Tag Archives: San Antonio Spurs

Remembering The Great NBA Lockout Of 1998

I’ve come to believe that I don’t have to worry about football not happening this year, but I’m afraid I’m a long ways from feeling that about basketball. I’ve only got my ear semi-firmly pressed to the ground when it comes to sports chatter, but the majority of news you hear about the NFL is that a deal will ultimately get done. The debate seems to be more about how much training camp time will get cut and at most, will we lose any preseason games? On the NBA front, it’s more about whether they’ll lose a half or a whole season. I am confident that it’s now time for us to prepare for a significantly shortened 2011-2012 season. A great way to do that is to revisit the last season in which a work stoppage wiped out half the season. 1998 saw no basketball games played until February of 99, and when play finally resumed, it was a pretty dreadful season. The Kings were the top scoring team, and the only one to average triple digits, with an enormous 100.2 ppg. Nine or ten teams averaged less than 90 ppg. It’s safe to say that the rust showed. But a few things happened that turned out to set major changes of the tides in motion in the NBA that season. Can we expect similar changing of the guards this season? Let’s revisit some of the top storylines from the 1999 season…

The Spurs won their first NBA Championship, and of course, they’d go on to win three more after that. It was their second year with the short-lived twin towers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The Spurs were contenders in the years before, with the exception of the lost season of 96-97, which enabled them to land Tim Duncan in the draft. The strike-shortened 1999 season was just what they needed to get over the hump. The Spurs have been a dynasty ever since. In fact, 1999 was the last time the Spurs failed to win 50 games in a season. That’s tough to do when they only played 50 games that year.

Who could it be this year? Maybe the Cavaliers, perhaps? They spent the decade building a contender, but then their star player was lost. It only took the Spurs one year to turn it around, so why should we expect anything different from Cleveland? Like San Antonio, they were fortunate enough to land the number one pick and get a sure-fire franchise player. Or, do you disagree? Add to that, they had the fourth pick too, and got a perennial all-star there. Oh, don’t like that one either? Alright, so maybe they’re a longer shot to win it all this year, but I bet there will be one similarity there. Antawn Jamison’s 11-12 season will look a lot like Sean Elliott’s 98-99 year.

Michael Jordan was no longer there. His Airness retired after notching a second three-peat from 96 to 98. The Bulls immediately fell to the bottom of the standings, losing an unprecedented 37 games in the shortened season. That’s the most losses in a season they had since 1987. Fans and media immediately started searching for the next Jordan. Would it be 5, 10, 20 years before the next Jordan came along? Where are we at now…

Jordan still isn’t here. I think Kobe came pretty close there for a while, but until he gets another title, people will probably always point to the 6-5 championship edge for Jordan. Even if it gets tied up, winning rings with Shaq / Pau arguably has a lesser degree of difficulty than having Pippen as your next best guy. In the meantime, we can pretty much write off Lebron James and Dwyane Wade until further notice. They proved in this year’s finals that they won’t be producing any Jordanesque highlights in the closing seconds of games in the quantities that he did. Dirk’s “clutch” stock skyrocketed this year, but to be the next Jordan, you gotta do dunk contests, not three point shootouts. Though he did rock the tongue out like Jordan in this year’s finals.

Jason Williams took the league by storm. I’ve always felt that J-Will doesn’t get credited enough for his part in winning back the league’s fans. He came into the league as the seventh pick by the Kings and immediately started cranking out must see highlights. He was doing things that no one had really seen on the court to that point. In a year where the pace of play was at an all-time low, J-Will sped the pace up, and he MADE people watch. Practically overnight, his jersey became the biggest selling in the country. It helped that he got to play with newcomers Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, but he definitely played a key role in getting a franchise turned around and become a contender for years to come. I remember 1998 being called a weak draft, much like this year’s installment. Can anyone in this also weak draft class make a similar impact on the league and his franchise?

For the first time since the 1998 draft that produced Jason Williams, the Kings were to select seventh this year. There was no obvious pick, much like 98, so they took a gamble. Only this time it was on someone that already had a little more accompanying fanfare than the relatively unknown Williams had. It’s not too far fetched to imagine that Jimmer Fredette, depending on how his rookie season goes, could wind up being the hottest selling jersey in the league. I envision close to 80% of those sales coming the kids sizes, but I could see him being this year’s must see TV and help soften the blow of a lockout season. He doesn’t have the flashy ball-handling skills that J-Will had, but he has something of his own that no player has had in our lifetimes: his own range. Most rookies have to worry about adjusting to the distance of the NBA three point line. Not Jimmer. The new three point line isn’t even in Jimmer Range. Hopefully the pro game won’t force him to reel it in a bit, much like it did with Williams a few years in, because the 30 foot three bomb is the short white guy’s slam dunk. If Jimmer starts dropping 3 or 4 of those each night, every short white guy in America will be watching his games. Throw in the Mormon population, and the fact that he’s one of those guys you can’t find any reason to hate – unless he just torched your team for 40 or 50 points – the NBA could very well have it’s next lockout-shortened-season-savior.

