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The Lakers Summer League team hasn’t done well. They’re 1-3 thus far and lost to the Sixers SL team, 83-61, on Wednesday night. But we’re there to see how the Laker draft picks are performing.

Julius Randle has done pretty well thus far. Randle is averaging 12 points and four rebounds in three games he has played thus far. He has shown some flashes as an excellent player and has shown some versatility.

Randle was asked about him leading the break.

“It’s a part of my versatility. There are certain times you can do it. You just gotta read the defense and have a good feel for the game.”

Julius was asked about the transition to the NBA.

“I think it gets a lot easier, honestly. There’s more of a flow (in Summer League).”

When asked further about it…

“The spacing is way more because you just can’t collapse. Because if you do, somebody’s going to be wide open. What I’m seeing a lot is they’re either not collapsing, I got an open lane and they can’t guard me one-on-one or they’re collapsing and someone’s wide open and the passes are way easier. The spacing is the biggest difference from college to NBA.”

Julius was asked about his tendencies on the court.

“I like facing up first. A lot of times, guys are bigger, slower than me… not as athletic as me and I can use my athleticism and my skill set. So I like facing up whether it’s on the elbow, top of the key, block extended… that’s what I like doing. But I like grinding and being physical as well.”

He was then asked about his options when facing up.

“Honestly, it’s how the defense is playing me. If the guy wants to be physical, I’ll face him up. If it’s a smaller guy, I’m gonna take him to the post. The biggest difference from my first game and what I’m seeing now is I’m being more patient. I’m reading how the defenses are guarding me. From there, I’m able to operate and be more efficient.”

A lot of people have compared Randle’s game to Memphis power forward Zach Randolph. Randle seemed genuinely stunned and humbled by that comparison. I asked who he patterned his game after.

“Nobody. That’s very humbling, though. (Randolph) is a great player but I never compared or patterned my game after anybody.”

Randle was asked about how his experience with the Lakers fans in Summer League.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s kind of like Vegas is L.A. almost. So many people around everywhere I go whether it’s a cab or a restaurant, there’s Lakers fan and they know who you are. Obviously, you have the most fans here for the games. It’s kind of fun and ridiculous at the same time.

When asked if he was mentally prepared for the fans…

“I didn’t know it was going to be like this. Thought it was going to be JUST Summer League. I didn’t know that there were that many Laker fans out here in Vegas.”

Finally, he was asked about being drafted by the Lakers.

I know it’s the best possible place for me. I didn’t want to be anywhere else so I’m very happy that I was able to be chosen by the Lakers.”

And a lot of Laker fans are very happy that they got him with the 7th overall pick.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, as you remember, is trying to return to the NBA and he’s back with the Lakers Summer League team. The former New Jersey Net was a late cut by the Lakers before last year’s regular season started.

Douglas-Roberts assessed his performance this summer so far.

“I had a slow start. Unfortunately, I kinda sprained my ankle in the first game. In the second game, I was still feelin’ it; it was still sore. I had a great day off and we had great treatment. I felt good out there. Even though I had a slow start last game, we still won and that’s what’s important.”

He was then asked about playing with a collection of guys that he may never play with again after the Summer League is over.

“This is basketball. No matter if you’re a superstar or you’re trying to get on the team, it’s one language. It’s a basketball language that everybody understands. We have guys from everywhere and everybody is hungry, everybody is playin’ hard. I’m like the veteran to this group… you know I’m just tryin’ to do my part. If I see guys kind of down, that’s natural as a basketball player, just kind of pick ’em up a little bit.”

CDR was asked about his role being a playmaker on the Summer League squad.

“A lot of people don’t understand. In Summer League, people expect big numbers. You have to play everybody and the game is much slower; the game is 10 minutes (per quarter). You’re not going to get guys getting 30 so I kinda had to switch my game a little bit and play some point forward.”

He finished with 12 points and four assists in the game against the Clippers yesterday.

He was asked about trying any new moves or working on weaknesses on his game while here in Las Vegas.

“First and foremost, you wanna play well. I wouldn’t go out there and try to work on things you aren’t comfortable doing. You wanna go out there and play well; you have to play to your strengths. You’re trying to earn a spot.”

I asked if he still talked to one Kobe Bryant. Douglas-Roberts dropped a little news.

“I talked to Kobe when I was in L.A. Kobe is great to me. He’s a great mentor. He told me he’s three months ahead of schedule, which is very Kobe-like. The biggest thing I get from Kobe is honesty and I really respect that. And he respects that from me.”

Three months ahead of schedule? In any case, it’s been heard before that he is ahead of schedule. Still, we have to take that with a grain of salt and continue to monitor Kobe’s progress. But if anyone can return three months ahead of schedule or play on a broken everything, it’s Kobe Bryant.

Finally, I asked CDR about the sleeved jerseys. Douglas-Roberts noticeably had his sleeves cut during the game.

“I hate those jerseys. I had to cut it because it was so tight around my shoulders. I couldn’t make a shot. They’re so tight.”

And he said it one more time with feeling.

“I hate those jerseys!”

Good luck to Chris Douglas-Roberts. Here’s hoping he gets a training camp invite.

I was able to steal a few minutes of former Laker player (now Laker assistant coach and still fan favorite) Mark Madsen about his duties of his new gig.

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: Did you always want to coach?

MARK MADSEN: Coaching is something I’ve always had on the back of my mind that I’ve always wanted to do. I read John Wooden’s book, They Call Me Coach, and I loved it. I loved the book and I loved the message. I feel very fortunate to coach with the Lakers this year.

FB&G: What will your responsibilities be as an assistant coach?

MM: I’m an assistant coach and also a player development coach. I’m really doing both responsibilities in terms of helping players develop on the court and also getting involved with X’s and O’s, scouting, and practices.

FB&G: What about the D-Fenders? You were named coach for them, too!

MM: Well, I was named head coach but within a little while, there was a spot that opened up on the Laker staff and they approached me. From within the organization, obviously with the Lakers owning the D-Fenders, they said, “Hey, we’d like you to consider this vertical move.” And I said, “Yeah, I would love to.”

FB&G: How do you like the moves of the Lakers so far? You guys got Chris Kaman and Nick Young (no question with Wesley Johnson since interview was conducted before the Lakers acquired Johnson).

MM: Two phenomenal pick-ups. I know that there are still some irons in the fire, free agency-wise. But I think Nick Young and Chris Kaman are two great pick-ups that have skills that can help us win this year.

FB&G: As far as your playing career went, everybody remembers you as a Laker but what are your memories playing for the Timberwolves?

MM: I had some great memories with Minnesota. Made some great friendships and I feel so fortunate that I had a chance to go up there.

FB&G: Last question, Robert Sacre told me that he’d beat you in a dance contest. What do you think about that?

MM: IF, even IF Robert would beat me in a dance contest, it’s because he’s part of a new generation. They have a little more fluidity in their dance movements. So it’s just a new generation coming up.

We’d like to thank the ever-so-awesome Mark Madsen for a few minutes of his time.

After the Lakers’ summer league game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, we managed to get Robert Sacre to talk to us about how his rookie year was, what he’s working on, and other things.

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: How would you describe your rookie year?

ROBERT SACRE: I think I’ve seen more in one year than most guys have seen in five. That’s basically how I can wrap it all up in one year.

FB&G: Pau Gasol is still on the team. Chris Kaman was just signed. What are your individual goals with you possibly being the fourth big man (Jordan Hill is still on the team) on the team?

RS: Just to bring a lot of energy and get some playing time. You gotta focus on being able to get on the court by any means necessary.

FB&G: A lot of people don’t look at the Lakers any more as a championship team. Is that what we should look at them as?

RS: No. Not at all. We’re just as competitive and hungry like any teams going for the championship. I think we’re up there.

FB&G: We saw you shoot a couple of jumpers in (your summer league game against Cleveland). We even saw you shoot a three! Besides those jumpers, what part of your game are you working at?

RS: I’m just working on my all-around game. Be able to distribute, pass, and always play defense.

FB&G: Lastly, the Lakers just hired Mark Madsen as the assistant coach. Who is the better dancer? You or Mark?

RS: Me. Hands down. I hold it down with the dance moves.

We’d like to thank the always-entertaining Robert Sacre for a couple of minutes of his time.

While at Las Vegas Summer League, we caught up with Laker coach Mike D’Antoni, who was taking in the Los Angeles Clippers/Atlanta Hawks game.

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: Coach D’Antoni, how did last year’s Laker season compare to all of the other years in your coaching career?

MIKE D’ANTONI: It is what it is. It’s fun, it’s exciting. We just had to deal with a lot of stuff that happened last year. But in the end, we ended the year with a positive note. We’re looking forward to this coming year.

FB&G: Did the “WE WANT PHIL” chants bother you? I know it’s tough to follow a man who has won 11 championship rings.

MDA: You can understand it. You don’t invite it. But it doesn’t bother you.

FB&G: Do you expect Kobe back by the start of the regular season?

MDA: Yeah, I hope so. If anybody can do it, he can do it.

FB&G: As far as Dwight goes, what was your first reaction when you heard about him going to Houston?

MDA: It wasn’t a real big surprise. He just had to make a decision what was best for him. He did it, we’ll move on and do the best we can do.

FB&G: Lastly, I know it’s July. A lot of people seem to be writing off the Lakers. Should we write them off?

MDA: I would never write Kobe Bryant off. Or Steve Nash. Or Pau Gasol. I can understand why they do but that’s okay. You don’t win a championship in July. And we’ll see what happens.

We’d like to thank D’Antoni for a few minutes of his time.

In any field of endeavor, prodigious talent is idolized, achievement rewarded, lasting greatness immortalized. What then, of transcendent talent that achieves not only greatness, but actually furthers the evolution of the endeavor in which it is deployed?

Whatever his place in the Pantheon of basketball greats, that Earl Monroe is one of NBA history’s most important players is beyond question.

And when I had the opportunity to sit with Monroe at the SNY studio in midtown, where was promoting his fascinating, newly released  autobiography, “Earl the Pearl,” that is what most engrossed me. I didn’t care about 17,454 points, or four All-Star selections, or that he was a Hall of Famer. This guy truly matters in the history of the NBA. This man Changed. The. Game.

The modernization of the NBA game is, by its very definition, a collaborative effort. Bob Cousy married style and substance like no superstar before him. Monroe not only carried on the work of pro basketball’s original maestro, he infused it with a level of flair and artistry only just being refined in the game’s blacktop laboratories. The clinical trial for every Pete Maravich, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd and White Chocolate that’s arrived since. Monroe delivered to the NBA the style and spirit of the playground like no one before. His signature back-and-forth, “windshield wiper” dribble – really an ancestor of the modern day crossover – that [insert legendary Olympic ice skater name here]-tight spin move, the change of pace dribble as a weapon, the double-pump, the pump fake… Earl Monroe redefined the way the backcourt game was played in the NBA.

I grew up on the playmaking stylings of Magic Johnson. It was difficult to avoid the sense that the game he was playing differed from that of his opponents. I’d venture that anyone who witnessed the early days of Earl Monroe’s NBA career had a similar experience.

By the time he was dubbed him “the Pearl” early in his senior season in college, Monroe had already picked up “Jesus” (how’s that for a nickname), “Black Magic” and “Thomas Edison,” for his on-court inventiveness. Not bad for a dude that didn’t take up basketball until his early teens.

In 1963, after starring at John Bartram High, he headed down the East coast, to Division II Winston-Salem State University. In four years under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines, Monroe grew into superstar befitting his playground monikers. After averaging 7.1 points per game as a freshman, he more than tripled his output, scoring 23.2 and grabbing seven rebounds per game as a sophomore, and continued ascent, dropping 29.8 points (on 56.3% from the floor and 86.6% from the line) and grabbing 6.7 boards per game as a junior. Already a star, Monroe’s senior season and cemented his place among the singular greats of the college game, as he averaged an awesome 41.5 points (on 60% shooting) and 6.8 rebounds per game, earned the 1967 Division II Player of the Year award (in addition to a second All America selection) and led Winston-Salem State to the NCAA’s Division II Championship.

In the summer of ‘67, the Baltimore Bullets used the second pick (behind Jalen Rose’s dad) in the NBA draft to acquire Monroe’s services. He proved an immediate revelation, averaging 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game en route to the 1967-68 Rookie of the Year award. One night during his rookie campaign – on February 13, 1968 to be precise – Monroe hung 56 on the Lakers. Sadly, a combined 79 from Jerry West and Elgin Baylor kept the Bullets from victory, but the explosion set a franchise record that stood for nearly four decades (it was broken by Gilbert Arenas in 2006), and remains the fourth highest single game total by a rookie in NBA history. Four times in the 48 years since has a rookie gone off for 50+ – not one has managed to wrest from Monroe his place on the all-time list, behind a pair of 58’s by Wilt in 1960 and 57 by Rick Barry in December 1965. Beyond permanently etching Monroe’s name in the annals of franchise and league history, on a personal level the outburst provided Monroe with indelible proof of his place in the game:

Coming into the league, I remember having seen all these guys play. And you have a certain amount of respect for these guys, and it’s especially exciting to actually play against them. And Jerry was one of those guys. When we used to talk about him we’d say that Jerry could stop on a dime and give you nine cents change (laughs), so it was exciting.”

An interesting thing about how our relationship began: we played Jerry at home, and during the game Jerry kept calling me ‘Ben,’ and I just said ‘ok,’ because I had no idea what he meant by that. But then I asked someone on the team and they said there’s a guy named Ben Monroe that played for New Mexico, and maybe he’s thinking you’re Ben Monroe. And he kept saying ‘good play, Ben’, ‘nice shot, Ben.’ And we lost the game to the Lakers, but I had 56 points, and he had 47. After the game, he came and he shook my hand and said ‘good game, Earl.’ So, that kind of let me know that I had made it into the NBA, that I had been welcomed into the NBA.”

The following season was individually Monroe’s best as a pro, as he averaged 25.8 points and 4.9 assists, while leading the Bullets (along with a rookie named Wes Unseld) to 57 wins – up 21 from his rookie year – and their first playoff berth in three seasons. Monroe continued to put up numbers, averaging 28.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4 assists in the playoffs, but shot just 38.6% as the Bullets were swept by the Knicks. The 1969-70 season mirrored its immediate predecessor, as the Bullets – led by Monroe’s 23.4 points and 4.9 assists per game – notched 50 regular season wins and once again crossed paths with the Knicks in the opening round. As they had the previous season, the Knicks proved too much for the Bullets, though an excellent showing from Monroe – 28 points and 4 assists per game, 48.1% FG, and a playoff career high 39 in Game 1 – pushed the eventual champs to a decisive seventh game.

As a team, the Monroe-era Bullets “peaked” in 1970-71, his last full season in Baltimore. Monroe’s scoring average dipped, to 21.4 points per game, and the team won eight fewer regular season games – though their 42-40 record was good enough to win an awe-inspiringly bad Central Division by six games. Upon landing in the postseason, however, the Bullets’ worm turned, as they outlasted the Hal Greer/Billy Cunningham-led 76ers and the now-familiar Knicks in seven games apiece to reach the NBA Finals, where they were dispatched in four games by Lew Alcindor, Oscar Robertson and the Bucks.

After the 1970–1971 season, amid a salary dispute with owner Abe Polin, Monroe’s agent informed the Bullets that his client would no longer play for the team, and that he wished to be traded to either the Lakers, Bulls or 76ers. In the opening days of the 1971–1972 season, with a deal yet to be made, Monroe traveled to Indianapolis to discuss a transfer to the ABA’s Indiana Pacers. The trip wound up serving as something of a wakeup call:

I had given the Bullets three teams that I wanted to be traded to: Philadelphia – which is where I was from – Chicago and L.A. I went out to Indiana to just see about maybe playing for the Pacers. And it was all well and good, great team, good organization. But after the game, I went to the locker room and over the top of their regular lockers there was a smaller locker, and guys were taking guns out of there. (Note: Monroe did not get into this with me, but in the book he mentions that the Pacers players brought to his attention, a certain threat). And I got really apprehensive. Back in those days we didn’t have cell phones, so I had to walk around the building to get to a pay phone, where I called my agent, Larry Fleischer, and told him, ‘Larry, I don’t think this is where I want to play!’

That’s when he informed me that ‘well, I’ve got a deal in place for you with New York.’ I thought he was kidding, because we had played against New York [in the playoffs] for the last three years, you know, like tooth and nail, they were hated, and I said ‘I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it.’ I went home and thought about it, talked to some friends, my mom, my sister, and what I came away with is that, I was always a scorer, so I had to think about that, but I could play anywhere, you know? I was a basketball player. I always prided myself on being from Philadelphia and really knowing how to play basketball. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do all the stuff I wanted to do as an individual, but I thought this would be another challenge.

Despite his wish list, the immediacy of the deal, along with his rapidly waning desire to join the Pacers, Monroe accepted the proposed trade to the New York Knicks. Understandably, there was initially some trepidation about joining not only a bitter rival – Monroe had faced the Knicks 45 times in his first four NBA seasons, 18 of those meetings in the playoffs, including seven-game battles in each of the last two postseasons – but one that featured an established core of veteran stars, including a dominant lead guard. With Walt “Clyde” Frazier in the driver’s seat, Monroe handled the ball less than ever. During the 1971-72 season, Monroe was hobbled by knees and ankle problems, which cut both his playing time (21.2 minutes per game) and scoring (11.9 points per game) nearly in half. However, the injuries that initially limited him in New York proved perhaps blessings in disguise, as Monroe was able to observe the team, learn its rhythm and acclimate to his new role and new mates – Clyde Frazier in particular:

They came in on my first day and welcomed me into the core. I’m sure Clyde had some apprehension, because here’s this guy who’s coming in to play the same position that he’s playing. But I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t stepping on any toes, because I was coming to his team, he wasn’t coming to my team, so I had to make the adjustments to make sure that this worked.

There wasn’t any real friction, it was just a matter of learning how to play with this new cadence. In Baltimore, I kinda judged everything through music, and I had my own cadence. When I came to New York, I had to adjust to Clyde’s cadence. And that was really the hard part, because when you have your own team, you know when to take over the game, you know when to give guys the ball, or different things that need to be done during the course of a game. Clyde had that here, and I needed to learn how to fit in with that.”

After playing a limited role in 1971-72’s near-title run, Monroe bounced back in 1972-73, playing nearly 32 minutes per game, regaining his efficiency (48.8% FG, v. 43.6% in 1971-72) and exhibiting his grasp of Clyde’s cadence en route to “Rolls Royce Backcourt” status and the 1973 NBA championship. By the end of the 1972-73 season Monroe had become a Madison Square Garden favorite. Although he averaged a relatively modest 15.5 points, his moves still dazzled, and he’d taken on added responsibilities as a perimeter defender. He routinely guarded the opponent’s best perimeter scorer, allowing Frazier more freedom to play the passing lanes.

The Knicks finished second in the Atlantic Division in ’72-‘73, setting the stage for another the Knicks-Bullets playoffs clash – only this time, Monroe was on an unfamiliar side. The Knicks made relatively short work of the Bullets, taking the series in five games, with Monroe averaging 21.8 per game, though it’s worth noting that he lit up his former mates to the tune of 27 per game in three victories at the Garden (including 32 – his career high as a Knick – in Game 2), while in Baltimore, he (not surprisingly) received a rather cool reception and (not coincidentally) managed just 27 points in two games. Monroe played a supporting role in the attack for the remainder of the postseason, as the Knicks topped the Boston Celtics, they of an NBA-best 68 game in the regular season, in six games, before toppling the defending champion Lakers in five to claimed the 1973 NBA title. Monroe eclipsed 20 points just three times in those final 11 games, but he played a vital role in helping the Knicks secure the crown, tallying 21 points in a Game 3 victory and a team-high 23 in the Game 5 clincher.

