Posts Tagged ‘Scottie Pippen’

Durant Doesn’t Deserve A Pass, Only Time

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kevin Durant is not getting a pass around here. No excuses, no pardon, exoneration or any other escape hatch for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s failures in these NBA playoffs.

There will be no handouts for Durant or any other superstar who falls down on the big stage. Durant should be held to the same standard all of his contemporaries, past and present, have been held to in the annals of this game. You either win it all or you go home with nothing. It’s a fair trade-off and one that all superstars sign off on when they play.

That said, the rush to judge Durant after he struggled against the Memphis Grizzlies without Russell Westbrook is overcooked dramatically. The Thunder’s 3-6 postseason mark without Westbrook, who saw a torn meniscus in his knee end his season in the first round against Houston, says more about Westbrook’s value to his team than it does about Durant’s inability to lift them up on his own.

This notion that a lone superstar of any ilk will lead his team to a championship is a longstanding myth that needs to be debunked. It almost never happens. Not at the NBA level. Not in the past 40 years or so. The only exceptions to that statement might be the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets of 1993-94 and the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks of 2010.

Magic Johnson didn’t do it alone. Larry Bird didn’t do it alone. Isiah Thomas didn’t do it alone. Michael Jordan didn’t do it alone. Shaquille O’Neal didn’t do it alone. Tim Duncan didn’t do it alone. And the list goes on.

Kobe Bryant had help (in the form of Pau Gasol and others) after serving as Shaq’s superstar partner and LeBron James tried to break the mold in Cleveland, only to find out that he needed Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to seal the deal.

Contrary to Twitter wisdom, there is no shame in recognizing and realizing that reality. This need for someone to blame when things go wrong isn’t a new phenomenon. But it’s taken on epic proportions in the social media age. That’s why it’s fine to point out Durant’s breakdowns against the Grizzlies without absolving him of all responsibility.

He struggled mightily against a complete team that might not have a superstar of his caliber on its roster but is stronger collectively — something especially true when Durant’s superstar partner is out of commission. Jordan knows that better than anyone, having failed repeatedly against the Bad Boys Pistons before he and Scottie Pippen were able to finally stare down that demon.

Trials and tribulation are generally a prerequisite for NBA championship contention. The Grizzlies served that up aplenty in their conference semifinal conquest. Durant was met with defender after defender. He was the focal point of a Grizzlies defensive attack for which he and the Thunder had no counter-punch.

But that doesn’t mean you write Durant off now, not after all that he’s accomplished before his 25th birthday.

It’s not like he laid down for the Grizzlies anyway. He played 46 minutes a night in the series, averaged 29 points, 10.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.2 blocks, all done — save for Kevin Martin‘s Game 1 outburst — without any consistent supporting cast assistance. And basically every game went down to the wire. Durant, Westbrook and James Harden barely survived a seven-game series with these Grizzlies a couple of years ago, so there is no shame in falling to them under these circumstances.

To his credit, Durant stood up and accepted all of the blame. He didn’t shirk his responsibility as the Thunder’s leader. And with his track record and work ethic, you know his rigorous offseason routine will be fueled by this most recent failure.

His sudden crowd of detractors will, of course, label him and suggest that he just doesn’t have the fire or mean streak to be a champion because he chose to view this latest setback like the adult that he is. No, it’s not the end of his world. He doesn’t view the entire season as a complete waste of time, like Kobe claims he does when his season ends without confetti and a championship parade.

Save the drama, folks. You don’t have to give Durant a pass … he doesn’t want one and doesn’t deserve one.

Just give him the time to right whatever went wrong.

If he’s half the superstar you thought he was before this postseason, you won’t be disappointed.

History: Fear The Streaking Clippers


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.

A Six-pack Under The All-Star Radar

— All-Star.

It’s a word that explodes rather than rolls off the tongue. It’s the gaudy label that usually gets attached to the players who crackle, pop and send sparks flying like an electricity transformer that’s been struck by lightning.

But what of the players who spend their long careers quietly humming through the power lines and rarely getting noticed?

The patron saint of the overlooked is Eddie Johnson, who played 17 seasons with the Kings, Suns, Sonics, Hornets, Pacers and Rockets, 1,199 games and scored more points (19,202) than any player in NBA history without once being selected to play in the All-Star Game. He still ranks in the top 50 all-time scorers in the league, ahead of Hall of Famers Gail Goodrich and Scottie Pippen.

Sitting at Johnson’s right hand is Derek Harper, who played 16 seasons with the Mavericks, Knicks, Magic and Lakers and retired in 1999 ranking 11th on the all-time steals and 17th in career assists and never got a single chance to take an All-Star bow.

So with a nod of appreciation for their efforts and in honor of Johnson and Harper, it’s time to take a look at a six-pack of current players who have been flying under the radar and might be due some All-Star love before they’re gone:

Jamal Crawford, Clippers, 13th season — All those years of playing for bad teams in Chicago, New York, Golden State and Portland with the only two playoff seasons of his career mixed in with the Hawks has built up and often well-deserved reputation as a mad gunner who’ll take any shots as soon as he’s in the building. But consider those teams, consider that he was often cast in exactly that role to provide big points off the bench. Now he’s in a perfect place in reserve with the best-in-the-NBA Clippers and is having the time of his career.

Al Jefferson, Jazz, 9th season — He’s learned to use those big hands to become a very good passer out of double-teams, but his strength is still as a low post scorer from the left block. His scoring average is down a bit over the past few seasons because he doesn’t have to carry so much of the load with an influx of talent. Nothing at all fancy about the way he plays, but shows up every game to put in an honest night’s work and produces. Playing the bulk of your career in Minnesota and Utah will never help anybody’s profile. He has deserved his due.

Kevin Martin, Thunder, 9th season – How foolish now does anyone feel who wondered if this guy would be able to step into the hole left by James Harden’s departure in Oklahoma City? There’s no beard and he doesn’t have the explosiveness, but having already proven over a seven-year span in Sacramento and Houston that he could carry an offense, now he fits like a hand inside a custom-sown glove with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He’s shooting a career-best-by-far 45.5 percent on 3s, 93 percent on free throws and, most important, has not caused OKC to miss a beat.

Andre Miller, Nuggets, 14th season — How does a guard you’d never want taking a shot with your life on the line keep moving ahead in his second decade in the league? But using his slick veterans moves to get to the rim himself or to use his amazing passing skills to get up his teammates for layups or dunks. Either way the result is usually an easy finish. In every one of his seasons there have always been other point guards who were faster and quicker and could fill up the basket more. But a guy with his smarts and productivity should have taken one All-Star bow by now.

Josh Smith, Hawks, 9th season – Because he’s still only 27, because he can still make your jaw drop from either a stupendous or stupid shot, the NBA world has managed to turn right by Smith. That’s despite his putting together a career stat line — soon to be 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots — that will rank him among the all-time greats. There are signs that he’s finally learning and other times when his shot selection still makes you cringe. If there is a current player who can eclipse Eddie Johnson as the best to never play in a single All-Star Game, it’s J-Smoove. But at 27, maybe there’s still plenty of time.

Anderson Varejao, Cavs, 9th season – For the early part of his career he was merely the one-trick pony who threw himself around like a bucking bronco just let out of the chute. But now Varejao is leading the league in rebounding at 14.4 per game, also averaging a career-high 14.1 points and therefore is tied for fourth place in double-doubles with 16 in his first 25 games. While the big question around the league is whether a would-be contender will be able to pry him away from the rebuilding Cavs, the other is if Cleveland’s place near the bottom of the standings will cost Varejao his earned recognition as an All-Star?

Pacers’ George Goes Pippen Play-alike

CHICAGO – If Paul George has heard the comparisons once, he’s heard them 1,000 times. From before he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the No. 10 pick out of Cal State-Fresno in the 2010 Draft and ever since. Heck, he’s even heard it right here.

Scottie Pippen.

Likened to the Hall of Famer for his build and wingspan, for his wing position, for his potential on both ends of the court and for his place in the Pacers’ pecking order as more sidekick than franchise guy, George occasionally has played up to the comparison. Other times, he has played well below it.

Then there was Tuesday, when he played smack in front of it. Pippen, who has one of those “ambassador” jobs with the Chicago Bulls, was planted courtside about 15 feet from the Indiana bench for the Pacers’ 80-76 victory. He has watched George up-close-and-personal before, but rarely seen him as terrific as he was at United Center: 34 points, nine rebounds and three steals, shooting 14-of-25 on a night when his teammates combined for 15-of-55.

So, was there a little something extra in his performance because of the Pippen proximity?

“I wasn’t playing for Pippen or trying to put on a show for Pippen,” George said afterward. “I mean, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. During the game, I gave him a fist pound.”

Look, it can only go so far. One’s a Bulls legend, the other is a Pacers’ budding star. There’s bad blood between the teams, borne of their rivalry in the Central Division and all those Michael Jordan-Reggie Miller battles.

“Pippen … we don’t have a great relationship,” George said. “But every time we come to Chicago and play, I do acknowledge him.”

George was the guy getting the hat-tips Tuesday. He carried Indiana for much of the game. And he bounced back dramatically from his play in his three most recent games, a West Coast swing on which he shot 7-of-31, with outings of four points (2-of-11 at Sacramento) and none (0-of-7 at Golden State).

It was a pattern similar to George’s recovery two weeks ago, when he backed up a six-point night at Washington with 37 points against New Orleans 48 hours later. And it’s all part of the development process.

A few nights earlier, Philadelphia’s Doug Collins talked in a UC hallway about the importance of an NBA player’s third season. He spoke specifically of his own guy Evan Turner. But the same applies to George.

“Third year is when the game starts to get a little more comfortable,” George said in agreement. “You start to pick up the game’s speed, where shots are going to be available, the flow of the game. You start to come into your own within the offense. I don’t want to just say I’m doing so now because I had a good game. I’m still going through that process.”

Said coach Frank Vogel: “With any growth, there’s growing pains. He’s had some tougher performances this year, but some spectacular ones as well.”

Consistency is key, with George and the Pacers facing Portland Wednesday night in Indianapolis on the tail end of the back-to-back. So is diligence – which George showed when he went directly from Indiana’s flight from Oakland, which landed at 7 a.m. Eastern time, to the team’s practice court.

He hoisted half-a-thousand shots. To make sure the bad was gone and the good was within reach again.

“The way I shot the ball against Sacramento and Golden State, it really brought me down,” George said. “I let the team down. I knew that wasn’t me. I had to get back to what got me here. I had to get in the gym, put up 500 shots. From floaters to mid-range to 3-pointers, I mixed it all up. That’s something I need to keep doing.”

He did plenty of that against the Bulls. Right in front of … aw, you know.

The Shot Of The Shot Is No. 1

As sports fans, we live for the action. The movement, the speed, the grace and physicality of the athletes, and the path of the ball in the air.

With HD technology, we bring the action into our homes. And with the Internet, we have the ability to watch the action over and over again.

Yet a still photograph, a single frame of action, can elicit feelings and responses that video can’t. Don’t think so? Just browse through Sports Illustrated‘s 100 Greatest Sports Photos of All Time.

From Aaron to Alcindor and Ali, the list includes photos of the greatest athletes of the last century. Bannister, Dimaggio, Gretzky, Mays, Montana, Phelps, Robinson, Ruth, and Woods. The list goes on and on, and includes nine shots of NBA action.

The nine include the No. 1 sports photo of all time, according to SI. It comes from NBAE photographer Fernando Medina, and is of maybe the most iconic moment in NBA history.

The Chicago Bulls had a 3-2 series lead in the 1998 Finals, but they were on the road, they were running on fumes and Scottie Pippen injured his back in the early minutes of Game 6. The Bulls all knew that this was the end of the line, with Michael Jordan was set to retire, and Pippen and coach Phil Jackson set to leave Chicago.

