Saturday, October 21

The NBA is full of former Bruins, but none match the greatness of those past

Former Bruin Jordan Farmar, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, battles for a loose ball with Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Former Bruin Jordan Farmar, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, battles for a loose ball with Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder. PAUL ABELL

This year’s NBA playoffs have been a source of both joy and pain for me.

If you couldn’t guess, my joy has come from the success of my favorite team, the Los Angeles Kobes, seemingly on their way to reaching their third consecutive NBA Finals.

And surprisingly, I can say that Jordan Farmar, who I recently railed against for his lackluster performance against UCLA counterpart Russell Westbrook, has been contributing off the Laker bench.

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

But now I must share with you my recent source of agony and I’m sure many UCLA fans can relate.

Where are the UCLA players in the playoffs? What happened to the dominant, dynamic former Bruins who were regarded as some of the best players in the league?

Where are the Kareems? The Waltons? The Millers? The Farmars?

Okay, that last one was a joke.

But seriously, who is the best player in the NBA right now from UCLA?

Think about it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

I mean, if you asked me, I would have to say Westbrook, but I can’t say it confidently. Westbrook is certainly a star in the making, but the truth is, he’s not even the best player on his own team.

Will he ever compare to, say, a Reggie Miller, UCLA’s last big star?

Not likely; Reggie had too much charisma. Too much bravado. Too much game.

When’s the last time a UCLA player has been the best player in the league?

Even though Reggie played during Jordan’s era, everyone knowing that Jordan was the best, Reg still used to give MJ a run for his money.

Shoot, Reg is one of the only guys I’ve ever seen get under the skin of the almighty Jordan to the point where Mike was ready to fight.

Before Reggie, there was Jamaal Wilkes and Bill Walton. Wilkes, though never one of the best players in the NBA, won Rookie of the Year in 1975 and played a vital part in a few Lakers championships. In short, he left his mark.

And we’re all familiar with Walton, who was a No. 1 pick in the draft, and led the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA title in 1977. That year, Walton was named the Finals MVP and the very next season, he won NBA MVP.

And do I really need to talk about Kareem?

The greatest NBA center ever? Didn’t think so.

Fast-forward to the present era, meaning the last 10-15 years. Where are the great UCLA players?

Some people would mention Baron Davis, but has Baron ever really been a star? Has he ever lived up to his potential?

Not close.

Over the years, I’ve heard several analysts refer to Davis as the most talented point guard in the league, but not the best. The reason is Baron has never consistently displayed his immense abilities. He has never dominated the way he potentially could. Sure, he’s had a few good seasons, but he’s never sustained his high play for a long period of time.

And as it stands right now, the NBA is full of former Bruins serving as role-players on their teams.

Arron Afflalo, Trevor Ariza, Dan Gadzuric, Jason Kapono, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday and a few others … all role-players.

Darren Collison had a breakout season, but will it last now that Chris Paul is back? That’s still to be determined.

The Lakers swapped Ariza for Ron Artest and look, they’re still the favorites to win the NBA title. So how significant was Ariza in last year’s title run?

Let’s look at this year’s playoffs … how many Bruins can you name that are still playing?

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

The answer is two. Matt Barnes for the Magic and Farmar for the Lakers.

In addition, of the approximately 208 combined players to make this postseason, six were Bruins, if you throw Westbrook, Gadzuric, Mbah a Moute and Afflalo into the mix, all of whom lost in the first round.

That’s alarming to me, especially for a school thought to be the Mecca of men’s basketball.And it’s not like the two that are left are guiding their respective squads to the title.

I get it. There will probably never be another Kareem to come through Westwood and go on to dominate the NBA.

But UCLA needs someone, someone we can look at and say, “Hey, you see that guy? He went to my school.”

Because as of right now, I’m more excited to see Barnes on VH1′s Basketball Wives than I am to see him in a jersey.

E-mail Watson at [email protected]

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.