Wall's shot instant Wizards classic | Game 7 seems right | ABA alumni may need help | 'Melo deserves success ... elsewhere
No. 1: Wall’s shot instant Wizards classic -- The Washington Wizards’ shortage of recent NBA playoff theatrics, never mind heroics, left the stage and the spotlight open for someone, anyone. And point guard John Wall seized both Friday night. Wall’s game-winning 3-pointer in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics did more than stave off elimination and force Game 7 Monday night on the Celtics’ home floor; in Wall’s mind, it was a love letter to the fans at the Verizon Center and to the Wizards’ entire market and “nation.” There have been precious few of those over the past three-plus decades, as chronicled by former Washington beat man-turned-Yahoo! Sports columnist Michael Lee:
Wall ... allowed them to party and postpone the sadness for another day, and perhaps someplace else. His exuberance may have appeared to be an overreaction because the Wizards’ job still isn’t done. But Wall wanted these fans to know that he was with them, that their past pain was also his. The emotion rained down from the scorer’s table and the love was returned skyward.
“It was for how much love I have for this city,” Wall said, “how much love I have for my teammates, how much fight we have. Never quitting. A lot of people doubted us in this series after going down 2-0. A lot of people doubted us winning at home.”
The Wizards, and their fans, were once again teetering toward accepting misery after Al Horford appeared to call game with 7.9 seconds left, even if he didn’t call glass. But while Horford went to the window, the Wizards went to the Wall. Wall made the shot that he was once too scared to take. Those who were standing by the scorer’s table, praising his heroics or capturing his animated celebration on their smartphones, probably don’t remember or don’t care about where Wall was as a rookie. He was so unsure of himself and his then-sketchy jumper that his teammates once had to scream at him to shoot in clutch situations when opponents were content with daring the speed demon to fire away.
Wall has come a long way in seven seasons, but his decorated career was still missing a signature game-winner, still missing that moment that he had prepared for through hours of confidence-building practice. Even still, few could’ve expected that he would’ve pulled up from where he did Friday night. Avery Bradley gave him room, feet pressed on the 3-point line, fearing that Wall would turn on the jets. A tie would’ve sufficed, perhaps extending the season another five minutes. Wall wanted a Game 7, or to go home knowing that he took a chance on himself, that he took a chance on his jumper. When the shot dropped, he restrained from overreacting because there were still 3.5 seconds to go and Isaiah Thomas was on the other side, willing and eager to add his name to the list of players who have used the Wizards as a stepping stone to greater postseason success
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No. 2: Game 7 seems right -- No one is fooled. Had the Boston Celtics escaped Game 6 in Washington Friday night with a series-clinching victory, had John Wall’s 3-point shot missed, had the guys in green managed to advance to the Eastern Conference finals sooner rather than what now, at best, will be later, they would have taken it. They would have welcomed a little extra prep time before facing the defending champions in the next round (if that happens). They would have looked clever about the black attire they wore to Game 6, rather than embarrassingly trying to downplay the gag. But this is fine, too. Some might say sublime, as did Boston Herald writer Steve Bulpett:
Is there any god in the heaven that sits above the rim that was going to let this series end in fewer than seven games?
Call it fate or poetic justice or simply the fact that the Celts and Wizards have traded wins since the regular season and now stand at a cumulative 5-5.
Anything less than a Game 7 would be unfair to both clubs, though certainly the Celtics would have found a way to live with the heartache of victory if you twisted their arm.
“It’s got to go seven,” said Bradley Beal after scoring half of Washington’s 26 fourth-quarter points.
“It’s only right,” said Wall. “I think the NBA world wanted to see it. I think both teams wanted to see it. It’s only right to get a Game 7 after all that went on this season.”
After all the bickering and shoving and now each side wearing black to a game just to prove that the joy of third grade never really leaves you, the C’s and Wiz will push their season’s chips to the middle of the parquet floor at 8 o’clock Monday night.
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No. 3: ABA alumni may need help -- Moses Malone. George Gervin. Artis Gilmore. Some of the biggest and best-known names in NBA history actually started their pro careers in the old American Basketball Association. David Thompson. Dan Issel. Bobby Jones. And Julius Erving, for cryin’ out loud. But the NBA has had an inconsistent relationship through the decades with the league it considered a rival before absorbing four franchises and presiding over the dismantling of the rest in 1976. It’s been kind of a step-sibling thing, sometimes embracing the ABA’s lore and legacy, other times neglecting or distancing itself. Columnist Gregg Doyel focused Friday on the latter when he looked at the plight of some pioneers forgotten about by the big, multi-billion-dollar basketball industry:
Bob Netolicky carries with him a voice from the grave. It’s how he explains the plight of ABA players who feel the NBA swallowed up their league – and spit some of them out.
“Here,” says Netolicky. The former ABA star with the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs calls up a voicemail and hands me his phone. He'll let a dead man do the talking.
It’s the last call he ever received from one of his ABA teammates (and roommmates) in San Antonio, a 6-3 guard from East Tennessee State named Skeeter Swift.
“Hey Roomie,” is how Swift begins. “(My wife) and I were talking last night, and we can never …”
Years ago Swift had turned to Netolicky to help track down his ABA pension. His pension was small but for whatever reason, perhaps an oversight, he’d never received a penny. Netolicky connected Swift with the San Antonio-based pension administrator, who sent Swift a check for back payments.
Shortly after leaving Netolicky, I’m talking to an attorney in Chicago, an attorney who represents ABA players. His name is Steven A. Hart. ABA players want the NBA, which absorbed their league in 1976, to increase their pensions. ...
ABA players presented a signed petition April 5 to the NBA and National Basketball Players Association seeking better pensions. The petition says that ABA players have been treated unjustly. The money line in the petition quotes legal language from the 1976 ABA-NBA merger that stipulates “pension rights and privileges for ABA players equivalent to that provided NBA players.”
An NBA spokesman tells me they will respond directly to the ABA lawyer, Hart, but out of respect for ABA players would not talk publicly about the petition at this time. The NBPA hasn’t responded to the ABA petition, and did not respond to IndyStar calls seeking comment.
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No. 4: Phil: 'Melo deserves success ... elsewhere -- Flushed into the open by the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this week, New York Knicks’ basketball boss Phil Jackson was available to media folks. The headlines generated had a lot more to do with familiar Knicks topics – Carmelo Anthony’s future, Kristaps Porzingis’ end-of-season exit and so on – than they did with Jackson’s assessment of some shooting guard from West Cowabunga State. Here’s part of the report filed by New York Post beat man Marc Berman:
Jackson ... was undeterred speaking about Anthony’s unsettled future despite players union director Michele Roberts reporting him to commissioner Adam Silver for “inappropriate” remarks. Jackson said he called Silver to explain and claimed the two of them were on the “same path” and the league was “comfortable.”
Jackson said during his postseason press conference the club hasn’t been able to win with Anthony, and it is best he attempt to win his first title elsewhere.
When asked if there still is a chance Anthony returns, Jackson said: “He has a no-trade contract. I think I expressed what I felt [in April]. I can’t express it any better. I thought it was well said, even if a lot of you [in the media] didn’t feel that way. We like him to have success. The opportunity is narrowing. We’d just like for him to have success somewhere. We’re not going to be there. Hopefully we’ll maybe be a playoff team next year. It would be tough to consider us possible champions.
Anthony is going through a tough personal time after it was reported he now is separated from wife La La and might be headed toward a divorce. Jackson said general manager Steve Mills has spoken to Anthony since the exit meeting and did so after news broke of his separation.
“I’ve reached out to him in a text but not personally,” Jackson said. “Some personal things came out in the paper that was difficult. Wanted him to know we’re supportive of him.’’
Asked if the separation can affect his decision to accept a trade, Jackson said: “You want me to talk about this? You don’t really?”
He also would not address Porzingis blowing off the exit meeting. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said Thursday that Porzingis shouldn’t “dwell” in the past but added he has “no doubt” Porzingis will return next season.
“Rather than to bat this thing over the net back and forth between parties, we’ll just leave it alone,” Jackson said. “Jeff said something yesterday and kind of expressed our feelings on it.”
Jackson said he called Silver regarding Roberts’ complaint to explain his side, saying it was important to be forthright on the future with the press/fans.
“To have a positive base to work from is really important, and our fan core is positive, and we like to give them hope because they’ve been disappointed,’’ Jackson said.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Nothing to do about it now but strap in for Game 7, but there were some clock-watchers who wonder about the final seconds of Celtics-Wizards Game 6 Friday night. ... There might be a thousand reasons for James Harden’s already-notorious poor performance in Houston’s elimination game against San Antonio – many of them stemming from the 21.5 hours a day an NBA star doesn’t play in a game – but some ESPN minutes-fretters contend it all comes down to not sitting out regular-season games. OK. ... Longtime revered NBA exec Wayne Embry is a loud and informed, if not widely persuasive voice in arguing that Oscar Robertson really is the greatest player in NBA history. The news here is that Embry thinks LeBron James is sharing The Big O’s pedestal. ... James certainly ranks high in Memphis coach David Fizdale’s household, for a different reason. ... Chauncey Billups gets rewarded for the good work he’s been doing as an ESPN analyst. ... Some would write off Minnesota’s wacky second-round draft decision on 2011 as just more evidence against a dysfunctional franchise. But the story of why the Timberwolves didn’t grab Isaiah Thomas at No. 57 is stranger than that.