Lamond Murray, who played in the league for 12 seasons, has nothing but good things to say about the Los Angeles Clippers' 2011-12 campaign.
“It’s a great season as far as I’m concerned,” Lamond Murray told me during a phone interview I conducted with him Sunday afternoon. “The GM (Neil Olshey) did a great job bringing in Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, all these new guys to the table that are quality players. It’s been a season where the guys have been able to get together in a short period of time, with the shortened season, without much practice time … I have no complaints about this season and look forward to what the possibilities are for next season.”
Murray’s take on the other Los Angeles team’s lack of success so far in the second round is a bit more harsh to say the least. Murray questions the mind frame of the Lakers, as they have blown 4th quarter leads in two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder en route to being down 3-1 in the series.
“They have to find within themselves if they really want to win this or if they’re just out there going through the motions. You see a guy like Pau Gasol pass up a wide-open shot and turn the ball over (at the end of Game 4) you got to wonder what’s really going on with their concentration and their mind frame right now as a team. Kobe’s playing well but Andrew Bynum starts the game off tremendous, like he showed up to play today, and then he disappears in the second half.”
The Lakers coaching situation is also a concern for Murray, with Mike Brown completing his first season as head coach with the team. Phil Jackson, considered by many as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, left at the end of last year after coaching the Lakers in 11 of 12 straight seasons, dating back to 1999-00. Jackson won five championships in his Lakers tenure.
“They are going through adjustments in terms of coaching philosophy … you got to look at that as well. We’ve always thought that most of the season that that would come out but they’ve done a great job all season of getting wins and taking care of business. Now though it’s becoming a little bit more visible in terms of what coach Mike Brown is doing right now in the playoffs.”
The criticism that LeBron James doesn’t come through down the stretch of close games, which started during his last playoff run with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, has continued full force in these playoffs. There has only been one instance in the postseason, Game 2 of the Miami Heat’s current second round series against the Indiana Pacers when he missed two free throws with under a minute left in the 4th quarter and also passed up several shots late, where this criticism is warranted. The three-time MVP also registered one of the great playoff performances in NBA history on Sunday afternoon, dropping 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists on the Pacers in a must have Game 4 win. However, James disappeared or deferred in several regular season games so the criticism simply needed a spark to become a fire again. Murray has no problem fanning the flames.
“He’s more of a stat guy as far as I’m concerned. What I mean by a stat guy that means I’m going to go get 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists every night, that’s my goal. My goal is not to be in a position at the end of the game to take over and win the game. When you look at a Kobe Bryant he’s got a combination of both. He’s going to go get his stats but then he’s also looking for that moment to shine at the end of the game.”
“It’s lucky that Miami has Dwayne Wade because I see him perform in the last two minutes where he’s been able to take over a game and seal the deal. I think LeBron has been a deterrent to him because he doesn’t share the confidence in the last two minutes to take over.”
You’ve probably gathered by now that Murray doesn’t believe the Lakers and Heat will meet up in the NBA Finals. Instead he envisions a Spurs/Celtics clash for the NBA’s ultimate prize. He points to Gregg Popovich, who Murray calls “one of the best coaches in the NBA” and someone who “has experience winning a championship in a shortened season” (the Spurs captured the title in the NBA’s last strike shortened season back in 1999) as a big reason why the Spurs will get there. For both teams, he feels that “veteran leadership” will be the key towards their advancement into the Finals.
Outside of keeping a close eye on the NBA, Murray continues to play basketball professionally, most recently with the ABA’s Los Angeles Slam. He is also currently an educational speaker for the NCSA, an organization that helps high school student-athletes maximize their scholarship and life potential. Murray speaks locally in the Los Angeles area as well as across the country to student-athletes about opportunities available with the NCSA. His motivation for joining the NCSA definitely hits home.
“I got involved with the NCSA because my kids are playing sports at a high level in high school and I looked at it as an opportunity for them to be seen by more college coaches then we’re used to out here in California. … They can basically brand themselves as young athletes and college coaches can go online and see their profiles, a video of them, their GPA and their interests. … It’s almost like a Facebook for athletes.”
A Staff Writer for RotoExperts, Tamer Chamma is a two time top 50 Finalist in the WFAN Fantasy Phenom contest as well as a weekly guest on the SiriusXM "RotoExperts" morning show. Tamer is also a fill-in co-host for the show. You may contact Tamer @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RotoExperts_TC