The mood here is cool. Like always. Are the Lakers' fans worried? Are you kidding? Pass the Perrier, and let's do sushi. The only troublesome part about today's Game 3 noontime start between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers is that it's blocking their sun.
KLAC Radio is still broadcasting that moldy oldie from a year ago, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Pistons." TheGreat Western Forum is still overrun by limos with plates that say "3PEAT" and "WRLDCHMPS" and the Great Western Forum Club is still overrun with people wearing shades, and their agents.
The best-of-seven NBA title series has moved from Detroit to the Coast, kind of like Axel Foley, and suddenly the playoffs are in a different state. The champs are still the champs, Dancing Barry is still Dancing Barry, the Laker Girls are still the Laker Girls, you can still turn right on red, and you can put that in the old popcorn machine.
Maybe the Lakers are down 0-2. Maybe they do have a guardline that looks like an advertisement for the Mayo Clinic. But they got out of Detroit alive, didn't they? That's more than American Motors could say. Now the Pistons have to play three straight in the Great Western Forum, the place that used to be the Fabulous Forum. Hey, everything has its price.
The thinking around here is that the Lakers have had a better '80s than Disney. They're working on a two-year reign. In The Great Western Forum they're harder to beat than the filet mignon in the Forum Club. This is the place where Jerry Buss is offering $10,000 for your courtside seats - and he owns the building.
Lakers' fans bummed after going down two-zip? Nah. No way, Jose.
A quick review of several Lakers fan hotspots illustrates this overall mood.
"Has panic set in? Are you kidding?" says Mike Stafford, a bartender at P.J. Brett's on the Pacific Coast Highway not far from the Great Western Forum. "People are still as up on the Lakers as ever. A lot of them still think they can win it, and that's when they're sober. Sunday (today) will be jam-packed again as usual."
Among the crowd will no doubt be Ken and Bobby Brett, two of the co-owners. Their brother George would like to catch the Lakers-Pistons game on either of the two Great Big Screen TVs on the premises, or on one of the 13 smaller-size TVs, but he's still playing baseball for a living.
The Great Western Forum isn't the only place you can watch the game and also watch the crowd.
"The Bretts are all big Laker fans. They grew up around here," says Stafford.
At the aptly named Champions, a popular Lakers' fan sanctuary at the Marriott on Century Boulevard, Lauren I'd-rather-not-say-my-last-name took time out from a busy lunch shift to report that, "Yeah, people were a little down Thursday (when the Lakers lost Game 2 in the final seconds) - but it didn't last. They're as high as ever now that the team's back."
At B.C.'s Sports Bar in Ventura, an hour's drive from the Great Western Forum, traffic-willing, Andrea Billingiere reports that the mood is so totally high for today's game that it would be a good idea to report to your favorite table early. "Either that or know one of the owners."
"I'd say we're 95 percent Lakers fans," she says of B.C.'s regular crowd. "And it really gets loud in here. I haven't seen depression set in."
Back at the Brett Brothers' establishment, Camille Shakkour, the manager, adds, "The problem now facing the Pistons is that they have to play three in the Forum. Why shouldn't the Lakers be upbeat? Hopefully, Magic or Byron, or both, will bounce back. Then we'll be all right."
That's typical of the current L.A. mentality - as evidenced at the Great Western Forum Club ticket office, where they report that no one has turned in tickets for Game 3. Not even the people with their backs against the wall.
These are the same Lakers that were down 2-1 to the Utah Jazz in last year's playoffs and were down 3-2 to the Pistons in last year's NBA Finals, and still prevailed.
The city that saw those escapes believes in Magic, all right.
If you need a timely stunt, this is the place. Nobody's driving home and kicking his dachshund. Betting on the Lakers, that's as safe as betting on John Wayne . . . or Kirk Gibson.