Mark Madsen has been a blogger since 2004 and continues to share thoughts on sports, entertainment, and business. Occasionally he will delve into secondary topics such as politics and issues specific to California. Mark is happy to return emails and twitter requests.
Lorenzen Wright was shot and killed last week by multiple bullet shots in a wooded area of Tennessee. Authorities are working on the case. This was some of the saddest news that I could possibly hear. I was never on the same team with Lorenzen, but I’ve played against him for years and had a great respect for his intensity and the way he conducted himself as a professional. Whenever there is tragedy in the NBA family, everyone feels it and everyone grieves for the loss and the family.
The last time I talked to Lorenzen Wright was two seasons ago when he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had been brought in as an experienced player to help them make a deep push into the playoffs. As much as Lorenzen contributed on the court, it was his locker room leadership and presence that also made him invaluable. Both Lorenzen and I were on the injured list at the time so we were both in the weight room before tip-off at Quicken Arena in Cleveland. Ben Wallace was in there as well doing core training and his pregame workout routine.
I was on the exercise bike trying to get a workout in and Lorenzen came right over to say hello and to get the update on what was going on with the Timberwolves. When you think about someone who is intense on the court and a gentleman off the court, it was Lorenzen. One of his longtime friends recounted that “He was a people person; he never met a stranger.” We talked for 5-10 minutes and he told me about a recent flight when LeBron James had the everyone on the plane laughing so hard by getting on the plane’s loudspeaker system and doing impersonations of everyone from players and teammates to the Cleveland strength coach. Lorenzen also said it was extra funny because it was about 2 A.M. and everyone was groggy. When I left the weight room that night I thought to myself, Cleveland is lucky to have such a great player and great person on their team.
Deepest thoughts and condolences to the family and loved ones of Lorenzen Wright. Memphis and Mississippi and everyplace that LW went is going to miss him.
My old teammate and fellow Bay Area native Brian Shaw is rumored to become the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the current Cleveland Cavaliers owner (Dan Gilbert) does sign Brian Shaw then I believe the chances of LeBron James staying in Cleveland will go up dramatically. Brian Shaw has instant credibility having played in the NBA for years and as a basketball mind he’s not only a point guard but he’s either played in the triangle offense or coached it for much of the past decade. When I was on the Lakers B. Shaw was one of the few players that had the complete respect of Shaq and Kobe both. Most importantly he has not only NBA playing experience, but championship experience as a player and as a coach.
When there were problems in the locker room it was Shaw who was able to communicate with everyone on the team from the best player all the way down to the 15th man. Sometimes he would reason with Phil Jackson in team meetings about strategy or different things going on with the team. One day during such a time, Phil Jackson laughed and told Brian that “he should really consider going to law school when he was finished with his playing career.” Obviously Phil respected Brian’s basketball mind so much he didn’t give Brian time to take the LSAT and brought him directly into the Lakers fold.
My prediction is that the new credibility that Shaw brings will absolutely play a factor in increased odds that LeBron James stays in Cleveland. With the mayor of NYC making overtures to LeBron and practically every other team in the NBA trying to woo him, things seem to be getting a little bit brighter in Ohio.
If he does NOT stay in Cleveland, how can he turn Chicago down. It’s a large media market with a great young nucleus of talent with Rose, Noah, and Deng. But my prediction is that he’s going to stay in Cleveland and a few years from now a newly minted banner will be hanging from the rafters.
Coaching in the NBA Developmental League has been a dream come true so far. When I was playing for the Lakers I asked Kurt Rambis the question: “Kurt, what do you like more between playing and coaching.” Kurt told me that the two were just very different. He explained that in coaching, you cannot actually get onto the court to have a physical impact on the game. But he talked about the impact that coaches can and do exert on games and practices. Now that I’ve been in the coaching world for the past four months, let me share a few of my own experiences.
1. There are a lot (and I mean a lot) of players in the “D-League” who are good enough to play in the NBA right now as a contributor or as a 14th or 15th man.
2. There is a shooting coach (the NBDL calls him a shooting consultant) named Bruce Kreutzer who travels to all of the NBDL teams and helps players with their shooting. Where was Bruce when I was playing!! Maybe he could have helped my FT percentage!!! Because the guy knows his stuff and he’s definitely helped guys on our team improve their shooting!
