Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Transformation of Van Nuys Basketball

After 21 years without a City title, Van Nuys finally claims silverware. What is the secret? I spoke with Head Coach Evan Porter and some of his players.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Valuable lesson learned in LA

By Henry Guembes

It was a dull Sunday afternoon in early January; my phone vibrated twice.

“Hey, would you be up for a Laker game today?” said my ticket plug, who shall not be named. “6:30, they play the Suns; let me know if you’re down.” As if I’d ever pass up on a chance to watch the Purple and Gold from row nine of Staples Center.

An acquaintance of mine has access to Laker tickets through some connections I can’t reveal. This wasn’t my first time buying tickets through her; I had the process down pat: I would hop in my Civic, head over to her place, pay her, and bring some friends along with me. My next destination would be Staples, where I’d pick up tickets from the booth. Simple.

But this time was different; we met at her job and that’s when she told me she wouldn’t be able join me, so she sold me four tickets instead. The tickets were sent to my email, and I was pleased with the convenience of having them on my phone, or at least I thought.

I invited my dad and my two younger brothers for a fun outing in DTLA after the generous offer. I drove through the jam-packed lanes of the 101 Freeway and the hectic one-way streets of Downtown. We arrived at our destination and paid for overpriced parking, but it didn’t matter one bit because I was thrilled to watch the Lakers.

We made our way up 11th street to the arena, and, as you can imagine, the place was flooded with Laker fans. I meandered my way over to the ticket boxes with a sense of bravado, knowing I had some spectacular seats. I displayed my phone with a bright smile to the clerk.

“We don’t do phones anymore my man,” said the Staples Center employee. “We stopped doing that this year, hard copies only.”

“Oh man, is there any way I can print it here or just get it scanned or something?”

“Nah man, you’re going to have to find a printer around here. I hear the Ritz Carlton has a print station; you should check that out. Sorry about the inconvenience.”

“It’s fine man, thanks anyways.”

I walked away with a major sense of defeat. I had to locate a printer in one of the top 10 busiest cities in the world, according to the Washington Post. Not too hard right?

Downtown Los Angeles via: David Jones
I hastily briefed my father on the situation, and he told me, “Do what you have to do.”

It was around 5:30, a little less than an hour before tip-off. Keeping all the lines in mind, I knew I was up against the clock.

I rushed over to the Ritz Carlton, and asked the receptionist if I could use their printers, he gladly told me, “Third floor, second hall on your right.” He seemed like he had seen this kind of scenario often, which gave me some comfort.

I found the print station and accessed my email through their computers. I opened my account; clicked on the email labeled “tix” only to find a blank page with no tickets. It didn’t make sense at first until I actually thought about it. I opened the email previously on my phone, meaning that the tickets would only be accessible through my mobile device. I tried to use Bluetooth to connect my phone to their printers, but no luck; I was angry at myself more than anything.

40 minutes to tip-off.

I hurried out of that five-star hotel and updated my dad on the ordeal. We tried to think of solutions on the fly, and we decided that I should probably head to a Kinko’s; there was one a few blocks east of Staples. I didn’t hesitate and began to jog over there. It is worth noting that I was wearing skinny jeans that day—really bad choice.

So I’m running over there and I felt a vibration on my phone, “Kobe Bryant, out (sore shoulder),” read the notification from ESPN. Bryant missed 16 games all season, just my luck.

Could this day get any worse?

Five minutes later, I turn the corner expecting to see a fully functioning Kinko’s, except it was Sunday; the day they close early. All the lights were off, and the closed sign hung at the entrance, almost taunting me. My blood boiled.

I opened my GPS on my phone and saw the nearest printing place was almost across town. I was screwed. Then I noticed a smaller looking store a couple blocks north from where I was, and it read “Staples.” I was relieved; I felt like this was really it. This time I wasn’t jogging; I was almost sprinting. I arrived at the store and came to find out that it’s a cheap women’s clothing store called Staples fashion. At this point, I felt like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty as I looked up at the grey sky.

20 minutes to tip off.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I hit every little shop on Hope Street, which was enough irony to make me crack a grin in this time of agony. I asked about 15 shopkeepers if they had a functioning printer; I even added that I would be willing to pay to print these papers. All of them shunned me, some ruder than others. One man who had a thick accent, possibly some kind of European, bluntly quipped, “Unless you are buying something, I want you out of my store, you hear?” I was hot, but I walked away. By this time, I had hit at least 10 stores.

