What the hell am I thinking?

…or, I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.

I am about to do something so absurd, on the surface you would have to question my sanity.  But dig a bit deeper, and…well, yeah, it’s pretty fucking crazy.  The word “fan”, after all, comes from “fanatic”.

But there are some good reasons for what I’m about to do.

First, I kind of already started on it today, somewhat by accident, and realized that if I’m going to do it, I may as well do it right.

Second, I’m doing it because I can, because technology allows me to do so.  Most folks view the digital revolution in music to mean that people are more interested in individual songs for download than in full albums; the flipside of that is that you’re no longer limited to just a single album…you can build a playlist that’s quite a bit longer.  If you’re into that sort of thing.

Third, this is probably the best possible opportunity to do so.  U2 have reached a point in their career that’s unparalleled in modern times.  I’m not going to argue about their “ranking” in the all-time rock greats—you can feel free to argue the relative merits of Sgt. Peppers, or the purity of Exile on Main Street, or the poetry of Dylan, the hubristic-majesty of Tommy, the unrestrained power of “Black Dog”, or the integrity of that fucking hipster indie band, they’re kinda obscure, you’ve probably never heard of them.

But no band in history has had a career as long, as varied, and as accomplished as what U2 have done.  The only possible contenders would be The Beatles, The Stones, and R.E.M., when looking at both longevity and artistic accomplishment, and all fall well short of what U2 has done.  The Beatles didn’t last nearly long enough (would you believe that U2 has been together, releasing innovative albums and selling out stadiums nearly twice as long as The Beatles were together?), The Stones peaked in the late seventies and have been releasing variations on that same album for three decades, and R.E.M. has been navel-gazing with no drummer for the last decade and a half.

There is no other band where you can assemble, in order, nearly 34 years of amazing rock and roll and listen to it start to finish.

Which is what I’m going to do.  I have created a playlist that starts with U2: 3 and ends with the live version of the Redanka’s “Kick the Darkness” remix of “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” from their 360 tour.  It’s 12.7 hours long, 173 songs, and I’m going to listen to the whole thing, start to finish, in one go.

When I said that this is the perfect opportunity to do so, what I meant is that U2 is on the brink of a possibly major evolution in what they do and how they do it.  They have—depending on how much you believe what they’ve said recently—literally five different projects between 80 and 90 percent done, just waiting for that final tying-together moment to finish them off.

  • The soundtrack for the Spider-Man musical:  While this is mostly Bono and the Edge, anyone who thinks that when they needed someone to play bass and drums on the tracks and looked further than their childhood friends is crazy.
  • The Rick Rubin sessions:  Back after finishing the Vertigo tour, U2 went into the studio—Abbey Road studios, in fact—with Rick Rubin to record an album.  One song, “Window in the Skies”, saw the light of day; the rest were shelved for a later date.  They’ve constantly said they will revisit these rock-centric session and finish the album.  They’ve never said when.  Bastards.
  • Songs of Ascent:  This album is by now both legendary and infamous amongst the hardcore U2 fans.  When their last album was wrapping up, all four of the band members said that they had a bunch of material that was finished but left off the album because it didn’t quite fit.  It was atmospheric, spiritual, meditative and like nothing they’ve done since the more abstract moments on The Unforgettable Fire.  They said it would be out by the end of the year, it just needed some final polishing.  That was in early 2009.  We’re still waiting on it a year and a half later.  Bastards.
  • An “electronic” album:  Both Bono and the Edge have mentioned this lately as something they’re really excited about, all new songs (i.e. recorded after Songs of Ascent) that is offbeat and driven with a groove they didn’t know they still had in them.
  • The “rehab” sessions:  In between the US leg of the 360 tour and the 2010 relaunch of the tour, Bono hurt his back, had surgery, and the band had to delay the start of the 2010 leg until he had healed and rehabbed.  They couldn’t practice for the tour, but they could sit in the studio in Bono’s house and record new material.  Again.  Which still hasn’t been released, though we have heard at least one of those songs performed since the tour started up again (one, incidentally, recorded before Bono hurt his back, so it isn’t technically part of the “rehab” sessions, but fuck it, this is all getting a bit confusing).

All of that is to say that there’s no telling what’s going to happen next with them, and now is as good a moment as any to take a detailed tour of where they’ve been so far.

I’d actually thought of listing the entire track listing up here, all 173 songs, because fuck it, it’s my blog, I’m not exactly paying by the inch, I can write out the names of 173 songs if I want to.  But instead I’m just going to give a quick overview of the playlist.  It will be worth reading—at least, I would enjoy reading it, were another U2 fan doing this insanity and I happened across his blog—because this is not a simple one-album-after-another affair.  There are stretches in their career where fandom has, quite successfully, second-guessed their track selection and ordering, and it gives a much more interesting perspective on those particular moments in their career.  So that’s what follows:  a short list, with occasionally-extensive commentary.  Which is what I do here, so if you’re already at this blog, and have read this far through this post already, and are suddenly balking at going a little further with me…what the hell is wrong with you?


We start with “11 O’Clock Tick Tock”, the best non-album song they ever recorded, and seriously, one of the best songs written between 1975 and 1985 by any band in any genre.

Then comes two of the three songs from U2:3, the EP they recorded that got them their record deal.  Just “Boy-Girl” and “Stories for Boys”; no need for “Out of Control”, the version here is nearly the same as that on Boy (“Stories for Boys” is included because of how much it changed between this EP and Boy).

