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.
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 watched the Lakers vs. Suns first round playoff series faithfully and thought it was one of the best first round matchups in recent history. I was extra interested given that I used to play for the Lakers and since two of my high school teammates played college basketball with Steve Nash at Santa Clara University. Kevin Dunne and Randy Winn were seniors when I was a sophomore at San Ramon Valley High School. The next year I watched them a lot at Santa Clara where along with Steve Nash they all helped Santa Clara’s team to several years of greatness and some amazing upsets. I would have never thought at that time that I was watching one of the greatest point guards who would ever play in the NBA. It is amazing what hard work and perserverance can do and how Steve Nash’s passing and shooting ability has changed the fortunes of an entire NBA franchise.
It was also great to see a couple of old friends play for the Lakers. Notably, it was a lot of fun to watch Kobe Bryant, Devean George, and Luke Walton make big plays for the Lakers and almost pull off a huge first round upset. Kobe Bryant never ceases to amaze me. Amost everywhere I go, people ask me what it was like to play with Kobe Bryant. Random people I have never met ask me the question. I thought that now would be a good time to talk about my interactions with Kobe on and off the court. When I first got to LA, I remember meeting Kobe in the training room. Kobe was there with his personal trainer and the first thing I thought in my mind is “Wow, Kobe must really be 6’7″!” You never really know how tall people are until you’re next to them. Shaq is definitely 7’1″ and Kevin Garnett is definitely taller than 6’11”. Kobe is easily 6’7″ and it’s crazy because I play center in the NBA sometimes and I’m about 6’8″ and Kobe can play point guard and he’s basically the same height. The first year I was there, I can’t tell you how many times I came into the game and Kobe tried to get me a dunk or a wide open layup to help me build some confidence. One time after a tough game at Memphis he invited me to meet up with him and his high school buddy for a steak dinner. Another time he stayed around after a game to meet up with the ten year old daughter of a buddy of mine for an autograph and a photo. Still another time when I was upset about a certain on-court team issue, Kobe took the time to listen to everything I was going through and tried to help the situation. Kobe Bryant went out of his way a lot when I was just figuring out what it was like to play in the NBA.
I felt badly after the game 7 loss that some members of the media tried to criticize Kobe for not shooting enough in the loss to the Suns. It’s extra interesting to me, because I watched that game very closely and analyzed the Suns’ defensive schemes against Kobe. In the first half it seemed like Suns threw a “soft double team” at Kobe whereas in the second half they trapped Kobe aggresively with two men and forced him to throw the ball out of the double team. I actually thought that Kobe was doing a good job of trying to hit his open teammates but their shots weren’t falling. I guess if you are Kobe Bryant and you get 81 points you get criticized for shooting too much and if you only score 20-25 points then people say you are not shooting enough. I thoroughly enjoyed the series and watching my old teammate Kobe play so well. I think that the Lakers are back on the map. I hope I get to see Deaven George this summer in Minnesota and maybe I’ll see Luke Walton at some Pac-10 reunion. (We never really had the Answer for Arizona basketball when I was at Stanford). At any rate, I still hope we go 4-0 against the Lakers next season and 4-0 against the Suns.
Trenton Hassell Saves the Day Last Thursday, the day after our loss to Memphis, we had to report to the Tria Medical Center in Bloomington for our end-of-season physicals. It was probably the last time our entire team will be together until next fall. Trenton Hassell came to the 7:30 AM physicals and he was talking about how he was bummed out because he had to cut off his dream he was having that morning. When we asked him about the dream he said that in the dream he was on a plane that had been hijacked and he was in the middle of “saving everyone on the flight” when the alarm clock sounded. He’d be the right guy though in a situation like that–I can tell you that for sure.
Today I decided it was time to do some long distance running so I went over to Lake Calhoun to see if I could run the entire lake. I did some sprinting and walking and finally finished running two thirds of the lake at a good pace. I was shocked at how many people were out there running and rollerblading. It was awesome to be out there doing something normal during the summer time. I’m glad to be here in MN for some of the warm months too. I really love it out here. If any of you readers are ever at the lake be sure to say hello. I’ll be the tall guy running on the dirt path getting passed by all of the marathon runner people with the heart rate monitors on. Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll be one of those people and I’ll be going fast like them too. I’ll head to Nebraska soon to see my sister and her husband and four kids and then out west for a while, but I’m really looking forward to doing my kids basketball camp in Champlin in late June at Champlin High School.
