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New Orleans Hornets
A gentleman. Lynch stays in touch with former Patrick Henry teammates.
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A veteran's touch. Roanoker George Lynch's NBA legacy is hard work.
J.J. Redick and George Lynch have little in common, except that they’re the sole inhabitants of a very exclusive club – Roanokers who have led their high school teams to that rarest of accomplishments, a AAA state championship, then gone on to fame and glory in the upper levels of the game.
Redick, for example, wields the purest of jump shots for Duke University while Lynch enters his 12th NBA season still searching for anything that resembles a consistent field goal attempt. Those who have worked with Lynch don’t expect his jumper to materialize any time soon. Neither is he a spectacular dunker.
And a crossover dribble? You’ll never see it.
Let’s see, there are only about 450 players in the world who find a job each season in the NBA. For a dozen seasons now, Lynch has been among them, not just hanging on, mind you, but always there in the starting five of any NBA team he serves.
At 6-7, 6-8, he’s too undersized to be a classic power forward and a step too slow to play with the athletic small forwards in the game.
So how does Lynch do it?
The same way he shouldered the burden of leading the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to the 1993 NCAA championship, the same way he became one of only two players in Atlantic Coast Conference history to amass totals of 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals.
He possesses true grit, a surprisingly complete game and an abiding understanding of what it takes to win. Most important, he has no qualms about doing all the dirty work needed to build a real team.
“It’s about persistence and going to work every day,” Lynch said in a recent telephone interview after a New Orleans Hornets practice. “A lot of kids think you gotta be Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett. That’s not the case. You’ve gotta do the little things that make a team better. Defending, rebounding, making the extra pass. You’ve got to know your role, know your limitations. And you always have to work to get better.”
That’s why Lynch, 34, continues to work on his jumper, because each season he wants to take and make a few more of the open looks he gets each game.
“If you watch Sports Center, you think it’s all about the crossover dribble and dunking,” he says. “That’s not it.”
It’s all about making yourself coachable and giving yourself over to team chemistry, he says.
In 2000, he helped drive the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA championship series, only to break his foot late in the playoffs. Without his trademark toughness, the ’Sixers fizzled against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Chemistry has always been important to him. That’s why he still keeps in touch with many of his North Carolina and his Patrick Henry High School teammates, which isn’t always as difficult as it might sound. PH’s Russell Turner (who starred at Division III Hampden-Sydney) is now an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, and Curtis Blair, who was once drafted by the Houston Rockets, lives and works in Richmond and also doubles as an official in the NBA’s Development League.
Although his father still lives in Roanoke, and Lynch used to return here in the summers for youth-related activities, he now makes his off-season home with his wife and two children in Dallas, where he is building an athletic training facility that is scheduled to open next year. There, working with athletes in a variety of sports, Lynch hopes to show them that the intangibles permeate every phase of competition.
“I want to work with younger people,” he says, “and show them how to be coachable.”
Redick, of course, wants to make his club with Lynch all the more exclusive. The junior Duke guard dreams of accomplishing Lynch’s most singular feat – putting his college team on his back and taking it to a national championship.
“That team had a lot of hard workers,” Lynch says now of the 1993 Heels. “Coach (Dean) Smith taught us how to play together.”