That’s bold stuff, considering Jordan and Magic were the greatest winners and players of Malone’s era. Pippen played alongside Jordan, making Malone’s snub of MJ even more of a head-scratcher.
“I’m gonna shock the world. I have to put Scottie Pippen at the 3,” Malone told Patrick. “Scottie Pippen led the [Bulls] in every statistical category when he was there without Jordan.”
I can’t come up with a top five of all-time that doesn’t start with MJ and Magic. So for Malone to craft his without either one of them is extremely troubling for me. Obviously, it’s just his opinion. But Malone doesn’t talk for shock value. He must truly believe what he says when excludes two players universally regarded as the best at their positions in the history of the game off of his list.
Come on, Mailman, you don’t really believe the words that came out of your mouth … do you?
Indiana is not only up against a great team. It’s up against great odds. Historically speaking, when a best-of-7 series has been tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has won the series 83 percent of the time.
Still, nothing will come easy for Miami. Over the past 33 seasons, only nine teams have claimed the championship. (The Heat have done it twice.) Only four teams (the Lakers, Bulls, Rockets and Pistons) have won back-to-back titles. And a Miami repeat would give the Heat a chance to do what only two other teams have done: pull off a threepeat. (Michael Jordan’s Bulls did it twice; the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers were the other ones.)
Indiana has had only one trip to the NBA Finals, 13 years ago, when the Pacers lost to the Lakers in six games in L.A.’s first leg of its threepeat. These Pacers have had their chances. In fact, they might look back on Game 1 in Miami, when LeBron James beat them with a spin-drive to the left that beat the buzzer, as the game that cost them a second chance at The Finals.
Ominous, too, was the Heat’s 90-79 win Thursday night in Miami. The Pacers led 44-40 at halftime even after a handful of missed shots at the rim and a spate of turnovers. But James, after delivering a fiery speech to his huddled teammates, dominated the third quarter and carried Miami to the pivotal Game 5 victory.
The good news for the Pacers? Half the teams that lost Game 5 after being tied at 2-2 gave themselves a chance for a Game 7 by winning Game 6.
Here’s a look at the teams that have successfully defended their title since 1980 and the toughest challenges they faced: (more…)
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.
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.
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.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Raise your hand, you twisted souls, if you’re ready for another episode of the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy show.
Even Hawks fans, a group starved for both star power on the roster and stability with the coaching staff, are wary of the potential pairing of these former Orlando Magic stalwarts in the ATL. Their deteriorating relationship marred their final season together in a situation that was anything but magic in Orlando.
But when the coaching carousel kicks up this time of year, and a half-dozen or so different teams are picking over the same small pool of elite coaching candidates, all things are possible.
Van Gundy, and his brother, Jeff Van Gundy, are going to be on short lists everywhere, along with Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and whoever the assistant coach(es) du jour might be.
What looks good on paper and sounds sweet in theory, however, doesn’t always hold up in reality. Multiple reports of Stan Van Gundy being pursued by the Hawks, who have announced that they will explore all options in determining who replaces Larry Drew (if they replace him), make perfect sense. Hawks GM Danny Ferry is in the process of rebuilding his roster and needs a coach on board before the Draft.
“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry told Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all of our options, and talk with other potential head coaches before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team. Larry and I have had open communication about this approach. If Larry and I continue to work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”
That’s an eloquent way of stating the obvious: that the Hawks plan on moving on from the past nine years (Drew was an assistant under current Knicks Mike Woodson during his six seasons with Atlanta before Drew spent the last three season its coach). And it’s understandable. No one will blame Ferry for making a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, provided he upgrades the coaching situation and the roster with all of that $33 million in cap space and the four Draft picks the Hawks will be armed with this summer.
The burning question remains, then, is Stan Van a legitimate upgrade?
He did take the Magic to The Finals in 2009, the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference finals (2005) and did the same with Orlando (2010). But he was shown the door in both places after his star players grew tired of his grinding ways. Weighing the pros and cons of Stan Van being the face and voice of your franchise heading into a huge free-agent summer is a risky proposition for the Hawks, one that Ferry is surely aware of as he continues to sort through the process of finding the right coach.
There are five other current openings around the league, with another one (Los Angeles Clippers … ?) still looming. With a bevy of candidates, we take a look at who fits best where and why …
Atlanta Hawks: Mike Malone, assistant coach Golden State Warriors
In a realm where it’s often who you know as well as what you know, Malone can check those boxes with the Hawks. He’s done stellar work with the Warriors, helping guide them into a prime time position this postseason under Mark Jackson. He also worked under Mike Brown in Cleveland when Ferry ran that franchise. Malone is a nuts-and-bolts coach who won’t come with the baggage of some of the more recognizable candidates for the job. He’s universally respected and will likely be on the interview list for every opening out there.
Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Van Gundy, ABC/ESPN analyst
No available coach has a better handle on the rigors of guiding a team in the New York area. Van Gundy’s Knicks history, along with his work on ABC and ESPN broadcasts, has kept him in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. He’s got the coaching chops required to manage a complex and talented roster that clearly needs a guiding force to reach its potential. His former partner in the booth, Mark Jackson, has done wonders in his first coaching stint in Golden State. Van Gundy could work similar magic with a Nets team that underachieved this season.
Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Drew, coach Atlanta Hawks
Drew worked alongside Bobcats owner Michael Jordan when they were both in Washington, so there is plenty of familiarity there. He also impressed many around the league with the work he did in an impossible situation in Atlanta the past three seasons. Even with constant changes on the roster and in the front office, Drew coached the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances. He would walk into a situation in Charlotte that looks a lot like the one he walked into with the Hawks nine years ago. That blueprint for thriving in the face of adversity could come in handy for the Bobcats.
Detroit Pistons: Jerry Sloan, former coach Utah Jazz
The Pistons have a roster filled with talented young players in need of guidance and direction. That’s the idea fit for a disciplinarian like Sloan, who could work wonders with bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in particular. Sloan’s Jazz teams were known for being the model of consistency. He won with superstar talent (Karl Malone and John Stockton) and kept on winning after they retired. The Pistons have had their greatest success in recent years under another veteran coach, Larry Brown, and could return to relevance under Sloan.
Milwaukee Bucks: David Fizdale, assistant coach Miami Heat
With the Big 3 in Miami, most of the attention has been strictly on the players. But Erik Spoelstra‘s key hire since taking over as coach in Miami was luring Fizdale away from the Hawks. He’s considered one of the brightest up-and-coming coaching candidates in the league and has done fantastic work with the continued development of both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Luring him away from a championship situation in Miami won’t be easy for the Bucks or anyone else. But Fizdale has designs on running his own team and working with Bucks GM John Hammond would be a good place to get that first shot.
Philadelphia 76ers: Stan Van Gundy, former coach Orlando Magic
After the emotional roller coaster that was the Doug Collins experience, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the Sixers’ young core need a savvy veteran to deal with, not a first-time coach who would have to transition to a new gig in a city known for chewing up the strongest of personalities. Stan Van gives the Sixers a bold personality to lead the way and an absolute technician of the game to help push the right buttons for a team that needs the sort of stewardship he tried to provide in Orlando.
CHICAGO – LeBron James qualified his answer even before he gave it: He’s no doctor – doesn’t even play one on TV. He has no insight into the inner workings of Derrick Rose‘s left knee or the Chicago Bulls’ decision-making process. So his views on Rose’s continuing comeback are simply as interested observer. And fan.
“I love competing against the best and he’s one of the best,” James said Wednesday morning after the Miami Heat’s shootaround at United Center. The streaking Heat are in town, looking to extend their run of consecutive victories to 28 against, when healthy, one of their primary Eastern Conference rivals.
Alas, Rose, the Bulls’ explosive point guard, will extend his streak of consecutive regular-season games missed to 70, owing to his injury in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring and his ongoing rehab both physically and psychologically. Chicago without Rose, and with a few other banged-up rotation players (Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton), will be facing a Miami team that expects star Dwyane Wade back after a two-game absence.
James doesn’t share Bulls fans’ angst or impatience over Rose’s delayed 2012-13 debut, but he said he does miss Rose as an opponent and as an entertainer.
“The NBA as a whole, as a competitor, you miss him on the floor,” James said. “Even off days, not being able to watch him out on the floor for the Bulls, it sucks. But health is No. 1 in our league. We’ll see him back soon.”
Soon, of course, is open-ended, with speculation in Chicago running from “any day now” to “the start of 2013-14 training camp.”
Echoing comments he has made previously this season, James said: “No one else is playing for him. No one else has to put on the uniform and play at a high level. He’s the guy who has to do that. When he’s confident and he’s ready, he should come back. Before that, he shouldn’t worry about it.”
Actually, James might be considered something of an authority on NBA health, when you look at his durability through 10 professional seasons. He has played in all 70 of the Heat’s games this season and 759 of a possible 792 since he got to Cleveland in 2003-04.