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Changing of the Eras in the NBA?

I’ve watched as much as I could of these NBA playoffs so far, and with every lower seed playing the higher seed tough it got me thinking about the state of the NBA. Make no mistake, t’s in a great state right now as every team in the playoffs looks good even some of the lower seeds. In basketball we usually don’t see a ton of surprises, because you don’t surprise any team four times in a series. That’s what basketball has right over all the other sports, they always get the true champion, because no road traveled is easy. That’s not really the case in every other sport. Coming to conclusions like this makes it even tougher as a Warriors fan…

I guess the first question that popped into my head is this one of the last chances for the “older” teams to win a championship? Maybe not this year, but it’s coming. This year we have the traditional favorites that you can’t really bet against like the Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs, but how much longer can their reign last? Most of their top-tier stars are well into their 30’s, and these teams are all stumbling a little already in this first round. I’m not saying that I’ve counted these teams out already for this year or next, because that would be ridiculously short sighted. I do find myself having a hard time seeing them continue their dominance beyond this year especially last years finals pairing. The Lakers and Celtics will have some huge questions to answer at the conclusion of the season. Both are going to be praying that their coaches stay, and Phil has already said he believes there will be a long lockout which is a reason he wants to retire. Doc might be thinking the same thing. New coach and new system doesn’t usually equal championships, but you can teach an old dog new tricks every once in awhile. The Spurs are finding it impossible to have their big three healthy and together when it matters for the past few seasons. Maybe the lockout would help them since they wouldn’t have to play nearly as many games, keeping these older guys fresh without a long regular season might be to their advantage, but at the same time I don’t see that making up for slowly eroding skills. The NBA is an era league, that started way back with Bill Russell dominating. More recently, we went from the Bird-Magic era to the current Kobe-Duncan era, so are we heading into a new era? Oh my the possibilities that are coming to light are enticing.

The East is stacked with young superstar talent as we all know. The Bulls, Knicks, and Heat are sure to be battling it out for years to come barring injury of course. Nearly all the superstars on those teams have had previous playoff failures, so in my eyes these teams aren’t as inexperienced as some would have you believe. The West isn’t as clear cut as the East in terms of power, but the Grizzlies are the second youngest team in the league, and have showed promise against the Spurs just like the Thunder did with the Lakers last year as an 8 seed. OKC is the seeming favorite to be the heir apparent to the Western Conference Throne, and I can’t argue with that. A side note on the Sonics, why doesn’t every GM follow the blueprint that they used? Get a superstar, have cap space to spend on the other players, build through the draft, and boom, you have an elite team. The Clippers have a solid core with a superstar that can only get better, oops, I shouldn’t ever put the Clippers in a championship post… Anyways you get the point, and my question is who’s era is it going to belong to?


Things I’m Tired Of Hearing About This NBA Season

Anything Heat Related – There might have been one or two Miami Heat squads I actually liked during their entire existence. I can’t name any off the top of my head, but I’d guess that Glen Rice was on the team. To this day, when I think of the Heat, I think of guys like Kevin Edwards, Jon Sundvold, and Rony Seikaly. No matter how much the NBA is trying to shove this Heat team down my throat, I’m not gonna budge. But it’s like Stan Van Gundy said, when you hold the championship celebration in August, the scrutiny will come. I can barely even watch Heat games anymore. If they didn’t have Erick Dampier, they wouldn’t be worth watching at all.

David Stern Still Being David Stern – Seriously, how has this guy not been fired, sued, or bitch-slapped yet?! He’s by far the most arrogant commissioner in the sport with the biggest egos. How is he still in control? (I know, the answer is obvious… money) He has pretty much single-handedly destroyed my favorite sport. I love basketball, but I can barely tolerate the NBA anymore. The officiating has blatantly become just a means of manipulating  the outcome of games. It’s like recess was in elementary school: just as you started breaking a sweat and having fun, some asshole blows a whistle and everyone has to go back in the classroom. Or in this case, stand around and watch one guy shoot a ten foot set shot. Add to that the special treatment various players get no matter how obvious, and it just makes me wanna text Rasheed Wallace and say “look at this sh!t NOW, record hater.” I think I’m even more peeved than usual after reading Stern’s cocky-ass comments about SVG today.

The Spurs – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sacramento Kings: Will They or Won’t They? I know… no one outside of Sacramento really has to put up with this news, but there is literally a new story about whether or not the Kings plan to leave town after this season, and more often than not, it’s not even news. For example, today’s biggest story is that fans are trying to sell out the second to last home game of the season, fittingly against the team formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics. Look, few people spent as much time at Arco Arena as I did growing up (not Power Balance Pavilion, not the Livestrong Center, not the Tiffany Dome, and not the Friendship Bracelet Fieldhouse. Sorry, I’ll stop), but at this point, I feel so alienated by this franchise, I don’t even feel like they’re my home team anymore. This is a city that sold out every game for the first 13 years here, and then after a few down months, the next 7 or 8 again. It’s not the city that’s the problem. I love the movie Major League, but I hate seeing the same strategy being employed in real life. At least the movie had two things the Kings don’t: Charlie Sheen, and duh – winning!


