Posts Tagged ‘Elgin Baylor’

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.

Garnett Stands Alone At This Stats Summit With … Guess Who?


Kevin Garnett, drawing on the muscle memory of tens of thousands similar movements, leaped high and spun around for yet another fadeaway jump shot. It was the same as so many before it — and completely different and special too.

When Garnett’s shot dropped at 8:07 of the second quarter Thursday in Boston’s blowout victory over the Lakers at TD Garden, it boosted him to 25,000 points in his NBA career. More than that, by reaching the latest in his mash-up of big number thresholds — at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks — Garnett joined an elite class of … one.

Just him. That’s it. With a hat-tip to Celtics radio play-by-play man Sean Grande for his swift Tweet noting the achievement, the fact is no one else in NBA history has bundled all those milestones into one illustrious career.

Let’s pause here to consider whether Garnett, thus, might rank even higher on the list of all-time greats than we might previously have pegged him.

(Silence. Pondering. Reflecting historically.)

“I’m sure someday when I’m rocking in a rocking chair, having a cigar or something, thinking about what I’ve done, I’m sure it will make some sense to me,” Garnett told reporters after the game.

OK, if he won’t do it now, we will: Garnett has combined longevity, durability, production and versatility like no one else in league annals. And scoring — where he now ranks 16th on the all-time NBA list — was in some ways the least of his skills or priorities, given his passion for boyhood idol Magic Johnson‘s pass-first approach (assists) and the intensity with which he embraces defense (rebounds, steals, blocks).

Across the six truly prime seasons of Garnett’s career, from 1999-2000 through 2004-05, he averaged 22.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He topped 20-10-5 each year  — only Larry Bird did it as many as five times — but he did it in Minnesota, in flyover country for national media, as a 7-footer, on Timberwolves teams that surrounded him with limited help.

Was he a stats monster? Yes, but out of necessity, not merely for show. Garnett lugged the Wolves to eight straight playoff appearances from his second year in Minnesota through his ninth. At no point during his 12 seasons there did he underperform his contracts, not the controversial six-year, $126 million one that served as fuel for the 1998 lockout nor the nine-figure extension that followed.

Only when Garnett got to Boston, on the dark side of 30, did his workload lighten and his focus shift. With Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and eventually Rajon Rondo around — the highest-quality teammates he’s ever had — Garnett could focus on defense and offensive flow. He earned his precious championship ring in his first season as a Celtic — who can forget his goofy, post-Finals elation? — and was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. As his minutes dipped, he went for surgical impact rather than total game domination.

Now he stands alone atop a mountain range of stats.

Or nearly so.

The NBA portion of the record book is clear: No other player has amassed the numbers in those five categories that Garnett has. Some legends miss because they played all or part of their careers prior to 1973-74, the first season steals and blocks were recorded. Elgin Baylor might have been a candidate but he retired in November 1971. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hit four of the five milestones but got no credit for steals for his first four seasons. He finished with 1,160 — and had 397 in 310 games in his fifth through eighth seasons.

Wilt Chamberlain? Though the Dipper led the NBA in assists one season and averaged 4.4 over his career, he ended with 4,643.

Hakeem Olajuwon was short on assists (3,058). Tim Duncan won’t make it in either assists (3,546) or steals (857). Oscar Robertson, the ultimate triple-double man, didn’t get any steals or blocks until his final season and didn’t reach 10,000 in rebounds (9,887).

Bill Russell didn’t score enough. Michael Jordan didn’t board or block enough. Bird and Baylor didn’t play long enough. Admittedly, Garnett got an early start coming right into the NBA from high school, but that just earns him props for guts (to do it) and good health (to last this long).

LeBron James? He has the same preps-to-pros advantage as Garnett. But halfway through his 10th season, James has blocked 621 shots. Double that for a 19-year career and he still would be 258 swats short.

Upon further review, however, there is one man who can stand toe-to-toe, if not eye-to-eye, with Garnett at this particular summit. The trick to finding him is to switch out the qualifier from “in NBA history” to “in NBA/ABA history.” And there he is – Julius Erving, a completely different player from Garnett but with comparable numbers and matching milestones.

