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Jackson Throws the Books at Them

With Steve Nash leading the way, today's NBA is all about quick floor leaders

by Mike BRESNAHAN
DEC, 2005

CHICAGO — Phil Jackson: coach, author, and, after a one-year layoff, a book-giver once again.

According to his annual custom, Jackson handed out reading material to each Laker at the start of the six-game trip.

He did not take TNT analyst Charles Barkley's advice to hand out Bibles because, in Barkley's words, "only God can help them," but instead concentrated on themes of leadership and decision-making.

Kobe Bryant received "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," a bestseller about making decisions, good and bad, and why some people are better at it than others.

"It's about following intuition, about intuitive thought," Jackson said.

Lamar Odom received Sun-Tzu's "The Art of War," a classic that centers on the concept of leading with wisdom and achieving success by understanding the nature of conflict.

"It's a little bit about how to promote competition," Jackson said.

For Kwame Brown, there was "Sacred Hoops," a book written by Jackson about the principles of teamwork.

Chris Mihm received "A Bell for Adano," the story of an Italian- American major in World War II winning admiration from Italian townspeople by trying to replace a 700-year-old town bell that had been melted down for bullets by fascist leaders.

"I'm still trying to figure it out," Mihm said, smiling.

Luke Walton received a book on the history of rock 'n' roll, Sasha Vujacic was given a spy novel written by Alan Furst, and 18-year-old Andrew Bynum, the youngest of the Lakers, was given "The Old Man and the Sea."

Mike Bresnahan is LA Times' staff writer.
NOT: Yazıyı gönderen Orkun ÇOLAKOĞLU'a teşekkürler.
Six guards a-blazing'

With Steve Nash leading the way, today's NBA is all about quick floor leaders

by Joe Davidson
NOV 27, 2005

Blur guards. That's what they are.

So quick with the dribble and their feet that they force defenders to backpedal or reach helplessly as if to lower the draw bridge and impede traffic. Nothing quite makes a player feel lead-footed like having a player blow past him, the exhaust puffing out of the tank top. The greatest weapon in the NBA these days isn't necessarily a dominating center. Shaq is hurt, Yao doesn't always dominate, and there are no more Kareems, Wilts or Russells out there.

It's the point guard who can handle the ball and put constant pressure on the defense, who can reach the basket in an instant to score or to distribute when the defense instinctively collapses on the target.

The league had quick lead guards such as Tiny Archibald in the 1970s. Then there was the dynamic big guard in Magic Johnson in the 1980s and, in the 1990s, the prolific combo guard in Michael Jordan.

Now, you take a blur guard in any shape or form, be it mighty mites like the incomparable Allen Iverson, the ever-steady Gilbert Arenas and up-and-comer T.J. Ford, or the bigger blurs in Baron Davis and Jason Kidd.

The best player in the league last season? A point guard - Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns, who might not have world-class speed but whose ballhandling abilities leave defenders in the wake of his sweaty locks.

Also, teams are drafting blurs to give themselves a chance at winning the foot-races. New Orleans/Oklahoma City seemingly has a chance every night because of Chris Paul.

"It's a fantastic thing to have," said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who has Tony Parker to unleash. "Especially with the rules now, where you can't put a hand on a guy anymore. It allows a player to show his wares. It's great for the league - but only if you've got one."

Joe Davidson is Sacramento Bee's staff writer.
NOT: Yazıyı gönderen Arda ARŞIK'a teşekkürler.


Auerbach making me see red

by Todd BEHRENDT
FOXSports.com

Let's chalk it up to nicotine withdrawal. Since a prolonged hospital stay this summer, Celtics president and legendary coach Red Auerbach has had to give up his beloved cigars, which is bound to make a guy a little cranky ... even if he wasn't an 88-year-old curmudgeon who has been unwilling to share his place in NBA history with a damn hippie.

But even withdrawal symptoms can't entirely explain Auerbach's most recent tirade against Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

While attending the Celtics' season opener with the Knicks, Auerbach briefly praised Jackson, with whom Auerbach shares the NBA record for titles won by a coach with nine, but then added, "Remember one thing: He's been very fortunate. He picks his spots. That's all I can say."

Of course, the topic being Jackson, that wasn't all Auerbach could say.

"Phil Jackson, they've got a pretty good ballclub out there, but he's got his built-in excuse," Auerbach said. "You could have taken, I won't say anybody, but you can take any knowledgeable coach and put them in those situations and they can't do any worse. If L.A. doesn't make the playoffs, it's 'building.' "

So when Jackson decides to return to a Lakers team that nobody believes has championship-caliber talent, he's got a "built-in excuse" should he fail, but if he'd gone to, say, Cleveland to coach LeBron James and the Cavs' improved supporting cast, he'd have just been "picking his spots"?

It makes one wonder if there was a job Jackson could have taken that would have met with Auerbach's approval.

It also makes one wonder just how being the assistant coach (and therefore the logical successor) when Doug Collins was fired in Chicago qualifies as "picking his spots."

Granted, Jackson's ascendancy in Chicago gave him the opportunity to coach a transcendent player who was just coming into his prime. But if there's any coach who might want to wait before breaking out the "of course he won, he had the best talent" card, it would be Auerbach. At one point during the Celtics' run, Auerbach had an entire starting lineup filled with future Hall of Famers (Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey and Tom Heinsohn) and brought another two off the bench (Sam Jones, K.C. Jones).

Until Karl Malone and Gary Payton came to L.A. for the 2003-04 season, it was debatable whether Jackson had coached seven Hall of Famers in his entire NBA career, let alone during a single season.

Now, it's true that the first time that Jackson was a coaching free agent, he chose a situation that lent itself to success. It's also true that, like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before them, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had plenty of opportunities to win titles before Jackson came along ... but didn't.

But as long as Auerbach insists on playing compare-and-contrast with the only other coach with rings on 90 percent of his fingers, it's worth noting the following:

-- Auerbach's Celtics never had to win 15 games to win a title, as all nine of Jackson's championship teams did. And now that the opening round is a best-of-seven affair, it takes 16 wins to earn a ring; when Auerbach was coaching in Boston, he could get a pair of titles with 16 postseason victories.

-- Motivation was never a factor when Auerbach was on the Boston Garden bench, as the bonus for winning it all represented a significant percentage of a player's income for a year. In comparison, it's very possible Shaquille O'Neal spends more money per year on hats than he'll earn should the Heat win the 2005-06 title.

-- If Bill Russell played today, he'd have earned a max deal about midway through the Celtics' dynasty, which would have resulted in John Havlicek and K.C. Jones chasing fat free agent contracts elsewhere.

The sad thing is that Auerbach's legend is more than secure, even if Jackson or somebody else eventually surpasses his nine championships. But it can (and will) be somewhat tarnished if he continues to attack a contemporary coach with the temerity to equal his record for excellence.

So someone needs to send the poor guy a nicotine patch. And if necessary, place it over his mouth the next time a reporter asks him about Phil Jackson.

Todd Behrendt is a senior editor for FOXSports.com.


Hats off Mr. Garnett and Thanks for
Re-Shaping My Perception of You


by Peter RUMM, MD
for HOOPSWORLD.com
NOV 15th, 2005

I have to quietly admit it I truly never liked Kevin Garnett much before this week.

Oh I recognized his talent and amazing statistical brilliance in so many categories, and begrudgingly admired his passion for the game and rightfully considered him one of the few true superstars in the game - in a league where anyone has seemingly a good year and they reach in some parts of the media and fans minds an exalted status. Simply put, superstar status should only be reserved for a handful of consistently brilliant and game changing play over at least several years.

However, I personnally never liked his past vocal expressions of war like analogies to what is just a game, perhaps an unfair sense that he was an angry young man (this was primarily due to his chronicled past fights with teammates), or the fact that so far his teams have simply not lived up to expectations despite his special all around brilliance.

Again, it was hard to not like a fabulously skilled player who had averaged over 20 points/10 boards/5 assists for the last five years - but I found a way to do so in private and openly.

That being said, Mr. Garnett I will now have to and will want to root for you and your team more in the future - based on the fact that you suddenly gave this week a huge personal 1.2 million dollar contribution to the hurricane relief funds on the Oprah Show.

Even with Garnett's huge salary (28 million according to InsideHoops.com) and outside endorsement income, this is a huge contribution and through Oprah's foundation, it will all apparently go to needed services such as building homes.

Many gave right after the event as we heard on the news (or in some cases like myself saw firsthand) the destruction of people's lives and hopes.

It was the right thing to do but it was also trendy and easier to do when we saw such daily images.

However, now is truly the time when such contributions need to be sustained as the needs of so many remain unfilled in so many places down South.

I hope your contribution spurs others to keep giving.

Simply put, well done Mr. Garnett and “hats off” to an emerging ambassador for the game and an emerging mountain of a man in ways beyond the confines of a basketball court!

The "SportsDoc" to the fan, Dr. Rumm contibutes medical stories, articles about teams, and various observations on the game and its players.
prumm@hoopsworld.com


Notes to ESPN

by Steve "Mr. BskBALL" Tyler
June 29th, 2003

To our friends at ESPN, it became quite clear that your team broadcasting the NBA draft on Thursday had not had much experience with such an event… so here are some tips from “Uncle Steve”-

#1: You never tell a bride she's fat on her wedding day. It's low class to call out a bad player on the best day of his life on national TV, even if my man sucks wind, leave that for the post draft review. As someone is walking up to the podium, you should keep the negativity to yourself, bad form saying someone couldn't guard the chair your sitting in.

#2: Grills are for Barbeques. It was surprising to watch how grueling the post hand shake interviews were, my goodness, poor Darko came out looking stupid and what's with the Cow stories? A good interview has prepared questions, share them with the guy your interviewing, most of these cats struggled the whole way through.

#3: It's not the package, it's the toy inside. It was nice to see the draft presented in a very visually appealing manner, what happened to the 2nd round? If you're going to go to the trouble of broadcasting the picks, show them all. At some point it seemed like Russ Granik stopped coming to the podium, we clearly lost track at home, hell even the ESPN website didn't have half the second rounder until the end of the night. The 2nd round is important to some of us, show us our picks!

4th: You're only as good as your weakest link. I got love for Tom Tolbert, but he has no business covering the draft, time and time again my man tried to be funny, and he came off looking stupid… when the crowd starts chatting Fire Tolbert, you got issues. There were too many personalities and not enough experts. The bickering between Dickie V and Tom was insane; someone should have pulled the plug.

Lastly: Less is More. I know we're information starved as a culture, but the side box and scrolling ticker were too much. The scroll at the bottom was too fast, and the side box made no sense. Overall this was a higher energy draft broadcast, but the fans want Charles Barkley, and the pundits want great insight. ESPN offered neither… Let's hope the suits consider what didn't work for next year.

SOUR GRAPES

Why is it that The Post's Peter Vecsey has to take shots at Jim Gray? Who cares if Jim's story about Kobe, Jason Kidd or where Jimmy Hoffa is buried is an exclusive? In what comes off as the “kid not invited to the party bitching”, Vecsey goes on to blast Jim Gray and the World Wide Leader In Shorts, going as far as accusing ESPN of lifting other peoples news and re-branding it as their own?

ESPN? Lifting stories? No? This comes as irony to me because for years Peter Vecsey has blasted anyone who wasn't him, and now he swoops in to “protect” the LA Times who ran a similar Kobe Bryant story months ago, and tried to defrock Jim Gray and his ‘exclusive'.

Pete, if a bomb goes off in your apartment, just because I talked about it 2 months later doesn't mean the bomb didn't go off. If Kobe told the Times he was leaning towards opting out rather than resigning, great for the Times. If Jim Gray called Kobe before the draft to talk about his future, and he says the same thing to Gray where is the issue? There isn't one. Are you saying Jim didn't speak with Kobe? This whole thing just comes off as you being mad about not getting the boos from the Madison Square set. It's funny that the ‘greatest' prognosticator in the rumors game wasn't even consulted in the broadcast. Don't get mad because Jim Gray got your spotlight, concede and be happy for him. Show a brother some love, he was obviously nervous, didn't you catch him stammering...

By the way Kobe is going to opt out because there will be a new Collective Bargining Agreement in place that will pay him more, if he takes an Extension now, he's tied to the same crappy deal the Union smacked on him last time... Kobe was among the many angry with the Players Union for making the current deal, because he too expected a Kevin Garnett sized payday... and could have commanded it.

Steve Kyler is the lead NBA analyst for Basketball News Services; in addition he serves as Senior Editor for HOOPSWORLD and is a freelance radio personality that has covered the NBA for the past 8 years.


Thanks for everything, Dad

by Bill Simmons
June 26th, 2003

My dad is one of the last true sports fans. He supports every New England team, regardless of the circumstance. If Tufts were playing for the NCAA Ping-Pong championship, Dad would be on the bandwagon. The man inhales the NHL draft -- a parade of players nobody, including him, has ever seen, rooting for the B's to take someone he "has a gut feeling about." He watches the Belmont. He watches the TPC. He'll catch Hoosiers for the 234th time on HBO6, even if he just saw it for the 233rd time a week earlier. He has nodded off in more third quarters and sixth innings than you can imagine. But he always wakes up at the right time.

