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Ode to Slava

It's been about a day now. I've had time to pause, reflect and cope. I was momentarily distracted by last night's spirited dog fight against San Antonio (and one seriously good looking Manu Ginobili fan cheering her head off). I ate a decent breakfast this morning and watched about ten minutes of last night's tivo'ed episode of 24. I'm doing my damnedest to keep my mind occupied. But furiously running from my problems is merely taxing me without providing solace. Eventually, a man must stare his sadness dead in the eye in order to move past it. Thus, I've decided to face some unpleasant facts once and for all.

Slava Medvedenko is no longer a Laker.

Those who know me are perfectly aware that I've been an unabashed Slava fan since he joined the Lakers as a non-English speaking, often confused looking big man. I remain a fan as he leaves the Lakers as a "fakes-he-still-can't-speak-English-so-the-media-will-leave-him-alone," often confused looking big man. I can't recall a player with more natural ability to put up points or be unintentionally entertaining than my man from the Ukraine. Whether dazzling folks with his shooting touch or causing Phil Jackson to grimace like he was enduring a proctologist visit, I was never bored with Slava in the game. Not always happy with the results. But never, ever, ever bored.

Slava entered every game with one objective, and one objective only: Put the biscuit in the basket. He attacked that objective like a steel-willed (if somewhat erratic) sniper. Compared to Slava, Kobe is terrified to chuck. Critics always say Bryant never met a shot he didn't like. If that's the case, Slava practically french kissed the rock. Didn't matter where he was on the court, how much time was left on the 24 second clock, or how open anybody else was (especially since he wasn't much of a passer, anyway). The man was a field goal attempt waiting to happen. To say he'd freelance in the offense would infer he knew it in the first place, something I've never been quite convinced of. Or perhaps he mastered it and just didn't want to show off. Who's to say for sure? But I do know this much. Even if Slava was clueless about the triangle, this year's squad doesn't seem particularly up on it, either. They also desperately need a guy to come in, fire some shots, and do some of Kobe's heavy lifting. Sound like anybody who just got waived? Say what you want about his suspect D, propensity for picking up fouls (compared to Slava, Mihm is a ref's pet) or relative lack of development once he started getting minutes. Dude was "offense: just add basketball." This team has seriously missed Slava's contributions and I refuse to believe to believe otherwise.

In honor of the departed #14, I've relived a few of my personal highlights from his Lakers career. "Slava's Greatest Hits," if you will. These are but a few of the images I'll carry with me as I move bravely forward in a cruel, Slava-less Lakers era:

Slava spent most of his rookie season "injured," which loosely translated meant "learning English, the offense and how to navigate the 405 without ending up in San Diego." But when another one of my boys, Isaiah Rider, was put on the I.L. (a compromise from getting booted altogether), Slava was unleashed for about the last 5 games of the year. And in what I believe was his Lakers debut (second game at the very latest), he managed to get T'ed up about 20 seconds after stepping on the court for tussling with Chris Dudley. Classic. He seemed absolutely clueless about what was going on, and when I asked Robert Horry about it later on, Horry seconded that opinion. He also seemed to score every time he touched the ball. BK and I were both very impressed.

During the 2001 title parade (year of the Madsen dance), Chick eventually introduced Slava for the crowd. He was clearly uncomfortable speaking publicly in English, but gave it a nice go with a few short words, punctuated by a joyous "I love L.A.!" Right on cue, Chick responded, "You better love it. You don't have anywhere else to go!" That, my friends, is genius! Pure, unadulterated genius. Stand up comics would kill to be that quick. Chick also remains permanently linked to my Slava memories because of his inability to pronounce "Medvedenko." Just wasn't happening. Thus, I always waited for Chick to announce that Slava "Med-de-venko" was checking in. Nobody ever made a bricked name sound better. I've missed Chick every game since 2002. I now miss both.

I don't remember which game it was, but there was this one time where Slava got the ball at the arc, began dribbling... and kept dribbling. And dribbling. And dribbling. Stu and Paul Sunderland's commentary slowly tricked out, eventually silent for about 2-3 seconds (which feels like an incredibly long silence during a live broadcast), their total bewilderment obvious. Stu, with dead perfect delivery, finally uttered the $1,000,000 Question: "What is he doing?" Slava quickly answered the inquiry, firing a long jumper just inside the three point line, well beyond what one would define as his "comfort zone." Slava missed badly. Slava was yanked at the next dead ball. I'm not quite positive Slava reentered the game. But I laughed.

Slava stepped up big for most of the 2003-2004 season when Malone's knee gave out. It's no picnic replacing the the NBA's second leading scorer, world's toughest human, and supposed missing piece for a title. But Slava had some sweet games, then put in some good work during the playoffs. Everyone remembers the game against Minnesota when Kareem Rush went goony bird and hit all those treys. But people forget that Slava scored about 10 points in eight minutes and got some big boards. He was as much a part of that win as anybody. He also may have been over matched against 'Sheed in the Finals, but he didn't back down. In fact, I specifically recall the two tangling and getting double T's. Slava may not have been much of a defender. And he was hardly a banger. But he ain't soft. There is a difference.

Finally, Slava amused me this season simply by making me speculate his whereabouts. Ever since his back was clearly going to keep him off the court, I haven't seen the guy once. I mean, not at all. Period. He's the Lakers' version of "Where's Waldo?" It's actually a little weird. I've asked a couple fellow writers and they don't seem to know, either. Dude has literally vanished off the face of the planet. You'd have an easier time finding Jimmy Hoffa. But I'd expect nothing less, really. The cat was instant entertainment no matter what he did. Thus, even his absence was fun in its own right. Hopefully, he'll resurface next season with an de-herniated disc, ready to launch at will for the Lakers or somebody else. But until then, I wish the guy well. 

You're my boy, Slava.

You're my boy.

AK

 
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Nice. Slava was actually turning into a player (slowly). Started playing a little more D, rebounded well. I was excited for him this year til the back thing. Come back Slava!!!!

My roommate has always preferred to call him Slobba.

i used to think he was cute...now who am I going to oggle...hehe

Good riddence Slava sucks Ass thank god we got rid of him he covered too much space and was unneccessary Thank god, we finally got rid of Slava after 5 years of watching him suffer in the NBA. Whew, I finally don't have to bare him no more. LET'S CELEBRATE YAY THE IDIOT IS GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i'll miss him.

ima miss hearing comentators messing up his name :(...

Go Lakers...

nice stuff AK

You scare me, Faith.

I can't say I'm gonna miss Slava, but the dude did have heart and was never ever scared to take a big shot (too bad he couldn't make more). The funny thing to me about him being released is a couple years back Phil thought he would be a starter for the Lake Show!!! I'm not gonna miss him but I wish him good luck.

The Kobe Hater: Scottie Pippen

Pippen is a hater. that's all.... he said kobe cannot score 81 in his era..../ yet Michael Jordan says after the 81 points that he cannot score 81 in this era. PIppen you're a two face liar shut your mouth. You're saying Kobe can't score 81 in your era? Then how the hell did JOrdan score 69 in your era? yea that's right... The world just can't admit that their beloved MJ, will soon be surpassed by NUmber 8. so they gotta hate and not accept the next big thing. Their games are very similar and Kobe has learned a lot from mike when they were playing against each other. Pippen, Yes you were a good defensive player in your time and I once idoled you but now, you're just a scumbag to me. Scumbag nothing more, How could the greatest player in the NBA, compliment Kobe while a Pippen-type player degrade Kobe? Even jordan said, if he was guarding Kobe during the night that Kobe got 81 points, he's NOT EVEN SURE THAT 6 FOULS IS ENOUGH TO GET KOBE OUT OF THE GAME. MEANING HE NEEDS MORE FOULS BECAUSE 6 WILL NOT BE ENOUGH. IN SIMPLEST TERMS, HE NEEDS MORE FOULS TO FOUL KOBE, THAT'S THE ONLY WAY TO STOP HIM FROM SCORING. Even jordan admits, that his superior defense cannot contain Kobe's offense if he was the defender in that 81 points game. So PIPPEN, shut your mouth, because you are certainly not the best, and you have no right to judge Kobe's game negatively because you have never come close to 1/4 of kobe's game in your times. THis is an injustice, Pippen you don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, get your ass outta there. and quit that ABC analysis Job, cuz you don't even realize what you are saying. moron. Whenever I see that guy Scottie "Two-face liar" Pippen on ABC talking pre-game and halftime, I get pissed off because he doesn't know what he's talking about. He keeps mentioninng that his era was all about defense and today's era is all about offense. Gosh, he needs to shut up.

