View Full Version : 10 things we learned in the NBA

09-17-2007, 05:46 AM
10 things we learned in the NBA

Mike Kahn
Special to FOXSports.com

The screams coming out of the Pacific Northwest were echoes of years gone by.

But they were not a particularly realistic look at what will become of the Portland Trail Blazers, despite the unsettling news Thursday that Greg Oden will have microfracture knee surgery and very likely miss all of the 2007-08 season.

The temptation, because the 7-foot-1 Oden was taken ahead of super perimeter player Kevin Durant, is to compare it to the Blazers choosing Sam Bowie No. 2 in the 1984 draft ahead of Michael Jordan.

That's not reality. Sure, Oden is out before ever playing a game for the Blazers. But Durant hasn't played a game for the Seattle Sonics, either. And, quite frankly, it smacks more of an opportunity for growth by the Blazers than anything else for general manager Kevin Pritchard and coach Nate McMillan. It is way too early to draw any comparisions to the Bowie-Jordan nightmare, or even the rapid deterioration of Bill Walton's feet after leading the Blazers to the 1977 NBA title.

1. Item: The exceedingly young Blazers weren't odds-on favorites to make the playoffs anyway, and expectations had been blown out of proportion. The Oden injury actually takes the heat off, and will allow them to grow at a more reasonable rate.


We won't be seeing Greg Oden do this for a while. (Joe Murphy / Getty Images)

What this really means: Now the young core includes 2007 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Channing Frye, Josh McRoberts, Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez — average age 22 (excluding the 19-year-old Oden). But they all need time to learn how to play together at an NBA level. There are some veterans around like Steve Blake, Raef LaFrentz and center Joel Przybilla. Sure, they moved 20-10 guy Zach Randolph because of his bad inclinations off the court and it hurts their possibilities this season, but in the long run it was still the right thing to do.

In fact, this will give the Blazers more opportunities to add to the stable. They're a virtual lottery lock, so just imagine if they add Kevin Love to their front court, a 6-9, 255-pound freshman at UCLA who is a Portland native? Or what about Kansas State's 6-10 Michael Beasley, Kansas' 6-9 Darrell Arthur or versatile 6-8 Frenchman Nicholas Batum? And then there's the backcourt possibilities, where they could add Memphis freshman Derrick Rose, Arizona's amazingly skilled Chase Budinger or even a gamble like O.J. Mayo.

Nothing is guaranteed with Oden or the young crew for next year. But a gut feeling say, this injury is far more like what happened to the Spurs when David Robinson went down just weeks into the 1996-97 season. They won the lottery and got Tim Duncan, and set a record for greatest turnaround at that time.

So next season the Blazers will not only get a great lottery pick, but a talented 7-footer with the personality to match named Greg Oden, too. Not a bad way to go.

2. Item: With Phil Jackson's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame last week as a lame duck in the last year of his contract, it brings to mind the other guys in his peer group — Jerry Sloan, Don Nelson and Pat Riley.

What this really means: Jackson deserved to be elected to the Hall and so do the other guys. It's a big part of the reason why there has been discussion of an NBA Hall of Fame. The criteria used by the selection committee has always been a mystery and as fraught with politics as any considering the alteration of the committee's composition.

But even more interesting is the simple fact that the possibility is out there that all four of those guys may be coaching their last season in the NBA. Granted, it isn't likely. However, Jackson, Sloan and Nelson are in the last year of their contract, and Riley can step away at any time. That's not to say there aren't a lot of other fine coaches in the game today. Nonetheless, if that does turn out to be the case for these four guys, it will be a monumentally transitional time for the face of the NBA and perhaps of the game itself. Just like any other aspect of life viewed by some as progress, they don't make 'em like they used to.

3. Item: Evidently, Penny Hardaway has nothing on Allan Houston, considering it now appears that both players — careers apparently finished with bum knees — will play in the NBA at some level in the coming season.

What this really means: Hardaway signed with the Miami Heat over the summer, and now it appears Houston will be back as well. Houston, 36, retired after the 2004-05 season due to an arthritic left knee that proved to be unbearable. But he has not played a full season since the 2002-03 season. He clearly isn't doing it for the money since his last contract with the New York Knicks was for $100 million.

