KFC Finger Lickin' Good Deal
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers remain the East favorite to return to the NBA Finals, but they are among many NBA teams reportedly sorting through frustrations and controversy with a much-needed All-Star break looming next month.
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Lang’s World: Ten Pearls of Whitaker’s wit and wisdom on sports and beyond 1.25.18

by Lang Whitaker | Grind City Media

1. Break Time

It happens every year around this time. Nobody sees it coming - until it arrives - and then all of a sudden, it's here and we're all looking at each other like, 'What's going on?'

We have reached what I call each season the Southwest Airlines part of the NBA schedule. I don't call it that because NBA arenas switch to a general admission seating plan. No, I call it that because clearly there's one overriding theme in the NBA right now:

Do you want to get away?

Look, it's happening all over the League. Players are arguing with referees, referees are arguing with coaches, coaches are arguing with players, players are arguing with each other. In Cleveland, it seems like nobody is on the same page. In Washington, they held a players' only meeting to clear the air and somehow managed to make things worse. In Portland, Damian Lillard reportedly asked to meet with his team's owner to discuss the direction of the franchise. In Milwaukee, a coach was relieved of his duties and may not have even been the first person to find out. And these are just a few headlines.

And so yeah, there's a lot going on around the NBA right now. It's cold outside, but it's hot in NBA arenas and locker rooms. What's going on?

Basically, everyone needs a vacation. Since way back in October, teams have been together every single day. The same guys have been in the same meeting rooms and hotel lobbies and buses and planes, over and over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month. And I don't care how much you like someone, eventually that gets old. My wife and son and I spent a week in a car together and were barely speaking by the end of the trip. Imagine spending months seeing the same people over and over?

It happens every year in the NBA around this time, which is why the All-Star break is actually much more important than most people realize. Yes, it's a fun few days of parties and events. But there's a reason the players pushed hard for a whole week off: they need a break. Coaches need a break. I need a break. Everyone needs a break.

So when you hear headlines now about teams imploding and infighting, take all that with a grain of salt. Sometimes people just need to get away. And believe it or not, sometimes taking a break can make all the difference in the world.

2. All-Star Draft

The draft between LeBron and Steph Curry as they selected their teams for the All-Star Game was not televised, so my colleague Michael Wallace and I decided to have our own draft and televise it. My team is definitely going to win, right?

Michael Wallace and Lang Whitaker hold a mock draft for the 2018 All-Star game.

3. Rack 'Em

Jay Triano is not only the coach of the Phoenix Suns, he's also willing to pretend to be a ball rack in order to help his players, in this case Devin Booker, prep for the three-point contest…

4. From Way Downtown

Here's a clip of someone hitting a 660-foot free throw. I got a queasy feeling in my stomach just watching this.

5. State of Shock

I know very little about science. Entertainment, sports, politics, even a bit of history -- these are all things in which I am very nearly fluent. But if we were playing Trivial Pursuit, I'd be in trouble when it came time to get that green wedge. (Just so we're clear, I'd probably still beat you. I'm very good at Trivial Pursuit. I'm not bragging, I'm just saying.)

So I don't understand why we can put a man on the moon, we can harness the rays of the sun and turn them into energy, we can make cars that drive by themselves, but for some reason we can't do anything about static electricity. For the last three weeks, I've walked around jumping sparks to everything I touch.

Admittedly, I am no expert in this field, but can't static electricity be conquered? Let's set our finest scientific minds to work on this!

6. Time Will Reveal

It wasn't much of a torch-passing or a controversy, as far as media situations go. And with all the other craziness going on in the world right now, there's a good chance the news didn't even cross your radar. But if you missed it: Tony Parker is no longer the starting point guard for the San Antonio Spurs.

"You know that day is going to come." Knowing that day is going to come doesn't always mean you have to accept that it's coming. But TP is correct: Even for a five-time NBA champ and a former NBA Finals MVP, Father Time spares nobody.

But that doesn't mean we all give way to Father Time with as much class and grace as Tony P.

7. Road Trip

I was as excited as any other '80s aficionado to see the announcement last week that Journey (along with Def Leppard) would be stopping in Memphis on their next tour. I'm a little young to have been an original Journey fan, but as someone who appreciates good songwriting and melodies that you can't get out of your head, it's impossible not to enjoy Journey.

A few years ago on a flight across the country, I watched the documentary "Don't Stop Believin'," which tells the story of the band Journey following the departure of Steve Perry. The band eventually replaced Perry with Arnel Pineda, a Filipino cover band singer discovered via YouTube. It is a moving story, and because I was on an airplane when I watched the movie, it was roughly 50-percent more emotional than it would have otherwise been. (Anyone who flies regularly knows what I'm talking about: Maybe it's the altitude or maybe it's the clean oxygen they pipe in. But whatever it is, movies on airplanes are always waaaay more emotional than they would be otherwise. I'll never forget the flight I was on where the entire plane was in tears ten minutes into Jerry Maguire.)

Anyway, "Don't Stop Believin'" is worth ninety minutes of your time...

8. Can We Kick It?

Brands have wisely figured out the best way to create demand is to make stuff unavailable. You want to buy something? Too bad, we sold out of your item. This is especially true in the sneaker world, where shoes are constantly being released in limited amounts, driving up demand and resale values.

I only bring all this up because I'm mad I didn't even know the Nike Shox were back on the market.

These dope Shox came and went pretty quickly last week, at least unless you have small feet, in which case you still might be in luck.

9. Animal Takeover

Hey guys, a new wasp is on the market! (Yes, I know we aren't supposed to talk about animals as though they were products. But I enjoy this, so let me cook.) This wasp wasn't found dipped in amber or inside a fossil from centuries ago. This was a wasp found in Florida, not all that far from Miami. Even better, they named the new wasp after Ichiro Suzuki, the baseball player.

That's when you really know you've made it, when you get an insect named after you.

10. Go Forth With Song

In honor of all the Journey talk earlier, let's close out today with a classic…

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.