Erving’s NBA-only stats are solid: 18,364 points, 5,601 rebounds, 3,224 assists, 1,508 steals and 1,293 blocks in 11 seasons. But The Doctor spent his first five seasons interning in the ABA, playing 407 of his eventual 1,243 games. And his numbers there were staggering: 28.7 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.4 spg, 2.0 bpg.

Add the totals to his NBA work and Erving’s line is: 30,026 points, 10,525 rebounds, 5,176 assists, 2,272 steals and 1,941 blocks in 16 seasons.

Erving, somewhat neglected himself in “all-time” talk, is remembered as one of the game’s great artists and ambassadors, revealing a nasty streak only at the end of his highlight throw-downs. Garnett is known as one of the most competitive, cantankerous and crude blast furnaces to roam the NBA’s courts, with a far greater defensive inclination.

It elevates both of them to share this particular achievement.

No. 1 question: Will Davis stay?

So the question is: Where do you think Anthony Davis will finish up his NBA career?

Didn’t mean to make anyone in New Orleans spit out their Sazerac. Not suggesting that there are problems buzzing around the hive of the Hornets.

It’s just that when the word came out over the weekend that Kwame Brown was signed by the Sixers, it got us to thinking about overall No. 1 picks in the NBA draft and how many of them went on to be certified stars and played their entire career with the team that picked them.

Not many, as it turns out.

If we discount the past five top choices — Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Davis — as being too early in their careers to measure, the fact is that only a dozen of the first 61 No. 1 picks in league history played for just one team. That is including Dwight Howard, who has one foot out the door in Orlando and Greg Oden, who has not yet been signed by another team since leaving Portland.

What’s more, only four of those No. 1 picks went on to become Hall of Famers — Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and David Robinson. Tim Duncan will surely become the next to join the elite list.

The point is that even at the very top of the draft batting order, it’s quite rare to plug in a name and expect that player will never wear another jersey. Oscar Robertson went to Milwaukee to get his championship ring. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar jumped from Milwaukee to L.A. Hakeem Olajuwon finished his career in Toronto, Patrick Ewing with stops in Seattle and Orlando.

Which brings us back to Brown, who’ll be taking career averages of 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds to Philly.

Sixers president Rod Thorn has heard and read all of the wise cracks about his team’s pick-up and thinks it is time that fans got past the line on Brown’s resume that says where Michael Jordan picked him in 2001, according to Spike Eskin of CBSPhilly.

“You’re looking at Kwame Brown from the standpoint of being the first pick in the NBA Draft once upon a time,” Thorn told 94WIP’s Angelo Cataldi and the WIP Morning Show. “We don’t need him to do that. What we need him to do is be a defensive player, rebounder, stalwart on our back line to help us from that angle, that’s something we didn’t have and what Kwame has done over the latter part of his career. He wasn’t a great player as the first pick the draft. If he was the 25th pick in the draft I think the fans would look at him a little bit differently.”

While Philly is the seventh stop on Brown’s career, he is hardly the most peripatetic No. 1 pick. That is just over halfway to Joe Smith’s record of 13 different teams since he was the No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft.

But Brown has plenty of traveling company. After being picked No. 1 in 1959 (Wilt Chamberlain was a territorial pick of the Warriors then), Bob Boozer played for six different teams. Walt Bellamy was the top pick in 1961, played for six different teams and never won a championship, but still was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Jim Barnes was the No. 1 pick in 1964 and also played for a half dozen teams.

And, of course, there was The Big Ring Chaser, Shaquille O’Neal, who hopscotched from Orlando to L.A. to Miami to Phoenix to Cleveland to Boston.

So in the wake of Kwame Brown’s latest move, we’ll ask the question again: Where do you think Anthony Davis will finish his up his NBA career?

When he’s all business, Bynum works

SAN ANTONIO – George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Andrew Bynum.

Those are the five Lakers who have pulled down 30 rebounds in a single game. Those are also the five reasons that Bynum’s flake-out over the past few weeks has been so frustrating.

For one, the 24-year-old center has the potential to be the driving force behind another deep run for the Lakers in the playoffs this season. For another, he could be the anchor for the next Lakers’ dynasty.

