Prince’s Passing

April 24, 2016

So, sitting around with a few “non-industry” friends last night and of course, the main subject of the conversation was the passing of Prince. All of us had fond memories of the man, his music and seeing him perform. Some had seen him early in his career – I was the only one to have seen him perform at Flippers Skating Rink in LA – some mid-career or on his 2004 arena tour, some at the Essence Festival in New Orleans and many at the Forum a few years ago. Out of the 10 of us, only one guy hadn’t seen Prince live.

And, of course, the inevitable comparisons between the Purple One and the Gloved One came up and were “discussed” with some vigor. There was Team Michael over here and Team Prince over here with a couple of fence straddlers. But here’s why I’m writing this – one guy said, “You know, there seems to be a grace and dignity in Prince’s passing that just wasn’t there when MJ died.” And oh boy did that set off Team Michael!

TM argued about how MJ was the bigger global star who shut down TV for the weekend, whose funeral was so big it had to be held at Staples Center, etc, etc. But this guy, and I must admit to agreeing with him, made the point that while MJ died unexpectedly under the care of a quack doctor, at least for now, there seems to be valid medical reasons for Prince’s sudden death. He went on to say that yeah, we might find out some stuff when the full autopsy results are released but for now, Prince died a much more dignified death.

We also talked about the severe contrast in the days immediately following their deaths. Hayvenhurst was a scene for days while the crowds outside Paisley Park were quiet and respectful in their mourning. MJ’s “funeral” was a mass media production while Prince’s family, friends and close associates held a private service at PP after his cremation. And then there’s been the reaction/responses from Prince’s musical peers and industry admirers.

From the Broadway show casts of Hamilton and The Color Purple singing choruses of his songs to Bruce Springsteen opening his Brooklyn show with Purple Rain and the SNL special (how is it that MJ never appeared on that show?) last night, the outpouring of respect for Prince has been broad in scope and focused mainly on his musical gifts. And unfortunately, because of the tawdriness of his last decade or so, so much of the MJ death coverage focused on that.

This was the last thing my friend said – “Prince died at home, in the place he’d built and owned for over 25 years. MJ died in a rental house at the hands of a quack doctor which is a fucking disgrace.”

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Remembering Reese

February 5, 2016

Reese in Egypt

You never know…how much someone can mean to not only your life but the lives of those around you.
 
For the past few hours, I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the passing of Maurice White. Not only from fans around the world, but from my family and friends who know of my personal connection to him and Earth, Wind & Fire. The Facebook messages, phone calls, emails and text messages have been A-MAY-ZING and touched my grieving heart and soul more than you can ever know.
 
Imagine being a fan of an artist and/or band since high school, having all of their music, seeing them in concert multiple times over the years, following them across Texas and Oklahoma for 4 consecutive nights, and then, meeting Al McKay one Saturday morning at the movies in Hollywood.
 
Because of that chance meeting, which HAD to be orchestrated by God himself, my life, professionally and personally, changed forever. Because of that day, not only was I allowed into the EWF family, by extension, so were my family and friends.
 
Little known fact: my uncle, former Los Angeles City Councilman David Cunningham, was the original sponsor of the band’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He did so simply because I asked him to.
 
Since the news of Reese’s passing, I’ve been reminded by L. Bishop Austin, Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn and others that they met him and the band through me. I am humbled by your mentioning me at this time and so glad that I was able to share my experiences with you.
 
A great writer, Steven Ivory, wrote what I consider to be the greatest tribute to Maurice and the band he created and led to the very highest heights of the music industry. Writing in SOUL Newspaper about the release of what many consider the band’s best album, “All ‘N All,” in 1977, Ivory’s tagline for his article was, “It’s Hard Being Funky and Saved at the Same Time.”
 
That was Reese (or Rooney to some) in ten words. The thing was, he and the fellas made it look and sound so damn easy because of the joy their music brought to the world.
 
