Posts Tagged ‘Elvin Hayes’

Believe it Dirk, No. 7 all-time coming soon

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nowitzki optimistic about upcoming season in Big D

DALLAS – When the NBA season opens next Tuesday night with the Dallas Mavericks taking on the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on TNT, two of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game will resume their more than a decade-and-a-half-old rivalry.

San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, 38, enters his 18th season, all with the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki, 36, begins his 17th season, all with the Mavs. Both players have won titles in the last four years and both accepted  significant pay cuts to help keep their teams competitive. And both will continue to climb multiple all-time lists on their way to enshrinement in The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the latter, all eyes will focus on the 7-foot German’s rapid ascension up the NBA’s most coveted list of all — the game’s all-time greatest scorers.

Nowitzki enters the 2014-15 season at No. 10 with 26,786 career points, a number that just doesn’t seem possible to the Wurzburg, Germany native no matter how many times he hears it.

“Not really. That is still weird to me,” Nowitzki said. “All these guys on that list I admired and watched, so that’s weird. That’s weird.”

Thing is, Dirk, it’s going to get weirder. Fast.

Nowitzki is 161 points away from passing No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon, arguably the league’s greatest foreign-born player. He’s 528 points from passing No. 8 Elvin Hayes and 624 away from passing No. 7 Moses Malone. If Nowitzki averages 20 points a game, he’ll assume No. 7 all-time just 32 games into the season, his first under a new three-year contract.

At that point, he’ll only be about 1,170 points shy of No. 6 Shaquille O’Neal, a takeover that ultimately might have to wait until next season, but it will happen. Nowitzki would need to average around 24 points if he were to play in no fewer than 75 games to do it this season.

He averaged 21.7 points last season and totaled 1,735 points, the most points he’s scored in a season since topping 2,000 in 2009-10. What Nowitzki will average this season will be intriguing. He’s surrounded by the most potent supporting cast since the 2011 title team.

During that championship season, Nowitzki scored 1,681 points. He missed nine consecutive games with a knee injury and struggled for a time after admittedly returning too early as the team fell apart without him. He played 62 games during the lockout season, struggled with knee issues early, and finished with 1,342 points, and followed that with 917 points in 53 games following knee surgery prior to the start of the season 2012-13 season.

Now, with Chandler Parsons adding scoring pop at small forward in place of Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler back at center and Monta Ellis capable of dropping 20 a night, owner Mark Cuban has said he doesn’t expect Nowitzki to average 20 a game. In fact, Cuban said he doesn’t want anyone to average 20 because if that happens it will mean coach Rick Carlisle‘s movement-based offense will be getting everybody involved.

Even if his scoring takes an expected dip (just as his minutes are expected to once again), Nowitzki, assuming good health, will pass Shaq no later than early next season. And by the time he’s closing out his contract, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain (31,419 points) will likely be making room for Dirk, who now says he might even entertain another couple of years once he reaches that point.

“I think that’ll sink in once my career is over and as I get older and more time goes by, I think that’ll be sweet then,” Nowitzki said. “Right now I’m still so worried about winning games, staying in shape, competing with the young guys that come into the league every year. I think stuff like that is going to be way sweeter once my career is over, and then maybe I show my kids and grandkids. That will be unbelievable.”

Duncan begins the season at No. 19 with 24,904 points. He will also continue up the charts with No. 17 Jerry West (25,192), No. 16 Reggie Miller (25,279) and No. 15 Alex English (25,613) all in striking distance before the All-Star break.

However, how high Duncan moves up depends on how two more still-chugging future Hall of Famers do. No. 18 Paul Pierce (25,031) begins his 17th season and first with the Wizards, and No. 14 Kevin Garnett (25,626) is looking for a bounce-back with the Nets in his 20th season.

Dirk bumps ‘Big O’ to arrive at No. 10

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Dirk passes Oscar Robertson for 10th on the all-time scoring list

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Dirk Nowitzki, with a patented fallaway jumper from a few feet off the right elbow, surpassed Oscar Robertson as the NBA’s 10th-all-time leading scorer.

Nowitzki, 35, joins the most exclusive of NBA clubs in which each member is recognized simply by first name or nickname. Dirk, the Dallas Mavericks’ sweet-shooting 7-footer and an original stretch-4, certainly has that covered.

“Amazing, amazing. I mean top 10 is unreal,” Nowitzki said following the 95-83 victory at Utah. “It’s been a crazy ride. Passing Big O, who obviously averaged triple-doubles numerous seasons, is unbelievable. It feels surreal still. All night I wasn’t really trying to think about it, I was trying to concentrate on the next shot. I knew how many points I needed, but I wasn’t really trying to think about it. I was trying to think about the next shot and how I could get open.”

