Links: The Links Goes To Hawaii, Day 2

by October 10, 2007

by Lang Whitaker

I was looking forward to sleeping late today, to catching up on the reverse jetlag I was sure was waiting for me. Then I woke up at 7:00 a.m. and was wide awake, completely unable to go back to sleep. It was 1:00 p.m. back in New York, after all, so I rolled out of bed and stumbled to the Starbucks in the lobby at my hotel.

By 10:00 a.m., SLAM photographer Atiba Jefferson and I were at the Ala Wai Golf Course, eating a Hawaiian breakfast — eggs, toast and spam.

If you eat a lot of spam, does that make your colon a spam filter?

Atiba and I got paired up with an older couple named Charles and Claire, and we teed off around 11:30. It was warm and sunny but not humid, with a cool breeze blowing throughout the day. Charles and Claire are native Hawaiians who live on the east side of Oahu, and we had a really nice day playing with them.

Atiba doesn’t want me to mention this, but I broke 100 and shot a 97, even though I haven’t played since Ben and I played in the Bronx a few months ago. Atiba did not break 100. I’m just saying.

After golf we hit the hotel and showered up, and I ran by Starbucks to refuel before the game. It was about 90 minutes before tip-off, and I looked out on the curb and spotted Lakers braintrust Phil Jackson, Frank Hamblen and Mitch Kupchak, just kind of hanging out. I felt bad because I was late for pregame, but I beat Phil and them to the game.

• When I got to the Stan Sheriff Arena at the University of Hawaii, I picked up my credential and entered the media entrance. I was expecting someone to check my bag as I walked in the door, and sure enough there was a guy standing there. Without looking up, I pulled out my bag and started opening it and looked up, and it was Lamar Odom, standing there in a suit, apparently waiting on someone (Phil Jackson?). LO gave me a pound but did not check my bag for foreign objects. I’d think he’d be opposed to that on principle, anyway.

• The second member of the Lakers that I spot is Dr. Jerry Buss, sitting courtside at midcourt. There’s a really hot young lady sitting next to him. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

• I was told by a reliable source that the starting two guard slot this season is between Marco Belinelli and Kelenna Azubuike. Looks like Monta Ellis will reprise his sixth man role once he’s healthy.

• Also, I was told Monta is doing much better — he still has some stiffness in his neck, but otherwise he’s feeling good. People who were present when he went down say it was really scary — he fell face first to the court, not moving at all.

• Before the game I was standing under the basket watching the Warriors warm up, when one of the Warriors assistants comes up and shakes my hand and acts really friendly toward me. I have no idea who he is. I was talking to a different Warriors staffer at the time, and he says, “Oh, do you know Lang?” And the assistant goes, “Yeah, we met down in Orlando this year [at the Pre-Draft camp].” I smile and he walks away. I have never been to the Pre-Draft camp in Orlando. I still don’t know who that guy was.

• Monta’s in the house tonight, in a gray blazer and jeans. I was hoping for he’d be wearing a huge neck brace, but he’s not.

• Mo Evans is lip syncing every word to “Bring ‘Em Out” during warm-ups.

• Pat Burke! No idea he was on the Warriors this year.

• Jordan Farmar got rid of the high-top fade he sported last season in favor of the shaved head look. He looks way less like a member of “Mission: Man Band” now.

• The Lakers coaches are taking this lightly. Brian Shaw is rocking the shaved head and full-beard look, Phil Jackson is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, khakis and sandals, and during the intros I saw Kurt Rambis putting in eye drops. Also, I think Brian Shaw is wearing pajamas.

• I’ve got a great seat, right under the basket on the baseline. This was my view during the National Anthem:

Yes, say can I see.

• During the announcement of the Warriors starting lineup, they play the NBA on NBC theme, which gets me pumped up. Baron gets the biggest cheer.

• During the Lakers intros, they play “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” No comment.

• Lakers start Kobe, D-Fish, Chris Mihm, Ronny Turiaf and Vlad Rad. Kobe’s got his game face on. Warriors are going with S-Jack, Al Harrington, Biedrins, Baron and Azubuike.

• Tonight’s refs are Jim Clark, Tommy Nunez, Jr. and Tim Donaghy.

• Just before tipoff, Stephen Jackson runs all the way across the court and gives Phil Jackson a pound. I’m sure Phil really needed that.

• Play one goes to Mihm in the post. Kobe yells, “Go to work! Go to work!” Mihm spins and clangs a jumper off the rim.

• Vlad Rad nails a three to give the Lakers a 3-0 lead.

• Probably not good that the crowd is so quiet, because when Al Harrington bricks a jumper I can hear him yell “Shit!” all the way across the floor.

• I’m sitting so close that I started thinking about having to watch out for a player crashing into the table, but I figured there’s no way anyone would hustle that hard in a preseason game. And then Turiaf almost comes flying into me chasing a loose ball.

• The Lakers throw a long lead pass to Mihm who fumbles the ball off his face while stumbling out of bounds.

• Kobe catches on the wing and yells, “Come on out! Come on out!” to Turiaf, who runs out to set a screen. Just as he gets there, Kobe yells, “Iso!” sending him scampering away.

• 11-10, Warriors, 8:18 to go in the first.

• Ronny Turiaf catches about 19 feet out and pump fakes and Al Harrington plows right into. The crowd gasps. Must’ve thought it was Kobe.

• Baron hits a jumper and then makes a nasty lefty reverse. The Lakers answer with an over-the-back call on Chris Mihm.

• Stephen Jackson hits to make it 18-10, G-State.

• 6:09 to go and Mihm is gassed. Kobe throws him a no-look on the break and he can barely raise his hand as the ball sails past.

• Someone told me that Don Nelson owns over $50 million worth of real estate in Hawaii. Not sure if that’s accurate but it’s stunning.

• Time out with 5:32 to play in the first. Warriors 21, Lakers 10. The Lakers seem to be working hard to get the ball to Chris Mihm. The Warriors are just running around like crazy and appear to have picked up where they left off last season. I don’t have stats here but I’m guessing they’ve already jacked up 4 or 5 threes.

• Bynum checks in. Bynum gets a foul.

• Fisher gets a breakaway and Baron runs him down. As he goes up for the block he yells, “Ah, give me that!” Fisher is obstinate and he does not give him that.

• Jim Clark calls Tommy Nunez Jr., “Junior.”

• Kelenna Azubuike looks great — hustling, scoring, rebounding. How does a guy like that not even have a job a year ago at this time?

• Two free throws from Fisher make it Team USA 31, Venezuela 16.

• Yes, the Laker Girls are here, although it’s a slimmed-down crew — just eight girls. To their credit, they do their first dance routine to the strip club anthem “Girls, Girls, Girls.”

• With 2:40 to go, Phil pulls his starters. Nellie does not. Stephen Jackson attacks the Bynum-Andre Paterson double team with no regard for anyone’s safety.

• How is it possible that Brian Cook has been exactly the same player for his entire NBA career. Really, he hasn’t improved at all, has he? He’s still a standstill shooter.

• Jordan Farmar says, “Wake up, man!” to Patterson.

• One new wrinkle in the triangle this season appears to be that Mo Evans will try to score over any double-team.

• The only coaching Don Nelson or Phil Jackson does during the first quarter comes with 17.2 seconds left, when Nellie stands and says, “One shot! One shot! High pick and roll!” Basically, he’s saying, “Here’s what we’re going to run, now you try and stop us.” The Warriors don’t get a shot off.

• 41-20 after one. Azubuike has 14 and Baron has 11.

• Jeanne Buss is about three rows back of her Dad, sitting with six aggressively dressed women — could be the Pussycat Dolls, I’m not sure. No wonder Phil is carrying that cane around. The Pussycat Dolls are cheering loudly while Jeanne appears to be texting throughout the game.

• Matt “Fishbone” Barnes and Troy Hudson check in for G-State. Barnes has a huge spiderweb tat on his right elbow that I don’t think he had last season.

• Just noticed Kwame Brown in street clothes at the end of the Lakers bench. Probably not a good sign that I didn’t remember he was supposed to be playing for the Lakers until the moment I saw him in street clothes.

• Hudson looks good out there, and he gives G-State a real back-up option at the point.

• That Troy Hudson news is cut short to report that Patrick O’Bryant has checked in. He immediately blocks a shot O’Nohedidnt!

• 48-20 with 8:52 to play. Al Harrington has played the entire game and he has 9 points and 3 fouls. Azubuike has also played the entire game. Just got the first quarter stats. The Warriors shot 65 percent from the field while the Lakers were 8 for 23, for 35 percent. Lakers were 1 of 9 from three, and the Warriors were 5 of 6.