I once asked him what was the best thing about Earth, Wind & Fire at its peak. I don’t know exactly what I expected him to say, but he didn’t mention hit records, album sales, being the first black act to top both the Billboard Pop Singles and Album charts at the same time, awards, etc, etc. Here’s what he said: “Charles, I had a band that could give me everything I asked for and needed, whenever I wanted and needed it, and they never let me down.”
 
Reese, you never let us down. Your music and lyrics, your positive messages and your incredible vision that was and is Earth, Wind & Fire are forever imbedded in people around the globe. Your influence on generations of musicians and live concert performers is eternal and unchanging.
 
Thank you for everything you gave me and mean to my life. We are linked not only by our beloved Memphis but by the spirit of life and love you shared with the world.
 
May Almighty God bless your eternal soul, your family and friends.
 
I AM

Maurice Parker White – December 19, 1941 – February 4, 2016

February 5, 2016

Reese and Al

These two incredibly gifted musicians and men are the reasons I ever achieved anything in the music industry.

I met Al McKay (on the right) in 1980 and he is my “musical godfather” as he brought me into the EWF circle. Because of him, a few years later in 1987, the man on the left, Maurice White, brought me back into the circle when the band reformed for the “Touch The World” album and subsequent tour.

Reese left us on Wednesday and while his physical presence is no longer here, the genius of his music and the incredible legacy of Earth, Wind & Fire will be with us always and forever.

To his brothers and sisters, sons, family – God bless and keep you in his amazing grace and love. To the extended Earth, Wind & Fire family wherever we may be, let us rejoice in what Reese brought to and means to us. I use the many lessons he taught me as I go through my daily life, both personal and professional as I know you do as well.

Keep Your Head To The Sky.

“We Just Wanna Give Gratitude…” by Charles L. Freeman, Jr

November 11, 2015

Gratitude Cover

Gratitude Inner Sleeve

Forty years ago today, on November 11, 1975, Columbia Records released what would become one of the finest live albums in the history of recorded music, Gratitude, by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Recorded during the band’s seminal summer USA tour in support of the #1 double-platinum, That’s The Way of the World (featuring the #1 gold single, Shining Star), the band’s first live album was released to fill the label’s demand for an immediate follow-up to That’s The Way of the World prior to EWF’s first European tour (as the opening act for label mates Santana).

Featuring three sides of live performance pulled from shows mainly on the East Coast and one side of material recorded in the studio (including the hit single Singasong,) Gratitude showcases a band rounding into peak form. Utilizing a horn section for the first time and featuring two drummers playing in tandem, Earth, Wind & Fire roared and soared in arenas and auditoriums across America along with opening acts Weather Report and Ramsey Lewis. (I saw the show in July at Moody Coliseum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX).

With illusions involving a rotating drum kit, a spinning piano and a levitating Verdine White, EWF took live concerts, particularly those by a black band, to a new level of creativity and performance presentation. Much of what is being done by current touring artists such as Janet Jackson, Madonna, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift has its genesis in EWF’s 1975 summer (and fall) tour.

To this day, one of the band’s concert highlights, night in and night out, is Reasons. Featuring the ethereal vocal performance of Philip Bailey and the late Don Myrick’s show-stopping saxophone solo, Reasons remains one of the band’s most enduring songs and I dare say, along with September, is one song that MUST be played at every performance, no matter what.

Here’s ‘Yearnin Learnin’ (frankly, I believe the version included on the subsequent Alive in ’75 is the superior track) which I think you’ll agree, showcases all the glory and power of a band at the start of its peak run on the charts and as a concert attraction.