3. Traveling on Southwest is different than the NBA team charter. But to be honest, as long as I get either a window seat or an aisle, the legroom is not an issue. One of our players, Luke Nevill (7’2″ Australian) has found a way around the Southwest Airlines seating issue. He goes to the counter and says, “I am the tallest person in the entire airport. I really need an exit row today.” It seems to work every trip!
4. Our head coach Brad Jones brought in a psychological expert to meet with our team when we played in Bakersfield two weeks ago. The guy was awesome. To be honest, he reminded me a little bit of George Mumford who was Phil Jackson’s trusted team psychologist for a number of years for the Bulls and the LA Lakers.
5. One of the great things about the D-League is that Sundiata Gaines can go from scoring 30 points against our D-League team one night, to hitting a game winning 3 point shot against Lebron James after being called up to the Utah Jazz: Click Here
I hope to see some of you fans at a D-League game in the coming weeks and months. Right now we’re a few games above .500 and we are trying to gear up for a playoff push. The Lakers have a D-League team called the LA Defenders. In fact, they have a deadly shooter on their team named Ryan Forehan-Kelly who I used to play against in college. He went to UC Berkeley. Well, after our game against the D-Fenders at the Staples Center, the Lakers had a game against the New Orleans Hornets. I caught up with Phil Jackson for a little while in the coaching office at Staples before their game. I asked him what he liked better between playing and coaching. He laughed and said, “Well, I can barely remember what it was like to play.” Then he said that as a player you really have to be mentally in tune and physically “keyed up” to do your job. But as a coach, you really have to be mentally tuned in all the time in order to have the impact you need to have.
Interesting the way things happen in life. Months ago, Utah Flash (The NBA minor league team I help coach) owner Brandt Andersen made a public challenge for both Bryon Russell and Michael Jordan to come to Orem Utah to play in a symbolic one-on-one game commemorating past times. 🙂 Brandt himself pledged a check for $100,000 to the winner’s favorite charity. I caught wind of the challenge even though I had become a Clipper (I was traded from the Timberwolves to the LA). But, in early October, after a series of events, I ended up being waived by the Clippers then joining Brad Jones–the Utah Flash Head Coach–as one of his assistant coaches. So, I personally lived through this Michael Jordan thing and I was there at the game where the stunt double went out on the court at halftime as Michael Jordan. I want to weigh in on this because I was here for it and because some media outlets are doing a poor job of representing the entirety of the situation.
First of all, I was in a Utah Flash meeting in October right there in Provo Utah, when someone from the basketball side asked the question, “Is Michael going to come for the home opener?” The answer I heard was interesting. The message Brandt Andersen and the Flash had received from MJ’s representation several weeks earlier was that if Michael did choose to come he would let the Flash know the day before, or the day of the event. Is the greatest player of all time entitled to some flexibility? OF COURSE! The possibility of his coming for the game, even to Provo Utah seemed to be there. So, now, there is context to what Brandt says in his blog below:
“I knew I would not know if MJ was going to attend until a few hours before game time. I never received the call indicating he would not attend.”
Even though I was born and raised in Danville California, I do have family ties to the Provo area, and I have spent some summers in Utah. I have heard mixed reactions from different people. Some people were upset that Michael was not at the game. But many many other people had a great night and thought the entire production was in good fun.But for ESPN to include the word “HOAX” in the headline of their story about the situation as a whole is misguided. Yes, there was a Michael Jordan lookalike in the tunnel at halftime and I thought to myself, “This guy is too short…MJ is 6’6″ and this guy is barely 6’0″.” But Brandt’s challenge was real, his willingness to write the check to charity was real, and everyone’s hope of MJ’s attendance was real.