He and I spend a lot of time on the phone, even while games are in progress. Nobody cuts to the chase like Dad. Nine weeks into the '02 Sox season, I called him after a one-run defeat. "They don't have it this year," Dad grumbled. He was right. He's always right. When new addition Alaa Abdelnaby submitted a decent debut for the Celts, the local papers went on and on about him. "He's not gonna work out," hissed Dad, who'd been at the game. During a fourth-quarter timeout, Abdelnaby sought out a friend in a section near Dad's seats, and waved to him like a little kid. These are the things my dad notices. And, yes, Alaa never quite made a mark.

You only get one chance with Dad. In the '90 Stanley Cup Finals, Glen Wesley missed an open net in a triple-OT loss to the Oilers, and Dad never forgave him. Poor Wesley could have flown to Iraq and wiped out each and every Hussein; Dad wouldn't have cared. When Boston traded Wesley to Hartford four years later for three first-rounders, my father laughed. "I would've given the guy away," he said. Lately he's been on a crusade to get the Celtics to dump GM Chris Wallace, who made that Vin Baker trade. "They should fire Wallace, and they should make him take Baker with him," Dad says. "And then they should have to live together."

Speaking of disappointments, Dad used to throw grounders and tight spirals at me for hours. He's still annoyed that I didn't turn into the next Randy Vataha. "All those balls I threw you," he says now, "you caught 'em all. You had great hands. But you had slow legs, and you didn't want to get hit." As far as he's concerned, I'm Wesley or Alaa.

But I definitely wouldn't be a Sports Guy without him. Dad bought a single Celtics season ticket in 1974 and carried me into the games. I slept through the famous triple-OT game against the Suns, spread across his lap and the legs of two strangers. I was 6, but he still makes fun of me about it. When I was 8, he bought me my own seat. They moved us to midcourt because nobody was going, and Larry Bird arrived in Boston the following season. A gift from the hoop gods. We attended just about every relevant Bird game together. How do you repay someone for a gift like that?

When I started writing columns, Dad became a running character. And something strange happened: My readers felt they knew him. To my continuing amazement, I get more e-mails about Dad than anyone else I write about. People ask how he's doing, send him best wishes, even quote some of his memorable NBA draft lines (like "That suit has no buttons" about Drew Gooden). Every year, around Father's Day, readers thank me for writing about him, because it reminds them of why they miss their own dad so much.

Sadly, Dad and I can't watch the NBA draft together this year, because I'm in California. It's one of those things we did every year, a father-son tradition. Decades from now, when he's long gone, my favorite memory of Dad will be of sitting with him during the draft. Here's an accomplished guy with a law degree and a Ph.D, but you've got to see him sprawled on the sofa, juggling eight mock drafts, frantically crossing off names in pen, eyes widening every time Stern approaches the microphone. He cracks me up.

Happy Father's Day, Pop. Wish I could be there.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN, The Magazine, and he's a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live.


How to fix the cruel foul-out rule

by Dennis Hans
May 25, 2003

The most dumb and cruel rule in all of sports — the foul-out rule — reared its ugly head again last Wednesday. Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki was whistled for three fouls in the first seven minutes. He then sat and watched for nine minutes as the Spurs widened their lead, then came back and played cautiously — and even less defense than he normal — the rest of the half as the Spurs blew the game wide open.

I think San Antonio would have won the game even if Dirk hadn’t had a whiff of foul trouble. But I’ve seen many playoff games this year where foul trouble or foul outs — affecting good, smart players playing a good, clean game — impacted the outcome. A fifth (and dubious) foul on Tim Duncan in the fourth quarter of Game 1 Monday sent him briefly to the bench and may have been the key to Dallas’s come-from-behind win.

The foul-out rule even affects who guards whom.

The two greatest big men in the game today, Shaquille O’Neal and Duncan, squared off this year in the second round. Both are in their prime, and both are masterful low-post scorers and defenders. This should have been a Clash of Titans, a modern-day Chamberlain-Russell donnybrook.

Just one problem: No matchup. They almost never guarded each other. Duncan used and abused Robert Horry and Mark Madsen, while Shaq did the same to Mr. Robinson and someone who looked like Malik Rose, though I can’t be sure because he was completely blocked out of the camera shots by a Laker three times his size.

If you have a rule that discourages a Best vs. Best confrontation, you tear up that rule. Ali fought Frazier. He didn’t beat up on Frazier’s sparring partner while Frazier did the same to Ali’s sparring partner.

Deion Sanders and Darrell Green would always guard the other team’s best receiver. They wouldn’t want it any other way.

Ric Flair never ducked Dusty Rhodes. Like he told Dusty and countless other challengers, “To be the man you have to beat the man.”

If I were an NBA player, I simply wouldn’t accept a ridiculous rule that routinely — and seemingly arbitrarily — turns gritty competitors into frustrated spectators. If the players anoint me executive director of the Players’ Association, I’ll lead them in a strike until that abomination is fixed.

Let’s be clear: The problem isn’t with the refs. The officiating needs improvement, but the refs do their best. Their job is to call ’em as they see ’em for 48 minutes. It is not their job to keep key players on the court. That’s a job for the NBA rules committee. Sadly, it hasn’t been up to the task.

As one of many bright and brave souls who’ve been campaigning against the foul-out rule for years, I was delighted to hear Jeff Van Gundy Wednesday night add his name to the growing chorus. It’s time to put practical solutions on the table, so we can change the conversation from “Shouldn’t we get rid of this rule?” to “Here are some sensible plans to fix it. The season doesn’t start until the players and owners agree on one.”

To get that conversation started, here is my five-point plan:

1) Each team starts the game with three “foul coupons.” The coach can cash one in at any time to remove a personal foul from a player’s total. For example, it could be used after a player picks up a second foul early in the first quarter. The coach would hand the coupon to the ref and the player would still have just one foul, though the expunged second foul would still count toward the team’s total for the quarter or half. An NBA coach could, if he chooses, use all three coupons on the same player, which would mean he would foul out on his 9th foul.

2) Downgrade non-brutal moving picks from a foul to a loss-of-possession violation — but strictly enforce the rule. The model here is football’s two distinct face-mask penalties, depending on the severity.

3) Downgrade player-control offensive fouls from a foul to a loss-of-possession violation, thereby eliminating the vile practice of flopping a foe into foul trouble. This change also guarantees that drivers — the players that fans pay to see — have just as many defensive fouls at their disposal as jumpshooters and non-shooters, who nobody pays to see. (We’ll also make it considerably more difficult to draw a charge; click here for my analysis on why the current interpretation is grossly unfair to drivers and bad for the game.)

Related to Point 3, the players will make the refs job easier and the game more honest by taking the no-flop pledge: “I will strive to remain upright rather than collapsing from incidental, unavoidable contact.” In turn, we call on refs to enforce the dislodging rule. Right now, many of you punish low-post defenders who make a supreme effort to stay on their feet, while rewarding those who reel, stuntperson style, from real or imagined contact. If you refs don’t keep your end of the bargain, you’ll only encourage the re-emergence of the flop.

4) Ensure that teams don’t benefit from excessive fouling by expanding the definition of “intentional foul” to include obvious grabs by beaten defenders, deliberate shoves to send a poor free-throw shooter to the line, and late-game whacks by trailing teams trying to stop the clock. The intentionally fouled player is awarded two points and his or her team retains possession. Because a possession is worth, on average, one point, the intentional-foul penalty would actually be a “penalty,” which is what penalties are supposed to be. It would cost, on average, three points, which is one more point than the beaten defender prevented. Whacking and grabbing are not skills, so let’s not reward them. As for vicious intentional fouls, the penalty is a 10-game suspension served in Australia as a marked man on a last-place rugby team.

But how will teams rally?

5) With tenacious defense, great shooting and ample possessions, courtesy of a 12-second shot clock in the final two minutes of each half, when time-outs are disallowed. (Thanks to King Kaufman of Salon.com for this innovation.) Under the current rules, the standard method of staging a late rally goes like this: “Commit an intentional foul; fouled player shoots free throws; trailing team hoists a quick trey. Repeat this boring process until the horn blows.” Deliberate whacks, free throws, time outs and jumpshots are never exciting, though sometimes a jumper of free throw is dramatic. I’ll take excitement over drama any day. Excitement means great athletes doing creative things on the move against other great athletes doing their legal best to thwart what the offensive team springs on them. That’s just what our “Final Frantic Flurry” will provide.

Under my rules regime, the impact of a given call, good or bad, will be greatly reduced. The game won’t take a dramatic turn because Baron Davis gets called for two reach-ins in the first two minutes, Paul Pierce is whistled for his third on a dubious charge call early in the second quarter, or Duncan gets his sixth halfway through the fourth on an attempted swat. No player ever again will have to think twice about diving for a loose ball, swatting a shot or penetrating the paint. He or she may not succeed, but the punishment for failure won’t be a long stint on the bench. That’s good for the players and good for the refs.

And that, my friends, is good for the game.

Dennis Hans’s essays on basketball — including the styles, rhythms and fundamentals of free-throw shooting — have appeared online at the Sporting News and Slate. His writings on other topics have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and Miami Herald, among other outlets.

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The sport of Kings!

by Hunter S. Thompson
May , 2003


We are waiting for the Sacramento game to start now, and my phone is ringing incessantly, so I turn down its volume to zero. Screw that telephone. I always turn it off when the game starts. That is my business.

Today has been a rough one. We had blowouts, many blowouts, one right after the other. I almost blacked out once or twice. My blood pressure ran up to about 225, and I noticed that people were giving me a wide berth.

Hot damn! The Sacramento Kings are leading the Dallas Mavericks 41-32, with four minutes and four seconds to play in the first half…. Mike Bibby has missed 13- of-14 shots from the field, so far, six of them wide-open layups.

Whoops. Doug Christie just stripped the ball away from flashy little Nick Van Exel and loped in for a stylish dunk, and the Kings lead 52-37 at halftime. Which is okay, but I can't help but remember that last night Dallas was down by 16 in the first quarter -- and they still lucked out with a victory in two overtimes. Anita went all to pieces after that one. I had to take her into town and put her in a decompression Chamber.

She didn't take the scandal about the Kentucky Derby as hard as I did, but so what. I am a natural son of the Dark and Bloody Ground, and she is not…. But the horrible shock of the New York Times going down in a blaze of fraud and treachery was too much for her, and she cracked up.

Jesus babbling Christ! The Kings have gone up 60-42 -- and now here comes Nick Van Exel. The crowd boos nervously, rumbling with a queer hostility. I am betting Sacramento even, so things are looking "good," as they used to say in Baghdad. My people are kicking ass and Anita is feeding me grapes. Ye gods, this game is a rout! The Mavericks are bleeding from every orifice. Mahalo.

Why am I still feeling queasy, with a 20-point lead at the end of three quarters? Why am I plagued by memories of false hubris and total collapse? Am I a fool?

Of course not. I am only a gambling person with a "checkered past," and I have a very keen sense of impending danger -- which is what I feel now, with 6:59 left on the clock and Sacramento cruising by 19 or 20??? Why am I riddled with angst?

The Kings didn't let the Mavs steal Game 4, much to the delight of the Good Doctor.
Ah ha! The answer is not hard to see. Yes. I am faking it, trolling for last-minute sucker bets. Ho ho ho. I feel no angst at all, in truth -- even though the Kings have missed so many wide-open shots that I fear to even count them. It is far more than 20, for sure; probably about 26. Yet they are still shooting a steady 48 percent from the field. This is not Winning basketball, even if the Mavericks are shooting 38 percent from the field. That is Losing basketball.

Strange, eh? Last night the Kings played winning basketball and lost. Tonight, they are playing Losing basketball but winning. What does it all mean, Alphie?

Who cares. Dirk Nowitzki has just been ejected from the game. Dallas is falling apart. Now some jackass named Bell is trying to sock Bobby Jackson in the face. Jackson has a broken jaw and a fractured orbital bone above his eye. Incredible. How low do you have to sink in the slime of human stupidity to deliberately whack one of the classiest players in the league in the face when he has a cracked eye-bone and a broken jaw?

That is unacceptable rudeness. Bell is a knee-crawling, back-stabbing punk with the soul of a Rat and the heart of a filthy virus. The NBA should have him committed to a state Mental Hospital, and locked down with restraints until he gets his entire body dyed bright yellow, which will stay on his skin forever.

Excellent, eh? You bet. There is only One way to deal with a vicious Punk -- and that way is viciously. Take my word for it. I know exactly how to deal with human scum…


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More than 40 games in 40 nights of NBA playoff basketball ...

"No. I am not a whore," said the bartender. "What do you mean by that?"

"Nevermind the small talk," I said to her. "I came here to suck on your back."

She cried out with fear and tried to get away, but I slapped some plastic on her, then I locked the front door. It was 2:06 a.m., and a freezing rain was falling. Beautiful, I thought. This is my kind of night.


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If someone named Napoleon offers you a real estate deal -- you better take it.

Elsewhere in the world of sports ...

If someone named Napoleon offers you a real estate deal -- you better take it.
A gang of vicious fruit-bags broke into the mosque yesterday, and destroyed everything in it. Who knows what they will destroy tomorrow -- maybe You, maybe Me. Something rotten is beginning to happen. I can feel it in my bones. Maybe we should steal a shipment of whiskey, just to be on the safe side.

I agree with you exactly, Mr. Ambassador. They laughed at Napoleon when he "gave away" the whole huge Louisiana Purchase for only $15,000,000, or less than six pennies an acre. Wow! Yes sir, we really robbed those French bastards, that time. That is what we call an extremely high yield real estate investment. What fools these French turned out to be, eh? Those pompous little suckers. Hell yes! We'll fleece those shameless perverts every day of the week. We own them.

I couldn't agree with you more, Mr. President. I have always admired your free-wheeling style of doing business. The French suck.

Indeed, the French nation sucks! All of it. Look at all the things we have fleeced them out of: The Statue of Liberty, two-thirds of the western U.S.A., all of what was once "Southeast Asia" -- Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc.... The list is long, if we want to get weird about it: Hitler's gold, various forms of oral sex, two million magnums of elegant French Champagne, etc, etc.

But wait. There is another way to look at it. The prancing little Emperor got his way in spades when he dumped that useless untamed wilderness. It meant nothing to him. He was looking at Egypt for his next project, and for that he needed real money immediately, not 200 years later -- and $15 million green dollars looked just about right to conquer all of Egypt in those days, the star of the Middle East and all of its ancient treasures, its Mystery, the immediate, in-hand Magic of owning Cairo, the pyramids, the Nile river ant the ghost of sweet Cleopatra. The King, the emperor, the Pharoh. Yes sir.

It was a big-time dream come true. Who needs some stupid shack in Oregon? Napoleon was looking for instant, massive gratification on a scale of the Gods and Goddesses, and he had it right in front of his own greedy little eyes. Hot damn! Give me that goddam $15 million right now in a clean brown bag. I will soon be the Champion of Fun. Cazart.


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So. What is the outlook for tomorrow, Doctor? What is the gambling Prognosis? What is the score?

Well…. Who knows? Let me think on that, and I'll give you an answer in the Morning. Ho ho. (PAUSE here, for a spontaneous salute to Meatloaf, who has long been one of my heroes.)

What is happening now is a whole different game than it was yesterday. Both series in the West are tied 2-2, which is wonderful news for all those among us who are certified basketball junkies. We are seeing some strange and powerful games, and we must have every series go the full seven games. That is the law of nature.

I almost panicked last night, after that brutal and totally exhausting two-overtime game between the Kings and the once "unbeatable" brutes from Texas. I was beginning to see the gloomy prospect on an all-Texas western final.

But ... NO. Things changed, and now I see both series going seven wild games. Last year, we had an all-California final. But so what? The mere possibility of Sacramento without Chris Webber actually winning the NBA championship is so irresistible that I have to see it coming. That is all I know, and all I need to know. Gook luck.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "HEY, RUBE," appears regularly on Page 2.

(ESPN.com, Page 2'dan alınmıştır)


Crazy Postseason!

by Sam AMICO
/ The AMICO REPORT
May 2, 2003


I write that the Detroit Pistons will finish sixth in the Central Division, and they win it.

Then I write that the Pistons will advance to the NBA Finals, and they're on the verge of losing to eighth-seeded Orlando in the first round.

As reader Dwight Seton e-mailed, "JUST STOP WRITING ABOUT THE PISTONS!"

Or how about this from reader Tony Wilcox: "Dear Sam, I'm beginning to think the best thing about your NBA newsletter is getting the opportunity to make fun of you."

Thanks, Tony. Thanks a lot.

Actually, with as wild and whacky as this postseason has been, you can hardly make fun of my predictions. Well, you can, but it's not like anyone really knew that Boston and Orlando would play so well, or that Philadelphia and Dallas looked like they could sweep, only to find themselves involved in a long series.

And what about the Portland Trail Blazers? I know, Rasheed Wallace sounded like Rain Man when he continuously muttered, "Both teams played hard." But I'm not sure I believe Rasheed. I'm not sure the Blazers DO play hard -- at least, not all the time. And effort is supposed to be a given in the playoffs.

That's not intended to pick on the Blazers, because I have no evidence that they're lazy. But after watching the way they lost to Dallas in the first three games ... then seeing how they won the next two ... well, it's just a hunch.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Then again, so far the playoffs have been a jumbled mess of unpredictability, making it terribly difficult to put together any kind of organized thoughts.

Here is my best effort:

TALKIN' T-WOLVES

Yes, Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett is about to become the first player in NBA history to lose in the first round seven straight times.

But I have a feeling that statistic will only motivate Garnett. If the Wolves can add another star - a guy who excels on both ends of the floor, not just one - then Garnett should finally lead them to realistic championship contention.

After all, one thing the T-Wolves proved in their series against the Lakers is that they're only slightly worse than the three-time world champs.

Prior to the series, I wrote that Troy Hudson and Wally Szczerbiak would be the keys for Minnesota (considering we already knew there was no stopping Garnett). Well, Hudson has been remarkable, but Wally's been awful. Szczerbiak has looked lost on defense and terrified on offense.

Also, what's happened to forward Joe Smith? Is he really that bad? Remember when Smith was the No. 1 pick in the draft? Remember when the T-Wolves' front office lost draft picks for conducting shady negotiations with Smith and his agent? Has any of it been worth it? I'd have to say no, as Smith has played limited minutes off Minnesota's bench, looking like a guy who's searching for his lost quarter under the bleachers when he does play.

But you have to love the physical style of backup big men Marc Jackson and Gary Trent, and the solid leadership of Rod Strickland and Kendall Gill off the bench.

Meanwhile, with his crafty ballhandling skills, deadeye shooting and fearless drives, Hudson reminds me very much of former Cleveland guard Mark Price.

The bottom line is the Timberwolves have nothing to be ashamed of, as they've proven to be a wonderfully exciting team that can play with the best. Still, they may want to make a deal involving Szczerbiak or Anthony Peeler during the offseason, with the idea of landing someone to get them out of the first round.

END OF THE SONG?

As I write this, the Sacramento-Utah series is the only one that's over, the Kings winning in five games.

And while I love Karl Malone and John Stockton as much as the next guy, it's time for the Jazz to shake their hands and say, "Thanks for the 18 years of wonderful service, fellas. Now best of luck to ya."

Malone can still be a starter, but he needs to be the third or fourth option -- something he'd never be able to do in Utah. But could you imagine Malone standing next to Shaquille O'Neal in the Lakers' lineup, or next to Tim Duncan in San Antonio? He'd average 12-to-15 points and help lift either or those teams to a title.

As for Stockton, it wouldn't hurt for the Jazz to bring him back at the absolute minimum veteran salary, especially as a backup to a good free-agent signee like Andre Miller.

There have also been rumors that Stockton will sign a cheap one-year deal with someone like Seattle or Cleveland, where he'll play 10 minutes a game and help groom a young point guard. I have a hard time believing that, as Stockton is a creature of stability, and reportedly has no desire to get into coaching.

As for the rest of the Jazz, I don't see any reason to keep backup point guard Mark Jackson or starting shooting guard Calbert Cheaney, both of whom could be out of the NBA next season. I do love what I've seen from Matt Harpring, Andrei Kirilenko, and especially, DeShawn Stevenson. I know that Stevenson has had his problems with coach Jerry Sloan, but I love the young guard's athleticism and hustle.

Even with Malone and Stockton, the Jazz probably won't make the playoffs next season. As much as it hurts for Utah fans to hear this, now is the time to rebuild.

MORE ON STOCKTON

The most likely scenario involving Stockton is that he will retire this summer, and you don't need me to tell you that he will be missed.

As former NBA player and current TNT analyst Kenny Smith said, in this day of And1 mix tapes and crossover dribbles, the 41-year old Stockton is one of the few remaining point guards who has absolutely no flash to his game -- but is still a joy to watch.

"He always figured out a way to get the ball to the middle of the floor, and he never had to dribble behind his back or between his legs to get there," Smith said. "As a New York City point guard, I find that amazing and probably appreciate it more than anyone."

I agree with Smith, as my favorite type of point guard is the kind that hails from NYC -- the kind that is tough, plays with tons of confidence, and has moves that will bring you to your feet. Yet I liked watching Stockton as much as any of those guys.

I hope he plays one more season, accepting a limited role with either the Jazz or another team. I'm not sure why -- maybe it's just because I want to see a 42-year old point guard in the NBA. More than that, though, it's probably because the NBA needs more guys like Stockton.

OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS

-- Speaking of New York point guards, Phoenix's Stephon Marbury gets my vote for Best Point Guard of the First Round. Marbury has made San Antonio's Tony Parker look like he'd much rather be sitting on the bench. And that's not necessarily a knock on Parker, as NOBODY could contend with Marbury right now. He's just too quick, too strong, and too fundamentally-sound. Marbury is also displaying maturity and acting like the perfect teammate. The Suns may be finished by the time you read this, but with a little more experience, they could be one of the top four teams in the West next season.

-- Hold those e-mails asking what I have against the crossover dribble. The answer is absolutely nothing, as Philadelphia's Allen Iverson is among my absolute favorite players of all-time. In other words, I like exciting, breathtaking play as much as anybody. I'm just trying to point out how the greatest players stay true to their personalities, and don't try to be something they're not. I mean, could you imagine how ineffective Indiana's Ron Artest would be if he acted like a nice guy?

-- Did anyone else have a feeling that the Pacers would suffer a meltdown in the playoffs? I love these guys, and I really thought they would be the East's dominant team when they made the trade for Artest and Brad Miller a year and a half ago. I have no idea what's wrong, though. If you do, e-mail me and I'll print your response. Maybe coach Isaiah Thomas or team president Donny Walsh will read and figure out a way to fix things.

-- Or maybe Thomas won't even be back.

-- As for the Pistons, well, I know ... I should just shut up right now. But I can't help myself. Even if they come back to beat Orlando, the Pistons aren't going to make it to the Finals. As every sportswriter in America has already told you, the Pistons have no one to turn to in the clutch. They're a very good defensive team with no real threats on offense. And while defense wins championships in football, the name of this game is putting the ball through the hoop. Still, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and a rejuvenated Chauncey Billups are a good place to start for next season.

-- Having written all of that, watch for the Pistons to come back and beat Orlando, then sweep their way to the title.

-- I'm still not sure Sacramento can beat the Lakers. Obviously, the Kings were bored in their series with Utah, but I'm wondering if Peja Stojakovic and Jimmy Jackson will be able to just camp out behind the 3-point line and throw up wide-open shots. Remember, the Lakers are quite a bit more athletic than the Jazz, and they have a tendency not to give up easy perimeter shots. And drilling perimeter shots at an astounding rate is exactly why the Kings beat the Jazz.

-- How could I finish the newsletter without at least mentioning Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics? Pierce has been amazing, putting on a Jordan-esque performance and making a very average team look great.

-- One nameless, faceless scout told Sports Illustrated that there's no way Carmelo Anthony will be the No. 1 pick over LeBron James. "Anyone who says Carmelo has a chance to be the top pick pick is either stupid or lying," the scout told SI. "Carmelo's a tremendous player, but LeBron is the whole package. If LeBron had been playing for Syracuse, they probably would have won the title more easily."

-- Whoever said them called Michael Jordan "stupid," because it was Jordan who suggested some teams may consider taking Anthony with the first pick.

-- Thanks for reading, keep those comments coming, and don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, or any other team I didn't mention that is sure to result in angry e-mails. Enjoy the playoffs!

IMPROVING THE NBA

This week's installment on how to improve the NBA comes from Sharman Willis of Philadelphia:

"I love the NBA, but some things that annoy me:

1) Offensive goaltending/basket interference. This is the lamest rule I can think of! Why should it matter when your own teammate puts the ball in the basket when it might have gone in anyway? It's too tough of a call to make, and isn't helping your teammate what the game is supposed to be about?

2) The officials. When an official makes a bad call and is supposedly disciplined, I want to hear about it -- especially when it affects my team. Bad referees need to be exposed."

Thanks, Sharman. Great thoughts.

If you have an idea on how to improve the NBA, e-mail me at amicoreport@hotmail.com.

SIGN UP FOR THE AMICO REPORT

If you or someone you know would like to have the Amico Report delivered directly to your inbox, just send an e-mail address to me at amicoreport@hotmail.com. The newsletter is free, and always will be. Questions and comments can also be sent to that address.

HAVE A GREAT DAY!

(insidehoops.com'dan alınmıştır)


The Dreadlocks - The Playoffs

by Mark Jones
2003-04-24

Dreadlocks. It’s more than badly done hair, that when actually done right, looks like a pile of thick nerf foam. It’s a world where sports are the breath of life. Ok, that’s the real world. But, Dreadlocks is a place where sports turn inside out. The following will serve as a scope into an entertaining, yet deranged world. In Dreadlocks, the NBA playoffs are under way. Let us review the first round…

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Please note: Since Cleveland decided to tank this year, in order to secure a better place in the draft, they will be receiving a bye series.

