Tag Archives: NBA

Waiting for the escape hatch to open

I believe I understand why the current worldwide health crisis is so unprecedented and devastating in its scope.

Let me say first that I totally understand the illness and death it has caused, creating untold misery, heartache and mourning. Its victims die alone, as hospitals cannot allow loved ones near them to hold their hands, whisper their love into their ears or just to act as comforters in time of pain and peril.

The unique quality of this coronavirus pandemic rests in the absence of any escape hatch for us to get away from the onslaught of bad news we are being forced to consume from our news networks.

Professional sports? College sports? Any sort of entertainment that allows us to sit among crowds of people who are cheering at the same performance? That’s all been put on ice.

Pro basketball and hockey has been shelved. Major League Baseball’s season has been delayed until only God knows when. The Summer Olympics in Tokyo has been postponed for an entire year … maybe even longer than that. College football is supposed to start later this summer, but they might not kick it off until much later.

New York’s Broadway theaters are closed. Movie theaters everywhere are closed, too.

So, we’re stuck. At home. Our governor asks us to stay put. He’ll get back to us soon to tell us where we might be able to go.

Some of us are going batty looking at the same walls for weeks on end. To be honest, we’re doing OK in our home. My wife and I happen to like each other’s company; at least I can speak for myself anyway on that matter.

This pandemic, though, is unprecedented simply by virtue of all the activities it has been on the back shelf. We are waiting now for an escape hatch to open.

March Madness now becomes March Slumber

You can rest assured that I am not a college basketball fanatic who lives, dies, eats and sleeps according to the bracket I might fill out for the men’s college basketball tournament.

However, the cancellation of March Madness — the men’s and women’s tournaments — is a big, big deal.

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed a gigantic “victim” in the form of these two major sports and entertainment events.

Disneyland has closed its park in Anaheim, Calif., the NBA and the NHL have suspended their seasons until further notice; Major League Baseball has delayed its opening day for two weeks (but I’ll bet real American money it’ll last longer than that); colleges and universities are canceling “face to face” classes; school districts are closing for two weeks.

Major disruption anyone? Hmm?

Meanwhile, the Trump administration seeks to restore some semblance of order to the chaos that has enveloped the nation. Its strategy ain’t working. Donald Trump’s speech last night from the Oval Office was meant to quell the stock market turmoil, but it made matters worse; what’s more, the White House issued a “correction” two minutes after Trump’s speech to “clarify” what he had just said in announcing the travel ban from some or most of Europe … whatever the case may be.

So, lots of public institutions that rely on men’s and women’s basketball teams to make money for them are going to do without. Professional team owners that rake in millions every day when their teams performing against each other are watching the turnstiles remain quiet. Same for the Disney Corp.

Oh, how I wish this wasn’t happening. Wishing it, though, won’t solve this problem or end this crisis. Patience and prudence are the rule of the day … and likely beyond the foreseeable future.

This medical crisis is starting to alarm me

I am not about to push any panic buttons.

However, I am about to change my daily routine while the world responds to the coronavirus outbreak that the World Health Organization has determined to be a pandemic.

I have been walking this good Earth for a little more than 70 years. I do not recall ever living through a medical crisis that has prompted the president to declare a travel ban from virtually an entire continent; nor do I remember sporting events that banned crowds of screaming fans; nor do I recall a time when we ran out of certain supplies such as hand sanitizer and — this is rich — toilet tissue!

And this just in: The NBA is suspending the remainder of its season after tonight’s game until further notice. Holy cow, man!

The coronavirus has gotten our attention. By “our,” I mean my wife and me. We are now wiping down shopping carts and fuel pumps with sanitary wipes. We now are going to restrict our daily travel through our North Texas neighborhood. We’re planning an excursion in our recreational vehicle to points along the Gulf Coast but we are going to stay away from large gatherings of fellow human beings; being the social animal that I am, this is going to drive me a bit nuts, but I certainly understand the need for extreme prudence.

