Cohen: Unusual Stops on the NBA Journey
September 19, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: The list of accolades seem endless. Hakeem Olajuwon won two NBA championships, in which he was Finals MVP in both years, a regular season MVP, a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards, an Olympic gold medal and was named to 12 NBA All-Star Games.
And all of these tributes were accomplished while a member of the Houston Rockets. After the team decided to initiate a rebuild phase at the start of this century, however, Olajuwon rejected a lucrative contract to stay with the Rockets. In effect, Houston opted to trade Hakeem in the summer of 2001 to the _______________ (CLICK NEXT).
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s somewhat hard to believe that Olajuwon didn’t finish his illustrious career with the Rockets. On August 2, 2001, Houston traded Hakeem to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for future draft picks.
While the deal didn’t really pan out for either team as Olajuwon averaged career lows of 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in his one season in Toronto and Houston’s draft selections proved to be subpar in the years ahead, there was never any resentment or spite between The Dream and the Rockets.
Shortly after his retirement the Rockets retired his #34 jersey.
Cohen’s Analysis: Under constant scrutiny for 15 years playing in the biggest media market in the country and despite never propelling the New York Knicks to an NBA championship, Patrick Ewing is one of the most beloved and treasured athletes in the city’s history.
As Ewing’s abilities deteriorated toward the late stages of his career, however, it became apparent that the Knicks craved a new path towards hopeful success. Therefore, prior to the start of the 2000-01 season, New York made a bold, yet controversial decision, to trade its iconic hoops hero to _________________ (CLICK NEXT).
Cohen’s Analysis: As they were becoming a more guard-oriented team with Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell, the Knicks decided to wedge out all the noise from the fans and critics that said it would be a disastrous verdict to trade their adored star.
On September 20, 2000, New York traded Ewing to the Seattle Supersonics as part of a four-team deal. The Knicks received a compilation of role players, including Glen Rice.
Though the trade didn’t drastically improve the Sonics, who missed the playoffs in Ewing’s only season with the team, things got significantly darker for the Knicks after the trade. In fact, NY failed to advance past the First Round in Year One without Pat and then until 2011 had only reached the playoffs once.
Ewing left Seattle for Orlando in 2002 before retiring a year later.
Cohen’s Analysis: Most connect Scottie Pippen with Michael Jordan during their triumphant tenure together in Chicago. Some of the younger fans out there may distinctly remember Pippen’s contributions in Portland where he helped the Blazers reach the conference finals in 2000. And a few may associate Scottie’s decision to return to the Bulls in 2003 before retiring for good.
But after Chicago’s sixth NBA title when MJ called it quits for the second time and Phil Jackson departed for Hollywood, it was only appropriate for the Bulls to part ways with Pippen. Where was he sent? CLICK NEXT
Cohen’s Analysis: It was designed to give aging stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley a final chance before retirement to win a title together. On January 22, 1999 just prior to the start of the lockout-shortened season, Chicago traded Pippen to the Houston Rockets for Roy Rogers and a future second round draft pick.
Houston’s vision backfired, however, as chemistry problems between Barkley and Pippen along with diminished talent led to a run of the mill season as the Rockets were eliminated in the First Round of the playoffs by the Lakers.
After that abbreviated season, Pippen deserted Houston for Portland.
Cohen’s Analysis: Rasheed Wallace played an important role for almost every team he suited up for.
Washington selected him fourth overall in the 1995 NBA Draft with hopes of crafting a prevailing one-two punch with Wallace and Chris Webber. Rapidly, however, the Wizards, then Bullets, went in a completely different direction by eventually trading them both.
In Portland, Wallace transformed into an All-Star and one of the better power forwards in the NBA. It was a similar status for ‘Sheed in Detroit where he helped steer the Pistons to an NBA championship in 2004. And in the final stages of his career, Wallace played a key role for the Celtics in their journey to the Finals in 2010 and most recently before suffering a career-ending injury was solid off the bench for the Knicks.
