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.
When I was a rookie with the L.A. Lakers, I remember my teammate Tyrone Lue telling me that in his first year he had been through a lot. I can’t even remember all of the stuff he told me, but it was something like he had been traded, he saw a coach get fired, and in one fell swoop he had an entire new group of teammates through another trade.
Last Tuesday our coach Dwayne Casey got fired. I was sitting in my hotel room in Portland and first a local writer called me on my cell phone to see if I had heard the news that Coach Casey was fired. I told him, “I think it’s a rumor that’s not true.” Then I got two more calls from national writers in the space of about two minutes and I reminded myself that it’s almost never that the journalists get something this big wrong.
Management decided it was time for a new voice to lead our team and so they made the decision to let Dwayne go. It’s always hard when something like that happens for a lot of reasons. First, Dwayne is a great coach and one of the most even keeled leaders I have ever been around. I think that’s one of the reasons why we had so much success in late December and early January. Dwayne led us through the good and the bad times. Coach Casey knew how to draw up great X and O plays especially late in ballgames when the game was on the line. (San Antonio recent win). I think it was tough for management to release Dwayne also, but ultimately, we as players shoulder a lot of the responsibility for the move. If we had gotten the job done better on the court and won more games the firing would not have happened.
At any rate, I know that Dwayne Casey is going to be involved in the game of basketball for a long time because he is a class act in every way and he knows the game of basketball backwards and forwards. Dwayne communicated with every member of our team from Kevin Garnett to the last man on the team and he was always fair.
On another note, we beat the Clippers tonight in a close game. It was a big game for us because we are fighting with L.A. for a playoff birth right now and the race is close. We had so many big contributions from the team. Mike James and KG played very well and Mark Blount hit a huge jumper late in the game. But my personal MVP goes to Ricky Davis tonight who reminded me of Ron Artest in regards to his defense on the Clipper’s perimeter players. After the game, Kevin Garnett grabbed the game ball and brought it into the locker room to give to Coach Wittman. It’s tough to win games in the NBA and now we’ve finally got one under our belt after the turmoil.
Sometimes emotions can flare in close games and that’s what happened in tonights game against the Detroit Pistons at home. Right now I am in pain because Kevin Garnett got ejected and there is some speculation that the league might come forward with a disciplinary action for those of us involved. I still have not seen a replay of the incident and I didn’t see the first part of the tussle because I had my back turned while I was getting up.
When you get a group of 6’10” 260 pound grown men competing hard in games emotions and testosterone can run high with all of us. We were all out there competing and it got a little bit physical and then it was over. It doesn’t make any of it right, but that is the reality of the situation. I am hoping that the NBA chooses to issue fines as a form of discipline for those of us involved instead of any sort of suspensions for the players. KG is the spoon that stirs the pot for our team and Antonio McDyess is an important piece for the Pistons and has been ever since he arrived. I don’t think tonight’s incident was a fight and in my mind, being ejected is punishment enough in terms of lost minutes. Both KG and Antonio McDyess are class guys and in my mind this incident is over.
All of that is out of our control though now, and I think we are all moving on and using the “water under the bridge” expression. I did want to convey to all of you the feeling in our huddle when we knew that we had lost our leader KG for the rest of the game after he got ejected. Everyone that stepped onto the court knew that each had to raise the level of their play to an even higher level. We wanted to win that game badly for Kevin. Mike James and Randy Foye carried us and then we jumped on Mark Blount’s back who had a monster night on the boards and in terms of his offense.
Lastly, after the game the media was asking us all about Ricky Davis. Let me put this issue to rest. There are no issues with Ricky Davis or any sort of incident that is being speculated upon. Rick is a great teammate and a great player and even though he didn’t have his best shooting night, he did a lot of the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He was out there cheering everyone on and giving us feedback when the game was on the line.
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.
Sunday, Coach Casey came into the locker room and said something like, “OK guys we’re going to practice tommorrow.” The locker room went silent….most of the guys were hoping for a day off given how well we’ve been playing as well as how busy our schedule has been. Then he smiled and said “Just kidding….take tommorrow off and stay away from each other!” He was joking but made a good point because we’ve been together so much as a team lately I think he wanted all of us to rejuvenate a little bit and come back on Tuesday mentally refreshed.
Lately, our team has been playing very well. Mark Blount is having an all-star like season this year and has been shooting incredible percentages from the field. Now our opposing teams have to decide how to cope with our frontcourt of KG and Mark Blount along with trying to slow down our perimeter players who are also playing great.
After the Houston game I saw Charlie Ward in the “family and friends” section of the Target Center. Charlie Ward is now Coach Charlie Ward as he is one of Jeff Van Gundy’s top assistant coaches for the . I keep telling charlie that he should still be playing in the NBA as good as a player as he was.
The New NBA Ball Update: Today is honestly one of the happiest days of this NBA season for me. As I was sitting here at my house, not able to sleep because I’m on the late night NBA shedule, (we fly in places in the AM and our games go late into the evening and after getting so wound up for games it’s tough to sleep) I typed in “Billy Hunter” into the Google search engine. It was a few days ago that our Union leader Billy filed a legal action with the NBA over the new nba ball and i wanted to see if there was any update. Billy has done an excellent job of getting the feedback from pretty much every single NBA player in the NBA about this issue, so it’s safe to say that this legal action was almost unanimous.
Well, Google spit out an article from the New York Times where David Stern was quoted as saying: “I won’t make a spirited defense with respect to the ball,” Stern said. “In hindsight, we could have done a better job. I take responsibility for that.” He also added that everything was “under review” and that he was really listening to what the players had to say.
A lot of people might look at the NBA Players Union and say “Why are they complaining so much about a ball?” and “Why did they file a grievance in a court of law over a ball?” The reason is simple. This is not only a game that we love to play but it is our employment. When I compare the old ball to the new ball, it is like comparing Windows XP to the software used on a Commodore 64 over eighteen years ago. If an accountant at Deloitte was given software that did not perform well or was archaic, that accountant would be stupid not to bring it to the attention of the IT department. In essence, that is what we are doing as a union.
I knew all along that David Stern would listen carefully to the feedback of the players. I’ve said it here on this blog before and I’ll say it again: When I first joined the NBA, David Stern gave out his email address to every Rookie at our initiation training and he invited us to email him at any time. I’ve emailed him maybe five times in my career about various things and he has responded every time.
I think what happened was this: Spalding came out w/ a new technology for a synthetic ball. I truly believe that in the Laboratory the synthetic ball tests came back very positive because the NBA would have never switched balls unless there was some sort of empirical data. The problem is that the laboratory cannot produce game like conditions of sweaty palms, etc. A lot of guys have been complaining lately that the New synthetic NBA ball is cutting up their fingertips. Today Trenton Hassell told me that in our locker room. I guess last week Steve Nash was wearing bandages on his fingers from cuts caused by the new ball.
I have huge hands and I can barely palm the new ball when it’s been broken in. When it’s wet there is no chance of me being able to palm it well. The old ball, I could palm with ease and swing it around with one hand. Most big guys in the NBA say that they can’t palm it like the old ball. Mark Blount and Kevin Garnett have pretty much told me the same thing in that it’s just much harder to control with one hand. Even though we don’t dribble the ball as much as guards, we have to go up more inside with one hand and need the control of the leather ball.
Most guards say that the ball doesn’t bounce right or doesn’t go off the backboard right. Dwayne Wade went as far as speaking out in the Miami Sun-Sentinel:
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite Holidays. Last year I had my brother and his wife living in St. Louis Park in Minnesota, but this year they took off to germany for a fellowship as he is a doctor. I’m headed over to Ricky Davis’ house for Turkey day and I’m looking forward to it. I just hope that Ricky isn’t the one cooking the Turkey and the stuffing. He can shoot the three and go to the hole with the best in the world, but I’d never trust him to cook me anything….maybe that’s why he has a full time chef! No, but in seriousness, Ricky is having a lot of us over to his house that don’t have family in the area so we are all grateful for his hospitality. I’ll be sure to let you’all know how the food is!
We beat the Knicks last night, and so many guys on the team played well. Mark Blount had a huge game even though he only played about 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Blount is one of the true professionals in the NBA. He is always at practice early working on his shooting and he stays late with KG to shoot some more. Once again, Craig Smith continues to be a dominant force in the paint. Tonight he had a monster dunk in the second half that reminded me of Charles Barkley. I’m still shocked that we got Craig in the second round. He’s going to have a very long and storied career in the NBA because he is a GREAT player but more importantly he is a great human being.
The thing I’m most grateful for today is for the blessing of family. I’ve got the two greatest parents in the world and nine siblings and we’re all close. Of my six married siblings, there’s sixteen neices and nephews so the things I’m going to miss most today is hanging out with them and messing around playing some games and stuff. At 6pm I’ll be on a flight w/ the rest of the team going down to play against the Oklahoma City Hornets!
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.
I shouldn’t have to get excited about this, but hey, tonight we won a game on the road for the first time in about 13 tries. I thought that Marcus Banks had a great quote to describe our attitude towards this game when he said to the media, “I hope those guys back home [were] watching…Kevin, Ricky, Rashad, Troy….we did it for you.” Before the game we learned that Rashad wouldn’t be suiting up tonight due to a severely sprained ankle. Everyone is a little bit beat up, but Rashad’s ankle was really bad; we hope he can make it back in a few days, but we’ll see. Even Marcus Banks had to get some physical therapy.
I watched our Therapist, Andre DeLoya, pull out an electric hammer and basically hammer all over Marcus’ legs and back to loosen up his sore muscles. Behind the scenes in an NBA locker room is watching a lot of grown men on the training table getting treatment for all kinds of injuries. After the game, Coach Casey looked at Eddie Griffin and said, “Well Eddie, should we have a day off tommorrow in Indiana?” Eddie smiled and gave coach an emphatic “yes”. Eddie Griffin dominated the game tonight in almost every way. It seemed like Houston’s players were afraid to drive into the paint and shoot knowing that Eddie would likely block their shot. It will be nice to be able to sleep in tommorrow. These late night flights can really tire you out.
As pro-athletes, a lot of our time is spent on our back, in bed, in our hotel room watching shows like Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper, FoxNews, etc. In order to be ready for practices and games we have to rest…. a lot…..Tonight on the bus ride from the airport to the hotel in Indiana Mark Blount and Trenton Hassell and a group of us on the bus talked about every major news story from the last couple of days including the 911 call in Detroit and probably every other major news topic that’s been talked about. Mark Blount likes to joke around with the younger players and tell them they are part of “Generation W” and they only care about the latest technology and being up with all the fashions. Mark Blount is a GREAT guy to have on this team and has really emerged into a great leader of this team.
At our game this past weekend against Golden State, we had a pretty big name in the world of sports sitting courtside. Sugar Ray Leonard was in town to do a promotional spot with one of the team’s corporate sponsors. It was cool to see a boxing legend up close. He was a champion at five different weight classes during his 20-year career. That is pretty amazing to be that successful for that long in a very rugged profession. Two of the member’s of the dance team presented him with a personalized Wolves’ jersey during a timeout. He reciprocated by giving each of them a little peck on the cheek.
After the game, Sugar Ray came into our locker room to say hello to Kevin Garnett and the rest of the guys. He told KG that it was his second time he had visited the Twin Cities and said it seemed like a great area. Then Ricky Davis went over to say hello to him. KG introduced Ricky to Sugar Ray and said, “Ray, Ricky’s pretty good with his hands too.” Ray smiled and said, “Are you?” to Ricky and Ricky replied with a simple, “Yeah, I am.” Then Sugar Ray showed us that if he were to box against Ricky, (a taller opponent) he would try to attack his midsection with a series of jabs, rather than going for head shots. Sugar Ray really seemed like a fun guy who was friendly, outgoing and genuine.
When I was talking to Sugar Ray about boxing, he showed me a few moves and told me about how “champions are made.” He said the most important thing as a boxer to be able to take a punch. Then he asked me if it was okay for him to show me a few things to which I said, “Of course.” It was awesome to meet an athlete of that caliber and I think the entire team hopes to see him again down the road.
We have got to face Yao Ming again this week. I enjoy him as a person, as he is one of the real class acts in the NBA. Yao came into the league a few years ago and has really become a dominating force. He is 7’6”. I’m not sure that anyone can fully comprehend his height until you stand right next to him and realize that your neck is totally bent just to look up at him. In preparing for him you just try to tailor a plan to some of his strengths and try to find a way to keep him out of the post.
This season has been a little bit of a roller coaster, but in general I really believe that we are starting to come together. The players we acquired from Boston are really contributing, whether it be as starters or coming off the bench. Marcus Banks was inserted as the starting point guard and we are 3-1 with him in there. Ricky has been just phenomenal scoring 20 or more points every game. Mark Blount has been solid as the starting center and Justin Reed has given us great energy off the bench every night. I truly believe that we are going in the right direction and that we are going to make a push for the division championship and for the playoffs from here on out.