Monday, 26 September 2011
LONDON CALLING LAKERS
LOS ANGELES LAKERS 92-111 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (09/04/10)
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
Lets look back a calender year at the Lakers visit to England's capital London. This is one for the diary. These Great Britain's may have only got to see Kobe for six, scoreless minutes but fans from all over the world navigated through foggy London's rain, tube strikes and rail replacement stresses to catch a glimpse of one of Hollywood and basketball's brightest stars. Fans who payed hundreds and thousands to see him may have only received a sprinkle but what they did see instead is an underdog team beat the top dog while the doberman was in his kennel.
If this was back in the 50's than the Lakers would of been OK because Minneapolis came out on top. These two sides may share associations with the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' but on Monday October 4th 2010 they were separated by a river of 19 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA Europe Live exhibition game in London 111-92. Still even in a loss the Lakers won a lot more fans, so their time overseas is worth a recap. So let's take a look. Here's how it went down.
Metta World Peace-then Ron Artest-is dancing like a star on the baseline during warm ups, no one can eliminate him now. The once party hard Basketball player has shed this image in order to achieve more excellence on the court with Los Angeles. In the 02 arena in London the Lakers look all business in one of the new money making staples in the NBA, the Europe Live tour. A tour that not only helps promote basketball globally but also helps the fans see the stars that are normally too far out of reach. It doesn't get much larger than life or global than Kobe Bryant and as he walks on court with an air of coolness that only comes with people like Michael Jordan or Frank Sinatra the fans go crazy. Even a glimpse almost seems worth the price of admission, but oh does everyone want more.
The Jumbo-tron is showing 'Top Ten' plays of the week from last years season. The fans go wild when Corey Brewers dunk over Derek Fisher plays. Remember the one where Fish hits the deck so hard it looks like he's been Jazzy Jeffed? Well Fisher remains unmoved by this video as he quietly hits jumper after jumper. A top play for Kobe comes up next and this seems to get him in the mood and rhythm as he works the fade away for the crowd while in his warm up sweats. Sasha Vujacic plays keepy up with the basketball, I guess the soccer fever that gripped some of the players with Chelsea FC is kicking in even more. Kobe and Kevin Love of Minnesota address the crowd before the game Kobe stating that he hopes this won't be the Lakers last trip to London. I guess taking in another Chelsea game wouldn't hurt. Than the Laker girls come in to raise the interest in basketball even more and fill in some Truman Show-esque, 'what's going on behind that screen' break in entertainment time while the teams get ready and guys like Brian Shaw go from the sweat's to the suits like Nelly.
The show starts with some Magic in little time. Seconds in Kobe steals the ball and assists Lamar Odom with a dunk for the deuce that is fresh out the box like a new pair of Nikes. Luke Walton (suited up just like daddy in the late 70's) is proud. The game starts with none of the usual rust. Beasley catches and shoots on a difficult angle, Fisher picks a sweet spot and reels it in and Pau Gasol shows his strength inside, (the strength that bettered him against the Celtics) and one. Kobe attempts a few shots before being taken out midway through the first. Kobe however is as cool as Andre 3000, ice cold from the field. Odom however is hot scoring 6 in the first 6. As timeout hits and one Laker legend leaves the floor another one by surprise takes to it. Big Game James Worthy is introduced to the British fans and then is led off by the Laker girls. What a player! Shannon Brown comes in for the game and the former dunk contestant slams home a play of the game contender. Corey Brewer tries to out wow Shannon but a Pau Gasol block shows this up as a ludicrous move, 'Move B****, get out of the way' plays on the PA. At one the lakes are still at 27 apiece.
As Phil Jackson and his new beard look more like their ordering KFC than running plays a team of 'Crazy Dunkers' entertain the crowd before the 2nd, with their high flying, trampoline act. Shannon Brown cant take his eyes off it, he wants in. He does the opposite of the Staples Centre floor in the 02 lighting up in the 2nd. New Laker Steve Blake also looks strong for the Lakers hitting from all angles, whether acute or obtuse. Kobe, however is playing throwback Ronny Turiaf, congratulating and cracking jokes on the pine, logging no time.
Corey Brewer drives home a breakaway dunk to drill home the fact that Minny are within 1 (41-42) with 5 minutes to go in the half. Derek Fisher is sitting next to Kobe glad he wasn't underneath that one. Odom drives to the basket but is fouled by Kevin Love's blocking. There's no love for Kev however as he hits the deck, hard. There's little love as well for Arsenal Football club, who's players are in attendance. I guess the London faithful are with Kobe on this one. The Lakers rookies are showing up. Devin Ebanks is impressing more than he did on the layup line going in for a strong and 1. From the nosebleeds this number 3, athletic, swingman almost makes it look like Trevor Ariza never left. With hard work, hustle and an impressive bank shot from Ebanks in the second period the Lakers seem to be cashing in on this talent.
Darko Millic is playing hard making 'I'm Still Here' plays even if some of his shots are about as good a look as Joaquin Phoenix's beard. Lamar Odom put on an exhibition en route to 17 Points, 6 Rebounds and 3 Steals proving that he wasn't treating this game like an exhibition. Now nobody should call this man lazy. Another written off player Michael Beasley proved key with 24 points off the bench. Late in the 2nd quarter Michael hit a shot reminiscent of Michael. There are chants for Kobe from deep mobs in the crowd as the game reaches a quiet storm. As the seconds tick down and the backboard illuminates red Trey Johnson scores the rock off the roll but doesn't beat the buzzer. No dice. Halftime!
