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.

February 20, 2011

You’ve Got To Be Orchidding Me

Good morning and greetings, NBA All-Star game fans. Well, in the words of Jimi Hendrix’s old pal Buddy Miles, the weather went through “them changes” last week as we went from Summer Sanders back to Jonathan Winters here on the central coast. The couple of powerful storm systems from the Northwest blew in torrents of rain, pebble beach-sized hail, snow and fabulous rainbows that would have made the North Shore jealous. And yes, by the grace of will and God, I caught one down at Natural Bridges that I’ll post on this site as soon as my camera and liver dries out.

So what is it about winter that brings these violent storms to Father Earth? The weather was as brutal as Idi Amin in January, as the east saw more snow drifts then at a Charlie Sheen toga party. Scientists and four out of five dentists that chew gum say that no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place, but I’ve watched a pot and it has boiled. I once heard Lindsay Lohan say that a snowflake is winter’s butterfly, but I prefer the orange and black monarchs who visit Santa Cruz every fall and don’t require me to carry a shovel, ice scraper and chains in my Kelly Slater board shorts.

Still, my weather philosophy goes back to something I first heard from a member of the Rainbow Family at Woodstock. “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, bring your own sunshine.” While sleigh riding through Antarctica, Admiral Perry learned that the Eskimos have fifty-two different names for snow because it is so important to them, much like the way I have eighty-five names for my pillow and TiVo remote control.

Duke Kahanamoku, the Hawaiian swimmer who brought vowels and surfing to the mainland, has this tropical perspective of the coldest season. “I have never seen snow and do not know what winter means.” My favorite French romantic poet, Victor Hugo once remarked, “winter is in my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.” That may be all well and good, but I’m more of a Robert Byrne type who says, “winter is nature’s way of saying ‘up yours.’” As far as the record snowstorms that have battered the midwest and east coast this winter, I believe it goes back to the boys from Spirit who told us “it’s nature’s way of telling you something’s very wrong.”

But let’s end all this winter talk on a light-hearted note. Knock, knock. Who there? Freeze. Freeze who? Freeze the jolly good fellow… Hey, nobody said I’m going for a Pulitzer here.

So while the skies were gray last week, there was color in my heart and my photo archives. Tomorrow is my brother Paul’s birthday and he is an orchid lover. As children, we spent hours together in our greenhouse, tilling the soil, tending the seedlings and hand-feeding tiny acorns to the baby squirrels. So to honor my favorite middle brother on his special day, I’d thought I’d let him grace the pages of today’s blog. So here, in his own words, a young man who claims he once beat me in ping pong, Paul Gilbert.

I’m trying to figure out when I first got interested in orchids (my botanical memory cells have been slowly composting over the years). I believe it was after visiting the acres of greenhouses at Rod McLellan headquarters in San Bruno, CA. A friend of ours was working there in the marketing department and gave us a tour and I was immediately taken with these most unusual and exotic plants. At the time, McLellan was one of the biggest supplier of orchids in the country. They even had an “orchid spa,” where people (wealthy) would have their dormant plants taken care of until they were ready to bloom again. Nothing like a little hot oil massage to reinvigorate those tired roots.

I began building my own collection, starting with the usual mundane pink and white phalaeonopsis, also known as the moth orchid, due to the shape of its flowers. Soon, I graduated to more interesting-looking striped and spotted varieties. Then, I began to expand my horizons to include warm-growers like cataleyas, dendrobiums and vandas. I began going to orchid shows, hunting for unusual species, with more striking colors and shapes. Now, I was hooked and kept needing that orchid high, which fortunately, you didn’t need a prescription for in California.

Next, I expanded into fragrant orchids, such as miltonias, zygopetalums and my favorite, an oncidium known as Sherry Baby. This plant fills an entire floor of a small house (aka ours) with an incredibly intoxicating smell. Sometimes, I’ll find one with six stalks and up to 75 delicate flowers and every time I pass by it, I inhale deeply (unlike Bill Clinton) and marvel at its sweetly delicious perfume. If my wife wore that kind of scent, I might never let her leave the room.

Eventually, the global economy jumped into the orchid business and prices plummeted as the market became saturated. Plants that once went for $60-100 in a flower shop could now be purchased for $15-30 at Home Depot or Trader Joe’s. About a year ago, I started growing tired of feeding and watering my clan and gave all the non-blooming plants away via Craig’s List to a transplanted couple from Hawaii who couldn’t afford to buy new ones themselves. Plus, there’s a wholesale greenhouse in Half Moon Bay, so when I go down to Santa Cruz, I stop in there and pick up some new ones when I need them. My orchid passion still burns, but I’m not into long courtships anymore. I’d just as soon grab a quickie.

