by Lang Whitaker

I’ve got tons of stories to tell from my trip to Kenya, and I’ll be wheeling them out over the next few weeks. To me, one of the funniest was when we were in Northern Kenya about an hour outside Loisaba, in the middle of nowhere. Wifey and I had spent the afternoon with about a dozen Samburu warriors out walking around the land, tracking wild animals, hiking up hills, stopping to rest next to streams. A couple of them spoke a little English, but they mostly spoke either Swahili or Maa or some combination of the two. These guys had lived their entire lives out in the middle of nowhere, so they were very removed from not just mainstream culture but popular culture as well.

That night at dinner, we were talking about all the exploring we’d done that day and the way these guys lived off the land, and I said to one of them, “It kind of reminds me of this TV show that’s on in America called ‘Man Vs. Wild’…”

And one of the warriors said, “Oh, with Bear Grylls?”

You could have knocked me off my chair with a feather. (Turned out some tourist a few months earlier had shown them the show on his iPod.)

Not to make light of it, but I saw a post on Deadspin earlier about how everyone is referring to Steve McNair as a “warrior.” Pro athletes are tough, sure, and McNair was one of the toughest to ever play QB. But if you want to meet some real, actual warriors, let me know. I’ll give you directions how to get there.

• About an hour before the Draft two weeks ago, word broke that Michael Jackson had passed away. I didn’t really have time to consider it, as I was running to the Garden and then live-blogging the event.

But when I walked out of the Garden at 10 p.m. and stepped onto the corner of 34th and 8th, it seemed like every car on 8th Ave had a different Michael Jackson song on blast. Really an incredible thing to step into.

As a kid, the first album I ever bought with my own money was “Thriller.” I bought the cassette, and then every afternoon I took a small tape player out in my backyard and played that album about 1,000 times as I practiced basketball. That album was the soundtrack to my childhood, and I still listen to it from time to time. (If you can, download the “Thriller” special edition with the Quincy Jones interviews between songs. Not only is Quincy the coolest man who ever lived, but it’s really interesting to hear him talk about how the album came about.)

Anyway, it’s all been said.

RIP, Mike.

• Back to basketball, and I want to keep this simple, but I’ve been meaning to say that the Lakers picking up Ron Artest is, to me, simply awesome. Sure, he’s a little unstable, but he’s nothing Phil Jackson can’t handle, considering PJ once had a power forward who kicked a photographer in the nuts during a game. Ron will have enough strong personalities around him to keep him from doing too much one-on-one on offense, and he’ll give the Lakers the toughness they lacked, maybe the one thing they didn’t have last season. I think this might be better than the Shaq/Cleveland move.

• The Hawks agreed to a new deal with Mike Bibby this morning, and it’s one I can get with: Bibby will make a little under $18 million over the next three years, which not only ensures Bibby is back next season but is also a reasonable enough deal that Bibby should be tradeable down the road once he slows down.

Oh wait…

• After I wrote yesterday about how poorly the L-Wolves have handled the Ricky Rubio situation, Henry Abbott talked to L-Wolves GM David Kahn today and he said some stuff I didn’t get. Including…

What is the state of his buyout?

I don’t know. We’re not running the point on that. It’s really a question for Dan Fegan.

You don’t know? Really? Shouldn’t you know? Isn’t that something that would seem to, like, affect your franchise pretty significantly?

What about the state of relations between the Rubios and the Timberwolves?

The buyout comes first, right? Not too much can happen until that’s taken care of.

What a cop-out. Let’s suppose this: Say the Rubio family had a great relationship with the NBA team that drafted Ricky. Wouldn’t that perhaps give the Rubios some incentive to try and pay the buyout quickly and get over and get started with his NBA career? Or let’s suppose that the Rubio family had no relationship with the team that drafted Ricky. Wouldn’t they then probably be less inclined to try and get out of the buyout? The buyout is important, but your relationship with your player is what should come first.

What about the idea that the buyout is a red herring?

Does $5.7 million seem like no big deal to you? $5.7 million is nothing to sneeze at.

For me, $5.7 million is nothing to sneeze at. But if I’d been playing pro basketball for five years, had endorsement deals with everyone from Nike to McDonald’s (and anyone see Ricky in that Gilette commercial that just started airing?) and had made a good bit of money, $5.7 million is something to sneeze at. Unless your team doesn’t have a relationship with the player, that is.

Finally, my favorite part of the interview…

How’s the coaching search going?

Great. We’re a third of the way through preliminary interviews. There’s no time pressure on this process, so we’re going to take some time.

Right. Because coaches don’t really do anything in the offseason anyway. There’s no coaching staff to build, no scouting to start on, no rotation to think about, no video to watch, no getting to know the players, no shaping of the roster to fit the system, no need to get ingratiated in the community…

Are we sure it’s spelled “Kahn” and not “Con”?

• Finally, why do we keep getting odd pictures of Greg Oden, this time on a beach vacation? At least he looks healthy. Though if he ages any more the Celtics are going to try and sign him.