He has ranked in the league’s top 10 in minutes per game every season and, among active players, his career mark of 39.8 ranks No. 1. All-time, he’s sixth behind Wilt Chamberlain (45.9), Bill Russell (42.3), Oscar Robertson (42.2), Allen Iverson (41.1) and Elgin Baylor (40.0).
In terms of games, James never has played a full 82 but then, he never has missed more than a total of seven (2007-08) in a season. He missed six in his final season with the Cavs and seven, total, since taking his reliability to South Beach.
For a player climbing up the all-time ratings list, according to both tangible and intangible standards, it’s another way for James to distinguish himself. Among others on the NBA’s various Mt. Rushmores, however you carve them, it is rare for a franchise player to avoid a season of double-digit games lost to injury.
Michael Jordan played all 82 games NINE times in his career, but he was limited to just 18 games in 1985-86 when he broke his foot in his second season. Lakers great Magic Johnson missed 45 games in his second NBA season, never played in 82 and of course retired prematurely at 32. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time minutes leader (57,466) and No. 2 in games behind Robert Parish, still had seasons in which he logged only 62, 74 and 76 (twice) appearances.
L.A.’s Kobe Bryant has had four full seasons in which he played fewer than 70 games and four more between 70-80. Boston’s Larry Bird, who developed chronic back issues, played in only six games in 1988-89 and 105 of 164 games in his final two seasons. Charles Barkley, from age 29, missed 155 games over his last seven seasons. Patrick Ewing began breaking down at age 35 and missed the 1999 Finals completely.
Given their size and frames, Utah great Karl Malone might serve as James’ gold standard – the Jazz power forward played in all 82 games 10 times and had seven more seasons in which he appeared in at least 80. His Utah sidekick, John Stockton, was even more remarkably durable. Stockton played in every game 16 times, and missed only four games (all in 1989-90) in his first 12 seasons.
Rose? After appearing in 240 of a possible 246 games his first three seasons, the Bulls star played only 39 of 66 through multiple dings last season. And now he’s about to go 0-for-70, possibly 0-for-82.
So making sure he’s really, really healthy before he returns, as advised by a rival who might know more about this health stuff than he lets on, makes a lot of sense.
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 Chamberlain, Kareem 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…)
What’s more, he appeared loose, unagitated and as happy as Henry VIII at a smorgasbord when the Magic sent him to the line for an all-you-can-eat menu of 39 free throws, from which he 16 of 20 in the second half.
Which leaves us to wonder if it will now, finally, ever click to the mercurial big man that all he has to do is to shut up and play?
There is no reason for Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to apologize for the strategy, for Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to complain or for NBA commissioner David Stern to again ponder a rule change.
Like so much else with Howard’s perpetually conflicted life and career, the problem has always been of his own creation. He is the one with the career .577 free-throw percentage and for all the talk about work in the weight room or getting one-on-one tutoring from Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, has been solidly consistent with his horrid stroke, rarely deviating far from the mean.
If you’re an opposing coach, why wouldn’t you exploit that hole in an All-Star’s game? It’s no different than giving a poor shooter open jumper after open jumper until he learns to knock it down.
If you’re Howard’s coach, why wouldn’t you practically salivate at the thought of your center getting 20 free throws in a half if he can step up and make 80 percent of them?
Howard could have stomped and fumed and moped and blamed his plight on someone else, the way he has with most events of the past two seasons. From former coach Stan Van Gundy to Magic management to Kobe Bryant’s prodding to D’Antoni’s offense to Pau Gasol to unrealistic fan expectations to the media, he’s been a self-made tempest in his own teapot. Just last week he disparaged his old Orlando teammates and then complained at everyone’s reaction to what he said.
It would have been straight in line with the persecuted image that Howard has constructed for himself to flap his arms, howl at the moon and hang his head each time the Magic committed another foul and sent him back to the line.
Instead Howard just shut up and played and enjoyed a night in the kind of career and life of which most people only dream.
He should try it more often.