Donald Trump tonight could have declared a national emergency, but he didn’t. He imposed a travel ban for virtually all of Europe to the United States. He exempted the United Kingdom. Why? The UK has a greater per capita infection rate than the United States.

The president is canceling two campaign events. So are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. They’re all exercising what’s been called an “abundance of caution.” I get it.

So are we in our household.

I am getting alarmed.

Kobe Bryant’s death has robbed world of future greatness

It is beginning to sink in.

Kobe Bryant’s death this morning in a fiery helicopter crash — along with the demise of his young daughter and seven other people — has brought tears to the eyes of grown men.

They are crying over the memory of Bryant’s remarkable basketball skills, which elevated him to “legend” status over a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Although I appreciate the amazing talent he exhibited for virtually all that span of time, I was not a giant Kobe fan. I have cheered other contemporary NBA stars more fervently.

Kobe Bryant’s death saddens me nonetheless.

What is sinking in, though, as I listen to commentators offer various perspectives on this young man is the sense of a future realm of greatness that was yet to be built.

I have heard most of the evening about all the projects he intended to pursue. They involved his daughter Gianna’s desire to be a pro basketball player. Gianna, tragically, was among the victims in that helicopter crash. His projects involved working with inner-city youth to show them the path out of despair. Bryant wanted to parlay his good name to do good for others.

Bryant played his last pro season in 2016, just three seasons ago. He won his share of pro basketball championships; he won many individual honors; he achieved all he could possibly could during a career that began straight out of high school, as he chose to forgo a college education before getting paid big money to play pro basketball.

However, I am feeling increasingly saddened by the loss over this great athlete’s accomplishments not yet achieved.

So very tragic.

UVA declines invitation to visit White House … what gives?

The list is now up to three.

The University of Virginia won the NCAA men’s basketball championship with a stunning victory over Texas Tech University. Then the White House invited the Cavaliers to be feted by Donald Trump.

The Cavs’ response? No can do, Mr. President.

They now join the University of North Carolina and Villanova University in declining to take part in what most of us thought was a part of D.C. normalcy. Teams win national championships, then travel to the nation’s capital to be honored by the president of the United States.

That was until Donald Trump became president of the United States. Now we find the president politicizing these events, criticizing pro football players for kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. He infuriates players, who then balk at coming to the White House. The Golden State Warriors this past year won the NBA title, chafed at going to the White House and then the president disinvited them.

Now the third straight men’s college basketball team has said “no thanks” to the White House, citing what school officials called “scheduling conflicts.” Sure thing, man.

When you think about it, what we’re seeing is an ongoing trend involving this president.

Donald and Melania Trump haven’t attended a Kennedy Center Honors event that pays tribute to artists who contribute to the world’s culture. The president refuses to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, I presume because of his antipathy toward the “enemy of the American people.”

These once-pro forma events have become news in and of themselves because of the president’s clumsy relationships with national institutions.

So the drama continues.

The UVA Cavaliers won’t break bread with the president. I fully expect Donald Trump to say something inappropriate — if not downright stupid — in response to the NCAA men’s champs’ decision to stay away.

Weird.

This guy is really and truly an iconic figure

I don’t follow men’s professional basketball all that closely these days. Sure, I know who are the game’s top stars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry.

Oh, yeah! Dirk Nowitzki, too!

Well, I had to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to understand fully how much this guy Nowitzki means to diehard fans of the Dallas Mavericks.

Wow! This big fella got quite a send-off as he retired from the National Basketball Association.

I had little clue as to what he means to this community.

The Dallas Morning News published a 14-page special section on April 14. We came home from a two-week trip to points south and east to find that edition of the paper on our driveway. The section contained stories about how he perfected his fade-away jump shot; it had testimonials from his former coaches and from former rivals; about how he makes an impact on D/FW kids.

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley calls Nowitzki “the nicest man ever.”

There even was a two-page spread showing a remarkable graphic of every shot he took and made during his more than two decades as a pro basketball player.

Incredible! Nowitzki is thought of as one of the game’s truly good guys. He is devoted to his wife and young children. He spends time visiting seriously ill people in hospitals and he does it all under cover.

He played 21 seasons for the Dallas Mavericks. He came to Big D from Germany, the nation of his birth and where he grew up. You listen to him these days and you detect barely a German accent. He is going to stay in Dallas in his retirement years.

He finished as the No. 6 scorer in NBA history, passing Wilt Chamberlain to reach that ranking. He finished behind legendary figures, too: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

I watched the Mavericks over the years from some distance. Sure I knew that Nowitzki was a great athlete. I knew he could shoot well for a guy who stood 7 feet tall.

I just didn’t appreciate the iconic status he attained during the course of 21 seasons playing basketball.

Holy cow, man!

Time of My Life: Part 10: Recalling Blazermania

The world came down with Beatlemania in the 1960s, but my hometown became afflicted in the 1970s with something called Blazermania.

My job as a sportswriter for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier allowed me in June 1977 to see Blazermania up close, as in really up close.

I grew up in Portland, Ore., a nice city to call home; it’s about 15 miles north of Oregon City. It had a minor-league baseball team, the Portland Beavers. It had a minor-league hockey franchise, the Portland Buckaroos, which lasted until 1974. No pro football. In 1970, the National Basketball Association decided Portland needed to join the NBA family of cities. So it granted Portland a pro basketball franchise.

The Portland Trail Blazers struggled through six seasons of futility; they lost more games than they won in each of those years. Then came the 1976-77 season. The team had drafted a fellow out of UCLA named Bill Walton and had acquired some talent from the defunct American Basketball Association; the big name from the ABA to join the Blazers was Maurice Lucas. The two of them formed the foundation of a team coached by first-year coach Jack Ramsay.

They finished the regular season 49-33. They made the NBA playoffs for the first time ever. They defeated, in order, the Chicago Bulls, the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers to win the Western Division championship. Then they faced the Philadelphia 76ers for the league title. The Sixers possessed some high-powered talent as well. Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Doug Collins and Darryl Dawkins suited up for them.

The Blazers won the NBA title in six games. The city went ballistic. Heck, the entire state of Oregon and a good bit of southwest Washington went nuts, too! Blazer fans cheered themselves hoarse.

My editor assigned me to cover the Blazers’ victory parade throughout downtown Portland. I went gladly.

I walked along the parade route, following the cars carrying the men who won the title. The crowd throughout the parade route was roughly 500,000 or so; I am going to presume that over the years, the number of people who said they were at the parade now numbers in the millions.

I snapped pictures, interviewed fans and collected notes for a feature story I would write for my newspaper.

I ventured to the top of a building overlooking Schrunk Plaza in front of a 40-story bank tower downtown. I wanted to grab a picture of the crowd assembled in front of the podium. It was huge, man!

Then I noticed a solitary figure standing near the rail looking down on all the madness. I looked carefully. It was the late Stu Inman, the Blazers’ general manager — the guy who built the team that won the NBA title!

I walked up to Inman, introduced myself and asked, “Why aren’t you down there with the rest of them?” His answer spoke volumes about him. “Oh, no,” he said. “That’s for someone else.” He didn’t care to bask in the glory, which he reckoned belonged to the players and the coach.

So it went. The Blazers had taken their first journey into the postseason all the way to the NBA mountaintop.

I was so proud to have been able to chronicle a small part of it.

Sod Poodles name will catch on eventually … honest, it will

I am quite sure the Amarillo minor-league baseball community is trying to digest the name of the city’s new team.

The team ownership announced that the Class AA team will be called the Sod Poodles, which reportedly is an old-fashioned term meant to describe prairie dogs. Whatever they say, I guess I’ll have to go along with it.

As dubious as I am of the alleged origin of Sod Poodles, I do like the name.

