THE KID CAN TALK
by Memo Memos
The LAKERS made history with their number 10 pick in the NBA draft yesterday, by taking the youngest player ever chosen, ANDREW BYNUM. At 17 and change-he turns 18 in October-BYNUM bested the previous youngest player ever chosen, JERMAINE O'NEAL by 2 weeks or so. He may remain the youngest ever chosen for a while, as changes to the collective bargaining agreement, expected to be finalized later this summer, may limit high-schoolers from entering the NBA until after they've played 1 year in college.
ANDREW BYNUM is still growing at 6'11" and 290 pounds. That is good. His size alone made it difficult for the LAKERS to pass him up when he was still on the board at the 10 spot. But it is his head that seems to be his real appeal.
Responding to being selected by the LAKERS, BYNUM said, "When I get there, all I want to do is put in some hard work and live up to those great centers who came before me. I actually want to bring back the sky hook, which KAREEM left behind there. Nobody uses that shot. It happens to be one of my favorite shots." Imagine that! "I'm compared to SHAQ now just because of the body type, but I can hit my free throws."
Bingo! This one's a keeper.
Forget the hype that the news stations have been spinning. The LAKERS didn't place their hopes in a teenager. They don't expect BYNUM to fill SHAQ'S shoes. With coach PHIL JACKSON'S attitudes towards rookies, not to mention teenagers, ANDREW BYNUM will be lucky to get a few minutes here and there in his first season.
But, if he grows a few more inches, if he keeps working on his hook and charity shot, if he keeps on the track he was on yesterday, he and the LAKERS should be just fine.
In more talk with reporters, BYNUM went on, "I think I'll be a rebounder and a shot-blocker primarily at first until I get better strength and conditioning and hold my moves against other 7-footers. After that, down the line people are telling me I should definitely be an All-Star and they see a bright future ahead of me."
We'll give him 5 or 6 years, and see what he's like when he's 23.
He's off the queue and back into the frying pan. PHIL JACKSON faced the media yesterday at Staples Center, once again as the leader of the Los Angeles LAKERS who made him the highest paid coach in the league with a 3-year deal rumored to be near $30 million.
You got to hand it to JACKSON, returning to the scene "of the crime". When asked if this will be the greatest challenge of his career, PHIL admitted "I think it is...". He comes back to a city that no doubt expects him to bring back more championships. And he takes on a player he branded "uncoachable", not to mention a team short on championship calibre and long in salary cap trouble. He is quoted by the LOS ANGELES TIMES as saying the current LAKER lineup is "not appealing at all."
PHIL made it clear, "It's not about a 10th championship," a milestone that would carry him past RED AUERBACH. It's just about coming back here and reestablishing a team that is competitive, that fans here can be proud to watch."
JACKSON said KOBE called him earlier in the day to congratulate him on the position. PHIL tried to smooth over the dispute that raged during the 5 years he coached the superstar, and that was committed to writing in his book, THE LAST SEASON, A TEAM IN SEARCH OF ITS SOUL. When asked directly about the "uncoachable" quote, PHIL said that later in the season he and KOBE got along quite well, and he became very coachable. Really?
KOBE issued a statement which read, "When the LAKERS began this search for a new head coach, I put my complete trust in Dr. BUSS and MITCH KUPCHAK to select the person they thought was best for the LAKER organization. In PHIL JACKSON they chose a proven winner." Yeah, yeah, yeah.
That's what's so gutsy about PHIL'S decision. He has the 9 titles as a coach. He has the best winning percentages of any coach, .723 in regular season games and .717 in playoff games. He came to LA and conquered, winning it all in his first 3 seasons. What can he possibly do to top those achievements. Returning seems to have only a downside risk, and at age 59, who needs that?
"It wasn't about the money, but the intrigue of the situation," JACKSON said. "It's a tremendous story and a tremendous opportunity. It's a story of reconciliation, redemption, of reuniting-a lot of things in this make for a wonderful opportunity for the team, the LAKERS and myself."
We shall see.
THE OTHER JACKSON VERDICT
by Memo Memos
For 72 days this has gone on. The media has been focused. Serious discussions have been underway for the last week. But the jury on this case is still out. I'm talking of course about the other JACKSON.
The LAKERS have committed to him. At first he was a viable candidate. That was 2 months ago. Then he was their first choice. That was 2 weeks ago, just after PHIL gave JEANNIE BUSS a magic rock to bring the team good luck in the draft lottery. The LAKERS should have taken heed-the rock sank, like, er, a rock.
Then, with the start of the NBA Finals on Thursday, PHIL JACKSON made a conspicuous appearance on national television to open the pre-game show. He danced around the obvious, initial question about whether he would be coaching next season, particularly with the LAKERS. JACKSON acknowledged the awkward coincidence, and referred to his lack of an answer as the longest "pregnant pause", though unintended by him.
He did say he would get off the dime in a "day or two." Actually it was "thE. queue" he was going to get off of, an apparent holdover from his recent days running around the outback of Australia. But 5 days later and the baby still hasn't come. We're all still in the queue, PHIL.
Hey LAKER management, let JACKSON cavort, you must abort. If he can't commit...(Sorry I'm in the rush of a national celebrity acquittal.)
JACKSON'S delay is apparently related to health concerns. You see, the LAKERS are looking for a 4-5 year commitment. It might take that long to rebuild a championship contender. Which brings us full circle on this JACKSON thing.
Didn't he already build us a championship? Yet he couldn't keep it together. How great of a coach is this guy, if, sitting on the verge of historical accomplishments, he couldn't keep SHAQ and KOBE in the same gym without the childish bickering? I mean, really. He had a team with the most dominant center in the game, and the most talented player ever(or at least until DWANYE WADE and MANU GINOBLI fulfill their promise), and he couldn't keep that together. What hope does he have to take on a team in the throws of rebuilding? Is that guy really worth $10 million a year and keys to the city once again?
PHIL JACKSON arguably is the culprit who left us in this place. He is the guy who wanted to trade KOBE BRYANT and humor SHAQUILLE O'NEAL despite his lazy, selfish work ethic. PHIL JACKSON never put together an offense where SHAQ played second fiddle to a player of DWAYNE WADE'S skills, let's hire VAN GUNDY. PHIL JACKSON never got SHAQ to come into camp in shape like PAT RILEY did. Let's rehire RILEY.
The point is, you can't go backwards. JACKSON and KOBE reportedly haven't met to iron out their differences. JACKSON wants KOBE to commit to the team concept. KOBE doesn't want any part of a meeting lest he is once again tagged with the blame should JACKSON decide to spend the summer in JACKSON HOLE.
We've been here before, and it didn't work the last time. Just about 12 months ago, where was PHIL JACKSON when BEN WALLACE, RASHEED WALLACE and ELDON CAMPBELL made SHAQ look like SHAUN BRADLEY? And where was he just after that heartbreaking loss, when KOBE and SHAQ could have been put back together again? Just about 19 months ago, where was PHIL JACKSON as the 2 superstars, who were on the same team at the time, started tearing the franchise apart, in public. Where was JACKSON 24 months ago when SHAQ was embarrassed by TIM DUNCAN, and then abandoned the team exit meetings, on his way to an early summer vacation? Where was PHIL JACKSON 36 months ago when SHAQ decided to have his surgery just as training camp was opening to start the LAKERS run at a 4th world championship? At the brink of all these moments, coach JACKSON failed.
Why should we think he'll do any differently another time around?
SHAQUILLE O'NEAL'S storybook season, in which he ripped his ex-team owner, his ex-teammates as well as the entire city of Los Angeles, ended with a whimper last night, as the DETROIT PISTON'S once again outperformed the Big Diesel. The loss erased a WILLIS REED type performance from the amazing DWAYNE WADE.
WADE, whose absence Saturday contributed to an 91-66 HEAT embarrassment, played in pain to avoid worsening the torn abdominal (rib) muscle he suffered in game 5. He started hesitantly, but came on in the 3rd quarter with a heroic demonstration of his many skills. He carried the team during that frame with 12 of the team's 26 points, along with several key assists, and a big defensive play. MIAMI started the quarter down 5, but thanks to WADE finished up by 2, with all of the momentum.
