Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Ewing’

Dirk’s Beard Grows Longer As Mavs’ Playoffs Chances Fade

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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 ChamberlainKareem 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…)

Knicks-Bulls Seems Like Old Times

 

HANG TIME, Texas — The only things missing were Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing clubbing Michael Jordan like a baby seal as he drove through the lane, Charles Smith missing layups or maybe Jeff Van Gundy derisively referring to Phil Jackson as Big Chief Triangle.

It was just like old times when the Knicks and Bulls collided on Friday night at the Garden — tempers flaring, heads butting, technical fouls flying and, in the end, of course, Chicago winning.

Where else but the Big Apple would it be more appropriate to make snap judgments and leap to hasty conclusions? Especially since the New York media have spent the first third of the season once more pounding the drumbeat of hope — or fantasy — for the Knicks’ first championship since 1973.

This was the second time in two weeks that the feisty Derrick Rose-less Bulls had stuck the Knicks, who are more earthbound at 5-3 since that soaring flight over Miami on Dec. 6.

First, let’s go over the gory details of the Friday Night Fights from main man Marc Berman of the New York Post (that’s BOTP, if you’re a Twitter follower of our hilarious good buddy @FisolaNYDN):

In the worst Garden night of the season during which they fell behind by 25 points late in the third quarter, the Knicks fought the referees, fought the Bulls players, but didn’t fight hard enough to win. As the final buzzer sounded on a discouraging 110-106 loss, coach Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler — all ejected — weren’t around to hear it.

The loss dropped the Knicks (19-7), percentage points behind Miami (17-6) for best record in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks, who also lost to Chicago two weeks ago, shot 33 percent in the first three quarters and trailed 83-61 and then blew their cool.

First, Anthony got ejected with 6:45 left for a hard slap on the ball held by Joakim Noah, picking up his second technical foul. Then Woodson followed Anthony to an early shower 1:30 later, earning his second technical for profanely berating the referees. Woodson, outcoached by Tom Thibodeau, appeared to mouth “terrible bleeping call,’’ then adding “bleep you.’’ as a kicker.

Bad move as all hell broke loose after that.

Fact is, despite all the talk about the Knicks’ excellent defense and chemistry and coaching and cohesion and Anthony, so much of their sizzling start has been based on their shooting the ball at a record-setting pace from behind the 3-point line. When Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Steve Novak, Anthony and virtually anyone in a NY uniform are connecting at a 40 percent clip while Tyson Chandler takes care of business on the inside, that’s a recipe for success.

However, the question has always been whether the Knicks could keep up that pace from downtown? In their last three games, the outside temperature has cooled with the Knicks shooting 28-for-86 (32.6) from long range, which has included a pair of losses this week to the Rockets and Bulls.

Is the answer as close as the Erie Bayhawks of NBA D-League, where Amar’e Stoudemire is putting the final touches on his rehab from knee surgery?

On one hand, Woodson says: “We’re going to post Amar’e some when he comes back. We will stick him down there and try to get him the ball, and let him work a little bit and see what happens.”

On the other are reports that the Knicks have tried to peddle the contract of the 30-year-old Stoudemire to every other team in the league unsuccessfully. The dilemma was spelled out wonderfully on Friday by Howard Beck of the New York Times:

In his prime, Stoudemire was the N.B.A.’s most lethal finisher in the pick-and-roll. But that role has been usurped, too, by Chandler, who is taller and longer, with a bigger bounce and healthier knees.

The obvious solution is to have Stoudemire anchor the second unit, running the pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni, while Novak, Smith and Rasheed Wallace spread the floor with their 3-point shooting.

But playing as a reserve means fewer minutes and a diminished profile. For all his public diplomacy, it seems doubtful Stoudemire would be content. On Thursday, he told reporters he was ready to “return back to dominance,” which hardly sounds like the words of a player ready to cede the spotlight.

Ask those who have worked with Stoudemire, and they eventually invoke the same word: prideful. Not selfish or egocentric, but simply prideful — a man who views himself in grand terms and spends every minute trying to live up to the image. At age 30, even after multiple knee operations and back problems, Stoudemire still views himself as an elite player.
Reintegrating Stoudemire — whether as a starter or a reserve — might be the greatest challenge the Knicks face this season. (His famously poor defense is also problematic.)

It is a cruel crossroads for Stoudemire, one he never could have foreseen. He surely deserves a better fate.

But considering the way the Knicks opened the season with a bang, stirred the passions in New York and raised the possibility of challenging Miami’s supremacy in the East, they do too. Old times against the Bulls weren’t such fond memories.

 

Sweet 6 Could Make All-Star Debuts

HANG TIME, Texas — Every year when the first batch of NBA All-Star vote totals is announced, it is often reminiscent of one of Capt. Renault’s famous lines from “Casablanca”: Round up the usual suspects.

We could pretty much count on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony being in the starting lineups on Feb. 17 in Houston even before the first online ballot was ever cast.

There are other questions, of course. Will the resurgent Tim Duncan make a return to the Western Conference team after his 12-year streak was broken last season? How many votes will Derrick Rose get, even though he’s been rehabbing his knee and hasn’t played a single game? Will a groundswell of “Linsanity” put Jeremy Lin onto his home court in Houston?

But the most interesting question — and the hottest debates — usually come down to the players that are trying to break out under the All-Star Game spotlight for the very first time.

So, we present a six-pack of the most deserving candidates to take their All-Star debuts this season:

Stephen Curry, Warriors – Nobody’s writing him off as being too fragile anymore, worried that the ankles just won’t hold up. Now in his fourth season, the sweet shooting guard is having his best year. He’s averaging career highs of 20 points, 6.5 rebounds — numbers among point guards that are eclipsed only by OKC’s Russell Westbrook. Perhaps most significant, he’s playing 37.2 minutes a night, having not missed a game. He’s showing the quick release and the accuracy from 3-point range that everyone predicted coming into the league and, now that he’s finally healthy, Curry is playing the role of leader on a 14-7 Golden State team that has been virtually without center Andrew Bogut.

James Harden, Rockets – The Beard exploded into the headlines by scoring 37 and 45 points in his first two games for the Rockets almost before he learned the names of his teammates. It was widely acknowledged that Harden had been sacrificing a big piece of his game and potential stardom by coming off the bench for the Thunder. But did everyone think it was a piece the size of Greenland? At 24.7 a game, he is fifth in the league in scoring, trailing only Bryant, Anthony, Durant and James. He also kicks in 5.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game and, quite frankly, does about anything he wants in the Houston offense, raining in 3-pointers or getting all the way to the rim off the dribble. Just by pulling on the uniform, he’s made the Rockets relevant again.

O.J. Mayo, Mavericks — Who would have predicted this when the Grizzlies held the door open and told him not to let it him on the way out last summer? The Mavericks may have struck out in their bids for the high profile names in Howard and Deron Williams, but likely scooped up the free agent bargain of the offseason in Mayo. He ranks 10th in scoring at 20.8 per game, a career best. He’s also shooting at a 48.7 clip, including a sizzling 53 percent from behind the 3-point line. With Dirk Nowitzki sidelined while recovering knee surgery, the Mavs were desperate for someone who could fill up the basket every night and be able to make the big shots down the stretch every night. With a consistency and a concentration of focus that always eluded him in Memphis, Mayo has done it all.

Joakim Noah, Bulls – It might have been easy for the Bulls to simply resign themselves and tread water while waiting for the return of Rose. But Noah is a splasher and he’s responded along with teammate Luol Deng by tirelessly attacking every game as coach Tom Thibodeau has significantly raised his playing time and the level of expectation. Noah ranks seventh in the league in rebounding (10.8), seventh in blocked shot (2.3) and also averages 1.4 steals, all of which has helped give the Bulls the most efficient defense in the NBA and has to put him high in the early conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s also averaging 13.6 points and 4.3 assists at the other end of the floor.

Josh Smith, Hawks – He’s flown beneath the radar for so long that it has somehow become acceptable to take what he’s done for granted through eight seasons and counting. By the time this one is over, J-Smoove will likely have 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots with the same team. That will put him on a select list with Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett. All but Ewing have at least one MVP award to their name and Smith is the only one who has never appeared in the All-Star Game. It took him a little while to get rolling this season, but Smith now has things in gear. He was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for averaging a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) in leading the Hawks to a 3-0 record. He is their leading scorer in a 12-6 season that has Atlanta No. 3 in the East standings.

Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers — How is it that the best center in the Eastern Conference could be on the trading block? It has to do more with the Cavs’ miserable 5-17 record rather than any of what Varejao has brought to the table. He’s averaging a career-high 14.8 points and leading the league with 14.9 rebounds per game. Varejao is tied with Memphis’ Zach Randolph for the league lead in double-doubles with 15, and for the 11 games when Kyrie Irving was injured and on the shelf, he might have been the only reason to watch the Cavs. Of course, every G.M. in the league has been watching and with Cleveland in full rebuilding mode, seeking draft picks and young players, there’s a good chance he’ll change uniforms twice this season. That is, of course, assuming he’ll switch into an All-Star jersey for the first time in Houston.

Hawks’ Smith Flies With The Best





HANG TIME, TEXAS — Along with electricity, gravity and the remote control, we can add one more item to the list of things we take for granted.

Josh Smith.

Is it because he plays in Atlanta, where the home team usually has been far less entertaining and satisfying than the home team down the road at the TNT studio?

Is it because to the Hawks, life beyond the second round of the playoffs is as mythical as Xanadu or the lost continent of Atlantis?

Is it because of all of Smith’s ill-timed, ill-thought 3-pointers that have resulted in dents in the wall from where we slammed our heads? (more…)

Duncan = The Big Discount?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Tim Duncan’s Hall of Fame credentials are set. His legacy needs no polishing at this late stage of his magnificent career.

And yet Duncan continues to shine.

He’s doing it this time without even touching the court. By taking a whopping 54 percent pay cut to remain with the Spurs, he abstained from the summer’s free-agent-palooza and allowed the Spurs to maintain their financial flexibility. That helped San Antonio keep its core group intact as it tries to mount one last championship run in the Duncan era.

As Jeff McDonald of the Express News reports, there was no need for a negotiating session:

“I’m an awful negotiator,” Duncan said, chuckling. “My agent was mad at me the whole time.”

Duncan was on hand at the Spurs’ practice facility Tuesday for the start of his 16th NBA training camp. That would have been surprising only if the notoriously casual dresser had arrived in something out of Craig Sager’s wardrobe.

Though technically a free agent for about a week in early July, the 36-year-old Duncan said he never seriously considered retirement and never remotely entertained the idea of playing elsewhere.

“I’ve been here for so long,” said Duncan, who took no calls from rival teams. “This is home for me.”

That’s a welcome statement for NBA observers who still cringe at the memory of Hakeem Olajuwon in a Toronto Raptors jersey or Patrick Ewing in Seattle SuperSonics green.

Taking that pay cut means Duncan instantly became The Big Discount. With his reported $9.6 million salary, Duncan moves from near the top of the league’s earnings list to a new spot behind the likes of Al Jefferson and Carlos Boozer, solid big men who will both earn $15 million this season but won’t rank anywhere near Duncan when their careers are over.

Two Gordons, Eric ($13.6) and Ben ($12.4), will both earn more than Duncan this season, as will Hedo Turkoglu ($11.8), Corey Maggette ($10.9), DeAndre Jordan and even former Spurs swingman Richard Jefferson ($10.1).

That doesn’t include the four amnestied players — Brandon Roy, Gilbert Arena, Elton Brand and Rashard Lewis — all of whom will earn between $21 (Roy) and $15 (Lewis) million for not playing with the teams that owed them that money. Arenas isn’t even on anyone’s training camp roster.

In an era when folks love to poke players for being all about the “Benjamins,” Duncan deserves some credit for being about everything but his own bottom line!

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?

USA Basketball: Dream Team Vs This Team … Who Wins Clash Of Titans?





LAS VEGAS – The question has been raised during each and every Olympic year since the original Dream Team took the world by storm 20 years ago.

So no one should be surprised that it’s come up here during the USA Basketball training camp and that this team’s elder statements and competitor extraordinaire Kobe Bryant would have a diplomatic response when asked how this current team would fare against the originators.

“Well, just from a basketball standpoint, they obviously have a lot more size than we do — you know, with [David] Robinson and [Patrick] Ewing and [Karl] Malone and those guys,” Bryant said. “But they were also — some of those wing players — were also a lot older, at kind of the end of their careers. We have just a bunch of young racehorses, guys that are eager to compete … So I don’t know. It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”

Of course, he does. When has Bryant ever been on a team that he didn’t believe would beat back all challengers?

