A.C. on the N.B.A.

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 19, 2004

A.C. Green, a former standout with the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, was a fine example of the work ethic that is lost in much of pro basketball today. What does he think of current pro players such as Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers who are notorious for defying team rules and the authority of a coach?

The league reflects society, he said. “When you see the issues of accountability and authority, the rebellion in society, you see it in different cultures. Of course, you’re going to see it inside the NBA. The guys come right out of those different cultures and different neighborhoods.”

Not all the players break the rules, Green said, but the vast majority in the NBA are often not coachable. Few restraints were put on these players through high school and however many years of college they may have experienced, he said.

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Would Iverson not attending practice have been disruptive to Green if he was a teammate? A teammate telling the coach he didn’t want to come to practice would have been “a slap in the face” to Green and the rest teammates, he said. “That’s something you just don’t do. It’s not teamwork; it’s cohesive for the team. You put yourself above your teammates and the team.

What has been lost in modern pro basketball? “There’s no fundamentals in the game,” he said. “There’s not an emphasis on being fundamentally sound – bottom line….When guys get to the NBA right now, they’re just happy and satisfied about just being there as opposed to trying to improve their game year in-and-year out.”

A team like the Memphis Grizzlies under the direction of head coach Hubie Brown and general manager Jerry West have emphasized the team aspect in their recent success in the NBA. West was the general manager with the Los Angeles Lakers when Green was a member of their championship teams.

“To be a good team you’ve got to have a good leader, and you won’t find any better than Jerry West,” Green said.

West Alabama is a rich area for basketball. What advice could Green give high school players who would like to take it to the next level?

“It’s not about you as a player,” he said. “You’re not bigger than the team no matter how good you might be at this point in time. You have to learn how to depend on your teammates and believe in your teammates. It helps your understand that we win as a team.

“I’m going to be better as a person if I learn to ask for help and receive help from other people – as opposed to thinking I have to do it all myself. You’ll never grow as a player if you don’t allow other people in your life.”

Green had the benefit on the Lakers of playing with self-motivated individuals such as Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper.

“You have players that want to be good; they want to be better. They understand…I need to take care of myself and help fit in for the team.” Green said he was blessed by the input from the veteran players such as James Worthy and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. “They were people who had been there and done that….It was the right kind of players who understood it was a family atmosphere and a family effort. We win together, and it’s not about me.

Success comes from “listening to family, hopefully parents, your coach, and your fellow teammates. (Those teammates) know some things that you’re not doing that you could do better that’s going to help the team also. It’s not just about them trying to beat you out of a spot for playing time.

“…Don’t think everybody’s out to get you…or that they owe you something,” he said.

Are veteran players involved in the NBA today? “They’re starting to bring back a mentorship program,” Green said. “…Each team is going to have a liaison for players and the coaches. That’s what they’re talking about. It’s really needed. It’s always been an ‘us and them’ mentality. The players stay on one side, coaches and management on the other side. You can’t understand each other’s world. You don’t trust each other.”

In general, however, retired players are considered dinosaurs, Green said. Once you’re done playing, the NBA doesn’t normally try to utilize anything a veteran could offer.