HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Before we could unpack from our trip to Houston for All-Star Weekend the news hit us all. Hall of Fame Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss lost his battle with cancer Monday.
It was a bittersweet start to the busiest week of the NBA season, what with Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline usually dominating the headlines and airwaves. And it should prove to be just as compelling as usual, with the rumors always outpacing the actual deals in terms of sizzle.
We did our best to squeeze all of that and more into Episode 105 of the Hang Time Podcast, which also features a guest appearance from recent Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee and NBA TV’s very own Steve Smith.
In addition to our chat with Smitty, we also got some quality time with the greatest winner in the history of the game, Bill Russell. The living legend and 11-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics (which should explain our penchant for referring to him as “The Lord of the Rings”), sat down for an interview during All-Star Weekend and shared some insights on the past, present and future of the game.
Do you agree with Michael Jordan‘s “five is better than one” choice of Kobe Bryant over LeBron James? What did Rick Fox say to Dwight Howard when they met face-to-face during All-Star Weekend? And where in the heck is Hawks forward Josh Smith headed, if anywhere, before Thursday’s deadline?
Check out all of that and more on Episode 105 of the Hang Time Podcast.
. HOUSTON – NBA All-Star weekend is the one time every year where the past, present and future of the game are all on full display.
Few stars of the past, present or future shine as bright as Bill Russell, aka “The Lord of the (Championship) Rings.” The Boston Celtics great and Hall of Famer recently celebrated his 79th birthday. The party continued over the weekend as he made his annual pilgrimage to the All-Star city and spent some time sharing his wisdom with the current stars who seek his counsel.
A five-time MVP, 11-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star in his 13 seasons with the Celtics, Russell was also a pioneer for African-American professional athletes, serving as a key voice and figure during the civil rights era.
The embodiment of the phrase “Barrier Breaker,” Russell will be featured in “Mr. Russell’s House,” the second of a three-hour documentary block on NBA TV Monday that begins with “One on One withAhmad Rashad: Michael Jordan” at 8 p.m. Bill Simmons’ interview with Russell, “Mr. Russell’s House,” will follow at 9 p.m., and Ernie Johnson’s interview with Charles Barkley, “Sir Charles at 50,” wraps things up at 10 p.m.
Russell carved out some time in his busy weekend schedule to visit with NBA.com. Here are some excerpts:
NBA.com: On a weekend when all of the start of the NBA are out, past, present and future, what’s the most common question you get from today’s players when they come up and talk to you and spend time with you?
Bill Russell: Is anybody really that old [laughing]? I like to respect the guys that are playing now in the All-Star games. I watch sometimes three games in a single night on the NBA package. The thing I like, is I watch to see what their agenda is and how well they carry it out. That’s how you can enjoy the games. There are a lot of accomplished players playing now. I think more than ever. Just to get a chance to watch them is a joy.
NBA.com: What makes them so accomplished, the skill level? Have they come that far over the years in terms of size and skill?
BR: When you talk about skill level, you can’t say the way they played in the 1950s and 60s. Skill level is based on how the game is played today. There are different fundamentals. When I played there was never a 3-point shot. Going to the hoop and dunking is commonplace now. It was not commonplace then. According to the rules today, the skill level is off the charts. And if someone wants the skill level to be based on the way they played the game 50 years ago, they’re a silly person. If you take the time to understand the rules, the skill level is there.
NBA.com: When you look at the evolution of some of the positions now, do you agree with the suggestion of some people that the traditional big man is one that seems to have really changed with the stretch fours and 7-footers that don’t play on the low block?
