Kareem, Lakers have plenty to learn from each other
Posted: Friday September 9, 2005 4:43PM; Updated: Friday September 9, 2005 6:09PM
Andrew Bynum may be fresh out of high school, but he is getting a lifetime of lessons from Lakers coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images
Marty Burns will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Since hanging up his goggles after the 1989 season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has probably heard the question 10,000 times: "How come more kids don't learn the sky hook?"
Abdul-Jabbar, who parlayed the shot into becoming the NBA's all-time leading scorer, usually just shrugs and declares it a product of the times.
"The hook shot and pivot play in general is not the most popular aspect of the game today," he says. "People want to shoot 3-pointers or dunk. You know, do the spectacular stuff."
Maybe that's why Abdul-Jabbar is so excited about his new gig as a Lakers special assistant coach. The 58-year-old Hall of Famer has a willing pupil in 7-foot rookie Andrew Bynum, the team's first-round selection in last June's draft. This week they began working together at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, Calif., and while Abdul-Jabbar won't promise we'll see Bynum floating teardrops over NBA foes any day soon, he does predict big things for the 17-year-old prospect.
"He doesn't necessarily have to learn the sky hook," Abdul-Jabbar said on Wednesday after his third day of workouts with Bynum. "He just has to learn how to be an effective post player. I think I can help him do that."
That's just what Lakers coach Phil Jackson and GM Mitch Kupchak were hoping to hear when they called Abdul-Jabbar this summer. They knew he was interested in coaching. They also knew Bynum -- as well as fellow L.A. big men Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm -- could benefit from the kind of hand's-on tutoring the former Lakers superstar could provide.
What they probably didn't know was whether Abdul-Jabbar wanted to stay involved in the NBA. After all, last year he had high hopes when Isiah Thomas asked him to work with the Knicks big men, only to wind up frustrated by a scene as crowded as a New York subway. "We had five or six assistant coaches and nobody really understood their roles," he says. "There was too much confusion. There was no real spot for me. We were out here in summer leagues and during timeouts it was like musical chairs on the bench."
That was nothing, of course, compared to what he went through with the Clippers in '00. Brought in to work with Michael Olowokandi, whom the team had drafted No. 1 overall out of Pacific in '98, he quickly discovered that the 7-footer from Nigeria was like so many NBA players these days. In other words, not all that interested in learning what some old guy had to teach.