April 19, 2015

They Don’t Give Out Trophies For Regular Season Champions

Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans.  Yes, in the words of the Chambers Brothers, “The time has come today,” as it is wonderful to be alive and a pro basketball fan.  The fabulously entertaining NBA regular season came to a stunning conclusion Wednesday night, and now it is on to the postseason, when the big boys lace up their sneakers and go for the gold-the NBA championship.

Last year’s first round of the playoffs were utterly fantastic, in which three out of the four western conference matchups went down to the final game of the series.  In the other, a miraculous, last second, buzzer beating shot by Portland’s Damian Lillard stunned the Houston Rockets in the game six finale.  My head was about to explode, but that’s what two frenzied weeks of wild finishes and  wall to wall action will do to you.

Now for the long standing Warrior nation, this is your time to rise and shine.   Golden State has been hands down, from start to finish, the best team in the NBA this season.    It has been a miraculous run, as no one, including Stephen Curry’s barber, expected the Warriors to win 67 regular season games.

But there was some doubt heading into the new campaign.  Former coach Mark Jackson, who had led the Warriors to a 51 win season the year before, was thrown out the door last May and replaced by TNT’s Stevie Kerr, who had as much NBA head coaching experience as my mother-in-law.  This was a big gamble, as the team thrived under Jackson and were headed down the road to playoff prosperity.

So they awarded Steve Kerr with a 5 year, $25 million contract.  Would this former reserve shooting guard, who once traded punches and received a black eye from then teammate Michael Jordan, be the man to lead the Warriors to the promised land?

Well, it appears that owner Joe Lacob got it right in replacing Jackson, who always said that the hand of God was guiding the Warrior team.  Golden State got off to a tremendous start, stunning everyone around the league by winning 20 out of their first 22 games  The dream was in motion and the fans were going wild.
But first let’s give credit to Mark Jackson for getting the ball rolling.  As he said a few months back on his first return to Oracle Arena an ESPN commentator, “Steve Kerr’s done an outstanding job. He deserves a lot of credit. I think while giving him credit, there’s no need to take away credit from the past. You can’t disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly.”
Throughout the season, there were miraculous nightly performances by all-star guard Stephen Curry, with this ball handling, drives to the hoop and extraordinary clutch three point shooting, making him arguably the most exciting performer in the NBA today.

As he said after Wednesday night’s regular season finale, “We’re a resilient group, and we’re hungry to achieve the next level.  Our record is great.  I don’t think anyone could imagine 67 wins going into the season.  We wanted to finish strong, look forward to the playoffs and bottle up all that mojo we established over these 82 games.”

It’s been a season beyond expectations.  Curry’s partner in the backcourt, all-star Klay Thompson, scored 37, yes 37, points in one quarter earlier in the season, an unbelievable scoring performance.  When he squares his shoulders to the basket when shooting, he’s an artist in motion.
Pastor Jackson said a while back that the combination of Curry and Thompson were “the best shooting backcourt ever, it’s not even close.” I almost choked on my Frosted Flakes when I heard this, but I have come around to the fact that it is true.  They are the best, and the league logo, Jerry West, would agree.
They are joined in the starting lineup with my NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, power forward  Draymond Green.  Now every team had a shot to select Green, who was picked in the second round of the draft, so he came in having a little something to prove, with a chip on his shoulder.  As Jackson remarked, “What he does, you cannot put on paper.”
The other component in the mix is center Andrew Bogut, the 7 footer out of Australia, who’s a shot blocker and rim protector and a key part of the passing game and defensive scheme.  Bogut missed the playoffs last year with a rib injury, but he is now smiling, healthy and ready to do battle.Now the second season is underway, and the number to focus on is 16, in that you have to beat four teams, four times to call yourself champions.  The Warriors have what it takes to go all the way.  Luck has been on their side, as they have been relatively healthy all year, while other teams have been decimated by injuries.

