I saw my NBA dream clipped

LA clash stirs Copeland re­grets

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - BASKETBALL - MATT LOGUE

FOR Syd­ney Kings as­sis­tant coach La­nard Copeland, to­mor­row’s his­toric pre-sea­son clash against Los An­ge­les Clip­pers will be a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment.

On one hand, Copeland is pumped for the Kings to play against a world-class side in a pic­turesque place such as Hawaii.

Con­versely, see­ing a Clip­pers sin­glet will also bring back mem­o­ries of his last NBA game for the fran­chise in 1991.

“My last play was a dunk on Larry John­son from the Char­lotte Hor­nets but I came down and hurt my knee,” Copeland re­called, shak­ing his head. “I went straight into the locker room to see the doc­tor and the next day I didn’t train. Thank­fully, they said I’d be on the in­jury re­serve list but I’d stay at the club for the rest of the year.

“I was happy, so I called my par­ents to say I’m stay­ing in the NBA but a few min­utes later an­other coach came in and said they won’t let me do it.

“So I went from the high­est of highs to a low­est of lows in 15 min­utes.”

Copeland was dev­as­tated but from the frus­tra­tion came an­other chance to con­tinue his ca­reer, mov­ing to The Philip­pines be­fore head­ing to Aus­tralia in 1992.

Twenty-six years later and Copeland is con­sid­ered an Aus­tralian bas­ket­ball leg­end af­ter a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the NBL with Mel­bourne Tigers, Bris­bane Bul­lets and Ade­laide 36ers.

And while he’ll for­ever be filthy his NBA ten­ure was short-lived, he knows his slid­ing-doors mo­ment worked out for the best. “Ab­so­lutely,” he said. “I won cham­pi­onships in the NBL, met my wife and had kids. It was heart­break­ing to leave the Clip­pers but I’m happy I came to Aus­tralia.”

For all his suc­cess, Copeland has days when he won­ders how long his NBA ca­reer could have lasted.

“I think that all the time,” he said. “Some­times I lie in bed and think ‘what if I had stayed around for just one more year’.

“I’d see some guys that stayed in the CBA League and went on to play three or four years in the NBA.

“You never know what could have hap­pened.”

In­stead, Copeland has moved into coach­ing with the Kings.

To­mor­row morn­ing he’ll get a chance to go to work against LA Clip­pers.

“I never ever thought it would hap­pen; an Aus­tralian team play­ing an NBA team,” he said. “I mean, it still blows my mind.

“It will be a bit weird and emo­tional, but it is crazy how things work out. Now I’m coach­ing against the great Doc Rivers.”

Copeland also trained along­side Rivers at an At­lanta Hawks rookie camp in 1990 when he got cut by Philadel­phia 76ers.

“I was work­ing out with Doc and Do­minique Wilkins every day for two or three months,” he said.

“It is crazy how things work out in life some­times.”

Kings as­sis­tant coach La­nard Copeland and (in­set) a shot from his Clip­pers spell. Pic­ture:MarkDadswell

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.