February 2013

Paul over Durant as NBA ASG MVP

HOUSTON — If there was any question whether the transition from young to old in the NBA and the Lakers to the Clippers in Los Angeles was all but complete, the West defeated in the East, 143-138, Sunday night at the Toyota Center in the annual All-Star Game and Clippers guard Chris Paul was named Most Valuable Player.

Paul could have been a Laker prior to the 2012-13 season had outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern allowed his trade from the Hornets. Instead, the deal was negated and Paul was swapped to the Clippers, who for the first time in their checkered history not only own L.A., but are among the league’s elite teams.

Paul had 20 points, 15 assists and four steals on Saturday night, grabbing MVP honors away from Kevin Durant of the Thunder, who paced all scorers with 30 points. Many of them came on thunderous dunks that had the sellout crowd of 16,101 on its collective feet. Durant is the first player in All-Star Game history to have at least 30 points in three successive games — all won by the West. He was the MVP of last year’s game in Orlando, which the West won by three.

“This is pretty special, pretty special,” Paul said. “It’s something I’ve never done and it’s something coming into this game I never thought I’d achieve. I told [Durant] early in the first quarter, ‘If they score anything, you run. I’ll get you the ball. You score. I want to be the one to give it to you.'”

That he did. The 15 assists for Paul reminded long time observers of Magic Johnson and John Stockton and he was the first player to have as many as 15 assists in an All-Star Game since Gary Payton in 1995.

“He deserved it,” Durant said about Paul winning the MVP hardware. “He had great passes, made big steals and made big buckets. He played a hell of a game and congratulations to him. It was a pleasure playing with him.”

Lakers stellar guard Kobe Bryant was the MVP two years ago in the Staple Center, the building in downtown L.A. shared by the Lakers and Clippers, who have not won an NBA championship. The Clippers, in fact, haven’t even won a playoff series since moving from Buffalo to San Diego in 1978. They shifted to L.A. after the1983-84 season. The Lakers, of course, have won 11 titles since the team moved west from Minneapolis.

Bryant, a four-time All-Star Game MVP, had nine points and eight assists as Durant and Paul controlled the pace of the game. During last year’s feverish finish Miami’s Dwayne Wade smacked Bryant in the face, breaking his nose and giving him a concussion.

For the East on Sunday night, Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks paced that squad with 26 points. Wade added 21 and had seven assists. His Heat teammate LeBron James added 19 points.

The East made it close until Bryant resoundingly blocked a James shot, sending Durant streaking down the court to hit a breakaway jam that gave the West a 10-point lead with 2:31 left to play.

“I’m shooting a lot of shots, 24 shots in 31 minutes,” said Durant, whose young Oklahoma City team lost to the Heat last year in the NBA Finals. “I’m just out there having fun. I played a lot of street basketball. I played a lot of celebrity games. This is my type of ballgame up and down. The point guards made it easy for me. It was fun.”

And with that the transition from young to old in the NBA seemed just about complete.

I survived cancer and the D-backs 5K run

PHOENIX — I ran the D-backs first annual cancer 5K through the streets of downtown Phoenix on Saturday morning in a surprising 49 minutes, 48 seconds.

Considering that I usually average 18-minute miles, that’s pretty good for me.

I then took part in the weenie 1K family fun walk with my friend, Joey Reaves, and his wife, Lynne, who helped coordinate the event with the D-backs for St. Joseph’s Hospital. Joey, a prostate cancer survivor, is a former foreign correspondent and sportswriter par excellence, who now works for the Dodgers. Proof positive that cancer knows no affiliations nor boundaries.

As a two-time colon cancer survivor, I ran on Saturday for myself and some of my friends who are currently battling different forms of cancer. Michael Weiner and Juan Rodriguez are struggling with very virulent forms of brain cancer. Jim Gintonio has lung cancer.

Derrick Hall and Ken Kendrick in the D- backs hierarchy are also prostrate cancer survivors.

Pray for them. Think good thoughts for them. Good health and god bless them all along with the multitudes suffering from this disease. I honored their names by scribbling them around the placard boasting my race No. 38.

More than 3 1/2 years ago, I had a second bout with colon cancer when it jumped into my lung. I had surgery to bisect the upper lobe of my left lung to remove a tumor about the size of my finger tip. Two days after the surgery doctors had me on a tread mill. They wanted me to start by walking eight minutes twice a day with a goal of steadily rebuilding breathing capacity. Two weeks later I surpassed 30 minutes twice a day.

It’s an old cliche, but a truism: When there’s a will, there’s a way.

I’ve always been over weight, but I’ve always worked out. I never smoked. Now I no longer drink alcohol. In the last year I lost 60 pounds and I’ve kept almost all of that off.

The net result: In the last week I’ve had three light jogs of three miles or more. All that with a bisected lung. I’m in better shape now than before I had cancer. I’m lucky. I’m fortunate. But it’s been a lot of hard work. As the old joke goes, I bought the lottery ticket. No one could do that for me.

Out on the streets this morning I was passed by most of the younger and faster runners who left me in the dust right away. Guys wheeling baby carriages with one hand were rolling right by me. Women running backwards. Children walking. About a mile or so in I hit a comfortable pace. I started passing the people out for a stroll who were even slower than me.

The day started unusually gray and cold for the desert. Suddenly, the sky broke and the sun came out, bringing warmth along with it. I sprinted to the finish line and ran into D-backs great Luis Gonzalez. He had finished just in front me. Hundreds of people finished behind me.

If we can do it, you can. Early detection. Positive state of mind. Put in the work. There’s your own No. 38 and a medal for finishing at the end of the rainbow.