Posts Tagged ‘Chick Hearn’

Howard, Young Prove Some Thoughts Are Better Left Unspoken


 From the department of “Can we please start the season?” we bring you “Thoughts better left unspoken, but spoken anyway” presented by Dwight Howard and Nick Young.

Howard, the happy-to-be-here Houston Rockets center, opted to voice his dismay at how his old Orlando club just handed over his old No. 12 to an unproven (now promising) youngster named Tobias Harris without, apparently, a moment’s reservation.

Harris wore No. 15 with Milwaukee, but the one-five was occupied by forgotten Magic man Hedo Turkoglu. Luckily for Harris, No. 12, his number as a one-and-done freshman at Tennessee, had popped free a few months earlier.

Though Howard thinks the No. 12 he made famous (post-Chris Whitney) should hang in Orlando’s rafters when all is said and done.

“Despite how things ended, we had eight or seven great years. We went to The Finals,” Howard explained to Orlando Sentinel beat writer Josh Robbins last week. “A lot of those banners that are in the arena happened when I was there. I was a major part of that. A lot of the records that are there, I put them there.”

Sure, but It’s not like Orlando rushed to hang No. 32 in the Amway Center. Just don’t tell Dwight that it took a dozen years before Jeremy Richardson dared to don a No. 32 Magic jersey once Shaquille O’Neal headed west.

Now, Nick Young is an L.A. guy. He was born there in June 1985, the same month the Lakers celebrated title No. 9 of 16 while the Clippers had just wrapped up a 31-51 inaugural season in L.A. playing at the Memorial Sports Arena. Young was a hot shot at Cleveland High in Reseda and then at USC. He loved the Lakers.

He dreamed of wearing the majestic purple-and-gold. And now he does. Yet as luck would have it, the Clippers — the Clippers! — are the talk of the town. So when new Clips coach Doc Rivers decided to rid Staples Center, the shared home of both L.A. teams, of every spec of purple and gold when his team is playing, well, Young took exception.

At Friday’s preseason game, Clippers fans found Doc’s answer to sanitizing Staples on Clips game nights: giant-sized posters of their red-white-and-blue heroes completely boxing out the Lakers’ golden wall of fame: 16 championship banners, nine retired jersey numbers and the banner honoring late, great announcer Chick Hearn.

“He can do that?” said first-year Laker gunslinger, talking to reporters after the team’s practice on Sunday. “For real? That’s disrespectful. We got to talk to Doc. He can’t have that. We got to do something about that.

“That’s a lot of pull y’all are giving Doc,” Young went on. “I think he shouldn’t come in and have so much pull like that. He’s got to earn his keep.”

Love the charisma, Nick, but let’s not go there.

Doc’s move was wily (and frankly overdue by the Clips organization) and worthy of a back pat. Who needs Lakers glory constantly mocking his club’s empty trophy case (a 2012-13 Pacific Division championship — won under former coach Vinny Del Negro — is the best it gets) just as the franchise is rising from its doormat past?

“Listen, I think this is our arena when we play,” Rivers told reporters. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them [the Lakers]. But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

Quick reminder, too, the Lakers haven’t beaten the Clippers since April 4, 2012, and that skid doesn’t stand much of a chance of ending when the likely Kobe Bryant-less Lakers take on a ridiculously deep Clips team led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the season opener a week from Tuesday. Even though all all that shiny purple-and-gold hanging on the wall will be in full regalia because it is a Lakers home game.

The old veteran Steve Nash offered a more sensible voice to Doc’s coverup: “I guess if you were in the Clippers’ organization you’d probably want to do that, too. It’s their arena on their night, so I would try to make it feel like home.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who knows what it feels like to be an outsider inside his home building, said about the same.

So good job Doc, you did the right thing. As for Nick, if you don’t want those giant-sized Clippers towering over you, you’ll have two chances (Jan. 10 and April 6) to shoot ’em down, and earn your keep.

Nerlens Noel Offers Hope To Down 76ers


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Imagine all those staunch Sixers fans falling for a skinny Boston kid raised four miles from the enemy Celtics’ home court.

Get ready, Philly, here comes Nerlens Noel.

Maybe a love affair rising from the failed ashes of Andrew Bynum isn’t so far-fetched. After all, Noel’s outdated box-top hair-do is inspired by his fave entertainer, Philadelphia’s own Will Smith from his days as the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”.

“Everything’s for a reason,” the 76ers rookie center told last week, referring to the ACL tear in his left knee that derailed his near-certain path to becoming the No. 1 pick.

