Thursday, May 31, 2007
My first, and most drastic, move is to trade Marcus Camby for a floor general that is both a calm commander with a sense of time and possession and a player that can create for himself off the dribble while looking to put his teammates in better scoring position. A tall order indeed, and to make things even more complicated he needs to make less than Marcus Camby’s next year salary of $8,000,000. The reasons why I think Marcus Camby is the player to be traded is because of his all-time high market value after winning the Defensive Player of the Year award and the rapid development of Nene. We also have to keep in mind, and our fingers crossed, that Kenyon Martin is returning to action next season and that he will be able to provide the Nuggets with a solid option at power forward.
The man that I like the most for the job of starting point guard is Antonio Daniels. While with the San Antonio Spurs in the 1998-99 season, Daniels did win a ring while coming off the bench for Avery Johnson, so he knows what it is like to play on the NBA’s biggest stage and emerge victorious. He is set to make $5,800,000 next season and what is most exciting about Daniels is how he picked up his game when Gilbert Arenas went down right before the playoffs this past season. During the regular season last year he averaged 22 minutes of action a night while coming off the bench and giving the Wizards 7.1 points while shooting 44% from the field and dishing 3.6 assists per contest. These numbers may not seem like much to in comparison to what the Nuggets are trading, but there is much more to this story than first meets the eye.
When Washington’s starting point guard, and first scoring option, Gilbert Arenas went down with an injury on April 4th it opened up the playing doors for Antonio Daniels and he did not wait long before proving that more minutes were all that was needed for him to boost his scoring output by more than four points and to nearly double his assist totals. In the month of March, Daniels was averaging 18 minutes of play which translated into 7.2 points and four assists. In the month of April, he saw his minutes spike to 35 per game and his averages jumped to 11.2 points and 8.6 assists! Furthermore, during the playoffs, Antonio showed his post season polish by raising his game even higher to averages of 13.3 points and 11.8 assists in the unfortunate sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Obviously, the ten-year veteran still has some gas left in the tank and with his experience he could be the exact kind of player that the Nuggets are looking for.
Now I know that from the outside looking in it may appear that the Nuggets are getting the short end of the deal by giving up Marcus Camby for the Wizards back-up point guard. But when the luxury cap is considered, plus the return of the nearly un-tradable Kenyon Martin, and the emergence of Nene as a legitimate low post scorer and defender something has to give. I for one am from the school of thought that you sell high and buy low and by trading Marcus Camby for Antonio Daniels, and potentially a first round pick in a future draft, the Nuggets would be doing just that.
So with that being said, the starting five now has an upgraded backcourt with Allen Iverson and Antonio Daniels, and the front court has Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, and Nene. Now let’s take a look at this bench situation and see if there can be some moves made to trade some guys who have not worked out in return for some part-time contributors.
Right off the bat let me say that the Nuggets would be foolish to let J.R. Smith or Linas Kleiza escape from their grip at this point in either man’s young career. Both are relatively inexpensive for what they bring to the team and more importantly far outweigh their salaries in potential contribution. I would also like to see Steve Blake return as the back-up point guard, but his contract has run its course and he is looking for a mid-level deal of around three to five million dollars per year for the next three or four years. He made $1.3 for his services last year and the aforementioned price jump for his services might be too much for the Nuggets to shell out. But that is ok because the Nuggets have a team option for $1.1 million on Anthony Carter’s services for next season. With that in mind, Anthony Carter has proven to be a basketball journeyman and provides the Nuggets with at least somebody off the end of the bench at point guard, if in the event that Blake opts out for more money. However, make no mistake about the Nuggets only needing one back-up point guard with the likes of AI and Antonio Daniels playing over 40 minutes per game.
So, if the Nuggets can find a way to keep Smith, Kleiza, and either Blake or Carter that is a solid one through three bench rotation right there. Add in the promise of the 6’5” Von Wafer from the NBDL Colorado 14ers, (where he averaged 21 points while shooting 45% from downtown), and the Nuggets already have nine players on their roster.
The obstacle now becomes what to do with the likes of DerMarr Johnson, Reggie Evans, Jamal Sampson, Yakhouba Diawara, and Eduardo Najera with the possibility of a couple of the aforementioned still remaining in Denver with the Nuggets looking for a free agent big man. We all know that Reggie Evans (four million) and Eduardo Najera (4.9 million) are the most expensive of the role players currently on the Denver bench, so trading at least one of these guys to any team with a late first round or early second pick is what I feel the Nuggets need to do (and I would prefer Reggie to be the one traded). This way they can sign that future draft pick to the standard rookie three year contract and alleviate some cap space. As for DerMarr and Jamal Sampson…Good luck finding a new NBA home. Yakhouba is a cheap swing man at $687,456 and should be kept at the end of the bench for defensive assignments. Now let's find the Nuggets a free agent big man.
And if you’re keeping track… That means we can still keep either Eduardo Najera on the bench to further solidify the front line while also having one more open active roster spot for Von Wafer. Seems so simple now doesn’t it?
Now the only thing left to do is to add up the salaries and see if all this wheeling and dealing is going to be a reality underneath the 2007-08 NBA luxury tax limit of $65.42 million dollars.
Last year’s Nuggets combined payroll was $66,843,840, which was $5 million and change over last season’s luxury cap of $61.7 million. I feel that if all of these changes can still hover around last season’s overage then the Nuggets can afford to make the necessary changes to improve this franchise.
Allen Iverson -------------------------- $21.1 million
Carmelo Anthony --------------------- $13.7 million
Kenyon Martin ------------------------ $13.0 million
Nene ------------------------------------ $11.05 million
Antonio Daniels ----------------------- $ 5.8 million
Eduardo Najera ----------------------- $4.9 million
J.R. Smith ----------------------------- $1.6 million
Linas Kleiza - ------------------------- $1 million
Von Wafer ---------------------------- $770,610 (team option)
Anthony Carte ------------------------ $1.1 million (team option)
Yakhouba Diawara ------------------- $687, 456
Dikembe Mutombo ------------------- $1.5 million (estimated)
Total------------------------------------- $76,207,610 in 2007-08 salary
This total is just barely over what the Nuggets exceeded the luxury cap by last season and in my assessment gives Denver a much stronger roster with more contributors than last year’s team.
What does everyone think?
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Porter died a little over a week after he was found severely beaten in an alley. He was 58.
Police are still trying to figure out exactly what happened to a man who had his share of problems, but emerged from a drug rehab program in Minnesota in 1989 and turned his life around. Since his turn around, Porter had been working as a probation officer for Ramsey County, Minnesota. There have been no arrests in connection with Porter’s attack.
He averaged 22.8 points and 14.8 rebounds at Villanova from 1968-71. In 1997, Villanova retired Porter’s No. 54 jersey, and he holds the university’s career record for rebounds with 1,317.
Often times forgotten when the greatest names of college basketball are dropped, but Howard “Geezer” Porter will be remembered dearly and missed forever.
May the Geezer rest in peace.
First of all, Karl talks about Portland and Seattle landing the top two picks in next month’s draft. “I got (perturbed) all over again. It was very frustrating. The Western Conference was tough enough. Now look at it,” the Nuggets' coach said. Now while the young talents of Durant and Oden both look promising, I for one am not that worried about either team, regardless of who they end up with on draft day, being able to push the Nuggets out of one of the top two spots in the Northwest Division. Assuming for a minute that the Trailblazers do in fact end up with Oden and the Sonics settle, and I use that term loosely, for Durant. Please allow me put your mind at ease when looking forward to what both of these teams potentially bring to the conference picture.
The Portland Trailblazers treaded their way to another losing season, (32-50), while now hypothetically having a log jam at the center position with Przybilla, Magloire, the young LaMarcus Aldridge, and Oden. Furthermore, with the long list of front court players just mentioned the Blazers were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA last year with the third lowest total boards per game in the league. The addition of Greg Oden will assist in getting the Blazers out of the basement of the NBA’s rebounding category, but that is not where the biggest problem lies for Portland. The Trailblazers were second to last in per game scoring last season and it is in this realm that the addition of Greg Oden will not be an immediate fix for the Portland faithful. Oden’s limited offensive game at this point in his career will almost surely keep him from averaging double digits in his first full NBA season, whereas I can almost guarantee that he will grab more rebounds than points with the Blazers as a rookie. With that said, I do think that the Blazers will be an improved team that probably puts the Timberwolves in the rearview mirror, but Greg Oden is not Lew Alcindor, nor is he being paired with Oscar Robertson, so don’t get too excited if you still have dreams of Bill Walton leading Portland to the NBA promise land. The Trailblazers still have a long way to go before they are ready to evict Denver or Utah out of the top two spots.
Now onto even more reasons why George Karl should not lose too much sleep about the other top pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. It is almost a certain reality that with Rashard Lewis opting out of his final two contractual years with the Sonics to test the free agent market that Seattle will look to Kevin Durant to fill his void. The only problem with that is, much like Lewis, I do not see Durant making a monumental contribution right out of the gate. The two have almost identical bodies, 6’10” and about 220 pounds, and both men play a very similar perimeter game. Durant will not be able to crash the boards as he did in college with like sized players in the NBA, and just like Lewis in his first two years, will have to make substantial adjustments to his offensive game with one of the opposition’s best defenders hounding him all night. So, even if I am completely wrong in my outlook on Durant’s rookie season (I doubt it, but even if…). The Seattle Supersonics are going to be extremely hard pressed to improve overall with the departure of Lewis and all their eggs literally riding in Durant’s rookie basket. Not to mention the looming move out of the great northwest for greener pastures in Oklahoma City or another Midwest metropolitan area if and when they lose the already fading fan base, and lease, up in their little corner of the basketball world. Oh, and if that were not enough to have riding on the shoulders of a would-be sophomore in college. The Sonics were a lackluster 31-51 last season; the second worst record in the Western Conference. Sleep well, George, sleep well.
Are you still with me? Good, now onto the best part of the article written by the near permanent fixture on ESPN’s Around the Horn.
I have to hand it to Woody for picking at the near completely healed scab that was how George Karl threw J.R. Smith under the bus for game five of the playoff series with the Spurs. Woody writes, “The day before the final game in San Antonio, Karl said he was “shutting down” reserve guard J.R. Smith, which caused a hailstorm of criticism aimed at the coach. Smith had played pathetically previously, and Karl could have just sat him instead of making the young player a scapeguard.”
In reply, George Karl recognizes that the situation could have been handled in a more efficient manner and offers this statement, “Looking at it today, I guess I should have kept my mouth shut. That's today. If the process makes him mentally a stronger person for us next year and puts him on a better path, then I did the right thing. Now it seems like the wrong thing, even though 80 percent of our players told me that's what they wanted.”
This is where I get confused. Karl clearly states, “Now it seems like the wrong thing, even though 80 percent of our players told me that's what they wanted,” but is Karl saying that 80% of the Nuggets wanted J.R. benched for not following the game plan or did 80% of the Nuggets want their fellow teammate thrown under the bus the way that Furious George decided to? I’m going to go with the first of the two interpretations and give the Nuggets players the benefit of the doubt, but the fact still remains that George Karl transferred the frustrations of three straight losses to the Spurs onto J.R. and shouldn’t have done so in the manner he did. Throwing a guy under the bus, especially publicly and during an ongoing series, is never the road to take when trying to either motivate your team to victory or when explaining its downfall. I hope George Karl finally learns from this case and discontinues these kind of blow-ups because it is starting to become a repetitive trend in his coaching career and in each isolated incident, (Ray Allen, Kenyon Martin, and J.R. Smith), the outcome has not been favorable for either party.
However, I will say this about George Karl: In the rest of the interview he does own up to not maximizing everything that he could have in the first round clash with the Spurs. Karl states, “I didn't do enough to help A.I. (Allen Iverson), and I didn't do enough for J.R. and L.K. (Linas Kleiza). Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and Nene had outstanding series, but I was still learning A.I., and I just didn't figure out how to get him easier shots and do more for him when he was struggling. We could have had better spacing on the floor so (the Spurs) couldn't smother him. He wanted so badly to win, and I failed him. I'm evaluating what more we can do for A.I next season. The X's and O's were fine, in my opinion, but the most important thing a coach can do for his players is to help them get better. J.R. and L.K. were lost in the playoffs, and I didn't help them find their way. My fault.”
Refreshing words to calmly soothe the burning of yet another first round torching of the Denver Nuggets, but what I would like to see out of George Karl next season is that same kind of ownership when the Nuggets go through yet another inevitable tough stretch of games. This year I was critical of how George Karl was, in my opinion, too cool when things were not all square in the Nuggets Nation and if he can find a way to light the fire earlier, and in a more productive manner, next season I still like the Nuggets chances on yet another improving season.
It’s been awhile since I let one of these babies rip and I think we could all use it since the past few weeks have been so thin on the newsworthy scope of things. So, with no further delay…
God, that felt good.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
(Boulder-CO) One of my favorite blogs, www.20secondtimeout.blogspot.com, has a post up about why blogging is doing so well and how other mainstream media outlets are having a hard time keeping up with the most popular of blog sites. I highly suggest you give it a read, not only because David is a tremendous writer, but because this is a post that all of us in the NBA blog game can relate to. Give it a read by clicking right here.
(Boulder-CO) Things are pretty slow in the land of the Nuggets, so here is a link for you to pass some time with. Eric of http://www.hoopsaddict.com/ had the chance to interview Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz and their conversation is posted right here.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Here is the top-ten:
1 Oprah Winfrey $58,300,000 Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, Oprah's Angel Network and other groups.