But this week he went on record saying he is 90-95 percent certain he will play for somebody in the 2007-08 season because he didn't have the opportunity to leave the game on his own terms. Houston is the fourth player to reconsider retirement this summer — following Hardaway, Reggie Miller and Charles Oakley. Miller decided he didn't want to play anymore when discussions grew serious with the Boston Celtics, and it doesn't appear that anyone is interested in Oakley.

4. Item: Despite being one of the top young players — particularly on defense — for the upstart Golden State Warriors, it appears swingman Mickael Pietrus has played his last game for the W's.


Mickael Pietrus was effective for the Warriors, but he may be going elsewhere. (Rocky Widner / Getty Images)

What this really means: Following their stunning upset of the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, things are getting very interesting for general manager Chris Mullin and the Warriors. There remains the acrimonious contract situation of Don Nelson, who wants the $2 million he earned last year as a bonus, guaranteed on top of his contract this season. They did re-sign Matt Barnes and an extension appears to be coming for Baron Davis as well.

But Pietrus feels like the odd man out as a restricted free agent. The 6-7 swingman, with great defensive ability and improving range, figures he's better off going elsewhere. He sank 39 percent of his 3-point attempts last season while averaging 11.1 points. Needless to say, there are plenty of teams out there that would be happy to add a 25-year-old defensive-oriented player — such as the Miami Heat. The Warriors did tender a $3.5 million offer to Pietrus which allows them to match any contract from another team, but Pietrus is hoping to get out of Oakland quickly. And considering the Heat let James Posey go as their defensive-oriented swingman with a velvety 3-point touch, Pietrus appears to be the perfect antidote to the loss.

5. Item: Remember that outrageous long-term contract that point guard Troy Hudson signed after one good year with the Minnesota Timberwolves? Well, it won't end until 2008-09, but that doesn't mean his future is interminably settled with the Wolves.

What this really means: A lot of teams need point guards and the perception is that a healthy Hudson can be a legitimate game-changer with his extreme shooting range and stunning streaks. Over the last four seasons, he has not shot less than 34 percent from 3-point range and he's a career 86-percent free throw shooter as well. So that's why teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers are so interested in what he can bring.

But...there is this not-so-little issue of the ankles. They are not good. In fact, they are very bad. Hudson, now 31, has played more than 36 games only once since the 2002-03 season. Still, with his contract averaging just more than $6 million a year, if he can play and fill it up, he immediately makes a team strong in the backcourt. Still, the question of balance won't go away. Without ankles, any contract is too much money for a guard in this league. Is Cavs GM Danny Ferry willing to gamble on that?

6. Item: The Los Angeles Clippers seem to be back to their old snake-bitten ways of being overwhelmed by injuries, so they went out and signed a tough-guy defender in Ruben Patterson.

What this really means: As if it wasn't bad enough that the future of their budding star point guard Shaun Livingston remains a mystery coming off an obliterated knee last season, All-Star forward Elton Brand tore his Achilles tendon the first week of August and his status for the season remains unclear to the All-Star game at least.

Meanwhile, the addition of Patterson gives them a tenacious defensive player — the self-proclaimed "Kobe-stopper" — and a relentless offensive rebounder. Only 6-5, Patterson will defend both wing positions and power forward effectively with his stout 225-pound frame. And he averaged 14.7 points and 5.4 rebounds last season in Milwaukee. The addition of Patterson doesn't compensate for Brand, but in the long run he brings a lot to the table with energy as a backup at several positions. And with the bench their biggest problem last season, this is a step in the right direction.

7. Item: The $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit a former New York Knicks employee filed against the team and president Isiah Thomas began this week with accusations flying from both sides.

What this really means: It's difficult to believe it has come to this, but former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders is adamant about Thomas repeatedly coming on to her. Thomas claims he gave her a kiss on the cheek after a game and asked, 'What, no love today?' as the only moment of contention. Sanders, meanwhile, claims Thomas initially called her a "Ho," then later claimed he was in love with her.

Not surprisingly, attorneys for Sanders and Thomas are both claming nothing but lies are coming from the other side. Thomas says Sanders filed the lawsuit to cover up her incompetence. Sanders claims this is just another example of an athlete believing he can do whatever he wants. Knicks owner Jim Dolan says he in no way would settle because he believes she has made up the entire story — so everyone has gone to their corners. But perhaps the biggest question of all may very well be in Thomas' choice of attorneys — one Kathleen Bogas. Any way you spell it, can an attorney named Bogas accuse someone of lying?