The band:
Maurice White – Vocals, Timbales, Percussion
Philip Bailey – Vocals, Congas, Percussion
Verdine White – Bass, Vocals
Al McKay – Guitar, Vocals
Larry Dunn – Keyboards (Musical Director)
Andrew Woolfolk – Saxophones, Vocals
Johnny Graham – Guitar
Ralph Johnson – Drums
Fred White – Drums

The Phenix Horns:
Don Myrick – Saxophones
Louis Satterfield – Trombone
Michael Harris – Trumpet

The album:
Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Introduction by MC Perry Jones” Perry Jones 0:21
2. “Africano/Power” Larry Dunn, Maurice White 5:56
3. “Yearnin’ Learnin'” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 4:16
4. “Devotion” Phillip Bailey, Maurice White 5:07

Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Sun Goddess” Jon Lind, Maurice White 7:41
6. “Reasons” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 8:23
7. “Sing a Message to You” Maurice White 1:19

Side Three
No. Title Writer(s) Length
8. “Shining Star” P. Bailey, M. White, L. Dunn 4:55
9. “New World Symphony” Maurice White, Verdine White 9:28
10. “Musical Interlude #1*” 0:15
11. “Sunshine*” M. White, Bailey, A. McKay, L. Dunn 4:24

Side Four
No. Title Writer(s) Length
12. “Sing a Song*” Al McKay, Maurice White 3:23
13. “Gratitude*” Bailey, M. White, L.Dunn, V. White 3:23
14. “Celebrate*” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 3:06
15. “Musical Interlude #2*” 0:27
16. “Can’t Hide Love*” Skip Scarborough 4:10

The Importance of Work – June 06, 2015

June 6, 2015

There is a quiet dignity in meaningful work with a paycheck that allows one to provide a quality life for him or herself and any family they may have.

People need to have a sense of purpose and belief that they can take care of their daily needs beyond mere survival. Sitting around waiting for some government entity or someone else to take of an able-bodied person is not only demeaning for that person but a drain on society on several levels.

We once had a strong manufacturing base in America that allowed those with just a high school diploma access to a decidedly middle-class life. They were able to marry, raise a family in a home they bought in a nice neighborhood, have a car or two, take a family vacation and trips, and even more importantly, send their children to college so that they would have better opportunities in their lives. We will never fully rebuild our economy until we once again make what we buy here at home.

Sadly, for a growing segment of America, particularly among young African-American men, that dream/idea is quickly dying out. Education changes lives – I’m a living testament/witness to that stark fact – in a positive manner. But, it all starts at home and unless you grow up seeing your parents getting up each and every day and going to work, it’s often difficult to understand the concept of getting and keeping a job.

W.O.R.K. isn’t just a four-letter word – it’s life fulfilling, life sustaining and a key factor in one’s self-esteem and ability to contribute to society.

I thank God for the example my father – a 23 year US Navy petty officer – and late mother – 18 years with the City of San Diego before her passing in 1982 – set for my siblings and I. Also, my grandparents, uncles and aunts, family friends and the adults in my neighborhood who did the same for their families which I also saw and admired.

To quote the late, great James Brown: I don’t want nobody to give me nothin’, just open the door and I’ll get it myself.

2016 Presidential Campaign – #3 – March 15, 2015

March 15, 2015

Note from the author: from time to time during the upcoming presidential election, I’ll be sharing articles and my thoughts about it here. For those hardcore political junkies among you, here’s a link to a very good non-partisan website, 2016 Election Central, which will keep you up to date over the next two years of campaigning http://www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/. Charles

White House frets return of ‘Clinton way’

To sum up the feelings, all the way up to the highest levels: What. The. Hell.

By Edward-Isaac Dovere

Can the Hillary Clinton Email “Scandal” Derail Her 2016 Presidential Campaign Before It Even Gets Started?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again today: the biggest problem I’ve always had with Bill and Hillary Clinton is that they keep on giving ammunition to their enemies. As the writer in the article above says the feeling in the White House is: “What. The. Hell.”? What the hell possesses the Clintons to continue making the same types of missteps over and over again? Is their paranoia of the media in general and the right-wing media in particular so deeply ingrained that it’s impossible for them to think and act in any other manner? How could running all of Hillary’s emails while serving as Secretary of State through a personally-owned server at the Clinton home in New York state be anything but a dumb idea? And, why wasn’t there more oversight from the White House and State Department IT security?

Here’s the bigger question I have: does Hillary Clinton really want to run for president again? Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that she wants to be president, but I’m not 100% certain that at her age and now with her first grandchild, that she actually wants to run again.

