Tags Posts tagged with "Mitch Kupchak"

Mitch Kupchak

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Ricky Rubio, letter
Ricky Rubio is a Spanish professional basketball player who currently plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA. Photo: shutterstock
Since the day that we selected Ricky Rubio with the 5th pick of the draft I think that we’ve all been very excited about the possibility of him coming over this season. Yesterday I read in the newspaper that there is a chance that he still might come over and play for the Timberwolves this season. So yesterday afternoon I sat down and wrote Ricky an open letter. I’m actually happy that we selected two guards in the top ten picks. Let’s be honest, good point guards are very difficult to find in this league and we have two guards that we are very excited about. And it’s probably accurate that both can play both guard positions. I lived in Spain for two years between high school and college and I figured, a letter to Ricky Rubio can’t hurt! So, Ricky, here is a letter written to you and your family and I would love to have the chance to talk to you soon.

In other news, I spoke to David Kahn today in fact by phone and I came away thinking to myself that here is a guy who is leaving no stone unturned in the coaching search as well as the free agency market. One thing that I can appreciate is honesty and after we talked for a while he mentioned that he would love to have me in the locker room this coming year, but at the same time, given my expiring contract he said that there is a chance that I might be moved. He said that if he did move me, that he would reach out and let me know beforehand. In some ways, when I talked to him, it reminded me of talking to Mitch Kupchak, back from the Laker days in that he was direct, to the point, and very professional. The life of professional sports is uncertainty in that you can be traded, our job is to be ready when called upon. We didn’t talk much about the incoming newly drafted players but we did talk about our style of play for the coming season and he told me that we’re going to be a running team.

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Trenton Hassell, NBA General Manager, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, NBA draft, Mitch Kupchak, Jaron Rush
Trenton Hassell told me that if he was an NBA General Manager he would rather have the 2nd pick in this year’s NBA draft instead of the first pick. Photo: shutterstock.com
Trenton Hassell told me that if he was an NBA General Manager he would rather have the 2nd pick in this year’s NBA draft instead of the first pick. When I asked him why, he said, “Because you can’t go wrong with the 2nd pick….I’d hate to be the GM that had to choose between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.”

When NBA teams are getting ready to make a draft selection, nothing is left to chance. Teams will fly groups of players in to work them out and match them up against each other to see who is toughest and who competes hardest. A lot of teams administer the same written, multiple-choice psychological survey. I must have seen the same survey four times from four different teams. One team (Chicago Bulls) actually brought in a psychologist to administer a whole set of unique tests. One of the sit down interviews in Chicago may have been a type of IQ test. I’m still not sure.

They test your strength in the weight room, your body fat, watch how you interact with the equipment manager and trainers, and seem analyze everything you do and say. Then, a lot of teams will have you sit down with the General Manager for an interview. I still remember my interview for the LA Lakers. “Do you drink?” They asked. “No,” I said. “That’s the first time in years we’ve interviewed two players in a row who both don’t drink,” they replied. The player before me was a UCLA player who has ended up having a very nice professional basketball career.

Mitch Kupchak (Current LA Lakers GM) asked me an interesting question during the interview process. “Who is the best [current] college player you have played against?” I knew right away. “Jaron Rush,” I said. I still think he was the best I played against in college. I ended up playing with his brother Kareem Rush for the Lakers for a year.

Mitch probably got some good information from all the people he interviewed. What better way to try to assess the draft class and future drafts than asking the people who have grown up playing against each other in high school, AAU, pickup games and college games.

Over the course of years, I’ve probably spoken to well over 10 different NBA general managers. I asked one with a pretty nice draft history “How do you know who to draft each year?” His exact words to me were: “It’s a crapshoot.”

Then it clicked. There are just too many unknown variables that are impossible for GM’s to predict. If every GM was perfect, then there’s no way that Kevin Garnett and Kobe would have been selected as low as they were in the draft. There would never be any draft “busts.”

But someone has to make the decision and that’s why the GM’s go to great lengths to get as much information as possible. When Brevin Knight was a senior at Stanford, the rumor circulation around campus was that there was a private investigator going around campus asking questions to verify Brevin’s very high personal character. We were told that for the top 10 projected picks, private investigators came around asking questions.

When they make a great pick, they are hailed as “great talent evaluators.” When they mess up with a pick they are labeled by the media as “out of touch” or “can’t see the obvious.” To the GM who ends up with the 1st pick in this years NBA draft I say “good luck.”

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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.