Tag Archives: Charles Barkley

NBA Needs to Drastically Crack Down on “Resting”

I guess the Warriors schedule is too hard for a professional athlete. Photo Credit: NBA.COM

When the 2016-2017 NBA schedule was released and the schedule makers blessed us with a March 11th game where the San Antonio Spurs would host the Golden State Warriors in a late season push for the number one seed, it was expected to be the most interesting and viewed regular season meeting this side of each of the Kevin Durant versus Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder meetings. Especially after the 29-point manhandling the Spurs put on the defending Western Conference Champions on opening night with their new Big Four.

A potential preview of the 2017 Western Conference Finals was ruined when Warriors coach Steve Kerr decided to “rest” the healthy Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, with Kevin Durant already out with a Grade 2 MCL injury in his left knee, because Golden State was on the second night of back-to-back games and having played ten games in the last seventeen days (February 23rd to March 11th). Seven of those were on the road, and the last four of that streak in five days.

Add to that that Kawhi Leonard (concussion protocol) and LaMarcus Aldridge (minor heart arrhythmia) also missed the game killed any excitement the league was building by having these two juggernauts face off in primetime in the first season of their highly promoted venture with ABC/ESPN to broadcast the most compelling games of the week on Saturday nights.

Instead we got an unwatchable game that was a 20-point blowout at halftime, with a final score of 107-85 San Antonio, while the Warriors trotted out a bunch of dudes you wouldn’t watch play pick-up at the playground if you just happened to be walking by.

This was clearly Kerr’s attempt to throw up a middle finger at the Association and its schedule makers. He could have easily looked ahead and staggered resting his top guys earlier in the streak when they played inferior teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, with an eye on a big finish to end the 10-game span at full strength against the Spurs. Instead he basically said “F*** You” to anyone who cared about the game.

It’s time for Commissioner Silver to do something drastic end this trend. This isn’t good for the sport, the fans and business.

Why should fans pay hundreds and thousands of their hard earned dollars on tickets, travel, concessions and merchandise at any NBA game with the thought in the back of their mind they may or may not get to see their favorite player play or favorite team at full strength?

And why should fans across the country, that can’t attend the game in person, continue to pay a premium for League Pass and carve out time in their schedule to watch D-League quality?

So here’s what Commissioner Silver should do, NEEDS to do.

First, reduce the schedule to 65 games, similar to the format from 2011-2012 when the league was in a lockout that delayed the season. I’m cool if the owners want to take some money back from the players because of this, serves them right. Just back loading key divisional and conference games that will affect playoff seeding near the end of the season like the NFL did a couple of seasons ago isn’t working.

Limit preseason games if you have to as well, and spread the 65-games out over late October to mid April, and eliminate back to backs as well as three games in four night deals, giving no coach or player an excuse to “rest.”

Finally, heavily fine players that aren’t active for any reason other then a disclosed and diagnosed injury if they continue to “rest”. Instead of levying a hefty fine on teams like the one given to the Spurs when Coach Gregg Popovich did something similar as Kerr against the Miami Heat in 2013, dock from their salary cap which will hurt their ability to build a competitive roster. That will fix it.

Resting healthy players is also an insult to the history of the game and past players that so many of today’s players say inspired them. As ESPN/ABC analyst Michael Wilbon, said on ABC during Halftime of the Spurs-Warriors game, “twenty years ago forty-four NBA players played all 82 games. Last season only 18 players played all 82.”

For more perspective, arguably the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan played every game scheduled in a season nine of his fifteen seasons, including his final season at age 39-40. He also played 81 and 80 games two other seasons. By comparison, LeBron James, the best player in today’s era, has NEVER played all 82 games and has only reached 80 games two times in his fourteen-year career.

Today’s players are supposed to have better nutrition and better training, so what’s the problem?

How healthy and great would Kobe Bryant have played at the end of his 20-year career if he took so many nights off?

This is another reason why Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and other legends of the game say today’s players are soft. And I’m starting to think they’re right.

Jalen Rose, Wilbon’s co-analyst on ABC’s Halftime show hosted by Sage Steele, also a 13-year NBA vet, pointed out that the Association is followed on Twitter more than any other sports league, the NBA also has thirteen current players followed on the social media site that are in the Top 100, while the NFL has none despite being the most popular sport in America. The NBA also has two current players in the Top 5 on the Forbes Endorsement list while the NFL has none.

NBA players are more popular and make more money based off their notoriety than any other sport. So figuratively and financially speaking, they’re spitting in the face of those who they’ve made their fame and fortune off of, the Consumer.