A modern presidential campaign, even for someone with Clinton’s previous experience eight years ago and as of today, no real primary opponent, is an 18-24 months long slog across America. Day after day of public appearances, stump speeches and an endless appeal for money from both well-heeled and smaller donors is what candidates must endure today. Once you become an “official” candidate, you’re seldom ever at home and your life becomes captive to an endless schedule. And no one knows that better than Hillary Clinton and that’s probably one of the reasons for her delaying her announcement.

Then add in the advent of the Super-Pac as allowed by the notorious Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010 that unleashed millionaires and billionaires to give as much money as they want, the increased 24/7 Twitter-fed digital age and the fact that other than Barack Obama, no one stirs hatred from the Right more than Hillary Clinton, it’s easy to see why she’s taking her time to publicly decide if she really wants to hit the trail again.

But, here’s the Catch-22 that Hillary Clinton, as loyal as Democrat as there’s ever been, finds herself in: by delaying her announcement for so long, she’s pretty much left the party and any potential candidates in limbo and if she doesn’t run, she’s left the party in a bind to find an alternative candidate. And that’s not the coda to her career and legacy that she, Bill or Chelsea want.

Will Hillary run? She probably will because behind the scenes, she’s been hard at work assembling a campaign apparatus that includes many key players from the successful Obama campaigns. But I won’t be surprised one bit if she decides that being a retired politician giving paid speeches and enjoying life as a new grandmother isn’t a better use of her time and energy.

On the Republican Side of Things

While Jeb Bush hit the trail in New Hampshire and Rand Paul and Scott Walker tried to convince America that they’re not as crazy as they seem on the surface, embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie desperately tried to hold on to his slipping presidential hopes.

Quote of the Week

“You don’t diminish your office by taking a selfie. You do it by sending a poorly written letter to Iran. Really. That wasn’t a joke.” – President Barack Obama at the Gridiron Club Dinner on Saturday, March 14, 2015.

Cartoon of the Week

wu150310

Why Barack Obama Matters by Charles L. Freeman, Jr

March 8, 2015

‘THE RACE IS NOT YET WON’

Obama in Selma

President Barack Obama holds hands with Civil Rights icon John Lewis and Selma marcher Amelia Boynton Robinson as they cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Saturday, March 7, 2015, the 50th Anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march for voting rights.

Look at the photograph above and try to imagine John McCain or Mitt Romney in it instead of Barack Obama. Try to imagine the impact either man would have had in Selma, Alabama on the 50th Anniversary of one of the seminal moments in this country’s convoluted history of civil rights. The sight of an American president, any American president, at this place on this occasion would be special. But only the presence of Barack Hussein Obama as the American president on this particular occasion makes sense and truly matters.

Obama’s soaring oratory at the foot of the bridge named for a former Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon could have been delivered by any president, but it simply wouldn’t have had the impact, meaning and historical significance if he hadn’t been the one to do so. For it is Barack Obama’s responsibility and in many ways, his burden, to be exactly who he is – the first African-American president in this nation’s history. For it is he who bears most directly the hopes and dreams of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr’s lifelong work towards equality for all. For it is Obama who symbolizes the words found in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

John McCain and Mitt Romney, along with former president George W. Bush who was in attendance on Saturday, were born into and raised in privilege. A privilege known only to a select few in America. And while that privilege doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t grasp the enormity and importance of “Bloody Sunday” and what it meant and still means, that privilege mitigates their capacity to truly identify with those who marched, were beaten and in some instances, killed those fifty years ago. That privilege diminishes their commitment to seeing that the gains of those days aren’t further eroded by the actions of today’s Republican Congress and the US Supreme Court.

And that is why Barack Obama matters.

He matters because he gets it. He matters because he identifies with not just the privileged, but those living on the outskirts of the fullness of the American Dream as well. He matters because he knows. He matters because he understands. He matters because he appreciates those who came before him so that he can stand in front of the world and be introduced as “The President of the United States.” He matters because of his wife and daughters. He matters because of what he sees in the eyes and what he hears in the voice of John Lewis and Amelia Boynton Robinson when they look at him. He matters because if for no other reason, he presents to so many in this country who feel powerless and without a voice, the hope that they do matter. He matters because he can stand at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 2015 as the leader of the free world.

