Coach's Corner

Kings?Blazers?Mavericks? Forget it -- the only team with a chance to unthrone the Lakers is the San Antonio Spurs. And that second-round series will likely be decided by a couple of injuries.

For some reason this Dog Walk thing sounded like fun, though in retrospect I don't know why. The Dog Walk, in case you missed it, is another in the multitude of annual events littering Austin's calendar 52 weekends a year. Austin, a tribal and insular town, seems strangely compelled to find reasons to gather in mass and do stuff: run, walk, bike ... or look at bad art.

The event premise is pretty much self-evident. People register themselves/extended family/dog/dogs and drive down to Town Lake where we'll all walk three miles through blocked off city streets, a situation local residents are numb to.

So anyway, our little puppy, 5-month-old, 58-lb. Jasper, has just graduated from his Puppy Head Start class and I'm going to show him and his new obedience skills off. I'm certain people will be impressed. It's about when I park -- a solid mile from the "starting line" -- that I begin to sense maybe this isn't such a good idea. Even from this remote distance there's a lot of people and a lot of dogs around. By the time I drag my now overtly disobedient hound across the MoPac Bridge, still a half mile from the registration tent, I'm certain this is a mistake.

Too late, I think this thing through: 3,000 dogs, each with at least two human friends, equals 9,000 life forms (many untrained in the use of indoor plumbing) congregated in a small corner of a high school parking lot. A horn will blow and all 9,000 of us will slowly inch through a starting chute, about 10 yards wide. The chaos and confusion -- barking, snarling, people and dogs entangled in leashes, children crying, dog shit virtually everywhere -- was, to me, a stay-at-home-guy, unimaginable.

At last we wend our way to the Official Race Day Registration Tent. We're at the end of a long, ill-defined, snarled line of humans and dogs. I'm struggling to fill out this damn entry blank, trying to use my leg as a table. A training moment is at hand. I need for this dog to sit, so I can write out my life story. I go down to eye level and give the sit signal. He ignores me. Okay, it's loud here. I say, "sit." Jasper pretends he doesn't have the slightest idea what I'm saying as he takes in this fantastic sight of 3,000 equally disobedient pets. None of them are sitting and he's damned if he's going to be the only one.

Finally the walk begins. All the various tribes seem to be having a jolly time by now, not minding in the least the claustrophobic crush of man and dog, nor the gross squish of excretion. Jasper's pulling me willy-nilly across the thoroughfare. Clearly, I'm not in charge. I find the first spot we can bail out back to the hike-and-bike trail and not get bitten by a snake or rubbed by poison ivy. I note we're the only ones doing this. I don't give a damn and I don't think Jasper does either. Not everybody's tribe material.

And now for sports and an example of poor professional analysis. ESPN's Sunday morning staple, The SportsReporters, spends an entire segment dissecting the Western Conference Playoffs. They discuss Sacramento, Portland, and Dallas (get a grip, guys) as possible threats to upset the Lakers. They don't even mention San Antonio, the only team that does have a shot at beating L.A. For not the first time, I wonder why I'm not on this show. NBA Playoff 101 (freshmen only) is an easy class. It has one premise: only teams that can play effectively in the half-court can win. Flashy things always, always go clunk. Portland can do this ... but they won't. The Kings, with the league's best record, and Dallas, can no more play slow than Jasper can climb a tree.

It seems the likely second round Lakers-Spurs match-up was the obvious showstopper series of the playoffs: The winner has to be the clear favorite to win the title, but apparently real experts don't see it this way. The Spurs, like L.A., can play fast or slow, whatever it takes. Watch for this intriguing sub-plot to develop. Two dreaded final week injuries, one for each team, will decide who wins. David Robinson's back is obvious. The Spurs won't win a game if the gutsy (but 6'5") Malik Rose has to guard Shaq for 40 minutes. He'll foul out before the fourth quarter starts. But if Robinson can play effectively and Robert Horry (painful stomach pull) can't, the advantage swings decisively toward San Antonio.

Horry's April/May three-point heroics are well known, but at a legit 6'10" he can and will effectively harass Tim Duncan, especially in the fourth quarter when Horry locks in on defense. Aside from Shaq and Kobe, Horry is L.A.'s most important playoff component. If he can't go, and he's obviously still in serious pain, the guys on SportsReporters will look real stupid. If both are ineffective -- very likely -- the advantage goes back to L.A.: two superstars trump one. If both can play, the edge stays with the defending champs.

As for the East, forget about the expression "upset." The East's top seed, New Jersey, would've been seeded fifth in the West. In fact, the most dangerous team in the East is the Pacers, seeded eighth, 10 games behind the Nets.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle