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News » Lakers' bench must step up

Lakers' bench must step up

Lakers' bench must step up

Game time: Lakers 92, Pistons 77

For the first game of a back-to-back stretch on the road, the best the Lakers could wish for was a blowout win that would enable Phil Jackson to limit his starters' minutes. Since Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Allen Iverson were out with injuries, it seemed as though the Lakers could easily make this come true.

However, even without three starters, Detroit was still a dangerous ball club. Surely one or more of the Pistons' subs would relish, and take full advantage of, the opportunity offered by their increased playing time.

Howard for his board-power, shot-blocking, and improving offensive repertoire. I'd also pay whatever it would take to hire Clifford Ray as his mentor.

Williams is the pick simply because LBJ's shot is so erratic that the point guard has to be a knockdown shooter — which disqualifies Chris Paul.

Travels with Charley

It was the last day of the 1974-75 season and the Knicks were playing an afternoon home game against the Buffalo Braves. To make the playoffs, the Knicks needed to win, and the Cavs (who played later that afternoon) needed to lose.

My then-wife and I brought our 6-month old son, Darrell, to the game. June Jackson (Phil's then-wife) also brought their 4-month old daughter, Chelsea, along too. All snuggled in their portable basket/cribs the two infants snoozed throughout the game, blissfully oblivious to the thunderous crowd noise and the raucous celebration when the Knicks finally pulled the game out.

Immediately after Phil had showered and dressed, we all scooted over to his 19th Street loft and arrived in time to see the last quarter of the Cleveland game. With 10 seconds on the clock and down by two points, the Cavs huddled around their coach during their final timeout while Bill Fitch masterminded the most critical play of his team's season.

We could tell by Fitch's frantic scribbling on his miniature game board, and by his team's utter confusion when they attempted to inbound the ball from the sideline that the play he had drawn up was an improvisation and was not in the Cavs' playbook. This was a bad idea. And the result was a bad pass and nary a shot.

The Knicks were in with a record of 40-42, and the Cavs were out.

Immediately after the final buzzer, Phil's phone rang. It was Walt Frazier inviting his teammates and their guests to a celebratory party at his luxurious midtown apartment. Of course, we had to bring the kids.

The bathtub in Frazier's master bathroom was loaded with ice, beer, wine and champagne. The large dining room table was loaded with cartons of takeout Chinese food. And, besides the Knicks themselves, several other New York sports celebrities were on hand.

Everybody was instructed to deposit their coats on either of the two beds in the bedroom nearest the front door. And, carefully arranging protected areas for Darrell and Chelsea, we carefully laid them down when they both fell asleep again. Every fifteen minutes or so, one of the four parents peeked into the room to check on the kids' well-being — and I was astonished at what I saw when it was my turn.

Chelsea was awake and merrily chortling, but Darrell was wide awake and laughing as though he was being tickled. In fact, two men were standing on opposite sides of the bed and tossing Darrell back and forth!

One of them was Spider Lockhart, a glue-fingered free safety for the New York Giants. The other was Nate Bowman, a backup center for the Knicks whose assist-to-turnover ratio was an exercise in negativity. And both were laughing, bobbing and weaving in a mild alcoholic haze.

"Nate," I said with as much nonchalance as I could muster. "Don't drop him, man."

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"No chance, bro," he said. Whereupon Bowman set himself to receive the incoming baby, and slyly bounced him in the air before securing him.

I didn't know what to do or say, so I hustled back into the living room and relayed my worries to Phil.

"Don't worry, Charley," said Phil. "Nate can catch all right. Everything will be OK as long he doesn't try to dribble the boy."

Darrell survived, and the Knicks lost a three-game series to Houston.

Thirty-three years later, both Bowman and Lockhart have passed away. And Darrell is now a red-bearded, 6-7, 280-pounder, and living with his wife and their three kids in Bellingham, Wash.

Until now, Darrell never knew that he was one dribble away from disaster.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 27, 2009


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