Out of Bounds with Jason Riley

I can be a superstitious person, but only when it comes to sports. I remember one specific occasion where I forced my self-absorption on the other ill-fated members of my family. During a game against the Mavericks back in 2002, I insisted they all wear Lakers’ gear before joining me in the living room to watch the game. By the end of the third quarter, I realized exactly why the Lakers’ were getting Snookied by the Mavs on National TV. My Mom was wearing a Lakers’ Van Exel jersey… and Nick the Quick was busy carving up the Lakers defense for the Mavs.

How could I have made such an unforgivable mistake? I sprinted to my room, grabbed a Magic Johnson throwback and demanded that she change immediately. My confused (and noticeably annoyed) Mom reluctantly agreed to swap jerseys. When she finally returned to the living room rocking the #32, the whole game had changed. In the end, the Lakers had mounted a 27-point rally in the fourth quarter to beat Dallas – the second greatest comeback in NBA history.

True story.

When you get right down to it, people (like me) who are superstitious are really just people who have a problem overestimating their own self-importance.

“The result of (insert unrelated event) somehow had everything to do with me.”

I mean, how preposterous is that interpretation of reality? Even so, I still find myself having superstitious tendencies when it comes to the Lakers. I spent Christmas and New Years’ with my family in Kansas City. When I left Los Angeles, the Lakers were rolling into their Christmas Day match-up with Cleveland at a league-best 23-4. After a nightmarish two-days of traveling (detailed here), I arrived in Kansas City right before Christmas Eve. During my 3+ weeks there (way longer that I had planned for), the whole forecast of the regular season had shifted.

We got hammered by the Cavs, Suns, Clippers and Spurs.
We extended our ridiculous losing streak in Portland.
Ron Artest fell down the stairs and piled up a few DNP’s.
Pau Gasol injured his hamstring.
Kobe Bryant started having back spasms.

The Lakers limped to a 7-5 record during my stay in the Midwest. And only hours after I landed back in L.A…

We won in Dallas without Gasol and a completely healthy Kobe.
We smashed the Clippers by 40 points.
Ron Artest, Luke Walton and Pau Gasol all came back to the lineup.
Kobe Bryant looked considerably healthier (30/3/2 on 50% shooting) than he did a few days ago.
Our bench played out of their minds in a win over the Orlando Magic.

What does this all mean? Well, I am to blame for all the Lakers’ woes, and I want to sincerely apologize to the Lakers Nation for failing to realize that my presence in Kansas City would cause so many disastrous things to happen to our beloved team. By way of reimbursement, let’s start with a 2,000 word I’m not doing any work today mailbag.


Is the reason the Lakers stench – ahem – I mean bench, is struggling so bad is because the Laker organization let go of the bench’s heart (no pun intended) and soul in Ronny Turiaf? They haven’t been the same since the 2008 Playoffs…
-Silas C.

I really like this question. From a basketball perspective, Ronny brought a level of energy and excitement to the floor that couldn’t possibly be calculated by looking at a stat sheet. His minutes were low (20/game), his stats were mediocre (7/4/2) and he struggled late in the playoffs (’08). Yet, he ignited the whole team, played with KG-like passion and our bench was a unit to be reckoned with. When it came down to it, Kupchak simply couldn’t justify matching Golden States offer to Turiaf (4 years, $17 million) using terms like hustle, heart and hi-fives.

Looking back now, we certainly miss Ronny more than most of us probably thought we would. Energy and effort are two intangibles that Turiaf consistently produced, and both are commonly missing with our second unit. Is Ronny’s absence the reason why Sasha can’t shoot? Farmar and Odom are inconsistent? Walton is vying for a marketing deal with 3 Day Suit Broker? Probably not, but Turiaf brought the best out of his teammates, and we certainly miss him.

In 20/20 hindsight, if Sasha was worth $15 million over 3 years, Ronny was easily worth $17 million over 4 years. Of course, at the time, there was no way we could have known how valuable Ronny’s presence really was. Now we do.

Is Tag Heuer pronounced ‘Tag Her’ or ‘Tag Whore’?
-Laker Bunny

This made me laugh, so I felt compelled to include it. Kudos.

