Here is Part 2 of Forum Blue & Gold’s interview with Lakers sideline reporter, Mike Trudell. Trudell also has his Twitter account at @LakersReporter and does a lot of work (writing/podcasting) for Lakers.com. If you missed Part 1, you can go here.
In this part, we talked about the Lakers’ summer and the different personalities of the roster.
FORUM BLUE & GOLD: Let’s talk about the Lakers. Were you surprised with the Steve Nash acquisition or were you saying, “It was Mitch being Mitch. Of course, he’d pull off that deal!”
MIKE TRUDELL: It’s a little bit of both. I remember my first year traveling on the team plane in 2008-09, when there were some questions about how the team would fit, if it were enough to win, what would happen when Kobe (Bryant) eventually retired and so on even though the team seemed like title favorites. My thinking was: “Just look at the history of the Lakers. They always get the best players. Why would that change?” And I think that’s what we saw in Mitch Kupchak’s press conference with Nash. He was asked if he were surprised to be able to acquire the two-time MVP, and in one sense it was certainly a surprise just because of L.A.’s lack of the type of assets other teams were offering for Nash and it was with a division rival in Phoenix. But in terms of getting great players, it was no surprise at all; that’s what the Lakers always do. So Kupchak said something like, “You know, people wanna play here. We’re the Lakers.” It’s a great city. It’s the best fan base. There’s a gravitas to playing at Staples Center that opposing players always talk about. Moves like that are how Dr. Buss and his son Jim alongside Kupchak operate.
FB&G: What about Dwight Howard? Did that deal seem inevitable?
MT: I wouldn’t use the word ‘inevitable,’ but that one did seem more likely based on what Orlando was looking to do. The whole “whether or not Dwight wanted to come/ stay to/in L.A.” was way overblown, however. I thought that was the kind of thing that would take care of itself once he got to the city. As he said during his press conference, he was walking around (in L.A. doing his back rehab this summer) and talking to people on the streets. He experienced the pleasures of the city – the warmth without humidity, the tons of places to eat and things to do and so on – and said he was influenced by all of the Lakers fans constantly telling him they wanted him to come to Los Angeles. I think a lot of the people around the organization recognize that any player who comes to L.A. and plays for the Lakers wants to stay, and we’ve seen that historically. Now, the basketball reasons on why it wasn’t a surprise ramped up when Brooklyn maxed out Brook Lopez, and Andrew Bynum remained the biggest trade piece to be used to acquire Howard.
FB&G: People are always curious about Mr. Kobe Bryant, #24. You’ve talked to him plenty of times. What is something about him that the general audience doesn’t know about yet?
MT: The Kobe that I’ve observed is constantly cracking jokes around the practice facility and at arenas around the league with his teammates on one hand, and doing a lot of teaching with younger players on the other. There’s still this perception of him as such a killer and that’s certainly true on the court, but when you talk to the guys at the end of L.A.’s bench, they speak about Kobe like he’s the coolest big brother of all–time. That might surprise some people who think he’s in there cracking the whip and yelling and screaming every time Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock doesn’t pass him the ball at practice. If you talk to Morris, for example, he speaks in reverential tones of the knowledge about the game that Kobe hands down, sharing his weight lifting and nutritional routines and, more than anything else, his basketball knowledge. Bryant is very free and willing about that with teammates.
The second thing that I’ve noticed most about Kobe is that he’s very, very coachable if he thinks you have something to tell him. You would think he knows everything about basketball at this point, but he spent a lot of time with certain coaches last year as well as the training staff towards developing new methods in training his body. He really has this kind of insatiable, maniacal desire to continue to get better. That’s something I’ve always found interesting. He’s like a sponge when he actually believes somebody can help him. Finally, I try to talk to him about anything but basketball when there’s a moment just as a refresher – music and soccer are the most common topics.
FB&G: You said funny. Is he the funniest guy on the team? Or is someone else the main prankster of the team?
MT: Once Lamar Odom left, Kobe climbed up a bit. L.O. was more of the guy that was always funny and engaging and kept everybody loose. Kobe’s humor is more like what a senior captain would say to the new freshmen on the team. It’s a little bit more direct and cutting. Like the Jeff Ross-type of biting humor.
But the funniest guy on the team? We’re going to have wait and see come October when the new guys arrive, but I happen to think that Nash is actually really clever and funny. He’s such a nice guy that I doubt he cracks jokes at the expense of his teammates, but I’m gonna put him as the early favorite for actually coming up with things that would overtly make me laugh.
FB&G: That seems like a tough one. There’s Dwight Howard on the team who seems like a pretty funny guy and we all know about Ron/Metta. This is going to be a tough one to decide, I’m guessing.
MT: Metta World Peace always makes me laugh. I do think that he’s funny. But I just wrote a piece the other day on how Metta takes better care of his body than almost anybody, including from a nutritional standpoint. He even will bring the type of food that he knows he can eat on the road, in case he can’t buy it there. He’ll walk around the locker room with his huge bowl of weird nuts and different proteins. And his body fat is lower than almost anybody’s, especially for how large he is.
FB&G: Favorite interview so far that you’ve had over the years?
MT: My first couple of months on the job, I did a sit-down piece with Odom on camera for Lakers.com that was memorable because he’s so naturally easy to talk to and funny without trying. We discussed which receivers he would have on his team if he were an NFL quarterback, he refused to admit the cut off sweats he wore in practice were capri pants and so on.
The most interesting player to speak with intellectually is either Kobe or Pau Gasol, though I’ve had more chances to sit down with the Spaniard. There have been several interviews in which we end up talking about music, food, culture, the difference between how people are in Madrid and Barcelona, French Philosophy, and, always, soccer (I’m a big fan of his hometown club, F.C. Barcelona). Pau is an extremely bright guy, so he’s always great to speak with.
FB&G: Do you think about doing something else after being the Lakers sideline reporter? Maybe play-by-play, color commentary, or even a studio analyst?
MT: I really try to focus on my immediate jobs, which keep me plenty busy between Lakers.com and now sideline TV for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, so I don’t really think about that. I try to just think about being as prepared as I can because Lakers fans are very smart and unforgiving. You have to be able to give them accurate and good information. To be thinking about other career paths for anything else is perhaps a disservice, especially when I am so happy with the position I’m in right now.
FB&G: I mean, it’s a pretty cool job, right?
MT: Yes, it is. I’m very fortunate.
(And as a bonus, Trudell told us one of his road trip stories.)
MT: My first year (2008-09), the team flew to Oklahoma City at the start of a road trip. Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton wanted to play X-Box but Farmar had forgotten his at home. So he and Walton took a cab to a Best Buy, and came back to the hotel with a new X-Box and a couple of games. When we got back to L.A. at the end of the trip, Farmar told me he already had two X-Box’s at home, and asked me if I wanted the one he just bought. I didn’t have to think very long about that one.
The only catch was that, at times, he would want me to bring it on certain trips as a back up. FIFA soccer was the go-to game at that point and it’s usually him, Walton, Adam Morrison, and Odom playing two-on-two. I played the most with Morrison, who was amazing at it, incidentally. Most NBA players are really just normal dudes who you’d like to be around and hang out with … they just happen to be great at a sport.
We’d like to thank Mike Trudell for his time and this incredible interview. We’d also like to thank John Black, director of Lakers’ public relations and spokesman, for granting us this interview with Mr. Trudell. Once again, you can catch Trudell doing the sidelines for Laker games this upcoming season at Time Warner Cable. Don’t forget to check his work at Lakers.com and Twitter account at @LakersReporter.