Nowitzki, the 2007 regular-season MVP and 2011 champion and Finals MVP, now has 26,714 career points. He has also surpassed 30,000 total points that includes 128 postseason games.

NBA’s All-Time Top 10 Scorers

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 38,387

2. Karl Malone, 36,928

3. Michael Jordan, 32,292

4. Kobe Bryant, 31,700

5. Wilt Chamberlain, 31,419

6. Shaquille O’Neal, 28,596

7. Moses Malone, 27,409

8. Elvin Hayes, 27,313

9. Hakeem Olajuwon, 26,946

10. Dirk Nowitzki, 26,714

Nowitzki finished Tuesday night’s crucial 95-83 victory at Utah with a game-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. He scored 13 points in the first half and moved past Robertson to open the fourth quarter off a pass from Devin Harris.

Fresh off being named the Western Conference’s Player of the Week, a four-game stretch in which he averaged 25.3 ppg, Nowitzki has propelled Dallas to a 4-0 road trip that has it in the driver’s seat to secure one of the final two playoff spots.

The Mavs (48-31) have three games left. They play San Antonio at home on Thursday and then finish with critical games against Phoenix at home on Saturday and then at Memphis on Wednesday.

Nowitzki, who struggled to regain his All-Star form last season after undergoing knee surgery during training camp, was devastated when the Mavs missed the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000.

He started this season, his 16th, at No. 17 on the league’s all-time scoring list. Along the way he’s moved ahead of Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Alex English, Kevin Garnett, John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins and now the Big O.

Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant, No. 4 on the all-time list with 31,700 points, 592 behind No. 3 Michael Jordan are the only active players in the top 10.

This is Nowitzki’s final year of his contract, but he has made it clear that he plans to re-sign with the Mavericks for another two or three seasons.

“This is my 30th year in the NBA and one of the few times I’ve truly been in awe of an accomplishment,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who has been with Nowitzki since the start of the 2008-09 season. “Top 10 all-time scorer is an unbelievable accomplishment because it’s a level of excellence that’s beyond belief, and then it’s being able to do it over an extended period of time with consistency. So one of the really unique accomplishments.

“And he’s going to keep eating up more people. He’s got a long way to go.”

By this time next season, Nowitzki very well could be the No. 7 all-time scorer in league history. It won’t take him long to track down No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946), then No. 8 Elvin Hayes (27,313) and No. 7 Moses Malone (27,409). It might take into the 2015-16 season for Nowitzki to catch No. 6 Shaquille O’Neal, now 1,882 points ahead of Nowitzki.

If he ultimately moves ahead of Shaq, Nowitzki will nestle in nicely, likely for good, behind No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain (31,419).

Not bad for the one-time floppy-haired kid imported from Wurzburg, Germany.

“Like I always say, I think this stuff means more to me when my career is over,” Nowitzki said. “But this is a sweet one. Top 10 is definitely unbelievable.”

Durability Matters: 5 Who Showed Up


VIDEO: John Stockton-Karl Malone Top 10

It was Knicks fan Woody Allen who famously said that 80 percent of success is showing up.

Rarely has that adage been more appropriate in the NBA than the first month of this season when knee surgery has once more scratched Derrick Rose from the Bulls lineup and so many other big names — Andre Iguodala, Marc Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, to name a few — are on the mend or up in the air with their health status.

In an age when analytics have eye-in-the-sky overhead cameras taking video and collecting data on each player on the court 25 times per second, sometimes one of the most basic truths can be overlooked — you can’t help if you don’t play.

Durability is much a part of a player’s makeup and his legacy as any shooting, rebounding or passing skill. Ask Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Brandon Roy, Yao Ming, Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway or Antonio McDyess. Check with Sam Bowie and Greg Oden.

So in this black and blue month of blown knees, bad backs and torn Achilles’ tendons, here’s a look at five all-time greats at showing up and then some:

Elvin Hayes “The Big E” was known for the college game at the Astrodome against Lew Alcindor and UCLA, for being an NBA champion (1978), a 12-time All-Star, a three-time All-NBA first teamer, Hall of Fame member, for that trademark turnaround jumper that went down as smooth as a spoonful of ice cream, and a nose for rebounds. He was often described as a horse and it’s true that the Rockets and Bullets rode him harder than the Pony Express. Back-to-back? Three games in three nights? It didn’t bother Hayes. Just unlock the gym and turn on the lights. In 16 relentless seasons, the Big E missed just nine games out of 1,312, never more than two in a single season. He played bumped, bruised, aching and sick. But he always played. On the night of April 13, 1984, at 38, Hayes went the distance in 53 minutes of an overtime loss to the Spurs, the next-to-last game of his career.

