Archives For September 2012

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  September 19, 2012

Lakers training camp countdown is now under the two week mark. Informal workouts have already begun in El Segundo and they’ll no doubt blend seamlessly into an all-important transitional phase. With new faces, a new offensive blend and great expectations, the fishbowl parade will be at full media strength. This is nothing new for the Lakers, always at or near the top in league coverage and debate. The arrival of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard fuels the speculation of course, and brings a further sense of conflict for fan bases. The first article below offers an especially interesting take on loyalty and mixed feelings:

Hardwood Paroxysm has a Danny Chau piece about Steve Nash and the Lakers, and the conflict of idolizing the player and not the team.

Brent Koremenos at Hoopspeak writes about what Dwight Howard can learn from Gustavo Ayon.

Arash Markazi at ESPN Los Angeles compares Dwight Howard to past Lakers greats.

Derek Fisher was spotted at an informal Lakers workout in El Segundo yesterday. Ryan Ward at Lakers Nation has the report, noting that a reunion would be highly improbable.

Adam Morrison’s long road back has led to a training camp invite from the Portland Trailblazers. Sam Amick writes about it for SI.

Ben Bolch at the LA Times examines the upcoming NBA tax system, a luxury that the Lakers may not be able to afford.

Jeff Miller at the OC Register notes that Scott Brooks isn’t about to give anything but diplomacy away.

***

The Lakers roster currently stands at 18, including the four non-guaranteed rookie contracts. There may be more as the October 2 camp date approaches. It’s always interesting to handicap the depth chart but I doubt we get any resolution until well into the regular season. It’s about the end game, and the journey there will be epic.

– Dave Murphy

The Other Guys

J.M. Poulard —  September 18, 2012

Professional sports are fun and yet so tricky given all of the never ending debates that stem from them. Indeed, arguments usually come in the form of “Kobe or Magic is better than so and so because…”and from there others chime in and add fuel to the fire by adding or simply refuting points with in depth analysis; or perhaps outlandish statements.

The juiciest ammunition that fans and media members alike love to use when comparing greats is the amount of championships won by the players being compared. It’s one way to go about hammering a point home, but not necessarily the best.

Why?

Because simply comparing the amount of titles between two great players from different eras or even perhaps the same completely trivializes the contributions of role players.

And make no mistake, they matter. If evidence is needed, think back to the 2012 NBA Finals, where players such as Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Mike Miller all played a huge part in the Heat winning the title.

Far too often, we throw a lot of praise and admiration at the feet of superstars and fail to recognize just how important the “other guys” are…

Until today.

The Forum Blue and Gold staff went back and looked at every role player in the history of the Lakers’ franchise and voted for all of them in order to rank the 10 best role players in the rich history of the franchise.

Mind you, before we could get to voting, it was important that we decide early on what we meant by role player. For instance, in the eyes of some, Pau Gasol and Jamal Wilkes could fit the description of one, while others might completely disagree. So we figured, anyone that could potentially make the list of top 20 Lakers ever had to absolutely be off the list of role players. So guys like Worthy, Goodrich, Gasol and the like had no shot of making our rankings.

With that idea firmly entrenched, we voted and came up with a list of 10 role players that we felt were the best at being just that during their time with Lakers franchise.

Before beginning the countdown, let’s quickly run through the players that almost made the cut and thus can be cited as being honorable mention: Mychal Thompson, Nick Van Exel, Metta World Peace, Glen Rice, Brian Shaw, Vlade Divac and Happy Hairston.

And thus our countdown begins…

10. A.C. Green

A.C. Green joined the Los Angeles Lakers as a rookie and played just a shade under 19 minutes per game and came off the bench to give the team some rebounding and frontcourt versatility. Indeed, the 6’9’’ power forward could run the floor, defend in open space as well as on the interior and finish around the basket when given opportunities.

It wasn’t long before Green was starting for the Lakers in his second season (1986-87 season) at power forward on the greatest Los Angeles Lakers team in franchise history. On a team with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper, it’s easy to take Green for granted but truthfully he was essential to the team’s success.

Green’s contributions may not have stood out given that they did not come in the form of scoring or gaudy rebounding figures, but his defense was a big part of what made the Lakers — an offensive juggernaut — a team capable of getting key stops and speed up the tempo to run the opponent off the floor.

The Oregon State product had quick feet for his size and thus could do two things that most modern NBA big men struggle to do today: defend pick-and-rolls by hedging or even switching onto smaller defenders and deter them from going to the basket; and defend areas of the court in a half-court trap.

Pat Riley employed a zone trap that he loved to use to force opposing teams to use all of the shot clock, but also to change the dynamic of the offense of his opponent given that some teams occasionally got excited and rushed their possessions and took low percentage shots or simply turned the ball over, which fed the Showtime fast break.

Consequently, whenever Kareem went to the bench, Riley loved to employ his zone trap with Green playing a prominent role in it given that he was an effective helper in the scheme, but also because he recovered and defended most positions should the trap get broken and players had to scatter back to defend whichever man was open.

With Green on board, the Lakers won two NBA titles and made three NBA Finals appearances in the Magic Johnson era.

After the superstar guard retired, Green eventually left the Lakers a couple of seasons later but then returned at age 36 for one final run with the purple and gold. During the 1999-00 season, the 6’9’’ big man split time with Robert Horry at the power forward position and defended arguably the deepest position in the Western Conference  — Chris Webber, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone and Kevin Garnett all played at high level in the conference that season — and found ways to make it work.

A.C. Green was still a solid rebounder although he was less athletic and couldn’t cover as much ground defensively as he had done prior. Nonetheless, his contributions on defense as well as his ability to blend into the triple-post offense helped the Los Angeles Lakers win the first of many titles in the Shaquille O’Neal era.

Consider this: A.C. Green was part of championship teams with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson and then later on with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

And yet, perhaps the most impressive tidbit about the Oregon State product’s stint with the Lakers is that he only played nine seasons total with the franchise and yet shows up in the team’s record books because he suited up for almost every Lakers game. Indeed, in his time in L.A., he missed a total of three games. That’s it.

Consequently, he is 10th all time in franchise history in games played (735 games), 10th in steals (657 steals), eighth in total rebounds (5,632 total rebounds), sixth in defensive rebounds (3,543 defensive rebounds) and second in offensive rebounds (2,089 offensive rebounds).

A.C. Green never came close to being an NBA superstar, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, he played his part as a defender and occasional offensive contributor and helped the Lakers win three titles because he helped complete the championship puzzle.

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.

You guys may know Mike Trudell. He has been on Lakers.com for the last few years and was the sideline reporter of Laker road games for local L.A.’s K-CAL (Channel 9) last year. You probably also know him as @LakersReporter on Twitter. This year, he has signed up to be the sideline reporter for the Laker games at Time Warner Cable. We caught up with him yesterday and touched on a variety of topics.

This is Part 1 of our interview with Mr. Trudell. We talk about his current gigs and what goes on behind the scenes of his job. Enjoy!

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: First off, congrats on the new deal with Time Warner Sports. How long have you been working for the Lakers?

MIKE TRUDELL: This will be my fifth season. I was “traded” (ED’s note: Acquired his rights.) from the Timberwolves to the Lakers prior to the 2008-09 season. Little-known fact: the Timberwolves have yet to beat the Lakers since I came over here. I think it may have a little bit more to do with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol than me. I wanna say it’s 19 consecutive games.

FB&G: Were you a Lakers fan growing up? Or were you a Timberwolves fan growing up?

MT: I was born in 1981 and the Timberwolves were not in existence for like ten years. So I actually grew up as a Bulls fan. The Bulls were on WGN, at a time which came in on basic TV and no cable. I got hooked on Jordan at a very early age. I didn’t have the pleasure of watching much Showtime other than when they played the Bulls. There weren’t really as many national games; NBC had ‘em for a time and I would watch the Finals. So I grew up as a Bulls fan then I converted over to the Timberwolves once they started. Kevin McHale did color and Kevin Harlan did play-by-play; that was kinda the first time I really got into broadcasting. I was not a Lakers fan.

Right now, since I’ve been covering the league professionally, I don’t really consider myself a fan as much as any team but, certainly, my life is a lot better when the Lakers win. Just easier to cover, more people are happy, and everything is better with winning.

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan; I try to observe the fans, though. That’s really where I keep my role. You’re always gonna have teams that you root for. But you just try to keep it out of your coverage. I do like it when the Lakers do well; I just try not to root for them so much as cover them.

FB&G: Some people think that sideline reporting is easy. I don’t think it is at all. So what goes into your preparation for this job?

MT: It’s certainly not easy. It’s kind of a specific skill. And the way that I approach it is to be overprepared with information because, during the course of the game, you never know what might happen and what you’re gonna be called upon to do. The day before the game, I’ll send a lengthy E-Mail to the producer of the broadcast that highlights anywhere from 10 to 20 stories that I might be able to touch on if they come up.

Let’s say Kobe is about to score his 30,000th point, then I’ll have a good paragraph of stuff… about what the significance is, etc. Let’s say I spoke to Pau Gasol in the locker room the day before and got information on where he wanted to receive the ball that he wasn’t the previous couple of games… that would be a storyline. And so on and so forth. Or I’ll talk to one of the players about what music they were listening to and try to work that into the broadcast during a dull spot of the game if the Lakers are up or down 20. I’ll have a whole list of stuff that I can go to that the producer’s at least aware of so once the game starts happening, I can tap into my mic and say, “Hey, Mark. Kobe’s on the free throw line. I have a story on this.” It really happens that quickly. That’s one way to describe it. But you also have to be completely prepared. Like if somebody gets hurt, you have to be able to go over and know enough information in advance to relay it on the spot. It’s kinda like preparing for a test. You have all the information that you feel like you’re ready to get out to but you also have to know the stuff just well enough to be able to freelance on what ever might come up.

FB&G: It sounds like a very exhausting job. Has something gone wrong yet on your sideline reporting? I’ve watched nearly every Laker game and I haven’t seen anything gone wrong but is there something that I missed that has gone wrong in your reporting?

MT: I was very fortunate not to have any super obvious on-air screw-ups (where I said something wrong). But there are tons of moments you don’t see as a viewer of stuff going wrong. Most often for me was on the technical side. At one point where they tried to go down to me at Detroit, but my mic didn’t go on. So that’ll happen at times. I have an earpiece that has a direct channel to Billy Mac (Bill MacDonald) and Stu (Lantz)… and the broadcast is coming in my ear. At the same time, the producer has an “INTERRUPT” button so if he wants to talk to me, he can press that button and his voice will come over the broadcast. So I’ll be watching and listening and the producer will say, “Trudell, do you have something on this?” I’ll have to keep it in line with what’s going on at the game and, also, throw something back to the producer. Then they want me to go on in 10 seconds. Generally speaking, every single NBA arena has a team that they hire; they have two guys specifically working on audio. There’s the camera guy so there’s all these crazy moving parts and you sorta have to keep track of, in addition to knowing what’s going on in the court and the broadcast. You can’t ignore what Kobe did in his previous possession. It’s challenging but it’s fun. It’s just like a whole other game.

FB&G: So, at least, that brings to light on how difficult your job really is.

MT: It could be difficult, I suppose. But, sometimes, the challenges (also involve) doing the Lakers.com job and the tweeting. I’ll tweet something but then I have to be sure I’m not forgetting about the fact that I could be on air any moment. I know that (one hit, for example) will be right before the second half starts so I have something prepared for that. But I might be waiting there for the commercial to end and I could be tweeting something from my phone and writing up the diary. I enjoy (the whole process), though. I’m very, very fortunate to have the chance to do it.


We’ll run Part 2 of the interview tomorrow. In that part, we talked about the Lakers (of course!). Thanks for reading!

(I was on here as R.R. Magellan, the guy that usually does the goofy game recaps on here. But from now on, I will go by my real name as Rey Moralde. So please note the change. Thanks.)

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  September 14, 2012

In a scene reminiscent of the classic Generalissimo Franco SNL skit, the Dwight Howard back saga has become a running narrative that can be plugged in at will from now until whenever he suits up for his first game as a Laker. I won’t mention anything else about his rehab progressing on schedule at this time, as it is not prudent to fully exhaust one’s journalistic resources too early in the game. And personally, I’m totally fine with the casual nature of this. The NBA media has an army of operatives whose primary focus is the 24-hour news cycle. I haven’t seen any footage of Dwight struggling to get into his Bentley Mullsane, so I’m not worried.

In our top story tonight, Arash Markazi at ESPN Los Angeles reports that Dwight Howard’s back rehabilitation is on track.

There has been some attention paid very recently to Kobe Bryant’s work to eradicate homelessness in Los Angeles. It’s a cause he is quite seriously committed to. Ben Bolch at the L.A. Times has the story.

C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll sets the bar for basketball rivalries.

Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk writes that former Laker Matt Barnes has decided to sign with the Clippers. It’s good to see him land somewhere.

Ryan Ward at Lakers Nation writes about Derek Fisher’s free agency options.

The S.I. Tracking Blog has an update on Leandro Barbosa’s job search.

It has nothing to do with the Lakers, but I loved this piece on Matt Bonner by Ananth Pandian for Hardwood Paroxysm.

***

I’m not interested in bringing presidential polemics to FB&G in any real or measured way. There’s fans of basketball from every spectrum and that’s as it should be. However, I read the new Michael Lewis profile of President Obama for Vanity Fair last night, and have to say that the section on basketball is quite apart from either side of the aisle. I doubt we will ever again have a sitting president, this devoted to the game.

– Dave Murphy