Barack Obama matters and don’t you ever let anyone tell you that he doesn’t.

2016 Presidential Campaign – #2

February 22, 2015

Note from the author: from time to time during the upcoming presidential election, I’ll be sharing articles and my thoughts about it here. For those hardcore political junkies among you, here’s a link to a very good non-partisan website, 2016 Election Central, which will keep you up to date over the next two years of campaigning http://www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/. Charles

Quotes of the Week

“I love my father and my brother…But I am my own man—and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.” – Jeb Bush on February 17, 2015 in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

However, two of his key advisors include Paul Wolfowitz, one of the key architects of Bush 43’s Iraq War strategy, and longtime GOP/Bush family consigliere James Baker.

“Rand [Paul] is an interesting guy…No, he is…And Rand Paul said the Republican Party needs to show up on the South Side of Chicago and shout at the top of its lungs that the GOP is the ticket to the middle class.” – President Barack Obama in Washington, DC on February 20, 2015 to the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee.

The Week in Review

Just when RNC chairman Reince Preibus thought that he’d been able to reduce the number of potential landmines for the 2016 presidential primary campaign, things heated up when noted media whore and failed presidential candidate, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani opened his mouth and stuck both feet and hands in when he leveled a charge so nakedly evil and racist in its content and form – “President Obama doesn’t love America” – that one has to seriously ask this question: Is Rudy Giuliani insane?

More questions about the assumed Hillary Clinton campaign announcement and key staff members were posed and some of them were actually answered.

Can Jeb Bush Shutdown His Competition?

jeb_bush_ap1_1160x629

“I’m Jeb, the ‘smart’ Bush brother.”

As this Politico article clearly shows, Jeb Bush’s stealth “pre-campaign” campaign was a carefully crafted, designed and executed attempt to deliver a knockout blow to any of his potential opponents. Its first victim: Mitt Romney. Bush’s early and deadly shot across the bow has brought him a great deal of attention, but even more importantly, he’s moved quickly to lockdown key big-money bundlers/donors and staffers. But, as a speech in Chicago last week revealed, his biggest enemy just may be Jeb himself.

The GOP’s “Rudy G” Problem

Somewhere down the line, sooner or later, thinking adults in the GOP – and by “thinking” I mean anyone with the sense that God gave a seedless grape – are going to have to stand up and address the overt racism and hatred so many of its leaders have for President Obama.

Hillary vs The GOP Field

While Hillary Clinton continues as the Democratic front runner – actually, she’s the only serious candidate at this time – without any real competition on the horizon, the race for the GOP nomination remains wide open with Scott Walker and Jeb Bush as the early leaders.

Scott Really Wants To Be POTUS

We may be about to find out if, in the age of FOX News and its dumbed-down approach to “journalism,” someone without a college degree can be a serious candidate for president. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker who dropped out of Marquette University 34 credits short of a degree is doing the groundwork for a potential primary run, but is already feeling the heat of the enormous difference between a gubernatorial race and a national one.

Chris Christie Being Chris Christie

He simply can’t help himself.  Good or bad, Chris Christie is exactly who he is. And that will most likely be his downfall in New Jersey long before the first vote is taken in the Iowa Caucuses next year.

The Gay Marriage Dilemma for GOP Candidates

As this Boston Globe clearly shows, gay or same-sex marriage, is becoming much more a fact of life across America (nearly 72% of the US population now lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal) and yet, for some in the GOP, it remains a highly charged and divisive subject that any presidential candidate will have to address sooner than later.