Bynum grabbed 30 boards, which was a career high for him and the best rebounding game in the NBA this season, on Wednesday night in a 98-84 whipping of the Spurs. He didn’t merely dominate the boards, he devoured them. At halftime he had 19 rebounds to just 18 by the entire San Antonio team. By the fourth quarter, the Lakers had built a 26-point lead.

They did it all without Kobe Bryant, who missed his third straight game due to an inflammation in his left shin.

They did it because Metta World Peace turned back the clock to his old Ron Artest days, dialing up 5-for-8 from behind the 3-point line for 26 points, because Pau Gasol went for 21 points and 11 rebounds and Matt Barnes came off the bench for 13 points.

“We always want Kobe on the floor with us, but with or without him, we’re always a tough matchup for a lot of teams because of our size,” said Gasol.


And Onesanity

  • The basketball perspective? It’s a hot streak. A lot of guys have ridden the comet like this. Mostly All-Stars or even Hall of Famers, but we’re still talking seven games, five of which have been against opponents that today have losing records. This is not about basketball. Jeremy Lin has transcended sports.
  • It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Lin is humble and genuine and entered the league with the Warriors last season just wanting to be one of the guys, even if it was an unrealistric goal even then. He was a local product, an Asian-American in the Bay Area and the focus of such an immediate buzz, no matter how many wrongly try to portray February 2012 as some moment of discovery, that Golden State had to call a press conference to introduce an undrafted rookie who would need to improve just to crack the rotation. You don’t have to root for the Knicks to root for Lin.
  • Welcome to a world where a guy with a Harvard economics degree is considered an underdog.
  • Lin could retire tomorrow and have made more of a mark in a couple weeks — in New York, in NBA history — than most do in years. Talk about perspective.

No One Who’s Shot More Has Shot Better

DALLAS – The Dirk Nowitzki-Larry Bird comparisons got old a long time ago – different guys, different eras, different responsibilities, same hair color and flesh tone. But finally, after Game 3 of The Finals Sunday at American Airlines Center, there was a legitimate reason to drop their names into the same sentence.

Nowitzki, on a free-throw binge in the 2011 postseason, made all nine of this attempts from the line in Dallas’ 88-86 loss to the Miami Heat. That left him at 154-for-164 (.939) in these playoffs and, more impressive, 948-for-1,064 in his playoff career.

And that nudged him past Bird for the highest free-throw percentage in NBA playoff history among shooters who have had at least 1,000 attempts.

That list isn’t a long one – just 17 players deep – but it’s a select one, featuring some of the greatest players ever (Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor and more). Nowitzki climbed on this spring and, with his flawless foul form Sunday, crept past Bird as the most accurate among this elite group.

Nowitzki’s success rate over 121 lifetime playoff games is .89097. Bird, at 901-for-1,012, sank .89031 of his FTAs.


Will Shaq’s jersey irk Kareem, too?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – How might the news desk be at today in the aftermath of Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement and the indication that the Lakers are ready to fast-track The Big Aristotle’s jersey to a place up in the rafters at the Staples Center.

According to Dave McMenamin at, the Lakers may not be inclined to wait the five years until Shaq enters the Hall of Fame to have his No. 34 join Wilt Chamberlain (No. 13), Elgin Baylor (No. 22), Gail Goodrich (No. 25), Earvin “Magic” Johnson (No. 32), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (No. 33), James Worthy (No. 42) and Jerry West (No. 44).

The question then is how this will all sit with Abdul-Jabbar, who created a recent stir with his complaint that the Lakers have not honored his achievements in the purple-and-gold with a statue outside the arena.

“I don’t understand (it). It’s either an oversight or they’re taking me for granted,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Sporting News in a recent interview. “I’m not going to try to read people’s minds, but it doesn’t make me happy. It’s definitely a slight. I feel slighted.”

The six-time NBA MVP sounded even more offended in a statement released subsequently by his business manager.

“I am highly offended by the total lack of acknowledgement of my contribution to Laker success,” Abdul-Jabbar was quoted as saying. “I guess being the linchpin for five world championships is not considered significant enough in terms of being part of Laker history.”

As one of the first high-profile athletes to have converted to become a Muslim decades ago, what Abdul-Jabbar does not address in his desire to have a statue commissioned and erected is the apparent conflict with his religion. According to the tenets of Islam, photographic, artistic or other depiction of any living thing — including persons — is banned.

