Happy Holidays, everyone!
Well, I’ve got to admit it. I’m officially a bandwagon jumper. The greatest NBA Finals comeback off all time got me back on the Celtic bandwagon after more than a decade away. And the kicker is I really didn’t even see it!
I guess the first step in my re-dedication to the Boston Celtics took place when it became clear it was going to be a Celtics Lakers Finals this year. Growing up during the time of Bird and Magic, I couldn’t help but be curious about this series. I rooted for the Celtics’ then Big Three of Bird, McHale and Parrish way back when. Still, there was no way I could hate Magic or Kareem not with the great brand of basketball they played. Sure, I wanted the Celtics to beat the brains out of the Lakers every time they matched up against them, but I never actually hated LA. To me, those were the best years of the NBA.
What of the Jordan years? Good question! No doubt Michael gave us lots of thrills over the years and it’s hard to argue against such excellence. But, I have two problems with the Jordan era.
First, everybody is so busy anointing MJ as the greatest ever that they forget that Bird and Magic were pretty darn good too. Magic played center in a Finals game as a rookie and scored something like 40 points. The man could do it all at will with a smile on his face. As for Bird, was anyone ever as competitive and as smart on the court while shooting, rebounding and passing so well? It’s worth noting that Michael won exactly nothing when he faced Magic and Bird in their primes.
For me, what made the Bird-Magic years so (yes I’m gonna say it..) MAGIC was that they were two once in a lifetime talents whose careers completely paralleled. As fans, we were lucky to see two great players go against each other for years. It gave us great basketball. The problem with Jordan is his timing. Michael never ran up against a worthy adversary in his career. (Remember how The Mailman failed to deliver for Utah?) Doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be anyone how’d give him a run for his money. It’s just that it worked out that there was no Bird or Magic or Wilt in their prime when MJ came along. Good for him. Bad for us as fans. Frankly, six championships is pretty boring unless of course you happen to be a Bulls fan.
My second problem with the Jordan years is Scottie Pippen. If Michael is slightly overrated than I can’t even begin to describe how overrated Scottie Pippen is. He made the Top 50 All Time NBA Team. He’s a guy who never won anything without Michael. He’s also a guy who refused to enter a playoff game because his coach dared to draw up a last minute play in which he wasn’t the guy taking the shot. Yup, that sounds like one of the 50 greatest ever to lace ’em up in the NBA…
Anyway, back to me and the bandwagon. I tuned in late in the first quarter to see that the Celtics were down by about twenty. At that point, I shut the TV, chalked it up to being in LA and went back to being productive around the house. Of course being a man, I can only be productive for so long and eventually I put the game back on. It was early in the fourth and I was shocked to see the Celtics down by only two. I was hooked. I wanted to go to bed, but I just had to stick around to see if the Celtics could complete the greatest comeback ever. You know how this ends. They did. I go to bed happy. And the Celtic Bandwagon just got a little more crowded.
One great comeback in a marquee finals match up washed away the deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, Larry Bird’s bad back, and years and years of futility. All of a sudden, I’m a Celtics fan again! Beat LA!
I know. I’m as surprised as you are.
I’m completely on board with trying to prevent losing teams from tanking the end of their regular seasons to try to get the number one pick. Yet, there has to be a better way than what we saw this week.
No way should Chicago have the top pick. While they were a horrible disappointment this past year, the Bulls were nowhere near the worst team in the league nor had they traded for a draft pick that ended up being the property of the worst team in the league. The ball just bounced their way.
Dumb luck and making the most out of it are key parts of any success story whether the successful admit it or not. That said, there’s no way the Bulls getting the first pick was dumb luck. Rather, it’s a mockery of any sane draft system.
The NBA needs to fix this problem. No team should be able to move up so far in the draft via the lottery. The solution seems simply enough.
Why not make the draft lottery open only to the worst three teams? That way even if a team tanks games they’re not reassured of getting the top overall pick and the rest of the pack is not given the chance to get a pick they didn’t “earn” through the misery of losing.
Mike D’Antonini to the Knicks – If you’ve been reading this space, then you know how I feel about this one. Cheesy mustache aside, you’ve got to be impressed by his record in Phoenix. The regular season. Never has figured out that defense wins come crunch time. Worth mentioning too that his teams were stocked in Phoenix. Welcome to New York, Mr. D’Antonini. I think you’ll find the cupboard is a bit more bare in the big apple. Good luck with Marbury, Curry and the rest of the Knicks group of professional losers. Figure D’Antonini won’t last through the end of his contract & I don’t even know how long that is! Knicks coaches never do and he’s NOT the the right fit for this job.
Rick Carlisle to the Mavericks – Was pretty impressed with Carlisle in Detroit and thought he was done wrong when they dumped him for NBA vagabond Larry Brown. Less impressed with his tenure in Indiana on the whole. I’m no longer sure this guy is a really good coach. Guess Mavericks gig will seal the verdict on him. I’m guessing he’ll be found guilty of not being a great one. Think this is another bad coaching hire.
As the merry go round continues to spin, guess the question now is who’ll get the Chicago & Phoenix gigs. Whoever they are, they got to be better matches than the Knicks and Mavericks have found.
Or I could be completely wrong…
In most sports leagues, heck in most corporations, the head jobs are usually tough to crack. Most sports teams out to hire a head coach go with someone who has done the job before. The NBA is no exception. It’s all about cutting down the risks when making a big hire.
Whenever a vacancy is announced, it’s never long before the management looking to fill that opening is calling up guys who’ve done the job before. You know, re-treads. Never mind that often times the re-treads fail miserably on their second or third or fourth chances. Sort of like most hollywood stars and marriage.
So, it’s always exciting when a new coaching re-tread becomes available to the NBA’s general managers. For that reason, Phoenix Coach Mike D’Antoni is getting a lot of attention now that his boss GM Steve Kerr (remember his deadly 3 point shot? He’s been a lot less accurate as a GM so far) is letting him talk to other teams. Word is the Bulls and Knicks are interested.
My question is why?
First off, and I know it’s a surface thing, but there’s the bad mustache. Memo to Mike D’Antoni. 1974’s come and gone. Let go of the ‘stache.
Cheap shot? Maybe, but do you think today’s young athletes are respecting someone with ’70s porn facial hair?
Let’s move on. The more important factor is what D’Antoni’s managed to do in Phoenix. There’s no arguing with the regular season record. It’s pretty impressive. Speaking of pretty, the style of play he advocates is fun to watch and play. Players and fans alike dig it. (PS – I’m using 70s slang as a subtle tribute to the D’Antoni mustache)
Yup, you know the problem. The nice regular season stats and the powerhouse offense has meant nothing come playoff time. A team that has featured the now departed Sean Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash (and his bad hair), Shaq and Grant Hill among others has never made the finals. Not once. And if memory serves, they’ve never even made it to a game seven of a conference finals.
As his core ages, the post season woes have gotten worse. Now, the Suns are making first round exits.
The trouble with D’Antoni is his teams don’t play defense pure and simple.
For my money, if I was a GM looking for rookie re-treads, I’d go with Avery Johnson. Johnson’s regular season record holds up nicely to D’Antoni’s. Johnson has coached a team to a finals appearance, even if Dirk and Co. did choke it away.
Most, impressively, Johnson changed the culture in Big D. Suddenly, they were focused on D. Taking the reins from Don Nelson and getting a team to buy into defense is one big accomplishment. For that, re-tread Johnson deserves a second shot way before Mike D’Antoni.
Pretty basketball be damned. And besides Avery doesn’t have as cheesy a mustache…
The Milwaukee Bucks, who would have a proud basketball history, if only they’d disbanded after Don Nelson left town, just hired Scott Skiles as their next head coach. Not only was it awkward in that he’s really good friends with the guy he’s replacing, but really…. Scott Skiles?
I loved Scott Skiles, the player. I must admit that I loved Scott Skiles, the coach, when he began that phase of his basketball life. I thought he got a raw deal in Phoenix where his reign ended much too soon for my taste. I was happy to see him get the Bulls job. He did well there. His teams made the playoffs in something like three out of four years. (You want exact stats, go to ESPN. No whining please.)
Then, this year, the wheels came off. After not making a significant trade during the off season, the Bulls still seemed primed for another good year in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They fell far, far short of that. In fact, they may have been the most disappointing team in the league. Skiles got the axe. Deservedly so, I thought, even though I am as we’ve established a major Skiles fan.
I was eager to see Skiles get another chance. Just… not so soon. I wanted him to earn it. Maybe it’s karma making up for the raw deal he got with the Suns years ago, but I can’t help but feel that this was an extremely unimagivative pick by the Bucks.
I will never understand how some guys get chance after chance, while others seem to get one and are done forever as head coaches.
Congratulations to Scott Skiles, he’s officially become part of the coaching treadmill. It’s a proud day to be a Skiles fan…