8. Item: Now that the Houston Rockets brought back Steve Francis, Mike James and drafted Aaron Brooks, the future of a fourth point guard — Rafer Alston — is looking pretty grim.


Rafer Alston's legal troubles may jeopardize his NBA career. (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE / Getty Images)

What this really means: Actually, that would be the case in a lot of ways for Alston. Sure, he could hit 3-pointers in bunches and run the floor well. But he's as erratic on the floor as off the floor, and the past month or so has been a perfect example of that. Twice in August, Alston has been arrested. He was involved for the slashing of a man's throat in a bar fight, and this came just weeks after he was arrested for shaking and spitting in the face of a parking lot attendant after his car was towed.

Years went by before this New York City playground legend got his shot in the NBA, and he made great strides with the Miami Heat, but Pat Riley wasn't too thrilled with him and Alston signed a six-year, $29 million deal with the Toronto Raptors. Again, his play was good at times and spotty at others, so he was moved to the Rockets. And now, well, the guy nicknamed Skip-to-my-Lou with three years and $15 million left on his plate has to battle his way back from ground zero publicly again. The bigger question is whether or not he deserves it. You can be certain the league will take a good, long look at him before allowing him to skip on by without a suspension when the regular season begins.

9. Item: With the signing of Hardaway, the Miami Heat have made it clear they have no interest in bringing back 39-year-old point guard Gary Payton.

What this really means: A lot of talk has been generated by Payton and his folks about his future. Of course, that's no surprise considering he ranks among the most talkative players in the history of the sport. There have been hints of one more year in his hometown of Oakland, or he has made it clear he'd love to get a front-office job in Seattle, where he played for the Sonics for the first 12 seasons of his career. Unfortunately for him, it's going to be a tough sell at either place.

But more importantly, he has had a Hall of Fame career as arguably the premier defensive point guard of this generation. He and Oscar Robertson are the only players in NBA history to record 20,000 points and 8,000 assists. Payton has 8,966 assists, sixth all-time and 95 shy of Isiah Thomas for fifth place. With 2,445 steals, he is third all-time and 69 behind second place Michael Jordan. So toss in the NBA Championship ring he earned with the Heat in 2006 — including several crucial clutch plays — and there is no question that Payton's 16-year career has indeed been special — the beauty of his trash-talking notwithstanding.

10. Item: One of the more interesting developments during all the FIBA Olympic qualifying basketball tournaments last month was the emotional eruption by the Memphis Grizzlies' interesting 7-footer Darko Milicic.

What this really means: Milicic was fined $13,770 for his obscenity-dominated attack on the officials following Serbia's 68-67 loss to Greece in the European Championships on Wednesday. Milicic, the 7-1, 275-pound center, was the 18-year-old second overall pick of the fabled 2003 draft by the Detroit Pistons and rarely got off the bench in his 2½ years with the Pistons before being traded to Orlando midway through the 2005-06 season. He began to make some noise with the Magic and made his mark as a shot-blocker. But not enough that they were willing to pay what he wanted the past off-seasons, so he bolted to Memphis with a new three-year deal.

The Grizzlies have reiterated their unhappiness with Milicic over his actions, but behind closed doors, it's hard to believe anybody in their organization is upset. If he has lacked anything in his brief career, it's passion. Although Pistons general manager Joe Dumars has been ripped for taking Milicic, the fact of the matter is he's a very talented 7-footer with quickness and touch. But he showed little or no toughness, and frequently seemed only modestly interested in what was going on. To know that he blew up after a game like that and went after people speaks to his growth.

At 22, maybe he finally gets it. To succeed at the highest level of sport, one must compete and care at the highest level. A mere $13,770...heck the Grizzlies should pay it and give him a bonus. Until now, Darko, we didn't know you cared.


Joško Poljak Fan
09-17-2007, 04:44 PM
At 22, maybe he finally gets it. To succeed at the highest level of sport, one must compete and care at the highest level. A mere $13,770...heck the Grizzlies should pay it and give him a bonus. Until now, Darko, we didn't know you cared.
...and they still don't know what he cares about :rolleyes:
I'll quit, arguing about basketball with ESPN, FOXsport or some other simmilar writers would really be the low bottom :cool: