Tribute to Lorenzen Wright

I am deeply saddened by the tragic news that 34-year-old Lorenzen Wright was found dead outside his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee on Wednesday. The charismatic 13-year NBA veteran was my starting center when I coached the Grizzlies and he was an integral part of the team.

Lorenzen Wright #42 and Head Coach Mike Fratello of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrate after a close win against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 7, 2005 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles

Lorenzen whole-heartedly committed to the role we needed him to play, undertaking the gritty work of defending the post and rebounding the ball. Lorenzen did whatever we asked him to do, and he played hard every day. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

From the Booth: USA Basketball Real Training Camp

Summer League ended on Sunday and Tuesday was the first practice for USA Basketball in preparation for the 2010 FIBA World Championship coming up at the end of August in Istanbul, Turkey. Rick Kamla, Dennis Scott and I hosted two hours of live coverage from UNLV’s Cox Pavilion for Real Training Camp, which will air throughout the week on NBA TV.

They brought in 22 NBA players to contend for 12 spots on the National Team as well as the 20 college players named to the Select Team, which will train against the National Team. They had a great practice, but unfortunately the National Team lost three big men by the end of day one: Robin Lopez, David Lee and Amar’e Stoudemire – who would probably have been their starting center. This loss coupled with the fact that this is a very young team lacking in international experience further complicates the already difficult assignment of going into a hostile environment to try and win gold.

Now Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff have a lot of big decisions to make regarding who will play and how they will play – which will likely be small and quick. Fortunately Coach K has a talented group to work with, and he will no doubt bring out the best in this bunch, who along with Spain, Argentina and Brazil are the top contenders for the coveted Naismith Trophy.

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From the Booth: Summer League 2010

On Sunday Spurs general manager R.C. Buford sat down with me and Joel during the Clippers-Spurs game to talk about adding new pieces to the cornerstones of their program in order to rebuild the franchise for the future.

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On the Road with Mike: NBA Summer League Day 8

Straight on the heels of my return from the Riviera Basketball Camp in Italy I turned around and flew out to Las Vegas to broadcast NBA Summer League action live on NBA TV. Last night I joined Lakers play-by-play announcer Joel Meyers for back-to-back games. First we had the Hornets vs. Wizards followed by the Grizzlies-Timberwolves matchup.

I was looking forward to seeing last year’s rookie star Darren Collison play for New Orleans, but he had to return to UCLA to finish up one last summer session course in order to complete his undergrad degree. I did, however, get to see the featured player for the Wizards and this year’s number one draft pick overall John Wall, who was indeed impressive close-up.

The first thought that comes to mind when describing Wall’s game is lightning strikes quickly. Wall is terrific in the open court and when he sees an opening in the transition defense he shifts to the next gear in order to push the ball down the floor. He can go from 80 miles an hour to 100 miles an hour and find the open seam to finish at the basket.

John also does a great job of protecting the ball and minimizing turnovers. And he has a highly competitive spirit as evidenced tonight when he scored 14 points in Washington’s 18-0 run during the third quarter to bring his team back from a 16-point deficit in the first half to a one-point victory over the Hornets, which was clinched by Lester Hudson’s buzzer beater.

If you’re looking for a weakness, Wall must work on his perimeter game because his opponents will continue to back off and force him to shoot from the outside until he proves that he can make those shots consistently. He doesn’t have to shoot threes, but he has to hit 18-22-foot jump shots.

That being said, John is explosive and will be a major factor in the rebuilding of the Washington Wizards franchise, which will have an outstanding player for many years to come.

On the Road with Mike: Arrivederci Riviera Basketball Camp

I’d like to thank Riviera Basketball Camp co-founders Lino Frattin and Ricky Morandotti for inviting me to participate in their youth skills camp in Rimini, Italy. They did a terrific job organizing and supervising all of the week’s activities. I also had a lot of fun working with my teaching partner Robert Horry. We had a great group of kids who all worked and played hard. I hope they enjoyed themselves while learning from some of the best in the biz and that they will return home with a renewed appreciation for the game, confidence in their abilities, and lasting memories from this unique experience.