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Morning shootaround: Sept. 14


VIDEO: Remembering the great Moses Malone

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Malone helped shape Olajuwon’s game, career | World Peace ready to return, but where? | A pressure shift in Miami from Bosh to Dragic | Moses the NBA’s most underappreciated great player

No. 1: Malone helped shape Olajuwon’s game, career — Moses Malone, who died Sunday at 60, was a pioneer, a teen phenom who would go on to become a three-time MVP, all-time NBA great and a Hall of Famer who ranks among the biggest and best players the game has seen. But who knew he served as a tutor and guide to another one of the NBA’s all-time greats, Hakeem Olajuwon, during the formative stages of The Dream’s Hall of Fame career? Our very own Fran Blinebury tells the story of Moses the mentor and the special bond between these two NBA titans:

It was 1982 and Malone had just won his second MVP award with the Rockets (he’d claim his third the next season). Olajuwon had just finished his first season at the University of Houston.

“Oh Lordy,” NBA veteran Robert Reid remembered years later. “The place got real quiet. It was on that play, at that minute, when a lot of us stood there and wondered, ‘What do we have here?’ ”

What a shrinking world had in this most unlikely union that brought together a made-in-America big man off the streets of Petersburg, Va., with a wide-eyed sponge from Lagos, Nigeria, was perhaps the greatest teacher-student class project in basketball history.

Malone, who died Sunday at 60, combined with Olajuwon to total 54,355 career points, 29,960 rebounds, 5,563 blocked shots, 24 All-Star appearances, four MVP awards, three Finals MVP trophies and two places in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Theirs was a relationship born in the school of hard knocks and forged by the white-hot fire of mutual and insatiable competitive drive, out of range of the TV cameras, away from the prying eyes, where all that mattered was how much you had to give.

“I would never have accomplished what I did if I did not play against Moses at Fonde,” Olajuwon said before his own Hall of Fame induction in 2008. “I knew the rules. I knew the basics of the game and what you were supposed to do. But he is the one that taught me how to do it.

“With Moses there were no rests, no breaks. He was working every time down the court — scoring, rebounding or just making you feel his body. He would laugh when he slammed into you. If you tried to take a breath, he went by you or over you. There was no stop.”

They were opposite sides of the same coin. Where Malone would bump and grind and wear down an opponent with his sheer physical play and relentless pursuit of the ball, Olajuwon wore opponents out with an array or spins, fakes, double- and triple-pumps that were more varied and colorful than a painter’s palette.

“I usually couldn’t go through Moses, because he was just so strong,” Olajuwon said. “So I had to learn to use speed and agility to go around him. That’s how I built my game.”

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No. 2: World Peace ready to return, but where?  Hold off on plans for that Kobe BryantMetta World Peace reunion in Los Angeles. While there have been rumblings about World Peace returning to the NBA, there is no guarantee that it will be with the Lakers, the team he helped win a championship in 2010. World Peace has yet to have a conversation with Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak and remains unsure about his prospects with the Lakers, writes Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News:

“Me and Mitch have a cool relationship but we have not talked about me coming back to the Lakers,” World Peace told the News. “I call Mitch about other things. We just have a good relationship. Whether I come to the Lakers or not, me and Mitch would still be cool.”

In the meantime, World Peace, who played in Italy and China the past two seasons and last played for the Knicks in the NBA, continues to work out at the Lakers practice facility, thinking about his future. He declined to name other possible teams he may play for.

“I don’t really know, honestly,” he said of what he will do this coming season with training camp approaching. “I work out. I’m still one of the best small forwards in the world but my career has been up and down. With my career being up and down, some teams are like, ‘Can we use Metta World Peace, where is he going to fit in? Is he going to be good for the rookies? Can he still play?’ I’m still one of the best small forwards in the world so that’s not a question. But the question is can I actually fit into a team and can a coach coach me? Those are realistic questions and it’s cool. I still train to be one of the best.”


VIDEO: A recap of Sunday’s action at EuroBasket 2015

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No. 3: A pressure shift from Bosh to Dragic in Miami — Last year this time it was Chris Bosh carrying the added pressure of the huge free agent contract, and all that comes with it, into training camp with the Miami Heat. Now it’s Goran Dragic‘s turn to tote that load for a Heat team convinced it can rise up from a lottery season and back into contention in the Eastern Conference. Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel ponders the question of the pressure shift in Miami from Bosh to Dragic:

Q. Goran Dragic will need to justify his $85 million contract. — Aura.

A: You know, sort of like those questions a year ago about whether Chris Bosh would justify his $118 million contract? While salary figures matter in a salary-cap league, market dynamics do not always equate to productivity expectations. Bosh got his deal a year ago because the Heat had to act quickly and decisively in the wake of LeBron James‘ free-agency defection. And relative to his performance, he well could stand as overpaid, although the new television money should add perspective.