2 Geoffrey Beene $44,000,000 (Bequest) Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
3 Jack and Marie Lord $40,000,000 (Bequest) Hawaii Community Foundation.
4 Barbra Streisand $11,750,000 Barbra Streisand Foundation, numerous civil liberties, environmental and civil rights organizations "dedicated to democratic values."
5 Tiger Woods $9,500,000 Tiger Woods Learning Center, Earl D. Woods Sr. Scholarship Fund and other Tiger Woods Foundation programs.
6 Rosie O'Donnell $5,700,000 Katrina Relief efforts including Renaissance Village (a temporary shelter for Katrina victims), day care centers, a rehabilitation center in San Antonio and a Habitat for Humanity subdivision in Baton Rouge.
7 Martha Stewart $5,000,000 New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital for a center on healthy aging.
8 Carmelo Anthony $4,282,000 CAF Youth Center in Baltimore, AAU Basketball, Syracuse University Recreational Center and other charities.
9 Pat and Shirley Boone $3,000,000 Pepperdine University for the Graduate School of Education and Psychology Center for the Family.
(Tied) LeRoy Neiman $3,000,000 The School of the Art Institute of Chicago to support a Master's class in figure drawing.
9. Chicago (via New York)
11. Atlanta (via Indiana)
13. New Orleans
14. L.A. Clippers
15. Detroit (via Orlando)
17. New Jersey
18. Golden State
19. L.A. Lakers
21. Philadelphia (via Denver)
22. Charlotte (via Toronto through Cleveland)
23. New York (via Chicago)
24. Phoenix (via Cleveland through Boston)
25. Utah 26. Houston
28. San Antonio
30. Philadelphia (via Dallas through Denver and Golden State)
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
I want to get what I am about to say over with so in retrospect of the suspension Carmelo was wrong to step in and hit Mardy Collins. Regardless of the goon that Collins is, Carmelo should have never put himself in that situation. Especially because it wasn’t he who had been gooned. Nevertheless, I feel that it was a learning experience for Carmelo that put into perspective his impact on this team. And had it not been for the addition of Allen Iverson only two games later, who knows how this team would have fared with their number one scoring option on the bench for 15 games. Chalk it up as a lesson learned and pray that the same kind of tomfoolery doesn’t repeat itself.
But aside from that one incident, Carmelo lived up to the All-World title he claimed at last summer’s FIBA games. He averaged a career-high 28.9 points (finishing second in the NBA only to Kobe Bryant after KB went on a Chamberlain-esque 40 ppg average in March), a career-high 3.8 assists, and tied a career-high average with six boards.
What I really liked about Carmelo Anthony’s game this season was his willingness to rebound more frequently while playing along side Marcus Camby and Nene. It is no secret that those two guys nearly grab a combined 20 rebounds a game. So, the sheer fact that ‘Melo found his way to six boards a game is a very good sign for the Denver Nuggets. ‘Melo has the lower body strength to be a great help on the boards, and with the increased frequency that he can squeeze a carom, outlet the ball, and look to get it back as the trailer. I think that he will raise his rebounding numbers even higher in seasons to come.
As for the rest of his game… the NBA better watch out if ‘Melo gets the three-point line dialed in as he finished the Nuggets most potent deep threat with a 42% average from downtown in the month of April. He has never been that much of a threat from downtown, but if and when he does become consistently proficient from long distance. He will stretch opposing defenses even farther from the basket that will in turn not only open up things for himself, but also for his teammates.
What else is there to say about Carmelo? Could he play better defense? Sure, but couldn’t everybody? Could he turn the ball over a little bit less? Sure, but when you’re asked to make as much happen as he does on the offensive end sometimes things just don’t always go as planned. Could he be more vocal? Sure, but you don’t want him to domineer the rest of the team.
My future outlook on Carmelo is this: You can ask more and more of him, and you’ll probably get it, but he is a true team player that knows what it takes to win on the big stage. It hasn’t happened yet in the NBA, but I am very confident that at some point in his NBA career Carmelo will win a NBA ring. Here’s to hoping it is with the Nuggets and that it is sooner rather than later!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Call it what you will, but I feel that AI went through an adjustment period that seemed to take way too long last season. His numbers with the Sixers in November were 31.7 points, 7.1 assists, and three rebounds before consistently dwindling to 22.8 points. 6.8 assists, and still three rebounds in April with the Nuggets. I can understand that his points dropped because of mainly playing with another competent scorer in Carmelo Anthony, but what surprised me was how AI’s assist total didn’t rise. Especially after the Nuggets won eleven out of the twelve games that he recorded double digit assists in.
But one thing was blatantly apparent to me about the addition of AI to the Nuggets. There is no question about what position Iverson plays. He is a SHOOTING guard and anyone who tries to tell you differently is living on another planet! When AI plays point guard, he spends way too much shot clock probing the defense with the dribble instead of starting the offense with the pass. I wish there was a statistic that I could use to illustrate this point, but you’re going to have to just trust me on this one. I haven’t missed a Nuggets game in five years running, and the distinction between the point guard we traded and the shooting guard we gained is crystal clear.
The few disappointing aspect of Allen Iverson’s first year with the Nuggets were his playoff series with the Spurs and his free-throw shooting in the month of April. The Answer left the Nuggets scratching their heads with questions as he only connected on 36% of his shots in the San Antonio series on his way to averaging 22.8 points and only 5.8 assists. His free-throw shooting was also atrocious in the month of April as he made only 61% of his charity attempts while also shooting only seven freebies on average which is uncharacteristic of the always attacking Iverson.
However, all in all, if I could turn back the hands of time the only thing I would change is getting Allen Iverson sooner! He gives this team a legitimate second option on offense and his desire to win is amazing. The Nuggets now only need to pair him with a defensive minded distributor who doesn’t mind taking a backseat to his backcourt counterpart just as long as the win column stacks up. I truly do feel that if this team can do that, in addition to having Kenyon Martin return and contribute while having the same cast of characters for an entire season, they can crack the top four spots in the Western Conference and not have to face a buzz saw in the first round of next year’s playoffs.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
To try and evaluate what Marcus Camby means to the Denver Nuggets is a tricky task indeed. In some situations the Nuggets look completely lost without the ten-year veteran. In others, they seem to flourish. So how does one objectively calculate such an inexact science? Let’s first take a look at the games that Marcus didn’t play in and see how the Nuggets fared.
In ten out of the twelve gamest that Marcus didn’t play in this year, (excluding the two before the start of the playoffs), the Nuggets were 4-6. Not too bad, but still on the losing side of things.
Now onto what kind of game Marcus had to have for the Nuggets to win. The Captain recorded a career-high 32 double-doubles this season. And in those 32 giant efforts, 20 of them were in Nuggets victories. Getting better, but this is still not conclusive in my eyes.
Do minutes played make a difference? Marcus averaged 34 minutes per game this season and in games that he did not meet that mark the Nuggets lost 15 times while winning twelve when he did. While this is an interesting way to break down his impact, it is still not conclusive as to whether or not the Nuggets absolutely need Marcus Camby to win.
Now we need to examine his offensive impact. In the 44 games that Marcus Camby scored in double digits they won 26 out of 44. Just slightly more than half, but still not conclusive.
My point in doing all of this is to prove to you that Marcus Camby, while an amazingly well-rounded center, does not have any particular aspect of his game that makes the Nuggets win. Some nights the Nuggets can utilize his scoring, while in others it just doesn’t make a difference. The same goes for having the big man in the game. It is not a critical note that Marcus Camby play a certain amount of minutes for the Nuggets to be successful.
So my conclusion is that throughout all the inconclusiveness about his numbers, Marcus Camby could very well be traded this off-season and the impact would be less severe than some Nuggets faithful might think. And that’s not a knock on Marcus Camby, but in the game of high-stakes NBA trades, I just think that it’s always wise to sell high and buy low. If the Nuggets were to trade Marcus Camby they would not only alleviate some of the salary cap pressure they are under, but The Captain’s stock is at an all-time high right now after leading the league in blocks, coming in fifth in rebounds, and playing in his second most games in a season of his ten-year career. And who knows if the notoriously injury-prone Camby will ever eclipse that mark again?
Denver also has the services of this young guy named Nene who is a pretty damn good bet if you are looking for the next big front court player’s bandwagon to jump on. If Nene could prove to be legitimate force in the low blocks, which I already think he has, it would greatly soften the blow of trading Marcus Camby while also freeing up space at the four for the currently un-tradable Kenyon Martin to slide into. Not to mention addressing some of the other needs that the Nuggets desperately need to attend to (cough, cough... point guard).
So, Marcus finishes as the Nuggets third most important contributor in my assessment, but is also the Nuggets most interesting trade bait for this coming off-season. The Captain will not play for the USA Basketball team this summer, so their should be no hitches in any trade negotiations that get brought to the table. And I am expecting some offers to start trickling in as soon as the Finals are over.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Elvin was born on November 17, 1945 in Rayville, Louisiana during a time of clear divided racial lines. And while growing up deep in the south, it was Elvin’s father who taught his son about gaining respect by giving it. See, in those times in America’s history young African-Americans were grappling with a prejudice that they didn’t quite understand the true root of. They knew it was because of their fundamental difference in skin color, that much is obvious, but what many like Elvin had a hard time understanding was how somebody could have such distaste for someone else that they had never met before. There was no eminent being granted in this period of history, and in my opinion, this contributed to the often times misunderstood personality of Elvin Hayes. But more on that later.
When Hayes entered high school he was a 6’5” freshman riding the pine on the junior varsity team for Britton High School. He was a lanky figure with not a lot of strength, but his true fortitude was in his work ethic. He had just started to play basketball that previous year and his talents were raw and without fluidity within the great symphony that is the game of basketball. So, that summer Elvin would spend countless hours working on this game and his progression would be rapid. Hayes would become such a dominant force in the high school game at 6’9” that he would finish his senior year with an average of 35 points on the way to winning the Louisiana state championship with a performance of 45 points and 20 rebounds! His work ethic and natural gifts had been harnessed and his father’s instilled sense of respect had given Elvin the chance to take his game to the next level with the University of Houston.
When Elvin made his voyage to the University of Houston, he and Don Chaney were the university’s first African-American basketball players. Little did he know he would be paving the way for great players like Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon who would later play at the same school, but what he did know was that coming from the small town of Rayville he was in for a big change. That change was the first respectful treatment by white people that he had ever experienced and it came by way of his new coaches. Coach Guy Lewis went out of his way to make the very racially leery Hayes feel a welcome part of his family and Elvin has said that by doing so it, “Helped me overcome 18 years of hate.”
It was also around the same time that a sportswriter for the Houston Post showed Elvin some love and gave him a nickname that would stay with him for the rest of his career. The reporter saw a parallel between the Navy's aircraft carrier Enterprise, called "The Big E," and Hayes. Both, he said, were rallying points (anecdote courtesy of www.NBA.com).
Furthermore, it was on the biggest of NCAA stages, (the first nationally televised college basketball game ever) that Elvin, now “The Big E”, would make himself a household name. It was a game that pitted the 16-0 Cougars of Houston against the 47-0 ULCA Bruins, who were led by Lew Alcindor, and in that game it was Elvin who got the better of Alcindor as the Cougars handed the Bruins their first loss in two years.
In what many basketball aficionados consider to be one of the best collegiate games ever, the Big E found himself with the game literally in his hands with the score tied at 69 and only 28 seconds remaining. As he stepped to the free-throw line, the entire 52,000 plus fans in the Astrodome held their breath as Hayes knocked down both free-throws that would eventually win the game for the Cougars! Elvin and his crew had done it. They had slayed the basketball giants and it was behind the behemoth performance by Hayes who outscored Alcindor 39-15 and out rebounded him 15-12. That victory, plus the outstanding play by the Big E throughout the rest of the season, was enough to garner Hayes the College Player of the Year award by the Sporting News in 1968. He had averaged 27.2 points per game as a sophomore, (remember, freshman were not allowed to play varsity ball in those days), 28.4 as a junior, and 36.8 points per game as a senior on his way to a 31 point/17.2 rebound average for his collegiate career. But it was a career that was just beginning to unfold.
That next season, Hayes became the number one overall pick of the then San Diego Rockets in the 1968 draft. His impact would be immediate as the Big E would lead the NBA in scoring at a pitch of 28.4 points a game while coming in fourth in rebounding at 17.1 per and being named the starting center for the Western Conference All-Stars. Plus, another staple of Elvin’s game would come to light as he would set a rookie record for minutes played with 3,695 which worked out to be just slightly above 45 minutes per contest. A true testament to how intelligent a player he was to play that many minutes and avoid serious foul trouble when guarding the opposition’s top big man.
Two years later Elvin would have the best statistical season of his legendary, and lengthy, NBA career. In 1970-71, the Big E would average 28.7 points and grab 16.6 rebounds per game! He was once again an All-Star, but a change was on the horizon. That next season, the Rockets would move to Houston in what was an anticipated homecoming for Elvin to his alma mater state.
But the honeymoon would be short lived after that season as Hayes would be traded and teamed up with the man who won Rookie of the Year and NBA MVP with the Baltimore Bullets in the same year as Hayes’ rookie campaign; Wes Unseld.
It took a couple of years for the Bullets to earn championship supremacy, but in the 1977-78 season the now Washington Bullets ignited in the playoffs and went 12-7 on their way to the NBA crown. That team was led by Head Coach Dick Motta and now veterans Hayes and Unseld. They also had tremendous balance with the bench that boasted the likes of Mitch Kupchak, Larry Wright, Charles Johnson, and Greg Ballard who all could have started for other teams in the league. And in what was one of the best finals series in NBA history, the Bullets fought back from being down 3-2 to the Seattle Supersonics and overcame having to win game seven on Seattle’s home floor to raise the championship banner. Finally, Hayes was an NBA champion! Elvin said, “Finally winning the championship completes the picture, because no one can ever again say that E’s not a champion.”
