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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.)

After the game between the Lakers’ summer league team and the Golden State Warriors (the Lakers looked like a disaster but, hey, it’s Summer League!), we talked to Lakers assistant and summer league coach Chuck Person about a few topics.

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: The key young guys like (Darius) Morris and (Andrew) Goudelock. What do you need for them to improve?

ASST. COACH CHUCK PERSON: They need to come out and slow down. Obviously, the summer league guys come out and they’re frantic with their breakneck pace. We need to have them slow down, see the game, make the right play, make the right pass, and then defend. The one thing that a Mike Brown team does is we defend so we need to make sure they do that first.

FB&G: Do you expect them to be contributors on the bench next year?

PERSON: Well, there’s an opportunity. We have a core group that we play with but there’s a chance for a guy like Goudelock to come in… Christian Eyenga… and Darius Morris to get some minutes. If they come out and do the right things and impress Mike and our staff, I think they have a chance to play.

FB&G: What was the biggest problem last season?

PERSON: Down the stretch, we didn’t score the ball like we thought we could. We only shot 42 percent in the playoffs and our defense struggled a little bit, at times. For the most part, we played okay. We just ran up against a tough Oklahoma City team.

FB&G: And, lastly, Steve Nash. You have to be excited for this one.

PERSON (smiles): Well, one of the greatest point guards of all-time. He knows how to run a team. He can facilitate very well and he can make threes. So we’re looking forward to having him our team and being able to get more guys involved in our offense.

We’d like to thank Coach Person for his time as well as Lakers’ PR John Black for letting us have access.

Jeff Camarra, Trey Johnson Horse

On April 13, Trey Johnson came off the bench for the Lakers and scored six points in 13 minutes. At the time, it was a cool story that had some fans wondering if Johnson could be the answer to the Lakers point guard woes. For Jeff Camarra, this was the end of the story.

Camarra, a Knicks fan, read about Trey Johnson after learning that the Knicks were looking to pick up a D-Leaguer, and became intrigued by his story. He emailed the Bakersfield Jam owner, then got Johnson and the NBA on board to film a documentary on Trey’s road to the NBA. After approvals across the board, Camarra lived in Trey’s house for eight days to get a feel for what the day-to-day life is for Trey and all D-Leaguers. All of this resulted in a documentary that could be released shortly after the NBA Lockout ends.

Jeff talked with ForumBlueAndGold about Trey, the D-League and his documentary.

Forum Blue & Gold: What was it about Trey Johnson that initially interested you in making this documentary?

Jeff Camarra: Trey’s perseverance in making it in the NBA was what really intrigued me. He has been the last player cut by the Hornets, Heat and the Lakers. Everyone was picking Trey to be the first player called up after the D-League Showcase, a week when all D-League teams play infront on NBA scouts. This past season was his fourth season in the D-League; most of the players in the development league only play a year or two before going overseas. Because of this, there was more of a sense of urgency with Trey. That’s the big tradeoff for the players in the development league. Players in the development league don’t make the money that they could make overseas, but opt to play in the states for the NBA exposure. Some players might have given up after a couple years in the development league, but its Trey’s commitment that sets him apart from the rest.

FB&G: Were there any other D-Leaguers who caught your eye?

JC: A lot of guys in the D-League have intriguing stories; one player that caught my eye was Antoine Walker. Walker was a NBA-All Star for a few years with the Celtics and won a championship with the Heat and is now trying to get back into the NBA through the D-League. I recognized a lot of names who were great college players; Patrick Ewing Jr, Scotty Reynolds, Cole Aldrich, Hasheem Thabeet, etc. But with 20% of the NBA coming through the D-League, I expect the development league getting more recognition.

FB&G: Were you thinking about making a similar documentary before you came across Trey?

JC: I grew up a basketball junkie and dreamed of playing in the NBA. Although my playing days ended after high school, I always wondered what it would be like to live that dream of playing in the NBA. I thought there was a story in the players that take the unconventional route. I knew about the development league, but didn’t learn about Trey until a couple of weeks before we started filming. I read the New York Knicks were interested in calling up a player from the development league and Trey was one of the players the Knicks were interested in. I did some research on Trey and found this diamond in the rough talent who never really got a legitimate shot in the NBA, but he was believed to be the first player called up to the NBA after the D-League showcase. D-League president Dan Reed compared the Showcase to American Idol and I think that’s a very fitting comparison.