Top 8 free throw attempts in a single game
Dwight Howard (Lakers): 39 FTA Date: March 12, 2013
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: A 13-game night means there’s a little bit of everything for any kind of fan: lottery team showdows (like Bobcats-Cavs or Suns-Hornets), playoff team scuffles (such as Grizz-Hawks) and elite teams in action (like Warriors-Thunder, Rockets-Heat and Spurs-Wolves). We’re not going to pick a lottery showdown and that Grizz-Hawks game ended up being a blowout, so it’s out. The elite teams (OKC, Miami and San Antonio) did what they wanted and there was little doubt they’d win. So our pick today is Bucks-Jazz. Although Utah won by 14 points, Milwaukee gave a good fight most of the night. Plus, we’re a fan of watching big men go to work, and what team in the league has a better stockpile of ‘em than Utah with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter? It’s enough to make Karl Malone wish he could teach ‘em all a few tricks (more on that below) …
Kobe pleads for ‘urgency’ from Howard — The Lakers got word Wednesday afternoon that an MRI revealed Pau Gasol has a tear in his foot and are awaiting word as to how much time he will miss. Meanwhile, center Dwight Howard has missed L.A.’s last three games to rest a torn labrum in his shoulder. Oh, and, the Lakers have virtually no backup big men after they lost forward Jordan Hill for the season in January to hip surgery. All that said, Lakers star Kobe Bryant knows that for L.A. to climb back into the playoff race and stay there, he’ll need help from Howard sooner rather than later. ESPNLosAngeles.com details what Bryant is feeling about Howard and his need to rest his injuries:
“We don’t have time for (Howard’s shoulder) to heal,” Bryant said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan. “We need some urgency.”
The interview with MacMullan came one day after Bryant publicly challenged Howard, stating that playing through an injury is “something that you have to balance out and manage.”
Bryant also asserted that Howard is preoccupied with how he is perceived by fans and media.
“Dwight worries too much about what people think,” Bryant told MacMullan. “I told him, ‘You can’t worry about that. It’s holding you back.’ He says, ‘OK, OK, OK,’ but it’s always hovering around him.
“He just wants people to like him. He doesn’t want to let anyone down, and that gets him away from what he should be doing.”
Bryant also speculated that Howard, in his first season with Los Angeles, may not be accustomed to the Lakers’ standards.
“(Howard) has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard as I am, as hard as this organization is,” Bryant told MacMullan. “It’s win a championship or everything is a complete failure. That’s just how (the Lakers) do it. And that’s foreign to him.
“When you think about it, there aren’t many organizations that look at it that way. There are only two that can really honestly say that’s what they live by — Los Angeles and Boston.”
Howard preached patience in a recent interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, pointing to the fact that Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal needed three years before winning a championship with the Lakers.
But the 34-year-old Bryant, who is averaging 27.6 points per game in his 17th NBA season, is approaching this season with more desperation.
“We don’t have three years,” Kobe said. “We’ve got this year.”
Howard is listed as day to day, and his status is uncertain for Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers are hopeful Gasol’s injury will prompt Howard to return “sooner than later,” a team source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
D-Will still dealing with pain — Deron Williams has had a rough season, part of which can be attributed to various injuries which have hampered his effectiveness and made him less-than the All-Star guard he usually is. Last night against the Pistons was no different for Williams, who had a rough night stats-wise and was mostly ineffective against Detroit’s young guard combination of Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
For Williams, it was another game with more pain. He came up limping and grimacing in the first quarter, with a knock that appeared to involve his knee or thigh. In the second quarter, he required attention from the trainer after grabbing his shoulder.
Williams walked it off, like he does with most of his aches and pains. And per usual, he never really recovered.
The point guard, who has been a shell of his former explosive self because of the injuries, had his moments in the fourth quarter, including a smooth crossover that led to an 18-foot jumper. But Williams was mostly ineffective, slow and hesitant, finishing with 12 points and nine assists — leaving him with averages of 11.8 and 6.5, respectively, in his last four games.
He also is missing his first All-Star game in three years.
“Right now I think he’s sore,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said of Williams, who has injured both ankles, his foot, his thigh and his wrist this season. “There’s no question. Someone like Deron who played all summer — we are beyond the halfway mark, so the guys that are playing big minutes are beat up. They are sore. In his case, his ankle and his wrist. He’s had trouble with that the whole year.”
Williams hasn’t dunked once this season, or hit a game-winner. So it was no surprise Lopez got the call down the stretch, with the game there for the taking thanks to Detroit’s fourth-quarter ineptitude (the Pistons shot 6-of-20 in the period).
Mailman wants back in with Jazz — Few players are as synonymous with a franchise as Karl Malone is with the Jazz. The Hall of Famer, former two-time MVP and the No. 2 all-time scorer in NBA history hasn’t suited up for Utah since the 2003 playoffs, but a statue of him resides out front of EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City and his No. 32 jersey hangs from the rafters in it. Malone currently serves as an the director of basketball promotions and assistant strength and conditioning coach for his alma mater, Louisiana Tech, but has also hosted a weekly radio show on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City in the last year. He appeared with ESPN 700′s Hans Olsen and James Rust on Wednesday afternoon and made his case to join Utah’s staff as an assistant coach:
Malone doesn’t want to replace any of Tyrone Corbin’s current full-time helpers, but he wouldn’t mind finding a spot next to Sidney Lowe, Jeff Hornacek, Michael Sanders and Brad Jones.
“All they’ve got to do is call me,” Malone said during an interview with ESPN 700′s Hans Olsen and James Rust on Wednesday afternoon. “I’ll work with the big men for free for a while until it work.”
This isn’t the first time Malone has offered his coaching services to the organization he helped turn into a powerhouse and a two-time NBA Finals squad during his 18 years in Utah.
“I’m saying it again. Ain’t nobody took me up on it,” Malone said. “Maybe they don’t want to hear me.”
Malone said he wouldn’t necessarily want a full-time gig and he has no desire to travel with the team every game.
“But look. We can start off and see if it working,” Malone said. “If not, I’ll be the first one to say, ‘Guys, it ain’t working.’ And they don’t have to say nothing.”
Malone has no doubt if the Jazz’s former coach was still in charge — or is again elsewhere someday — he’d be in a gym teaching bigs how it’s done.”If coach (Jerry) Sloan ever got another coaching job, I would be with him sometime,” he said. “End of story.”
“I’m being dead serious about this,” Malone said. “I don’t want no cameras around. I would be more than willing to come.”One large factor Malone is interested: He’s a big fan of the Jazz bigs.
“Utah Jazz is one of my favorite teams. I still have them doing damage,” Malone said during the 25-minute interview. “Utah Jazz have a group of the best big men that’s in the league. Go through any team (and compare).”
“All in all guys, don’t start blowing up the team,” he said in the radio interview. “If you don’t have to get rid of a big guy, don’t get rid of a big guy. You don’t see a lot of them coming down the pike. But the fact of the matter is, we have talent on this team.”The sports talk-show hosts also asked Malone who he’d pick if he had to between Big Al and Malone’s fellow Louisiana Tech product, Millsap. Malone grumbled and laughed about being put on the spot but then — you guessed — gave his opinion.
“I love Paul Millsap and he’s going to play somewhere all he want to. If you’re making me choose between one or the other — and I’m Tech Nation, Paul Millsap — Al Jefferson, to me, is a bigger guy that would do more damage at that position if you can’t bring but one of them back,” Malone said. “Try to bring both back. Whatever you do, do not get rid of these two young kids (DerrickFavors and EnesKanter).
‘Sheed still remembers his Bullet days — Long before Rasheed Wallace was an All-Star performer as a Portland Trail Blazer and a key part of the Detroit Pistons’ championship team of 2004, he was the prized pick of the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) in 1995. Going No. 4 overall to Washington, Wallace garnered All-Rookie Second Team honors and was part of a young-but-developing squad that included Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Calbert Chaney and other young talent. But after his rookie season, ‘Sheed was sent to Portland for Rod Strickland and Harvey Grant as the Wizards tried to make a serious playoff push. Wallace talked with the Washington Post’s Michael Lee about his D.C. days and what could have been had he stuck around:
“Every time I’m back here, people say, ‘Man, why’d you leave?’ ” Wallace said, shaking his head, at Wednesday’s morning shootaround at Verizon Center. “It wasn’t up to me.”
Wallace still blames former Bullets General Manager John Nash for his exit after one season with the team, but Nash had resigned before Wes Unseld eventually shipped him to Portland for point guard Rod Strickland and forward Harvey Grant in one of those promising-big-for-fading-small deals that the franchise was so accustomed to making in the 1990s (ahem, Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond).
With a few more gray hairs peeking out of his scraggly beard and unkempt Afro, Wallace still looks back on his time as a Bullet as a classic could’ve-been.
“Man, I think about it a lot,” said Wallace, who averaged 10.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in his rookie season. “I understand it was all business and money, but we had a helluva squad here. I wish we could’ve stayed like two, three years together, just to be able to see what we could’ve done.”
The Bullets were stocked with front-court talent back then, with Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Gheorghe Muresan, Jim McIlvaine and Bob McCann and Wallace was often viewed as a luxury. Wallace started 51 games as a rookie, getting a lot of time at power forward as Webber recovered from a dislocated left shoulder, but he also dealt with troubles on and off the court in his short stint with the Bullets. He also didn’t need much time to establish a reputation for berating NBA officials, and had been mentioned in trade rumors since January of that season.
The Bullets reportedly offered Wallace to Philadelphia for the No. 1 overall pick, which turned out to be Allen Iverson.
Still, Wallace was stunned when he was seated in a barbershop in Philadelphia and got word that he was going to join the Portland Trail Blazers.
“My cousin called, and told me, ‘You just got traded to Portland.’ I was like: ‘Man, whatever. I didn’t get traded,’ ” Wallace said with a laugh. “About two seconds later, my agent [Bill Strickland] called and was like, ‘The rumors is true.’ I was like, ‘Aarghhhh!’ ”
The “what ifs” will never be resolved in Washington but the memories remain. When asked what he misses most about his days playing at the Capital Centre in Landover, Wallace said: “Just the enthusiasm of the crowd. The crowd felt the same things that we did. That it was a helluva team and we could’ve did some things. …I think we would’ve went far in the playoffs, because we were big. Unfortunately, I started those games that I did because Web went down. I hate to move into his starting slot like that. But man, we could’ve did a lot of things.”
Richardson facing season-ending surgery — The Sixers have spent the season waiting for All-Star big man Andrew Bynum to get into the lineup so they can see exactly what kind of team they have. But while Bynum has been rehabbing and progressing, Philly has been waiting to get veteran guard Jason Richardson back, too. Richardson hasn’t played since Jan. 18 as he’s been dealing with a nagging knee issue that will now likely require surgery and six to nine months of recovery time, writes Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
Philadelphia 76ers guard Jason Richardson learned Wednesday he will miss the rest of the season due to a left knee injury that requires surgery, a source told Yahoo! Sports.
The 12th-year veteran was told by a doctor in New York City that he has a cartilage tear the size of a quarter on the right side of his left kneecap. Richardson is expected to be out six to nine months following surgery that is expected to take place next week.
Richardson had missed the previous seven games after being diagnosed with synovitis in his left knee. He finishes the season averaging 10.5 points and 3.8 rebounds while starting in all 33 games he played in during his first season with Philadelphia. He is under contract through the 2014-15 season.
Carter a ‘long shot’ to be traded — Our own Jeff Caplan caught up with Mavs swingman Vince Carter, who has been hot lately for the Mavs, averaging 17.6 points on 49.0 percent field-goal shooting and 45.0 percent from 3-point range over his past eight games. Carter’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors, but the likelihood of him being shipped out of Dallas seems slim, and he seems to be enjoying his second season in Big D, too:
There’s no doubt that teams are and will inquire about Carter’s availability. Dallas reportedly didn’t get involved as a third team in the Memphis-Toronto trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Raptors because it wouldn’t part with Carter. Detroit took the role and acquired point guard Jose Calderon from Toronto.
A league source Wednesday characterized the odds of Dallas moving Carter by the Feb. 21 as a “long shot.”
Which Carter said suits him just fine, despite the Mavs needing a significant run just to get into playoff contention.
Carter signed a three-year contract with the Mavs prior to the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season as part of the franchise’s retooling following the 2011 championship. His hopes of helping Dallas repeat didn’t materialize, but he had found a good fit. When the club decided to bring him back this season at $3.1 million, it fully guaranteed his final season next year at $3.2 million.
Carter’s contract is certainly attractive, but with Dallas uninterested in taking back salary and unlikely to net a major asset, there’s little reason to trade him when the club still believes it can make a push into playoff contention.
“There’s a reason he’s such an important guy to us,” Carlisle said following Wednesday’s win. “People key on his offensive stuff, but he’s just a big team guy. He’s one of our leaders.”
Two seasons ago with Phoenix, Carter’s career seemed to be closing quickly as his production continually dropped.
“Sometimes you get on a team where your talent isn’t needed, utilized,” Carter said. “This is a different type of offense here. I don’t know, I felt pretty good then and I will say I do feel even better. I put my work in after that summer because it kind of bothered me to even hear somebody think that or say it at that point in time because I still felt at that point physically able to contribute, to be effective for any team.”
Wall not a ‘franchise’ guy? — Ex-Magic coach Stan Van Gundy got in a little hot water with folks in the D.C. area after appearing on ESPN 980′s The Sports Reporters in late December and saying that Wizards guard John Wallwasn’t a great decision-maker or a franchise cornerstone. Van Gundy recently talked to Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com and clarified his point a little bit, but Stan Van apparently isn’t a huge fan of Wall as the ONLY top-level talent on the Wizards:
“I said this: John Wall is a talented guy, a very good player. I don’t think he’s good enough that you can build a franchise around him,” Van Gundy said after serving as television analyst for George Mason’s home game against Drexel last Thursday night. “I don’t think he can be your best player, certainly not clearly your best player. You need one guy better than him or a couple of guys at his talent level for them to win.
“To me that’s not a negative. I didn’t say it as a negative. I think some people took it that way. I just don’t see John Wall as a franchise player because – a lot like Rajon Rondo; I don’t see him as a franchise player even though he’s an All-Star – he’s not a good enough shooter yet and he’s not a reliable go-to scorer.
“In the NBA, your franchise guy has got to be a guy you can put the ball in his hands late in the game and he can get you a basket. I don’t see that from John Wall at this point in his career. Maybe it will develop, but I don’t see it.”
ICYMI of the night: Ricky RubiolikessettingDerrickWilliams up fordunks, as we’ve seen before. But last night’s ultra-high alley-oop to Williams might have been one of their best connections yet …:
Despite the fact that the two winningest franchises in the history of the league are currently struggling in the standings, the stars of the Lakers and Celtics are still must-see attractions for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game. The Celtics are currently No. 7 in the East and the Lakers No. 11 and out of the playoffs in the West.
Yet the results of fan voting will have classic rivals Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers and Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo of the Celtics squaring off in the starting lineups at Houston’s Toyota Center on Feb. 17 on TNT.
Bryant (1,591,437) edged out Miami’s LeBron James (1,583,646) to become the leading vote-getter for the third time. It will be his 15th consecutive All-Star Game appearance, breaking a tie with Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. While you can argue that the whole NBA is Bryant’s oyster, the All-Star Game has become a personal kingdom that practically fits into the palm of his hand. He’s the all-time leading scorer (271) and tied with Bob Pettit for most MVPs (four).
Heat teammates James and Dwyane Wade and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony will join Garnett and Rondo as starters for the Eastern Conference.
In addition to Bryant and Howard, the Western Conference starters will be Clippers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin along with Kevin Durant of the Thunder.
The reserves, seven for each team, will be selected by a vote of the league’s coaches and announced Jan. 24 on TNT.
LeBron James, Heat – The no-brainiest of no-brainers. The youngest player ever to score 20,000 career points. He’ll play his ninth All-Star Game in the arena where he outdueled Tracy McGrady to be named the MVP in 2006. Highlights.
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks – Perhaps the most talented and effective scorer in the game, he’s putting the ball in the hoop at the highest rate (29.3 ppg) of his career. This is his sixth All-Star team and second in the Eastern Conference. Highlights.
Kevin Garnett, Celtics — It’s a lifetime achievement honor for Old Man River at a time when he’s playing fewer minutes than he’s ever played. It’s his 15th All-Star Game and the big question is whether he’ll trash-talk teammate Melo. Highlights.
Dwyane Wade, Heat — The MVP before the biggest crowd (108,713) in All-Star history at Cowboys Stadium in 2010, he’ll be playing for the ninth time for the East. May have ceded the lead dog role on Heat to LeBron, but still a fan favorite. Highlights.
Rajon Rondo, Celtics – The league leader in assists and the sparkplug that turns over the engine of the Boston offense. You can talk all you want about Boston’s Big Three, but these days he’s the big one who can lift them up. Highlights.
The lowdown: There’s no question that Tyson Chandler was the first victim of the new voting system that chooses frontcourt and backcourt players and does not break out centers separately. That’s a shame, because the Knicks’ big man is statistically having the best season of his career and anchoring the middle of the New York defense. But he loses out in the popular vote to Garnett, because fans want to see the stars, especially when one of the all-time greats nears the end of his career. Despite being the league’s top assist man and having moved into the upper echelon, the four-time All-Star Rondo would probably be on the East bench if Chicago’s injured Derrick Rose wasn’t on the shelf.
Kevin Durant, Thunder — The three-time defending scoring champ is chasing Kobe and Carmelo in this year’s race, but has his eye on a bigger prize next June. He’s scoring less and playing better. Last year’s MVP in Orlando. Highlights.
Dwight Howard, Lakers – It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride in his first season with the Lakers, but it says something about his talent that even in a down year, following back surgery, he’s the best center in the West. Highlights.
Blake Griffin, Clippers – His scoring, rebounding and shooting are all down from a year ago. But when you can jump over a car to dunk and show up with CP3 on the highlight reels every night, people tend to notice and vote for you. Highlights.
Kobe Bryant, Lakers – While his team may be down, it’s not because Kobe isn’t trying. He leads the league in scoring, is shooting at a career-best clip, rebounding, passing, doing it all. It’s his best season in years. Highlights.
Chris Paul, Clippers — Nobody in the league has a better handle. No point guard can run an offense, set up teammates and scorer better. Add in that he’s the heart at the center of the Clipper miracle and it’s a cinch . Highlights.
The lowdown: The flip-side of the coin that claimed Chandler happened here where the new voting system — unofficially known as the “Tim Duncan Rule” — did not help the veteran Spurs big man reclaim what used to be a regular spot in the West starting lineup. Neither did a personal campaign by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who talked up Duncan’s amazing stats and his significant contributions in leading this team to one of the top three records in the league. The low-profile Spurs will have to count on the coaches to do the right thing by Duncan and teammate Tony Parker. The other hard-to-digest numbers in the West had the Rockets’ inconsistent point guard Jeremy Lin almost doubling up the votes of teammate James Harden, who ranks fourth in the league in scoring and has established himself as a big time scorer and first rate closer. Somebody also has to explain how the No. 4 team in the West, the Grizzlies, did not get a starter within shouting distance in the voting.
DALLAS – It took 12 seasons and one remarkable championship run butting heads with three of the game’s greatest scorers in succession – Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James – for Shawn Marion to get his just due as a lean, mean, defensive machine.
Yet into his 14th season, and as he aligns with a super-elite group of men — all of either considerably more height or girth than he — with at least 16,000 points (which Marion surpassed Monday), 9,000 rebounds (which he surpassed last week) and 1,500 steals, is the 6-foot-7, 228-pound Martix still one of the great overlooked all-around players of his time?
The group he joined? Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett. The first three are Hall of Famers and the fourth will be.
“I’ve got over a thousand blocks, too,” Marion chirped.
Indeed you do. Marion is one of five players with at least 1,500 steals and 1,000 blocks along with The Dream, The Mailman, The Doctor (Julius Erving) and Garnett, who, in his 18th season, is obviously the only other active player with Marion to have earned a spot among those legends.
“It’s hard to do; it ain’t easy,” Marion said. “You got to pride yourself on certain things and be that complete player to make it happen.”
As the Miami Heat visit Marion’s Mavericks tonight in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET on TNT), the Matrix’s defensive assignment will be front and center as it typically is, the spotlight matchup against LeBron, the player Marion helped suffocate in the 2911 Finals.
And while that feat might have come as news to some, Marion’s done it his entire career. Overshadowed in Phoenix by the Suns’ high-powered offense, he continues to get it done it in Dallas. According to the Mavs’ stats maven known on Twitter as @mavstats, Marion over the last four seasons has held opposing starting small forwards to a 40.5 field-goal percentage, the lowest of any forward in the NBA (Boston’s Paul Pierce is second at 41.4 percent).
“You know what?” Marion said. “I work hard every summer, playing this game and learning this game. My whole career I’ve tried to make myself the best basketball player I can be and make my teammates better as well, and I have. I reached the ultimate goal in winning a championship, I’ve done it. Personal accolades, they come along as you walk on the journey you travel and obstacles you incur during your NBA career. This is my 14th season; I’m fortunate enough to be playing 14 years and I’ve just never taken anything for granted. It’s hard work to do this, to sustain this energy and this effort and this level for this long to do the things I’ve done.”
More often when Marion’s asked about the numbers he’s amassing, accomplished by so few yet seem to fly under the radar, he tends to get defensive for a moment, then shrugs, smiles and says, “You know what? It is what it is.”
But on this day, with his latest milestones still fresh, the four-time All-Star who last was one in 2007, seemed more determined to reflect on the rare versatility required to accrue numbers of such magnitude as his career totals for points and rebounds and steals and blocks and assists, too — another 90 dimes and he’ll have 2,000 — were rattled off.
This time he didn’t shrug and blow it off. Instead he bowed up with a vertebrae-stiffening, darn-right kind of pride.
“It’s hard, and especially at 6-7,” Marion said. “I commend myself, and I push myself. I challenge myself to do things that other guys don’t want to challenge themselves to do and I’m truly blessed to do it and be able to do it over a long period of time. I think some of that stuff is on you and some of that stuff is how; it’s determination. I’m a competitor. When you’re truly a real competitor, you’re going to go out and compete on both ends of the floor and do whatever you got to do to win.”
Marion, 34, has missed seven games this season with a knee sprain and a groin strain, and he’s played through pain to try to keep Dallas’ head above water until Dirk Nowitzki finally returns. He’s producing at a near-double-double level at 10.6 points and 7.9 rebounds a game. In his last four games, he’s averaging 14.0 points and 10.8 rebounds with 14 assists, five steals and four blocks.
As he was last season, Marion is again Dallas’ leading rebounder despite playing with 7-foot center Chris Kaman, 6-foot-9 forward Elton Brand and 6-foot-10 reserve center Brandan Wright.
“He just keeps going, man, he’s going strong and he’s been one of our horses this year,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “And he’s played through injury and without him, we would be, I don’t know where we would be.”