Westwood HO!!!

Despite my phobia for driving cars and displeasure for sitting in traffic, I took two trips out to Los Angeles to attend 2 Men’s basketball games at Pauley Pavilion; the December 10th game against the Michigan Wolverines, and again on January 21st; about a month later.

Los Angeles is the kind of city where neighborhood proximity pretty much dictate one’s social habits. Nothing illustrates this more than the location of USC, a little private school across town that you may or may not have heard of. Let’s just say that there aren’t an abundance of BMW dealerships, jewelry shops and banks in the surrounding neighborhood. Once you step off campus at USC you’re officially back in the real world. Trojans students and faculty work in a cocoon are in a world unto themselves, while UCLA is like more of a vacuum.

UCLA, a public university; is its own ecosystem, nestled within the exclusive section of town that is Beverly Hills. Westwood has its own choices of movie theatres, eateries (shout out to Fatburger) and banks to the point where its possible that a UCLA student to live in seclusion in relation to the rest of Los Angeles.

I made some rookie mistakes my first go around as a driver there. I didn’t give myself enough leeway and made it to the campus at exactly 7:00 PM for a 7:00 PM tip-off.  After paying for parking and jogging to the arena–located in the middle of campus, I had to wait in a yet another long ass line to get inside the frigging building (Los Angelinos are notorious for showing up to sporting events late, and now I understand why).

I typically go to sporting events early because I like to vibe the place out and watch the players get loose for the game. Driving in traffic for two hours and still being late, I walked in Pauley Pavillion irritated; rushing to sit down in my ticket section. The “Oohs” and “Ahhs”of the crowd tormented me with each passing second. I finally sat down in the 200 section (great seats) with the score already 12-14 and four minutes having ran off the clock.

That lesson prepared me for the second time around. I arrived on campus 1.5 hours ahead of the 1 pm tip-off. I had enough time to park, walk over to Kinross to grab a Fatburger, and walk back to Pauley. With about 30 mins until tip-off, I was surprised to find lines of no more than eight people. This only further proved the theory about people in L.A. unable to get anywhere on time.


You can feel the history within the  walls the very second that you enter Pauley Pavillion. Part of UCLA’s mystique is their long and storied history of producing champions and NBA players. You can’t talk about UCLA basketball without mentioning John Wooden, the legendary coach who went on to become one of the biggest ambassadors the game of basketball has ever had.

At UCLA, Wooden won 10 national titles–once with a run of 88 straight wins that lasted 3 seasons. Wooden, arguably the greatest college coach of all time, was known as much for his words of wisdom as he was for his coaching accomplishments. The man created what is known as the Pyramid of Success (there is model replica glass display in the arena concourse), a chain of philosophical guidelines that he used to help his players. John Wooden was just as much of an instructor as he was a coach. His approach to the game was for his young men to learn the game within the game. He insisted that the true opponent was an internal one and that the only result that mattered was that one played their personal best.

At the program’s peak, many legendary players passed through Westwood. Men such as Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul Jabbaar, Walt Hazzard, Marques Johnson, Bill Walton, Baron Davis, Gail Goodrich, Sydney Wicks, and Henry Bibby (father of future Wildcat great Mike Bibby) all won under the tutelage of John Wooden.

What I liked most about Pauley Pavillion was the way they’ve meticulously preserved remnants from each era of UCLA basketball. You’re just as likely to run into a banner commemorating Matt Barnes or Reggie Miller as you would a plaque with the image of Bill Walton or Lew Alcindor.

Both games I found myself swept up in the mirth and excitement. The arena is well lit with hardly a bad location among the 13,000 plus seats. The court sports a classically simple design, displaying the blue and gold UCLA letters in cursive at half court. There is a bigger than usual student section from both behind one of the baskets and along the sideline opposite the bench. The band loudly and proudly played the UCLA fight song and the crowd took direction from the cheer team U!!! C!!!! L!!!! A!!!!!!!