“I definitely feel the injury is a blessing in disguise, and I feel that Philly is perfect as to my style, and definitely my playing style. I’m just always playing hard, working for everything and, of course, the city of Philadelphia itself having the die-hard fans they do and just being a blue-collar city.”

When the home fans will get their first look at the one-year Kentucky wonder remains uncertain.

Noel’s relentless recovery is ongoing. The devastating injury occurred on Feb. 12 in just his 24th collegiate game, the result of a hustle play the Wildcats’ center didn’t have to attack. He could have surrendered the breakaway layup against against rival Florida. He sprinted, closed the gap, leaped and swatted the ball away from behind. His 106th block had him on pace to threaten 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis‘ school-record from the season before. Noel crashed to the floor and didn’t get up.

More than four months later at the NBA Draft, Noel waited. He slid from No. 1 to No. 6.

“I don’t regret making that play,” Noel said. “I definitely wanted to put my team in the best position to win and I’m not mad at myself for making that play. That’s just who I am.”

Since undergoing surgery on March 12, and up until just last week, the 19-year-old Noel slept, ate and rehabbed in Birmingham, Ala., punching work-week-like hours to rebuild his knee under the supervision of renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews and esteemed physical therapist Kevin Wilk. He’s finally seeing evidence of all that hard work.

“I feel great. I’m really starting to feel like my old self, being able to have my explosiveness. But I’m definitely being careful with it,” Noel said. “From Day 1, every time I was in rehab, the last few reps, I would just think how bad I want to get on the court because of how much I want to prove to myself that I can get back and be the player I want to be.”

NBA training camps open in about two weeks, but it will still take time before Noel can get down to serious preparations with Philly. He began with baby steps back on the court about two months ago, but contact team drills will be off limits, and a debut date is not yet being discussed, at least not publicly. He has always hoped to play by Christmas.

“I want to be 100 percent confident not only physically, but mentally coming back from it,” Noel said.

He’s only now getting to know the city, having moved to Philadelphia about 10 days ago. He dropped off some boxes there, then he traveled to Lexington to attend a Wildcats alumni game and then to Los Angeles for a Reebok photo shoot, where he revealed the company will encourage his retro “Fresh Prince” fashion sense. Moving to Philly earlier in the summer wasn’t really an option. He and the Sixers’ No. 11 pick, Michael Carter-Williams, remain the only first-round picks yet to sign their rookie contracts.

Salaries for first-round picks are slotted, so there’s no contract dispute here. The bottomed-out, 76ers, now under the guidance of general manager Sam Hinkie, are conserving cap space as they slowly fill out the roster. Then they’ll ink their draft picks. Unsigned players are prohibited from using team facilities and working with training and coaching staffs.

“It’s not too disappointing. I’m definitely working as much as I can and staying focused. That will come,” Noel said. “They’re making strategic moves right now so I definitely understand, but that’s not stopping me from rehabbing and getting back to where I want to be.”

Hinkie has a vision of where that one day will be. He traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans to make Noel the centerpiece of his rebuild. Listed at 6-foot-10 at Kentucky, Noel measured 6-foot-11 3/4 with shoes at the Draft Combine in May. His several-inches-high flat-top reminds of the classic line uttered by the late Chick Hearn in the movie “Fletch:” He’s actually 6-5, with the afro 6-9.” Noel might actually top 7-foot.

His hair even has its own Twitter account (@NoelsFlatTop). Among its more than 2,700 followers is Noel, who doesn’t know who started the account when he was a top recruit.

Noel’s height, with or without the flat-top, is of lesser concern than filling out his long slender frame that’s equipped with a 7-foot-4 wing span. Noel weighed 216 pounds as a freshman and dropped to 206 post-surgery, a weight that could never survive in the NBA trenches. He’s up to 221 and wants to get close to 230 by the time he plays in an NBA game.

As he gets older, he knows he’ll have to continually get stronger to bang with the East’s big boys such as the Pacers’ 7-foot-2, 280-pound center Roy Hibbbert. Noel said he’s already enlisted Hibbert, who has his own array of old-school post moves, to aid his low-post development. That is an aspect of Noel’s game that barely exists at the moment, and some question if it ever will.

Noel averaged 10.5 ppg at Kentucky mostly off dunks, but he said he’s capable of becoming a steady offensive weapon in the NBA.

“Especially with my work ethic and my focus, I’ll be able to do that,” Noel said. “The things he teaches me, mix it with my mobility, add a little flavor to it, I can develop an offensive game.”