-Washington vs. Toronto
Vince Carter against Michael Jordan. Didn’t see that coming, huh? Jordan averaged 30 points a game, which is good for an old fart. Unfortunately, the team as a whole only averaged 43 points a game. This series did have one big event: the come back of Eric Montross. His four-point-seven points, point-three rebounds, and zero blocks a game in the series helps the Raptors blow out the Wizards in three games. It’s too bad, too, because the Wizards forgot that the series is now best-of-seven. Wizards forfeit game four and are swept.

-New York vs. Miami
BORING!!! This series is less a basketball series, and more a WWE Pay-Per-View. On top of this, it features an appearance by PJ Brown, and Larry Johnson, both of whom simply missed the brawling. When the games actually went on, ugly offense and no defense led to a seven-game series. The total points for the two teams for the series was 119 points. Sadly, the Miami Heat won the series, and moved on to Wrestlemania… I mean to play the Raptors.

-Atlanta vs. Chicago
Years and years ago, the visions of this series would include a duel between Dominique and ‘Air’ Jordan. This year, it is Jalen Rose versus ‘Big Dog’ Robinson. Within seconds of the first game beginning, referee Ed F. Rush throws both players from the series, in an attempt to egos to a minimal. So the featured matchup was Theo Ratliff and Eddie Curry. Former all-star Ratliff torches the youngin’ for a triple-double average, and leads the formerly hopeless Hawks past the Bulls in five games to play the Cleveland Cavs. Boths teams celebrate, though. The Hawks celebrate the series by shaving the head of Dan Dickau, and with Jerry Krause out, the Bulls can breathe again.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

-Houston vs. Denver
Classic battle between two different nationalities: Yao Ming against Nene Hilario. The Great Wall versus… um… Hilario. Hilario makes Yao look more foolish than his Visa commercial and schools him all series long. Denver brings the upset against the Rockets, thanks in part to the strained neck of Stevie Franchise, who, incidentally, hurt his neck looking up at Yao during a practice. It’s a sweep.

-Seattle vs. L.A. Clippers
Another titanic battle: Ray Allen against Corey Maggette. Ray Allen was very highly regarded, thanks to some of his NCAA appearances. Now, despite a seven-game series, Allen lights up Seattle with his speed, accuracy, and fiery passion. Maggette curls into a ball (ala Shawn Bradley), and weeps until his mom brings him his teddy bear. Yet, thanks to a Sean Rooks, buzzer-beating three-pointer, the Clippers win in seven.

-Golden State vs. Memphis
Boykins. Boykins, Boykins, Boykins. Earl Boykins dominates this series. He is on such a roll, that the game, and series, winning shot in game five is a 360 degree dunk over Pau Gasol. Boykins stats: 26ppg, 13apg, and six steals. In a post-series press conference, Memphis’ Mike Miller reminisces about his days with T-Mac in Orlando, when winning meant something.

In my world, baby, winning is definitely something. Stay tuned…

(hoopsology.com'dan alınmıştır)


40 days and 40 nights

Tracy McGrady's amazing streak leading Orlando Magic to promised land

by John Hollinger, SI.com
Mar 24, 2003

The amazing thing about basketball is that every year you'll see new things -- things you never expected.

For example, I never imagined that a guy could have the highest scoring average in a decade and still be the most underrated player in the league. Yet, somehow, Tracy McGrady is pulling it off.

Let's not mince words: Right now, McGrady is flat-out the best player in basketball. It's not even a close call. His current average of 32.4 points per game is the highest in the league in 10 years, and if you eliminate players named "Jordan" from the equation, it's the highest since Bernard King averaged 32.9 in 1984-85.

Yet that average actually understates how well McGrady is playing. Here's a trivia question to get things started: Since Christmas, how many times has McGrady been held under 20 points?

While you ponder that answer, let's look at his accomplishments.

For starters, can we give him an Oscar for Best Performance Without a Supporting Actor? Despite a roster that, minus McGrady, would have trouble beating Cleveland or Denver, McGrady has managed to raise his game across the board and drag the Magic into the playoffs. Their current four-game win streak even has them challenging Boston for the No. 6 seed.

McGrady is shooting more -- boosting his shot attempts from 20.9 to 24.1 a game -- but yet also managed the difficult feat of shooting better -- his field-goal, free-throw and 3-point percentages are all significantly higher than a year ago. Having overcome last year's back trouble, the 23-year old simultaneously has shouldered a bigger load while improving his efficiency.

Now, back to that trivia question. The correct answer is zero. McGrady has scored at least 20 points in 40 straight games -- he'll make it a full half-season tonight against Memphis. He's also been Orlando's leading scorer in all 40 of those games. That accomplishment is a monument to his consistency.

Look closer at his 40-game stretch. He's averaging 33.9 points a game -- even Jordan averaged that many only twice, and other than His Airness, the last player to score that much in a season was Bob McAdoo in 1975-76.

McGrady's raised his game even more down the stretch, averaging an amazing 37 a game over his past 15 contests as he leads the Magic's playoff charge. That includes Sunday night's stellar performance in Miami, when he had 32 at halftime and then put it in cruise control as Orlando rolled to a blowout win.

And yet, when the topic of MVP comes up, McGrady's name is mysteriously absent. Despite putting up the best scoring season in a decade and taking an otherwise talentless team into the postseason, all eyes have been focused westward, toward Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

All three are great players and worthy candidates in another year. But McGrady has been head and shoulders above the rest, and in a fair world, his amazing 40-game stretch should have cemented the award a long time ago.

(sportsillustrated.cnn.com'dan alınmıştır)


Buzzer-beaters require
planning -- or luck


by Kurt RAMBIS
Mar 17, 2003

Every player dreams of making a last-second shot to win a championship. Every coach schemes to design the perfect play for that buzzer-beater. And every team has plays for all kinds of late-game situations.

If there are three-tenths of a second left, you have a play that calls for an inbounds pass and tap. For one second, there are quick catch-and-shoot plays. With two seconds, there's time for a quick dribble before a shot. At six seconds, you have time for one pass after the ball has been inbounded or you can run a one-on-one isolation play.

There are many other factors coaches have to consider, such as: Are you taking the ball out of bounds near the halfcourt line? Under the basket? Deep in the corner on the sideline or the baseline? Are you down by one, two or three points? Does the defense have a foul to give? Do you have a player who has the clout to get a call if he's fouled? What are the matchups? When you're in the huddle during timeouts, assistant coaches are watching the other team to see if it makes a substitution. You don't necessarily want to keep in a big guy if your opponent brings in a lineup of quick outside shooters.

So many scenarios, so much preparation. And it all comes down to this highly technical analysis: The right play is any play that works. That's how you'll be judged.

I wish I could say we placed Robert Horry in position to make that critical 3-pointer against the Kings in the crucial fourth game of the Western Conference finals last season, but it was pure luck. Sacramento's Vlade Divac tipped a loose rebound, and it went to Robert like a textbook bounce pass. Against the Pacers recently, he just happened to be out on a wing when the ball was tapped to him, and he won another game with another clutch shot. His position just as easily could have been reversed in those games, and we just as easily could have lost both.

Nothing is guaranteed in these situations. Perfectly designed plays often don't work. Phil Jackson is excellent at diagramming plays on the fly based on how our opponents have been defending us. In Philly this season, he drew one up that left Rick Fox so wide open for a layup that Robert got a bit anxious with his pass and threw it behind Rick, who wasn't able to catch it cleanly and bobbled the ball out of bounds. We ended up losing.

Players never forget their last-second game-winners. I made two in my career, both when I was with the Hornets. One came against Michael Jordan and the Bulls, the other in Salt Lake City. Both times, I grabbed a rebound, then put the ball in the basket. That's certainly not how the plays were drawn up, but, hey, I don't remember anyone caring about that after the game.

(sportingnews.com'dan alınmıştır)


For sale by owner

by J.A. NORLIN
Mar 4, 2003, 19:40

This year, I remember what I thought was the strongest interference by an owner, for his own benefit as opposed to the team’s best interest. (And no, it doesn’t involve the owner everyone loves to hate, the Clippers’ Donald Sterling.)

Paul Gaston, owner of the Boston Celtics, after seeing his team compete in the Eastern Conference finals, after years of futility, decides to change the team‘s line-up. It is a decision that comes close to killing the Celtics changes of repeating this year. He refused to throw anything more than peanuts to Rodney Rogers, who was one of the major support players that helped Boston succeed. Then he traded point guard Kenny Anderson to Seattle. While Kenny was definitely overpaid, and a “me first” player, last year that changed and he became a contributor to the team by setting up shots for Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce. The reason for trading Kenny and risking going without a true point guard this season: money. Under the salary cap rules, you have to trade for within 10% of the salaries. So you are allowed to trade $10M worth of talent for only $9M and end up saving a million dollars. And that is exactly what Gaston did in trading Kenny for Vin Baker (and change from both sides.) Never mind that Kenny’s $9M contract was coming off the books this summer, and Vin’s will haunt the Celtics for 3 more years. It doesn’t matter than Kenny could have been resigned for a much lower price during the off-season. Gaston didn’t care that Vin, while a nice guy, has not played meaningful minutes in Seattle for the last 2 years. All Gaston was concerned with was saving a million dollars, so that he could put the team under the luxury tax, and sell it a couple of months later. What Paul Gaston did is kill a team that all of a sudden was a contender, and extended his middle finger to Boston fans, so that he could make more money and ensure a sale. General Manager Chris Wallace is still being scapegoated as the creator of the deal, and man, did he try hard to paint a pretty picture of what his owner was doing and what Vin Baker could potentially contribute for his team. (For that alone and the fact he could do it with a smile on his face I think he deserves GM of the Year.)

There is no argument that players have a large impact on the game of basketball. They are the ones who make or don’t make that last second shot. Whose attitudes can help or kill a locker room. Who can teach the rookies the little tricks, or let them flounder and their talents be wasted. But the most important part to any organization is the owners and the general managers. Don’t believe me? Ask fans of the Clippers or the Bulls how those in a desk have affected their team’s ability to win. Or look at the positives made by the owners of the Mavericks (Mark Cuban) or the Kings (the Maloof Brothers) in making bad teams the best in the league. The fans in Charlotte hated the owners of the Hornets (Shinn and Woodridge) so much, they basically kicked them out of town. And it had nothing to do with the players or the success of their team, as many sports writers predicted the Hornets to be a factor in the East (and they were right.)

Recently, Donald Sterling fired Clipper’s head coach Alvin Gentry. It is always easy to blame the coach since he is in charge of the day-to-day operations of how the players do. The coach sets up the plays, assigns the minutes, and is the motivator of the team. But how motivated can a TEAM be if they are playing for themselves. If they want to punch up their individual stats so that can add more millions to their contracts next year. With the exception of Elton Brand, most of the Clippers know they will be living in a different city next year because Sterling doesn’t want to pay for them. But why should he? The fans still go to see the games, and the Clippers have been very popular these last two years based simply on potential. So as long as Sterling and Baylor keep bring in rookie prospects for their “potential” the fans will still come. And they will still make money being one of cheapest teams in the league because of a basic business philosophy: low over head cost and big sells means huge profits. So why should they change? The drafting of Marvin Ely and Chris Wilcox wasn’t a sign of redundancy, it was planning for next year’s potential players.

Jerry Krause has constantly been in the hot seat, and many wonder why he hasn’t been fired yet. The man who blew-up the championship Bulls because he believed organizations, not players, win championships. He was so bad mouthed by players around the league, that even when the Bulls had lots of money to throw at players, none of the top talent would come. Sure they would interview and have contract talks, but that was simply so the free agent could raise the asking price of the team they really wanted to go to. Remember three summers ago when they tried to recruit top talents like Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan. The best they ended up with was Eddie Robinson, who can’t even break into the starting line-up of a mostly rookie team. Krause insists that every coach teach the triangle offense because it was the offense that did (and still does with the Lakers) win championships. Never mind that it is an offense that is so complicated that even veterans have a hard time picking it up, much less a crowd of rookies still trying to learn how to play in an NBA game.

Bob Whitsitt, GM of the Trailblazers, is despised among the fans of Portland. How can a GM live in Seattle and run a Portland based team is a frequent question asked by local fans. Many sports writers joke about the fact that Whitsitt is trying to build the ultimate fantasy team, and he is nick named Trader Bob because he is always shifting the team around and never keep the fans’ favorite players. Since he has the money to do so (Paul Allen’s the owner) he has brought tons of talent to the Blazers. Ignoring facts like their attitudes, reputations as team players, or criminal records. Whenever a problem player is brought into Portland’s fold, Whitsitt is always ready to give his famous and clichéd “second chance” speech. Remember this is the same organization that had a woman and her step-son thrown out of the game for refusing to give up a sign stating, “Trade Whitsitt.” To make the PR scandal worse, the Blazers sent a gift package to the family, which the family had to pay the postage on, even though they lived within a mile of the Rose Garden Arena. Even though the Blazers remain one of the top teams in the Pacific, Portlanders are always in fear of reading their morning paper to learn what crime a Blazer has committed today.

Joe Dumars is an example of a GM gone right. His theory for a basketball team is so scary that it is amazing that it is a success. He developed a team without a single superstar on the roster. A team where everyone is a role player, and everyone knows their role. If someone’s head gets to big for the organization, he will be traded for someone who can accept their role on the team. Thanks to the hiring of coach Rick Carlisle, the team has a defense first attitude, that other teams can only talk about. How good is this team? Before their trip to the West Coast, they were the top team in the east.

The Maloof Brothers and GM Geoff Petrie took the long road of making a marginal team into the contender for the title. The first thing they did was make their team one everyone wanted to watch. With the Kings fast paced offense, and ability to go on a 10-0 run at least twice in every game, they brought fans to the arena. While they weren’t always the best defensive team and didn‘t win every game; the fans knew that every game the Kings played they would put on a show. Once the fans were there, the Kings started making subtle changes that had huge affects. Adding Doug Christie whose defense first attitude spread over the team like a plague was the first change. Then they traded erratic (but fun) point guard Jason Williams for stable hand and future clutch player, Mike Bibby. With a new attitude, some of the best chemistry in the NBA, and proving to everyone they can get past almost any hurdle, the fun team became “THE” team in the league.

My favorite owner in the NBA has got to be Mark Cuban of the Mavericks. Yeah, I know he is outspoken and the owner that gets the most press. But how can you not enjoy an owner that is the most die-hard fan in the coliseum. A billionaire who yells louder than any other fan, and who looks depressed when the team is doing poorly. (I have personally sat a couple of rows behind GM Bob Whitsitt and owner Paul Allen, and they always looked like they are talking stock tips instead of focusing on the game literally in front of them.) I also like a GM who tells one of his best players, Michael Finley, to go test the market and see what you are worth, and whatever the top offer is, I will match it. This shows a commitment to the players and a willingness to always do the right thing by them. At about the same time, Cuban and coach/GM Don Nelson were using the same formula to succeed as the Kings. Make a bad team fun and bring in the fans. Once they start getting press, start making changes to make them contenders to the title.

There are many owner/GM’s that are the reason that you local team is great (the Lakers, Nets, Pacers, and several others) just as there are just as many that seem to be singly focused on destroying their team (Cavs and Knicks come to mind.) Unfortunately the only way to see major changes and commitment to your teams success (if you are not already there) is to see your team change hands. For fans of the Cavs, Hawks, Bucks, and those in Charlotte, your dream team may be on its way. Then again, it could just be more of the same, it all depends on the people in charge.

Other Thoughts… Has any else noticed this is the season of death for the “nice” coach. The evil label applied to Gentry, Kruger, and Lucas… With Drew Gooden playing some great ball and getting a starting spot on the suddenly surging Magic, will we finally hear some Rookie of the Year talk? No, it will probably still be dedicated to those two dropping like a stone teams, the Suns and the Rockets… Ode, to the $10M a year bench players, the subjects of my next column… The Kobe madness has finally stopped, so can we now pre-pick someone else for the MVP, please… Sorry to my 3 loyal readers (thanks, Tim for being number 3) and my mom for the late column, had half of it sitting on my computer all week and was lazy about the other half…

J.A. Norlin is the Reserve Writer for the Denver Nuggets and writes (mostly) weekly commentary and analysis on the NBA for hoopsworld.com


Re-evaluating Kobe Bryant

by Kevin Pelton
Feb 25, 2003, 09:00

I spent part of yesterday going through my archives of my old Sonics columns for then-BskBALL.com, hoping to find what I’d consider my “signature” column about now-departed Gary Payton. In the midst of this effort, I came across the following paragraph written about Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant:

"Let's start with the easiest of topics, K-O-B-E. What a week. Hurts his ankle against Milwaukee, maybe out for the year, and that's the least of the news. First, PJ says he's bored with the triangle. That's hard to believe - the triangle was good enough for Michael, but not for you, Kobe? Then, the other allegation, that Kobe would sabotage high school games to take over at the end. That's an unbelievable allegation, but, knowing Kobe, it's hard not to believe in his case. Bskball, I wonder if you could put this as the 'quote' from the article, so all the Faker fans who don't read team columns but do read Rumors and post crap like "PHIL JACKSON IS COACH OF THE YEAR UNDOUBTEDLY" and "MJ DOES NOT NEED TO RETURN! WE ALREADY HAVE KOBE!" can see it. By the way, do you understand that most people take Caps Lock off? Anyway, Kobe Bryant is not the best player in the NBA. Shaquille O'Neal is. Until Kobe's will is entirely broken by PJ, and lord knows he's trying, Kobe will not realize it, and the Fakers will not be successful. Kobe is not the next Jordan, and everyone knows it. Jordan would never have sabotaged his games. All the money in the world means nothing to Jordan compared to the thrill of victory. For Kobe, victory is ok, but not nearly as great as the Big 'N Tasty at McDonald's. Kobe has had everything in his life handed to him on a silver spoon. He's never learned by working like Jordan had to. He didn't have a coach like Dean Smith to shape him at an early age. Now, with PJ, I'm afraid it's too little, too late. Kobe may have the best pure talent in the NBA besides Shaq, but he's a complete failure in the mental department, and that's why he will never, ever be the greatest."

Let me take this opportunity to formally apologize to Mr. Bryant, not to mention the Lakers fans I slandered in my post-loss to the Phoenix Suns anger. A lot has changed for me in the last two years (this was posted on March 22, 2001), but little has changed more than my opinion of Bryant.

In the intervening period, not only have Bryant’s Lakers won two championships, but he has clearly demonstrated an increased level of maturity on and off the court. Why shouldn’t that have been expected? Bryant was thrust under the media’s microscope at age 18 as a person just out of high school. No average person out of high school, mind you, given he was already a millionaire and took Brandy to his prom, but still an immature youngster in the grand scheme of things.

Bryant has clearly grown up off the court, where he is now a married father, and on it as well. He’s come to understand how to play off the Lakers’ superstar center, Shaquille O’Neal, and salvaged their relationship - though right now it’s O’Neal that’s playing off of Bryant, not the other way around.

Bryant’s recent hot streak has thrust him into the role of favorite for MVP, and rightly so, but it hasn’t represented a major change in his game so much as revealing how well he’s been playing all season. One of the things that impresses me most about Bryant is how he’s broadened his game this season. Last season’s averages of 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists, to go along with his 25.2 points, were excellent, but this year he’s been off the charts. No shooting guard - and in fact, few point guards - averages more than Bryant’s 6.3 assists per game, which rank him 11th in the NBA. Only one guard (Boston’s Paul Pierce) averages more than Bryant’s 7.0 rebounds per game. Add to that Bryant’s 2.2 steals per, good for a tie for fourth in the league, and it is clear that there is only Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett can rival Bryant in terms of versatility.

Still, despite all the other areas of the game he excels in, what everyone focuses on is Bryant’s scoring. It is difficult not to cast the spotlight on his point production since the All-Star break, when he’s gone for at least 40 each time out and dropped 50 twice. There are two aspects of the streak that are particularly remarkable. The first is that Bryant did it with such weak teammates when O’Neal was sidelined last week. Not to demean the other Lakers, but teams like the Rockets were able to double- and even triple-team Bryant with impunity as Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, and Robert Horry failed to strike fear into their hearts. The other remarkable thing about Bryant’s streak is how well he’s shot. He’s not getting 40 points per game by forcing up dozens of shots and missing most of them, last night’s 13-for-34 performance against the Seattle SuperSonics aside. In the month of February, Bryant is shooting 48.5% from the field and a stunning 45.8% from downtown while averaging 43.0 points per game.

Another amazing accomplishment by Bryant is how he's been able to play through the patella tendintis that has devastated the career of Vince Carter, amongst others. He practically limped his way through the final quarter and overtimes against Houston and still dropped 52 to win the game almost single-handedly, then went out and put up 40 a night later in a win at Houston. We can only hope the pain, like Tracy McGrady's troublesome back, subsides so we're not denied these players' individual greatness.

Off the court, there's little to criticize Bryant for. He's kept his nose clean and steered clear of the troubles which have cropped up for so many professional athletes. Additionally, his post-9/11 column for Newsweek was one of the most poignant and emotional pieces of writing I have ever seen from an athlete.

That's not to say Bryant has mastered life, or even the NBA, just yet. There's still growing to do, as evidenced by his dogged determination to get to 40 points against the Sonics despite double-teams. Not only was his play in the final minutes selfish, it might have cost his team the game had the Sonics been able to buy a three.

Nevertheless, I must declare myself wrong as of this moment. Kobe Bryant has become "the greatest", best player in the NBA, and that's why right now he deserves MVP.

(25 Şubat 2003 - hoopsworld.com)
Knicks' Downfall Began
With Ewing Trade


by Chris BROUSSARD

Before reminding the Madison Square Garden fans of what a franchise center looked like on Sunday, Shaquille O'Neal opined on the downfall of the Knicks. Simply and succinctly, he traced the Knicks' current plight to the trading of Patrick Ewing.

"Trade a legend, bad things happen to you," said Shaquille O'Neal, the Los Angeles Lakers star.

The Knicks, on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, are certainly evidence of that. While Ewing, who was 38 when he was dealt to Seattle in September 2000, did not have much to offer on the court anymore, the Knicks' decision to trade him was the first in a series of front-office moves that were imprudent from a financial standpoint and questionable from a basketball standpoint.

Those moves, combined with the untimely and unexpected resignation of Jeff Van Gundy as head coach earlier this season, Marcus Camby's constant injury problems and the premature retirement of Larry Johnson, have caused the Knicks to deteriorate into one of the worst-situated teams in the National Basketball Association. With a league-high $85.5 million payroll and a roster full of overpaid role players, their prospects for swift improvement are as unfavorable as their current 20-34 record.

"Most general managers around the league feel the Ewing trade was the single most drastic thing, because look at what it turned them into," said an Eastern Conference executive, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If they had just let Ewing go, they wouldn't have guys like Travis Knight, Howard Eisley and Shandon Anderson signed to those long-term deals."

The seeds for the Ewing trade were planted when the players, the public, and even Dave Checketts, then the president of Madison Square Garden, began thinking the Knicks were better off without Ewing during their run to the 1999 NBA. finals. So when Ewing, angry over the lack of respect he received and aware that the Knicks would not extend his contract, demanded a trade, the Knicks sought to satisfy him.

If the Knicks had gotten great value, trading Ewing at that point in his career would not have been so damning. But the Knicks were afraid he would be disruptive if brought back for one more season, so they accepted a package of aging, injured, ill- fitting players with long-term contracts totaling $90.4 million rather than keeping Ewing around and chopping his $16 million off their payroll after the 2000-1 season.

Mutombo Plan

The club's thinking was that by pulling off the four-team trade that sent Ewing to Seattle, it would be in position to trade for Dikembe Mutombo, still a top-flight center, during, or after, the season.

"I was an assistant at the time and as far as I was told, there were conversations in terms of trying to get Mutombo," Knicks Coach Don Chaney said. "They were working on that. We thought we had a chance at getting a big guy, and the big guy was Mutombo. I was told through the coaches that Mutombo was the guy in sight for us to bring in here."

While David Falk, the agent for Mutombo and Glen Rice, never told the Knicks he would deliver Mutombo, the Knicks knew that taking care of one of his clients would not hurt in the pursuit of another. So they gave Rice, who was 33 at the time, a four-year, $36 million contract. Rice's only other option at the time was to accept a one-year, $7.5 million offer from the Chicago Bulls.

"The Knicks tried to cultivate a good relationship with people who could help them," Falk said. "That's called good business. I'm very fond of Dave Checketts and we developed a good relationship. If Dikembe had not been traded from Atlanta to Philadelphia, would the Knicks have had a good chance of getting him? Absolutely."

The Knicks were so focused on getting Mutombo that they were willing to look past Luc Longley's poor health and six-year, $32.4 million contract and agreed to accept him in the Ewing deal to make the trade work for the SuperSonics. While the Knicks wound up surprised that Longley was limited to only 25 games in the 2000-1 season, they knew beforehand that he would not be a major contributor. In fact, Longley, who ended up retiring because of a degenerative condition in his ankle in September, said the Knicks knew he was banged up before trading for him.

"Phoenix knew what was going on," Longley said last summer. "That's why they traded me. Their doctors had seen the X-rays and giggled at them. I brought up my ankle in my physical with the Knicks, and they said, `Have you been playing?' I said, `Yes,' and that was it."

Now Longley is retired, and the Knicks will have ended up paying him approximately $25 million.

Scott Layden, the Knicks' president and general manager, would not comment on the Knicks' series of deals, but one person who was close to him said, "It would have been a great trade if it had all turned into Mutombo, but those are some of the gambles you take."

Checketts was forced out last spring, and Layden ultimately saw his duties expanded. The Knicks then took another gamble last summer, miscalculating the health of Charlie Ward and compounding the financial repercussions of the Ewing trade by sending Rice to Houston in a three- team deal for Anderson and Eisley. The Knicks knew they needed to move Rice because he was unhappy coming off the bench, and they also wanted another point guard because they were afraid that Ward's knees would not hold up this season.

But none of that is justification for trading for a role player like Eisley when he has six years and $36.6 million left on his contract. The summer before, no one but Dallas's deep- pocketed owner, Mark Cuban, was willing to give Eisley more than $2.25 million a year. And Eisley's trade value was higher then than it is now. On top of that, the Knicks agreed to give Anderson a six-year, $42 million deal.

Adding in the seven-year, $22 million contract that Knight got when he arrived with Rice, the Knicks took on $137.4 million in contracts for players they acquired through the Ewing trade.

By contrast, Ewing had sought just a $17 million extension for two years.


When Ward's knees proved sturdy, the move to acquire Eisley became even more problematic because it left the Knicks with three point guards of similar talent. The glut at the position would not have been as bad if the Knicks had not traded Chris Childs for Mark Jackson last season. Whereas Childs could have been traded because he is in the last year of his contract, the 36-year-old Jackson, who has two years and nearly $9 million left on his deal after this season, is hard to move.

Now, the Knicks don't seem to have any attractive options. Kurt Thomas and Othella Harrington have reasonable contracts, but who will the Knicks get in return who is better than them?

Camby's injuries have crushed his market value. He has played just 29 games this season.

Even Latrell Sprewell, who will be 32 at the start of next season, is not hot. A rebuilding team will not want him because of his age, and a contending team that needs another piece would probably not offer equal value for him.

Houston

And most league executives believe Allan Houston will be hard to move because of his six-year, $100.4 million contract. Knowing that he left Detroit as a free agent in 1996, the Knicks wanted to avoid the risk of losing him by haggling in negotiations. They thought it would be better to sign him and trade him later if necessary.

"Signing Allan Houston for $100 million was not good," one Eastern Conference general manager said. "I would have given him maybe $1 million more than anybody else would have given him, and that was probably Chicago, $72 million. And he probably would not have gone there."

Johnson's retirement during training camp robbed the Knicks of their one low-post presence who could demand double teams and it also left them without a dominant personality in the locker room.

Van Gundy

But the impact that Van Gundy's resignation had on the team cannot be overstated. With no disrespect to Chaney, who was left in a very difficult position, many people inside the league believe the Knicks would at least be in the playoff hunt if their coach had not walked out.

"I don't think their front office realized the ramifications of Jeff's decision," said one Eastern Conference coach who believes Van Gundy left in large part because the Knicks refused to grant him a contract extension last summer. "They thought their team was a good team and the players thought they were a good team and that they could do it without Jeff.

"Watching their team play, when they get their large leads and they let up and they lose, it's because most of those guys on the team think they're much better than they really are. I think that's a big problem with that team. I think when they play hard and play like a team that realizes that they're not that good and that they have to play hard, they're not bad. But they don't do that.

"Jeff, whether they liked him or not, got the most out of them. He paid attention to detail and there was no slippage when he was around. He wouldn't allow anybody to let up. They have let up, especially with big leads, and that's the reason they went down."

That's one of the reasons.

(27 Şubat 2002 - New York Times)
ÖNSÖZ: Alttaki yazıyı Elçin Yahşi gönderdi... New York Times'dan... Uzun ama gözünüzü korkutmasın, keyifle okunuyor. Bill Walton'ın, "Greatest 50" kulübünün üyesi, eski NBA efsanelerinden, 1977'de Portland Trail Blazers ile şampiyonluk yaşamış olan bir basketbolcu olduğunu biliyor olabilirsiniz. Fakat bunu bilmek, Walton'ı tanımaktır sanmayın...

Zamanının sabıkalı Çiçek Çocuğu (hatta Deadhead), boyu kadar dört tane evlât yetiştirmiş (hepsi de şu an NCAA'de oynuyor) bu dev müstesna zat-ı muhterem, son derece ilginç, renkli, hareketli ve çoğu anı hatırlanmaya değer bir hayat yaşamış.

Bu röportajda, UCLA formasıyla sahada efsane olduğu NCAA yıllarından Vietnam Savaşı protestolarında başına gelenlere, Grateful Dead ve Jerry Garcia'nın hayatındaki öneminden NBA'de yaşadıklarına, zamanının kendisi gibi efsaneleşmiş yıldızlarından NBA basketbolunun bugünkü haline, özel hayatına kadar birçok konuda konuşuyor, okumaya ve bilmeye değer fikirlerini anlatıyor Koca Bill.

Gerçekten son derece nâdide bir mal. Sabırla okuyun, o zaman belki, bizim gibi ağabeylerinizin, memlekette NBA'in ne adının, ne haberinin, ne de resminin olmadığı yıllarda bu organizasyona ve oyuncularına neden böylesine gönül verdiğimizi anlayabilirsiniz.
- batuğ

Bill Walton's Inside Game

by PAT JORDAN

Bill Walton, his family and friends are sitting beneath a flapping Grateful Dead banner in the tropical-forest backyard of his San Diego home discussing the day's news. ''Oh... I... love... reading... the... newspaper,'' Walton says in the same insufferably pompous-sounding voice he uses as a TV basketball analyst.

He is quizzing his sons on what they read in the newspapers that day. One mentions an article about the friendship between Albert Einstein and the Indian poet-mystic Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore wrote of Einstein, ''My salutation is to him who knows me imperfect and loves me.''

Walton nods. Ah... yes... . That... reminds... me... of... something... Jerry... Garcia... once... said... . ''

Here's what most people know about Walton: He is 48 years old, just shy of seven feet tall and was recently named one of the 50 greatest NBA players in history. For the past 11 years, he has worked as an N.B.A. television analyst whose absolutist proclamations on the game, delivered in that voice, often make fans furious and confused.

What people don't know about Walton is that he works very hard at perfecting his pompous-sounding speech because every time he opens his mouth, he is terrified that no words will come out. He has had a debilitating stutter all his life.

And most people also don't know that Walton's four giant sons all are, or have been, college basketball players (Adam, 25, Louisiana State; Nate, 23, Princeton; Luke, 21, Arizona; Chris, 19, San Diego State) and that every summer Walton and his sons meet at his sprawling compound for a few weeks of bonding that is both touching and bizarre.

At UCLA, where he played from 1970 to 1974 and led the Bruins to 88 consecutive wins and two national championships and was named the "college player of the year" for three straight seasons, Walton was also well known for his radical politics. He took part in a protest of the Vietnam War that resulted in the takeover of a campus administration building; he claimed that Jerry Rubin was as great an American hero as George Washington, that no one over 35 should be president and that blacks had been oppressed by white Americans for so long that they had every right to shoot them.

Sitting with his family, Walton dreams out loud. ''Today's the anniversary of Woodstock,'' he says. ''Thirty-two years ago. Those were great days. Listening to Dylan and the Dead. Hope. Peace. Love. Happiness. Everything was possible.''

His second wife, Lori, comes out of the house and joins the brood. She has just returned from her massage-therapy class. ''Let's hear it for Lori, boys,'' Walton says. ''She got an A on her test.''

''Yea for Lori,'' his sons say, with a condescension that seems to be a Walton family trait.

Then Walton turns to her and says, ''By the way, did you get the leak in the sink fixed?''

''Not yet,'' she says. ''Tomorrow.'' Lori is in her mid-30's, a tiny, beautiful woman of Japanese ancestry. ''She's an American,'' Walton says to me when I ask about her family. ''That's all you need to know.'' He won't tell me her age, either, or when -- or if -- they were married.

''We met at a party at my house 11 years ago,'' he says. ''She went to UCLA, and she's a Deadhead, what more do you need to know?'' He points to the living room. ''We met right there.''

''We shoulda met by the washer and dryer,'' Lori says.

''Now, we're here to celebrate Luke's leaving for college in a few days,'' Walton says to those assembled around the table. ''What advice do you have for him?''

Nate starts telling a story about the sexual entanglements N.B.A. rookies can be lured into that ends with an anecdote about oral sex. Walton looks aghast. ''Nate! Not at dinner!'' Walton can occasionally be prudish around his sons. When the movie ''Before Night Falls'' is mentioned, he says to Lori, ''Write down that title.'' But when he is told that the movie is about a gay writer living in Cuba, he looks pained. ''Aw, they're just like you and me,'' he says. He is told that the writer's sexuality is pivotal to the plot. Still, all he will say is, ''Tolerance and acceptance.'' In unison, Nate and Luke call out, ''Tolerance and acceptance. Bill's motto for the summer.''

Walton changes the subject. ''Lori,'' he says, ''I'd like you to maximize your time with Luke for the next few days.'' Then Walton says, ''Now boys, I want to discuss some negligence around the pool -- towels not picked up.'' The boys role their eyes and say in unison, ''Yes, Bill.''

***

Most of the houses in Walton's neighborhood are Mediterranean Revival with neat, treeless lawns. His house is obscured by tropical foliage, as if its owner were in the witness-protection program. Inside, it is a shrine to the early 70's. The walls are covered with faded photos of the Grateful Dead -- performing at outdoor concerts, posing with Walton -- and posters announcing some long forgotten Dead concert.

The following morning, the tinkling of a piano can be heard in the living room, and then a voice. ''Aargh! Come on!'' Walton is hunched over the piano. ''Don't listen,'' he says. ''I'm not very good.'' Recently, Walton had the bones in his left ankle fused so he could walk without the pain that plagued him for much of his career. He can no longer hike in the mountains or shoot baskets with his sons. Now, the man who once said, ''Movement is freedom,'' is reduced to practicing piano, gardening, reading the newspaper and watching his boys play basketball in his backyard.

''It's nothing to feel sorry for me about,'' he says. ''I've had a wonderful life.'' Yet Walton lives in an idealized past that seems to have little to do with reality. He likes to talk about his perfect childhood growing up in San Diego. ''My dad gave us a trusting environment of freedom to create our life,'' he says. ''I still live there.''

But it was also an environment of harsh discipline. Ted Walton refused to let his children use profanity and beat them with a strap for such transgressions as bed-wetting. And because he never played sports, his son looked elsewhere for role models. ''Oh, I had wonderful teachers,'' Walton says. He is talking mostly of John Wooden, his coach at UCLA ''My life is a shrine to John Wooden,'' Walton once said. He used to write little Woodenisms on his boys' lunch bags. ''Be quick, but don't hurry.'' ''Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.'' Walton takes comfort in those trite epigrams because they remind him of a time when life was perfect, before UCLA's 88-game winning streak came to an end.

''Jan. 19, 1974, at Notre Dame,'' Walton says. ''Nothing in my life has ever been right after that. Our perfect world was destroyed. I spent the rest of my life trying to get it back. It's hard to accept that perfection is not always going to be there. We believed it would.'' Then Walton cries out, ''Aargh!''

Walton tries not to dwell on that loss, just as he glosses over any pain in his past, like his divorce from his first wife, Susie. His lips quiver when he says: ''I... I... I'm divorced. That's all I'll say.''

Late in the afternoon, Nate is swimming naked in the pool, as all the Walton boys do. He calls out to me from the pool: ''Have you talked to my mom yet? Bill never mentions her, like she doesn't exist. But she played a more significant part in our lives than he did.''

***
Susie Walton lives in a modest house in Del Mar, a pristine community that looks over the Pacific. A handsome woman at 50, she teaches parenting classes. For two hours, Susie talks about her 19 years with Walton. Her tone veers from affection to anger, punctuated at times by expletives and at other times by a hearty, infectious laugh.

She met Walton in his sophomore year when her boyfriend persuaded her to let Walton live with her and her girlfriend. ''He told me not to touch his records,'' she says. ''That's not a good thing to tell me, so we played them. I thought he was a geek, but he had a great heart, so I went out with him. I wasn't a Deadhead or politically active, but I had always dated athletes.''

She says that despite Wooden's reputation as a disciplinarian, he deferred to his star. ''Wooden let Bill smoke pot but not the other players,'' she says, although Wooden denies it. ''It's funny, but Bill never said Wooden was this wonderful guy then. Now he puts him on a pedestal. Bill is still searching for certitude in assertive father figures.''

In 1974, Walton signed a $2.5 million NBA contract. He and Susie were living in Portland, Oregon, when the radical activists Jack and Micki Scott, whom Walton knew of from his UCLA days, appeared at their home. Jack Scott, whom Walton once described as ''the most beautiful human being I have ever met,'' told them that he had been carting Patty Hearst across the country and that ''the heat was on from the FBI.''

''Pretty soon, the FBI was all over us, too,'' Susie says. ''When I called a girlfriend to tell her I was pregnant, the FBI was at her door 10 minutes later.'' Shortly after that, Walton asked Scott to leave.

Walton refuses to talk about Scott today other than to say, ''Jack Scott is a friend of mine,'' curiously using the present tense to describe a man who died in February 2000 and whose funeral Walton was ''too busy'' to attend.