My family was still at L.A Live. My dad had been checking in with me every 10 minutes and he could tell how irritated I was, but he advised me to relax and to think outside the box. I can’t even lie; I had lost hope.

I started to power-walk back towards the direction of Staples Center with my head down and my phone clenched in my hand. Across the street, I noticed a slightly rundown hotel, but the lights were on, illuminating a long hall at the entrance. To this day I do not to know why, but something told me to give this place a shot. So, I did. I walked in hesitantly and saw an older white man chatting with the receptionist there. The greeter was a young Hispanic man, maybe a few years older than me. His name was Eric.

“Hey man, what can I do for you?”

I explained my situation and how I had received nothing but rejection.

“Don’t trip bro, I got you.” Those words upped my mood right away.

“You just need to print them right? What kind of phone you got?”

I told him I had an iPhone, I immediately saw a look of concern in his face.

“Ah, damn man I don’t know if I will be able to print with that, hold on be right back.”

The old, white man was there with us the whole time and we chatted a bit in the meantime. He told me, “You know he’s not going to let you go until you have your tickets; he’s an engineer—he won’t stop until he finds a way.”

Eric went to the backroom and asked some of his co-workers if anyone had an iPhone charger, eventually he was able to get one. After trying some simple tricks, he connected my phone to the computer, and I’m not sure how, but he was able to access my email metadata from my phone. He then found a way to print my tickets, and I felt like owed my life to that man. If I’m honest, I would’ve given up the minute he told me my phone wasn’t compatible with the printer. But he didn’t give up; in that instance alone he reinstated all the hope in humanity I had lost just 20 minutes earlier. I thanked him about six or seven times, he told me I’d better get going; the game just started. I called my dad and dashed out of there. I made it back to Staples in about 5 minutes; I looked like I just ran a marathon in street clothes. I nestled the papers in my hand, trying not to crumple them, and we entered the arena. Just 30 minutes ago, I was envisioning a disappointing drive home.

Staples Center via: Kenneth Han
 I enjoyed the game with my family there; the Lakers picked up one of their 17 wins of the season that night after taking down the Suns, 97-77. That night I reveled in a great Laker win, but learned an even larger lesson through it all. Sometimes it is good to go out of ones way to help others and that is a lesson that I hold dear to my heart to this day, all because of an astounding night in LA.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New Age Sports Highlights

How Vine, GIF's, Twitter and Facebook revolutionized sports highlights as we know it.

  With social media participation reaching new peaks, so have the amount of times people (like myself) have watched and re-watched delicious goals like the one below.

One might not think twice at the luxury we have to recount moments like these and I reiterate this from a millennial perspective. Not too long ago we had to settle for replays on the television and before the DVR that was agonizingly annoying.

What social media facets have provided is a proactive way for us to engage with sports highlights. Whether it be for comical reasons, downright hate, or exuberant glorification—it offers us something we've never had.

In my early teen years I used to struggle to find Youtube clips of Kobe's sick dunk or some unreal Randy Moss catch, solely because of Youtube infringement laws. Today with apps like Vine and formats like GIFs that can be accessed via Reddit, we are able to see these replays and share them easily onto bigger platforms like FacebookTwitter, InstagramBlogger etc. Not to mention, the quality of videos is much, much better—as opposed to looking like it was shot with a toaster.

Considering how convenient all this is to sports' purists across the globe, one must admit that these gadgets offer quite a sneaky way to evade copyright laws. Even if they do eventually get taken down, (which for the most part they don't) it usually takes ages. I genuinely believe this is one of the bigger up-sides we have today.

The personalization that is offered through these platforms is also another immense aspect of why this is all so remarkable. One can capture a thunderous kick to the face from Anderson Silva and synchronize it to a Diplo beat within a couple strokes of ones' mouse. With these tools; sports reels are no longer only appealing to visual pleasure but also an auditory aspect as well and one can captain that sensory delight.

I know for a fact if all these sports highlights were taken off the web tomorrow, a huge ache would tremble through todays trendy social media. Let's enjoy it while it is here.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


   Controversy in football is inevitable—on the world's biggest stages like the World Cup or even the Champions league, politics will always play a heavy role.

We have to face it referees are humans and even though there is a distinct bunch who think they're perfect—unfortunately no one is. Mistakes happen and they loom in every game from maybe a small yellow card that should have been given to a massive penalty that should have not been awarded. Some of these mistakes have heavy tolls on the beautiful game, some being more drastic than others. It is safe to say that in terms of controversy the CONCACAF never fails to surprise. 

I personally watch the odd MLS game here and there, maybe a Liga MX match when the time is right. I'm always left with the notion that this region of the world lacks the proper officiating and security to make the game as laudable as it is in many other parts of the world. Everyone knows this too, analysts and fans alike constantly bash this federations horrid structure and rightfully so. 

I feel most for the first time watchers—mind you soccer in America is reaching popularity points that we only dreamed of five years ago. For them to witness how bad the CONCACAF holds reign over their games is a huge turn off, sometimes even for a dedicated sports aficionado like myself.

Imagine seeing fans bombard players with bottles and drinks? What does it portray when we have supporters fighting each other in the stands? What message does that send to fathers who plan to take their sons to see the wonderful sport?

We need to do better.

This is why other federations with a richer footballing embodiment look down on this part of the world. Not to say that they're saints either (especially in light of the recent FIFA scandals), but is this really the way this sport should be "cleaned up"?

Something must be done and soon.

I say soon because in light of last nights match between Panama and Mexico, I witnessed arguably the nastiest football scenes in my short-lived soccer fandom (next to the recent Boca/River bonanza that took place this year as well). It's sickening, it absolutely is. To have a 10 man team minutes away from a heroic and historic win, have that accomplishment stripped away by bad officiating (not once but twice) is just a disgrace. As the years go by it becomes clearer that CONCACAF favors it's big market teams. Be it a myth or not, the evidence is becoming more in favor for the latter. For two terrible calls to be made in a game, following a previous game with another gift is laughable. Analysts, fans, coaches and players all agree that the recent officiating has been dreadful:

Above I listed the unanimous tweets from a few of the well-respected football faces of the world—just from last night mind you and one from the previous match. This has become a trend spanning throughout the tournament.

Just for the record this hasn't been the only mishaps in recent fixtures in the Gold Cup, sadly it's become a tendency. It's been a rarity to have a game in this region where the referees are not a talking point and that's never a feat to be proud of.

In my personal views, I dream of the day we have a CONCACAF team rise to glory in global competitions—fair and square. With the recent fiascos amongst this said confederation we are only taking steps backward.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lakers 2014-2015: Diamond in the Rough

   With the 46th pick in the second-round of the NBA draft, the Washington Wizards selected Mizzou point-guard Jordan Clarkson. Later trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash considerations.

Jordan Clarkson (via
The 6-4 red-shirting junior was a highly lauded prospect, that so luckily (for the Lakers) went unnoticed in the draft. Mitch Kupchak and his staff knew they had a steal in their hands, claiming that Clarkson had first-round value.
"His development was slow in summer league and training camp," said the Laker's GM. "But to Jordan's credit from day one he embraced the opportunity and got better, and better as the season progressed"(Lakers.)
As the New Year began it became clear what the Lakers' season was going to look like. With many players sidelined and really no other substitute, Byron Scott finally started playing Clarkson more routinely. JC was playing on and off with the Lakers' D-League partners; the D-Fenders, and was consistently dominating the opposition. Putting up efficient numbers, averaging 23 points and 8 assists while shooting 50% from the field (D-League.) As soon as he bursted onto the scene in the NBA, he showed no fear and quickly became a fan favorite among Angelino's. His scoring abilities were what really shined bright in the Purple and Gold, and as the season progressed he became a better playmaker in the process. In 59 games, Jordan Clarkson averaged 12 points and about 4 assists under limited minutes. After proving his worth, his minutes were bumped up and now his latest career highs are 30 points and 11 assists (NBA.)

It's no secret that Clarkson has a bright future ahead of him. When asked what he plans to do this offseason he does not know where to begin.
"Everything," said Jordan, "One big thing I want to work on is my leadership and also my body, adding more muscle"(Lakers.)
Kobe Bryant and Jordan Clarkson (via OCRegister)
At a fairly young age, the traits of an all star in-the-making are clearly visible. JC has the grit and ambition to surpass many peoples' expectations, again. This summer he is said to spend hours with veterans, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Not bad company for a 22-year-old.

