In 2006 this English writer was having a last meal with his parents before embarking on what should have been a year to once in a lifetime trip to Toronto, Canada to find work and his new version of the American dream, but up north in the 6. And as the waiter brought us over sesame toast to whet our appetite my dad asked, where else in the world intrigued me. And I had one, resolute answer a week after watching my favourite film ‘Lost In Translation’ for the first time.
“Hopefully I’ll go there by 30,” I told them as a wide-eyed 21 year old, eager for adventure. Little did I know it wouldn’t be long before I was back from the T-Dot (much to my almost decade long regret, although I am still connected in a way to Canada. Hello!). And that I wouldn’t make it to Japan by 30, but instead see the place four times after then with my age standing at a Kareem jersey right now, about to be turned into a Shaq. Little did I know that my passion for writing, language and hoops (everything I’ve done has always been about basketball) would lead me to a teaching English dream in the Far East with a goal to get to Tokyo before the 2020 Olympics (Team USA and all that).
But guess who else is looking to Air Canada themselves to the land of the rising sun this fall?
The Raptors will play the Rockets this October in the same month the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets trade ice in their kingdoms veins in China’s Shanghai and Shenzhen. And with rumors having it that this year’s Wizards spell over the Knicks in Great Britain will be the last NBA London clash for awhile (or shall we say like the out on hold Carmelo to Lakers LeBron union, “paused”). It looks like Asia is the new hoops hotbed continent to be for more than just me this year. As as much as I love home and the Big Smoke, I may be leaving at the right time.
And it all comes circling around on court at the right time as Toronto, the Canadian and sole NBA franchise outside of the U.S. looks to expand their international appeal like trading for Spanish big man Marc Gasol at the deadline. Even if the smart move for the NBA would have appeared to be taking the team they picked up Pau’s (now stopping at the Bucks) brother from too. Not only did the Memphis Grizzlies used to exist outside of the States as Canucks in Vancouver (try finding a bear in Memphis. Let alone a Grizzly one. It’s all blue suede shoes Elvis to the relief of DiCaprio’s ‘Revenant’. You may find a teddy though). But the Grizz also play host to the first, biggest Japanese player in NBA global game history. As the seven foot rookie Yuta Watanabe has all the tools and pedigree to be the next big thing, not only in Japan, but the NBA as a world whole. Don’t believe us? Just Bruno Mars in ‘Uptown Funk’. He’s gonna give it to ya.
Someone swing a trade for this kid. Imagine the yen.
But with the Rockets taking off to Japan like a ‘Steamboy’ anime, the anticipation of a clash between two of the league’s top five players is too good to pass up like a Point Guard duel of underrated superstar Kyle Lowry and unanimous legend Chris Paul. Providing he’s still there after this Summer (and considering the amount of CA dollars he’s just dropped on Canadian Goose jackets it doesn’t look like he’s going to be joining King LeBron in L.A. with all that fur anytime soon), Kawhi Leonard will face off with the Beard of James Harden. The greatest offensive force this league has seen since the 100 points in a single game dip of Wilt Chamberlain, who will probably still be streaking 30 point games by then for most NBA players career-high dreams every single night.
And these two battling like kaijus in Japan for a pair of games, double heading on the 8th and 10th of October will be the perfect precursor to them suiting up together for Team USA for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next Summer. Just like this game series split as a whole will be as each team looks to take each other out in one punch in this Saitama Super Arena showdown in the Saitama City event in the Kanto Region of the Tokyo prefecture. The NBA last played a regular season game here in the year of 2003 after a calender worth of 12 games between 1990 and then, from Tokyo to Yokohama. As a matter of fact a 90’s classic between the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns in Tokyo was the first time any sports franchise in North America played a regular season game anywhere outside the United States. But with the big draw that both this globe growing league and city is right now, it has nothing on this exhibition of two of the top talents in the association.
And after these twin Tokyo Games partnered by Japanese media giant Rakuten, next year’s 2020 Olympics and the legacy making legend of Watanabe, who knows what all this could offer. A permanent fixture in the Far East? Or even a Tokyo team?!
It’s all set to blossom like cherry this season.
The King’s Garden Bites Forbidden Fruit In The Big Apple
Super Mario smashed ‘Bron.
On a Sunday afternoon in New York’s Madison Square Garden this St Patrick’s Day (side note: Nike need to bring back those great green Paddy’s Day NBA uniforms), the Lakers where in their East Coast equivalent big city to pay a visit to the Knickerbockers Mecca.
M.S.G. usually plays host to the greatest games from the G.O.A.T.’s over the generations out the service elevator. M.J. Kobe. And now L.A.L. legend to be L.B.J. against the N.Y.K. And LeBron James didn’t disappoint with a Kareem 33 points off devastating dunks off rampaging runs down the floor of the World’s Most Famous Arena like a raging bull. Shouting “AND ONE” on foul calls that even people with bleeding noses sitting up in the Gods could hear (and how about a couple plays before an equally as loud Caurso yelping for the lay-up as hilariously as his “what’s up man, I’m Alex” Ringer soundbite spoof? But 5 steals and 3 blocks to go with that many rebounds plus add that up “AND ONE” for 12 points in the game? Never send him down to the G again). That was until he took the final shot at the horn that blared in his face.
