“Chicago is in the Building”

You may hear otherwise, but Knuckleheads is the best basketball podcast around right now (no disrespect to Let’s Get Technical or All The Smoke). Hosted by Chicago native Quentin Richardson and East St. Louis native, Darius Miles, the pod almost feels like an homage to Illinois– and more specifically, Chicago–basketball. The name of the pod stems from the duo’s signature on court celebration of putting two fists against the top of the dome after a highlight worthy play when they were teammates on the upstart Los Angeles Clippers in the early 2000’s.

The podcast doesn’t focus strictly on Chicago ballers, past and present. A lot of guests tend to be former players you may have forgotten about already, or former teammates of Q and D. No matter who the guest, there are a few underlying threads throughout each pod. Many guests refer to their experiences playing pickup runs in Chicago during the off season. Not many episodes are complete until there is a Michael Jordan story (whose effect on Chicago basketball is only rivaled by hometown hero, Isiah Thomas).

Chicago ball isn’t as publicly heralded as North Carolina, New York, or Los Angeles, but for the hardcore hoops fan, there are more than enough names to turn ones head and give the Windy City its due.

The OG’s

PG Isiah Thomas HOF 2 time NBA Champion, 1989 NBA Finals MVP, 1 Time NCAA Champion

F Eddie Johnson Sixth Man Award Winner, Averaged 16 pts a game

F Hersey Hawkins One Time All Star, Averaged 14.7 points a game

PG Mo Cheeks HOF 4 Time All Star, 1983 NBA Champion

PG Doc Rivers 1 Time All Star, 1 NBA Title as a Head Coach

PF Terry Cummings 2 Time All Star, 1982 Rookie of Year, Avg. 16.4 pts a game

F Mark Aguirre 3 Time All Star, 2 Time NBA Champion, Avg. 20 pts a game

PG Tim Hardaway 17 pts 8.2 assist, 5 times All Star

SG Kendall Gill Avg. 13.4 pts a game

PF Juwan Howard 2 X NBA champ, 13.4 pts a game, 6 rebounds 1 Time All Star

SF Michael Finley 2 Time All Star 2007 NBA Champ 15.7 pts, 4.4. assists

SG Nick Anderson 14.4 pts game, 5 rebounds, 13 years

Newer Blood

SG Quentin Richardson 12 seasons 10 points a game, 4.7 rebounds

PG Sherron Collins NCAA Champion 2008 13 pts a game

PG Patrick Beverley 3 X all Defensive team 10 seasons

SG Dwyane Wade 22 pts. 13 All Star 4.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 3 time NBA champ, ’06 Finals MVP

PF Antoine Walker 3 Time All Star, 7.7rebounds , 17 pts a game, ’06 NBA champ

SF Corey Maggette 16 pts, 4.9 rebounds, 12 seasons

SG Tony Allen 6 Time All Defensive team, 2008 NBA champion

PF Anthony Davis 8 Time All Star, 23.9 points a game, 10.2 rebounds 2 Time Olympian

PG Derrick Rose 3 Time All Star 18.5 pts, 2011 MVP

PG Iman Shumpert 2016 NBA champ 10 seasons

Honorable Mention

PG Will Bynum Georgia Tech high flyer Averaged 9 pts in NCAA

PG Bobby Simmons DePaul Seven NBA Seasons

Dynasty Busters (Blue Collar Titles)

Since 1999, only ten different franchises have won NBA titles. Dynasties are sexy, but there is a large segment of NBA fans who love underdogs. While dynasties steer the NBA’s marketing success, there are occasions where collections of scrappy role players provide the perfect support for unheralded and underappreciated All-Stars to go on memorable post season runs, and lift up the Larry O’Brien trophy. This chapter celebrates my favorite collection of said teams from the past 20 years.

2004 Detroit Pistons

Head Coach: Larry Brown

Starters:  Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince

Role Players: Darvin Ham, Mike James, Lindsey Hunter, Corliss Williamson, Elden Campbell, Antonio McDyess

One of the best defensive teams of all time. Going into the NBA Finals as underdogs, the Pistons snuffed out the Kobe and Shaq era Lakers last gasp, a vet team featuring the aging Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Many thought this was a wrap before the series even started. Outside of the late great Ralph Wiley, most media didn’t even think it’d be much of a series. Turns out they were right, but things didn’t go the way they thought it would. The Lakers were a Kobe Bryant desperation heave from getting swept in four games. After beating the back-to-back Eastern champion Nets (remember them?) in the second round, a Tayshaun Prince block on Reggie Miller turned their playoff run into something that felt destined. 

Most of the scoring brunt was taken upon by Sheed, Hamilton and Billups, who got buckets when they needed. The ’04 Pistons squeezed the life out of opponents on the defensive end and won by being efficient on the offensive end. They had a long, and physical front line, and Hamilton, Hunter and Billups guarded the perimeter (although 3’s weren’t quite as formidable of a weapon as in today’s NBA). Billups ran the offense with precision, getting the ball to people in the spots they needed to score. Ben Wallace was on his way to being the best defensive player in the league, controlling the block and the boards. Rasheed Wallace was a mismatch for any power forward who dared to check him. Too quick for bigs and too big for smaller forwards; his outside shot forced big men to play him close. Sheed embarrassed a lot of guys at his peak. Their bench players provided big minutes in Ham, Hunter, and Corliss Williamson. Somehow they just got it done. If you looked at the lineups, you wondered how they would get enough points to win, but somehow they always did. Eventually their entire starting lineup would make All-Star teams for the east, and could’ve conceivably been a dynasty had they drafted anyone but Darko Milicic. But for the blue collar fanbase of the Pistons, this was the perfect team, winning through grit and defense. No flash, but all substance. 

They put on a defensive clinic in the NBA Finals, employing the strategy to allow Ben Wallace to guard Shaquille O’Neal one on one and harass Kobe Bryant into taking ill advised shots against double and triple teams of defenders. The strategy worked as Kobe declined to pass to Shaquille and with an ailing Gary Payton and Karl Malone, the Lakers did not have a third scorer to counter this strategy.

2008 Boston Celtics

Head Coach: Doc Rivers

Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Bench: Glen Davis, Scot Pollard, Sam Cassell, Eddie House, Tony Allen, Leon Powe, James Posey, PJ Brown

Some believe this is the first super team to be created in the Free Agency era, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce joining forces, but all three players careers had already plateaued. Neither player were strong enough to carry their teams to the Finals by themselves so sacrificing numbers wasn’t a big issue for anyone. Garnett embraced his role as the defensive captain hitting outside jumpers whenever he was open, but he mostly focused on leading the defense and hitting the boards. Paul Pierce put up his 15-20 shots, while Ray Allen (who may have had the biggest adjustment) only showed glimpses of his Jesus Shuttlesworth persona. 

Their supporting cast was as strong as any championship team you’d ever see. James Posey, Leon Powe,  P.J. Brown, Kendrick Perkins, and Tony Allen provided the muscle on the defensive end. Rajon Rondo was still a young pup, but proved he was capable of running an offense. Eddie House, Sam Cassell and Brian Scalabrine helped spread the floor with their outside shooting. The Celtics came up in a vacuum between the Pistons descent, and the ascent of Lebron’s dominance. This was a team perfectly constructed for a playoff run with a healthy balance of young legs (Powe, Rondo, House, Kendrick Perkins, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and Tony Allen), veteran leadership (PJ Brown, Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, Scot Pollard) and championship experience (Sam Cassell, James Posey)

Doc Rivers had a very strong coaching staff with future Head Coach and defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau.

To get to the chip and hoist that trophy, the C’s had to get through the reigning Detroit Pistons who’d been to four straight Eastern Conference Finals, a talented, but still emerging, Lebron James who’d just been to the Finals the year before, and a Kobe Bryant led Lakers who were on their first of three Finals trips with a Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum front line. Although the Celtics would make it back to the Finals again in 2010, that team didn’t have the depth and balance that the 2008 roster displayed.