The Debbie Wasserman Schultz Factor

Marco Rubio has a huge factor in deciding whether or not to run for president that no other candidate other than Rand Paul must deal with: it’s against the law in Florida (and Kentucky) to run for two offices at the same time. And so far, there’s a big difference in how the two first-term senators (both elected in 2010) are handling the situation: Rubio says he’ll decide soon on which office he’ll seek and Paul has indicated that he will challenge Kentucky’s law in court as being unconstitutional. Where Wasserman Schultz enters into this is the fact that for the foreseeable future, the GOP will most likely hold an overwhelming majority in the House where her power will be limited. However, the Senate is far more volatile and should Rubio not run for his seat, the race will be wide open in Florida. However, if Rubio doesn’t run for president and stands for reelection to his Senate seat, Wasserman Schultz, who also can’t run for two offices at the same time, will have to make a career decision that just two years ago, seemed highly unlikely.

NBA 2015 Trade Deadline Recap

February 20, 2015

The Day All Hell Broke Loose in the NBA

Prior to last Thursday’s trade deadline, most NBA pundits, reporters, talking heads and the ever-popular “sources close to __________ say…”, believed that this would be one of the sleepiest days in recent league history. They were as wrong as Mitt Romney’s final 2012 Election Day polls as this report from espn.com’s  grantland shows. Almost 40 players changed teams, Don Patrick Rileyeone recalibrated the Heat and reshaped the race for the Eastern Conference title, the Blazers picked up a great back-up guard, the Pistons obtained Reggie Jackson from OKC as a possible replacement for rehabbing point guard Brandon Jennings, OKC found someone to take Kendrick “Mr. Smiles” Perkins while restocking their bench, Andre Miller and Aaron Affalo continued adding to their “Teams I’ve Played For” jersey collections, the Knicks and Lakers did nothing, Kevin “Old Man River” Garnett went back to his old Minnesota Home for whatever reason, the Clippers and Lakers did nothing, and the Philadelphia 76ers continued their mystifying trip to this June’s draft.

Grading the 2015 NBA trade deadline by Kelly Dwyer

All-Star Weekend Recap

It very well may still be LeBron James’ league, but the future just may belong to “Splash Brother” Stephen Curry who won the 3-Point Shooting Contest with a final round that included 13 consecutive made shots in a row.

Russell Westbrook scored 41 points – one short of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game record – and won the game’s MVP award with an incredible, court-scorching, eye-popping performance.

Speaking of MVPs, Celebrity All-Star Game legend Kevin Hart won his fourth consecutive award despite being embarrassed by Little League World Series star Mone Davis. During an appearance on the Jim Rome national radio show, Hart said, “That little girl embarrassed me on live television…It’s only going to get worse if I keep going back. I don’t want to see what’s going to happen next.”

Melo, Melo, Melo

Was it really that important to play in the All-Star Game just because it was on your home court? Have we seen the best of you? What does the future hold for you and the Knicks franchise after this season ending surgery that could have you out for 4-6 months?

Kobe Talks and Talks

Suddenly, towards the end of his incredible career, Kobe Bryant, is opening up and talking about his life and process more than ever before.

The NBA at the All-Star Break – 02/15/15

February 15, 2015

NBA Coast to Coast: All-Star game brings Gasol brothers together again

marc-gasol-pau-gasol-20150214 (2)

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol works in the post against his brother, Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16), in the first half of a game earlier this season. (Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

The NBA Coast To Coast at the break gives you a professional’s look at the current NBA season so far. Later on, I’ll be giving you my perspective. But first…

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

Ageless

Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, 49, the Western Conference All-Star coach, got a chuckle out of knowing that he’s going to coach former San Antonio teammate Tim Duncan, 38, in Sunday’s All-Star game. “I’m sure I’ll have some choice words for him too,” Kerr said. “And maybe even threaten to play him 42 minutes just to wear him down.”

I’ll be there

Golden State guard Stephen Curry couldn’t help but crack on his easy-going teammate, Klay Thompson. Curry was asked what Thompson’s response was when Thompson found out he was starting for the West in his first All-Star game. “Huh, really?” Curry said, imitating Thompson. “That’s cool. Wait, when’s the All-Star game?”

