Chet Walker has an idea for basketball's Hall of Fame
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It always is a good one for debate: Who should be in basketball’s Hall of Fame?
They generally, eventually get it right, though there are some omissions, like former 76er and Bull Chet Walker, who will be under consideration by a veterans’ committee. I happened to be speaking with Walker recently and he had this plan for the Hall of Fame. He’s not exactly against the debate of the selections, but he said there should be something like a super Hall of Fame within the Hall of Fame because Walker says there are only five true Hall of Famers in the history of the NBA.
Here’s Chet’s Fantastic Five, in no special order:
-- Oscar Robertson: Because of his versatility and mastery of all elements of the game. “He created the triple-double,” noted Walker, even though no one recognized it then. The triple-double has become the measure of ultimate all around play and no one but Robertson averaged it for an entire season. And Robertson averaged it while also averaging more than 30 points per game.
-- Bill Russell: Not only for bringing the ultimate winners’ mindset to the game, but because of the way Russell changed the thinking of the game with his defensive impact. “It was his defense and his attitude to win,” said Walker.
-- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Because of his dominance at the center position, the rulers of the college game at the time outlawed the dunk. If you did that today, there would be no highlight shows. “Because of him they had to outlaw the dunk to even be able to play him,” said Walker. “These are guys who changed the game and the thinking about the game.”
-- Wilt Chamberlain: They also had to change the rules to try to manage his dominance. The NBA widened the lane to make it more difficult for Wilt to score, not that it affected him very much. “They outlawed all sorts of things because of Wilt,” said Walker. “He could dunk a ball in college on a free throw.”
-- Michael Jordan: He brought big business and marketing and effectively set the stage for the modern game. “Michael created the commercialization of the game,” said Walker. “These five guys were head and shoulders above everyone else for the impact they had on the game. The game changed because of them. Sure, Magic and Elgin and Larry Bird and others were great players. But you could have a Hall of Fame with just those five.”
In effect, if there were a Mt. Rushmore of basketball, to Walker, it would be those five, and Walker knows them well, having been the running mate for Chamberlain when the 76ers won a championship and 68 games in 1967 and having played against and watched the greatest for more than 50 years since being an all-American at Bradley.
“It’s those five guys,” says Walker, “who changed the way the game is administered and seen. They should have statues for all of them.”
Amar’e’s Knicks wearing down, time for Carmelo?
-- It was a tough week for the Knicks, swept on their road trip and back just a game over .500. And for Amar’e Stoudemire, the thrill/burden of carrying a franchise is obviously wearing him down. Stoudemire got a 13th technical foul Saturday in a little contretemps with Serge Ibaka in the last second loss in Oklahoma City, three short of a suspension. Stoudemire also failed to score 20 points for the second straight game after scoring at least 20 for 26 consecutive. So that officially continues the countdown to Carmelo Anthony. Of course, the big news in the NBA last week was the Nets punting on the recalcitrant very good player, which is the big question really with Anthony. How good is he? I’ve lobbied for the Bulls to acquire him, though it does remain possible they could be worse with him. He’s a ball stopper, meaning you pass to him and better start running back on defense. He’s never had much interest in playing defense and only this season is rebounding a bit more, another job he’s considered beneath him. Until the Nuggets imported the team oriented Chauncey Billups, Anthony never was out of the first round of the playoffs. And as far from a leader as you might find. Seemingly a nice guy, though, after some rocky first years when he wandered into a drug video of a buddy’s advocating violence against police. I believe him to be past that phase. And he may not fit with Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. But he can score as well as anyone in the NBA, and that’s a significant—and seemingly without remedy—Bulls’ weakness. I’m not terribly disappointed the Bulls cannot get him, as it would cost some draft picks plus at least Luol Deng, a more serious defender, and Taj Gibson. Though given his talent to match up with someone like LeBron James or Paul Pierce, at least offensively, you’d have to take a shot.
Though with the Knicks in nosedive with six straight losses and Stoudemire not generally one to handle it well, you figure the Knicks finally put together enough of a package. Anthony has told friends he doesn’t want to go to the Knicks this season if they have to give up too much, though in the end, the ability to sign that $65 million extension likely will make up for his supposed desire to win. The vague plan is to trade for or sign Anthony after the season and then with contracts expiring in 2012 sign Chris Paul, though his Hornets are now the league’s hottest team again. Given the Hornets’ bankruptcy, few believe he’ll stay around to see how it all ends. The Hornets should, though, hit the attendance requirement to extend their lease. The famous Anthony/Stoudemire/Paul wedding toast from last summer is said to be driving all this, and given the Nuggets owner was there you figure that has something to do with Anthony not being welcomed back so intensely. You had to love Anthony in the on court, post game interview with the local team TV reporter the day the Nets ended the pursuit. Anthony was being booed and the TV girl, obviously working for the team, was trying to explain to Anthony in the interview a silent majority of Nuggets fans really love him. The curve in all this is not everyone among the Knicks’ brass is sold on Anthony. They believe he’s not that much of an upgrade on Danilo Gallinari and they don’t have a chance to be a champion with those three, clearly inferior to the Heat’s three, and maybe even the Bulls’ with Rose, Boozer and Noah. Plus, Stoudemire is now saying openly again he’s no center. Stoudemire got pushed around badly by Chuck Hayes in a loss in Houston and then by DeJuan Blair and Serge Ibaka and said, "A lot of guys are playing very, very physical towards me and I'm starting to get injured a lot. My shoulder, arms, hands are starting to get banged up a lot out there. It's frustrating."
