Posts Tagged ‘Norm Van Lier’

Jerry Sloan says he has Parkinson’s disease

Sad news from the NBA family: Jerry Sloan, the longtime Jazz coach, revealed Wednesday he has Parkinson’s disease.

Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune that he learned he had the illness last fall. At first he kept the diagnosis a secret outside of his family, then decided to go public, which one caveat: “I don’t want people feeling sorry for me.”

Sloan is 74, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009 and served as Jazz coach for just over 23 seasons. He’s the third all-time winningest coach in the NBA history, reached the Western Conference finals five times in a seven-year stretch and the NBA Finals twice with Karl Malone and John Stockton. Before serving as an assistant coach and head coach with the Jazz, Sloan was a rugged guard with the Bulls and formed one of the league’s toughest backcourt tandems with Norm Van Lier.

Sloan was a testament to longevity in a profession that lacks the kind of security he enjoyed with the Jazz. He stepped down from his position following a rift with Deron Williams, but said that incident alone wasn’t the reason he retired.

Sloan also told the paper he’s dealing with a form of dementia, although he exercises regularly and walks four miles daily.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s and the Tribune said in Sloan’s case, the disease is progressing.

 

Blogtable: Toughest Player … Ever

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.


Dual dueling PGs in Houston | Tough Guy award | What to make of the Pelicans


Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Derrick Rose looks like he’s back, Russell Westbrook is dunking in practice … who’s the toughest, most resilient NBA player you’ve ever seen?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comJerry Sloan was the Dick Butkus/Mike Ditka of Chicago basketball in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He didn’t get that clenched-fist profile hoisting pretty jumpers. Long before he was a Hall of Fame coach, Sloan was a spit ‘n’ vinegar Bulls guard alongside also-nails-tough Norm Van Lier. Those two — and more important, their opponents — needed cut men in their corners more than coaches on their benches.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comPound for pound, it’s got to be Allen Iverson. The little guy was bounced off more courts than anything without “Spalding” stamped across its face and kept right on coming back for more. Runner-up: Isiah Thomas.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Certainly it’s impossible not to immediately think of Michael Jordan, who played in at least 78 games in a season 12 times and through all kinds of injuries and illness. Larry Bird, too, with his awful back issues and Kobe Bryant, who had seemed almost impervious to injury until his Achilles blowout. Steve Nash is another guy who took all kinds of punishment and kept on coming. But one player fresh on my mind is Rudy Tomjanovich. I recently finally read John Feinstein‘s book “The Punch.” Tomjanovich wanted to walk right back on the court even though the punch Kermit Washington delivered caused Tomjanovich’s skull to leak spinal fluid (of course he didn’t quite know it at that moment). For him to come back after an injury that could have killed him and required multiple surgeries, to average 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds a game the next season and make the All-Star team is nothing short of remarkable. Tomjanovich was always tough, but that brand of toughness stretches well beyond the imagination.

Kobe Bryant in the 2000 Finals

Kobe Bryant in the 2000 Finals (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Kobe Bryant could have been a hockey player. Ultimate compliment. John Stockton is in the conversation. He didn’t battle serious injuries, but he was a point guard constantly setting hard screens on bigs, he never missed games. Grant Hill and Zydrunas Ilgauskas defined resilient — the number of times they could have retired because of injury, refused, and built lengthy careers through determination as much as talent.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It’s easy to recall both Jason Kidd and Steve Nash playing playoff games with one eye mostly swollen shut. I’ve heard stories about Chuck Hayes separating his shoulder on multiple occasions, popping it back in and getting back on the floor. But I don’t think anyone tops Kobe Bryant playing through the various injuries that he’s had over the years. In ’09-10, he put up over 1,500 shots with a broken finger on his shooting hand!

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: That’s a ridiculously tough question to answer given what passes for toughness in today’s NBA. I think the toughest and most resilient player I have seen during my time as a conscientious observer of the NBA would certainly have to be two different players (I always go with Charles Oakley and Derrick Coleman as the two toughest, based solely on the eyewitness testimony of guys who played with and against them during their era). If we’re talking about guys who have bounced back from significant injury to regain their status in the league or the guy who are willing to sacrifice life and limb to stay on the court, the guy willing to drag around a dangling limb if he has to in order to keep his team in a position to win, that’s another story. You never really know what kind of pain threshold a particular guy might have and you certainly have no idea if they are willing to push it to the limit in this day and age, not with all of the science out there that indicates physical trauma of any kind can having a detrimental and lasting impact on an athlete’s life for year and years to come. That said, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo strike me as guys who have and will give it all up to compete and compete at the highest level. Kobe popped an Achilles and got up and walked down the floor and shot free throws, man. And you remember when Rondo got his arm twisted the wrong way and came back later and played, or when he tore his ACL last season and finished the game like it was no big deal. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if those things make you tough, resilient or just plain crazy.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogKevin Willis. Considering he started playing for the Hawks when I was a kid and then was still playing in the NBA by the time I was out of school and working covering the NBA… I mean, that’s a pretty wide span. He always kept himself in tip-top condition, which is why he was able to play until he was 44 years old. I had the pleasure of being able to share a few meals with Kevin toward the end of his career, and he was always terribly careful about what he would order and what he would allow himself to eat. (I was not so careful.) There may have been guys who were “tougher,” meaning guys who were ready to fight at the drop of a hat, but I don’t think anyone has ever been more resilient than Kevin Willis.