''Bill won't talk about Jack now,'' Susie says, ''just like he won't talk about me, because we're no longer in his life. Bill's closed himself up. He's trying to hold on to the past.

''After Bill's foot operation that ended his career in '86, he couldn't handle reality without basketball. He started going to Grateful Dead concerts, where he picked up this 22-year-old girl. He expected me to accept it.''

Susie says that their bitter divorce affected her boys for years. Now the boys ''have learned to play Bill's game,'' she says. ''If not, he calls them bad citizens. When Nate left Princeton for half a year, Bill called him a dropout. Nate said, 'At least I didn't cheat on my wife.''' Like all her sons, Nate is extremely protective of his mother. When Nate went out to lunch with a male reporter once, and that reporter said his mother was a ''sexy woman,'' Nate reached across the table and punched him hard on the arm. ''You can't talk about my mom like that,'' he said.

Susie says: ''When Adam left LSU, Bill told him drugs and sports don't mix. This from a guy who's smoked pot since he was 20. What planet is this guy from? Adam once said to me: 'Mom, I have to love him, he's my father. But why do you?''' Susie is quiet for a moment, then says: ''I loved being married to Bill. Sure, he was dorky, but I had the most fun times.''

***
Late in the afternoon, Walton, Adam, Nate and a friend are eating lunch at a restaurant in the barrio. Walton orders a margarita, and iced tea for his sons. Then he loses himself in the WNBA game on over the bar. Nate nods toward his father. ''Bill won't let us drink,'' he says.

Adam adds: ''Bill's got these rules on the refrigerator. No sex, no drugs, no drinking -- all the things we do.''

Nate says: ''One night, Luke was passed out by the pool after a party. Bill walks by and says, 'That's not alcohol in your glass, is it Luke?' Luke looks up and says, 'No, Bill, it's lemonade.''' Nate shakes his head. ''The way Bill is now is his corporate identity.''

When I ask Walton how he reconciles his politics with working for a corporation like NBC, he says, ''Life is a compromise, isn't it?'' Then he changes the subject to the cast coming off his foot. ''I'm ready to grow my beard, my ponytail, get a headband and make a comeback like Michael Jordan.'' Then, of Jordan, he says: ''It's beyond my comprehension how anyone could retire from the game voluntarily. I would have played until I couldn't walk.''

Bob Costas, the sportscaster, says of Walton: ''Bill's passion for the game is legitimate, not a shtick. The game is an expression of an ideal to him. He was a hippie in the 70's, but he's really square in his beliefs.''

Greg Gumbel, who has also worked with Walton, says, ''He's so opinionated because he has little tolerance for guys who play the game without the desire he had.''

''Because of his stutter, Bill's on-air talk sounds like he's delivering a proclamation, not an ad lib,'' Costas says. ''But he has to work so hard to control his stutter. I've seen him practicing in front of a mirror, over and over, before he goes on air.''

Gumbel says: ''As ornery as his opinions get, I love to work with the guy. He keeps you on your toes by saying things just to get a rise out of you.''

A lot of Walton's extreme opinions are actually sarcastic ones. During one game, the woefully inept shooter Chris Dudley made a hook shot, and Walton intoned, ''You can never really hope to stop a shooter like Dudley -- you can only hope to contain him.''

Walton has complained for years that the NBA game is all ego, players dribbling around, looking to force a shot that might get them on a highlight reel. The NBA's instituting the zone defense this season is ''the best thing to happen since Mark Cuban bought into the league,'' Walton says. ''It'll force teams to get more players involved in the flow.'' Then, as he often does, Walton waxes poetic about the game. ''Basketball is rock music,'' he says, ''a crescendo, a celebration of life.'' Walton's devotion to the game was recently rewarded by NBC Sports, which made him one of this season's lead analysts, along with Steve Jones and Marv Albert, for the top NBA game each week.

***
Back at the house, Walton goes to practice his piano while his sons go outside to play one of their fierce two-on-two basketball games. Nate and Bruk Vandeweghe, who has lived with the family for 20 years, team up against Chris and a friend. Luke, limping from an ankle sprain he suffered in one of the boys' recent games, sits in a chair and mimics his father broadcasting the game that is filled with rough play and profanity.

Nate fakes under the basket and tosses in a hook shot. ''Nice utilization of the body,'' Luke intones. Chris immediately hits a long jumper. ''But Chris will not go away,'' Luke says.

Chris drives toward the basket and tosses a pass behind his back that goes out of bounds. ''A good look,'' Luke says, ''but a little too fancy.''

Nate and Chris dive for a loose ball and bang heads. Chris screams a profanity at Nate, and Nate curses back. As play resumes, Walton hobbles out on his crutches to watch. ''What are you doing here?'' Nate says. The boys' game is deflated. They continue to play, but without their previous fury; no more curses, just a lot of uncontested jump shots until the game expires.

After the game, Vandeweghe sits by the pool and talks about his life with the Waltons. He acts as their unofficial manservant, serving drinks, giving the boys massages on the living-room table and running errands. ''This house is in a time warp,'' he says. ''Like a monastery. Still, there's a lot going on here you don't know.'' He smiles. ''Bill wants everyone to have a good time. At his parties, there are three girls to every guy. Bill lets you do anything with girls as long as you don't talk about it in front of Lori. She's subservient, like a geisha. She serves her purpose for Bill. She's thrilled to be with a star.'' He says that the Waltons' divorce was hard on Susie. ''She was like my second mom. She can't lie. Bill can't talk about her because he knows she's right.''

At that moment, Nate, furious, comes out of the house toward Vandeweghe. ''Same old garbage!'' he snaps. ''I told Bill I was gonna see Mom, and he says he wants to talk to me for five minutes, and it goes on and on, nowhere.''

***
The following morning, Walton sits outside and says that his greatest accomplishment was not basketball but his victory over stuttering. ''I work with the most fluid speakers in the world. Imagine! Here I am, a stutterer.''

It's hard to overstate the effect his stuttering has had on his life. It forced him to seek perfection in the world of basketball, where he moved gracefully. He could never find that grace in the world of human relations. If Walton is ''dorky,'' as Susie says, it is especially so in the halting way he approaches relationships, which paralyze him.

Walton prepares for his games as a broadcaster as he did as a player, with the hope of perfection. ''But some days I can't talk,'' he says. ''Words come out wrong, and I have to go back to the basics.'' Those basics were taught him by the famed sportscaster Marty Glickman when Walton was 28. Glickman explained that speech was ''not a birthright'' but a skill, like basketball, that could be developed through hard work.

Walton wrote out Glickman's precepts in a speech he delivers often to other stutterers for the National Stuttering Foundation. In that speech, he says that he never knew a time when he did not stutter. ''I took refuge in things that I did well as a youngster... Basketball was my religion, the gym my church... a convenient way of avoiding developing my human-relations skills.''

Then he met Glickman, who taught him the following: ''Slow your thoughts down. Chew sugarless gum to strengthen the muscles in your jaw. Read out loud. Identify the sounds that cause you the most trouble. Become a teacher to anyone, on any subject. Start with young kids with a topic that you know. When you stumble, stop, then start again.''

Walton puts down his printed speech. ''I've had a wonderful life,'' he says. ''I thought my life was over 11 years ago. Now I love broadcasting, the possibility of a perfect game. You never know where great performances are going to come from.'' Then he says -- either seriously or joking, it's hard to tell -- It's like the Grateful Dead playing in a snowstorm in some nowhere town, you know what I mean?''

(28 Ekim 2001 - NY Times)


batuğ'un notu: Etkilendiyseniz yahut en azından hoşunuza gittiyse, buyrunuz size adres; http://www.billwalton.com/
Cenk Kurtuluş, onion.com sitesinde rastladığı bu yazıyı yollamıştı, ben de saklamıştım, nah bu bölüme koymak için. Hatırlarsanız, aşağıda geçen, Ray Allen'ın "İdeal Oyuncu Ödülü"nü almasından sonra ben de elemanla ilgili paragraflar içeren bir yazı yazmıştım. Sitemiz gözlerini dünyaya açtığında, Wassup bölümünün ilk yazısıydı. "Ödüller, 1verson, Shaq ve Ray Allen" başlığıyla, benim yazıların arşivinde duruyor hâlâ. İşte okuyacağınız makale de Ray hakkında aynı fikri paylaştığım birisi tarafından kaleme alınmış.

Zamanımızın bir NBA
kahramanı: Ray Allen


MILWAUKEE - Ray Allen, Milwaukee Bucks guard and budding NBA superstar, is drawing raves on and off the court, hailed by admirers as "not an asshole" and "a reasonably decent human being."

The recipient of the NBA's inaugural Magic Johnson Ideal Player Award,
Allen was praised by Bucks coach George Karl as "a true standout individual, the kind of person who treats others with a basic level of respect."

"Ray Allen is a great player, but he's an even greater person," said Karl, who is accustomed to reporters asking him about Allen's normalcy. "I remember this one time during his rookie season, he was walking back to his car from practice, and a woman nearby slipped on a patch of ice and fell. He could have kept walking, but instead he asked the woman if she was okay. Right then and there, I knew this kid was something special."

Allen, 25, who came to the NBA from the University of Connecticut in 1996, is among the NBA's best at shooting three-pointers, defending the perimeter, and going home quietly after games. A hardworking athlete, Allen has raised eyebrows around the league by never going AWOL (ortadan kaybolmak, arazi olmak) or skipping practice.

"I knew when he came into this league that he had the potential to be a standout player," said Sports Illustrated basketball writer Marty Burns. "He had a reputation as a guy who would not only hit the clutch shot down the stretch, but also make eye contact with the towel boy. He has the potential to be a decent human being in this league for another 10 or 15 years if he stays healthy."

"I'll never forget what he said to me before the first interview I did with him," Burns said. "He said, 'Hello, Mr. Burns.' Then he extended his hand for me to, you know, shake. That's just the type of guy he is."

Allen's remarkable normal-human-being behavior carries over into his personal life. Though unmarried, he spends a respectable amount of time with his 8-year old daughter and is rumored to be on good terms with the girl's mother. He is also said to be close with his own mother.

Such decency has not gone unnoticed: Never accused of sexual assault, Allen has earned high praise for his lack of hostility toward women.

"When he was in college, Ray voluntarily went to several UConn women's basketball games and has been quoted as saying that he'd play for a female coach," Bucks public-relations director Cheri Hanson said. "Ray Allen isn't merely in the top 1 percent of NBA players; he's in the 1st percentile of human beings."

In addition to being a media darling, Allen's civility makes him a fan favorite. Though many pro athletes are abusive toward their supporters, Allen has, on numerous occasions, praised a home crowd as "good" or "great." Last week, after a tough home playoff loss to the Charlotte Hornets, he smiled and signed three or four autographs in the Bradley Center parking lot.

"That's unbelievable," said Karl, whom Allen has never threatened physically. "To come off a tough loss like that in the Eastern Conference semifinals and still be willing to interact with people, you just don't see that sort of thing very often."

"Acting reasonably nice, exhibiting basic common decency, having a general awareness of other people's feelings... That's what sets Ray Allen apart from your run-of-the-mill NBA player," said ESPN's Dan Patrick, who called his November 2000 interview with Allen "possibly the most civil" of his career. "Here I am, an interviewer asking him questions, and instead of taking a swing at me or showering me with verbal abuse, he politely responds to my queries. He didn't have to, but he did."

Continued Patrick: "It's nice to know that in this day and age, there are still athletes out there who say 'thank you' when you give them a new car for making the all-star team."
Why the Big Fuss?

by Tony FARR
I've been watching the increasing buzz about Michael's return for several months now. The thing is, I've had trouble getting excited about it.

Maybe he was the greatest player ever. Maybe. He was certainly one of the top three.

The Rolling Stones were the greatest rock and roll band ever. Maybe. Certainly one of the top three. And they've come out of retirement more times than MJ's gambled on the golf course.

Every time the Stones come back, some people ask if they've still got what it takes. But what's more important is this:

-- The Stones wanna perform

-- Their fans wanna see/hear them

-- They do an okay job.

Sure, they're not as good as the top young acts that are at the forefront of music and bring the energy only people in their 20's can bring. But until Mick Jagger shows up on stage in a wheelchair, who cares? They're decent and everybody's happy.

What's the difference?

There's a myth in sports that superstars should retire before they slide into mediocrity. Before they join Jagger in a wheelchair. But whose imperative is this?

The only modern counterpart to MJ is Wayne Gretzky. No offence to MJ, but it's probably fairer to say that he is the only modern counterpart to The Great One. Did Gretzky hang on too long? He joined the WHA (before it merged with the NHL) when he was 17 years old. He was 38 when he retired. He averaged 182 points per season between 1980/81 and 1990/91. But his points per season for the final few years of his career were:

1993/94: 130
1994/95: 48 *
1995/96: 102
1996/97: 97
1997/98: 90
1998/99: 62
* He only played 48 games in 1994/95.

