Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Can't Ron Artest Get The Benefit Of The Doubt

I have always found it amusing when friends and fans come running to me after something questionable has occurred regarding a prominent sports figure and not because I know they expect me to have some inside information.  I find it amusing because people always think the worst, or at the very least, they think something shady has been going on.

The latest example of this dynamic is the Ron Artest fall-induced concussion.  When the news first came out that the Lakers forward had fallen down a flight of stairs at this home, it didn't seem that many people were too concerned about his well-being.  Instead, they were all about hearing "what really happened," as if falling down the stairs can never be a legitimate excuse for suffering a concussion and a gash in your elbow.

Behind The Mic: Artest's Christmas Accident

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ron Artest Suffers Concussion In Fall At Home

UPDATE: Ron Artest was examined today in Los Angeles by a neurologist.  Diagnosis from his examination showed that Artest did suffer a concussion in last night’s fall.  Artest’s condition has improved since last night; however, he will continue to see a neurologist on a daily basis until he is cleared to return.  He is definitely out for tonight’s game against the Kings at Sacramento and his status beyond that will be considered day-to-day.  

EL SEGUNDO-   Lakers Forward Ron Artest was injured last night at his home when he tripped over a box and fell down a flight of stairs, suffering an injury to his head and left elbow.

Artest received treatment at the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center, where he was released after undergoing a series of tests, including a CT scan.  He received stitches to the back of his head and to his elbow.

Artest did not accompany the team to Sacramento this morning and is not expected to play in tonight’s game against the Kings.  Artest will be examined today in Los Angeles by a neurologist and after that examination, an update will be given with an estimate as to when Artest will be able to rejoin the team.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Watch Cavs vs. Lakers, But the Real Ticket is LA vs. Boston

In an earlier post on entitled, "Just How Good Are The Lakers," I wrote that we won't really know how good the Lakers are until they go on the road and play some challenging games.  Evidenced by their play on this most recent 5-game trip, I believe we have our answer.  They are pretty damn good, even when they don't play their best.

A further examination of the schedule, however, reveals that the Lakers biggest test of the season will come towards the end of the season's longest road trip--an 8-gamer between January 21 and February 1. Watch Cavs vs. Lakers, But The Real Ticket is LA vs. Boston

Clippers Need to Look Out for No. 1, not wait for No. 1

Wait until Blake gets back!  Wait until Blake gets back!!  That seems to be the Clippers team motto through the first two months of the season.  From fans to players, everyone seems to be waiting with bated breath until the day Blake Griffin rejoins his teammates on the court.

"We'd be scary if we keep playing the way we are and get the No. 1 pick back and get him into the flow of things," Al Thornton said when the team was sitting at 8-10 on the season. "It could be on the up and up."

Well, he's right. The Clippers could be on the up and up with Griffin back in the mix.  Of course, the operable word there is "could." Clippers Need to Look Out for No. 1, not wait for No. 1

The Power of Sports Reaffirmed in "Invictus"

Having the schedule that I have doesn't allow me to get out to the movies very often.  I have always viewed going to the movies as a social outing.  It's something you do on nights and weekends.  The problem for me, of course, is that I work most nights and weekends.  And when I do have that occasional night off, I feel more compelled to catch up on the other things people do on nights and weekends.  Going to dinner.  Hanging out with friends.  Spending a quiet night at home with the family.

It's a minor inconvenience actually, because I really enjoy going to the movies.  They can be such an escape from our everyday lives while also being quite educational.  Two things I have a fond appreciation for.

While on a recent trip through the South to visit family, my wife and I got the chance to go see Invictus starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.  It revisits the story of how Nelson Mandela had the foresight to see how South Africa winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup would be a unifying moment for his fractured and fragmented country.  I don't want to give away too much of the movie in case you haven't seen it, but President Mandela was right.

This movie further strengthened a belief I have long held:  Sports are the most unifying aspect of human society. 

Some of you may counter by saying religion should hold that title, and in terms of pure numbers, you could present a strong case since there are way more Christians and Muslims in this world than football and soccer fans.