Of course, there are other obstacles looming in their path, but they caught a break when the defending NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs, dropped from the # 2 seed to #6 on the last night of the season, meaning they’ll have to win out on the road.  They take on Chris Paul and the L.A. Clippers, which are the two teams that have eliminated the Warriors from their last two playoff series.

The Warriors opened up on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans, and now have a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series, with game two on tap for tonight.  The Pelicans are young and shouldn’t be much of a challenge.It’s the Warrior’s time.  Everything is falling nicely into place.  They know what their task is and the challenges that lie ahead

In the words of Coach Kerr, “The best thing the Warriors franchise did over the last few years was build a defensive unit. Everything that ‘s happened has prepared this team to play well in the postseason, because it’s all about defensive intensity, being able to string together four or five stops.  Those are the teams that ultimately go deep and maybe win the whole thing,  You got to be able to defend and we can count on our defense.”
It may not be raining in the Bay Area, but the championship drought may soon be over.  We’ve got Curry and no worries.  Let’s keep that mojo rolling.
So I heard through the grapevine that the last week’s flowers in the rain were a nice break from the morning sunrises.  So I thought I would continue the theme of color by showcasing a parade of phalaenopsis orchids I had shot at various nurseries and farmers markets throughout the county.I have hundreds of beautiful orchid photos resting peacefully in my archives, as I went a little orchid crazy a while back.  They are such an exotic and as my cousin Gina says, “erotic” looking flower, and their colors just drive my photographic eyes wild.  So sit back and click on the photos to make them larger.

On to some late night humor.  “Governor Chris Christie says if he’s president, he will crack down on the sale of marijuana. However, that was before he was told it also comes in a brownie. Hillary Clinton announced she’s running for president. Yesterday in Ohio, Hillary popped into a Chipotle and she ordered a burrito bowl with chips and salsa. And on her way out she said, “That locks down the Hispanic vote.” – Conan O’Brien

“Hillary Clinton is now in Iowa. She’s spending every waking minute of her day meeting ordinary people, and it’s to prepare her for a job in which she will never again meet an ordinary person.  Hillary’s trying to appear downhome. Earlier today she was sitting on the front porch of a general store whittling a pantsuit.” – David Letterman

“Hillary Clinton is not the first woman to run for president. That title belongs to Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872. Her running mate was a young, scrappy John McCain.   Jeb Bush welcomed his fourth grandchild. The new Bush grandchild is happy, healthy, and will be running for president in 2048.” – Conan O’Brien

So we’ll catch you have a record setting season and being the best player in the NBA not in the playoffs.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Russell Westbrook fans.

October 12, 2014

Let’s Go, The Meder’s Running

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — geoff @ 8:54 am

Good morning and greetings, October lovers. What a great time to be alive and a sports fan on this planet. The baseball playoffs are in full swing, we’re one third into the NFL regular season, and the NBA preseason games are underway, which means the real deal is right around the corner. Ah, to be young and concussion free.

Now at the age of 61, I still have a heavy case of the Basketball Jones. For the last fifteen years, I have been playing half court pickup games on Saturdays out in Aptos. Fortunately this involves not a lot of running but a fair amount of sweating, which pleases my doctor to no end.

It’s a game of constant motion and jumping, although I only leave my feet if it’s an emergency. I’m a poster boy for playing at half speed.

So I look forward to hitting a few threes, making some no-look passes, and giving a lot of weakside help, which I think is one the reasons God put me on this great green earth. For you non-basketball folks, weakside help means basically leaving the man you’re guarding and creating a nuisance by double teaming opposing players.

It’s part of the old Magic Johnson philosophy, “Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.”
Now it’s not all that glamorous, but this giving gratifies me like taste of any flavor of Haagen Daz. I know I’ve lost a step or two or three, but my hands are still are still my calling card, as the quickness is still there. And according to my rabbi, I have a very high basketball IQ.

So why am I telling you this? Well, the games at Willowbrook Park have ended. It was a gradual slow and painful process, as the players became disillusioned and stopped showing up. So not only do I miss my weekly workout, but the male bonding with the boys from the south county. You can’t put you arm around a memory.

