by Myles Brown

For those of you who are just looking for my useless September prognostication, I’d say 57-25 and another trip to the Conference Finals. After that, I can’t call it and neither can you. For those of you who are just looking for the useless figments of my imagination, let’s get on with the show….

The sun had reached its peak on this beautiful Sunday afternoon and a refreshing breeze whisked through streets filled with bronzed Angelinos prepared to consume and copulate. However, despite the clear skies and canceled practice – Coach Jackson was tending to an urgent matter with his ‘spiritual advisor’ – the forecast still called for rain inside the Lakers facilities. Kobe Bryant awoke in a foul mood and as he is oft to do in such an irritable state, the superstar decided to channel his frustrations in the gym. An attempt to lighten his spirits by frolicking with his two princesses through their palace was unsuccessful, so after kissing Gianna and Natalia ciao bella, the Tickle Man revved his Ferrari’s engine and headed south towards El Segundo. His wife reminded him to pick up some diamonds from the market on his way home.

Following some light lifting, Bryant headed downstairs and watched the lights flicker on above the empty court. He intently pounded the ball into the hardwood and never took his eyes off the rim as he worked his way through an assortment of shooting drills. Pull up jumpers, pivots into fadeaways over both shoulders and impossibly deep three pointers were all highlights of a one-man symphony, the leathers percussion consistently complemented by a harmonious string section. Boom, boom, boom, Swish. Boom, boom, boom, Swish. Suddenly, his rhythm was interrupted by the squeaking sneakers of an uninvited guest. Kobe paid it no mind-fully engrossed in conducting his latest composition-until his melody was brought to a screeching halt.

“Watch out!” the voice cried from under the opposing basket. Midair, arms fully extended in textbook form, Bryant found himself helplessly craning his neck to heed the anonymous warning, but it was too late. “Ball!” Instead of landing safely on the court, his heels came to rest on another basketball just as his launch found its target. His arms flailed wildly trying to regain balance, only to result in the most inharmonious series of sounds. Swish, squeak, gasp, Thud. Taking just the briefest pause to absorb the pain of his skull slapping the floor, he leapt to his feet with blood lust only to be disarmed by his assailants beauty.

Candace Parker innocently batted her eyelashes at him and his rage subsided. “Sorry, damn ball just got away from me.” They’d exchanged pleasantries on a few other occasions but never engaged in any substantive conversation. He massaged his scalp as she searched for the right words. “It must be hard” she said. He looked at her quizzically, and she smirked before elaborating. “Striving to achieve a perfection that everyone else wants to define or contain. They only let you off the leash when it’s time to pick up their slack and should you fail, you have to be ready to take the blame. Not them.” “Depends on who you ask” he shrugged. “Well it certainly looks that way to me.” she said confidently.

Before he knew it, they were sitting at half court sharing their philosophies on the game, each nodding in assent to the others theories. They chatted for hours. Occasionally, he’d tilt his head and squint at her in utter amazement as she unearthed truths he hadn’t realized himself. “…and that’s how I’m able to maintain my confidence without sacrificing my relationships with others.” she explained. In a rare moment of discomfort, he broke eye contact and began to scratch his branded right arm. His jaw clenched tightly and he quickly rose to his feet, reminded of his unattended errand. “I have to go. Tiffany closes at 9. But I’ll see you around.” She gazed at him knowingly, maintaining her dribble. “It’s cool. You know where to find me.” Her jumper made a familiar sound as the metallic door shut behind him. Boom, boom, boom, Swish.

Meanwhile across town, Sasha Vujacic was holding court with teammates at The Apple Seed, the teams new favorite hangout ever since his tragic misinterpretation of ‘bottle service’ ruined their stay at The Mint. “Masheen is ready for more responsebeeleety. Masheen get results.” Close knit Cali natives Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar and Trevor Ariza all laughed at Vujacic’s bluster. Over time he’d absorbed Kobe’s unshakable confidence and when mixed with his ever present effervescence, it made for quite lively conversation. “I’m seereous.” he continued. “I make teammates bettar. Masheen step game up, Kobe become MVP. No coeenceedence.” “Pau and Lahmar go like this” he said as his hand and forearm moved in an exaggerated wave. “Masheen go like this.” He balled his hand into a fist and flexed the muscles of his forearm. “Steadee. Like rhock.” He scanned their expressions for approval. “Yes” Farmar nodded, “A rock. Like a statue.” Mouth agape, he giggled while swiveling his neck in a mock defensive stance, mimicking Sasha’s attempts to guard an isolated Ray Allen.

