Posts Tagged ‘Robert Parish’

Riley puts heat on LeBron, Big 3 to ‘stay the course … and not run’


VIDEO: Heat boss Pat Riley is calling for everyone to “get a grip” and those who stay to reinvent themselves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Fifty-five minutes of Pat Riley unfiltered is the off-the-court equivalent of watching a Game 7 of The Finals go to triple overtime. You don’t want a miss a second of the action.

The Miami Heat’s boss was in rare form this morning in his postseason news conference, explaining where the Heat stands now after losing in The Finals to the Spurs and where they are headed with the huge decisions looming for the Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in advance of free agency this summer, should they choose to opt-out of their current deals and test the waters.

Riley’s message to them all was clear. But he might as well have FaceTimed LeBron or at least hit him on Skype when talked about the need to “stay the course” and not “run for the first open door.”

Wade and Bosh have already expressed publicly their desire to stay in Miami and continue a partnership that has produced four straight trips to The Finals and two title-winning campaigns. LeBron is the only one who has not hinted publicly about which way he is leaning.

Riley mentioned all of the great dynasties of the past and how many if not all of them failed more than they succeeded in their annual quests to win titles. He spoke of how hard the process can be and of the certain trials and tribulations that accompany the triumphs for those teams that stick together in their quest for Larry O’Brien trophies.

“This stuff is hard,” Riley said. “And you’ve got to stay together if you’ve got the guts. And you don’t find the first door and run out of it.”

That’s tougher love than most men in Riley’s position are comfortable using. But most of those men don’t have the experience, backrground or list of accomplishments Riley has. Riley vowed to do whatever it takes to keep his crew together. He pointed to the Spurs and their bond that carried them from a crushing defeat in The Finals last year to a rematch this year and vengeance.

Riley called for mass reinvention, at least for everyone under 69 (his age) and the improvement from within that marked the Spurs’ spectacular run through the regular season and postseason.


VIDEO: Pat Riley talks about LeBron James and the Heat (more…)

Durability Matters: 5 Who Showed Up


VIDEO: John Stockton-Karl Malone Top 10

It was Knicks fan Woody Allen who famously said that 80 percent of success is showing up.

Rarely has that adage been more appropriate in the NBA than the first month of this season when knee surgery has once more scratched Derrick Rose from the Bulls lineup and so many other big names — Andre Iguodala, Marc Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, to name a few — are on the mend or up in the air with their health status.

In an age when analytics have eye-in-the-sky overhead cameras taking video and collecting data on each player on the court 25 times per second, sometimes one of the most basic truths can be overlooked — you can’t help if you don’t play.

Durability is much a part of a player’s makeup and his legacy as any shooting, rebounding or passing skill. Ask Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Brandon Roy, Yao Ming, Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway or Antonio McDyess. Check with Sam Bowie and Greg Oden.

So in this black and blue month of blown knees, bad backs and torn Achilles’ tendons, here’s a look at five all-time greats at showing up and then some:

Elvin Hayes “The Big E” was known for the college game at the Astrodome against Lew Alcindor and UCLA, for being an NBA champion (1978), a 12-time All-Star, a three-time All-NBA first teamer, Hall of Fame member, for that trademark turnaround jumper that went down as smooth as a spoonful of ice cream, and a nose for rebounds. He was often described as a horse and it’s true that the Rockets and Bullets rode him harder than the Pony Express. Back-to-back? Three games in three nights? It didn’t bother Hayes. Just unlock the gym and turn on the lights. In 16 relentless seasons, the Big E missed just nine games out of 1,312, never more than two in a single season. He played bumped, bruised, aching and sick. But he always played. On the night of April 13, 1984, at 38, Hayes went the distance in 53 minutes of an overtime loss to the Spurs, the next-to-last game of his career.

John Stockton Rumor always had it that the sun used to rely on Stockton to remind it to show up in the east every morning. It wasn’t just the short-shorts, the pick and roll, the bounce pass, the partnership with Karl Malone and his stoic expression that took him to the Hall of Fame. It was Stockton’s ability to take the court every night and keep time for the Utah offense with the constant beat of a metronome. He played 19 seasons and 1,504 games out of 1,526 for the Jazz, an NBA record for a player with a single team. He was indefatigable with his preparation. Coach Jerry Sloan said: “I only saw John lose in a suicide drill once in all the years we were together. Of course, he finished second and think he was 37 years old.” The longest stretch on the sidelines in his career came when Stockton missed 18 games at the start of the 1997-98 season due to a left knee injury. It was later revealed that he had micro fracture surgery performed and still was back on the court in just two months, running the show as the Jazz made their second straight trip to The Finals.

