- Bill Walton, NBA analyst
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Went to see the captain
Strangest I could find
Laid my proposition down
Laid it on the line
I had the privilege of spending the weekend in LeBron City, the first of what promises to be many in the years to come. Then again, I do faintly remember that we said the same thing about Orlando a number of different times over the last decade, and THAT hasn't really worked out. But what a nice place, anyway, this up-and-coming metropolis, LeBron City. All the plazas, parks and promenades. The statues, history and culture.
They've come a long way in LeBron City from the old days of the Richfield Coliseum, when it was arguably the WORST stop in the HISTORY of the NBA. Now though, everything is downtown, within easy-walking distance, all the sports' complexes, hotels and malls bustled together, the airport just a short jaunt down the road. If they can now only do SOMETHING about all the humanoids who gather dangerously just outside each and every doorway to burn yet another cigarette, then things would be pretty close to being cool.
While strolling to one of my favorite stops -- the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- I couldn't help but notice and admire two magnificent statues adorning the County Courthouse overlooking beautiful Lake Erie, Browns Stadium and The Hall. The memorials were to two great Americans, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. I could not escape the thought, though, that one day some of these same humanoids -- somewhere -- are going to want to put up some similar statues of guys like Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Charlton Heston. Then again, people are still standing in the doorways puffing away and parents are still dropping off their young children at the Neverland Gates. I guess I just assume that rational thought is part of the evolutionary process.
I won't slave for beggar's pay
Likewise gold and jewels
But I would slave to learn the way
To sink your ship of fools
That process took a real jolt this week as I was trying to figure out whether the hot, dry, windy weather of Southern California was really a Santa Ana climactic phenomena OR RATHER Kobe Bryant's exhale of relief now that Michael Jackson has been arrested. News of Kobe's problems can now be found on Celebrity Court TV 9. It was all so reminiscent of days gone by when Jim Harrick was then coaching at UCLA. After yet another disappointing flameout to yet another inept opponent in the early rounds of the hallowed NCAA Tournament, the annual rite of spring -- the firing of Jim Harrick -- began to dominate the bored jackals of the emerging industry of hate-radio and the who-can-we-take-down-today media. Please remember that this was before multi-tasking, so just as Harrick was about to be pushed over the cliff, Magic Johnson unexpectedly announced that he would, after years off, be returning to PLAY for the Lakers. We never heard another word about the besieged UCLA coach as Jim Harrick lived to lose another day.
Ship of fools on a cruel sea
Ship of fools sail away from me
It's hard to think very long about Kobe, Magic and the Lakers these days without being overwhelmed if not bombarded by Kobe's pending free agency -- a fact that he seems to keep bringing up. I fully believe that Kobe will be a Laker for life. What situation could possibly be better for him? This scenario is driven by his previously-negotiated RIGHT to make more money from his current employer. And what is wrong with THAT? But as things change daily in the ever-tenuous world of the NBA, what is Dr. Jerry Buss to do if Kobe decides to force HIS boss to choose between Shaq, Phil and Kobe himself. Let's see now: Shaq's leg is sore, Phil says he doesn't want to coach much longer and Kobe is 25 years old. Laker fans can ONLY hope that THIS is really only about the MONEY.
It was later than I thought
When I first believed you
But now I cannot share your laughter
Ship of fools
One of the many things that I particularly like about Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan is that they NEVER seem to do ANYTHING -- other than play ball, of course -- that is designed to bring attention to them.
The Sacramento Kings' Brad Miller recorded his first career triple double Friday night against the Orlando Magic. That extraordinary feat either puts him in the same class as Wilt, Kareem, Hakeem and David Robinson OR makes you wonder if the Magic are the WORST TEAM in the history of the NBA. It's your call.
Saw your first ship sink and drown
From rockin' of the boat
I was never so relieved to see the NBA ingeniously revamp the divisional alignments this week. Forget about the new Paris Hilton exercise video. ANYTHING that comes closer to the Washington Wizards hanging that NEXT division championship banner is what I TRULY lie awake at night dreaming about.
And all that could not sink or swim
Were just left there to float
For those of you just returning from an extended stay at the Mars Hotel, you might find it interesting or disturbing -- it's your choice -- that the Denver-Dallas game on Saturday night was far superior to the Philadelphia-New York stinker. David Stern and ESPN must be ecstatic.
With all the Knicks' struggles and woes, it's sometimes difficult to fathom what their strategy is to get out of their current morass. As they continue to lose most of their games while searching for ways to get under the salary cap, maybe they're trying to emulate the Clippers. After all, it's worked for THAT L.A. team. The Clippers have become fabulously successful at the bank with a low payroll and their share of the dispersal of the luxury-tax penalties. Who would have ever thought it? But the Clippers are now the newest role model for financial success in today's NBA. You don't think that the Knicks are about to employ the services of master-illusionist David Blaine, who sat courtside during that 76ers thriller on Saturday at the Garden, do you?
