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Tuesday, March 25
 
Spring forward, Lakers fall back

By Bill Walton
Special to ESPN.com

In the summertime, ah, in the summertime
When you were with me

The Spring solstice has come and gone, shorts are on for the summer and things have never been brighter.

But all that sufferin' was not to be to compared
With the glory that is to be

  • I love the NCAA Tournament. You really haven't lived, though, until you've been involved in a multiple-overtime game. Thank goodness for Salim Stoudamire, Rickey Anderson and Jason Gardner. Life is a whole lot easier when you're playing yourself or when you don't care who wins. It's harder than ever to maintain the distaste that I have for Notre Dame ruining my life on Jan. 19, 1974, knowing Mike Brey as I do. I do retain very strong memories, though, of when my children were out of line as youngsters and required discipline. Their angry response was always, "Dad, I hate you. I'm going to go to Notre Dame." I'm still undefeated in my pool and was so thankful for the triumph of selflessness, substance and humility over hype, self promotion and style last weekend. Goodbye Louisville, Memphis and Florida -- thanks for coming. My Final Four picks remain Arizona, Kentucky, Connecticut and Oklahoma.

  • I'm always amazed at how upset people get when others who might not share the same beliefs and convictions get involved in our political and social processes. The Academy Awards show was magnificent Sunday night. It was terrific to see all the artists get involved in the issues of the day. Entertainment, economics, sports, music, business, politics, religion, life -- heck, it really is all one and the same -- and no one puts it all together better than The New York Times' Frank Rich, whose Arts and Leisure column Sunday tied a big ribbon around it all. Sure wish he was in charge of the Thought Police.

    Fools they made a mock of sin
    Our loyalty they tried to win

    I wake up in the morning, fold my hands and pray for rain, got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane ...
    I try my best to be just like I am but everybody wants me to be just like them

  • Sad as I am that I couldn't stay in San Antonio for the Miss USA contest, the pain was mollified somewhat by the Victoria Secret's commercial during the Oscars, over the top of Bob Dylan's "Love Sick."

    It's a shame the way they make me wash the floors

  • I am a hot-water drinker myself, but I do admit to getting thirsty when I see Beyonce Knowles and Shakira do those soft drink commercials.

    My feet are so tired, My brain is so wired ... and the clouds are weeping ...

    Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Mark Madsen
    Maybe Mark Madsen, right, and the Lakers don't want to show their hand right now.

  • Only three more weeks to find out if the Lakers are right when they claim that the regular season is meaningless. That philosophy will do wonders for season-ticket sales. Some think that you can just turn it on and off like a switch. Knowing that the Lakers are going to have to win at San Antonio and Sacramento in the playoffs, was it even in their best interest to win at those places this past week? Why let the opposition know this early how good you are and how far THEY still have to go to beat you? Unless, of course, you're picking on a hapless foe with no chance of winning or fighting back.

  • Don't you just hate it when people bring politics and international issues to the safe, secure and sublime world of sports?

  • Now that this new pre-emptive doctrine has been put into play and people in Iran, Syria and North Korea are wondering what's next, I keep hearing from Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers fans about what THEY have to do to move up on the list of people needing to be saved.

    Strangers, they meddled in our affairs
    Poverty and shame was theirs
    In the summertime, ah, in the summertime

  • Just when you think that the Hawks as a team have finally sunk to the same level of interest and commitment as their fans, they go out and win a bunch of games. I thought Pete Babcock disarmed his guys a long time ago. If Atlanta beats the Lakers on Tuesday night, can they possibly stave off regime change there, or is that simply another foregone conclusion? There is no truth to the rumor going around that Theo Ratliff's nine blocks against Indiana over the weekend actually outnumbered the fans in attendance at Philips Arena.

  • Shaquille O'Neal-Yao Ming II on Wednesday night. Don't forget Steve Francis-Kobe Bryant. This backcourt matchup pits the only two guys in the league averaging more than 20 points, six rebounds and six assists per game. If the Rockets win that one, it will only add fuel to the growing speculation that Phil Jackson is going to become the next coach at UCLA. When you're already the coach of the Lakers, Westwood is the only place to go that can be considered a vertical move.

  • San Antonio is such a fun team, but Gregg Popovich has a terrible dilemma on his hands right now. His loyalty to David Robinson is right and unyielding, but the Spurs today are playing better without the big guy. This is going to be very tough on a lot of folks. Fortunately, these guys have the class, dignity and intelligence to possibly pull it off, if it can, indeed, be done.

  • In case anybody missed it, Kobe Bryant recently became the youngest player to score 10,000 career points. On Friday night, Tim Duncan just passed that same milestone with literally no recognition whatsoever. Tim did it in 35 fewer games. Shaq got to 10,000 in 103 fewer games than Kobe. We won't even mention what the gap is between Kobe and Wilt or Jordan (for those of you who must know: Wilt accomplished this special feat in 237 fewer games than Kobe; MJ in 170).

  • I've been staying up all night waiting for the SportsCenter cut-in to report the fact that Hikaru Nakamura of White Plains, N.Y., just became the youngest American to achieve the rank of Chess Grandmaster. He recently surpassed Bobby Fisher's previous record by 100 days. I don't know if I should hold my breath or take a nap. Rook to C3 was brilliant but it was not until Pawn to D4 that the fate of Western Civilization was secure.

  • Ben Wallace is averaging almost 21 rebounds a game over the last eight games. Wilt's career average over 13 years is almost 24.

  • Does anyone think that the NBA will adopt a minimum age limit for incoming players BEFORE LeBron James comes aboard? LeBron's high school career is finally over ... another state championship, another player of the year award. After the final game, LeBron compared his career to that of a roller coaster -- lots of ups and downs and double loops. If he gets drafted by the Cavaliers, he'll have a lifetime pass to the Drop Zone Ride.

    Carlos Boozer
    The Cavs' Carlos Boozer has been the best Dukie of the rookie class.

  • But at least LeBron would have the opportunity to play with Carlos Boozer, who's second in the league to Shaq in field-goal percentage. Carlos, at last year's 35th pick, is clearly the steal of that draft.

  • Speaking of age limits and high schoolers, three of the top MVP candidates this year took that route -- Tracy McGrady, Kobe and Kevin Garnett. The one and only player to go straight to the NBA from high school and eventually win the MVP was Moses Malone. He wound up with three of them, tying Magic and Larry but still behind Kareem's six, Jordan's five and Wilt's four.

  • Does anyone else remember that Tony Battie, Ron Mercer, Tim Thomas and Adonal Foyle were just some of the players that were drafted ahead of McGrady in 1997. Tracy is on pace to have the highest scoring average in the NBA since Michael Jordan 10 years ago.

  • On Friday night after the Orlando Magic thrashed the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cavs coach Keith Smart called the Magic players parasites, feeding off the greatness of McGrady. Funny, that's what the Clippers' Mr. Sterling has been calling his entire roster for years now.

  • Cleveland beat the Nets for the second time in a month, spoiling Jason Kidd's 30th birthday. The Cavs now have 13 wins on the year. They need three more victories to avoid tying the franchise's worst year ever set 32 years ago in their inaugural season. Will history be made? Will the 13 winning box scores be displayed in Ripley's Believe it or Not?

  • Stunning that Ricky Davis did not get any nominations for this year's Razzies, which are awarded for the worst of things. Madonna swept these awards with five. It's hard to believe that they couldn't spread THIS around a bit.

  • Is there anything more offensive than the lack of defense by this current Milwaukee Bucks team since acquiring the Glove, Gary Payton? With the self-promoted, new-age backcourt of Sam Cassell and Gary, supposedly reminiscent of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe, the sinking Bucks are a quiet 7-9 since the pairing and are giving up almost 104 points per game. The Bucks have given up huge individual performances to the likes of Allan Houston (who had 50 one night), McGrady (48), Stephon Marbury (41) and Antawn Jamison (40).

  • Congratulations to George Karl, who just became the sixth-fastest coach in NBA history to reach 700 victories.

  • Eleven of the top 12 teams in the Western Conference have a winning record against the East. The lone exception: Seattle, which is only two wins shy of .500.

  • The Wizards and Celtics are playing really well as they surge toward the playoffs.

  • The NBDL playoffs start Tuesday night. Fayetteville and Roanoke tip it off at 7:30 p.m. ET. A combined all-star team from Cleveland, Clippers and Hawks gets the winner.

  • Who would have ever thought that Derrick Coleman would be healthy and not complain about playing center OR that people would be saying nice things about him. Probably not the same guys who allowed Gilbert Arenas to slip to the second round of the draft two years ago. Gilbert had a career-high 41 against the Wizards on Sunday night. Would MJ really rather have Jerry Stackhouse as a free agent this summer?

  • A man hit a $39 million jackpot in a Las Vegas slot machine on Friday. And you thought Vin Baker was the luckiest guy in America. Is this a great country, or what?

  • I can't wait for Michael Moore's next movie, book or speech. Kill the messenger and obfuscate the message.

    In the summertime, ah, in the summertime

    Bill Walton, who is a regular contributor to ESPN.com, is an NBA analyst and shares his thoughts on "NBA Shootaround" at 7:30 p.m. every Friday for ESPN.





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