Nobody is harder on Jerry West than Jerry West.
Nobody. Read the brilliant biography by Roland Lazenby and you get the portrait of a man haunted by failure and more relieved than joyous about success.
So when you ask West about his time as the head of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball side and ask if there are regrets, you get some, as he told the Commercial Appeal. He said his biggest mistake was in the draft.
The year we drafted Drew Gooden. He has been in the league a long time. But we could have had Amar’e Stoudemire. He would have added some cache and star power to this team. It’s not that Drew is a bad player but Stoudemire is a star. We didn’t look at him the way we should have. And you know, everyone thinks the Grizzlies have done a terrible job drafting and they haven’t. The Griz are ranked ninth in drafting in terms of their history. But I’ll always take the blame for players who didn’t turn out the way we would have liked. Overall, fans can be very critical and it’s easy to be critical. But they’re not as critical as those of us who work in these positions.
That was a mistake. West made other mistakes. But the Grizzlies were in the playoffs when he was there, they haven’t been the same before or after he left. But luck — specifically lottery luck — has not followed the Grizzlies.
My biggest disappointments came when we were in position in the lottery to get a franchise player and we never got one. I think the lottery is flawed. If we would have gotten a branded player, this franchise would have been much further along and they still would have Pau Gasol there. It’s so much easier to build when you have two really good players. I think about the time when it came down to us for one of the first two picks. There was LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and we didn’t get any of them. The other time (in 2007) when we could have gotten a good player, Al Horford would have been great next to Gasol. And let me tell you, Mike Conley is going to be OK. He’s going to be in the NBA for 12-14 years. But that’s the one thing we missed: somebody who played the game at a high level and became a branded player. Those are people that brand your team and help franchises win.
West and I can agree to disagree about Conley panning out, although most people thought he would be better coming out of college than he has turned out to be.
But the larger point stands. It takes more than just brains to win out, it takes brains and luck. West only had one of those.
The Lakers are 0-3 with LeBron James, and pressure is mounting.
One way to release it: Venting about officiating.
Lakers coach Walton via Kurt Helin:
“Let me start here. … I wasn’t going to say anything, because I was going to save my money. But I just can’t anymore.”
“It’s 70-something points in the paint to 50-something (74 to 50), again they outshoot us from the free throw line, 38 free throws (the Lakers had 26),” Walton ranted after the game. “Watch the play — watch the play where I got a technical, watch what happens to LeBron James’ arm. It’s the same thing that James Harden and Chris Paul shot 30 free throws on us the night before. Then LeBron pulls up on a screen and somebody’s trying to fight over it, same thing they shot free throws on. Same thing.
“We are scoring 70 points a night in the paint. We’re putting pressure on. Josh Hart, watch how plays the game, played 40 minutes tonight, all he does is attack the rim — zero free throws tonight. Zero. I know they’re young, but if we’re going to play a certain way then let’s not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession. They’re just flopping to see if they can get a foul call. And then not reward players who are physically going to the basket and getting hit. That’s not right.”
I’m not certain Walton will get fined. These comments are borderline. But he asked for it, and the league might abide.
The numbers Walton cites are not convincing. Sometimes, one team deserves more free throws than the other. Maybe the Lakers outscored the Spurs by so much in the paint because the Spurs kept ceding baskets inside rather than fouling and the Lakers kept sending San Antonio to the line for free throws, which don’t count as points in the paint. Also keep in mind: Los Angeles outscored the Spurs 41-7 in transition. Many of the Lakers’ paint points came against a defense not positioned to contest shots, with or without contact.
But Walton is fighting bigger battles – taking heat off his team for losing, showing his players he has their back, making referees think twice on foul calls. If Walton achieves those objectives, a fine will be well worth it.
David Blatt infamously tried to call a timeout while the Cavaliers were out of them. Though he was stopped before receiving a technical foul, that was seen as evidence Blatt didn’t have the basketball intelligence to coach LeBron James.
Somewhere, Blatt is quietly smiling. (Or let’s be real, loudly telling everyone how smart he is.)
LeBron had his biggest moment as a Laker, making a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime in Los Angeles’ eventual loss to the Spurs last night. But LeBron probably shouldn’t have had the opportunity to take the shot.
Once the Lakers secured possession, LeBron appeared to call for a timeout despite the Lakers having none remaining. If referees granted the timeout, it also would have come with a technical foul that gave the Spurs a chance to put the game out of reach in regulation.
Instead, Josh Hart incidentally made a big play by passing to LeBron. LeBron had to drop his T-signaling hands to catch the pass. Then, he brought the ball up court and drilled a 3-pointer.
LeBron said he wasn’t trying to call timeout, but his smiling denial isn’t exactly convincing.
This isn’t the first time LeBron lost track of timeouts at the end of a game, anyway.
Markieff Morris (28 points and nine rebounds) came up big in the Wizards’ overtime win over the Trail Blazers last night.
He didn’t even need to be in the game to help Washington stop Portland on the final possession of regulation.
There should be no place for that. None. Games should be decided by the 10 players on the court. Anyone not in the game should do nothing to encroach on the space of players in the game. Stepping over the sideline is an egregious violation. Touching a player or his uniform is beyond outrageous.
The NBA has occasionally fined coaches (including former Wizards assistant Sidney Lowe) and players, but the league hasn’t gone far enough. This type of conduct, though usually not this flagrant, occurs far too often. It’s past time to crack down. Fines, suspensions, whatever it takes to ensure this stops.
After years of neglecting to deter these antics, the NBA shouldn’t put all the weight of the problem on Morris. Fine him what has been the standard amount, but make clear to everyone this was the last straw before more severe penalties.
Morris’ shorts tug might have decided the game. We’ll never know whether that would have been the difference between the Trail Blazers scoring on the possession or not. Probably not. Damian Lillard missed on a drive, but maybe he would kicked to Seth Curry if Curry weren’t flailing his arms, exasperated by Morris contact. Or maybe Otto Porter would have stuck just a little closer to Curry without “help” defense from Morris, leaving more room for Lillard.
But it’s only a matter of time until the NBA has a more controversial ending involving someone on the bench getting involved in the play.
The Trail Blazers were celebrating Halloween a little early this year, wearing their costumes to the arena Monday night.
Damian Lillard went with Stone Cold.
But nobody topped Maurice Harkless’ Tyrone Biggums costume. Brilliant.
There were other creative players, too.
Portland has set the bar high this year.