Tags Posts tagged with "Los Angeles"

Los Angeles

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Kobe Bean Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bean Bryant professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA. He entered the NBA directly from high school. Photo: Shutterstock
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!!

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Best Defenders, Bulls, Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Latrell Sprewell, Los Angeles, NBA
Talking about game and Players (Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest) Photo: shutterstock.com
This years NBA playoffs has been amazing. First we had the Bulls vs. Celtics series with who knows how many overtimes and now we get to watch one of the best players in the history of the NBA in Kobe Bryant go against one of the best defenders this league has ever seen: Ron Artest. And of course there are times when emotions are going to flare like they did last night.

Here is the Youtube video.

The one thing about both of these players is that neither one is going to back down. Having played with Kobe Bryant for three years in Los Angeles, I have to say that Kobe just does not back down or withdraw from challenges. And Kobe has to deal with the best defender on every team he faces. Not only that, but if you’re that “best defender” on a team getting ready to guard kobe, you’re going to be getting extra rest, extra conditioning and watching all kinds of videotape on Kobe Bryant in preparation–Kobe will probably still get 30-40 points. But when it comes to toughness not too many guys surpass Kobe.

I’ve never played on the same team as Ron Artest, but I’ve played against him dating all the way back to college. Of all the guys I’ve played with or against, there were always two people who stood out as aggressive defenders who guys around the league don’t want to mess with. Both Latrell Sprewell and Ron Artest are guys who you absolutely want to go to battle with. They are known as great players around the league, but everybody also knows not to cross the line with either one.

This is just a great matchup. Ron Artest is 6’8″ and 250 and Kobe is 6’7″ and maybe 220 or 230, and they can each play finesse basketball or scrappy basketball. If you can’t watch the next game live, be sure to get out your TIVO!

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Shaq, Flop, Fake, Floppers, Flopping, Los Angeles, NBA, Timberwolves
Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal, Ed.D., nicknamed Shaq, is an American basketball player of the NBA. Photo: shutterstock.com
There is a term in the National Basketball Association that some more casual fans do not know. The term is “flop” and some NBA players have perfected the skill into an art form. Some of the old battles between two great players (Shaq and Vlade Divac) included some pretty convincing flops by Vlade.

Now, the first time I ever heard this term, I was at an athletic club in Northern California called “ClubSport.” I was on the court and NBA player David Wood (experienced NBA veteran and very involved with ‘Athletes in Action’) was on the court too working out with his trainer. We struck up a friendship and he gave me a lot of advice on how to play the game as I was heading to Stanford as a freshman to begin playing basketball and going to school.

He told me I needed to learn how to ‘flop.’ I had never heard of the term ‘flop.’ He explained that “flopping” is when you basically fake getting hit really hard so that the referee calls a foul on the other player. Nobody does this too much in high school because ironically most high school refs don’t call it a lot. But a lot of players do it in college and in the NBA and refs in college and the NBA sometimes do call flops.

This past week, there was an incident when Stan Van Gundy (Orlando Magic Coach) called out Shaq for flopping. The incident was all over ESPN. Let’s take a look at the play first on Youtube.

Shaq and Dwight Howard (video)

So Shaq tries to take the charge/flop and he doesn’t get the call from the ref, and Dwight Howard gets the two points on the dunk.

Now in the next video Shaq comments on the play and gives more insight and basically says it might have been a flop but that he was trying to take a charge.

Video

(Fast forward to 2:00 out of the 4:23 minute long youtube.com video.)

Now, I played with Shaq for three years in Los Angeles and while I did see the big fella sacrifice his body and step in and take charges, I never once saw him flop in those three years. And the funny thing is that almost every team in the NBA tries to flop against Shaq. There are probably even coaches that teach their centers and forwards to try to flop on Shaq. So, this whole commotion about whether or not Shaq’s play against Dwight Howard was a flop is so funny because everyone in the league tries to flop on Shaq and Shaq never flops back.

The funny thing about this is the way the game is called on this type of play at the NBA and college level. Every year, an NBA official comes in and talks to every NBA team at the beginning of the season. One year, we were in this meeting and a Timberwolves player made the point that NBA players are strong and have good balance and that for an NBA player to fly backwards after getting hit is actually almost “impossible” without the player faking it. The referee disagreed, but hey, I can tell you it’s true.

In some ways, the art of the flop makes the game fun because fans get so riled up over it. In another way it takes away from the game because it’s purely acting and it takes away from the athletic skill of other players. Last summer the NBA was thinking about imposing a $10,000.00 fine for every flop attempt. (That would be hard to enforce).

Some of the great floppers around the NBA let out a scream when they get hit and then when they eventually get themselves up off the ground they squint their eyes a lot and rub their eyes and forehead and act like they’re dizzy.

To help illustrate this art, here are some examples of “successful” flops. (These videos below are *great!).

Carlos Boozer (video)
Pau Gasol (video)
Bonzi Wells (video)
Tribute to Vlade Divac’s flopping ability(and speculation that Del Harris taught Vlade how to flop. Del refutes this and says that Vlade brought the art over from Europe and taught the entire NBA how to flop.)

Lastly, and Shaquille touched on this, there is a dramatic difference between “taking a charge” and “flopping.” Taking a charge is when a player is coming at you full speed and out of control and you step outside of the charge cirlce and sacrifice your body and fall backwards. This hurts, it takes skill, and you might really get hit hard by the fast moving player. Most NBA players respect “taking a charge.” A “flop” is when you barely get touched and fall to the ground or flail uncontrollably. Comments from the readers?

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Brian Shaw, Kobe bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, Orlando, Mark Blount
Mark Blount has been having a monster season for us and tonight he did it again. Before the game tonight against the Lakers, I caught up with one of my favorite all-time teammates: Brian Shaw. Photo: shutterstock.com
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.

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John Amaechi, NBA, John Amaechi Book, Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers,
John Amaechi is an English retired basketball player. Photo: s_bukley/shutterstock.com
The purpose of this posting is to address a very talked about issue in the NBA as of today. I read some comments online recently that got me fired up and I felt that I wanted to write about the John Amaechi Book that just came out. I do not believe my blog is an appropriate forum for me to discuss my personal views on this issue in general and I have instructed my webmaster NOT to allow users’ comments either for or against the topic on this website. The issue I will address is the prospect of having a teammate like Amaechi.

When I played for the Lakers, Phil Jackson would get the team together after Sunday games and lead us in “The Lord’s Prayer” as found in the New Testament. During the prayer it was almost like a magnifying glass showed a huge range of differences in the room. Some prayed with Phil while others stayed on the side in a moment of silence. Others bowed their heads. Still others watched the scene in silence. Everyone probably did something slightly different but the prevailing feeling in the room was respect for each man’s own decision. There was no ridicule, coercion or pressure from anyone in the room for or against any particular action. When the prayer ended all of the differences faded away and we were back to one goal: winning.

I first met John Amaechi years ago when I was new with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers had just won the first championship and our power forward AC Green was off to the Miami Heat. We needed a veteran power forward to start alongside of Shaq and to give Robert Horry some rest.

Our General Manager, Mitch Kupchak brought Amaechi to Los Angeles and made him a big offer. (Which Amaechi eventually turned down to return to the Orlando Magic). I remember the day I met him. I was in the weight room and Mitch called me outside to the court. “Mark, meet John Amaechi.” We shook hands and exchanged a few words and that was it. Amaechi was 100% professional and 100% about basketball. I think that’s why he had such a successful basketball career over 8 years. His career was all about basketball and trying to help his team win games.

I still remember Rick Fox’s words in a team meeting where he explained that for young players in the NBA there are “certain rites of passage that must be met.” Clearly one of those is respect of the locker room. I have come to believe that if you have at least one dominant basketball skill and you respect the sanctity of the locker room you will play a long time in the NBA.

In a locker room there is only one goal and that is to win basketball games. If anyone does anything against that goal such as dividing the group, trying to push a personal agenda, or trying to get personal accolades they are essentially cut off from the group and sooner or later management will literally cut them off.

I don’t care if my teammate is green or purple. I don’t care if he is from the U.S., overseas, or Mars. If my teammate respects the space of every man in the locker room and keeps the locker room code, he will be welcomed by me.

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Craig Smith
Craig Smith!
Last night against the Chicago Bulls I think that we showed some flashes of what is to come. First of all, Craig Smith threw down a thunderous dunk in the first have that had people on the bench remembering what Charles Barkley used to do on the court. Craig Smith has had a phenomenal training camp and pre-season. Trenton Hassell compared Craig’s jump hook to the way Antawn Jamison is able to score on much taller defenders using the same un-blockable shot. Craig and I have become good friends. I didn’t realize it, but he was in High School at Fairfax High in Los Angeles at the same time that I was in my first few NBA seasons with the Lakers. I think that Craig is going to be a big time contributor this season as a rookie and it is clear that we got a steal by getting him in the Second round of the draft. One of the reasons why Craig slipped is because he had a wrist injury around draft time and he wasn’t able to workout for teams so they didn’t want to take the risk. The funny thing is that I’ve had a similar wrist surgery and the only bad thing about it is that it just takes a long time to get better (3-6 months). Once it’s better though, you are as good as new.

We’re staying in “The Lodge” hotel close to Moline, IL and on the border of Iowa getting ready for our game tonight. Every time we get close to Iowa, Fred Hoiberg always sings the same tune: “Iowa is the best state in the union.” Freddy, I like Iowa too, but I just hope that Iowa State doesn’t have to face Stanford in the NCAA tournament!

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Home game against the Denver Nuggets, but it was a thriller and quick trip to Utah to see my parents and some siblings.

I’m not sure how many of your watched our recent home game against the Denver Nuggets, but it was a thriller. Sometimes I wish the fans could have a microphone implanted in our huddle, so that you can hear the emotion and involvement from all of the players. At a point very late in the game, when things looked the bleakest, newcomer, Justin Reed entered the huddle, and starting clapping and called out, “Keep believing that we can win this game!” I think Justin’s comments gave our team new life, because Trenton Hassell, Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis all made huge plays in the ensuing seconds. Ricky came back to the huddle after his huge steal and jump shot and called out for everyone to hear, “All we have to do is believe!” In the end, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but I was proud of everyone on the team because of how hard we fought.

One of the things I like about Ricky is how hard he plays. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that he wears an undershirt when he is on the court. What you don’t know, is that Ricky is really wearing an assortment of pads on his hips and his back for protection. It’s almost like football pads, but just a lightweight version. He likes to fight through screens and drive the lane with so much momentum, that bigger players are constantly hitting him. Plus when you play above the rim like he does, it’s nice to have some protection for the occasional crash landing. Basketball players have hips that get beat up all the time. It seems like there’s always at least one player on the team with a bruised hip, a hip pointer, or some kind of bursitis.

I made the most of my All-Star break by making a quick trip to Utah to see my parents and some siblings. Then I flew out to Washington D.C., early (our team had a game against the Wizards the Tuesday after the break and we had the option to meet up there) to see my sister and her husband and five kids. It was a lot fun to see my twin nieces. They gave me a gift of some drawings with words that said, “I love my Mad Dog,” with a pink dog surrounded by pink flowers. I think I was supposed to be the pink dog. My sister and brother-in-law came to the game against the Wizards with some longtime friends. After the game, they all loved it when KG came by and took the time to shoot the breeze with them a little bit, even though we had just suffered a tough loss.

The day before the Washington game, I met up with some friends and we saw a lot of the museums in the area. One of my buddies out there has the last name of “Nader” and he is a distant relative of Ralph Nader. We had a good time talking about a few years back when I was with the Lakers and we beat Sacramento in a playoff series. Ralph Nader publicly stated that he wanted an independent commission to look into the officiating of Game 6 of that series which was played at the Staples Center. I guess that meant Ralph was a Kings fan. Phil Jackson, of course, felt differently about the officiating (as did our team and the rest of Los Angeles). It was fun to reminisce about those two personalities, and how for a couple of days, they exchanged friendly/pointed quotes with each other through the media about the issue. The sporting world is a lot of fun and I’m really grateful that I get to be part of it.

Have a great week.

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Trade, Fred Hoiberg, Wally, Dwayne Jones, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nikoloz Tshkosvili Phoenix, Ricky Davis, Justin Reed, Marcus Banks, Target Center
Fred Hoiberg telling me that Wally, Dwayne Jones and Kandi-man just got traded to Boston. Photo: shutterstock.com
Wow!!! Last night I was sitting in my hotel room and the phone rang…….no one ever calls me in my hotel room unless it’s a tricky radio show just trying to see if anyone on our team will answer their hotel phone. All of us players use each others cell phones. It was Fred Hoiberg telling me that Wally, Dwayne Jones and Kandi-man just got traded to Boston! I was shocked. Any time you lose teammates and friends to a trade it’s hard. Today in Shoot-around KG looked at me and said, “Man, it’s a hard day today.” Kevin Garnett was close to both Wally and Michael and he is one person who really values friendships and relationships. I think Kevin is going to miss everybody who got traded.

I stopped by Wally’s hotel room and Michael’s room too. Mike had stepped out for a second to go down to the front desk so I sent him a text. When he texted me back he touched on the fact that our two careers had so many parallels. We both went to college in Northern California then ended up in Los Angeles for a number of years playing for the clippers and the Lakers respectively. Then we spent two plus years together in MN and became great friends. At the end of his text he said, something along the lines of “I’ll jump hook you when I see you next,” meaning, he was going to shoot his jump hook over me. Well if you look at the schedule, I’ll be seeing him really soon!

When I saw Wally in his hotel room he seemed kind of reflective. I know I am going to miss Wally a ton. Wally has given his heart and soul to the Wolves and to the state of Minnesota for almost 7 years. I think it’s hard for him to leave, but at the same time he acknowledged that in this game you can be traded at any time and that is one thing you can’t control. I said to Wally, “So do you and Mike jump on a plane tommorrow and fly to Boston?” Wally laughed and said, “I don’t know.” Wally talked about how he was going to miss everyone and how at the same time he was excited about a new challenge and a new opportunity. I think Wally’s wife Shannon is due to give birth to their second child on Monday!!!

Dwayne Jones is the other part of this equation. Dwayne is a GREAT player who is playing in the developmental league right now with whom I had a really close bond given that we spent a lot of time together in training camp. We lost Nikoloz Tshkosvili as well and I’m going to miss him a lot too. Nikoloz and I used to play a lot of one-on-one before games. I think Phoenix is the perfect fit for Nikoloz as he is very skilled and runs like a deer even though he is 7 feet tall.

When the dust settles I think this trade will be good for everyone involved. Ricky Davis is a great player who is emotional and very tough. I think the Target Center is going to like his style of play. Blount is long, skilled and a great shooter. Marcus Banks gives us yet another option at the point and Justin Reed is a tough, smart player who will be awesome off the bench. Watch for some Ricky Davis highlight reel dunks in the Target center!

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Dwane Casey, NBA, Michael Olowokandi, Eddie Griffin, Kevin Garnett, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Bellanotte, ESPN
Talking about Coach, Teammates, Tv Shows and Other Poeples. Photo: Gil C / Shutterstock.com

We’re almost a third of the way through the season and here are a couple of things I’ve noticed about our team thus far. I believe that Dwane Casey is one of the best defensive teachers in the NBA. The other night against New Orleans/OKC, I looked at the scoreboard towards the end of the third quarter and realized that the Hornets had scored only 36 points to that stage. Part of our defensive success this season, is having three shot blockers on the back line in Michael Olowokandi, Eddie Griffin and Kevin Garnett. Each of them blocks shots using a different method. KG uses his long arms and good positioning, while Kandi has quick feet and uses his height and knowledge of angles to block shots. Eddie has a gift for timing the ball and he is one of the quickest players off the floor. For guys like me and Skita (Nikoloz Tskitishvili), practices in some ways are harder than games because we’re going against three near seven footers every day.

I’ve also noticed that overall we are a pretty close-knit team this season. After one recent game, KG reserved a table for the whole team at Bellanotte and we all went there together for steak and chicken. On more than one occasion the entire team has gotten together for a big meal or something. I’ve been to Bellanotte three or four times this season and I have been to Champps a couple of times too for a burger with friends on my own. It’s great to go out as a team, but the reality is that most nights guys are exhausted and just want to go home and crash or watch ESPN.

We watch ESPN in the locker room too, and sometimes it’s a little surreal when the TV’s on and the anchors start talking about our team. I might be there talking to Wally Szczerbiak or KG and then all of a sudden Sports Center is showing them on the court going to work. Neither of those guys pays too much attention to the media hype that surrounds them and are both pretty down to earth.

Sometimes fans will ask me where I live and if I live alone, etc. When I got to Minnesota I decided to take the big step of buying a house. I chose Eden Prairie because I wanted a quiet spot. I lived by myself in Los Angeles for a little while, but I didn’t like it, so I decided to get some roommates. I chose to go that route here as well. I met both of my roommates through mutual friends, so I knew that they were good guys. They’re probably two of my best friends as well. Having people live with me means that when I’m gone on long road trips, I know the house is going to be fine.

The prior owners of my house were a classy middle-aged couple (we still stay in contact), and they had an amazing artist come in and paint flowers and birds on the walls of the kitchen and the living room. Sometimes when people come over for the first time and see three bachelors living in a house with painted flowers and birds in the kitchen, they wonder if we did it ourselves. I think it naturally catches people off guard a little bit. The honest truth is that I really have come to even like it a little bit. The only other thing that I have considered is painting everything white, which is way too boring. I have no design or artistic ability whatsoever, so that will be one of my projects for the summertime. I need to figure out if I go to a solid blue, black, green or something a little more “in style.”

Have a great week.

– Mark