Monthly Archives: May 2008
Fever beat Parker, Sparks in 2OT
By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer
Article Launched: 05/29/2008 07:14:26 PM PDT
INDIANAPOLIS—Tan White scored 11 of her 20 points in the second overtime, and the Indiana Fever held off the Los Angeles Sparks 82-78 on Thursday night to give Candace Parker her first professional loss.
Parker had 16 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and five steals. The rookie from Tennessee scored six points in the final minute of the second overtime to keep the Sparks in the game.
It was a wild game that featured failed dunk attempts by both Parker and Lisa Leslie. Leslie, the only WNBA player to dunk in a regular-season game, finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.
The teams also combined for a league-record 27 blocked shots.
Katie Douglas led the Fever with 25 points and tied a team record with her fourth-straight 20-point game. Ebony Hoffman had 10 points and 11 rebounds and Bernadette Ngoyisa added 14 points and nine rebounds for Indiana (3-1).
The second overtime belonged to White. She scored the Fever’s first basket of the period, then scored again on a baseline leaner that gave Indiana a 74-69 lead with 2:13 to play.
A midrange jumper by White made it 78-74 with 39 seconds left, but Parker scored 7 seconds later to make it 78-76.
White scored on driving layup over Leslie with 10 seconds left to make it 80-76, Indiana. Parker scored again with 6 seconds left, but White made two free throws to finish the game. White also had 10 rebounds and five assists.
In the first overtime, Shannon
Bobbitt’s mid-range jumper put the Sparks (2-1) up 69-67 with 16 seconds left, but Hoffman’s putback on the other end forced a second overtime.
The Fever led 37-22 at halftime, but the Sparks cut their deficit to 48-44 late in the quarter. The Fever rallied to lead 53-46 at the end of the period.
A baseline jumper by Parker with 3:08 to play gave the Sparks a 61-59 lead, their first advantage since the game’s opening minutes. The teams were tied at 65 in the final minute when Leslie missed and Douglas rebounded with 27 seconds to play. Douglas missed a circus shot that could have tied the game with 5 seconds left, and the game went into overtime.
The Fever led throughout the first quarter, but Parker provided the most spectacular moment. She blocked a shot, leading to a fast break. She got into the open court and appeared to be going up for a dunk when she lost control of the ball and the crowd moaned a collective “ohhhh.”
The Fever led 25-13 at the end of the first quarter, and Parker went scoreless with three turnovers.
Parker continued to struggle in the second quarter, and the Fever led 37-22 at halftime. Parker went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting, while Douglas had 14 points at the break.
Leslie missed a dunk attempt with 8:43 left in the third quarter, then Parker finally scor
Usher replaces R. Kelly as king of R&B
DeRogatis reviews Usher’s latest, ‘Here I Stand’
May 27, 2008
BY JIM DeROGATIS Pop Music Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org
Whatever the outcome of his trial on charges of making child pornography, R. Kelly is overdue to relinquish the crown that he’s worn as the king of R&B since the mid-’90s.
Kelly’s supple voice and unique ear for melody have lost little of their power. But his sexually obsessed lyrics had become ludicrous long before the midget got “Trapped in the Closet,” while his current single “Hair Braider” is simply inane. (“Hairbraider huh, I’m doin’ my hairbraider / And she do my hair so good that I’m gonna tip her.”)
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A stint on Broadway, marriage and fatherhood all contributed to the maturity on Usher’s “Here I Stand.”
More music reviews from DeRogatis Blog: Updates from Jim DeRogatis
His particular proclivities aside, it’s increasingly difficult to accept the self-proclaimed “Pied Piper” as an irresistible heartthrob, if for no other reason than the fact that he’s now 41. Hence the obvious question: Who will become the new godfather of R&B?
Not yet 20, Chris Brown has matured a lot since he first appeared on the scene at age 13. But he still has only two albums to his credit, and he’s yet to show the range or depth necessary to match Kelly’s accomplishments.
Ne-Yo has his champions — including, unintentionally, Kelly himself. (Ne-Yo has claimed that Kelly dropped him from the Double Up Tour because the older artist was threatened by the young performer’s appeal.) But his voice isn’t even as strong as Brown’s.
On the strength of the numbers, Usher is the only serious contender. His last album “Confessions” (2004) sold more than 9.5 million copies in the United States; in comparison, Kelly’s bestselling disc sold 8 million in 1998, before digital downloading was even a consideration. But for all of the talk of “Confessions” charting the split between the Atlanta singer and Rozonda “Chili” Thomas of TLC, Usher never really bared his soul or told us much about the human condition on that disc; it was more lunchroom gossip than serious self-examination. He needed to grow up.
During the long wait for his new music, the artist starred on Broadway in the hit musical “Chicago,” fired his mother, replaced her as manager with veteran Benny Medina (Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez) and married his former stylist, Tameka Foster, eight years his senior and already the mother of three before she gave birth to their son, Usher Raymond V. Now 29, the boy has become a man, and that’s the theme of his fifth album, “Here I Stand,” which arrives in stores today.
“The manhood is symbolic of a type of independence, as well as a desire to communicate with his fans on a different emotional level,” Medina told the trade magazine Billboard. “This isn’t just a record for him. This is a component and an extension of a personal journey.”
To that end, Usher explores a much wider range of emotions and topics than he has on previous discs, or than Kelly has at any point in his career.
Yes, there are the party jams — chief among them the synth-driven No. 1 hit single produced by Polow Da Don, “Love in This Club” — and sure, there are the requisite hot ‘n’ horny bedroom grooves, which veer between absurd claims for carnal spirituality and Kelly-like crassness. “We’re not having sex, we’re making moments that will outlast the world,” Usher croons in “This Ain’t Sex,” while “Trading Places” devolves from a debate over who claims what position to innuendo-laden culinary silliness reminiscent of Kelly’s “Sex in the Kitchen” (“Pancakes and eggs, I owe ya breakfast in bed, oh baby / And your orange juice sitting on the coaster,” Usher sings. “Skip dinner and we gonna rent a movie / You order Chinese food right before you do me / You comin’ on strong baby, let me wash me hands.”).
“Sex sells. I understand it; I’m a product of it. But at the same time there has to be something else, something that balances the scale out, something of substance,” Usher told an Australian newspaper, and far more nourishing are songs such as “Prayer for You (Interlude),” which finds him singing to his young son; the Jermaine Dupri-produced “Something Special,” a gleefully optimistic piece of Wonder-style pop; the slyly experimental, electro-tinged ballads “Moving Mountains” and “Lifetime” and the old-school slow jam “Love You Gently,” which finds Usher invoking the giants of the genre — “I’ve got that Sade, Al Green and Marvin Gaye, too / To love you gently” — and actually holding his own in comparison.
Through it all runs a voice that has become more self-assured and adventurous, paired with a charismatic sex appeal all the more potent for its new subtlety. (“This album doesn’t call for me to have my shirt off,” Usher has said, but that doesn’t mean he no longer has killer abs.)
“Here I Stand” isn’t a home run; no album with lyrics like those on “Trading Places” or a gratuitous cameo by will.i.am (on “What’s My Name?”) could be.
But it certainly adds to the argument that “Same Girl,” the 2007 Kelly/Usher collaboration, was in fact a passing of the torch.
Kobe’s well-honed killer instinct
* Nobody needs to win as much as Kobe Bryant does
* Kobe has been obsessed with dominating since childhood
* A predraft workout in 1996 sold the Lakers on acquiring Bryant
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The combative Kobe Bryant says of the chance to go against an elite defender such as Bruce Bowen,
The combative Kobe Bryant says of the chance to go against an elite defender such as Bruce Bowen, “It’ll be fun.”
John W. McDonough/SI
A great moment in humility it was not.
After scoring 25 of his 27 points in the second half of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals last week against the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant said of his strong finishing kick, “I can get off” — that is, score at will — “at any time. In the second half I did that.”
Granted, Bryant was just being honest, but tact would dictate that he let others say such things about him. As you may have noticed, though, Bryant isn’t big on tact. Time and again over the last decade he has announced the particulars of his awesomeness. As teammate Luke Walton dryly puts it, “Kobe does not lack for confidence.”
Just as Bryant’s bravado irks some — O.K., many — it also makes him riveting to watch when he does get off: Like the man himself, the manner in which he bears down is never subtle. Spurs forward Bruce Bowen, Bryant’s foil these many years, says there’s no indicator of an impending scoring binge, joking that you can’t tell “by the way he chews his gum or something.” But that’s not true at all. Rather, his eruptions are almost comically predictable. Former teammate Devean George, now with the Dallas Mavericks, speaks of “that Kobe face where he starts looking around all pissed off.” His coach at Lower Merion High in Ardmore, Pa., Gregg Downer, says he can recognize this expression even on TV. In these moments Bryant’s youthful impudence, which flummoxed Del Harris when he was L.A.’s coach during Bryant’s first two years in the league, resurfaces. “Kobe would put it on the floor and start going between his legs, back and forth, back and forth,” says Harris, “and only then would he decide what to do.”
So there was Kobe on May 21, with the Lakers down 20 in the third quarter and the L.A. crowd starting to boo, whipping the ball between his legs and shaking his noggin at Bowen like some enormous, ticked-off bobblehead. What followed seemed, in retrospect, inevitable: the deep jumpers, the twisting drives, the scowls and, finally, a cold-blooded Bryant pull-up in the lane with 23.9 seconds left to cap the 89-85 comeback win. Watching him manhandle the game, you could feel the series tilting westward, and indeed the Lakers were up two games to one after a 101-71 blowout last Friday and a 103-84 loss in Game 3 on Sunday.
Call it what you will: killer instinct, competitive fire, hatred of losing or, as Boston Celtics reserve guard Sam Cassell once said, “that Jordan thing.” It’s what has spurred Bryant all these years, what the Lakers will rely on if they are to win their first post-Shaq championship, what separates Kobe from the rest of the NBA. In 2002 Bryant said, “There’s only two real killers in this league,” meaning himself and Michael Jordan. Well, now there is only one. And it ain’t Fabricio Oberto.