Mister Silver, you’re the only one that can fix it. You’re the most proactive leader in sports, so I trust that you will. Until then, hopefully when these two meet again on March 29th we’ll get something closer to what we expect to see come playoff time. But I doubt it. Got rest up for that playoff run.

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MJ Played Against and Beat Better Competition

The debate between Jordan & James continues to heat up. The focus now is on the competition they faced.

Almost since the moment the clock hit triple zeros in game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, the LeBron James versus Michael Jordan conversations have only intensified. And it’s not going to change any time soon. So if you’re annoyed and tired of the topic, no matter whose side you’re on, get used to it. Unless you plan on avoiding the litany of debate shows on ESPN and Fox Sports.

The latest chapter is a hypothetical about how and when LeBron will take over as the Greatest Of All Time from MJ.

Case in point, last week Fox Sports One NBA Analyst Chris Broussard said on Fox Sports’ “Undisputed with Skip and Shannon”, that it will happen if James wins the next two NBA Championships, for a Cavs three-peat, giving him five total championship rings. The prevalent thought is that he would’ve beaten a better more talented team in the Golden State Warriors with four perennial all-stars. Assuming the Dubs make it to the Finals four consecutive season as well. Broussard, as well as Shannon Sharpe, said MJ “didn’t beat anyone” to win his titles, and that the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons and “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers were old and worn out by the time those Chicago Bulls teams reached their peak. I think that’s as ridiculous of a hot take as I’ve ever heard.

If I were on the show, I would’ve fired back… “were the Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed & Ben Wallace-led Pistons who had played in five consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, two NBA Finals, winning one (2004), before losing to the ’07 Cleveland Cavs old?”

The previous variable used to compare the two use to be that LBJ accomplished more at a younger age than MJ, which I always thought was dumb because one came straight out of high school, while the other played three years of college ball. The only fair comparison would be years of service which I did back in 2013. So now in order to prop James’ legacy up, people want to diminish the competition Jordan faced.

Not only did those 90’s Bulls beat very good teams in the Finals, they also beat top competition in the Eastern Conference playoffs to get to the championship round. Something LeBron hasn’t had to do in his six-year Eastern Conference title runs, aside from playing against the big four in Boston of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.

Here’s a look at the team’s, Jordan’s Bulls had to conquer on their title runs…

After sweeping the 39-43 Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks in three games, The 1991 Bulls beat the Charles Barkley-led Philadelphia 76ers four games to one in the conference semifinals. Then they swept the 50-32 Isiah Thomas-led, two-time defending NBA World Champion Detroit Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals. Waiting for them was the 58-24 Magic Johnson-led and five-time NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers who just happened to beat the team with the best record in the Association that season, the 63-19 Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trailblazers in six games. Of course, we all remembered what happened in the Finals. Bulls over Lakers in five, and if it weren’t for a last second jumper by Jordan that rimmed out in game one, they would’ve swept the team of the ’80’s.

The 1992 Bulls team challenged the 70-win mark finishing the season at 67-15. After sweeping the young Miami Heat 3-0 in the first round, The Bulls went to a grueling seven games with Patrick Ewing’s 51-31 Knicks in the conference semifinals. Chicago lost home court advantage in game one, before coming back to win the series. In the conference finals they faced a 57-25 Cleveland Cavaliers team with All-Stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. The Bulls beat the Cavs in six.

In the Finals they faced the 57-25 Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trailblazers, who brought back their key nucleus from the same team that had the NBA’s best regular season record the year before and had lost in the 1990 NBA Finals. Some of those names; Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Danny Ainge who won two titles with Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics in the 1980’s. It took those Bulls six games and a 15-point 4th-quarter comeback to win the series.

In 1993 the Bulls went into the playoffs as the second seed. They swept their first two rounds 3-0 over the 43-39 Dominique Wilkins-led Atlanta Hawks, and 4-0 over the 54-28 Cleveland Cavaliers who had three All-Stars in Price, Daugherty and Larry Nance. In the Conference Finals they met up again with the Knicks who had the second best record in the NBA at 60-22 and the number one seed in the East. Chicago dropped the first two games in Madison Square Garden, you may remember the stories that Jordan had went over to gamble in New Jersey in between those first two games. However, the Bulls charged back from the 0-2 deficit to beat their nemesis in six games.

In the Finals they faced the 62-20 Phoenix Suns, with the League Most Valuable Player in Charles Barkley. Most say this is the best team the Bulls faced in their six Championship seasons. The Suns had three All-Stars in Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle. They also had that Danny Ainge guy. Chicago never trailed in the series and was up 3-1 after four-games, it took them a John Paxson three-pointer with just over 3 seconds in the 4th-quarter to win the series 4-2 for their first three-peat.

