I was fortunate enough to catch up with ex-Laker Josh Powell, who is currently playing overseas for Olympiacos of Greece. Last seen with the San Antonio Spurs as a final preseason cut, Powell was also a member of the 2009 and 2010 back-to-back NBA champion Lakers. Not only that, (although born in South Carolina) as an Atlanta native, he is also good friends with both Dwight Howard and Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks)…so I figured this might be a good time to hunt Powell down.
Powell was very candid and open with co-host Jamieson Welsh and myself, and didn’t shy away from any topic we threw his way. He comes across as exactly the type of high-character guy you want in your locker room. A guy that realizes that although he plays a game for a living, it takes a certain amount of professionalism and maturity to be successful in the NBA. Powell’s had a unique 6-year career in that even though he’s been a journeyman, he’s been fortunate enough to play with both Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant in their relative primes.
Triple Threat (TT): Much is made of how difficult it can be playing with Kobe Bryant. Can you shed some life on what that experience is actually like?
Josh Powell (JP): Kobe is who he is. He’s a competitor, and that’s his nature. I think a lot of people can get that mistaken for him being a bad person, or you know…view it negatively. That’s really not the case. He just has a winning attitude and winning mentality. No matter what he does, he wants to come out on top. That’s just him.
Having also spent training camp and a majority of the preseason with the Spurs, Powell is no stranger to playing for an all-time great coach. He tells a story about someone doing a dance/celebration following a basket in a preseason game, which resulted in Coach Popovich immediately calling a timeout to remind the player the “Spurs don’t play that way.” Might seem shrewd, but Coach Popovich’s no-nonsense approach has placed him in the discussion with the best coaches (not-named Philip Douglas Jackson) of all time. Powell was so forthcoming about the true impact of coaching that he started answering before I could even complete the question.
TT: How much does coaching impact the play?
JP: I think you all see it. I think you see it in certain (Lakers) situations. It’s very important, because all the pieces to the puzzle must fit.
Even though I attempted to take the conversation across the hallway in order to compare/contrast the different vibes and productivity Powell was quick to come back to the issues going on in the Lakers’ locker room.
JP: Guys within that locker room have to look at themselves. When things go wrong, everyone can point the finger at certain things, but the other part is guys have to believe in what they’re doing. You have to throw whatever you’re feeling out of the way, and you gotta just go play. At the end of the day, we’re professionals and that’s our responsibility. We can’t control anyone else, but we can control ourselves.
TT: If Phil Jackson is the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, is this taking place within the locker room?
JP: (After a long pause) I don’t think so. I played under Phil. Don’t get me wrong, we had things to deal with (during the 2009/20 title runs)…at the end of the day, we had a goal. The good thing about Phil, he isn’t just a great coach, but he’s good at managing egos, too. That’s the other part of coaching, they have to manage the attitudes and egos of guys.
I realize everyone is tired of hearing about Phil Jackson, as it would certainly appear the ship has sailed. Given the circumstances it was an inevitable question, and I found it interesting that it was the one answer where Powell was initially hesitant.
The Triple Threat Podcast airs each Saturday at 11am PST. For the full interview, feel free to click the link below: