HOUSTON – It was Michael Jordan‘s birthday Sunday – in case you’re the one who hadn’t heard that by now – but it is Hakeem Olajuwon‘s “year.”
Olajuwon, the Hall of Fame center who spent nearly his entire career in the host city for the 2013 All-Star Weekend and led the Rockets to two NBA championships, was honored at the National Basketball Retired Players Association Legends Brunch as its “Legend of the Year.” He didn’t blow out any candles, but he did hear the applause and feel the appreciation of more than 1,000 attendees of the burgeoning event, sponsored by the retired players association now for 14 years.
Oh, and Olajuwon not only was selected No. 1, two spots ahead of Jordan, in the 1984 Draft. He beat him to 50 as well, hitting that milestone on Jan. 21.
The 6-foot-10 native of Lagos, Nigeria, who set standards for grace and footwork among the NBA’s great big men, Olajuwon famously transferred some soccer skills to hardwood when he picked up a basketball at age 15. In an acceptance speech that lasted more than 17 minutes – so much for “The Dream’s” image as a man of few words – he talked of his development under respected coaches such as Guy Lewis at the University of Houston and Bill Fitch and Rudy Tomjanovich with the Rockets.
But he also paid tribute to Ganiyu Otenigbagbe, who essentially discovered and molded his game in secondary skill. “I did not know the rules of basketball,” Olajuwon said Sunday, “but he gave me his job description: ‘Stay in the paint!’ “
The Legends Brunch traditionally honors former NBA players and coaches who worked in, hail from or shared some other connection with the All-Star city each year. The others honored for 2013:
Ambassador of the Year: Yao Ming. Yao’s foundation and his partnership with NBA China has enabled him to “build a bridge” between his homeland and the U.S. The 7-6 native of Shanghai, whose eight-season career was interrupted and cut short by foot and leg injuries, was introduced by current Rockets guard Jeremy Lin.
Humanitarian of the Year: Dikembe Mutombo. The shot intimidator and blocker who spent the last five of his 18 NBA seasons in Houston is renowned for his charitable works, particularly in his native Republic of the Congo. Mutombo credited Olajuwon, who preceded him to the NBA by eight years, with being the “key of our continent.” “You’ve become The Dream for winning championships,” Mutombo said, addressing his friend from the stage, “but you’re a dream for so many African players.”
Hometown Hero Award: Robert Horry. Horry, known as “Big Shot Bob,” was part of the Rockets’ title-winning teams in 1994 and 1995, then won five more rings with the Lakers and the Spurs. In an ironic twist, the former teammate who was supposed to introduce Horry – Sam Cassell, known for his motormouth tendencies on and off the court – needed an assist from TNT announcer and emcee Ernie Johnson because Cassell lost his voice somewhere during All-Star festivities.
Houston Rockets Lifetime Achievement Award: Tomjanovich. A five-time All-Star as a rockets player and coach of the two championship teams, Rudy T joked that when he was drafted in 1971, the NBA ranked fourth in popularity in Houston behind football, baseball and “bull-riding.” “Now the city is hosting its third All-Star Game,” he said.
Pioneer Award: Calvin Murphy. The flamboyant 5-foot-9 Hall of Famer took the stage after a video montage of career highlights was shown on screens in the ballroom, then said, “Boy, I was good.” The point guard from Niagara turned longtime Rockets broadcaster noted the difference in prestige that came with former NBA players no longer being referred to as “Old Timers” but rather “Legends.”
Lifetime Achievement Award: Clyde Drexler. Drexler, a 2004 Hall of Fame enshrinee and member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic “Dream Team,” grew up in Houston and gained initial fame teamed with Olajuwon in college on the “Phi Slamma Jamma” University of Houston team in the early 1980s. He returned to the city and to Olajuwon via trade in for the 1995 title run.
Drexler was the guy whose rookie season of 1983-84 in Portland was so promising – he had 10 All-Star appearances in his future – that the Trail Blazers opted to draft Kentucky center Sam Bowie at No. 2 behind Olajuwon, passing on you know who. That means Drexler, for the record, turned 50 last June 22.
A large number of familiar NBA names – from other Hall of Famers to role players – attended the brunch, including 2000 Sixth Man award winner Rodney Rogers. Rogers, 41, required the use of a wheelchair and ventilator after being paralyzed in an all-terrain vehicle accident in December 2012.
HOUSTON – State Farm All-Star Saturday night is minutes away from lift off. Nick Cannon and Rob Nice are hosting the in-arena festivities.
I don’t know what everyone else came to see, but for me, All-Star Saturday night is always about the finale. It’s a chance for someone to etch their name in All-Star lore with a mercurial performance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, much like that fella wearing No. 23 above did back in 1987.
Some of the All-Stars made their own predictions, several of them, assuming that James “Flight” White will rise above the crowd and do the most damage on his way to the title.
But first up we have the Sears Shooting Stars competition. I’m going with Team [James] Harden and the hometown advantage (he’s rolling with Sam Cassell, a man anyone would want on their team requires you to make clutch shots. (Team Westbrook should be dangerous, though, with Robert Horry and Maya Moore rocking with Russell Westbrook.)
– 8:37 — Team Westbrook handled business with the fastest time at 29.5 seconds. Team Harden kicked it off with a 37.9 as the West finished their business.
– 8:44 — Dominique Wilkins still has the touch. Knocks down the 3-ball for Team Bosh. They needed 50 seconds to finish, though.
– 8:45 – What’s up with Brook Lopez shooting 3-pointers like free throws? 1:07 for Team Lopez. The East is down 20-0 going into the championship.
– 8:47 – So much for prediction. Team Bosh and Team Westbrook squaring advance and ready to square off in the championship round.
– 8:52 – I root for Swin Cash in whatever she does. Too bad she’s stuck on a team with Bosh and ‘Nique instead of say, myself and John Schuhmann … 1:29 for them in the championship round. The pressure is on Team Westbrook.)
– 8:54 – Team Westbrook can’t get it done. Team Bosh gets the win and Nique gets the MVP for knocking down both of his team’s half court shots. As my man Randy Moss would say, Straight (Swin) Cash Homie!
– 8:56 – Team Bosh collects the first hardware of the night in the Sears Shooting Stars. Nique is feeling good. Says he wants in on the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, too. (I’m kidding.)
– 8:58 – Gold medal winners from London, both men and women, getting some love on the big stage between events.
TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE
– 9:03 – Sounds like the dude from the Price is Right is reading off the rules for this event. I’m ignoring him and checking the shoe game of the contestants. Jeremy Lin kicks are wicked. Need to see an up-close shot.
– 9:05 – Hawks guard Jeff Teague clocks a 49.4, couldn’t get his passes or his 3-pointer from the top of the arc down. And he had the nerve to blow his final shot, going for the layup instead of the dunk. Later son.
– 9:06 – Pistons guard Brandon Knight learns from Teague’s mistakes and finishes with a dunk and a 32.2.
– 9:08 – Sixers guard Jrue Holiday rocks it with a 29.3. Made it look effortless. One of my favorite young players in the league. West has to beat 1:50.9 to topple the East in the contest.
– 9:12 –Jeremy Lin finishes in 35.8 but could have finished faster. He was stylin’ for the home crowd.
– 9:13 –Damian Lillard rips the course in the fastest time of the night so far, 28.8.
– 9:15 – Defending champ Tony Parker bows out with a 48.7. The East picks up 30 points thanks to Lin and Parker. Knight and Lillard move on to the championship round.
–9:17 –Alicia Keys gets some jumbotron love (she’s sitting next to Spike Lee). She looks marvelous, of course. We need to get her to do a theme song, “Hang Time is on fire!”
– 9:20 – Holiday with a 35.6, but Lillard snags a 29.8 for the win, 10 more points for the West and a trophy to go alongside that T-Mobile Rookie of the Year trophy he’s going to get in a few months. Well done young fella, the first rookie to win the event.
– 9:24 – East leads the west 40-30 after two events. They are playing for $500,000 in cash for charity.
FOOT LOCKER THREE-POINT CONTEST NEXT
– 9:32 – I had no idea this Phillip Phillips cat (or band, I’m not sure) sang this song. That’s my jam. I don’t watch American Idol, though, so I didn’t connect the dots. He smashed that performance.
– 9:35 –Steph Curry just warmed up from the corner rack and knocked down the first four without even looking at the basket. Ridiculous. Save some for the contest fella!
– 9:40 – Curry started slow but finished like … well, a Curry. He nets 17 points and Ryan Anderson is up next. He goes off from the start but struggles at the end, finishing with 18. Matt Bonner closes out the order for the West. His shooting stroke is awkward. But he finishes with 19 points, for a total teams score of 54.
