Posts Tagged ‘John Starks’

Jackson’s dreams await with patience

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

reggie-jackson

Reggie Jackson averaged 13.1 points and 4.1 assists last season in 28.5 minutes. (NBAE via Getty Images)

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Reggie Jackson didn’t start the Oklahoma City Thunder’s preseason opener Wednesday night at Denver, and that’s not likely to change regardless of how many impassioned pleas he makes.

“I want it. I feel strong about it. I want to be the starter,” Jackson said a couple of weeks ago during Media Day, delivering a rambling and emotional speech that spilled over the 10 minutes allotted for each player. “What I have always grown up just believing, I want a majority of my time to be spent playing against other starters. I want to play against the best, I want to play against Chris Paul, I want to play against Kyrie Irving, I want to be mentioned on the highest of levels.”

It’s certainly admirable. It’s just not practical. Three-time All-Star Russell Westbrook is the Thunder’s starting point guard, and coach Scott Brooks just anointed him best in the business.

But that’s not the point here. Oklahoma City has a starting job open at shooting guard, not point guard. Jackson, a quick, 6-foot-3 point guard, filled the 2-guard spot well several times during the second round and the West finals when Brooks benched longtime starter Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha moved on to Atlanta and OKC will replace him in-house. Just not with Jackson.

The overriding issue is — and this should make Jackson feel all warm and fuzzy — he’s too valuable right where he is. It’s more ideal for OKC to fill in the starting 2-guard spot (second-year player Andre Roberson, a defensive-minded two-guard with little offensive upside, and erratic Jeremy Lamb, a natural for the position as a lanky 6-foot-5 shooter if he can ever harness consistency, are the top options) than to replace Jackson’s critical production off the bench.

It’s unfortunate really. Here’s a young player so determined to make a name for himself but is convinced being a reserve is taking a back seat. Brooks and others try to tell him it’s more impressive to be a “finisher,” which he is, that he’ll log as many minutes as a sub and he’ll play many, many minutes alongside Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

The decision to not start Jackson isn’t a personal one, or one made because there’s somebody better to do it. As shown above, there’s not. Keeping Jackson on the bench is purely strategic. OKC needs his aggression, penetration and scoring to lead the second unit. As they realized last season, the Thunder bench is compromised without him.

“For some people [starting is] important. To others it’s not,” Jackson said. “It’s very prideful for me. I feel like I’m very talented. I feel like I can lead a team. That’s just how I’ve been raised and that’s just how I’ve always felt. I want to be the guy in charge. I want to be the guy leading the team, the head of the snake.”

Again, admirable, but not realistic. Intertwined in all this is Jackson’s eligibility for an extension by the end of the month as he enters his fourth season. If one doesn’t get done he’ll enter next summer as a restricted free agent, which seems the likely path, where other teams can set his value.

Comparisons have been made to James Harden‘s situation a couple of years ago when OKC stunned everybody and traded him to Houston before the start of the 2012-13 season. But lets not confuse Jackson for Harden, a No. 3 overall pick and an emerging star when he was dealt. Jackson, the 24th pick, barely got off the bench as a rookie. He averaged 14.2 minutes the next season before being thrust into the starting lineup in the first round of the playoffs after Westbrook injured his knee. He started 36 games last season when Westbrook was out and staked himself as key contributor. His 32 points in 37 brilliant minutes off the bench in Game 4 at Memphis, all but saved an embarrassing first-round exit.

A more accurate comparison is Eric Bledsoe, the 18th pick in 2010 (actually drafted by the Thunder and traded to the Clippers) who spent three seasons backing up CP3. He got his break last season after being traded to Phoenix. He played great in a two point-guard backcourt with Goran Dragic and the Suns made fast strides. Although Bledsoe missed half the season with a knee injury, he cashed in as a restricted free agent with the Suns — albeit rather contentiously — on a five-year, $70 million contract.