First things first, and that’s regaining full strength in his knee. But don’t worry Philly, the Boston kid is on his way.

Buss, Hearn Rank Among Greatest Lakers


They gathered at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, on Chick Hearn Drive and everything, for a public goodbye to Jerry Buss, with Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Stern, Shaquille O’Neal and others talking at a memorial for the Lakers owner who died last Monday. That was followed by a private ceremony Friday as Buss was laid to rest.

Mourners spoke with sincerity and humor – and even love, the way Johnson came to view Buss as a father figure – and in some cases tried to define Buss’ impact on the NBA since buying the Lakers in 1979. That was the easy part. Former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said “He was as innovative as anyone I’ve met in basketball in my four or five decades.” Stern noted a few years ago that “Jerry, quite simply, was a pioneer in understanding what the value of entertainment was in a community” and 10 titles is a statement all its own. Buss made historic contributions.

Placing him in the entire Lakers stratosphere, home to legends on and off the court, is tougher. Several of the 10 or 15 greatest talents in league history have played, or continue to play, for the franchise. One of them (West) is also among the best front-office minds ever. This is the organization that had the rarity of a broadcaster making the Hall of Fame.

Put it this way: Wilt Chamberlain casts a shadow over most every player in NBA history, but has trouble cracking the team’s top 10 because all he had was five seasons. Some were pretty remarkable (20.5 points and 21.1 rebounds in 1968-69, 27.3 points and 18.4 rebounds in 1969-70), but the cold reality is that the imposing Wilt wasn’t even the best center in the L.A. era. Abdul-Jabbar was, and O’Neal may be ahead of Chamberlain as well.

Strictly on impact during the Los Angeles years:

1. West. He averaged 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds while playing his entire 14-year career for the Lakers, numbers that stand out enough but are especial because he and Elgin Baylor helped the team carve out an audience after the franchise moved from Minneapolis. And then West became the personnel boss who kept L.A. in near-constant title contention. Plus, he coached three seasons. His presence with the Lakers span four decades – from 1960 through 2000 – and set standards as a player and executive.

2. Johnson. He was more than just great to the extent of three MVP awards, three Finals MVPs and centerpiece of five championship clubs. Johnson was, well, Magic. He was the embodiment of what Buss wanted in a glam franchise, he was a leader, and he was demanding in a way that was welcome at the time but would have been savaged today in the way every Bryant sideways look at a teammate is dissected.

3. Buss. The doctoral student in chemistry turned real-estate mogul turned owner was the only Laker who bought his way into the organization. Once there, he tilted life in Los Angeles toward the NBA, surpassing the Dodgers in passion in a change that once seemed impossible. Buss did more than just fund West’s jackpot roster moves. He made the money flow by promoting the Lakers as a Hollywood landmark with glitter falling off players as they breezed downcourt, which made the rest of the league jealous and/or angry but also made the rest of the league rich. Buss was known to meddle in personnel decisions, but, a gambler himself, also urged West to go for broke rather than play it safe.

4. Bryant. His on-court feats make him one of the legends regardless, but he gets extra credit as a player who bridged championship generations. Bryant may be known to many for being divisive but should be remembered, among the many positives, for being part of a continuation, no easy task. Simply, if Bryant does not work, prepare and will himself into becoming a superstar, the Lakers get more like one, maybe two, titles in the 2000s instead of the five.

5. Phil Jackson. Jackson was an underrated coach, far better on Xs and Os than most outside the game would credit, but his presence was undeniable. The credibility he built up from the Bulls years allowed him to tweak, drive, cajole and manage head-strong Bryant and head-strong O’Neal. Most others in the same situation would have become road kill.

6. Pat Riley. What a fit in style of play and style period. Riley mastered the psychological tricks long before Jackson and perfected the Showtime system Buss wanted, all the way to Riles becoming part of the Hollywood production himself. The slicked-back hair, the expensive suits, the draw to the spotlight, the growing ego – Riley fit the mold. Four titles in seven years said it was OK to be that way.

7. Abdul-Jabbar. Of course the numbers – the average of 22.1 points and 9.4 rebounds in 14 seasons in L.A., the three MVPs in that time, the five championships, the first two seasons of leading the league in five statistical categories each time. But the real impact is that Showtime doesn’t play out to full glory without his professionalism and preparation. Imagine if Abdul-Jabbar led with his ego when Magic splashed onto the scene. Imagine the infighting, imagine the trade possibilities that could have altered the NBA landscape for years. Kareem was a selfless, well-liked teammate from high school to college to the pros, and never was that more meaningful in setting an example of maturity with the Lakers.

