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T.J. SIMERS

Next game could leave fans dressed for success

May 05, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

A review of Lakers playoff game No. 5 -- 11 wins to go

I wish I could have seen the look on Jerry Sloan's face Sunday morning after he took a glance at the sports page, the first thing he sees -- Pau Gasol, one of our Lakers minigods, standing barefoot on the beach seemingly without a care in the world.

Practice? Who needs practice to take on the Jazz, tired and emotionally stretched after Friday night's first-round clincher and then traveling Saturday?

Lakers management didn't even pass out gold T-shirts for the fans in Staples Center, and watching the NBA playoffs these days, everywhere else in the country it seems like teams have their fans dressed alike to enhance the home-court advantage.

As far as the ABC national audience goes, the Lakers have only one fan, Jack Nicholson, shown more on TV Sunday than Phil Jackson. Too bad Salma Hayek isn't the Lakers' No. 1 fan; that would really keep everyone watching.

Now there was a time in Staples when they would play a recorded voice in a big game asking fans to "make some noise," but that didn't even happen Sunday. There's still a noise meter on the scoreboard, but the same old one that's up there during the regular season.

But what's to worry about so far? With the Lakers undefeated in the playoffs, the most disturbing thing anyone can address right now is Utah's 58-41 rebounding edge. (Yawn.)

OK, so maybe Kobe Bryant doesn't get to the free-throw line 23 times in the next game. And maybe the Jazz plays better after two days of preparation. Maybe Utah is more effective than four for 19 from three-point territory.

I'll worry when the Lakers break out the gold T-shirts.

"I think we will be giving out gold T-shirts to the fans for Wednesday's game," said Tim Harris, the Lakers' senior vice president of business operations and chief marketing officer.

I guess Harris puts more stock in those rebounding numbers than I do.

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THE PLAN Wednesday, after the NBA finally makes it official, is to give every fan attending the game a gold T-shirt to honor Bryant. The final wording on the T-shirt has yet to be determined, but Harris said one consideration is, "Kobe is my MVP."

Another, I presume, is "Pau is my MVP."

"We don't pass out T-shirts to dress up the building," Harris said. "We do it to unite the fans, and do it with the idea of coming up with something that resonates with the fans."

Kobe Bryant, the league's MVP, obviously resonates with fans, and just maybe it will finally feel like a playoff game in Staples. Talk about exciting, just imagine how Salma might look in a "Kobe is my MVP" T-shirt.

As part of pregame introductions, which are pretty much the same as they were all season long, the Lakers' playoff theme on the hanging sheets at center court has been, "Now is the time."

You can imagine the number of marketing meetings it took to come up with that, but after doing so, the Lakers sought NBA approval to put the saying on T-shirts only to have it rejected because someone else owns the slogan.

"Now is the time, L.A.," or "Now is the time, Lakers," gets a little wordy, when "Rebound" might say it best.

Whatever, Harris said, "when we pass out T-shirts, it most likely will be in a must-win situation, and whatever T-shirts we pass out, will give our fans a rallying cry."

How about, "Please Rebound?"

But then the way these games are going, five straight wins by an average of 12.8 points a game, it's just a little hard to imagine the Lakers in a must-win situation.

But then whoever thought I might be wearing a "Kobe is my MVP" T-shirt?

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MIKE WILLMAN, PR director at Santa Anita and host of a weekend radio show, Thoroughbred Los Angeles, was talking about the death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby.

He took exception with a critical column on horse racing written by the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins, telling his radio audience he did some research on her and he's been told she's "a totally dismissive shrew."

Take issue with the message, but why kill the messenger?

"I was trying to undermine her credibility," Willman said later in a phone call.

Credibility? Jenkins has worked for Sports Illustrated, has written something like eight books, three appearing on the New York Times' best-seller list, and in 2002 was named the columnist of the year by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

Not to beat a dead horse, but she knows her stuff.

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TICKETS GO on sale Wednesday at Ticketmaster for the "Scully & Wooden for the Kids" gabfest June 13 at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.

But talk about a quick and overwhelming response.

I mentioned a few days ago that Steve Soboroff and Corey Maggette pledged $5,000 to buy tickets for the staff and doctors at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, and immediately a new team appeared to do the same for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Breeders' Cup CEO Greg Avioli, working on this year's October extravaganza at Santa Anita, donated $3,800 to buy tickets for the folks at CHLA on top of the $1,200 given by Sport Chalet CEO Craig Levra.

It didn't stop there. Stanley R. Fimberg sent along $1,000 and another anonymous donor added yet another $1,000 in the hopes of treating some more deserving people.

With that in mind, maybe you know someone who really admires Scully and Wooden but can't afford to buy tickets. Or maybe you know someone out there who is always taking care of others and deserves a little "thank you."

Maybe you know someone who just deserves a night out on what should be a night to remember for L.A. sports fans.

E-mail the person's name with an explanation, and if we get 10 names we'll give each of them a pair of $100 tickets compliments of Fimberg and an anonymous donor.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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