When they [the Lakers] won the championship in 1972, that was disheartening – that was very, very disheartening – but at the same time we felt as though we could come back and compete. We got the opportunity in ’73 to come back, and they had a great team, with Wilt and Gail Goodrich, Jim McMillan, actually I think Pat Riley was on that team, though he didn’t play much, Keith Erickson, Bill Bridges… they had a real formidable team and we knew that it would hard to beat them, but we felt confident after the first year because we really felt as though we should have played much better. And we won it in five games. It was a reversal of the way it had happened the year before. I think we won the first game and lost the next four, if I’m not mistaken (he’s not), and then in ’73 we lost the first game and won the next four.”

During the mid-1970s, Monroe continued to produce. He averaged 20.9 points per game in 1974-75, 20.7 in 1975-76, and 19.9 in 1976-77, and was twice named an All-Star. The Knicks, however, had seen their best days, and by 1979 were failing to qualify for the playoffs. Slowed by a series of serious knee injuries, which had plagued him throughout his career, Monroe retired in 1980, after 13 years in the NBA.

HOWEVAH…

The final chapter of Monroe’s career just happened to coincide with the arrival of another charismatic young playmaker, one who, like Monroe, was not blindingly fast or great leaper. As Magic Johnson prepared to take the NBA by storm, Monroe – now no longer commanding a star’s minutes – was seen as a potential mentor to the young superstar, and nearly a decade after first making eyes at the West coast, nearly wound up in forum blue and gold:

“It was my last year here in ’79-’80, and a guy from Philadelphia that played for the Lakers at one point and was working for them was a guy by the name of Walt Hazzard, and Hazz came into the locker room – we had played them here first – and he pulled me aside and told me ‘you know, we’re thinking about trying to trade for you, so that you can be like a caddy for Magic. Would you be amenable to that?’ At that point I wasn’t playing too much here in New York, and I thought about it and figured ‘Yeah!’, it would be a great way to leave the game, out there in Los Angeles. Later, when we played them in L.A. – I think it was January or February – he came back to me and asked me the same thing – ‘are you still ready to do that?’ – so I’m thinking it’s all ready to go down (laughs), and eventually, from what I understand, Jerry West put a word in and it wasn’t done. But that’s just speculation. I would have loved to go out there – Magic played pretty much the same type of game that I had, with the razzle-dazzle and no-look passes and what not…”

Asked if he ever asked Jerry West about that:

“No. Because I’m not sure that he did that, and even at that, for the most part Jerry’s a great guy, and we have a lot of respect for each other.”

In my final minutes with Mr. Monroe, having already spoken about the Lakers’ legends of the ’60, ‘70s and ‘80s, I had to get his thoughts on the latest Laker legend, and fellow Philly guy, Kobe Bryant:

“I’ve watched his career for a long, long time, since he got into the league, specifically because I played with his father, Jelly Bean, Joe Bryant. So, I’ve seen his game change and I’ve seen his attitude change, and the fact that he worked so hard to get to where he is, when you think about guys coming out of high school, some of those get the opportunity to play early on – he didn’t get that opportunity. He worked at it, and I was very impressed with that. And once he started playing, he set a new standard for how to play the game. I mean, when you think about Michael Jordan, you also have to think about Kobe Bryant.

And this year – I said it before the season (chuckles) ‘Kobe’s gonna have a bad back by the end of the season if he’s going to try and carry this team.’ But, to his credit, he willed them into the playoffs. There was so much controversy this season, with Howard coming in, he changed his game for a little bit of the season, he shot less, and then, later on, picked it back up when they needed it. So, you know, he’s one of my all-time guys, and I’m happy to know him, and to know that he’s from Philadelphia.”

Sincere thanks to Earl Monroe for his generosity, with both his time and his memories.

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.)