Never once did Brandt Andersen, say that Michael Jordan was coming to the game. Could the situation have been handled differently? Hindsight is always 20-20 and of course things could have been done in a different way. But when I was playing for the Timberwolves, the game operations staff had a fake Jack Nicholson get kicked out of our home game against the Lakers. That was fun for the fans and everyone loved it! The biggest problem in this situation was that people started thinking Michael was coming for sure instead of looking it as a possibility. People started buying tickets believing Michael’s presence was a certainty. The 6’0″ bald guy, lookalike coming out at halftime did rub some people the wrong way, but others loved it and laughed and had fun. How did Brandt handle those that were upset? He came out on his blog within hours and offered full refunds for everybody who asked. In another telling move that shows transparency, Brandt’s staff even allowed every single negative comment in reaction posted on his blog.
The sports world needs more owners like Mark Cuban, Dr. Jerry Buss, and Brandt Andersen. When I first signed my deal to coach with the Utah Flash I received an email from an old friend from UCLA who now teaches in Utah. His email said,
“We have gone to a lot of Flash games, we think there is a great family environment there.”
My friend is right. Utah Flash games continue to be a wholesome fun experience for families, singles, and basketball fans……not to mention we are 5-1. So I will see you guys at the Flash Arena sometime! And again, in the media it would be nice to have the entire story told and not just a few newspaper selling fragments.
Earlier this week, I went back to downtown Los Angeles and the Staples Center for the first time since I began coaching. We played our NBDL game on Tuesday night and ended up winning at the buzzer on a shot by Dontell Jefferson. After our game, I went and visited Phil and Kobe in the Lakers locker room a few doors down in the tunnel as they played the same night against the Hornets right after our game. It was great to see Phil Jackson again. It was the first time I talked to Phil since I began coaching and he gave me some really good advice for coaching and explained how as a coach you absolutely have to be mentally keyed up and ready all the time. Frank Hamblen was in the coaches office as well and I had seen Brian Shaw and Jim Cleamons earlier. The only one who was missing was Kurt Rambis and I know that he’s wearing a nice winter coat up in Minneapolis right now!
It was great to see Kobe again. On that Tuesday night, I happened to be wearing one of the suits that he gave me for Christmas in 2002. (Phil always did a Christmas gift exchange within all of the players and coaches). It was funny that year because I had drawn Kobe’s name and he drew mine. I gave he and Vanessa a box of chocolates and book (101 Famous Poems), and he gave me two Italian tailored suits. I guess I probably still owe him a better Christmas gift one of these years!
When I finally caught up with Derek Fisher, (my only other remaining teammate from my time w/ the Lakers), he was already in the chapel session with the Lakers Chaplain and so I wasn’t able to go in there to disturb him to say hello. But I did see one of his close friends Durand and told him to pass along my best. It’s funny the way things work out. On that Tuesday of last week I was running around back there trying to catch up with people and then last night (Friday night), I was watching the Lakers vs. Heat game on ESPN. First it was Derek’s three pointer with a few seconds left, and then it was Kobe’s one legged, three pointer over Dwayne Wade’s hand with time expiring to win the game.
I’ve hit one game winner in my entire basketball life and that was back in High School against Monte Vista High. Earlier that year, our power forward, a great shooter named Ryan Luther, had hit a game winner against the same team. I remember those days well, and to think that players like Kobe and LeBron can hit game winners each season against some of the best athletes in the world is incredible.
Coaching in the NBDL is going great so far. It’s a dream come true to be working with great young players and to try to help them take their game to the next level whether that means the NBA or some other professional league overseas. Right now I’m in Bakersfield, California and we have a game later tonight. A couple nights ago, our head coach Brad Jones and I had dinner at Macaroni Grill in Bakersfield. I accidentally left my credit card there and when I picked it up today, the manager said, “I found your card and tried to find a way to contact you! I went to your blog but you hadn’t posted for a while….so I figured you would realize it at some point and come back to grab it.” Thank you Macaroni Grill, Bakersfield!!
I wish I could have been at the Target Center tonight, but instead I watched part of the game live on my iPhone using the NBA league pass application!!! I have to say that Oleksiy Pecherov is going to be a great player for the Wolves. I even got a text from a friend of mine at the target center saying “I LOVE Pecherov.” As I’ve watched the Wolves over the past few weeks it really seems like all the players are getting a better feel for the Triangle offense. I know this is going to make Kurt Rambis happy as the season progresses. .
