Posts Tagged ‘Gary Payton’

Westbrook’s Game 2 one for the books

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Westbrook steps up in Game 2 as Thunder even series

OKLAHOMA CITY – It took Memphis coach Dave Joerger seven games to finally shake his head and throw up his arms.

“I have no idea why he takes the flack that he takes,” Joerger said. “This man can play.”

This man is Russell Westbrook. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers needed just two games and a third playoff triple-double from the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard to say the same.

“He gets criticized a lot, but I don’t know why,” Rivers said. “The dude plays hard.”

Still, the dude gets piled on, so much so that Kevin Durant felt compelled to address it in his MVP acceptance speech: “A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player…”

Criticism revolves around a Westbrook tendency to go off on volume-shooting binges. The theory goes his poor judgment steals shots from Durant, the more natural scorer who should always finish with more attempts.

Lost in this simplified dissection is that Durant is a four-time scoring champ, and now the MVP in six seasons playing alongside Westbrook. Together they’ve made two Western Conference finals and one NBA Finals. Had Westbrook, 25, not torn the meniscus in his right knee in last year’s postseason, well, who knows?

Westbrook’s full-throttle, yet totally in-control Game 2 performance for a third triple-double in five games thrust him into elite company. Only four other players have produced three or more triple-doubles (but no more than four) in a single postseason going back to 1985: Magic Johnson had four in 1991 and three in each 1986 and 1987; Larry Bird had three in 1986; Rajon Rondo recorded four in 2012 and three in 2009; Jason Kidd had four in 2002; and LeBron James had three last season.

Just a reminder: The Thunder and Clippers are only headed into Game 3 of the second round (Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Westbrook’s Game 2 mega-performance of 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals is a four-category combination so rare in the postseason that only three other players have managed it: Charles Barkley (32 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals) in 1993; Gary Payton in 2000 (35 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, six steals); and James in 2013 (32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals).

Going 13-for-22 from the floor (59.1 percent) made Westbrook the first point guard in NBA playoff history to post at least 30 points on 59-percent shooting while also accumulating double-digit rebounds and assists. He’s the first player to do it since Barkley in 1993, and he became only the sixth player since 1985 to accomplish such a stat line, also joining Ralph Sampson (1986), James Worthy (1988), Michael Jordan (1989) and James (2010).

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Westbrook scored his Game 2 points in a variety of ways — pull-up jumpers, post-ups against his smaller counterparts Chris Paul and especially Darren Collison, full-speed penetrations, plus two 3-pointers on four attempts.

“Just taking what the defense gives me,” Westbrook said afterward.

Hard to criticize that.

24-second thoughts — May 5

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: John Wall and Bradley Beal had their way with the Pacers in Game 1

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The first round of the NBA playoff could not possibly be topped by the conference semifinals, not after all of the fantastic and dramatic action we witnessed the past two weeks.

Well, a man can dream can’t he?

Game 1 — Wizards @ Pacers

24  If this was a track meet, the Pacers shouldn’t even take their sweats off …

23 – Pacers starting this one the way they played most of the first six games against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round … and then cranked it up, temporarily, like it was Game 7 …

22 – Tired? Haha. Never!

21 – It’s a fair question at this point. Do the Pacers look like the title contenders we thought they were at 33-8?

20 – Deep down, I’d have loved to rock that wicked get up Serge Ibaka wore into the arena tonight, hat and all, to my 8th grade dance. Oh and Russ Westbrook is on his own, too …

19 – Just Say No to some photo shoots!

18 – It’s not just me raving about the Wizards’ young backcourt duo. Even Hall of Famer Gary “Mr. The Game Is Too Soft These Days” Payton had to give it up to the youngsters …

17 – What he said …

16 – Some things you know are just wrong and cruel and aw, forget it!

15 – Hawks guard Jeff Teague said it best …

14 – It’s like the Rude Boys and the late great Gerald Levert said back in the day, for the Pacers it’s “Written all over your face!”

13 — Welcome to the club Randy Wittman. The Wizards coach joins Pat Riley (first 5 with the 1982 Lakers) and Mike Dunleavy (first 4 with the 1991 Lakers) as the only coaches to win their first four road playoff games. Not bad for a guy who has been on the hot seat in Washington forever.

