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Where Are They Now: Lamond Murray

Veteran Forward Reflects on What Might Have Been with the Cavaliers
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Where Are They Now:
Lamond Murray

Veteran Forward Reflects on What Might Have Been with the Cavaliers

Lamond Murray put up some of the best numbers of his 11-year NBA career right in here in Cleveland. But like a lot of players in that era of Cavs basketball, it was slightly marred by what-could-have-been.

Drafted with the 7th overall pick by the Clippers in the 1994 Draft, Murray – who grew up in California and played his college ball at Cal-Berkeley – spent his first five years in Tinseltown before coming to Cleveland-technically-in a sign-and-trade just before the 1999-2000 season.

During his three seasons with the Cavaliers, the 6-7 small forward averaged just over 15 points per game on a squad that had the potential to make noise in the Eastern Conference. But injuries – especially to big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas – and coaching turnover kept Cleveland from reaching its true potential, and during Murray’s three-year stretch averaged just 30 wins per.

Murray wrapped up his playing career following the 2005-06 season, playing with the Raptors and Nets after being dealt from the Cavaliers for Yogi Stewart in the 2002 offseason. recently caught up with the former forward and here’s what he had to say about his short but productive stay on the North Coast …

Lamond Murray averaged just over 15 points per in 223 games over three seasons with the Cavaliers.
Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

What are you up to these days?

Lamond Murray: I’m living in Las Vegas. I moved out here a couple years ago.

I’m out here transitioning from playing ball and working kids out in L.A. with my company, Real Run International.

I moved out here to Vegas to do the same thing here. Because I knew that things were happening, people are transitioning from California to Las Vegas, in general. We knew the Raiders were coming. And we think at some time in the near future, the NBA might be here too.

They have some really nice high schools out here and some pretty good players are coming out of Vegas, as well.

So for me, as a retired player, the number one thing was to get to a tax-friendly state. (laughs) And I also wanted to be close to California. I still have a lot of family there; my kids live there. It’s just a quick, one-hour flight, or four-hour drive.

Tell us about your company, Real Run International?

Murray: I’ve had this company for a number of years and what we’ve done is, we’ve gotten back into the youth basketball program.

My company in L.A., we had club teams for a number of years where I had kids doing AAU basketball. We did a lot of training with those kids, and at the same time, my son was playing ball, finishing up at Pepperdine.

So I kind of got away from club basketball and started focusing on doing stuff with the Clippers – camps and clinics.

We’re doing everything basketball. I’m not coaching high school or college or anything like that. Just doing what I love on a level where I feel the kids will really receive the knowledge and it’ll help them improve their game.

What’s different about kids playing today than when you were coming up?

Murray: It’s weird because the kids nowadays are SO focused on whatever sport they decide they want to play – from a very young age.

When I started playing ball, I guess I was around eight-years-old, it was just an opportunity to play at the YMCA and develop a love for the game. Because my dad played, my uncle played, my cousins played. We just played.

But nowadays these kids are so focused and so driven to where they’re putting in hours at a young age. In a way, it’s the same thing we did. But it’s so much more difficult now. Everybody around the world plays basketball. Back then, it was the top 100 American players with some Europeans sprinkled in here or there.

But now you’re competing with the whole world and it became that much harder.

Growing up in California, playing your college and professional ball there, what the transition like coming to Cleveland?

Murray: Well, I chose to come to Cleveland.

I had an opportunity to leave at that time. My contract was up with the Clippers. The Spurs had offered me a three-year deal. And Randy Wittman came in at the 12th hour and said: We’d rather you come play in Cleveland and we’ll give you a seven-year deal.

So it looked like a sign-and-trade deal, but it was more a choice on my side to come and play in Cleveland.

At that time Shawn Kemp was there, Big Z was there. Andre Miller was on his way. Wes Person, a great shooter at two-guard.

They were just missing that one component – a playmaker at small forward who could do a little bit of everything. And that’s how I felt I could come there and fit in – especially in the Eastern Conference, which was easier than the West at that time.

Those teams had some interesting characters – Clarence Weatherspoon, Bob Sura, Danny Ferry. Where did you fit in?

Murray: I was right down the middle. I’m a quiet guy, but not too quiet.

But you had Clarence, who’s a very, very quiet guy, a cool guy. Danny Ferry wasn’t loud, but he was kind of a leader. Bobby: he was real smooth, we used to call him ‘the Lady’s Man.’ He was a smooth character. And we had Shawn – and he was going through some things at that time, so he really wasn’t the same guy that we remembered from his Seattle days.

And, of course, we had Z – a great, great guy. And a great shooter! We’d be in the gym having a shooting contest, and he’d be beating all the small forwards, all the two guards – on a daily basis. We’d be like: ‘Man, how does this big guy shoot the ball so well?!’

The guy really had skills. He just couldn’t stay on the floor long enough for us to see him do what he did later on, when he was able to come back. It just happened to be bad timing.

