View Full Version : GREATS OR GOPHERS?

Sam Miguel
06-04-2007, 09:44 AM
I've often wondered what makes an NBA player truly great. In the same vein I wonder what makes one simply an NBA gopher. By great I mean the usual standards of numbers, trophies both team and personal, even international medals. By gopher I mean those whose greatness is questioned by others. Note: a scrub is a scrub is a scrub, so for purposes of this discussion the likes of Adrian Branch, David Wood, Acie Earl, Lou Roe, etc-etc and other busts do not count.

In the PBA it isn't that hard to figure out: the real superstars stand head and shoulders above the "sidekicks" and the bench. Mon Fernandez, Sonny Jaworski, Bogs Adornado, Abet Guidaben, Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, Benjie Paras, Johnny Abarrientos, Kenneth Duremdes, Eric Menk, Asi Taulava, Danny Seigle, Mark Caguioa, and a whole host of others can easily be distinguished as greats of the PBA. These are players who have stats, trophies, medals and everything else that distingushes them as greats, and they are the ones who have stepped up the most times in the most pressure-packed game situations to lead their teams to the W.

In the NBA however there seems to be some confusion. Let me just cite two examples: JAMES WORTHY and ROBERT PARISH.

Worthy was a top draft pick who came out of the famed North Carolina program of Dean Smith as a consensus All American. Parish was yet another high pick coming out of a relatively small school, Centenary. Both went on to have very successful, long-term NBA careers, with the venerable Parish still playing at age 42 (was he on that last Lakers championship team?)

A lot of basketball critics say that Worthy should not be considered a legit NBA great, even going so far as to say he did not deserve to be on the NBA 50 Greatest list. Worthy averaged 17.6 ppg and 5.1 rpg and 3.0 apg in 926 career games; averaged 21.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg in 143 career playoff games, was a 7-time All Star, an NBA Finals MVP in 1988 and would've been an Olympic gold medalist were it not for the Cold War. He was a starter on three Lakers championship teams, and is widely regarded as one of the game's best ever finishers.

Parish was the starting center in at least two Celtics championship teams and averaged over 14 points on over 53% shooting from the field and 9 rebounds in a career that lasted almost 20 years. He was a 9-time All Star who is regarded as one of the best centers ever to play the game.

And yet, like Worthy, there are those who doubt the greatness of The Chief, and say he was lucky to have gotten to Boston when Boston was still a championhip ballclub.

With credentials like those how can anyone doubt the greatness of Worthy and Parish?

There is the standard argument: Worthy had Magic and Kareem for teammates, Parish had Bird and McHale. Worthy was just Magic's Gopher, Parish was Bird's Gopher. That doesn't completely wash for one very fundamental reason: regardless of who your teammates are you need to be good, period, to be an NBA great. Magic didn't make All Stars out of Wes Mathews and Mike Smrek, neither did Bird for Jerry Sichting and Fred Roberts. So I guess it wasn't really all Magic and Bird all the way after all.

There is the other standard argument: If these guys were really greats how come they couldn't win a championship anymore as the stars when their bigger star teammates had left? Worthy never won another championship after Magic prematurely retired in 1992 due to HIV, ditto Parish after the Boston Big 3 were dismantled (his last one, whether with the Lakers or Bulls doesn't count). Again, if that were to be the standard what about guys like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing, whom nobody questions as Greats. Or at least not as vociferously as Worthy and Parish. Related to this, how about the likes of Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Robert Horry? Were they simply lucky to latch on to championship teams or were they really and trully great players in and of themselves?

Gophers to me are the likes of Luc Longley and Rick Fox, who, for all their contributions to those great Chicago and Los Angeles championship teams were clearly no where even near the All Star level. Anyone calling those guys as greats ought to have his head examined.

Who are your greats and gophers? And why do you consider them as such?

Sam Miguel
06-04-2007, 09:51 AM
Something I picked up from NBA.com___

"Robert Parish played in more games than any other player in NBA history. A 7-1 center who combined strength, agility and remarkable endurance, Parish won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics in the 1980s and teamed with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale to form one of the greatest front lines in NBA history. He capped his career by winning yet another championship ring as a member of the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls.

Parish, whose signature shot was a high trajectory jumper that seemed to kiss the banners at Boston Garden before finding its way to the basket, announced his retirement at age 43 following the 1996-97 season, his 21st in the NBA, and after playing in 1,611 games. Upon his retirement, Parish ranked 13th in the NBA in scoring with 23,334 points, sixth in rebounds with 14,715, sixth in blocked shots with 2,361 and eighth in field goals made with 9,614.

"He's probably the best medium-range shooting big man in the history of the game," said Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who was Parish's backup in the Celtics' 1986 championship season.

Parish, who was nicknamed "Chief" by Celtics teammate Cedric Maxwell after a character from the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," played college ball at Centenary in his hometown of Shreveport, La. He was chosen in the first round of the 1976 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors after posting four-year college averages of 21.6 points and 16.9 rebounds per game.

The Warriors traded Parish to Boston in 1980, and he enjoyed a remarkable 14-year run with the Celtics. In his tenure with the club, the Celtics went to the playoffs 13 times, won nine Atlantic Division titles, reached the NBA Finals five times and came away with three NBA titles.

Parish played in the NBA All-Star Game nine times, finished among the top 10 in the league in field goal percentage for six consecutive seasons, topped 10 rebounds per game in eight seasons and averaged better than 15 points in nine campaigns. In 1981-82 he recorded a career-high average of 19.9 ppg and he averaged a career-best 12.5 rpg in 1988-89.

In 1994, he signed as a free agent with the Charlotte Hornets, lending veteran experience to a young team on the rise. He played two seasons with the Hornets, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the league's all-time leader in games played late in the 1995-96 season. Before the 1996 season he signed with Chicago as a free agent and got another championship ring when the Bulls won 69 games and the NBA crown.

His glory days, however, were with the Celtics, when he formed the "Big Three" with Bird and McHale.

"I will always be a Celtic at heart," Parish said. "That's where my career took off.

"It's hard for me to even believe how good we were," he reflected. "Some nights I'd be out there just kicking some guy's butt, really feeling it, and then I'd look over and see what Kevin was doing, and what Larry was doing, and I'd say, 'Man, this is something. This is special.'"

