Sunday, 16 October 2016

#CourtsideColumn DUNKING IN L.A.


L.A.X. Welcome to Los Angeles, California. Hollywood. The home of movies and stars. Now as we make our descent on our runway, look to your left and you may see someone running like that time Leonardo DiCaprio took off from his Pan Am flight and told Tom Hanks 'Catch Me If You Can'. Ready to fly it could be a bird, a Griffin, or even a Jordan. And whose controlling all this air traffic? A man holding a basketball instead of those two ping pong bats. Some call him CP3. The Lakers almost called him theirs. Until NBA commissioner David Stern was involved in a nixing scandal, no Watergate, but no water under the bridge. See Los Angeles will always be Lakerland but in recent years from news clippings to barbershop ones the Los Angles Clippers have claimed their home town as their own. Even renaming it as the red, white and Buffalo blue have taken some of the gold gleam from the purple reigned heart of the City of Angels. But who would have thought that the retirement of one of the greatest ever, let alone the West best L.A., Kobe Bryant would be the thing that truly brought the Lakers back from the brink?

And now they're about to take Lob City...and make it theirs!

Last night in a coastal Californian clash the Lakers lost to the Western Conference champion and NBA finalist, almost Kevin Durant guranteed next seasons title, the Golden State Warriors. Nothing new there. You can see it one more time this week in preseason, or even three times in November for the season. But what you really should have seen was a reflection. From Draymond Green to Julius Randle. Superstar signing, big ticket Kevin Durant to number two lottery draft pick Brandon Ingram. And the Splash Brothers to the Swag Brodies. Sure these Laker men in the mirror may look like Warrior wannabes, but they're actually an even more run ready "death line-up" that could run this small ball revolution association into the ground.

Yeah Chris Paul's lane and alley to the big oops and "aah's" of beasts Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan may be the big L.A. blockbuster franchise to marvel at right now in Hollywood. But you don't need to go to the Venice Beach boardwalks or courts to see something more athletic, unless it's a rookie GQ photo-op shoot. All you do is have to walk across the STAPLES hall to the Lakers lockers to see that Purple and Gold men can jump too. Of course we all know the parentage and lineage of Larry Nance Jr. The nightly highlight reel is about to be a star in his own show and right, but when it comes to above the rim this man has all eyes on him like 2Pac. He should have been in the Slam Dunk Contest last season. This year he'll win it.

But junior isn't the only one who can get up. Have you seen rookie Ingram's coast to coast wingspan? They call the kid thin, but in the thick of it this buck fifty soaking wet could reach for the rim, all whilst putting all his teammates jerseys out on the line for washing...and maybe even pin his number 14 one up there in the rafters with 24 or 8 whilst he's at it. Everyone can get it and get it good. From Brown to Black, Ant and Tarik. New bigs Mozgov and Zubac. Even All-Star veteran Luol Deng still has some hop. Whilst Randle can handle the rock like that as Julius channels the good doctor. It's all going to be like the freewheeling ABA once Jose Calderon and Marcelo Huertas know whose starting the break like the first person to leave a coffee shop past putting the chairs on the table closing. That is if they don't defer to clutch Sixth Man spark shooters Nick Young and old Lou Williams mind. Of course in reality it will be the Brodie backcourt of D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson leading the fast break amd their still young enough to ride the rim and rock away themselves, even if they don't seem tall enough.

And when the Lakers go real small and ball out with a line-up of Clarkson, Russell, Randle and Nance Jr and Ingram flanking then it'll really be over. Talking about a revolution? This 'Death Lineup' stat sheet scout reads more like a eulogy for other teams, delivered in gold from the Buss brass. Now before you can say, "what the hell are they doing dunking in L.A." like a drunk Bran Van 3000 this franchise flipped script surprise is giving you a new Hollywood Frat Pack picture set to run and run. Until this Academy of gifted youngsters in this superhero star age become Oscar gold winners. Act up! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Saturday, 15 October 2016


60 points from Kobe Bryant really was the end of an era in Los Angeles for a franchise that in the last ten years had just celebrated six decades in the association. As the Laker legend played his final game in purple and gold on his retirement tour, farewell season, not only did he hang up his sneakers and raise his jersey into the Hall of Fame rafters. He also finally closed the locker room door on his banner eras with Shaquille O'Neal. For some Los Angeles Times that made Shaq and Kobe one of the best one-two, big man and small guard dynamic duos in NBA history. For a storied Laker franchise who from Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson have had many legends in that Laker legacy making gold light.

Now the torch is passed to the former role player that connected the two with his amazing assists, Luke Walton and his staff of three-peat veterans from Brian Shaw to mad dancing Mark Madsen to lead this team in a new direction like a guard. But the point forward and son of Bill is now one of the youngest coaches in a youth in revolt league. Taking over from 80's Showtime legend Byron Scott and coming off some assistant experience with the California champion Golden State Warriors. Including some inspired interim at the head, remaining unbeatable in place of a rehabing Steve Kerr to begin last season. In a new era that has moved away from bigs thanks to MVP Steph Curry and the Dubs, Walton is the perfect member of the Lakers family to lead their own death line-up in this new NBA small ball revolution.