Furrowing his brow, lips pursed in denial, Vujacic remained undeterred. “Bah! Point is, things have changed. Last yeer, everyone say we suck. We surprise them. Now come expectations, big target on chest. We don’t get back to Final, we suck again. Masheen is ready for challenge. Are yoo?” He scanned their expressions again. Their smiles shrunk into solemn contemplation. He’d made his point. They watched as he dug deep into his Louis Vuitton messenger bag and produced a handful of buttons. “Here. For all of yoo.” In unison, they turned the buttons over to see SASHA 4 TEEM CAPTAIN in purple and gold font. In unison, they raised their eyebrows and stared at him incredulously. “Is how it works, no? Deemochracy?” Walton’s chuckle broke the silence. “Sorry homie. not on this team.” “We shall see.” Vujacic replied. “Masheen have three point plan. With responseebeeleety come money, with money come beaches.” “Beaches?” Ariza inquired. “Yes, yes.” he motioned around the room to the various push up bras, halter tops, high heels and mini skirts. “Beaches. Is what this is all about, yes?” They all laughed and ordered another round of drinks.

Andrew Bynum wasn’t having such a good time. The prodigious pivot gaped at his disappearing milkshake as he slurped, trying to ease his mind. It was past closing at Lucky Devils-home to some of L.A.’s best ice cream concoctions-and after midnight their doors only opened for celebrity clientele. Elbows on the counter, his head resting in those massive hands and size 22 Adidas nervously tapping the tiling, Bynum was alone with his troubles until a familiar face took the stool to his right. “I know how you feel.” the man said. Bynum looked up and let the straw drop from his mouth into the empty glass. “I know you, twelth row near center court. You’re that one guy. Um…” The center searched for a name, unsuccessfully. On most occasions the familiar face would need no introduction, but he happily obliged. “Andy. Andy Garcia.” “Andy, huh? Me too.” said Bynum through a faint smile.

Garcia sensed the young man’s reluctance and decided to start with an anecdote. “Hey kid, have you ever seen The Godfather III?” “Nope” the bigger Andy responded. “I saw most of the first two, but people tell me the third one was garbage so I never bothered.” “I was in that. In fact I starred in that.” Garcia scowled. Taken aback, Bynum attempted to apologize, but Garcia proceeded.

“It’s okay kid. I’m just f*cking with you. I did star in that movie, but the thing about it being ‘garbage’ is exactly the point I was getting to anyway. The first two films were masterpieces, flawless I tell you. Your grandkids will be talking about those films. Unfortunately, your grandkids will also be saying that III was ‘garbage’. Well let me tell you something kid, it wasn’t. First of all, it had to be made. You can’t just end the story with Michael killing his brother, he needed his comeuppance. The bad guy can’t win, right? Now there’s talk about Coppolla’s debt forcing him to make this bad movie, but f*ck all that. It needed to be made and the people wanted it. It was expertly written, directed and featured two of the greatest actors of any era in Pacino and Keaton. So what was the problem? ‘Too many new guys’ they said. Of course their chief complaint was Sofia, but she wasn’t even in enough scenes to ruin a film like that. So then who do they look to? Me. They expected another DeNiro, they got me. It wasn’t my performance or the movie that was garbage, it was just that people had such high expectations. Too high. That’s where me and you are alike kid. Last season was Godfather II. Wholly unexpected, ended in tragedy, but still more than a fulfilling experience. This season is Godfather III, people want more than perfection and you’re the new guy. Anything less will be an epic failure and your fault. Now that’s pressure. Like I said kid, I know how you feel.”

Bynum paused and considered his companion’s convoluted analogy. He wasn’t sure he completely understood, but the familiar face did understand what he was going through. “So what do I do then?” black Andy asked. “You do the only thing you can do kid. You do the best you can and if people don’t like it, then f*ck ‘em. They don’t know what they’re talking about anyway.” It was this conclusion that left Bynum face first in his milkshake hours ago, but Garcia’s reassurance somewhat lightened his mood. An entire city expected him to be the final piece to another dynasty and Bynum finally accepted that he’d just have to live with it. Hell, maybe it would actually work. Only way to see was one day and one milkshake at a time.

“Want another one kid? It’s on me.” “Sure.” Bynum gleamed. “Hey kid, have you seen Oceans Eleven? ” “Oh yeah,” said the center. “I’ve seen all three of those. Didn’t like the last one so much. That new guy didn’t do it for me.” “Me neither kid,” Garcia laughed. “Me neither.”

You can read past season previews here.