LeBron James, Bill Russell by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
BR: That’s a fallacy. The way the game’s played, when you have a unique player, whatever his position is, that’s where the game is going. When I was a kid growing up there was a guy named Hank Luisetti played at Stanford and he’s the first player to shoot one-handed with great success. I remember reading something at that time where a coach said if he ever catches one of his players shooting with one hand, they’ll never play another minute. But things change. And if you get a great player at any position, the game is copycat. Nowadays, your star is always your shooting guard. But if you come with a center that can really play, the game will revolve around the center. Or if you have a [power forward] who can really play, the game revolves around him. So the game changes according to who is playing. I have this thought, you never get to a place where you ask a player to play against a ghost … past, present or future. You can only play against the people that show up when you play. And so how you dominate that era, that’s the only thing you can say. Now if you’re talking about scoring, you can’t get past Wilt Chamberlain, so what they do nowadays is they ignore what Wilt Chamberlain did. They don’t even bring it up. The fact that one season he averaged 50 points a game. His average. So you now you talk about guys scoring 30 points or 35 points. And that’s a long way from his average. You talk about assists, Oscar [Robertson] averaged a triple-double. And now they’re talking about a double-double. So what you are doing is choosing which stats you want to emphasize and make that most important. The people that decide that really don’t know what’s going on. You talk about rebounding. Wilt averaged 22.9 rebounds for 14 years. Averaging almost 23 if you round it off, for 14 seasons. Now the leading rebounder might have average 12 or 13. Wilt and myself had over 20,000 rebounds. That’s 20,000 one at a time. If you’re going to talk about numbers, it has nothing to do with anything. It’s about how you dominate your contemporaries in the game. People that say look at the numbers, that means they don’t know what they are looking at. A guy can play and almost never do his numbers indicate how good he is. You have to watch him and see what he does. Is he a positive part of the equation for your team?
NBA.com: You said you watch up to three games a night. Who is the most dominant player you see now in the game, in terms of the things you talked about, not the numbers but impact on the game?
BR: Well, of course, at this point you start with LeBron James coming off the championship year. He’s a great player. A really great player. I think the way Kevin Durant gets his point is a big help, because he’s not always the first option. That makes a lot of difference. Before he got hurt, I thought Derrick Rose was really an important player. But I like to watch all of these guys and see what they are doing and see how it impacts their team play.
NBA.com: When you take a hard look at the players off the court, in terms of what they deal with as professional athletes, how drastic do you think that difference is compared to what you and your contemporaries had to deal with during your playing days?
BR: I have a lot of respect for these guys that are playing now because I look at the world they inherited. For example, to hold them to what happened when I was a young guy and what’s happening now is totally unfair. The world has changed. It’s changed completely in a lot of different ways. So to say, “Well, if those guys did this to make a way for you,” hey, the second and third generation, you can’t hold them to standards that are obsolete. All you can hope is they build on what went on before them and not just relax with it. Because if you relax with it, it’ll go away. (more…)
HOUSTON – The moment was Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers winning All-Star MVP on Sunday night, getting 20 points, 15 assists and four steals in the West’s 143-138 victory at Toyota Center and then getting eight of 12 votes for the top individual award.
In other news, the moment doesn’t matter.
It was fun and even a little historic, Paul becoming the first Clippers player since Randy Smith of the franchise’s Buffalo Braves era to grab an MVP at the midseason showcase. But the best sign about the Clippers at the break is that they have a chance to render an award from an exhibition game close to meaningless. They don’t need Paul beating out Kobe Bryant (two votes) and Kevin Durant (one each) for a credibility boost. The Clippers have the same Paul to thank for that, the way he moved an entire franchise forward just by signaling his intention to stay long term if management brought him in from New Orleans.
Paul is entirely a big-picture topic, down to how he has successfully muted any potential distraction over his free-agent future by strongly indicating at the start of the season he would re-sign in the summer 2013. He is leadership and superstar play.
And now there is this: On the same weekend he was winning MVP honors and Blake Griffin was putting together a dunk highlight reel en route to 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting, sources said the Clippers are not expected to make a deal before the Thursday trade deadline. Certainly not a major one, of the Kevin Garnett variety, as has been speculated.
That could obviously change – they fell into Nick Young at the 2012 deadline when the Nuggets and Wizards needed a third team to complete the Nene-JaVale McGee exchange. But every indication at the moment is that the Clippers are moving forward with who they have.
Their best player had already re-established himself as the premier point guard in the game, whether or not he played well Sunday. That Paul did adds another positive layer to the season, though, and there is never anything wrong with that around a franchise that for too many years had been dragging itself through the gloom. Having an All-Star MVP means something more to them.
“Pretty special, pretty special,” Paul said afterward. “It’s something I’ve never done. And it’s something that definitely coming into the game I wasn’t trying to achieve or thinking that it might even be possible. I told KD [Durant] early in the first quarter, I said, ‘Man, if they score anything, you run. I’ll get you the ball. You score. I want to be the one to give it to you.’ In games like this, it’s so up-tempo and fast-paced, a guy like me that’s a facilitator, I enjoy [it].”
