The Lakers tipped off the basketball training season last week with their annual media day at Loyola Marymount, and it didn't take long to figure out who is the defending National Basketball Assn. champ.
Nearly every Laker, including unknown rookies, was drafted to do short promotions for television and radio stations, and nearly every cue card started out: "This is (name of player) of the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers."
It was also clear this was a group used to performing for the camera. Most were relaxed. Some were funny. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was usually flawless on the first take. Michael Cooper was getting tongue-tied but had the presence of mind to give directions ("Hi, this is Michael Cooper of the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, wait, cut, stop.")
That prompted Mychal Thompson to announce: "Hey, he can't read. Put four-letter words on there." Then it was Thompson's turn. He told second-year man Mike Smrek: "All right, time for a pro. Watch, look and learn." He then did a theatrical reading of the promotion for KHJ-TV, which shows most Laker road games. "We're back, stronger than ever," the last line of the cue card read. Thompson flexed his biceps to make his point.
The camera natural was Magic Johnson, who directs, orchestrates, ad-libs and adds dramatic touches to the most mundane one-line promo, nearly approaching vintage Muhammad Ali: "This is Magic Johnson for Prime Ticket, the cable network of . . . CHAMPIONS!" He drew out the last word for several seconds, with eyes bulging.
Coach Pat Riley was the one Laker who didn't take every promo at face value. When a reporter from an unknown station stuck a cue card into Riley's hand and a microphone in his face, the coach started reading, then did a double take. "This is Pat Riley saying, 'Watch my buddy.' I'm not going to say that." He walked away.
It was the best pass of the day.
The Palos Verdes High cross-country teams that won the 15th annual Manhattan College High School Invitational Interscholastic meet against many of the top teams in the country in New York City on Saturday solidified their rankings in California. The Palos Verdes girls, led by Ashley Black, are rated No. 1 in CIF 4-A and No. 1 in the state. The boys, led by Dave Scudamore, are rated No. 2 in both the state and boys 4-A, behind Arroyo.
The latest twist in the world of high school cross-country is a statewide newsletter and ranking system put together by Doug Speck, an editor for Track and Field News and Running News, and Steve Fagundes, a sportswriter who covers cross-country in the Sacramento area. They take into account times, competition and course difficulty to create statewide rankings in three divisions, reflecting enrollment.
The two decided to issue the newsletter, funded by International Sports Exchange in Pomona, because the CIF will hold its first state cross-country meet at the end of the season.