When Parish began his NBA career, players such as Pete Maravich, Earl Monroe, Bob Lanier, Elvin Hayes, Rick Barry, Julius Erving and John Havlicek graced the NBA leaderboard -- and Shaquille O'Neal was only 4 years old.

Selected eighth overall by the Warriors, he found himself a teammate of Barry, Phil Smith and Jamaal Wilkes on a team that had won the NBA title in 1975 but was past its prime. Parish played in 77 games as a rookie, averaging 9.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg and improved to 12.5 ppg and 8.3 rpg in his second season.

Parish continued his steady improvement with the Warriors, but the team found itself at the bottom of the highly competitive Pacific Division. He averaged 17.2 ppg and 12.1 rpg in 1978-79, ranking seventh in the NBA in rebounding. Parish had a monster night late in the season when he posted 30 points against the New York Knicks and snatched a career-high 32 rebounds. For a second straight year, however, the Warriors failed to make the playoffs, finishing at 38-44 and in last place in the Pacific.

Parish finished seventh in the NBA in rebounding for the second straight year in 1979-80, grabbing 10.9 rpg in 72 games, averaging 17.0 ppg and shooting .507 from the floor. The last-place Warriors (24-58) missed the playoffs for a third straight year, but the postseason took on a new meaning for Parish after June 9, 1980. On that date he was traded by Golden State to Boston, and it would be 14 years before Parish would sit out another NBA playoffs.

Red Auerbach and the Celtics could hardly have anticipated the effects of three new additions in a span of two seasons. Bird had joined the team in 1979-80 after being drafted as a junior-eligible in 1978. The Celtics then acquired Parish from Golden State for two first-round draft picks (Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown). Boston also received Golden State's 1980 first-round draft pick, which the Celtics used to select McHale. The rest is history.

Parish became the Celtics' starting center when Dave Cowens suddenly retired and he responded by averaging 18.9 ppg and 9.5 rpg in 82 games, beginning a string of seven consecutive appearances in the NBA All-Star Game. Matching muscle with the Houston Rockets' Moses Malone in the 1981 NBA Finals, Parish helped Boston to the championship in his first year with the club.

During the 1981 playoffs, he averaged 15.0 ppg and 8.6 rpg in 17 games. For the next decade, Bird, Parish and McHale would reign supreme among frontcourts in the NBA, winning three championships and cultivating a fierce rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers and their stars, Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar.

Parish enjoyed one of his best seasons in 1981-82, earning a spot on the All-NBA Second Team and finishing second to teammate Bird in voting for the league's Most Valuable Player award. Bird and Parish helped fuel an 18-game winning streak late in the season. In addition, Parish scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the 1982 NBA All-Star Game. He finished 20th in the league in scoring (19.9 ppg) and eighth in rebounding (10.8 rpg) and registered a team-high 192 blocks, fifth best in the NBA. Parish then averaged 21.3 ppg and 11.3 rpg in the playoffs, but the Celtics were ousted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Chief had another All-Star season in 1982-83, averaging 19.3 ppg and 10.6 rpg. From a team standpoint, however, it was a disappointing year. Despite a 56-26 record, Boston finished second in the Atlantic to Philadelphia, the eventual NBA champion. The Celtics played only seven playoff games, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in four games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The Celtics' disappointment of the previous season was erased as Parish, Bird, McHale and Co. won another NBA championship. Parish averaged 19.0 ppg and 10.7 rpg, good for seventh in the league and another All-Star selection. The Celtics defeated Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers in a seven-game NBA Finals that included two victories in overtime by Boston.

Parish again ranked seventh in the NBA in rebounding in 1984-85, this time averaging 10.6 rpg to go along with 17.6 ppg. Boston, 63-19, was the NBA's best team during the regular season, but lost in the NBA Finals to the Lakers in six games.

Boston won its third NBA championship in six seasons and its 16th overall in 1985-86. The Celtics stormed through the regular season at 67-15, with Parish (now backed up at center by Walton) contributing 16.1 ppg and 9.5 rpg. The Celtics won the NBA Finals in six games, beating the Rockets, who had upset the Lakers en route to the title series.

An All-Star for the seventh consecutive year in 1986-87, Parish contributed 17.5 ppg and 10.6 rpg per game in his 11th season, which included his lone career triple-double, recorded on March 29 against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics played in another NBA Finals but lost to the Lakers in six games. Parish averaged 18.0 ppg and 9.4 rpg in the playoffs, even though an injured left ankle forced him to miss a second-round game against the Milwaukee Bucks, snapping a string of 116 consecutive playoff games.

By now the Celtics were starting to show signs of age, and teams like Detroit and later Chicago were on the rise. Boston would not win another title, but Parish remained productive, averaging 14.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg in 1987-88 and finishing second in the league in field goal percentage at .589. But Boston lost to the Pistons in a six-game Eastern Conference Finals, snapping a string of four straight appearances in the NBA Finals.

Parish made the All-NBA Third Team in 1988-89, averaging 18.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg, but the Celtics struggled to a 42-40 record as Bird played only six games after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs on each heel.

The Celtics' days as a true title contender were over, but Parish would have several more productive seasons in Boston. He averaged 15.7 ppg and 10.1 rpg and ranked third in the NBA with a .580 shooting percentage in 1989-90, and returned to the NBA All-Star Game after a two-year absence. He was an All-Star again in 1990-91, averaging 14.9 points and 10.6 rebounds and ranking second in the league in field goal percentage at .598. He passed 20,000 career points in 1991-92, when he averaged 14.1 ppg and 8.9 rpg.

With the retirement of Bird in 1992 and McHale in 1993, Parish was the lone remaining member of Boston's fabled "Big Three." Often mentioned as an afterthought in debates about the game's great frontcourt players, Parish just kept rolling along. At the age of 40, he averaged 11.7 ppg and 7.3 rpg, and in an late-season game against the Chicago Bulls, he logged 51 minutes in a 104-94 overtime Celtics win over the defending champions.

An era in Celtics history officially came to a close when Parish left Boston after the 1993-94 season to sign as a free agent with the Charlotte Hornets. During his two seasons as a reserve center with Charlotte, he became the NBA's all-time leader in games played, passing Abdul-Jabbar's total of 1,560 on April 6, 1996 at Cleveland.

