Salty

by Michael Tillery

Mike did it just so flawlessly, Kobe does it just so easily and now Derrick “The Bull Wonder” Rose (don’t matter, just don’t bite it) is doing it just so Chicago nicely.

Doing what?

The spin move.

Where did it come from?

You better ask somebody.

I did, and he told me.

That he is the one and only Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. He was at the Sixers game, and I had to pounce after my well-esteemed colleague Anthony Gilbert hit me up earlier, and said “Jesus is gonna be there tonight.”

What?! The smile was straight cheese.

Saw a glimpse of him at Washington vs. the Heat, but in a flash, he was gone.

Damn, but chance favors the prepared mind, so I knew there would be another chance.

Excuse my excitement and dig reality’s brand of shift and turn enlightenment.

You better listen to your corner and watch for the hook!

The hook is the spin which created many, many opportunities to win.

The Sixers do a great thing in bringing in legends that add to the pageantry when the Los Angeles Lakers are in town. Last year it was Julius Erving and this year, Earl Monroe. After the game, everyone is jockeying for position to get in front of Kobe. Talking about picking a number? Damn, this is crazy! There are cameras everywhere. I was speaking with Sonny Hill about something and he tells Pearl he wanted to get him in to talk to Phil Jackson. But before they go, I wanted to ask Mr. Monroe a few questions.

SLAM: Pearl, being from here and finally meeting Kobe tonight, did you ever envision the greatest player of my generation and now the second player using your move to get to the hole?
Earl Monroe: If it had to happen, then I’m glad it happened in front of Philadelphians so they can saw it. I think it’s all good.

SLAM: What inspired the spin move? What did it for you?
EM: I guess necessity to try to get away from guys. I was inspired to do it in the natural course of the game. It just happened.

SLAM: No one really says this, but NFL players do it as well.
EM: Yeah, it’s surprising to see that. It’s all good, though.

SLAM: Your legacy—what you’ve provided for the game of basketball. There are so many players who don’t realize what you’ve given to the love. Who is Earl the Pearl?
EM: Somebody who had a flair for playing the game in a certain way. It really started what these guys are doing today. I guess if I was thinking of a legacy as such, that would probably be it. They are playing the game I played.

I hit up Sixers assistant coach Jimmy Lynam—who is also from Philly—about Earl Monroe. He’s the one who gave me the term “falling from the ceiling” in the Dr. J piece. Always a great quote because he loves talking about the history of basketball.

Coach Jimmy Lynam: Earl went to Bartram High School in Southwest Philly, and I went to West Catholic but I was right on the fringe. I would have gone to Bartram if I went to public school. I felt like I knew him even though back then I didn’t know him. One summer…I don’t know how to say this…he was a freelance, schoolyard type of player. He went to a small school down in Winston-Salem. He came back one summer, and he had a move I’d never seen before. They called it the “Pearl Move.” No one ever spun like that with a basketball and you can take that to the bank. Guys all say they…no you didn’t dude. I don’t know where he got it or how he got it but he invented the move they all do today.

Here’s Pearl at his best:

So as they make their way into the locker room to meet Kobe, I’m feeling like someone trampled on Black Friday near Kobe’s locker. Kobe greets Sonny Hill (grew up in Sonny’s youth league), meets Mr. Monroe, takes some pictures and settles right in front of my mic. For those learning how to report, you have to be aggressive and have confidence doing so or you will get lost in a group of thirty reporters very quickly. Most likely, you have a deadline to meet and you will be hot you didn’t get what you needed. Fire away. No question is stupid if you know the sport. You may not ever get the shot, so do what you have to do to make it happen.

SLAM: What has the spin move meant to your game?
Kobe Bryant: I stole it when I was 13 years old. I was watching an NBA Entertainment video talking about Earl the Pearl’s spin move, and I just told him I jacked so many of his moves, including his pump fake and pull up jump shot.

SLAM: You just became the second youngest to go over 20,000 points by one day. Wilt has you by one day. Do you ever think if you went for a dime that crazy night in Toronto you would have caught Wilt earlier?
KB: (Laughs then gives me the ambassador answer while still smiling) It’s such and honor to be anywhere in the vicinity of Wilt Chamberlain. I refer to him as a “human video game” because the numbers he put up were astronomical. I really don’t think about it too much but to be in the vicinity is a huge honor.

