Posts Tagged ‘T.J. Ford’

Slater Martin Was A Texas Original

HOUSTON — Here’s what to know about Slater Martin.

When star point guard T.J. Ford led the University of Texas to the 2003 Final Four for the first time since 1947, the surviving members of the old team sent coach Rick Barnes a letter of congratulations. At the end of the letter, Dr. Vilbry White, a retired dentist and a Longhorn teammate of Martin’s added a line at the end:

“Slater still doesn’t think T.J. could drive around him today.”

When told about the postscript, then 77-year-old Martin laughed loudly and said, “Well, I’d like to see him try without palming the way they let these guys do today.”

It goes without saying that Martin, who passed away at 86 on Thursday, came from a much different time, a different era of basketball. But every one of today’s stars from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James to Kevin Durant would have loved to have had him at their back on the court.

Martin was tough and rugged and feisty and, quite fittingly as a Texan, was a particular burr under the saddle of Celtics star Bob Cousy.

“Cousy never liked to see me coming,” Martin once told me, “because he knew I wasn’t going anywhere. And I told him he wasn’t pulling out any of that fancy hotdog stuff out on the court with me unless he wanted to wind up down on the court.”

Martin won five NBA championships, four with the Minneapolis Lakers and one with the St. Louis Hawks. He was a seven-time All-Star and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.

But in Houston, where he led Jefferson Davis High School to state titles in 1942 and 1943 and eventually settled down, Martin was an outgoing restauranteur, a gregarious host and a man who never met anyone who couldn’t become an instant friend.

The first time I met Martin in 1982 — he’d been retired from the game for more than two decades — I was immediately pulled into his world of NBA tales, observations, camaraderie and blunt opinions. He still loved the game, but especially not the liberal interpretation of the palming rule. He marveled and admired the wondrous athleticism of today’s NBA players, but cautioned that too many of the early stars — George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Bob Pettit — were under-appreciated. And still he liked to get in his jabs at his favorite nemesis.

“If you ever see Cousy around at a game these, tell him that I’m in the building,” Martin said, “and watch him flinch.”

That was Slater.

New Deputy Needed In San Antonio

As it stands now, there’s only one team in the West with a real shot at keeping the Thunder from reaching the NBA Finals, and it’s the Spurs, winners of four trophies and still moving along with the nucleus of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

In a seven-game series, where half-court basketball rules, you’d have to give the Spurs a decent chance, especially given their veteran leadership and championship experience. Plus, this could be Duncan’s last ride; he becomes a free agent this summer and it would not be a big surprise if he just decided to retire.

Given T.J. Ford’s sudden retirement yesterday, shouldn’t the Spurs seek insurance in the backcourt, where they’re somewhat thin? Well, if you believe in Gary Neal, then maybe not. However, this isn’t the time to take a chance on Ginobili’s body. Maybe the Spurs should take a serious look in getting some relief help; someone who comes to mind is D.J. Augustin, the former University of Texas star who’s being shopped by the Bobcats and has the attention of the Blazers, perhaps.

Running the point is a bit of a twist for Neal, whose chores were mostly restricted to knocking down open jumpers. He spoke with the Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News about a potential new rold:

(Gregg) Popovich said Neal will continue to get some time at shooting guard, as he did in Monday’s 112-97 victory over the Washington Wizards. He attempted only two 3-pointers in the game, making one.

Neal knows his primary focus must be learning to run the team from the point.

“It changes my whole role,” he said. “My position, the shots I was accustomed to getting, the way I have to play, all of it changes.

“The biggest thing is the mental approach changes. As much as I would love to be a 42 or 43 percent 3-point shooter, which is how I’ve been judged since I got here and how I judge myself, shooting 3-pointers at the point guard position is totally different. As far as I can tell, there’s only two guys in the league who shoot 40 percent from the point guard position, and that’s Chauncey Billups and Steve Nash.

“You just have to change your mentality and your understanding that your value to the team has changed. Once you accept that, I think the rest of it comes pretty routinely.”

This is a point guard’s league right now, with stars or potential stars lining almost every team. In the West, the Spurs could ultimately face Russell Westbrook at some point in the playoffs; do they have enough in Parker to reduce worries about the position? Besides, there isn’t enough practice time left in the season for Neal to “learn” to play the point. The Spurs would be wise to keep their options open, in case a point guard is available by Thursday.

Pacers’ Collison a ‘game-time’ call

INDIANAPOLIS – If it were up to Darren Collison, he would be starting for the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of their first-round Eastern Conference series against the Chicago Bulls Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

It is, of course, not up to Collison as much as it is up to his sprained left ankle, the professional opinions of the team’s medical staff and the balance as judged by head coach Frank Vogel between how much Collison  might help vs. hurt the Pacers’ chances.

In other words, we’re looking at the proverbial game-time decision.


About Last Night: PG Issues in LA?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Miami isn’t the only high-profile team struggling to slow down opposing team’s point guards.

The two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are going through some trials and tribulations of their own in that regard. In fact, the Lakers’ three-game losing streak has been highlighted by opposing point guards attacking them, including last night’s monster effort from Hang Time Grizzlies flash Mike Conley.

He was the tip of the Grizzlies’ spear, abusing older and slower point guards Derek Fisher and Steve Blake to the tune of a team-high 28 points, which including a 4-for-5 shooting display from long distance.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson insists the problem with opposing point guards is a deeper issue for his team than what’s gone on in the last three games, per our main man Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

“We’ve had trouble with them from the last two or three years,” Jackson said. “So that’s nothing new. There are quick guards in this league.”

The Lakers never could quite figure out how to slow down the left-handed, fleet-footed Conley.

He burned them for 10 points in the fourth, missing just one of his five shots, making his only three-pointer.

That came with 1:41 left and it gave the Grizzlies a seven-point lead they held on to.

“Defensively, we had trouble keeping in front of him,” Jackson said. “And a lot of that is help from the big guys. A lot of it is his talents.”

Sunday night, Indiana point guards Darren Collison and T.J. Ford combined for 19 points and eight assists. Last Friday night, Utah point guard Deron Williams hit the Lakers for 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting, and 12 assists.

Sound familiar?


Pacers Just Getting Started?


Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t bother trying to dissect that four-team, five-player deal that sent players in every direction and has executives from all four teams smiling and claiming victory.

(Besides my main man David Aldridge of TNT already broke it down for you.)

All you need to know is that the Pacers were the big winner of the day, though we love Trevor Ariza alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans and Courtney Lee in Rick Adelman‘s system in Houston could produce major fireworks for Rockets fans.

Whenever one of these multi-team, multi-player trades go down people start gushing about cap space gained or luxury tax thresholds avoided, but none of those (very important) things can … A) run a team, B) make a shot, or C) grab a rebound.

The Pacers snagged the best tangible piece of the deal in Darren Collison, a franchise (I didn’t say All-Star, yet, just franchise for now) point guard that would have been the first point guard taken in the June draft had he spent five years at UCLA instead of four.

It’s been a while since the Pacers had a player with this kind of talent, stability and clear-cut leadership potential at that position — someone suggested this morning that Mark Jackson was the last point guard to wear a Pacers uniform with the complete package of skills and make-up that Collison brings.

Pacers boss Larry Bird certainly seems pleased.

“We liked him coming out of college. I didn’t think he’d have the year he did last year,” Bird said (check for more of his thoughts in the video above). “He’s solid. He likes to defend. We know he can shoot the ball. He did a great job in college of putting the ball in the hole. We think he’s a complete player. He’s a young point guard to go with the rest of the core group we have, and we’ll just keep building on it.”

The locals seem pleased with the move as well, not to mention what could come next. Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star heralded the move as a “great deal” for the beleaguered franchise:

What’s not to love?

They get their point guard. They get a veteran with a defensive mind-set. And they rid themselves of a lousy contract — although, it should be said that Murphy was relentlessly productive here.

This is what the Pacers were planning for when they embarked on their long-term rebuilding plan. They knew they couldn’t count on hitting some kind of free agent bonanza next summer, not with the dearth of big names out there — and good luck getting Carmelo Anthony to Indiana. But they knew their increasingly favorable financial status would put them in a position to steal players from teams desperate to get under the luxury-tax threshold.

Like the New Orleans Hornets.

And this is just the beginning of the wheeling and dealing.

The Pacers still figure to go into the season with several players in the final year of their deals — Mike Dunleavy ($10,561,984), T.J. Ford ($8.5 million) and Jeff Foster ($6.655 million), and Jamaal Tinsley‘s $5.5 million will come off the books. They can trade them now, trade them near the trading deadline or hold onto them and watch their dollars come off the payroll at season’s end.

It’s been so long since the Pacers were a factor in the Eastern Conference playoff chase that one current NBA player laughed Wednesday night when we tried to explain to him that they were a power on par with the Utah Jazz, in terms of consistent playoff appearances, as recently as five years ago.

I know it sounds crazy to anyone with long-term memory issues, but there was a time (before LeBron James showed up in Cleveland and before the Detroit Pistons seized control of the East for half a decade) that the Pacers were considered a model franchise.

They had a blend of veterans and quality young talent, a stable front office and marquee value around the league.

Then the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills happened (in 2004). The Pacers long road to recovery has been going on ever since, but we must admit that the road got a lot smoother with the addition of Collison.

He’s the first young, franchise-pillar they’ve added since they lucked into All-Star swingman Danny Granger with the 17th pick in the 2005 draft (courtesy of the miscalculations of a dozen teams that drafted ahead of them).

So if the Pacers are indeed just getting started with Granger and Collison as their main cogs, we like where this is going.