Jeff Camarra, Trey Johnson bench

FB&G: What was it like living with Trey for eight days?

JC: Living with Trey was interesting because it gave me a glimpse into the life of a D-League player. These guys all make enormous sacrifices to achieve their dream. I think a lot of people have a preconceived notion that professional athletes have it easy and everything is handed to them, but that’s certainly not the case for players in the development league. Trey has two children who live in Mississippi, where he is from, who he doesn’t get to see as much as he would like. He’s constantly working on his game and in the gym, all to make it to the NBA. He could go overseas and make a very good living, but he always dreamed of playing in the NBA. Overseas has great basketball, but he said he didn’t grow up dreaming of playing in Europe. Seeing someone with so much at stake was inspiring. I hope that’s what people get out of watching this, that what it’s about, a guy working to achieve his dream with so much on the line.

FB&G: How long did it take to put the project together from start to finish?

JC: The planning and preparation of this project was done in just a couple weeks. I first emailed the owner of Trey’s D-League team to get the ok from him and then he put me in contact with Trey. After Trey was onboard, I had to convince the NBA to allow me to film the D-League games, because they own the content. I think they were initially reluctant to allow a group of 20 year olds to film their product, so it took some explaining on our end. I filmed it with three friends (Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew, Nayim Saati and Dan Zinn) with financing from brother Chris Camarra and his business partner Bryan Kobel. Editing down the 100+ hours of footage we got took a few months, from start to finish it was about a five month project.

FB&G: Was Trey open to the idea when you presented it to him?

JC: I think he had some concerns at first, but we spoke through them. I didn’t know Trey at all before calling him and asking to live with him and film him 24/7, so I understood where he was coming from. We documented Trey throughout the D-League Showcase, which is a week when all the D-League teams come to one venue to play in front off all the NBA scouts and GM’s with the hopes of being called up to the NBA. Everyone in the league assumed Trey would be the first player to go up, but he was still under pressure to perform.

FB&G: What was your biggest challenge in putting this project together?
JC: Editing this has been the most difficult. After our last day of filming I flew back to Florida, to finish my last term of college, while the other three guys flew back to New York. Nayim and Dan did the editing and we were sending clips back and forth from January to nearly May.

FB&G: Were you a little disappointed that he ended up on the Lakers and not a Knicks?
JC: When I left Trey and returned to college to begin editing this he was still with the Jam, so I was just hoping a team would called him up. Living with him for a week, we built a friendship and still keep in contact. In those regards, it would’ve been cool for him to play in New York, but I’m glad he got with a team that fits his style of play. A couple weeks after filming he was called up to the Raptors and played under two consecutive ten-day contracts. I thought they would’ve kept him around, but they didn’t. That was a big blow. In the end the Lakers signed him and it looks that situation will be better for him in the long run. The first night I met Trey he scored 31 points and after the game we watched the Lakers play the Hornets in a regular season game, four months after that he was on the Lakers playing the Hornets in the NBA playoffs. I couldn’t think of a better
ending.

FB&G: What do you hope people learn about Trey and the D-League after watching your film?
JC: I hope more than anything people see the grind these D-League players go through and why they do it. I think it’s hard to learn Trey’s story, what he has gone through, and not pull for a guy like this Trey to make it; it’s a real life “Rudy.” The maximum salary a D-League player can make is $25,000 so they certainly are not there for the money. I think when people think of the NBA, they think of the star players with the huge contracts and sponsorship deals. This film isn’t about that. It’s about the guy laying it all on the line to fulfill his dream.

FB&G: When can we expect this documentary to be open to the public?
JC: It’s completed and has been submitted to the NBA for review. It’s tough to say with the lockout, but I would say shortly after the work stoppage.

(For more information about the documentary, you can check out the Facebook page. You can also follow Jeff on twitter here. Photos provided by Jeff Camarra.)