It’s been that kind of season for the King by royal appointment. Anthony Davis and potentially missing the playoffs and all that.
Heavy is the head in this Game of Thrones.
Like Jordan vs Kobe, the Knicks came away with the 124-123 win. And in the clutch, the King going for the games crown slipped as he ended up looking as good as one of his free throws. Driving the lane and taking it to the rack before being denied by the Knicks Mario Hezonja. Who with this big block became the Knicks new right hand man.
Off Broadway the King tried to Kong his way up the Empire State but this time the Bi-Planes normally swatted away shot him down.
‘Bron isn’t the only one who makes clutch blocks as big as a buzzer beating basket. Sometimes others hold it against him.
The Lakers 31-39 record is staring down elimination on the wrong side of .500. And with the game down the barrell L.B.J. went for the fadeaway like M.J. but couldn’t come up with ‘Space Jam’ too. As a matter of fact after a big game against the rotten 14-56 Knicks (on the free falling off the Chrysler wrong side of .500) where he also collected 8 rebounds almost on his way to a double/double, LeBron went fourth and colder in the final quarter than a text back from your significant other that just says “fine” when you ask if they’re ok and how their day was. With just four made baskets in the fourth period and the Lake Show missing their last six attempts it was all fat lady in Manhattan come the early evening afternoons end.
Right about now with most teams claiming their playoff berth, last year’s finalist and all the King’s men are just getting worse.
Even with a Garden state of mind in New York, New York, the King couldn’t keep his Empire going like Jussie Smollett.
Now there are only a few more notes before she sings again, but this time for the last time.
And that will be all she writes.
Time for Hollywood to hit the road and flip the script.
Every good movie ends with a twist.
The Lakers Couldn’t Randle The Truth
45 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
I don’t mean to go on about this but DAMN!
A career high 45 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
That’s MVP numbers right there.
And that’s just the kind of king season Julius Randle is having.
I mean right now the Lakers should probably trade their whole roster for this New Orleans Pelican and not fellow Kentucky ‘cat Anthony Davis (who was out last night in the 122-110 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Probably with “load management”). But I know who most Lakers fans would love to trade him for just to get this guy back.
But after bringing the King to Hollywood this Summer, Magic and the Lake Show didn’t think they needed to match the restricted hustle and muscle of Randle, who they are sorely missing in their palette dry paint this season. Despite pleading from the coaching staff, President Johnson and his Hollywood agent of assistance let both Randle and big man from downtown Brook Lopez (who is really affording more with the Bucks alongside…Pau Gasol of all underrated and underappreciated Laker greats) walk. All because the thought the former Heat talents of Michael Beasley was enough on a team of McGee, Stephenson and Rondo vets behind the young core that really are now turning into a meme.
Remember this is the same Magic man who traded All-Star…ALL STAR D’Angelo Russell because he didn’t think he was a leader. As the purple and gold Lakers faithful now have no sleep watching him in Brooklyn as he LEADS the Nets.
This is the same Magic man who after offering his whole future to the Pelicans for a free agent to be with desires to come here for nothing (at least before all this drama and disloyalty really showed him something), will soon surely watch the legendary likes of Lonzo, Ingram and maybe even Kuzma and Josh Hart walk when they’re free to go, after the way they have treated them. Because like it’s been shown before time and time again in Laker history (I would name every example, but then I would be naming every other player not called Kobe), there is no price on loyalty. But there is one to pay when you treat these teammates like a commodity and not the individual assets that they are.
There’s only so long someone treated as bait will let you off the hook.
Magic Johnson may be the greatest player of all-time in my opinion. In some ways even more gifted than the other M.J. He could effect a whole game and result without even scoring a basket. But now he’s really playing. Effecting the whole team and franchise whilst trying to make a point. Just how long will he last running this s### show. Remember how long he lasted when he was actually a coach?
And he wants to fire Walton?!
And soon the likes of Ball and his boys will end up All Stars like Randle will too. The Lakers need to make sure that they do this in purple before the Lake Show turns into the ‘Lame Show’. As once the gold goes out the crown, the Lakers legacy will be down to the hands of more than one legend.
A legend they could have had in Russell and Randle. With guys like they have now and the ones they also shouldn’t have let go. Like Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Thomas Bryant and Ivica Zubac. Paul George would have been a better fit with all these core guys. But the Lakers didn’t even really need him either. With all due respect to the King and the next chapter in storied Lakers/Celtics history the NBA tried to build, both these iconic franchises and their great expectations have imploded this season. Ones of win big now or else, manifest destiny over pure personnel development. The real rivalry of the future would have been the lottery pick rebuilds of the old young Laker and the history making right now Philadelphia 76ers. Look at the stakes they have now. There’s a reason they call it a process.
Still the Lakers loss is the flying Pelicans gain. And even if they do lose Davis they have a big future in the big man Julius. And if New Orleans do end up taking half the Laker team for him, maybe along with Julius Randle it will all end up being the Basketball Gods master plan in the karma (it all goes around like a basketball spinning on your finger) of showing the Lakers what they could have had and won in the end.
How many stars of future fame will Magic’s Hollywood let walk?
45 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
Sometimes you can’t handle the truth Jack.
And that is Julius Randle.
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