Luck be a Laker

Gatinho —  May 27, 2006

A Time for Reflection: Past drafts may conjure up images of Sam Bowie and broken legs, Len Bias and broken dreams, or more recently Darko Milicic and broken chains. Laker fans specifically have spent plenty of time either thinking about, or avoiding thinking about, Kupchak era draft picks. But the draft is almost always ultimately about regret and a few of the names that were picked after guys named Cook and Vujacic may elicit a cringe or two. But let’s harken back to a time when luck, most of it dumb, ruled the drafting process…

The Lakers first round pick of 1965: Gail Goodrich lurked in the shadows his first two years as a Laker. He would eventually be snatched by the Suns in the 1968 expansion draft only to be traded back to the Lakers in time to be a part of the drought breaking ’72 team.

After a contract dispute with the notoriously strong headed Jack Kent Cooke, he would leave the club in 1976 as a free agent. In compensation for signing away Goodrich, the Lakers would receive from the newly moved and now awkwardly named Utah Jazz, three draft picks, one of which would be their 1976 first round pick.

Letting Goodrich go was highly criticized. That criticism would be unfounded when, after finishing with the worst record in the league, the Jazz pick would end up being the Lakers’ first of two opportunities at the number one overall pick.

Following one more case of luck being a Laker, a coin toss that the Chicago Bulls lost, the club would sign a player whose national introduction is (or should be) etched into our collective psyche…

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to know this man has a smile that lights up a television screen from here to Bangor, Maine.”

From My Life, Earvin “Magic” Johnson:

“Before Buss bought the team, Cooke told him the Lakers’ management had recommended drafting Sidney Moncrief… No way, said Buss. Magic Johnson’s the guy or the deal’s off.”

Ted Stepien and the James Worthy Rule: Okay, so it’s really called the Ted Stepien Rule… In 1980 the Lakers traded Don Ford to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of one of many disastrous moves by Stepien.

Ford would end up playing in only 85 games over the next two years and that pick would turn into Hall of Famer “Big Game” James Worthy. The first, last, and only time that a reigning NBA champ would have the top pick in the following year’s draft.

Stepien would end up operating with such abandonment that the NBA took away the ability for him to make trades without the league’s specific direction and approval. The Gund brothers, who bought the Cavs in 1983, would only follow through with the transaction after the NBA promised to give them supplemental first round picks to replace those that Stepien had traded away.

None of this would happen in the here and now. GM’s are now backed by a slew of assistants, and all first round picks are lottery protected. The aptly nicknamed Ted Stepien rule states that teams can not trade first round picks in consecutive years and every team must have at least one pick in the two rounds of the draft.

In effect, we will never see a traded first round pick end up being the numero uno. It happened to the Lakers twice, and because common sense and league rules now dictate the process, it will never happen again.

Four coaches in one season: Stepien’s ineptitude was highlighted in 1982 when he hired and fired four different coaches in one season. The first of those coaches was Chuck Daly, who he fired after 41 games and replaced with Bill Musselman, Eric’s father.

Sacramento has interviewed Eric for their open position, and he’s comes with the endorsement of Daly who has called him a “basketball genius.”

Warrior fans may begrudgingly agree…

Yesterday in 1987 : Bird steals the ball from the new model Ted Stepien on the inbounds pass to abscond with game 5 and the series, setting up another and the last of the great Celtics-Lakers Finals.

“You expect to lose on a sky-hook,” Bird said with a pained smile. “You don’t expect it to be from Magic.”

Speculating amidst speculation: Alexander Johnson

The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken: Draft Express seems to have the market cornered on throwing bones to starving dogs whether they be fans, agents, players, GM’s… It was reported that Tyrus Thomas’ people shut them out of a workout because they had him listed seventh in one of their mock drafts.