However, when I say sports are the most unifying aspect of human society, I am not talking purely about numbers.  I am talking about getting the largest cross-section of the world's population to come together to root for one common team.  Sports are oftentimes the single best rallying point for a country, a state, a city or even a neighborhood.  Sports invoke both passion and pride, while still transcending age, gender and religion.

As unifying as religion has been through the years and can still yet be, how often do you see segregated congregations?  Go into any church in America, and tell me how representative it is of America.  Do you see black, white, brown and yellow parishioners sitting in the pews?  Are there young and old, rich and poor, straight and gay members in the choir?  Sometimes yes, but most oftentimes no.

But go to a Dodgers, Clippers or UCLA game and tell me what you see.  One game you could be sitting next to an old Jewish man and his wife of 50 years.  While the next game, you could be sitting next to a young Latin girl and her domestic partner.  And even though your differences may be numerous, your one commonality of having a favorite sports team can cause you to hug and slap high fives with someone you've never met nor would have otherwise if not for that game.  Does that type of interaction happen in church without being requested or forced by a pastor or priest?

Also, how many wars have been started due to organized religion?  I don't remember too many countries going to battle over the outcome of a basketball game.  I mean, if Team USA getting robbed by the Soviets in the 1972 Olympics couldn't start a war, then no game can.  In fact, sports have often halted fighting between two warring factions as well as played a major role in reconciliation between opposing parties.

I am not trying to say that sports are better than religion, and thus deserve more of your time and passion.  If you are person of strong faith, please continue to be.  Plus, it's great practice for keeping the faith in your favorite team despite it being nowhere close to the playoff hunt.

I just ask you to see in sports today what Nelson Mandela saw in them nearly 15 years ago.  We far too often allow our differences to easily divide us, while forgetting how easily we can be unified through sports. 

If we can all cheer for the Lakers, Angels and USC alongside complete strangers as if we were the best of friends, why can't we just act like the best of friends anyway?  It would certainly make the game of life much more fun and enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NBA Teams Salivating Over John Wall

Over the weekend, I worked the Kansas vs. UCLA game at Pauley Pavilion as part of the Big-12/Pac-10 hardwood series.  In case you missed it, the game wasn’t overly exciting.  The top-ranked Jayhawks played like the best team in the country in stretches and survived a valiant effort from a rebuilding Bruins team, 73-61.

So the story of the day was not the game itself, but rather who came to watch the game and what some of them told me.  With the likes of Xavier Henry, Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt on the court all at the same time, NBA front office personnel were out in full force.  I was told there were about 30 execs, scouts and agents there for the game--the most notable being Pat Riley, Mitch Kupchak (gave him a good ribbing about my Cats taking down his Tarheels earlier in the day)and Mike Dunleavy.  Hell, even Lakers owner Jerry Buss was there, although he may have been scouting the cheerleading talent more than the basketball talent.

I had a chance to speak to several NBA team representatives before and after the game, and guess what name kept coming up the most?  Kentucky’s John Wall.  That’s right.  Despite there being 3 or 4 legit lottery picks in action, the one guy everybody wanted to talk about was UK’s freshman point guard.

Granted it was just a few hours after Kentucky had knocked off North Carolina, but I still found it surprising how many team execs were asking me if I saw Wall’s performance.  Not that I didn’t already realize it before UK beat UNC, but it definitely solidified the guarantee that Wall will be the number one pick in next summer’s NBA Draft.

The NBA is salivating over this ability to handle the ball (especially in traffic), get into the lane seemingly whenever he wants to, and finish at the rim with conviction.  John Calipari isn’t the only one who believes Wall is further advanced that Derrick Rose at the same stage in their development.

“I think John Wall is a man among boys,” said one well-known agent. “His presence on the Kentucky roster is keeping that team undefeated. He makes his teammates better and he's not afraid to take the big shot. Once he gets a consistent jumper, he'll be unstoppable at the next level.”

So enjoy him while you can, UK fans.  This one-and-done show could be one for the ages.


EL SEGUNDO Due to a death in the family, Lakers radio color commentator Mychal Thompson will not be calling the Lakers’ contests December 11 versus Minnesota and December 12 at Utah, it was announced today.  Additionally, Lakers television color commentator Stu Lantz will also miss six games from December 11-20 due to a surgical procedure his wife will be recovering from.  In Lantz’s place, the Lakers will welcome back Naismith Hall of Fame broadcaster “Hot” Rod Hundley, a former Lakers color commentator alongside Chick Hearn and a member of the Lakers inaugural Los Angeles team.  Filling in for Thompson on radio will be injured Lakers forward Luke Walton.