In the 4th it looked like the HEAT would pull away, going up by 6 to the delight of the South Beach jetset. But on 2 occasions they failed to extend the lead to 8, and DETROIT refused to quit. Behind RASHEED WALLACE and CHAUNCEY BILLUPS, who hit a 3 and some clutch free throws, DETROIT silenced the crowd, neutralized DWAYNE WADE, made a liar of O'NEAL, and extinguished the HEAT. Talk about entertainment!
As is usually the case, after the game SHAQ had some gems of wisdom, "The guys have to realize that before you succeed you must first learn how to fail." Hasn't SHAQ already mastered the failure thing, expecially against DETROIT? You'd think the last 3 seasons would have been experience enough for the Zen master wannabe. "Nobody really expected us to get his far." Nobody unless you count sportswriters and fans and league officials and the entire state of Florida, all of whom knew MIAMI was the number 1 seed in the East with the best record after the regular season. And nobody, unless you count SHAQ himself who promised last July to bring his new city of Miami a world champoinship. Oh well. He isn't really a philosopher, he's a basketball player, on a losing team.
SHAQ had the worst playoff numbers of his career-less than 20 points, not even 8 rebounds and just over 1 assist per game, yet he was in the best shape of his life going into this season, Certainly he had the motivation, having been shamed by the trade and fast ticket out of Los Angeles, where he could have rewritten the record books. And certainly he had the supporting cast to go further.
DWAYNE WADE carried SHAQ throughout the playoffs. The 2 games SHAQ sat out, MIAMI won easily. Oh, yeah, despite his reduced weight, and fantastic conditioning(all that running on the beach you know), SHAQ did come into the playoffs hurt and out of shape. Does any of this sound familiar Angelinos? But, MIAMI didn't miss him. WADE picked up the slack as if he was never even there. The 1 game DWAYNE WADE sat out, MIAMI was helpless. This wasn't SHAQ'S team, it was WADE'S, and the sooner PAT RILEY can get some help at the center position, the sooner MIAMI will get to it's first NBA Championship round.
It looks like MITCH KUPCHAK and JERRY BUSS made a bit of a mistake in the trade for O'NEAL. They insisted on a cadre of players, and got some decent talent in LAMAR ODUM, CARON BUTLER and BRIAN GRANT. All they really needed was DWAYNE WADE. The trade should have gone straight up, 1 for 1. MIAMI might have insisted on a bit more, and we could have packaged DEVEAN GEORGE, or GARY PAYTON, or KARL MALONE, or the whole bunch of them for WADE. Now that would have been the deal of the century.
Along with WADE, EDDIE JONES was a nice compliment to the team. He faded in the last 2 games, but his playoff performance until then was fantastic. DAMON JONES hit the open 3 just like you have to do in the inside out world of SHAQUILLE O'NEAL. And UDONIS HASLEM couldn't play any better. With ALONZO MOURNING coming off the bench to swat shots and score as he liked, MIAMI had the team to win it all. MOURNING might give PAYTON and MALONE a call on getting over the ring thing. Rack up another Hall-of-Famer SAHQ let down.
So, for all those SHAQ apologists, and those SHAQ romantics who boo-hooed this season away lamenting the loss of the Big Lazy, think about what MIAMI is going through right now. Hell, they didn't even make it to the Finals. Think about what kind of future they have with the Big Loser. He's not getting any younger, and he surely can't come into camp in any better shape. He still hasn't developed a go-to shot for that no mans land about 3 feet from the rim, just outside of dunking range. He still can't play defense on the pick and roll. And his free throw shooting is getting worse.
No wonder WADE didn't feed SHAQ the ball every time as the game was winding down. SHAQ did manage 3 of 4 free throws in crunch time. But come on, his teammates saw it all year long. They couldn't risk going to him in the final minutes. He's a liability in close games down the stretch.
Two losing years of his clanked foul shots, of his missed 3-foot chippees, of his mediocre rebounding and defensive play, of his lack of dedication to the team and his overall selfish focus was enough for the City of Angels. We're over our SHAQ fix. It hurt, but the pain has been fading for 3 years now. After last night, it's just about gone. This very public, very humiliating defeat for the Big Traitor should close the books on SHAQUILLE O'NEAL in Los Angeles. It's time to look forward to a new LAKER team, led by KOBE BRYANT.
Bon Voyage SHAQ. We're really going to miss you.
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