PIPPEN IS AN OVERRATED BASKETBALL PLAYER AND HE WILL ALWAYS BE. GET HIS ASS OUT OF THE HALL OF FAME. HE DOESN'T DESERVE TO BE IN THERE!

Slava had what the Lakers desperately need...a player with a mid-range game.

Wow AK, that's more ink than Slava got in his Laker career. He does have touch and size and decent speed. Might have been another Dirk if he wasn't on a Phil Jackson coached team. He'll go to Dallas and hit us up for 40 next year.

I miss the way Chick used to absolutely mangle his name EVERY time. "Med-ve-be-dank-o".

Slava actually contributed some for a guy you would think of as a stiff. He used to torture the Clippers, and I remember him actually having some good games against Duncan for some reason.

Best Slava memory: Draining that three over Garnett with the shot clock running out late in Game 6 of the 2004 West Finals. You knew it was over when that one went down, because he was not a good three-point shooter at all.

Bye Slava, wherever you are. Maybe we'll see you at the worlds or Olympics or something. A career 47.7% shooter, you'll definitely find a home somewhere.

Actually Jman, it's not your imagination. For some inexplicable reason, Slava did give Duncan fits at times. I have no idea why, since worse guys would often abuse him, but Slava nonetheless would do a pretty good job from time to time matched up against a guy who some think could be the best power forward ever. Go figure.

It's kind of like the way Madsen irritated the hell outta KG, something I read Garnett admit. Not that Madsen can't defend (that's all he can do, really), but KG certainly has lit up way better defenders than the Mad Dog.

AK

Nice work AK, but Slava was a stiff. I'm glad to see him go.

Next on the list? That Bum Devean George (Hopefully).

Goodbye Slava, hello Jimmy Jackson. I hope we can get some three balls from him.

damn clippers handling spurs with ease Freakin lakers couldn't now clippers can shows that clipppers are the dominant team right now in L.A.

yeah, slava has had some good times but i seriously question his effectivness in the post shaq era. during our championship run, slava scored most of his points off wide open J's which can be attributed to that fact that shaq demanded so much attention down low.

leaving him on this laker squad that is in desperate need of offense would mean more takes but less makes for slava. yes, the guy has experience playing the triangle, but in all honestly, the guy couldn't shoot his way out of a bag. and dont forget how ineffective he was, defensively.

replacing him with J.J means we get a veteran scoring presence who can drain the 3 and has a good understanding of the game. gone will be the days when kobe drives and passes out of the double team to a wide open teammate only for him to brick the shot. i like this move alot, in terms of helping us make the push for the playoffs.

i like our chances for the SA rematch. but we cant overlook the hornets either.

GO LAKERS!

Slava will go down in history as my least favorite Laker of all time. I'm glad that others have positive memories of him, but to me I will remaim esctatic that the guy is gone. No defense. No rebounding. No passing. No nothing other than a guaranteed field goal attempt.

I cannot disagree more with you AK that we needed this guy back. We needed this guy back like I need to have my left nut removed. SCORING the rock has NOT been our achilles the last two years. We are a good scoring team.

Everyone who thinks we need a consistent 20 ppg second scoring option is wrong in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, it would be nice. But what we need is better defense.

Slava would not provide it. Compared to Slava, Brian Cook would be the new Ben Wallace.

Why you people making such a big deal out of this slava guy

Slava Sucks, End of story. Who cares about a guy who sucks.

Welcome Jim Jackson to L.A., let's hope you play some D for us.

i love the "old school" quote ... you're my boy blue!

unfortunately for slava he missed his chance. i think all lakers fans watching this team struggling for offense misses this guy. he had the heart to score if nothing else.

on a final slava farewell, i'd like to point out that a pass to slava would guarentee not to result in a turnover.