– 9:46 – These Knicks kid reporters have stolen the show, clowning everyone and Nick Cannon on the big stage. You gotta love the kids.
– 9:52 –Kyrie Irving forgot to take his warm up shirt off and still finished with 18. And as you might expect, he knocked down his money ball on the last rack to beat the buzzer. Paul George is up next. Love this cat but he’s in the wrong contest. Maybe he meant to sign up for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest? Steve Novak has to make up for PG’s 10. Novak finishes with 17 and the West wins the 40 points. Bonner and Irving for the title. Who picked those two for the final round? I had Curry and Novak. I’m done with the prediction business tonight.
– 10:02 – Kyrie just put on a show. Knocked down eight of his first nine and 17 of his first 18 shots before finishing with 23, two shy of the record. He even got LeBron James up out of his seat during his wicked stretch. Kid is on his championship grind. Bonner goes for 20. The Cavaliers might still be a lottery team but at least they’ve got Kyrie!
SPRITE SLAM DUNK CONTEST IS ON DECK
– 10:07 –Fall Out Boy is on stage and they must be from Chicago because they are wearing their Jordan throwbacks. Rock stars love skinny jeans and tattoos more than NBA youngsters. Now they’ve got 2 Chainz up here with them and he’s singing the hook after doing his rap verse. The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest participants come out while they remain on stage.
– 10:16 –Rudy Tomjanovich, Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler are the judges tonight. Houston’s hoops Mt. Rushmore?
– 10:20 – Houston’s own Gerald Green kicks off the contest with a perfect 50 on his first dunk, a reverse tomahawk dunk where he had to duck his head or risk a concussion after he bumped his head on the rim. Crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!
– 10:22 –James “Flight” White with the 45 on the two-handed runaway dunk from a step inside the free throw line. He missed his first attempt. Had he made it, the 50 would have been a lock.
– 10:24 –Terrence Ross gets an A for persistence, finally making a behind-the-back 180 after five misses. That was generous for a dude who missed that many dunks.
– 10:26 –Kenneth Faried nets a 39 for a 360 off-the-backboard dunk that looked way better on the replay than it did in real time.
– 10:28 –Eric Bledsoe missed his more aggressive between-the-legs dunk four times before opting for something a little easier to complete. He matched Faried’s 39.
– 10:29 –Jeremy Evans bags a 47 with an assist from Mark Eaton, he jumped over the big man’s head while the former Jazz center was sitting and holding a ball.
– 10:31 –Kevin Hart and Cannon are doing their stand up routine while clowning the All-Star’s baby pictures. I’m going home and burning every baby picture in the house!
– 10:35 – Flight White’s inability to dribble the ball up the floor is going to cost him the title. He’s got all the hops in the world. But he has to go back to the lab and work on the handles. He botched his second dunk attempt and during the allotted 90 seconds and ended up missing his one untimed attempt. That 32 should end his night.
– 10:40 – Green just cut the nets out and is attempting to dunk it twice. Loving the idea. But this is a tough one, even for the cupcake dunker. And now we have to wait for someone to find the replacement nets for this rim. He timed out as well and then missed his untimed attempt for a matching 32. Somebody get Nique some shoes.
– 10:45 – Ross only needs a 33 to represent the East. Just do something normal and you are in. Hang time … he’s got a 49 and moves into the final. There is going to be some serious complaining about this format.
– 10:47 – Faried with a 50 for his between the legs jam after just two steps. Is it me or do the 50s get tossed around rather liberally these days.
– 10:48 – Bledsoe with a 50 of his own for the sick reverse windmill off the bounce.
– 10:49 – Evans dunks two balls but with no authority whatsoever, collects his 43 and advances from the West. There won’t be a whole lot of debating about what went on here.
– 10:53 – Judging by the looks on the faces of former dunk champions sitting around the floor, they’re not impressed with what they have seen tonight. Power used to be a dunk contest staple. Now the apparent degree of difficulty has trumped raw power. I’m trying to be diplomatic tonight. I’m going to need some time to digest what we’ve seen tonight before I start shredding these performances.
DUNK FINAL ROUND
– 10:56 – Evans goes over a the cloaked painting of himself jumping over a cloaked painting of himself dunking and then he signs it. Nice touch but I’d have been more impressed if he snatched the cloak off the painting on his way up.