When John Stockton hit a 3-pointer to put the Jazz up 86-83 with 42 seconds left, things looked desperate for Chicago. But then Jordan got an open lane to the basket for a layup and the Bulls only needed one stop to give themselves a chance to win. The Jazz didn’t even get a shot up, as Jordan left Jeff Hornacek to swipe the ball from Karl Malone in the low post. (more…)

Harden’s Biggest Star Power? Attraction

HOUSTON — It will most definitely help to have all of James Harden’s offensive talent and scoring potential in the lineup. It will also help to have a 23-year-old who already has 44 games of playoff experience anchoring a lineup that is greener than the supermarket produce aisle.

However, where the newest member of the Rockets could pay off the most down the road is by attracting more new Rockets. That’s likely the greatest hope of general manager Daryl Morey after pulling off the trade with Oklahoma City.

“People around the league say, ‘I want to play with that guy,’ ” said Morey as he introduced Harden before a throng of happy fans in the lobby of the Toyota Center. “The way Omer (Asik) is playing and passing the ball, people want to be with him. Jeremy (Lin). Really putting together a young core that will make others say ‘I want to play there.’ ”

For the Rockets to shake off the yoke of mediocrity and climb back to the level of perennial playoff contender, Harden’s jump into the Houston backcourt can only be the next step up the ladder. The Rockets need Lin to continue to grow and prove that he is more than a flash in the pan that took Manhattan last February. They need their center, Asik, to blossom into a full-time defensive stopper in the middle. They need Harden, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the year, to raise his game to the level of an All-Star.

All of which is possible. If it happens, it could open the door for the Rockets to attract more frontline talent from a high-profile free agent. And even after signing Harden to a max contract, they will still have the ability under the salary cap to add another max player.

Ryder Cup brings out ‘His Whereness’

Everybody’s got to be somewhere, but Michael Jordan’s whereabouts were of much interest this week and weekend than yours or, at least, mine. With the Ryder Cup golf championship being layed at Medinah Country Club in the Chicago suburbs – and with Jordan serving as an advisor to Team USA at Carolina pal Davis Love III’s request – the Bulls’ Hall of Famer was a target for celebrity snooping.

There were several sightings of His Airness, not only on the course but at some of the finer eateries in the city and ‘burbs.

A brief rundown of His Whereness, thanks to the Chicago Tribune’s plucky sports nightlife/gossip coverage:

Team USA — including Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Fred Couples — had dinner Monday and Thursday at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in Lombard. Michael Jordan, who was named Team USA advisor, joined the guys Thursday at Harry Caray’s and signed autographs and posed for photos with patrons.

Team Europe – including Jose Maria Olazabal, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia — dined Tuesday at Harry Caray’s in Lombard. Team USA opted for Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in Oak Brook that night. Woods and co. arrived on a bus and entered through the back.


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



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – How quickly we forget Scottie Pippen (as shown here on … 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.


Hang Time Podcast (Episode 89) Featuring Roy Hibbert And Chelsea Peretti

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Go ahead, run down the list of the most unstoppable and dynamic duos in NBA history …

Bill Russell and Bob Cousy

Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West

Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Magic Johnson and Kareem

Dr. J and Moses Malone

Larry Bird and Kevin McHale

Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

Karl Malone and John Stockton

Tim Duncan and David Robinson

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

and finally Roy Hibbert and Chelsea Peretti!

That’s right. Hibbert, the Indiana Pacers’ All-Star center and Peretti, the stand-up comedian and former writer on the Emmy-nominated “Parks and Recreation”, have tossed their names into the mix with their appearance on Episode 89 of the Hang Time Podcast.

Hibbert has already made his appearance on Parks and Rec. This is Peretti’s first dip in the NBA waters, other than attending Lakers games on tickets she scored from Hibbert.

It’s not often you can pair a “7-foot-2 behemoth” with a “6-foot-11 supermodel” and things go as smoothly as they did. And if they take their act on the road or land a deal for one of the buddy flick ideas tossed around during our brainstorming session, global icon status could be in the offing for both of them.

All we have to do now is get Hibbert to aim a little higher than a chance meeting with Dennis Haysbert (the dude with the golden voice on the All State commercials) and keep Hibbert, Peretti and their entourage away from Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and the club on Jamaican Gold Night …


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of, as well as our superproducer Micah Hart of’s All Ball Blog and the best engineer in the business, Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

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.