So what’s a fella to do? Well, I’ve started playing over on the westside at Meder Street Park, where I used to run back in the 80′s. It’s a beautiful location, as the court has a lovely view of the eucalyptus trees. And there’s action every day.

The problem is, I’m now mostly running full court, something I thought I had left in the past, along with dating, trick or treating and leaking out on the fast break. Yes, this game now involves actual running, not just sashaying around the half court making clever comments while picking and rolling.

So right after playing I’m usually sore, so I head to the hot tub, where I soak up before I head into the the oxygen tent. I’m usually in traction the next day, but it’s nothing that a ventilator can’t fix. There’s a fine line between exercise and a heart attack.

My son Jason recently said that if he could build his life around anything, it would be playing basketball. Or establishing world peace through beach volleyball. The macadamia nut didn’t fall far from the cherry tree.

But it’s sometimes awkward at the park when there are fifteen guys there and I’m the only one who’s ever seen an episode of Magnum, P.I.. So I explain that I’m prematurely silver and a graduate student in Buddhist philosophy. Or as former Laker Coach Phil Jackson said, “If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball.”

Sometimes before we run start running I get in a few games of half court. It feels so good to be moving and knocking down those open jumpers, bringing me back into the light.

It just goes to show that as one door closes, another back door play opens up. As the saying goes, some want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen. Refuse to lose, defend till the end.

It’s all about standing tall, talking small, playing ball Get a life. Play basketball.

So for today’s photo display, we’re moving into the light, as we are heading down to Lighthouse Point and the arch at Its Beach. All the shots were taken at the golden hour around sunset time, when the sun is low in the sky and the colors and reflection delight.

I’m fond of the last shot of the wave exploding through the arch. This was a magical moment, and my favorite photo from this location.

On to some late night humor. “A group in Russia has nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize. When Putin heard this he said, “I’m all about achieving piece — piece of Ukraine, piece of Poland.” – Jimmy Fallon “Today is Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday. He celebrated the way he always does: having someone try his cake before him. It must be tough buying him a gift. What do you get for the man who has everywhere?” – Craig Ferguson

“The Obamas celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary. It was a quiet late-night supper. It was just the Obamas and a couple of White House fence jumpers. They’re doing everything they can to tighten security at the White House. Today, on the roof of the White House, they added one of those fake owls. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned, and in her closing statement she said, “I’m leaving, not because of the breaches in security, but I don’t think I can take the pressure of the upcoming trick-or-treaters.” – David Letterman

“At the Eiffel Tower they’ve installed a new glass floor that lets tourists see what’s going on hundreds of feet below them. It celebrates France’s favorite pastime: looking down on people.” – Jimmy Fallon “The New York Post says that Oscar Wilde is responsible for Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame because he was the first person “famous for being famous.” When asked her thoughts about it, Kim said, “Is Oscar the one that lives in a trash can?” – Seth Meyers

“The speed limit here in New York City used to be 30 miles an hour. Now it is 25 miles an hour. I’ve gotten out of a cab moving 25 miles an hour. They’re now putting in speed bumps too. For years. it was just pedestrians. Nobody had seen North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for a week, then a month, and now six weeks have gone by and nobody’s seen him. They really started to get worried when he didn’t show up at the Clooney wedding.” – David Letterman

So the games go on and I’m loving it. We’ll catch you creating a TV sitcom called “The Goldbergs” that highlights my Wednesday night. Aloha, mahalo and later, Adam Goldberg fans.

May 26, 2013

All We Are Is Gusts In The Wind

Good morning and greetings, extreme weather fans. It was a bit breezy on the westside of town last week, as the trade winds were gusting along the coast. The winds brought with them chains of pelicans, who flew by in glorious formations, with many stopping at the remaining arch at Natural Bridges to shower, shave and recharge their cell phones, which they keep in their bills. That’s right, cell phone bills. Can you hear me now?

So you may be wondering, how windy was it? It was so windy that on my wife’s birthday on Saturday, she didn’t have to blow out the candles. Unfortunately, her wish did not come true, as when the candles were extinguished, the basketball season still wasn’t over.

