Posts Tagged ‘James Worthy’

Riley’s Thread Ties Streak Record Chase

If the Heat finally run their win streak to 34, break the record of the legendary 1971-72 Lakers and plant their flag in the pages of history, it will likely be the result of something spectacular done by LeBron James. Or heroic by Dwyane Wade. Or timely by Chris Bosh. Or perhaps out-of-this-world unexpected by the likes of Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers.

But making it all happen will have been Pat Riley, the link to past and present. As much as anyone in the game over the past four-plus decades, he’s the thread you cannot pull without some part of the NBA story unraveling — from the Showtime Lakers to the Slow Time Knicks to the South Beach Shuffle.

This steamrolling monster is his creation, a plan so bold and audacious that nobody really thought he could pull it off, and it all grew out of an intense drive that is belied by the image of slicked-back hair and designer suits.

The truth is, he’s always been far more Arm & Hammer than Armani, the Schenectady, N.Y., street tough who absorbed the work ethic of a father who toiled for 22 years in baseball’s minor leagues.

On that historic Lakers team with Hall of Famers Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich, Riley was a member of the supporting cast, but no less vital to the cause.

“He’s tenacious,” West said recently in a conference call with reporters. “I’d say to him in practice, ‘Go beat the hell out of Goodrich, I’m tired.’ ”

He’d been a high school star and his Linton team took down mighty Lew Alcindor and Power Memorial in 1961. He starred for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky when the Wildcats lost to the first all-black lineup from Texas Western in 1966 and was the No. 7 overall pick in the 1967 NBA draft by the expansion San Diego Rockets.

But by the time he was part of that famous Lakers roster, Riley was like a circus mouse trying to avoid getting trampled by the elephants. He used his wits to survive, sheer hustle to make his presence felt and overall relentlessness to carve out a nine-year NBA career.

“He definitely wanted to play more,” West said. “But it was a special group of guys and, like all of us, he understood that.”

Sure, he would never have won those four championships as a coach in L.A. without stars named Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. He wouldn’t have headlined on Broadway without a marquee star in Patrick Ewing. He wouldn’t be sitting in the middle of this 21st century media-frenzied hullaballoo today without the overpowering phenomenon that is now LeBron. Yet his own past has taught him the value of the cast of formidable role players he has brought to Miami in Battier and Ray Allen, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole.

Miami draws attention for its glamor — James taking the express elevator to the top floor to hammer home the dunk in Orlando or flushing and then scowling at Jason Terry in Boston — but the Heat have become the only team to seriously threaten the 33-game win streak because of a defense that is ferocious, hungry and unforgiving, like their architect.

For all that he has done on the many sidelines and the various front offices, maybe nothing defines him like the 1985 NBA Finals, when the Celtics blasted his Lakers 148-114 in Game 1 in what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre.

Before his team took the floor for Game 2 at the old Boston Garden, Riley repeated words that had once been spoken by his father:

“The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back … Some place, sometime, you are going to have to plant your feet, stand firm, and make a point about who you are and what you believe in. When that time comes, you simply have to do it.”

The Lakers won Game 2 and eventually the series, defeating the Celtics for the first time ever in the postseason to claim one of their most significant championships.

At 68, that drive and resolve are the rhythms that beat at his core, the occasional awkward dance steps on YouTube jammin’ to Bob Marley notwithstanding.

So when James and Bosh were both heading toward free agency three years ago and most NBA teams were scrambling for a way to get their hands on one of them, Riley’s plan was the bigger, bolder and bodacious one. An old friend who’d stopped by for a visit in Miami during that time recalls stepping into a darkened office where Riley sat, half-lit by the beam of a single desk lamp as wisps of smoke from a cigarette rose past his face.

“He reminded me of Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now,” said the friend. “Who knew what was going on inside that head?”

Now we know as we watch his awesome creation keep marching on.

“I’m happy for my friend, Pat Riley,” said West, “who was able to do it as a player and is able to replicate it as an executive.”

The thread through history with ties that bind.

Buss Made Lakers A ‘Showtime’ Operation

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Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who brought 10 NBA championships to Los Angeles and “Showtime” to the basketball world, died Monday at the age of 80.

Buss died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to his assistant Bob Steiner. He had reportedly been hospitalized with cancer, but the immediate cause of death was unknown.

There have been few sports executives in history to make the kind of impact as Buss, putting together lineups that included superstars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and took the Lakers to the top of the basketball world.