It was a good moment, even if it didn’t matter. One of many that have come this season for Paul and the Clippers. Possibly, they hope, one that will be pushed to the background by what comes next.
HOUSTON – It was Michael Jordan‘s birthday Sunday – in case you’re the one who hadn’t heard that by now – but it is Hakeem Olajuwon‘s “year.”
Olajuwon, the Hall of Fame center who spent nearly his entire career in the host city for the 2013 All-Star Weekend and led the Rockets to two NBA championships, was honored at the National Basketball Retired Players Association Legends Brunch as its “Legend of the Year.” He didn’t blow out any candles, but he did hear the applause and feel the appreciation of more than 1,000 attendees of the burgeoning event, sponsored by the retired players association now for 14 years.
Oh, and Olajuwon not only was selected No. 1, two spots ahead of Jordan, in the 1984 Draft. He beat him to 50 as well, hitting that milestone on Jan. 21.
The 6-foot-10 native of Lagos, Nigeria, who set standards for grace and footwork among the NBA’s great big men, Olajuwon famously transferred some soccer skills to hardwood when he picked up a basketball at age 15. In an acceptance speech that lasted more than 17 minutes – so much for “The Dream’s” image as a man of few words – he talked of his development under respected coaches such as Guy Lewis at the University of Houston and Bill Fitch and Rudy Tomjanovich with the Rockets.
But he also paid tribute to Ganiyu Otenigbagbe, who essentially discovered and molded his game in secondary skill. “I did not know the rules of basketball,” Olajuwon said Sunday, “but he gave me his job description: ‘Stay in the paint!’ “
The Legends Brunch traditionally honors former NBA players and coaches who worked in, hail from or shared some other connection with the All-Star city each year. The others honored for 2013:
Ambassador of the Year: Yao Ming. Yao’s foundation and his partnership with NBA China has enabled him to “build a bridge” between his homeland and the U.S. The 7-6 native of Shanghai, whose eight-season career was interrupted and cut short by foot and leg injuries, was introduced by current Rockets guard Jeremy Lin.
Humanitarian of the Year: Dikembe Mutombo. The shot intimidator and blocker who spent the last five of his 18 NBA seasons in Houston is renowned for his charitable works, particularly in his native Republic of the Congo. Mutombo credited Olajuwon, who preceded him to the NBA by eight years, with being the “key of our continent.” “You’ve become The Dream for winning championships,” Mutombo said, addressing his friend from the stage, “but you’re a dream for so many African players.”
Hometown Hero Award: Robert Horry. Horry, known as “Big Shot Bob,” was part of the Rockets’ title-winning teams in 1994 and 1995, then won five more rings with the Lakers and the Spurs. In an ironic twist, the former teammate who was supposed to introduce Horry – Sam Cassell, known for his motormouth tendencies on and off the court – needed an assist from TNT announcer and emcee Ernie Johnson because Cassell lost his voice somewhere during All-Star festivities.
Houston Rockets Lifetime Achievement Award: Tomjanovich. A five-time All-Star as a rockets player and coach of the two championship teams, Rudy T joked that when he was drafted in 1971, the NBA ranked fourth in popularity in Houston behind football, baseball and “bull-riding.” “Now the city is hosting its third All-Star Game,” he said.
Pioneer Award: Calvin Murphy. The flamboyant 5-foot-9 Hall of Famer took the stage after a video montage of career highlights was shown on screens in the ballroom, then said, “Boy, I was good.” The point guard from Niagara turned longtime Rockets broadcaster noted the difference in prestige that came with former NBA players no longer being referred to as “Old Timers” but rather “Legends.”
Lifetime Achievement Award: Clyde Drexler. Drexler, a 2004 Hall of Fame enshrinee and member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic “Dream Team,” grew up in Houston and gained initial fame teamed with Olajuwon in college on the “Phi Slamma Jamma” University of Houston team in the early 1980s. He returned to the city and to Olajuwon via trade in for the 1995 title run.
Drexler was the guy whose rookie season of 1983-84 in Portland was so promising – he had 10 All-Star appearances in his future – that the Trail Blazers opted to draft Kentucky center Sam Bowie at No. 2 behind Olajuwon, passing on you know who. That means Drexler, for the record, turned 50 last June 22.