– 10:58 – Ross throws down a grimy leaning reverse jam that Rockets forward Terrence Jones bounced off the side of the backboard. Arguably the second best dunk of the night behind Green’s first attempt in Round 1.
– 11:01 – Evans has outlandish hops. Jumping over Dahntay Jones and doing his own version of the Jumpman pose showed off just how ridiculous his vertical is folks. RIDICULOUS!
– 11:03 – Ross trumps him with a between-the-legs, jump over the ball boy dunk that should seal the crown for the Raptors rookie.
– 11:06 – Ross takes the title. He made up for his rough start to the competition by bring out his best when it matter most. The West won the night, though, finishing with 140 points to the East’s 125.
Let the debate rage on about the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, though. Because no one leaves the Toyota Center tonight feeling like we saw the absolute best of the best ply their trade in this contest. Someone out there, someone hungry and creative, needs to step up. MJ and Nique aren’t walking through that door!
HOUSTON — Vanilla vs. Chocolate. Less Filling vs. Tastes Great. Ginger vs. Mary Ann.
Maybe Michael Jordan was trying to light up a little rivalry fun on the eve of blowing out his 50 birthday candles on Sunday. Or maybe he’s just bored with his Bobcats on their way to another worst-in-the-NBA record (12-40).
For whatever reason, Jordan decided to weigh in on the hoop debate of our currents times and said in an NBA TV interview that he would take Kobe Bryant over LeBron James.
The deciding factor? Championship rings.
“Five beats one every time I look at it,” Jordan said. “And not that (James) won’t get five. He may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”
It is, of course, the kind of classic debate that long has been the reason they put stools in bars and truthfully you can’t be very wrong with either choice. At this point Kobe has played 17 seasons in the league to collect his five championships, while LeBron seems to be just coming into his own in his 10th season in the league.
As a consensus choice as the greatest player of all time, we’re not here to question Jordan’s credentials on the topic. But we do have to wonder about his overly simplistic reasoning.
While championships should certainly figure into the overall evaluation any player’s career, should they be the difference makers?
Is is really fair to compare the breadth of Bryant’s 17 seasons to James at a time when he seems to be gathering confidence and might be starting a run of titles?
Five is bigger than one. We can’t argue with the math.
But by his own reasoning, that means Celtics’ immortal Bill Russell clearly gets the nod over Jordan himself. Eleven is bigger than six.
And while we’re at it, that happens to put Jordan behind Robert Horry. Seven is bigger than six, too.
HANG TIME, Texas — The last time James White and Gerald Green were in a slam dunk contest together, they practically blew the roof off with a 2010 Russian Cup performance that’s become a YouTube cult classic.
The Pacers’ 6-foot-8 Green won the event in 2007 at Las Vegas when he leaped over a table to dunk in the final round to beat out Dwight Howard and finished runner-up to Howard in 2008 despite a crowd-pleasing first-round dunk where he blew out the candle on a cupcake that was sitting on the back of the rim.
State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, an all-inclusive skills showcase, will take place on Feb. 16 at the Toyota Center in Houston and will be televised live by TNT at 8 p.m. ET.
Two of the league’s long-range shooters — Stephen Curry of the Warriors and Steve Novak of the Knicks — will lead opposing teams in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Curry’s West teammates will be Ryan Anderson of the Hornets and Matt Bonner of the Spurs. Joining Novak on the East team will be Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers and Paul George of the Pacers.
It’s worth noting that Novak will be returning to the Toyota Center court where he broke into the NBA with the Rockets in 2006, while the league’s top 3-point percentage shooter — Kyle Korver of the Hawks — will not take part. But Anderson has the most 3-pointers this season.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will have Texans Tony Parker of the Spurs and Jeremy Lin of the Rockets joining forces with Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard for the West against the Hawks’ Jeff Teague, the Sixers’ Jrue Holiday and the Bucks Brandon Jennings.
The Sears Shooting Stars Competition, which features NBA players, WNBA players and NBA legends, will have James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Tina Thompson, Maya Moore, Robert Horry and Sam Cassell of the West taking on an East team of Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Dominique Wilkins and Muggsy Bogues.
As part of the new format, points earned by each conference throughout the four All-Star Skills Competitions will determine the conference that earns the title of 2013 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night champion. Dwyane Wade of the Heat will serve as the East team captain and the Clippers’ Chris Paul will lead the West.
In addition, NBA Cares and State Farm will make a joint donation of $500,000 as part of the event, with $350,000 going to the winning conference’s charities and $150,000 to the runner-up conference’s charities. All of the charities will be selected by the conference captains, the NBA, and State Farm.
In drafting players for Team Chuck and Team Shaq in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal went in opposite directions with their top picks. Shaq built his foundation on the high-scoring backcourt of Irving and Lillard, while Barkley went for big men in Anthony Davis and Faried.
DALLAS –Shawn Marion is definitive on the subject: The 2005-06 Phoenix Suns, even with Amar’e Stoudemire sidelined basically the entire season, should have won it all.
But they didn’t, succumbing to the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the West finals. The next season, the infamous Steve Nash bloody nose and Robert Horry hip-check more or less blew up the championship aspirations of the Mike D’Antoni-era Suns, the 7-seconds-or-less bullet train that had rocked the league and produced a two-time MVP in Nash … but ultimately couldn’t completely bust down the door of NBA conformity.
And so the skepticism came ringing on cue when the Los Angeles Lakers surprisingly pulled a Heisman on Phil Jackson and hired D’Antoni.
Is it just that simple? Is D’Antoni’s style a blueprint for postseason failure? Or can age, added wisdom and a dominant defensive center turn close calls into a championship?
“Yeah,” Marion said, flashing a bewildered look as if the question was not worthy of an answer. “Hell yeah.”
But just then, Marion — who was with the Suns for all five of D’Antoni’s seasons — started thinking about D’Antoni’s new team in contrast to his old ones.
“We had guys that could spread the floor,” Marion said. “In D’Antoni’s system, 1 (point guard) through 4 (power forward) shot 3s, and the 5-man rolled and set screens and popped. It’s different. You’ve got two big men now (Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard), two solid big men down low. It’s a little different. I don’t know what kind of sets he’s going to run. He might change it. We were young and fast. It’s all about matchups and personnel. With him going to the Lakers, it’s a big team.”
Cyberspace is crammed with debates about which Lakers will benefit and which won’t from D’Antoni’s system. Marion’s take on the 3-point shot is especially noteworthy. Those Suns flung it: The ’05-’06 team launched 2,097 3-pointers. Nash, Marion and Raja Bell put up 1,078 by themselves. Last season’s Lakers, albeit in a 66-game schedule, shot 1,112 as a team, and 1,487 the season before.
These Lakers — with Nash out all but 1 1/2 games — rank 12th both in 3s attempted per game (20.7) and made (6.9). Reserve Jodie Meeks is as close to a long-ranger sharpshooter as they possess, but he’s off to an awful start.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is a big D’Antoni fan and didn’t hesitate to suggest that he will scheme to the strengths of his personnel. In 2007, when Carlisle was out of a coaching job and working as an analyst for ESPN, he visited Suns training camp to pick up on D’Antoni’s system.
“Everybody has incorporated some of those concepts, and it’s held the test of time,” Carlisle said. “He’s one of the smartest basketball people I’ve ever known and he’ll adjust well to their personnel, too.”
But those are offensive concepts. What about all the defensive criticism?
“They played a high-possession style and their defensive numbers were much better than people realized,” Carlisle said. “The fact opponents scored a little more points than some of the other well-known possession defensive teams was a function of the number of possessions in the game, but he always was very good at getting (the opponent) to do things you didn’t want to do, and some of the time it was playing fast.”
There are obviously contrasting opinions on the subject. Marion dismisses criticism suggesting those Suns teams were collectively deficient on the defensive end or even ill-prepared to make crunch-time stops. Although the Lakers have struggled defensively this season, Marion noted a backbone of Howard, Kobe and Metta World Peace gives D’Antoni a core that should be quite capable of defending and running with Nash.
“Definitely. You’ve got Dwight Howard as your anchor,” said Marion, who does give pause to the Lakers’ older roster compared to the young legs of his Suns team in making a seamless transition.
“It’s not up to me to decide if they’re going to be good or not. Right now, the thing is with these teams, everybody is so young and athletic, different things are going on, different matchups. Everybody is trying to take advantage of mismatches they got so if you got mismatches at certain positions and you’re able to take advantage of certain things, you can’t hide it.
Corey Brewer’s defensive instincts have been honed across a lifetime of basketball. While that’s not so very long – he’s 26 – it is a big part of his identity as a frisky and capable defender.
But he got burned Saturday night in Miami by what he’s learned to do since entering the league five seasons ago: Help out against an attacking penetrator. Especially late, protecting a one-point lead. Especially if his name is LeBron James.
Brewer fudged to the inside for just an instant. Unfortunately for the Denver Nuggets, it was the same instant in which James knew Ray Allen would be taking his familiar and ominous spot in the left corner and switched from attacker to facilitator. As Ethan Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post wrote:
“Once I drove left and I got eye contact with Brewer, I knew Ray was going to slide corner,” James said. “We haven’t been playing together that long, but I’ve seen it on the other side. I know exactly what he’s going to do. I’m just happy I was able to put it on the money, and he took care of the rest.”
All it took was Brewer briefly turning his head.
That’s all it has ever taken for Allen.
“My guy had to make the choice,” Allen said. “I can’t say it was the wrong choice, but it ended up being the wrong choice for him.”
How wrong? Brewer had to scramble so hard to recover, he fouled Allen as the famous sharpshooter launched his 3-pointer. The free throw that followed left Denver with 6.7 seconds left to get three points, not two, and Danilo Gallinari’s try from 25 feet bounced away. That left the Nuggets at 0-3 and Brewer holding his head in the visitors’ dressing room. (more…)
OKLAHOMA CITY – For all the talk about young legs, it didn’t hurt for the Thunder to have an old head and ancient beating heart in their midst coming down the stretch of Game 6.
Look at the lineup employed by OKC coach Scott Brooks in the biggest quarter in Thunder history: 23-year-old Kevin Durant and 23-year-old Russell Westbrook played all 12 minutes of the final period.
So did 37-year-old Derek Fisher.
This is why the Thunder signed him as a free agent when he cleared waivers on March 21. This is why Fisher chose to hitch up with OKC instead of remaining in Houston following the trade deadline-day deal. He can still fish for championships instead of fishing on vacation.
For all their talent, the Thunder needed a Yoda. And make no mistake about it, even in his 16th NBA season, Yoda can still hit the clutch jumper. (more…)
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – It’s easy to focus on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Big 3 Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden when they’re playing as well as they have in the past three games of the Western Conference finals.
But to focus solely on the stars would overlook perhaps the most startling development in this series. The Thunder’s role players, commonly referred to as the “others,” are outplaying their Spurs counterparts considerably in the past 12 quarters of this series.
Praised by many as the deepest and most balanced team in the league, the Spurs haven’t been able to lean on the likes of Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter or any of the extras who helped them roll to 20 straight wins since April 11, and that includes those two wins over the Thunder in Games 1 and 2. They’ve been in the conference finals witness protection program the past three games, though, as the Thunder have seized control with three straight wins.
Neal suffered a through a particularly ugly performance on this night, shooting 0-for-6 from the floor and scoring just two points in his 14 minutes of action. His 6-for-22 shooting effort in the past three games is indicative of the struggles that have plagued the Spurs’ extras.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have received timely contributions from guys like Derek Fisher, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and Daequan Cook, whose eight points(on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the floor, and consecutive makes from long distance) in just three minutes and 54 seconds of action in the first half of Game 5 proved to be crucial to the Thunder’s cause in their 108-103 win.
I think Phil Jackson started that feud. It happened many times that after team practice he would say, “Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe… We couldn’t believe how could that happen, because just the day before we saw them together, jumping on one another. Phil liked it when there was conflict of some sort.
I always tell people; if you look at those championships, you’ll see who were the closest players on the team. Normally those are the guys who are the first to hug each other. And when we were winning, it was always Shaq and Kobe who hugged. I think this will answer your question. Later it was blown out of proportion by the media and both players started doing something that didn’t make sense.
We’ve already heard from two people who were around the Lakers from the start of that run until ended that dispute the origins of the feud and insist that Jackson only fanned the flames that were already there.
I know Jackson is considered a wizard in many circles, but even he would have a hard time starting one of the greatest beefs in the history of sport before he ever showed up to coach the two players involved.
Occasionally, Smith would push open the door to let the sounds of dance music come and poke his head inside.
“Hey, Charles!” he would call out. “Look, it’s Mark Madsen! And Zan Tabak! Oh, Charles, look! It’s Jack Haley! Can you believe it? Jack Haley!”
It was a fantastic skit and all Barkley could do was shake his head and laugh, because, of course, after 16 often-mind-blowing seasons, he left the NBA ringless.
So here we are just hours from the start of the 2011 NBA Finals that feature LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki as unfulfilled stars, pondering again the question for the ages: Does greatness require a ring?