I was sitting here in the Stanford Mens basketball office preparing for a coaches meeting when our Video Coordinator shared with me the news: Dr. Jerry Buss had just died of cancer in Los Angeles.
I had the great privilege of playing for Dr. Buss’ Lakers team from 2001-2003 and cannot say enough about the first class nature of the organization or of the loyalty of Dr. Buss. I will never forget after I had a major wrist surgery after my first year in Los Angeles Jerry Buss called me the next day on the phone. Jerry had a great way with people. He called to wish me a speedy recovery and then said, “At first I thought you had the surgery in June so you could get out of playing in the summer league.” We both laughed. I could barely catch or pass the ball with my left hand that first season. And in the triangle offense Phil Jackson literally had us practice left handed passes throughout the year in order to run the offense properly. But Dr. Buss’ comment did two things. It made me laugh (which I needed the day after surgery) and it made me also realize that he did care very much about role players competing in the summer league at Long Beach State. (Which I did the next year). He built his teams around superstars, but he cared about every single person on the team all the way down to the last man.
Another memory of Dr. Buss happened during the playoffs of my first year in LA. Rick Fox always planned a dinner together with the team at a happening location in the greater Los Angeles area which nearly almost had perfect attendance of the team. One time Rick planned a get together and an evening out in the Hollywood Area. I think I arrived at about 9pm and walked in and one of the first people I saw was Dr. Buss. He was there with a group of his friends enjoying the evening and I felt nervous because typically the dinners/evening were more of a players only event. I didn’t really know what to say to our owner. He just broke the ice and called me over, introduced me to his friends and made me feel 100% comfortable despite him being the owner of the World championship team.
The thing that sticks out to me most is the loyalty of Dr. Buss. Of all the organizations I’ve ever been part of whether a professional team, or any other entity, I have never seen more loyalty than with the Lakers. While Dr. Buss was owner, there were countless people who had been with the team for 25 years or more. From Bill Bertka (longtime coach), to Gary Vitti (Head Trainer), to our equipment manager Rudy Garciduenas, Jerry Buss had the philosophy, “If someone is doing a good job I am going to stick with them.” In an era when consultants (often rightfully so), need to come in and “clean house,” Jerry Buss showed us that there are other ways to do business that can also yield amazing results.
I just read the LA Times article talking about how Jerry Buss built the Lakers, his family life, and his career. I am grateful for the opportunity that he gave me and for the 3 great years with the Lakers. I wish all the best to the entire Buss Family during this difficult time.
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.
The other day someone said to me, “Who do you want to win the championship…the lakers or the celtics?” That’s one of the hardest questions I could answer, but the truth is that I want the Lakers to win. I am a Timberwolf first and foremost, but I gave three years of blood sweat and tears to Phil Jackson and the Lakers. I have to pull for my old team even though I do want Kevin Garnett to get a ring.
I cannot believe that Flip Saunders was fired. I cannot believe it. This man can flat out coach and while I hope that the Pistons have success in the future, let’s not forget that Flips tenure as head coach of Detroit took the Pistons deep into the playoffs every year. Coaching is not an exact science and it’s not easy at the NBA level with mature and grown men all of whom have strong competitive natures. I wish Detroit well, but they lost a gem with Flip.
My summer is going well. I enjoyed watching Kobe tonight. It’s nice when you see someone care so much about what they do as Kobe cares about his profession. Phil Jackson used to put us in the video room and show us film. “Fellas…like it or not, what you see on the game film is what the fans see….this is your livelihood. It should be important to you.”
We finally won our first game and it happened to come in front of our home fans in Minnesota. We had a lot of guys step up in the win. Rashad McCants had 30 points, Al Jefferson had his normal dominant performance and Antoine Walker had a huge game in crunch time to put us over the top. Marko Jaric made a ton of hussle plays. I wanted to talk a little bit about the game.
We were in Turkey for training camp which was going long and hard. Late in one practice session, Rashad McCants stole the ball and then took off down court for a dunk. All of a sudden, he stopped dribbling and staggered off the court in obvious pain. He strained his hamstring and then was on the injured list for a few days. Even earlier this season, he tweaked his ankle and had to sit out. I watched Rashad work tirelessly in the training room to get healthy to come back ASAP to help the team. Rashad is mentally tough and has a huge heart and he showed that once again tonight. Rashad is a team player first whose intelligence about the game reminds me of my old Lakers teammate Robert Horry.