A large number of familiar NBA names – from other Hall of Famers to role players – attended the brunch, including 2000 Sixth Man award winner Rodney Rogers. Rogers, 41, required the use of a wheelchair and ventilator after being paralyzed in an all-terrain vehicle accident in December 2012.
HOUSTON – State Farm All-Star Saturday night is minutes away from lift off. Nick Cannon and Rob Nice are hosting the in-arena festivities.
I don’t know what everyone else came to see, but for me, All-Star Saturday night is always about the finale. It’s a chance for someone to etch their name in All-Star lore with a mercurial performance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, much like that fella wearing No. 23 above did back in 1987.
Some of the All-Stars made their own predictions, several of them, assuming that James “Flight” White will rise above the crowd and do the most damage on his way to the title.
But first up we have the Sears Shooting Stars competition. I’m going with Team [James] Harden and the hometown advantage (he’s rolling with Sam Cassell, a man anyone would want on their team requires you to make clutch shots. (Team Westbrook should be dangerous, though, with Robert Horry and Maya Moore rocking with Russell Westbrook.)
– 8:37 — Team Westbrook handled business with the fastest time at 29.5 seconds. Team Harden kicked it off with a 37.9 as the West finished their business.
– 8:44 — Dominique Wilkins still has the touch. Knocks down the 3-ball for Team Bosh. They needed 50 seconds to finish, though.
– 8:45 – What’s up with Brook Lopez shooting 3-pointers like free throws? 1:07 for Team Lopez. The East is down 20-0 going into the championship.
– 8:47 – So much for prediction. Team Bosh and Team Westbrook squaring advance and ready to square off in the championship round.
– 8:52 – I root for Swin Cash in whatever she does. Too bad she’s stuck on a team with Bosh and ‘Nique instead of say, myself and John Schuhmann … 1:29 for them in the championship round. The pressure is on Team Westbrook.)
– 8:54 – Team Westbrook can’t get it done. Team Bosh gets the win and Nique gets the MVP for knocking down both of his team’s half court shots. As my man Randy Moss would say, Straight (Swin) Cash Homie!
– 8:56 – Team Bosh collects the first hardware of the night in the Sears Shooting Stars. Nique is feeling good. Says he wants in on the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, too. (I’m kidding.)
– 8:58 – Gold medal winners from London, both men and women, getting some love on the big stage between events.
TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE
– 9:03 – Sounds like the dude from the Price is Right is reading off the rules for this event. I’m ignoring him and checking the shoe game of the contestants. Jeremy Lin kicks are wicked. Need to see an up-close shot.
– 9:05 – Hawks guard Jeff Teague clocks a 49.4, couldn’t get his passes or his 3-pointer from the top of the arc down. And he had the nerve to blow his final shot, going for the layup instead of the dunk. Later son.
– 9:06 – Pistons guard Brandon Knight learns from Teague’s mistakes and finishes with a dunk and a 32.2.
– 9:08 – Sixers guard Jrue Holiday rocks it with a 29.3. Made it look effortless. One of my favorite young players in the league. West has to beat 1:50.9 to topple the East in the contest.
– 9:12 –Jeremy Lin finishes in 35.8 but could have finished faster. He was stylin’ for the home crowd.
– 9:13 –Damian Lillard rips the course in the fastest time of the night so far, 28.8.
– 9:15 – Defending champ Tony Parker bows out with a 48.7. The East picks up 30 points thanks to Lin and Parker. Knight and Lillard move on to the championship round.
–9:17 –Alicia Keys gets some jumbotron love (she’s sitting next to Spike Lee). She looks marvelous, of course. We need to get her to do a theme song, “Hang Time is on fire!”
– 9:20 – Holiday with a 35.6, but Lillard snags a 29.8 for the win, 10 more points for the West and a trophy to go alongside that T-Mobile Rookie of the Year trophy he’s going to get in a few months. Well done young fella, the first rookie to win the event.
– 9:24 – East leads the west 40-30 after two events. They are playing for $500,000 in cash for charity.
FOOT LOCKER THREE-POINT CONTEST NEXT
– 9:32 – I had no idea this Phillip Phillips cat (or band, I’m not sure) sang this song. That’s my jam. I don’t watch American Idol, though, so I didn’t connect the dots. He smashed that performance.
