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OutletPass
05-09-2003, 10:45 AM
Lampe worth the trip
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Thursday, May 8
Updated: May 8
12:40 PM ET


MENORCA, Spain -- Just when I began to wonder if the simple act of trying to see Maciej Lampe play was worth the odyssey it required, I met Jaime Peterson.

Peterson is a 6-foot-9 forward who played at Pittsburgh, has been playing internationally since 1995 and has faced many of the top European big men. He's almost 31 years old, and he's still dreaming about playing in The League. Lampe, he says, will have no such struggles fulfilling that dream.

"He's off the charts man," Peterson said. "Seriously, I've never seen skills like that in such a young kid. And he does it on his own. The coach doesn't take time to work with him or teach him. He just comes and plays. If a decent coach were to get hold of him, he could be a top 10 player in the NBA in three years."

Peterson then backtracks a bit. He's protective of Lampe and is afraid people will try to take advantage of him. Though Lampe stands 7-feet tall and weighs 250 pounds, he's still just 18 years old. In the U.S., he'd have been a high school senior this year. Instead, he has applied for the NBA Draft, where he's a certain first-round pick and could make the top 10. Peterson was as shocked as anyone to hear Lampe had put his name into the draft pool. Since then he has been in Lampe's ear every day, telling the kid from Poland he's going to have to make drastic improvements to his game if he wants to be an NBA player.

"I don't want him just reading about the good stuff," Peterson says. " 'Matcha' needs to grow up. He's soft as a baby's butt, man. He needs to play more aggressively, and his defense, man, it really stinks."

Once Peterson thinks he has done enough to ratchet down Lampe's ego, he lets up again. "But seriously, dude. He's got mad skills, man. He's got a chance to be the best."

'Matcha' needs to grow up. He's soft as a baby's butt, man. He needs to play more aggressively, and his defense, man, it really stinks. ... But seriously, dude. He's got mad skills, man. He's got a chance to be the best.
Jaime Peterson, on Maciej Lampe

A few hours later, I have a chance to see for myself. Lampe's team, Compultense, of the Spanish second division, is facing Coinga Menorca in a playoff game on the island of Menorca. Just getting here was a challenge, but it soon becomes apparent it was one well worth the effort. Lampe looks great in warm ups. At one point, he nails five straight NBA-range 3s from the top of the key. He's got an unbelievably fluid release for someone his size. He runs the floor well, practices several spin moves and misses a total of two jumpers in 12-plus minutes of shoot-around.

There is a lot riding on this game, and Peterson is out with an injury, leaving the burden firmly on the shoulders of the 18-year-old. It won't be an easy task. Peterson, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds, was the team's only other low-post threat. With him on the sidelines, Lampe knows he'll face a steady dose of double teams. If Compultense loses, they're out of the playoffs. If they win, they move onto the semifinals.

I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear Lampe is in the starting lineup. His agent was afraid the coach would hide Lampe tonight if too many NBA scouts showed up. Real Madrid, which owns Lampe's contract, is getting nervous that its star pupil will be chucking up 3s for the Bucks or Wizards next year. But you can't hide this kind of talent in a playoff game.

By halftime, Lampe's stat line is unbelievable -- 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and six rebounds in just more than 16 minutes. At one point in the second quarter, Lampe has 19 of Compultense's 26 points. It's no fluke. Lampe is super-smooth for a big man. His stroke is effortless, and he's a better inside player than he is given credit for. Several times he lowers his shoulder into his opponent and takes the ball to the basket with ease. He runs the floor well and works hard to get position on the block. He's great at getting separation for his shot. Amazingly, Lampe easily could have had more points. His shoot-first, ask-questions-later point guard (former Memphis State star Andre Turner) has missed a wide open Lampe four times already.

In the second half, Lampe takes up right where he left off. His shot is red-hot right now. He sinks another 3, then takes the ball inside for an easy 2. He makes a great outlet pass on the break and at one point fakes his man on the 3-point line and takes the ball all the way in for another easy 2. Did we mention Lampe is 7-feet and 250 pounds? And that he should be a high school senior this year?

But the hot streak doesn't last, and things start falling apart . Lampe now has 27 points and nine rebounds on 10-of-15 shooting, but an elbow to the mouth drops him flat. When he gets up, a fan zings a coin through the air, striking him above his left eye and opening a cut. Lampe is furious, and within seconds he picks up a silly third foul.

The next time down the floor, Lampe is called for a phantom fourth foul. He loses it, and the ref hits him with a technical for his fit of rage. He's done. In FIBA basketball, a technical counts as a personal foul, his fifth. Lampe has to be restrained by Peterson when he hears he's out of the game. But his outburst was interesting. On one hand, you never want to see a player lose control and hurt his team. On the other hand, Lampe has been criticized for a lack of passion and leadership. After seeing him play this game, I think most of those doubts have been erased.


Lampe could be this year's Nikoloz Tskitishvili
He's no Darko Milicic mind you, but his game does bear a distinct resemblance to Dirk Nowitzki's. The big question teams still have with Lampe is his position. He has the size and body of a power forward but the perimeter game of a small forward. Scouts aren't sure just what to think. They all acknowledge he needs to get stronger, but at the same time they think he needs to improve his quickness to play small forward in the NBA.

That challenge will fall to Tim Grover, Michael Jordan's personal trainer. Lampe will leave Spain for Grover's Hoops the Gym in Chicago as soon as his season is over. Grover, who has worked wonders with prospects in the past, will have to find a way to improve both Lampe's strength and quickness before teams will be satisfied.

After the game, Lampe's agent, Keith Kreiter, calls to hear how his client played. Kreiter had to skip the trip in order to begin buyout talks with Real Madrid. Lampe has a $1.25 million buyout this season, but Kreiter is trying to get them to lower the amount. The NBA team that drafts Lampe can pay only $350,000 toward the buyout, and Kreiter is trying to save his client some money.

Lampe read the Insider piece about him several weeks ago and was praying his performance matched the expectations. Before I can answer, he begins apologizing for getting the technical. "I don't want to let my teammates down again," he said. "Do you think this will keep me from getting drafted?" he asks innocently. This is good, Peterson says, telling Lampe, "You were terrible man. You almost cost us that game."

Peterson knows the worst thing that can happen to Lampe at this point is for his head to swell. Lampe is still so young and impressionable, even the slightest bit of praise or criticism seems to have a profound effect.

"I'm just keeping it real man," Peterson says about his tough-love tactics. "Too many of these guys just blow smoke up his butt. The truth is that if he wants to be a great NBA player, he's got to understand his weaknesses and improve on them."

Lampe has read of the concerns about his lack of toughness and below-average rebounding skills. And when he's not reading about his faults, Peterson is in his ear reminding him. Lampe seems to love it.

"I need a good coach," Lampe said. "I really want to learn how to become better. I grew up having to fight for soup for supper. I won't blow the chance if it is given to me. I'm willing to work and work and work to make myself a better player. I know where I could be right now if I wasn't a basketball player. If a team is going to take a chance on me, I'm going to run through a brick wall for them."

Peterson claims Compultense has done little to develop Lampe this year and that he's better off leaving the team now. Originally, Kreiter's plan was to keep Lampe overseas for one more season. But the lack of coaching in Madrid worried him. He wants Lampe to begin learning the pro game now, before bad habits start creeping in.

"I'm a hard worker, so here or the NBA, I'll keep working" Lampe said. "I've already played professional basketball for three years, and I've learned to speak five different languages. I will do whatever it takes to be the best, regardless of whether I'm in the NBA this year or the next."

Right now, with several lottery teams already buzzing about Macha, it looks like this year could be the year.

Drbio
05-09-2003, 10:54 AM
Thanks again as usual OP, but there will never be another Dirk.

i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif

OutletPass
05-09-2003, 11:00 AM
That's THEIR words, Doc...not mine.

1 Dirk and peace on earth.

jayC
05-09-2003, 11:57 AM
Just standard draft talk just like newman the next champ bailey. Good article.

madape
05-09-2003, 07:45 PM
These Insider articles are PURE BASKETBALL GOLD! Ford is buried deep in this shit. Keep 'em coming Outlet, I'm eating them up!

mavsfanforever
05-13-2003, 02:09 PM
He could be a poor man's Dirk-PEJA