2011 Dallas Mavericks

Head Coach: Rick Carlisle (Terry Stotts, Dwane Casey, Darrell Armstrong were assistant coaches on that staff)

Starters: Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Peja Stojakovic

Role Players: Corey Brewer, Deshawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, Brian Cardinal, Ian Mahinmi

The 2010-2011 season created a power vacuum. The initial blowback from the infamous “Decision” created an easy villain in the Lebron James /Dwayne Wade/Chris Bosh triumvirate in Miami and some of the usual vitriol reserved for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers was redirected in the direction of south Beach. Unlike the ’08 Celtics who’d acquired an aging Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the twilights of their careers, the Heat assembled a core of rising superstars who still had strong seasons on the horizon (it was basically like the Heat had somehow gotten three top ten picks in the 2003 lottery draft). The Mavericks, however; were third in the western conference behind the Lakers and the Spurs.

In hindsight, perhaps the West was more wide open than it appeared at the time. Although the Lakers had been to three straight NBA finals, and were poised for a three peat, looking back, things seemed to have been fracturing at the time– due to some internal strife and disgruntled big men.

The Dallas Mavericks would not only upend any chance of a media dream matchup of a Kobe and Lebron NBA Finals, but then would vanquish the “mighty” Heat in 6 games to undermine Lebron’s predictions of “not one, not two, not three,” prediction of consecutive titles at the gaudy South Beach press conference upon he and Chris Bosh’s signing with the team.

The Mavericks opened their 2011 playoff campaign with a wildly entertaining series with the Portland Trailblazers( Shout out to the Brandon Roy game 4); beating them in 6 games. Then they ruined the network wet dream of a possible Kobe-Lebron NBA Finals by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in spectacular fashion, as the defending champs folded like lawn furniture after going down 3-0 in the series. Then they embarked on a gentleman’s sweep of the upcoming RUNOKC Thunder, coming back from 15 pts down in games 4 and 5, to snuff out the upstart Thunder’s building momentum. The NBA Finals had more than a few subplots, with Dirk trying to get the playoff monkey off his back, the first super DUPER team put together in the league, and Lebron himself having a playoff monkey of his own to shake.

The Mavericks, historically known for being a team full of finesse players, had the perfect mix of grit, basketball I.Q. and great coaching. Even with the loss of Caron Butler (Tuff Juice) in the regular season, the Mavs had a great defensive presence in Tyson Chandler (the defensive captain), Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, and Corey Brewer. Jason Kidd had seen better days on the defensive end of the court, but his I.Q. made up for whatever physical limitations he had at this point in his career. 

Dirk consistently hit big buckets after big buckets whenever it counted the most, but he had help with perimeter scoring from J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Peja Stojakovic. Brian Cardinal and Ian Mahinmi provided big minutes when called upon as well. This was the ultimate team of role players, where on paper, there wasn’t much flash, but their collective substance led them to a title. A lot of teams had bigger stars, but Dallas had a group of savvy veterans with high basketball I.Q’s who played well within their defined roles. Defensive captain, Tyson Chandler cleaned up any offensive penetration that resulted from perimeter leaks. Marion and Corey Brewer and Stevenson locked down the wings, and Marion and Chandler cleaned up on the boards (not to mention one of the league’s best rebounding guards in history with Jason Kidd). The defining moment of the series came with five minutes left in game 2 of the Finals with the Mavericks down by double digits with 5 minutes left and the Heat up a game already. The Mavs embarked on a huge comeback; punctuated by a Dirk off-hand layup to take the lead with 3.6 seconds left. With 6:20 left in the 4th, the Mavericks were down by 15 and ended the game on a 17-2 run. The Mavericks would go on to win the highly contested series in 6 games. When Lebron detractors argue why he can never be as good as Michael Jordan, they typically point to this NBA Finals as their closing argument.

2019 Toronto Raptors

Head Coach: Nick Nurse

Starters: Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka

Role Players: Fred Van Fleet, Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, Marc Gasol

One of the more interesting playoff runs we’ve seen in a long time. The conventional narrative will forever be that Kawhi Leonard carried the team throughout the post-season (he will forever be remembered for his series ending shot that sent the 76ers packing and made a 7’2 Cameroon giant crying home), but no player has ever carried a team to a title by himself. A different player stepped up every night to contribute on the offensive end to help supplement Leonard’s scoring. One night it would be Gasol, the next night Siakam and Green, Fred Van Fleet (after the birth of his son) chipped in 3 point shots on a nightly basis off the bench, and Kyle Lowry was able to shed the ghosts of playoffs past and get buckets whenever the team needed him to score. 

Down the road, I can see history glossing over the fact that this team was loaded with All NBA defenders. The Milwaukee Bucks that season were one of the highest scoring teams that season and Toronto was able to hold them below their scoring average. Against the hobbled the Golden State Warriors, Van Fleet and Lowry were able to hound Steph Curry into some uncharacteristically bad shooting nights. The front line won their nightly matchups against the Warriors in the Finals; trotting out bigs, Siakim, Ibaka, and Gasol (Ibaka and Gasol both former all NBA defenders) with Danny Green and Lowry both known for their defensive prowess on the perimeter. 

Kawhi will get the credit for this team winning this title–as he should, he was their closer whenever they needed key basket–but he certainly had a lot of help from the collective. 

BM

Tao Of The Passing Big Man

What I found most compelling about 80’s Celtics vs Lakers were the incredible passes on both ends of the court by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. I became more enamored with making flashy passes than I was with scoring the basketball (or just as much). I find more joy in setting someone up for a bucket than to get one on my own. It wasn’t until I started playing religiously that I realized how much players enjoyed playing with teammates who liked to share the ball. I could always find someone to pick me up for a run because they knew I’d give up the ball and didn’t care if I scored a single point. The following is a list of all my favorite passing big men to play the game, past and present. We’ll start out with the honorable mention and move on to my favorites.

HONORABLE MENTION

Brad Miller and Vlade Divac both benefitted from Rick Adelman’s offensive system in Sacramento. Vlade with his excellent post passing and Brad Miller 6’10 made him great passer out of the high post.

Julian Wright was one of the best passing big man I’ve ever seen in the college game. He could make the dazzling play, but turn around a make a simple play into a turnover. His highlights include Kansas-Florida in 2006 and any game where he faced Texas. It was a shame he couldn’t last in the NBA, because he was an entertaining player–incredible dunker and athletic, his passes had heat on them.

These two Knicks legends, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, were so known for their bruising defense that most fans overlooked that they were incredibly deft passers in a system that was not very sophisticated.

Arvydas Sabonis‘ NBA numbers don’t reflect how great of a passer he was. He came to the league late into his career and played before the age of social media and the explosion of the internet. You had to be there. Seeing him play changed how I imagined the game could be played. He had incredible touch on his entry passes and his large hands hid the ball as he whipped passes into the interior or behind his head.

Favorites

Chris Webber (C-Webb) 4.2 Assists Career avg. Career high 5.5 Assists (2004-2005)

Known more for his high flying dunks and scintillating post play, C-Webb’s passed with the flair of a flashy point guard; dishing out assists with pizazz. His great big paws made it easy for Webber to perform wizardry with the ball. Webber threw countless beautiful behind the back, no look passes. He was equally as great at finding the open man from along the perimeter, as he was passing from the high post and in the post. His best assist numbers came during his years as a Sacramento King, playing in Rick Adelman’s motion offense. Running the high-low with Vlade Divac, and a dearth of perimeter shooters on the floor at all times, the early 2000’s Kings were often considered the height of beautiful and fun basketball.

Bill Walton (Big Red) 3.4 assists Career avg. Career high 5.0 (1977-1978)

Many think Walton is one of the best passing big men of all time. Highlights of his peak years are grainy, but he had some gorgeous passes from the high post and perfected the touch pass as a way of catching defenders off guard.

