That summed it up right there, Lakers management found the right mix of youthful potential, picks and contracts to get the player that could propel the Lakers into the Conference Finals and maybe into the NBA Finals. I would love to see a modern day Lakers vs. Celtics Finals.Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum vs. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins - what a 7 game series that could turn out to be! There are 6 All Stars in those line ups combined, the ratings would be through the roof. The Finals would finally bring household appeal back to the Playoffs with such an match up. Of course, this is all hypothetical, but one can dream in the hype of the minutes after a blockbuster trade.

The Lakers fanbase pretty much are united in the belief that this trade was a huge step in the right direction for the franchise. Some have gone so far as to say that this is already enough to make Kobe want to commit to the team past 2009. I won't go so far as to say that, but I will say that if he was sitting on the fence when he woke up this morning, he is most likely leaning towards ending his career as a Laker as of right now.

Steve and I agreed that this was a great move and Steve even proclaimed "I'm now going to watch every Lakers game for the rest of my life." He was so happy he even started paying attention to what his girlfriend was saying. I sat back and smiled, finished the after school activities and gathered my things to go home and take care of family business. Even though things were so high in the aftermath of the trade breaking, I was about to be brought back to earth. But then I thought to myself "there is no reason to be brought back down by the upcoming errands, the removal of Kwame Brown from my life was like finally breaking all contact with an ex that was 10% sex and 90% drama and bullshat.

So the Lakers rolled into Toronto with a short bench, but who needs Kwame when Kobe Bryant goes for 46 on 19 of 28 shooting, adding 7 boards and 5 assist. With this 40 point game Kobe moved to 3rd on the all time list with 89, passing James Worthy. The Lakers cruised to a 121-101 victory, Sasha Vujacic was huge in his 26 minutes off the bench dropping 22 points with 4 threes. The Lakers shot 55% and got a much needed win after a tough loss the other night against the Pistons. They are now 1-1 in the 9 game road trip, the inclusion of Gasol on Sunday should increase their odds of finishing the road trip strong.

I called this Good Friday not because it was all good for me, but beacuse it was wonderful for so many people. The day was beautiful, the blockbuster move was made and the Lakers short handed played the Raptors off their own court. Upon reflection it was a good Friday for me as well - the dream I lobbied to have realized for so long was finallly reached - and as Newton theorized "for every action there is an equal an opposite reaction".


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ripe for the Picking

By: Jeff Girouard

As Laker nation holds its collective breath for Andrew Bynum and mulls the possible addition of Chris Webber, reality and first place in the Western Conference (the Lakers are currently in sole possession of first) stare them in the face tonight. Phoenix rolls into town, winners of 7 of their last ten, and that glaring hole in the middle of the Laker lineup will certainly be the topic of pre-game chatter.

While Suns fans see this club as ripe for the picking, Laker fans most cope, at least for one game, with the idea that Kwame Brown will be our anchor. He has become a defensive stalwart in the one-on-one game, matching up well with folks like Carlos Boozer and even Yao Ming, but this means very little against one of the best pick and roll center-point guard combinations in the Association. Amare should have a huge game tonight. Also, his offensive prowess (or lack thereof) is considerably inadequate when compared to Bynum’s soft hands and clever footwork. Moreover, Drew’s game makes Amare work on the defensive end and has traditionally gotten him into early foul trouble, especially at Staples. So I suspect Amare should have a huge game tonight.

However, perhaps lost in this panic of the Bynum injury is another key loss: Vald Radmonovic. That’s right, the snowboarding space cadet, will be sorely missed in tonight’s game. Though he was a relative no-show in their first meeting in Los Angeles, his shooting was critical to the Laker’s blowout win in Phoenix way back on November 2nd. Without him as an outside shooting threat look for the Sun’s to pack the middle and focus on limiting LA’s points in the paint. Make no mistake the Sun’s hate to see the Lakers sitting atop the Pacific Division and their vulnerability is sure to induce maximum effort at both ends.

Check back for a full Laker Report sometime this weekend.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

L.A. Sports Blog: Laker Report 1/12

By: Jeff Girouard

Filing out of Staples after last night’s thumping of the Milwaukee Bucks, my buddy Ehsan and I were overcome with giddiness. As we made our way to the parking structure, grinning from ear-to-ear, we reenacted the most vicious dunks of the night with our balled up lineup scripts and lamented how the place came positively unglued after a Jordan Farmar three two minutes in to the fourth quarter. We noted the fact that Kwame was the only Laker to get consistently heckled and shared a laugh over a fan’s air-ball in the Jackpot halfcourt shot. (By the way, if by the off-chance you are somehow reading this “Rick from Wherever-the-fuck,” the next time you get a halfcourt shot for $115,000 make sure you draw at least some back board. I’m not one to pile on, but the miss was so horrendous he barely drew paint. That’s right paint. You make the Sports Guy look like Bob Cousy in that “E:60" piece he did a few weeks back. Shame.)