It grew on me quickly. My first reaction to the name that appeared on the list of “finalists” under consideration was pure,, unadulterated hatred. However, my conversion from name hater to name lover was rapid.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Then I heard about the ownership’s logic in selecting this group of names. They sought quirky names. They want the community to talk about them. They want the rest of the Texas League to talk about them, too.

From what I hear, Amarillo’s baseball fans are talking all right. It isn’t all goodness and light. There’s some grumbling from what I have heard.

Hey, pay attention. These kinds of reactions have this way of passing. I know how it goes. I’ve lived through some of this already.

My hometown of Portland, Ore., was awarded a National Basketball Association franchise. The team began play in the fall of 1970. They had to come up with a name. I was finishing my hitch in the Army and I submitted the name Lumberjacks to the powers that be. Hey, Portland is at the hub of the nation’s timber industry. Therefore, Lumberjacks made perfect sense.

The team owners didn’t think so. Neither did the rest of the community. They came up with Trail Blazers as the name for the new NBA team. You could hear the shrieks up and down the Pacific Coast.

Then it dawned on a lot of us: Trail Blazers pays tribute to William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, who “blazed the trail” in the early 19th century from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean, trekking along the Columbia River to their destination. The team name honors the exploits of Lewis & Clark. It’s perfect!

I believe Sod Poodles will become part of Amarillo’s identity. Eventually.

It might take some time, but I am keeper of the faith in good things happening for the city I used to call home.

LeBron off to La La Land

LeBron James has broken the hearts of his hometown pro basketball fans once again.

The best basketball player on the planet is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers a second time — for Los Angeles, where he has just signed a $154 million deal over the next four years to play for the Lakers, a once-great team that has hit the skids in recent seasons. So help me, the amount of money simply boggles my mind.

He started his pro career playing for the Cavs. Then he bolted to Miami — after a good bit of phony melodrama — where he won a couple of NBA titles with the Heat. LeBron, who was born in nearby Akron, returned to Cleveland, where he took the Cavs to an NBA title of their own. I was impressed by his declaration that he wanted to return home, where he reportedly took a cut in pay.

I’ll give “King James” credit for this latest departure from Cleveland: At least this time he didn’t put together a TV special at the end of which he declares, “I’m taking my talents to Tinseltown.”

Don’t go, LeBron

I cannot possibly know what is going through LeBron James’s mind now as he ponders his future as a professional basketball player.

The man known as King James is considering whether to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for, oh, somewhere else. I keep hearing he’s being courted heavily by the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that once achieved greatness but which stinks to high heaven these days.

I’ll get right to the point. I don’t want James to leave Cleveland. I want him to stay put. He makes enough money as it is. The Cavs ain’t paying him chump wages.

Do you recall how his first stint with the Cavaliers ended? His contract expired. He entered the free agency market. Then he put together that goofy TV special, at the end of which he announced he would “take my talents to South Beach,” meaning to Miami, where he would play for the Heat.

The Cavs fans went nuts. They burned LeBron jerseys in public bonfires. They protested. They howled. They wept. They accused LeBron of the equivalent of sports franchise “treason.”

Then he did something quite remarkable. He decided at the end of his Miami contract to return to Cleveland. All was forgiven. The Cavs fans welcomed back their favorite son, who I should add was born and reared in nearby Akron.

What is the 33-year-old superstar going to do now? It’s anyone’s guess.

I’ve never been in the position of a supremely gifted athlete who can earn many millions of dollars annually for playing a game. LeBron James is a tremendous physical specimen. He plays basketball at a level rarely seen by anyone at any time — ever! — in this history of the sport. Some experts call him the “Greatest of All Time.”

He’s already fabulously wealthy.

However, it might be that at this moment, he’s still hurting from the four-game sweep from the NBA Finals he and the Cavs suffered at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

But the sun came up the next day. He still has a supremely healthy bank account.

He also is at home. I wonder, therefore, what the home folks will think if he decides to abandon them a second time.