Prior to Buss taking over the Lakers in 1979, the Boston Celtics were the NBA’s reigning royalty with 13 championships and six times defeating L.A. in The Finals. But under this ownership, the Lakers ushered in the ‘Showtime’ era behind Johnson, Worthy and Abdul-Jabbar to win titles in 1980, ’82, ’85, ’87, ’88. With O’Neal and Bryant (both as a pair and with Bryant as the headliner later on), L.A. took home titles in 2000, ’01, ’02, ’09 and 10.

In the process, Buss made the Lakers into the most exciting act and hottest name in sports by attracting A-list Hollywood celebrities to their home games at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. and the downtown L.A. Staples Center. It was the presence of Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson sitting courtside and interacting with players and coaches as the Lakers’ highest-profile fan that led to the star-filled scene on Sunday at the Toyota Center in Houston where the 62nd NBA All-Star Game was a virtual Who’s Who of big names from the movie, music and sports industries.

Born Gerald Hatten Buss on Jan. 27, 1933 in Salt Lake City and raised in Wyoming, he worked himself up as a child of Depression Era breadlines to become a multi-millionaire. He would complete one of the biggest transactions in sports history when he purchased the Lakers, L.A. Kings hockey team, the Forum and a large chunk of California real estate from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 for $67.5 million. The Lakers franchise has an estimated worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, second only to the New York Knicks in the NBA.

The day-to-day operation of the team had recently been taken over by Buss’s children, Jim (basketball operations) and Jeanie (business operations).

Buss was a graduate of the University of Southern California, earning a doctorate in physical chemistry.

Even in a city such as Los Angeles, where the Hollywood stars shine, Buss — for more than three decades — had the show that most often sparkled. The NBA and the sports world are dimmer with his passing.

“He’s meant everything to me in my career in terms of taking a risk on a 17-year-old kid coming out of high school and then believing in me my entire career,” Bryant said at an All-Star weekend news conference in Houston. “And then for the game itself, the brand of basketball that he implemented in Showtime carried the league.”

Green Could Be A Problem This Season

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jeff Green never makes it into the frame for the photo-op with the Celtics’ revamped Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

Spending a season in street clothes away from the court and the public consciousness has a way of forcing a player, even one as talented and accomplished as Green, into the background.

Green spent all of last season recovering from heart surgery, missing out on the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals and the Celtics’ missed out on all that the dynamic hybrid forward brings to the party.

He’s back now, in a major way. Anyone who has seen the Celtics during the preseason has seen it. He’s flying around on both ends of the floor and making plays at the rim (check out that block above) and in transition in ways that no other player on the Celtics’ current roster can.

A 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward with the length and athleticism to match up against power forwards and the range and ballhandling skills to work on the perimeter as well, Green brings another dose of firepower to the Celtics’ attack (along with newcomers Courtney Lee and Jason Terry) that was lacking last season.

We’re not saying that a healthy Green pushes the Celtics past the Heat in that conference finals clash last season, but you never know …

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All Eyes On Los Angeles … The Lakers … As Training Camps Open Around The NBA

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We can stop speculating about it now.

We can stop wondering what they’ll look like, together, all four of the Los Angeles Lakers’ major pieces (with apologies to Metta World Peace, whose importance we don’t want to minimize … after all, someone has to crank up the already ridiculous expectations for this team). Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol together is a fantasy basketball lover’s paradise. Four guys who all have Hall of Fame credentials wearing the same uniform, and all four playing vastly different positions, teaming up to try to unseat the Miami Heat as kings of the league.

You can’t pay enough for these sorts of storylines at the start of the NBA season, though Dr. Jerry Buss might say otherwise when that luxury tax bill arrives.

That multi-million dollar chemistry experiment we’ve all been waiting to witness gets under way today as the Lakers and the rest of the league’s teams that didn’t start last Friday open training camp. And with the official start of the 2012-13 season comes the renewed scrutiny of the one franchise that always makes a habit of creating a stir this time of year.

Lakers fans are no doubt confident that their team is poised for something seismic with the star-studded additions of both Howard (who is coming back from back surgery and not expected to go 100 percent at the start of camp) and Nash. There remains some reasonable skepticism in Los Angeles about Howard, at least from the likes of former Lakers great James Worthy. But there is no denying that the Lakers have, at least on paper, every bit of firepower needed to challenge for the throne this season.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate concerns about this team. The Heat made it to The Finals in their first year together but were ultimately overwhelmed by a Dallas Mavericks team that proved to have much better chemistry and in the end was simply a better team than the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-led Heat.

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Pippen: ‘Superteams The Way Of The Future” … Past And Present, Too!

 

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – How quickly we forget Scottie Pippen (as shown here on CSNChicago.com) … and so many others.

This notion that “superteams” or “megateams” being some new phenomenon in the NBA is convenient, but wholly inaccurate. It sounds good, what with new conglomerations of stars popping up seemingly every season from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. But it’s actually a tried-and-true method to winning NBA championships and, like almost everything else from two decades ago, it is being rebranded for this new digital age.

(Hey Lady Gaga, meet Madonna … and high-top fades … and skinny jeans again — really?)

In the NBA universe, anyone upset with the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers for assembling elite talent on their rosters needs to stop hating the players and hate the game. Just because they were built through the free agent/trade lab and not grown organically — like revisionist historians will tell you those championship outfits of yesteryear were built — doesn’t diminish the end result in our eyes.

If the end game is winning championships by any means necessary, why wouldn’t you want a superteam playing in your backyard?

Who cares how they got there?

Fans in San Antonio have never complained about the serendipity that smothered the franchise when David Robinson got injured in 1996-97, just in time for the Spurs to luck into the No. 1 pick in 1997 and pick Tim Duncan.

There are any number of recipes for cooking up a superteam. We have no problem with a franchise stumbling into one (and to their credit, the Spurs had to build on that Duncan-Robinson foundation with shrewd moves and by nailing their draft picks consistently) or making the calculated steps necessary to create your own fortune.

Boston did it with the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen Big 3. Miami did it with the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh Big 3. And the Lakers are attempting to do it with the Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash-Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol Big 4.

There’s no shame in that. No shame whatsoever.

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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?

Lakers Great James Worthy: Andrew Bynum Just As Good As Dwight Howard!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Magic Johnson is the one member of the Showtime Lakers who is used to his words about the NBA’s current state of affairs drawing attention.

James Worthy has, for the most part, managed to stay away from the mess. But he won’t for long, not with his assessment of the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum dynamic that rages on (at least in some corners) this summer as we all await a decision on the futures of both of the NBA’s dominant big men.

With various reports identifying the Lakers as one of the teams still pursuing Howard in a possible blockbuster trade with the Orlando Magic, Worthy told The Los Angeles Times that the Lakers should abandon that strategy and focus on the nucleus already in place (in no particular order … Bynum, Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash):

“I like Andrew Bynum,” Worthy said recently at an appearance at Bell Gardens Intermediate School, sponsored by After School All-Stars Los Angeles and Metro PCS. “He’s young and just as good as Dwight right now. He’s getting better. Dwight … to me, he’s too much gab and too much talking. I’m old school. I want to see something done on the floor. He does all this media stuff, flip-flopping. You don’t get respect from veteran players when you do that kind of stuff. They just want you to play. They want to see what you can do out there.”

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Our Fab Five All-Time NBA Teams

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – There’s nothing like a list to get everyone stirred up and there’s nothing that Hang Time likes to do more than provide the straw that does the stirring.

So first we’ll provide with what the good folks at The Sporting News – continuing their 125th anniversary celebration – are calling their Top 10 NBA teams of all time.

But that’s the easy task. We here at Hang Time will do the heavy lifting and boil that down to our Top Five, including some changes:

No. 1: 1996 Chicago Bulls – Nobody’s really going to argue with the consensus top choice, are they? Michael Jordan fresh out of retirement and at the top of his game, joined by fellow future Hall of Famers Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, the Bulls set the NBA record with 72 wins and outscored opponents by an average of 12.2 per game. These Bulls knew they were going to win every time they walked onto the court and usually were right.

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Will Shaq’s jersey irk Kareem, too?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – How might the news desk be at Kareemabduljabbar.com 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 ESPNLosAngeles.com, 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.

Westbrook’s Triple Threat Is Crucial

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (DALLAS OFFICE) – If three rounds of the NBA playoffs have taught us anything here at HT, it’s that conventional wisdom no longer applies around these parts.

Take a look at the last four teams standing. Two of them, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls, are led by guys barely old enough to legally purchase adult beverages.

That’s why we’re tossing out the conventional point guard manual for the Western Conference finals, where Thunder blur Russell Westbrook will square off against Jason Kidd, an all-time great at the position who, even at 38, remains one of the most dangerous players in the game.

But not even Kidd should be able to handle the fiery Westbrook, who has taken loads of criticism during this postseason for being more of a scorer rather than a facilitator and overall floor general. Westbrook has extra gears that only a handful of players in the league can match, guys like league MVP Derrick Rose.

Much like Rose in the Eastern Conference finals, Westbrook’s triple-threat (scorer, facilitator, defender) abilities make him the most crucial player in the Western Conference finals.

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