As this column is being written, both the Clippers and the Lakers are 3-1 against their opponents. Without a doubt, the Clippers will finish off the Grizzlies, and the Lakers will do likewise to the Nuggets. So, this is likely to be the best week in Southern California for a long, long time.
For, after this week is over, both teams will face some formidable roadblocks. The Clippers will have to face the team with the best record in the NBA, the dreaded San Antonio Spurs. Their head coach, Greg Popovich, was just voted "Coach of the Year", by his peers. His well-disciplined team is rested, has been tested, and they are eagerly awaiting a visit by the upstart Clippers. Make no mistake about it; they do respect Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. However, they do understand that two players against a good team of 12, puts the odds in their favor. Paul and Blake will give good accounts of themselves, as Baylor and West used to do, when they habitually lost to the Celtics. I am predicting that the Spurs will defeat the Clippers, four games to one. I feel that Paul's presence will keep the Clippers from being swept.
The Lakers have had to struggle against the Nuggets. It is difficult for any visiting team to play in Denver. They don't have as much oxygen available at that altitude, and visiting players have trouble breathing. However, the Nuggets also gave the Lakers a tough time in Los Angeles. They are talented, and they are coached by the legendary George Karl. However, they have a very young team, and they are one or two years away from being prime time performers.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be waiting for the Lakers to come to them. They have already swept last year's NBA Champions, the Dallas Mavericks. They already had superstars Duran and Westbrook, before they added former Lakers legend, Derek Fisher. The trade to the Thunder hurt him deeply, but he did not make any public comments. He was welcomed to his new team and he has become an integral part of their success. He has fit in so well that it appears that he was always there. Even though the Thunder could beat the Lakers without him, the insight that he has about his former team, will make the job a lot easier. The Lakers will have to face, "The Revenge of Da Fish."
MAGIC JOHNSON - The Era of his being one of the Owners of the Dodgers has begun. Rachel Robinson was an honored guest, along with Don Newcombe, and a host of other celebrities. The team did its part by delivering a 9-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants. Johnson's part of this team is largely symbolic and inspirational. His presence will make them a better organization than they would be without him. However, as I understand it, he does not have the power to write checks, or to hire or fire people. However, the symbolism is important because it represents an important change in the culture of the United States.
FLOYD MAYWEATHER successfully defended his Super Welterweight Title, in Las Vegas, last weekend. I must confess that I have never seen any of his fights. From what I have read, I do believe that he is an outstanding boxer. When I was in the Army in Europe, I was on a boxing team. It was something to do while away at the time, since we were fortunate enough to be between wars. I enjoyed being a boxer, except for those times when I was hit by a very hard punch. I am here to tell you that those punches really hurt! The sport of Boxing, as we know it, is dying and is being replaced by Mixed Martial Arts. During my pre-teen and teenage years, all of my friends and I knew the names of every boxing champion from Featherweight to Heavyweight. This was not something that we tried to learn, it just would have been impossible for us to not know, who they were. They were heroes, and they knew it. Most of them were well behaved, at least in public, and we looked up to them. If you were in a Restaurant, or a Night Club, and one of them came in, there would be an announcement that "The Champ" was in the house, and everyone would applaud. Suddenly, free drinks or meals, would just appear. "The Champ was in the House" and everybody loved him. Mayweather has behaved very badly from time to time. He may now just be the best known American Boxer. He seems to be lacking in manners and education. What a pity!
BARON DAVIS was supposed to have been the first Kobe Bryant. He went to high school in Santa Monica, and he later attended UCLA. He had so much talent that an extremely successful career was almost guaranteed. His career did have flashes of brilliance, but he was rarely in good shape, or interested enough to give his best. Some of his injuries may have occurred because of a lack of physical conditioning, while others may have just been accidents. Last year he was so lightly regarded that Cleveland gave him $13 million just to leave town. On the past Sunday, he was playing for the New York Knicks, and he suffered a serious knee injury. Since he is already 33 years old, this injury may end his career. It appears that he did have the talent to be in the same conversation with Bryant and Paul. I wonder what he thinks when he watches them perform before millions of adoring fans. Does he ever think, "That could have been me?" Davis has long been involved in the entertainment industry. I seem to recall reading that he has produced some movies. So far, things have not turned out as well as expected. Let us all hope that the best is yet to come.