Wizards snatch home court, for the second straight series,  just like that!

Game 2 Clippers @ Thunder

12 – Chris Paul silences his haters early with 17 points in the first quarter and a 5-for-5 effort from deep … en fuego!!!!!!!!

11 – Straight from the Silver Linings Playbook …

10 – I realize this is a totally inappropriate time and place to bring this up, but can they not find a sleeve for Blake Griffin’s monstrous right elbow? Padded. Because it could easily be used as a weapon if he was the sort of cat who didn’t mind skirting the edge of fair play during a game. #justasking

9 – Clippers running a clinic on the Thunder early. One team with a Game 7 hangover … and it’s not the crew that had to board a plane to get to this game …

8 – Thunder raising the white flag early with Kevin Durant guarding Chris Paul 30-feet away from the basket. Seriously, this is not a recipe for success Scott Brooks! Meanwhile, comedian Kevin Hart has already tapped out the Inside Crew with this one …


VIDEO: Kevin Hart is spot on with his take on TNT’s Inside crew

7 – Clippers’ flow on the road is on another level tonight. You need the right quarterback to do this on the road …

6 – Still no news on that Knicks coaching search …

5 – CP3 is in silly mode now. A ridiculous 8-for-8 from deep as the Clippers keep piling on the Thunder. He’s going to miss at some point, just maybe not tonight …

4 – How are you going to see the comeback if you head for the exits before the game actually ends?

3 – The Chris Paul Show ended a bit early, but he was every bit as good as it looked. Thurman Thomas on Tecmo Bowl good!

2 – The Clippers indeed started this season as one of the deepest teams in the league on paper, Metta. But the Knicks? C’mon man ,,,

1 – Clippers dish out the worst home loss the Thunder have suffered since moving to Oklahoma City from Seattle. Ouch! Masterful effort from CP3 (32, 8-for-9 from deep, and eight assists) and others. Spectacular work from Doc Rivers. A Hall of Famer says so …


VIDEO: Just one of the many highlights from The Chris Paul Show Monday night in Oklahoma City

Payton Not Impressed With Today’s NBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Gary Payton is a Hall of Famer and one of the best point guards the NBA has ever seen. He’s also one of the most blunt and outspoken players the league has ever seen. So you know things can get interesting when you have GP and live microphones in close proximity.

Payton entered the league at the tail end of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era, played through the Michael Jordan years and kept going until deep into the dynasties of the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant-led Lakers and the Tim Duncan-led Spurs. As such, he has a unique perspective on the league and some pointed opinions on the state of the game today.

In short, Payton is not impressed with “basically everything” about the game today. He opened up about it before “Gary Payton Night” at his alma mater, Oregon State. See for yourself (he goes in on the NBA around the 9:28 mark):


VIDEO: Gary Payton goes in on today’s NBA and the flaws he sees in the game

Happy 35-Year, 117-Day Birthday, Kobe

Kobe Bryant is trying to do something no other wing player his age ever has done (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant is trying to do something no other wing player his age ever has done (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant is facing a long road back, considering the destination that probably means the most to him: A sixth NBA championship ring.

Not that he necessarily needs this in chasing it, but we’ve got a teensy bit of extra motivation for him.

First, of course, Bryant has to get his game back, if not to its all-galaxy heights then at least to something reminiscent of who he was and what it was prior to tearing his left Achilles tendon in April. Then he has to fit and shape himself and his teammates on this year’s edition of the Lakers (or the next two) into the ranks of legit contenders.

And then  they have to actually play and win the games, 16 victories in at most 28 games, when the stakes are highest, the pressure is most intense, and fatigue – and in Bryant’s case, Father Time – are laughing hardest.

So just in case Bryant needs a little extra oomph in his quest, here it is: He would be doing something Michael Jordan never did.

As noted on Twitter by “GangstaMoogle” (a.k.a., Tommy), Dec. 18, 2013 is a special day for Bryant because, as of today, he is precisely the same age as Jordan was when His Airness clinched that 1998 NBA Finals with The Shot in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz:

That means, should Bryant win a ring from this point forward, he will accomplish something Jordan didn’t. Didn’t even come close to doing, in fact, given the Washington Wizards’ 74-90 record (no playoffs) from 2001-03 in the former Bulls star’s two late-career seasons with them.