Karan Madhok, NBA.com IndiaThe player that immediately springs to mind is Allen Iverson. Perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound player ever, Iverson played much bigger than his 6-foot stature and dominated opponents on a nightly basis in his prime. He was also tougher than nails when it came to playing through injury, highlighted by the memorable 2001 season when he carried the undermanned 76ers to the Finals while also carrying various sprains, contusions and who knows what other pain in his body.

Jacopo Gerna, NBA.com ItaliaI’ll pick up Bill Laimbeer. Despite an ordinary body, he was a four-time All Star and a clutch player for the Detroit Pistons when they won two championships. Coaches, players, fans … when they talk about “playing hard,” what does it mean? I suggest a Laimbeer DVD. Look how he was able to face down bigger centers, opening the court with his silky mid-range shot and 3-pointers, playing pick-and-pop alongside Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. For sure he committed many hard fouls, and sometimes he flopped to the ground after a slight brushing. But his reputation for physical play (“he’s a thug”, said his former teammate Dennis Rodman) overshadowed his skills. To me, he was always more than a “bad boy.”

Aldo Miguel Aviñante, NBA.com Philippines:  Kobe Bryant, no doubt. He has been playing through injuries throughout most of his career — mentally and physically no one can match the Mamba. He prepares himself and uses every advantage he can to take care of his body. The image of Kobe walking by himself with a ruptured Achilles is a testament of his incredible toughness and resiliency.

Boerwinkle, The Pre-Jordan Bulls And The Great 12-Foot Rims Experiment

CHICAGO – To a lot of Chicago Bulls fans, Tom Boerwinkle wasn’t just an alumnus and early big man of their favorite team. He was a litmus test, the guy who could separate the longtime diehards from the bandwagon set. If you followed the Bulls when Boerwinkle played for them – pre-Derrick Rose, pre-Michael Jordan, essentially pre-Artis Gilmore – you were the real deal.

Boerwinkle, the 7-footer from Cleveland by way of the University of Tennessee, died Wednesday at age 67. Drafted by Chicago with the fourth pick in 1968 – Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld went 1-2 that year – Boerwinkle played all 10 of his NBA seasons with Chicago, averaging 7.2 points and 9.0 rebounds.

He took up space and banged inside against the behemoths who roamed NBA courts back in the day, from Wilt Chamberlain, Hayes and Unseld to Willis Reed, Bob Lanier and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Offensively, he was what the old announcers and sportswriters referred to as a “pivot man,” working in the high post as cutters moved around him, dishing bounce passes or handing off to perimeter shooters.

Most of what you’d want to know about Boerwinkle can be found here, via longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter Sam Smith‘s piece for the team’s Web site. The bottom line for so many Chicago fans, though, was that Boerwinkle represented the team’s early adopters and hardcore faithful, the ones who followed Bob Love, Chet Walker, Norm Van Lier, Jerry Sloan and coach Dick Motta as they played underdogs to the Lakers, the Knicks, the Celtics and the Bucks, among others.

It was easy to root for the Bulls once Jordan arrived and went supernova. Hanging in there in the Boerwinkle years required a little more stamina and faith, despite the Bulls’ run of six straight playoff appearances and seven in the big man’s tenure there.

In spite of Boerwinkle’s steady play and facilitating presence, many felt the roster required an elite center. So the Bulls went searching for one, trading for broken-down Nate Thurmond a couple years too late. Only when Gilmore arrived via the ABA dispersal draft in 1976 did Chicago have its answer for Abdul-Jabbar or Lanier. Yet the Bulls never broke through with Gilmore, either.

The other memory of Boerwinkle that stands out for a kid who grew up in Chicago in the 1960s and ’70s actually came from his college days. In November 1967, he was a senior at Tennessee when the Volunteers coach Ray Mears participated in an experiment for Sports Illustrated. To address the concerns that some in the game had about the dominance of the big man, the magazine explored the possibility of raising the rims to 12 feet.

All of a sudden, for this one trial intrasquad game, Boerwinkle’s reference point to the basket was that of a man about five feet tall.

What surprised many was that the biggest man, Boerwinkle, who is fairly agile and quick, had the most difficulty. While he had 15 rebounds, a little above his average, he had trouble getting them, although most of the missed shots fell within a 12-foot radius of the basket. He had no chance at all to get the shots that hit the front of the rim. The rebounds usually caromed over his head and were taken by one of the smaller men. On many shots the ball took longer to come down, giving the other players time to crowd into the lane and fight Boerwinkle for the ball. Several times he had the ball stolen away when he came down with it. He failed to block a single shot and did not score on a tip-in. He made only one basket in 16 tries, a jump shot from the foul line.

Boerwinkle never had to play on jacked-up rims again. He settled into a long career with the Bulls and remained popular later as a broadcaster and team alumnus. His place in their history is secure, wheeling and dealing out of the high post.