Posts Tagged ‘Antoine Walker’

Nash’s greatness found in the numbers


VIDEO: Steve Nash Will Miss The 2014-15 NBA Season

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns changed NBA offense forever. They showed us what can be accomplished with a simple pick-and-roll, floor spacing and a willingness to share the ball.

Elements of D’Antoni’s “Seven seconds or less” offense are seen throughout the league today. But Nash was running the NBA’s best offense long before D’Antoni was. In his last three years as the starting point guard in Dallas, the Mavericks ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency.

Nash took that streak to Phoenix and continued it for another six years. He ran the No. 1 offense with Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley, even with Antoine Walker shooting 82-for-305 (27 percent) from 3-point range in 2003-04. In fact, when you compare teams’ offensive efficiency with the league average, that Mavs team had the No. 1 offense of the last 37 years (since the league started counting turnovers in 1977).

In Phoenix, Nash ran the No 1. offense with Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson, and kept it at No. 1 when Johnson left for Atlanta and Stoudemire missed all but three games in 2005-06. Even when Shaquille O’Neal arrived and supposedly bogged down the Suns’ attack, they had the most efficient offense in the league.

The Suns played at a fast pace, but we’re not looking at points per game, here. We’re looking at points per possession. And not only did Nash run the No. 1 offense of the last 37 years, he’s run each of the top five offenses of the last 37 years.

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Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain each led the league in scoring for seven straight seasons. Steve Nash ran the league’s best offense for nine straight, a run that started when Shaq and Kobe Bryant were at their best and ended when LeBron James was winning multiple MVPs.

Nash hasn’t said whether his career is over now that he’s been ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season, but it’s reasonable to guess that it is. It’s also reasonable to believe that we’ll never see another streak like the one he had between 2001 and 2010.

You can debate the merit Nash’s MVP awards or his place in the NBA’s all-time point guard rankings. But there’s no debating that he was one of the best offensive players of his generation. The numbers speak for themselves.

Josh Howard Won’t Give Up The Dream


VIDEO: Sounds from Day 3 of the NBA D-League Showcase

 

RENO, Nev. — There’s only one reason why Josh Howard would be dressing in a cramped makeshift locker room, trying to work the tightness out of a balky hamstring and hoping to get a chance to run the floor in front of an audience that would might number 200 if you counted the security guards and maintenance workers.

“I’m still living my dream of playing basketball for a living,” he said.

Of course, that fantasy was on a much grander scale four years ago when Howard was in the third season of a four-year contract worth $40 million.

That’s when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Two years later, he tore the meniscus in the same knee. Nine months later, he tore the ACL in his right knee.

Which is how a former NBA All-Star still in the prime of his career at 30 winds up at 33 in an almost empty Reno Events Center in the NBA D-League Showcase, making $25,000 a year playing for the Austin Toros.

“I’m in this league because I’ve been given an opportunity to show people that I can still play basketball,” Howard said. “And I’m here because I’m still having fun.”

Howard admits that he “got kinda down” after tearing up his second knee and had to begin the rehabilitation process all over, but said he never thought about retirement.

“Injuries happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game and it’s just something else that you’ve got to find a way to overcome. I don’t have a reason to feel sorry for myself. No. Not at all.”

Howard went to training camp in October with the defending Western Conference champions. But though he couldn’t earn a spot on the roster, the Spurs offered him a chance to continue his comeback with their D-League affiliate. Playing in Austin allows him to be close to his children, who live a three-hour drive away in Dallas.

Though Howard was cautioned by his agent and friends that he was in for the culture shock adjustment of making bus rides instead of charter plane flights to games, trading in the Ritz-Carlton luxury of the NBA for budget accommodations and playing before in small town arenas, he claims there was no hesitation about joining D-League life.

“I’m not the typical NBA player that sits there and worries about what other people think,” Howard said. “There’s not an ounce of me that says any of this is beneath me. I play the game because I love it. I know there are other guys out there that might not want to do it. But to get the opportunity to play the game again after I tore my ACL a couple years ago, I had to jump at the chance. That’s how I was raised my mama and my grandma — don’t ever waste an opportunity.”

So Howard wrote his name on the short list with Antoine Walker as the only NBA All-Stars to ever play in the D-League. He’s played in nine games with the Toros, averaging 12.8 points and 4.3 rebounds and is currently nursing a hamstring injury that he suffered on Saturday.

“Before the hamstring I was running with all these 23- and 24-year-olds and keeping up,” Howard said. “The positive thing from the knee injuries is that I’ve had most of three years of no wear and tear on my legs, so they don’t have the typical mileage of a guy who’s 33.

“I’ve been working on getting myself back into the kind of shape that I need to play in the NBA. At this point, I can’t say how close I am. I’ve only been playing here for two months, just working into the swing of things. I’ll keep being confident. It’s up to the GM’s in the league to pick me up to the next level.”

Howard never had the long shooting range that could make him a floor spacer. The knee injuries have taken away his former explosiveness going to the rim. But he’s still convinced he can play.

If he doesn’t get a call-up from the NBA this season, Howard said he’ll keep pushing on.

“Right now, I’m focused on the getting this team better, getting myself better and if that call-up comes, I’m taking it,” he said. “If not, I’m gonna finish out the season out here. Then maybe it’s the summer league, if the opportunity presents itself.

“Some people don’t get one chance at the NBA. As long as I’m getting another one, I’ll take it. It’s a chance to keep living my dream.”

LaRue Martin, Antoine Walker Show Value Of, Need For NBRPA

CHICAGO – The tall man in a business suit peered intently through his reading glasses as he read aloud the proclamation from the Illinois governor, celebrating the National Basketball Retired Players Association for its relocation from New York to the Windy City.

In a swank restaurant at Navy Pier, in front of many former NBA and ABA players and well-connected members of the Chicago business community, LaRue Martin got to the part in the formal document about the NBRPA’s mission to help players “transitioning to life after basketball.” Very briefly, he looked up and broke that fourth wall.

“I’m a good example,” the 62-year-old Martin smiled, before quickly resuming his task on Gov. Pat Quinn’s behalf.

Fact is, LaRue Martin is a great example. Most basketball fans who know of him at all think of Martin as some sort of failure, based on his status as one of the NBA’s most notorious draft “busts.”

Back in 1972, fearful that they wouldn’t be able to cut a deal that would keep Bob McAdoo out of the ABA, the Portland Trail Blazers used the No. 1 pick on Martin. He was a skinny 6-foot-11 center out of Loyola in Chicago, underdeveloped both physically and in his skills, in what was a spotty draft class.

Martin lasted just four seasons, averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in a sketchy 14.0 minutes over 271 games. He became the punchline to some unfunny draft jokes and was the precursor in Portland to other big-man disappointments (Bill Walton ultimately, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden).

Now, though, Martin is a successful, prosperous businessman, a community services manager for United Parcel Service and, as a UPS public-affairs executive, a man who has rubbed elbows with governors, senators and even the President.

“Being a No. 1 draft choice, getting that big zero on your back, you are a marked man,” Martin said cheerfully Thursday after the luncheon. “My career was up and down. They called me the worst draft choice in the nation, and that bothered me. But I had the opportunity to move on and get into the corporate world, and I’ve moved on ever since.”

A few minutes earlier in the program, before Martin spoke, another tall man in jeans and a sport coat moved through the room. At 6-foot-9 and probably 50 pounds beyond his playing weight of 225 pounds, there was no sneaking to his spot near the front for Antoine Walker. He scooted along, shook a few hands on the way, then took his seat, a new face open finally to what the retired players association is all about.

Walker, 36, is best known as another sort of bust: he blew through more than $110 million in NBA career earnings through bad decisions and investments, abused generosity, lavish spending and gambling. He was only 31 when he played in the NBA for the last time, coming off the bench for Minnesota in 2007-08. By May 2010, amid flirtations with a comeback that led to a humbling stay with the D League Idaho Stampede, Walker filed for bankruptcy, citing $12.7 million in debts and just $4.3 million in assets.

He was a man-child out of Kentucky, another Chicago native drafted high, No. 6 overall in 1996. Walker averaged 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds across 12 seasons. He won a championship ring with Miami in 2006, played in three NBA All-Star games and still ranks among the top 25 in NBA history in 3-pointers made and top 100 in minutes, field-goal attempts and offensive and defensive rebounds.

Fact is, Antoine Walker is a great example of why the NBRPA has value for both current and soon-to-be retired players. He was, by most standards, a terrific success in the NBA. He is very much a work in progress now, though.

“That probably hit me six, seven months ago, when I was trying to figure things out,” Walker said after the dining room cleared. “Because even if I do go back and play basketball, my window is going to be very short. It’s not going to be playing four, five, 10 more years. So it’s very important I get started with the next phase of my life. I’m just starting now.”

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Ryder Cup brings out ‘His Whereness’

Everybody’s got to be somewhere, but Michael Jordan’s whereabouts were of much interest this week and weekend than yours or, at least, mine. With the Ryder Cup golf championship being layed at Medinah Country Club in the Chicago suburbs – and with Jordan serving as an advisor to Team USA at Carolina pal Davis Love III’s request – the Bulls’ Hall of Famer was a target for celebrity snooping.

There were several sightings of His Airness, not only on the course but at some of the finer eateries in the city and ‘burbs.

A brief rundown of His Whereness, thanks to the Chicago Tribune’s plucky sports nightlife/gossip coverage:

Team USA — including Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Fred Couples — had dinner Monday and Thursday at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in Lombard. Michael Jordan, who was named Team USA advisor, joined the guys Thursday at Harry Caray’s and signed autographs and posed for photos with patrons.

Team Europe – including Jose Maria Olazabal, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia — dined Tuesday at Harry Caray’s in Lombard. Team USA opted for Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in Oak Brook that night. Woods and co. arrived on a bus and entered through the back.

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Pierce Redefines Legacy In Boston





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Take a good look at Paul Pierce right now, the day after he etched his name in Celtics’ lore forever by surpassing Larry Bird for the No. 2 spot on the storied franchise’s all-time scoring list.

He’s a rarity in this day and age, a player that has toiled for the same franchise since the day he was drafted and endured all the ups and down anyone’s career could stand and is still thriving 14 years deep into what could very well end up being a Hall of Fame career.

There’s no question Pierce will see his No. 34 hanging from the rafters alongside the numbers of Bird, the game’s greatest winner ever Bill Russell, the franchise’s No. 1 all-time scorer John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones and so many others. How he got there, however, will be even more compelling than the final destination.

Pierce is a case study for any player wondering how to redefine a legacy.

I remember his early days in Boston, when he and Antoine Walker formed a potent 1-2 punch for a feisty Celtics team that made plenty of noise in the Eastern Conference and even made the conference finals in 2002. But at the time neither Pierce nor Walker was viewed by the masses as the sort of player capable of leading a team to championship glory.

He endured all of the criticism that came when the franchise fell on hard times, when they dropped from the playoff scene to the lottery, when Walker departed and it was Pierce and locker room full of youngsters who couldn’t find their way out of the bottom of the standings with GPS.

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Hang Time Podcast (Episode 50)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Who knew 50 would feel this good?

We had no idea how much fun it would be turning the big Five-O! But we have a little help celebrating on Episode 50 of the Hang Time Podcast.

Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler (formerly of Final Four participant UConn), Idaho Stampede forward Antoine Walker (formerly of Final Four participant Kentucky) and NBA.com’s numbers guru John Schuhmann all made their way to the hideout for the big party.

It’s a huge week for Butler’s Mavericks, who face the Lakers tonight in a showdown on TNT at 10:30 p.m. ET, and his Huskies, who will be down the road from Butler’s Dallas home this weekend in Houston for the Final Four.

Walker’s schedule is pretty busy this week, too. The former NBA All-Star will finish off the regular season with the Stampede this weekend with a doubleheader against Utah. Don’t be surprised to see him in Houston if the Wildcats reach the title game.

We asked them both to break down the hottest topics in basketball — the NBA MVP debate, the Final Four, Butler’s possible return from a knee injury and if and when Walker will return to the NBA, among other things — and then had our main man Schuhmann run the numbers to help us make sense of the Derrick Rose backlash that seems to be gaining momentum as the NBA regular season comes to a close.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our super producer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog.

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