Among Hall of Fame players, no wing player or big-time ballhandler considered the leader of the team — note that we’re not counting big men — ever has won a championship at the age Bryant will be by his next playoffs. Or even tomorrow, according to basketball-reference.com.

Boston’s Sam Jones was 50 days shy of his 36th birthday when the Celtics won again in 1969, but by that point, the five-time All-Star ranked third on his team in scoring (16.3 pgg) and sixth in minutes (26.0).

Gary Payton was 37 when he got his ring with the Miami Heat in 2006 but he was well past his “Glove” prime at both ends, with a PER (10.7) that ranked ninth, behind both Dorell Wright (13.2) and Wayne Simien (11.5).

If you broaden it to include players likely to be enshrined, the Heat’s Ray Allen was at a point similar to Jones, averaging 25.8 minutes as his team’s fourth option. Jason Kidd led the 2010 Dallas champs in assists (8.2) and averaged 33.8 minutes, but by PER (14.4) he ranked no higher than eighth among the Mavericks and 14th in usage (14.3).

Jordan got his sixth ring same as his first five, as his team’s best player and leading scorer. That’s something Bryant might have to, and probably would like to, do for one more.

The odds against him increase with each passing day. And knowing what we know of Bryant, he would have it no other way.

Hall Enshrinement Especially Meaningful

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The emotions that filled Symphony Hall were as in-your-face as Gary Payton, as persistent as Jerry Tarkanian, as touching as the words of Elvin Hayes, as dignified as the memory of Roger Brown and with as much flair for the dramatic as Oscar Schmidt.

By the time the 12 new members of the Hall of Fame gathered on stage Sunday afternoon for the traditional group shot to conclude the enshrinement festivities, something was clearly different. Every year is unique, of course — Reggie Miller tugging at hearts, the sideshow that is Dennis Rodman, the sparkle of the Dream Team reuniting for a group induction. Not like this, though.

This meant something unlike any other time in recent years.

Tarkanian is fighting serious health issues. His family said they specifically noticed an improvement after the coach, best known for his work at UNLV, got word in the spring he would be inducted. As the ceremony approached, and he fought back after a scare, it seemed to be another boost. Once “Tark” got here, after all the years of refusing to be worn down by the NCAA, after previously coming off the Hall ballot from a lack of support, he got an embrace that was one of the warmest moments of the last several enshrinements.

His wife read a note from Jerry in a taped acceptance speech and the 83-year-old Tarkanian added a few sentences on his own in a weak voice: “I have loved the game of basketball since my earliest memories. Basketball has been good to me. I’ve been able to be comrades with some fine individuals in the coaching profession. Sure we can be firey and competitive, even argumentative, but we all loved the game. That special game of basketball. Deep down, we’ll … understand the other. Thank you for your friendship. Finally, thank you, Hall of Fame, for giving me a special honor. It means so much to me, to our players, fans, coaches and staff. We are part of you. That makes us very happy and very proud.”

The standing ovation started before the house lights were all the way up. He came on stage with a walker, next to his presenters, Bill Walton and Pete Carril. And when Tark turned to face the audience, the cheers got even louder.

Guy V. Lewis is having difficult days, too. The 91-year-old former University of Houston coach was unable to speak, leaving it to Hayes, sitting next to Lewis, to deliver an eloquent taped tribute to his former coach. When Lewis was brought on stage in a wheelchair and moved in front of three of his Cougars — Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the Big E — the crowd responded with loud applause in tribute.

When North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell got her turn, she noted how Pat Summitt was supposed to be one of her presenters, only to have to decline when the former coaching legend of the Tennessee Lady Vols, forced into retirement by early-onset dementia, was unable to make the trip. Hatchell asked the audience to send Summitt needed support with a round of applause that could come through the television. Done.

Brown’s family got to see the former Pacers star inducted posthumously as a deserving salute after he had been banned by the NBA as a college freshman and spent years playing AAU ball before joining the fledgling ABA. This day was a vindication.

Schmidt was here about 4 ½ months after a second surgery to remove a brain tumor. Ever the showman, he stepped to the podium, closed his eyes and stood in silence for about 14 seconds before speaking. Having already described how he was so overwhelmed to get news of his election while driving that he had to pull over, having already called the weekend the highlight of his career, the former Brazilian scoring sensation delivered a speech of humor — an appreciation for his presenter, Larry Bird, and ultimately choking up and getting watery eyes when speaking to his wife in the audience.

Payton walked the red carpet upon arrival with close friends Jason Kidd and Brian Shaw – and John Stockton was one of his presenters — so there needed to be a pickup game for the ages going on somewhere after the ceremony. The acceptance speech that eventually followed was exactly what Payton promised, with a little from his alter-ego “The Glove,” the trash-talking point guard playing with a chip on his shoulder, and the mature older man he wanted to show off to make the ceremony mean something more than enshrinement.

The Glove: “As players, we dream of this moment, but we don’t expect to be standing here. But I really, really liked my chances of being here. It’s amazing. This is really happening for me.”

Mature older man: “Few things meant as much to me as my ability to play this game. I bared my soul on the court. I played hard because I wanted to win every time. And sometimes I didn’t come off so pretty. I said things I know I can’t repeat. Plus, I don’t want the guys in the booth to say I can’t say it. So it’s good. Listen, I really didn’t mean any harm, at least not bodily. I’m sure there are some coaches, teammates, opponents, referees and probably management out there who might feel otherwise, though. It was all for my crazy love for the game and my lack of maturity to be able to express my passion any other way. I don’t regret the way I went about it and I’m a strong man today as a result. But I can’t help but think I could have given more to the game that have so much to me. My career is complete. Gary Payton is evolving. But GP is in the Hall of Fame. Thank you.”

Payton: Stockton’s Game Spoke Loudest

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Any list of the NBA’s most notorious trash-talkers would be incomplete – wait, no, it would be an absolute, bleepin’ waste of time – if Gary Payton’s name weren’t atop it. In his Hall of Fame career with the Seattle SuperSonics (and four other clubs), white-hot and often profane on-court chatter was to Payton what long hair was to Samson, as much the source of his greatness as it was the soundtrack of his game.

But there’s more than one way to rattle an opponent. As Payton reflected on his NBA achievements and fast-approaching enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — he’ll join the Class of 2013 Sunday (2 p.m. ET, NBA TV) at the ceremony in Springfield, Mass. — he saved his highest praise for a stone-faced rival who never engaged in much hardwood banter.

In 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz, point guard John Stockton didn’t need to move his lips when he read, whether situations, openings or opportunities.

“Never,” Payton said of Stockton in a Q&A interview with Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “That is the reason I really respected him because you never could get in his head. He’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. I tried to talk to him, try to do something and he’d just look at me, set a pick and cause me [to get mad and] get a tech. And then all of the sudden it was over.”

Payton reiterated in an interview with NBA TV’s Kevin Calabro that no matter how much he would talk to Stockton during games, the Utah point guard would go about his business as if nothing happened.

Payton said Stockton’s no-nonsense approach taught him a lot. It also prompted Payton to seek out the Hall of Famer as one of his two presenters for Sunday’s event — new inductees are presented by previously enshrined players or coaches, and Payton will be ushered in by Stockton and legendary NBA/ABA scorer George “Iceman” Gervin.

Payton made them sound like easy choices, telling Spears:

“George Gervin was my childhood idol since I was little. In Oakland I had all his posters on my wall. The Iceman poster where he was on ice blocks in that silver suit. He presented to all my other Hall of Fame stuff for retired jerseys at Oregon State and my high school. John Stockton is because I liked him when I was playing basketball. Everyone said he was dirty. He wasn’t as athletic as us. But he was smarter than us. We knew what he was going to do. We knew he was going to set [tough] picks. We had all the videos on Utah. We were so dumb. We would get caught up with the picks and get mad at him. He would shoot eight times and make nine. Shoot eight free throws and make seven. He’d have 15 assists and four steals. A complete game. That’s just the way he was and I idolized him…”

Payton idolized Stockton in his own way, of course, jabbering as if it was a natural part of inhaling and exhaling while building his reputation as one of the greatest two-way backcourt players in league history. HTB denizen Scott Howard-Cooper talked with Payton recently, too, and got the goods on how close the NBA and its fans came to missing out on his skills and his feistiness.

Spears touched on other topics, including this notion that, for Payton, guarding Stockton was tougher than facing Michael Jordan. (When Jordan reads this, he might ask to edit and re-give his famously competitive Springfield speech, to put Payton in his place):

“Those battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn’t say nothing and you couldn’t figure him out. He’d keep going in the pick and rolls and he and Karl Malone would score a big bucket. At times I would guard Jordan and get him mad and into other things.”

Payton, 45, shared other opinions, including his appreciation of Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams (“same mentality as me”) and Boston’s Rajon Rondo. “He can’t score like I did but he does everything else like I did,” said the nine-time All-Star and No. 2 pick in the 1990 draft.

He talked about Dwight Howard leaving the Los Angeles Lakers and about the Sonics leaving for Oklahoma City, where Payton isn’t interested in having his No. 20 jersey retired to the rafters. That, he believes, should and will happen in Seattle.

“It will be there sooner or later,” Payton said. “It could be years. If I’m 70 and they get a team, hey, so be it. It will be great just as long as it will go up in Seattle.”

And the pesky, pain-in-the-rump playmaker known defensively as “The Glove” talked about his own induction speech. Too bad he won’t be making it as performance art — just imagine the entire speech given in trash-talk cadence and (ahem) vocabulary, challenging as that might be for the NBA TV producers.

Fact is, the guy whose patter could move some opponents nearly to tears might find himself on the other end of things, in that stage-light moment of memories, accomplishments and appreciative faces smiling back at him.

“Everybody wants to know if I’m going to cry,” Payton told Yahoo Sports. “You know what? I’m going to be real with you. I don’t think I’m going to cry. But I got to stay away from watching my mom because if she starts tearing up … That’s the hardest mama in the world to make cry. If she tears up and cries?

“I know Pops ain’t gonna tear up. If he does it, it’s just a bad thing. I’m just going to stay focused and look forward and try not to look anybody in their face.”

Should he need to, Payton can always glance across the stage. That’s where the guy with the stone face will be standing, a source of the edge with which Payton played and that he might need again to speechify.

Payton Nearly Quit Early In His Career

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HANG TIME WEST – Hall of Famer Gary Payton was so down on himself as a player and so frustrated with the coaching situation in Seattle early in his career that he came close to retiring after his rookie season, he told NBA.com on Wednesday.

“I was thinking about it,” Payton said in a phone conversation from his home in Las Vegas. “I was like, ‘What am I out here for? This isn’t even what I want to do. I’m not happy.’ I didn’t want to do anything….”

Payton played well enough in 1990-91 to be voted second-team All-Rookie, but the 7.2 points and 6.4 assists for a 41-41 team that finished one place lower in the Pacific Division than the season before was not up to the standards he set for himself as the No. 2 pick in the draft. It was being the starter without getting true starter’s minutes, though, that truly bothered him, the 27.4 minutes per that led him to feel a lack of support from coach K.C. Jones.

Owner Barry Ackerley convinced Payton the SuperSonics believed in the young point guard, agent Aaron Goodwin and Payton’s father told Payton to give it time, and so he returned rather than retire or try to force a trade. Jones was fired 36 games into the next season and replaced by George Karl. And when that change included Tim Grgurich coming as an assistant, Payton would meet his destiny as one of the great two-way guards in history.

“If we wouldn’t have changed coaches,” Payton said, “I would have probably said, ‘Yo, you know what? I want to end this. I don’t want to do this anymore because I’m not happy.’ If they would have stayed with the same coach, I would have probably just shut it down. They would have tried to trade me or I would have told them I don’t want to play there anymore.

“I went to my agent, I went to my father, I just said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m good enough to play in this league. I’ve got a coach who wants to play me in the first and the third quarter. He has no confidence in me.’ They told me the same thing. ‘You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve got to be the guy who you’re supposed to be. You’re tough. You’re this.’ My father was like, ‘Are you crazy? If you quit, I’m gonna get in your (body).’ Stuff like that. He’s like, ‘It’s going to be better. You’ve got to dedicate yourself to it.’ As soon as coach Grg came there, I changed my whole mentality. I went back to the guy that I was at Oregon State and the guy that I was in Oakland, California (his hometown).”

Karl and Grgurich, who would become a familiar pairing as one of the most-respected head coaches and assistants in the NBA, lasted through 1997-98 while winning four Pacific Division titles and the 1996 Western Conference crown. Payton stayed until Feb. 20, 2003, when he was traded to the Bucks and reunited with Karl.

Payton retired — actually retired — after the 2006-07 season, following a championship with the Heat, nine All-Star appearances, nine consecutive spots on the All-Defense team, one Defensive Player of the Year, and two Olympic gold medals. His first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame was announced in February. Payton will be officially enshrined with the Class of 2013 in ceremonies Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass.

Wizards’ Wall Working With The Glove





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Dwight Howard and other big men around the NBA haven’t been shy about approaching Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon for tutoring in recent summers.

We haven’t heard much about the point guards finding a Hall of Famer to serve in a similar capacity, until now. And that’s one of the reasons why I have no problem with the Washington Wizards putting their faith in John Wall (to the tune of the reported five-year, $80 million extension he signed last week).

Wall plans on learning from one of the best in Hall of Famer Gary Payton, according to J. Michael of CSN Washington:

Wall still plans to hook up with Gary Payton, a Hall of Fame point guard who was one of the best of his generation, in Seattle before returning to train with the Wizards on Aug. 20. Plus, he had ample time to watch the nuances of Tony Parker as he led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA finals and the Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, who helped his team advance to the Western Conference finals.

“Footwork also, just like catching the ball and working on pivots and stuff,” Wall said about what he has done this off-season in addition to refining jump shot. “Floaters. Watched a lot of Tony Parker throughout the playoffs and I see how Mike Conley added to his game after I went to two of his playoff series.”

Wall also is going to lobby coach Randy Wittman to allow him to do something else.

“Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to post up this year,” he said.

That’s where Payton, who also stood 6-4 and could be too physical for opposing point guards, could help most. Like Wall, he wasn’t the best jump shooter to start his career but became a solid one. By his fourth season, Payton shot better than 50% from the field. He only was a career 31.7% shooter from three.

If Wall’s career is on a similar trajectory  to Payton’s at the same stage, the confidence Wall and the Wizards are showing in each other right now won’t seem nearly as far-fetched as it sounds to some.

“My main thing as a person, I’m not a follower. I like to be a leader,” Wall said during his news conference last week. “I feel like I would have had the opportunity to go anywhere. I feel like I’d be a follower trying to build a legacy somewhere else. I feel like I’m a person who gives my word and my commitment to where I started and that’s where I’d like to finish.

“We haven’t been to the promised land of winning a championship for years. I know we’re a long way from there, but that’s my main goal before my career is done, to win one here.”

Again, those are ambitious words from a youngster who has never been an All-Star or even been to the playoffs. But the fact that Wall is going down this path, in theory and in practice, bodes well for the Wizards and their fans.

Lots of guys talk about being leaders, of doing things the right way. Wall is doing his best to live it, to embody the leadership traits that an elder like Payton did when he became one of the game’s all-time greats.


Spurs’ Path To Success Still One Of A Kind





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t bother trying to get a peek at the blueprints. There’s nothing you can glean from San Antonio Spurs’ secret formula that will work for your team.

No two championship teams are built alike, unless you are the Spurs and all four of your title-winning teams have an identical foundation: Tim Duncan at the epicenter with coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford at the controls.

Those same building blocks, along with future Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, have allowed the Western Conference-champion Spurs to chase title No. 5 this season. This current Spurs team highlights a ridiculously rewarding 15-year run that transcends this “win-now-and-at-whatever-cost” era that has claimed so many other organizations that were unable to sustain a level of excellence with the same parts.

The only organization with a better championship track record during this same era is that other would-be dynasty in Los Angeles. But the while the Spurs are going to contend with either Miami or Indiana for the Larry O’Brien trophy next month, the Lakers entered an offseason of uncertainty with Kobe Bryant on the mend from Achilles surgery and Dwight Howard‘s free-agency drama looming. It makes you wonder what might have been if the Lakers had been able to manage the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe dynamic and if coach Phil Jackson had stayed entrenched in the organization from the time they started winning championships until now.