As for me, I’ve been breaking down video for the past two weeks getting ready for the NBDL draft which is Thursday night! There is actually a website called www.synergysportstech.com in which Mark Cuban is a major investor. I’ve never ever seen a more complete scouting tool. I can literally put in the name of any NBA, college or NBDL player and then pull up video clips of this player on offense, defense, transition, etc. It makes scouting and preparing for the draft much easier than trying to track down a million different DVD’s to try to learn more about players. I can also stream digital video of full games, international players, and then do breakdowns of every single aspect of what a player’s strengths are. The Synergy System is awesome and it’s only a matter of time before every NBA team and college team is using it.
As part of this scouting process I’m going to introduce all of you basketball aficionados to a very interesting player. I’ve played with two of the best shot blockers ever to play in the NBA in Theo Ratliff and Eddie Griffin. There is a player named Jeral Davis who averaged over 7 blocks per game in college and who recently submitted his name for the NBDL draft! The Utah Flash head coach Brad Jones asked me to do a bit of research on Davis and then asked me what his numbers were. When I said “18 points, 7 blocks, ….” Brad stopped me and said, “Do you mean 7 rebounds?” I said, “It’s hard to believe but he averaged 7 blocks per game!” So, anyway, it’s exciting players like this that make our jobs fun. As the draft unfolds it will be interesting to see what happens with Jeral Davis and if we are able to get him. He is definitely a unique talent given that he is 7’1″ and has a 40 inch vertical jump along with a wingspan of 7’9″. In fact, he never played High School Basketball, but went on to become a dominant college player. It’s up and coming athletes like Jeral Davis that make the NBDL an exciting and productive league in a lot of ways!
I just signed a one year contract to be an assistant coach with the Utah Flash, located in Orem Utah…..and I’m excited to start coaching! One week ago I went to a Timberwolves game and it was surreal to be up in the stands watching my old teammates and friends, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Gomes, Cardinal and the entire crew! I had the chance to go to NBA training camp and a firm offer in Greece, but the NBA opportunity was a long shot to make the team, and as much as I would love to go to Greece, the timing wasn’t quite right.
I thought to myself: “Well, i can wait, stay in shape, and hope for a great NBA opportunity with a team where a big guy gets hurt, or I can jump on this opportunity.” Ultimately it was an easy decision because I’ve always thought that I would like to coach, and you never really know when NBA playing opportunities come. I also just kind of thought it would be too boring to workout on my own while waiting for the right NBA opportunity which might come and might not.
Then when I spoke to Brad Jones, head coach of the Utah Flash and he shared with me his philosophy and some of the responsibilities he would entrust me with, it seemed like a great fit. (Brad Jones is also the nephew of utah Jazz head coach, Jerry Sloan). And then on top of it, The Flash owner Brandt Andersen reminds me a little bit of Glen Taylor (Timberwolves owner) in his commitment and passion for the game. In fact, I had heard about the Michael Jordan vs. Bryon Russell challenge, and then I realized it was Brandt Andersen who came up with the idea.
Even though I am a native Californian, I do have some family ties in Utah and in the Provo/Orem area. So ultimately I do feel it will be a nice fit. I’m grateful to Brandt Andersen and Coach Brad Jones for the opportunity and promise to work very hard and try to make the team better. I will be keeping my home in Minnesota and look forward to getting back out to Eden Prairie this summer to enjoy all of what Minnesota has to offer. Thanks for all of the positive feedback on Twitter and FB and I hope to see some of you at some Utah Flash games this season!!
There are reports coming out of Minneapolis that Kurt Rambis is getting strong consideration as the possible new head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves. I’m an LA Clipper now, but given that I’ve known Kurt Rambis for over 9 years and given that I played for the Timberwolves, I can say that Rambis would be an unbelievable fit in Minnesota. Obviously there are other candidates as well, including Mark Jackson who would be a phenomenal selection too.
Rambis bring with him the coaching pedigree which includes playing for Pat Riley and coaching alongside Phil Jackson. I think that he would be able to meld the Pat Riley “culture” of strict discipline and crisp execution with the “read and react” philosophy of Phil Jackson who drills the Triangle every day in practice and then let’s the players govern themselves in some degree once the game starts.
