Motivated LaCruz already back to work with Alton Wilkes
- By Jron Magcale, Day 198, 2022
LOS ANGELES - There are multiple reports that Chris LaCruz has been already working out ever since their season ended prematurely this year despite having a torrid 2nd half of the season for the Los Angeles court general. Sources says that Chris LaCruz wants to take advantage having Alton Wilkes as the #1 assistant coach for the Fireballs and have talked to Wilkes on working out with the Hall of Famer point guard to raise the level of his game next season.
"He hit me up after our last game losing to the 'Jacks at Portland. As soon as the buzzer sounded, he reached out to me before we exit the court and told me he wants to work out ASAP." Wilkes said about the news. "I said, hell yeah. Let's go."
Wilkes is a legendary player in his own rights having plaed all of his 17 seasons with Atlanta Devils the team who drafted him #1 in 2001 and had a career averages of 21.2 ppg, 12.4 apg, 4.8 rpg and 2.5 spg while shooting 50% FG all through that 17 seasons. In his resume is 2 Championship trophies, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 Season MVP, 7 All-JBL 1st Team, 5 All-JBL 2nd Team, 3 All-Defensive 1st Team and 3 All-Defensive 2nd team, he also made 15 All-Star appearances to sweetened up that resume. He is arguably is the best point guard in the JBL history.
From the looks of it, this season despite having great numbers for LaCruz with 26.1 ppg, 9.5 apg (career best), 5 rpg and 1.5 spg while shooting 47% FG and 36% 3FG, leaves a bad taste in his mouth having to miss the playoffs and also was snubbed at the All-Star festivities. Numbers alone would look like All-JBL numbers but the string of bad lucks with injuries in the past 2 seasons for the Fireballs contributed to what looks like a losing season (40-42), his first losing season since arriving in L.A. individually LaCruz season is noteworthy 3 triple-doubles (after having none last season), 2 50-point games, 9 40-point games and 36 30-point games, he was especially hot in the 2nd half of the season and became even hotter when veterans Staff and HP was traded.
"He is hungry and he wants to unlock that next level of his game, he is young only 25 years old now and 26 years old next season, which is still scratching the surface of his skills, he is beginning to mature as a player and his personality of being a leader is second to none. He wants to win and he wants to take over." GM Jron said when asked about LaCruz.
Wilkes is the perfect mentor for LaCruz as admittedly LaCruz says that Wilkes is one of his favorite players growing up and to be mentored by him is an honor. "I see a little bit of myself with Chris (LaCruz), I know why I was selected to be an assistant here in LA, part of it is to help him grow and with his willingness to improve, it will come." Wilkes said, "We're particularly going to work on his defense especially in the perimeter as that is an area of his game that I see can still develop, his scoring is already there, his ball handling and passing is probably one of the best I have seen in person, very creative and very instinctive, his outside shot has came a long way since I arrived here, iMac helped him on that area obviously and I think what we wanted to work on is his overall approach, if he can unlock that extra layer on his defense, he'll be a contender in the MVP race, that's how confident we are about him." Wilkes added.
"I just want to go to work, man." LaCruz commented. "This season has been pretty much a disappointment for me personally, I feel that I could've done more but I didn't. Coach Wilkes will help me be that guy for L.A., I feel like I let the city down by not making it in the playoffs and that stings. I'm competitive and a leader and that mentality is always been a gift and curse. But I want to be that guy, I see coach Wilkes and how accomplished his career was, I see the likes of coach Butler (Mitchell) whom I also admire growing up and see what he has accomplished for the Fireballs and man, I want to be that guy for my team." LaCruz said about his intentions on getting better.
At the end of the day, LaCruz is always going to be the guy who will be trusted on to take the final shot, hit or miss, he will be the guy you want to take that crucial stretch. He is a competitor and his leadership is very vital to his development. When asked about what we will expect next season for him he said "Man, I don't know I wanted to hit coach Butler after this season and if he is going to be in L.A. I want to learn from him too. You know, if anyone knows how to win in L.A. facing diversity it is that man. I wanted to have that 'Wilkes Heart' and 'Butler Mentality' man, if I can be a fraction of those guys, then watch out."
The whole Los Angeles is betting on it, this offseason will be so much important and it is the job of the front office to surround LaCruz the support he needs to take L.A. back to success. The pressure is on, and everybody in the Fireballs organization knows it.