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James Worthy inspires young basketball players

James: Worthy to be a role model.

James Worthy was one of the most electric players during the “Showtime” era of the Los Angeles Lakers! Who could forget Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Michael Cooper? That was one of the best teams ever assembled in LA and those players still hold a special place in the hearts of hoop fans the world over.

Worthy was drafted number one over-all in 1982, was a seven-time All-Star, a three-time NBA champion, and the MVP in the 1988 finals!

He now currently does TV commentary and continues to be an inspiration to the young players in the league today!

The Philippine STAR was invited to join a conference call with one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players.

 STAR: What’s the difference between the NBA during your era and the current NBA?

 JAMES WORTHY: Well, during my time in the ’80s, it was somewhat of a different game. We had different rules. Only two referees. It was a little bit more physical. The three-point shot was not that dominant in the game.

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 I think the difference today is it’s a smaller game. It’s a guard-oriented type of game. They control the game pretty much now. You don’t find centers in the game that dominate like Kareem. It’s more of a perimeter game now, and it’s a faster pace.

You also have an influx of younger players coming out of school early, so when you have guys like Kareem, who had four years of college. I had three under Dean Smith. Bill Walton, four years. Some of the guys that had three, four years of college make a big difference.

 So, I think it’s a younger NBA. And inexperienced, somewhat, when they come in. But the game has changed. The three-pointer and the smaller lineups have changed the game.

Luol Deng brings a lot of veteran experience to the Lakers. What’s his role this season, and what kind of influence will he have on the young players?

 Well, first of all, he is an outstanding veteran. Coming from Duke University, he really understands how to create stability in the locker room, which transfers onto the court. So, he brings a lot of veteran experience.

 Last year, I thought he was thrown into a very young team that didn’t have enough experience to understand what he had been through and how to develop that. I think, going forward, he can play a very vital role setting a good example. He understands the theory of the game. He understands the science of the game. I think he can only add some type of contribution to the young guys.

 He can definitely provide some sort of contribution on the floor if everyone is in sync — if they’re playing the style of ball and the team game that’s necessary to move forward.

Kyle Kuzma’s development is exciting. Has there been any change in dynamics of who’s going to be the leader of the team, because Magic has made bold statements about it being Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram? 

I don’t think so. Right now, I think the team is in the stage of developing a leader. And I think that’s what Magic Johnson was trying to do. He was trying to put out some incentive to see who would take charge.

Obviously, Lonzo Ball is a rookie. He’ll have the ball in his hands. He’ll be a leader on the floor. But I think Brandon Ingram has shown, through his work ethic and through his practicing and his abilities, that he could be (a leader). 

So, right now, I don’t think there is a leader. I think Kuzma is an outstanding rookie. Probably the most exciting rookie in the NBA this year. He’ll add a dimension, but I think the leadership qualities will come as the team develops.

LA holds the All-Star Game this year, what’s your take on the changes that have been announced regarding the format? And which player on the Lakers’ roster has a fair chance of making the All-Star Game?

I think the All-Star Game being in Los Angeles is always a great thing. I can remember my rookie year, the All-Star Game was in Los Angeles, and we had Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem. And it’s always been exciting.

The All-Star draft is going to be interesting, because players always play with each other all summer long. They’re good friends. They spend a lot of time at each other’s practice facility. So, that will be interesting to see how that matches up. 

As far as Laker players, you really have to be playing well and winning games. We have some potentials, but at the moment, I can’t say, based on the last two or three seasons, that we have anybody that stands out.

Ingram comes to mind. He’s an exceptional talent. Julius Randle is a triple-double guy. But it needs to be some major progress with the team in order for an individual player to make that All-Star team.

The Lakers had a defensive rating of 113 last season, which was the worst in the league, and they also allowed 111 points per game. Do you think they can improve this season?

Well, based on those numbers that you gave me about the Lakers’ defense, there’s only one way to go, and that’s up. They can only improve. Things must change.

I think that’s part of what’s happened, this generation. Defense kind of is second or third place, while offense has taken over. I think that’s why being in college for a certain amount of time, so you can get the drill work, and get the principles down.

I know Luke Walton put a lot of emphasis on defense, and they seem to have changed their mindset, as far as plan as a unit; playing together, cohesiveness. So, I think they can do that.

What’s the impact for the Laker players related to the issues of last season?

 I think they just need to win. I think they need to really get their fans engaged. The fans have been with us throughout these last four or five years. I hope that was your question. If it’s not, I’ll try to answer again.

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Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @anthonysuntay, and like my Facebook page: Anthony Suntay.

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