– 9:35 –Steph Curry just warmed up from the corner rack and knocked down the first four without even looking at the basket. Ridiculous. Save some for the contest fella!
– 9:40 – Curry started slow but finished like … well, a Curry. He nets 17 points and Ryan Anderson is up next. He goes off from the start but struggles at the end, finishing with 18. Matt Bonner closes out the order for the West. His shooting stroke is awkward. But he finishes with 19 points, for a total teams score of 54.
– 9:46 – These Knicks kid reporters have stolen the show, clowning everyone and Nick Cannon on the big stage. You gotta love the kids.
– 9:52 –Kyrie Irving forgot to take his warm up shirt off and still finished with 18. And as you might expect, he knocked down his money ball on the last rack to beat the buzzer. Paul George is up next. Love this cat but he’s in the wrong contest. Maybe he meant to sign up for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest? Steve Novak has to make up for PG’s 10. Novak finishes with 17 and the West wins the 40 points. Bonner and Irving for the title. Who picked those two for the final round? I had Curry and Novak. I’m done with the prediction business tonight.
– 10:02 – Kyrie just put on a show. Knocked down eight of his first nine and 17 of his first 18 shots before finishing with 23, two shy of the record. He even got LeBron James up out of his seat during his wicked stretch. Kid is on his championship grind. Bonner goes for 20. The Cavaliers might still be a lottery team but at least they’ve got Kyrie!
SPRITE SLAM DUNK CONTEST IS ON DECK
– 10:07 –Fall Out Boy is on stage and they must be from Chicago because they are wearing their Jordan throwbacks. Rock stars love skinny jeans and tattoos more than NBA youngsters. Now they’ve got 2 Chainz up here with them and he’s singing the hook after doing his rap verse. The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest participants come out while they remain on stage.
– 10:16 –Rudy Tomjanovich, Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler are the judges tonight. Houston’s hoops Mt. Rushmore?
– 10:20 – Houston’s own Gerald Green kicks off the contest with a perfect 50 on his first dunk, a reverse tomahawk dunk where he had to duck his head or risk a concussion after he bumped his head on the rim. Crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!
– 10:22 –James “Flight” White with the 45 on the two-handed runaway dunk from a step inside the free throw line. He missed his first attempt. Had he made it, the 50 would have been a lock.
– 10:24 –Terrence Ross gets an A for persistence, finally making a behind-the-back 180 after five misses. That was generous for a dude who missed that many dunks.
– 10:26 –Kenneth Faried nets a 39 for a 360 off-the-backboard dunk that looked way better on the replay than it did in real time.
– 10:28 –Eric Bledsoe missed his more aggressive between-the-legs dunk four times before opting for something a little easier to complete. He matched Faried’s 39.
– 10:29 –Jeremy Evans bags a 47 with an assist from Mark Eaton, he jumped over the big man’s head while the former Jazz center was sitting and holding a ball.
– 10:31 –Kevin Hart and Cannon are doing their stand up routine while clowning the All-Star’s baby pictures. I’m going home and burning every baby picture in the house!
– 10:35 – Flight White’s inability to dribble the ball up the floor is going to cost him the title. He’s got all the hops in the world. But he has to go back to the lab and work on the handles. He botched his second dunk attempt and during the allotted 90 seconds and ended up missing his one untimed attempt. That 32 should end his night.
– 10:40 – Green just cut the nets out and is attempting to dunk it twice. Loving the idea. But this is a tough one, even for the cupcake dunker. And now we have to wait for someone to find the replacement nets for this rim. He timed out as well and then missed his untimed attempt for a matching 32. Somebody get Nique some shoes.
– 10:45 – Ross only needs a 33 to represent the East. Just do something normal and you are in. Hang time … he’s got a 49 and moves into the final. There is going to be some serious complaining about this format.
– 10:47 – Faried with a 50 for his between the legs jam after just two steps. Is it me or do the 50s get tossed around rather liberally these days.
– 10:48 – Bledsoe with a 50 of his own for the sick reverse windmill off the bounce.
– 10:49 – Evans dunks two balls but with no authority whatsoever, collects his 43 and advances from the West. There won’t be a whole lot of debating about what went on here.