Some internally are arguing for the Knicks to hold out for potential free agent Dwight Howard in 2012 and maybe Paul then, though they’d have to give up this and much of next season. It would be tough given the building expectations already for the Knicks and no guarantee Howard will leave, though by 2012 you figure Shaq would love to finish his career in New York behind Howard. I know the career path line is Wilt to Kareem to Shaq to Howard with Hall of Fame centers packing for the West Coast. But Howard could be the best Knicks big man ever. I know, Willis Reed, who was maybe 6-9, and Patrick Ewing never was particularly popular. There’s likely no way the Knicks can take that risk, especially with long term questions about Stoudemire’s knees. So figure Anthony to go there next month and a big buildup for a potential first round upset. Bulls and Knicks at this point. It could be the start of something once again.
Philadelphia and Milwaukee could reach postseason
-- I like the 76ers and Bucks for those last two Eastern Conference playoff spots. No one has lost more devastating games this season than the 76ers and come back, like last week’s 76ers’ loss to the Magic on a four point play for Orlando to tie in regulation and a four point play to win in overtime. And yet Doug Collins drove them back again with a strong win over the fading Jazz Saturday. … As for the Bucks, they’ll get Brandon Jennings finally back maybe next week and along with the Grizzlies, have the most second half games against teams with losing records. … The Jazz is slumping, and it’s more inevitable then aberration. They had that remarkable Southeast trip early in the season with the four amazing comeback wins that masked their issues of no wing scoring at shooting guard and small forward and no real basket protection with small and ground based Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Coach Jerry Sloan tried to put inject some offense benching Andrei Kirilenko for rookie Gordan Hayward, but with no major results yet as they lost their fourth straight Saturday. The MVP credentials of Deron Williams are taking a hit as well, in addition to those of the slumping Manu Ginobili.
Potential buyout players could give Bulls a boost
-- There was a video burning up the internet last week of Andre Iguodala giving a shocked looking Evan Turner a forearm shiver late in a win over the Bucks after a Turner turnover. Iguodala said it was to encourage the rookie, though there were suspicions Iguodala was upset the media had been writing the team was better with Turner when Iguodala was out of the lineup and Turner didn’t protest. … Nice day to pick for your “Take this job and shove it” declaration. The Nets’ Troy Murphy asked to be traded the day Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced the Nets were no longer pursuing Anthony. It’s unlikely anyone will take Murphy’s big contract, so he’ll be among a big group of players possibly seeking pre-March 1 buyouts to join other teams for a possible playoff run. Peja Stojakovic scheduled to go to Dallas is the first and others could include Tayshaun Prince, Mike Dunleavy (never in a playoff game), Rasual Butler, Jeff Foster, Jared Jeffries (supposedly heading back to the Knicks), Anthony Parker and Eddy Curry. If you have some extra money under the cap, like the Bulls, it would give you an edge signing these types of players if they become available.
Kobe can relate to Carmelo situation
-- Kobe Bryant weighed in to Los Angeles reporters last week about the Anthony sweepstakes and recalled his own drama, his 2007 trade demand to the Bulls. "I know for me, it was all about winning," Bryant said. "In my situation, we weren't spending the money to get players. They had me playing around with Smush Parker. So until they decided that they wanted to make the necessary sacrifice financially and give me a team that was going to be competitive, then I didn't want to be here. It was as simple as that." The Lakers acquired Pau Gasol in February of 2008, went to the NBA Finals that season and won the last two championships. So back to those stirring days of yesteryear. No, it wasn’t about the Bulls not wanting to trade Luol Deng. The Bulls believed, like the Nets, they were being played, not by Bryant, but the Lakers. They believed Bryant was sincere, but they never got any indication from the Lakers they would trade Bryant. Bryant’s agents were throwing out proposals and the Bulls were playing along, one to trade for Ron Artest, then in Sacramento, to add to the package because the Lakers said Bulls didn’t have enough players they wanted. The Kings refused to deal Artest. The Lakers had told Bryant they owed it to him for his loyal service to seek out deals, but they were said to be only interested in a package of players from the Pistons, which included Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. The Pistons insisted there were no such serious talks. Bulls managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf wanted to break it off as he began to feel he was being used, like Prokorov, though he was persuaded to hang in because Bryant kept relaying word to them he wouldn’t play for the Lakers. Bryant did consider the Bulls in 2004 before he re-upped with the Lakers, and Reinsdorf met with him in L.A. that summer and the two hit it off. The Bulls never believed media reports Bryant would refuse to play, but felt they had to ride it out. That courtship, though, did have an impact on that team, which collapsed weeks into the season and Scott Skiles was fired. The constant talk did take a toll, despite the players pretending not to care. Which also may be why the Bulls remain only on the fringes of the Anthony dealings. These situations can also go a long way to destroying your team.