John Stockton Rumor always had it that the sun used to rely on Stockton to remind it to show up in the east every morning. It wasn’t just the short-shorts, the pick and roll, the bounce pass, the partnership with Karl Malone and his stoic expression that took him to the Hall of Fame. It was Stockton’s ability to take the court every night and keep time for the Utah offense with the constant beat of a metronome. He played 19 seasons and 1,504 games out of 1,526 for the Jazz, an NBA record for a player with a single team. He was indefatigable with his preparation. Coach Jerry Sloan said: “I only saw John lose in a suicide drill once in all the years we were together. Of course, he finished second and think he was 37 years old.” The longest stretch on the sidelines in his career came when Stockton missed 18 games at the start of the 1997-98 season due to a left knee injury. It was later revealed that he had micro fracture surgery performed and still was back on the court in just two months, running the show as the Jazz made their second straight trip to The Finals.

Robert Parish — An ex-peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter hadn’t even been elected as President when he was drafted in 1976 and Bill Clinton was serving his second term when he finally retired in 1997. In between, “The Chief” played more games (1,611) than any player in NBA history with a stoic demeanor that often belied his greatness. While Larry Bird and Kevin McHale eventually wore down due to age and injuries, Parish simply kept right on chugging down the track like a locomotive into the Hall of Fame and onto the list as one of the league’s 50 Greatest Players. Bill Walton once called him the “greatest shooting big man of all time” for his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers and make free throws. But the enduring image of Parish will always be as a 7-footer making his way down the court on the Celtics’ fast break as one of the greatest finishers the game has ever seen.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar He was graceful with the long arms, long legs and longer two decades of dominance. He was regal with the way he carried himself through the wintry winds of Milwaukee and into the glare of the Hollywood sunshine. He was simply majestic the way he set up on the right side of the basket, took the ball into his hands and let fly with the most singular and unstoppable shot in the history of the game — the skyhook. However, Abdul-Jabbar was not just as tall as a redwood, but as durable too. He played 20 NBA seasons and never suited up for fewer than 74 games in all but two of them. The only occasions that the five-time champion, six-time MVP and NBA all-time leading scorer missed significant playing time were when he broke bones in his hand. The first occurred during the 1974 preseason when Abdul-Jabbar was bumped hard in the low post and got his eye scratched. He then turned in anger and punched the basket support stanchion. After missing the first 16 games of the regular season, he returned to the lineup wearing goggles for the first time. The second break happened in the first two minutes of the 1977 season opener when he objected to a thrown elbow by punching Kent Benson, which forced him out of the lineup for two months.

Karl Malone He was, after all, “The Mailman“, which should, by definition, mean that he was dependable. It also didn’t hurt that he had muscles on top of muscles, a body that that might as well have been a sculpture of a Greek god. In 19 NBA seasons, Malone played in all 82 games 11 times and missed a total of just eight games (three due to suspension) out of a possible 1,432 with the Jazz. He and Stockton formed the most durable — and maybe best — guard-forward combination in league history, playing a record 1,412 games together for one team. It is interesting to note that in what was the best scoring season (31.2 ppg) of his career, Malone lost out in the fan balloting to be a Western Conference starter in the 1990 All-Star Game to A.C. Green of the Lakers. Malone talked about boycotting the game, eventually relented and then sprained his right ankle in the week leading up to All-Star Weekend and was replaced in the lineup by the Mavs’ Rolando Blackman. He also missed the 2002 All-Star Game to be with his mother, who was ill. Malone’s iron man routine finally gave way in his final NBA season when he jumped from Utah to L.A. Malone and the Lakers were off to a great start until he bumped knees with Scott Williams of the Suns and missed the next 39 games. When he returned to the lineup, Malone was never the same. The injury was eventually diagnosed as a torn MCL.

Where Have All The Shot-Blockers Gone?

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The demise of the true center is typically lamented by the dearth of low-post skill on offense, but we can’t ignore its effects at the other end, too.

You know what they say about every action: there is an equal and opposite reaction. Among other things, the evolution of the face-up, jump-shooting “big”, and the age of the drive-and-kick 3-pointer have taken a toll on the art of shot-blocking. With seemingly fewer one-on-one, low-post defensive opportunities there is an equally diminishing chance to deliver an opposite reaction.