Hundley, selected first overall by the Cincinnati Royals in the 1957 NBA College Draft, originally joined the Lakers in a post-draft trade that brought the three-time West Virginia All-American to Minneapolis prior to the 1957-58 NBA season.

Playing six seasons for the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers, Hundley averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 431 games before retiring following the 1962-63 season.  A two-time NBA All-Star (1960 and 1961), he played alongside the likes of Vern Mikkelsen, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West and helped the Lakers to three Western Division Championships in his six seasons with the team.

Following his playing career, Hundley joined the legendary Chick Hearn in the Lakers broadcast booth as a radio/television color commentator for the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons.  Moving to the Phoenix Suns broadcast position for five more seasons, he found his home behind the mic in 1974 as the voice of the New Orleans Jazz, a position he would hold for the next 35 seasons.

After 31 seasons as the play-by-play voice of Jazz radio/television simulcasts, four seasons as the radio voice of the Jazz and 42 total seasons encompassing more than 3,000 NBA games, Hundley retired from full-time broadcasting following Game 5 of the 2009 Western Conference First Round series between the Lakers and Jazz. 

Hundley will return to STAPLES Center Friday, December 11 and join the Lakers for the next five road games, teaming with Lakers television play-by-play announcer Joel Meyers for the call on FS West Friday and KCAL-9 for the remaining games.   

Walton, whose father Bill was a long-time broadcaster and studio analyst with the Los Angeles Clippers, NBC and ESPN, will join Spero Dedes for the call on 710 AM ESPN Radio.  Prior to his back injury, he appeared in nine games, averaging 3.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 10.6 minutes. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced that Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will return to the broadcast booth for an unprecedented 61st season in 2010.

“For six decades, Dodger fans have been truly blessed to have Vin Scully on the air and we are honored that he will be back in the booth again next season,” said Dodger Owner Frank McCourt. “He has been the one constant over the years and I know that our fans will cherish every game he calls.”

Scully, who recently completed his record-setting 60th campaign with the Dodgers, will be honored prior to a game next season at Dodger Stadium. His 60 years of service constitute the longest tenure of any broadcaster in sports history.

“We have had two exciting seasons consecutively -- getting into the second round of the playoffs -- and when you get that close, you look to the next year as perhaps the one that you go all the way,” said Scully, who celebrated his 82nd birthday on Sunday. “I’m very excited and optimistic about 2010 and the direction we’re heading and we’ll take it year-to-year after that.”

Earlier this year, Scully was named as the top sportscaster of all time by the American Sportscasters Association, an honor that has been bestowed upon him by several other associations and polls. With accolades far too numerous to detail, Scully’s crowning achievement came nearly 30 years ago when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Scully began his baseball broadcasting career in 1950, and since then has gone on to call three perfect games, 19 no-hitters, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star Games.  He was also at the microphone for Kirk Gibson’s miraculous Game 1 homer in the 1988 World Series, Hank Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run, Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 71st, 72nd and 73rd home runs and the scoreless-inning streaks’ of Dodger greats Don Drysdale and Orel Hershiser.

When Scully first began broadcasting, the Dodgers had yet to win a single World Series. Gasoline cost 27 cents a gallon, a postage stamp was just three cents and the minimum wage was only 75 cents per hour. Three years later, at the age of 25, he became the youngest person to ever broadcast a World Series game and in 1955, he had his most memorable moment behind the microphone, as he called the Dodgers' first and only championship in Brooklyn.

The following season, Scully once again found himself in the enviable position of calling what he would later say was the greatest individual performance he had seen -- Don Larsen's perfect game in the World Series, a broadcast which made national news again earlier this year when the MLB Network launched on January 1 with the rare footage of that game.

In 2010, Scully will continue to call all Dodger home games and the club's road games against NL West and AL West opponents. While Scully handles all nine innings of the team's television broadcasts, the first three innings of each of his games is simulcast on radio.