It’s a winning Lakers effort

QUINCY ISAIAH as “Magic” Johnson in “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” on HBO.

Right now the most interesting thing about the Los Angeles Lakers is not their actual games, as they slowly sink into the sunset, but the new HBO series, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”

Based on the book “Showtime” by Jeff Pearlman, this tells the (somewhat fictionalized) story of how the Lakers finally beat the Celtics curse, embarked on an historic journey of hoops glory and (arguably) reversed the decline of the National Basketball Association for being “too black.”

The first episode, “Swan,” aired on Sunday, and it’s surprisingly well-done and clever. This limited series (10 installments) is not in the tradition of many inspirational sports movies. It’s a warts-and-all depiction of how Jerry Buss – played with marvelous flair by John C. Reilly – conned and glammed his way to ownership of the team, but also started to lay the groundwork for elevating pro basketball to a more entertaining brand of spectator sport.

Quincy Isaiah as Earvin “Magic” Johnson is fine, but the role that really catches the eye and ear is Jason Clark’s portrayal of Jerry West. One of the greatest players of his time, West is pictured here as a frustrated and angry man in his role as head coach, profane and sort of a horse’s rear end.

For those of us who grew up with a bit of hero worship on Mr. West, this is a real wakeup, assuming it’s close to being true.

Exposed for all to see are the elements of racism, sexism, egotism and elitism that are probably behind the scenes in many areas of pro sports. A good subtitle might be, “Things Chick Hearn Never Told Me.”

Episode 2, “Is That All There Is” airs this coming Sunday. Don’t miss it.

Two on the rise, two sinking

In the world of Southern California winter sports, two of our teams are improving and two are declining.

The Los Angeles Clippers have won seven of 10 games and stand eighth in the NBA Western Conference, within striking distance of seventh and a guaranteed playoff spot. The Lakers, on the other hand, have lost seven of 10 and sit in ninth place in their conference, probably consigned to the “play-in” tournament among all the also-rans.

LeBron James, claiming to be fueled by “depression” over his team’s sad situation, scored 56 points in the Lakers’ win Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, but he can’t be expected to bend steel in his bare hands every night.

On the ice, the Los Angeles Kings continue to do well, winning seven of 10 and rising to second place in the NHL Pacific. The Anaheim Ducks continued to slide, losing six of 10 to slip to fifth place in the division.

Right now, the Kings are in good shape, but the Ducks are still three points behind the Nashville Predators to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament. Not impossible, but still a challenge, as long as the Preds (4-6 in their last 10 games) don’t play any worse than the Ducks.

Sports Calendar

  • Anaheim Ducks: At Chicago on Tuesday, Nashville on Thursday, at New Jersey on Saturday, at New York Islanders on Sunday.
  • Los Angeles Clippers: At Golden State on Tuesday, host Washington on Wednesday, at Atlanta Hawks on Friday, at Detroit on Sunday.
  • Los Angeles Kings: At Boston on Monday, host San Jose on Thursday, at San Jose on Saturday, host Florida on Sunday.
  • Los Angeles Lakers: At San Antonio on Monday, at Houston on Wednesday, host Washington on Friday, at Phoenix on Sunday.

“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.

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