Once we found the car the realities of LA gridlock began to supplant our excitement. A few minutes of silent reflection were broken when I turned to Ehsan and asked confidently, “Too easy?”

“Too easy,” he said.

The final five point margin of victory is not indicative of the passing clinic on display Friday night. I assure you we are not the most arrogant of fans. Indeed, far from it. We were stressing over a 17-point lead third quarter lead in Wednesday’s game against the Hornets, rationalizing that it was a road game and Chris Paul really is that good. The Lakers won by 29.

The Lakers are moving the ball crisply and making cross-court passes to the corners, almost blindly, trusting that a teammate will be there to receive it. Their attack is deliberate. Even Trevor Ariza seems to be finding his way faster than most would have expected. Perhaps Phil is simply doing a masterful job of masking Trevor’s triangle learning curve by using him effectively in baseline cuts and dump-offs giving him clear lanes to slash to the basket. In any event they're making it look easy out there.

But don’t take my word for it, check out these post game comments from Buck’s Coach Larry Krystkowiak:

"A really well oiled machine that moves the ball. They get up and down the floor really fast. I think based on what I've seen they may be the best passing team that's playing right now.”

He even gave a tip of the cap to management, adding “"I think the blend that they've found over there is perfect.”

A few notes from last night’s game...

Mo Williams is worth every penny of that six-year, $51.5 million contract he signed before the season. His aggressiveness is uncanny and he’s playing with profound confidence. Television really fails to capture his quickness. In fact, he was the Buck’s offense for the majority of the game, outscoring Kobe through three quarters of play. Imagine how Miami would look today had he signed. Sad.

Yi is a quality player. He’s got a great stroke, finding nothing but net on most of his jumpers, but he was not assertive enough to be effective in any other facet.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the month and a half Andrew Bynum is a beast. I’m not certain what was made about the fact that he was drafted 9 slots lower than Bogut in the ‘05 draft on the ESPN telecast, but Friday night’s the match up was a truly one-sided affair. Bynum’s clever moves in the pivot titillated Laker fans all evening and his monster alley-oop jam brought LA fans to their feet. (Which I’m ashamed to admit is a relatively tall task, as most fans are of the “too cool for school” variety.) He even received a smattering of playful “MVP” chants from a handful of overzealous fans, when he shot a pair of free throws in the first half. He continued to impress, shooting a killer 10-13 from the floor. He made it all look too easy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I hope I don't wake up to a horse head in my bed

By: Jeff Girouard

After avoiding all things sports for the last 14 hours, my anger has subsided. Hoping to find a clearer perspective on just what the hell happened in that Laker loss to the Cavs last night, I've come to some rather unsettling conclusions.

Three days before the start of the season, Rasheed Wallace had these comments regarding last season's Eastern Conference Finals series:"This game ain't basketball anymore, it's entertainment. It's starting to get like the WWF. There ain't no real wrestling anymore either. It's all fake."

I did not take these accusations as lightly as some television pundits, who dismissed his reaction as simply "'Sheed being 'Sheed." It's unfortunate that his reputation, has soiled his credibility. He may be a little extreme in his assessment of the current state of officiating in the NBA, but there are certainly nuggets of truth in that statement.

Has the game really become predictable? Will championships and playoff series continue to be decided from the charity stripe? Look I understand superstars get special treatment, that ratings are important and that invested interests usurp what is actually happening on the floor. I get it I'm a Laker fan. I remember game 6 of the '02 Western Conference finals against the Kings. I remember that phantom call against the T'Wolves in '04. That being said, does our acceptance of these factors really make the NBA fan base anymore naive than, say, pro wrestling fans?

Heres a rundown of the last 3-4 minutes of last night's ballgame:

With 3:16 the Lakers have a 2 point lead 90-88 and 2 fouls to give. Kobe draws a blocking foul trying to take a charge on Larry Hughes in the backcourt. There was little contact on the play and Kobe didn't force Hughes to lose his dribble. The play was probably a no call, but still reasonable. Not 5 seconds later Derek Fisher is called for a ticky-tack blocking call on Daniel Gibson. Again, probably a no call, but just like that, Cleveland is shooting free throws the rest of the game. Fast forward to Lakers last chance to tie or win the game, with the score 92-90. On the long rebound (a completely free basketball) Fisher secures the ball with both hands, but a mid-air collision with Daniel Gibson leads to the game ending loose-ball foul. GAME ENDING LOOSE BALL FOUL??

