- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolina Panthers got a visit from a Hall of Famer from another sport on Monday.
NBA legend Jerry West spent much of the morning watching practice from a golf cart with owner Jerry Richardson. The two have been friends for years, and Richardson said West is one of the smartest people he knows in the sports world. Richardson said he wanted West to spend some time talking to some individual players and coaches after practice. But that process actually started during practice.
Quarterback Cam Newton and wide receiver Steve Smith spent time talking to West during a water break. General manager Dave Gettleman also spent a large chunk of time talking to West, who went on to a successful career as an NBA GM after his playing days.
West spent a little time talking to the media after practice and was asked about the differences between succeeding in basketball and football.
“Here, you’re talking about two different teams basically [with offense and defense]," West said. “I think coordination is really necessary in professional football. That’s why you see so many coaches trying to get everyone on the same page. One mistake can cost you a game. I watched two games they played last year that looked like to me that they had them won. [At the end of the game], they lost to Detroit and also to Washington. They played great, but lost. Those are the things that drive people crazy that are really competitive, and particularly the fans, and how disappointed they get.
“I know what Jerry wants to do. He wants to build a real great team here, and he feels like he has a lot of components in place to make that happen.’’
Of course, the main component is Newton, and West was asked for his scouting report on the third-year quarterback.
“He’s not quite big enough to be a power forward,’’ West said. “He’s a really nice kid and I think his best years are ahead of him. Obviously, Mr. Richardson thinks the world of him. It’s up to him at this period of his life to grow as a player and make everyone around him better. I think he’s going to be the type of player that everyone anticipates he’s going to be and lead this team to really a lot higher level.’’
1hEric D. Williams