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Is Lakers’ greatness only a memory?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

OK, I admit it. There was a time when there wasn't a bigger Laker fan on this planet. But we all grow out of our youthful indiscretions, don't we? Read on.


••••••••••

• As a youngster growing up in Southern California, I loved basketball. UCLA was front and center, winning NCAA titles year after year. The local high school team was excellent as well, even getting to the CIF big school title game a couple years in a row. And then there was the NBA team. The runners-up, I mean, the Lakers. Just about every year they lost to the Celtics or the Knicks in the NBA finals, each year testing the patience of this young fan. But it didn't matter. Every night, when I went out to practice my shooting under the backyard light, I played a Laker game. See, I knew the entire lineup, from Jerry West to Happy Hairston, from Elgin Baylor to Mel Counts. I also knew the Boston and New York lineups as well, so I could play a shooting game with either team as the Lakers' opponent. It was always the seventh game of the NBA championships. Every time the shot went in, the Lakers scored. If I missed, the Celtics or the Knicks scored. (By the way, I did a pretty good Chick Hearn impression as well.) Basically, I had to shoot 50 percent for LA to take home the elusive title. And I almost always did. Actually, I would cheat a lot. If the outside shot wasn't falling, I would string together a bunch of layups to get the Lakers back into the game. Then I would move back to the elbow so I could imitate West's nearly flawless jump shot. The thought of West or Baylor ever leaving the Lakers never crossed my mind. Sure, it was a different time, but the Lakers were a brand, like Chevrolet or NASA or the U.S. Army. They never lost (this was the mid-'60s, remember). At least in my mind. There is still a bit of the little boy inside me somewhere (or two or three, as big as I am), so the whole Dwight Howard fiasco this week appalled me. The Lakers putting up billboards begging him to stay? C'mon. If he didn't want to be part of the second-most successful franchise in the NBA, let him go. Even that little kid in Sierra Madre, who has taken my place playing his shooting game, knows Howard isn't worth begging to stay. You think that kid, with the game tied at 101 and time running down, send's Howard to the free throw line to hit the game-winner? No way. Even the kid knows he would have to miss, because Dwight almost always missed. Just like he did with this decision. He may win an NBA title in Houston (though I doubt it), but he has to live in Houston to do it. Houston, home of the occasional hurricane and the continual 97-percent humidity. And then there are the reports indicating Howard left some $30 million on the table (only the Lakers could have offered him the maximum, either with them or through a sign-and-trade) but I'm sure he'll make that up in television deals and endorsements. In Houston. Hah.

•••

• WSU: We actually have a WSU story and its from the News Tribune. It's about baseball player Jason Monda. (Some corrections from earlier.)

• Gonzaga: Mike Hart is still playing hoops, though the venue has changed.

• Preps: One of the best high school wrestlers in America lives right here in Spokane. And his dad announced his college decision yesterday.

• Shock: Revenge is a potent motivator. So is pride. The Shock have both going for them today when they face Tampa Bay in Florida. Jim Meehan has an advance of tonight's game.

• Indians: Break up the Indians! No, don't. It's nice to have a local baseball team on a long winning streak. The Indians made in six consecutive wins last night with a 4-3 win over Eugene in 12 innings. Chris Derrick was there and has a blog post and game story with more information.

• Mariners: When the M's lineup for Friday's game with Cincinnati was announced, you might have thought Eric Wedge had lost his mind. After all, he had rookie shortstop Brad Miller, who was hitting .200 with a .300 on-base percentage since he was recalled from Tacoma, leading off. But there was method in Wedge's madness as Miller led off the game with a triple – one of two he hit – and Nick Franklin followed with a home run (pictured). The M's went on to a 4-2 win as Aaron Harang handcuffed his old team. … Who will the M's send to the All-Star game? Anyone besides Felix?… Michael Morse is getting healthier.

• Sounders: It's back to the Cascadia Cup tonight as the Sounders, injuries and all, head to Vancouver. … Speaking of the Cascadia Cup, the supporters of the three involved teams (Seattle, Portland and Vancouver) settled their disagreements with the MLS.

• Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch's legal issues moved forward a bit yesterday, though mainly everything was put off some.

•••

• That's it for this morning. I have an assignment today. Remember all those Christmas Eve's when you had to put together a toy or two for the little guys? How incomprehensible the instructions were until you realized, thanks to the seven glasses of White Zinfandel, you were reading the Spanish version? Well, we have the adult version of that headed our way today. We got a great deal on a piece of workout equipment (there is a spot earmarked for it right behind my desk, so I can watch NetFlix shows and sweat at the same time) but it arrived unassembled. So today we attack the task. Or to be more precise, Kim attacks it while I serve the role of the operating room nurse or sous chef. Wish us luck. Until later …


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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