What would happen if, in the course of the remaining games, Kobe suffers a devastating injury that renders him incapable of playing? I dread the thought, but how would the Lakers survive the onslaught of the other teams throughout the season?
-Virginia R.

Let’s hope this question stays completely hypothetical. For the sake of this situation, let’s forget for a moment that we have the best player in the world. How does this lineup look?

C – Bynum
F – Gasol
F – Odom (Walton)
G – Artest (Brown)
G – Fisher (Farmar)

Not terrible, right? To be successful, we would have to mercilessly pound the ball inside to Bynum and Gasol. Both guys would get 20+ shots and the triangle would run through them on the block. We would need Odom to consistently play well (just like he did last night vs. Orlando) and our perimeter players (Fish, Jordan and Shannon) to knock down some long jumpers (just like they did last night vs. Orlando). We would have to significantly tighten our defensive rotations and take fewer chances (just like they did in the first half last night vs. Orlando). Drew and Pau would need to be committed to lock down the paint and stay out of foul trouble.

(Basically, we saw what it would look like last night vs. Orlando.)

If all of those things happened, I think we would be a middle of the pack playoff team with an outside chance at the Conference Finals. Realistically speaking, we would have a better chance at missing the playoffs than winning a championship. Losing Kobe would be devastating… our repeat hopes would be lost… I don’t want to think about it anymore…

Let’s completely change the subject.

If Rosie O’Donnell had been a professional athlete, what sport, team, and position would she have played?
-Kris P

I am giddy just thinking about answering this question. I spew Rosie O’Donnell jokes faster than Rosie O’Donnell can rip through a Snickers… factory. You see? It really is fun (for me). To adequately answer this question (and the spirit of the question), we have to do it a couple different ways.

Let’s start by directly answering the question:

Sport: Football.
Position: Upper Concourse Section 414.
Team: Dallas Cowboys.

On the depth chart (refraining from an onslaught of bad and unfunny jokes), she was also listed as the second string jumbo-tron, the third string retractable roof and in the case that the city of Dallas somehow broke off into space, she would be the replacement. (I need to stop, it’s only funny to me at this point, but I just can’t.)

Secondly, let’s go ahead and answer the spirit of the question by asking the following: If Rosie was a current or historical player in each major American sport…

Which player would she have been? What team would she have played for? How would her teammates have responded after she ate the coaching staff? The mascot? A fan? What would history have to say about her impact on the game? The playing surface? The foundation of the Earth? How would her specific sport have been altered by her career? Would she have won any championships or MVP’s?

I’m kidding.

I won’t answer all of those questions… but I did think about it (and you were about to read it). Let’s go ahead and move on before this column can’t recover and I get a bunch of comments from you guys telling me how much I suck (it may actually be too late for that).

Moving on…

I got a trade scenario for you. Luke, Sasha, and Morrison for Tracy McGrady. It sounds dumb, but McGrady would replace Luke as the back-up SF, and Sasha and Morrison have been getting zero playing time anyway. So, it’s not like they’re valuable assets, plus it would get Luke’s and Sasha’s contracts off the books for next year. The Rockets don’t want to mess with their team chemistry by playing T-Mac, so they’re probably willing to give him away and his $25m contract. … What do you think?

There are so many hilarious ways to look at this. For example…

Mitch: How about this, I give you Walton, Vujacic and Morrison for McGrady’s expiring deal?
Daryl: Three white guys?
Daryl: Three white guys who can’t shoot?
Daryl: Three white guys who can’t shoot and have a combined $27 million left on their contracts?
Mitch: You’re right, I’ll call Chris Wallace.
Daryl: Good idea.

Sure, I’d take a 75% T-Mac as my backup SF, but Houston would be Lady Gaga insane to give him away to the Lakers, especially for those three guys. But hey, we did get Gasol and dumped Kwame in the same deal.

And speaking of trade scenarios…

Thoughts on the Bynum for Bosh trade scenario(s)?
-Several of you

If I’m arguing for the Bosh to L.A. for Bynum scenario…

Bosh has made a career out of being consistent. He’s averaged between 22.5 and 23.8 points/game and 10+ rebounds/game for the last five seasons. Unlike Bynum, he has proven he can stay healthy (69, 67, 77 GP’s over the last 3 seasons.) He can play the 3, 4 or 5 spots and reliably knock down a mid-range jumper – both things that Bynum absolutely cannot do. His versatility and athleticism give him a much better chance of co-existing with Pau Gasol – all things that Drew struggle with. Anytime you have a chance to make a championship team even better (I.e. Artest, Ariza), you have to do it.

If I’m arguing against the Bosh to L.A. for Bynum scenario…

Bynum has improved his production every season he has been in the NBA (7, 13, 14, 16 point per game/season). He has a rare mix of size (7’, 290 lbs.) and natural talent in a league where both are lacking. He is young (22) and still developing as a player (and a person), and has shown flashes of being able to dominate the paint on both sides of the court (both things Bosh hasn’t done). All the ingredients are there for him and Dwight Howard to battle it out for this decade’s most dominate big man crown.  Anytime you have a chance to develop a franchise center, you have to do it.

55% of me says, “Trade him; Bosh is a certain upgrade and Bynum is injury prone. Even if Bynum stays healthy (questionable) and reaches his full potential (also questionable), he is only marginally better than Chris Bosh. If we can win with Bynum, we can definitely win with Bosh.”

45% of me says, “Keep him; why try to fix something that’s not broken? We won with Drew, and he’s only going to get better and more refined. We have invested a lot in him (Kareem, etc.), no reason to try to cash in on his talent before it’s peaked.”

I would be okay with either player. If it was up to me, I would pull the trigger and make the move (as long as we were able to dump Sasha in the deal). I am sure you will crucify and praise me for that decision.

Send in your questions for Jason Riley’s next Mailbag: Email, Tweet, Message or simply use this form.

  • daddy

    Lakers technically still have a chance to beat the bull’s 10 loss record. If we play the rest of the season, every game like how we did last night for the first 15 min. We’re unstoppable.

    • ShamelessLakerFan

      Even I’m not crazy enough to think that is going to happen…

  • daboss1848

    let it be known that I was responsible for the LAL-POR game 7 comeback because i didnt move from my place for a over a quarter (once they started making their run); this includes dribbling on myself b/c of the heavy dose of sunflower seeds (instead of fingernails) and beer (to repel the salt)
    you know what they say, a butterfly flapping its wings….

    • LC09

      lmao boss….wow..n u talk bout kobe takin credit from others HA!!! dribblin on urself c’mon old skool!!!! lol

    • http://www.j-ri.com Jason Riley

      Haha, my hats off to you… the Lakers (and all of the fans) are truly indebted to you. :)

  • 09champs!

    hahahahha That´s right, I´ll call Chris Wallace.
    That was hilarious hahahaha.

  • Jim

    I think Mitch put that “MAJIC” jersey on when the Lakers made there comeback last night. I think it’s in the jersey and we better keep track of it :)

  • Tomas

    Cmon man Bosh woulnt co-exist with Gasol, They are almost alike plus we would be giving up our size, Bynum is the future of this franchise and theirs no way in hell kobe will let that trade happen anyway. Bynum all da way !!

  • http://57.amklac laffs atu

    didn`t kobe want bynum traded last summer?its on u tube….want the link?

    • http://TheLakersNation PWNED

      Can you also gimme the link of Queen Lebronx walking out on Dwight without shaking hands?

  • showtime2k9

    So what exactly did you do, Jason Riley, to make us lose to the hated Celtics in 2008 playoffs? I blame you for that most.

    • http://www.j-ri.com Jason Riley

      Lol, well… I was living in Wash D.C. and crashing w/ a couple of friends for the summer… both of whom were rooting for Boston. It was my fault, I’m convinced. We’re safe now, I’m in L.A. and I’m not leaving.

  • KING

    i dont agree with the lakers being that bad-off with kobe being out, i mean if you look at the rockets from last year all they really had was ron artest and some glorified bench players and a decent pg… we have the first two ingredients lol but we’d still have Odom, Gasol, Bynum, Artest and Brown and PLENTY of shots to go around, since kobe wouldnt be taking his 25-30, we could just dump it down all day, no other team matches our Lenth and strenght down low… i think we could take the spurs, hornets, blazers, mavs, maybe struggle with the nuggs n suns

  • lakerbunny