It would have been supremely disappointing if he said anything else.

(more…)

Former Knicks, Heat Forward Pat Cummings Dead At 55

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Pat Cummings, an original member of the Miami Heat and a former Knicks forward was found dead in a friend’s Greenwich Village apartment Tuesday afternoon, according to multiple reports. He was 55.

A standout at the University of Cincinnati, Cummings was a third-round Draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1978. He was later traded to the Mavericks and signed as a free agent with the Knicks in 1984.

A member of the inaugural Miami Heat in 1988-89, Cummings played 683 games over 12 seasons in his NBA career. He finished with averages of 9.6 points and 5.6 rebounds, with his most prominent stint coming as a member of the Knicks’ frontcourt rotation with Patrick Ewing and Bill Cartwright from 1984-1988.

Cummings also played for the Jazz.

The details surrounding his death were still being investigated, per the New York Post:

The medical examiner will perform an autopsy today to determine the cause of death, though as of last night there were no signs of criminality.

Cummings’ girlfriend found him unconscious on a pullout couch. He later was pronounced dead at the scene.

No Supe For Celtics, Knicks





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Celtics and Knicks might be wondering if anyone in Boston and New York is noticing them. Then again, it’s probably best they don’t.

With those two cities currently hypnotized by the Super Bowl — Patriots vs. Giants, in case you’re living in a vortex — the basketball teams are wallowing in their misery somewhat quietly. All of New England is riveted on Tom Brady and Wes Welker and Vince Wilfork and Bill Belichick. Most of New York (the non-Jets fans anyway) is in a lather over Eli Manning and Justin Tuck and Tom Coughlin. Boston is going completely Gronkers over Rob Gronkowski (how’s the ankle?) while New York is busy doing the salsa in honor of Victor Cruz.

The Knicks? The Celtics? Are those guys playing?

Well, yes. And not too wonderfully. These two have another five days to get it together before the home fans awaken from their football hangover and take notice of what’s going on at the Gardens, TD and Madison Square. Carmelo Anthony, now back from a mini-break to hear wounds (the physical ones, not the psychological), needs to somehow rally the troops. Meanwhile, the Celtics await a full and healthy return by Rajon Rondo to make a pre-All Star Game push to respectability.

Strangely, both of these veteran teams are looking up at the young Sixers in the Atlantic Division. And that must be a weird feeling. The Sixers don’t have a single star player, and couldn’t get beyond the first round of the playoffs last spring, and can’t pack the house despite their record, and they’re still holding pole position in the division. That’s pretty humbling for the Celtics (10-10) and Knicks (8-13), who figured to be battling each other for those honors.

(more…)

NBA TV Plans Slate Of Playoff Gems

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What do you get when you take the most extensive library of NBA footage, a room full of creative and inquisitive hoops heads and the simple directive of helping fill the basketball void so many of us have been feeling the past two months?

You get “Playoff Gems on NBA TV,” 10 crucial postseason matchups that will make their NBA TV premiers this week as Hardwood Classics.  Our good friends at NBA TV will air three games a day starting Tuesday and running through Thursday with the 10th and final game airing Friday, Sept. 2. As a bonus they’ll re-air all of the games throughout Labor Day weekend, just in case you miss one the first time.

Here’s a quick rundown of the games, including the date and times (ET) they will air on NBA TV, with a few of our notes to help refresh your memory:

Tuesday, Aug. 30

Bullets vs. Warriors, 1975 Finals: Game 3 — 8 p.m. ET

Any game featuring Rick Barry at his best is worth your time. One of the game’s all-time great scorers, Barry was at his best in this game. He lit up the Bullets for 38 points and Jamaal Wilkes put the defensive clamps, as best any man could, on Elvin Hayes to help the Warriors to what would be an insurmountable 3-0 series lead. The underdog Warriors finished the Bullets off in Game 4 to complete their magical run. There hasn’t been a Finals game played in the Bay Area since this one.

Suns vs. SuperSonics, 1979 Western Conference finals: Game 7 — 10 p.m. ET

The Sonics’ first and only NBA title doesn’t happen without them grinding through this rugged conference final against the rival Suns. Game 7 was played before 37,000-plus fans at The Kingdome. The final and thrilling seconds of this one still gets the juices flowing for Sonics fans who were worried they might not get a chance for a Finals rematch against the Bullets after losing in 1978. Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens and his point guard, Dennis Johnson, did a masterful job of managing the game down the stretch.

Knicks vs. Nets, 1983 Eastern Conference first round: Game 1 — Midnight ET

For those of us with an appreciation for the artist known as Bernard King, this game will be a treat. King turned the Hudson River Rivalry into a rout with a 40-point explosion as the Hubie Brown-coached Knicks dumped the Nets in two games to advance to a conference semifinal date with the Philadelphia 76ers. HT fave Truck Robinson was on this Knicks team as well, as were Rory Sparrow and a young Bill Cartwright (seriously).

Wednesday, Aug. 31

Spurs vs. Nuggets, 1985 Western Conference first round: Game 2 — 8 p.m. ET

With the “Iceman,” George Gervin showing off all of his silky smooth moves, the Spurs and Nuggets played a classic. Gervin outgunned high-scoring Nuggets guard Alex English in a series that marked the end of the “Ice Age” in San Antonio — Gervin was traded to the Chicago Bulls after the season.

Celtics vs. Pistons, 1985 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 4 — 10 p.m. ET

The heated Celtics-Pistons rivalry that colored much of the mid to late 1980s took its first major postseason turn in this series. Isiah Thomas had Joe Dumars (via the draft) and Rick Mahorn (courtesy of a trade with Washington) on his side for the first time in the 1985 postseason. But it was “The Microwave” Vinnie Johnson that stole the show in Game 4. The Pistons’ surprising showing in this series — which they lost 4-2 — was a statement that they would be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

Sixers vs. Bucks, 1986 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 1 — Midnight ET

With All-World big man Moses Malone sidelined with an injury a young Charles Barkley — that’s right TNT’s very own! — went to work against the Bucks and posted a monster 31-point, 20-rebound night as the Sixers rallied for the comeback win. This was just Barkley’s second season in the league but it served as his breakout year, as he earned second-team All-NBA honors. Malone was traded to the Bullets before the start of the next season and Barkley became the face of the franchise.

Thursday, Sept. 1

Bulls vs. Sixers, 1990 Eastern Conference semifinals: Game 4 — 8 p.m. ET

You didn’t really think this project would be completed without at least one dose of MJ, did you? Michael Jordan was at his versatile best in this game, and did it without Scottie Pippen (who missed the game to attend his father’s funeral). MJ’s 45 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and two steals only tell part of the story. You need to watch the way he dictated the action from end to end to truly appreciate his performance.

Bulls vs. Pistons, 1991 Eastern Conference finals: Game 3 — 10 p.m. ET

In what turned out to be not only the defining game of this series but the turning point in this rivalry, the Bulls were on the verge of erasing three straight years of postseason frustration at the hands of their fierce rivals. MJ went off, scoring 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter in what was one of the defining moments of his early career, this was just his seventh season in the league. He added seven rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and two steals in the breakthrough game that set the stage for the Bulls’ series sweep of the Pistons and their first Finals appearance.

Celtics vs. Pacers, 1992 Eastern Conference first round: Game 3 — Midnight ET

In a battle of Reggies (Indy’s Reggie Miller vs. Boston’s Reggie Lewis), Lewis shined brightest with a 32-point effort to lead the Celtics to victory and a series sweep of a Pacers team that gave them fits a year earlier in a five-game, first-round playoff series. Even with aging and wounded stars Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish still grinding, there was no doubt that Lewis was asserting himself as the heir apparent in Boston. He, and not Bird or McHale, led the Celtics in scoring that season. In 10 playoff games that year, Lewis averaged 28 points on 53 percent shooting from the floor.

Friday, Sept. 2

Suns vs. Rockets, 1994 Western Conference semifinals: Game 7 — 10 p.m. ET

Hakeem Olajuwon was at the height of his powers in this one, destroying the Suns with 37 points and 17 rebounds as the Rockets eventually moved onto the NBA Finals and the first of their back-to-back titles. If you need a refresher course to remind you just how dominant Olajuwon was that season, here is your cheat sheet. If first-person testimonials are needed, just check with Clyde Drexler, Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing. All of those superstars saw  their title dreams end that season because of Dream and the Rockets.

Do yourself a favor and tune in this week. You’ll be glad you did!