8. O’Neal. People forget, in the rush to knock Shaq for his behavior late in his career, that the O’Neal of the Lakers years was an awesome display of power that few can come close to matching, let alone actually being on the same short list. When the work effort matched the talent, he was that rarity of the player no team could answer. And when the work effort didn’t, because of health or dedication, he still put up Hall of Fame numbers.

9. Baylor. He never won a championship, which pained him decades later anytime someone mentioned it as a needle, but an incredible forward who once averaged at least 27 points a game in five out of six seasons. It was Baylor, not West, who was the established star to attract attention when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960.

10. Chick Hearn. A tough call between Hearn and Chamberlain. Chick’s impact on the Lakers, though, is greater. He had a huge role popularizing the NBA after the move from Minneapolis and, in decades to come, became nothing short of one of the popular men in the city, if not the sporting world. Hearn was a connection that lasted decades.

Dwight’s Free-Throw Clangs

 Dwight Howard was asked the other night for his favorite all-time Laker. It didn’t take him long to pick Wilt Chamberlain.

Good choice. So, too, would have been Shaquille O’Neal. Fortunately, he didn’t say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The Lakers’ lineage at the center position is mind-blowing and the newest one certainly bears some similarities to those past Laker greats. One glaring blemish, however, particularly mirrors Wilt and Shaq: Howard is horrible from the free-throw line, that unguarded real estate that legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn, for obvious reasons, called the charity stripe.

It’s amazing how many points great scorers, yet putrid foul shooters, leave at the free-throw line. Howard, despite the patient work of coaches such as Lakers assistant Chuck Person, still flicks straight-legged efforts from above his head that more often than not clang off the rim — or in the case of last week’s game against Brooklyn, laughably never draw iron — at a confounding rate.

Howard, in his eighth season, is actually getting worse. A career 58.5-percent foul shooter, he’s made just 72-of-145 free throws this season (including 3-of-14 in a loss to Dallas and 7-of-19 in a slim win against the Nets) for 49.7 percent. Last season he posted a career-low 49.1 percent. For now, Howard has at least made more free throws in his career than he’s missed (3,438-2,434). Both Shaq and Wilt cut it remarkably close.

Shaq, a 52.7-percent career free throw shooter, made just 618 more free throws (5,935) than he missed (5,317). Wilt, a 51.1-percent foul shooter made just 252 more (6,057) than he missed (5,805).

Kareem serves as the Lakers’ legacy benchmark. The game’s all-time leading scorer helped himself at the charity stripe, banking 72.1 percent of his free throws. Of his 38,387 total points, 6,712 (17.5 percent) came at the free throw line. Had Kareem suffered at Dwight’s 58.5 rate over his 20-year career, the goggled-one would have left approximately an additional 1,262 points at the line.

And had that been the case, Kareem’s scoring record would stand at around 37,125 points, or less than 200 points more than No. 2 Karl Malone. And had that been the case, would Malone have pushed for the scoring title in a 20th season following the knee injury that derailed his one-and-done title chase with the Lakers in 2003-04?

Amazingly, of the four players in the NBA’s 30,000-point club (Kobe Bryant, with 29,860 points, will soon make it five), two are Lakers centers — No. 1 Abdul-Jabbar and No. 4 Wilt.

Shaq, had he matched Kareem’s 72.1-percent free-throw rate over his 19 seasons, would have placed three Lakers centers among five 30,000-point scorers. Shaq finished his career with 28,596 points. At Kareem’s free-throw rate, he’d have around 30,781 points and would still be ahead of pal Kobe at No. 5 for just a bit longer.

As for Wilt with 31,419 points, he would be No. 3 with around 33,917 points had he shot free throws as well as his successor. It would have given him some 1,900 more points than the current all-time No. 3 scorer, Michael Jordan.

For the record, Jordan shot 83.5 percent from the free-throw line.

And now back to Howard. He hasn’t produced the massive scoring totals through his first eight seasons like Wilt, Kareem and  Shaq, so at his current career scoring average of 18.4 points a game, reaching 30,000 will take many more highly productive seasons. Still, whenever Kobe retires, and assuming Howard remains with the Lakers long-term, his attempts and scoring could soar. There is little doubt that Howard, who turns 27 in less than two weeks, will one day rank as at least a top-15 scorer.

