Sunday , Feb , 13 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Trash Talk: Volume XI

Hi, all. What is this garbage? I flipped out when they ousted Flip, and for good reason. Have they gone quite mad in Minnesota? They must have forgotten that he, the second-longest tenured coach in the league, played a major part in transforming them from the cellar-dwellers they were in ’95 to the 58-24 squad they were last year. Think it was all up to the Big Ticket? People forget that nine years ago he was still Da Kid. Ask the man himself which individual catalysed his growth from prep punk to league MVP, and he’d give you a brief answer. Can you guess what it is yet? I’ll give you a clue: It rhymes with Slip.

I’m surprised that Kevin McHale (who, conveniently, will be the man to take over the vacant coaching spot) played the blame game and decided that Saunders was the loser. It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the current trend is to fire the coach when things fall apart, rather than to consider what the source of the problems may really be.

In Minnesota, you needn’t look far to uncover the root of their, ahem, issues. As far as most insiders are concerned, the Wolves’ woes can be attributed to two sources: Sammy and Spree. Before the start of the season, the pair cried to the media about the status of their respective contracts, in doing so sowing the seeds of discontent among the team.

Sprewell’s whining did, however, lead to one of the quotes of the year, when he claimed, “I’ve got my family to feed,” with regards to the three-year, thirty-million contract he was offered. Similarly, the thirty-four-year-old Cassell played the spoilt child, refusing to attend the team’s media day and the opening day of training camp in response to the organisation’s refusal to extend his contract.

They returned this year to play at a considerably diminished level and without the energy and enthusiasm that had taken the Wolves further than they had managed in the previous seven postseasons. The numbers speak for themselves here:

Sprewell ’03-’04 : 16.8 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.07 spg
Sprewell ’04-’05 : 12.5 ppg, 2.2 apg, 2.5 rpg, 0.67 spg

Cassell ’03-’04 : 19.8 ppg, 7.3 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.26 spg
Cassell ’04-’05 : 14.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 2.8 rpg, 0.56 spg

Of course, as it’s often said, players take wins and coaches take losses. That means that, with a 25-26 record at this point, it’s unsurprising that Flip was shown the door, even if it is unfair. Now all there is to do is wait and see if McHale can whip the unruly crew into shape and remind them that they were one of the toughest teams in the league last year.

We also recently discovered that two of the game’s all-time greats, Reggie Miller and Karl Malone, are to retire at the end of this season. Both are closing out long, record-breaking careers and both are undoubtedly only the obligatory six-year waiting period away from induction into the Hall of Fame.

<b>NBA Trash Talk</b>: <I>Volume XI</I>“/><BR>Malone ends his nineteen-year career as the second-leading scorer in league history, only 1,459 behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Arguably the greatest power forward to ever play the game, he also leaves the game ranked second all-time in minutes, third in games played and sixth in rebounds. <BR><BR>Miller winds down his eighteen-year career (spent entirely with the Pacers) as the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers made and attempted and Indiana’s all-time leader in scoring and assists. Reggie is considered by many to be among the greatest clutch performers in all of sports and is indelibly linked to his late-game explosion in Madison Square Garden, in which he scored eight points in the game’s final 8.9 seconds, turning a six-point New York lead into an Indiana victory. <BR><BR>Unfortunately, both will also retire without a ring, thanks largely to a certain Michael Jordan, whose Bulls several times eliminated Indiana and twice denied Malone’s Jazz in the finals. Regardless, both have made significant contributions to the game of basketball, and particularly to the cities of Indiana and Utah. <BR><BR>We move back to those who we expect to see around a while longer, more specifically Allen Iverson. The Magic might not be able to play defence worth a lick, but it’s hard not to be impressed by a sixty-point outing from a man of 5’10”. Iverson went 17-36 from the floor in his forty-two minutes and connected on twenty-four of his twenty-seven free throws, meaning that he attempted only four less than the entire Orlando roster. He rounded off his career night with six assists, five steals and, most importantly, a win. <BR><BR>However, despite Iverson’s outburst, Vince Carter remains the man of the moment. Through his previous eight games he has averaged 33.4 ppg, including 38.5 in the last four. Those figures would be even higher were it not for his untimely ejection in the fourth quarter of New Jersey’s game against the Spurs. Thanks to the dirty tactics of Bruce Bowen, Carter was sent to an early shower while his team lost their focus, and subsequently the game. Curling to the wing, Carter was held, bumped and shoved by Bowen who immediately slapped his arm as he caught the ball. As Vince faded away for the jumper, Bowen slid his leg underneath him as he landed, sending him to the floor. This is a favourite move of his, and one which has led to sprained ankles on more than one occasion. It’s perhaps excusable once or twice (he explains them away as attempts to box his man out), but I’ve seen it occur so many times as to be beyond a coincidence. <BR><BR>It’s clear to me (and I’m not the only one to have drawn this conclusion) that Bowen intentionally seeks to injure certain players by pushing his foot underneath them as they jump, so that they turn their ankle as they land. If this is the case, I’d contend that he deserves a long suspension and a hefty fine. Any move aimed specifically at causing an injury to an opponent should be taken very seriously. Given Bowen’s previous history of underhand methods on the floor (Ray Allen, among others, has called him out for these), I’d consider it necessary for the league to review his play and to consider some form of disciplinary action. <BR><BR>Lately people have been asking me what I think of the All-Star reserves as selected by the coaches. As most fans, my feelings are mixed. I couldn’t be happier that Manu Ginobili and Gilbert Arenas earned their first selections, but at the same time I’m a little baffled that not a single King is to be found on the roster. Rashard Lewis himself noted that he was confused at being chosen over Chris Webber, who averages more points, boards and assists than he does (21.6, 9.6 and 5.3 compared to 20.4, 5.5 and 1.2). Nonetheless, there will undoubtedly be enough talent on the floor in Denver to keep the game exciting. <BR><BR>That’s all there is for this week’s edition. As always, get at me if you have comments, questions or suggestions. You can reach me through the comment box below or by emailing me directly at <BR><BR>Take it easy now, <BR><BR>Chuck. <BR><BR></p>