I’ve gone off before about how beautiful the UCLA cheerleaders are (they look like grown ass women. One pair of beauties passed me in the concourse at the Zona game. I geeked out for a brief second before I remembering that  I was 40 yrs old.), but what equally impresses me are the complexity of their routines. I suspect that these young ladies are dancing as if they are auditioning for the Lakers dance team (in L.A. you never know who could be in the stands). Makes you wonder what the future holds for some of these young ladies. I would believe any scenario thrown out there: Doctor, lawyer, NBA dancer, Playboy Bunny, reality housewife, porno star–the whole spectrum comes into play.


UCLA fans, both young and old, proudly wore their blue and gold strolling the concourse, looking for the nearest restroom or vendor stand. I passed many older fans for whom it was obvious that they’d had season tickets for generations. Los Angeles is a huge city full of transplants so it shouldn’t have surprised me (but it did) to see so many Arizona and Michigan fans/alums in the crowd at these games. These fans would manage to find their voices during the other teams’ runs, but would always eventually get drowned out by the chorus of “UCLA” chants.

The game against Arizona was  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Day at UCLA, and he spoke to the crowd at halftime. Jabbar was honored for winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I got chills being in the same building as one of the greatest basketball champions of all time. He was greeted with applause as he was escorted to his courtside seat–everyone instinctively stood in reverence to such basketball royalty.


Illustration by Louis Eastman

There has been a buzz surrounding the squad this year. They have been a top 10 team all season; which explains the electricity floating in the Westwood air–and its not just the drones and cell phone towers.

The team consistently won during Ben Howland era. UCLA went to three Final Fours under Howland and put a slew of pro players into the NBA, but even with future superstars like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, their wins were from a “grind it out,” Big East style of play. They weren’t exactly a fun team to watch.

This current outfit that head coach Steve Alford is in charge of handling is easily the most exciting team since the mid-90’s Tyus Edney/Ed Obannon/Toby Bailey Bruins teams.  The up and down style of play of those teams was frenetic and above the rim (they gave the Fab Five all they could handle during the 93 NCAA tournament). I imagine their exciting run would have been even longer had they given a scholarship to local high school phenom Paul Pierce rather than center Jelani McCoy (who to be fair wasn’t a bad player, but he was no Paul Pierce)–Pierce grew up in Inglewood and wanted to play for the Bruins (I just lost my mind for a second spacing out on a 1997 alternate reality with Paul Pierce catching oops from Baron Davis and vice versa. WOW!!!!!).

Aside Note: Speaking of Baron Davis, he was in attendance at the Michigan game. Bruins games have their own version of “celebrity row” with the arena cameras zooming in on the faces of Peter Dante and “Hills Street Blues” legend Mike Warren. I was secretly hoping to run into Jalen Rose at the game, but my tardiness erased any expectations that I had concerning the game. If he was there, I didn’t see him on the Jumbotron.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at UCLA


Coach Alford employs a run and gun system that emulates the Spurs and Warriors motion offenses. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford (Steve’s son) anchor the team with their leadership while the youngsters, Aaron Holiday (brother of NBA guards Justin and Jrue) and freshman phenoms T.J. Leaf (who kind of reminds me of an 18 year old Nick Collison) and Lonzo Ball bring flash, height and speed for defenses to contend with. 

The team relies on defense and rebounding from big men, Ike Anigbogu, (had 4 really  impressive blocks in the Michigan game), and Thomas Welsh.

Pro scouts are drooling the most over Ball. When people say that he reminds them of Jason Kidd, I see it. He is a 6’6 light skinned point guard with incredible court vision. He is a better shooter than Jason Kidd was in college (he’s a threat to shoot it from nearly anywhere on the court), but I am not sure how the form on his shot will translate in the pros (perhaps he’ll find a shot doctor like Kawhi Leonard did in Chip Engelland).

The other night against Oregon, Ball hit a dagger three from deep behind the line that I’m almost certainly would have gotten blocked in the NBA. Though I wouldn’t get too caught up on his shooting form if I worked for any NBA team scouting him. Jason Kidd could barely shoot free throws when he first got to the league, but he ended his career in the top ten of all time 3 point shots made.

My only (albeit mild) critiques was that he tended to rely on his dribble too much sometimes and would get stuck in the air because he’d penetrated too far into the paint. Somehow he’d get bailed out with a spectacular pass to an open teammate, but again, the kind of passes that are spectacular in the college game become turnovers in the NBA against better athletes and defenders. He will be a lottery pick, as there is no reason for him to come back to school (other than playing with his younger brothers again). Any development he needs for the next level will have to be gained from on the job training.

UCLA is stacked with talent, but their perimeter defense is suspect. In their loss to Arizona,  the U of A guards, Kobi Simmons, Kadeem Allen and Allonzo Trier, got to the rack anytime they wanted AND when UCLA collapsed the paint, they kicked the ball out for someone to hit an open 3 pointer. Seven Wildcats players were in double figures and Kadeem Allen was only 1 point away from it being 8 players.

The Arizona game showed what can happen to the Bruins when they don’t make their 3 pointers and can’t get any points in the paint. I’m curious what happens in their rematch later this month (‘Zona may be the most balanced team in the county right now).

UCLA has the depth to go far in the tournament. They are fast and can get up and down the court, routinely scoring in the 100’s. Their downfall will be their defense however. At some  point this season the Bruins will need to make a crucial stop in a game. The question is will they be able to?

Either way, it is good to see UCLA basketball is exciting again. It is easy to be happy for these fans and I’m glad they have a reason to be excited. Nothing connects the fanbases of different eras more than winning and tradition, and you’ll find plenty of both at UCLA.


profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

That First L

The season has officially started now that the last undefeated team has finally taken an L.

The Dubs (or the W’s) did something that the world has never seen, and in the process, managed to make every game during the winning streak the “Good Ass Game of the Week”.

Next week’s post will be all about power rankings, but for now, I think the Dubs deserve their own shine.

It’ll be so much easier to put this streak into perspective when the season is over. With so much stimuli flying around, it is easy to take this streak for granted, but keep in mind that the season started back on October 26th. Today is December 13th, that is how long it took for the Warriors to finally lose (and lose on the road at that).

People keep trying to compare this year’s Warriors to the 95-96 Bulls, but I don’t think that is fair. Being on the cusp of becoming an old man, I get the Jordan 90’s sentimentality. However, I remember how much the NBA sucked back then. There were only a handful of teams (at best ) that were worth watching.


Expansion had diluted the talent pool. There were a bunch of CBA dudes who had no business being in the league. The Sonics were Gucci, and the Suns were still fun, but Houston was always kind of meh. The Knicks were brutal to watch, and so were the Heat. The only teams that ran any kind of fun uptempo offense in the Eastern Conference were the Magic and the Bulls (the Pacers were efficient at best).

What the Warriors have been doing this year is beyond insane because the league is so much better. Jordan and the Bulls had a much easier path to 72 wins in that era. Throw the records out of the window, the West is still the best, but that being said, the East teams as a whole are better this season.


Curry and company are making A-1 teams look like straight busters. That is how well they are playing. They aren’t even playing basketball at this point, its something much more abstract and creative. The mixture of joy and creativity they are playing with is unreal.

The chemistry they have on this team reminds me of  a legendary jazz combo (think Miles Davis/Clifford Brown). They make playing at their blistering and frenetic pace look so damn easy. Every Warriors game is a passing clinic that high school coaches should use as a tool to  educate their players (they are very conservative with their dribbles and use them efficiently).


The way Curry moves around the court seems so effortless and fluid, he reminds me of watching Wayne Gretzky back in the day, or Lionel Messi in today’s era of futbol. The dubs have played this first quarter of the season like characters out of a graphic novel or movie.


Though the Bucks will be given credit for snapping the Warriors’ streak, the writing was on the wall as early as Tuesday night.

In jazz, every combination of players results in a different sound, and basketball is no different. The Barnes injury was critical, but not completely debilitating. But once they lost Splash Bro. Klay Thompson, I knew it would be hard to survive the 7 game road trip unscathed.

You can blame the Golden State bench for blowing the 30 point lead in “naptown”, forcing Luke Walton to put the starters back in the game, but maybe Luke called the dogs off a few minutes too early.

You could tell the starting unit was a little out of sync by sitting too long–and then of course Klay got hurt. Even though they beat Indy, it still felt like a loss (a friend of mine said I was reaching, but its hard to replace a two way player like Klay). There is no way they need 2 OT’s to beat the Celtics if they had a healthy Klay.

But this streak has put everyone on notice. I never thought last year’s championship was a fluke, but seeing where Golden State is mentally, has made me rethink every preseason prediction I made concerning the playoffs. They are like the Wooden era UCLA Bruins (who of course Luke’s Dad played for) as they are playing invisible opponents.


There is a level of play they aspire to every night, a level that is about their own standards– a philosophy that Coach Wooden espoused Ad Nauseam when he dominated the 60’s and early 70’s college ball.

Bill Russell wrote about how the game of basketball could become something different altogether, a rhythmic balletic dance between ten different people when everyone is in sync. Watching the Warriors during those magical 19-2 runs during 1-2 minute stretches is evocative of this aesthetic. acc099f6646e970e1619501a913a9

The Spurs are still a joy to watch. Watching them play reminds me of a Thelonious Monk quintet, clunky yet beautiful and soulful–on a really good day, evocative of a Duke Ellington standard. Yet the Warriors are ushering in a whole new ethos (think the post war Bebop era of jazz).

Let me put it this way, the Warriors have almost ruined me for watching other teams. I love NBA, but no one is playing like them right now. Obviously I’m putting in my work, but as I said before, it doesn’t even feel like work watching Golden State (OKC games are like watching a rock band with a fantastic front man and lead guitarist, but a mediocre rhythm section #tradeDionWaiters).

I can’t even take college ball seriously right now. Its like going from internet porn to watching Cinemax at your parents’ house on a Friday night. If you work hard enough, the ecstasy will come, but its a different process getting there.

This week’s Slate of Games:







Mildly intriguing at best. I’ll probably have the Raptors-Pacers game on in the background while I enter in grades and fill out class reports.


“Tap That Vein Tuesday”


Kelly Olynick and Kevin Love go to dinner and find that despite their differences, they actually are a lot alike. A beautiful friendship ensues that one day becomes a “30 for 30” documentary.

What if I told you that what can separate can also bring you together? What if I told you, that the line between hustling and hurting can’t always be determined by a ref? What if I told you that winning by any means necessary can cost you more than a championship?

ESPN’s 30 for 30 films brings you “Pales In Comparison.”

Scheduled to debut this Sunday after the 2033 ESPY awards. Tune in.


Ugh. Sometimes its best not to………..




This won’t be bad. I’d watch it if the Mavs weren’t blacked out in my market.


Ugly but will get the job done. In other words, “A 2 at ten, and a 10 at two.”

Minnesota-New York 

Probably the best game of the night.

Phoenix-Golden State

Portland- Oklahoma City

What is the over/under for the amount of doo-doo faces that Damien Lillard damian_lillard_caricature_by_ajjabosch-d7hfkwx

and Russell Westbrook make?


I’m not sure which picture looks more cartoonish.



None of my friends thought the “Me so Hornets meme” I proposed was a very clever one. Whatever. I enjoyed it. They can’t all be high brow jokes you know.

Oklahoma City- Cleveland

Can you say hangover Friday? My poor students………

Friday (AKA The Beginning of my Winter Vacation)


This gon’ be good.


Yeah I guess. I could be talked into it for a few minutes.

Golden State-Milwaukee

Bucks can go  ahead and circle this as an “L.” To quote my man Jay-Z “It’s about to go down”

Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio (Good Ass Game of the Week) 

Don’t be afraid to throw that elbow to a former teammate’s chest D. West. You know he would do it to you.