My wife and I follow the advice of that wise sage Phyllis Diller “Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” Our marriage is still a work in progress, although she is constantly saying that I never listen to her. At least that’s what I think she said.

So getting back to my wife’s hoop dreams, if you’re an NBA fan, last week was a good one for you, as there were back-to-back overtime thrillers at the start of the conference finals. I realize that professional basketball on TV is not watched by every American with a pulse, with the main reason being the lack of constant violence, as players don’t smash into one another play after play until only the non-conscussioners are left standing. Basketball is a much more graceful sport, played by seven foot ballerinas with wing spans the size of pterodactyls and contracts even bigger.

But as basketball nuts were rejoicing, it was not a good week for the folks in Moore, Oklahoma, as a killer tornado packing 200 mile an hour winds tore through the city, leveling everything in its path. The photos of the destruction were terrifyingly amazing. I remember being instructed as a young child to wait 30 minutes after eating before going swimming and never turn your back on a tornado. And the world’s most dangerous food is wedding cake.

It was a scene of total devastation, as buildings, homes and schools were leveled by a storm that lasted less than an hour but will affect lives forever. It seems, like my subconcious wanderings, that the weather continues to get wilder and wilder, and if this is not global warming, than God is really pissed off about something. And he wanted me to remind you, his last name isn’t “Dammit.”

Perhaps he’s peeved because people litter. I originally supported the death penalty for litterers, but I’ve mellowed over the years and life without the possibility of an egg roll would suffice. I’m still amazed that as I stroll around in 2013, some morons still treat the earth like their personal ash tray. Listen, if you want to suck in that tar and nicotine into your lungs, be my guest. But I would really appreciate if you would not exhale, thereby not polluting my air space and that way getting double the carcinogens to build a straw mind and an unhealthy body. That may sound cruel, but I’m not living in Marlboro country.

And don’t get me started on the slaughter of African elephants by poachers fulfilling the Chinese insatiable need for ivory. I’m not of big fan of extinction, but that’s where these giant creatures of the forest are headed. And Asian gangs are to blame, as I may have to call for an international ban of all chow fun products. What do you get if a herd of elephants tramples Batman and Robin? Flatman and Ribbon.

Continuing on the litter front, the other day I was driving by a fast food establishment, which will remain nameless, (Burger King) and I saw a woman toss her lunch out of her window and onto the ground of the parking lot. My immediate reaction was wanted to strangle her and then go in and order the new Memphis pulled pork sandwich with an Oreo shake. This woman needed a severe scolding or a lobotomy, although I doubt either would have helped. So I opted for the strawberry banana smoothie and some blood pressure medication.

I’m always wondering, where are these people’s consciences, where are their souls? Now, this isn’t the world’s worst offense, like murder or pirating a cable signal, but it leads me to believe that these people, like the batteries in my transistor radio, are dead inside. Which brings to mind the words of Marilyn Monroe, firing back at her critics when she said, “It’s not true I had nothing on, I had the radio on.” Works for me.

So where is this all leading? Well, while our military is racked by gross sexual misconduct, troops still dying in Afghanistan and the IRS being called in for a major audit, spring flowers, gently prodded by April showers, continue to bloom.

We had a little rainfall on the morning of May 12, so I put on my Doobie Brothers raincoat, grabbed my camera and headed out into the pleasant storm. I didn’t have to travel much further than my front yard, as this year, the roses are blooming faster than I can make bouquets. I’d like to think that it’s my organic gardening technique, but that would be giving myself more credit than when I graded myself in college at Syracuse.

I cut back these beauties in the winter, and as a way of saying thanks, they came back with a vengeance I haven’t seen since Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas hit the big screen in ‘War of the Roses.” Let me end with a flowery quote from former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. ““I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.” Thank you and good night.

On to some late night humor. “During a Senate hearing yesterday, Senator John McCain said it was too hard to always have to update apps on his iPhone. No one has the heart to tell him the device he was holding was a garage door opener. A new international poll finds the least popular country in the world is Iran. After hearing this, North Korea said, “What do we have to do?” –Conan O’Brien

“Anthony Weiner has formally announced he is running for mayor of New York City. “Weiner said, ‘Nobody will work harder to make it better.’ As opposed to his first campaign promise, which was ‘Nobody will work better to make it harder.’” –Jay Leno “Everything’s going bad for President Obama with Benghazi and other controversies. But Obama’s trying to turn things around. He’s sending in SEAL Team 6 to bring back Justin Bieber’s monkey.” –David Letterman Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia the head of the religious police said he believes that Saudi citizens who use Twitter will go to hell. Let me get this straight. Tweeting leads to damnation. But filling a palace with kidnapped beauty contestants — that’s OK?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Really, Tea Party? Really? You’re surprised that you’re targeted by the IRS? You named yourself after a group of people who proudly and historically violated tax laws! Look, if I had a vanity license plate that said ‘Weed 420,’ I might expect to get pulled over now and then. “Prince Harry this week toured the Jersey Shore with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. It was the first meeting between the Prince, of the House of Windsor, and the Governor, of the House of Pancake.’” –Amy Poehler

“If you think Benghazi is worse than slavery, the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment, Tuskegee, purposefully injecting Guatemalan mental patients with syphilis, lying about WMDs, and the fact that banks today are still foreclosing on mortgages they don’t own, then your hard-on for Obama has lasted more than four hours, and you need to call a doctor. “The Obama administration is experiencing multiple scandals, and the Republicans are having multiple orgasms. Three scandals at once? Rush Limbaugh today said, ‘I feel like I’m on Oxycontin again.’” –Bill Maher

So that’s our last blast for May. Birthday wishes go out on Tuesday to my sister-in-law Wendi Gilbert, who lives by the simple philosophy that any day involving chocolate is a good day.

We’ll catch you showing the Miami Heat and a national TV audience why you look like an-up-and coming NBA superstar. Aloha, mahalo and later, Paul George fans.

December 2, 2012

Basketball Is Life, The Rest Is Just Retail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — geoff @ 10:53 am

Good morning and greetings, high surf advisory fans. Well, if you like driving rain, gale force winds and giant waves smacking up against the coast, then last week was a good time to be on the central coast. It was invigorating walking on West Cliff last Thursday morning, as remnants of the previous day’s destruction was evident all along the path. I love being on the coast when a storm is raging. Or as author Alice M.Swain once remarked, “Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow.” I couldn’t describe my personna any better.

On Thursday’s sunrise, gorgeous red clouds appeared, which caught me by surprise as I thought there would be as much color in the sky as you’d see at a Tea Party clam bake. There was some disappointment about not capturing this morning glory, but when I called Peter Townshend, he said he had also missed it, but reassured me with his words “We won’t get fooled again.” I then thought to myself, “Who are you? Who, who, who, who?

So during storm watch Wednesday, I reunited with my old radio partner, Jerry Hoffman of 12 Sports Productions, and headed up to UC Santa Cruz to attend Media Day for the Santa Cruz Warriors. As a flower child of the 60′s, I’m still amazed that in 2012, Santa Cruz is the new home of a professional sports franchise. The only pro action I had previously seen in our little kelp-filled conclave was the Coldwater Classic down at Steamers Lane. Personally, I’m much more a fan of a warmwater classsic, due to shrinkage issues and the fact that it’s difficult to wipe out in a hot tub.

Anyway, getting back our new NBA Developmental League team, it got me to thinking about the pick and role that basketball has played in my life. My earliest memories are from grammar school, where we were once beaten by a score of 82-5 by a team that featured a sixth grader that went on to play in the NBA. My favorite memory from high school was the six days a week of basketball practice. My fondest thoughts from my college days at UCSC were playing basketball at the East Fieldhouse while doing research for my doctoral thesis on the importance of playing strong weakside defense.