For the remainder of this career, Elvin’s numbers would decline at a steady pace, but his legacy was being cemented in the record books. He would use the familiar turn-around jump shot and his always determined rebounding practices to solidify himself as a NBA legend and a power forward act to follow for generations to come. In the end, the critics can say what they want about the Big E’s character and modus operandi, but when all is said and done the career accolades truly do all the talking. Elvin Ernest Hayes would conclude his professional basketball career as an All-NBA first team selection in 1975,’77,and 1979, All-NBA second team in 1973, ‘74, and 1976, All-NBA Defensive second team in 1974 and 1975, NBA All-Star in 1969, ‘70, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73, ‘74, ‘75, ‘76, ‘77, ‘78, ‘79, and 1980, he scored 27,313 points (sixth all-time) with career a career average of 21 points per game, grabbed 16,279 rebounds, (fourth all-time) with an career average of 12.5 per contest, made the NBA All-Rookie team in 1969, played in 50,000 minutes of NBA basketball games only to be later surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, ranks fifth in all-time games played with 1,303, ranks fifth in field goals made with 10,976, ranks second all-time in field goals attempted with 24,272, and ranks fourth all-time in personal fouls with 4,193.
Talk about legacy, Elvin “The Big E” Hayes is truly the measuring stick that all power forwards are measured by today and for that reason is this installment of Historical Glimpses.
This season Big Brazil was nothing short of worthy of every last cent that the Nuggets shelled out to keep the 6’11”/270lb power forward. Nene averaged a career-high 12.2 points, a career-high seven rebounds, a career-high 57% from the field, and a career-high 69% from the free-throw line. Furthermore in the playoffs, against the NBA’s elite power forward in Tim Duncan, Nene raised his game another notch and averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 77% from the charity stripe.
Keep in mind, this was a player who only played three minutes of the 2005-06 season after suffering a knee injury that eliminated his entire year!
In the early portion of the season Nene was overweight and the extra pounds were holding him down and putting unneeded stress on the knee. Nuggets trainer Steve Hess immediately put Nene on a special diet and the Brazilian Big man dropped nearly 30 pounds as he played himself back into game shape while his numbers began to rise significantly. In November, Nene was only playing 16 minutes a game and was averaging eight points and four rebounds. His post game was slow, his quick and explosive dunking was absent, and his demeanor was just not the same. But in the next sixty days, Nene underwent an incredible overhaul and was averaging nearly 17 points and nine rebounds in over 30 minutes of action by the end of February.
The game that I think best sums up what Nene is truly capable of is the late March match-up with the Detroit Pistons. Big Brazil was absolutely incredible, not scoring his most points of the season, but overall he was a dominating force against another great power forward in Rasheed Wallace. ‘Sheed would have the last laugh as he sunk a 68-footer at the buzzer to force overtime, (not to mention the Nuggets lost the game), but Nene’s box score was astonishing. He finished by playing 47 minutes, scoring 21 points, snatching 17 rebounds including nine on the offensive glass, four assists, two blocks, two steals, and an efficient two turnovers.
With all that out on the table, I truly do believe that Nene is the third most valuable player on the Nuggets as of right now. He may become one of the best power forwards in the game in the next two or three years, but his potential is undeniable as he only turns twenty-five this September. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Nene becomes a 20/10 kind of force in this league by next year. He has all the intangibles that NBA GM’s dream about a power forward possessing. Big hands, quick feet, broad shoulders, and most importantly… an unbelievable work ethic.
And here is another thing to think about before I lay down my prescription for this off-season once the player report cards are finished. With Kenyon Martin essentially un-tradable, do not be surprised if Nene moves over to the center position so the Nuggets can start AI, Carmelo, Nene, and Kenyon after making a move to gain a legitimate starting point guard to round out this team. And as I was writing this, a comment was submitted by Jason who I can tell is already thinking what I’m thinking concerning making a move to make this team a REAL contender next season. But make no mistake; Nene is a cornerstone of where this team is headed.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Stevie B started 40 of the 49 games he was with the Nuggets and finished last season’s campaign with the best numbers of his four-year career. Talk about a turnaround, Steve played more minutes per game than ever before and his production skyrocketed to 8.3 points, 6.6 assists, and 2.5 rebounds. He was partially the starter because of the Andre Miller trade for AI and the Earl Boykins deal that landed him in Denver which left the Nuggets not having any other guards that could fit the bill, but nevertheless, those reasons do not take away from what Blake did for this team on such short notice. But is Steve the point guard of the future for the Nuggets? My answer to that question is an emphatic no!
Steve Blake may have had a very nice year for the Nuggets, but it is impossible to make the upgrade to elite team when Denver’s starting point guard happens to be the least talented, (not that he doesn‘t have talent), and/or least confident of the other four starters. The game of basketball just doesn’t work like that unfortunately and a team’s starting point guard must be an extension of the head coach on the floor with his confidence and calm. Two categories of which Steve Blake needs a major boost in.
But don’t get me all wrong here.
I still like Steve Blake’s overall game very much. He is a very safe ball handler and typically makes the correct play when it is there. My only problem is that he doesn’t command the team as a whole with the sense of confidence it needs to be commanded with. And you can’t blame him for that because with names like Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Nene, and the always dynamic Kenyon Martin returning it is going to take a proven veteran to take charge of that cast of characters. And I’m talking about the personality of a true veteran in every sense of the word. A guy who the long list of aforementioned characters respect and trust to command this team in the clutch when there are no timeouts and the game’s outcome in the balance. And that Nuggets Nation is not a knock on Steve Blake, but rather just the harsh reality of what it takes to start at point guard on a team that is trying to make the push into the upper echelon of the NBA.
With all that said I would love for the Nuggets to keep Stevie B for next season’s campaign as long as he can understand the greater goal of this team and realize his role within that greater concept. Everyone who follows this team knows that Blake is looking for a mid-level contract of about 5 million dollars for next season and the Nuggets can just not afford that for the services of Steve Blake. Now I understand that he has a family and needs to make the best financial decision for their futures, but sacrifices have to be made for things larger than immediate gains and if Steve Blake happens to be one of those sacrifices… c’est la vie.
On the one hand, I'm semi-disappointed that Camby will not be participating because USA Basketball could really use some defensive toughness in the middle. On the other, I'm happy that Marcus decided to decline USA Basketball’s invitation because I do not want to see the fragile backbone of this team end up like Pau Gasol; injured and not able to help the Nuggets next season.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
J.R. Smith wasted no time in showing his worth to the Denver Nuggets by averaging a combined 16.6 points for the months of November and December. He did so by shooting better than 40% from the field in both statistical categories and over 80% from the charity stripe. And what was so surprising to me, given how George Karl is such a stickler for fundamental play, was how he started out his career with the Nuggets playing nearly 30 minutes per game in the aforementioned months.
Then in the, "Little Grapple in the Big Apple", J.R. was gooned by Mardy Collins, body slammed Nate Robinson, and took a ten game break to start the new year.
Enter Allen Iverson.
J.R. was one of the Nuggets that saw their role drastically altered by the arrival of the Answer. For starters, J.R. was no longer a starter. Secondly, his minutes, three-point percentage, and scoring averages all dipped after his return from suspension and for the rest of the season. And most importantly, his confidence needed restructuring after finding an identity with the pre-Iverson Nuggets then to only have the entire dynamic of the team changed with the addition of a future Hall of Famer.
Not sure about my analysis? Here are J.R.’s numbers pre and post All-Star break. Before Vegas, J.R. was averaging 15.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 27.6 minutes of game time with shooting percentages of 44% from the field, 39% from downtown, and 82% from the free-throw line. After the midseason classic, J.R.’s numbers dipped tremendously to 7.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in just 15.5 minutes per game with shooting percentages of 43% from the field, 38% from the arch, and a disappointing 69% from the foul line. Are your sure now? Of course you are, that’s why you reading this!
But aside from all the numbers, the bright spots in J.R. Smith’s game were evident during the majority of the regular season. He was learning how to play fundamental defense, taking more, better shots than in previous years, and electrifying the crowd with his high-flying act at nearly every opportunity possible.
Then he relapsed into the same player that didn’t go to college and who doesn’t understand time and possession basketball as he defied George Karl in the postseason only to find himself subsequently benched for game five against the Spurs. All that hard work, all that progression, and all that confidence that he built early in the season with the Nuggets went crashing down to ground zero. He had made the immature move of going against the game plans of one of the most notoriously stubborn coaches in the game and now faces the challenge of finding his way back into the good graces of Furious George in next year’s campaign.
But I for one am happy to have J.R. Smith on the Nuggets because he gives us a player who can come off the bench and absolutely light it up. He brings athleticism, three-point shooting, and charisma to this team, but what he needs to abandon is the immaturity of the high school game and realize that this is the NB-friggin-A. Stop holding up the “3” and spinning around when you hit one and act like you have done it a million times before. Listen to the coaching staff; they are there for reason. Use that same quickness that you break down your opponent on offense with on the defensive end to put the clamps on somebody. And most importantly, do not take three-pointers from off the dribble with large chunks of time still on the shot clock!
Now with all that said, I think that if J.R. heeds some of the advice in this player report card that he will have a long and bright future with the Nuggets. It will surely take some effort on this part, and some patience on behalf of George Karl, but I really do have the confidence in J.R. that he does want to become more than just a novelty act in this league. So, my final conclusion is this: The choice is solely up to J.R. and nobody else. He is the only person that can make the decision to evolve as a basketball player and fully realize his potential or he can choose to remain dancing to the rhythm of his own beat and surely be shipped off to be someone else’s headache in another city with another team. And Lord knows I want the first of those scenarios to play out for the Denver Nuggets!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
What made all the difference in Linas’s game was the confidence that he built throughout the suspensions which in turn brought him more playing time. Linas was really struggling in early November with averages of less than two points in less than ten minutes of action a night. He wasn’t shooting the ball with very much consistency, (22% from the field and 14% from 3-point land), and his overall game suffered. But a funny thing happened in late December (and no I’m not talking about Nate Robinson’s wrestling act). Carmelo Anthony was suspended for a month and Linas was instantly playing a lot more minutes in his absence.
From that point on Linas was playing around 15 minutes a game and his shooting percentages raised dramatically. Over the duration of Anthony’s absence Linas shot over 40% from the field and better than 34% from the downtown! He was taking the ball to the rim with more regularity and because of his explosive finishing capabilities found opposing players giving him more room on defense allowing him to get better three-point opportunities.
But Linas wasn’t yet content with his small step in the right direction. His confidence was just beginning to grow. And so was “Kleiza Mania”.
I’m coining the term above for the stretch of games during the months of February and March because LK’s demeanor changed and he was drawing a very strong following from the Nuggets Nation because of his absolutely electrifying performances. In February alone Linas scored in double figures six times, including four straight games in which the Nuggets won three out of four.
And as Linas’s confidence grew, so did “Kleiza Mania”.
In the month of March the Nuggets played a season-high 15 games. And in those 15 games, Linas scored in double figures in nine of those 15 including a career-high 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in the midst of a five-game Nuggets winning streak! At this point in the season Linas was averaging over 12 points and nearly five boards in over 25 minutes of playing time and easily playing the best basketball of his young career. It should also be noted that Linas raised his shooting percentages to over 40% in both statistical categories for this stretch and was playing much stronger defense too!
Obviously at this point Nuggets management was looking pretty wise for exercising a third year extension on Linas back in October. Now Linas is going to be able to continue to come off the bench for Carmelo Anthony and give the Nuggets a legitimate reserve player who can compensate when the All-Star needs a blow.
And at a modest $845,360 earned in salary for 2007 he presents no problem for the Nuggets to hang onto him and to continue to see what Linas can grow into.
I feel that Linas’s performances this season really solidified his position as one of the first players off George Karl’s bench next year. He grew by leaps and bounds in what was a bit of a trial by fire this season. More importantly he found a way to sustain the confidence that was gained during the suspensions and meshed it perfectly with additions of AI and Carmelo’s return.
Admit it now in the comments section if you too were guilty of “Kleiza Mania”.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Najera posted averages of 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds while appearing in a career-high 75 games with a career-high 36 starts. His season-high point total was 18 and he grabbed eleven boards twice in December.
My take on the game of Eduardo is this; while he doesn’t make too many mistakes. He also doesn’t make much of a statistical impact either. Sure he is good for a couple of long rebound tap-outs, a charge or two, and some reverse lay-ups in almost every game, but my only gripe about Najera, or should I say the Nuggets, is that he is often times called upon too early and asked to do too much. In my honest assessment, he is a guy that should be coming off the bench third, fourth, or even as far down as fifth for the Nuggets as a fire starter and an emotional boost late in the first quarter.
However, I will say that as a fire starter or an emotional booster he is one of the guys that did pick the Nuggets out of the gutter on more than a few occasions. The manic Nuggets have a pattern of falling asleep at the wheel in the second and third quarters and Eduardo Najera, on numerous occasions, was the guy that dove into the stands for loose balls, took a charge, or set a strong screen that resuscitated any resemblance of emotion back into the Nuggets. Maybe that’s why he has found a cult following in Denver?
The only other obvious problem that I can point to with Eduardo Najera is that he is too small to handle a strong power forward in the blocks and too slow to guard a bouncy small forward. In this regard, he is a bit of a ‘tweener. Other than that you have to love the hustle, dedication, and workman mentality that he brings to the team. He is a guy who you never have to worry about being in a negative light in the media. If anything, he might be a touch too nice and soft spoken!
Eduardo Najera earned $4,571,428 in salary for 2007. This makes him one of the more costly role players the Nuggets currently have on the roster, and with the looming salary cap nightmare on the horizon in addition to the development of Linas Kleiza, don’t be surprised if Eduardo is traded this off-season purely to create some financial maneuverability and to open up some playing time for LK.
In 2006-07, Evans played in the fewest amount of games of his five-year career by only registering appearances in 66 games with eleven starts. In addition, Reggie also tied his career-low in average playing time with 17.1 minutes. His overall numbers were relatively on par for his career totals, (4.9 points and 7.0 rebounds), but there is a bigger story going on with Reggie Evans. Out of the 66 games he appeared in, 16 of those appearances were for what many would label, “garbage minutes”, and were for less than ten minutes per.
The main problem that I see with Reggie Evans is that he is very one dimensional on the offensive end. On the left side of the block, he is very capable of creating his own lay-up with a series of head-fakes that are usually intended for setting up an up-and-under move, but other than that single area on the offensive end, Reggie is relatively uncomfortable. The left handed Evans has a hard time making even the shortest of shots on the right hand side, (even off the offensive glass), and is horrendous from the free-throw line with a sub .500 percentage.
So, with the pending return of the untradable Kenyon Martin, the emergence of Nene, and the fan favorite Eduardo Najera all clogging up the four spot, I can not find any reason why the Nuggets would want to keep Reggie Evans for the duration of his five-year contract. He earned $4,000,000 big ones for his services last year, just below the mid-level exception, and could be a very intriguing trade for any team down at the bottom of the rebounding barrel. I’ll have more on how I think the Nuggets should wheel and deal this off-season, but Reggie Evans is definitely one of the more valuable commodities on their roster and if were to be combined with say, an unnamed starter, could fetch exactly what this team is lacking. As for what this team is lacking, feel free to discuss that topic in the comments section. I’m anxiously awaiting what all of you think is the absent major component.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
For starters, Yakhouba played in 64 games, including 19 starts, for the Nuggets. In the first month of the season Diawara averaged a respectable 5.3 points, one assist, and 1.7 rebounds, and followed up November’s performance by raising his digits to 5.7 points, 1.2 assists, and 2.9 rebounds in December. At this point all things looked to be right on schedule for the Yak, but with the trades of Andre Miller for Allen Iverson and Earl Boykins for Steve Blake, Diawara was going to have his minutes cut substantially and his numbers were going to dip considerably before he became an almost non-existent member of this team.
Why you might ask? Well, seeing how Allen Iverson plays 40-plus minutes a night, Steve Blake was an upgrade on defense from Earl Boykins, and J.R. Smith learning a couple of fundamentals here and there all contributed to Diawara’s added pine time. And over the course of the season, the Yak’s offensive drawbacks didn’t help his case for more minutes either.
Diawara shot a dismal 49-170, (28%), from downtown, 100-292, (34%) from the field, and 35-53, (66%), from the free-throw line on the season. But what I still feel was the most disappointing aspect of Diawara’s game was his rebounding. He was a post player at the University of Pepperdine and I expected the 6’7”/230lb Yak to be able to hit the boards a lot harder than he did. However, I will mention that he did have one spectacular game on January 2nd, 2007 when he exploded for a career-high with 23 points and six rebounds against the 76ers.
But as the season went on, Diawara’s minutes continued to be allocated to others off the Denver bench and soon he would become a rare sight. He didn’t play in three games in February, seven games in March, six games in April, and only snuck in for one minute of game five against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs.
However, please don’t feel too bad for him. Yakhouba earned $412,718 in salary for 2007.
The question now becomes whether or not the Nuggets should resign the Yak for another year. His contract is low enough to justify keeping him at the end of the bench for nights when the opposing team’s best player happens to be a guard, but his offense is, shall we say, lacking that NBA level refinement. On the one hand I think that if Yakhouba can be our eleventh or twelfth man than the Nuggets have done a pretty good job of keeping a guy that has some very specialized skills, but on the other, part of me says that there has to be another player out there who can bring a more well-rounded game to the end of our bench. Ultimately, specialists are great, but when you don’t require their services… they are especially easy to forget about.
Where does everyone else stand on ‘Khouba?
Friday, May 11, 2007
In the 2006-07 season with the Denver Nuggets, DerMarr once again saw his game appearances dwindle from 71 games in 04-05, to 58 games in 05-06, down to only 39 games in last season’s campaign. I’m also sorry to report that DJ’s numbers from last season are his lowest of his six-year career. Johnson posted meager averages of 3.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, and .4 of an assist in 10.7 minutes an appearance. And what makes those numbers seem even worse is how DerMarr failed to make the impact on defense that has been seen in years past.
For the most part DerMarr Johnson could be seen poking elbows with Jamal Sampson at the end of the bench this season. My assessment is Coach George Karl either doesn’t have the faith in DerMarr’s game that he can be a solid contributor or that DerMarr himself doesn’t have the desire to seize the opportunity at hand. Because as far as I have seen, (practices, games, and dating back to college), DerMarr has the raw ability to be a Scottie Pippen-esque point-forward in this league, but for some reason(s) or another just hasn’t made that extra push to take himself from being an inconsistent contributor to a full-time go-to guy.
DerMarr Johnson earned $744,551 in salary for 2007.
After being a late sign this past season I would be very surprised if DerMarr is back wth the Nuggets next year. I strongly believe that the Nuggets have to address some of the dead weight on their bench, and along with Sampson, DerMarr should be packaged up and given a fresh start somewhere else. Nothing personal, but the NBA is a business and DJ is just not fitting in with what the Nuggets are trying accomplish.
Carmelo had his best season statistically with averages of 28.9 points (a career-high), 3.8 assists (also a career-high), and 6 rebounds (tying a career-high), but what I think was the most drastic change in Carmelo’s game was the cerebralness of which he played with without the ball. ‘Melo is understanding that his movement away from the action is just as critical to getting open shots as is being able to take his man off the dribble and his scoring average proved just that. He also noticeably raised his game on the defensive end of the floor, made smarter decisions with the ball, and despite being suspended for 15 games led the league in scoring for 75% of the regular season.
This is the second time in Anthony’s four-year career that he has been named to the All-NBA third team and caps off a season where he made his first All-Star appearance. Carmelo also recorded his first triple-double of his career to go along nicely with five double-doubles of which all came after the month of February.
Congratulations to Carmelo Anthony on a great season!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
When he was signed this previous off-season the report was that he was one of, “George Karl’s guys”, dating back to 2002 in his rookie season with Milwaukee. The good news about Jamal Sampson is that he just missed tying a career-high in games played with 22, but the bad news is it was for less than six minutes per appearance and for meager averages of 1.1 points, (and I use the plural sense of that word very liberally), 2.2 rebounds, and not even large enough of a percentage of an assist to mention. So much for being, “One of George Karl’s guys” parlaying into playing time.
