CLEVELAND — In a phone interview before the 2012 NBA Draft, Rant Sports would catch up with former NBA small forward LaMond Murray.
A former first round draft pick out of Cal in 1994, the 6’7, 236-pound Murray would play for the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and the New Jersey—now Brooklyn—Nets in a 12-year NBA career.
Murray would share his thoughts on the 2012 NBA Draft, impact and sleepers, teams most likely to contend in 2012, LeBron James, the recent NBA lockout and his work as a recruiting analyst at Chicago-based NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network.
Robert D. Cobb : What lottery teams are in position to make the leap to contenders in 2012?
Lamond Murray : “I don’t think anybody is in a position to really make a big leap, it’s not going to make much of a big difference with the draft picks that are coming up, with the guys they are going to be drafting, it’s going to be a work in progress.”
“It’s going to take a while to develop these players and move forward, that’s what part of the draft is all about.”
Robert D. Cobb : Is there a Cleveland, Toronto or say New Orleans that you could see making a leap in the next two to three years?
Lamond Murray : “Possibly Cleveland, because they are in the East, and depending on what kind of pieces that they add around Kyrie Irving, who’s a great point guard, he obviously helped that team out tremendously last year, they have veteran guys that have been around and played in a lot of roles for them last year, so one team that I could say would be Cleveland.”
“Add in a few guys that could put the ball in the bucket, with Kyrie Irving positioned at point guard, I think that’s one team, not Toronto, I think Cleveland would be the one team that could come out of the East and do that.”
Robert D. Cobb : Who is the impact player in the draft not named Anthony Davis, that you see?
Lamond Murray : “One guy that I think would be a sleeper guy would be Jeremy Lamb coming out of Connecticut. (Andre) Drummond and Lamb were the two guys that I think are guys that can come in and make a big impact because of Lamb’s skills, skill sets are great and actually they (the Houston Rockets) will need him to be a little more aggressive in the NBA. He’ll learn to do that in NBA games, because if he don’t do that , He won’t get the ball.”
That guy(Lamb), he’ll be more aggressive, he’ll have more room to work, there won’t be as many zones, guys packing it in, he’ll have a lot more room with his long lanky slasher-type of body and his shooting skills, he’ll be able to do good things in the NBA, he’s one guy.”
“I think the Drummond guy, due to his athleticism as a big, he’ll have to learn the game, but with his jumping, athleticism and strength, he’s going to have an advantage and be able to make a bigger impact sooner rather than later, than some other guys.”
Robert D. Cobb : Who is the sleeper in this draft outside of the players that you just mentioned?
Lamond Murray : “It’s hard to pick a sleeper, but I think it’s Thomas Robinson, they underestimate him in what he can do offensively. I know he’s a big rebounder, he’s strong, he’s athletic. I think he was so much stronger than the college players that he had to tailor it down a little bit.
I think he’s going to be a sleeper, even though he’s the (projected) number two pick. His strength, his athleticism may need to be tapered down a little bit, there wasn’t a lot of room for him to move around, and in the NBA, he’ll have a lot more room to be physical than in the college game. His offensive skill set is a lot better than people think and I think he’s going to be a sleeper.”
“He’s(Robinson) going to be one of those guys, like a Karl Malone-type of guy, who’s going to go out and try to beat you any way he can.”
“He has a nice touch from 15 feet, Obviously, they(the Sacramento Kings)are going to work on that with him when he gets to the NBA all day and night, he’ll be able to pick up more offensive rebounds and be more physical with the players in the NBA.”
“I think he’s going to be a sleeper guy where he will get you 20 and 10, whereas a lot of people had him projected as a guy that’s going to be out there getting like 12-15 points and eight rebounds a game.”
Robert D. Cobb : Who do you see emerging as a late-round hidden gem?
Lamond Murray : “The guy I really like is the Terrence Jones kid, I watched him in high school, and he used to do a lot more than he was doing at Kentucky. I watched him and a couple of his high school games, and he was bringing the ball up like a point forward.”
“He (Jones) was attacking off the dribble, and then he’s left-handed, he’s one of those guys, whose game will open up in the NBA. Like I said, he(Jones) was kind of restricted in what he could do with the guys he had on his team. I think he took a back seat to the younger guys who came in. I like him as well as the Tony Wroten kid“
“Tony Wroten is really good, and his slick handling of the ball, the way he does, he’s a dime. a diamond in the rough, I don’t know why he (Wroten) gets no respect, they didn’t even give him Pac-12 Player Of The Year, and he had such great numbers. He played well and I’m shocked that he wasn’t Player Of the Year(in the Pac-12), with the numbers he was putting up.”
“He’s one of those guys who doesn’t get the respect that’s due to him. He’d be a great steal, he has good size, very good defense, he has the drive, he has that motor. But he is one of those guys that definitely, definitely is going to make a big impact in the league.”
Robert D. Cobb : After watching the NBA Finals, which team is destined to win another NBA title? Oklahoma City or Miami?
Lamond Murray : “Oklahoma City doesn’t have a title yet, To win another one? I would have to say Miami. Everybody counts them in the year, they had a tough road this year, but that’s two years back-to-back of a team being together making it to the NBA Finals.”
“That says a lot, in terms of no matter how much you criticize Lebron(James) and (Dwyane)Wade, they went to the Finals two years in a row. It probably could be Oklahoma City, who had all their marbles on the table, they (Miami) beat them (Oklahoma City) handily and you have to give it to them.”
“I would have to say that they(Miami) may have a better chance to doing it. But I think Oklahoma City in the long run, if they can keep that team together and everyone stays healthy, they’ll win more championships.”
Robert D. Cobb : With his title, his 2012 NBA Finals MVP and three regular-season MVP’s, would you put LeBron James in the discussion as among one of the best to ever play the game?
Lamond Murray : “I think he has to wait a couple more years before we can put him in that category, because you got to look at that whole body of work, so I really wouldn’t put him in that category until he’s done, to be honest.”
“I’ll put it and compare his(James’) numbers with top guy’s(Jordan, Bird, Magic) numbers to ever play the game. Right now, he’s on a roll, but you know, you never know, And now with an injury, anything can really hurt you, that’s something to look out for.”
You look at guys like Dominique Wilkins and all those guys who put up great numbers but they never won a championship, and then he (Wilkins) got injured in his eighth, ninth season, tomorrow can change, because you never know with this game.”
Robert D. Cobb : Your current role with NCSA as a recruiting expert, what is it about the role that you enjoy the most?
Lamond Murray : “I enjoy being able to go speak to those kids about continuing their education, give them choices if they are still playing their sport at the next level and not giving up if they don’t get picked by a D-1 school, and present them with another set of options, all viable options.”
“When our first group came out in 1991, we were only competing for kids from across the country, now it’s global. all sports are global. We want to let them (student athletes) know that the opportunity is still there, if they wish to pursue them, and give them something for that expensive long run for that sport that they are playing and continue their education.”
Robert D. Cobb : From the times that you have gone to camps and spoken to kids, do you see any future All-Stars or any players that could think of that could make the jump to the NBA or go to college for one year that you could think of off the top of your head?
Lamond Murray: “No, not from what I’ve seen out here where I’m at on the West Coast in California, Obviously, I haven’t seen any kids that I think could make that jump right now, but I see a lot of good kids, a lot of good players, that if they continue working, they will have opportunities to play at that level over the next two to three years.”
“I think when they(high school players) come to leave high school, so you know that’s always a plus too because a lot of that stuff is just overrated in terms of just leaving and making the jump right out of high school or one year and done, that stuff is overrated.”
“A lot of guys who are finishing are a segment to those guys that leave early and try to make their jump, it’s a small percentage who make it and then they give up on their dreams and education and they give up on pursuing their education. They find out later that the one thing that they could fall back on when their career is over is gone.”
Robert D. Cobb : Your stance on the recent lockout, who do you feel was right between the players and owners? Do you feel it is better for the league or was there more that could have been done?
Lamond Murray : “ I think in terms of what they(the NBA Players Association union) did, they kept a lot of the stuff that we fought in the previous lockout(in 1998) for older retired players, the rights, the things that we fought for, they kept a lot of that stuff in place, and didn’t give in to a hard cap.”
“I think that both sides came out on top, the owners wanted to sign long-term contracts for guys who deserved it, So I think the balance is there and it’s done, we were able to get back out and everybody was able to fight for what they were fighting for.”
“In relation to basketball, the fans really didn’t suffer because they got to see a game every night almost, there’s some good and bad in that, but in terms of injuries, with some of the guys that went down from all the wear and tear because of the shortened season, that’s just the grind, and that’s just part of it.”
“it’s something that many people don’t consider in terms of the wear and tear it takes on your body, and how much hard work it really is. I think both sides, they(the owners and players) both won and should make for some good basketball this year.”
Rant Media Network wishes to extend a special thank you to Mr. Murray for his graciousness and NCSA Director of Public Relations, Tiffany Menzione for arraigning the interview.
Robert D. Cobb is the NBA Network Manager for Rant Media Network, Featured Writer of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Browns and Arsenal Gunners.
In addition to covering the NBA, I also cover MLB, NFL, NHL and Champions League soccer news, rumors and opinions, please follow me on Twitter at @RobertCobb_76