Like Father ...
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The 1990 NBA Finals will be best remembered for the sensational Game 3 Joe Dumars played, scoring 33 points on the day he would minutes later learn of his father’s death, to lead the Pistons to their first win in Portland in 17 years, and for Vinnie Johnson’s bank shot with 00.7 left on the clock to win Game 5 and complete the unlikely road sweep of the Trail Blazers and clinch the Bad Boys’ second title.
It might have been remembered for something else if not for Earl Strom correctly waving off Danny Young’s 35-footer at the buzzer in Game 4.
The Pistons led that game by a point, 110-109, after two Portland free throws with a few seconds remaining. James Edwards heaved the inbounds pass over Portland’s sucked-in defense to Gerald Henderson, all alone on the other side of half court. Henderson could have dribbled out the clock or sprinted to the far corner and heaved the ball in the air while the final seconds melted away. Instead, he dribbled in for an unmolested layup that allowed Portland to stop the clock with 1.8 seconds left and get a chance to force overtime.
Young’s prayer came just a fraction of a second too late, so instead of going to overtime in a daze, the Pistons won to take a 3-1 series lead. And the rest is a history documented in The Palace rafters.
Now the paths of Joe Dumars and Gerald Henderson might cross yet again. Henderson’s son, Gerald, after three years at Duke, has declared for the NBA draft and is projected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round, perhaps in the lottery. If he survives those first 14 picks, Henderson could be someone the Pistons will study hard and consider for the 15th pick.
It remains to be seen if the younger Henderson will have a greater impact on the NBA than his father did in 13 NBA seasons as a role player who wound up playing for three league champions. But the son was a much more ballyhooed high school player and recruit than his father.
Henderson arrived at Duke as a McDonald’s All-American, coming out of Episcopal Academy in suburban Philadelphia along with fellow McDonald’s teammate Wayne Ellington. Ellington chose Duke rival North Carolina and got the best of his prep teammate over the last three seasons, yet Henderson is considered the slightly better NBA prospect.
It wasn’t necessarily that way as recently as a few months ago. But over the second half of Duke’s season, Henderson added range and consistency on his jump shot to all of a sudden blossom as a go-to scorer. He wound up averaging 16.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists as a junior after two so-so seasons that underperformed expectations.
Henderson brings to the table good size at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with explosive athleticism, sound fundamentals and above average defense. He handles the ball well enough to make plays off the dribble – a more polished Jerry Stackhouse, perhaps – and, if the second half of his Duke junior season can be trusted, should shoot well enough to make him a legitimate future NBA starter. Those who had doubts will have a tough time waving off his last game, a 1 for 14 stinker as the Blue Devils were routed by Villanova in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.
The Pistons aren’t necessarily in the market for a shooting guard with Rip Hamilton and Arron Afflalo manning the position and Ben Gordon a potential free-agent target, but trades could scramble the picture and Dumars isn’t likely to pass on a superior player to fill roster spots with someone he’s not certain can work his way into the rotation. Henderson’s pedigree suggests he’ll at least have a long career as a useful player.