Posts Tagged ‘Arvydas Sabonis’

Thunder trade Ibaka to Magic in four-player deal

VIDEO: Proposed Thunder-Magic deal

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In something of a Draft-night stunner, the Oklahoma City Thunder will part ways with Serge Ibaka in a trade with the Orlando Magic that will send Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis, the 11th pick in Thursday night’s Draft.

The deal was first reported by The Vertical.

Ibaka was a core member of a Thunder team headlined by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Ibaka served as the defensive anchor for the Thunder early on in his career before ceding that role to Steven Adams in the past two seasons. Moving Ibaka comes at an odd time, with Durant set to become a free agent July 1.

Ibaka immediately joins Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon in a Orlando frontcourt that should be a team strength under new coach Frank Vogel.

Oladipo gives the Thunder another young wing player to add to their rotation, a shooting guard who can play both ends of the floor at a high level. Ilyasova is a veteran floor spacing forward and Sabonis, the son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, is a rugged big man who starred in college at Gonzaga.


Blogtable: All-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Remembering “Chocolate Thunder | Can anyone beat USA in 2016? |
Name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team


VIDEO: The best of Arvydas Sabonis

>Former NBA standout Andrei Kirilenko has been elected president of the Russian Basketball Federation. Perfect time to ask you to name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russian NBA team.

Steve Aschburner, Nobody told us there was going to be geography and geo-politics on this quiz. But here’s my best group of five: Kirilenko (Russia), Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania) and Zaza Pachulia (Georgia). The best of them likely was Sabonis, but he was an older, slower player by the time he reached the NBA with Portland at age 31. Loved his gruff exterior and his clever, Dan Quisenberry-like submarine passing.

Fran Blinebury,   I’m tempted to just go with the 1988 Olympic gold medalists, but have got to make room for the versatile AK-47 and the leading scorer from the infamous 1972 final over the U.S.

C : Arvydas Sabonis — We never saw him at the peak of his powers in the NBA.
F : Andrei Kirilenko — Slashing scorer, first-rate defender.
F : Aleksandr Volkov — Two so-so NBA seasons, but a force at PF for Soviet national team.
G : Sarunas Marciulionis — The feisty, aggressive guard opened the door for Europeans in the NBA.
G : Sergei Belov — Leading scorer in 1972 gold medal game, first international player voted into Naismith Hall of Fame.

Scott Howard-Cooper,  Fans of some of the former Soviet states won’t be happy — Arvydas Sabonis was Lithuanian, after all, and so on — but for purposes of the question:
C: Arvydas Sabonis
PF: Timofey Mozgov
SF: Andrei Kirilenko
SG: Sarunas Marciulionis
PG: Alexey Shved
If I’m missing anyone, and I can’t help but wonder I am, I hope they’re a guard. The frontline is the strength, especially Sabonis and Kirilenko as the top selections no matter the position. Sabonis is the best talent on the list, but in the context of NBA play, as the question says, Kirilenko is No. 1 after playing more years, playing better, and with his best seasons in the NBA. North American fans sadly mostly saw the injury-depleted Sabonis.

Shaun Powell, Sasha Volkov, Andrei Kirilenko, Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, Timofey Mozgov. That’s my squad, with Sabonis the obvious choice as the Godfather of Soviet/Russian ball. Becky Hammon just misses the cut.

John Schuhmann, Picking the frontcourt is pretty easy: Kirilenko, Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And I’ll go with Sarunas x 2 in the backcourt: Marciulionis and Jasikevicius, though the latter was a lot more fun to watch when he played for Lithuania than when he played for the Pacers and Warriors.

Sekou Smith,   Any team of this kind has to start with the great Arvydas Sabonis in the middle, flanked by Alexander Volkov and Kirilenko at the forward spots with the criminally underrated Sarunas Marciulionis in the backcourt alongside one of my all-time favorite big-moment competitors, Sarunas Jasikevicius. If Kirilenko had that kind of starting five to work with as president of the Russian Basketball Federation, he could ride the wave in that job for years.

Ian Thomsen, The old Soviet regime (unlike the former Yugoslavia) did not produce a lot of NBA guards, and neither has the Russian federation. So I am piecing together this team in faith that Sabonis and Ilgauskas could complement one another inside and outside, and that Kirilenko would have the skills and defensive versatility to shift to the backcourt when necessary.
C: Arvydas Sabonis
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
F: Alexander Volkov
F: Andrei Kirilenko
G: Sarunas Marciulionis

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Well, Kirilenko is on my team, if only for that run he had in the 2000’s with the Jazz, when he was fully healthy and seemingly capable of posting a quadruple-double on any given night. We always heard that we in the U.S. never saw the best of Arvydis Sabonis, but even playing with injured knees in Portland, he was pretty great. Sarunas Marciulionis won gold with the USSR at the 1988 Olympics, and had a great run with the Golden State Warriors. How about my main man Sasha Volkov, who was one of the pioneers of the international movement to the NBA when he played for some of the Atlanta Hawks’ better early-‘90s teams? And if we’re picking one for the future, Timofey Mozgov is coming off an NBA Finals appearance and looks like he still has a lot of years left in him.