RIP (retire in peace) slava med - de - venko ( <3 chic )

Great Slava piece AK...nice.

"on a final slava farewell, i'd like to point out that a pass to slava would guarentee not to result in a turnover"

Samuel, that's funny.

Thanks for the nice words, everyone.

AK

I liked Slava...I was wondering if he would ever be something. I think he might catch on somewhere in the league next year, if not, Europe for sure. Awwwhh, the Laker memories, cool.

mike

Slava is an idiot thank god we got rid of him how could you be fond of someone stupid like that on the court lol

On the Scottie Pippen Haterism:
LISTEN UP FOLKS, I know the TRUE REASON why Pippen is a hater:
Because Kobe took it to him. Yes, that's right. Let's see if you basketball historians remember when pippen went to go play for the Rockets in 1999 joining who would've known MR.CHARLES I AM A HATER BARKLEY and Olajuwon (i cant be mad at the dream!). In that year's playoff series, Kobe took going at Pippen as a personal challenge defensively and offensively. Thus, the bad blood between the two really begins.

Then, we all remember Pippen's blazer years right? As much that was said about the so called Kobe-Stopper Mr. Patterson, Pippen was a driving force for that squad that almost made the finals if it wasnt for us Lakers. In large part due to Kobe's brilliance, the Lakers took what would have undoubtedly been the crowning achievement for Pippen: Reaching the finals WITHOUT Jordan. Scottie would no longer be the sidekick. No longer just a part of Jordan's shadow! Hey the Blazers probably would've beat the Pacers that year too.

So that's where the hate comes from (and for good measure Barkley is just mad at the world)! He knows Kobe got the better of him and he is still fuming on the inside. Now that Kobe is stepping out of Shaq's shadow for good, Scottie cant help but think what could have been and be mad at Kobe for helping to ruin his shot at a more revered position in the hallway of NBA history! So what does he do? Hate!

I see it in your eyes when you speak your hating words, and I know that you are still hurt by us smashing your opportunities. Heck, you are lucky that Jordan came back or you might forever be known as the MAN WHO QUIT ON HIS TEAM FOR SELFISH REASONS IN THE PLAYOFFS! Who remembers that? Who remembers Scottie refusing to play?!

It's OK Scottie, deep down you know that you and Kobe 1-on-1 would be trouble, trouble, trouble for you sir ...

lol...good one Korey.

Gotta respond to the Pippen haters. Simply put, Pip was an outstanding baller, no match for KOBE, but that would have been Jordan's job anyway. In Jordan's prime, he would have covered Kobe and they both would have spent the night at the foul line. If Pip and the blazers would have played this confused Laker lineup, Kobe might have scored 50, but his team would lose badly.
Sad news guys, the Lakeshow is about to crumble I fear. I watched them play the Hornets previously, and they were destroyed by the quick penetrating Chris Paul. The Hornets have their own losing streak now, so anything is possible. I believe Kobe had 19 in the 1st quarter, didn't matter, they still got thumped.
The Lakers need another year for Smush, Ronnie, Bynum, and Kwame to get with the program.

slava. i'll shed a tear for every player gone from those championship years. fisher, fox, horry. even medvedenko.

hey, easy now on pippin. he was a sick player. loved his game. he's just jealous. and like korey said, he's maybe a little mad about some extra bling that kobe may have taken away. folks will be protecting jordan for a long time. he earned that. don't worry, with a few more titles, kobe's time as demigod will come. and anyway, a lot of those quotes get taken out of context by journalists to get attention and stir things up.

why get stirred up about them? they're just opinions.

peace

Dont you mean a good looking Tony Parker fan...;) who the hell is hot and cheering for Manu?

bye bye Slava...

My favorite Laker under dog

Hi,
slava palyed in Ukraine and Lithuania. And played very well despite his young age. Problem is that in NBA he played in PF position, because he was very good in SF in Europe. damn,different standarts damaged lots of good players. in NBA PF and C are what needs. damn. jump and shoot, no space for creativity. damn nba :) but I understan that it is business and nba's politic. it's good to see some changes.