But we actually had a really, really good team when everybody was healthy and on the same page. I thought we could have done some big things during that time, but it just wasn’t meant to happen.

You put up some of the best numbers of your career during your time in Cleveland, but how frustrating were the injuries and the team’s lack of success?

Murray: It was frustrating for me because I’d just played on a Clippers team, we’d come off a playoff run against the Utah Jazz. And I was at the point of my career where I was like: ‘Hey, I want to win.’

Contracts were all settled, everything was good on that end. Now, how do I win? How do I start making the playoffs?’ Those are always the things that players want to get back to.

"We actually had a really, really good team when everybody was healthy and on the same page. I thought we could have done some big things during that time, but it just wasn’t meant to happen."

In high school and college, you’re likely coming from a winning tradition. And you’re a high pick, so you’re going to a team that’s struggling a little bit. But you eventually want to get to a team or be on a team that starts winning.

And I mentioned the San Antonio Spurs, they’re winning Championships and I’m thinking: ‘Oh man, did I make the wrong choice?’ and things like that.

But that’s just part of the game.

I was excited that I was able to go out there and put up some good numbers. Coming out of college, everybody knew that I like to score the ball.

And being able to put up good numbers consistently made me feel good individually, but then after a while you’re like: Numbers are good, but let’s start winning while I’m putting up these numbers.

How much did the coaching turnover – Randy Wittman then to John Lucas – effect the team’s success?

Murray: Randy was a really good coach. I think he was trying to figure out his personality as a coach those first couple years. That first year, he didn’t demand a lot out of us. But that second year he was much tougher. We were like: Who is this guy, Pat Riley?

He was demanding so much from us, and it was out of the blue. It was one of those things where it caught everybody off guard and everybody was trying to figure it out.

And when John came in and he demanded a different level of conditioning. He continued with that Pat Riley trend and pushed us and ran us through some unorthodox stuff in practice. So, he came in and started to put his stamp on our team.

Then he got in a position with LeBron James coming out of high school and all those different components factoring in. And the situation was like: OK, we want to win now, but we have this opportunity to get a once-in-a-generation type player.

LeBron would come up to the games from Akron. He’s up here watching games. He’s in the hallway.

The team was promoting young guys like Ricky Davis more, older guys were getting their minutes pulled back. And as a veteran, you can see what’s going on. So, we knew our time was going to be short.

And the decision pretty much came to: Let’s blow it all up.

You played in China and the Middle East after your NBA career wrapped up. What was that experience like?

Murray: It was different.

It was one of those situations where I still wanted to play in the league. I was with New Jersey in my final year before I went to China. And I thought I still had a couple good years left in me. But things didn’t work out that way.

So I ended up going to go to China, and that was a unique experience.

NBA China hadn’t developed yet, so we were kind of pioneers – former NBA players going out there and putting up big numbers for these teams. I actually won the CBA Championship there with the Guangdong Tigers.

After that year, I decided to play in the Middle East. I was kind of winding down at the time. The CBA, at the time, that particular level, was like playing college ball. And I would say playing in the Middle East was like playing high school ball. So I brought my butt back home.

How do you feel now about those years in Cleveland?

Murray: You know, people always ask me that. ‘What were your best years?’ And I always say: ‘I had some of my best years in Cleveland individually as a player.’

They ask where did you like to play? Yes, California. I’m a California kid. I was in Toronto, and that wasn’t a good experience because I was injured most of the time. And I finished in New Jersey, and we went farther into the Playoffs than we’d ever been and won a Divisional Championship.

So you can pick and choose all the places you’ve been and how they fit you at that particular time. And in Cleveland, I had so much fun – putting up good numbers, hitting game-winning shots.

I loved my time there.

Was there any particular special moment from that time?

Murray: Well, hitting that game-winner against the Nets in 2002 was pretty special.

But I like when we went on that run early in the 2000-01 season, because teams really got to see our true potential. It was still the first month of the season. Big Z was playing really well; the whole team was.

We could feel it. We could feel the momentum. We had great chemistry. And we thought that was going to be a great year as a team. But Z went down, and the season didn’t go the way we wanted it to.

Do you still follow pro hoops?

Murray: I was just watching the Playoffs – watching the Clippers get knocked off by Denver.

I just enjoy watching basketball, in general. I just love the game. I keep up with it.

I watch as much basketball as I possibly can, study different trends from different eras. Sometimes I think: Man, I would love to play in this era. Because this is exactly what I loved to do – jack ‘em up and not play any defense!

Do you ever check out the Cavaliers?

Murray: Yeah, I tune in to see what’s going on.

And I also watch because I got a chance to hang out with Larry Nance’s son when I was playing ball in Cleveland. He used to come to the gym as a young guy. So, it’s really interesting to see him out there playing for Cleveland.

And it was so much fun to go back out there for the 50th Anniversary. I hadn’t been back in so long. I was just happy for Cleveland. To see that LeBron brought the Championship to the city and how much the city has grown from the time we played.

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