Los Angeles Lakers: White Men Can't Jump

Arron Afflalo philosophical on the lockout

October, 24, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
A few days ago, I interviewed Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo as part of the "L.A. in my Game" series. (The discussion will be posted later this week.) While I had the Bruin standout on the phone, I asked for his take on recent comments from former NHL/Dallas Stars forward Bill Guerin, who recently advised NBA players to suck it up, take a deal and get back on the court ASAP. His perspective is certainly meaningful, having experienced the 2005 NHL lockout firsthand. At the time, Guerin was a hardliner for the players, even if it meant losing the entire season. Looking back on it now, Guerin regrets that stance, and feels NBA players will eventually feel the same.

When I told Afflalo of these comments, his reaction was strident, but also quite philosophical. On one hand, he didn't sound like a guy, to use the parlance made popular by JaVale McGee, "ready to fold." As he noted, "If there's something to be fought for that's worth a year lockout, then fight for it. Every side has their bottom line and there are some things that are worth it." Afflalo, who attended the recent Players Meeting at the Beverly Hilton, definitely struck me as a guy willing to soldier up for the right cause.

On the other hand, the larger risks mentioned by Guerin were hardly lost on him. Beyond literally the money lost and likely never recovered, Afflalo was clearly thinking about the long-term fall out. The damage inflicted on the players. On the owners. On the NBA itself.

This was especially evident when I followed up about how to draw the line between holding your ground for the best offer and putting the season in jeopardy?

"In all honesty, and it's hard to do, but it takes responsibility on both parties. Obviously, I'm a player and I can only take responsibility from the players' standpoint, but it just takes responsibility from both parties and understanding of that. Until you have a complete understanding that it's not worth it, that sometimes winning a fight will result in a loss. You have to know that. And if you get caught up in the moment and you don't recognize that, regardless of whether you win your battle or not, player or owner, you're gonna do damage.

"You have to ask yourself, is that damage worth it. Is that damage worth that win?"

Afflalo's thoughts reminded me of a great scene in "White Men Can't Jump" where Gloria Clemente (Rosie Perez) explains to Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) her set of rules about what defines a win or a loss:

"Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose . . . Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what one needs."

Afflalo and Gloria Clemente are both driving at the age-old question of winning the battle but losing the war, a scenario threatening the players and the owners during the lockout. Each side has a list of demands and goals, and both are expected and entitled to zealously pursue them.

But with each item on the checklist, it must always be considered whether the prize is absolutely worth the price.

Is what's being fought for worth risking the long-term health of the Association, the best interests of which both sides claim to have in mind? Ultimately, as the future fortunes of the NBA go, so go the spoils for players and owners.

In my humble opinion, both sides are flirting badly with a battle where, in the best-case scenario, they tie. In the worst-case scenario, which also doubles as "most likely," they both actually lose. There is a battle and a war at stake for either side. Win the war, even if it means sacrificing the battle.

PodKast with director Ron Shelton ("Jordan Rides the Bus")

August, 24, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Tonight at 8pm, ESPN will debut "Jordan Rides the Bus," the latest film in its 30 For 30 series. The Ron Shelton-directed documentary examines Michael Jordan's 1994 foray into baseball, which began as a spring training tryout with the Chicago White Sox and mostly consisted of a stint with the Birmingham Barons, the team's Double-A affiliate. To say the least, this development threw the sports world for a loop, as everybody and their mother theorized why Jordan would leave basketball at the top of his game to grind away in the minor leagues.

Andy Kamenetzky talks with director Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham," "White Men Can't Jump") about his new 30 for 30 film "Jordan Rides The Bus," which takes a look at Michael Jordan's stint as a professional baseball play

Podcast Listen
Count Shelton, the director of "Bull Durham" and a former minor leaguer himself, among those skeptical of Jordan's motives. At the time, it smacked of unbelievable arrogance to him. After some reexamination and research, however, Shelton concluded this period in MJ's life has gone largely misunderstood. Rather than foolhardy and perhaps shady hubris, Shelton now regards Jordan's baseball career as an introspective journey (fueled in part by a desire to come to grips with the murder of his father) and, contrary to popular belief, legitimately accomplished in its own right.

Shelton was quite generous with his time as we discussed a wide variety of topics: Jordan's baseball prowess. The warm relationship between MJ and Birmingham. Shelton's other films like "Bull Durham," "White Men Can't Jump," and "Tin Cup," plus his favorite sports film of all time. I really enjoyed the discussion and the documentary, and think others will, too. Before folks listen to the poddy, I wanted to share a few thoughts:

- It really hit me watching this movie how the obsession to figure out "why" Jordan left basketball (in particular, the gambling connection) allowed the media to overlook an even more interesting angle: This was the most vulnerable we had ever seen Jordan over the course of his professional life. Before 1994, his image was always either the on-court assassin or cooler-than-thou pitchman. Baseball pushed MJ out of his element and offered a more human side, but the frenzy to uncover "the truth" took first, second and tenth priority in covering this story.

A wasted opportunity, and even worse, as Shelton notes, nothing was unearthed:

"The journalists that I talked to, sportswriters, really top rate ones: Jack McCallum, Rick Telander, and Sam Smith. National guys. The Chicago guys. Mike Downey. All those guys. They were very honest. They said, "We were looking for the smoking gun." All the gambling stuff had come out. He had refused to go to the White House with the Dream Team and said he needed family time. He was out with gamblers golfing. There was that guy who was a bail bondsmen or something, I forget his name, I think he was mentioned in the movie who was murdered. There was a check from Michael. This was really sordid stuff.

"But it simply was unconnected. He had gambling issues and he had personal issues. But it had nothing to do with why he was out of the NBA. But the sports writers freely admit [they] were looking for connections, because [they] wanted the cover of SI or wanted the Pulitzer. And they all came away saying, absolutely no connection. It was a personal quest."

- That personal quest was also more impressive in retrospect that often given credit. Without question, the guy was initially a train wreck. But by the end of the summer, Jordan had improved his swing, his fielding acumen, and developed into a base stealing threat. It's pretty remarkable, considering how Jordan was learning on the fly at the professional level. His stats weren't mind-blowing when the dust settled, but the transformation was, even if people missed it. Or, in some cases, weren't as wild about any angle where Jordan didn't flat out stink. The movie addresses how Sports Illustrated spiked Steve Wulf's positive story and the general reluctance to see this labor love and effort as anything but a failure.

"I was as judgmental as everybody else until I started looking into it," admits Shelton.

- Lest anybody accuse me of sucking up to my guest upon hearing his unorthodox choice for best sports movie, this 2004 piece proves our shared mentality.



Kobe Bryant
26.4 4.1 1.2 35.7
ReboundsJ. Hill 9.8
AssistsJ. Lin 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.3
BlocksE. Davis 1.5