NEWARK – The Nets played their final game in New Jersey on Monday.
So … whoop-de-damn-doo?
It’s been an eventful, but not so successful 36 years (one as part of the ABA, the last 35 in the NBA) of Nets basketball in the Garden State. Only 12 winning seasons and 16 trips to the playoffs. More disappointments than successes. And no championships, of course. Their ABA titles came on Long Island.
New Jersey governor Chris Christiesays “good riddance.” And given the Nets’ attendance over the last several years, you’d assume that they won’t be missed much.
But among the 9 million Jersey residents, there’s still a pocket of passionate Nets fans. And among those 36 years of Nets basketball in the state, there are plenty of great memories.
Those fans and those memories came together Monday, as the Nets sold out the Prudential Center and celebrated their New Jersey history by bringing back several retired players for a halftime ceremony.
ORLANDO – At the time the field for last year’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest was announced, the Nets’ Anthony Morrow was a hair behind Steve Kerr, the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage. Kerr had shot 45.403 percent from beyond the arc, and Morrow was at 45.398 percent when the six competitors were announced.
But Morrow was not on the list, the league passing on the possible chance of having the No. 1 3-point shooter in NBA history compete against the other No. 1 3-point shooter in NBA history (Ray Allen, who has the all-time mark for made threes), possibly because Morrow had missed a 17-game stretch in December and January of last season.
Right now, Morrow ranks fourth all-time in 3-point percentage, but this year, he got the invite. And yes, he was excited.
Nets rookie MarShon Brooks, who had already been selected to play in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, called Morrow when he heard the news.
“Rookie, we out here! We out here!” Morrow told Brooks, knowing that he would be joining the rookie and All-Star Deron Williams as part of the Nets’ contingent in Orlando.
“He just wanted his spot on the plane, and his spot in the weekend,” Brooks said.
Morrow also wanted the opportunity to pay tribute to the last Net to compete in the three-point shootout.
The first thing Morrow saw when he walked into the Nets practice facility after signing with the team before last season was the retired jersey of Drazen Petrovic, the Croatian trailblazer who was killed in a car accident in 1993. And when he saw the jersey, Morrow knew that he wanted to wear it if he ever competed in the shootout.
“If somebody got chosen for the dunk contest, you should want to wear Julius Erving‘s jersey, you know?,” Morrow said Friday. “There’s so much tradition in this [Nets] organization that, win or lose, they’re going to respect you for that.”
When Morrow told reporters his plan to honor Petrovic last week, he drew plenty of appreciation via twitter from fans in New Jersey and Croatia.
“Everybody was just going crazy,” he said. “Everybody loved the idea.”
Morrow’s affinity for Petrovic, who now stands right behind Morrow on the all-time list, goes beyond shooting. It’s also about passion, which was always on display when Petrovic played.
“They showed him on the jumbotron during a timeout. We were in the huddle and I was just looking at his highlights up there. He hit a shot, he would fist-pump and run down the court, getting the crowd hyped. That’s stuff that I love and I like to do. We should have fun playing this game, and that’s something that he definitely represented.”
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Ray Allen: Best pure shooter the NBA has ever seen? If not, who’s your favorite?
David Aldridge: I never thought I’d say anyone was a better pure shooter than Dale Ellis — when Dale was on, the net didn’t move — but Ray is. Reggie was a great, great shooter but I think Ray has him beat, too. Everyone has their favorite spots on the court but it seems like Ray is more comfortable in more places than anyone I’ve seen (and I didn’t see the likes of Jerry West or Sam Jones in person).
Steve Aschburner: I’m always leery of superlatives in a public forum, because the moment you proclaim anyone or anything to be the “-est” in some category, someone or something pops up whom you neglected. Also, our culture’s collective memory goes back approximately 37 minutes, so it’s easy to forget or underrate someone from way back when. I can’t say with certainty that there’s anyone who was a better pure shooter than Allen, but I can produce a list of fellows who’d be in the discussion. Such as: Drazen Petrovic, Jeff Hornacek, Peja Stojakovic, Glen Rice, George Gervin, Ricky Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Rick Barry, Chris Mullin and of course Reggie Miller. Then there’s my favorite, especially as the stakes went up: Larry Bird.
Fran Blinebury: Jerry West, Rick Barry, Pete Maravich, Bob McAdoo, Freddie Brown, Dale Ellis, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen are one helluva hallelujah chorus when it comes to making the nets sing. But front man will always be Larry Bird — for the form, the clutch makes, for the cold-blooded confidence. At the 1988 All-Star Weekend in Chicago, he walks into the locker room prior to the 3-Point Shoot-out and asks: “Who’s going to finish second?” ‘Nuff said.
Art Garcia: Since I can’t include Jimmy Chitwood — the question does specify NBA — I’ll go through some of my favorite marksmen over my years watching the grand game. In no particular order other than rough chronology, I’d throw these guys into my list of faves: Larry Bird, Dale Ellis, Mark Price, Steve Kerr, Allan Houston, Glen Rice, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic. But above all, I’m going with Ray Allen. The release, the timing, the fundamentals, the temperament. All pure.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I’m not sure he’s even the best in the game now, never mind ever. Part of the debate is defining “pure shooter.” Does that mean strictly a catch-and-shoot guy? Dirk Nowitzki is a special talent, but with a repertoire that spans from the dangerous range of a spot-up shooter to fall-aways. Steve Nash is historically good as a perimeter threat, but never will never be among the scoring greats because so much of his focus has been getting the ball to other people. Allen definitely has the pure-shooter element, though, with the lightning release and feathery, arcing shot. He’s definitely very high in the discussion, along with Reggie Miller and others. I’m just not sure he’s ahead of Larry Bird.
Shaun Powell: Strictly from a visual standpoint, Allen’s form is so perfect, it should be a logo. The levitation, the soft yet secure grip, the fingertip release and follow through, so velvet. Best pure shooter? Best I ever saw. I notice you didn’t say best all-around shooter, though. While Ray could probably knock a tangerine through a loop earring, give me Steve Nash, whose career numbers are 90 percent from the line and 43 from 3-point, all the more impressive because of the added burden of ball-handling. And his hair often obstructing the view.
John Schuhmann: When I was covering the Heat-Celtics series last April, I showed up a few hours early for one of the games at American Airlines Arena. When I got there, I walked out to the court and encountered the Heat dancers warming up to my right and Ray Allen shooting to my left. And when it came to deciding which of the two to sit down and watch, the former NBA.com Dance Team Bracket champions were no match for the greatest shooter ever. His form is perfect, he’s shooting better than ever, and he’s been ridiculously clutch since arriving in Boston.
Sekou Smith: I’d love to hand Ray the crown since I’ve watched his entire (future) Hall of Fame career play out. But someone I know and trust, someone who has seen roughly 40 more years of basketball than I have so far in my life, warned me against calling anyone the “best ever” without careful examination. It’s easy to hand Allen the title right now because all of the other contenders can’t make a live impression upon us, since they’re no longer playing in the league. Allen is no doubt the best pure shooter of his era and certainly in the conversation for the best pure shooter the league has ever seen. And there is no doubt that he will finish his career as the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history. But I think this is a question that requires more than just a casual conversation. We’d need to slice and dice this topic in so many different ways (best from distance, best from the mid-range, best off the dribble, on the run, etc.) before we could come close a conclusion. There have been too many great pure shooters to come through the NBA for me to hand the title to Ray Allen, or anyone else, right now. As far as my favorite, I’ve always felt like Larry Bird’s stroke was sweeter than anything I’ve seen.
Divac is the narrator and one of the stars of “Once Brothers,” a fascinating film detailing the story of he and Drazen Petrovic, his former teammate on the Yugoslavian national team, their friendship and rise to NBA stardom that was destroyed by a 1991 civil war in their homeland.
Divac joined us on the Episode 27 of the Hang Time Podcast (this is part II of a special episode) to discuss the film, how it came to be and much more.
With their relationship strained by civil war between Divac’s Serbia and Petrovic’s Croatia, the two men who were once like brothers continued their NBA careers on opposite sides of the league, Divac in Los Angeles with the Lakers and Petrovic in New Jersey with the Nets, and opposite sides of a conflict beyond their control that their friendship simply could not survive.
When Pertrovic was killed in an auto accident in Germany on June 7, 1993, the men hadn’t spoken a word to each other in nearly two years, despite having faced each other on the court. “Once Brothers” tells the powerful tale of their rise as the first two European players to earn NBA stardom, the demise of their friendship and Divac’s attempt to deal with the fallout.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As best you can remember, Michael Jordan had no equal during height of his NBA powers.
And that includes those who played during his era, in addition to those that came before and have come after him.
But what if your theory wasn’t necessarily supported by the facts, by research and by the historical context we all need to form the most basic of rants seen in the comments section here at the hideout?
And speaking of historical context, we dialed up the best in the basketball business for Episode 27 of the Hang Time Podcast in Bethlehem Shoals (Govt. name – Nathaniel Friedman) of FreeDarko to help us decipher suburban legend (hey, not everyone is from the city) from facts while also searching for some perspective on the past, present and immediate future of the game we all love.
In our boldest and most ambitious effort to date, the HTP crew decided that one isn’t always good enough. So we commissioned a two-part show this week with a historical theme for all you basketball purists around the globe. Don’t miss our conversation with former Lakers and Kings star Vlade Divac, who is adding film star to his lengthy list of accomplishments on and off the court with his star turn in the gripping film “Once Brothers.”
The NBA Entertainment produced film, which is a part of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 series, tells the tale of Divac’s and Drazen Petrovic‘s friendship as stalwarts on the Yugoslavian national team, their rise to NBA stardom and the bitter end to their friendship at the start of a civil war that tore apart the fabric of their relationship and homeland.
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.