But sandwiched in between all those accomplishments and destinations, Wallace happened to play for another team that literally lasted 48 minutes. CLICK NEXT
Cohen’s Analysis: In arguably the most peculiar turn of events in NBA history, Wallace played for three different teams in a span of a week.
After suiting up for the Blazers, he learned he had been traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and others. In his first and what proved to be only game in Atlanta, Wallace posted 20 points, six rebounds, five blocks, two assists and a steal in a narrow defeat to New Jersey.
Immediately afterwards, Rasheed was on the move again. This time he was dealt to the Pistons for a compilation of players. That season he helped catapult Detroit to its third title in franchise history.
Cohen’s Analysis: Before Dwyane Wade stepped on the scene and well prior to LeBron James’ mark on the franchise, Alonzo Mourning was the king of South Beach for several years.
Mourning, who overcame a severe kidney disease earlier this century, had the Heat in title contention for a few years in the late 90s, though always coming up short to the Bulls, Knicks or Pacers in the East.
Before his arrival in Miami, however, Zo was a fan favorite in Charlotte where he and Larry Johnson helped the Hornets become the darlings of the NBA.
One place that probably doesn’t even remember ever rooting for Mourning during his distinguished career was _________ (CLICK NEXT).
Cohen’s Analysis: As a result of Mourning’s unfortunate health issues in 2003 and with the team in a rebuilding phase, the Heat decided to not bring him back when he was a free agent that year.
There was one team that was willing to give him a chance, however. It was the New Jersey Nets, who had just completed their second straight trip to the NBA Finals. Zo signed a lucrative four-year contract with the Nets but never played a key role with the team.
Disgruntled and dejected, Mourning’s request to be traded was granted when he was sent to the Raptors in 2004. He never reported to Toronto and was eventually bought out of his contract before returning to Miami that same season.
Cohen’s Analysis: When we think of the most electrifying offensive players in NBA history, we usually think about Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Julius Erving, LeBron James and Oscar Robertson. But there are few who think outside the box and claim the most exhilarating scorer of all time may actually have been Dominique Wilkins.
Twice throughout his career Wilkins averaged better than 30 points a game and his unforgettable duel against Larry Bird during the 1988 NBA playoffs will forever be regarded as one of the most remarkable efforts in sports history.
After many outstanding years in Atlanta, a few pit stops including Los Angeles (Clippers), Boston and San Antonio and some brief explorations playing overseas, there was one final landing spot before retiring for good. (CLICK NEXT)
Cohen’s Analysis: With an opportunity to play alongside his brother, Gerald Wilkins, Nique decided to join the Orlando Magic for the lockout-shortened 1999 season. Though he only played in 27 games and averaged just 5.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, it was a delightful end to his outstanding NBA career.
Cohen’s Analysis: Adored for several years in New York because of his spirited attitude, fearless hustle and never-quit mentality, John Starks was often a focal point for the opposition during the 90s.
He had fierce rivalries with some of the NBA’s all-time best, including Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller. Eventually, however, the Knicks would replace him with a pair of more talented guards, Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell.
Starks was traded to Golden State in 1999 and then played two years in Utah before retiring in 2002. Sandwiched between the Warriors and Jazz, though, was a very strange destination. CLICK NEXT for details.
Cohen’s Analysis: After all those years battling against MJ and the Bulls, Starks randomly found himself in a Chicago uniform. On February 16, 2000, the Bulls acquired Starks from the Warriors as part of a three-team trade.
The relationship, not surprisingly, didn’t last long as Starks played in just four games for the Bulls and a total of 82 minutes.
Cohen's Analysis: There have been other unusual partnerships over the years. Karl Malone with the Lakers, Robert Parish with the Hornets and Bulls, Shawn Kemp with the Magic and now Paul Pierce with the Nets are just a few more.
It raises an interesting question; in the end is it best for teams and star players to stick together regardless of the direction of the franchise and/or the diminished skills of the player?