Then comes Boy, October and War, in order, no need to futz with the order or include any rare B-sides; they were spending all their time touring instead of recording and dithering like they did later on.

After War, we skip Under a Blood Red Sky.  I’m focusing on the songs here, and while there’s certainly a different energy and impact when the songs are played live, there’s no need to revisit them again so soon.  We’ll save that for when I decide to do this madness over again, next time with just bootlegs, no studio recordings.

“Boomerang I” introduces the The Unforgettable Fire era, and leads right into the first song of the album.  Again, no need to re-order anything on the album proper.  After wrapping up with “MLK,” we head to “Boomerang II” and “Bass Trap”, two of the B-sides recorded at this time that don’t have much of a real home anywhere else.  And then comes the first huge departure from cannon.

The Joshua Tree is reconstituted as the band originally intended it:  a double-album.  19 songs.  Full track listing follows.  The story of how an epic double-album became one of the greatest “normal” albums ever released is very interesting, but not something I’m going to get into here now; it’s a long story, and this post is already spiraling out of control.  Suffice to say, almost every single song is both familiar and incredibly fresh and new when heard in the double-album context for the first time.

The Joshua Tree – Restored

  1. Beautiful Ghost/Introduction to Songs of Experience
  2. Where the Streets Have No Name
  3. Silver and Gold
  4. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  5. Spanish Eyes
  6. With or Without You
  7. Luminous Times (Hold On To Love)
  8. Walk to the Water
  9. Bullet the Blue Sky
  10. Running to Stand Still
  11. Red Hill Mining Town
  12. In God’s Country
  13. Trip Through Your Wires
  14. Sweetest Thing
  15. One Tree Hill
  16. Deep in the Heart
  17. Exit
  18. Race Against Time
  19. Mothers of the Disappeared

After the restored JT comes another album that fandom has reworked with incredibly successful results.  I should note that this version is my own, not the one more commonly accepted by the other nutjobs out there, but I like it, and that’s what matters, given who’s doing the listening.

Basically, we take Rattle & Hum, strip out all the live stuff, add in all the B-Sides during this era (seriously, U2’s B-sides from 1985-1989 would comprise a decent career for most bands), and then combine and bake until golden brown and delicious.

Rattle & Hum – Studio

  1. Desire
  2. Dancing Barefoot
  3. God Part II
  4. Hawkmoon 269
  5. Unchained Melody
  6. Hallelujah Here She Comes
  7. Love Rescue Me
  8. Everlasting Love
  9. When Love Comes to Town
  10. Heartland
  11. A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel
  12. All I Want Is You

From here we’re into the most amazing single moment of any musician’s career, the transition between the long-haired, earnest boys of The Joshua Tree and “Fuck the revolution!” and the cynical, smoking men thrusting their hips to “Even Better than the Real Thing.”  I could write thousands of words just about how important and amazing Achtung Baby is, but, again, not here and now, probably later.  I’ll just say that the tracklisting for Achtung is the closest to perfection mortal man has ever achieved, so it remains untouched.

After “Love Is Blindness”, we get a quick tour through some of the B-Sides of this era, those completed before ZooTV became Zooropa:  “Slow Dancing”, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”, “Lady with the Spinning Head”, and “Alex Descends into Hell for a Bottle of Milk” (which was written, believe it or not, as part of the score for a stage production of A Clockwork Orange; again, a story for another time).  And then we crash into Zooropa proper, with no need to change up anything until the air-raid siren comes on in the wake of Johnny Cash’s devastating “The Wanderer” (a song that Bono considers U2’s best, as in the [paraphrased, non-verbatim] quote “It’s a shame that I don’t even sing on our best song).

From here we enter the Passengers/POP era, the last legs of the long, dark tunnel of self-discovery, revelation and deception they entered nearly a decade prior when they landed in Hansa studios to begin work on Achtung.  First the interstitial stuff, “Your Blue Room” and “Always Forever Now” and “Holy Joe (Guilty Mix)”, after which we head straight into POP itself, a grossly-underrated album and one which I love just fine in it’s original form.  And we wrap up the 1990’s with two amazing B-sides, “The Hands that Built America” and “North and South of the River”.

And it’s at this point that I start to become a bit…deviant.  U2 is my favorite band, and are still blowing my mind almost three and a half decades after they first came together.  (Of note, they first sat down together in the fall/winter of 1976, right when I was being born; coincidence?  I think not.)  But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect, and they have had some missteps along the way.  These became more noticeable at the end of the millennium, and to be honest, it’s mostly either non-musical errors in judgment (what to release and when) or “secondary” musical issues (what versions to release and why).

So here we are at All that You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and I’ve taken many liberties here.  First, I’ve added in several of the songs that were recorded but never released, not even as B-sides.  I’ve also swapped in different versions of some songs because I think the unreleased versions are just better.  If there’s one common thread to all the mistakes they’ve made in the last fifteen years, it’s that they’ve over-thought what they were doing; where I can, I’ve resurrected their initial inspiration.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind – Instinctual

  1. Levitate
  2. Elevation
  3. Love You Like Mad
  4. Walk On
  5. In A Little While
  6. Flower Child
  7. Stuck in a Moment (acoustic)
  8. Summer Rain
  9. Wild Honey
  10. Beautiful Day
  11. Kite
  12. When I Look at the World
  13. New York
  14. The Ground Beneath Her Feet
  15. Electrical Storm
  16. Stateless
  17. Grace
  18. Always

Then a few B-sides, “Big Girls Are Best” (written for Ali when she was pregnant, any father/husband will understand) and “Neon Lights”.

