The Lakers have become significantly less of an international team by personnel since the departures of Vladimir Radmanovic (Serbia), DJ Mbenga (Congo) and Sun Yue (China) from the 2008-09 training camp roster, leaving only Pau Gasol (Spain) and Sasha Vujacic (Slovenia) left in 2010-11.
But if you’re looking for a roster full of New York – New Jersey metropolitan area hoopers, it’s not the Knicks or Nets, but the Los Angeles Lakers that carry the day.
In fact, three Lakers – Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Devin Ebanks – are all from the same borough of New York City (Queens), and have known one another for years. Odom and Artest played on the same AAU team as teenagers, while Ebanks grew up so close to Artest’s Queensbridge project that Artest knew of him by the time he was 10 years old.
But that’s just New York.
Over in New Jersey, Derrick Caracter (Fanwood, N.J.) and Andrew Bynum (Metuchen, N.J.) grew up in towns that are both about 30 miles away from NYC, and just nine miles away from one another.
The five East Coasters have now spent four days of training camp together, and after Tuesday morning’s practice, Caracter, Ebanks and Artest stayed after to play a brand of 1-on-1 basketball that might have been confused with Australian Rules Football or a WWF undercard.
“That’s inner city ball, man,” said Caracter. “Coming from the New York, New Jersey metropolitan area street ball, you gotta be physical out there. It’s just that mentality of attack, attack, attack on both ends of the floor.”
Kobe Bryant, a Philadelphia native (about 70 miles south of Metuchen), could be included in the mix as well, though Caracter offered some clarifications, or at least generalizations, about the differences between East Coast city styles.
“In New York you have the tight handle, New Jersey it’s all-around hoops with some handlers and some shooters, and Philly has more drivers,” he explained. “Philly players know how to get to the paint and create even if they don’t have the best handle.”
Add a taste of California (Luke Walton, Matt Barnes), Florida (Steve Blake) and the South (Derek Fisher, Theo Ratliff) with the NY/NJ and international crews, and you have a championship caliber NBA team.