In September 1996, he signed with Chicago as a free agent. Playing in a record 21st NBA season, Parish added a fourth championship ring to the three he won with Boston as he appeared in 43 games for the Bulls, making three starts.

He announced his retirement in typically understated fashion, not in a major news conference but during an offseason television interview on Friday, Aug. 25, 1997.

"I think it's time," he said. "I know in my heart that it's time to walk away."

Career Statistics

G FG% 3PFG% FT% Rebs RPG Asts APG Stls Blks Pts PPG
1,611 .537 .000 .721 14,715 9.1 2,180 1.4 1,219 2,361 23,334 14.5"

Sam Miguel
06-04-2007, 09:53 AM
Something I picked up from Hoopedia.com___

"When James Worthy retired before the 1994-95 season, it was fitting that Magic Johnson was there to describe Worthy's career. Johnson, after all, had made the passes on the fast break that set up hundreds of Worthy's trademark one-handed swooping dunks.

"James Worthy was one of the top 10 -- top five -- players in playoff history," Johnson stated at the news conference in which Worthy announced his retirement.

No one argued with that assessment. By the time he retired, Worthy owned a Most Outstanding Player Award from the 1982 NCAA Final Four and a Most Valuable Player Award from the 1988 NBA Finals. He was a member of three NBA championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers (in 1985, 1987, and 1988). His career postseason averages of 21.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game were higher than his regular-season averages of 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest.

He recorded his first triple-double in arguably the biggest game of his career: Game 7 of the 1988 Finals against Detroit, in which Worthy collected 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. He also holds the all-time record for the highest field goal percentage in a five-game playoff series, .721 in the 1985 Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

Never was a nickname better suited to a player than Worthy's moniker of "Big Game James."

By the time he was a ninth-grader at Grier Junior High in Gastonia, N.C., Worthy's basketball exploits were already making front-page news. Coached at Ashbrook High by Dean Smith disciple Larry Rhodes, Worthy attended summer basketball camp at Chapel Hill and early on seemed destined to wear Tar Heel blue. Averaging 21.5 points and 12.5 rebounds as a senior at Ashbrook, Worthy was a unanimous selection as a prep All-American. His stardom at the University of North Carolina seemed assured.

Then, midway through his freshman campaign, Worthy slipped on a wet spot on the Carmichael Auditorium floor and broke his ankle. He missed the last 14 games of the season and, for a time, it appeared his career might be in doubt.

Typically, the unflappable Worthy made the best of an unfortunate situation.

"I wasn't sure I would be able to come back with the same type of intensity I'd always had," Worthy told Sport magazine in 1991. "I wasn't traveling with the team, I wasn't going to all the practices, and I wasn't a part of the day-to-day routine. It really made me wake up and expose myself to all kinds of people -- not confine myself to just basketball."

Fully recovered, Worthy became an All-Atlantic Coast Conference forward as a sophomore. He averaged 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds that season while shooting .500 from the floor.

It was his junior year at UNC, however, that became legendary. In 1981-82 Worthy was part of one of the greatest collections of talent in collegiate basketball history, a squad that included Sam Perkins and a freshman named Michael Jordan. The Tar Heels stormed through the regular season. A consensus First-Team All-American, Worthy averaged 15.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting .573 from the floor. He shared national Player of the Year honors with Virginia's Ralph Sampson.

The UNC squad reached the 1982 NCAA championship game as the slight favorite over Georgetown and Patrick Ewing. That contest would set the pattern for the rest of Worthy's storied career. As always, he was at his best in the biggest game, scoring 28 points on 13-for-17 shooting and making a key steal of a Fred Brown pass to seal North Carolina's victory.

Worthy was named Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, yet his heroics were at least partially overshadowed by Jordan's storied game-winning jumper. Despite his greatness, it was Worthy's fate to be overshadowed by his more celebrated teammates: Jordan in college, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson in the pros.

The Lakers had won the NBA championship in 1982, and they had one of the league's top small forwards in Jamaal Wilkes. But astute trading had given Los Angeles the top pick in the draft. During the 1979-80 season the Lakers sent Don Ford and a 1980 first-round pick (which became Chad Kinch) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Butch Lee and the Cavs' first-round pick in 1982. When that pick turned out to be the No. 1 overall selection, the Lakers claimed Worthy, who had decided to pass up his senior year at North Carolina. Worthy became only the second overall No. 1 draft choice the Lakers have had since moving to California in 1960. The first, of course, had been Magic in 1979.

Wilkes was still at the top of his game when Worthy arrived. Wilkes averaged 21.1 points in 1981-82 (16th in the league) and played more minutes for the Lakers than everyone but Johnson and Norm Nixon. On most NBA teams Worthy would have been the immediate star; on the Lakers, he had to serve an apprenticeship.

Magic would recall that the way Worthy handled himself that first year showed immediately that he had the brains to go along with his physical gifts.

"Even though he was the No. 1 pick in the draft, he had made up his own mind that he was gonna learn from Wilkes, and he accepted his role," Johnson told the Los Angeles Daily News after Worthy retired. "That told me he was a team player, and a winner too. Most rookies would be complaining and griping, but he never did that."

Worthy nevertheless put together a respectable rookie campaign. He played in 77 games before fracturing his left tibia and missing the 1983 playoffs. His field goal percentage of .579 topped all other NBA first-year players and remains a Lakers club record for rookies. He averaged 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds and was unanimously selected to the All-Rookie Team. The Lakers were swept in the NBA Finals by the Philadelphia 76ers, but "Showtime" had more appearances to come at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles.

Prior to the 1983-84 season, the Lakers traded Nixon to the San Diego Clippers for Swen Nater and the draft rights to rookie Byron Scott. Worthy started 53 games, and the Lakers had the nucleus that would carry them to NBA titles in three of the next five years.

In the 1984 NBA Finals, Los Angeles lost to Boston in a thrilling seven-game series that included two overtime games. As he would throughout his career, Worthy increased his production during the playoffs: He averaged 17.7 ppg and 2.7 apg in 21 postseason games, compared to 14.5 ppg and 1.7 apg in the regular season.