There are tremendous shot blockers in the league. Thunder power forward/center Serge Ibaka will attempt to become the first player to lead the league in shot blocking three consecutive seasons and average at least 3.0 bpg in three straight seasons since Marcus Camby did it from 2006-08. Ibaka’s 3.65 bpg in 2011-12 was the highest since Alonzo Mourning‘s 3.7 in 1999-2000.

Bucks rim protector Larry Sanders could cross the 3.0 barrier. Indiana’s young, old-school center Roy Hibbert made a significant jump last season to 2.61 bpg, fourth in the league, from 1.97. A healthy and happy Dwight Howard could surge to 3.0 for the first time in his career.

Still, today’s drooping block numbers are eye-popping when compared to prior decades. Blocks weren’t recorded as an official statistic until the 1973-74 season. That season, five players averaged at least 3.0 bpg, led by Elmore Smith (4.8 bpg), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (3.5), Bob McAdoo (3.3), Bob Lanier (3.0) and Elvin Hayes (3.0). In the seven officially recorded seasons in the 1970s, two players averaged at least 3.0 bpg in a season five times.

In the ’80s, it was seven of 10 seasons, and at least three players averaged at least 3.0 bpg four times. Utah’s 7-foot-4 center Mark Eaton still holds the single-season record of 5.56 bpg in 1984-85. The ’90s — with shot-swatters such as David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Shawn Bradley, Theo Ratliff, Shaquille O’Neal and Mourning — marked the salad days of shot-blocking.

Every season during the physical, hold-and-grab ’90s saw at least two players average at least 3.0 bpg. Eight times at least three players recorded 3.0 bpg or more. Four times the season leader topped 4.0 bpg, and two more times the leader finished at 3.9 bpg.

Those numbers haven’t been sniffed. Since the close of the ’90s, only four times in the last 13 seasons have at least two players finished a season averaging at least 3.0 bpg  (and largely credit Ben Wallace and Ratliff early in the 2000s for that). It hasn’t happened since 2005-06 when Camby (3.29) and long-armed small forward Andrei Kirilenko (3.19) finished one and two, respectively.

The lowest league-leading shot-block averages have all come since the turn of the century, and two of the three lowest have been posted in the past five seasons. Andrew Bogut‘s 2.58 bpg in 2010-11 is the lowest season leader of all-time. Howard’s 2.78 bpg the season before is the second-lowest and his 2.92 bpg to lead the league in 2008-09 is better than only the 2.8 bpg put up in 2000-01 by Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal and Bradley.

Could 2013-14 be the season we see one, two or even more players join Ibaka in 3.0 territory? Sanders is trending that way and Hibbert and Howard are candidates, but it’s hard to envision Tim Duncan surpassing last season’s career-high of 2.65 bpg.

Maybe 3.0 is a stretch for most. Only five players averaged between 2.45 bpg and Ibaka’s 3.03 last season.

Here are my five players that could vault into this season’s top-5 (but may not necessarily get to 3.0):

1. Derrick Favors, Jazz: The 6-foot-10 power forward is going to see his minutes jump as he moves into the starting lineup with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap gone. Favors averaged 1.7 bpg in 23.2 mpg off the bench last season. He’ll go up against more elite front-line players this season, but it’s not a reach to suggest he could average 2.5 bpg.

2. JaVale McGee, Nuggets: With Washington in 2010-11, he finished second in the league at 2.44 bpg, but his minutes dropped dramatically the past two seasons in Denver under George Karl. The 7-footer should be in for quite a change with Brian Shaw taking over for Karl and ownership wanting to see McGee earn his money on the floor. More minutes are in his future. Are more blocks?

3. Brook Lopez, Nets: Last season was the first of his young career to average more than 2.0 bpg (2.1) and that number could be on the rise this season playing next to Kevin Garnett. If KG doesn’t teach Lopez a thing or two about defending the post, he might just frighten the 7-footer into protecting the rim at all costs.

4. DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: Potential is running thin for this 6-foot-11 center from Texas A&M. Entering his sixth season, it’s time to mature and play big in the middle for a team that will need it to contend for the West crown. He took a step back last season and under Doc Rivers he’ll need to prove he’s worthy of more minutes. He can do that by swatting basketballs.

5. Anthony Davis, Pelicans: The youngster just looks like a shot-blocker with those long arms and all. He’ll head into his second season healthy, accustomed to the NBA game, smarter and stronger. He’s got great natural instinct, athleticism and a desire to dominate defensively. During his one season at Kentucky, he averaged 4.7 bpg. The 20-year-old blocked 112 shots in 64 games as a rookie. Expect more.

Rockets’ Morey Lands (D)wight Whale

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HOUSTON — Ahab and Moby Dick. Snoopy and the Red Baron. A Kardashian and a camera.

Talk about your classic chases through history.

Daryl Morey landed his (D)wight whale and finally has reason to throw up his hands and gloat, if not plan ahead for even more elaborate celebrations down the line.

In getting All-Star center Dwight Howard to pick the Rockets in the free-agent lollapalooza, Morey not only won the big prize, but also earned vindication for what was often characterized as a quixotic quest to land the type of player that could put Houston back into the conversation for an NBA championship.

Now in less than eight months, he has pulled James Harden and Howard into the boat and Morey is still sailing on with attempts to trade for wing man Josh Smith.

For a Rockets franchise that has not sipped from a champion’s cup in nearly two decades and has won just a single playoff series since 1997, it is heady stuff, like pulling a vintage Rolls-Royce out of a ditch.

Howard becomes the latest in a line of elite big men to play for the Rockets, the linear descendant of Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming. It was, in part, the urging of Olajuwon that nudged Howard toward his decision. But more than anything it was the maneuvering of the roster and the salary cap by Morey that convinced Howard that this was the place that he could establish himself as not only a highly-paid All-Star, but a true winner.

Howard forced his way out of Orlando because he didn’t believe Magic management was committed to doing all that it took after he led the team to The Finals in 2009. He turned his back on the Lakers after one miserable, tumultuous, underachieving season, probably because of the age of his key teammates — Kobe Bryant (34), Steve Nash (39), Pau Gasol (32) and Metta World Peace (33). He couldn’t risk what the Warriors would have to give up in a trade to get him and going home to play in Atlanta was never a real option.

What Morey has done — and is still working to supplement — is to put Howard back in the middle of a young roster where he can be the sun in the center of the solar system, yet feed off the 23-year-old Harden, who positively erupted as an elite level scorer last season.

This is a Rockets team that won 45 games last season by playing a pedal-to-the-medal offensive style and will continue to try to score in transition. But Howard gives them an interior force at both ends of the court and they will shift toward those strengths.

There is already talk of Howard resuming his offseason workout regimen with the Hall of Famer Olajuwon, the Houston icon and deliverer of the only two championships in franchise history. But the truth is that Howard’s game and his style and his physical skills are nothing akin to Hakeem the Dream’s. The key partner — and possibly one difference-maker in the decision — is coach Kevin McHale, a Hall of Fame member himself, who is generally regarded as one of the best big men in the history of the game and possessed unparalleled footwork in the low post.

Now, of course, the burden is clearly and squarely on the back of Howard to produce. If he thought the pressure of playing in the Hollywood spotlight of the Lakers was great, now he must live up to his four-year, $88-million price tag. He said he would choose the team that gave him his best chance to win championships and now that bill comes due with interest. See: LeBron James, summer of 2010.

It was all of these ingredients that Morey mixed into a stew that he was willing to let simmer for as long as it would take to get a plate this full. Constantly swapping draft picks and contracts and assets for six years, he went all in with a hand that for the longest time it seemed only he believed in.

After two years of a soap opera/clown show that traveled from coast to coast, Howard should be hungry as well as driven.

As recently as a year ago, Howard sent word out that he was not the least bit interested in helping the Rockets rebuild from the ground up. But that never even made Morey stop for a second to blink, and it was before the GM pulled a rabbit and Harden out of his hat four days prior to the season opener last October. Even when Howard went to L.A. and was presumed to have found his place among the pantheon of Lakers center, Morey pushed on. Now he has turned the equivalent of a pocketful of beans – Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb — into Howard and Harden, two members of the 2013 Western Conference All-Star team. It could turn out to be the greatest tandem trade of all time. Thank you, Sam Presti.

This is a once-proud franchise that had fallen into disrepair and disrespect following the retirement of Olajuwon, the dark ages of the Steve Francis Era, the crumbling of Yao’s feet and ankles and the wilting of Tracy McGrady’s spine. They had already changed coaches three times in 10 years. It was on that treadmill of mediocrity that one guy chased his plan, his hope, his goal.

Daryl Morey finally landed his (D)wight whale and now the real fun begins.

Dirk’s Beard Grows Longer As Mavs’ Playoffs Chances Fade

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DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki‘s beard grows thicker and more unruly with each passing day. Losses like Wednesday’s at home to the Brooklyn Nets decrease the odds that he’ll reach for a razor any time soon. The pact he and a group of teammates made some six weeks ago was that no one shaves until they reach .500.

The Dallas Mavericks were 21-28 on Feb. 8 when the motivational ploy came to light. Nowitzki had little more than the scruff he typically wears. But look at him now. The Mavs are 32-36, barely hanging on to playoff hope, and Nowitzki’s bearded face is proof, untamed, grizzly and rivaling the one he grew for weeks in the Outback six summers ago after his lone MVP season ended dismally in a first-round flop.

“Only then I didn’t even trim this part,” Nowitzki said, pointing to the lower portion of his bushy moustache creeping over his upper lip. “It came all the way down here.”

After Wednesday’s loss when Nowitzki shot 80 percent from the field, but took only 10 shots and none in the final half of the fourth quarter when Deron Williams – the co-star Dallas failed to obtain last summer — took over, the 34-year-old Nowitzki stroked his prickly-chin and scratched the back of his fur-covered neck where clumps of hair forcibly trail downward like a thicket of overgrown vines.

He said his mom told him he looks 45. Judging by his heavy eyes after the 113-96 disappointment to start a crucial six-game homestand, he might feel that old, too.

Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19. His recovery was slow and painful, as was his game upon his return. And now, after missing his first All-Star Game in 12 seasons, he is on the verge of sitting out the playoffs for the first time in 13.

His team hasn’t been at .500 since it was 11-11 on Dec. 12. They were 12-16 when he returned two days before Christmas.

He was asked Wednesday why point guards Mike James and Darren Collison can’t seem to get him the ball in key situations, particularly on nights when he isn’t missing. In Dallas’ last two losses, both at home, Nowitzki was 8-for-10 in both, yet was a non-factor late.

“They [defenders] don’t leave me much anymore,” Nowitzki said. “It’s up to other guys to make plays. It’s as simple as that.”

There was zero talk of the future Hall of Famer reaching yet another remarkable milestone. Nowitzki surpassed 9,000 career rebounds, making him the 10th player in NBA history with 24,000 points and 9,000 boards, joining Wilt ChamberlainKareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and the only other active player, Kevin Garnett.

Nowitzki has scored and shot the ball better lately (18.1 ppg, 50.9 percent from the field, 48.8 percent on 3s), but he’s still set for his worst statistical season since he was a rookie, averaging 16.4 ppg and shooting 45.9 percent.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban doesn’t believe age is catching up to his star. In fact, Cuban said he expects Nowitzki to regain his All-Star status next season, the last on Nowitzki’s current contract, and “at least” a season or two after that. (more…)

Elvin Hayes: The Big E Took Giant Step

Like every other teenage kid who goes away to college, Elvin Hayes brought plenty of baggage. There was the usual variety that fit inside a suitcase and the kind that you carry inside your head and your heart.

“I was scared,” Hayes recalls of his early days on the University of Houston campus back in 1964. “Where I came from, blacks had been taught to hate whites and whites had been taught to hate blacks.”

Hayes had been born and raised in Rayville, tucked into the northeast corner of Louisiana, population of less than 5,000, where the horizon never went much farther than the cotton fields.

Yet here was the long, lean forward with the sweet turnaround jump shot and the voracious appetite for rebounds joining fellow freshman Don Chaney as the first African-American basketball players to suit up for coach Guy V. Lewis’ Cougars and among the first African-American athletes in the South.

Houston today is the fourth-largest city in the United States and a 21st century model of multiculturalism. But nearly a half-century ago, there were barriers that hadn’t been broken.

“I remember as a kid sitting at home watching on TV as the governor of Arkansas stood in the doorway of the school and wouldn’t let that little girl in,” Hayes said. “I remember seeing Medgar Evers being denied at Mississippi. Becoming one of those people who did something significant and symbolic wasn’t anything that ever crossed my mind.”

In fact, Hayes wanted to play his college ball at the University of Wisconsin until Lewis and assistant coach Harvey Pate came by his house for a visit.

“It wasn’t long after they got there that Coach Pate was talking to my mother about coming back another time to go out fishing with her and the deal was done,” Hayes said. “My mother said, ‘I like these people and you’re going to Houston.’ Hey, in those days in the South, your mother made all the rules and you obeyed.”