They could really kill it. Like they've done in the last few drafts, hitting the lottery with their new big tickets. Mixing the right top ten picks with some late round, slept on steals the Lakers have quite the young raw core. Now through trades and free agent years patient fans just hope the Buss brass can Kupchak keep this nucleus for the future intact. First they brought in Kentucky bruiser Julius Randle who as a third year man now really is shaping into a Draymond Green tough guy. But in his first injury plauged rookie season it was actually Jordan Clarkson who made an impact. And now the late first rounder is widely considered the best Laker. Even Kobe knew you couldn't go wrong with a first name like that. Last year the purple team struck gold with the second lottery pick in the draft. And after this perfect preseason the matured D'Angelo Russell looks to be the right choice to be the number one to lead the Lakers from the front of his jersey. Now don't put your phones away because you're going to want to record all he does. Kid is even cooking up Chef Curry comparisons from Walton. Speaking of family relations in the NBA, the slam dunk champ son Larry Nance Jr. is doing more than just dunking in L.A. The athletic fast break starter and finisher really brings something to both ends of the court that is seeing his famous name being put up there in Hollywood lights.

And if Ivica Zubac becomes the Gasol like player the Laker should have kept in Pau or drafted brother Marc, (coincidentally traded for his older sibling back in the day), thanks to some sky-hook and sinker training from legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar then he'll be the teams third sleeper steal in a row. But all eyes are on second, second pick in a row Brandon Ingram who really could be the post-Kobe future face of this franchise in the middle of the Russell and Clarkson backcourt and Randle and Nance forward tandem. Built like Golden State Warrior new free agent superstar Kevin Durant in frame and game and folding the waistband of his shorts over twice to keep them up, so long as Brandon pulls everything up from his socks to his jump shots then Ingram could be the next star of this league. Let alone the Lakers with potential as wide as his canyon wingspan.

But don't dub these Cali Lakers 'Baby Warriors'...they're much more than that. With youth in reserve, from underrated x-factor Anthony Brown to golden era, 90's tough-guy throwback Tarik Black who could have just as easily found himself between Ewing and Oakley back in the day like he is Randle and Russell today. But if the kids aren't alright the Lakers have the vets to heal the knee scrapes like another retired longtime Laker legend Gary Vitti, all lead by scoring All-Star Luol Deng who looks to take the reigns of this purple and gold franchise. All whilst being the perfect mentor to show fellow Dukie Ingram the big-league ropes. The Great Brit giving a veteran alternative with another inspired international in China's Yi Jialian, who is as a scorer as automatic as his shot from the FIBA three-point line. More around the world range is circling at the Point Guard position, from fellow Olympians speedy Jose Calderon and the much overlooled skill-set of Marcelo Huertas (who will wear coaches old number 4 after giving up the 9 for new star Deng) who has a great 2016 Rio Olympics leading host nation Brazil. And even if you have no idea how on earth they do the Hollywood Lakers still have World Peace. And from Randle to Brandon, Metta is the perfect mentor. If that wasn't enough then the Lakers have two potental Sixth Men of the Year for their dozen to finish you off in the clutch. Nuke cooked by microwave men Lou Williams and Nick Young with his swagger back P. To plug the spark off the bench with their streaky to scorching scoring. If one 6 is cold you know the other can go off...but imagine if they both got hot? Now that's a lot of options. All that and we almost forgot the Luc Longley in the middle Timofey Mozgov. But don't scoff this Cav champion is the last one here with a ring.

The only thing left for a franchise that once had fire, ice, a couple of Goliaths, a magician and the logo as its symbol is to find a new identity. Whether that be lead by D'Angelo or finished on the break by Ingram. They need to identify when to let Jordan rule. Or when to pound it inside to Julius, with Mozgov and Black cleaning up whatever mess needs to be rebounded. From pick and rolls to post ups we guess savvy basketball quarterbacks like Huertas and Calderon will know what to run with and whether to pass off to the hot hand of Young or Lou Will. But for now the safest bet may to be let the superstar experienced hand of Luol lead. Deng may just be the difference maker in this battle for Los Angeles with the Clippers. But in all these Californian clashes in the Pacific we all know the real Kings lie in the Warrior state not Sacramento. The Lakers will just look to have Lil' Wayne advised fun like Phoenix. Before rising from the ashes for their time in the sun.

Now without Bryant the Nicholson favourite Lakers still have beans in a league that's now more Jack than beanstalk. That sounds like something out of Hollywood, like this brand new show that not only must go on...but will and is. Ready for a new blockbuster franchise?

Let the new Showtime begin!