My honest take on Jamal is that I still don’t even know what this 6’11”, 240 pounder can do! I would have liked to see whether or not he could have been a contributor, but once again it was a season with the best seats in the house for Sampson. On that same note, and as you will see in the rest of these player report cards, the Nuggets need to drop some of the dead weight on this bench and I am sorry to say that Mark Warkentien and his management crew would be well advised to shop Sampson around this off-season in combination with a couple of other not-so often utilized players in hopes of being able to play more than two or three deep come playoff time.
Jamal earned $774,551 in salary for 2007.
Anybody looking for a very well rested big man?
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Often times when human beings are brought up with hardship they learn early how to do things right and seeing how Gilmore was one of ten children of a fisherman and a homemaker. He quickly learned how to utilize his height on the basketball court at a young age. Artis was already 6’5” at the age of fifteen, but it wasn’t until he was 6’10” as a high school senior that Gilmore moved from his rural hometown of Chipley, Florida to Dothan, Alabama to take the basketball world by storm at Carver High School where he was a third-team high school All-American.
Artis still must have been a small town guy at this point in his career because instead of choosing to attend a much larger educational institution. He rather chose to attend two years at Gardner-Webb Junior College in Boiling Springs, North Carolina where he would finish growing to a full 7’2” and fill-out to 245lbs. Now at full size, strength, and with two years of junior college ball underneath his belt, Gilmore was ready to take a relatively unknown Jacksonville University to the main stage of the collegiate game.
While at Jacksonville for two more years Gilmore put up absolutely astounding numbers by today’s college standards and led the Dolphins to a 27-2 record before losing to the UCLA Bruins in the championship game of 1971. How good were A-Train’s numbers you might ask? Well, aside from being one of only eight players to ever average a 20/20 in scoring and rebounding for their college career and finishing with the NCAA’s highest all-time rebounding average of 22.7 rebounds per game. Gilmore also showcased his dominance equally in both categories in both separate years at Jacksonville. In his junior season, the A-Train averaged more points than rebounds with nightly averages of 26.5 points while grabbing 22.2 rebounds before dedicating himself even more to the glass in his senior year by averaging more rebounds than points with the typical night working out to 23.2 boards and 21.9 points.
Obviously at this point Artis Gilmore was a force to be reckoned with, but it was the way that the giant dominated the game that truly made him special. Gilmore had a tremendously tender touch around the basket. Offensively, he was dangerous with a baby hook from anywhere from inside ten feet and the A-Train possessed a mid-range jumper that had ABA and NBA GM’s drooling. In addition to his refined offensive game, Gilmore was game-changing shot blocker and even more devastating force to the opposition’s center. Although they didn’t keep track of blocked shots back then, trust me when I say that Gilmore made even the most fearless of slashers think twice before challenging his size or strength.
So, when Artis was ready to take his game to the professional ranks he created quite an auction-like atmosphere between ABA and NBA franchises. Nearly everybody in the professional game wanted a piece of Gilmore, but when the chips were on the line, it was the Kentucky Colonels that decided to ante up. The ABA Colonels signed Gilmore to a 10-year, 2.5 million dollar contract which would begin paying off for Kentucky immediately.
In the A-Train’s first professional season he would have an impact not seen since the great Wilt Chamberlain nearly a decade before. With the addition of the big man, the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels set a league record with 68 wins to only 16 defeats! And what makes that tremendous team accomplish even more sweet is how Gilmore not only walked away with the ABA’s Rookie of the Year award with averages of 23.8 points (tenth league wide), 17.8 rebounds (first league wide), and shot an amazingly efficient 59.8% from the field (also good for best in the league), but how he also bagged the league’s MVP too!
In the next five years, the A-Train would become a staple on the ABA All-Star team, but the only thing missing at this point in Gilmore’s career were the championship accolades and he would have to wait until 1974-75 before raising the ABA crown. In dramatic fashion, the Colonels defeated the Indiana Pacers in five games in a series geared towards revenge from the season before with Artis leading the way. The A-Train didn’t have his best year offensively in that championship campaign, (he did that in the 1975-76 season with an average of 24.6 points before the ABA was absolved by the NBA that next year), but what he did do was find the right combination of rebounding and scoring with averages of 23.6 points and 16.2 boards that led the Colonels all the way. But what is even more special about Gilmore, along with others of this era and league, is how they had proven that the ABA was more than a run-and-gun league full of dunkers and long range shooters and how that legitimacy played a pivotal role in the league’s top four teams being bought by the NBA. It is in this sense that Gilmore was truly one of the founding fathers of the NBA as we all know it today.
The next stop in Gilmore’s basketball career was to be the first pick in the dispersal draft due to the merger of the two leagues and to continue playing for the Chicago Bulls starting in 1976.
Although his numbers were slightly lower than previously in the ABA, Gilmore continued to be a solid contributor for many years to come. He would make six NBA All-Star appearances in total and still holds the NBA's career field goal percentage mark of .582, but his stay in Chicago would be one with very few playoff runs and even less success in the postseason. After six seasons in Chicago the A-Train would be traded in 1982 to the San Antonio Spurs where he played for five more years and averaged a double-double in four out of the five years of basketball services. However, the championship level would elude Gilmore for the rest of his pro career in the NBA.
Some disliked his game because they felt it lacked intensity, but after watching a ton of ABA footage and doing some research on the A-Train I think that his demeanor was not lacking in intensity, but rather was a controlled power game that should be mimicked by some of today’s less than fundamental centers. Artis Gilmore would conclude his professional career as the ABA’s all-time leading shot blocker and professional basketball’s (NBA and ABA totals combined) third all-time leading eraser (he has since fallen a bit, but nevertheless, was still a force). He is professional basketball’s fifth all-time leading rebounder with 16,330 boards, fifth in professional basketball’s minutes played all-time with 47,134 minutes, and is the 17th all-time scorer in professional basketball’s history with a career total of 24,941 points.
And as far as career averages are concerned, Artis Gilmore’s are about as solid as they come. A-Train can boast ABA regular season averages of 22.3 points and 17.1 boards and NBA career averages of 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds. The A-train also played in an amazing 670 consecutive games and holds the ABA single-season record for the most blocked shots (422), the all-time ABA rebounds in a single game record with an astounding 40 boards, while also winning 4 out of 5 ABA rebounding titles. Artis was even a participant in the very first dunk contest ever at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado in 1976. He was an eleven-time All-Star throughout his 17-year pro career, which included the 1974 ABA All-Star game MVP, and is truly a model of well-rounded greatness for many of today’s young players to learn from. And for all the reasons above, Artis Gilmore is this installment of Historical Glimpses.