Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rising Sun

Last night in Phoenix, Arizona the world got to see a rising star at his best. Suns forward/center Amare Stoudemire is just 22 years old and already he is showing the world that he wants to be the next best thing.

Battling in five games against arguably the best all-around big man in the league Amare impressed the millions who watched this series with his explosiveness to the bucket, his rebounding, shot blocking, his jumper and his overall athletic ability. Repeat – against arguably the best all-around big man in the league, Tim Duncan. And against a Spurs defense that is almost as good and definitely as stingy as the Detroit Pistons.

This five game series wasn’t the type of series that a historian will look back on and say, “Spurs in five – must’ve been easy.” No way – not these five games. In fact, I told a good friend of mine last night – that had the Suns won last nights Game 5 they would ‘Boston Red Sox’ the Spurs and win the series after losing the first three games. The look on Duncan, and Manu Ginobili and company’s face at times last night was as if they were agreeing with me. And the reason that they had that look on their faces…Amare.

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said it best after the game, "And just think the guy is 22 years old."26 points per game, 9 boards per game, 1.6 assists and blocks per game this season…this kid is already one of the top ten players in the game and he’s got nothing but upside. He went for an incredible 37, 41, 34, 31 and in Game 5 a career playoff-best 42 points, along with 16 rebounds. And all of this happened with a slightly hyper extended elbow after hurting it early on against San Antonio while dunking.

Sure the Spurs advanced to the NBA Finals for the third time in seven seasons and are one of the best teams in sports, but I was rooting for this kid, Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and the Suns. I wanted to see their high flying, fast paced, semi-Showtime game in the NBA Finals. Their time will come, he’s still young and along with Nash and the rest of the supporting cast it’s a good thing San Antonio beat them this time around, because they might not next time.

It didn’t happen this year, but it will soon enough. I just can’t wait to see how much better Amare will be come next season…and playing with Nash – a great point guard - the Sun has never shined so brightly on Phoenix.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

No Loyalty

I wish I had a vote for the basketball Hall of Fame. This may shock some people but I’m going to say it anyway…I wouldn’t have voted for Larry Brown. In fact, I would’ve tried my hardest to persuade my fellow voters NOT to vote for him. Frankly, I just don’t think he deserved it. He’s a nomad who has jumped from team to team over his career always looking for the best possible situation and never has minded the dust he leaves when he decides to move on. I can’t stand that type of person.

Larry Brown has been all over the U.S. map in the last 30+ years – always looking for the best situation or the right team for him to win with. And now that his coaching career seems to be coming to an end he has decided on yet another move. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer he as accepted the Cavaliers offer to become the team’s president of basketball operations. He’ll have to wait until Detroit’s season is over before he can accept it because he’s still under contract with the Pistons for three more seasons. And all of this discussion comes while his Detroit team tries to win back-to-back NBA titles – real classy move from him. And a real stupid move on the Cavs part.

Brown is like a real-estate agents dream come true and a basketball team’s biggest nightmare. At any point he’ll just decide to up and move and leave the team that he’s coaching to coach elsewhere. I can’t stand him – I really can’t. Have a backbone and stay in one place longer than a handful of years. Show some loyalty to your players – the guys that bust their tails and show you respect and loyalty everyday.

Let’s take a look at the Larry Brown Merry-Go-Round…

It all started in the ABA in 1973 when he became the head coach of the Carolina Cougars. This seemed like a nice fit for the 33-year old first time coach being that he was close to where he started…as a player and assistant coach at the University of North Carolina under Dean Smith. After two successful, playoff seasons he moved on to the Denver Nuggets of the ABA. It probably seemed like a good move for him at the time since he had played a season and a half in Denver just several years earlier. He took the Nuggets to the ABA Finals in 1976 but lost and the following year the Nuggets joined the NBA. Mid way through the 1979 season the ‘Wanderer’ moved on. He decided to take the head coaching job at UCLA…where he spent just two seasons. In 1980 he guided the great Bruins to the NCAA Championship game, but they lost. The following season had much more promise but the team couldn’t go deep into the tourney. With several key players about to graduate and not much future at UCLA it was time to move on yet again.

He moved all the way across the country to coach in the NBA again – the New Jersey Nets. Less than two seasons at Brendan Byrne Arena was enough and during his second season he resigned to take over the helm at the University of Kansas. Larry coached Kansas from 1984 to 1988 and the team enjoyed a 129-44 record. After winning the NCAA Tournament in 1988 he left to return to the NBA. It should be noted that Kansas had 5 seniors (4 starters) that were all about to leave, including All-American Danny Manning. From 1988 to 1992 he coached the San Antonio Spurs to the playoffs in the 89-90 & 90-91 seasons. In his fourth season the Spurs had a 21-17 record when he up and left during the 91-92 season and took over the Los Angeles Clippers with 35 games left in the same season. The Clippers finished the season 23-12 and made the playoffs. Again, the following season, the Clippers made the playoffs, this time with a 41-41 record. But with two years left on his contract, Brown bounced and resigned as Clippers coach for a better job.

He took over as head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1993 had coached them to three consecutive winning seasons that took them to the playoffs three times and to the Eastern Conference finals twice. After the Pacers finished 39-43 in 96-97 and missed the playoffs, Larry left Indiana for promising pastures in Philadelphia. He was hired as the 76ers' head coach and vice president of basketball operations.

He coached the 76ers for six seasons from 1997-2003. The Sixers made the NBA playoffs in five consecutive years and lost in the NBA finals in 2001. That year he and was named NBA Coach of the Year. The following season, his last in Philadelphia, Brown was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.Of course because the Sixers weren’t moving towards a championship team Larry Brown left and became the coach of a good team – the Detroit Pistons. He coached the Pistons to the NBA championship over the favored Los Angeles Lakers…some people (my self included) think that the Pistons would’ve won a championship had they not let go of Rick Carlisle, the coach before Brown.

Brown is now 64-years old and has had bladder problems as a result of hip surgery that he had earlier this season. He is expected to have additional surgery after the playoffs are finished.

Why would Cleveland want this guy? He’ll most likely sit upstairs and bark orders for a few seasons and then decide that he wants to coach somewhere again. When that happens I would expect him to move back to the West Coast – he hasn’t been there in awhile.