So, having lived in LA for nearly 15 years, it was inevitable I’d make some friends here, and it was inevitable some of them would be Laker fans. One of them is one of my best pals, Hoopler. We get along great…except when it comes to basketball. He is, quite simply, the most obnoxious Laker fan in the world. Everything every other team has, the Lakers have done it bigger or better. In fact, when he heard I’d gotten the tag “Superfan” on Suns.com, he instantly dubbed himself “Megafan,” even though he has no relationship to the Lakers and doesn’t write a blog. Actually, he doesn’t have a computer at all, as he spends all his spare time watching old DVDs of “Showtime” era games while wearing his Vlade Divac footie pajamas.
In any case, with the first Suns-Lakers showdown of the young season rapidly approaching, I thought I’d sit down with Hoopler over some cheap enchiladas for a nice, rational preview of the contest. Here’s the transcript:
HOOPLER: FIFTEEN NBA CHAMPIONSHIPS, BABY!
(The approaching waiter, startled, spills our sodas all over us)
BEECHEN: Settle down, Hoopler.
HOOPLER: Have you seen our new banner? Looks nice, doesn’t it?
BEECHEN: It looks like all the others.
HOOPLER: I KNOW!
(The approaching waiter, startled, spills our soda refills all over us)
BEECHEN: Seriously, cut it out. We’re here to talk about Thursday’s game. The Lakers are 6-1, and the Suns will be well over .500 as well, coming off Wednesday’s game with New Orleans…
HOOPLER: New Orleans? We destroyed them. We’ve destroyed everyone we’ve played.
BEECHEN: Except Dallas, who beat you at home.
HOOPLER: Caught us on a bad night. No Pau Gasol, Ron Artest was still trying to fit in, Fish’s social security check came late that day, Kobe had the hiccups…
BEECHEN: What I was getting at is, people are talking about this being a big game.
HOOPLER: Who’s talking about this being a big game?! Laker fans aren’t talking about this being a big game!
BEECHEN: What do Laker fans consider a big game?
HOOPLER: This early in the season? A couple hands of euchre on the team plane. The Lakers don’t play big games until June, baby.
BEECHEN: Okay, okay, but IF you were to play a big game this early in the season, wouldn’t this qualify?
HOOPLER: Heck, no. For this to be a big game, we’d have to be playing…I don’t know…Boston…when they’re undefeated…at their place.
BEECHEN: Which the Suns did. And beat them.
HOOPLER: Was Garnett playing?
HOOPLER: Was Rondo playing?
BEECHEN: They all played, Hoopler. Now are you taking the Suns a little more seriously?
HOOPLER: Are you kidding? We’ve got you outgunned at Center, Forward, Guard, Coach, and Legend.
BEECHEN: Well, let’s talk about matchups. First of all, you’ll be without Pau Gasol, the All-Star I believe you got from Memphis for three autographed Nick Van Exel rookie cards and a statue of Kwame Brown. No, wait, that actually was Kwame.
HOOPLER: Are you still whining about that? We got Pau fair and square. Nobody threatened Memphis GM Chris Wallace’s kids with a tire iron on their way to school that afternoon or anything.
BEECHEN: Who said anything about that?
HOOPLER: Er…Nobody. What? Anyway, we won’t need Paul against you. Have you seen how D.J. Mbenga’s been playing? Pau will be in the back making victory paella.
BEECHEN: See, I worry about your frontcourt depth, even with a couple adequate games by Mbenga. Gasol’s got a bad hamstring, and that can linger, and Andrew Bynum’s already nicked up, and we know his injury history…
HOOPLER: But he’s playing Thursday, and that’s all that matters. He owns the Suns.
BEECHEN: You don’t think having Channing Frye will make a difference? All five Suns starters can hit from the perimeter, which means Bynum will have to leave the basket…
HOOPLER: First of all, Bynum will be on Amar’e, who prefers to stay closer to the hoop. And Lamar Odom can handle Frye.
BEECHEN: You don’t think Amar’e will go right at Bynum, try to get him foul trouble?
HOOPLER: MBENGA, BABY!
PUZZLED WAITER: I thought you ordered carne asada, sir.
HOOPLER: Oh. Yeah. Sorry.
BEECHEN: If you’re counting on Mbenga to be a major contributor to your team, I think you’ve got issues, Hoopler.
HOOPLER: Only until Pau comes back.
BEECHEN: Okay, then let’s talk point guards. Steve Nash has been playing out of his mind.
HOOPLER: What’s that? I’m sorry, I had a championship banner in my eyes, distracting me.
HOOPLER: Right. Yeah, he’s okay, but it’s the same old story…When he goes out of the game, the Suns collapse.
BEECHEN: Haven’t seen many box scores this year, have you? The Suns’ bench is off to one of the best starts of any team this season, consistently scoring high on the plus-minus ratio. They’re giving the team high energy, rebounding, defense and perimeter shooting. Whereas the Laker bench has been average at best.
HOOPLER: Has your bench brought you FIFTEEN NBA CHAMPIONSHIPS?
(The approaching waiter, startled, spills carne asada all over us. He looks apologetic for a moment, then…)
WAITER (fed up): Your carne asada, sir.
BEECHEN: Is that your response to everything? To throw past accomplishments in our face?
HOOPLER: Do I need to do anything else?
BEECHEN: The Suns are playing well, anything can happen. It’s a clean slate, a new season.
HOOPLER: Same old Kobe.
BEECHEN: True. But have you seen how well Jason Richardson is playing? He looks comfortable, back to the style of play that made him one of the league’s best scoring and rebounding guards before going to Charlotte.
HOOPLER: You’re comparing J-Rich to the Mamba?
BEECHEN: I’m saying J-Rich is a dimension the Suns haven’t had in a while. So’s chemistry, and this team seems to have it coming out the ears, like they haven’t had since the middle of the decade…when the Suns beat the Lakers in the playoffs.
PUZZLED WAITER: We don’t have that on the menu here, sir. You might try Shanghai Inn down the street.
HOOPLER: Anyway, yeah, you guys do seem to have good chemistry. Congrats on having your Shaq removed. Shame you didn’t have him in his prime, like we did…WHEN WE WON ALL THOSE CHAMPIONSHIPS!
BEECHEN: You know what? I give the Suns credit for trying. It didn’t work, but they were out there trying to mix it up.
HOOPLER: Like we did with Pau. I guess some teams are just better at making deals than others.
BEECHEN: Yeah, it’s funny how you guys always seem to wind up with one of the best centers of every generation, and the Suns never do…Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Pau…
HOOPLER: Are you saying somehow there’s a conspiracy to keep the Lakers competitive? (to waiter) He’ll have the sour grapes, please.
BEECHEN: All right, you’re making me sick to my stomach, so let’s end this. Here’s my prediction: The Suns will rain threes on the Lakers early, opening up the middle for Amar’e to go berserk. You’ll double-team him, and that’ll leave Hill open for mid-rangers and more threes. You’ll hope your second unit can overpower ours, but you’re not ready for Jared Dudley’s shooting touch or the improvement in Goran Dragic, and Barbosa will run rings around your backup guards. Kobe will get his points, and Bynum and Odom will chip in, but Artest will be a non-factor, and the Suns will win by eight. What will you say then?
HOOPLER: First of all, that’s not going to happen. Second of all…FIFTEEN NBA CHAMPIONSHIPS, BABY!
BEECHEN: I thnk you’re dealing with a different, better Suns squad than you’re used to. I guess we’ll find out on Thursday.
HOOPLER: I guess we will. Check, please!
WAITER: Thank God.