The 14-year NBA veteran begins his third season as coach of the New York Liberty on June 5. One of the league's toughest enforcers until his retirement in 1993, he still finds a way to get under people's skin.
DAN PATRICK:Do you understand what is and is not a flagrant foul in today's game?
BILL LAIMBEER: If you have bad breath and breathe on somebody, it's probably a flagrant foul. The league has tried to open up the game. The players are bigger, faster, stronger. The space remains the same. The league is trying to find a way to open it up and get more scoring. I get it. At the same time, people from our generation look at it and say it's still a man's game, and they want to see some physicality.
DP:I saw a highlight of Robert Parish punching you twice and he didn't even get called for a foul.
BL: It's kind of amazing the refs didn't see anything. With today's rules I'd probably be out with a concussion for four weeks.
DP:How would your Pistons defend Steph Curry?
BL: We'd probably put Isiah [Thomas] or Joe Dumars on him. Dumars was a dogged defender. He never left you. The great thing is, you could count on your teammates to help. One person can't stop great players. Joe couldn't stop Michael Jordan. He needed all five players to help him contain him. With Steph Curry, you just try to contain him.
DP:How do you stop LeBron James?
BL: That's a tough one. [Laughs.] You can't knock him down. He'll knock you down. No one has ever seen a physical specimen like LeBron—6'8", 250 pounds, strong, runs like the wind. I'm in awe of this guy. Just take charges on him, I guess. Get him in foul trouble and limit his ability to play for all 40 minutes.
DP:LeBron in his prime or Jordan in his prime?
BL: There's no question I would take LeBron James. He can do more. Michael Jordan could score, make big shots and look spectacular with wild, flying dunks. LeBron can get you 18 rebounds, 15 assists, if he chooses to. Or he can score 50. The triple threat he poses is just phenomenal.
DP:You don't think Jordan could have gotten the Cavs to the Finals?
BL: No, because LeBron rebounds. The other day [against the Hawks], he had 18 rebounds and 13 assists. LeBron came into the league knowing how to play basketball and involve his teammates. Jordan had to learn that.
DP:Is the dream to coach in the NBA still alive for you?
BL: There was a time I was foaming at the mouth to get an opportunity. It didn't happen. I just turned 58. My time probably passed. I enjoy what I'm doing now.
Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt really knows how to have a good time in the off-season. "I let loose and allow myself to do whatever I want," he told me. "Maybe it's stopping and having a burger. Maybe some wings." ... In his book The Whore of Akron, author Scott Raab criticized LeBron James for leaving Cleveland. Now he's back on the LeBron bandwagon. "If I had known the guy was coming back," Raab told me, "I might have tweaked the title a little bit." ... ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy explained why his playing career only went so far at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. Van Gundy told me, "When I was doing individual workouts, I could beat the cones on the court off the dribble every time. It was those darn other players that got in the way of my greatness."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (LAIMBEER)
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (VAN GUNDY)
TAYLOR HILL/GETTY IMAGES (WATT)
COURTESY OF SCOTT RAAB (RAAB)