Tim Duncan

(Big Fundamental, Timmy Time Machine, Old Man Riverwalk) Career avg. 3.0 assists Career high 3.9 (2002-2003)

There is a reason why Tim Duncan was called the Big Fundamental. There was not one aspect of the game that he did not excel at. His outlet passes were a thing of beauty–they always were the perfect spin or speed for the occasion. Blessed with superb court vision, Duncan threw passes to where a player was going to be–like a quarterback leading a wide receiver. In his early years, he perfected passing out of the high post to other big men including Hall of Famer David Robinson. Near the end of his career, he was throwing alley oops to future Clipper great Kawhi Leonard. There are even clips of Duncan running the fast break and embarrassing young players who doubted his handles (shout out to a young Lebron James).

Larry Bird (Larry Legend, Hick from French Lick) 6.3 career assists, Career high 7.6 (1986-1987)

Watching Larry Bird is where I learned to perfect the no look, over the head, post pass. Bird was also a master of the touch pass off a rebound carom. Larry’s game was pure spectacle and his passes were highlight worthy. You could get lost watching old footage just by typing the words, Larry Bird, passing clinic.

Joakim Noah (Jo) 2.8 assists Career avg. 5.4 career high (2013-2014)

It is hard to believe Noah played 13 seasons in the league. It felt like his career reached a grinding halt after playing for known hard ass Tom Thibodeau. At his zenith, he was the best passing big man in the league– in addition to being a defensive player of the year candidate, year in and out. In 2013 -2014 when he averaged his most assists for a season, it seemed like he was on Sportscenter every other night with a highlight worthy pass.

Nikola Jokic (the Joker) 6.0 Career assists, 8.3 Career high (2020-2021)

Two words: Basketball savant. Plays with the pizazz of a mixtape player on the playground. Not only can make a pass from anywhere on the court, but also great handles for any player–especially a big man. He reminds me of Arvydas Sabonis, but with handles. His doughy frames only adds to his likeability, as he reminds me of a guy you happen to pick up during a run and you realize he’s the most fun player you’ve ever played with; pointing to each other after every assist while you win game after game, after game.

Boris Diaw (French Magician, Bobo, The Big Croissant) 3.5 career assists, 6.2 career high (2005-2006)

Boris’ big frame, incredibly high basketball I.Q. and great court vision made him an excellent player. Diaw was one of the best skilled big men of his era and one of the best French players of all time. Playing at the 3 and the 4, Diaw had decent handles and made excellent entry passes. He could pass from the perimeter, the high post and the interior. His passing was the difference maker in the 2014 NBA Finals for the San Antonio Spurs providing another ball handler and shot creator that the opposing Miami Heat had to worry about. Legend has it that Magic Johnson was his favorite basketball player growing up, and that Diaw’s mother taught Boris that being a good passer would entice older players to let him join their pickup games.

  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 social distancing. 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

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 1996 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.

 

1996 First Round

  1. Allen Iverson G PHI
16. Tony Delk G Charlotte
2. Marcus Camby C TOR 17. Jermaine O’ Neal F Portland
3. Shareef Abdur Rahim Van 18. John Wallace F New York
4. Stephon Marbury G Mil (traded to Minnesota) 19. Walter McCarty F New York
5. Ray Allen G, Minnesota (traded to Milwaukee 20. Zydrunas Ilgauskas C Cleveland
6. Antoine Walker F Boston 21. Dontae Jones F New York
7. Lorenzen Wright C Los Angeles Clippers 22. Roy Rogers F Vancouver
8. Kerry Kittle G New Jersey 23. Efthimios Rentzias C Denver
9. Samaki Walker F Dallas  24. Derek Fisher G Los Angeles
10. Erick Dampier C Indiana 25. Martin Muursepp F Utah (traded to Miami)
11. Todd Fuller C Golden State 26. Jerome Williams F Detroit
12. Vitaly Potapenko C Cleveland 27. Brian Evans F Orlando
13. Kobe Bryant G Charlotte (traded to Lakers) 28. Priest Lauderdale C Atlanta
14. Peja Stojakovic F Sacramento 29. Travis Knight C Chicago
15. Steve Nash G Phoenix

 

All Stars

 

Zydrunas Illguaskas, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakic, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker, Stephon Marbury, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, Ray Allen

 

Notable Role Players

 

Malik Rose, Othello Harrington, Jermaine O’Neal, Erick Dampier, Lorenzen Wright, Derek Fisher, Kerry Kittles, Marcus Camby, Peja Stojakovic, Samaki Walker, Tony Delk, Zydrunas Illgauskas, John Wallace, Jerome Williams

 

Busts

Erick Dampier, Marcus Camby

 

Draft Day Steal: 

 

Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick is the easiest choice; considering the players who were chosen before him (only five of the twelve players taken before Bryant made an All Star Game). Although Steven Nash went two spots after Bryant, Nash never won a title, and actually left Phoenix for a spell, before returning back to the Suns during the peak stretch of his career. Draft lore reads that Kobe leveraged his way down the draft by refusing to work out for certain teams and informing others that if they drafted him, he would sit out rather than play. Some teams took his bluff seriously while behind the scenes, Jerry West was working the Hornets to draft and trade Bryant in exchange for Vlade Divac. 

 

Notable undrafted players

 

Erick Strickland, Chucky Atkins, Adrian Griffin, Darvin Ham

 

NBA Champions

 

Kobe Bryant (2000,2001,2002,2009,2010), Ray Allen (2008, 2013), Derek Fisher (2000, 2001,2002,2009,2010), Darvin Ham (2004), Peja Stojakovic(2011) , Samaki Walker(2002), Travis Knight (2000), Malik Rose (1999, 2003), Antoine Walker (2006)

 

Draft Notes:

  • In 2016, Kobe Bryant was the last player from this draft to retire.
  • This was my generation’s version of the 1984 draft. Kobe Bryant went on to become a poor man’s Michael Jordan (which I guess makes Nash this generation’s John Stockton[Stockton of course was a much better defender. He still leads the league in All Time steals and assists.])–winning more titles than anyone else in his draft class. No one knew this yet, but the Lakers GM Jerry West’s draft day trade with the Charlotte Hornets would shift the power of the NBA back to the Western Conference (and subsequently , back to Los Angeles). We all know what followed next; as the Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent, and paired the two with Phil Jackson. The Lakers under the direction of Bryant and Jackson would win five titles in a 10 year period (Shaq would contribute to the first three titles before taking his talents to South Beach).
  • The East would only win 3 titles during this decade run: Detroit (2004), Miami (2006) and Boston (2008). The Spurs were the only other team from the Western Conference to win championships in this period (2003,2005,2007).
  • Derek Fisher won 5 chips but I’m sure that had something to do with playing with Kobe. One of the beauties of the Triangle Offense is that it found a way for players like D. Fish to have an impact on the game despite being the 9th or tenth best player on the court at any given time.
  • To be fair, there is no evidence to support that any of the franchises (save Indiana) that passed on Kobe Bryant would’ve been able to put Bryant in the position to be the winner that we know today. Most of these franchises were in the lottery for a reason. Although it is frightening to imagine (both on and off the court) a Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett led Timberwolves squad. 

 

And the Winner is………..

The Los Angeles Lakers, of course; with five Finals wins in seven appearances during Bryant’s entire career. Not that every other team drafted poorly, on the contrary; this is one of the best in NBA history. It just shows you how dominant Kobe’s Lakers were during his peak years. There were five franchise players picked in this round, but only Ray Allen came close to sniffing the post season success that Kobe Bryant achieved (R.I.P.) as a Laker; winning two titles of his own late into his career.

 

 

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 2011 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.

2011 First Round Picks

  1. Kyrie Irving PG Cle
16. Nikola Vucevic C Philadelphia
2. Derrick Williams SF/PF MIN 17. Iman Shumpert SG New York
3. Enes Kanter C Utah 18. Chris Stapleton SF Washington
4. Tristan Thompson C Cleveland 19. Tobias Harris SF Charlotte (traded to Milwaukee)
5. Jonas Valanciunas C Toronto 20. Donatas Motiejunas PF Minnesota (traded to Houston)
6. Jan Vesely PF Washington 21. Nolan Smith PG Portland
7. Bismack Biyombo C Sacramento (traded to Charlotte 22. Kenneth Faried PF Denver
8. Brandon Knight PG Detroit 23. Nikola Mirotic PF Houston (traded to Mirotic)
9. Kemba Walker PG Charlotte 24. Reggie Jackson PG Oklahoma City
10. Jimmer Fredette SG Sacramento 25. Marshon Brooks SG Boston (traded to New Jersey)
11. Klay Thompson SG Golden State 26. Jordan Hamilton SG Dallas (traded to Denver)
12. Alec Burks SG Utah 27. Jajuan Johnson PF New Jersey (traded to Boston)
13. Markieff Morris PF Suns 28. Norris Cole PG Chicago (traded to Miami)
14. Marcus Morris PF Rockets 29. Cory Joseph PG San Antonio
15. Kawhi Leonard SF Indiana (traded to San Antonio) Jimmy Butler SG Chicago

 

All Stars

Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Vucevic

 

Notable Role Players

Norris Cole, Jonas Valuciunas, Iman Shumpert, Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson, Cory Joseph, Enes Kanter, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Bismack Biyambo, Kenneth Faried, Brandon Knight, Bojan Bgdanovic, Shelvin Mack, Davis Bertans

 

Busts

Derrick Thompson, Jan Vasely, Jimmer Fredette, Brandon Knight, Derrick Williams, Bismack Biyombo, Jonas Valaciunas, Enes Kanter

 

Steal of the Draft

Jimmy Butler easily with the 30th pick of the draft.The guard out of Marquette was drafted to be a defensive specialist, but soon worked himself into a viable offensive option and eventually into an Olympian. Now Jimmy Butler is known throughout the NBA as one of the best two way players in the league (considering there may only be ten legitimate two way players left).

 

Notable Undrafted 

Zoran Dragic, Justin Holiday

 

NBA Champions

Kyrie Irving (2016), Klay Thompson (2015, 2017, 2018),Cory Joseph (2014) , Iman Shumpert (2016), Tristan Thompson (2016), Kawhi Leonard (2014, 2019)

 

Draft Notes

 

  • Kyrie was the number one pick out of Duke after playing 14 games entire season
  • Of the top 15 players drafted, other than Klay Thompson, can you think of a player who made more of an impact in the league than Kawhi Leonard?
  • Klay Thompson best two way player at his position, and won multiple titles at Golden state as one half of the splash brothers. Sacramento can kick themselves for drafting Jimmer Fredette a pick ahead of Thompson, but management would’ve found a way to stunt his growth, or alienate him to the point where he would leave for another team. Then again, a building around a core of Thompson and (pre-injury)Boogie Cousins could change any team’s fortunes–even the Sacramento Kings.
  • Isiaiah Thomas, out of Washington, was the last player picked this draft. He worked himself into an all star, and was in line for a massive contract, but that was derailed by a hip injury that he aggravated in the playoffs playing for the Boston Celtics. The next season, he was traded for Kyrie Irving.
  • Detroit found another way to shoot themselves in the foot, drafting Brandon Knight one slot ahead of Kemba Walker; a point guard from the northeast who could’ve matched the grit of a blue collar town like Detroit and would’ve certainly been a fan favorite there.
  • In hindsight, Klay Thompson probably should’ve been picked at number 2 behind Kyrie Irving (Not even the Spurs knew that Kawhi Leonard would become the player that he turned out to be).
  • Three of the best two-way players in the league came from this draft with Thompson, Leonard, and Butler.

 

And the Winner of the 2011 Draft is…

The Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson not only became one of the most recognizable faces of the league, but made a name for himself as one the most clutch, earning the nickname “Game 6 Klay”.  The Warriors also managed to select one of the best shooting, shooting guards in league history. So far, they have three NBA titles to show for it. No other team in this draft yielded as high a return on their investment as Golden State did (Sorry Spurs fans!). In conclusion, Jerry West knows basketball.

 

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