Culver City Observer -

Former Stars Highlight Lakers' Celebration


October 29, 2009

The Lakers have had so many championship celebrations they’ve gotten very good at putting them on.

On Tuesday night they brought back key players from past championship teams before raising the newest banner and receiving their rings.

It was the highlight of the opening night at Staples Center when the legends came onto the court, waving to the sellout crowd.

There they were – Magic Johnson, Norm Nixon, Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, among others.

Frankly, that was the highlight of the night because the Lakers’ workmanlike 99-92 victory over the Clippers provided little drama.

Coach Phil Jackson treated it like an extension of the exhibition season by playing a struggling second unit in the second quarter. The Clippers, stunned by the loss of prized rookie Blake Griffin for at least six weeks with a knee injury, closed a gap and made the contest somewhat interesting. But it was obvious the Lakers could pull away again whenever they put their mind to it and they did.

Actually, both teams were without an important player, but the Lakers could stand the absence of injured Pau Gasol much easier than the Clippers could do without Griffin.

From my press box seat I felt the absence of Chick Hearn, who presided over the Lakers’ championship celebrations until he died.

I can’t go to Staples Center without thinking about Hearn, my traveling companion on the Laker beat for 23 years, and how he kept everyone loose with his unique sense of humor.

Like the time he had been ill and Shaquille O’Neal asked in total sincerity, “Chick, is there anything I can do for you?”

And Hearn answered, “Yes, there is.”

“Tell me, Shaq said. “Anything.”

“Get a damn rebound.”

That was another time and this is now, The Lakers appear equipped for another championship run, but we’ll have to see how the parts fit.

“When you’re young you think there can be a championship every year but it doesn’t work that way,” said Fox.

Andrew Bynum looks ready for a big season and if he dominates it will likely cut into Lamar Odom’s minutes. Ron Artest did some nice things but missed open shots from the corner that Trevor Ariza made last season.

Late in the game, though, Artest ran hard on a fast break and Kobe Bryant threw a bounce pass perfectly, leading to a layup.

That’s a difficult pass that requires perfect timing, the kind of pass Magic used to make.

And Artest was hustling, a sure sign he’s anxious to fit in with his new teammates.

It’s only one game, but the Lakers again have an elite roster and the Clippers can’t seem to escape the strange hex that hangs over this franchise.


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