Before the Lakers practiced on Tuesday, Hall of Fame guard Gail Goodrich spoke to the team.
“We started our day off here with a talk from UCLA great, Laker legend Gail Goodrich,” said Jordan Farmar, also a UCLA product, following practice on Tuesday.
“It was just about enjoying the moment and preparing for life after basketball,” said Farmar of Goodrich’s message to the team. “Just stay passionate about the things that you enjoy doing, the same way we were passionate to make it to this level in the basketball world.”
The Lakers (18-35) have just 29 games left but are a full 13 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Goodrich lamented the team’s struggles, noting some of it was a lack of consistency on the floor -- but acknowledged that the Lakers have had a lot of injuries this year.
“Today’s game is much faster. It’s a full 94-foot game, everybody is running at full speed. Anything that goes awry, increases the chance for injury,” said Goodrich. “When I played, the game was much slower.”
Goodrich said he has confidence that General Manager Mitch Kupchak will help the Lakers climb back to respectability.
“I think they’re in a good position from a salary cap position moving forward,” he said. “The front office has their work cut out for them. In a year or two, you can turn this thing around. I think you have to be patient.”
Goodrich still believes Kobe Bryant (knee) will eventually work to form, even after an Achilles’ tear last April.
“I had the same injury at the same age ,” he said. “It took him nine months to come back from that injury. Now, I didn’t have the knee issue that he now has to compound the Achilles’ tendon injury.
“He’s an exceptional player. He works very, very hard. No one in the league works harder than Kobe,” he continued. “Will he be the same Kobe that we’re used to seeing? That’s questionable. But even if he loses maybe a little bit of a half step, he’s still going to be better than most players out there.”
Goodrich was an integral part of the 1971-72 Lakers squad that won 33 straight games and an NBA title. He also won two NCAA championships (1964 and 1965) under Coach John Wooden at UCLA.
Both the Lakers and the Bruins retired his No. 25 jersey. Over his 14-year career, the five-time All-Star scored 18.6 points a game (19,181 in total).
Goodrich also spoke highly of Jerry Buss, who died a year ago of cancer.
“He was a very innovative, creative owner. I never had the opportunity to play for him. I would have enjoyed that,” he said. “I think he was very fair to the players. He enjoyed the game.”