Monday, May 9, 2011


The end was like the beginning and like places in-between; a season of sections and distractions, of poetry and hero stances and the flipping of a switch that had grown old and unreliable.  A month ago I wrote, "there's been three four-game skids now and we're all just rolling the dice that it doesn't happen in a seven game series." And so the season coughed and sputtered and spun on its haunches before settling down to die, looking at us one last time, asking if it was okay to go now.  It was.

Danny Chau penned a piece that likened the end to a melting sun. Darius Soriano wrote about disappointment turning to reflection. Brian Kamenetzky invoked Japanese monster movies while brother Andy pointed out the lack of nuance in a lopsided loss. And, Dexter Fishmore described a low point in Lakers’ history. Different takes on a difficult subject, sharing the commonality of good writing. I am indebted to them and so many others, for keeping me entertained and sated over the course of a topsy-turvy season.

Somewhere in a box of photos is one of my daughter, around age 7, sitting and smiling on the couch in an over-sized Lakers yellow giveaway t-shirt. She’d watch games with me back then, awestruck at the spectacle of Shaq dunking. These days she’ll pass by and pretend interest for a few moments before heading upstairs to watch "Gossip Girl".  Lily will be heading off to college in the fall. A generation has grown up during the team's Phil Jackson years.

He was a native son of the northern plains with Pentecostal ministers for parents. A counter-culture icon who remained relevant long after others faded away.  His impact on the game has been enormous and even in this last numbing defeat, he is asked whether he might still come back. We need to let him go. He gave everything to the game and deserves his time in the Montana woods.  Let him write another fine book. Let him hobble down to his lake and sit a spell. Old lion.

I thought I’d feel worse after such a bitter loss but I didn’t. I felt gratitude for the long, chaotic ride.  I remembered the good and the bad, the championships and the losses. It ended on a low but largely, we feasted.  After the game ended, I read the various recaps, opinions and comments and while some made me smile or reflect, others were venomous and left a unwanted film. That’s okay. The range of expression is as it should be.

There had been such frustration by the time Phil first arrived, a long stretch of not quite getting there. And here we are two stints later, separated by the Rudy T experiment and a book that feels prescient today. We won't see an era like this again, any time soon. It was an unlikely blending of characters and egos, talent and conflict, greatness, desire and sometimes apathy - "the switch" would become a household phrase and we had the great luxury of accepting habits that would have doomed other teams - instead our titles came fast and furious. I wouldn't change the decade for anything. 

Those who’ve read this journal before know that I’m not much on analysis. There will be future entries I’m sure, about the roster, the direction and the draft. There’s basketball still to be played, a champion yet to be crowned and unfortunately, the dark specter of a work stoppage. As Jim Morrison once wrote, "the future’s uncertain and the end is always near."


  1. Awesome name to the blog, good stuff. Your take on this series, loss, and the end of this era are very much like my own.

    Until next year, peace.

  2. This is the most level-headed and enjoyable recap of the Lakers season I've read, among others. Good stuff, Dave. I'll keep on reading as long as you keep on writing -- and I'm not even a Laker fan.

  3. Lovely, elegiac piece. I kind of envy you this ending and this peace of mind. Somewhere a Lakers fan is exclaiming, "WHAT? You envy a four-game sweep? You crazy." No, really, I'm sincere about this. I want to think about how grateful I am for Timmy, Pop, Manu, Tony, and the years of delight they gave me, but I'm not there yet. If the Spurs had managed to win it all last year, I think (I hope) I could have handled this year's first-round exit with a grace comparable to yours. Instead I fought it all the way--I'm still fighting it, I guess, because I want the Grizzlies to lose, and normally I wouldn't. Normally I would want them to go as far as they could so I could say "See? We lost to the best team." No, I am still quite bloody-minded. I want to see them beaten, because I am emotionally still stuck in the first round, waiting to see whether we will play the Mavs or the Lakers.

    And I wanted an end like Phil's for Popovich, not a four-year string of frustration. Not for glory or bragging rights or anything like that--but for Popovich. For him. I wanted people, love him or hate him, to have to say, "He's the best." I don't know what it is about certain people, Timmy is one, and Pop another, that makes it so important to me that they be recognized. I know they don't care about day-to-day media recognition (in fact, they shun it), but I can't help but think that recognition matters to them in the long run. That a legacy of peer respect and prowess would please them. So I want it for them.

    But I digress! And I agree with davis--good stuff.

  4. Great piece. I too feel no shame in how the season ended. I mean, I just can't be greedy after so many years of winning. I hate that we weren't able to put up a better fight, but honestly, the team that wanted it more won. Not being a professional athlete, I can't imagine how hard it must be to keep that burning desire going year after year when you've won it all repeatedly.

    I am saddened that Phil couldn't complete the trifecta of three-peats, but his record remains unblemished in my eyes.

    Next year will certainly be very interesting no doubt. But I for one, need a little break.

  5. Thanks for the kind comments, they are truly appreciated. And for Lauri, I honestly feel that the level of respect for the Spurs remains extraordinarily high. Plus, the peace I felt the other day is starting to wear off like Novocain. At this rate, I'll be standing at the roof's edge by the weekend.