I think the question the media and fans ask the most is “does KG want to stay in Minnesota” and “How is KG doing?” Most of the questions I get from people are related to Kevin. Well, let me address both of those questions by saying that of all the teammates I’ve had, Kevin is one of the guys who always is going to speak from his heart whether he’s talking to us behind closed doors or whether he’s talking to reporters. So whatever he says to the media is a pretty accurate portrayal of what he’s thinking about because he’s upfront about things. I know that towards the end of the season he took some time to himself to focus on training and having a little bit of privacy, but the answer that I give people is to just let Kevin have a normal few months free from worrying about all this stuff. Until then, I think that he’s taking some much deserved time to spend with his loved ones and friends. Personally I think that there are a lot of national media members that like to stir up the pot and try to put words into the mouth of KG. Of course fans and media people in NYC, Chicago and L.A. are going to fill message boards and chat rooms with rumors about KG going each place because those markets would love to have him. Personally, I think that the mojave desert would freeze over for ten years straight before Mr. Taylor would trade Kevin Garnett. There is no trade that would give MN equal value for Kevin.
Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls
Just a little while ago I was watching the playoffs on TV. I have to admit that it’s very tough to watch other teams still playing. Two nights ago, I got so frustrated that I called one of my friends and we went up to Flagship Athletic Club in Eden Prairie where he rebounded for me to help me work on my jump shot/set shot. But tonight I was able to see what was going on in the Bulls/Heat series. At halftime, Craig Sager highlighted the fact that In the first twelve posessions of the game, Shaq only touched the ball twice for the Miami Heat. That was the reason why they lost the game tonight. They never got Shaq involved. I still remember game seven against the Sacramento Kings a few years ago when I was with the Lakers. Before the game, Shaquile told everyone in the huddle to find him and to “give him the ball.” When you are the big man like shaq it is tough to watch your teammates hoist up a lot of threes without getting to touch the ball a lot. Sometimes he’d come to the huddle in LA and say, “Fellas, just let me touch it.” When we got him the ball it opened things up for everyone. If the Miami Heat will give Shaq more touches it will open everything else up for the rest of the team and Antoine Walker will be knocking down threes and Jayson Williams and Gary Payton will have a field day. If not, it’s going to be the Chicago Bulls getting long rebounds and turning the series into the proverbial “track meet” with all the runners they have on their team.
Let’s start off by taking a look at the statement issued by Kenyon Martin. It’s refreshing when someone like Kenyon immediately comes out and apologizes for whatever happened. To me that shows he’s a man.
“First and foremost, I want to apologize to my teammates and coaching staff for my actions on Monday night,” Martin said in his statement. “There is nothing more important to me than being a good teammate and giving 110 per cent effort each and every day. Nothing will ever change that. I sincerely regret if this situation has been a distraction for the team, (Nuggets owner) Mr. Kroenke and the Denver Nuggets organization,” Martin said. “I take the responsibility of representing the Denver Nuggets very seriously and I truly hope that Nuggets fans understand that.”
I know Kenyon Martin as an opponent, but more importantly I know Kenyon as a friend. This man is warrior and a GREAT basketball player. He may be the quickest big man in the nba and one of the smartest players in the association. I roomed with Kenyon Martin on a World University Games USA college team and this man is a class act. I feel badly for what Kenyon is going through right now and I think his immediate statement that he issued shows he is very contrite. I also saw George Karl’s interview on SportsCenter and Coach Karl seemed to really show that he felt for what Kenyon was going through and seemed to express empathy for the tough knee injury that Kenyon has been fighting through.
As I’m sitting here watching the Denver/Clippers game the commentators are saying that Kenyon wants to talk to Coach Karl about the incident but Coach Karl does not want to talk about it right now with Kenyon because it’s the playoffs and it’s a busy/stressful time. Who knows if they really know what’s going on or not but having been through the playoffs I kind of understand where both sides are coming from. I remember two years ago Kevin Garnett telling Ndui Ebi something like “Just get prepared because things in this locker room are about to get really intense during the playoffs and just know that nothing said in this room is personal even though it might seem like a hostile place.”
Now, I wasn’t there for whatever incident took place, but the sooner the Denver staff can meet with Kenyon and the sooner they can crush whatever happened in the “incident” the sooner they will get one of the best players in the league back on the court as a contributor and a dominant force.
The flight today to Memphis wasn’t the same without Anthony Carter, Ricky Davis and Kevin Garnett in their usual seats on the plane. All three of them stayed back to get physical therapy treatments on their injuries.
It’s the first time I’ve ever gone on a road trip without KG. But we did add an old friend to the group in Bracey Wright who led the entire NBA Developmental League in scoring. Coach Casey called Bracey up yesterday and he practiced with the team today. Fred Hoiberg and I walked around the mall here in Memphis for a little while and shot the breeze and we also met up with some team members for dinner. Even though we’re not at full strength everyone is still treating each game like a playoff type of game.