The Dream Vs. The Admiral

Don’t ask me how this one started. The last thing I remember is going to Youtube and this video was on the front page. It’s crazy watching two slender, agile 7-footers doing battle with quickness and athleticism. This clip will surely have you saying, “they just don’t make em like they used to.” Anyway, in this clip, it appears that Hakeem Olajuwon feels a little slighted watching David Robinson hoist the MVP trophy. That postseason, over 22 games en route to a second consecutive NBA Championship, The Dream averaged a ridiculous 33 pts, 10 reb, 4.5 asts per game. I never would’ve classified Olajuwon as underrated, but looking back, I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. Michael Jordan is regarded as the best player in the history of the game, but who won the title both years he was away? Hakeem was at the top of his game, and he didn’t need Semmi to get there.


Four Game Fours, Four Series at 3-1

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Sunday featured a full docket of NBA Playoff games to keep fans busy. I’m a little over 7/8 of the way through the quadruple header, and I’m going out on a limb to assume the Jazz will hold on to their 20 point lead at the time of posting. First, Miami was able to stay alive thanks to the heroic effort of Dwyane Wade. I got a sense of overexposure dating back to the Heat’s last Championship run – Wade was everywhere and got all the calls. But now that his team is a lower seed again, I’ve come to appreciate, once again, the will and ability of one of the game’s great players. D-Wade single-handedly took over the fourth quarter with a barrage of clutch baskets. He finished with 46 to make sure the Heat held on to this one to send the series back to Boston for at least one more game.

In Chicago, the Cavs ran away from the Bulls despite a monstrous effort from Joakim Noah. I had all the doubts in the world about this kid coming out of Florida. I didn’t see him ever becoming anything more than a role player, but today, he was the Bulls best player on the floor. Noah put up 21 points to go with 20 rebounds, and repeatedly came up with big buckets when other Bulls couldn’t. Problem is, too often were the times no one else could come through. On the other side of the ball, Lebron James was dominant once again, posting his fifth career postseason triple-double with 37 pts, 12 reb, and 11 ast. Mo Williams chipped in a couple huge three pointers and finished with 19.

In San Antonio, the 7th seed Spurs took a stronghold on their series with the Mavs, notching a 92-89 win to send the series back to Dallas with the home team in a 3-1 deficit. George Hill had a breakout game with 29 points to lead the way for the Spurs. The Mavs meanwhile looked like the same familiar disappointing team that continually fails to show up in the postseason. Jason Terry led a respectful comeback attempt, but the Spurs showed that they’re still the better team when the games mean something.

There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played in Utah, but barring a miraculous fourth quarter, the Jazz look poised to take a 3-1 lead back to Denver with three chances to close out the series. Deron Williams is building upon his legacy, further cementing his status as one of the top point guards in the league. Also, Carlos Boozer is showing that he can still be a dominating force in the post, something that teams with cap space will certainly be looking to add to their roster in the upcoming offseason.


Doin NBA Power Rankings

Thank you Fanhouse! You’ve given me the inspiration to do some power rankings. I couldn’t believe what their power rankings looked like, I mean really!?! I’m as big of a Laker hater there is out there, but putting the Mavs at numero uno over the Cavs and the Lake show is a little bold!! I’m not sure what Brett over at Fanhouse is smoking, but I need to get some! Anyways, here’s how I see the top 16 teams in the league at this point in the season.

#1 Los Angeles Lakers – They don’t have the best record in the league, but having Kobe sit out for a little will help them. Not missing a beat in the win column keeps them atop these rankings. They will most likely cruise to the Western Conference finals before they are truly tested. John Canzano at the Oregonian might have convinced me that they could be tested by the Blazers in the first round, but I won’t get my hopes up at this point of an early Lake Show exit.

#2 Cleveland Cavaliers – Best record in the league, and a very close 2nd to the champs. Is it a big deal that Shaq is out? No, but in case anyone forgot, they have Lebron. You could put him on the Bucks right now, and get through the first couple playoff rounds, so I’m not buying that the loss of the Diesel is that big of a deal at this point. If he ends up missing more time than expected, that might be another story. Lebron is playing in a different league than everyone else, he doesn’t need Shaq.

#3 Orlando Magic – Vince looks like he finally is fitting in, and the Magic are playing their best basketball of the year. If they keep playing like they have, they could be just as scary as Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Stan Van Gundy reminds me of Rex Ryan in the NFL. He’s a little unpredictable and unstable, but if you were caught in a fight you would gladly take them on your side.

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