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The trip around the NBA starts out west


Okay, here we go with Part of A Grunt’s Guide To The NBA Galaxy, since a few of you have been asking for a while.

Save ‘em if you want; send notes to askdoug@thestar.ca if you want, ignore ‘em if you want.

And, because my friend Charles N. sent this

Doug – when our kids were young we had the 1+ 1 Rule: 1 Culture for Every 1 Sport.

So for example, pottery class + Little League.

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Can you do the same for proposed Travelogue?

I’ll try do it in the cities when I can. Tried to find a formula or format that would work but that’s really not my style so it’s going to be a bit free-flowing.

We’ll start out west, do a division today, Wednesday and Friday this week and Monday-Wednesday-Friday the week after and be done with it. I’ll figure out how to save it but if you can, you should because I might fail.

So …

Pacific Division

Golden State

Okay, it’s actually San Francisco, although they have done a nice job in downtown Oakland. But I always stay in San Fran, anywhere near Union Square works.

Culture and Sport

You gotta go to Haight-Ashbury to soak up the hippie history, see Lombard Street, ride the cable car and then, if it’s in season, take in a Giants game at the cool downtown park.

Other musts: Buena Vista coffee house, go walk Fisherman’s Wharf for sure and people watching in Union Square works.

Best dinner will be at Tomasso’s near the Tenderloin District and if you want seafood and don’t go to the Tadich Grill, you’re cheating yourself.

L.A. Lakers and Clippers

They’ve done an outstanding job with L.A. Live near the arena but it’s a bit expensive. Lots of housing possibilities, though, all good.

Culture and sport

Not sure “culture” is the right word but Venice Beach is probably something you should experience. And I am not at all familiar with Hollywood or Rodeo Drive so I have I have no clue there but the Raptors did practice at Beverley Hills High, on the same floor that’s over a swimming pool and was used in the great scene from It’s A Wonderful life.

The sports is obviously winter-based but if you have a car and can get to Dodger Stadium, you should.

Dining options are many, there’s a great breakfast place right up the street from the arena – The Original Pantry Café, be prepared to stand in line– but I always thought walking around Marina Del Ray was a good idea. If Café Del Ray still exists – right near the Marina up from the Ritz – the food’s excellent and view very nice.

Sacramento

Okay, things got exponentially better when they moved to the new arena downtown because Arco-Sleep Train-Whatever Else It Was Called – was an absolute pit surrounded by nothing.

Culture and sport

It’s a big train city and I remember being at a train museum downtown once eons ago but, you know, that’s about it.  As for sports, unless you grow wistful for the Sacramento Gold Miners, the Kings are it.

Now, because it was a first time stay downtown last year, I don’t have much for you; besides, if the schedule permitted, we always stayed in San Francisco and drove the 90 minutes around Berkley and up. I do remember a good Irish place right beside the Residence Inn we stayed at downtown but this is the lost soul of cities.

Phoenix

Great city unless it’s a billion degrees in the summer and if they tell you it’s okay because it’s a dry heat, they’re lying. It’s freaking hot.

Culture and sport

You gotta see Diamondback – can’t miss it, actually – but if you want something very cool, rent a car and drive a couple of hours or so to Sedona. Did it years and years ago and it’s amazing. Canyons, buttes, a better climate. Must see.

As for sports, the ballpark is really cool but if it’s spring, go see a spring training game or two in nearby Scottsdale, totally relaxing.

Of course, if you don’t go to Pizzeria Bianco, right downtown, you will have cheated yourself like you don’t know. It is seriously the best pizza I’ve ever had in a tiny funky restaurant that’s among a series of small buildings.

Other than that, lots of strip malls and predictable chains; if Alice Cooper’s spot – Cooperstown, naturally – is still open right behind the arena, go there.

All right, that’s the style I’m looking at for this but if you want more or different or something else, let me know by dropping a line to the e-mail.

This is a very difficult day; thoughts are with you. Be strong, remember the best times and know that those who aren’t here are still with you.

You all know that it’s only two weeks until Raptors media day, right?

Everyone’s starting to trickle back into town, the “informal workouts” are beginning at the Biosteel practice facility these days and there is a sense of anticipation.

Not of Media Day, of course, because that’s an inane series of photos and PSA reading and what-have-you that takes forever and yields little. No, the excitement is that there’s going to be stuff to do.

Had a total blast sitting in the stands  — well, a nice bar in the southeast corner as opposed to the real ‘stands’ – at the TFC game on Saturday, marking the first time being among the people at a game.
Came away hugely impressed by the constant energy of the crowd, even if I couldn’t figure out all of the chants and if there’s another weekend late-afternoon game when it’s 16 C and sunny, I’m in!

And Baseball Steve and I did some sleuthing and found out the San Joses aren’t particularly good but, man, the TFC side dominated from start to finish. They are quite good and the playoff run might be fun.

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