My initial response to those questionable calls were: a) Sad, but predictable and b) We should get some calls like that in the rematch in Los Angeles. I don't think I was the only one with these immediate reactions, which disturbing. Its really unfortunate that the psyche of the NBA fan has devolved to the point that we must even consider such a subplot. Are we as fans doomed to face a never ending cycle of give and take, when it comes to officiating?


Oh yeah and the spread on last night's game... had the Cavs favored by 2 at home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The LA Sports Blog: What's that all a-boot?

By: Jeff Girouard

After being up by as many as 11 in the first half, the Clippers squandered yet victory, falling 80-77 to the Toronto Raptors. With Elton, Sam, and Shaun Livingston all out with injuries, the Clippers have really struggled to find their way offensively this season. They are certainly still a talented group, but the lack of a dominant personality on the court has turned this team into a bunch of freelancers, a professional pick up team.
I thought the Brand injury might finally afford Corey Maggette the opportunity to maybe, possibly be “the guy” on this squad. However, nagging injuries have kept him from entering that Richard Jefferson, Josh Howard territory. Currently, the Clippers are a team in search of an identity. That frame of mind leads players like Tim Thomas to bank home a three one possession and on the very next play pull up from 30 and launch another long 3 off the back iron, at a critical stage in the second half, no less. No continuity, no balance to the attack

Two stats were killers on Tuesday: free-throw shooting and team turnovers. At home, on a night when perimeter jumpers just aren’t falling (a meager 39% from the floor), you’ve got to get to the line. Chris Bosh finished with 24 and 9 for the Raptors, but struggled from the field (a pedestrian 6-22). Bosh made it to the line 16 times and Toronto as a team shot 12 more free throws than the Clippers, which in a 3 point loss is critical. The other stat that jumps out is the turnover category. Los Angeles didn’t have an overwhelmingly high number of giveaways (15), but the Raptors certainly took care of the ball, as the Clippers forced just 6 turnovers on the evening.

On a related note: Jose Calderon is really, really good. Calderon continues to make me look like an NBA fantasy genius, as his 12 points on a super-efficient 4-6 from the floor, 6 boards and 9 assists (and 0 turnovers) lead the way for the Raptors. And to think I was able to pick this kid up Week 3 off the waiver wire, in a 12 team league.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

NBA -Thy Name Is Andrew Bynum

By: Nate Gordon

When the petulant, spoiled and possible sexually impotent son of the owner of your hometown franchise drafts a 17 year old out of the Draft Night bleachers, your bound to have a few restless nights. When you pay $2000 a night for floor level seats, your questioning your investment. When your the star of said franchise, you stop macking on the chick who works the register at the Dolce&Gabana store at South Coast Plaza to say "What the F%$@"??? That spoiled, alleged Enzyte user is jim buss, that kid is Andrew Bynum and that superstar is Kobe Bryant.

However that spring night in 2005 seems like a distant memory, and the shy loppy man-child has grown into a true NBA center, in the mold of his mentor Kareem Abdul-Jabar. His minutes have increased week by week and therefore his conditioning has improved. The love shown by Phil Jackson has allowed young Master Bynum to flourish defensively. He's been averaging 10 rebounds a game and over 2 blocks. Over the last 2 games he's recorded 10 blocks! (6 last game, 4 this game) Bynum recorded over 40 minutes in tonight's 12 point win over the Bulls (103-91) and helped the Lakers improve to 15-9. This was the first time Bynum recorded over 40 minutes in a game in his career. He's producing nightly double doubles and uncanny defensive ability, proven last night in containing Chris Kaman, and his dominance over Chicago's "defensive" big men posting 12 points, 10 rebounds and the aforementioned 4 blocks.

With tonight's win, Andrew has proven himself against Ben Wallace, Marcus Camby, Jermaine O'Neal, Sheed Wallace, Yao Ming, Carlos Boozer and Amare Stodemire. I think it's safe to say that Andrew is among the leagues 2nd tier of Centers and is only going to get better with each passing game. If you haven't taken notice, look out now because LA's "Baby Showtime" is starting to grow into it's own.


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