Bill’s Bank Shots
Posted Nov 7 2005 1:27PM
A look back at the hot topics from last week
Refurbished Ford Adds Another Gear
Armed only with Internet access, a telephone, League Pass and a remote control, keeping a finger on the pulse of all 30 teams from Milwaukee isn’t easy, especially with a travel budget identical to the number worn on the backs of Olden Polynice, Benoit Benjamin and Greg Ostertag.
That Ford came back at all makes the Most Improved Player (too bad there is not Comeback Player of the Year award) race about less suspenseful than an infomercial. That Ford was the probably the best player on the floor in wins at Philadelphia and New Jersey hits the probability scale somewhere between the Bobcats winning the NBA title and an alien landing.
The 165-lb dynamo, generously listed at 6’0”, neutralized Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd and rallied the Bucks from double digits in back-to-back road wins. For good measure, he helped the Bucks overcome a nine-point fourth quarter deficit in Saturday’s home opener against Miami, a 105-100 win that improved the Bucks to 3-0 for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
Ford’s leadership is better. His shooting is better. He might even be quicker. His patience on the final play of regulation in Philadelphia allowed him to dribble through traffic for what seemed like an eternity before delivering a dart to Michael Redd, who drained a three to force overtime.
His confidence is sky high despite almost two years between meaningful games, time he spent improving his conditioning and studying the game in Houston under the tutelage of former NBA point guard John Lucas, a long-time family friend.
Lucas had to prepare Ford mentally and physically for his return. The two still talk daily, and Ford said his mentor has a trip to Milwaukee in his not-too-distant plans.
Incredibly, Ford has trained his mind to play without fear, despite reaching speeds that prompted teammate Toni Kukoc to call him “by far the fastest player I’ve ever seen on a basketball court.”
“If I didn’t play that way, I wouldn’t be able to play at this level,” said Ford, who has repeatedly hit the deck and driven to the basket with the same tenacity he possessed before the collision with Minnesota’s Mark Madsen on Feb. 24, 2004, that forced a hard landing on his tailbone, left him numb and eventually led to surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck. More than a year passed before he was cleared to play this June.
Three games does not a season make, but Ford’s averages of 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 10.3 assists are well above rookie season averages of 7.1, 3.2 and 6.5. They’re numbers that make a good story great and make a good team dangerous.
Welcome to Fantasy Island!
I don’t have a big ego about editing, but I was stunned last week to see a parenthetical entry about the NBA Cares Celebrity Fantasy League inserted into my column, following a reference I had made to Star Jones. For one, imagine the odds of seeing ‘Star Jones’ and ‘fantasy’ in the same sentence and the horror of seeing it under my own byline! Nevertheless intrigued, I clicked on the link to see a complete 13-round draft featuring a group eclectic enough to also include Sam Jackson, Diana Taurasi, Pamela Anderson and Bernie Mac.
A quick scan of the draft left me wondering if ESPN’s Bill Simmons purposely handicapped himself by taking three Celtics, two Clippers, a former Celtic and a guy with his last name. Perhaps Simmons didn’t take his competition seriously – which is entirely possible when competing against a Baywatch babe – but it looks like he should have. With her first three picks, Anderson grabbed LeBron James, Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal. She astutely nabbed T.J. Ford in round 11. It doesn’t take an expert handicapper to see that her team is stacked!
Follow the action at: http://www.nba.com/fantasy/nbacares_celebdraft.html
Team of the week: Milwaukee (3-0 this week).
Team of the weak: New York (0-3 this week)
Quick hits: The West is 7-2 against the East in the early-going … Heat coach Stan Van Gundy used only seven players against Milwaukee on Saturday … The Clippers 3-0 start is their first since 1985-86 … Fantasy players take note, James Jones of Phoenix was the NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooter in the preseason. He’s made three treys in each of the Suns first four games … Chris Duhon and Jason Kidd pulled the week’s only triple-doubles.
Where Have all the HOFers Gone?
Twenty-nine players in NBA history have topped 20K and 19 of them have been active in the ’90s or the current decade. It’s somewhat amazing to see just how quickly attrition nipped away at a Golden Era spawned by the bountiful drafts of 1984 and 1985.
Allen Iverson (16,738) is a virtual lock to be the NBA’s next 20,000 point scorer; At his current pace, it’s likely to happen as the 2007 All-Star break approaches. Kevin Garnett (15,681) and Kobe Bryant (14,034) also seem like safe bets to reach that hallowed ground the following year. Duncan, McGrady, Pierce, Allen, Finley, Marbury, Nowitzki and Carter are among those more than halfway there who have plenty left to make a run.
Active 20,000 point scorers
2005-06: (2) Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton
Top Active Scorers (entering 2005-06 season)
23,583: Shaquille O'Neal
-- Bill Evans appears weekly on NBA.com, where he worked from 1996-99. Now a Milwaukee-based freelance writer, he has also worked with the Sonics, Bucks and Cavaliers.
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