Lakers I Miss: Cedric Ceballos

Kurt —  August 18, 2006

I look back on Cedric Ceballos the way I look back on a couple of crazy ex-girlfriends — when it was good it was exciting and wild, when it went bad it crashed and burned spectacularly.

There was thee 50-point game against the Timberwolves, the start of the 95/96 when he scored 25 for six straight games, the highflying dunks, the explosive offense. There was no defense. And there was the trip to Lake Havasu.

I think most NBA fans remember Ceballos as a Sun — in fact he still works for the team, as the public address announcer. Most of the photos on his Web site are from the Phoenix years. And with good reason, those were good years for him, complete with the spectacular blindfolded dunk that won him the contest in 1992.

But not surprisingly, I picture him from the couple years he wore Laker colors. And, just like those first few months with the crazy girlfriend, his first year or so in Los Angeles were a lot of fun. His first season with the Lakers he shot 39.7% from three point range, had a true shooting percentage of 57% and averaging 21.7 points per game.

It was a fun team with Sedale Threatt, Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Anthony Peeler George Lynch and “Pig” Miller just to name a few.

The next season, 1995-96, the Lakers were a 53-win team with a powerful offense led by Ceballos — those Lakers averaged 111.5 per 100 possessions (compare that to last year’s Lakers rating of 109.8). It was another high-wire act with a lot of dunks and Ceballos seemed to drive the lane more (his TS% climbed to 59%). They finished the fourth seed, but were knocked off by Rudy T’s Houston Rockets in the first round.

That summer Jerry West made two big moves — signing Shaq and drafting a kid straight out of high school named Kobe Bryant. We Laker fans pictured Shaq alongside Ceballos and thought of an unstoppable offensive force.

But instead, a spectacular crash and burn was in store. Ceballos bought a couple new Jet Skis and took his family to Lake Havasu — eight games into the season. He missed a team flight and game against Seattle while being completely AWOL (he did blame mechanical failure for being stuck out on the water, unable to make a flight). Fans and the media were in an uproar.

Within a few days he was gone — traded for Robert Horry. The Lakers still won 56 games that season and the foundation was set for a championship run a couple years later.

Years have softened the edges around Ced for me, I look back at the Lake Havasu incident and laugh the way I kind of fondly look back at how crazy some of my ex-girlfriends were. I kind of enjoyed those days — but I’m glad I moved on and don’t want to go back.

Kurt

Posts

15 responses to Lakers I Miss: Cedric Ceballos

  1. Cedric Ceballos? Good times……good times……..

  2. If I recall he never had any offnesive plays actyually called for him. It was all free lance.

    I also have to bring up that Horry would not have been available if it weren’t for the fact that Danny Ainge was so inept as the Phoenix coach (an 0-13 start) that Horry threw a towel in his face upon exiting a game. A week later he was traded.

  3. Ced is definitely missed. I can’t believe you missed Vlade and the E-Train when talking about Ced’s running mates.

  4. I intentionally left out a the big names like Vlade, but I should have left them in.

  5. I enjoyed watching the Ceballos crew too–

    but then I just like saying the word “Threatt” a lot.

    I do however vaguely remember CC going on the public
    record as being jazzed about Magic’s return to the squad,
    but somehow after that he’d lost some of the spotlight
    played with less enthusiasm and whatever else was going on with him and the Laker org. at the time just got worse.

    I was a Laker tadpole back in the Great Plains then.
    Was there as much ado made by the sports press then
    as in recent times?

    - 5 -

  6. I remember Chick Hearn extolling the virtues of Sedale Threatt going to his left.

    “Threatt to his left!!”

    While far from a complete player, Sedale Threatt may have has the most unstoppable jump shot in NBA history when he was in the zone, going to his left.

    There were a few games where he and Van Exel single-handedly (or should it be double-handedly?) brought them back from the bring of disaster with a barrage of threes. I particularly remember a game against Denver where Sedale and Nick were letting the bombs fly fast and furious, and brought them all the way back in the fourth quarter.

    Yeah, that Sedale/Ced/Peeler/Young Van Exel team was one that the hardcore Lakers fans will always remember. They may not have won the championship, but I always felt they (and Coach Del Harris) despite their deficiencies, never got enough credit for laying the groundwork for the team that eventually won it all in 2000.

    And hey – what about Sam Bowie!??! Imagine if we’d had him in his non-injured prime!!

  7. Lakers I miss:Nick Van Exel.
    cant wait for that post Kurt.
    from a hardcore Laker fan (still a Nick fan) from Japan.

  8. That Sedale/Ced/Peeler/Van Exel team was the one I first remembered watching as a kid. I was too young for the late Magic years. Watching them was when I got hooked on basketball.

  9. Kurt, while we are reminiscing – did we ever get an explanation why Shaq was the only Laker of note, not to attend Chick’s funeral?

  10. If I remeber correctly…Kobe was not drafted by the Lakers…wasnt he part of a draft day trade with Atlanta? For Vlade?

  11. kobe was drafted 13th by charlotte (actually he was really hand picked by the lakers) Kobe went on record before the draft that he would only play for the lakers. So GM west asked charlotte to pick him and gave vlade in return. Just goes to show how much he wanted to be a Laker!

  12. “Kobe went on record before the draft that he would only play for the lakers. ”

    LOL. This isn’t the NFL…

  13. Chris J. (Las Vegas) August 23, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    I was living in New York for about six months at the start of the 94-95 season. James Worthy – still my favorite Laker ever – retired right before the season and I remembered thinking that the team was really in need of a good three.

    When a guy I worked with as an intern at Madison Square Garden told me the Lakers had traded for Ceballos, I never blew a vein. Another Jerry West stroke of genius.

    That 94-95 team didn’t win a title, but it still ranks among my favorite squads of all-time, and I’m aold enough to remember the Showtime Era.

    “The Lake Show” was just fun to watch. Ceballos and Nick Van Exel were great scorers with personality; Eddie Jones was a highlight reel as a rookie; Anthony Peeler had a great stroke; Sedale Threatt was always exciting; and then there was Vlade doing his thing in the middle.

    I guess the thing that made that team so enjoyable was the fact that they came out of nowhere to be a threat in the west. The Lakers had missed the playoffs for the first time in years in 93-94, and people said the dynasty was over. Then this young team came along, won its first round series over the Sonics and damn near beat the favored Spurs in round 2. Who can forget the bomb Nick hit to shut up the Alamodome in game five? Had Vlade not blown two free throws late in another game, maybe the Lakers would have moved on to play the Rockets in the Western finals…

    By the next season, the newness was off and people took the Lakers seriously before the season devolved into the “Magic comeback” and first-round loss to the Rockets. While that 95-96 team paved the way for the Shaq-Kobe era, no team from this decade was as fun to watch as the 94-95 Lakers. The only thing that even came close was their 15-1 run in the 2001 playoffs.

  14. Chris J. (Las Vegas) August 23, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    The above post should have read “nearly blew a vein.”

  15. Actually, the only other team Kobe worked out for was the Nets who were then coached by John Calipari. West tried to trade Vlade to the Nets for their 8th pick, but the Nets declined. Kobe’s agent Arn Tellem then called the Nets to tell them that Kobe only wanted to play for the Lakers. Claipari wanted to call Kobe’s bluff and draft him anyway, but GM Nash decided that the risk was too big and drafted Kerry Kittles with the pick.

    Once the trade of Vlade to the Nets was nixed, Tellem didn’t allow any other teams who were picking between 8 and 13 to work out Kobe. And no team is going to draft a player that they can’t work out.