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.