As for Dragic, he actually could have forced the Heat’s hand for far more. So an argument could be made that the Heat already have realized value on his contract. Just wait until you see what equivalent players get under the new cap. What Dragic has to be is a point guard who meshes with this team, just as Bosh has to do at his position. In fact, what really has to happen is Bosh-Dragic has to become special in the pick-and-roll. That could make the financial math with their deals even more palatable..

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No. 4: Moses the NBA’s most underappreciated great player — Any statistical research of the work Moses Malone did during his Hall of Fame Career reveals an absolute force of nature on both ends of the floor. But when the conversation turns to the greatest players the league has seen, Malone has been arguably the most underappreciated great player the league has seen in the modern era. Sure, it’s hard to make a case for that when you’re talking about a three-time MVP and Hall of Famer. But after some reflection, that’s the conclusion of J.A. Adande of ESPN.com:

By the simple facts, Malone clearly was one of the best players to play, and it’s almost as if it took the examination of his career brought on by his death to remind us of that, in addition to some of his pioneering roles.

The numbers lead to the reminder that Malone came to the pros straight out of high school; he was 19 years old when he joined the Utah Stars of the ABA. Malone was a pioneer, something that’s easily lost to later generations that think of Kevin Garnett as the first preps-to-pros star.

Another way Malone was ahead of his time: wearing Nike shoes. The reason there weren’t more Hall of Fame players in the original Air Force 1 poster is that in 1982, all of the biggest names — Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Dr. J — wore Converse. Even Michael Jordan was wearing Converse back then while playing at North Carolina. Jordan signed with the swoosh upon entering the NBA in 1984 and forever changed the shoe game. But Moses was there first.

The more you read about Moses Malone, the more impossible it is to avoid the conclusion that Malone is most underappreciated great player of the modern NBA.

We think of the early 1980s as the dawn of the Magic-Bird era, but Moses was the guy winning back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards in 1982 and 1983, before either of them got their hands on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Malone was so dominant back then that when he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers on Sept. 2, 1982, I still remember how the news broke on the radio: “The 76ers won the NBA championship today.”

The radio guy was right, of course. Malone arrived in Philadelphia, and in his first season he took the chronically great-but-not-great-enough 76ers from 58 wins to 65 wins and a dominant march through the playoffs, capped by Malone’s 26 points and 18 rebounds per game in the Finals.

“He took us over the hump,” said Cheeks, the point guard on those early-’80s Sixers teams. “He was that physical presence that we didn’t have offensively in the paint. That’s how he took us over the hump.”

He also did it by seamlessly integrating into a team that had an established star in Julius Erving, a rising star in Toney and an All-Star in Cheeks.

“He just kind of blended in,” Cheeks said. “It wasn’t even a problem. He said it was Doc’s team.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Russell Westbrook‘s holiday fashion preview is ready for the runway … Warriors big man Festus Ezeli made sure that a championship trophy made an appearance at Vanderbilt this yearAmar’e Stoudemire is done giving his wife style tips … Yes, Steve Nash agrees that the Canadian National Team’s loss in the FIBA Americas tournament was absolutely devastating … ICYMI yesterday, the Los Angeles Lakers expect Kobe Bryant to be ready for training camp … Patty Mills is ready for a new and more significant role with the Spurs this seasonAndrea Bargnani suffered a “muscle injury” in Italy’s EuroBasket win


VIDEO: A look back at the Hall of Fame career of three-time MVP Moses Malone

6 Comments

  1. robb says:

    just give good players to dragic, a good system (lol phoenix), and you won.
    85M not too much in my opiinion, a lot of fake hype boys got more and nobody said S.

  2. michael says:

    Why in the (world) would you want a metta world peace that couldn’t even get on the court with the historically bad NY knicks (sorry stephen a.) last year? This guy is a ticking time bomb and I wouldn’t want him anywhere near Julius Randle if I’m Byron scott and the Lakers…this would be an extremely desperate and futile move by the Lakers…how the mighty have fallen!!!!!!!!

    • Harriethehawk says:

      I concur. Metta World Peace is crazy and there is a basketball reason why he has been playing overseas. All those basketball reasons still remain.

  3. michael says:

    Thats a lot of money for goran dragic considering he hasn’t even come close to making an all star team, but with all the revenue coming in from the new tv contract it could turn out to be a bargain deal for the Heat

    • Simlo says:

      He actually was borderline with his stats but was always behind the deep roster of guards out West. No way he was getting voted in over Curry, Westbrook, the list goes on…

  4. michael says:

    moses malone was a straight up beast and definitely the most underrated big man of all time. When the so called experts bring up a list of the greatest centers to ever play his name is hardly mentioned. Give the man the props he deserves and may he rest in peace!!!


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