Now that the Lakers have broken up, you're going to miss them. Plus: Griffey's 500th homer inspires new heights of TV surrealism.
Topics: Entertainment News
The Lakers exploded Friday, blew apart like Bruce the shark at the end of “Jaws,” little bloody pieces of Karl Malone’s ambitions plopping into the water for a solid hour afterward.
Phil Jackson quit. Shaquille O’Neal asked to be traded. Kobe Bryant declared for free agency. It got so bad that two ballboys took lifeguard jobs and Jack Nicholson phoned the Clippers ticket office. Dyan Cannon and Andy Garcia were left pondering a world in which they never get their mugs on TV, even for a few seconds at a time. Suddenly, not returning those calls from “The Surreal Life” is starting to seem a little shortsighted. Fine idea, taking career advice from Meg Ryan.
Malone looks like he’s going to retire, and if he doesn’t he should, and Gary Payton, exposed as a washed-up star in the playoffs, wouldn’t be a major factor even in the unlikely event he re-signs.
And so ends the one-year tale of the damnedest, most weirdly fascinating team that’s played a season in my lifetime, and probably yours too. They went from being title shoo-ins to also-rans, then back, then back again, bickering and pouting and self-destructing all the way. By comparison, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” was a pleasantly quiet evening over at the neighbors’ place. This bunch made “East of Eden” look like “Ozzie and Harriet.”
Bryant probably won’t leave. The Lakers can offer him more money than anyone else, and what he’s really wanted for a long time was to play for a team without Shaq on it and not coached by Phil Jackson, who has the odd idea that if you’re playing with the most dominant player of all time, you oughta think about passing him the ball from time to time. If the Lakers trade O’Neal, which they’ve said they’re going to try to do, Bryant will get his wish.
A lot is being made of team owner Jerry Buss “picking” Bryant over Jackson and O’Neal, and how that’s a risky choice, given Bryant’s on-court selfishness, which only figures to intensify without the most dominant player of all time demanding the ball from him, and his sexual assault trial in Colorado, which could send him to prison.
But what was Buss supposed to do? Jackson has pretty clearly had enough of being Bryant’s coach, so the choice was really Bryant vs. O’Neal, with Jackson as a possible bonus if you keep O’Neal and you’re willing to pay up. Letting them both get away is probably not an option, even if there’s little danger of the fan base jumping to the Clippers. There are plenty of other things for the glittering L.A. crowd to devote its time and attention to, you know, like having babies and shopping for ironic Jesus T-shirts.
Now, if Shaq and Kobe were at the same stage in their careers, I’d take O’Neal, easy. But Bryant’s only going to be 26 next season. O’Neal will be 33 before the next playoff year starts, and he’s slowing down noticeably.
For all of his justified complaining about his teammates, mostly meaning Bryant, not getting him the ball enough, the fact is that even with the season on the line, Shaq can no longer get himself in good position for an entire game. In Game 4 of the Finals against the Pistons, O’Neal dominated the early going, catching entry passes almost directly beneath the rim and scoring at will. By the third quarter, he was screaming at teammates during timeouts to get him the ball. But he was also calling for it out around the free-throw line. He was out of gas and not doing anything to beat his smaller, slower man to a spot.
That problem’s not going to get better. For the last few years, Shaq’s inability and/or unwillingness to get into top shape has cost him energy when it matters, in the playoffs. For the next few, it will simply be age.
With the exception of the freakish Robert Parish, who didn’t slow down until he was 38, all of the great true centers of the last few decades were well on their way downhill by 35. Even the seemingly ageless Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won four championships after his 35th birthday, began his decline at 34. There’s simply no future in the Shaquille O’Neal business.
It’s not a sucker’s bet to wager on Bryant staying out of prison, and as long as he’s around, the Lakers at least figure to be more interesting. But unless they can pull something out of the hat this offseason — news that they’re talking to retread coach Rudy Tomjanovich doesn’t say much about the boldness of their thinking — you won’t have the Lakers to hate in next year’s playoffs.
You’ll miss them. They were interesting.
- – - – - – - – - – - -
Griff [cut] ey [cut] hits [cut] 5 [cut] hund [cut] redth [PERMALINK]
Not to harp on the subject of the annoying way sports are broadcast on American TV these days, with direction that calls attention to itself and subtracts from fans’ ability to follow the action, but did you see the highlight of Ken Griffey Jr.’s 500th home run Sunday? It was a work of art.
A work of really, really bad art.
Here’s how it looked on Fox Sports Net Ohio, which covers Reds games, when Griffey became the 20th man in history to hit his 500th:
From the center-field camera, Matt Morris of the Cardinals threw and Griffey swung and connected. Then the view switched to a camera behind home plate following the flight of the ball as it landed in the right-field bleachers, then to Griffey approaching first base. Fine. What followed was 13 cuts in the next 23 seconds as Griffey rounded the bases. It was like watching TV with a hyperactive cat, with the cat holding the remote.
Here’s a shot list: Griffey’s dad; his wife holding a daughter; Griffey approaching second; wife and daughter again; some guy’s head blocking the view of Griffey Sr.; Griffey heading for third; the Reds ambling out of the dugout, applauding; Griffey rounding third; wife and daughter again; Griffey approaching the plate, touching it and slapping hands with Adam Dunn; guy’s head in front of Griffey Sr. again; wife and daughter again; Griffey hugging Sean Casey.
Not one of the shots of the wife and daughter lasted as long as two seconds, and one of them was so quick I wasn’t able to time it, but it was less than half a second. We did get to linger on the irrelevant fan blocking the view of Griffey Sr. for about three seconds, though, probably the longest shot in the sequence.
My attention span is as short as any addled MTV-generation kid’s, but I was dizzy. The good news is that the guy who was standing in front of Griffey Sr. is getting his own Fox show in the fall. It’s a reality show called “In the Way of Something You Don’t Really Want to See Anyhow.” Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
Previous column: The readers write, furiously
- – - – - – - – - – - -
More Related Stories
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11