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Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 at 7:24 pm  |  39 responses

Issue 107 spill over: Monta Ellis, Steve Kerr and Kobe…

These TV guys are good.

By Ben Osborne

I’ve been crazy all day shipping SLAM 107, which in our crazy publishing schedule means that, by now, you all should have seen 106, and hopefully enjoyed it. Now that I spend more of my time holed up in the SLAMDome working than traveling for stories, I don’t have too many “extras” to add to what I worked on (running down Khalid’s play list or Susan’s lunches just can’t be that appealing).

My biggest writing responsibilities for the remix issue were the Monta Ellis feature and Chalk Talk on Kobe and the Lakers. The Monta Ellis scenery is covered in the story; we hooked up at the Ritz in Manhattan and did the interview in the bar there. Not too much to add to that, though I will say that seeing hulking Warriors’ coach Don Nelson walk into the Ritz chewing on an unlit cigar was pretty funny. I hope it comes through in the story, but Monta is basically a soft-spoken dude whose smallish stature and shy nature should not be confused with a lack of confidence. He doesn’t care how “unlikely” his story is, he feels like he will be a star in the NBA.

While I felt like I had the right amount of words for the Ellis story, Chalk Talk is a whole different animal. Devised against Ryan’s wishes, we created it as a way to get some real scout/coach/analyst talk into the magazine. Since we’re big fans of TNT’s NBA Coverage and because the TNT PR staff is always so on point, we decided to start by talking to TNT analysts. I can’t see us ever giving this section much more space in the magazine than the 1/3 page it got in LeBron (page 50 for those of you who have the issue but skipped over it; if you don’t have the issue, please go buy it immediately), but that’s only because we’re too photo and personality driven. It’s certainly not because these analysts don’t have a lot to say.

In fact, what I enjoyed most about interviewing Steve Kerr for this piece is being reminded just what an expert someone like he is. It’s like, when he’s on the air doing an average Thursday game, Steve can show his knowledge, but it’s always going to be “edited” to some degree. Between the play-by-play guy doing his thing, sponsors to thank, the speed of the game and the simple fact that TNT still needs to cater to more than just serious basketball nerds, it’s rare that Steve ever gets to talk that long. So, when I got with Steve over the phone I kind of expected a similar style of speech—sound-bite answers, more or less.

Instead, when I threw out little more than the topic of “Kobe, the Lakers and how they’ve done this season,” Steve flowed like water. I followed up with some specific questions about the Triangle which morphed into what I put in the magazine, but I thought you guys—Kobe lovers and haters alike—might appreciate reading a bit more of what Steve had to say. Here goes…

“I expected the Lakers to be good this year, but not this good. They’ve been one of the top five or six teams in the League. I think they started to evolve in that playoff series against Phoenix, when more people were getting involved on offense. It was no longer just the Kobe Bryant Show.

The guys have gotten more comfortable with the Triangle and now they can do great on offense even when Kobe’s on the bench. And Kobe’s improved, too. It can’t be a physical improvement—after all, for the last five or six years I don’t think there was a single skill you could say he needed to work on, from footwork to defense. So if he’s improving and you know it’s not physical, it’s more things like knowing when to take over and when to step back.

I think that the Phoenix series was a big step, and then his knee injury might’ve been a blessing too. It limited Kobe’s athleticism and maybe forced him to tone things down and do an even better job of getting everyone into a groove. And that’s what he’s been doing all season.”

For the next issue I talked to Kenny Smith on the phone about Gilbert and the Wizards. Once again, I loved hearing Kenny go on at lengths he rarely gets to on TV, but I wasn’t able to catch as much extra stuff because Charles Barkley was in the background making jokes the whole time. So all you’ll get from that convo will be in the actual issue…which is coming in about three weeks. Stay tuned.

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  • dez

    siiiiiick

  • dez

    why does Kerr remind me of Nixon in that pic?

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    kerr is one of my favorite players and TV analysts. i found his humor to be just right, and his basketball knowledge is vast. his sound bites don’t quite do justice, and his columns don’t quite capture him either. i’d love to read the full transcript of this whole convo. i have the utmost respect and admiration for this man.

  • namik

    Kerr is alright. I hate how he declares anyone who drops 50 the MVP. Lebron 54? MVP Kobe 51, 62, 81? MVP Gilbert 60? MVP. WTF???? Btw if an expert like Kerr says Kobe has changed his game, what will it take for him to get mention as one of those players who “make thier teammates better”? I dont think LeBron or Nash could even spit without somehow making thier teammates better. When MJ “gave into” the triangle, 15 documnetaries were made about the process. Kobe? Surgeries, teammates got better(WHAT?????), PJax, triangle, athleticism gone(!!!), etc. Are people even serious right now? Ish 106 was awesome, esp. the dunk contest story. The Monta story was well-written, hope to see many more. Good work overall.

  • Dylan Rice-Leary

    I love Kerr, and I could go on and on about him, but I have a technical q.

    Am I missing something, or why doesn’t this page say who the author is like most of the others do?

  • David

    Who do you think would be a better coach between Kerr, Smith, and Barkley?

  • David

    And the author’s name is at the top… “Continuing Ed. by Ben Osborne”

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Thanks, David. Sometimes we add a byline and sometimes we forget. But you should always know the author by the banner.
    Main point of this piece—and you all seem to have gotten it—is that Kerr really is a great inteview.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    PS—I think Kerr and Smith would both be great coaches. Charles? No way. He’s not interested in the grind.

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    That’s some really in depth analysis there from Kerr. NOT! Anyone with some hoops knowledge who has watched a handful of Laker games and read any of the stories about the Lakers this year would come to the same conclusion.

  • mdshuai

    Where do you think the stuff from the stories come from? They don’t get written by no one out of thin air. Guys like Kerr see it before we do, say and write it, and then we say “Oh yeah, that’s easy I know that. He’s not so great.”

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    I don’t know where I got this idea, but for some reason I thought “the stuff from the stories” comes primarily from the people who write them. Odd, I know…

  • rob stewart

    BJ armstrong was Steve Kerr, only better

  • Shiz

    I’ll always give props to Little Stevie Kerr just for being so strong during his time at AZ when his dad died (over in the middle east, I believe) and people actually had the audacity to try and use that to distract him. He played thru that. That’s when I knew dude had heart. Plus, he knows exactly what he’s talking about and can express it in a clear concise manner. Him, Doug Collins, and Hubie Brown are the best, with the Czar following closely. Reggie Miller and Magic dont even come close.

  • phelony phil

    monta ellis is going to be a star

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    nice little tidbit from Shiz. remember that incident where he actually fought MJ during a practice when MJ came back from the retirement and thus got MJ’s trust (sounded like a gang initiation or something)? i’d say that is pretty impressive.
    i agree with Ben that Kerr and Kenny both can be good coach because of their X’s and O’s, but since headcoach has to handle a lot of personalities and egos, i think Kenny edges out Kerr on that department. as of Barkley? i just don’t see that happening. he’d get frustrated and curse everyone out, then leave. he got no patience for the new kids.

  • J-roc

    Kobe should get it because he now plays team ball

  • Jpolk

    Doug Collins is terrible, he has no opinion he just refuses to take a side. He also refuses to call out players for making terrible mistakes during games.
    Barkley does (walton no matter how much i loathe him does it as well) but correct Barkley is not a coach

  • jay

    i think kerr is a really good analyst. he knows his stuff. tolbert on espn is funny but he does not hold a candle to kerr. kobe for mvp sounds good! can not wait to see that issue. kobe getting the cover??

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I was trying to convey that Kerr brings a nice mix of knowledge and enthusiasm to the subject matter, which most of you seem to understand. Next time I will try to make it an audiofile and have Sam put that up to further get my point across. Since jbn74sb thinks it’s so easy I’m sure we’ll be hearing him announcing games soon.

  • Jackson

    About 106… I hate how I’m on the west coast and don’t have the issue yet, but lately I’ve been noticing my local supermarket is the getting the ish weeks before me. What the hell?

  • Drolfe

    Kerr is not far behind Doug Collins as my favourite alalyst. He knows his sh*t plus hes a funny dude. It’s a tough job being an alayst. You gotta be funny, quick and knowledgeable.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Steve Kerr was my mom’s favorite player. She still talks about him sometimes. I actually got him to sign a Christmas card for her once, and that was probably the best gift I ever gave her.

  • ekam

    IS SLAM 106 aredi outta stroes and SLAM 107 in stores now?

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    I don’t know when Kerr finds time to write his yahoo column (during the game maybe?), but he’s my favorite yahoo nba columnist.
    Khalid brings his lunch to work and spends hours in front of the microwave.

