Good Ass Game Alert: Manu Giveth, and Manu Taketh Away

 

Random takeaways from rewatching this Spurs classic:

 

  • Really loved the assortment on role players on both sides. Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack (used to kill the Jayhawks when he played for Georgia Tech), David Lee, and Harrison Barnes on Golden State. For the Spurs, you had DeJuan Blair, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, and I liked Gary Neal enough.
  • This playoff run gave us a glimpse of what was to come for Golden State. Even though San Antonio knocked them out of the playoffs this round, the Warriors gave the Spurs all that they could handle (and arguably outplayed them outside of a couple of endgame scenarios that were costly). Golden State was ascending and San Antonio had plateaued as a dynasty, reaching the Finals the next two years, but leveling off the following six seasons. Warriors would beat the Spurs handily the next two times they’d face each other in the playoffs.
  • Warriors were a really scrappy bunch with Draymond Green coming onto the floor as an energy guy. You can already see the chemistry developing between he, Steph and Klay when the three of them are on the court together. At the time, it seemed like Harrison Barnes was knocking on the door of being a top player at his position. It is fascinating to watch an emerging dynasty in the works. The team had yet to pick up Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, David West, or Mo Speights. The Warriors weren’t quite the destination team yet, but you can see the nuts and bolts of the squad coming together during that run.
  • Watching this 2013 Spurs team is tough knowing what is ahead for them down the road. If you put that roster side by side with the championship team from the following year, its easy to understand why they couldn’t get the job done against the Heat during the Finals. Outside of Duncan, Ginobili, Matt Bonner, and Parker, no one on that team had been to an NBA Finals (which makes you wonder if they could’ve used Stephen Jackson who was cut right before the playoffs that year). The team lost Blair the next season, and Gary Neal, replacing them with Jeff Ayres and Marco Belinelli. Plus all those role players who’d lost in the Finals the year before were back and better prepared for challenge. It is also worth mentioning that the 2014 Heat were on their last leg having been to four Finals in a row with a core of slow aging veterans.
  • This game reaches its competitive peak in the 3rd, 4th, and second overtime periods. Steph Curry went on one of his epic third quarter runs that were still a novelty; scoring 14 points in 3 minutes (22 in the third quarter). Unfortunately for the Warriors their inability to finish the quarter would ultimately cost them. The Spurs went on an 8-2 run during the final 35 seconds that started with a Ginobili and 1 layup, then a Danny Green 3 pointer, and finally, a careless inbound violation by Curry, that was followed a silly foul by Jarrett Jack; which led to two free throws by Gary Neal.
  • The real turning point of the game came in the 4th quarter at the 3:51 mark when Tony Parker fouled out Klay Thompson on a baseline drive towards the basket. With Tim Duncan in the locker room battling the flu, it seemed like it was all but wrapped up for Golden State. Even Chris Webber says at the time, “luckily they won’t need him the rest of the game.” This is when “shit got real” for the young Dubs.
  • Down by 16, and less than 4 minutes left in the game, Tony Parker put the team on his back for an  18 to 2 run, and the Warriors shot themselves in the foot with every following possession–only scoring on a Jarrett Jack jumper with 29 ticks left in the game.
  • The Danny Green game tying three was the result of a well designed play by five individuals executing their roles with perfection.1)After the timeout, Coach Popovich elects to take out ball by the Spurs bench at full court instead of at half court giving the Boris Diaw room to inbound the ball to Tony Parker. 2) Parker brings the ball up the court– letting it roll til Draymond Green comes forward to make him pick up the ball. 3)Parker then passes it at midcourt to Diaw, who does a dribble handoff to Manu Ginobili, who releases from defender Harrison Barnes from the wing to the top of key to become primary ballhandler. 4)At the same time, Danny Green goes from the top 3 point corner to sets a pick for Kawhi Leonard (who started on the left block then shifts to right block) on Jarret Jack. 5) Kawhi dives toward paint moving back to left block on a defensive switch by Golden State and now has Steph Curry is guarding him.6) Diaw screens his man , Harrison Barnes, out on the wing after realizing he doesn’t need to run to set a baseline pick on Jarret Jack who due to a miscommunication on a switch with Steph Curry, is caught in no man’s land, and  leaves Danny Green free to roam along the baseline towards the 3 point line where 7) he catches a perfect pass from Manu Ginobili for a wide open, catch and shoot, game tying 3 pointer
  • The Warriors bench which at one point was going nuts during the Steph Curry 3rd quarter run, now looked shook. To the Warriors credit, they managed to regain their composure in the 2nd overtime and still almost stole victory from the jaws of defeat. I honestly saw enough to believe the snafu that left Ginobili open for the game winning three pointer would not have happened with Draymond Green on the court, but unfortunately for the Dubs, he’d fouled out earlier just a few minutes into overtime.
  •  

    Give it up for the assistants in the game, Mike Malone, Mike Budenholzer and Bret Brown. All three would go on to be head coaches very very soon, and for now still all have jobs with–playoffs teams– the Nuggets, Bucks and Sixers.

 

I watched this game live at an Austin bar down on Red River and was the only one paying attention as the sound was off and some singer songwriter was playing her depressing music on acoustic guitar. My ill fitting and inappropriate yells, moans, and guffaws elicited some nasty looks from the other patrons, but I couldn’t contain myself during the second half and overtime portions of the game.

It was a different experience being able to listen to the announcers and stop the feed an replay different segments of the game to my heart’s content. I can’t describe the buzz I had that night of the game replaying that Ginobili shot over and over again in my head. Of all the most improbable comebacks, this was the craziest I’d seen outside of the Duke vs Maryland, “10 points in one minute game.” It didn’t look good for San Antonio, and somehow they still pulled it out.

I would be fortunate enough to see the Spurs clinch this series in person at the famed Oracle arena and it was quite the experience. The year before, I was in Oklahoma to watch the Thunder knock San Antonio out of the playoffs during the Western Conference Finals, and so it seemed fitting to be in Oakland to see them take care of the Warriors. Warriors fans joy was infectious and walking out of the arena that night, I felt bad for them. I’d lived in Oakland during the “We Believe” era that already seemed like ancient history. At the time I didn’t know that this was a team still on the horizon and that their playoff runs were just beginning. Of course, this also meant that the Spurs were a team that was already on the decline, but no one had time to think about that. Their run was still ongoing.

 

 

BM

 

 

IMG_0515 (2)

Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

Local Legends: Seattle

                                     Best NBA Players to come out of Seattle

 

Jason Terry 

  • won back to back state titles for Franklin High School in 1994 and 1995
  • Won NCAA championship on Arizona Wildcats in 1997
  • Played in 2 NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks winning in 2011
  • Only Arizona player in school history to score 1,000 points and get 200 steals
  • Pac-10 player of the year with 21.9 points, 5 assists, and 2.8 assists his senior year at University of Arizona
  • 13. 8 points a game in NBA, 38% from 3, 44 % from field 
  • Sixth man of the year award in 2008

Jamal Crawford

  • 3 time sixth man of the award
  • 16.6 pts and 4.5 assists at University of Michigan
  • Started the Pro-Am Crawsover
  • At one point was considered the best volume shooter in the league
  • Only NBA player to 50 or more points for 4 or more teams
  • 2,000 three pointers made 
  • State title at Rainier Beach 1998

Nate Robinson

  • Started the local pipeline to University of Washington, teamed with Brandon Roy to take team to Sweet Sixteen 2004-2005 season with 29-6 record
  • State title in 2002 at Rainier Beach High School
  • 16.4 points 4.3 assists his junior year
  • 17.7 points 4.7 assists his Senior year
  • 3 time NBA slam Dunk Champion
    Brandon Roy

    • 2007 Rookie of the Year
    • Retire due to degenerative knee condition, zero cartilage in both knees
    • Took University Washington to Sweet Sixteen 2 years in a row
    • Pac-10 Player of the Year 2006
    • All American 2006 
    • 3 X NBA All Star
    • 14 pts 5.5. Rebounds, 3 assists at Washington
    • 18.8 pts 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists in 326 NBA games, 6 seasons (only twice played at least 70 games)
    • Won back to back titles as a high school coach with Nathan Hale (2016-2017)  and Garfield (2017-2018) 

    Doug Christie

    • 1988 title at Rainier Beach 
    • 16 pts, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists at Pepperdine University
    • Solid role player 3 and and D player; 4 time all NBA defensive team
    • 35% from 3, 45 % from field
    • 15 year veteran 1992-2007
    • 11 points, 3 assists 4 rebounds for career

    Other Notable Seattle Facts

  • Garfield High School has most state tiles in Washington history producing Brandon Roy, Tony Wroten,  and Will Conroy
  • Rainier Beach High School State titles (1988, 1989, 1998, 2002,2003, 2008, 2012, 2013 2014, 2016) Notable Alumni: Doug Christie (1988), Jamal Crawford (1998), Nate Robinson (2003),  C.J. Giles (2003), Terrence Williams (2002, 2003),  Dejounte Murray (2012, 2013,2014) 
  • Franklin High School state titles (1994, 1995, 2003, 2006, 2009) Notable Alumni: Jason Terry (1994, 1995), Aaron Brooks (2003), Payton Siva (2009)

     

    Other notable players from Seattle area

    Michael Dickerson (Federal Way High School)

    Martell Webster (Seattle Prep)

    Rodney Stuckey (Kentwood High School)

    Spencer Hawes (Seattle Prep)

    Marvin Williams (Bremerton Prep)

    Avery Bradley (Bellarmine Prep)

    Zach Lavine (Bothell High School) 

         Michael Porter Jr. (Nathan Hale High School)

 

 

BM

 

IMG_0515 (2)

Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

Sonicsgate: A (sort of) movie review

 

[The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if and when we survive this global pandemic.]

 

 

When people bring up the city of Seattle, its typically to talk about Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain (maybe even Quincy Jones’ depending on who you’re talking to), coffee, and months of rain.

Outside of the diehard NBA fans, the normal American does not think of basketball. Seattle, however; is a fertile hotbed for talented basketball players. On top of that, it is a really dope city–one of the dopest cities in the United States. So dope– that the majority of the millionaires living in this country, live in Seattle. It is downright head scratching that a city so dope, does not have an NBA team. 

What the average person does not know is that Seattle has a rich history of hoop dating all the way back to 1967. They won an NBA title in 1979, and from 1993 to 1998–led by Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and a collection of high level role players–had a 60% winning percentage. 

 

Things took a tumble for Seattle when they signed center Jim McIlvaine to an enormous contract (mistakenly) believing that he was the final piece to a championship puzzle. This alienated the franchise face Shawn Kemp (who was lobbying for a new contract) enough to the point that he demanded a trade before his contract was completed [Folklore has it that Kemp had already been dangled in a trade once before with the Chicago Bulls for then small forward Scottie Pippen]. The Sonics traded Kemp to the Cleveland Cavaliers–for a two piece and a biscuit meal– starting a gradual decline that culminated with George Karl not getting a contract renewal in 1998. The 1998-99 lockout immediately followed; which hurt the Sonics revenue when not all their fans returned to the Key Arena when the basketball did.

In 2001, the Ackerley family sold the team to Coffee baron Howard Schulz, and to quote Gary Payton, “he tried to run the basketball team like a coffee business.” Frustrated with low attendance, poor team performance, and a venue that was outdated compared to the new wave of NBA multi purpose arenas, Schultz sold the team to an Oklahoma City investment group–led by Aubrey McClendon and Clay Bennett–that had just seen promise while hosting the New Orleans Hornets for an interim period during post Hurricane Katrina. 

 

After realizing that the city was not going to pay for either a new arena or renovations (the city eventually passed initiative 91 More Important Things i.e. no sports subsidies) despite spending over $517 million on SafeCo field (for the Mariners) and $430 Million for the Seahawks’ new stadium, Questfield. The Okies saw their chance and took it, using this initiative as an excuse to move the team to OKC, even though they were sued for breaking the lease. The city settled for a 75 million dollar buyout, with 45 million of it paid upfront and the rest of the 30 to be paid out over the next 5 years; if the city could put together a renovation plan for the Key Arena (Are you confused too? Okay. Good I’m not the only one who can’t make sense of this deal) The city never put together that plan an forfeited the 30 million from the settlement. There is a prevailing thought that had the city of Seattle fought harder to keep the team, that the OKC based group would have eventually caved, and sold the team as majority stakeholder (Aubrey McClendon lost over 90 percent of his fortune in the upcoming 2008 economic recession). 

While it is true that the OKC buyers ( and arguably the league—err–David Stern) probably did some underhanded actions to acquire the team; with the agenda to move the team, the city of Seattle did everything it could to help give away their franchise. One could argue that in Seattle, basketball was this esoteric sport that only urban kids and hipsters supported. The city ponied up the funds for their baseball and football teams, but left the basketball team dangling in the wind. I know that no one wants to see a bad product, but historically, the Sonics were the only franchise at the time consistently winning [my argument against this would be Warriors fans who supported their team through thick and thin–although Oaklanders eventually lost their team too once it started winning].

The Mariners had a brief run in the late 90’s and early 2000’s (with an expanded playoff format starting in 1995), and the Seahawks were perennial doormats until the early 2000’s. Sonics fans just have to face up to the fact that the city didn’t care about basketball enough. They even let Bennett and the other okies take all the team records, banners, stats, and history with them to Oklahoma. Say what you will about the whole process being unfair, the fact is that the city didn’t want it enough. As Sir Mix A lot said, Seattlites were always “fair weather fans when it came to the Seahawks and Sonics”, comparing them to the wine and cheese crowd that 49ers fans are reknowned for. He called them “Upscale cats drinking 4.50 cups of tea.” I WOULD LOVE to see a team back in Seattle (and Vancouver while we’re at it. Move Memphis to the east where they belong) but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Outside of the hardcore hoop heads up there, no one in Seattle really misses basketball. 

 

BM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0515 (2)

Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

In Retrospect: Examining the 2009 NBA Draft First Round

[The following is a chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if and when we survive this global pandemic.]

The NBA draft is a fascinating social phenomenon. Front offices use it as an opportunity to pitch entice their team’s fan base to renew their season ticket packages (sometimes before the season is even over). Some fans use it as a beacon of hope for their favorite team and some players see the draft as a harbinger of what is to come for their own careers. 

A great draft can create a dynasty, a good one can extend it, and a bad draft can set a franchise back five to ten years. The line between bust and boom depends on two important factors: the health of a player and the health of a franchise. Would Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard be the same kinds of players had they landed in Brooklyn or Indiana? Would we think of Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant the same had their careers started in Portland?

Sometimes it really is just a matter of a player landing in the right situation. Successful organizations invest in their draft picks and put them in situations to succeed. Not all superstars come into the league ready made; some need to be developed and coached and polished into the diamonds they eventually become.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Veterans carry value within the locker room as well as on the court. As is in life, sometimes its all about meeting the right people to help steer you in the right direction. But NBA success isn’t guaranteed. For every Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Butler, there are tons of players who eat themselves out of the league, have substance abuse problems, and even cases of mental illness. The NBA draft is a crapshoot, and some organizations were good, some bad, and others were just plain (un) lucky.

In this chapter we examine a few select draft classes–ones which altered the league indefinitely–that were springboards to some franchises success and doomed others to being league doormats. These drafts were full of generational talent that changed the league for years to come. Some teams set themselves up to contend for the decade, while other teams set themselves up for failure. You can take a look and see from the drafts which teams trended where.

 

2009 Draft First Round Picks

  1. Blake Griffin PF Los Angeles Clippers
16. James Johnson SF Chicago
2. Hasheem Thabeet C Memphis 17. Jrue Holiday PG Philadelphia
3. James Harden SG Oklahoma City 18. Ty Lawson PG Minnesota (traded to Denver)
4. Tyreke Evans SG Sacramento 19. Jeff Teague PG Atlanta
5. Ricky Rubio PG Minnesota 20. Eric Maynor PG Utah
6. Jonny Flynn PG Minnesota 21. Darren Collison PG New Orleans 
7. Stephen Curry PG Golden State 22. Victor Claver Portland
8. Jordan Hill PF New York 23. Omri Casspi Sacramento
9. Demar DeRozan SG Toronto 24. Byron Mullins C Dallas (traded to Oklahoma City)
10. Brandon Jennings PG Milwaukee 25. Rodrigue Beaubois PG Oklahoma City (traded to Dallas)
11. Terrence Williams SG Nets 26. Taj Gibson PF Chicago
12. Gerald Henderson SG Charlotte 27. DeMarre Carroll SF Memphis
13. Tyler Hansborough PF Indiana 28. Wayne Ellington SG Minnesota
14. Earl Clark SF Phoenix 29. Toney Douglas PG Los Angeles
15. Austin Daye SF Detroit 30. Christian Eyenga SF Cleveland

 

All Stars

 

Jrue Holiday, James Harden, Jeff Teague, Demar Derozoan, Blake Griffin, Steph Curry

 

Notable Role Players 

 

Jonas Jerebko, Dejuan Blair, Taj Gibson, Danny Green, Demarre Carroll, Austin Daye, Dante Cunningham, Jeff Pendergraph (later Ayres), Darren Collison, Jodie Meeks, James Johnson, Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington, Patrick Beverly, Toney Douglas, Patty Mills, Chase Budinger, Eric Maynor

 

Busts of 2009 Class

 

Tyreke Evans, Thabeet Hasheem, Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, Tyler Hansborough, Rodrigue Beaubois

 

Steal of the Draft

 

Steph Curry not only turned out to be the best player in the league, but one of the most destructive offensive forces the league has ever seen. After he overcame ankle problems (which were a legitimate concern for other teams, Steph proved that players from mid- major colleges could compete at the next level (you couldn’t name another player on those Davidson teams can you?). Steph revolutionized the game of basketball with his other-worldy shooting ability and absurd accuracy from anywhere on the court. Just having Curry was enough to get the Davidson Wildcats to the elite eight in the NCAA Tournament. When I watched him in the 2008 tournament, I predicted to my friends that Steph Curry would be the next Reggie Miller, because of his 3 pt shooting. Boy was I wrong……. turns out he is way better than Reggie Miller. 

 

Undrafted Notables

 

Joe Ingles,Wesley Matthews, Aron Baynes

 

NBA Champions

 

Jeff Ayres(2014), Danny Green(2014,2019), Stephen Curry(2015,2017,2018), Patty Mills (2014), Jodie Meeks (2019) 

 

 

 

Draft Notes

  • Its hard to decide who had the worse draft, Minnesota, or the Memphis Grizzlies. Many executives in the league had yet to forgive Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace for trading Pau Gasol for his brother Marc[At the time, the trade looked unbelievably lop-sided as Pau Gasol was a perennial All Star stuck on a well coached overachieving team of role players. No one knew Marc was going to be the beast he grew into becoming]. If you look at the lottery picks that year, you will notice the names of three All Stars (and Olympians) that were picked after # 2 pick, Hasheem Thabeet who played in only 224 games during his career, starting in only 20 of them. Thabeet was selected before James Harden (imagine a backcourt of him and Conley Jr.), Steph Curry and Demar Derozan.
  • Minnesota passed on Steph Curry twice, grabbing Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn with consecutive picks. They drafted Ty Lawson with the 18th pick (who was better than either player for when he was in the league) but traded him to Denver.
  • This was a good draft for finding point guards.  Jrue Holiday went on to be a more than serviceable point guard. At one point (before he worked himself out of the league) Ty Lawson was considered the fastest player in the league. Darren Collison, Jeff Teague and Eric Maynor became great role players for their teams.

 

 

And the Winner is…..

 

The Golden State Warriors and the NBA. Three NBA titles and five finals appearances later, there is no argument that Steph Curry has become one of the faces of the league. Every time you’re playing pickup ball and someone takes a crazy heat check jumper from damn near half court, they are channeling their inner Steph Curry. NBA teams go to outrageous lengths to draft players who they hope to be the face of their franchise. Some succeed, most don’t.

Even rarer than drafting a franchise player is the good fortune to nab a player who can also be the face of the league. These sort of acquisitions can carry a franchise for a decade if everything goes right. Seeing all the things that had to happen for Steph Curry to fall to Golden State, only further illustrates this point. Of the six players selected before Curry, none of those players are on the team that drafted them, and three of those players are out of the league (Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet). Hell, go back and look at the first round again, and see if you can name all the players still playing in the NBA. Tyreke Evans was Rookie of the Year, Ty Lawson was at one point the fastest point guard in the NBA, and Steph Curry had weak ankles. A little more of a decade later, and the drafts grades get a bit harsher. Minnesota had three chances to get it right and they didn’t. Golden State had one shot and they made it count. It was the perfect storm.

 

 

BM

 

IMG_0515 (2)

Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

In Retrospect: Examining the 2007 NBA Draft First Round

[The following is a chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if and when we survive this global pandemic.]

The NBA draft is a fascinating social phenomenon. Front offices use it as an opportunity to pitch entice their team’s fan base to renew their season ticket packages (sometimes before the season is even over). Some fans use it as a beacon of hope for their favorite team and some players see the draft as a harbinger of what is to come for their own careers. 

A great draft can create a dynasty, a good one can extend it, and a bad draft can set a franchise back five to ten years. The line between bust and boom depends on two important factors: the health of a player and the health of a franchise. Would Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard be the same kinds of players had they landed in Brooklyn or Indiana? Would we think of Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant the same had their careers started in Portland?

Sometimes it really is just a matter of a player landing in the right situation. Successful organizations invest in their draft picks and put them in situations to succeed. Not all superstars come into the league ready made; some need to be developed and coached and polished into the diamonds they eventually become.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Veterans carry value within the locker room as well as on the court. As is in life, sometimes its all about meeting the right people to help steer you in the right direction. But NBA success isn’t guaranteed. For every Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Butler, there are tons of players who eat themselves out of the league, have substance abuse problems, and even cases of mental illness. The NBA draft is a crapshoot, and some organizations were good, some bad, and others were just plain (un) lucky.

In this chapter we examine a few select draft classes–ones which altered the league indefinitely–that were springboards to some franchises success and doomed others to being league doormats. These drafts were full of generational talent that changed the league for years to come. Some teams set themselves up to contend for the decade, while other teams set themselves up for failure. You can take a look and see from the drafts which teams trended where.

                                                     2007 First Round

  1. Greg Oden C, Portland
16. Nick Young SG Wizards
2. Kevin Durant F, Seattle 17. Sean Williams PF New Jersey
3. Al Horford C Atlanta 18. Marco Bellinelli SG Golden State
4. Mike Conley Jr. PG Memphis 19. Jarvis Crittenton PG Los Angeles Clippers
5. Jeff Green SF Boston (Traded to Seattle) 20. Jason Smith PF Miami (traded to Philadelphia)
6. Yi Jianlin PF Milwaukee 21. Daequan Cook SG Philadelphia (traded to Miami)
7. Corey Brewer SF Minnesota 22. Jared Dudley SF Charlotte
8. Brandon Wright PF Charlotte (traded to Golden State) 23. Wilson Chandler SF New York
9. Joakim Noah C Chicago 24. Rudy Fernandez SG Phoenix (traded to Portland)
10. Spencer Hawes C Sacramento  25. Morris Almond SG Utah
11. Acie Law G Atlanta 26. Aaron Brooks PG Houston
12. Thaddeus Young PF Philadelphia 27. Arron Afflalo SG Detroit
13. Julian Wright SF New Orleans 28. Tiago Splitter C San Antonio
14. Al Thornton SF Los Angeles Clippers 29. Alando Tucker SF Phoenix
15. Rodney Stuckey SG, Pistons

 

All Stars 

Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah

 

Notable Role players Drafted This Round

Ramon Sessions,Glen “Big Baby” Davis,Carl Landry,Arron Afflalo,Aaron Brooks,Tiago Splitter,Rudy Fernandez,Wilson Chandler,Jared Dudley,Daquan Cook,Rodney Stuckey,Nick Young,Thaddeus Young,Spencer Hawes,Corey Brewer,Jeff Green,Joakim Noah, Marco Bellinelli,

 

First Round Busts

Greg Oden, Wright, Javaris Crittendon, Brandon Wright, Yi Janlian

 

Steal of the draft: Marc Gasol with the 48th pick. Gasol turned into an All NBA defender, and was a key mid season trade acquisition for the 2019 Champion Toronto Raptors. He along with Mike Conley became the cornerstones of the “Grit N Grind” era Grizzlies.

 

Notable Undrafted: Anthony Tolliver, Gary Neal, Joel Anthony

 

NBA Champions 

Kevin Durant (2017,2018) Tiago Splitter (2014) Glen Davis (2008) Marco Bellinelli (2014) Corey Brewer(2011) Marc Gasol (2019) Nick Young (2018) Joel Anthony (2012,2013)

 

Draft Day Notes :

 

  • Mike Conley is one of the few top 5 picks to never make an All Star Team and not be considered a bust. Conley is like a NFL quarterback without any weapons on offense. The only players that Conley ever had to help him on offense have been Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. If I were coaching a young point guard, I would make them watch countless hours of Mike Conley game footage to help them understand how to run an offense. There are few point guards in the league who can control an offense as efficiently as Mike Conley Jr. Conley also had the misfortune of playing in the West (why isn’t Memphis in the Eastern Conference?) during the point god renaissance and was always overlooked in favor of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry, Tony Parker, and Chris Paul. Now pretty much washed, Conley may never get his true due as a high level point guard. 
  • Portland–not understanding they were doomed to repeat team history–passed on a generational talent in the draft to select a player based on need–and again it was a big man who never got his career off the ground in the way a number one draft pick is expected to perform. Greg Oden didn’t even stay in the league as long 1984 pick Sam Bowie. Oden had 3 micro-fracture surgeries on his knees in a five year period and was unable to stay healthy enough to make an impact on his Blazers’ teams success. He played fine when he could play, averaging almost  a double-double in his first two seasons. Durant of course became an all world player, winning Olympics medals, scoring titles, ten All star game appearances,  a league MVP, and 2 Finals MVP’s on the way to two championships–not to mention millions of dollars in endorsements.
  • If it were true what Portland apologists say–that the Trailblazers didn’t need another wing player; they needed a rim protector in the paint, then the proper selection of that particular draft would’ve been Al Horford (in hindsight). Portland could’ve easily swapped picks with the Atlanta Hawks and still gotten Horford without paying him as the number one pick in the draft. Who is to say that anyone could’ve foreseen Oden having injury problems? I certainly didn’t, but I’d watched enough ball that season to see that Oden’s body might not be able to handle his frame. Even I could see that there might be some problems, especially with him already missing most of his freshman year with a broken hand. Although, to be fair, he was a monster on the defensive end of the court when he played at Ohio State.On the other hand, Portland could’ve had a front line of AL Horford, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Nicolas Batum, with Joel Pryzbilla, Channing Frye, Travis Outlaw, and Rudy Fernandez coming off the bench. Oh yeah, by the way, Brandon Roy was the starting point guard. Blazers went 54-28 that season and finished 2nd in the Pacific Division to the West champion Los Angeles Lakers, but maybe they actually make a deep run instead getting knocked out in the first round to the Houston Rockets. There is no telling how far a big 3 of Aldridge, Horford, and Roy would have taken them during that Brandon Roy era.  Portland would continue to make the playoffs, only to be formidable playoff opponents that ultimately fell in the first round–their win total decreasing each season. Eventually, head coach Nate McMillan would lose his job, and the Blazers would miss the playoffs two consecutive seasons. In short, that blown lottery pick set the team back half a decade, and it took drafting Weber State’s Damien Lillard (after Brandon Roy’s degenerative knee condition forced him to retire early) to turn the franchise around again.
  • Jeff Green got traded to the SuperSonics that night, but Boston came calling again years later, when they broke up their mini-dynasty and traded defensive specialist Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. Boston would never got back to the NBA Finals after trading Perkins; falling again and again to the Lebron James led Miami Heat.

 

And the Winner is: 

Oklahoma City. They pulled off the heist of the century in stealing an entire NBA franchise (with the help of David Stern)  and moving them to the midwest. Kevin Durant would become the face of the franchise, and OKC would end up with two more lottery picks that would become league MVP’s (more on that later). Seattle to this day still doesn’t have an NBA team, and the league is worse off for not having teams in Vancouver and Seattle. Maybe that will change by the time this book is published. One can only hope.

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

In Retrospect: Examining the 2003 NBA Draft First Round

The following is a chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if and when we survive this global pandemic. 

The NBA draft is a fascinating social phenomenon. Front offices use it as an opportunity to pitch entice their team’s fan base to renew their season ticket packages (sometimes before the season is even over). Some fans use it as a beacon of hope for their favorite team and some players see the draft as a harbinger of what is to come for their own careers. 

A great draft can create a dynasty, a good one can extend it, and a bad draft can set a franchise back five to ten years. The line between bust and boom depends on two important factors: the health of a player and the health of a franchise. Would Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard be the same kinds of players had they landed in Brooklyn or Indiana? Would we think of Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant the same had their careers started in Portland?

Sometimes it really is just a matter of a player landing in the right situation. Successful organizations invest in their draft picks and put them in situations to succeed. Not all superstars come into the league ready made; some need to be developed and coached and polished into the diamonds they eventually become.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Veterans carry value within the locker room as well as on the court. As is in life, sometimes its all about meeting the right people to help steer you in the right direction. But NBA success isn’t guaranteed. For every Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Butler, there are tons of players who eat themselves out of the league, have substance abuse problems, and even cases of mental illness. The NBA draft is a crapshoot, and some organizations were good, some bad, and others were just plain (un) lucky.

In this chapter we examine a few select draft classes–ones which altered the league indefinitely–that were springboards to some franchises success and doomed others to being league doormats. These drafts were full of generational talent that changed the league for years to come. Some teams set themselves up to contend for the decade, while other teams set themselves up for failure. You can take a look and see from the drafts which teams trended where.

 

2003 First Round Picks

  1. Lebron James SF Cleveland
16. Troy Bell PG Boston (traded to Memphis)
2. Darko Milicic C Detroit 17. Zarko Cabarkapa Phoenix
3. Carmelo Anthony SF Denver 18. David West PF New Orleans
4. Chris Bosh PF Toronto 19. Sasha Pavlovic F/G Utah
5. Dwyane Wade SG Miami 20. Dahntay Jones SG Boston (traded to Memphis)
6. Chris Kaman C Los Angeles Clipper 21. Boris Diaw PF Atlanta
7. Kirk Hinrich PG Chicago 22. Zora Planinic G/F New Jersey
8. T.J. Ford PG Milwaukee 23. Travis Outlaw SF Portland
9. Michael Sweeney PF New York 24. Brian Cook PF Los Angeles
10. Jarvis Hayes F/G Washington 25. Carlos Delfino SG Detroit
11. Mickael Pietrus G/F Golden State 26. Ndudi Ebi SF Minnesota
12. Nick Collison PF Seattle 27. Kendrick Perkins C Memphis (traded to Boston)
13. Marcus Banks PG Memphis 28. Leandro Barbosa SG San Antonio (traded to Phoenix)
14. Luke Ridnour PG Seattle 29. Josh Howard F Dallas
15. Reece Gaines F/G Orlando

 

All Stars

Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh , Chris Kaman, Dwayne Wade, David West, Josh Howard, Mo Williams, Kyle Korver

 

Notable Role Players

 

Kyle Korver, James Jones, Mo Williams, Matt Bonner, Keith Bogans, Zaza Pachulia, Mickael Pietrus, Willie Green, Steve Blake, Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, Josh Howard, Leandro Barbosa, Carlos Delfino, Brian Cook, Travis Outlaw, Boris Diaw, Dahntay Jones, Luke Ridnour, Marcus Banks, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Jarvis Hayes, T.J. Ford, Chris Kaman, 

 

Bust (top 5 draft pick who never became an All Star)

 

Steal of the Draft: Lebron James. Again, it is difficult to call a number one pick a steal in any draft, but if you consider the effect this pick had on the city and the franchise (and consider the number of lottery picks that would not work out for Cleveland over the next decade and a half), then you understand why I chose Lebron for steal of the draft. Lebron brought Cleveland its first championship in half a century and made the Cavaliers (and the city of Cleveland) relevant in the sports world. James will get a statue out in front of Cleveland’s basketball arena and will go down as one of the top 10 players to ever lace them up. 

 

Notable Undrafted

 

Marquis Daniels, Josh Powell, Matt Carroll, Jose Calderon

 

NBA Champions

 

Carlos Delfino (2004), Chris Bosh ( 2012,2013), Lebron James (2012,2013,2016), James Jones (2012,2013,2016), Dwayne Wade (2006,2012, 2013), Dahntay Jones (2016), Kendrick Perkins (2008), Darko Milicic (2004), Luke Walton (2009,2010), Leandro Barbosa (2015), Boris Diaw (2014), Matt Bonner(2007,2014), Mo “Man, I thought we was Thundercats” Williams (2016), David West (2017,2018) Zaza Pachulia (2017,2018)

 

Draft Notes

  • Darko Milicic the accidental muse, birthed a movement of basketball writers to name a writing collective after him. Had Detroit any player in the top ten, I think they would have won more titles during their reign as the top dogs in the Eastern Conference. I’m not entirely convinced the Pistons would’ve traded for Rasheed Wallace in 2004 had they drafted CarmeloAnthony (or that Melo and Larry Brown would’ve been able to co-exist). But I do think Chris Bosh (or even Chris Kaman) surely would’ve bolstered their already stout front line ( I don’t think Dwayne Wade would’ve flourished in such a crowded backcourt with Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton at the helm. I’m sure Wade himself has no bones to pick about getting drafted by Miami instead of Detroit.)
  • Lebron James and Kyle Korver are the last remaining players from this draft to be on an NBA active roster.
  • The Phoenix Suns would come up short again and again in the Western Conference during the “:07 Seconds or Less” era. If you notice their pick at #17, they went with Zarko Cabarkapa. It is hard not to wonder how players like Josh Howard (the last pick of the round) or David West (who went next at the 18th pick) would’ve fit in on those early small-ball Suns teams, and wonder if that would’ve been enough to get them over the hump against the Lakers, Spurs, or Mavericks (who actually drafted Josh Howard). Of course, chances are that Robert Sarver would’ve traded them for peanuts, once their rookie contracts ended; or just let them walk for nothing. 
  • At one point, #8 draft pick T.J. Ford was known as the fastest player in the league. An absolute joy to watch at the University of Texas (see College Basketball chapter), Ford’s career was short by a degenerative spinal injury that was aggravated for good by a dirty pick by the Nets Kenyon Martin. Ford had actually declared early for the 2003 draft after a decorated sophomore season where he led to Texas Longhorns to their second Final Four in school history. After the season was over, Ford bruised his spine in a pickup game on campus and it was adios to Austin and hola to the NBA. While we’re talking about it (and as much as it hurts to say this), the Bulls took the wrong point guard in Kirk Hinrich, but I understand why they made that pick (Hinrich was a midwestern white guy who could hoop, and there is a large University of Kansas alumni contingent in Chicago.) In hindsight, I think that was a pick made more for getting butts in the seats than winning games–not that it would’ve made a huge difference; there were a lot of teams better than the Bulls in that decade (and the decade after that). Who knows? Perhaps having a true point guard in T.J. Ford (always felt like Hinrich should’ve been playing at the 2 instead of  the Bulls forcing him play point after Jay Williams near fatal motorcycle crash) would’ve been worth 10 wins and instead of finishing eighth in their division, they finish sixth.

 

And the Winner of the 2003 draft is: The Miami Heat.

In 2011,  the Heat signed free agents, Lebron James and Chris Bosh to play alongisde Dwayne Wade in their primes. This was effectively having the #1, 3, and 5 draft picks from that draft. They went on to win–not one, but–two NBA titles in a run of four straight NBA Finals.

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

Before He was the GOAT: Excerpt from Tao of The Passing Big Man, and other Essays

The following is a chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if and when we survive this global pandemic. 

 

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“When I first saw Michael play, I recognized there was a different era coming in. In my time, I believe the best all around player has been Magic Johnson. The best defensive player has been Michael Cooper. And in a few more years Michael Jordan will be the best player there ever was.”

Larry Bird excerpt from his autobiography, “Drive”

Even though Michael Jordan spent his final two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards, many fans’ lasting impression of number 23 is his jump shot over Bryon Russell as a Chicago Bull. It is easy to get blinded by the flashy dunks and dizzying highlights. Sure MJ had the Gatorade commercials, and the Nike and McDonald’s advertisements because he was such an exciting player to watch, but the reason Michael Jordan is held in such high reverence is because he really was the “Greatest of All Time”.

We can talk about his 6-0 record in the NBA Finals and six Finals MVP’s, his five regular season MVP’s, his ten scoring titles, and 14 All-Star appearances, but many people forget that he was also the best defensive player at his position. Jordan made First Team All-Defensive in nine of his seasons, led the league in steals three times, and during his 1988 campaign when he averaged 32 points per game, he was the defensive player of the year.

Before Michael Jordan’s ascent, the NBA was ruled by big men. Giants like Lew Alcindor, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain (and George Mikan before them) dominated the game. It was a conventional belief around the league that in order to win NBA titles consistently, you had to have a fixture at the center position to anchor your team. At 6’6, Jordan not only defied these conventions, he changed the league entirely; sparking the shift to a league full of wings and guards beating their defenders en route to gravity defying dunks.

Before he was hitting iconic game winning shots against Utah and Cleveland, he was hitting game winning jumpers to win NCAA games against Georgetown, Duke, NC State, and Maryland.

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Jordan himself says that there would be no Michael Jordan without Dean Smith. Jordan says that after his parents, Dean Smith left the biggest imprint on who he became. Many ignorantly say that Dean Smith was the only man who could hold Jordan under 20 points, but he averaged 20 his sophomore year in college, and his junior year he hit 19.6 points per game (There was no shot clock or 3 point line back then either for what it is worth).

 

Early criticisms of Jordan’s NBA career was that he was a great scorer, but couldn’t get his teammates involved. Although this was warranted, looking back it was hard to blame him. Jordan had a better basketball coach, and better teammates (even better workout facilities) at Chapel Hill than he did during his early years in the NBA. At North Carolina, Jordan played with future Hall of Famer James Worthy (the 1982 NCAA Tourney Most Outstanding player with 28 points in the championship game on 13 of 17 shooting), Jimmy Black, Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty, Kenny Smith (2 time NBA Champion), and Brad Daugherty (5 time NBA All Star). 

At Carolina, Jordan had arguably most talent he’d ever play with in the 1982 and 1984 seasons, and his passing skills really showed– he almost always made the correct basketball play even back then. It was at North Carolina where he mastered the fundamentals of passing, rebounding, moving without the ball, and defending. Not only did Jordan have Dean Smith as his head coach, but during the Jordan era, Coach Smith had an impeccable roster of assistant coaches in Eddie Fogler, Roy Williams (the man credited with recruiting Jordan), and Bill Gutheridge.

The Media and today’s fans like to debate, who was the greatest MJ, Kobe, or Lebron like hip hop fans used to argue Biggie, Jay-Z, or Nas. But there is no debate. Kobe Bryant (R.I.P.) was a notorious ball hog (who was actually a really good passer when he wanted to be one) who could be goaded into taking a slew of bad shots under the right circumstances (shooting the Lakers out of the 2004 and 2008 Finals). Although Lebron will amass many gaudy stats and break a lot of records, many fans will point to his six losses in the NBA Finals, and proclivity to play “too passive” in key situations early on in his playoff career (we might be having an entirely different conversation today about Lebron if not for a historic collapse by the Golden State Warriors in 2016, and a Ray Allen clutch 3 pointer in 2013).

In short, Kobe may have been too selfish offensively and Lebron may not have been selfish enough. Michael (if I may be so bold to call him by his first name) was the perfect balance of the two, as one can point to his willingness to take over games when needed or make the game winning pass; as seen in the 1993 and 1997 Finals to John Paxson, and then Steve Kerr.

There was no weakness to Jordan’s game. He was a prolific scorer, a lockdown defender, and an underrated passer. He could drive to the basket and smack the ball into the defender’s face after posterizing them, or stop short and loft a floater in the lane, or he could just beat people by shooting over them from long distance.

Looking at both Lebron and Kobe’s careers, it makes you wonder what would their careers been like had they even played at least one year in college. Kobe would’ve played at Duke for Coach K, instead of Del Harris, and Lebron would’ve played for Thad Motta at Ohio State instead of the legendary Paul Silas. It seems petty to even speculate how much “better” two of the most elite players of their generations could’ve been (as I write this, I’m actually realizing that Kobe went to 7 NBA Finals in the span of a decade), but its necessary to illustrate the gap between those two first ballot HOF players and Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

It is a completely different conversation (for what it is worth, Kobe came pretty damn close) when you are talking about Jordan, and if you weren’t around to see him play in the 90’s then its not easy to understand. Statistics won’t tell the whole story about how truly dominant Jordan was and why he is is the elite among the elite. I think the biggest difference between Jordan, Kobe and Lebron, is that neither Lebron; nor Kobe had the tutelage of Dean Smith and Jordan did.

Jordan’s early development at the collegiate game was a direct testament to picking the right college and the right college coach in Dean Smith; who many consider the best teacher of the game in his time. Jordan most certainly would’ve still been the athletic freak that you see in his vintage highlight clips, but mentally and fundamentally, he may not have hit his apex had he gone to any other school in the country.

Former Tarheel, Kenny Smith, once said that “Michael Jordan was Dean Smith if Dean Smith still played basketball” and “that rarely do you see a player be the best athlete in a sport and be the most fundamentally sound.” Jordan was both. Oh yeah, (Kenny) Smith said that Jordan never took a bad shot. Think about that for a minute.

Quite often people reference the game winning jumper that Jordan hit during the 1982 championship game against Georgetown as if that told the whole story. Michael Jordan had 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting, but he also had 9 key rebounds, 2 steals and 2 steals. Even then, Jordan was focused on becoming a complete player. If he were just a scorer, he would’ve found it hard to even get off the bench during a championship game as a freshman, making it highly unlikely for a young player in that situation to find himself taking the game winning shot.

As for that game winning jumper, even Jordan admits that is when everything changed for him. He is quoted as saying “after that shot, he went from being Mike, to Michael Jordan”, and the rest as they say, is basketball history.

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Illustration by “Sweet” Lou Eastman

 

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found in the KDVS studios making on air playlists. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com