Kobe usually gets a cheese steak and drives around the old neighborhood when he comes home. He spoke of last night’s last second loss to the Pacers getting him out of his routine and focusing on the Sixers. During the game, he was booed the Philly boo as loud as I’ve ever heard it here. There were a lot of Kobe fans rocking both his Lower Merion 33 and many wearing full Lakers warm-ups. As the game went on, there was a pseudo competition to see who was the loudest.

SLAM: Kobe, there was a play tonight where you picked up a lose ball in the corner off the break and swished an uncontested three. You turned to the crowd, ran up the court and stuck Cis Crossyour chest out just a little bit. What was that about?
KB: It’s fun! When you bring fans into the game, it makes for a more enjoyable experience for the fans at the game. It’s something I normally don’t do, but since I’m home, I felt we had that rapport to kind of have that kind of energy throughout the course of the game.

SLAM: Is it something you’ll reflect back on after you retire the way they receive you here?
KB: Sure. Sure. I think as time goes on, it gets better and better. It’s special. This is where I call home.

Someone asked if this current Lakers team could win 70 games and Kobe alluded to having a conversation with Phil Jackson about Chicago playing in the Midwest being an advantage because of less travel.

SLAM: I know you are going to say more championships, but is winning 70 games something you want to do because it’s one of the few things you haven’t done?
KB: Yeah, I want to win another championship! We have the talent to do it. We came close last year, and we want to finish the job.

After being immortalized in the Bull Wonder’s now permanent highlight reel, Andre Miller had a season high of 28 in an overtime win in the second of a back to back the other night. Against t he Lakers, Miller looked for his shot early and often. Driving to the basket, hitting open jumpers and doing what he could to keep his team in the game with Elton Brand nursing a hamstring. He finished with 26. Late in the fourth quarter, Kobe was given the defensive assignment to guard Dre.

SLAM: Regarding Andre Miler. Were you trying to limit his touches being he had such a nice game?
KB: He was hurting us. He has a big body so he was taking advantage of our smaller guards by getting in the paint and doing what he does best. I tried to use my size to get into his passing angles and stop his penetration.

A reporter from Italy came in, wrecked shop and sent the throng of reporters away tucking their tails. Crazy that Kobe has so much appeal across the world. Beijing cemented this sentiment I’m sure.

Revisiting the chair that was shot out from under Andre Miller the other night, I wanted to hear it from Andre himself. Pregame he was doing his usual of watching game film intently. Searching for that L.A. weakness. I hate to bother him during this time, but he’s always been good as long as you are brief.

SLAM: Talk about Derrick crossing you over and then subsequently coming back and putting up 28 in the Chi and winning.
Andre Miller: It was a nice play by him. Every player has been crossed up in this league. Every player. I guess it was made a big deal because he’s a rookie…

SLAM: And it was you.
AM: It didn’t matter who it was. They would have made it a big deal regardless. As far as coming back, it was a matter of pride after losing such a big lead at home.

SLAM: Was that game a game of frustration get out?
AM: Kind of, but it was more of we had to have a sense of urgency and try to figure out of how to get from under this losing streak.

SLAM: What’s it going to take for you to win five or six straight?
AM: I don’t know. Everybody has to be on the same track. I don’t think everybody is shooting the ball all that well. As the season goes along, I think we’ll get it together.

SLAM: Is it something where you are still learning about each other at every single moment of practice as well as the floor?
AM: Yeah we are, but after a while you got to go out there with common sense. It’s basketball. You have to go out there and play your game. Sometimes I think you might think a little too much—over analyze stuff. We’ll just have to go out and play and figure this out. The game will fall in place.”

Does anyone remember Richard Dumas? He was a rookie when Chuck led the Suns to the Finals against the Bulls. He would be on fire the first quarter and then fizzle out as the game wore on. Dumas unfortunately fell on bad times and never panned out. Well, Trevor Ariza reminds me of Dumas because of the hops around the rim. Dude tries to act as if he just has long arms…He had a nice couple of Oops

SLAM: Anyone ever say you remind them of Richard Dumas?
Trevor Ariza: Nah.

SLAM: Do you know who Richard Dumas is?
TA: No.

SLAM: He played with Phoenix in ’93. He had the sick hops like you. Just ridiculous around the rim.
Nah, rightTA: Man, my arms are just long man. I don’t get up that high.

SLAM: Whatever. You banged it on my boy Grant Hill something crazy last year. Had nothing to do with long arms unless you are talking banging it on somebody as you come down. What did you learn from your Pop Kenny McClary (played at Florida in the late 80s)?
TA: To play hard. Go out there and play hard every time up and down the floor.

SLAM: What’s your role on the team?
TA: Whatever is missing I try to go out there and do.

Phil Jackson is always an interesting talk. If you don’t know your stuff, he will embarrass you, but will answer relevant questions for the most part. Say what you will about him, but he’s one of the best all time coaches regardless of sport. Pre-game, he spoke of how some of his team was stung by the Pacers win the other night. He also brings up a great point about Elton brand only playing eight games this year and that maybe he’s not yet 100 percent physically, says the League is evolving into more high post center play and Sam Mitchell being fired.

SLAM: Phil, what happened on that last play?
Phil Jackson: We didn’t recover the ball. Just got to get it back, get some rebounds and create second chance opportunities.

SLAM: You get everyone’s toughest game night in and night out. What are some of the challenges to ensure your team sustains its mental edge. Going into anyone’s town you are going to get their best game?
PJ: You know…I hope we realize that. Last night was a good lesson. You just have to peak as a team. You can’t take a night off and go through the motions. You have to go out and play your game.”

On Mitchell being fired:
PJ: Brian Colangelo was in L.A. He thought he had to go out and watch the team. That caused some suspicions on my part to think something was going on. Sam’s a workman. They’ve called him that in this League for a number of years, and he’s done a good job. I call it the curse of the Coach of the Year (four out of the last five either stepped down or were fired). You see it time and time again with a team that is struggling and rights its wrongs…then a lot is expected. He’ll find another job.

SLAM: The turnstile effect you just spoke about—the Coach of the Year curse. When organizations reach a certain level and then fire their coach, what is that attributed to. Is it the fans? Is it all about the bottom line?
PJ: When you change coaches, it’s tough to change 14 players. Moving players around is really difficult. When the breakdown comes in communication then that’s when the problems arise. I sent condolences when Scott Skiles was let go. He sent me back a letter that said: I’ve never seen a coach who hasn’t fired himself. It’s just usually endemic in the situation and becomes cancerous. I don’t know if I agree with that 100 percent, but it’s coming from another perspective. It’s management’s perspective and I have to weigh that from someone who knows the business from that side.

Last stop, Andrew Bynum. At Game One of the Finals, I spotted Andrew sitting in a chair mad as hell he couldn’t play when I was interviewing Julius Erving on the floor.

SLAM: Andrew, what’s it been like from that moment and finally getting your wheels back?
AB: It feels great. Now I’m out there getting more comfortable every game. I feel like I’m picking up where I left off. I’m trying to go out there and hoop every game, night in and night out.

SLAM: I had a conversation with Kareem about you that same day. He spoke highly of your potential. How long do you think it will take until you say to yourself, ”I’m here and can’t nobody stop me”?
AB: Basically, it’s the more and more games I play, the more experience I gain. That’s really all it’s going to take. The way to get comfortable is to do it over and over again. I played 35 games last season. I was at the point where I felt in a zone. When I got hurt, that all went away. I’m trying to rebuild that.

SLAM: You obviously have one of the most headstrong coaches in the history of sport. How do you learn from him and deal with him on an every day basis?
AB: Basically, Phil just wants to make you as off-guard as possible. He wants to make you uncomfortable because it’s effective.

SLAM: I remember vividly seeing you sit next to the court at the Finals and you look like you were straight pissed off. Help us out here. Did it inspire you? Was it a good thing?
AB: It definitely wasn’t a good thing to be in that position of being hurt. Only thing it made me understand is how quickly it all can be taken away. How you can be on top of the world one minute and below it the next?

On a night Kobe met Pearl, something usual happened…The Lakers won. It remains to be seen if they catch up to Boston defensively, but their offense is sick enough to choke teams into submission. Kobe’s minutes are cut down to save his legs for playoff time. He’s like a hired mercenary on his own team and just enters the game and scores when needed. It’s not about the stats anymore with Kobe. As James Beale of the City Paper here in Philly put it, Kobe seems to have a grid laid out on the court and moves strategically across that grid any way he wants to. As Philadelphia past meets Philadelphia present, who will spin move themselves into the future?