The man provided a commanding presence, James Worthy’s dapper suit, friendly personality and Hall of Fame resume attracting plenty of reporters, Lakers officials and players alike to chat with the former Showtime Laker.
Worthy appeared at the Lakers’ practice facility for the team’s media day on Monday as an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, but it turns out his role will become more involved for the 2015-16 season. The Lakers hired Worthy to work with Byron Scott’s coaching staff, mainly to develop the team’s core of frontcourt players in Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black.
The reasons appear pretty self-explanatory after Worthy won three NBA championships with the Showtime Lakers during his 12-year NBA career and being named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.
“You got one of the best post players that ever played the game,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott, one of Worthy’s former teammates. “We’ll let James come in and kind of teach those guys some of the things he was able to accomplish in this league. We’re trying to take advantage of every situation that we can to make sure we give our players a chance to get even better a lot sooner.”
Worthy traveled to Honolulu for the Lakers’ training camp beginning on Tuesday where he will both retain his role as a TWC SportsNet analyst and begin working with the Lakers’ frontcourt players. He attended training camp sessions last year, narrowing his focus with Lakers forward Julius Randle. Though he played only 14 minutes in the Lakers’ season opener before fracturing his right tibia, Randle has largely credited Worthy’s support. Worthy called Randle shortly after his injury, and frequently implored the Lakers’ rookie to study game film. Worthy also provided perspective after fracturing his left tibia his rookie year with the Lakers late in the 1982-83 season and missed the playoffs.
“I learned a lot from him last year,” Randle said. “It was huge for me. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great to pick his brain again. He saw me the other day and I was very excited to get that opportunity.”
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant also shared that Worthy taught him various post moves, instruction the Lakers’ star relished amid his quest to fight old age by resorting to his fundamentals.
“It’s amazing,” Bryant said of the hire. “It’s an extremely smart move. We’re one of these organizations that is very fortunate to have some of the all-time greats have played here. You’ve got to use that.”
Worthy, whom the Lakers selected first overall in 1982, earned the nickname “Big Game” amid a his 12-year career here (1982-1994). He finished sixth all-time in scoring (16,320), seventh in field-goal percentage (52.1%) and third in steals (1,041). Worth also made seven NBA All-Star teams (1986-92), won the Finals MVP (1988) and posted a triple double in Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons.
“James was one of the best forwards to ever play the game,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “We feel he will be a valuable addition to the coaching staff and will do an excellent job teaching our group of big men. We are pleased and fortunate to welcome him back to the organization.”