Jordan Clarkson's contract ends in 2016 and one is inclined to believe that the Lakers will want to hold on to him for dear life. He has the potential to be a franchise corner-stone and with a couple of solid pieces around him, the revival of Los Angeles Laker basketball would be imminent. Last summer, Clarkson knew he'd have a chip on his shoulder when he was drafted in the second round. This summer, the only chip on his mind will be a golden one.

Jordan Clarkson 2014-2015 Highlights (via: NBALakersNation)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

DeAndre's Leap Across the Pond

   This past weekend the deal to send the 21 year old American Right-Back to the Tottenham Hotspurs was officially completed after he received his UK work permit.

DeAndre Yedlin (21) 2014 World Cup - Brazil (via: Goal)
After an impressive World Cup performance, DeAndre Yedlin turned many heads from some of the bigger clubs in Europe. Many transfer rumors circulated amongst the trendy football media, but on Saturday morning the deal was official, sending the Seattle Sounder to one of the top Premier League teams, the Spurs.

Yedlin's blistering pace is something that sparked many eyes during the World Cup in Brazil. He bombed down the right flank like many of the best full backs in the world. The experience he gained is second to none, guarding players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard among many other top stars.

This is a big jump for DeAndre but many can agree that it is a bigger leap for US Soccer. He already is a fan favorite from many American Outlaws as well as MLS supporters across the nation. Although he is highly lauded in the states, he is going to have to prove himself in the harsh, critically football-enthused UK. A feat that many US players have shrunk in, while few have made their permanent marks. Names like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, and the recently retired Landon Donovan come to mind. Does DeAndre Yedlin have what it takes?

DeAndre signs with the Tottenham Hotspurs (Aug. 13, 2014)
Currently Tottenham have a solid group of young defenders across the board. At right-back, Yedlin would have to compete for an active role against the "Kyles". Kyle Walker, a young British full back who has held much promise for England but also has been hampered by multiple injuries. He shares many of the same qualities that DeAndre possesses. Especially, in the pace department. The 24 year old has enough experience in the Premier League to serve as a great mentor and challenger for the young American. The other right-back is Kyle Naughton (28) who has proven to be a decent back up for Walker in his absence. In the last year, his value has gone up due to solid play at his position. Although Naughton is reliable, Tottenham might be more inclined to develop their youthful defensive core in search for a true starter in the future.

The task of "breaking in" to this talented line up can prove to be testing for DeAndre, but with his youth and hunger he can truly become America's next big thing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Please, & "Tank" You.

   Over many years of gold and glory, draft picks have been anything but an issue for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, it is a new era.

These last three seasons for the Lakers have been filled with record breaking statistics but for the wrong reasons. Some of these include the worst loss in franchise history, worst start to a season, and longest losing streak (to name a few). Simple to say, it's been UGLY.

In desperate times like these, what is a franchise to do?

The answer is TANK, and TANK hard because they have nothing else to play for.

There are many devout Laker fans who feel strong pride for their team, and rightfully so. Although this is justifiable, I would love to hear someone tell me what they are playing for. A spot in the playoffs? No, it can't be, especially in one of the strongest conferences in all of American sports (arguably).

Now let's assume they don't make the playoffs, which I'm sorry to say, is going to happen. What's the next best thing? Maybe getting the 11th spot in the Wild West? That is of no value what so ever.

This is where the philosophy of "tanking" has it's logic. As many NBA followers know, if Los Angeles doesn't finish in the top 5 worst this season their pick automatically goes to the Phoenix Suns. This is the consequence of perhaps one of the worst trades in the teams franchise, where they acquired the all so fragile, Steve Nash.

If that doesn't give you anymore reason to buy into tanking then I don't know what will.

Maybe here's something that might.

"I hope the Lakers lose every game because if you're going to lose, lose. 
And I'm serious." said Magic Johnson; who then took his rant to Twitter, tweeting, "I don't want the team to finish in the middle of the pack and get a 10th-14th pick because that won't do us any good."

Even a Laker legend is in tune with his senses about the Lakers' poor string of seasons. That's coming from a guy who gave LA some of it's most succesful years, in a tragically short cut career.

As much as it might hurt to watch your team lose and lose a lot, in the long run it can pay off to build a dynasty of players that Los Angeles is all so used to. A winning one.

On the down side, we all wanted to see Kobe Bryant go out on a successful outro but as his game is diminishing so is the team. Unfortunately it won't be a storybook ending for him, but with tanking there is a bright future for the Lakers.