We All Count Numbers But Do All Numbers Count?


Two weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki of the New York Yankees rapped a first-inning single to left field off Toronto pitcher R.A. Dickey, briefly interrupting a game at Yankee Stadium that barely had begun and sparking a lively discussion among baseball insiders and fans.

The hit was the 4,000th of Ichiro’s remarkable career, which has been split between Japan’s highest professional league and the major leagues here in the U.S. Specifically – and bear with us here, this post will eventually be put in NBA context – the Yankees’ right fielder had 1,278 hits in nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave from 1992-2000, before amassing – in 13 seasons with the Seattle Mariners (2001-2012) and New York (2012-13) – an astounding 2,729 through Wednesday night.

No one doubted that Ichiro had reached a milestone and made history of a particular sort. But was he on his way toward a record? Most folks agreed he was not. Pete Rose remains MLB’s “Hit King” with 4,256 and Ty Cobb – despite losing a couple of hits off his famous total of 4,191 due to clerical corrections through the years – is next at 4,189.

Predictably, the pugnacious Rose bristled at the interpretation that Ichiro was closing in on his mark. “He’s still 600 hits away from catching [Yankees teammate] Derek Jeter, so how can he catch me?” the 17-time NL All-Star, still barred from Hall of Fame consideration by his lifetime ban for gambling, told USA Today. “Hey, if we’re counting professional hits, then add on my 427 career hits in the minors. I was a professional then, too.”

But in their appreciation for Ichiro – who was 27 when he got his first crack at AL pitching – some witnesses blurred the line a little between hits here (as in MLB) and hits anywhere.

“This is something, you don’t have to be from Japan, you don’t have to be a U.S. player, you don’t have to be a Canadian player, a Dominican player,” Ken Griffey Jr., his former Seattle teammate, told “You can just look and see how much time and effort and the things he’s done to perfect his craft. This is something that three people will have done, to have 4,000 hits. Those are Bugs Bunny numbers.”

This, of course, is and that is the point of this exercise.

With the explosive growth of professional basketball around the globe, with the acknowledgement almost every summer – whether in EuroBasket competition, the FIBA World Cup or the Olympics – that some of the game’s greatest players will spend part or all of their careers outside of the NBA, it’s a question worth asking: Should stats from leagues elsewhere in the world be counted in a player’s lifetime totals?

Look, this isn’t a matter of re-writing a record book. It’s not as if Luis Scola – who started playing professionally in 1995-96, logging 12 seasons overseas before hitting the NBA – or anyone else is bearing down on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time points record (38,387).

But maybe basketball fans would have a better sense of, say, Arvydas Sabonis‘ greatness if his “career” numbers weren’t limited to the 5,629 points, 3,436 rebounds or 964 assists he’s given credit for in his seven NBA seasons. All of them came after age 30, by which time the dazzling 7-foot-3 Lithuanian was a hobbled, heavier and lesser version of his youthful self.

Maybe Drazen Petrovic would be recalled in more discussions about the game’s greatest shooters if the Croatian marksman’s international stats were lumped in with his modest NBA numbers. (Maybe not, given Petrovic’s tragic death at 28 in a car accident in Germany clipped his career here at the other end.)

And it seems weird that an established NBA player like Andrei Kirilenko would have a hole gouged in his resume just because he opted to play the 2011-12 season back in his homeland, for CSKA Moscow, while the owners and players here hashed out their lockout squabble and patched season. Kirilenko was named Euroleague MVP and averaged better than 14 points and seven rebounds, but from his file on, you’d think he’d taken a sabbatical to touch llamas in Tibet or something.

One problem with counting statistics from foreign leagues is that, well, those leagues aren’t so good at counting them themselves. Reliable stats and records are hard to come by, such that Sabonis’ and Petrovic’s entries at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and on its Web site don’t have full and accurate numbers.

Another beef is that non-NBA competition doesn’t measure up, so stats compiled elsewhere might be inflated. That may, in some cases, be true. But it’s the same gripe that largely has kept the stats of the American Basketball Association (ABA) separate and not-quite equal 45 years after that rival league’s inception. More than a dozen Hall of Famers spent part or all of their careers in the ABA, and in the first post-merger All-Star Game (1977), 10 of the 24 players were former ABA-ers. But resentment of what the ABA meant, business-wise, to some old-school NBA owners lingered, in spite of the quality of many of its performers.