• Sasha Vujacic has hired a stylist, y’all! He’s gone Euro, with a three-day shadow and long shaggy hair. Coby Karl and Javaris Crittenton also check in. They don’t look nearly as bad as Vujacic.

• Marco Belinelli is on the board with a lay-in. I like that he and Vujacic are each wearing number 18. It’s a Euro thing, you wouldn’t understand.

• Pat Burke! He’s fixing to handle Turiaf.

• You can say that Crittenton should have stayed at Georgia Tech, but even playing out there now with a bunch of Lakers backups, he’s surrounded by more talent than he ever was at Tech.

• Burke gets fouled on an up-and-under. Down 23, Phil Jackson calls a timeout to ice Burke before he goes to line. Burke returns after the timeout and makes both free throws. Burke is wearing number 11, I assume in tribute to Yao Ming.

• Coby Karl runs through T-Hud, then blasts his Lakers teammates and they all quit on him.

• I seriously think Burke could play for the Warriors — you’re telling me Patrick O’Bryant is better? Burke knocks down another free throw, giving him 3 points. 51-25, 5:24 to go.

• After Junior Nunez calls a foul on Mikael Pietrus, Belinelli ends up with the ball. Jim Clark walks over and yells, “Hey, Bellini,” apparently confusing the Italian guard with the Italian cocktail.

• It would’ve been awesome if Belinelli whipped out a bellini and handed it to him.

• Elton Brown has checked in for the Lakers. He’s like a combination of LA’s best and worst big men.

• Burke back to the line. Pat is living at the line. He hits one to give him 4 points.

• Crittenton looks good, driving to the basket at will and then nailing a long three to cut it to an 18-point lead. He kind of looks like a fit Mateen Cleaves.

• Jim Clark, who I’ve never met, stands next to me on the court and gives me a glance. I look at him and he breaks into a huge smile and says, “Hey, how you doing?” What, did he meet me at the pre-Draft camp as well? Was someone impersonating me down there? If so they did a great job, because a lot of people I’ve never met before seem to love me tonight.

• Elton Brown hits a free throw. I always liked him on “Good Eats” but he has a nice basketball career ahead of him as well.

• Vujacic hits a three to cut it to 56-43. Burke scores to make it a 15 point game. Burke’s G-State’s leading scorer right now with 6.

• Halftime, 58-45. Leading scorers in the quarter are Vujacic (11 pts) and Burke (6).

• During halftime I’m standing in a tunnel under the stands checking my Sidekick and someone comes up from behind and grabs me around the shoulders. I turn and find Stephen Jackson. “What up, boy!” he exclaims. I have some beef to settle with him (I’ll explain in a week or two), and he laughs it off.

I’m just glad he didn’t bust a cap in me.

• The Lakers start the second half with their starters (Cook and Evans in for Touriaf and Vlad Rad). G-State is even deeper down the bench. Tierre Brown, anyone?

• As the Warriors set up their offense, Kobe turns to Evans and says, “Just chase yours, just chase yours!” As Kobe’s yelling at Evans, Kobe’s man, Tierre Brown, takes off and gets the ball.

• Even Phil Jackson needs work. After Tierre Brown gets hacked while jumping, the refs send him to the line. After making the first free throw, Phil suddenly realizes he probably shouldn’t be shooting and barks, “Hey Tommy! What’s he doing on the line there? For Chissakes!”

• G-State scores the first 9 of the second half to open a 67-45 lead.

• Austin Croshere’s really grown out his hair, apparently going for the Paul Shirley look.

• Sign of the night: Dude in the front row behind the basket with the “Colt > Kobe” sign.

• Jim Clark goes up to Patrick O’Bryant and says, “You’re gonna learn real quickly, this is a big thing for the Commissioner, you’ve got to keep your shirt tucked in.” I wonder if Clark knows O’Bryant actually played in the NBA last season?

• Kobe has spent the night assiduously not shooting the ball, instead looking to get guys involved. Finally, with 6 to go in the third, he turns it up. He catches on one possession on the right block, posting up against Azubuike. The crowd starts yelling for Kobe to shoot, and finally, as the double team comes, he spins and shoots. And misses. Next time down he gets a breakaway but passes up the dunk for D-Fish to get a layup. Then he misses a three over Tierre Brown. Then he gets fouled on a drive, and on the ball out he hits an open three, his first basket of the game.

• It’s 76-55 with 5:41 to go.