I won't leave you drifting down
But whoa it makes me wild
It was sad although not entirely unexpected to see the explosion on the Nets this week between Kenyon Martin and Alonzo Mourning. Not the tension or the altercation itself -- THAT is what you WANT when a team is struggling. But the fact that it got so intensely personal, like the Shaq and Kobe "thing" a month ago. Injuries and illness are like children, concerts and championships: you can't rate or compare them. And now Alonzo's gone and this will always hang over the head of a young man, Kenyon Martin, who over time will learn that no matter how much you want it, some things you just can't get back.
With 30 years upon my head
You have to call me child
Being the big NHL fan that I am, I was mesmerized by the outdoor game in Edmonton over the weekend played in sub-zero weather. Now those guys are REAL MEN ... or REAL STUPID.
The bottle stand is empty now
As they were filled before
I constantly run into people who are always telling me how unfortunate I am that I was born to soon and that I'm not playing in today's game. I must disagree with them and would not trade my life's experiences for anything. But I will confess to being more than a bit SAD to have missed out on the chance -- some would call it a privilege -- to have played with Keyshawn Johnson.
Ship of fools on a cruel sea
Ship of fools, sail away from me
While taking a pregame inspirational stroll through LeBron City's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon with erstwhile Celtic teammate Jerry Sichting, it was fun to see all the old guys: Jerry, Bob, The Doors, Jimi, Carlos, Eric, Neil, Janis, Bruce, The Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Stones and Beatles. But also a moment of thanks and reflection for the newest inductees just announced that day: George Harrison and Jackson Browne -- two of the most righteous and stand-up guys ever. And then, Bob Seger -- the Detroit icon. Jerry and I had a good laugh remembering the days when Bob would attend the Celtic-Piston battles of the '80s at the old Silverdome, sitting in the front row, along the baseline. Bob had to do his best to act like he wanted the Pistons to win, but everybody knew that he was REALLY a Celtic fan. How could he NOT be? I mean, what kind of choice is THAT: Bird, McHale and Parish or Laimbeer, Rodman and Mahorn? We WERE talking earlier about EVOLUTIONARY PROGRESS weren't we?
Time there was, and plenty
But from that cup no more
And while Jerry Sichting and I were glowing in the aura of the colorful history of Rock and Roll, I could not help from drifting back to the day that LeBron's teammate, Darius Miles and I spent together in the Haight Ashbury last season as part of the "Long Strange Trip Tour of America." It was Darius' first time to the Capital City and it was not clear whether or not he was fully aware of the historical significance of the people and the places. Ram Rod, The People's Café, Tom Stack, Waterfall, 710 Ashbury, Magnolia Brewing Company, Positively Haight Street, Recycled Records, Frisbees (which Darius had never seen) and flowers in the ladies' hair. Darius was such a good sport that day -- as he always is -- but I knew I was up against it with him when we came across a large, outdoor wall-mural on Haight Street with so many of the legends and their legacies so colorfully depicted. Darius asked about all of them and I carefully and meticulously recanted the history of the Golden Age. Needless to say, I was stunned when Darius said he had NEVER HEARD of Jimi Hendrix, although it was close to being equally distressing to see Darius go 0-for-11 Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks. You REALLY have to question some of your bedrock beliefs when you go 0-for-11 against the HAWKS.
Though I could not caution all
I still might warn a few
A lot of concern this week as the LeBron Cavaliers played their first four-games-in-five-nights run of LeBron's career -- a stint that saw them beat the Clippers at home then lose the next three straight badly. Am I the only one that is alarmed that LeBron is fourth in the league in minutes played at 40-plus per night? It probably would NOT be a good idea for the 18-year-old to join Wilt and the "Big E" Elvin Hayes as the ONLY rookies in NBA history to lead the league in minutes played. Oscar Robertson, at almost 43 minutes per game, would be a part of THAT rookie list except that HIS rookie year came during Wilt's run of playing more minutes than ANYONE for eight of his FIRST nine seasons.
I don't know what was more surprising to me this week in LeBron City: the staggering level of interest in all things NBA in what used to be a morgue OR the sunny, balmy 75-degree weather we enjoyed there in late November. That LeBron! He changes EVERYTHING!
With the big holiday shopping weekend on the horizon -- I LIVE for these days of crowds, malls and stuff -- I suggest a BOOK. Not a NEW one mind you, but still, WELL WORTH the read. It's six years old now and it's still totally relevant -- The Reverend Philip Berrigan's "Fighting The Lamb's War." We can talk about where to put the statue later ...
Don't lend your hand to raise no flag
Atop no ship of fools
As I soon head off to beautiful Detroit for the Thanksgiving holiday, I'm sad that I'm going to miss Larry Brown's return to the City of Brotherly Love this Wednesday night. THAT promises to be a TENDER evening. And while we all pray for a safe outcome, those prayers are also proffered to the young international talent on Larry's Detroit Pistons. First, that Mehmet Okur's family in Istanbul is safe from the madness. Then, we can all only hope that Darko Milicic does EVENTUALLY score THIS season. We ARE a month into it now.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Count your blessings and never forget that things work out best for those who make the best out of the way things work out.
They're building quite a city around LeBron James in Cleveland. Also, thoughts on Jacko and Paris Hilton.