Because Kobe is Kobe, however, he cannot (or will not) soften his edge, the way Jordan did with his buddy-buddy NBA friendships, his who-would-have-thunk smirk or his endorsa-riffic smile. With Bryant, it manifests itself during practice, during games, during summer workouts, during conversation. Even in his dreams he is probably swatting a Connie Hawkins finger roll into the third row. “He can’t turn it off, even if he tried,” says George, one of a handful of NBA players relatively close to Bryant. And for that Kobe has often been pilloried. But is this really fair? “Kobe wants it so badly that he rubs an awful lot of people the wrong way,” says Lakers consultant Tex Winter, the guru of the triangle offense, who has known Bryant since 1999. “But they’re not willing to understand what’s inside the guy.”
O.K., then, let’s try to understand. Starting at the beginning, moment by basketball moment.
It’s 1989, and Bryant is 11 years old and living in Italy, where his father, Joe, is playing professional basketball. One day Kobe bugs Brian Shaw, a Boston Celtics first-round pick playing in Rome because of a contract dispute, to go one-on-one. Eventually Shaw agrees to a game of H-O-R-S-E. “To this day Kobe claims he beat me,” says Shaw, now a Lakers assistant. “I’m like, Right, [I’m really trying to beat] an 11-year-old kid. But he’s serious.” Even back then Shaw noticed something different. “His dad was a good player, but he was the opposite of Kobe, real laid-back,” says Shaw. “Kobe was out there challenging grown men to play one-on-one, and he really thought he could win.”
It’s early 1992, and Bryant is an eighth-grader in the suburbs of Philadelphia, skinny as an unfurled paper clip. He is playing against the Lower Merion varsity in an informal scrimmage. The older teens are taken aback. “Here’s this kid, and he has no fear of us at all,” says Doug Young, then a sophomore. “He’s throwing elbows, setting hard screens.” Bryant was not the best player on the floor that day — not yet — but he was close.
It’s 1995, and Bryant is the senior leader of the Lower Merion team, obsessed with winning a state championship. He comes to the gym at 5 a.m. to work out before school, stays until 7 p.m. afterward. It’s all part of the plan. When the Aces lost in the playoffs the previous spring, Bryant stood in the locker room, interrupting the seniors as they hugged each other, and all but guaranteed a title, adding, “The work starts now.” (Bryant remains so amped about his alma mater that when he taped a video message for the team a few years ago, it contained few of the usual platitudes and instead had Bryant reeling off a bunch of expletives and exhorting the boys to “take care of f—— business!”)
During the Kobe era at Lower Merion no moment was inconsequential, no drill unworthy of ultimate concentration. In one practice during his senior year, “just a random Tuesday,” as coach Downer recalls, Bryant was engaged in a three-on-three drill in a game to 10. One of his teammates was Rob Schwartz, a 5′ 7″ junior benchwarmer. With the game tied at nine, Schwartz had an opening, drove to the basket and missed, allowing the other side to score and win. “Now, most kids go to the water fountain and move on,” says Downer. Not Bryant. He chased Schwartz into the hallway and berated him. It didn’t stop there, either. “Ever get the feeling someone is staring at you — you don’t have to look at them, but you know it?” says Schwartz. “I felt his eyes on me for the next 20 minutes. It was like, by losing that drill, I’d lost us the state championship.”
Bryant had already begun to coax teammates into staying late or coming in at odd hours so he could hone his skills. “We’d play games of one-on-one to 100,” says Schwartz. “Sometimes he’d score 80 points before I got one basket. I think the best I ever did was to lose 100-12.” Imagine the focus required to score 80 freakin’ baskets before your opponent scores one. And Bryant’s probably still pissed that Schwartz broke double digits.
It’s 1996, and the Lakers call in Bryant, fresh off his senior prom — he took pop singer Brandy, you might recall — for a predraft workout at the Inglewood High gym. In attendance are G.M. Jerry West and two members of L.A.’s media relations staff, John Black and Raymond Ridder. Bryant is to play one-on-one against Michael Cooper, the former Lakers guard and one of the premier defenders in NBA history. Cooper is 40 years old but still in great shape, wiry and long and stronger than the teenaged Bryant. The game is not even close. “It was like Cooper was mesmerized by him,” says Ridder, now the Golden State Warriors’ executive director of media relations. After 10 minutes West stands up. “That’s it, I’ve seen enough,” Ridder remembers West saying. “He’s better than anyone we’ve got on the team right now. Let’s go.”
It would be a pattern: Bryant bearing down on players he once idolized. At Magic Johnson’s summer charity game in 1998 he went after Orlando Magic star Penny Hardaway so hard — in a charity game — that Hardaway spent the fall telling people he couldn’t wait to play the Lakers so he could go back at Bryant. And, more famously, Kobe attempted to go one-on-one against Jordan in the ’98 All-Star Game, waving off a screen from Karl Malone. Take your pick-and-rolling butt out of here; I’ve got Jordan iso’d! That one didn’t go over so well with the Mailman. “When young guys tell me to get out of the way,” Malone said at the time, “that’s a game I don’t need to be in.”
The BOY is Bananas!!!!!!