Much to His Chagrin

by Michael Shagrin | 11/1/12 11:00pm

Much to my chagrin, today's column will be my last before the 2012 election. I'll be saddened to see Nov. 6 come and go because paying witness to free and fair elections is a proud right of all Americans. I'm not saddened because I'm worried about the results (and the impending Armageddon), and I'm certainly not upset that I will be missing all the hoopla brought by the campaigns over the last two years.

You may be asking yourself right about now, "Why am I hearing a generic introduction to election coverage in what's supposed to be a sports column?" Well, I no longer have any choice in the matter. I've watched an unreasonable number of televised sporting events since the beginning of the fall, and I think I may have inadvertently overdosed on political advertising.

If these commercials were entertaining, I might be able to get on board with them. But there are only so many times you can pretend that you're listening to Barack Obama's jazz-smooth voice at your kitchen table. I say, show us some spectacularly popular pro athletes in these political ads. Let's see Blake Griffin time-traveling to meet his five-year-old self while promoting the new Kia Optima. A soft-toned, dove-eyed Mitt Romney could conclude the commercial with, "I'm Mitt Romney, and I approve this message." While paying homage to the Clippers would do wonders in convincing me personally, a Tom Brady/Mitt Romney montage would undoubtedly do the superior job in smoothing the governor's path to success in New Hampshire.

The competitive back-and-forth between the two campaigns should have yielded a more interesting fight over the White House, but it didn't. The race was boring. There were no Palins, no sex scandals, just a lot of petty disagreements. Political journalists grasped for storylines throughout the summer, but came up empty.

In just about every campaign email or public appearance, there have been reminders of the high stakes accompanying this election, yet there's been an absence of bold moves, or as clever folks in politics say, "game-changers." All should know by now that the place for big, ambitious excitement is not election coverage, but the National Basketball Association even if we must endure the interruptions of faux-public service announcements for another week.

So, this fine Friday, I'll leave you with a discussion of the NBA's boldest team and hopefully enough factoids to assist in redirecting any cocktail party discussions away from politics. That team is the Los Angeles Lakers. In what has been branded as a reincarnation of Magic Johnson's Showtime Lakers, general manager Mitch Kupchak acquired two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash and the game's most dominant big man, Dwight Howard, to pair with the elite core of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Bryant, age 34, already has five championship rings (one less than Michael Jordan) and has been dropping all kinds of hints about his plans to retire when his contract is up after the 2013-2014 season. Kobe has made clear that he feels confident with the reigns of the Lakers in the capable and gargantuan hands of Dwight Howard. However, the season hasn't started out as expected, but rather has been more of a continuation of last season's "Dwightmare." The Lakers are 0-2, losing to the injury-riddled Dallas Mavericks on opening night, then falling to the young and very raw Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. Going back to the beginning of the preseason in October, the Lakers are 0-10.

Beyond the bold roster changes executed by the Lakers front office, head coach Mike Brown is experimenting with novel ways of filling Phil Jackson's shoes. Jackson, for whom Brown took over prior to last season, won 11 NBA titles, is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports and was the guardian of a transcendent motion-style offense called the Triangle during his tenure with the Bulls and Lakers. After a disappointing second-round playoff exit last season, Brown has fixed his sights on an offensive system similar to the Triangle. He went with another historically successful motion-based system called the Princeton offense.

It's plainly clear that the Princeton hasn't yet caught on in the Land O' Lakers, and the strategy also doesn't lack for doubters in the media. The Alabaman wisdom of Charles Barkley encapsulates the complaint: "I want my accountant from Princeton. I don't want my damn offense from Princeton."

Man's got a point. If only he were running for president.