How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb – Instinctual

  1. City of Blinding Lights
  2. Miracle Drug
  3. Crumbs from Your Table
  4. Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own
  5. Love and Peace or Else
  6. Native Son
  7. All Because of You (alternate)
  8. Fast Cars
  9. A Man and a Woman
  10. Smile
  11. Original of the Species (Killahurtz Casa De Angeles Mix)
  12. Window in the Skies
  13. One Step Closer
  14. Mercy
  15. Yaweh (from Vertigo: Live in Chicago)

And then another B-side, “I Believe in Christmas (No Snow)”.

No Line on the Horizon – Instinctual

  1. No Line on the Horizon
  2. Magnificent
  3. Breathe
  4. Stand Up Comedy
  5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight
  6. Get on Your Boots (Long Intro)
  7. Fez – Being Born
  8. Unknown Caller
  9. White as Snow
  10. Winter
  11. Moment of Surrender
  12. Cedars of Lebanon
  13. Soon

And we end the whole thing with “No Line on the Horizon 2”, like U2 Meets the Go-Go’s, and the live version of the Redanka’s “Kick the Darkness” remix of “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” from their 360 tour.

Which brings us right up to the present day.  I’m not sure what I’m hoping to accomplish with this musical death march.  It’s a sort of “It’s so crazy, it just might work,” scenario, and when you hit that point, the details tend to not matter too much.  When it’s all listened and done, I’ll try to drop back by here and let y’all know how it went.

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Huh…what?

Been a while since I’ve dropped by, and I refuse to feel guilty about it.  There are plenty of reasons why, foremost being that—as I said from day one—these are the rules of engagement.  Sometimes I’ll post with relentless regularity, sometimes I’ll drop off the face of the earth for a while.  Don’t argue with the rain for being fucking wet, buy an umbrella.

There are plenty of other reasons why I’ve been away…many of which will pop up in the next few days as I try to get back into some semblance of regular posting…or at least try to brain-dump the accumulated detritus I’m carrying around in my head right now.  Because, while I haven’t been posting lately, I have been Writing, especially in the “If you’re talking to a writer, and explaining some involved situation to them, and get to the end and ask them for their advice on what you should do, and they kinda stand there for a few seconds, then nod and mumble ‘Uh-huh,’ and walk off, they’re not ignoring you, they’re Writing” way.

But first, the obligatory Lakers thoughts…good goddamn, the summer is a long fucking drought until training camp opens.

Also, note the nifty Tweet button at the bottom of this post (only seems to show up when you’re looking at the specific post page, not the site as a whole). So do me a favor and retweet this mother.


I think I finally understand why Jordan Farmar went to New Jersey.  On the surface it doesn’t make any sense.  You’ve got a young PG, feeling held back, sublimating the best parts of his game to fit in on a championship-caliber team like the Lakers, so the obvious move is to…go to the worst team in the NBA as a back-up to an All Star-caliber PG like Devin Harris, the kind of guy who’s locked in for 35+ minutes a night.  He’s going to get reduced minutes to play for a god-awful team, which is clearly so much better than playing 20-25 minutes a night for a championship contender, right?

But there’s more to it than that.

First, Devin Harris gets hurt.  A lot.  I’m pulling these numbers out of my ass, but I don’t think the guy has played more than 60 games a year over the last three years, and it would be an even-money bet that he won’t play more than that this year.  Which means for 20+ games this season, Farmar is going to be starting and playing big minutes, which is a huge upside over playing behind an iron man like Fisher.

Second, he’ll be playing for coach Avery Johnson, the polar opposite to Phil Jackson.  Avery is a feisty point-guard, guided the Spurs to a championship with his passing hands and squeaky voice, and I’m sure Farmar is drooling over what he can learn from someone who’s game was very similar to what he does.

Third, and most importantly, Farmar has an almost absurd confidence in his own abilities, even if he hasn’t had a chance to show them off fully yet.  (Though, two years ago, when Fisher was suspended for a game against the Rockets in the second round of the playoffs after forearm-shivering Sciola, Farmar started and had one of the best games of his career, both numbers-wise and in his overall maturity and ability to run the team.)  Whether it’s just something he and his people have tossed around, or maybe someone in the organization said something to him off the record, I think he believes that the Nets are willing to consider him as more than just another body off the bench.  Surely he took note of what happened when Chris Paul went down last year to injury and Darren Collison—Farmar’s former understudy at UCLA—got a serious chance to start at PG, and played so well that many serious observers were suggesting that the Hornets should give the starting spot to him and trade CP3 for parts to put around him.  I think, in Farmar’s mind, there are two possible scenarios over the next year or two:

1)      Farmar plays well enough that the team decides he could start for them, and decide to trade Harris (and his hefty salary-matching salary) and other pieces for a superstar forward or SG (something that was speculated on last year, even without a competent back-up for Harris).

2)      Farmar plays well enough that other teams with serious PG needs (Atlanta [Bibby’s not exactly young], New York [realizing they won’t ever get CP3], Bobcats, etc.) ask for him in a trade that would bring solid pieces back to New Jersey and push Farmar into the starting spot on a better team.

No idea if any of this is true or would actually happen, but it’s the only way I can wrap my head around the decision.  Other than the possibility that it was the only/best offer out there for him.  Which, given that FreeDarko got a 4-year, $20 million deal this summer, isn’t too likely.