But did he hang on too long? Probably not. From about 1991/92 we was not a dominant player. In his final season, his contribution was that of about a second-line center for a weak team, which about describes his situation on the Rangers in 1998/99. But the Rangers didn't have anyone better to put in his place, so why would they want him gone? Besides, he wanted to play, and the fans wanted to see him.

And answer this one really carefully: How much has his legacy been tarnished by the weak final season or five? How much does it diminish the 13 seasons when he scored 130 points or more? Zip. Zero. Nada.

Maybe some people thought it was sad watching him perform as an ordinary player at the end of his career. But whose problem is that? Besides, many more people came to see him because they wanted that last opportunity to see the greatest player ever. They wanted to see one last flash of brilliance, because we'll never see the likes of it again.

So the idea that MJ shouldn't come back because it will somehow diminish his earlier accomplishments strikes me as being about a dumb a thought as there is.

Just like with the Stones and with Gretzky, there are really only three things that matter:

-- Does he want to play? Well, he says he does. He says it doesn't matter that he's coming back to one of the weakest teams because "it's for the love of the game."

-- Do people want to see him? Hell yeah. For example, the Boston Celtics have just put tickets for individual games on sale. They've got a limit of four tickets per person for exactly three games. All other games, you can buy as many tickets as you want. The three restricted games? One against the champion Lakers, and two against the Wizard. They know people want to see MJ play.

-- Will he be good enough?
We'll find out, of course. Obviously he's unlikely to perform at an all-star level. But will he be good enough to get quality minutes? Probably.

So what's the issue? He wants to come back. People want to see arguably the greatest ever play one last time. And he can play as an NBA-quality player. Nothing else matters.

As for the excitement… Well, for those who are psyched, it's a wonderful thing. For those who aren't, we can just enjoy the excitement the rest of you are feeling.


(Aşağıda okuyacağınız pek şık yazı, Yiğiter Uluğ'dan geldi. Aynen şu mesaj eşliğinde:
"Batuğ, elin oğlu uğurlama yazısını böyle yazıyor işte... Sean
Elliott'ın ardından birkaç satır... Sana gitmez mi?"
Hiç gitmez olur mu usta? Sağolasın.)

SEAN ELLIOT'A VEDA

by Ken Rodriguez, San Antonio Express News

He was the kid with the leg brace, a 15-year-old sophomore who could spin and drive and dunk like a senior.
The kid had game. The kid's name? I asked around. No one seemed to know.

It was the spring of 1983, my first year writing sports, and I was watching someone special in Tucson, Ariz.
During a junior varsity game between Cholla and Pueblo High, I took a seat in the stands with the varsity coach from Pueblo, Barry O'Rourke.
"How good is Cholla going to be next year?" I asked Barry.
"Very good," Barry said. "They've got a couple of starters coming back, plus they've got that kid down there with the brace. He's going to be pretty good."
"What's his name?"
"Sean Elliott."

The following season, Sean Elliott destroyed Barry's team, the state runners-up, all by himself. I think of that conversation with Barry O'Rourke from time to time. I think of it again today. Sean Elliott, once
the kid with the brace, now braces for a new career.
Color commentator for the San Antonio Spurs.

It's hard to imagine Elliott not playing ball. It's hard for Elliott, too.
A clause in his television contract allows Elliott an out in his new career if he can extend his old career a tad longer.
Can't blame him for that.

Nothing ever got in the way of Sean Elliott and basketball.
Back in high school, there was a kid at Tucson High named Shawn Fulton, a 6-foot-5 center who battled Elliott, also 6-5 at the time, in some classic games.
Some people thought Fulton was better.
"I think (Fulton) has the most talent of anybody in town," O'Rourke told me in 1984, when Elliott was a junior.

I don't know if Elliott ever read O'Rourke's comment. But I do know Elliott outplayed Fulton after O'Rourke's comments appeared in the Tucson Citizen.
Armando Rios, a Tucson High graduate and Elliott's agent: "The rivalry was intense. We used to pack the gym. I tell him, 'Shawn dunked on you.' He says, 'Where is he now?'"
Cholla named its gym after Elliott; Tucson High never named anything after Fulton.

After high school, Elliott began an ascent no one in Tucson could have imagined.
He led the University of Arizona to the Final Four. He broke Lew Alcindor's Pac-10 career scoring record. He left college with his jersey hanging in the McKale Center.

Elliott gave San Antonio some memories. The Memorial Day Miracle. An NBA title. A comeback from a kidney transplant. The 11 best years of his life.

It looked like Sean might have one more miracle in him. He started last season on fire. Then came one injury. Then another. By the end of the season, Elliott was a broken man.

Now he moves on.

Portland will remember him for the dagger he put in its dream. San Antonio will remember him for the magic he put in his heart.

I don't know how others around the league will remember him. But I'll always remember him young and a bit mysterious, the kid with the brace on his leg.


ELTON BRAND'İN CEVABI

Arkadaşlar, bu hafta size çok ama çok kıyak bir yazışma sunuyoruz, Selim Ataz sayesinde. Ataz, altıncı adamı olduğu Clippers'ın bomba transferi Elton Brand'in taraf oluduğu harika bir mesajlaşma yakalamış, bana gönderdi. Kısaca açıklayayım; mevzu, Brand'in NCAA'de formasını giyip de sonradan erken profesyonellik kararı alarak iki sezon sonunda ayrıldığı Duke Üniversitesi'nin işgüzar, ruh hastası ve geri zekalı bir mezununun, Elton'a attığı e-posta... Ve tabii Elton'un "reply"ı. Buyurun:

From: Taylor, Jennifer
Sent: Friday, April 16, 1999 2:55 PM
To: Brand, Elton
Subject: Leaving Duke

I graduated from Duke last May and just wanted to express my disgust for your decision to leave the Duke program after only two years. As an alum, not only do I hold the school in high regard, but the basketball program as well, especially since both have deservedly garnered such a great deal of respect for their accomplishments.
As part of our basketball program, you represent Duke as a whole. We are first and foremost an academic school, you clearly did not belong at Duke in the first place if this was the extent of your commitment to Duke and a college education in general. You have not only insulted the current students who are putting in four years at a school they love, but also the thousands of alumni who have realized the value of a Duke education and what an honor and privilege it was to be there for four years.
If you do not realize the opportunity you has infront of you to play for Coach K and at the same time attain a Duke diploma, then that is certainly your loss. I just wish that you has spared us the notion that you were continuing in the tradition of being a Duke student-athlete, in emphasizing excellence in both academics and athletics. You will not be considered part of the Duke family, in my mind as well as many others. You have by no means proved yourself worthy of that title.
Sincerely,
Jennifer Taylor


From: Elton Tyron Brand
Sent: Sunday, April 25, 1999 8:05 PM
To: Taylor, Jennifer
Subject: Re: Leaving Duke

Thank you very much, for reminding me of the reason why I left Duke. People like you can not and will not ever understand my situation. I'm sure daddy worked very hard to send your rich self to college. While real people struggle. I would also like to extend an invitation for you not to waste your or my time ever agin. Never being considered a part of your posh group of yuppies really hurts me to the heart. Yeah, right. Because I don't care about you or your alumni.
Sincerely,
Elton Brand #42 NBA


GREAT STUFF

From Sam Smith's article on Aug 31st, is a great piece on the state of the Michael Jordan return story. I had to reprint it:

"Michael Jordan paused last week during workouts aimed at a comeback to the NBA and said, "I'm thirsty," the Tribune has learned. Observers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, speculated Jordan was thirsty. The observers, whom Jordan told not to speak to reporters or they would be barred from drinking Gatorade the rest of their lives, said Jordan left the court and was seen emptying a liquid-filled bottle into his mouth. One insider close to Jordan said:
-- It looked to me like he was thirsty. But I can't be certain. But if he was drinking, I'd have to say it was as good as when he played and he could drink like that again anytime he needs to."


Think this seems silly? Its not, because there is a cast of reporters looking for anything to suggest... Their careers may be validated again... Oops! I mean that Jordan might return. I not a big fan of Sam Smith, but you know. He made a good statement.



(Sports Bahr - Speak Out, Inside Hoops, 24 Ağustos 2001)
NBA desperation?

It seems there is a new report each day. One day, Michael Jordan's comeback attempt is in danger because of his rib injury. The next day, we hear reports about him meeting with David Stern to iron out the details of his return to the NBA. Then, we hear from his trainers, friends, former teammates, gardeners, etc., and they all seem to disagree as well.

It seems MJ enjoys making us play the waiting game and the guessing game. In the meantime, we all debate whether he should come out of retirement again. Perhaps the bigger question is this: Does the NBA need MJ to come back? Is the league in that much trouble? Is the NBA so desperate that it can't succeed without Jordan?

While some might be quick to say yes, I am not so sure. For the first time since Jordan's most recent retirement and the breakup of the Bulls, the NBA seems to have some momentum. A new generation of stars finally has emerged, there is a greater emphasis on the team game and the Lakers have captured the public's attention and taken the Bulls' place on the throne. If the TV ratings for the NBA Finals are any indication, people are interested again.

Sure, the NBA is far from where it was during the days when Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Jordan roamed the court together, but the league is certainly in better shape than it was just a couple of seasons ago. Guys such as Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Chris Webber, Tracy McGrady, etc., officially have taken over. It's time to let them rule the NBA.

Sure, an MJ return would spark a lot of interest and fill a lot of seats, especially early. But the novelty would wear off once we realize that Jordan can't single-handedly turn the Wizards into a championship contender. At best, Jordan would play two or three more seasons. And then what? Then we are back to square one again (for the third time), trying to replace the greatest player the game ever has known.

It's time for the NBA to charge forward, but I think an MJ return actually would be a step backward.


(Ricardo APARICIO'nun 8 Ağustos 2001 tarihli yazısıdır)
HOW DID THEY DO IT?

The beauty of all sports can be summed up in one word, Joaquin Andujar once opined in regard to baseball. That word? "You never know." Okay, maybe Andujar's curveball was better than his English, but he was absolutely right. Sports highlights are filled with unbelievable plays, outstanding performances, thrilling contests, and shocking upsets. And basketball has provided more than its share of highlights. It's easy to see how a Michael Jordan, a Larry Bird, a Jerry West, or a Wilt Chamberlain (just to name a few) and the dominant teams they played on have earned their places on the highlight films. A more interesting phenomenon occurs when players and teams such as Manute Bol, Dennis Johnson, or the 1994 Denver Nuggets (again, just to name a few) also make their way onto the highlights. The question begs to be asked: How did they do it?

How did...
...Manute Bol, a 21% three point shooter for his career, erupt one night in the 1992-93 season for a 6-19 (31%) barrage?
...Tony Delk score 54 points in a game last season?
...the Portland Trail Blazers blow a fifteen point, fourth-quarter lead on the road in game seven of the 2000 Western Conference Finals?
...the Blazers get to that point in the first place? (They trailed three games to one earlier in that series.)
...Kevin Johnson throw down that nasty dunk on Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1995 Playoffs?
...the Milwaukee Bucks sweep the Boston Celtics in the 1983 Playoffs?
...Bill Walton even have a playing career, as injury-prone as he was?
...Marko Milic (while playing in Europe) jump off of two feet, from about twelve feet away from the hoop, over a car for a dunk?
...Willie Burton score 53 points in a game during the 1994-95 season?
...Jamaal Wilkes ever get a shot off with that weird delivery of his?
...Bill Cartwright, same question?
...Dominique Wilkins get hung doing the windmill dunk in the 1991 All-Star game? That was his dunk, for Pete's sake!
...Julius Erving do that layup? (You know which layup)
...Jeff Hornacek make those crazy runners in the lane? Did he practice them?
...Christian Laettner make an All-Star team?
...Tyrone Hill, Xavier McDaniel, Dana Barros, Joe Barry Carroll, Mark Eaton, Sleepy Floyd, same question?
...Adrian Smith win an All-Star game MVP?
...Who was Adrian Smith?
...No, I'm serious! Did he play basketball?
...Havlicek steal the ball?
...MJ move the ball in four distinct directions in mid-air while converting a layup against the Nets?
...Sean Elliott make that tiptoed three pointer against Portland in the 1999 Western Conference Finals?
...Bill Willoughby manage to block Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Skyhook?
...the 1994 Denver Nuggets (42-40) defeat the Seattle Supersonics (64-18) in the first round of the Playoffs?
...6'5" Charles Barkley have the type of career that he had?
...Bernard King get up for that tip jam against the Pistons in the 1984 Playoffs?
...Bird or Magic know where his teammates were when they passed the ball? They weren't looking at their teammates!
...Karl Malone learn to pass like that?
...Lafayette Lever grab so many rebounds?
...Jerry Lucas, same question?
...the 1995 Houston Rockets (47-35) beat the Utah Jazz (60-22), Phoenix Suns (59-23), San Antonio Spurs (62-20), and Orlando Magic (57-25) to win their second straight NBA Championship?
...Vince Carter do any of his dunks?
...Dennis Johnson, a 6-3 guard, block seven shots in an NBA Finals game? (The record is eight, held by four seven-footers)

If anyone out there can answer these questions, you're quite an astute observer of the game of basketball.