Robert Parish — An ex-peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter hadn’t even been elected as President when he was drafted in 1976 and Bill Clinton was serving his second term when he finally retired in 1997. In between, “The Chief” played more games (1,611) than any player in NBA history with a stoic demeanor that often belied his greatness. While Larry Bird and Kevin McHale eventually wore down due to age and injuries, Parish simply kept right on chugging down the track like a locomotive into the Hall of Fame and onto the list as one of the league’s 50 Greatest Players. Bill Walton once called him the “greatest shooting big man of all time” for his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers and make free throws. But the enduring image of Parish will always be as a 7-footer making his way down the court on the Celtics’ fast break as one of the greatest finishers the game has ever seen.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar He was graceful with the long arms, long legs and longer two decades of dominance. He was regal with the way he carried himself through the wintry winds of Milwaukee and into the glare of the Hollywood sunshine. He was simply majestic the way he set up on the right side of the basket, took the ball into his hands and let fly with the most singular and unstoppable shot in the history of the game — the skyhook. However, Abdul-Jabbar was not just as tall as a redwood, but as durable too. He played 20 NBA seasons and never suited up for fewer than 74 games in all but two of them. The only occasions that the five-time champion, six-time MVP and NBA all-time leading scorer missed significant playing time were when he broke bones in his hand. The first occurred during the 1974 preseason when Abdul-Jabbar was bumped hard in the low post and got his eye scratched. He then turned in anger and punched the basket support stanchion. After missing the first 16 games of the regular season, he returned to the lineup wearing goggles for the first time. The second break happened in the first two minutes of the 1977 season opener when he objected to a thrown elbow by punching Kent Benson, which forced him out of the lineup for two months.

Karl Malone He was, after all, “The Mailman“, which should, by definition, mean that he was dependable. It also didn’t hurt that he had muscles on top of muscles, a body that that might as well have been a sculpture of a Greek god. In 19 NBA seasons, Malone played in all 82 games 11 times and missed a total of just eight games (three due to suspension) out of a possible 1,432 with the Jazz. He and Stockton formed the most durable — and maybe best — guard-forward combination in league history, playing a record 1,412 games together for one team. It is interesting to note that in what was the best scoring season (31.2 ppg) of his career, Malone lost out in the fan balloting to be a Western Conference starter in the 1990 All-Star Game to A.C. Green of the Lakers. Malone talked about boycotting the game, eventually relented and then sprained his right ankle in the week leading up to All-Star Weekend and was replaced in the lineup by the Mavs’ Rolando Blackman. He also missed the 2002 All-Star Game to be with his mother, who was ill. Malone’s iron man routine finally gave way in his final NBA season when he jumped from Utah to L.A. Malone and the Lakers were off to a great start until he bumped knees with Scott Williams of the Suns and missed the next 39 games. When he returned to the lineup, Malone was never the same. The injury was eventually diagnosed as a torn MCL.

Reggie Lewis, We Hardly Knew Ye

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings

Many believe the Celtics’ Reggie Lewis was on the path to NBA superstardom. (Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Reggie Lewis, we hardly knew ye.

That’s an old form of tribute, spawned by a 19th Century British song that sardonically mourned the loss in war of a soldier who died, obviously, too young. Later, more somberly, it was famously applied to John F. Kennedy, whose Presidency and life were snuffed by an assassin’s bullet to the world’s shock and dismay.

But in the case of Lewis, the Boston Celtics guard who collapsed and died on July 27, 1993, from a confusing and ultimately lethal heart condition, the construction literally is true. As sad as Lewis’ death was to those throughout the NBA and across the sports world, its sheer impact was buffered by several factors.

First, the element of surprise was absent. Lewis had exhibited symptoms of a heart ailment – the eventual cause of death was deemed to be hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – in the preceding months, including his collapse in Game 1 of Boston’s 1993 first-round playoff series against Charlotte. He had been advised to retire, then got cleared for a return to the Celtics and had been shooting baskets at the team’s practice facility at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., when he collapsed and died.

This wasn’t Len Bias, the Celtics’ first-round selection and No. 2 pick overall in 1986, who died just two days after the Draft from a cocaine overdose. The franchise and Boston’s sports fans still were reeling from that when they tabbed Lewis the following spring at No. 22.

This wasn’t Hank Gathers, the Loyola Marymount forward who died in the middle of a WCC tournament game from the same conditions as ESPN cameras rolled. Gathers had shown symptoms, too, and had been prescribed medication, but largely was an unknown until his dramatic and public death (with current Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on the floor that day, a point guard for the University of Portland).

A search for context, and an understanding of why Lewis’ death didn’t resonate nationally the way it might have or should have or, certainly, would have now in a world of 24/7 Internet and social media, yields only guesses. It doesn’t soothe the pain of a young family man dying so young, no matter if he’d poured in points for the Celtics on their parquet floor or picked up towels in their locker room.

That pain remains for those who knew Lewis, loved him and followed his career most closely. Veteran NBA writer Jackie MacMullan‘s tribute piece on ESPN.com covers so much of that because she and the people she interviewed about Lewis were a part of the Baltimore native’s life and premature death. Such as:

Brian Shaw and Reggie Lewis planned to grow up in the NBA together. They shared an agent, bought their houses at the same time, picked out new BMWs just days apart. They even went out and bought life insurance policies together.

“I miss him,” Shaw said. “I miss the closeness of having a friend who was going through the same things as me.

“We used to talk all the time about how we wanted to be the breakout tandem, the Celtics backcourt to be reckoned with for a long, long time.”

Lewis was on his way. At the time of his death, he had averaged more than 20 points a game and led the Celtics in scoring for two consecutive seasons. He had played in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game.

But there was so much going on at that time for Boston and in the league, and frankly so many deaths and setbacks, that Lewis’ tragic tale wound up muted for a lot of NBA and sports fans.

Besides Bias and Gathers, there was James Jordan, the father of Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan. He went missing on July 22, 1993 – just five days before Lewis collapsed – and soon was found dead under first mysterious, then sinister circumstances that grabbed headlines for weeks afterward (a pair of young armed robbers shot and killed Jordan while he slept in his car alongside a country road).

Just 21 months before Lewis died, in November 1991, Lakers star Magic Johnson had been given what figured to be his own death sentence, announcing he had contracted the HIV virus and immediately retiring. His Boston counterpart, Larry Bird, was dying only an athletic death, but still – Bird played in only 45 games in 1991-92 and just four of 10 in the playoffs due to a worsening back injury that forced his retirement after that season.

The Celtics were in transition-slash-decline, still thought of nationally for what they were and who’d they be losing rather than any bounce they’d get from Lewis, Shaw or anyone else. They played in the 1987 Finals before Lewis arrived, then didn’t get back until 21 years later. In 1988, they lost the Eastern Conference title to Detroit, and from there, NBA casual fans shifted their attention to the “Bad Boy” Pistons, to Jordan’s quest for rings and to wannabes such as the Knicks and the Jazz.

Lewis wasn’t exactly his own greatest press agent, either. He had star talent but a role player’s personality, deferring to Boston’s legendary veterans personally even as the arc of their games crossed; in his final season, he played about as many minutes and took as many shots as Kevin McHale and Robert Parish combined. Fans at Boston Garden and league insiders recognized the budding star before them, but even at his best, he never cracked the Top 10 in scoring (15th in 1991-92, 16th in 1992-93).

The Celtics, their opponents and MacMullan knew how good Lewis was – and was becoming – even if his national profile was low. Having written about him when he was at Northeastern, having known him as a rookie, MacMullan – a longtime Boston Globe reporter – saw the evolution in Lewis’ game. She revisited it in her ESPN.com piece, focusing on a 1991 matchup against the Bulls and Jordan:

In that March 31 game, as Jordan pulled up for his patented fallaway — one of the most feared weapons in basketball — Lewis waited patiently for MJ to launch himself, then stretched his arms and timed it so he deflected the ball just as Jordan released.

The block surprised Jordan, whose otherworldly elevation usually negated any chance of a rejected shot.

Most players weren’t athletic enough to literally “hang” with Jordan. Lewis was one of the exceptions.

“He was a tough matchup,” Jordan said. “He had those long arms that really bothered me.

“I was trying to be aggressive with him. I was trying to take advantage of his passive demeanor, but he didn’t back down. He never relinquished his own aggressiveness.

“He shocked me a little bit.”

And:

MJ dismissed Reggie’s initial block as an anomaly. When it happened again, this time on a pull-up jumper, Jordan became irked. The next time, he became concerned. And by the fourth time, on a lefty drive to the hoop, Jordan was irritated — and somewhat spooked.

“His length confused me,” Jordan conceded. “Every time I thought I had him beat, he’d recover and get up on me. When you have the skills to break someone down on defense and you can’t, it makes you tentative offensively.”

Here’s where we pause for a moment to understand the magnitude of what Jordan is saying. The most dynamic scorer in NBA history is now admitting two decades later that he was shocked by what Reggie Lewis did to him, confused by his length and made tentative offensively.

How many other NBA players can lay claim to making Michael Jordan feel that way?

The answer: Too damn few. One of whom was gone way too soon.

It’s Time To Warm Up To The Heat

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So of all the suggestions for breaking up the Big Three of the Heat, you have to hand it to the parade route planner for being the most decisive, though derivative.

But LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh survived the attempted recreation of the giraffe-in-the-convertible scene from The Hangover Part III and now we’re left with a summer of the NBA’s most-asked question:

What’s wrong with the Heat?

After all, it’s been nearly a week since they won a game.

Never mind that it’s the offseason. Facts and rationality never seem to enter the discussion when the topic is Miami basketball.

To twist an old saying: If it’s not the Heat, it’s the stupidity.

Remember, it was only days ago when everything that Pat Riley had built inside American Airlines Arena hung in the balance.

What if either Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard had made one more free throw in the final 28 seconds of Game 6?

Then Ray Allen’s back-away 3-pointer from the corner doesn’t mean a thing. Then Game 7 isn’t even played. Then Big Three get deep-sixed.

Really? Because of one free throw?

No less an accomplished playoff veteran than Magic Johnson was telling listeners on a conference call prior to Game 7: “I think we may see the end of this Big Three. I think that things will change, no matter what happens. Things have to change with that team, because everybody has caught up to them now.”

Everybody?

So how come there weren’t parades in San Antonio or Indianapolis or Memphis or New York or Oklahoma City or Los Angeles this week?

Anybody?

You can talk the talk about the Heat from now until Opening Night next season when another banner drops from the rafters and another set of gaudy rings is handed out. But until somebody can walk the walk and take Miami down at crunch time, it’s all just blather.

It seems that the most consistent criticism of the Heat has two lines of attack:

– They don’t win every game.

– I don’t like LeBron.

Of the latter, if it stems from the silly made-for-TV show on ESPN, it was three years ago and it’s time to get over it. Adam Sandler made Grown Ups that year, so it might not have been the worst decision of 2010.

If the complaint is a lack of victories, it might be time to put new batteries in the calculator.

In the three years since Miami’s Big Three have been playing together, they have a combined 170-60 (.739) record in the regular season. That means they win three out of every four times they step onto the court. They won 27 consecutive games from Feb. 3 through Mar. 25 of this season, the second-longest streak in NBA history. They have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, winning the last two.

Yes, there was that humbling defeat by the Mavericks in 2011, the first season that James, Wade and Bosh were wearing the same uniforms and trying to figure things out. Perhaps keep in mind that in the first season Michael Jordan played with Scottie Pippen (1988), the Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round and didn’t even reach The Finals until year four.

Magic wants to blow up the Heat “no matter what happens,” even though they went back-to-back. What about when the Lakers followed up their 1980 title in his rookie year by getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by a Houston team with 40-42 record? After winning in 1982, his Lakers were swept in The Finals by Philly in 1983. The Lakers dynasty did not repeat until 1987 and ’88. The Larry Bird-Robert Parish-Kevin McHale Celtics never won two in a row. Tim Duncan’s Spurs have won four championships, but none consecutively.

This is a bar that was set impossibly high for the Heat from the start and is constantly being raised.

There are, in fact, very few areas in which the Heat haven’t delivered as hyped and promised, not the least of which has been making every stop in 28 other NBA arenas an event and every chapter of their three straight playoff marches must-see-TV.

Can anyone truthfully continue to hang LeBron with the old charge that he blinks in the spotlight? The times that the Heat have faced elimination in the last two playoffs, they are 5-0 and James has averages of 35.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Remember his 3-pointer that preceded Allen’s 3?

The 31-year-old Wade has been written off like a bad debt over the past two years, but summons up big performances just when it looks like he is slipping over the edge.

Bosh will always be the third, lesser jewel in the chain, but he has made the biggest adjustment to make it all work and did get the critical rebound and make the pass to Allen in the corner.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has made the climb with them, rising from youthful caretaker to battle-tested leader who pushes the right buttons with the lineups and navigates the always roiling waters of great expectation. There are no more gaps in his pedigree.

Any one of the Big Three can bolt next summer, according to their contracts and then everything changes. That’s a whole year away.

For now, this is a team precisely as Riley dared envision it three summers ago — bold, entertaining, accomplished.

So what’s wrong with the Heat?

Only that we haven’t seen them play in nearly a week and are already missing them.

Specialness Of Finals Sinks In For Duncan

 

MIAMI – His hair is more closely shorn now and, if he did let it grow, probably would show some gray. He’s actually leaner than he was way back when, thanks to an offseason diet-and-workout tweak to benefit his knees and his general odometer.

So yeah, Tim Duncan is older now even if his game, so grounded in fundamentals, seems relatively unchanged. Duncan’s perspective has grown up with him – the first time he participated in The Finals, in 1999, he was a 23-year-old kid, two years removed from college, and for all he knew, the San Antonio Spurs would keep showing up and winning titles through his career.

Actually, they kind of did for a while – Duncan got back in 2003, 2005 and 2007, by which time his status as a future Hall of Famer was secure. But it’s been six years since he and his team last stepped onto this stage. And the fellow who routinely brushes off talk of his legacy admitted that, y’know, it does feel good to be back.

“It’s felt like a long time,” Duncan told reporters after the Spurs’ practice Friday morning at AmericanAirlines Arena. “Yeah, I definitely appreciate being back out here, to see The Finals banners all around and to see the patch on the jersey and all those little things. The last couple of days it’s really been sinking in.

“I really do appreciate it more now, having been gone so long.”

How long? If San Antonio manages to wrest the 2013 championship away from Miami – it got started with its Game 1 victory Thursday – Duncan would become only the second player in NBA history to win rings in three different decades (John Salley is the other).

And as Fox Sports Florida’s Chris Tomasson also noted, Duncan would wind up with 14 years between his first and his most recent title. That would tie him for third place on the NBA’s all-time list with Sam Cassell. Robert Parish spaced 16 seasons between his first and his final ring, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the mark for biggest championship spread at 17 (1971 with Milwaukee, 1988 with the Lakers).

History: Fear The Streaking Clippers

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HANG TIME, Texas — It might be time to change the name of Lob City to Titletown or Bannerburgh.

Either way the streaking Clippers are on the verge of moving into a rather exclusive neighborhood that merits quite serious attention. It’s a ritzy place that comes with lots of shiny gold hardware.

When Chris Paul and his pals won back-to-back games over the Jazz to run it up to 17 consecutive wins, they squeezed into a tie for the ninth-longest single-season streak in NBA history.

With one more win tonight at Denver — No. 18 — the Clippers would take another step toward forcing themselves into the conversation as honest-to-goodness contenders.

Of course, the 1971-72 Lakers top the list with their all-time record 33-game win streak that many consider to be unbreakable. But of the eight teams currently ahead of the Clippers, five of them went on that same season to win the NBA championship and two others advanced to the conference finals. Only the 2007-08 Rockets failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

1971-72 L.A. Lakers
Streak: 33

Coach: Bill Sharman
Stars: Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich

Start: Nov. 5, 1971 (110-106 over Bullets)

End: Jan. 7, 1972 (120-104 to Bucks)

Record: 69-13

Playoff result: Won NBA championship

2007-08 Houston Rockets

Streak: 22 games
Coach: Rick Adelman
Stars: Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming

Start: Jan. 29, 2008 (111-107 over Warriors)

End: March 18, 2008 (94-74 to Boston Celtics)

Record: 55-27

Playoff result: Lost in first round

1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks

Streak: 20
Coach: Larry Costello
Stars: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson

Start: Feb. 6, 1971 (111-105 over Warriors)

End: March 8, 1971 (110-103 in OT to Bulls)

Record: 66-16

Playoff result: Won NBA championship

1999-2000 L.A. Lakers

Streak: 19
Coach: Phil Jackson
Stars: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal

Start: Feb. 4, 2000 (113-67 over Jazz)

End: March 13, 2000 (109-102 to Wizards)

Record: 67-15

Playoff result: Won NBA championship

2008-09 Boston Celtics
Streak: 19

Coach: Doc Rivers
Stars: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen

Start: Nov. 15, 2008 (102-97 over Bucks)

End: Dec. 25, 2008 (92-83 to Lakers)

Record: 62-20

Playoff result: Lost in conference semifinals

1969-70 N.Y. Knicks
Streak: 18

Coach: Red Holzman
Stars: Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley

Start: Oct. 24, 1969 (116-92 over Pistons)

End: Nov. 29, 1969 (110-98 to Pistons)

Record: 60-22

Playoff result: Won NBA championship

1981-82 Boston Celtics

Streak: 18
Coach: Bill Fitch
Stars: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish

Start: Feb. 24, 1982 (132-90 over Jazz)

End: March 28, 1982 (116-98 to 76ers)

Record: 63-19

Playoff result: Lost in conference finals

1995-96 Chicago Bulls

Streak 18
Coach: Phil Jackson
Stars: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman

Start: Dec. 29, 1995 (120-93 over Pacers)

End: Feb. 4, 1996 (105-99 to Nuggets)

Record: 72-10

Playoff result: Won title

2012-13 L.A. Clippers
Streak: 17
Coach: Vinny Del Negro
Stars: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin
Start: Nov. 28, 2012 (101-95 over Timberwolves)
End: ???

* 20 consecutive wins by 2011-12 San Antonio Spurs was split between 10 regular season and 10 playoffs and thereby does not qualify officially.

Duncan Having Season For The Ageless






SAN ANTONIO -
- So after all the flap, the fine and the folderol, Gregg Popovich was asked if he would consider a simultaneous resting of the Hall of Fame wing of his roster again.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he replied.

Too bad, because then he might be able to gaze into the future and give us a peek at Tim Duncan still tearing it up in the 2022-23 season against LeBron James Jr. or Michael Jordan III.

Is there a reason to think that The Big Fundamental at 46 won’t still be teaching the ABCs of the front court game he’s drilling into the heads of NBA’s current class at 36?

Ask Marc Gasol.

“He’s a handful,” said the Grizzlies center after getting posterized by Duncan in the first quarter Saturday night. “He knows how to adjust his game to himself and his team knows how to bring it to him in the right spots.”

When Duncan got the ball on the left block, wheeled and threw down a monster one-handed slam midway through the first quarter, that spot was smack in the middle of Gasol’s forehead. It was a stunning display of quickness and power that brought an uncharacteristic yelp from Duncan and transported most of those inside the AT&T back nearly a decade.

“That was MVP Timmy,” said point guard Tony Parker. “Every single time we threw it to him, and every single time he scored.”

Parker was talking about the 21-point first half by Duncan on Saturday night, but could have been referring to any time in the first month of the season.

Just 18 months after he looked like a tired old man shouting at the kids to keep off the grass in a playoff loss to Memphis, Duncan has become healed, hearty and turned into the basketball version of Methuselah.

Here’s how his start stacks up to the seasons of former NBA greats at the same age:

Duncan, 2012-13 — 18.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 53.7 FG%.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1983-84 — 21.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg., 57.8 FG%.

Karl Malone, 1999-2000 — 25.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 50.9 FG%.

Robert Parish, 1989-90 — 15.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 58 FG%.

Wilt Chamberlain, 1972-73 — 13.2 ppg., 18.6 rpg.,72.7 FG%.

Larry Bird, 1992-93 — first year retired.

Bill Russell, 1970-71 — retired two years.

It is stunning to compare edition of Duncan that looked like the faded yellow pages of an old newspaper in that playoff wipeout in Memphis two seasons ago to the slick, online e-zine Timmy who is the wireless hotspot in the middle of the Spurs lineup today.

Pop always says its just about the way Duncan takes care of himself, carefully watches everything he puts into his body.

Duncan lost weight two summers ago, worked on his flexibility and has come back now with a vengeance. When his string of 13 consecutive All-Star Games appearances ended last season, Duncan didn’t get mad. He just got rejuvenated and got better.

Is there any other single reason to explain the league changing the All-Star ballot this season from selecting forwards, centers and guards to just frontcourt and backcourt than finding a way to accommodate him? If the fans don’t vote him in this season, will the coaches of the Western Conference be foolish enough to leave him off the roster again?

Of course, the only thing that really matters to Duncan is getting the Spurs back to their usual 50-plus wins and another crack at the playoffs and that fifth championship.

Two years ago, Duncan and the Spurs were supposedly on the downward path and the Grizzlies a young team on the rise. A season ago, Duncan and the Spurs held a 2-0 lead on Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals and lost the series to the other ascendant power.

Now the Thunder are learning about life without James Harden and the Grizzlies are learning that you still can’t walk into San Antonio and expect to see anything but an ageless Duncan.

The Spurs are a factor in the West because he is. We don’t need a crystal ball to see that.

Pippen: ‘Superteams The Way Of The Future” … Past And Present, Too!

 

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – How quickly we forget Scottie Pippen (as shown here on CSNChicago.com) … and so many others.

This notion that “superteams” or “megateams” being some new phenomenon in the NBA is convenient, but wholly inaccurate. It sounds good, what with new conglomerations of stars popping up seemingly every season from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. But it’s actually a tried-and-true method to winning NBA championships and, like almost everything else from two decades ago, it is being rebranded for this new digital age.

(Hey Lady Gaga, meet Madonna … and high-top fades … and skinny jeans again — really?)

In the NBA universe, anyone upset with the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers for assembling elite talent on their rosters needs to stop hating the players and hate the game. Just because they were built through the free agent/trade lab and not grown organically — like revisionist historians will tell you those championship outfits of yesteryear were built — doesn’t diminish the end result in our eyes.

If the end game is winning championships by any means necessary, why wouldn’t you want a superteam playing in your backyard?

Who cares how they got there?

Fans in San Antonio have never complained about the serendipity that smothered the franchise when David Robinson got injured in 1996-97, just in time for the Spurs to luck into the No. 1 pick in 1997 and pick Tim Duncan.

There are any number of recipes for cooking up a superteam. We have no problem with a franchise stumbling into one (and to their credit, the Spurs had to build on that Duncan-Robinson foundation with shrewd moves and by nailing their draft picks consistently) or making the calculated steps necessary to create your own fortune.

Boston did it with the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen Big 3. Miami did it with the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh Big 3. And the Lakers are attempting to do it with the Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash-Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol Big 4.

There’s no shame in that. No shame whatsoever.

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A Look Back: Magic’s ‘Junior Sky-Hook’





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – As both Kevin Durant and LeBron James have reminded us all in the past three days, the NBA playoffs is a platform tailor-made for high drama and superstars willing to add to their lore.

The reigning and three-time NBA scoring champ smashes the competition with a 34-point, 14-rebound, 5-assist performance in a decisive Game 6 in the Western Conference finals, leading his team to a spot in The Finals. This a day before the three-time and reigning MVP follows that up with a historic 45-point, 15-rebounds, 5-assist showing of his own in a road Game 6 win that saved his team’s season and the chance to meet up with the scoring champ and his team in The Finals.

But Durant and James, respectively, are only following in the Hall of Fame footsteps of their elders. Guys like Magic Johnson, who 25 years ago today, delivered one of the all-time great playoff moments with a “junior sky-hook” that, on that day in 1987 during The Finals in Boston, shook the basketball world off of its feet.

For those of us lucky enough (and old enough) to remember Game 4 of The Finals that year, Magic’s homage to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s signature move never gets old. As heartbreaking as it had to be then and even now, the most dedicated Celtics fans have to admit it’s one of the greatest shots in playoff history.

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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!