Jokester

So you think Gregg Popovich doesn’t have a sense of humor? When the San Antonio coach was asked how he relates to the younger players in the NBA, Popovich, 66, left the media laughing. “The young kids are easy,” Popovich said. “The old ones are hard. Timmy [Duncan] and I divorce once a year.” —Broderick Turner

GAME OF THE WEEK

San Antonio at Golden State

When: 7:30 PST. TV: ESPN

The first time the teams met in November, the upstart Warriors were shown how NBA champions do things, losing, 113-100, to the Spurs in Oakland. But since that time, the Warriors have produced the best record in the NBA and the Spurs are the seventh-seeded team in the West. Since it’s the second game on back-to-back nights after the All-Star break for San Antonio, it will be interesting to see whether Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich rests any of his regulars. — Broderick Turner

CHARLES’ TAKES

The league’s three most historic and storied teams, the Celtics, Lakers and Knicks are shells of themselves, but because of Danny Ainge’s aggressive and unemotional approach to letting go of the recent past, Boston is in the best shape of the these franchises. At the break, the Celtics are only 1 & ½ games out of the last playoff spot in the woebegone Eastern Conference and are loaded with draft picks for 2015 and 2016 with salary cap space as well. Meanwhile, both the Knicks and Lakers are in limbo with both of their superstars ailing; Carmelo Anthony is contemplating shutting it down after making a cameo appearance in today’s All-Star Game and Kobe Bryant, with one season left on his contract, is out for the third consecutive season with a major injury.

So far, the post-Dr. Jerry Buss Era is a failure (just ask Lakers legend and constant John Buss critic Magic Johnson) and the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson has admitted that this season is the same in New York. Critics of both franchise’s owners and front office abound in the media and blogosphere and many believe that things will get worse before they get better. The Lakers face another summer of trying to convince a premier free agent (or two) to ignore their recent history and take their money while in the Big Apple, first time president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher face an uphill battle to prove that they know what the hell they’re doing amid questions about Jackson’s long-term commitment at the age of 69 with fiancée (and Lakers co-owner) Jeanie Buss in sunny Los Angeles. And team owner James Dolan isn’t exactly helping things either.

Meanwhile, positive stories and rising young stars abound around the league. Golden State, Memphis and Portland are legitimate title contenders in the West; Andrew Wiggins is showing Minnesota and the Cavaliers why he was drafted so highly and other young players are coming to the forefront across the league. Speaking of the Cavaliers, after a rocky start and recent trades, the LeBronites seem to be gelling at the right time. The Bulls, as always, are as good as Derrick Rose’s knees while the Raptors are drawing record crowds in Toronto and showing why any title talk in the East must include them.

The All-Star Game weekend showed a changing in the guard and most likely featured final appearances by players such as Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. Meanwhile, injuries to Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Dwyane Wade allowed young stars such as Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson to make their initial appearances on the globally broadcast game. And, taking full advantage of the extended break (a week), many of the game’s brightest stars and their celebrity counterparts from the worlds of movies and television and other sports gathered in New York City to network and party together.

For old-timers such as myself, it’s not our father’s NBA anymore. Adam Silver is celebrating one year as commissioner, the players association has an aggressive new executive director in Michele Roberts who’s already made it clear that the owners are in for a fight over increased revenues from the new TV contracts due to take effect for the 2016-17 season, and in what may be one of the most important player moves in recent history, Lebron James is taking an increased role as a leader of the game off the court.

Thursday’s trade deadline could portend who positions themselves for both a playoff run this season and this summer’s draft. Will the Lakers trade Steve Nash’s (yes he’s still alive) expiring contract or just hold tight and hope to keep their protected draft choice while waiting on promising rookie Julius Randle to heal from his broken leg suffered in the opening game of the season? What contender/s will make a bold move to bolster their roster? Can Kevin Durant get and stay healthy long enough to lead the Thunder, along with Russell Westbrook, to a playoff slot? And, are the Spurs just lying low, trying to conserve energy as only “Pop” can do?

For the first time in recent years, there’s no clear-cut leader to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. And for fans, that’s a great thing as the playoffs promise to be exciting and thrill-filled from start to finish.