The new issue of The Mag is out today and besides a piece on the future of freestyle motocross, I wrote a feature for our NBA mid-playoffs package. That’s right. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am going to be spending some time in NBA Land, along with my usual stops: college and pro football, action sports and the Olympics.
I have to say, I had a lot of fun stepping out of my comfort zone and into the world of zone defenses and the triangle offense. My story, on THE ART OF THE SALE (or, the art of selling a foul call), was fun to research and write and the Lakers-Thunder series was a good one to attend in person. There really are very few sports events that compare to a live Lakers game at the Staples Center. I spend a lot of time at Staples in the summer watching guys backflip dirtbikes and 360 skateboards over a mega-ramp gap, but it’s a different place when the yellow-and-purple are in town.
IN LA, HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE IS NO JOKE …
For instance, you are reminded many times throughout the night that you are, in fact, at a Lakers game in Los Angeles. Like when the “kiss cam” stops on Heff and a skybox full of his Bunnies. Or when you walk into the media room and see David Beckham standing in line to use the men’s restroom. Or when you walk by Eddie Murphy, Charlize Theron, Jack Nicholson and Julia Louis-Dreyfus at halftime, all of whom are sitting courtside. And I’m sorry, but I will never cease to be starstruck as I walk into the locker room (or to my seat or to the media room), look up-up-up and see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar walking next to me. He’s at every game, seems to be everywhere and is always very nice. And, of course, there are the ubiquitous Lakers Girls.
During timeouts, I’ve learned you can learn a lot by watching the center-court jumbotron. For example, Lakers guard Derek Fisher played high school football and was a member of the marching band. (His Friday nights must have been jam-packed.) Also, his all-time favorite sitcom is The Cosby Show. I never would have learned that valuable information if I’d watched the game from home.
I’ve enjoyed my rookie month learning my way around a sport that has multiple games per week, a regular cast of writers who follow the team and weekly practices to attend. (Toto, we’re not at the X Games anymore.) Although the Lakers only open their doors during shoot-arounds, and press was only allowed to watch 30 minutes of Thunder practices (which were held two blocks from my house at Santa Monica High School), I really enjoyed the access. One thing that struck me: NBA practice looks a lot like college practice, which looks a lot like high school practice. I don’t know what I was expecting: “Alright guys, line up for our dunking-from-the-free-throw-line drill” … “Who’s next for half-court shooting?” … “Let’s wrap up with windmill dunks.” Practice is practice is practice. It is drills and wind sprints and missed assignments and frustrated coaches. Something about knowing that made me connect with the sport, and the players, a little more than I had in the past.
PRACTICE MAKES A GAME SIX …