– 10:53 – Judging by the looks on the faces of former dunk champions sitting around the floor, they’re not impressed with what they have seen tonight. Power used to be a dunk contest staple. Now the apparent degree of difficulty has trumped raw power. I’m trying to be diplomatic tonight. I’m going to need some time to digest what we’ve seen tonight before I start shredding these performances.
DUNK FINAL ROUND
– 10:56 – Evans goes over a the cloaked painting of himself jumping over a cloaked painting of himself dunking and then he signs it. Nice touch but I’d have been more impressed if he snatched the cloak off the painting on his way up.
– 10:58 – Ross throws down a grimy leaning reverse jam that Rockets forward Terrence Jones bounced off the side of the backboard. Arguably the second best dunk of the night behind Green’s first attempt in Round 1.
– 11:01 – Evans has outlandish hops. Jumping over Dahntay Jones and doing his own version of the Jumpman pose showed off just how ridiculous his vertical is folks. RIDICULOUS!
– 11:03 – Ross trumps him with a between-the-legs, jump over the ball boy dunk that should seal the crown for the Raptors rookie.
– 11:06 – Ross takes the title. He made up for his rough start to the competition by bring out his best when it matter most. The West won the night, though, finishing with 140 points to the East’s 125.
Let the debate rage on about the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, though. Because no one leaves the Toyota Center tonight feeling like we saw the absolute best of the best ply their trade in this contest. Someone out there, someone hungry and creative, needs to step up. MJ and Nique aren’t walking through that door!
HOUSTON — Spencer Haywood was an MVP in the old ABA. He was a two-time All-NBA first teamer, four-time NBA All-Star and a member of the champion Lakers in 1980.
But nothing ever did had the impact of Haywood v. National Basketball Association, 401 U.S. 1204 (1971), a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled, 7–2, against the NBA’s old requirement that a player may not be drafted by a NBA team unless he waited four years (which meant playing at the college level in most cases) following his graduation from high school.
Haywood is the reason that the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard were able to jump straight from the prep ranks into the NBA.
“They don’t know that, not most of the players today,” said the 63-year-old Haywood on the day that he was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame Class of 2013. “I was kind of thinking they were a little remiss here. I thought it would be talked about as that case.
“That was horrible, hard time. I went from the lower courts to the state court all the way to the Supreme Court and that was some pretty serious stuff there. Two of us were in the courts at that time and (baseball player) Curt Flood lost his case and I won my case. It was powerful.
When you see all these players today, even the older ones on this stage with me — Bob McAdoo, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins — they all fell under my rule. But those older guys all know.”
What perhaps the younger generation doesn’t know is that Haywood led the U.S. to the gold medal in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 and then played a spectacular sophomore season at the University of Detroit, averaging 32.1 points and 21.5 rebounds per game. That’s when he decided to turn pro, was first turned away by the NBA and signed on with the ABA Denver Rockets.
“This feels tremendous,” Haywood said. “It’s hard to put in words in terms of how I feel. I’m this poor kid from the cotton fields of Silver City Mississippi, population of 100 people. To be on this stage and possibly on my way to the Hall, just being a finalist, it is tremendous, just something very, very special, beyond anything I could ever imagine.”
There an argument to be made that the honor should have come much sooner.
“No,” Haywood said. “I let everything happen on God’s time and not on my time, because, of course, I would have said years ago. But this is a good time, this is the right time and this is on time.”
HOUSTON – Sometimes the announcement of Hall of Fame candidates is routine. Sometimes there are surprises.
Then along comes a day like Friday when the voters for the Hall have a chance to right a wrong, correct an omission.
Two decades after Bernard King finally stopped terrorizing defenses as one of the greatest 1-on-1 scorers of all-time, the former great was named among the finalists for the North American committee.
It was a day and a step forward that many current Hall of Fame members said was long overdue.
“Bernard King. Bernard King. Bernard King,” said Dominique Wilkins. “I’ve been saying that for years. Bernard King. There should be no debate about it. Bernard King should be in the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t understand why he isn’t there yet. I tell you, I never feared anybody that I ever played against, but I lived in fear of him. The guy was a machine. You could not guard him 1-on-1. You can ask any of the greats of that era. You could not guard him 1-on-1. It was impossible.”