Griffin’s effort upsetting to some
-- The Bulls, Thunder, Spurs and Celtics are the only teams not to lose more than two straight this season. … With a win over the Suns Saturday, the Pistons continue in their best stretch of the season since benching Richard Hamilton and have a winning record. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Pistons have a better record when Hamilton doesn’t play (44 games) than when he does (80 games). The team's five-game win streak early last season and the 4-2 stretch to finish last season were with Hamilton out. One possibility for Hamilton is a trade of “The Guy I Hate for the Guy you Hate,” that being Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson, shooting 30 percent the last five games and 18 percent on threes. Said Gerald Wallace and we wonder whom he was talking about: “We're a team that settles for (bad) shots. We've done that all season.”… The other fun besides watching Blake Griffin is watching veterans get upset, though Griffin gets as much as he gives. The physical freshman upset reality show star Lamar Odom, who pushed Griffin in the back at the end of a loss. Then last week, a pouty James Posey pushed away Griffin’s attempt to fist pound after Griffin put 47 on the Pacers. Odom, if you’ll remember, didn’t like the rookie playing hard until the last second. Pathetic. “I've got a thing for rubbing people the wrong way I guess,” said Griffin. … You don’t hear this one much. Joel Pryzbilla, back though with bad knees, wouldn’t mind finishing his career with the Bucks. He intends to retire back home to Wisconsin. Plus, any center should want to be out of Portland for safety as Marcus Camby had surgery last week.
NBA news and notes
-- It’s been tough times for the Cavs this season, though hardly tougher than for one of the franchise’s most entertaining players, shooter Bobby “Bingo” Smith, who is a regular at home games thanks to the Cavs despite a serious stroke a little over a year ago. The Cleveland Plain Dealer said the stroke was caused by neglecting tooth decay that oozed into his bloodstream and the blood-pressure medication he's been on since the year after college (sorry, kids, go to the dentist). Smith's heart had stopped for five minutes. He was in a coma for six weeks and had a blood clot in his head that had to be drained. It was the third time he almost died. Smith's left hand remains frozen from a stroke 10 years ago. A heart attack and resulting month long coma during a routine physical 15 years ago left him with a pacemaker. "All three times, for some reason, God said, 'We still need you here,'" Smith told the Plain Dealer. "I'm still here. He's still got some plans for me to do." … It’s been a brutal season for former Bull Kirk Hinrich, first with the grade school rebuilding Wizards coming off the bench, then learning a scratch from years ago on his left eye could cause permanent damage, thus requiring goggles to play, and now a potentially serious elbow injury. Said coach Flip Saunders: “At times, does he get frustrated? Yes. Because when you're playing with young players who are learning, they learn from mistakes. It can be tough, but that's all a part of it." … The Heat is having some injuries again with Chris Bosh out after his knee sprain against the Bulls when he criticized Omer Asik for trying too hard. But a larger issue is their 1-7 in games decided at three points or fewer. It was somewhat on display last week in a loss to Atlanta when LeBron James flung several long jumpers down the stretch instead of driving. It again raised the issues about James of declining to play in the post and perhaps fearing shooting late free throws. Dwyane Wade has no such issues, but seems to be doing all he can to accommodate James’ flaws, though his explanation was curious when he told Florida reporters: “We’re not the Boston Celtics. We’re not these kinds of teams that need to play together. We have guys that have the individual talent, and sometimes the individual talent, one-on-one ability is going to take over.” Never really heard of anyone winning big that way. … Rolling Stone magazine reported Lil’ Wayne was upset with James and Wade because they didn't speak to him while sitting courtside at Dec. 13. That’s not Big Wayne, by the way, who is Wayne Embry, whom the players should be more worried if he were mad at them. “They don't chuck me the deuce or nothing,” said Mr. Lil’.
-- Hawks players said last week the perception they are not a serious contender may have been erased when they won in Miami. Of course, they lost to the Hornets by 50 the next game. They are 5-10 against winning teams. … You aren’t winning anything if you play for Houston, but it is more lucrative. Because of Yao and his popularity in China, Rockets players probably get the biggest endorsements in the NBA (forget being in New York for that), and the latest, according to the Houston Chronicle, was Xu Zhihua, the CEO of the Chinese shoe and apparel brand Peak saying his company would pay the fine for any technical for showing emotion to any player wearing his company’s shoe. One reason you likely aren’t winning anything is a poor roster, and not that coach Rick Adelman came right out and blamed management, but Adelman said last week, “We have too many people at the same spots. It's hard to get a rotation going. You've got people coming back. You've got to fit them in there. Every game seems to be different. You just try to find combinations. All our people can play, but there are only so many minutes to go around. It's always going to be an issue." The Rockets more than any team are run by general manager Daryl Morey’s statistics based analysis, which generally doesn’t translate very well in basketball. At least with the Rockets as the test case. Odd man out lately is shooting guard Courtney Lee, who might become available at trade deadline. … The Thunder has been bemoaning the declining production of Thabo Sefolosha, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and James Harden. Hello. I watched the last six possessions of their loss to Denver last week and until the last one the five previous were isolation drives by Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant. C’mon, fellas, aren’t you going to let anyone else play? The Thunder also has declined defensively in opponent points, opponent field-goal percentage, opponent three point field goal percentage, blocked shots, opponent turnovers and defensive efficiency, basically every major defensive category, and several players are blaming the defection of assistant Ron Adams to the Bulls, who now lead the NBA in defense. “Ron Adams was a big part of our defense,” said Krstic. “He was always talking about that. He was always getting on some guys if they don't play good defense. We really miss him.” Give that guy a raise, too. … With the Mavs losing six straight the beat writer for the Dallas Morning News, Eddie Sefko, wrote they were “heartless and gutless.” Tough town.
-- The Spurs have been a feel good story this season, though perhaps the biggest surprise remains DeJuan Blair, the undersized now center who last week kicked the crap out of Amar’e Stoudemire in a Spurs win. He averaged 9.5 points and 7.7 rebounds as starting center last month, having improved his stats every month. And this was a guy who fell to the second round because no one believed his knees would hold up. He’s averaging 21 minutes and hasn’t missed a game. … The All-Star starters will be announced Thursday and one position of interest will be Western forward. Rookie Blake Griffin and leading rebounder Kevin Love are becoming sentimental favorites. Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki are expected to make it as starters with Pau Gasol considered a likely reserve and Tim Duncan a sentimental pick, though perhaps by the commissioner to replace Yao Ming as starting center. The controversy will come down to Griffin and Love, and while I’d go for Griffin, I cannot see Love, even though he is leading the league in rebounding. His coach, Kurt Rambis, says, "You can't punish a guy who's having an All-Star year for being on a team with not enough veteran leadership to win ballgames.” But you also expect an All-Star to have some impact on winning, and it’s difficult to say Love has with the Timberwolves at 10-33. You shouldn’t even want to be an All-Star under those conditions. The guy who’d deserve it more would be LaMarcus Aldridge, who averaged 26.9 points and 10.2 rebounds in January in 39 minutes per game carrying the Trail Blazers with every big man going down. And against Love this season, he’s averaging 33.7 and 11.3 with the Portland offense now running everything through Aldridge. … There is excitement among Clippers’ fans, finally, with Griffin’s play, so the L.A. Times asked who was the greatest Clipper ever. The candidates were Elton Brand, Michael Cage, Baron Davis, Gary Grant, Ron Harper, Marques Johnson, Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette, Danny Manning, Ken Norman, Eric Piatkowski, Charles Smith and Loy Vaught. I assume none of the above won.
-- Dwight Howard in three quarters against the Raptors had 31 points and 19 rebounds, leading beleaguered coach Jay Triano to offer. "He's good, we're not." But will Howard ever win anything or get real respect? Though most fear his game, the general feeling lately is he can’t beat you. After a loss to Boston when Howard had 33 and 13, Glen Davis said Howard is easy to guard because he’s more finesse than power on offense. And there was Howard at halftime against the Rockets last week having an over the head shooting competition with the mascot bear. “Of course it bothers you,” said Kyle Lowry. “That’s what he does. That’s how he gets loose or how he has fun. It’s disrespectful a little bit, but at the same time, hey, they were winning the game. They can do stuff like that.” Though I suspect it still bothers the Magic that Howard refuses to get serious about the game, and now with 2012 and free agency looming amidst rumors Howard could bolt, the Magic seem too scared to say anything more. One Orlando columnist already wrote if Howard leaves the city should sue the NBA for the cost of the new arena because no one would come to it again. Anyone for that NFL franchise tag?