In all my years of playing basketball you’re always taught not to go for pump fakes of opposing players. Especially when an opponent is trying to post you up, you never want to jump in the air to block the shot. It just puts you too much at risk for a foul. I’ve only been on the same team with Al Jefferson for two months, but I have never seen a post player get so many of his defenders up in the air and then just drive past them. Each game, I know it’s going to happen that he gets his post defender jumping in the air like a pogo-stick. The other day in practice I told Al, that I’ve never seen a player get so many defenders to go for his fake as does. Al told me that he learned his fake from Paul Pierce and their years together in Boston. Tonight was no different as Al got people in the air and utilized his signature, go-to move of the soft jump hook that seemed to be unstoppable.
Another old Celtic really stole the show in tonight’s game. We got Antoine Walker in a trade from the Heat and he was huge for us. I’ve enjoyed practicing with and against Antoine in practice every day. Antoine Walker is a three time all-star in the NBA and he gives so much energy and attention in practice every day that it’s kind of revitalizing to everyone on the team. I knew Antoine Walker the three point shooter, rebounder, great post up player and ball-handler, but the Antoine Walker I didn’t know is the player who knows every defensive rotation like the back of his hand. In the fourth quarter tonight Antoine floated a difficult 10 foot floater over the Sacramento defense that brought the crowd to their feet in the Target Center. When he came to the bench a fan yelled out, “Antoine, let’s see the shimmie!” I looked over and I saw Antoine smile and then just chill. I think he’s saving the shimmie for bigger and better things for the Timberwolves this season. Having a true veteran like Antoine on our team helps everyone from 1 to 15.
For a little more background on Antoine, (and the origin of the shimmie), you can go to his official website at
Well, that’s all here. I should receive the medical clearance soon to play. When I get it, I hope to earn my way back onto the court to help my team in any way possible.
Warriors versus Utah Jazz Playoff Series I played with Derek Fisher for three years while playing for the Lakers and he is one of the most professional people I have ever met in any field. When I got to the Lakers Derek was going through a very serious foot injury and was on the injured list for some time. One time while he was injured we as a team were playing terribly. Before one of the games, Derek gave an impassioned speech while in street clothes and really tried to encourage the guys to take up their level of play a notch. Everyone in the locker room from Shaq to Kobe to Slava Medvedenko was all ears. Afterwards, Phil Jackson referred back to Derek as the emotional leader of our group.
Derek was always working on his jump shot. There were so many days when Derek would be there early at the gym with his brother feeding him passes and giving him feedback on fine-tuning aspects of his jumper.
Later that same season in the playoffs Derek had a monster game against the San Antonio Spurs and hit something like seven or eight three pointers in a blowout win for us. A few days later when we were watching the game film in our “warrior room,” Phil Jackson commented on how Derek had played so very well, and yet Derek did not get involved in any kind of self-promotion, or on-court antics that are so popular in the game today. Phil Jackson rarely was impressed with individual accomplishments, but he was keenly appreciative not only for how well Derek played, but how Derek Fisher carried himself while playing so well.
The Warriors vs. Jazz series is a great one. I was so happy for how well Derek played tonight for his team. I actually want the Warriors to win because I grew up about 30 minutes from Oakland and I know the Warriors team pretty well. Don Nelson was the coach of the warriors when I was in high school and I even worked at the “Don Nelson Basketball camp.” But above all, I’m just so happy that Derek Fisher’s daughter is doing well after her surgery. I hope that Dee Brown’s injury is okay and I hope that he’s able to make a full recovery. Detroit is my favorite to win the title.
Mark Blount has been having a monster season for us and tonight he did it again. There are very few seven footers play in this league who can MAKE three consecutive three pointers in the last two minutes of regulation….how many seven footers even want to take three pointers in the clutch? Not many. Mark Blount did that tonight in our game against the Lakers and he basically saved our hide by getting us to the first overtime and eventually the second.
Before the game tonight against the Lakers, I caught up with one of my favorite all-time teammates: Brian Shaw. Brian is an assistant coach now with the Lakers and is on his way to a very successful post basketball career. When we both played for the Lakers, Brian was the one guy on the team who could pick up his cellphone and call every single teammate at any time. From Shaq, to Kobe to Slava Medvedenko, to Horry to Rick Fox. Forget about his basketball I.Q. for a moment (which is off the charts). His ability to communicate with today’s athlete is a rare gift and something that would serve him well as a GM or as a head coach in this league.
Yeas ago, Brian Shaw played with Kobe Bryant’s dad professionally in Italy (I think the name of the team was Kinder Bologna). Brian told me once that he remembered playing HORSE with a young Kobe Bryant in Italy and being impressed with his skills. After a few years in Italy Brian Shaw came back to the NBA and played alongside Shaq in Orlando during the heyday of Orlando Magic basketball. Finally, he was reunited in LA with Shaq and the next generation of the Bryant basketball legacy–Kobe–from 2000 until 2003.