As most fans head for hot dogs and merchandise an illusionist and his assistant perform for those still in attendance. Their old school magic is still classic like Earvin with that wonderment and amazement. As the 3rd act starts Sasha is in for Kobe and Artest is hustling for everybody. There's no lull in the third as Lamar Odom shakes and bakes and then crosses Beasley. LO leaves B on the floor stepping over him carefully but like Iverson over Tyronne Lue. Odom than kicks it out for Fisher who is as clear as the Hudson but hesitates and is rejected by that 'bust' Darko Milcic. Next play down the floor though Fisher takes the bait again but this time sinks the line. Back down on the other side of the floor and down low Darko posts up impressively before going up for air. I guess the boom is over. Still Wesley Johnson throws in an alley oop and the fans begin to see that they’ve neglected the fact that Minnesota is leading 65-58.
WHERE'S KOBE? Right now he's missing and in demand like Bill Clinton on the new NBA Jam commercials showing on the Jumbotron. The Lakers second option Gasol is also not looking as perfect as he was in practice but the Lakes are still in the show. Minny point Luke Ridnour works the new school pick and roll with Beasley, hitting him behind the back for the assist on the open 3. Then off a steal he wipes the ball off the glass to Johnson for the dunk. Even Artest has to give it up, you can’t stop that. Then Barnes comes in for Ron one enigmatic, controversial, former thorn in Kobe's side, defensive player deserves another. The score is 78-65, Timberwolves. This is no mini run in the third quarter, it's a Minny run. The action is still punctuated by chants for Kobe but his knee is Ruben Patterson.
The Lakers second and third units begin to lack cohesion. Sasha's clear for three but isnt open for business. The Lakers need a spark, so they plug in Shannon Brown, who re-enters the game to a half Kobe ovation. As the Kobe cheers get louder Kobe flashes that Michael Jordan smile and for just a second it looks like he's going to shed his warm ups. The Lakers sure need him as this new look Minnesota team are leaving the Lake show lost in the woods like Kanye West sampling Bon Iver. Minnesota are playing like a monster team-no one man wolf pack, no Alan-while the Lakers are looking a little hungover. Los Angeles sober up however with a Barnes burner from the corner and a follow up to close the gap to 87-74.
The iPhone’s and Blackberry’s are on pause as Kobe remains on ice. Surely he's not about to return now, coming into the game cold, risking another injury. The show must go on however and Brown and Barnes work some 80's Forum magic. It all seems a little too late however. Most Lakers are polishing pine and when Barnes slaps the ball in frustration it can be heard in the upper decks, the Lakers aren’t playing their full hand. There are more Kobe chants, and those smiles again, complete with raised eyebrows, he loves it, the fans don’t, both parties want to dance. The game begins to get real scrappy beyond the meat. The Lakers take too many steps, elementary stuff as the master gets schooled by the pupil. Than Matt Barnes gets messy around the hoop and really wishes his layup was a pass as Brown clears the table for him. It's just one of those bad days at the office. At 9:02 it's Minnesota 92, Los Angeles 78.
The Lakers try to run. Blake to Brown for the bucket but Blake is a little too fast and a little too offensive as the referee charges the foul. With 5:58 the Lakers 58th pick in this year’s draft adds some 'character' to the Lakers D, blocking twice to try and keep Hollywood acting in this picture. All the times that Derrick Caracter has practiced with defensive maestro Theo Ratliff have seem to have paid off for the young buck. The Laker girls come in for some real entertainment while NBA legend Bruce Bowen is sitting courtside complete with a cold and an even colder bowtie. Even the Lakers would want their old rival to shed his bowtie and suit up right now. The Lakers cant blame Bruce Bowen on Kobe being locked down this time however. Back on court Gasol throws down a dunk that the good Doctor J ordered in an attempt to breathe life into himself and his team. Still however the Lakers are getting caught in a Webster of 24 silky smooth points from Martell.
As the 5 minute to go mark arrives Minnesota hit Taco country, reaching 100 points while the Lakers are yet to make 90. Now Ridnour is making baskets look like a piece of cake en route to this lottery team blowing out the defending champion. As fans begin to walk out to beat the traffic and the tube strikes the game draws to a close. The players drop the ball and embrace before the final seconds run down. So the brethren of thousands in its purple and gold in the 02 may have left the game disappointed but that one Minnesota fan in attendance will be undoubtedly happy. The Timberwolves made a great star to both their Europe tour and their underrated season (they tested the Lakers again) but as the Lakers travel East to Barcelona they hoped to get things right, although they lost again in what would end up being a losing season. A lockout year later and Pau is heading back to Barcelona to hone his game. It's funny how things work out sometimes. Expect this Spanish bull and the Lakers to be back though after this European vacation some stars are taking to show the Dallas Mavericks and the rest of the NBA that the honeymoon is over. Then when the Lakers are back at full strength, they'll be no joke and it'll really be no fun and games, forget the lockout. TIM DAVID HARVEY