  • Blinguo

    SLAM is soo shiny and photocentric lately that I think the mailman has been stealing issues from the subscription that’s supposed to come to the house. I got the Melo cover but not the Vince/Bosh issue. I might have to start buying them off the racks again with this pattern in mind(get one, next month miss one). The mailman probably knows who LeBron is so I’d expect 106 to go missing. Nelson wants Monta to be a great point in this league but alot of people like myself and the goldenstateofmind bloggers don’t see it right now with his high turnover/assist ratio. He does seem like he’s a year away from creating a “Monta Ellis rule,” because he has many similarities to Gilbert. Glad he has the confidence while still staying modest to earn the respect of his peers, the superstars of the league. Don Nelson also has the best quotes. A new era Red Auerbach running around with cigars? http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/90/RedAuerbachMemorial.png/200px-RedAuerbachMemorial.png
    Just like your early season Baron Davis awards pictures with him and his Cubans. No wonder those two gel soo well.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Ekam: Slam 106 is in stores now and should be for another 3+ weeks. 107 should be hitting stores around March 1.
    Blinguo: Thanks for the comments. Not sure Monta quite has the build to be the next Gilbert, but there sure are a lot of similarities. As for Nellie, I’m so torn. The guy is clearly a relative offensive genius, and in doing my interviews for the Monta feature, the Warriors I spoke to were about as effusive in their praise of their coach as any NBA guys I’ve ever interviewed (note: I did not interview Lil Dun!). And on top of the offensive brilliance and love from his players, Nellie is a great character the League is lucky to have. ALL THAT SAID, aren’t you Warrior fans a little disappointed in his performance this season? Just seemed like the Wins and Losses don’t come close to matching the hype.

  • Ryu

    Andre Iguodala needs an article. Period.

  • MHaggs

    I remember an interview Ellis did last season in the Bay Area with Tom Tolbert and Ralph Barbieri on the afternoon Razor & Mr. T show on KNBR. Moontgomery had just started rotating him in for some real minutes, and he had been playing well even though he was dwarfed on the court by veteran players seemingly twice his size. On the radio, Ellis was so meek, so obviously uncomfortable answering questions about himself and afraid to embarrass the team in any way, I felt sorry for him. Tolbert’s last question to him was obviously meant to give him an easy one on the way to commercial — Monta, what food would you choose if it was the last meal on earth? (If you know Tolbert, he’s always asking about non-sports related things, but come on)– well, they went to commercial weith Ellis at a loss for words.

    Point is, it’s good to see two things: he’s confident on the court and playing well for an (almost 500) squad with a new coach and now, significant new players, and he’s meeting up with Osborne for a much more relaxed and elucidating conversation at the Ritz, no less. Was he old enough to be in the bar though?

    Keep up the good work SLAM. Thanks for dedicating a few inches to the GSW. They’ll get that 8th spot one day.

  • MHaggs

    I remember an interview Ellis did last season in the Bay Area with Tom Tolbert and Ralph Barbieri on the afternoon Razor & Mr. T show on KNBR. Montgomery had just started rotating him in for some real minutes, and he had been playing well even though he was dwarfed on the court by veteran players seemingly twice his size. On the radio, Ellis was so meek, so obviously uncomfortable answering questions about himself and afraid to embarrass the team in any way, I felt sorry for him. Tolbert’s last question to him was obviously meant to give him an easy one on the way to commercial — Monta, what food would you choose if it was the last meal on earth? (If you know Tolbert, he’s always asking about non-sports related things, but come on)– well, they went to commercial with Ellis at a loss for words.

    Point is, it’s good to see two things: he’s confident on the court and playing well for an (almost 500) squad with a new coach and now, significant new players, and he’s meeting up with Osborne for a much more relaxed and elucidating conversation at the Ritz, no less. Was he old enough to be in the bar though?

    Keep up the good work SLAM. Thanks for dedicating a few inches to the GSW. They’ll get that 8th spot one day.

  • Daniel

    KOBE should get the cover.He has new jersey mumber,the LAKERS are doin really good. KOBE is the top three for MVP so far.SLAM please give KOBE the cover he deserves it and you know it. P.S KOBE 4 MVP GO LAKERS

  • bon

    andre iguodala needs a cover

  • Blinguo

    Monta is much a better interview this year evidenced by Fitz and Jim Barnett giving him a pregame TV sit down when he was out for a few games with injury. Yes, Ben being a team that hasn’t been at .500 in a while is a bad thing. Losing games to the LeBron-less Cavs then Atlanta Hawks back to back on the road is a bad thing. Losing to The worst record in the L Grizz (when they had like 7 wins total on the season) in a game in which they score 130 is a bad thing. But at least we have a core now to build around, with players who want to play for the Warriors, probably the best we’re going to get in a while. (Doesn’t hurt that they’re good buddies with B.Davis) This isn’t the Dun/Murph/Foyle club that Chris Mullin believed in keeping around a while -just because.

  • Drolfe

    Saying ‘period’ after a definitive statement is so played out. Stop doing that, world. Also, world, now i got your attention, stop using the phrase ‘can you say..’. As in: ‘Steve Nash. Can you say three time MVP?’ Yes, everyone can say that. Its easy. So shut up. Use normal phrasing.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    MHaggs: Thanks for the comments. All Monta drank at the bar was ice water…and according to his old coach he’s “never drank or smoked in his life.”

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Bon: If you like Iguodala you will like our next issue…

  • David

    WHEN IS EARL BOykINS going to get some ink in your papre i mean c’mon PLZ.

  • John

    When he hits 5 feet.

  • dominic

    xavier smells bad

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