"damn clippers handling spurs with ease Freakin lakers couldn't now clippers can shows that clipppers are the dominant team right now in L.A." They obviously were a bit tired from playing the Lakers the night before =|

Slava was a bust. Wasn't a good player, but like AK, can't say I didn't like him.

He was..entertaining. I wish he could've become a more decent player on the floor. But hey..even on the IL, he managed to have made one of the more sensational stories for the lakers this year. Fainting in an elevator. HAHAHA...like my dad said..he just doesn't seem like an especially smart guy.

As for Pippen. I don't agree that he was overrated (above comment), but I do agree that his opinion is worthless. Even before all this "hater" talk, I'm sure everyone remembers the scorn he had for Kobe when he played against Kobs on the Blazers. Remember how he took cheap shots on Kobe's injured ribs? It was that moment that I realized what a sleazeball that guy is. No class. I have no respect for pippen..though I must say, now that he is older, that hook nose of his don't look as bad. It's rounded out. Good for you pips!

I've gotta comment on this Pippen hating. I love Scottie Pippen, and for anyone to say he doesn't belong in the hall of fame is crazy!!!! Mike was definitely the better of the two players, but Pippen won a lot of those championships and series too. Without Pippen I guarantee it would have took Jordan a lot longer (if ever) to win the Chip.

Yes he probably is a Kobe hater (Kobe used to use hime like a wet rag) but I can't hate Pippen ever (unless his says some crazy ish like Kobe shouldn't be in the hall). He's given me too many memories over the years to hate him.

PS: He can't hold Kobe's jock strap though!!!

I'll miss the Big Ukrainian.

Does anyone remember his Laker Ukrainian doll business he set up? Wonderful.

Take a look at the box score from the Clipper - Spurs Game.

Spurs shot 5-17 from behind the arc. Nearly the same amount of attempts against the Lakers, but they missed 7.

The Clippers on the other hand scored 1 more than the Lakers.

With those extra 21 points from 3's the score would be 106-98, sound familiar....

I just hate the fact that the Lakers get discounted for a good all-around game, but the Clippers are GODS for not being a "hot shot" victim.

--Scott

Another "project player" under the reign of "asleep at the switch Mitch". I don't get sentimental about slow footed, soft defensive pansies.One piece of advice Kupcake: only acquire players that can play, leave the speculating to the experts.

can the lakers re-sign Slava next season?

I was a fan of Slava, too. I always felt that all he needed was the chance to get a lot of consistent minutes. I remember the playoff games where no one could score, and Jackson getting desperate inserted Slava, and got instant offense. Although, I don't believe that we won any of those games, we at least were able to make a run. Something none of the other Laker stars were able to do. I did have one objection to his game, however. He never learned to shoot the three pointer, which I think would have greatly increased his value. He always set up about a foot inside the 3-point arc and either shot from there, or drove closer in. I always felt that if he could shoot from that distance, why not one foot further back?

Anyway, although I miss him, it is hard to question the move. He had a serious injury - one that no one knows how it will all turn out. Look at Vlade - he couldn't come back from back surgery, although he was older and that was a factor. We needed active bodies, and if we could get one like Jim Jackson, we had to go for it.

I wish you guys could have background sound on this blog so each time you entered the blog you could hear Chick Hearns voice say, "Now, for the Los An-geles Lakers... Slava Med-ve-Denko!"

I miss Chick.

I miss Chick.

Slava sucked, wont miss him or his defense.

I don't currently, and never have, liked Scottie Pippon. Remember from that article that the blog bros posted a couple months back where, when asked if he would do anything differently duiring that Bulls game when the shot wasn't draw up for him and he refused to enter, he said that he was right along along. He said that he was the best player on the team and that the shot should have been drawn for him.

It is one thing to do something so flagrantly disrespectful to your team, your coach, and the game itself during a moment of passion. It is entirely different that, years later, he still thinks it was the right thing to do.

