By Lang Whitaker

OK! It’s another Manic Monday, and I wish it was Sunday, my “I don’t have to run” day. But it ain’t. It’s Monday, and so we deal as best we can.

• A quick plug for tomorrow morning’s Team USA/Australia match-up. The game tips off at 8 a.m. EST, and I’m going to be liveblogging it here on SLAMonline along with an invited All-Star SLAMonline cast. Wake up early, whatever, just come back in the morning for that and read along with us as we watch the game on ESPN2. Should be fun. I’ll have the post up later tonight so keep an eye out…

• Let’s pour some out for Skip Caray, the longtime Braves announcer who passed away yesterday morning. Skip was acerbic, honest and, most importantly, funny, and as far as I’m concerned, he and The Professor, Pete Van Wieren, will always be the voices of the Atlanta Braves.

Just before I moved from Atlanta to New York, Skip began a Braves pregame radio show on WSB where he took calls and questions from listeners, and then mercilessly berated any callers who asked ill-informed or dumb questions. It was hilarious, the kind of radio you rarely hear anymore. Which is why it didn’t last very long. Also, of course, there was this…

(Hopefully that clip doesn’t get yanked — I got goosebumps watching it just now. Sorry, Pirates fans.)

More recently, the line everyone’s quoting today came from a Braves broadcast just a few months ago. When the Braves filled the bases against the Reds, Dusty Baker went to the mound, prompting Skip to say, “And the bases are loaded…and Dusty Baker wishes he was.”

Anyway, we Braves fans will miss you, Skip. I think the AJC’s terrific Braves beat writer David O’Brien posted a perfect response to Skip’s passing.

• My parents were in town last week, so in addition to working, I was playing tour guide and spending a lot of time with them. So I didn’t have a chance to write about going to the launch party for the Sidekick 2008.

You guys know I’m a devoted Sidekick user, have been for years. I know they’re supposed to be for teens or kids or whatever, but I love the size of the keyboard and the quality of the screen. Also, by now enough people have my Sidekick email address that I don’t want to change it.

I’ve been using the new Sidekick since the launch party, and I love it. It’s a little smaller than the Sidekick LX, but it’s lighter, seems faster, and everything about it works a little better than the previous models. Plus it shoots video now. Here’s a good review, and check SLAM issue 122 (out next month) for Josh Childress’ review.

• For the first time in a while, I’m excited about the release of NBA Live. Had a chance to play Live 09 for a while last week at EA Sports’ annual fall preview, and it’s got some cool additions that I think will really improve gameplay.

I’ve always said here that I don’t like most basketball video games because they just don’t play like real basketball. I think that’s mostly a function of the sport, as basketball (unlike baseball or football) doesn’t have a break before every play, and unlike soccer the action is much more manic and frenetic. Also, there’s so much improvisation and quick adjustments involved that basketball as a video game seems almost impossible to replicate.

But the new Live has added a few wrinkles that should make it pretty incredible. To start, the pick-and-roll seems much more integrated into the game than in previous versions, and it’s pretty easy to control the guy picking for you (so you can tell him to roll, to pop, whatever). They also have a FIBA license, so there’s 24 National Teams on there. And the coolest feature is something EA’s calling “Dynamic DNA.” Basically, they’re going to use stats that are updated daily to change the way the video game characters play in real time. Really. Here’s more detail. All I know is it looked and felt pretty incredible.

• Why yes, Eva Mendes, I will totally buy your completely NSFW perfume. Is there anything else you can use you lurid appeal to convince me to purchase? Seriously, I’m in. Just let me know.

• You know how on the weekends MSNBC does marathons of prison-related shows? Well, they do. Inexplicably, NBC’s cable news network has dozens of hour-long documentaries about different prisons all weekend, every weekend. I tried watching a little, but there’s only so much I can take.

And then, this weekend, I noticed a program listing for a show on MSNBC that could not have made me want to watch any show any less in perhaps the history of television. The program was called “Lock-Up” or something equally foreboding, and then the description of the show read, simply:

“Intimacy in prison.”

No thanks! Now where’d I leave that remote…

• And finally, it’s the final (for now, hopefully) installment of NBA Friday! Joel Kimmel, the official illustrator of The Links, writes…

Here it is, after thirty weeks of NBA paintings, this is last one in the series. I had planned from the start to finish off the project with a painting representing the world champions, and Finals MVP Paul Pierce was the easy choice. There isn’t much explanation needed for this one: Simply put, Paul Pierce is The Truth.

I guess that’s it (for now). I’ll never stop painting basketball players, but I probably won’t be doing one a week in the foreseeable future! There are still so many players that I want to paint, and so many other aspects of the game I want to try to capture in my paintings.

Thanks Lang for the opportunity to show my work to basketball fans and the SLAM readers. Also, thanks to everyone who ever commented on an NBA Friday post on SLAMonline. Whether you suggested a player, gave me an idea, complimented a painting or told me you could do better, I appreciate it. Knowing I had so many real basketball fans analyzing each piece, I felt the need to really step my game up each week for 30 weeks.

With my last painting in the series comes my final shameless promotion to encourage you all to visit my website and my shop, where I am selling limited edition prints of most of the paintings I’ve done for NBA Friday. If your favorite piece is missing, let me know. Thanks!

Thank you, Joel. And I’m still hopeful we can figure some way to keep you involved next season, too.

Oh, and here’s The Truth. See you guys in the morning…