When the Rockets wanted to honor center Hakeem Olajuwon with a statue outside the Toyota Center in Houston, it took nearly five years for the Hall of Fame center, his imam, the team and an artist to agree on an abstract representation that did not violate his beliefs. So far, there has been no word from that Abdul-Jabbar on that subject.

Greatness: Is a ring the thing?

Admittedly it’s a fun topic, if for no reason than to poke a stick at our big cuddly bear of a buddy Charles Barkley and listen to him growl.

In fact, of all the great comedy routines ever done on TNT over the years, my favorite has always been Kenny Smith manning the velvet rope outside the “Champions Club” and laughingly taunting the well-known partier Sir Charles about his lack of credentials to get inside the door.

Occasionally, Smith would push open the door to let the sounds of dance music come and poke his head inside.

“Hey, Charles!” he would call out. “Look, it’s Mark Madsen! And Zan Tabak! Oh, Charles, look! It’s Jack Haley! Can you believe it? Jack Haley!”

It was a fantastic skit and all Barkley could do was shake his head and laugh, because, of course, after 16 often-mind-blowing seasons, he left the NBA ringless.

So here we are just hours from the start of the 2011 NBA Finals that feature LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki as unfulfilled stars, pondering again the question for the ages: Does greatness require a ring?


Love Keeps It Streakly Business

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Some of these “so-called” basketball purists have been scolding us all season here at the hideout for celebrating Kevin Love‘s double-double work, arguing that it doesn’t mean as much since he’s doing it on a losing team.

We can agree to disagree with these self-proclaimed protectors of the game on this one and rest in the fact that anything that hasn’t happened in three decades that doesn’t involve a comet or some sort of natural disaster deserves every right to be celebrated.

Love’s 52nd double-double — he got his 16 points and 21 rebounds last night without setting foot on the court in the fourth quarter against the Pacers — not only gave him the longest such streak since Moses Malone‘s 51 game stretch over two seasons (1978-80), but the Timberwolves also picked up a rare win.

This idea that Love is chasing a record and not wins is beyond preposterous. If you’ve spent five seconds listening to what he has to say, you’d know that Love would trade all of the numbers and attention he’s received for his work this season for a winning situation. He’s won big his entire basketball career until now, so that DNA doesn’t change.

The drive, focus and energy it took for Malone to score all those points and grab all those rebounds in his day is the same it takes for Love to do it now. And that drive, focus and effort is required whether you are winning or losing, as Love has surely found out the hard way this season while chasing wins more than anything else.

In fact, it’s clear that Love has learned a little something from the many that came before him. And at least one of them seems genuinely impressed with Love’s body of work this season.

“When I played, I wasn’t thinking about setting records, I just wanted to win,” Malone said. “But I am really happy for Kevin, he’s doing a great job…playing hard, getting rebounds, scoring…doing what a big guy should do. I think it’s great the kind of numbers he is putting up, and I wish the young man the best of luck.”


All-Time All-Star Team

ATLANTA – Please join me as I take a step down fantasy lane wearing hi-top Converse and also a sleeve on my shooting arm. Yes, this is about combining the old with the new and coming up with the Ultimate All-Star Game, pulling players from the past and present.

Not every great player makes a good All-Star Game participant, though. I put a premium on the entertainers: the passers, the leapers, the dunkers of course and the improvisers. There are dozens of Hall of Famers that I don’t want near the game. Mainly, the gravity-challenged centers. I’d want Bill Russell, for example, if I’m trying to win a championship, but wouldn’t even give him a ticket to watch my Ultimate game, let alone play in it.

That said … here are my two squads, with some choices fairly obvious.

West Team:

Pete Maravich. The Pistol is, quite simply, the model All-Star Game guy, worth any price of admission. It would be fun just watching him pull up his floppy socks.

Magic Johnson. How about Pistol Pete and Magic on the break together? That’s a match made in YouTube heaven.

Kobe Bryant. It’s the only game where Kobe passes the ball.

David Thompson. Perhaps the ultimate finisher the sport has ever seen.

George Gervin. Because that’s how we finga-roll.

Connie Hawkins. Here’s the progression: Hawkins>Dr. J.>Michael>everybody else.