Chasing the Ring
Posted Aug 23 2007 12:54PM
SECAUCUS, N.J., August 9, 2007-- This summer the Celtics have already traded for two sure-fire Hall of Famers in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Could they be adding a third in Reggie Miller?
ESPN’s J.A. Adande reported on Wednesday that Boston’s general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers have reached out to Reggie about having him join the Celtics for one last hurrah and playing “15 minutes a game” in a reserve capacity.
Ainge told The Associated Press that Miller is “contemplating” the possibility of returning to the NBA after retiring from an 18-year career with the Pacers after the 2004-05 season.
Whether or not Ainge and Rivers can pry Miller from his comfortable swivel chair down at the TNT studios down in Atlanta remains to be seen, but if the ‘90’s version of Mr. Clutch is to suit up again, it wouldn’t be the first time that an accomplished NBA superstar has taken a lesser role on a new team in pursuit of that elusive championship ring.
At some point, being the alpha dog just isn’t as important any more. The All-Star games and endorsement dollars that come with being The Man sort of run together and after a while the only thing that can truly satisfy an elite player is a ring to put around his impressive basketball resume, like a wax seal on a scrolled up diploma on graduation day.
It’s a move that can be seen as desperate as Teri Hatcher. After all, these are players that put four teammates and thousands of hometown fans on their back every night for years and years and all of the sudden they decide, “If I can’t beat ‘em, I better join ‘em,” switch teams and downgrade their role from Gladys Knight to Pip.
Nobody wants to see a once-proud warrior scrambling around for a ring like Gollum.
That’s the risk, but the reward is clutching the Larry O’Brien trophy in June knowing that for at least one time in their life, they were a member of the greatest basketball team in the world that withstood an 82-game regular season and procured 16 wins in the postseason to reach the top of the mountain.
And now, these are the 10 biggest ring-chasing acquisitions in NBA history ...
THE SUCCESS STORIES
1. Feb. 14, 1995 - Portland trades Clyde Drexler and Tracy Murray to Houston for Otis Thorpe and the rights to Marcelo Nicola
After losses to the Pistons and the Bulls in The Finals through his first 11 and a half seasons in the league, Drexler sensed his window of opportunity to win a 'chip was closing rapidly. "The Glide" asked the Trail Blazers to trade him and he got his wish, reuniting with former University of Houston teammate Hakeem Olajuwon with the Rockets, who were then the defending NBA champions. Clyde helped the sixth-seeded Houston become the lowest seed to ever win an NBA title as he posted 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game in a Finals sweep of Orlando.
2. March 10, 1999 - Charlotte trades Glen Rice, B.J. Armstrong and J.R. Reid to the L.A. Lakers for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell
With Kobe Bryant quickly developing into a star and Eddie Jones basically playing the same position, Lakers general manager Jerry West had a decision to make. West shipped Jones to Charlotte for Glen Rice, a nine-year veteran who was MVP of the 1997 All-Star Game and won the 3-Point Shootout in 1995. Rice's scoring average dropped from 22.3 points per game in his last season in Charlotte to 17.5 points per game in his first season in Los Angeles, but his consistent outside threat in the Lakers triangle offense was the missing piece that spurred Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and L.A. to the title in 2000.
3. July 20, 2001 - Mitch Richmond signs a free-agent contract with the L.A. Lakers
I remember Michael Jordan saying that Mitch Richmond was one of the toughest players he ever had to go up against. Nicknamed "Rock," he was one of four players to average at least 21.0 points in each of their first 10 NBA seasons. The others? How about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. Richmond spent the first 13 years of his career in Golden State, Sacramento and Washington, never averaging less than 16.2 points per game, but also never even making it to the conference finals. For his 14th and final season, he signed with the Lakers where he averaged 4.1 points and 11.1 minutes per game and won a ring for L.A.'s sweep of New Jersey despite only playing four total minutes in the Lakers' playoff run.
4-5. March 1, 2005 - Alonzo Mourning signs a free-agent contract with Miami; September 22, 2005 - Gary Payton signs a free-agent contract with Miami
Through the first 10 years of his career, Alonzo Mourning was a beast averaging 20.3 points and 9.8 rebounds with Charlotte and Miami while repeatedly making deep playoff runs that were thwarted by either the Knicks or the Bulls. Mourning's career seemed to be cut short when he had to retire prematurely due to a life-threatening kidney disease in 2003. Zo made a miraculous return to Miami where his former coach, Pat Riley, was now the GM and his former nemesis, Shaquille O'Neal, would now be his teammate.
Meanwhile, in the prime of Gary Payton's career, he led the Seattle SuperSonics within two games of winning it all in '96 against the Bulls and that same season became just the fourth guard ever to be named Defensive Player of the Year. Like Mourning, Payton saw the chance for a championship with Shaq, Dwyane Wade and Co. and signed on before the '05-06 season.
Neither player provided much of a statistical lift, but Mourning gave the Heat a solid, defensive-minded backup to Shaq and Payton was a steady point guard option off the bench when Jason Williams was off to an erratic start. Despite their diminished roles, both players put their signature on the 2006 Finals. Payton lifted Miami with a jumper in Game 3 to break a 95-95 tie with 9.3 seconds left to keep his team from falling down 0-3 in the series and Mourning chipped in eight points, six rebounds and five blocks in the clinching Game 6.
6. Sept. 2, 2005 - Michael Finley signs a free-agent contract with San Antonio
Michael Finley scored the first two points in Game 1 of the 2007 NBA Finals and then struggled the rest of the way, but his contribution was more about the two seasons he played with the Spurs to get them back to the promised land than the 6-for-23 he shot in the championship round.
Finley spent the first 11 years of his career in Phoenix and then Dallas where he was the main cog in the Mavericks' resurgence under new owner Mark Cuban. He was routinely one of the league leaders in minutes logged and was a dependable 20 points per game scorer for the meat of his career. When he came to the Spurs, his minutes and points were basically cut in half, but he earned the ring he sought after.
DIDN'T WORK OUT
7. Aug. 19, 1996 - Phoenix trades Charles Barkley and a second-round pick to Houston for Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant, Sam Cassell and Robert Horry
After eight seasons in Philly and four in Phoenix, Charles Barkley had an MVP trophy on his shelf and a trip to The Finals under his belt, but still no ring on his finger. Chuck joined forces with Olajuwon and the Rockets, the same team that crawled out of an 0-2 hole against the Suns in '94, the year after Barkley's run to the Finals. The experiment wasn't all bad. In his first season in Houston, Barkley's scoring dipped from 23.2 to 19.2 points per game, but his rebounding jumped from 11.6 to 13.5 per game and the Rockets got all the way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals before falling to Utah on John Stockton's late 3-pointer. Barkley gave it one more try with Houston in 1998 but was ousted by the Jazz again, this time in the first round. The Round Mound of Rebound finished off his career in Houston, only playing in 62 games over his last two seasons.
8-9. July 16, 2003 - Karl Malone and Gary Payton sign free-agent contracts with the L.A. Lakers
After the Lakers three-peat was unceremoniously derailed by the Spurs in 2003, L.A. revamped its roster with two Hall of Famers in Karl Malone and Gary Payton in hopes of capturing title No. 4 of the '00s. Malone was a two-time MVP and considered to be one of the top three or four power forwards of all time, while Payton (as I mentioned above) was a stellar point guard in his own right, but entering the twilight of his career.
It almost worked. The Lakers reached The Finals but were blitzed by Detroit, a wolf in sheep's clothing, who shocked L.A. and the basketball world by trumping star power with unselfish, team basketball. Payton averaged just 4.2 points per game for the series while Malone mustered a 5.0 points per game average in four games before sitting out with an injury in the Pistons' clinching Game 5.
10. Jan. 16, 2007 - Chris Webber signs a free-agent contract with Detroit
This pickup can only be graded "incomplete" for now, as it's not known yet whether Webber will try to stick with his hometown Pistons next season or bolt for another destination (Dallas, perhaps?), but C-Webb's first year in Detroit didn't work out the way he planned. The Pistons collapsed in the Eastern Conference Finals, going up 2-0 on Cleveland before dropping four straight. Webber averaged 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds for Detroit, well short of his 20.9 and 9.8 career numbers. Rather than relishing his diminished role, Webber still seemed to want more touches and so his ring chasing looks to continue on to another zip code.
Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share other ring chasers that you can remember? Send an e-mail.