Down and Out in La Paz

The autumnal equinox today. Halfway from summer to winter.

I woke up on the floor beside my hammock well past noon, looking at the world as diffracted through the empty bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold lying before my eyes. Everything was rippled and distorted, like a late Van Gogh. Couldn’t figure it out for several minutes. The tile floor was blessedly cool, breezes off the Gulf of California blew in, and I’d been lying there so long my body was numb. All in all it felt pretty good.

But, then I had to pee. Past fifty, prostate the size of a tennis ball, I find the urge often comes on with little fanfare and suddenly one is in desperate straits. So, I had to get up.

I swear that every single cell, every molecule in my body cried out in pain. A twenty-year old can spend a dusk-to-dawn session in a smoky cantina, trading shots with locals who hide their contempt behind Cheshire grins, while Carmelina keeps the beer coming, and the table dancer, Estrelita I think her name was, does remarkable things with shot glasses—I swear it’s ruined me on the labia minora for life—and the god-awful cover band insists on playing the best of “Men at Work” over and over, later getting mugged and rolled by the same locals who helped drink my tequila, kicked in the ribs and kidneys so that I’ll piss blood for a week…a twenty-year old could do all this and roll out of bed at eight, wander into work by nine only a little worse for wear, spruced up fine after a single hair-of-the-dog warm beer in the kitchen. Do the same thing at age 57, and the next morning you will pray for death as a preferable alternative.

It took me about twenty minutes to get up off the floor and stagger my way to the veranda to piss off the balcony into the alley below, promising to light a candle to the Virgin at the cathedral later for the indiscretion.

An hour soak in a hot tub took the edge off the joint pain. Four Norco blunted the headache. The aforementioned warm Pacifico shooed the hair off the dog. A couple of diazepam battled the shakes. I dressed slowly. It was hard to get my arms up and through the shirt sleeves. I fell once pulling on my pants. I didn’t dare look at myself in the mirror.

Shielded behind mirrored Ray-Bans, I climbed gingerly down the stairs and hobbled to the little corner cafe that made decent espresso. By then the drugs had begun to take hold. I could be persuaded to refuse a quick death if it presented itself.

Since the lockout started, I just haven’t been able to get my feet on the ground. The familiar squeak of sneakers, booming of basketballs and rattling of rims from the practice gym below my office, the hubbub of trash talking, the griping of coaches—it all was gone. Instead, I had to listen to Brown glad-handing and politicking up and down the hall like a Republican in Iowa, Jimmy Buss telling everyone that none of this was his doing, while Jerry calls me twice a day asking me if we got Magic to sign that twenty-five year contract yet. Phil sends me emails three times a week with pictures of massive trout he’s landed, cheesecake snaps of Jeannie at the lake, bad jokes about Jimmy.

“Why did Jimmy Buss cross the road?”

“To show he didn’t need Phil and Kobe to do everything.” “Because ‘Drew had already taken the handicap spot on this side.”

Can’t call the players. Can’t even mention their names to the press. No one’s willing to talk trade. I really think we could score Steve Nash this summer, but they won’t even take my calls in Phoenix. Been such a bear at home, the wife decamped with the kids to Vancouver for the summer.

So, I took my vacation time and rented a convertible for a month and headed south. By the time I got to La Paz I was road-sick and ready to crash. No email, no internet, no phones.  No one knows I’m here.

Later I’ll drive out to a beach out on the Gulf, take a swim, lie in the sun, nurse a couple more Pacificos and say a prayer to the Sun Gods. They were fearsome, the Gods of the Aztecs and Mayans. They demanded blood and sacrifice.

Man, I’m tired.

I’m thinking about Phil’s coffee shop ideas. Maybe up in Montana or Wyoming or wherever the hell he is.

Posted in Basketball, Lockout, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, Phil Jackson | Leave a comment

Lockout

So, the psycho’s running the asylum,  brainiacs like Donald Sterling, Dan Gilbert and Jimmy Buss, have decided to take the NBA at the peak of its popularity in the post-Jordan era and shit-can it. The 450 product-generating, income-producing employees of the NBA, the PLAYERS, have the temerity to try to protect their incomes in an industry that provides them ZERO job security, and Mr. Burns cooks the books and cries poverty whilst wiping his ass with Benjamins on a solid gold toilet.

The average NBA career is less than five years, with an average annual salary of $4.8 million. Consider these guys the top 500 in their field, and compare it to the CEO’s of the top 500 corporations in the S&P index, where the average annual salary is over $11 million, with considerably longer careers and better fringe benefits (The NBA pension program is a joke). In this light, the current level of compensation no longer appears so unreasonable, nor does the players’ insistence on protecting their fair share of the league’s profits. Further, in a standard corporation, the people below the level of CEO—the VP’s, division chiefs, and managers—are themselves well paid and benefited, with not unrealistic hopes of advancement. In the NBA, however, the 450 active players represent the tip of an iceberg of underpaid or unpaid players in foreign leagues, minor leagues, college, high school, pick-up venues, and playgrounds. The active players are derived from a pool of untold thousands and tens of thousands of aspirants living with denied dreams, physical debility and poverty. The good ship NBA sails upon a sea of uncompensated labor and broken careers. Putting aside the basic immorality of the business plan, one can see how the lucky few on board the ship might want a few nights in the first-class state rooms, instead of seats in steerage, before they’re thrown overboard again when their knees go or some GM thinks they can do better with some other blighter hanging on to the ropes over the side.

Okay, so I beat that metaphor to death. But, bottom line, party’s been cancelled and the good ship NBA is shipping water and listing bad. No games scheduled, training facilities closed, practice courts locked up, web sites stripped of player content. Instead of highlight reels of Lebron crashing the rim, Dirk draining jumpers, or Kobe nailing a reverse lay-up behind the backboard, we’re left with exciting photos of coaches standing around on empty courts. Breathtaking.

Asking for equity for labor in a country that’s moved so far to the right that the concept of a labor union is viewed as some species of communism may be unrealistic. Wasting tears on a bunch of millionaires arguing with a bunch of billionaires may seem more than a little absurd. But, we had a thing of beauty here, a celebration of personal excellence and team play in a world otherwise full of canned reality and adolescent bullshit, and it’s been fucked up by an all too familiar mix of greed, vanity and stupidity. Welcome to the world, NBA.

(In case Jimmy Buss ever figures out how to turn on his computer, boot his browser and do a Google search for his own name, I must reiterate that this is the blog of FAKE Mitch. Real Mitch is a team player, and ready to suit up again for a Laker scab team should it come to that. Chuck Person’s still got a wicked three point shot and Kareem can nail that sky hook even from a wheelchair. We’re ready.)

Posted in Basketball, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers, Mike Brown, NBA | Leave a comment

Shaq

And did those feet in other times
Walk upon L.A.’s front lawns green?
And was this massive child of God
In Staples’ gaudy ball court seen?
 
And did this countenance absurd
Smile o’er Staples’ rims and nets?
And did his might bring three rings here?
(Though, Kobe helped him, don’t forget!)
 
Bring him his jersey of gold and purple!
Bring him Spaulding’s orb of leather!
Let him again crash the boards!
Heavy as lead, light as a feather!
 
I shall not sleep another night,
Nor will my phone rest in my hand,
‘Til we restore this mighty giant
To serve again in La-La Land!
 

(Apologies to William Blake)

That’s right, dudes. I’m bringing him back under the veteran’s exception! Look for him backing up ‘Drew and doing Mike Brown imitations in the locker room! Kobe always swore they got along just fine, so it’s all good.

Posted in Basketball, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Mike Brown, NBA, Shaquille O'Neal | Leave a comment

The Jimmy and Mike Show

Okay, let’s be honest about it. There are no Phil Jackson or Pat Riley grade coaches out there. But remember, before Pat Riley was Pat Riley,  he was a retired journeyman baller and color commentator with a flashy wardrobe who stumbled into a head coaching job when Magic and Paul Westhead had a dust-up. Before Phil became Captain Triangle, he was a retired defensive enforcer with a drug history and questionable credentials from the CBA and Puerto Rico, who sported Panama hats, huraches and Hawaiian shirts.

We could have settled for a well-known quantity, a Rick Adelman or Mike Dunleavy, but they’re old news and have never made it all the way to The Show. Coach K ain’t leaving Duke. Jerry West isn’t coming out of retirement and besides the stress would probably kill him. Pat R. has his own dynasty in Miami. Larry Brown is just too big a pain in the ass. Brian Shaw was never in the game, as  Jimmy Buss wants to put his stamp on the organization in what he hopes will be The Andrew Bynum Era. Perpetuating Phil, when Phil always made Jerry and Jimmy feel stupid, was never in the cards.

So, Mike Brown. A pretty good defensive coach. His Cavaliers were a one-trick-pony, but when that pony is Lebron and the rest of the crew look like the cast of F Troop, who can blame him? He was a sacrificial lamb in the Lebron sweepstakes, but fact is he did the best he could with what he was given. The Lakers in 2011 are a different kettle of fish. The team is stacked and played beneath its potential most of the year. Let’s face it: Phil was tired, Kobe was tired, Pau was tired, Lamar and Ron-Ron were distracted. And they ran into a Maverick team that was on a roll, especially Der Dirk-Meister.

An embarrassing loss and a long off-season will be tonic for this team. And Brown will be the anti-Phil. Defense first. Practical instead of philosophical. Excitable instead of calm. Add in a decent offensive coordinator to cobble together a system (how hard can it be with Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum?), and we’ll see. Just gotta break him of that habit he has of grimacing and bearing his teeth in press conferences, but I’m all over it. Got him scheduled for the intense media therapy once he gets to town.

Next year in the West, look for Dallas to come back to earth and San Antonio to look a year older. OKC will be the main contender, and the way to beat them is lock-down defensive, not with a scoring duel. In the East look for Chicago to improve and Miami to hold its own (unless success + Miami leads to a self-satisfied backslide). Ditto regarding defense as the key to victory. Chief item for the off-season is a point guard. Chris Paul might be available, but it’ll take a Gasol-level magic trick to score him. Second item, is buy-in from The Kobster. That’s up to Mike and whatever coaching staff he brings. Third, if I can’t trade Lamar and Fish for a point guard, is to get Lamar off those damn reality shows.

If it sounds like I drank the Kool-Aid, well it’s either that or hit the road, so make mine grape with extra sugar.

Posted in Basketball, Dr. Jerry Buss, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA, Phil Jackson | Leave a comment