So Hayes took his brother along for support and joined Chaney, who came from downstate in Baton Rouge, to change the profile and the fate of the UH program. By the time they were done playing and were both chosen in the first round of the 1968 NBA draft, the Cougars were a national power, playing in the NCAA Tournament eight times in a space of nine seasons. The teams of Hayes and Chaney reached the Final Four twice and defeated UCLA and Lew Alcindor in the so-called Game of the Century at the Astrodome on Jan. 20, 1968, the first-ever college game televised nationally.

After being picked No. 1 by the San Diego Rockets in 1968, The Big E played 16 seasons in the NBA, was a 12-time All-Star, the league scoring champion in 1969 and led the Washington Bullets to the NBA title in 1978 and was voted one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

“None of it would have been possible without coach Lewis reaching out and making me a part of his plan and his dream,” Hayes said.

It was anything but an easy transition as Hayes and Chaney withstood withering racial slurs in the hallways of the dorms, on trips to play road games and even on their own practice floor. Yet they persevered and prevailed.

“Don had grown up in the big city and he was naturally more of a laid-back guy than I was,” Hayes said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t just as hard on him, but there were times when he’d just say, ‘Let it go, Elvin.’ “

It took a sit-down in Lewis’ office to finally set him straight.

“Coach Lewis looked me in the eye and said, ‘Elvin, I have put my career, my family, everything at risk for you. What have I done to you to deserve your anger?’ It was a conversation that changed my attitude and changed my life.

“Yeah, I think we did make a difference. I think we showed something to people. I know that 50,000 people from Houston jammed into the Astrodome that night and were completely behind us. And I know that during a time when there were racial problems and riots all over the country, we never had any of that in Houston.”

The Big E is 67 now, a father, businessman, rancher, fixture in the Houston area.

“When I finally put down my baggage,” said Hayes, “I found a home.”

 

NBA TV Plans Slate Of Playoff Gems

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What do you get when you take the most extensive library of NBA footage, a room full of creative and inquisitive hoops heads and the simple directive of helping fill the basketball void so many of us have been feeling the past two months?

You get “Playoff Gems on NBA TV,” 10 crucial postseason matchups that will make their NBA TV premiers this week as Hardwood Classics.  Our good friends at NBA TV will air three games a day starting Tuesday and running through Thursday with the 10th and final game airing Friday, Sept. 2. As a bonus they’ll re-air all of the games throughout Labor Day weekend, just in case you miss one the first time.

Here’s a quick rundown of the games, including the date and times (ET) they will air on NBA TV, with a few of our notes to help refresh your memory:

Tuesday, Aug. 30

Bullets vs. Warriors, 1975 Finals: Game 3 — 8 p.m. ET

Any game featuring Rick Barry at his best is worth your time. One of the game’s all-time great scorers, Barry was at his best in this game. He lit up the Bullets for 38 points and Jamaal Wilkes put the defensive clamps, as best any man could, on Elvin Hayes to help the Warriors to what would be an insurmountable 3-0 series lead. The underdog Warriors finished the Bullets off in Game 4 to complete their magical run. There hasn’t been a Finals game played in the Bay Area since this one.

Suns vs. SuperSonics, 1979 Western Conference finals: Game 7 — 10 p.m. ET

The Sonics’ first and only NBA title doesn’t happen without them grinding through this rugged conference final against the rival Suns. Game 7 was played before 37,000-plus fans at The Kingdome. The final and thrilling seconds of this one still gets the juices flowing for Sonics fans who were worried they might not get a chance for a Finals rematch against the Bullets after losing in 1978. Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens and his point guard, Dennis Johnson, did a masterful job of managing the game down the stretch.

Knicks vs. Nets, 1983 Eastern Conference first round: Game 1 — Midnight ET

For those of us with an appreciation for the artist known as Bernard King, this game will be a treat. King turned the Hudson River Rivalry into a rout with a 40-point explosion as the Hubie Brown-coached Knicks dumped the Nets in two games to advance to a conference semifinal date with the Philadelphia 76ers. HT fave Truck Robinson was on this Knicks team as well, as were Rory Sparrow and a young Bill Cartwright (seriously).

Wednesday, Aug. 31

Spurs vs. Nuggets, 1985 Western Conference first round: Game 2 — 8 p.m. ET

With the “Iceman,” George Gervin showing off all of his silky smooth moves, the Spurs and Nuggets played a classic. Gervin outgunned high-scoring Nuggets guard Alex English in a series that marked the end of the “Ice Age” in San Antonio — Gervin was traded to the Chicago Bulls after the season.

Celtics vs. Pistons, 1985 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 4 — 10 p.m. ET

The heated Celtics-Pistons rivalry that colored much of the mid to late 1980s took its first major postseason turn in this series. Isiah Thomas had Joe Dumars (via the draft) and Rick Mahorn (courtesy of a trade with Washington) on his side for the first time in the 1985 postseason. But it was “The Microwave” Vinnie Johnson that stole the show in Game 4. The Pistons’ surprising showing in this series — which they lost 4-2 — was a statement that they would be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

Sixers vs. Bucks, 1986 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 1 — Midnight ET

With All-World big man Moses Malone sidelined with an injury a young Charles Barkley — that’s right TNT’s very own! — went to work against the Bucks and posted a monster 31-point, 20-rebound night as the Sixers rallied for the comeback win. This was just Barkley’s second season in the league but it served as his breakout year, as he earned second-team All-NBA honors. Malone was traded to the Bullets before the start of the next season and Barkley became the face of the franchise.

Thursday, Sept. 1

Bulls vs. Sixers, 1990 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 4 — 8 p.m. ET

You didn’t really think this project would be completed without at least one dose of MJ, did you? Michael Jordan was at his versatile best in this game, and did it without Scottie Pippen (who missed the game to attend his father’s funeral). MJ’s 45 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and two steals only tell part of the story. You need to watch the way he dictated the action from end to end to truly appreciate his performance.

Bulls vs. Pistons, 1991 Eastern Conference finals: Game 3 — 10 p.m. ET

In what turned out to be not only the defining game of this series but the turning point in this rivalry, the Bulls were on the verge of erasing three straight years of postseason frustration at the hands of their fierce rivals. MJ went off, scoring 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter in what was one of the defining moments of his early career, this was just his seventh season in the league. He added seven rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and two steals in the breakthrough game that set the stage for the Bulls’ series sweep of the Pistons and their first Finals appearance.

Celtics vs. Pacers, 1992 Eastern Conference first round: Game 3 — Midnight ET

In a battle of Reggies (Indy’s Reggie Miller vs. Boston’s Reggie Lewis), Lewis shined brightest with a 32-point effort to lead the Celtics to victory and a series sweep of a Pacers team that gave them fits a year earlier in a five-game, first-round playoff series. Even with aging and wounded stars Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish still grinding, there was no doubt that Lewis was asserting himself as the heir apparent in Boston. He, and not Bird or McHale, led the Celtics in scoring that season. In 10 playoff games that year, Lewis averaged 28 points on 53 percent shooting from the floor.

Friday, Sept. 2

Suns vs. Rockets, 1994 Western Conference semifinals: Game 7 — 10 p.m. ET

Hakeem Olajuwon was at the height of his powers in this one, destroying the Suns with 37 points and 17 rebounds as the Rockets eventually moved onto the NBA Finals and the first of their back-to-back titles. If you need a refresher course to remind you just how dominant Olajuwon was that season, here is your cheat sheet. If first-person testimonials are needed, just check with Clyde Drexler, Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing. All of those superstars saw  their title dreams end that season because of Dream and the Rockets.

Do yourself a favor and tune in this week. You’ll be glad you did!

Can Thunder, Grizzlies top that?

OKLAHOMA CITY – Every player in the Thunder locker room is weary.

The Lakers and Spurs are out.

Every last man on the Grizzlies roster is exhausted.

The Magic and Knicks are gone.

Go ahead. Try to tell us what’s going to happen next.

Conventional wisdom, not to mention statistics provided by Elias Sports Bureau, says Oklahoma City is now in control. In series tied at 2-2, the team that won Game 4 prevailed 73.9 percent of the time in the past.

But what does that past have to do with the Thunder blowing a 16-point lead in the third quarter of Game 3 and losing to the Grizzlies in overtime? What does the past have to do with the Grizzlies blowing an 18-point lead in the first half and coming back from being 10 points down with five minutes left in regulation of Game 4? What does the past have anything to do with all of the insanity that happened through three mind-bending overtimes?

“I’ve kind of always felt like momentum isn’t a real thing. It’s not a tangible thing,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said. “I think the way this series has gone, you just have to come out and play each game.

“We’ve played great and we’ve played terrible in this series at different times. So we know that we’re capable of winning and we’re capable of dropping a game. Our mindset is we have to be ready to play in Game 5. I’m sure theirs is the same way. The stuff that happened in the past isn’t going to matter.”

If this is a so-called chess match, then the grand masters on the benches are out of moves. Lionel Hollins went small with his Grizzlies. Scott Brooks went small with his Thunder. Hollins went big. Brooks went big. In Game 4, they went until just short of 1 a.m. in what practically became an all-night pick-up game.

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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.”

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