It would have been interesting to see what Slava could have done with consistent playing time. During most of the Laker championship run, he simply was not good enough to play in front of the other forwards. Also being on on a team like that, there is no room for error; if you don't produce during the few opportunities that you get, it's back to the bench. On the Pippen/Kobe thing: Basically, I think Pip is still smarting from the butt-whippings that #8 administered to him during his time in the Western Conference. Kobe used to bust Scottie on the regular. That must be a hard pill for Scottie to swallow up to now. I noticed, however, that didn't stop Pip from accepting a coaching gig this past preseason with the Lakers. Just a slight bit of hypocrisy. Another thing is that Pippen does not,in my opinion, do a very good job on ESPN/ABC. His delivery and analysis are mediocre at best. He doesn't have to worry, though...he can always hook up with Chuck Barkeley on Comedy Central...oh, excuse me. I meant TNT.

Other than Chick's pronunciation, my favorite Slava memory: During one of the early home games in the 2001-2002 season, as Slava was getting his first significant PT, I remember him repeatedly forgetting to set picks or move to different spots on the floor. He was clearly lost in the triangle offense and you could both hear Kobe and read his lips on TV as he kept screaming, "SLAVA!" and pointing him in the direction he needed to go. As Bill Simmons would say, "high comedy."

Two favorite Slava related memories. The first being when Kobe said he was going to walk and take Slava with him. I think that's funny for a number of obvious reasons. The second being, I think it was the Game 5 of the Finals, when he got tangled up w/ Wallace, but Slava had a point where he dropped 10-12 points in the second quarter, and then just disappeared (right before the rest of the team quit).

Slava was never boring. That is true.

He'll probably move on to the Ukraine where he will be a living god to the locals.

Damn straight!

Go Slava!

Thank god for jim Jackson, now All we have to is get him some playing time. I hope Phil Jackson does not sit him too long. Does anyone know if the lakers are still interested in Penny hardaway.

Go lakers
patrick

AK, your comments were right on!

What was the deal with Coach Tomjanovich not playing Slava? Slava was at a crossroads during that time he was about to break out and make a statement, but every game there he was sitting on the bench. Okay, in training camp he had a sore foot. When his foot healed, he was still sitting on the bench. There was no excuse for that. The rest is history. "Slava will be back kicking butt in the NBA."

AK, your comments were right on.

I enjoyed watching Slava play with the Lakers. I got a chuckle out of some of the posted memories of him with the Lakers. He will be missed.

Slava will be back in the NBA kicking butt. Hopefully, he will get the minutes he needs to play to develop his game.

I was impressed with the guy that played with arrogant superstars for so long.
I think Slava will fit in Seattle, Dallas or San Antonio without any problems. Well, it has to be a spot available to get him in. Slava is very good, and I wish him the best only. He was the only Laker who could qickly come back.....I mean RUN across the court. Good luck Man, you are good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How can you all say that Scottie Pippen doesn't know what he's talking about? Scottie is a SIX time NBA Champion. If anybody understands the game of basketball it is Scottie Pippen.

Pippen made the remarks regarding Kobe not being able to score 81 in his era because it's true.

Most people don't realize it but the Bulls won their championships with defense. Pippen and Jordan were both named to 8 straight First-team All-Defensive teams. Bobby Jones is the only other player that can claim that.

You could put Pippen on the opponents best player (1-4 position) and let Jordan roam or vice versa.

No team that has won a championship in the last 8 year could have beaten the 96-98 Bulls in a 7-game series and Kobe would never go for over 50. EVER.

BTW, Scottie is not in the Hall of fame yet genius, but because he is one of the top 3 defensive players of all time and had perhaps the best all-around game in history alongside Oscar Robertson, he will be inducted into the hall on the first ballot...and there's nothing you, or any of the other Pippen-haters can do about it.

Did Slava retire from professional basketball? I wanted to follow up on his career so I looked on the roster for NBA and could not find his name.


I found out Slava signed with the Atlanta Hawks for the 06-07 season, but has played in one game so far. Playing only 5 minutes on the 29th of December, in a blowout loss against the Rockets, he still some how managed to amass 3 PF. He also had 2 points, both from FT's. What was that about more minutes?


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