Jerry West isn’t angry that the Los Angeles Lakers lost. The former Lakers player and general manager knows the team can’t win a championship every year. But he also knows that if they aren’t going to win, they should at least bow out with some dignity. Instead, West watched the Lakers team he still loves get swept by the Lakers in a series that included Ron Artest getting suspended for one game for a flagrant foul, and both Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum being ejected in Game 4 on Sunday. All told it was a total implosion by the two-time champs and they couldn’t have handled it with less professionalism.
West said Monday he never thought this Lakers team had what it was going to take to win a third straight championship. He also went a step further, saying he was embarrassed that this group would act the way that it did in their final losing effort — a way that was unbecoming of players in a Lakers uniform.
Jerry West joined The Dan Patrick Show to discuss being surprised by the sweep but not shocked by how well Dallas played, how he felt some of the Lakers’ actions were classless and embarrassing, why he never felt confident in the team’s chances to three-peat while watching them this season, how the Lakers can recover to compete for more championships, why he won’t be recommending any individual as the new coach, and why he’s now cheering for the Memphis Grizzlies.
How surprised was he that the Lakers were swept?:
“Obviously very surprised, but, again, I think people don’t realize that Dallas had the exact same record as the Lakers did this year. And they had a terrific road record, they were capable. It’s a completely different looking Dallas team than I’d seen before. When I watched the Lakers play they looked dispirited. Some of the things that I saw out there, really frankly, were pretty classless. The Lakers have won with class and they’ve lost with class and [Sunday], as someone who worked there and is pretty proud of my years with the Lakers, I was a little bit embarrassed — not with the loss, but some of the things I saw on the floor which I thought were really just not something that a person that wears a Laker uniform should do.”
How do the Lakers recover from this?:
“I’m not there as the GM, but I think all year long I watched this team and it’s about Phil’s last stand, about almost everyone being assured they would be in the Finals. But there were just too many distractions. Phil’s a very powerful figure and has had an incredible career. I almost felt, at times, the focus was more on him than the team. … I felt, at times this year, that everyone just assumed that the Lakers were going to do it. I didn’t like this team from the start of the year. I didn’t think it was well-equipped to win another championship.”
What do the Lakers need to continue to compete for championships?:
“First of all they need athletes. This is the least athletic Laker team as I’ve seen in a long time. … I think [Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum] have to be used differently. Putting Pau Gasol and having him guard Dirk Nowitzki, there was no way that was going to happen. There’s just no way.”
“There’s a lot of coaches out there, given the opportunity and given good players. It’s not always about the coach, OK? It is not. Phil has done an incredible job where he’s been. You need the right coach with the right team. He’s had great, great players that he’s coached, OK? You can’t demean anything that he’s done. You might have had another coach that had gone in there and had the same players and not put them together and mold them as a team. … Sooner or later you just can’t keep recycling coaches. It’s just like players, they can’t play forever.”
What’s it like to see the Memphis franchise, which he had a hand in building, doing well this year?:
“They don’t get a lot of publicity. Zach Randolph might be the best big forward in basketball. He’s grown up, he’s matured, he competes his fanny off every night. Marc Gasol benefits from having him there. And Lionel Hollins has done a heckuva job making them a defensive team. They create turnovers; they’re tough-minded. … I’m so happy for [the brass] but more importantly the people of Memphis. I always felt that city lacked some self-esteem for the city itself. To see the fans behind them right now makes me really feel good.”