He enters Tuesday game against Indiana with 11,687 career points, already having left about 745 points at the free throw line when extrapolated to Kareem’s 72.1 percent. If Howard stays at his current career average of 58.5 percent — and remember he’s getting worse — as opposed to matching Kareem’s career percentage over the next 10 seasons, he would leave more than 1,000 additional points at the free-throw line.

In the short term, that’s a lot of potential bricks that can alter ballgames and even ruin championship runs. In the long-term, it means spots on the NBA’s all-time scoring list might never be attained because of points left at the line.

At Long Last Kareem Up On Pedestal


HANG TIME, Texas — Would there be any way in the world it would seem right if our nation’s capital was named for anyone but George Washington?

Fillmore, D.C.? Polk, D.C.? Nixon, D.C.?

Thus, it was equally preposterous that the array of statues outside Staples Center should for all these years have been missing the most logical and deserving subject:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — first in goggles, first in skyhooks, first on the all-time NBA scoring list with 38,387 points.

The egregious omission was finally rectified on when a 16-foot, 1,500-pound statue in the classic skyhook pose was unveiled on Friday night.

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times was on hand to describe the occasion:

“I’m glad we got here before the pigeons got to it,” he said, drawing laughter from an array of former NBA players, executives, family and friends.

“I don’t know if you remember, but I had a little too much to say that it hadn’t happened right away. But they were patient with me,” he said after pulling a gold tassel that removed a curtain and unveiled the statue created by sculptors/artists Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany.

Abdul-Jabbar became the sixth Los Angeles sports figure to be remembered with a statue outside the arena, joining hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, boxer Oscar De La Hoya, basketball Hall of Famers Jerry West and Magic Johnson, and longtime Lakers announcer Chick Hearn.

Johnson was among the speakers during a ceremony that featured key figures from Abdul-Jabbar’s childhood, his days in Milwaukee, and his Lakers years. All of them emphasized Abdul-Jabbar’s leadership, great athletic skills and intellectual curiosity.

“You should have had the first statue,” Johnson told the crowd. “It was on your back that we’re here at Staples Center.”

Yes, it is true that Abdul-Jabbar could be prickly and downright aloof at times during his long playing career in Milwaukee and L.A. But he is the only six-time winner of the MVP award in NBA history and also set records at the time for games played, total minutes, field goals, blocked shots, defensive rebounds and fouls.

While the Lakers did not finally leap up to become the league’s most prominent franchise until the arrival of Magic in the 1979-80 season, it was always Abdul-Jabbar providing the tent post in the middle that held up the “Showtime” circus that won five championships in the 1980s.

It is not in any way to discredit the likes of Johnson, West, Hearn, Gretzky or De La Hoya, who had all previously been honored with their own statues.

But it is finally fit that the man who literally stands taller than them all has at last been rightfully placed on his own pedestal.

Kareem’s Staples Statue Long Overdue!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We don’t need a specific date or even a time and place we need to be when it happens, just the news that the Los Angeles Lakers plan to unveil a statue for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at some point during the 2012-13 season (per The Los Angeles Times)  is enough for us here at the hideout.

This notion that Abdul-Jabbar is being thrown a bone by the Lakers to pacify him or to quiet him, after years of public rancor between the two sides and other outside observers, is for someone else to argue.

We’re focused solely on the fact that he remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and should be prominently featured in any historical basketball text as the greatest big man and arguably the greatest player of all time.

We have no problem with the Lakers honoring others ahead of Abdul-Jabbar. Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn and Jerry West deserve whatever praise and hardware comes their way in Los Angeles. Whatever they do for Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal will be well-deserved as well. But if they want to make sure Star Plaza at Staples Center is legitimate, Abdul-Jabbar must be a part of the montage.

We are talking about a man who played 14 of his 20 NBA seasons with the Lakers before retiring in 1989. He also spent four years in Los Angeles before entering the NBA, leading UCLA to three straight NCAA titles (the school could have beaten the Lakers to the punch and come up with some way of honoring their greatest hoops legend by now, but that’s a conversation for another time).

As The Times story points out, things haven’t always been smooth between Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers in recent years:

Abdul-Jabbar publicly criticized the Lakers last year, saying the failure to erect a statue of him sooner was a show of disrespect. His contract as a special assistant coach ran out in 2011 and he voiced various complaints: He had been asked to take a pay cut, the Lakers had not awarded him playoff shares as a coach, and he cited his reduced role as a coach for Andrew Bynum from 2005 to 2009.