Anyway, the fucker went to Taft, took the Bruins to the Final Four, and picked up two rings for the Lakers.  He’s family, wherever he is, and will always be loved and welcomed home.

The King is Dead

I don’t have much in the way of an emotional stake in this thing.  I mean, obviously, I come down pretty clearly on one side (the right side) whenever the Kobe-LBJ thing gets brought up, because I’m from LA, I watched Mamba from his first game in his rookie year, through the airballs against Utah, through the 2001 spanking of the rest of the playoff world, the agony of Phoenix, the agony-er of 2008, and the tears and redemption of the last 2 years.  And, really, scoreboard:  5>0.

And I’m not going to get into the debacle of last night; plenty of other folks online have commented thoroughly on it, and how clearly the look on his face is like the one half-decent guy in a group of bullies (his entourage) when he realizes the joke has gone a bit too far and people are getting hurt.

But I’ve never really hated the guy.  I grew up around rich, entitled kids my whole life, so that goofy, un-self-aware complete lack of empathetic understanding of what the world might be like outside of their “please sir, thank you sir, another sir?” bubble isn’t news to me.  I was a bit sad that he was living through it without having actually earned anything, like an entitled nouveau riche type who isn’t even liquid, just waiting (hoping) for their eight-figure options to vest.  And the antics, the dancing and chalk and 3rd-person-itis…it mostly made me wince, the way you do when any kid is going about blithely making the same mistakes you did that are so stupidly obvious in hindsight.

And it’s odd, in the midst of this incredible hubris, the one thing that stands out to me about him now is:  enforced humility. Because it’s clear, he not only doesn’t care if he’s The Man, is not just willing to “sacrifice” being The Man…he doesn’t want to be The Man.

I’ve seen what it’s like firsthand when great players decide that the only thing important to them is winning a championship, money and egos be damned.  That was the “joy” of the Payton/Malone tour through LA.  They both left millions on the table–guaranteed hall of famers, the clear alpha-males on their respective teams for more than a decade–and came to LA for a last chance to win a ring.  And it wasn’t a small paycut either; I think they split the mid-level exception, so they each made between $2-$6 million that year (to compare, Luke Walton–love him like I do–is making more than that right now).  And they came to a team where an alpha vs. alpha competition was already ongoing between Kobe and Shaq, meaning that there was zero chance that either of them would even be in contention for option A or even option B.  But there was nothing else as important to them as winning, and they did it.

(And yes, I’m aware that LA lost that year, which I blame on Payton’s realization that, contrary to intentions, he couldn’t really relinquish his head-strong nature for the betterment of the team…a realization that allowed him to actually do that very thing a year later, with the Heat, which got him his ring, thanks to the superhuman efforts of NBA superstar Bennett Salvatore.  And it was also Malone’s fault, specifically his karma…seriously, the most injury-safe player of his generation, could jump through a razor-wire-wrapped plate glass window and not even get a bruise, suffers an injury that keeps him out for most of the year and most of the playoffs?  Karma, man, for all those Utah years…and I sarcastically thank him for coming to stand right next to us at the exact moment that boomerang came swinging back around.)

And so, if LBJ’s real, true, only desire was to win–not just in a “30% of me wants money, 30% of me wants fame, and 40% of me wants a ring, so a ring’s the most important thing” way, but in a “I don’t care what number’s on the contract, this is the team that can win, give me a place to sign” way–then there was really only one viable option for him:

Orlando.

But wait, you say, they weren’t a possibility.  They weren’t even in the conversation, how could he have gone there? Well, he could have taken their mid-level exception.  $6 million-ish a year isn’t too bad, especially considering his income from all the sponsorships.  Or, hell, take the veteran’s minimum (like $2 million, I think?), which would allow them to sign someone else (like re-upping Reddick, or a solid back-up for Nelson).  And that line-up–Nelson, LBJ, Lewis, Howard, Redick, and various other assorted parts, all of whom have experience actually winning a game in the NBA finals–that one scares me.  The Miami line-up, not so much (more on that later).  But you have those four on your starting five…holy god.

But he didn’t even consider it.

He could have gone to Chicago:  Rose, LBJ, Boozer (or Amar’e, or Bosh…either of their decisions might have been different if LBJ had handled this differently), Noah…that line-up rules the East and seriously scares me as a Lakers fan.  And he could have gotten max money too.

And didn’t Cleveland have the best record in the NBA the last 2 years?  Seems that would only look to continue, if LBJ wanted to put the team and the city on his back and keep trying to carry them to glory.

But he didn’t.  He went to Miami, where, essentially, he becomes Pippen to Wade’s MJ.  He not only acknowledges that he needed more help than he got in Cleveland–an acknowledgement that he would also have been making had he gone to Chicago or Orlando–but that he isn’t able to carry things on his shoulders alone.  There’s only one way to look at it:  he and Bosh are there to help Wade’s team win titles.  They are his support players, in the hopes that they can out-talent the rest of the NBA into a ring or two.

Which isn’t a guaranteed thing.  They don’t have anyone to deal with Dwight Howard–really only the C*****s have the frontline to do so in the East–so just getting past Orlando will be a wild ride.  And with the rest of the C*****s back, probably playing their final years, hoping not to go out a loser, that won’t be an easy series either.  And really, putting the Bulls lineup–with a few years experience playing with each other under their belts–plus adding Korver as a deep threat, and their new coach putting in the same defense that’s given LBJ fits the last two years when playing Boston…plus the strong hate the Bulls will feel after being spurned by the “big 3″…I wouldn’t put money on that series either way.

But even assuming that they could get past all of those obstacles, there’s still the reigning champs, and I like our chances against the Heat across the board.  Kobe-Wade is a wash, young athleticism against perhaps the wiliest vet the game’s ever seen (and with a full summer to rest and heal too); Artest isn’t the offensive player LBJ is, but in a 7 game series, I give the over/under at 3 games before LBJ wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, expecting to find Artest hovering over his bed, pinning an arm down to fight to deny him the pass; Gasol is to Bosh what a Lotus is to a Mustang (both excellent, but really no comparison 1 on 1)…and then what?  You’ve got Fisher/Blake, Sasha/Walton, Odom and Bynum looking at the guy across from them, asking, “Hey, didn’t I see you playing in the D-League a month ago?”

Sure, years 4 and 5 (and maybe 3) will be different in unexpected ways as that core 3 get used to playing with each other and the rest of the NBA changes around them.  But it’s no sure thing.  There’s no way to say that the Heat are now head and shoulders above the rest, only an injury or lockout away from guaranteed rings. LBJ could have put himself in a situation where that statement was true, or at least less unlikely…but he didn’t want to.

For him, it’s just not all about winning.  It’s about making sure that he’s not responsible for whether his team wins or loses.

7-4-1776

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:

William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:

Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:

William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:

Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

A Belated Anniversary

Just sitting here tonight, listening to the new album by The Choir, Burning Like the Midnight Sun.  It is damn, damn good.

They’re a Christian band, that’s how I first found them, but by God, if you weren’t told that fact, you’d never know it on first listen.  They aren’t Christians like those God-awful “the power of worship” CDs sold late at night on TV; they’re like the cool Christians you hopefully know, the guy who doesn’t immediately come across as religious or fanatic, just a nice guy, probably the only one who looks like he shaved that morning every morning, and when you find out later he’s turning in early Saturday because there’s church the next morning, it’s not a creepy thing, and doesn’t really surprise you.

I mean, it’s got lyrics like:

And we’re sadder than hell, cuz we miss you dear friend

Still it’s good to know your great heart is glad and restored

Forever smokin’ fine cigars at the table of the Lord

I discovered them when I was in the midst of my born-again-itis, many, many years ago, and they’re one of the few—very few—things that have stayed with me since.

So, anyway, I’m sitting here, listening, and realizing that there’s a few things I should get down on this blog, and as long as I’m at a keyboard…

  • Started a new job this week; it’s an entirely new industry, let alone a new company, and I’m finding myself trying to figure out just basic terminology from the context before the person I’m talking to gets too much further along in what they’re saying and I miss something else critical.  Haven’t had these kinds of butterflies in a long time, and it’s a good thing.  I am both completely confident that I’ll be able to figure it all out and succeed, and also completely convinced that each moment will bring an opportunity to fuck up so royally that they won’t just fire me, they’ll be calling DHS about rendition.  But that’s the kind of thing that’s important, and something I’ve been lacking for too long…quoting again from Internet Jesus (part of the same thing I said in my first post here over a year ago), “It [pretension] means ‘an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfillment.’  It doesn’t mean failing upward.  It means trying to exceed your grasp.  Which is how things grow.”
  • Speaking of, yeah, this blog has been going on now for over a year.  First post was made on June 26th, 2009.  I’m frankly stunned out of my underpants that I’m still here and posting.  This is like my tenth blog since the word first existed, and all the previous ones petered out and died within a few weeks (I think the longest one lasted into the second month before I abandoned it).  Yet here I am, a year later, still going on this one.  This will be my 62nd post, which isn’t nearly as great as if I were comparing myself to the standard of a “blogger” (that would require multiple posts every day), but if you think about it, most of what’s up here is long—1500 words or longer (and some absurdly longer, like 6-8k words in some cases)—and contains original content well beyond my thoughts on the current debate over fan fiction legality on some message board somewhere, or why I decided to have a sandwich for lunch and the absolutely hilarious reasons (seriously, they were great, trust me, if you didn’t laugh, it’s okay, it was still a riot) why I ended up having soup instead.  For over a year, at an average rate of more than once a week, I’ve been posting some pretty substantial shit.  I don’t care about comparisons, I’m patting myself on the back for that; you can join in if you wish.
  • As for posting more of that substantial shit up here…well, we might be taking a bit of an unplanned but completely necessary break on that.  There’s this really intense debate over sandwiches vs. soup in fan fiction over at this—  But, seriously, I cranked out thousands of words on the novel during the first bit of my time off from work through May and June, but around the 50k words point (combined since I started it in December; that’s not 50k words in like 5 weeks), I hit a bit of a wall.  Correction: I woke up several hours later with a bump on my head and no real memory of what had happened.  It’s now the longest thing I’ve ever written, and I think there are a dozen different reasons why I absolutely feel like my fingers are embedded in cement any time I sit down to work on it now (none of which are worth going into in a bullet-point post about several random things).  That’s one of the reasons for the recent Lakers posts (aside from the silly, absurd joy of it all), and why you might be seeing more stuff like that in the near future (meaning both Lakers and non-fiction-type stuff)…I need to keep my fingers moving, and if they aren’t able to go in a certain direction at this particular moment, then like that idiot with the headband and shuffle strapped to his arm, I’m just gonna jog here in place on the corner until the light turns green again.

Anyway, it’s been an epic year, too many things to even consider the good/bad breakdown.  I am nowhere near where I thought I’d be back then, which is good, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  That’s how we grow.

Thanks for hanging out with me along the way.

If Phil leaves…

Another post about the Lakers, because hey, my blog.

(There will be some writing stuff coming along soon here, updates and the like, if that’s more your speed.  Patience, grasshopper.)

If Phil leaves the Lakers…well, the first thing I’m going to do is fly up to Minnesota, find Rambis, and kick him in the shin, shouting, “If you’d just waited one more fucking year…!”

But, aside from that, if Phil leaves now, it presents the team with a difficult choice, one that has little to do with the “system”, triangle vs. whatever.

Despite all the dark, shimmering cloaks of mystery that surround the triangle offense, it’s not some freakish aberration of what most people consider basketball.  Players in the triangle do run plays, the same kinds of plays that every other team under the sun do.  Down-screen, baseline backdoor, pinch-post P&R…it’s all in there.  Here’s the only real difference:

In a “normal” offense, the point guard brings the ball across the timeline, calls a set play that the team has practiced (usually passed to him by the head coach, either from the sideline or during the last play stoppage), the team runs that play and either finds success or doesn’t.  If it doesn’t work and they have time, they’ll run another play, a Plan B that they’ve prepared, or else they’ll give it to the guy on the floor who can create his own shot and hope that he does so.  The plays they run can have options, based on what the defense does, but they’re pre-planned and dependent upon the players practicing the moves over and over so they know exactly what they’re supposed to do.

In the triangle, one of a couple of players (usually guards, but anyone who can handle well will do) brings the ball across the timeline, everyone gets into their proper spacing (three players in a triangle—post, wing and corner—on one side [hence why it’s called the “triangle” or “triple post” offense], the other two spaced at the wing and high post on the other side), and then the offense is “initiated”.  If on the strong side (where the triangle is), the initiation is usually a pass into the post player; if on the weak side, there’s either a pass made into the high post or a S&R with the two of them.

No specific play is called, not yet.  The offense is initiated, and then the players observe how the defense reacts.  And based on what the defense does, the offense will do something else—say they run a double-team at the player in the triangle post, well, that leaves someone else on the court open, or at the worst in a 2 on 1 zone, and the offense’s job is to get the ball to the open man.  And there are a variety of ways to do that, each dependent upon exactly who that open man is, where exactly the defense is, etc.

So, the triangle does result in running the same kinds of plays that a “normal” offense does, but instead of having it pre-planned, it grows organically out of what happening right then, in the moment.  If you have a team running the triangle that’s unfamiliar with it, or is made up of players who aren’t that bright, or are more “athletes” than “basketball players”, or who haven’t spent much time playing with each other, or who don’t really trust each other, it can be a mess.  No one knows where they’re supposed to go, nor where anyone else is going to be going.

But when you have a team of high basketball IQ players who know each other well and trust each other, it is sublime.  Pau will get the ball in the post, with Odom at the wing and Fisher in the corner.  Fisher’s man shades in to start double-teaming Pau, and so Odom’s man shades down into the lane to be ready to help out.  Odom sees this, and dives down the lane towards the basket.  Pau looks to pass to the diving Odom, but sees that not only has Odom’s man recovered, but Bynum’s man, seeing the diving Odom, has moved away from Bynum to help as well.  Bynum sees this and flashes to the far side of the rim, Pau ignores Odom (who is now needlessly double-teamed off the ball), and lofts a high pass to Bynum for an easy layup.  Or he fakes that pass, forcing Fisher’s man to turn his head and run to help, and passes to Fisher for the open corner three.  Or any of another dozen options.

A “normal” offense is like an orchestra, everyone trying to be exactly where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there, doing what they’re supposed to do, exactly as it says on the identical scores in front of them.  The triangle is like a jazz combo:  they all know the tune, they’ve all played it together before, they know what the others like to do, so they pay attention to each other, and if, say, the guy on keyboards gets into a really good groove and sounds like he wants to kick the pace up a bit, the other guys will either pick up their own playing to come along, or will ease back a bit, giving him the space to shine.  It’s organic, everyone moving towards the same goal, with the moves and the goal defined on the spot, wordlessly, growing out of a shared, instinctual awareness of what’s happening exactly in that specific moment.

It’s a beautiful thing where the joy comes not from achieving the goal but from being in perfect unison with four other guys who you know, and trust, and care about, and are sharing that specific moment with.

And it doesn’t matter who the Lakers bring in as coach if Phil leaves, do you really think, after all the years these players have spent with each other, and the success they’ve had trusting each other, if they’re running a set play, and see the defense reacting a certain way, that they aren’t going to immediately abandon that play and react to what the defense is doing?  And that that won’t happen several times, every game?

So the system the next coach has isn’t as important as how he will react to what the team is doing.  Will he empower the team to do what they know how to do, even if it means they regularly toss his carefully-constructed offense overboard?  Will he encourage that?  Or will he be upset that they’re not doing what he wants them to do.

This is really my only concern with Byron Scott.  He’s a true Alpha male who has already butted heads with two teams previously.  Is he secure enough in himself—and trusting enough in his team—to take that step back?  Or will it turn into a battle of wills?

And we also have to worry about the opposite, which is really my only concern with Brian Shaw.  Will the players respect him enough to know that it’s his hand on the wheel, no matter how much he leaves to them to sort out on their own?  Or will the inmates—for lack of a better analogy—end up taking over the asylum, with Shaw little more than the guy doing sideline interviews after the first quarter in a suit?

What we need to replace if Phil leaves is not a system, but his presence and leadership.  Phil is the ultimate leader, a guy who commands respect without ever having to say it.  A guy who steps back, points at what needs to be done, and lets his charges sort it out for themselves, without ever giving up any of his authority.  Who empowers his players to own what they do, without any of them ever forgetting that he, ultimately, is where the buck stops.

I don’t know if it’s possible to find a perfect replacement for that…guys with eleven rings, and his particular demeanor and philosophy, don’t grow on trees.  But I’m convinced that, regardless of the X’s and O’s, that the real battle for success in the first season without Phil will happen here, in the shared hearts and minds of the players and the coach.

83-79

I feel a tremendous joy today.  It is not the joy of an unexpected miracle; it is the joy of agony averted, a hinting shadow of what a prisoner must feel when the governor calls as they’re strapping him to the chair.

Game 7 was both ugly and beautiful.  I have never seen such effort expended, and yet it was in all the worst ways:  smothering defense, game plans permanently disrupted, everything that is beautiful and graceful about the sport tossed aside as the largest and most physically-capable athletes in the world fought with every ounce of their being for one more inch than the other guys.

It was exactly the kind of game the C*****s wanted; the ugly, physical mockery of “sport” is what they’ve built their foundation upon, with the understanding that they can’t compete with the best in a battle of skill vs. skill, so they make sure everyone has to suffer through the worst night of their lives, expecting to be able to endure the pain longer than their foes.

And last night, the Lakers endured.  When option A didn’t work, and option B didn’t work, and option C wasn’t even possible, they got ugly too.  In the end, enduring ugliness and pain is also a skill, and a question of will, and the Lakers had more of both.

It felt like two fighters, beating each other senseless, both falling to the mat, and the winner isn’t the one who’s left standing, it’s the one who can somehow manage to regain their feet before the bell rings.

Some other thoughts, walking through it by position:

  • Kobe has, in the past, led the league in scoring.  Kobe, if he wanted to, could lead the league in rebounds.  Or assists.  Or steals.  Or, probably, blocked shots.  He has the will, the skill, and the unsurpassed understanding of the game to do whatever he wants to.  He knows in his heart he’s a scorer, and what he wants to do is win rings, so he finds ways to do what he can, and has proven over the last few years that–instead of gathering those stats for himself–he can create the space for his teammates to contribute.  So they’re built up, and in that one, critical moment when Kobe can’t do what he knows needs to be done–the shot takes a weird bounce off the rim and he’s on the wrong side of the court to get the rebound, or the player he passes to slips, going from “wide open and ready to hit the shot” to “potential turnover”, or his own shot is having one of those horrific nights when the ball is clearly bigger than the hoop–his teammates have the confidence and experience to get it done to help him.

Last night, Kobe’s shot was toast.  I’ve said for years, just like on some nights you can’t miss, no matter your form or where you’re shooting from, some nights the iron is unkind, and there’s no way outside of calling a timeout and playing 1 on zero that the ball is going in.  And so not only did he eventually trust that his teammates would be able to make the shots he couldn’t–note his pass to Artest with 1 minute left that led to a three to push the Lakers’ lead back to two possessions–he found other ways to contribute.  He hit the boards, set screens, orchestrated the defense.  More than anything, he didn’t panic, never allowed his teammates to see a look in his eyes that suggested he didn’t think they would win.

There’s an old saying (paraphrased here, not sure if there’s an actual quote to be strayed from) that it’s easy to be a friend when things are going well, but you know who your true friends are when things are going awfully.  And the corollary from last night is:  it’s easy to win when everything’s going well, but only the greatest can find a way to win when everything’s going wrong.

And I have to comment on this:  I have never seen him so un-guarded than he was in the post-game interviews.  He is always stoic, most often the most intelligent person in the room and willing to say and do whatever he wants to shape the mood and moment.  And last night, he let it all hang out.  When asked what this one means for him personally, he replied, ““Just one more than Shaq.  You can take that to the bank. You know how I am. I don’t forget anything.”  We all know that’s the truth, he didn’t need to say it, and never does, because it gets in the way of what he’s trying to do.  But damn, he said it.  When asked about the meaning of the victory over the Celtics, after denying that there was anything special about it for weeks, just another game, who it is doesn’t mean anything, he said, “I was just lying to you… You guys know what a student I am of the game. I know every series that the Lakers have played in. I mean, I was just a Laker nut, and I know every Celtics series, every statistic. It meant the world to me.”  Again, we knew that, he didn’t have to say it, we knew why he wasn’t saying it…but damn, it was amazing to see the walls come down, just a little, and actually hear it.

  • Is there anyone you’d want more in a foxhole next to you than D-Fish?  The guy is limited, and aside from his rainbow jumpers (when they go in), his game is anything but aesthetically pleasing.  But he is relentless.  Sometimes it gets him into trouble; I can recall well more than a few times when it’s looked like he’s in a complete fog, just putting his head down and charging forward, hoping that his head is stronger than the brick wall he’s charging at.  But there’s no one you want by your side more when everything’s on the line.  He gives everything he has to his teammates, and in doing so silently demand that they give the same back.