What the Spurs have accomplished, however, is not up for debate. They’ve defied logic, the odds and the age of their biggest stars to reach the opportunity to compete for another title when they could have torn those franchise blueprints up a half-dozen times and started over from scratch.

The contrast in styles between the Spurs and Lakers is startling, albeit with nearly identical results for two franchises whose accomplishments the past 15 seasons will come to define an era in NBA history.

The Spurs stuck to their principles with a meticulously crafted core of stars and a series of role players who generally played better in San Antonio than they did elsewhere. The Lakers tried to reinvent themselves regularly (selling their organizational soul in the process, some would say) to keep the pace with their rivals in South Texas.

Don’t forget, the Spurs tipped off the championship chase in 1999 with Duncan and David Robinson, followed by the first of the three straight Shaq-Kobe title teams a year later.

In a copycat league where everything from the locker room set up to the analytics department is modeled on a nearly identical template from organization to organization, no one has been able to build a sturdier and more consistent operation than the Spurs.

It starts with having a transcendent superstar like Duncan, whose arrival sparked the Spurs’ renaissance. Add in unwavering discipline in the front office and on the bench (in Popovich and Buford), some splendid ownership (Peter Holt) and a market conducive to staying the course (rather than overreacting to the usual ebb and flow of the league) and San Antonio’s success was born.

The Spurs haven’t been to The Finals since winning their fourth title in 2007. Six years? That is an eternity in professional sports. Not many franchises would have survived the fallout from their Western Conference finals flame out against the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, when their juggernaut rolled into that series and led 2-0 before losing four straight games. Not many organizations with championship expectations would have (or could have) stayed the course in those other non-Finals years as well.

There’s no doubt the San Antonio market helps. There isn’t a rush to tear things down every offseason just for the sake of remodeling. The Lakers have changed course countless times during the same 15-year span, spending countless millions to and running through a series of coaches and role players to help them flesh out championship teams led by O’Neal and Bryant and later Bryant and Pau Gasol.

The Spurs understood that even with a power-packed outfit like the one they fielded during Duncan’s prime that there was no guarantee they’d win it all every season. That’s an understanding the Lakers never seemed to grasp during the early and mid-aughts.

The Lakers, spoiled a bit by those three straight titles in 2000, ’01 and ’02, tried to remodel overnight after watching the Spurs’ 2003 run. So they signed future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton in an attempt to chase a fourth ring and fell hard to the Detroit Pistons in The Finals in 2004 — the same team the Spurs beat in seven games a year later for the title.

Fast forward seven years later and the Spurs have four main pieces from that 2005 team — Duncan, Popovich, Parker and Ginobili — still on top of their respective games.

Those are the building blocks for a dynasty … the Spurs’ way!

Heat Stars Ready For Milwaukee Return





MIAMI – If anyone on the Miami Heat roster knows what to expect at the Bradley Center for Games 3 and 4 against of their first round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks it’s Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen.

They’ve got intimate knowledge of the place, both of having been in the building when it’s an emotional power keg, when the hometown fans are cranked up and caught up in the atmosphere of a big game.

They’ll be on the other side this time, though, wearing the wrong colored jerseys for Game 3 Thursday night (7 ET, TNT). But that doesn’t change the fact that these games serve as a homecoming of sorts for these Heat stars whose careers took off in “Brew City.”

Wade came to town as an unheralded Marquette recruit and left a lottery pick, beloved by the locals as the star who helped restore a once proud program to national prominence. His college jersey hangs in the rafters of the arena, one of the retired numbers of the greats to have called the city home at some point.

Allen’s future Hall of Fame career started in Milwaukee, he played the first six and a half seasons of his career with the Bucks, helped them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001 and earned three trips to the All-Star game as a Buck before being traded to Seattle in February of 2003.

“I went to Milwaukee with not a lot of expectations and I came out of Milwaukee the fifth pick of the Draft,” Wade said. “Milwaukee has been special to me. It has helped me get to this point. Going back there in the playoffs is a cool thing. It’s very humbling (having his jersey retired). Every time I look up there, I think about how far I have come. It’s special to be able to play in an arena where your jersey hangs.” (more…)