Jackson won’t get that chance to start, but what he has that Bledsoe did not is the opportunity to win a championship. If he does that, or even gets close, while being perceived as a selfless, super sixth man, all of Jackson’s boyhood dreams will be in front of him starting next summer.

Just not likely with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The World, NBA Lose A Friend In Mandela


VIDEO: The Inside crew discusses the legacy of icon Nelson Mandela
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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As the world mourns Nelson Mandela, the basketball world feels that pain deep in its collective soul, having lost one of its greatest ambassadors.

The anti-apartheid leader and former President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 died Thursday. He was 95. Mandela leaves a legacy as a global icon and activist who helped bring about seismic change in his native South Africa as the first black South African to hold the office. He was the first President elected in a fully representative, multiracial election and was a symbolic figure for freedom, democracy and change the world over.

The Mandela-led government was at the forefront of dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality while fostering racial reconciliation.

Mandela was the President of the African National Congress (ANC) and spent 27 years in South African prisons for his political views. He distinguished himself in all walks of life, earning global admiration. A passionate sports fan — he was a true believer in the power of sports uniting people of all walks of life, both in South Africa and around the world — Mandela was instrumental in the NBA’s partnership with South Africa, a mutually beneficial relationship that dates to 1993, some 10 years before the league’s Basketball Without Borders program made its initial foray into Africa.


VIDEO: Former and present NBA players remember life of Nelson Mandela

Players like Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, John Starks and coaches Wes Unseld and Lenny Wilkens joined forces with NBA Commissioner David Stern and then NBPA executive director Charlie Grantham for the first of two groundbreaking trips to the continent, helping to open doors for the NBA in that part of the world and allowing South Africa to show the rest of the world what it means to be transformed from a nation that epitomized racism into a democracy led by one of the greatest leaders the world has seen.

The NBA opened an office in Johannesburg in the spring of 2010, with former Dallas Mavericks executive and Amadou Gallo Fall, a native of Senegal, heading up that effort as the NBA’s vice president for development of the NBA in Africa.

Said Stern on Thursday:

“Nelson Mandela was one of the most powerful and inspirational leaders in the world and a great friend of the NBA.  He led his nation to democracy at incredible personal sacrifice, and in rebuilding it, he understood how to harness the power of sport to inspire and unite people of all backgrounds.  Our thoughts and hopes are with the Mandela family and the people of South Africa, and while we mourn his passing, we know that his legacy and quest for equality will endure.”

Opportunity Knocks For LeBron

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – So what’s after “now” and “never?”

Game 6.

In its own way, much more the crucible than a seventh game could ever be.

Once The Finals get to Game 7, the intense, smothering pressure is back on both teams, the glaring spotlight as potentially blinding for anyone who stares into the moment rather than just plays.

Now LeBron James finds himself dangling over the edge of the cliff for the first time in these “it’s-all-about-us” playoffs.

Never will King James and the Heat live down this monumental flop no matter how many future championships — “not five, not six, not seven…” — are out there over the horizon.

Pull it off and he rides into glory. Come up short and anything that comes later will look like a limousine with a license plate reading: 2LTL2L8.

This is the platform that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh put themselves on ever since that night last summer when they danced and celebrated amid the smoke and noise on the stage.

But nobody set themselves up more than James, who put himself on the dissecting table with the nationally-televised “Decision” and brought the basketball world to this point with what was previously believed impossible– delivering an unsatisfying triple-double of 17 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

That’s because when the game was on the line Thursday night, James evaporated in the final six minutes, missing two of his three shots, had no rebounds, no assists and a turnover.

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Re-Dirk-Ulous Game 4 No All-Time Great

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t even done coughing and sniffling into the microphone at the postgame interview session when the hyperbole machine was in overdrive. Some pundits were ready to put his hacking, wheezing, 21-point, 11-rebound effort in Game 4 on a par with the famous Michael Jordan “flu game” of 1997 in The Finals.

As gutty and impressive as Dirk was down the stretch … no, we’re not going there.

But the performance did get us to reflecting and pouring through the record books for remembrances of the greatest single games in the history of the NBA Finals.

Here’s our list. Give us yours.

No.1: Magic Johnson, 1980, Game 6 – He had already lit up the league with his smile and his style through an amazing rookie season. But nobody was prepared for the performance of the 20-year-old rookie on that night. With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sitting a continent away back in Los Angeles with a sprained ankle, Johnson was simply electrifying. He walked to mid-court to take the center jump at the Spectrum in Philly and then owned the game with 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals as the Lakers clinched their first of five championships in the Showtime Era.

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About Last Night: Green Machines

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Too bad the Trail Blazers didn’t continue the St. Patrick’s Day theme by sporting green uniforms. That would have meant all three winning teams from last night rocked the green.

The green worked well for the Bulls and Knicks, but the Blazers didn’t really need to make a fashion statement to dispatch the lowly Cavaliers. The Bulls continue their domination of the competition this month, winning their eighth straight game and reclaiming their half-game lead over the Celtics for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

And to think some of you disagreed with our take last week about Derrick Rose being the frontrunner for MVP honors. He’s getting from all sides these days, including at opposing arenas, per our main man K.C. Johnson the Chicago Tribune:

The “MVP” chants occur in every arena now, including Thursday night in Prudential Center as the Bulls beat the Nets 84-73. If they eventually become reality, Derrick Rose will supplant Wes Unseld as the youngest most valuable player in NBA history.

Rose, 22, also will become the first player to win the award in his third season since Moses Malone in 1978-79. Michael Jordan won his first after his fourth season in 1987-88.
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Room For One More In New York?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERSPatrick Ewing was impressed. And jealous.

Now an assistant coach with the Magic, then a superstar with the Knicks, he got an up-close look at his former team and wondered why he didn’t have what Amar’e Stoudemire has. He made that clear to the New York Post before Tuesday’s game between his current employer and his old one:

“My second-best teammate? John Starks. Allan (Houston), Spree (Latrell Sprewell), Oak (Charles Oakley). But they’re not Carmelo. They’re not Carmelo.”

No they are not. Ewing said those words with gusto and the feelings are said to run deep that he never won a title in New York and that he — not former Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld or Garden president David Checketts – took the blame for it.

As the years have gone on, Ewing has grown to accept he never had that second guy. The Knicks were one game away from a championship in 1994, leading the Rockets in the NBA Finals 3-2, until Starks had one of his worst-ever shooting nights in Game 7, going 2-for-18 — 0-for-11 from 3-point range.

“I can’t worry about that now,” Ewing said. “I’ve been retired 100 years. It feels like 100 years.”

Ewing said Anthony and Stoudemire should have no problem with coexisting on and off the court, even though both need the ball a lot and have terrific egos.

“They both have to share it,” Ewing said. “You can’t worry about it. The city’s big enough. There’s enough spotlight to go around.”

Well, if nothing else, Ewing can comfort himself with this: These Knicks won’t go as far as his Knicks until they find themselves a Ewing, or someone close enough.

Not saying the Knicks need a center, although they’ll sigh and grudgingly take Dwight Howard if he insists. They just need another ‘Melo-type addition in the coming years in order to arrive at the same destination Ewing did, when he took the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994.

Ewing never did win a championship, and that stigma still haunts him many years later. Just the same, the Knicks haven’t won anything since 1973, which explains the depth of frustration within Knick fans.

You know the future blueprint, at this point. Assuming the salary cap doesn’t apply a chokehold to their plans, the Knicks will make a run at Howard or Chris Paul in two summers and hope Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees hold up. And then we can start discussing the Knicks in championship terms.

Right now, weakened considerably by the trade with Denver, the Knicks are merely pacifying their entertainment-starved fans, an accomplishment in itself. But more than the fans, and more than Ewing, they want to impress a future free agent.