So what makes more sense: Listing Julius Erving as the No. 58 scorer in NBA history (18,364), just ahead of Glen Rice (18,336)? Or counting his ABA numbers and moving him to No. 6 (30,026) as one of the half dozen players who reached that 30,000-points level? In a sense, Erving is  the NBA’s equivalent of Ichiro, a mid-career pioneer who crossed some borders for his sport.

The Naismith Hall – as we’ll be reminded Sunday with the Class of 2013 enshrinement ceremony – embraces all levels of the game, from outstanding amateurs to foreign legends to NBA superstars, and looks at careers in full. This league rightly should maintain its record book however it sees fit, but citing combined numbers as milestones, accomplishments and bits of history is legit, too.

The Sabonis Phenomenon In Portland

Arvydas Sabonis gets a public rally in a Portland town square today as an exclamation point to his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame last week, which says a lot about a special city and Sabonis’ often-hidden greatness. More than anything, though, it says a lot about this strange relationship that flourished to where he remains such a popular Trail Blazer in spite of it all.

Sabonis would ordinarily be one of the last guys to get today’s celebration. He played seven seasons in two stints in Portland, a long stretch but hardly unique in the era of Scottie Pippen, Brian Grant, Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudemire and immediately after real lifers Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey and Terry Porter. He was never an All-Star, never All-NBA, never more than first-team All-Rookie among individual accolades. He wasn’t known as someone who spent an unusual amount of time working in the community and who, if anything, went out of his way to not connect with the passionate fan base by hiding behind a supposed lack of English to avoid interviews when he could actually handle the language barrier just fine.

So why the homecoming party today, why the connect, especially since Sabonis was inducted via the International Committee as a tremendously skilled center, not for NBA achievements?

Because the situation was as rare as his talents. He played in Portland, a city that appreciates good basketball, and Sabas was all about good basketball. He didn’t succeed with flash. Maybe he did so in a previous life as one of the all-time stars of Europe. But as a Blazer, he was an amazing passer and shooter at 7-foot-3 and 290 pounds while creaking through a series of injuries. Perhaps that is partly a romanticized version, years later.

There came an appreciation that pushing himself through the leg and back pains was a sign of extreme dedication for a championship-caliber team. It was hard not to respect that when Sabas could have cashed out, taken his money and headed back to Europe with an injury retirement and no one would have questioned.

Showing that amount of heart came at the height of Portland’s “Jail Blazers” era, when a player could stand out just by not getting in trouble. Sabonis didn’t get in trouble. It took him a while to get to Portland, through the complications of coming from Lithuania and the Soviet Union, but once he did in 1995 as a 31-year-old rookie, he set out on seven seasons. Seven meaningful seasons that earned a rally in the town square in spite of it all.

Hall of Fame Countdown Begins …

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Good news with the induction ceremony hours away: There were showers earlier in the week and more expected as soon as Saturday, but it’s sunshine and blue skies today in a perfectly timed break for the outdoor red-carpet arrival ceremony. And you thought Dennis Rodman wasn’t on good terms with the man upstairs.

The uniqueness of the NBA portion of the Class of 2011 is unmistakable. Artis Gilmore, Satch Sanders and Tex Winter had long waits to get in. Chris Mullin had a long personal path – as a recovering alcoholic since early in his pro career – to get in. Rodman had a long road out of obscurity in high school and college to get in. Arvydas Sabonis had long periods of frustration because of injuries. This is a group tied by perseverance.

Hall president and CEO John Doleva has a different read, and it’s a good one. He regards this as a different kind of class because it does not have any glittering presence, a contrast all the more obvious in the wake of consecutive years of overwhelming star power. The 2010 enshrinement was one of the great NBA gatherings of all time, in fact, with Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen joining the 1960 Olympic team (Jerry West, Oscar Robertson) and the 1992 Dream Team as group inductees.

Rodman is obviously a big name, but he was never more than the third-best player on a championship team. Mullin was hardly an electric player who drew crowds on the road, and his election is based on a great career at St. John’s. Sabonis is here for his international impact, not his time with the Trail Blazers. Winter rode the rock-concert life with the Jordan-Pippen Bulls and the Kobe-Shaq Lakers but would take talking Xs and Os in a quiet corner over the glam any day.

A down-home collection, Doleva calls it, noting this is a group of extreme workers, not physical marvels who would leave fans slack-jawed. That’s not a good analogy for Winter, a non-player, but while he is best known in coaching circles as an originator of the triangle offense, the common recognition is as a top assistant for Phil Jackson during nine title runs. Not the name at the top of the marquee.

A few other thoughts as the ceremony approaches:

  • It could be a very emotional night. Gilmore welled up Thursday just thinking about what it will feel like to be on stage Friday night and predicted he will be fighting back tears. Rodman will probably break down. One of Mullin’s closest friends, Mitch Richmond, said he thinks there is a good chance Mullin will have an uncharacteristically emotional moment at reaching the peak. Winter will be embraced in warmth as he makes a rare appearance in front of a large gathering while still showing the effects of a 2009 stroke.
  • It’s a particularly special night for the Bulls. Rodman and Gilmore played in Chicago and Winter coached there. Jackson will present Rodman and Winter in a ceremonial, non-speaking role. (Jackson showing at all, despite no interest in attending such events, is a testament to his level of respect and friendship for Winter in particular.) ESPN Radio’s Jim Durham, winner of the Curt Gowdy Award for excellence in the electronic media, is a Chicago native and former Bulls broadcaster. NBA communications executive Brian McIntyre, winner of the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor the Hall bestows short of enshrinement, is formerly headed marketing and media relations for the Bulls.
  • Sam Smith had great reads on Rodman and Winter for
  • While there are no visible signs of damage around Symphony Hall, where the gala event will take place tonight, or a half-mile away at the museum itself. This is still a city and an area recovering from a deadly June tornado. The path of destruction passed about 200 yards from the Hall of Fame, barely missing the kind of direct hit that could have forever wiped away some of the sport’s greatest treasures. The property was used as a staging area – command center, emergency vehicles, first responders, helicopters taking off and landing in the parking lot – in the immediate aftermath.

Daydreaming About Sabonis In His Prime

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Arvydas Sabonis holds the distinction, per my main man Brent Barry, of being the only player to participate in the Schick Rookie Game (that’s what it was called back in the day) who “could actually use the product.”

Sabonis was a 31 during his rookie season in the NBA. From all the reports and stories we’ve ever heard, that was roughly two or three years past his prime, and yet he still enjoyed a seven-year run in the league. The Hall of Fame nod he received Monday was obviously more for what he did internationally, specifically in the Olympics and world championships, and with the national teams (Soviet and Lithuanian).

In our fantasy sports-crazed culture, can you imagine what young Sabonis might have done to the NBA in his prime?


Rodman Shouldn’t Be Surprised

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dennis Rodman claims that his inclusion in the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 was a “big surprise.”

It shouldn’t be.

Rodman’s entry to the hallowed hall should not surprise anyone, including the colorful former two-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time NBA champ and rebounding machine.

“It’s unreal,” Rodman said earlier today in Houston, where the announcement was made. “I looked at the way I am, and I thought I wouldn’t get in.”

The travesty would have been the voters keeping Rodman out for all of the same reasons.


Stars Headed To The (FIBA) Hall


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The National Teams from the United States and Turkey won’t be the only big time ballplayers on display in Istanbul today.

They’ll have a little company from a few familiar faces. A 17-member Hall of Fame class will get the red carpet treatment at the gold medal game of the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

Cheryl Miller, Arvydas Sabonis and Vlade Divac headline the group that will be inducted into International Basketball Federation’s Hall of Fame for their achievements at the Olympic Games, world championships and developing the global game.

Sure, it’s been a while since you’ve seen any of the three headliners go to work on a court. But don’t forget how ridiculous they were in their primes:


You can start the debate about the greatest player the women’s game has seen, but it has to start with Miller’s name at the top as far we’re concerned here at the hideout. Her game was far ahead of its time. She was not only a dominant scorer but always the best all-around player and athlete on the floor.

Miller won 1984 Olympic gold with the U.S., a world title two years later and is believed to be the first woman to dunk in a high school game. Miller won two NCAA championships at USC and later became head coach, and you know all about her outstanding work as part of the TNT and NBA TV families.




We feel for those of you that only remember Sabonis as the human tank of a center for the Portland Trail Blazers during his NBA days, because he was so much more than that.  The Lithuanian born Sabonis won the Euroscar Award (the best player in Europe) six times during his professional career there. Sabonis won Olympic and world titles with the Soviet Union, then led his native Lithuania to two Olympic bronze medals.

He didn’t come to the states until he was 30, and still had a distinguished career with the Trail Blazers. He was runner-up for Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year in 1996 while starring on Portland teams that made the playoffs in all seven of his NBA seasons. But there was a healthy debate in the 1980s, when Sabonis was winning all of those Euroscar Awards that he, and not Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, was the best player in the world.


Easily the most flamboyant of the three headliners, Divac helped Yugoslavia win two world titles and two Olympic silvers, losing to Sabonis and the Soviet Union in 1988, and at the 1996 Games in Atlanta to a United States Dream Team. The president of Serbia’s Olympic Committee, Divac is best known to NBA fans for an NBA career that spanned 16 seasons.

He played in the NBA from 1989-05, including twice with the Los Angeles Lakers. He had his No. 21 jersey retired by the Sacramento Kings, Drazen Petrovic is the only other European born and trained player to have his jersey retired by an NBA team (New Jersey). Divac is one of six players in NBA history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots, along with current or future Hall of Fame big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon.