Growing up a Lakers fan, I got to catch the tail end of Magic Johnson before the HIV announcement. After Magic left, it was a couple down years for the Lakers.
In the 1993 NBA draft, the Lakers drafted point guard Nick Van Exel with the 37th pick. Van Exel averaged 13.6 points, and 5.8 assists a game in his rookie season for the Lakers.
Van Exel played only five seasons with the Lakers, and it was fun watching him play. Given the nickname “Nick The Quick”, Van Exel had a herky jerk style of play. He was quick off the dribble and could pull up from three and knock down shots instantly.
When Shaquille O’Neal came to the Lakers in the 1996-97 season, Van Exel averaged a career-high 8.5 assists. When the 1997-98 season came around, I felt the Lakers had a great chance to win the title. They had depth and were very athletic. Van Exel and Eddie Jones led the backcourt with O’ Neal in the middle. Off the bench was Kobe Bryant who started to come into his own, along with Elden Campbell and Derek Fisher.
Also, in the 1997-98 season, Nick Van Exel made his first NBA All-Star team, he was one of four Lakers to make the team. Van Exel would eventually injured. And when he came back, Derek Fisher took over his starting position. It was the beginning of the end for Van Exel with the Lakers.
After the Lakers’ disappointing playoff loss to the Utah Jazz, Van Exel was traded to the Denver Nuggets. It was fun watching Van Exel play for the Lakers, especially in the pre-Shaq days. Although those Lakers teams did not have any real shot at the finals, it was fun watching Van Exel and the young Lakers run up and down the court. Over the last week or so since there is no basketball, I watched a couple of those old Lakers games and found them quite enjoyable. It brought back old memories as a kid.
Van Exel played 15 seasons in the NBA and averaged 14.4 points and 6.6 assists per game for six teams while shooting 40% from the field and 35% from beyond the arch.