King averaged 22.5 points per game and shot .518 from the field over a 16-year NBA career. The 6-foot-7 small forward set a Nets rookie scoring record, was an All-NBA first teamer in 1984 and 1985 and led the league in scoring (32.5) in 1985.
In 1984 King gave one of the greatest Christmas Day performance ever, playing for the Knicks he scored 60 points, including 40 in the first half.
But somehow King has managed to get lost in the mist of time and slipped through the cracks of the Hall of Fame for the 15 years that he’s been eligible for induction in the Hall.
“Bernard King,” said Bob McAdoo. “I always said that I couldn’t figure that out. I would scratch my head. I’m glad he finally got nominated and now I hope he gets in. Man, Bernard King, he was the truth.
“I don’t know he’s not in already. That’s how it is, I guess. I have people that tell me all the time they don’t understand why I wasn’t (voted) in the top 50 in 1997). When they research they find I was the only MVP and only scoring champ that didn’t make it.
“It seems that sometimes are overlooked. I think that’s what happened. Man, Bernard King was the truth.”
The main difference in his All-Star experience from a year ago in Orlando is that Dwight Howard isn’t wondering whether he’ll finish out the season same with his team.
“They told me they weren’t going to trade me,” Howard said at Friday’s media availability. That message was delivered, he said, by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Of course, that will hardly stop the speculation that swirls about every move and twitch of the Lakers in a wildly disappointing season that has them four games under .500 at the All-Star break and in danger of missing the playoffs.
Howard, who is coming off back surgery and currently playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder, is averaging his fewest points since his second year in the NBA and that has some suggesting that the Lakers should unload him by the Feb. 21 trade deadline, especially since he could choose to leave next summer as a free agent.
“I should have the opportunity to make my own decision,” Howard said. “I shouldn’t be pressured or criticized for waiting till the end of the year. It’s not fair to the fans, or the team.
“I’m not gonna deal with it. I had to deal with it all last year. I got to do what makes me happy. That’s it.”
What makes Howard happy these days?
“Having fun on the court,” he said. “That makes me happy.”
Is he having much fun this season?
“At the present time, no,” he said. “Hopefully it gets better.”
Why isn’t he smiling on the court these days.
“I got criticized for it,” he said.
What is taking the fun away?
“Stop digging, man,” Howard said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
HOUSTON – A few quick notes and thoughts in advance of the Hall of Fame announcement at 11 a.m. local time:
Inductees will be revealed in five categories: ABA, Early African-American Pioneers, International, Veterans, and Contributor. These are direct-elect votes, with only a single round of balloting, and no more than one winner from each. It is possible, though unlikely, that no one is elected.
Finalists will be announced from the North American committee – the body that handles the majority of nominees with NBA ties – and the Women’s committee. Anyone making this initial cut will move forward to an additional round of scrutiny and need support from 18 of 24 voters to be elected. Those results will be announced at the Final Four.
The winner of the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor from the Hall short of induction, will be named. So will recipients of the Curt Gowdy Media Award, one for the print side and one from the electronic.
Had a fun conversation with Spencer Haywood on Thursday. He is upbeat about his chances to get good news today and hopeful for really good from the Final Four. Haywood even linked his chances to a Seattle resurgence: He could make the Hall of Fame the same year as Gary Payton does and the city gets the NBA back.
I didn’t include Nick Galis in the rankings of nominees with NBA ties most deserving for induction, but could have with an asterisk: The New Jersey native who played at Seton Hall was a fourth-round pick of the Celtics, but didn’t make it out of training camp. In Greece, though, he became one of the greats of Europe as a high-scoring shooting guard. He is a candidate for the Hall via the International committee.
HOUSTON – NBA All-Star Weekend is upon us and it’s time to take a break from the condensed schedule to celebrate the best basketball players in the world. Before we get to Sunday’s game (8 p.m. ET, TNT), we’ll dig deep into each All-Star’s first-half statistics.
You already know the basics (scoring, rebounding, etc). So here are some noteworthy, below-the-surface numbers regarding each of the 13 Eastern Conference All-Stars, coming from the new NBA.com/stats site. Click on the nuggets below to go into even more detail.
All stats are through Wednesday, Feb. 13. Minimum requirements were set at 100 field-goal attempts for shooting stats, 500 minutes for non-shooting stats and 100 minutes for lineup data, unless otherwise noted.