Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lakers Lay Off 20 Staff as Kobe, NBA Stars Rip Gilas

Twenty employees of the Los Angeles Lakers have been laid off, the latest casualties as a result of a labor dispute that led to a league shutdown of the National Basketball Association (NBA) early July.

This developed as Lakers star player Kobe Bryant led the Smart All-Stars – composed of eight other active NBA players – to a 98-89 victory against Smart Gilas at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

In a report published by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday (yesterday in Manila), the Lakers management let go of 20 of its employees, including a longtime assistant general manager and five members of its scouting staff.

Assistant general manager Ronnie Lester and scout Gene Tormohlen, who put in 43 years with the NBA club, are part of the group of employees who were told they were being laid off or that their contracts would not be renewed.

The lay-offs come as the NBA owners and players are embroiled in a labor dispute. The Lakers have won the NBA title two of the past three years and are one of the most profitable franchises in the league.

The Lakers staff trimming comes two weeks after the Charlotte Bobcats announced they were laying off about 35 non-basketball operations staff.

Earlier this week, the NBA laid off more than 100 workers in its league offices, citing difficult economic times.

The NBA says it lost $300 million this season on top of hundreds of millions in annual losses under the current collective bargaining agreement with the players. The current contract expired at the end of June.

Back in Manila, the visiting NBA players put on a show as they faced the Philippines’ Smart-Gilas in the second game of the two-part Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend.

“We have to make them angry enough to play us serious,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman before the start of the game. “I’d be happy if that happens,” he added.

Toroman couldn’t be happier based on the big smile on his face as he and Bryant hugged at mid-court after the final buzzer, with the NBA superstars winning, 98-89, in front of another mesmerized sellout crowd that included seven-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao who arrived at the start of the fourth quarter.

Amid a deafening roar, Pacquiao took a seat at ringside and was welcomed by Bryant who came over for a handshake.

During a timeout, Pacquiao then walked to the NBA stars’ bench and was promptly treated by New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul to a shadow-boxing demonstration and some back-pedaling.

Smart Gilas fell behind, 65-43, early in the third quarter but chipped away at the lead until a Kevin Durant turnover, with the crowd chanting De-fense, left the Nationals with a 90-80 deficit to work on, 3:47 remaining and Bryant calling a timeout.

Marcus Douthit cut the NBA selection’s edge to 90-82 on an alley-oop dunk, and twice more Smart Gilas came within eight until another NBA miscue gave the Nationals possession after JV Casio made it 94-86.

As in the first game, the Smart All-Stars started Bryant, Paul, Durant, Derrick Rose and JaVale McGee.

But this time, the NBA demigods didn’t have their way around.

And unlike before, their opponent had a 7-foot center and a high-flying forward in Japeth Aguilar who posterized both Durant and Rose with a two-handed dunk in the first quarter.

That slam got the celebrity visitors’ attention, and the smiles and smirks were replaced with glaring looks and a more grim demeanor – exactly what Toroman wanted.

“You guys play the game with the same passion as we do,” said Bryant afterward.
“This is one of the best times of my life,” said Durant.

(source: Manila Bulletin)


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