Besides, I’ve got a new flame. Don’t get me started on succulents.

Thank you, brother and let me say a few more words about the guy who popped out of my mother’s womb after me. Paul used to work for NBA Entertainment and created the league’s “NBA Action is Fantastic campaign.” Bill Simmons, author of the best seller, “The Book of Basketball,” says that if he were putting together an 80′s time capsule and could only use 30 minutes of material, it would include Paul’s “Oscar-winning sixty second classic that used Hall and Oates, ‘One on One’ that featured a number of pretty passes, Jerome Whitehead stuffing Tom Chambers dunk and James Worthy’s gorgeous 360- degree layup in slow motion during the sax solo.” Bill, do me a favor and throw in Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited” promo just to make amends.

So for our photo greenhouse, I have included a variety pack of orchid delights. In my archives I have hundreds and hundreds of these photos, as besides my brothers I grew up an only child and consider them all my friends. And if I can get personal for a moment, on the door my oval office I have 98 different photos pasted to each side of the “orchid door.” It’s not the “Stairway to Heaven” but it’s damn close. My father always said, “Geoff, you have to have hobbies” along with the all-time classic, “if cream cheese were illegal, I’d stop eating it tomorrow.” Now that’s an episode of “Law and Order” I’d pay to see.

On to the late night. “Experts say that what happened in Egypt proves that countries in the Middle East can move toward democracy without the U.S. invading them. George W. Bush said, “Now you tell me.”–Jay Leno “Now that Hosni Mubarak is out of office, they’re saying he’s an old tyrant, decrepit, and out of touch. Oh wait, that’s me. Hosni Mubarak reportedly didn’t understand the Internet and social networking. That may be true, but somehow he figured out how to wire $80 billion to Switzerland.”–David Letterman

“President Obama unveiled his new budget, including $1 trillion in spending cuts, which Obama called the most painful choice he’s ever made. Then he looked over at Joe Biden and said, ‘OK, 2nd most painful choice.’”–Craig Ferguson “It rained in Los Angeles. By the time I figured out how to work my wiper blades, it stopped. Over the weekend, we’re supposed to get over a quarter inch of rain per day. Why is god doing this to us?”–Jimmy Kimmel “NPR’s “This American Life” reported that they may have stumbled upon the secret ingredient to Coca-Cola. It turns out that it’s Pepsi.”–Conan O’Brien

“Watson, the IBM computer, beat his two human opponents by a long shot on “Jeopardy.” He’s already getting a little famous. In fact, he was just offered a million dollars to pose nude for Popular Mechanics. A new study found that married couples who go on double dates with other couples are more likely to have better relationships. They say it inspires better communication — on the ride home, when you talk about how much you hated the other couple.–Jimmy Fallon “Facebook is looking into buying Twitter for around $10 billion. If all goes as planned, the company hopes to combine the two companies, creating the biggest waste of time the world has ever seen.” –Jay Leno

“Breast feeding activists plan to descend on Washington for a public breast feeding demonstration. Also descending on Washington, thousands of men saying, “What? I’m looking at the baby.” –Conan O’Brien “In Los Angeles, 170 people became violently ill at the Playboy mansion. Doctors don’t know what it was, but their theory is that Hugh Hefner’s robe fell open.”–Craig Ferguson “Khloe Kardashian and her husband Lamar Odom are coming out with a cologne for Valentine’s Day. It’s called “One of Us Has a Skill.”–Conan O’Brien “Happy Valentine’s Day to everybody. Or if you’re single, Happy Ben & Jerry’s Day!”–Jimmy Fallon

I thought we’d end with this. Pat Williams, the founder and executive vice president of the Orlando Magic, has bone cancer. ‘I’ve delivered many a motivational speech about the stuff you always hear about in sports. I’ve stood up there and told other people you can’t give up and you’ve got to show courage, perseverance and will. Now, I get to live out the things I always talk about. That’s a privilege.’

Williams was then asked, what advice would John Wooden, the greatest coach of all time give you? “Coach Wooden would look at me and say in a soft-spoken voice: ‘Pat, even though it’s not the way you planned it and even though you might not feel 100 percent, make each day your masterpiece.”

I don’t know if I could. Courage is not one of my big attributes, I’m much more of a clever coward. So that’s a wrap. Birthday wishes also go out next Sunday to my old Day Hall pal Amy Zimmerman, who has traveled the world and still uses words in sentences that I have to look up.

So be grateful for your good health and we’ll catch you driving the lane. Aloha, mahalo and later, Derrick Rose fans.

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