Monday, Sep 29
Media Day! Yippee – it is officially the start of Lakers training camp and it feels like the first day of a new school year. Everyone is back tan and healthy and gosh darn it if I didn’t miss them (the players, the media, the training and coaching staff).
The most common question to me is what I did during the off season. So here is a run down of my summer:
I woke up on the 18th hoping Game 6 was just a bad nightmare. No such luck. I unpacked my back as we were scheduled to leave that morning on a special charter for players’ wives and families to join the Lakers in Boston for Game 7. I stared out the window a lot and while I felt compassion for Tiger Woods’ injury the fact that he made the announcement he was going to miss the rest of the year took up the top story on the 24 hours sports news channel sparing me watching an endless loop of the Celtics celebration.
No doubt Boston deserved to win the NBA Championship. The Lakers lost the series in Game 4 when they let them back in after a 24 point lead. However, I was proud of the Lakers for coming back in Game 5 with a win and giving the fans at STAPLES Center a victory in the last home game of the season.
Phil left for Montana. Once again he made the trip via car because the 1,000 or so miles allows him time to reflect on the season he leaves behind and begin to rejuvenate for the upcoming season. It is difficult to be separated from him but I need the time in the office to work on many projects including the schedule for next season.
STAPLES Center is a very successful arena but one of the drawbacks for being so busy is that sometimes the team suffers from the lack of available home dates which leads to an unbalanced schedule. I needed to express my concerns to their staff and we were able to add some additional dates but the Lakers still have a more home games in the first half of the season than the second half. However, given the 7 – 2 record from the 9 game HELL road trip in February of last season maybe this type of schedule will lead to greater team chemistry; an “us against the world� feeling.
Heartbreakingly, Ronny Turiaf chooses to leave the Lakers as a free agent and sign with Golden State. Too often decisions are driven by economics rather than heart and that is how the business of sports functions. It doesn’t make it any easier. I will miss him so much.
On the flip side, Sasha Vujacic opts to forgo the fortunes of the Euroleague and stay with the Lakers. This is good news to Phil because he finds Sasha’s toughness on defense along with his ability to hit key shots an important part of the Lakers success formula.
I attended the ESPY’s Awards at the Nokia Theatre. The show was fantastic and Justin Timberlake was terrific as the host. Funniest moment was Will Farrell pretending to be Tiger Woods and accepting the award for best male athlete. It was hilarious. Then I got the gut check when the Celtics won for best team. Ray Allen spoke on behalf of the group and I’ll never forget his quote, “One more win for us in Los Angeles.� That hurt me and I guess the crowd too because they booed him. I let Phil know about it. It got him a little fired up; he will put that angst into good use!
I finally get to do one of my favorite things, a chance to visit and have lunch with Marge Hearn. She is just beautiful and full of wonderful stories and I can never get enough. More on Marge when I write about Chick Hearn Night scheduled for November.
Along with millions, I tuned in for the Olympics from Beijing. It was with pride that I watched the USA Basketball team reclaim their rightful spot as the number one team in the world. I also enjoyed watching the USA team members attending other events and support the athletes from other sports – that was classy and displayed the Olympic spirit.
I made the trip to Montana to visit Phil and was amazed at his progress. NO MORE CANE. I was so proud of him. We then traveled to Phil’s alma mater the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks for the Academic Convocation where Phil would receive an honorary doctorate.
Yes, he became Dr. Phil. His speech (which you may view online at www.und.edu/jackson) was inspiring. There has been debate over the years about the UND nickname – the Fighting Sioux. Phil took the opportunity to address the sensitive subject and challenged those at the university to really think about what you would lose if the name were changed as has been requested by many of the Sioux nation. The answer quite simply is there would be nothing to lose. The memories, the history, the passion of the students and alumni are not about the name but of the institution and the relationships built there. That is me paraphrasing but it was riveting listening to Phil ask those to open their minds in a way that was thought provoking but not offensive.
We made the drive back to Los Angeles (not my favorite thing to do but love is a powerful thing) realizing that the off season is coming to an end.
There were some birthday celebrations, a trip to the Hollywood Bowl and a party celebrating the 100th episode of the Dog Whisperer that were the highlights of this month.
It all leads to today, Media Day and the day I finally update my journal. I look forward to more entries and to discussing some of the issues that will face the team, the league and the world of sports.
I like this one.
Ray Allen spoke on behalf of the group and I’ll never forget his quote, “One more win for us in Los Angeles." That hurt me and I guess the crowd too because they booed him. I let Phil know about it. It got him a little fired up; he will put that angst into good use!