Just what the Lakers needed – a new era. For the Lakers, the old era was paradise, from 1979 when Jerry Buss bought the team and as his first official act got to draft Magic Johnson. The team that went 1-for-9 in the Finals in its first 20 seasons in town and lost all seven meetings with Boston made 16 more Finals and won 10 more titles in the next 30 years, replacing the Celtics as the NBA’s dominant franchise from that
There have been three true NBA dynasties, but only one that is attributable to an owner. Red Auerbach, a coach and general manager, gets all the credit for Boston’s dominance in the 1960s; Michael Jordan merits the same in Chicago for his pair of three-peats with the Bulls, and Jerry Buss, who died Monday at age 80, deserves major props for what he did with the Lakers.
And what a first half it was! Even crushing the Thunder in Oklahoma City to finish it on a 7-0 run left the defending champion Miami Heat with the No. 3 record, although – unlike the days when every misstep prompted charges that LeBron James was a choking mercenary – there was no outcry at all. Bron ended that with last year’s title before going to heights he hadn’t even been to – and no one else may have – scoring at
A slow start for Moneyball, NBA style. With 34-year-old Grizzlies owner Robert Pera shocked – shocked! – to learn the team he paid $377 million for in June was in financial peril, they began shopping Rudy Gay, even if moving him would break up the group that had risen from No. 15-14-11 finishes from 2007-2009 to within one win of the Western Conference finals in 2010.
Heaven knows how many takeouts I did on sunrises and sunsets in the Phoenix Suns’ heyday from Steve Nash’s return in 2004 to their last hurrah in 2010, when they revolutionized NBA offense. Their heyday really ended in 2008, when coach Mike D’Antoni left, to be succeeded – for 41 games, anyway – by Terry Porter, fired over the All-Star break in an exciting development for the whole league since the Suns were the host team.
Moneyball NBA style hit Memphis as new Grizzlies management started moving and shaking in modern fashion, shopping Rudy Gay before pulling him back when no one offered anyone like Anthony Davis while several teams offered someone like Tyreke Evans. The new owner, internet billionaire-or-not Robert Pera, is shifting power from GM Chris Wallace, who built a contender in the NBA equivalent of a trailer park, to former player agent Jason Levien, who brought in former ESPN stat maven John Hollinger. Talk about
As we approach the halfway point, let’s review our preseason predictions. OK, how many of you had the Lakers at No. 11 in the West? I did – well, if you take away one of the ones. Who dreamed that it wouldn’t work with Steve Nash – perhaps the most skilled point guard ever, even if he was 38 – and Dwight Howard – the most dominating big man, even coming off back surgery – joining Kobe Bryant, even at 34, with defenses
Who’s laughing now? For lack of anything better, local writers – of whom I’m one – have used that lords-of-all-they-survey-vs.-dregs-of-the-earth angle for Lakers-Clippers meetings since 1984, when Donald T. Sterling relocated his team from the mid-market paradise of San Diego, only to see it become the Promised Land’s village idiots. At the moment, the royals have traded roles with the village idiots, going into Friday’s meeting to see who’s whom here now.