The other intangible that Rambis would bring to the table is a scrappy style of play that would reflect his own playing days. I remember Kurt told me that one year when he was playing for the Lakers, some so-called experts were saying that the Lakers “could not win a championship with Kurt Rambis at the power forward.” He ended up proving them wrong and even scored close to 20 points in one of the championship games under the pressure of such a large stage. He has a great knowledge of playing the post position and would be that much more attuned to giving feedback to key players like Kevin Love and Al Jefferson.
I do think that Kurt would coach an up-tempo and hard-nosed style of play which would be well appreciated by the Minnesota Fans. I saw reports months ago that Rambis turned down the Sacramento King head coaching job due to a variety of factors. Kurt Rambis is a complete family man, and a man whose knowledge of the game is huge. If David Kahn names Kurt Rambis as the head coach, I think both the players and the fans are going to like the decision.
I wanted to take a minute to tell the fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves a heart felt thank you for all of the support and enthusiasm for the team over the past few years. Even though the past couple of years had been tough from a wins and losses perspective, when I will think of my time in Minneapolis, I will always think about that 2004 team that almost made it to the NBA Finals. At that time, Kevin Garnett was the MVP of the entire league, Sam Cassell was an All-Star and Latrell Sprewell was one of our emotional leaders. I remember during the playoff run that year how driving to and from games was absolutely crazy with part of downtown shut down so that cars could get through. This was all possible because of you, the fans and your amazing support.
From a different standpoint, Minneapolis has come to feel like an absolute second home for me personally. Having grown up in Northern California, I never really knew much about Minnesota until Kevin McHale and Glen Taylor signed me to play for the Timberwolves. Needless to say, the past several years have been some of the best years of my life and I am grateful for the opportunity, the support from the community and the fact that you truly made me feel at home in new place. Thank you for your friendship and for the giving me the chance to play for the team. When friends from out of town came to visit Minnesota I would always take them to the stone arch bridge downtown, the state Capital, or the Mill City Museum. Exploring new parts of the Twin Cities became one of my passions while I was there.
After I learned of my trade to the LA Clippers, David Kahn left me a voicemail and it was great. To you, the fans, David Kahn is going to do a great job as the General Manager. He is going to tirelessly do everything in his power to return the team to the same form of that special 2004 season. And to Glen Taylor, I express my thanks for allowing me to contribute to a great team. I’m sure that you will get the team back to the high expectations that you and the community have for the team. It has been an honor to play for the team over the past number of years and to be part of your organization.
But above all, I want to thank you the fans. I wish all of you the best and I hope that I will see you down the road and perhaps at a Timberwolves vs. LA Clippers game in the future!
Since the day that we selected Ricky Rubio with the 5th pick of the draft I think that we’ve all been very excited about the possibility of him coming over this season. Yesterday I read in the newspaper that there is a chance that he still might come over and play for the Timberwolves this season. So yesterday afternoon I sat down and wrote Ricky an open letter. I’m actually happy that we selected two guards in the top ten picks. Let’s be honest, good point guards are very difficult to find in this league and we have two guards that we are very excited about. And it’s probably accurate that both can play both guard positions. I lived in Spain for two years between high school and college and I figured, a letter to Ricky Rubio can’t hurt! So, Ricky, here is a letter written to you and your family and I would love to have the chance to talk to you soon.
In other news, I spoke to David Kahn today in fact by phone and I came away thinking to myself that here is a guy who is leaving no stone unturned in the coaching search as well as the free agency market. One thing that I can appreciate is honesty and after we talked for a while he mentioned that he would love to have me in the locker room this coming year, but at the same time, given my expiring contract he said that there is a chance that I might be moved. He said that if he did move me, that he would reach out and let me know beforehand. In some ways, when I talked to him, it reminded me of talking to Mitch Kupchak, back from the Laker days in that he was direct, to the point, and very professional. The life of professional sports is uncertainty in that you can be traded, our job is to be ready when called upon. We didn’t talk much about the incoming newly drafted players but we did talk about our style of play for the coming season and he told me that we’re going to be a running team.