Needless to say Brian Shaw was that veteran type of player that Shaq would listen to, he had a great relationship with Kobe, and then he could go to Phil with suggestions. One time Brian thought we were practicing too much during training camp and breaking the collective bargaining agreement rules. He brought it up in a team meeting and Phil Jackson just smiled and laughed and said, “Brian you should really go to law school when you are done playing in the NBA.” Given that Shaw played for Phil Jackson and now is an assistant with Phil shows the respect that Phil has for him. There are a lot of teams in this league that would benefit from the skill set that Shaw brings to the table.
It was fun to play against my former team and to beat them tonight. I look back on the three years I played in L.A. under Phil Jackson and I have great memories. In a lot of ways, Phil was the one who really helped me to gain confidence to be able to compete at this level. Today, I saw in the media that Phil and Smush Parker were having some kind of public feud going on. It happened a few times when Phil would go at it with Shaq and Kobe or someone else on the team while I was there–either right there in practice or through the newspapers. The interesting thing is that once Phil got his point across to the player and the player responded, the relationship with that player would quietly simmer down and sometimes even seemed stronger in the days that followed.
I had a few friends at the game tonight. Some of them thought they saw Jack Nicholson at the Target Center. I guess my other buddy Enrique told them that they were mistaken and the man was really just impersonating Nicholson. Can anyone out there confirm or refute this? I guess that is just a random point of interest.
Well, I’m going to enjoy this victory tonight and the great performances of KG, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount especially. We have the Lakers again in Los Angeles in a few weeks and I know they’ll be trying to make a statement so we have to be ready.
Two of my friends said they got their picture taken with Jack Nicholson last night at the Lakers vs. Timberwolves game. Jack Nicholson is a regular at the Lakers home games and he travels on the road a lot to watch his team (The Lakers, of course) play. But my other friend said that he was a “Nicholson Impersonator” and that it really wasn’t him. Well, I wrote about all of this in yesterday’s blog right here on MarkMadsen.com/blog. Then tonight I go to my email inbox and my webmaster has forwarded me an email. Here is what the email said:
‘Jack’ was at the game last night. I know because that was me. In fact, since Jack shaved his head, I look more like Jack than Jack.
It was a lot of fun last night being Jack but it hurt me to clap for the Lakers. Because of my role as the Lakers number one fan I needed to fulfill the role. You guys did an incredible job though. Congratulations.
Now before all of you tell me that I’m dumb to believe a random email into my inbox here are the facts:
1) The email was sent from a verified email address of a major fortune 500 company: (i.e. email@example.com course it was not Target though) as opposed to an “anonymous email” like @yahoo.com or @hotmail.com.
2) John’s email included a link to his bio which is publicly accessible on his company’s website. (i.e. www.target.com/johnsmithbio/ )
3) John is a major executive at his fortune 500 company.
4) His photo showed up on the Fortune 500 company website and here it is. You tell me….does John have a chance at the Vegas convention? I think he’s the favorite!
John, I would love to accept your invitation to go to lunch sometime. Maybe I will bring someone from the organization and we can have some fun with this in the media guide. I hope that you have a great day and I hope that you guys continue to keep the capital markets going strong! (I guess we all should have known something was up when our Jack Nicholson impersonator was sitting about 15 rows up…..the Real Jack is always courtside….even on the road games).
When I think of the New Jersey Nets I think of Jason Kidd. When I think of St. Joseph’s High School in Oakland, California I also think of Jason Kidd. My high school played against Jason Kidd twice growing up (I think we were 1-1), then he stayed in the Bay Area for college at UC Berkely. I have followed Jason very closely over the years and he is a class act all the way around.
After we beat the Nets tonight Mark Blount and I were talking about the job Jason does as a point guard for his team. Jason is just so fast pushing the basketball and he is a monster when it comes to rebounding. The fact that Kidd is the leading rebounder for the Nets shows you the kind of desire that he plays with. Blount was talking about how Jason’s knee is just finally starting to show the kind of full recovery from the mircro-fracture surgery he had a few years ago. “He’s been playing injured the past couple of years out there,” Blount was telling me. And tonight we saw his speed and his quickness with his knee at 100% once again.
All I can say is that Jason Kidd must be like the really expensive kind of French Cheese that gets better and better with age. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone of his age rebound the ball, or push the ball up the court the way he does. His play is a credit and an asset to the game of basketball at every level. He seems to get better, faster and stronger with each year that passes.
On a different note, I saw an old friend in Memphis two days ago–Jerry West. Jerry West drafted me as he was the General Manager of the Lakers at the time. When we walked in the FedEx forum in Memphis for shootaround, Jerry ducked in to say hello to KG and a few others. When I was talking to him, different people would stop by and say to him “What’s up logo?” I always knew that everyone considers Jerry West to be the person from which the NBA logo was fashioned, but I had never really heard anyone call him “LOGO” in L.A. It was pretty cool. To this day I will never forget the way that West mentored everyone on the team in Los Angeles. He would talk to us, build us up and spend time with us outside of basketball. I will always remember being invited over for dinner at the West’s home in the Bel-Air area. He gave me some pointers and a few thoughts on what I could do differently on the court to become a better player. When West took the Memphis job, Magic Johnson came out and commented publicly about how Jerry was always the first one to call or go over to the house of someone in the Lakers family when there was a death in the family, a sickness or a tragedy.
I wanted to thank Adam for his comment (see below). His input poses a great question about our locker room dynamics. Is anyone in the lockeroom hurt from ticket’s [Kevin Garnett’s] excitement over the chance to bring in [Allen iverson]?
10:16:01 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Yeah, I can see how you might wonder what it would be like for any timberwolves players to turn on the T.V. or read ESPN.com and hear KG saying that he wants A.I. in Minnesota. Because by deduction, that means that someone (or many players) from the Timberwolves has to get shipped out.
I really don’t think there was much of an upset feeling in the locker room over it. The main thing is that this is one of those rare moments when a superstar is being shopped around the league. Allen Iverson getting traded is right up there with Shaq being traded from the Lakers to the Heat. All of us know how good A.I. is so I don’t think any of us took it as anything more than the “business side of basketball.” The other thing is that KG is such a great teammate and stand-up guy that he always speaks from his heart. He’s just as likely to tell us the same thing behind closed doors that he tells the media. That’s one of the reasons why everyone respects him so much.
I sit next to Mark Blount on the plane trips. He and I were talking about the Allen Iverson thing and Blount basically said that Allen is such a special talent that our organization really has to look at the trade scenario.
I guess the good news for us is that it really looks like Denver is going to win out on the A.I. thing. They have two draft picks in 2007 and Philly really wants those picks. The other thing is that I don’t think there is any way that the Timberwolves organization is going to trade Randy Foye or Craig Smith. That’s who Philly really wanted from us anyway. I’d like to see these two young guys filling up the Target Center for many years to come.
We just beat the Denver Nuggets and it feels nice to have a little win streak going. (Winning two games in a row is a lot better than losing 8 out of 10!) After the game, me and my two roomates along with my other buddy and his girlfriend all went out to Champs in downtown Minneapolis to get a burger. It’s kind of fun going to Champs because half of the Minnesota timberwolves office personnel and ticket sales people usually go there after each game. It almost feels like the Timberwolves Holiday party in some ways because it seems like so many people from the organization are there. I even ran into a lot of the production/network support people who travel with us and broadcast all of the games on the local Television station here in the Twin cities. One of the directors of community relations was there with her sister and Dad. We all sat around and shot the breeze while we waited for our tables.
But most often after the games, I drive straight home and crash. It’s just too hard to be at the arena from 5:00pm till 10:00 pm and then be out till midnight eating a postgame meal. Tonight I got home a little after midnight and tommorrow my garage door repairman is coming at 8am. I need to make sure I don’t miss him because my garage door is broken! It’s a good thing that we have the day off tommorrow. Actually, the “young guys” have to come in and get a workout and get some extra shots. I’m so glad that I’m not in that “young guys” group anymore. It seemed like when I was in LA with the Lakers, Phil was always giving Shaq, Kobe, Rob, etc, the day off and me and Deaven George and the rest of the young guys had to come in and play a game of three on three where we ended up trying to absolutely destroy each other in a basketball sense. But, I’m grateful that Phil did it that way and I understood what he was trying to do–get us extra reps to improve. Coach Casey is doing the same thing. Who knows, if my garage door can get fixed quickly, then I might go in there and lift some weights or something.
When we were losing a lot of games a few weeks ago, Dwayne Casey stayed very positive. After we lost a tough home game last week, he came into the locker room and said, “You guys are giving me the effort and the intensity…..I promise you that things are going to shift and come back around…..” He emphasized that we need to cut down on turnovers in order to put ourselves in a position to win. One of Coach Casey’s lines that I really like is this: “If you mess with the game, the game will mess with you.” What he’s really saying here is that if you disrespect the game of basketball by not playing hard or by cutting corners, you’re not going to get too many breaks. Conversely, if you play hard all the time and really try to play the right way, you’re going to get your share of breaks and good bounces.
Well life in the NBA never slows down. We fly to NYC this weekend and then on to boston. I started reading a new book for fun. I’m not even sure about the title, but it’s something like, “The Rule of Four,” written by a bunch of students at Princeton about an ancient text. It’s a very entertaining book. A friend of mine gave it to me as a gift and it’s been a nice distraction to get my mind away from the game through the ups and downs.