Chicago-New York 

Finally got to watch Porzingis play the other night. He’ll be the King of New York in 5 years. Let the Zingsanity era begin.



I probably won’t be watching this live, but I bet the highlights will be nice though. #RondoforALLSTARTEAM 

Sorry Craig.







#thisagoodassgame #fullsass




Community Quick Hits [originally posted on sportsblog.com 11/24/13]

Random basketball thoughts from last week:

1) Indiana’s Paul George must have been inspired by Larry “Legend” the other night against the Knicks. Certain players know how to really dial it up whenever they are playing Madison Square Garden. Anytime Jordan played there you knew he was going for 30 points (at least). Kobe was the same way. If Kevin Durant or Steph Curry go to MSG to play, I’m going to at least look and see if the game is televised. It may be time to add Paul George to the list.

What he did down the stretch of the 4th quarter and in OT against the Knicks was reminiscent of the way superstars take over the game. He played D on Carmelo Anthony and still managed to make tough shots down the stretch. It was pretty hype. I’m all in on the Pacers if they get more bench help. Injuries aside, I’m saying it’s going to be a Pacers-Spurs finals.

2) Most blowouts are boring to watch, but a KU blowout is still pretty fun. Friday night’s game against Towson was exactly the kind of game you want to see if you are a Jayhawks fan. They didn’t play down to the competition. They came out aggressive and when the opportunity arrived they went for the jugular and put the game out of reach.

I don’t expect many teams to lay down for the Jayhawks. In fact, with all the scouts and hoopla surrounding the team, they will probably get teams’ best shot. If I were a junior or senior, I would want to ball out and leave something for the NBA scouts to remember about me. I don’t expect many more blowouts like the one they had against Towson where the game was over 10 minutes in. On a video game you can hit reset or turn the game off. In real life you just have to take the ass whupping. Scouts take note of how well players respond when getting blown out like that–whether a player crumpled up like a folding chair and mailed it in, or if they left it all on the court.

John Wooden used to say that when you are playing basketball, you are not playing against an opponent. You are playing against your best self. I like the way the Jayhawks went into that game aggressive and never let off the gas. That’s the way championship teams approach things every night.

Towson didn’t play particularly well. Everyone seemed to be looking for their own shot instead of moving the ball and moving without the the ball. Towson started out like 1 for 7 in the first half and for every miss, the Jayhawks took the long rebound and pushed it for a fast break. I was hoping that they would hit a 100, but I knew that Towson would probably score more than 16 in the second half.

3) Joel Embiid probably won’t be around for long if he keeps playing like he has been. His numbers have been nice, but you have to watch him play to get the full gist of how good he can be. He flashed some serious signs of basketball brilliance in both games this week.

Against Iona he showed how athletic and graceful he is, impressing me with how fluid his movements were. Against Towson, he made me squeal with a couple of beautiful Duncan-esque outlet passes. Right now on some mock drafts, he is listed as high as #7.

4) Andrew Wiggins made an excellent decision in coming here to Lawrence. Had he gone to FSU, he’d be in the ACC with Jabari Parker. Though this sounds titillating to have that matchup twice in one year (assuming KU and Duke don’t face each other again in the tourney), he’d be playing on a mid-tier team in a stacked ACC.

Could you imagine Wiggins playing for Kenutcky? The Wildcats already have spacing issues with their difficulties hitting the deep shot. Wiggins would have just added to that. Randle commands a lot of space in the paint and there would be little left for Wiggins to work with. How would they have found enough shots for everybody?

Without Wiggins, this would be a pretty memorable team. With Wiggins, this team has a chance to be one of the all time greats. I’m not just talking about KU history either. I think that (injuries withstanding) people will reflect on this team like they talk about 1990 UNLV, the Fab Five Michigan squads, ’91 Duke, and ’06-07 Florida teams with Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford.

It is a long season which makes this talk sound a little crazy. The question becomes will this be one of the best NCAA teams of all time, or will they be one of the best NCAA teams to not win it all? I would hate to one day write a “lovable losers” essay about this team.

Bring on the Demon Deacons!