After graduation, I took my game to Jade Street Park in Capitola, where running with my basketball buddies was always the highlight of the day. When I moved down to Hermosa Beach, you could catch me on the basketball courts in Manhattan Beach, a place where NBA players would sometimes show up and throw me around like a ragdoll. When I returned to Santa Cruz after a ten year stint in SoCal, the action was at Willlowbrook Park in Aptos, where I still practice my arts and what’s left of my craft on Saturday mornings.

Hoops also played a big role in my working life. While attending the University of Colorado, I had trouble with a statistics class that I ultimately had to drop because I had no idea what was going on. After graduating from UCSC, my brother Paul, who by this time was working for the NBA as Director of Video Promotions, helped me secure a job a a columnist for the league’s magazine “NBA Today,” in which I created a column called “Stats The Way It Is,” which detailed everything you ever wanted to know about NBA statistics and more. I’m not sure if that’s ironic, sardonic, and chronic, but it started me down the road to writing about my passion in life, pro hoops and men’s fashion.

Here’s a little side note. One night, when my son Jason was six or seven, we were watching a Laker game together, and he turned to me and said “Daddy, can I keep stats on Shaq and Kobe?” I was stunned, as had never mentioned my statistical past to him. I handed him a yellow pad and he went to town, tracking field goal attempts, free throws and how many Laker girls were natural blondes. At that moment, I knew there would never need to be a paternity test to determine if he was really mine, so that UPS driver down in Hermosa was finally off the hook.

I should also mention that playing basketball with my son while he was growing up was an incredible joy, as I never let him beat me. But as he got bigger, quicker and stronger and I was no longer able to stop him from scoring, I did what fathers have done throughout the ages and passed the torch. I stopped keeping score. This way, I could retire undefeated, because at that point, he was destroying me. In fact, he was so inspired by this transformation of events that he wrote one of his statement essays for his UC application on beating me like a drum the first time. The king was dead.

When I was a student at UCSC, my DJ brother and I did a Sunday night radio sports show on KZSC. This led to me interviewing Hall of Fame New York Post baskeball columnist Peter Vescey, who I later worked for as an indentured servant, staff writer and later co-writer on and off for decades. It also led to a brief stint working for NBC as a field producer for “Showtime,” where I was lucky enough to interview the likes of a Kevin Garnett, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. Bottom line, I have been living and breathing NBA basketball for years, and having the Warriors come to town with their D-League team is just an added treat, like having Direct TV’s NBA League Pass beamed into my home in a non-HD format for the last 12 years.

One final basketball note. When I first met my wife Allison, she told me her father had Laker season tickets right off the floor at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood. Despite the fact they were not actually courtside, this was not a deal breaker and it did not affect our budding relationship. In later years, when I asked her if she wanted to go to a game, she repeated the words her mother had told her father. “Call everyone you know, and if no one else can go, go alone.” Now you see why I married her.

For this week’s photo lineup, we are continuing the sunrise serenade, as on this late October morning I headed up to UCSC to shoot the action overlooking Pogonip. When I arrived, the fog was blowing through, taking away the pure color but adding drama to the moment. When the mist partially cleared, I started to shoot, and you can see the morning evolved into a beautiful experience, as the multi layers of color decorated the sky from the trees to the sea. Love those early bird specials.

On to a little late night. “President Obama and Mitt Romney met at the White House. I guess it was a closed event: There was no press allowed, there were no cameras, no recordings — to which Mitt Romney said, “I’m not falling for that one again.” – Jay Leno “Today Mitt Romney had lunch with President Obama. It was an awkward moment when the bill came and Obama only offered to pay 47 percent.” – Conan O’Brien

“Powerball officials say two people won the $580 million. Congratulations to the winners — Mitt and Ann Romney. President Obama had lunch with Mitt Romney. There was an awkward moment when Romney looked around and said, “So how much do you want for the place?” A prison inmate in Oregon who shot his own jaw off has demanded the state pay for his surgery. At least that’s what I think he said.” – Conan O’Brien.

So that’s our first blast for the new month. We’ll catch you leading your team to three Super Bowl championships while going down in history as one of the greatest and handsomest quarterbacks of all time. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tom Brady fans.

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