In 1984-85, L.A. was the dominant team in the league. The Lakers had the second-best regular-season record, one game behind Boston at 62-20, and led all teams except Denver in scoring. The Lakers swept through the playoffs, losing only three games through the Western Conference Finals, and beat Boston in six games for the NBA championship.

And James Worthy had arrived, becoming the third-leading scorer (17.6 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.4 rpg) on the club. As always, he shot well, finishing the regular season with a .572 field goal percentage.

With Worthy, Scott and Michael Cooper filling the lanes and Magic running the show, the Lakers developed one of the most feared fast breaks in the history of the game. Again, Worthy rose to the occasion in the postseason, scoring 21.5 ppg. He later called it the championship that meant the most to him.

"It's not just because it was my first NBA championship, but that we did it in the [Boston] Garden," he told Sport magazine in 1991. "That was the one I cherish the most. There was a lot of attention to the fact that they'd pretty much dominated us, even though that was back in the '60s. Plus, we had lost to them the year before, so we had a lot of incentive."

The NBA championship swung back to the Celtics in 1985-86, although Worthy had the best season of his career to date and made the first of seven consecutive appearances in the NBA All-Star Game. He upped his scoring average to 20.0 ppg, the first of four times Worthy would average 20 or more points in the regular season. He equaled his career-best .579 field goal percentage in the regular season. In the playoffs he averaged 19.5 points -- the only time in his career when his scoring average did not increase in the postseason.

The next two seasons proved to be the peak of not only Worthy's career but of the Lakers' dominance in the 1980s. Los Angeles had the best record in the league both years, winning 65 games in 1986-87 and 62 in 1987-88. They beat Boston in six games in the 1987 NBA Finals and the Detroit Pistons in seven for the 1988 NBA title, becoming the first team in two decades to repeat as champion.

Worthy was superb, adding his own take to the position defined by Elgin Baylor and Julius Erving. Besides averaging 19.5 ppg in those two seasons (22.4 ppg in the playoffs), he became an excellent passer from his forward spot. His assists increased to 3.5 per game in 1987-88. And in the playoffs he was, as always, Big Game James.

The Lakers struggled through the 1988 postseason, surviving seven-game series against both the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks before facing the Pistons in the NBA Finals. In 24 playoff games Worthy averaged 21.1 points, 4.4 assists and 5.8 rebounds while shooting .523 from the floor. He capped the year by scoring 36 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and handing out 10 assists as the Lakers beat Detroit, 108-105, at the Forum to win the title.

Worthy was named MVP of the Finals. It is perhaps emblematic of his career that he was not even named to the All-NBA Third Team that season.

That was the last of the Lakers' NBA championships during the Magic-Kareem-Worthy era. Los Angeles was swept by the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 Finals, lost to the Phoenix Suns in the 1990 Western Conference Semifinals, and fell to the Chicago Bulls in five games in the 1991 NBA Finals. As the team's fortunes declined, however, Worthy's role continued to grow.

He led the Lakers in minutes played in 1988-89 (36.5 per game) and averaged 20.5 ppg. In 1989-90. he had perhaps his finest year statistically, scoring 21.1 ppg and pulling down a career-high 6.0 rpg. He averaged more than 24.0 ppg in the playoffs in both 1989 and 1990 and earned the first of his two All-NBA selections (on the Third Team) in 1990.

In 1990-91, Worthy averaged 21.4 ppg, his highest single-season mark. But he shot .492 from the floor -- the first time in his career that he had registered a field goal percentage below .500 for a season. Worthy had posted a field goal percentage higher than .530 in each of his first eight seasons in the league -- something no other player had ever accomplished to date.

The Lakers again advanced to the NBA Finals in 1991, but after winning the first game, they lost four straight and Jordan's Chicago Bulls captured the first championship in franchise history.

Worthy played three more seasons before retiring prior to the start of the 1994-95 campaign. He took with him 16,320 career points and a truckload of golden moments. Fans and former teammates viewed his departure as marking the end of an era, and the always-cool Worthy was not oblivious to the feelings.

"I can remember coming into the league and being under the likes of Kareem, Jamaal Wilkes, Magic, Norm Nixon and Bob McAdoo," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Now I find myself in that situation. Guys are telling me how they were in junior high, watching us beat the Celtics in '85. I can't be that old."

Worthy will be remembered for his breathtaking athletic skills -- the blinding speed, the smooth, effortless glides to the hoop, the one-handed tomahawk jams. And he will be recalled as the ultimate clutch player -- his career postseason field goal percentage of .544 ranks among the top 10 on the NBA's all-time playoff list.

"I don't think there has been or will be a better small forward than James, and I don't think people appreciated that," said his coach, Pat Riley, to the Los Angeles Daily News upon Worthy's retirement. "He was always such a quiet guy. But when he was in his prime, I can guarantee you, there wasn't anybody who could touch him."

Career Statistics
G FG% 3PFG% FT% Rebs RPG Asts APG Stls Blks Pts PPG
926 .521 .241 .769 4,708 5.1 2,791 3.0 1,041 624 16,320 17.6"

Sam Miguel
06-04-2007, 10:17 AM
From Charlie Rosen of msn.com, speaking of Gophers, I give you The Sheed___

"Rasheed Wallace started out like he owned the low-post and was poised to take Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Anderson Varejao or Drew Gooden to the cleaners.

But Rasheed couldn't maintain his edge, becoming distracted as soon as he missed his first shot (at 4:40 of the opening quarter) and the refs failed to call a foul on his defender (Varejao). From there, Wallace's game went into the toilet.

In the end, he wound up shooting only 5-for-14, scoring 11 points and accumulating as many technical fouls as rebounds (two each).

Think back with me...

After several seasons of registering superior numbers and inferior clutch performances in Portland, Rasheed played stupendously for a half-season after he was traded to Detroit in February of 2004. But he didn't play particularly well in the Pistons' ensuing run to the championship shooting a mere 41.3% and scoring 13 points per game. In his subsequent three seasons in Detroit, Wallace was a consistently undependable, moody malcontent who routinely argued with his teammates and his coaches whenever the Pistons didn't play well, though he did step up his play in the opening two games in the recently concluded series versus Cleveland.

Except for the instances noted above, Wallace has been the league's most underachieving player.

No surprise, then, when he lost what was left of his composure late in the deciding Game 6.

With the entire season on the line, Wallace simply wimped out.


And once again, he'll blame somebody else for his own miscues.

Chauncey Billups played like a no-star 3-for-7 FG, one assist and a mere nine points. He seemed profoundly disinterested all series long. It seems that Billups can't wait until July 1 when he's officially a free agent and has the opportunity to get as far away from Rasheed as possible.

Rip Hamilton tried to pick up the slack, going 10-for-20 for 29 points, but the majority of his points resulted from isos, and were more of a testament to his own earnest skills than to any team-wide coordinated offense.

These were not the kind of points that the Pistons' offense had to produce in order to establish the offensive rhythm necessary to beat the bigger, longer, stronger Cavs' defense.

Tayshaun Prince had a miserable game to cap off a miserable series.

For sure, defending LeBron had to wear him out to a certain degree, but like Hamilton, Prince was compelled to create his own scoring opportunities which isn't, and never was, his specialty. Especially not against stronger, bigger opponents.

It was Chris Webber who actually provided a hint of things to come early in the first quarter. That's when his gratuitous shove of Anderson gained him a technical.

The foul was as blatant as it was uncalled for. What it really was, however, was a demonstration of Webber's and his teammates' false bravado, which was a poor substitute for both genuine confidence and gut-level intensity.

Flip Saunders has to assume much of the blame for the Pistons' unexpected collapse. Yes, he finally succeeded in taking the ball out of LBJ's hands with a pesky "twelve" defense that doubled him at every turning. But the Pistons would have been much better served by sticking with this trapping 1-2-2 zone during the deciding portions of Game 5.

Saunders can also be faulted for his stubborn insistence on playing matchup offense almost exclusively.

Detroit concentrated on various post-ups (they were 4-for-13 here, plus two free throws), as well as clear-outs (9-for-16, plus four free throws). The only adjustments they made in Game 6 were to have cutters flash down the middle when these individualistic schemes were either crowded or outright two-timed.

Big deal.

The Pistons used motion plays only three times, and scored only once. Perhaps Saunders shunned this type of offense because Larry Brown had used it so much (and with such great success).

Who knows?

In any case, Detroit's offense was stagnant and predictable. And the ball was rarely reversed.

And another brief dynasty bites the dust."

Sam Miguel
06-04-2007, 10:21 AM
More from Charley Rosen, excerpt from an article in msn.com___

"Playoff Basketball 101.

The Spurs knew exactly what they wanted to do, and they simply went out and did it. For example, with Derek Fisher attending to his sick daughter in New York and unable to get to the arena until halftime, Michael Finley went right after Fish's replacement (Gordan Giricek) on the Spurs' very first possession. An iso on the left wing for a pull-up 19-footer that made the net dance.

And where the Jazz had been able to dig into Tim Duncan's dribble whenever he posted on the left box, TD opened his assault on Mehmet Okur with successful powerhouse moves that began on the right box.

Also, since Deron Williams was noticeably gimpy with an injured foot, Tony Parker wasted no time in taking the young man to the cup.

If Carlos Boozer is prone to turn his head on defense, there went Fabricio Oberto on a backdoor baseline cut to clutch a clever pass from TD and score an easy layup.

Among other skills, the Spurs can recognize an opponent's weak spots and unfortunate tendencies, and then relentlessly exploit them all.

And that was just on offense.

At the other end of the court, the Spurs' syncopated defense once again closed up all the interior spaces in which Boozer loves to operate. For the game, Boozer scored only one bucket after setting up in the pivot.

For some reason, Jerry Sloan was so anxious to get Okur going that he ran too many plays for him in the opening minutes. Okur responded with several off-balance shots and was hoopless in three attempts. The Jazz would have been better served by employing the same back- and diagonal-screen for Boozer that once created prime post-up positions for Karl Malone.

In the real world, however, none of these stratagems would have made any difference. The Spurs were healthy, playing in front of the home folks, and absolutely certain that the game, and the series, belonged to them. While the Jazz were injured, short-handed and spitting against the wind.

The true indication of how good the Spurs are could be observed in the last 12 minutes. With the game already in hand, Pop had five bench-warmers on the court: Matt Bonner, Jacque Vaughn, Brent Barry, Beno Udrih and Francisco Elson. Even with the Spurs 25-plus points to the good the scrubs shunned garbage time. Instead they didn't miss a screen, didn't make sloppy passes, always undertook aggressive cuts, hustled after every loose ball, never forced a shot or botched a defensive rotation, and played with the kind of precision, awareness and unselfishness that would be characteristic of a good team playing in a tight ball game.

Now that's discipline.

Both the Spurs' reserves and starters understand and fully embrace their various roles. What's more, every player respects every contribution made by his teammates, no matter how insignificant these may appear. The cut that opens up a driving lane for someone else. The pass that leads to an assist pass. The screen that creates a half-step advantage. For the Spurs, the angels are in the details.

That's why there are no prima donnas on the squad, and no surprises.

But let me back up for a minute. Actually, Manu Ginobili's superlative talents once were a huge surprise to both his coaches and his teammates.

The occasion was the start of the 2002-03 season. Ginobili had been San Antonio's second-round selection (57th pick overall) in the 1999 NBA Draft. Before finally agreeing to play with the Spurs, he'd been playing in Italy. But the trick was that Ginobili had a severely injured ankle when he reported to the Spurs' pre-season training camp, and wasn't able to play all out until the second week of the NBA season.

Until then he had been something of a mystery player.

Imagine everybody's surprise and delight when they finally got a chance to eyeball Ginobili's high-octane lefty slants, madcap hustle and deadly perimeter shooting. Even now, Ginobili does something in virtually every game that causes his mates to break into happy grins. Like the two sudden step-back jumpers he drilled in the first quarter. Or the righty drive and layup that he almost converted in the second quarter. Like the third-quarter defensive rebound he ripped away from Utah's huge front-line.

And that's why Ginobili was, and still is, the Spurs' X-factor and not-so-secret weapon.

For several seasons the Spurs have been justly celebrated for their poise, their grit, their versatility and intelligence, plus the unselfishness of their superstars. But Game 5 demonstrated two other qualities that are equally as vital to their continued success:

Prompted by Pop, their perpetual quest to achieve perfection. The perfect play. The perfect quarter. The perfect game. The perfect series.

Plus a collective character trait lacking in several of their contemporaries (most notably the Pistons) a ruthless killer instinct.

That's why from the opening tipoff in Game 5 the Spurs refused to allow the Jazz to even dream of extending the series.

It's a mind game all right, and the Spurs are by far the most mindful NBA ball club still standing."

Sam Miguel
06-04-2007, 10:47 AM
Something from yahoosports' Dan Wetzel, a new great or just a gopher___

"Make way for the superstar!" shouted LeBron James to the throng crowded outside the victorious Cleveland Cavaliers locker room. "Make way for the superstar!"

Whatever King James asks around here, King James gets, of course. Only he started laughing as a path was cleared not for him but also for his previously anonymous teammate, Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, who entered this series as a role player, a rookie and a second-round pick and ended it with 31 knockout points on the Detroit Pistons.

Cleveland finally rocked Saturday, this long hopeless, mostly helpless franchise growing stronger and stronger, higher and higher with each passing game until a wave of building, budding confidence just crashed its way into the NBA finals.

James produced 20 more points, 14 more rebounds and eight more assists Saturday in the Cavaliers' 98-82 silencing of Detroit, but nowhere in any box score was a measurement of James' ageless leadership ability and contagious confidence. There was no measure of its profound effect on his unheralded, uneven supporting cast that keeps getting better by the day. There was nothing of an icon acting as the bodyguard for a lowly rook.

Gibson entered Game 2 of this series averaging 3.7 points in the playoffs. But he got his chance, drained a few three-pointers and immediately had LeBron hugging him on the court, whispering in his ear and lifting him up.

If Gibson, the 42nd pick in last June's draft, wasn't certain he was ready for a starring role in the Eastern Conference finals against that vaunted Pistons backcourt, James was. He had watched his work ethic all season. He had been telling him that when he got his chance he'd deliver.

Now that the time was here, LeBron kept telling him and telling him and telling him until the rest of the series the kid from Texas with the silly nickname averaged 17.8 points and became a weapon Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton couldn't handle.

None of it happens without James. No way. Not Boobie, not Drew Gooden's baseline jumpers, not Anderson Varejao's tenacious inside play, not the Pistons' reduction to nothing but shouting at officials, not this frantic, frenetic college-like crowd, not an entire franchise that never had any reason to believe in anything suddenly rising up.

James may be 22, but he's always been a leader. His boyhood friends back in Akron say he dominated Pop Warner football games. When he was a high school freshman, he was the best player in Ohio, everyone looking to him, everyone focusing on stopping his game. He compared what Gibson did Saturday to what his best friend, Dru Joyce, did when they were freshmen in the Ohio state championship game. The defense focused on LeBron; Joyce won the game.

Different stage, different kid, same result.

"He told me he was going to make me something special," Gibson said. "He told me to keep shooting, don't hesitate.

"When a guy like that tells you that, you step to it with a lot of confidence and knock it down for him."

Yes, for him, everything for him. James is such an oversized superstar the commercials, the highlights, the international fame that he could cast an awful shadow over his locker room. Yet he stuns each and every member of this organization with his humility, his friendship, his desire to take even the most nervous of rookies under his wing if it might, just might, make this team better.

"I just knew he was going to be something special and tonight it was perfect," James said.

You've never seen a team grow so fast, so furious. Every moment seemed to build toward this, every decision James made a part of a master plan that would pay off.

He was criticized for half of his moves by so many knee-jerk skeptics, but giving up the potential game-winning shot in Game 1 led to Detroit having to respect the pass in Game 5 and his teammates developing boundless confidence in Game 6.

The averages of 25.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.5 assists in this series were just some of the magic LeBron worked here. The rest were the little conversations, the postgame praise for his guys, the talks on the plane, the bus, the locker room, the way he makes everyone even the old veterans do it for him.

James was never going to let this series get away. He alternated between dominating when necessary and playing motivator for his teammates when possible; he was like a parent teaching his kid to ride a two-wheeler, letting go and grabbing on at just the right moments. On Thursday, he scored the final 25 points. On Saturday, the other Cavs scored the first 18.

If two teammates hadn't missed wide-open game-winners in the first two games, Cleveland would have won this series 6-0. But even with the misses, LeBron never criticized, never pouted or frowned. He just kept telling them to shoot, kept telling them they were good enough, kept telling them this was possible.

"From day one I've chanted, 'One, two, three, championship,' " James said of the way he breaks huddles. "Funny faces at first looked at me. I didn't care. I kept it going. 'One, two, three, championship' every single day."

And then he worked to make it happen. Not just by making himself better but by making everyone else better. One, two, three. Every single day.

Make way for the superstar, he said. Make way for these Cavaliers.

Sam Miguel
06-04-2007, 10:55 AM
More Dan Wetzel on an unquesitoned young Great___

"AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Time and time again came LeBron, no other option, no other chance for the Cleveland Cavaliers. One on five every time. One LeBron, five Piston defenders and Detroit barely had a prayer.

In a performance for the ages, the 22-year-old star answered the age-old question of whether one man can beat an entire team.

LeBron 109, Detroit 107.

In Game 5, in a game of five, one won.

Here in the East finals, LeBron James scored his team's last 25 points, 29 of its final 30 and 48 overall (to go with nine rebounds and seven assists) in one of the most astounding, astonishing efforts in NBA history.

With 2:48 remaining in regulation and Cleveland trailing 88-84, James took the ball, took his team on his back and never let up, scoring every Cavaliers point down the fourth-quarter stretch and through two overtime periods until at long last the Detroit Pistons were felled.

Post game, ice bags on his knees, a towel draped over his shoulders, head spinning as the adrenaline wore off, even he didn't really know what to say. He was exhausted and exhilarated and just coming to terms with the historic performance.

He had been raked over the coals earlier in this series for being too much of a team player, passing up a game-winner one night, not shooting enough the next.

So while he defaulted into good guy talk about "giving all the credit to my teammates" and mentioning "the simple fact we won," everyone knows Cleveland is a single victory from a stunning advancement to the NBA finals because James gave up on every team mantra known to man.

Down the stretch, he cast aside any aspirations of being called a ball hog and proceeded to humble and humiliate a Pistons team that not only had no answers but also barely knew the question.

For every ridiculous fallback jumper that he stuck, for every impossible leaner, there was an assortment of blow-by drives, dunks and, in the case of the final game-winning shot, layups. Detroit, so often, got stuck flat-footed in single coverage, which was easy prey for the insane speed and strength of James.

It didn't matter who the Pistons tried on him. He manhandled Chauncey Billups, powered through Tayshaun Prince, ran by Richard Hamilton and broke Jason Maxiell's ankles. He left the entire Detroit roster pointing at each other, arguing with each other, wondering just how the hell one guy was in the process of scoring 25 in a row on them.

"We're going to have to do something different next time," Flip Saunders, the completely overmatched Pistons coach, concluded.

There were no tricks here, no gimmicks. This was simple line-it-up-and-go. Mostly it was LeBron at the top of the key with the ball and the floor spread. Strength against strength, man against team and LeBron just ruined Detroit.

The rest of the Cavs stood around in the unlikely case LeBron might get trapped and need to pass. Then they would generally pass it right back. The last non-LeBron basket was hit with 7:21 to play in the fourth.

At one point, Cleveland coach Mike Brown, realizing James was taking all the shots, asked his star if he might want the Cavaliers to call a play for someone else. James scoffed at the notion; not now, not here, not with this series and this season on the line.

"I said, 'OK, let's go right back to LeBron and spread the floor,' " Brown laughed.

And that was that. That was all.

James' teammates knew this was special, just not how special until the stats started getting read after. Although not even the Elias Sports Bureau could crunch the numbers (this was a stat no one had ever heard of), the NBA believed that no one not Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, no one had ever done this.

Twenty-five in a row to win the game? Twenty-nine of the final 30? No one knew what to say.

"I feel bad because my words don't give it justice to what he did," said Brown.

"One time in the seventh grade I scored 29 points and that was all the points my team scored," laughed Drew Gooden. "We won 29-27."

That was good as anyone had. The seventh grade.

"I've never seen anybody dominate a game like that, especially considering the situation, Eastern Conference finals, on the road, against a very good defensive team," Zydrunas Ilgauskas said.

Why does Kobe Bryant think he needs a supporting cast again?

Meanwhile, James kept talking about his teammates until he eventually realized that as true as it was fine, he didn't play five-on-one defense it was absurd. His teammates are moderately talented, a lottery team without him. With him, they are 48 minutes away on Saturday from taking on the Spurs, who had to watch this on television and at least feel pangs of fear as he dissected Detroit.

Forget all the armchair criticism he took early in this series, forget all the critics. Was it his fault they missed wide-open, game-winning shots? This was the truth, this was the future, this was LeBron James dramatically rewriting the story of these playoffs.

And so he ditched the aw-shucks act for a second and finally admitted that, at the very least, "I was able to will my team to victory."

One on five, and the one willed the win. Through the last minutes of regulation and all of two playoff overtimes, in the loneliest of basketball moments on the road amid the roar of the crowd against veteran defenders, and with the series about to swing, LeBron James willed all right willed it like maybe no one else ever has.

Shot after shot, time after time."

Sam Miguel
06-05-2007, 11:32 AM
From Justin Einhorn via yahoosports, maybe there'll be Greats and Gophers hereabouts as well__

"ORLANDO, Fla. (STATS) - If the talent on display on the court at last week's predraft workouts was remotely proportional to the star power on display in the stands, the NBA would have come a lot closer to what it was looking for when it decided to prohibit any individual private workouts before the camp.

Instead, basketball royalty like Michael Jordan and Jerry West overshadowed players like Demetris Nichols and Jared Dudley, while first-round prospects with a lot to prove like Josh McRoberts and Glen Davis decided to just skip the thing altogether.

Still, there is no question the camp is worthwhile. Besides being the first chance for mid-major collegians to play against top-flight competition, it's an opportunity for more well-known second-tier players to improve their draft stock as high-level NBA personnel - like Jordan and West - watch intently.

While solid performances may have pushed players like Syracuse's Nichols and Boston College's Dudley toward the top of the second round, lesser-known entities like Nevada's Ramon Sessions and San Diego State's Brandon Heath likely moved closer to securing spots on the draft board.

"That's the whole story here, there are guys here that'll be taken in the second round," said NBA director of scouting Marty Blake. "The trick is, how will he look once they get the tryouts, how will he look once they get to rookie camp, summer programs? It's a long process."

And that second round may be more important than ever. Look no further than this year's playoffs.

Carlos Boozer, the 36th overall pick in 2002, led Utah to the Western Conference finals and teammate Paul Millsap, selected 47th overall last year, was one of only two rookies to get significant playing time among the four conference finalists. The other: No. 42 pick Daniel Gibson, whose 31 points in Game 6 against Detroit lifted Cleveland into the NBA finals.

Both Gibson and Millsap were part of last year's camp, two of 11 players to attend who ended up being drafted. It's possible that number could double this year, and Millsap, who came from unheralded Louisiana Tech, may have provided a blueprint on how to succeed coming out of a mid-major.

"This just shows the competitive level of basketball in this era, it's growing," said DaShaun Wood, a 5-foot-11 point guard from Wright State who bolstered his stock this week. "You can find talent all over the world, in any conference, and there's a lot of guys here from mid-majors. We're just trying to show we can play too, with the upper echelon of competition."

As Santa Clara alum Steve Nash has shown, there's little question about that. Maybe his Suns, owning the 24th and 29th overall picks as well as the 59th found a little help for him in Orlando?

Phoenix, or any other team for that matter, wouldn't divulge much about potential picks despite all the talking that gets done during these four days in the sun. During a week which coach Mike D'Antoni often spent joking with fellow top executives and coaches, it seems appropriate he would only offer a quick quip when asked about his team's draft needs.

"We just gotta find somebody better than Steve Nash, and that's just hard to do."

Indeed, especially considering all the lottery-type talent chose to take a pass and one of the deepest drafts in years is relatively light in point-guard depth.

