James Worthy: Lakers Are Team To Beat

by October 04, 2010

SLAM contributor Matthew Ogborn recently spoke with Los Angeles Lakers legend James Worthy, who shared his take on everything from Scottie Pippen to the state of his beloved LA franchise.

On hoops in London:
“This is my fourth time to London. I first came here in college in 1980 and we played in a Christmas tournament against Tel Aviv and I have been here a few times on my own. It is pretty cool to see the growth and hopefully more interest in the game. I think they are getting aware. Football is still extremely strong but I think with the Olympics coming to town, and professional teams coming to help promote the sport and have people understand it better, it will get better and more popular. I think the main objective is to try and engage with the fans and, not only teach them about the sport, but also give something back to the community.”

On his foundation:
“The James Worthy Foundation is good. We are doing a lot to give kids a different alternative. Sometimes there’s just not enough slots on the team to give everybody the chance to make it. We try to tell kids they have a better chance of being an astronaut than an NBA player in situations like that.”

On the Lakers:
“I may sound a little bias, but I still believe the Lakers are in the best position to win a championship because it’s very difficult to build  chemistry and have the nucleus and the Lakers already have that. The additions of [Matt] Barnes, who is a physical player, they need that and [Steve] Blake too who can help Derek Fisher out at the guard position. I still think we are the team to beat, but you know Miami is very talented with Wade, LeBron and Bosh but it takes time for them to build some harmonious chemistry. I still think the Celtic, with some of the additions they have made, could be up there again.”

On the Clippers:
“They always seem to get really good talent and I think [Blake] Griffin is an example of that, but for some reason the organisation doesn’t get it. They didn’t sign [Elton] Brand back and [Baron] Davis only came to the Clippers, because he wanted to play with Brand. It starts from the top and they just don’t seem to build winners over there. I don’t expect too much from them.”

On the new class of rookies:
“There is a lot of pressure on rookies, but I think [John] Wall from the point guard position will shine. It’s 82 games, instead of thirty-something games, so that will be his biggest challenge. His talent is exceptionally good, but there is a learning curve in the NBA that all the rookies will have to go through. I’m from the old school. I don’t give young guys credit until they prove themselves.”

On Scott Pippen’s Hall of Fame recognition:
“Scottie was solid. Michael [Jordan] will be the first to tell you that, without Scottie, it would have been difficult to achieve what he did. Scottie, over the years, was an exceptional defensive player and definitely deserving of the six championships in a pretty heroic career.”

On Kobe:
“I think from my perspective, and from what I hear on a daily basis, he has always gotten the credit. There are Kobe haters, LeBron haters and Worthy haters. There are always going to be haters out there, but from a former player he is second to none right now in the league. He could have played in the 80s with us, he has the same mentality. He is tough, disciplined and committed and I don’t think there is anybody out there that is better than him right now.”

On Pau Gasol’s Importance:
“He is extremely important. I remember when Vlade Divac came and how important he was in the international scope of things. Pau has definitely become, not only extremely popular in America, but in his home country of Spain it will be interesting to watch how Kobe will take a back seat to all that.”