Meet the new Basketball Hall of Famers: Jamaal Wilkes


Legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn used to call Jamaal Wilkes baseline jumper a “20-foot layup.” It was that automatic. Magic Johnson would drive the lane, kick it out and you knew it was two.

And that shot, with its eccentric form that would make Shawn Marion wince — Wilkes swung the ball behind his left ear and shot it from basically behind his head — was how we often remember Wilkes.

But he was a lot more than that. He was a great player on both ends of the floor seemingly always overshadowed by being on the team with some of the best and most flamboyant ever — Bill Walton in college at UCLA, Rick Berry first then Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the NBA. Wilkes never really drew attention to himself, on and off the court. His nickname was “Silk” because he was that smooth.

Pat Riley said Wilkes’ shot “was like snow falling off a bamboo leaf it was so smooth.” That would probably be the most poetic line Riley ever uttered, but it is true.

You never really noticed Wilkes during the game, yet you’d look up at the end and he’d have 25 points.

Look at it this way: When you talk about the great individual games every played Magic Johnson’s 1980s Game 6 in the NBA finals comes up — Magic scored 42 points and played all five positions that night, scoring 42 points with 15 rebounds and 7 assists leading the Lakers to the NBA title.

Wilkes had 37 points and 10 rebounds in that game, including 16 points in a crucial third quarter for the Lakers. But as always, he was crucial to the win but would be overshadowed in history.

He put up impressive career numbers in the NBA — 17.7 points and 6.2 points per game — but the accolades say why he is getting inducted: three-time NBA champion (one with Golden State, who drafted him No. 11 overall), three time NBA All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year, two time NBA All-Defensive team member. And as the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame covers all levels of a person’s career we can throw in two-time NCAA All-American and three time NCAA champion.

Come this weekend, he will not be overshadowed. It is Wilkes deserved time in the spotlight. And in the basketball Hall of Fame.

Former NBA player, UCLA star Walt Hazzard dies


Walt Hazzard, a guy who helped start UCLA’s glory years and went on to a 10-year NBA career, has passed away.

Hazzard, 69, had been ill for some time and suffered complications from heart surgery. He passed surrounded by family and friends at UCLA Medical Center on Friday.

Hazzard was co-captain and star of the 1964 UCLA team that won the first national championship for John Wooden and started an unprecedented run of dominance in college basketball. Hazzard was the MVP of the Final Four that year and is one of just seven basketball players to have his number retired by UCLA.

He then went on to win a gold medal as part of the 1964 USA Olympic team in Tokyo.

After that he went on to have a 10-year NBA career that started with the Lakers. Being a star in Los Angeles has its perks, and Hazzard had a guest role in a “Gilligan’s Island” episode (as an Air Force lieutenant). His best season was 1967-68, where he scored 24 points per game for the expansion Seattle SuperSonics. He made the All-Star Game that season. Hazzard went on to play for Atlanta and Golden State before retiring.

Hazzard was a gifted ball handler and passer, a tremendous playmaker, the quintessential player that made everyone around him better.

He eventually went back to coach at UCLA in 1984 and coached there four seasons, winning the NIT title one year. He worked as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers up through 1996, when he suffered a stroke (Jerry Buss and the Lakers continued to pay him after the stroke for many years). He was seen less in public after that.

Hazzard was a devout Muslim who changed his name to Mahdi Abdul-Rahman, but continued to use Hazzard for professional reasons.

Hazzard is survived by his widow Jaleesa, a Bruin song girl during the 1964 NCAA title season, and four grown sons – Yakub, Jalal, Khalil and Rasheed. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.

Video: Check out the summer run at UCLA

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There are spots throughout the country where high-level off-season pickup games take place. Ones without the public presence of things like the Drew League or the Goodman League — just places where NBA guys show up because they know they can get a good run.

UCLA is one of those. Has been for years.

And the UCLA games come with just one rule — one UCLA student has to be part of every game. (Usually this is a guy from UCLA’s team.)

Really slick video here (via Ball Don’t Lie) gives you some insight into that run. With comments from Elton Brand and Metta World Peace.

NBA Draft profile: UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt

Tyler Honeycutt UCLA
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Tyler Honeycutt has been making the rounds of pre-draft workouts and has been turning a few heads.

It’s because the 6’8” swingman out of UCLA has shot well. Everyone knew he had good size and athleticism, but his shot was not that special. Honeycutt, like the entire UCLA team, was pretty inconsistent last season, but at the end of the day he still shot a respectable 36.2 percent from three. If he is shooting well in workouts, if he can be consistent, it is a sign of improvement.

Honeycutt has always been about potential. Scouts have some reason to believe in that potential, however — look at the college program he comes from. Forget the stars (Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook) and think about the other recent Bruins in the NBA: Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Arron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza. Teams would love to get a guy like any one of them late in the first round, which is where Honeycutt will go.

Another thing about those UCLA guys, they defend pretty well. Honeycutt, with his long arms, was the leading shot blocker in the Pac-10 as a forward. He uses his length in sort of the way Tayshaun Prince does as a defender (although he is no Prince). On-ball defense is what will get him drafted (but he can get caught ball watching off the ball and lose his man).

Any consistent offense from him would be a big bonus, which is why his shooting at workouts matters. It’s a start. His ball handling in college was iffy at best and that led to too many turnovers for a guy with a good basketball IQ. The ball handling has to improve, otherwise he is a three who cannot create his own shot (and is not a classic marksman).

But he can pass and he can defend on the ball, and to watch him play is to see a guy who could be much more down the line. A regular rotation guy you can count on.

And drafting late in the first round, you will take that. NBC’s own Steve Alexander at Rotoworld has him going 23 to the Rockets, as does DraftExpress (which has a great video breakdown of Honeycutt’s game). ESPN’s Chad Ford has him falling to 28.

However, a few more good workouts and that will change, he will move up some.

John Wooden hospitalized, in "grave condition"


Coaching legend John Wooden, the man who made UCLA a basketball powerhouse, the man who coached so many NBA greats, is in the hospital in “grave condition.”

He apparently isn’t eating anymore and one UCLA blog is reporting sources told them this is “the last time he will come to a hospital” and that it is just a matter of a few days. Wooden is 99.

He coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Jamal Wilkes and countless others who went on to play in the NBA. He has touched many more lives and written numerous books not only on basketball but on success and leading a meaningful life.