Jerry West Rumors
Kerr overhauled a team culture that had grown poisonous, for well-documented reasons, under Jackson and his assistants. In his zeal to motivate players, Jackson fostered resentment among them and toward the front office. He fired two assistants, requested Jerry West stay away from practices, and asked a younger front-office official to stop rebounding for players, sources have said.
Immediately, the Warriors gained credibility. To Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber, West provided them, as they called it, “the cover of darkness.” Explains Lacob: “Our feeling was, even if we made some mistakes, at least if we had Jerry West involved, how much of idiots could we be?” At the same time, Lacob set about building the rest of the franchise foundation. Myers, a personable 36-year-old agent who’d worked under Arn Tellem, was introduced as the GM-in-waiting at the same presser as West. Nearly 10 years earlier, Myers had given West a heads-up before flying to meet clients in Memphis. West, then the Grizzlies GM, not only picked Myers up at the airport—“most of the time your friends don’t even do that,” says Myers—but insisted he stay at his house. (Hospitality is a recurring theme with Jerry).
From the start, Myers leaned on West for advice, especially once elevated to GM, replacing Larry Riley. The Warriors’ unique collaborative process evolved, with decisions undertaken by a team consisting of Lacob, Myers, West and assistant GMs Travis Schlenk and Lacob’s older son, Kirk (and, later, coach Steve Kerr). Strong opinions were expected. Disagreement was encouraged. One rival coach calls it, “one of the healthiest organizations in the NBA.”
Speak to the principals today and everyone says it was a group decision, none more forcefully than West. As is his nature, he takes great pains to deflect any credit, praising the work of Myers and Lacob and the rest. Myers points out that, “It’s a lot easier to make suggestions than decisions.” As for Lacob, he dismisses the topic. “There was never, ever a time when we were going to consider trading Klay in that deal,” he says. “Jerry was strong on that, but so was everybody else.” This may be true. Then again, a source with knowledge of the negotiations counters that, “The deal was done. And Jerry put his foot down.”
Perhaps West’s biggest contribution came last summer, though, when, along with Kerr, he adamantly opposed a trade centered around Thompson and Love. West argued that trading Thompson would be an enormous mistake. The Warriors were built on defense and Love, while a skilled offensive player, was a subpar defender. What’s more, West was certain Thompson would continue to improve, giving the Warriors a potential Hall of Fame backcourt for the next decade. West felt so strongly that, according to one person close to the negotiations, he threatened to resign if the team made the trade. Chances are, West wouldn’t have actually done it—that’s just the way he talks—but when the most successful talent evaluator in league history feels that adamantly about something, it’s probably worth listening.
“I knew that Kobe learned a lot from Elgin Baylor and from Jerry West,” Barnes said. “I would watch (video of) Jerry, because he used to always say that his pull-up was unbelievable. No matter where he was on the court, he could always square up and get you a shot no matter what, so I looked up his clips after I heard that. I saw that kind of stuff, and obviously when I got drafted here I saw some more of his stuff. And then getting on the court with him? That was nuts. “We’d work out in the morning. We’d get some work in, and then he’d show up and put me through a workout. He’d show me stuff he would do, and then we’d go out to eat and talk about what the league is like today, stuff he saw back in the day.
The discussions, as Barnes saw it, were as meaningful as the drills. And yes, for those who naturally wondered, West was an active participant in these workouts that also included former Warriors assistant coach Joe Boylan. “It was crazy,” Barnes said. “To be able to not only spend time with him on the court, but off the court as well, to see how he saw the game, how I need to see the game, the things that he saw in my game. He actually took the court and practiced on certain things.
For five days, Barnes joined the Hall of Famer whose Bel-Air home is just down the street from one of the more infamous basketball courts you’ll find. By day, they worked on the regulation-sized court that’s inside the home of shoe mogul Steven Jackson – a replica of the Staples Center, “Lakers mausoleum,” as West describes it, that visiting NBA teams will sometimes use for shoot-arounds or practices. By night, they all sat in the West’s family dining room, where his wife, Karen, would take food requests from Barnes and try to replenish all those calories he’d burned learning tricks of the trade from her legendary husband.
The battles between his Los Angeles Lakers and Bill Russell’s Celtics were legendary, but West has concerns that — between the potential for three-hour time changes and all that extra airplane time — there would be too much of a collective toll taken from the increased travel. “You’re back (at the opponent’s arena) and you fly home, and you maybe have a day off? I don’t like that, and the reason I don’t like it is because the playoffs are when you’re trying to establish the dominance of a team and potentially a team that would have a chance to win a championship,” West told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t like to mess with something that has been a tradition for this league for years.”
On the wave of NBA analytics and his old-school praise of James Harden, around the 17:15 mark: “You can’t look in the heart of someone–you can take every test… “One of the best players in the league, one of the very best players in the league is James Harden. I really admire the way he plays. And he’s one of those players who reminds me kind of an old-fashioned player. But he’s so clever. “But my best guess is if we gave these guys all kinds of tests before they were drafted, and he was a high draft pick, I don’t know how he would he’d rate on that scale.”
Mark Medina: Mitch Kupchak on Magic saying Jim Buss doesn’t give him enough authority to make decisions: “I have the same authority I had w/ Dr. Buss. Jerry West had the same authority with Dr. Buss. I’ve got that same authority with Jimmy. Jimmy and I work very closely together”
Q: You enjoyed playing with Wilt? Jerry West: He was one of the most uniquely different people that I’ve ever been around in my life. I felt that at times he never felt he got the credit due him. The two of us were probably pretty easy targets, because you would think that someone of his stature would have won more than two NBA championships during his career, and it was grossly unfair how people looked at him like that. And hell, I had never won a championship playing alongside one of the truly great players who never gets his due, and that’s Elgin Baylor. I had kind of an interesting relationship with [Wilt], particularly our last year together [1972-73 season]. It was really interesting because many nights we would, unbeknownst to most people, we would go in his room or my room and have dinner, and talk about a lot of things, many of ’em not basketball related, to be honest with you. But I found him to be very introspective, also now in many ways like all of us, the insecurities that we all have sometimes as athletes. It’s easy to feel great about when you win championships.
Jerry West enjoyed playing at Madison Square Garden so much during his collegiate career at West Virginia that he hoped the Knicks would pick him in the 1960 NBA draft. “I thought I was going to be drafted by the Knicks,” the Lakers Hall of Famer said this past week. “I wanted very much to play in New York.”
Jerry West knows the feeling Klay Thompson was feeling Friday night. He has often reflected about a game in which he made 16 of 17 shots and also made all 12 of his free throws. But the 76-year-old Warriors executive assistant was quick to say that Thompson’s 52-point outing against Sacramento, particularly his 37-point quarter in which he made all 13 of his shots and was 9 for 9 from beyond the 3-point arc, was a feat so unprecedented and exciting that it kept him up all night. “I flew back (to his home in Los Angeles) after the game, and honestly, I couldn’t go to sleep,” West said Saturday. “I was replaying in my own mind what I had just witnessed. It was incredible to watch. It’s something no one’s watched, to be honest with you. The people that were fortunate to be there saw something that’s probably not going to happen for a long, long time if it ever happens again.”
“I just think it’s gaining confidence,” said Jerry West, in the pro-Thompson camp since before the Draft as a Warriors minority owner and advisor in basketball operations. “He still has a long way to go and he’s got room for improvement. He’s starting to get the ball to the basket, get to the free-throw line a lot better than he did before. Now he has to figure out a way how to finish it around the basket. That comes with experience, it comes with playing against different types of players.”
Today’s playoffs consist of more rounds than they did when West played, and free agency makes it more difficult for teams to develop continuity, he says. “It’s absolutely ludicrous” to judge players based on whether they’ve won a title, West says. “Has Chris Paul ever had the most talented team? No, he hasn’t. Take Chris Paul off the Clippers, and what do you have?”