Flash forward three years and the 1995-96 season and the Bulls set the single season record at 72-10. In the playoffs they swept the 42-20 Miami Heat of Alonzo Mourning and coached by their old foe from New York, Pat Riley. In the second round they faced another familiar foe in the Knicks who were 47-35 in the regular season. Chicago beat New York 4-1 in a physical series without Sixth Man of the Year Toni Kukoc for two games. In the Conference Finals they faced the 60-22 defending Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic, led by All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, and won the series in four games.

In the Finals they defeated the 64-18 Seattle Supersonics with All-Stars Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf, coached by George Karl who is the fifth winningest coach in NBA history. The Bulls went up 3-0, and dropped games four and five at Key Arena, before winning the series in game six back in the United Center.

In the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals they faced the 64-18 and 62-20 Utah Jazz led by future Hall of Famers Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jerry Sloan. The Bulls won each series 4-2 to capture titles five and six for their second three-peat. But look at the teams they faced in the two playoffs before the finals.

In the ’97 playoffs they swept a young 44-38 Washington Bullets team with Chris Webber and Juwan Howard 3-0 in the first round, next the 56-26 Atlanta Hawks with Dikembe Mutombo, Christian Laettner and Steve Smith 4-1, before knocking off the 61-21 Miami Heat with Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn and Dan Majerle, 4-1.

In the ’98 playoffs they swept the 43-39 New Jersey Nets 3-0 in the first round, defeated the 51-31 Charlotte Hornets led by All-Star Game MVP Glen Rice 4-1, before winning an epic seven game series against Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Jalen Rose and the 58-24 Indiana Pacers coached by Larry Bird.

So as you can see, not only did Jordan’s teams beat historically great competition in the Finals, they also beat the other marquee teams in the league at that time.

It’s baffling to me that many are trying to diminish Jordan’s legend in an attempt to bolster James’ legacy. If you haven’t figured it out, I am on the Jordan side of these debates, but I can admit his “Airness'” legacy has grown “Paul Bunyon-like” in the nearly two decades since his last championship with the Bulls. But to say his competitors were far inferior than the ones LBJ faces is absurd. There are more teams in the Association now then when Jordan was in his prime, which means the talent is more spread out across the league. However you try to slice it, MJ played against better comp.

The Best NBA Teams TO NOT Win a Title

 

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Shaq and Penny were supposed to be the 1990’s version of Kareem and Magic.

The 1994-1996 Orlando Magic were one of most popular teams in NBA history in the last 35 years. As they are immortalized in the most recent ESPN 30 for 30, which was an excellent time capsule of my favorite team from my childhood.

It’s hard to believe this team led by Shaq and Penny didn’t stick together and win several Larry O’Brien trophies. As Shaq said in the film, they were Shaq and Kobe, before Shaq and Kobe. At the time in the mid-90s, they were often affectionately called the new version of Magic and Kareem.

IMG_3879As I’m watching the film, I can’t help but think of other great teams that didn’t win a title. In addition to the Magic of the 90’s, here are my best teams of the last 35 NBA seasons to not win a title.

The 1992-1995 Charles Barkley led Phoenix Suns. In 1992-1993, his first season in the desert, “Sir Charles”, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle won a league high 62 games and Barkley took home league MVP over Michael Jordan. The Suns lost in a tough 6-game series to the Chicago Bulls—a theme that will be repeated a couple times on this list—in the NBA Finals that included an epic three-overtime game 3 victory. That would be the closest this group would come to a championship.

In 1993-94 and 1994-95, after winning 56 and 59 games respectively, the Suns would lose in the Western Conference Semifinals to eventual Champions the Houston Rockets and NBA MVP Hakeem Olajuwon, after leading both series 3-1.

The 1996-1999 Stockton to Malone Utah Jazz made back-to-back NBA Finals in 97 and 98 before losing to…. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 6-games. Those teams won 64 and 62 games, respectively. Like Barkley in 1993, Malone took home the NBA MVP over Jordan in 1997, a loss MJ took personal since he had just led the Bulls to a 69-13 regular season. With Jordan retired, the Jazz were the overwhelming favorites to win the championship in the 1999 Lockout Shortened season following their two Finals losses. Utah won 37 of 50 games that season, but went out in the Western Conference Semifinals 2-4 to a Portland Trailblazers team that lost to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

The 1985-86 twin towers of Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon led Houston Rockets. No one can blame this team for losing in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics in 6-games (2-4). The original Celtics Big 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish are arguably one of the greatest teams of all-time. The hold the record for home wins in a season at 40-1, and won a league high 67 wins that year.

The Rockets won 51-games this season and knocked off the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s in 5-games (4-1).

Following the 85-86 season, Houston would take several steps back. In 86-87, they won 42 games and lost in the Western Conference Semifinals 2-4 to the lowered seeded Seattle Supersonics, followed by four consecutive 1st round series losses. Ralph Sampson’s promising career was derailed by injuries, and “The Dream” had to change his name to Hakeem to get his two rings (’94 & ’95) and 1994 NBA MVP. I’m joking.

For you young fans, the father of rising Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Andrew Wiggins, Mitchell, was a key reserve on this team.

The 1993-1994 Shawn Kemp-Gary Payton led Seattle Supersonics won a league best 63 games, and were primed to take over the title left by Michael Jordan’s first retirement to play baseball. Instead, the Sonics became the first number one seed to lose to an eighth seed in the playoffs 2-3 back when the first round was a best of five series.

The Sonics would bounce back and finally make the NBA Finals in 1996, but ran into a rejuvenated Jordan and the 72-10 Bulls. After going down 3-0, Seattle rallied back to lose in 6-games. They followed their Finals appearance with back-to-back Western Conference Semifinals loses after winning 57 and 61 games respectively, even after trading Shawn Kemp away to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1997 offseason. They would miss the playoffs in the 1999 season, and the closest they’ve come to a title since, was the 2011-2012 Oklahoma City Thunder who lost to the Miami Heat 1-4.

The 1990’s Patrick Ewing led New York Knicks’ chances began and ended with the start, and emergence of two of the greatest dynasties the Association has ever seen. Like a few others on this list, that guy Michael Jordan and his Bulls—told you there was a theme—curtailed any chances of them winning a title by beating them in 4 grueling, physical series in the decade (’91 1st. round 0-3, ’92 Semifinals 3-4, ’93 Conference Finals 3-4, ’96 Semifinals 1-4).

When 23 in red and black retired in 1993, many assumed Ewing would lead them to New York’s first title since 1973. While they finally made it to the Finals, they would go on to lose to Olajuwon’s Rockets in seven games (3-4) for their first of two ‘chips.

Then MJ returned, and knocked them out again. In 1999 during the Lockout shortened season, with an injured Ewing sitting out, Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson and Alan Houston led Knicks became the first ever 8th seed to make the Finals where they ran into Tim Duncan and David Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs and lost 1-4. New York hasn’t made it past the Conference Semifinals since ’12-13.

The Jason Kidd led New Jersey Nets of the early 2000s. Kidd came over from Phoenix in a 2001 offseason trade for Stephon Marbury and immediately transformed the lowly Nets from a 26 win lottery bound team into title contenders. New Jersey boosted their win total to 52 games and took home the Atlantic Division title. But like their tri-state area companion Knicks, they ran into two dynasties.

Their first Finals appearance was a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Shaq-Kobe Los Angeles Lakers on their way to their third consecutive championship. The following season, the Nets made it back to the Finals after winning 49 games in the regular season, but ran into Tim Duncan, David Robinson and the Spurs. San Antonio beat the Nets in 6-games (2-4) on their way to their 2nd Championship, they would go on to win 5 total. The Nets returned to the Conference Semifinals where they faced a Detroit Pistons team they knocked off twice on their way to Eastern Conference titles. The Piston went on to win the championship that season, the Nets haven’t made past the conference semifinals since.

The 2009 LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers. LBJ miraculously led the 2007 Cavs to the NBA Finals after beating a Detroit Pistons team that had appeared in seven consecutive Eastern Conference finals, winning a title, and 2 Eastern Conference Championships along the way.

The ’09 Cavaliers won a league high 66 games, LeBron won the first of his four NBA MVP’s in a landslide, and appeared headed towards a highly anticipated matchup between James and Kobe Bryant in the Finals. Cleveland swept the first two rounds of the playoffs, But the Orlando Magic led by Dwight Howard, fresh off their 7-game series victory over the Kevin Garnett-less defending Champion Boston Celtics, dominated Cleveland and won the series in 6-games (2-4). The following season the Cavs won 61 games and LeBron another MVP, but they lost in the conference semifinals to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics.

In the offseason following that loss, James made his “Decision” to go to South Beach and the Cavs suffered through four losing seasons where they won as little as 19 games and as many as 33, before James returned and took them back to the Finals in his first season back in “The Land”, finishing with a 6-game series loss to the Golden State Warriors.