Tag: Gary Vitti

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 5

Today’s players more athletic than 20 years ago, but are they better?


Nobody in their right mind wonders if Magic Johnson, Dr. J or Larry Bird could compete in today’s NBA. Certain players would succeed in any era.

But could the average NBA player from the 1980s compete in the NBA of 2011? Well, let’s make that 2010 because who knows if there will be an NBA in 2011. But you get the idea — it’s fun in video games, but could it really happen.

A player like, say, Mitch Kupchak. A North Carolina standout who had a nine-year NBA career, won a couple rings and was a solid 10 points, 5 rebounds a game guy from 1976 – ’86.

Over at Lakers.com, Mike Trudell asked both Lakers GM Kupchak and longtime trainer Gary Vitti to compare the two eras and their players.

“In my opinion, we have much better athletes today but maybe not as good of basketball players,” said Vitti. “There are plenty of exceptions, but many players of today are not as skilled because they didn’t need to be growing up; they were competitive by running by you or jumping over you, and didn’t need to be skilled because of their athletic ability.

“A case in point are the European players who are generally less athletic but have better skills.”

The conversation was sparked because Kupchack’s 14-year-old son Maxwell taunts his dad in 1-on-1 games that he couldn’t make an NBA roster today.

“I think today’s players, to a great degree because of the innovative training techniques that are available that didn’t exist or weren’t believed in 30 years ago, if you’re looking at film may make it easy to say that today’s players are much more gifted than players of the past,” he said.

“You look at the players of the 1980’s (like) Kareem, Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Magic, Bird … they competed, and the players they competed against were able to compete with them,” he continued. “So to say that those players could not play and compete with players of today’s era would not be true.”

There are guys that come through the system now and do have a high basketball IQ, that do know the game. But the depth of knowledge is not what it was a couple decades ago. What would happen to a gifted but erratic guy like JaVale McGee on the 1980s Lakers or Celtics? Would he even get off the bench? Would he play a key role because of his athleticism?

There is no one correct answer, but Kupchak and Vitti have a great perspective from witch to judge.

Lakers’ trainer details events leading up to Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement


November 7, 1991 was as dark a day as we’ve seen on the American sports landscape. That was the date that Magic Johnson held a press conference to announce to the world that he had contracted the HIV virus, and as a result, would be forced to retire from the Lakers.

The basketball part was secondary, of course. The initial, overwhelming emotions of shock and sadness that many felt were not for the loss of Magic the basketball player, but for the sobering thought (which was prevalent at the time) that Johnson had essentially just been given what many believed to be a “death sentence.”

Lakers.com reporter Mike Trudell sat down with longtime team trainer Gary Vitti to recount the events leading up to that historic press conference, and as you might imagine, it was an insanely emotional time for all involved.

But while Vitti and everyone else was instantly devastated by the news, Magic had this to say when discussing it with Vitti for the first time.

“I can tell you exactly what he said to me,” Vitti said. “I asked if he was OK, because, I said, ‘I’m a wreck.’ He said to me: ‘God gave me this disease, and he gave it to the right guy. I’m going to beat this, and do something really good with it.’ And he has. That was his attitude. It gave me strength, which is what I was supposed to give him, but I didn’t. He did.”

It’s a powerful read, especially the part about Magic talking to his teammates right before the press conference inside the Forum locker room. The courage that Magic showed that day should have been a clue to us all that he would in fact beat it, just as he promised.

Lakers trainer: Kobe’s knee issues “can be dealt with”

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant may only be 32 but he has put a lot of miles on his body.

He has played more minutes than Magic Johnson, more than Larry Bird, and he’s right there with Michael Jordan (which includes the Wizards years we all try to forget). That has taken its toll on knees that have seen multiple surgeries and even have had to be drained during playoff runs.

Last season for the Lakers it was an issue — Kobe rarely practiced with the team. That mean’s he was not there to push them, to demand the attention to detail that wins championships. Under the pressure of the playoffs you saw the results.

Longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, in a detailed interview with our man Mike Trudell at Lakers.com, that Kobe’s knees are not in great shape but they have some miles left on them.

“Structurally there are some issues that cannot be reversed, but can be dealt with. There are a couple of cards we have up our sleeve that we plan on playing, and he and I have been in daily communication about that.”

“We’d like to see him practice more, but we don’t want the time that he spends on the court being spent on frivolous things,” he said. “You gotta get him out there when he needs to be out there, and get him off the floor when he doesn’t. It’s more about quality time than quantity time.”

So, pretty much like every veteran. It’s something Mike Brown and staff need to be aware of next season.

A longer summer off should help Kobe, too.