I remember a game two years ago, mid-January, nothing of great import, early second quarter.  Ariza got tangled up with someone under the basket–I think it was Gerald Wallace–and they were yelling at each other, in each other’s faces.  Wallace got the best of it, stepping to the line and making his free throws, and it looked like Ariza was completely out of his game; it was the kind of sequence that leads to the other team going on an emotional run while you come unraveled.  But D-Fish spoke quickly to Ariza, and then, on the next defensive possession, used some veteran trickery to get in Wallace’s blind spot and take a charge, Wallace’s 3rd foul, forcing him to the bench for the rest of the half, ending the run and getting the Lakers back on track.  That’s revenge.  That’s how you stick up for your friend.  That’s both Judo and chess, in one brief sequence.

That’s D-Fish.

  • I love Artest.  Love, like I want to hug him, then lean back and howl at the moon with him, then give him another bearhug.  The guy is insane.  I don’t know the diagnosis, but when I say he’s crazy, I don’t mean “wow, that dude’s crazy!” I mean “I hope he is under a doctor’s care so he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else.”  There’s clearly some ADHD, maybe mild Autism or Asperger’s…it’s like he has no Ego, and is just pure Id–impulsive desires–and super-ego–loftier thoughts about the right thing to do–with absolutely no moderator to guide his actions through that minefield.  The kind of guy that, if he was 5’10” and working next to you at your job, you’d get excited about going out drinking with him on Friday, but only if you wanted a seriously wild night that might lead to trouble (intentional or not), and you know that within six months at the most he’s either going to screw something up or piss his boss off enough to get fired.  Again.

And here’s why I love him:  he knows all of this himself.  He knows that he’s not fully right in the head, and has sought out help.  And he’s gotten a little better.  He said multiple times in his press conference last night that he owes a lot of his success–and his life–to his psychiatrist, because she’s helped him.  He knows he’s not good at things–being poised under pressure, trusting himself and those around him, doing what he knows he’s supposed to do instead of just going with whatever wild thought pops into his head–and he asked for help, and trusted that help, and got better.

For all that a person like Artest can be sad, and even a little scary, with all that potential mixed with a blind self-destructive impulse, the joy is all the greater when they manage to fight through it and improve their own lives and those around him.

And so, I love Artest, because of the joy he has found and brings.

  • Gasol was just pure last night.  The game was ugly, he couldn’t hit a shot, and looked more often than not like the hero of a kung-fu movie during the fight scene where he’s attacked by a dozen enemies at once, flailing and striving just to keep them at bay.  But he was pure, the effort he gave, the passion he brought…if you see that shot of him in the 4th quarter, after he’s put back another missed shot, with multiple bodies slamming into him (again), and he’s heading back up court, screaming with emotions too big to name…it should be the goal of every person alive to have even just a single moment in their entire life where they feel that passionate about something, anything.  And last night, there was no censor, he opened himself up, bared every bit of his being in the moment when it mattered most.  Pure.
  • Not sure I’ve ever been as proud of an athlete on a team I follow than I am of Bynum right now.  The guy’s got torn cartilage in his knee.  I’ve had the same injury, to a much lesser extent than he does, and I had difficulty walking across the living room.  That boy–sorry, correction, that man strapped it on and went to fucking work.  He was a beast.  The box score doesn’t show too much, but he was like the body blows a fighter throws early in a fight to wear their opponent down.  Even if they don’t connect, and don’t knock the other guy down, and don’t even get counted by the scorers of the fight, the impact sends shivers through the other guy, and you can’t take too many of those before things start to break down.  And that was Drew, all playoffs long.  Strapping it on and punishing the other guy over and over again.  No credit for a rebound, but his man so thoroughly boxed out that they’re already half-way down the court by the time Pau get the board for himself.  Credit for a missed shot, but you could power a small town for a week with the energy his defender had to put out to force the miss.  Why were the C*****s so out of gas last night, that they couldn’t hold on at the end?  It started with Drew knocking them silly at the start.
  • Not too many thoughts on the bench, really.  Odom finally showed up, playing focused and present.  Farmar and Shannon didn’t contribute too much, but neither did they screw anything up.  I did want to note one thing, though, and it’s a comment both on Sasha and PJ.
  • Late 4th quarter, 12 seconds left.  Lakers up by three, with possession, taking the ball out of bounds at the sideline, Boston sure to intentionally foul in the hopes that the Lakers will miss one or more free throws (which they’d been missing all damn night) and give them another chance.  And all year, Sasha has been in the doghouse.  Not sure why, but his minutes almost entirely went to Shannon Brown.  The guy who was the first off the bench in 2008, who’s dropped 30+ against a Spurs-caliber defense, had more DNP-CD’s than meaningful contributions over the course of the year.  But he kept working, kept fighting, and in this exact situation, PJ not only puts him into the game, but calls the damn play for him.  12 seconds left, the game and entire season on the line, and you pull a guy from deep off the bench and call his number?  Serious, serious testicles.  And the best part of it is:  Sasha takes the inbound pass, gets fouled, and then machine-like hits both free throws.  Like both he and PJ knew he would.  There are subtle levels of trust and history there that are beyond me.  All I know is that it doesn’t surprise me that PJ would make that call, nor that Sasha would step up and hit them both, icing the game.

And so that’s the season.  We have months of drafts, deals, free-agent summits, three-way trades, and all that other nonsense.  Like the Gods on Olympus, peering down through the clouds at the petty, endless machinations of the mortals below, the 2010 Lakers are above all that, drinking of ambrosia, waiting for the next contender to challenge them.  Because there’s only one team that can accept challenges to their throne:  the champions.