• One of the Laker Girls is so skinny that’s it’s making me hungry.

• I don’t know about you, but a Warriors team without Li’l Dun is a team I have trouble supporting.

• Kobe tries to go one on one against Azubuike, but he ends up turning it over and Azubuike gets a three point play. Next time down Kobe shoots a reverse that just misses.

• Phil sends in Bynum, Vujacic, Vlad Rad and Farmar. The only player he leaves on the floor is Kobe. It’s 81-58 with 3:55 to go.

• Farmar inbounds the ball to Kobe, who goes right up over Pietrus and hits a wildly improbable three-pointer. Next possession he comes back down and get Pietrus in the air, draws the contact and flips up a three. Three free throws, and he makes them all. He’s scored 12 points in the last 2:30. The Lakers are still down 19. Get used to this Lakers fans.

• Croshere goes baseline and hammers, with two hands, on Bynum and Vujacic. Slamdamonth! I’m not sure I just saw that happen.

• Azubuike goes hard to the basket and scores over Bynum, who cries out as he falls to the ground. There may or may not have been contact there, but Jim Clark shrugs and signals everyone to play on. I think he was using the Advantage ruling there. Sasha scores, then Azubuike drives to the rim for a wild reverse that kisses the top of the glass and drops. This guy goes to the rack every play. He’s got 24 points tonight with 1:52 to go in the third. It’s 89-68.

• Kobe hits two free throws to give him 14 points, and the Lakers team lead. He’s just toying with the Warriors’ reserves tonight.

• With the clock running down in the third, Kobe dribbles up top until there’s about 8 seconds left. Bynum comes up and shows a pick but then peels off. Kobe has Troy Hudson on him and he drives left, with his weaker hand, around Hudson, goes up for a lay-up, spins around backwards and sinks a right-handed reverse and gets fouled. Makes it. That’s 17 points for Kobe in the final 6 minutes of the third.

• 91-74 after three. Croshere has looked pretty good out here, nailing threes and driving to the rim when they come out on him.

• Because I didn’t mention it earlier, Dr. Buss is wearing shorts and black sneakers, with white socks jacked up near his knees. And he’s still sitting next to that hot woman.

• Kobe’s out to start the fourth, and probably for the game. The Lakers score five straight. The Warriors come down and Nellie calls for play 7. Troy Hudson dribbles past a pick and shoots a three point airball over a double team. Nellie almost runs out on the floor.

• On the next play down, Hudson dribbles up top and Croshere goes out to set a pick. Belinelli goes over toward Croshere, and he tells Belinelli to go to the other side. Belinelli starts to run to the other side of the floor, but Patrick O’Bryant motions for him to go back to the other side where he started. Poor Belinelli just can’t find a home.

• The Lakers cut it to 93-84, and Nellie takes a time out. These damn kids can’t get their act together.

• Vlad Rad rips a three to make it 93-87. I wish Phil would put Kobe back in the game. The Warriors miss a runner (forced, much like like his album, by T-Hudson) and Farmar comes down, gets fouled and goes to the line. Nellie yanks T-Hud for Tierre Brown.

• The Lakers trap! Matt Barnes dribbles through it but the Warriors can’t score. Farmar gets the ball and drives hard to the basket, where he’s hacked by Fishbone Barnes. One, good. Two, good. 93-91, with 8:23 to go. The crowd is into this. Croshere isn’t as he just shot an airball.

• Time to stop the bleeding: Pat Burke checks in for G-State.

• By the way, Belinelli is wearing Jordan IIIs. Them Italians have style.

• Javaris Crittenton checks in for LA.

• Farmar drives and is fouled, and he hits both free throws to tie the game. Fishbone Barnes misses a runner. Bynum spins past Burke and Crittenton hits him with a perfect alley-oop to give LA the lead, 95-93. The Warriors have three white guys on the floor right now.

• Tierre Brown hits a layup to tie at 95 with 5:51 to go.

• The Laker Girls are now wearing purple jackets. Don’t think that’s not a factor in this run.

• Jeanne Buss and the Pussycat Dolls try to start a wave. Much like The Pussycat Dolls who aren’t the lead singer, it doesn’t catch on.

• Out of the timeout, Pat Burke drains a three to give G-State a 98-95 lead.

• Javaris Crittenton gets fouled by T-Hud and he tumbles into the Laker Girls. Bet that never happened at Georgia Tech.

