Dime: This lockout resulted in a shorter 66-game season compared to the usual 82. What are your thoughts on that?
LM: Well, that money from the lost games will never be recouped. Obviously, that million dollars from 1998, I never got that back. (Laughs) That’s never a good thing, but in terms of the players, hopefully everyone gets back in shape to where there’s not going to be a lot of injuries. Back in 1998, we saw the veteran teams are always the ones that do best in the shortened season, because they’re better equipped, they stayed ready, they know each other’s games. So it’s an easier adjustment for them than for teams that are rebuilding.
Dime: Do you feel there was maybe a lack of unity among the players, particularly between the upper crust of players and the role player types?
LM: Yeah… you could see the gap of guys who were really concerned about what was going on – the mid-level guys and lower-income guys more so than the guys who are on top. I think it would have closed the deal a lot faster if the top guys had been more involved, maybe the season would have started a little bit sooner so as to keep those guys happy.
Dime: How do you feel the players get perceived coming out of the lockout?
LM: Just like any other situation like this, it’s going to be: “Oh, these millionaires fighting over billions.” (Laughs) With the times the way they are, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are like, “We’re out here struggling and these guys are sitting here fighting over millions of dollars.” In terms of a form of entertainment that helps the average American forget about the daily grind and come out to yell, scream and get rid of some stress, I do think people will eventually get back to business and get back to watching games.
Dime: Chris Paul just reportedly requested a trade to a big-market team to play with other stars, sort of a common theme lately. Do you think that sort of thing is good for the game?
LM: No, I think that’s just the atmosphere of the players who play the game right now. They’re not used to having to take on the grind of being the go-to guy, having the responsibility laid on them. Everyone wants to join with two or three other guys to try to get the job done, and I think it’s just the culture of those young guys playing the game right now, something these guys grew up doing with the AAU circuit.
Dime: What differences do you see in today’s NBA in terms of style of play?
LM: I think the style of play is a lot different. When I first came in the league, there was no such thing as zone; you either man up, or it’s an illegal defense if you pack in the paint. Now they allow guys who aren’t good defenders to get help. There’s more free movement; when a player has the ball, if you do anything physical with him, you’ll automatically have a foul called. There are a lot of rule changes I feel handicap some of the guys, while helping certain guys who are average players look above average.
Dime: Having played in Cleveland and gotten to know that fan base, do you think they’ll ever forgive LeBron James? If so, what would it take to make that happen?
LM: No, I don’t think that’s an option at this point. (Laughs) Like if he gets to the end of his career and says, “I want to come home and play!” … Yeah, I don’t think that can happen.
Dime: Who are your favorite players to watch now?
LM: I like high flyers like Blake Griffin. Watching guys get up for crazy dunks always excited me as a player, and as a fan. In terms of style of play, I loved the past few Boston Celtics teams. They were grinding it out defensively, moving the ball well offensively – guys were getting lots of touches, they worked well as a team.
Dime: What would you say was your favorite moment from your playing career?
LM: (Cal’s) upset of Duke (in the 1993 NCAA Tournament) – no matter where I played, I always had somebody talking about that game. That was definitely one of those games that put me on the map, as well as Cal and Jason Kidd. Another highlight was being on the New Jersey Nets in 2005-06. We won our division, but lost to the eventual NBA champs, the Heat, in the playoffs.
Dime: What did you feel like the day you were drafted?
LM: Scared! (Laughs) Not knowing where I was going to end up, what part of the country – I’d been in California my whole life and didn’t know what snow was! I’d been on the East Coast on some trips in college, but I’d never really gone on my own. So I was nervous and scared to find out where I would be, and I ended up getting taken by the Clippers back in L.A., and you know the rest.
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