Talking Jerry West, part two

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Roland Lazenby, one of the best basketball writers of our time, has penned a new book: Jerry West, the life and legend of a basketball icon.

West is one of the most compelling and complex figures in basketball, and the book is a detailed look at the conditions that formed him and how that affected him as a player and general manager..

Lazenby was kind enough to spend some time answering questions about West for us, and this is the second installment of a two-part interview with him (read the first part here).

The general perception of West is as this very successful person. He won an NBA championship, a gold medal, one of the 50 greatest players of all time. But that is not how West saw himself, he was driven more by his failures than his success, wasn’t he?

Pete Newell, who coached against him in the NCAA championship game in 1959 and later coached him on that famed 1960 Olympics team that won the gold medal in Rome… West wanted to quit (the Olympic) team, he didn’t think he was good enough to be there. And Newell was just flabbergasted. You could see he was going to be this all time great player, he was this tremendous, tremendous competitor, but he was almost paralyzed at times by these inferiority complexes.

This is something that Newell contemplated for a long time. Newell later became the GM of the Lakers during West’s playing career… but Newell said you really had to look into West’s background in West Virginia to start to understand why he was so complex… That’s what I try to do with the book.

A lot of great players struggle to the next phase of their lives. West, however, was able to be successful as a GM. Why was he able to transition?

I think one of the factors was he played along side Elgin Baylor. That was a tremendous benefit because he learned a lot from him. Someone who took the pressure off. Jerry grew to intensely dislike his coach, his college coach from West Virginia went to the Lakers as Jerry did. Jerry had already played three years for him and that started to wear down on the relationship, then he went on to play six more seasons, almost 1,000 games, for Fred Schaus.

But Jerry was beset by doubt and anxiety, and Schaus decided not to start him as a rookie. And this is the thing that really clinched Jerry’s long term dislike of Fred Schaus. It was a hard thing because Oscar Robertson had come into the league — Oscar was the number one pick, Jerry number two — and Jerry wanted to be a starter. In fact, when was the last time a rookie substitute was named to the All-Star Team?…

I think he enjoyed (being a general manager). He obviously loved basketball. I think he loved the players with all his heart. And I think being a general manager gave him the chance to address all those things that annoyed him so much as a player and coach… They were always down a player, maybe more, in their battles with the Celtics. And there was nobody at the Lakers (front office) who really cared. Jerry, by nature of his presence, changed that.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.