NBA TV works well in West Virginia, too
As I wrote a little earlier, I had an interesting and lengthy chat with Hall of Famer and former Lakers great Jerry West. What am I saying? Every chat with The Logo is interesting, and often fascinating. After reaching him at his vacation home in West Virginia, we talked mostly about his ex-teammate and close friend Elgin Baylor, who was dumped as Clippers GM on Tuesday and replaced by Mike Dunleavy, another West friend. The loyalty to Baylor, though, clearly prevails ...
Anyway, West, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday - if you can believe that - says he is working out daily, is scheduled to return home to L.A.. later this month, and is enjoying his sabbatical from the NBA. And then of course, Jerry being Jerry, he weighed in on the league. And, Jerry being Jerry, he doesn't miss much. He analyzed the Western Conference for me - sorry, most of it was off the record - and when asked about the Kings, volunteered an opinion: He thinks rookie small forward Donte Green is among the league's most talented prospects No surprise there. A la Geoff Petire, West favors skilled, versatile athletes, as opposed to one-dimensional players who are pursued because, say, they're tall, and everyone argues that you need a center. And come on. When West talks, you would be foolish not to listen. The Laker icon - who spent the past four years with the Memphis Grizzlies - is universally regarded as the keenest talent evaluator in league history, his few clunkers notwithstanding.
Coming to you in print
A must read: West also revealed that he has begun writing an autobiography that is scheduled to be completed within 12 months. "It's about my life," he said, adding with a chuckle, "and it's going to include the things that made me borderline insane at times. It will be honest. I'm a complex person. Nothing has ever satisfied me. That's just who I am. It (the book) is going to be truthful, and it's going to be serious."
A significant portion of the book, West said, will deal with his relationship with his former African-American teammates and colleagues during the 1950s and turbulent 60s. "My closest friends were black players," said West, a native of Cabin Creek (or Chelyan) West Virginia, a rural riverside community not far from Charleston. "Maybe it was our (common) backgrounds." He plans to detail his intense, almost sibling relationship with Baylor, who is four years his senior. West absolutely loves the guy. As he talked about Baylor's demise with the Clippers early Wednesday evening, the notoriously emotional West had to pause and collect his thoughts. "I really don't know what's going on," he said, "but it doesn't matter. Elgin and I talk every few weeks. He's a friend of mine. He will always be a friend of mine."
Yep. The guy is complex. And fascinating. And among the game's compelling, enduring characters. I am too young to remember The Logo as as the Lakers shooting guard with the sweet stroke and impeccable timing, but I know him as the NBA exec whose opinion mattered more than anyone else's. Wouldn't surprise me if he resurfaces somewhere as a consultant, his protests nothwithstanding .....
On the market front
West, who virtually jumped through hoops for the Grizzlies in an attempt to kick-start the fledgling small-market franchise, disagrees with the categorization of Sacramento as a similar "small market" organization. "The demographics of the league have changed," he said. "The big markets have a big advantage, a much bigger advantage than they used to. But Sacramento is a growing area, with a captive audience for the Kings. And that's huge. The fans will get a little restless, but the owners (Maloofs) understand that. They'll get it going up there again."
As for that "going through hoops" bit: When I was in Memphis waiting to interview West three years ago, he was participating in a free throw shooting contest with season ticket holders. More than most, he has always understood the need to tend to the people who place their fannies in the seats ...