Posts Tagged ‘Maurice Lucas’

Throwing down wouldn’t be manning up despite pounding on Clippers’ Griffin

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Starters talk about the physical play on and from Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin doesn’t need my advice. Fact is, the way he has played this season for the Clippers, both with and without Chris Paul, he doesn’t need much more than the essential advice his new coach, Doc Rivers, gave him when he encouraged Griffin to rotate 180 degrees and face the basket, rather than backing down into the low post. That transformation has been responsible for the Clippers’ rise as a contender and vaulted Griffin into MVP discussions (for the Nos. 3-5 ballot slots, anyway).

But there has been an incessant chorus over the past two months – and this is my nomination for the NBA’s 2013-14 Damn Foolishness Award – that Griffin needs to go medieval on some of his opponents’ rear ends.

Pray that it does not happen.

Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and ESPN columnist Michael Wilbon all have encouraged Griffin to varying degrees to man up, square off and throw down the next time he gets a cheap-shot or abused physically in a game. That’s right, they’re advocating fisticuffs. Going hockey goon on his own behalf allegedly is the only way Griffin can put a stop to the occasional takedowns and extracurricular skirmishes that somehow, despite his monster season, are said to be retarding his growth.

Malone, who cut a chiseled figure not unlike Griffin during his 19-year Hall of Fame career primarily for the Utah Jazz, shifted that conversation into high gear last month while sitting in on an ESPN game broadcast. Said Malone: “First thing I’d do [is say], ‘Blake, the next time one guy cheap shots you, just lose your mind. I would pay your fine. Lose your mind, run roughshod.”

Sounds like a new-millennium version of Sheriff Andy Taylor giving Opie the bully talk, right? Don’t let him take your milk money, son, give him the ol’ knuckle sandwich. Except that those knuckles hang bare at the ends of long, rippling arms, on a guy who stands 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds.

Black eyes are one thing. Major reconstructive surgery and maybe even manslaughter are quite different.

There’s a romanticizing that goes on when former NBA players look back on their days in the trenches, on the abuse they dealt and endured and on the reputations some of them crafted as enforcers. Maurice Lucas often gets regarded as the league’s unofficial undisputed champion of mean, owing both to some legit skirmishes (Artis Gilmore, Darryl Dawkins) and Luke’s withering glare.

But anyone who remembers or has seen the footage of Kermit Washington‘s fist driving violently into Rudy Tomjanovich’s face in December 1977 still can feel in his or her gut the sickening aftershocks of The Punch. The Malice at The Palace melee in November 2004 between the Pacers and the Pistons remains a sore point and image problem for the league, a decade later.

And that wacky videotape of Barkley and O’Neal going WWE on each other under the basket – a staple of the “Inside the NBA” studio banter – would be rated NC-17 and aired far less often if Shaq’s big ol’ paw actually had smashed flush into the Chuckster’s mug.

Chuck might look a little more like Cher right now, too.

No ring, no gloves? No skates, no helmets? Then no way. Goading Griffin into mayhem – Wilbon likened it on his “PTI” show to a pitcher whizzing a fastball high and tight near someone’s ear hole – is reckless because the romanticism of how those moments have gone for some old-schoolers neglects the physics of how badly the next bout might actually go.

Griffin – who addressed his wise reluctance to muscle up on those who initiate the cheap stuff, in a post by our Jeff Caplan coming out of All-Star weekend – could wind up seriously hurting someone or getting hurt himself. Malone says he’ll pay his fine, but would The Mailman be willing to serve Griffin’s time (and pay his salary) if he got hit with a 5- or 10-game suspension? How ’bout if things got really ugly and the Clippers star wound up in jail?

Or worse still (gulp) ended an opponent’s career? Flailing some elbows or sneaking in rabbit punches (a Malone favorite) aren’t likely to achieve the desired effect of sending a league-wide message to “Back the bleep off Blake!” Yet balling up and throwing fists the size of canned hams could escalate it into something ugly and irreversible. No, Griffin’s best tactic is the one he’s been deploying: Bang away within the rules, bristle at any undue rough treatment so the referees are on notice, then laugh all the way to the free-throw line.

Griffin is not soft. He has nothing to prove in that area. And he, the Clippers and the NBA have plenty to lose if he heeds irresponsible advice.

Damn Foolishness, I tell ya. You got a nominee for this NBA season? Have at it in the comments below.

Blogtable: Role Players In The Hall




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Role Player Hall of Fame | I Wish I Would’ve Seen … | How to Avoid a Decision


Robert Horry’s name is being bandied about for Springfield. So, what are some of the names that make your Role Player Hall of Fame?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDowntown Freddie Brown. And here’s why: Most specialty players earn their keep as starters, their egos sufficiently stroked. But a great sixth man is best left as a substitute forever. So guys like J.R. Smith and Monta Ellis (he’d be terrific in the role but refuses to consider it) need to see it honored, even revered. Yes, the Celtics built a tradition of great sixth men but it took Brown and the Seattle SuperSonics to update the role in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They went to two straight Finals and won in ’79 with Brown in reserve of Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson. Then over his five final seasons, from age 31 to 35, the laconic gunslinger averaged just 20.5 minutes but scored at a 36-minute pace of 20.2 ppg. Brown lived up to his nickname, leading the league in 3-point percentage the first year the shot was instituted. And he spawned not only the instant-offense future of Vinnie Johnson, a young Sonics teammate, but the Sixth Man Award idea itself.

Maurice Lucas (NBA Photos)

Maurice Lucas (NBA Photos)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comMaurice Lucas. The 1976-77 Trail Blazers were a championship puzzle where all of the different pieces fit together perfectly — Bill Walton, Johnny Davis, Bob Gross, Lionel Hollins, Dave Twardzik, Larry Steele, Herm Gilliam, Lloyd Neal, Robin Jones, Wally Walker, Corky Calhoun. But in addition to being their leading scorer, Lucas was the Enforcer, who gave the Blazers their sneer, swagger and hard-edged toughness and carried that role on through his entire career.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: To narrow the field, I’ll stick with players I grew up watching to the present: On my big-shot, big-game performer list is Steve Kerr, Michael Cooper, Cedric Maxwell, Vinnie Johnson, Ray Allen, Jason Terry and Robert Horry. Kurt Rambis, A.C. Green, Charles Oakley and Joakim Noah are on the all-blue-collar team. Bruce Bowen and Bill Laimbeer (he’s not in the Hall of Fame, so he qualifies here, right?) co-captain the all-agitator team, and Rick Mahorn and Maurice Lucas lead the all-enforcer squad with Ben Wallace taking the lead as an all-time intimidator.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI have to start with Robert Horry for big-shot specialist. Too many fans in opposing cities are nodding their head in agreement right now to have to ask why Horry is the ultimate role player at making shots. Mark Eaton is the shot blocker. What a difference-maker for someone who was considered a complementary player. Enforcer? Larry Smith. “Mr. Mean” was a description of Smith on the court, not just a nickname. Kenneth Faried is the hustle guy. His second and third efforts make a difference on both ends of the court -– offensive rebounds, screens -– and his first effort isn’t so bad either.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’ll give one retired player and one current player. Retired: Bruce Bowen, who basically created the “3 and D” role as the defensive stopper and corner 3-point shooter for a perennial contender. Current: Shane Battier, for basically taking that role to another level with several different playoff teams. Neither guy would have been as good without their star teammates, but nobody played their roles better. And those roles were critical parts of five championships.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com Greece: An easy one. Robert Horry! One of the greatest clutch players of all time and one of the few that needs two hands to wear his championship rings. It is no coincidence that he had played in championship-caliber teams in all of his career in Houston, Los Angeles and San Antonio. A great player, an even better teammate and a notorious winner. Is If you could pick five players to finish a Game 7, would you dare not have Horry on the floor?

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com Brasil: If there was such a Hall of Fame, there would be plenty of inductees: Vinnie Johnson, Bobby Jackson, Manu Ginóbili, Bill Laimbeer, Dan Majerle, Dikembe Mutombo – heck, even Brian Scalabrine! If I had to nominate a current player, out of all the possible answers, I’d go with Manu Ginóbili, because he transcends the sixth man role and is also a hustle guy. Maybe he shouldn’t qualify because he’s a star and his sixth man status is merely a decoy. If not, I’d go with Ben Wallace, who was a leader via shot-blocking, hustling and defense, but wasn’t a true star, even though his appearance was imposing and unique and made him famous.

Heat join the instant-contender ranks

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday when the Heat were a team with one All-Star struggling to keep their heads above water in the playoffs.

Well, actually it was.

Then, barely 11 months ago, LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade on stage at American Airlines Arena for that smoke and laser light show. Which brings to mind a few other NBA teams that have made the rapid ascent from middling to championship contender.

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About Last Night

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat helped finish off the first weekend of the NBA season in fine fashion.

It’s good to have you back basketball. I think we can all agree on that.

The highlights from Sunday’s four-game slate can be found here in the Daily Zap:

Check out the Top 10 plays, too:

We hate to end on a sad note, but the NBA family lost one of its own over the weekend.

Portland Trail Blazers’ legend Maurice Lucas passed away at 58 after battling bladder cancer for the past two and a half years. My main man Jason Quick of the Oregonian broke the sad news Sunday night and also caught up with legendary Blazers coach Jack Ramsay, who described Lucas as the “strength” and “heart” of the Blazers’ 1977 Championship team:

Ramsay said Lucas should go down as one of the best Blazers, simply because he was the driving force, with Bill Walton, on the 1977 Championship team.

“He was the strength of the team,’’ Ramsay said. “He was The Enforcer. He was really the heart of that team. And he liked the role. He enjoyed it. He really liked being the enforcer-type player.

“Plus, he was highly skilled. A great rebounder. A great outlet passer. Threw bullets for his outlet pass. Then he could score on the post, make jump shots on the perimeter. But mostly, it was his physical persona that he carried with him that made us a different team.’’

Ramsay said Lucas “significantly” changed the momentum of the 1977 NBA Finals when he clocked Philadelphia big man Darryl Dawkins for throwing Blazers forward Bobby Gross to the floor. After a skirmish and both players being ejected, the fight became the talk of the series, even as the Blazers trailed 0-2.

But with the series coming to Portland, Lucas devised a plan. He would nip the controversy in the bud, and play a mind trick in the process.

During player introductions, after Dawkins was booed unmercifully by the Memorial Coliseum crowd, Lucas was introduced. But instead of running to where his teammates were standing, Lucas ran to the Philadelphia bench and found a stunned Dawkins.

He grabbed Dawkins’ hand and shook it, later saying he told him “No hard feelings.”

“I don’t think he said or told anybody what he would do, and I was startled myself when I saw him go over to Dawkins,’’ Ramsay said. “But it was a great tactic.’’

The Blazers never lost again, winning four straight to win the series in six games.

Rest In Peace Maurice Lucas!