• Pat Burke gets wiped on a hook shot attempt and Azubuike grabs the board and gets fouled. Belinelli walks up t him and says something rather passionately, and Azubuike just looks at him like he’s speaking Italian or something. Oh, wait…

• Belinelli hits a long two to give G-State a 101-99 lead with 3:37 to go. The Lakers score right back. Lots of Lakers fans in the gym tonight. At least the game is close. I think Nellie’s on his third Bud Light.

• Vlad Rad catches and fires and ridiculously long three over Croshere and hits nothing but net. 104-101, LA.

• Azubuike goes hard to the basket and crashes into Vlad Rad, who hits the deck really hard right in front of me. He landed flat on his back with a loud smack. probably not good for a guy who’s had back problems.

• Belinelli drives for two, 104-103, LA. Vujacic bricks a three. Belinelli jacks up a three and misses. I like his moxie, taking all these shots down the stretch.

• 1:46 to go, 104-103, LA. Belinelli drives and gets wiped, and Burke rebounds and passes to Hudson to give S the lead. The Lakers come right back and score. GS comes back and Azubuike drives and gets fouled by Turiaf. He hits both free throws to give G-State a 10-106 lead. 1:07 to go. Vujacic misses a jumper and Hudson comes back and drives and gets fouled by Turiaf. I think that’s about a dozen fouls on Turiaf.

• Hudson hits both free throws to make it 109-106, with 45 seconds left. The Lakers run a very loose Triangle (a square?) and Crittenton hits a jumper. The Warriors come back and Burke has a three to seal it…and he misses. Turiaf grabs the board and gets fouled. 109-108, G-State ahead, 10.9 to go. Turiaf to the line…first shot up, oui. Tied at 109. Nellie takes a time out to put Turiaf sur le glace.

• I don’t know if Phil would put Kobe in right now, but I looked over and Kobe’s shoes are untied.

• Turiaf to the line. A guy behind the basket in an Andris Biedrins jersey (really) is dancing around, trying to distract Turiaf, mais non! He nails it to give LA a 110-109 lead with 10.9 to go. This game better not go into overtime.

• Warriors ball under thir own basket. Azubuike catches and is doubled, and he throws it away. Not sure if they rule it a tipped ball or not. They do, so it’s G-State ball. Time out on the floor with 4 seconds to go.

• Tierre Brown to inbound. T-Hud for three…and he nails it as the clock runs out! The Warriors act like they just won the title, as the entire team runs onto the floor. The refs decide to put 0.3 on the clock. Baron Davis argues this vehemently. They gave Hudson a two instead of a three, so it’s 111-110. I’m pretty sure it was a three — it happened right in front of me. Timeout L.A.

• Vujacic inbounds and Croshere tips it away. Game, Golden State.

• Postgame, I was headed for the Lakers locker room, but as I walked down the hallway I saw Don Nelson come out to face three or four writers, so I went over to listen to him. Bud Light in hand, Nellie was in midseason form. He said they got a “poor performance” from Fishbone Barnes and Andris Biedrins. One of the writers commented that O’Bryant had played well, and Nellie said, “That was the best I’ve ever seen him play.” Someone asked about Nellie going to a smaller lineup, and he said, “Well, I just had to get Matt out of the game, he wasn’t doing anything.” Finally, when asked if he’d pulled O’Bryant because he missed an assignment, Nellie noted, “No, I didn’t like the matchup, so I wanted to get Burke in there. Actually, he did miss an assignment, but that’s not why I took him out.”

I went into the Warriors locker room and found Stephen Jackson. We chatted for a second and Stephen wanted to make sure I had his most current address. He was telling it to me as I updated his entry in my Sidekick, and when he got to the zip code he paused, then turned to Kelenna Azubuike. “Hey Bukie,” Jackson said, “what’s our zip code?” Azubuike filled him in.

“Hey dude.” A voice from behind me, sounding angry, speaking in my direction. I turned around. It was Baron Davis.

“Why’d you post those pictures of me?”

At first I played dumb. He couldn’t mean these pictures, could he? Yeah, those are the pictures he was talking about.

I was starting to explain that not only had I cropped the photos to obscure the faces of everyone else, but that I’d also not even posted all of the photos I was sent. Baron cut me off.

“Nah man, it’s cool,” he said with a smile. “I’m single, I don’t care.”

Good to know. So I guess he won’t mind if post this one also.