Toward the end of the camp, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Brandan Wright and the like came to Orlando to get their physicals taken, take part in some drills and undergo strength and agility testing - but that's it. Many of those players, as well as some draft hopefuls playing throughout the week, will later go on to have private workouts with teams during their stays in central Florida.

Those workouts being restricted prior to the camp was a new twist this year, a rule change the league hoped would result in more top players competing. They didn't. More second-round hopefuls showed, but many still decided to skip it, and the lottery picks all backed out.

"I think this is the best group we've had in the 26-year history of the predraft camp, and I was involved in the first one in '82 in Chicago," said Blake. "I think a lot of guys don't want to play here because their agents are afraid they might not look good."

Despite the overall depth of talent, it still wasn't good enough to be the main event.

The four-day schedule brings out many of the leagues biggest names, but most of them are not solely focused on what's going on at the gym. Virtually none were in the stands anxiously watching with pen and paper in hand jotting down notes.

Some were more interested in seeing the lottery talent when they finally showed up. Some were there just to make the social rounds with other league personnel.

The camp presents one of the few times all season when so many of the game's most influential people get together in the same city at the same time. That leaves opportunity for plenty of schmoozing, whether to just chat with friends or, more importantly, to discuss job openings or do some wheeling and dealing.

Maybe that's why where-have-they-been former stars like Shawn Kemp, Danny Manning and Moses Malone showed up. And it's no coincidence that three coaching vacancies were filled during the four-day span, with Mark Iavaroni going to Memphis, Jim O'Brien to Indiana and Billy Donovan to Orlando - at least temporarily.

So sure, some GMs might be checking out the competition, but as D'Antoni admitted, how much can he or other top coaches learn in just a few days? They have enough to worry about with their own teams, so they must rely on the scouts who have been analyzing these players throughout the college season.

"Somebody could play well here and maybe you don't like them in the workouts, or vice versa, so we just try to cover all our bases and make the most intelligent decision you can make," D'Antoni said. "Doesn't mean you?re not gonna miss it, you just try to do your best."

What most personnel know they aren't missing at the camp is the likelihood of a first-round selection. Only two came from last year's camp - Renaldo Balkman of the Knicks and Jordan Farmar of the Lakers - and that number is not expected to be much higher this time around.

Many thought the camp gained extra credibility last year with New York's selection of Balkman, an unheralded player out of South Carolina who shined at the camp before being drafted 20th overall. However, apparently that performance didn't matter as much as some thought.

"It was on previous work and the way he played at South Carolina and the things I saw him do there and the way he performed against some of the better teams is what I based my decision," Knicks president and coach Isiah Thomas said.

"What I saw here last year, you know it helped, but it wasn't like I came here and saw him and was like, 'Oh my God, this is the guy I gotta take.' A little bit more thought went into that than a two- or three-day thing."

But for those on the fringe of being drafted at all, that "two- or three-day thing" just might be the thing that allows them to have their name announced on June 26. And that's the dream that brings these players to Orlando.

That and playing in front of Michael Jordan."

Sam Miguel
06-14-2007, 12:39 PM
Something from Adrian Wojnarowski of yahoosports...

"CLEVELAND The seventh championship ring will go with the rest of them inside Robert Horry's house, unceremoniously dropped into a bathroom drawer.

"That way, they can all stay together," he said Wednesday.

Horry is an authority on all things NBA championships, and Big Shot Bob had a message about his San Antonio Spurs for the great Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s.

"We would beat them," he boasted.

Horry punctuated his proclamation with a laugh, understanding there was no harm stirring it up with San Antonio on the brink of sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals. Horry has had his moments in this series, including five blocked shots in Game 2. He isn't sure if he'll be back for a 16th season, but if he does, he'll return to a Spurs team that'll be the favorite to be the first to repeat champion since Horry's Shaq-Kobe Lakers won three straight titles.

"No disrespect to the guys back in the 80's and the 70's, but the guys now are so much better than those guys," Horry said. "I don't care what they say. If you look at old films, guys only went right. They turned and kept it in their right hand. Look at the things LeBron (James) can do, Tim (Duncan) can do, Tony (Parker) can do, Manu (Ginobili) can do. Little (Daniel) Gibson over there. There's no way you can compare those guys. We watched what they did and expanded on that."

Horry is right about watching the games in the 60's and early 70's, when the players favored one hand and dribbled with heads down. But the 80's? When Magic played the point? Dennis Johnson? Come on, Rob. And Daniel Gibson is doing something that no one else did in the 80's? What, make a few jumpers over two weeks of his life?

Sorry, but the 80's had far more complete players. They're bigger, faster and more athletic now, but not always better. Before expansion and salary caps, the talent wasn't so spread out. You could have three and four great players on a team for years, and that's hard to do now.

Horry's old teammate with the Lakers, Derek Fisher, was in Cleveland to talk about an NBA Players Association initiative to feed one million people in Africa this summer. Yet, he had to sigh and make a concession about who truly had dominated the decade. San Antonio's four titles in nine years, the staying power of three in the past five, has sold Fisher on the Spurs.

"I hate to say it, but they're surpassing us," said Fisher, whose Jazz lost to San Antonio in the Western Conference finals. "They have become the class of the league."

Most agree that these Spurs are the best of San Antonio's four championship teams, and yet Horry doesn't believe they measure with the Lakers' 2001 title winner. "If I had to pick one team, it would be (2001) when we swept everyone except for Philly," Horry said. "That team was pretty awesome. It was like a locomotive coming through with no brakes."

Eventually, L.A. crashed. San Antonio has a selfless star in Tim Duncan who, at 31, has a chance to be the cornerstone of more championships. Parker and Ginobili understand they are complementary parts and embrace Duncan's greatness. And Horry said he never sees his Spurs teammates wearing rings. They never talk about titles, about where they fit into history. And most of all, there's never even a suggestion jealousy over the salary or stature of the superstar.

"Money hurt that (Lakers) team," Horry said. "It came down to this guy wanted this much money, that guy wanted this much money. Those two guys (Shaq and Kobe) wanted to be the top dog and forgot about the other guys. It all boiled down to money. Money is the root of all evil sometimes.

"Sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees. They didn't win that championship against Detroit (in 2004), and they said, 'OK, (Karl) Malone you're injured, bye. (Gary) Payton, you're too old, bye. Shaq, you want too much money, bye.' "