Continuing our tour of All-Rookie teams, we head to the newly created Southeast Division, where 60% of the teams didn’t exist before 1988. Let’s take a look at what they’ve produced….
-Atlanta Hawks: People tend to forget that the Hawks are an original NBA franchise with some illustrious history. For the purposes of our inquiry, however, that history pretty much stopped by the mid-1970s. The Hawks have had scads of great rookies before that time. Since then…not so much. In fact, since 1980 the Hawks only offer a few viable All-Rookie candidates: Dominique Wilkins, Stacey Augmon, Josh Smith, and Kevin Willis.
At point guard, the Hawks have virtually no real good point guard seasons. Lenny Wilkens, Doc Rivers, and Tom Henderson were okay in part-time duty but none really provided much. As such, I’ve chosen Pete Maravich, who was more of a shooting guard. Still, he had many more assists than any other Hawk rookie, the team had plenty of two guards, and Pistol Pete could’ve handled the point if necessary.
1. FIBA Things: So far the FIBA Americas really haven’t gone down with much surprise but here are some things to note:
-The US is obviously the best team again and its margins of victory have been ridiculous Still, you can’t take these three blow outs to mean that the US has extended the gap against Spain and the other medal contenders for the Olympics. Before today’s win over Brazil by 37, the US has played Canada, the Virgin Islands, and Venezuela. None of these teams won any games against any one but each other (Brazil was also 3-0 against the trio).
In terms of the internal workings of the team, Carmelo Anthony and Michael Redd have led the teams in shots and they both are hitting 50% from three. In this All-Star type environment, the non-shooters really don’t shoot. Before last night’s game, Jason Kidd has taken one shot in three games and 45 minutes (he hit an open three). Something I never would’ve guessed is that the guy getting the most minutes before the Brazil game, albeit by a small margin, was actually Tayshaun Prince (62 minutes in three games). The only player with less than 45 minutes in those three games is Tyson Chandler at 28 minutes.
-Uruguay is a surprising 3-1, led by former Hawk Esteban Batista who has 23 ppg and 14.5 rpg. The only other player on the squad with more than 6 ppg is six-foot guard Nicolas Mazzarino, who has shot really well (15-32 from three).
-Argentina is 3-0 again, even without Manu Ginobili or Andres Nocioni. Luis Scola has led the team all categories, though he hasn’t looked like a future star. Carlos Delfino has looked like the most athletic player on the team but even in this setting, he still can’t shoot (11-32 overall). The most noticeable thing about this team, however, was that they have a pretty strong corporate sponsor. Not only is Visa listed prominently on their jerseys, you can’t even find the damn country name. Frankly, it’s a little gaudy.
Forget the US, we look forward to their showdown with Team Master Card
-Puerto Rico looks much weaker than a few years ago. Elias Ayuso is still scoring but is only 10-29 from three and Rick Apodoca has played very poorly (only 6.3 ppg on 33% shooting). Big man Peter John Ramos is getting big playing time and has been okay (9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.2 fouls per game). It should be interesting to see if he can ever develop.
-Romel Beck from UNLV is pretty much the only guy who is any good on Mexico. Beck is the only player anywhere near CBA level (22 ppg).
-As for the rest of the world, FIBA Europe doesn’t start for another week. In Africa, Angola, once again took the title. Angola has now been in every Olympic game since 1992. The Australia/New Zealand area of the globe is called FIBA Oceania for their tournament, which was only a three-game series between Australia and New Zealand. Australia took the automatic bid by winning two of three.
FIBA Asia was played mostly in July and early August and had 16 teams from the Middle and Far East. In the end, Iran beat Lebanon to win the title. (China had the highest ranked team coming into the tournament but none of its NBA talent ended up playing). In terms of recognizable names in the Asian tournament, there ain’t many: Ha Seung Jin of Korean (a former Portland big man), Jordan had Joe Vogel (from Colorado State was drafted back in 1996), and 7′5 Jaber Rouzbahani from Iran, who was almost drafted a few years ago.
2. RIP Eddie Griffin: In more shocking news, 25-year old Eddie Griffin died last week when his car was hit by a train. Despite being ballyhooed as a huge talent, Griffin had struggled with alcohol problems and it looked like his NBA career was already over. Griffin played only one year of college ball at Seton Hall but was quite good (18 ppg, 10 rpg, and 4 bpg) where he was remembered for punching teammate Ty Shine. By the end of the season, Griffin was thought to have burned bridges well before declaring for the draft in the Spring.
The questions were still pretty loud about Griffin that early. Usually, a young, 6′11 athlete would be a clear number one pick. But in a draft where unknown quantity Kwame Brown went first, Griffin fell all the way to seven and was promptly traded by the local Nets to the Rockets for three other drafts picks, Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins, and Brandon Armstrong (this was a great trade for the Nets, though I actually thought it was a mistake at the time—shows what I know).
In Houston, Griffin had a decent rookie year (8.8 ppg, .366 FG%, 5.7 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.8 bpg). After the season, John Hollinger’s 2002 Basketball Prospectus summed up his season thusly: “Griffin is only 20 years old this year, and obviously has the potential to be an outstanding shot-blocker. Right now the rest of his game has a lot of holes, and how he fills them will determine whether he was worth trading three first-round picks to acquire.” In 2002-03, Griffin had pretty much the same season as his rookie year, except he raised his shooting to 40%. Hollinger’s 2003 Prospectus was still skeptical: “Griffin’s odds of achieving stardom as a jump shooter are pretty slim. The ball spins about a quarter turn off its axis and has unreal amounts of spin on it….Griffin won’t be any kind of star unless he seriously increases his shooting percentage, which means he has to find a way to get more baskets inside. He’s young enough to make the adjustment; he’ll just need to put in the work in the gym.”
After 2002-03, things went seriously downhill. In early 2003-04, Griffin missed a bunch of practices and flights and had a publicized domestic disturbance issue (for which he spent almost two weeks in jail) and Jeff Van Gundy had had enough and cut him. The Nets promptly signed Griffin as a low-risk gamble but he never played a game for the team. He was cut after getting in an incident where he was thrown out of a hotel. The incident was downplayed by the Nets, but after he was cut there was an implication that he needed some treatment.
The T-Wolves took a flier on Griffin for 2004-05 and he had a season very similar to his time in Houston, which is to say useful but limited. His numbers fell a bit in 2005-06 but he Wolves still played him almost 20 mpg but things started to really fall apart. He was involved in a bizarre car crash in March 2006, that appeared to be caused by drunk driving. Griffin still came back for the 2006-07 season but played only 13 games and was down to 1.4 ppg and was suspended for violating the drug program in January 2007.
The Wolves cut him last March and implied that waiving was with prejudice. At the time, Kevin McHale said: “[i]t was time for both parties — Eddie and the Timberwolves — to move on. It just didn’t work out for Eddie here in Minnesota.” The next we heard from Griffin was about his untimely death. In the end, it’s hard to understand when the problems arose and where the could have been prevented. Was Griffin hurt by coming to the NBA at such a young age? Did he receive appropriate mentoring in his one year in college where he was brought in to make Seton Hall national again? Ultimately, each person makes his or own decisions but I am sympathetic to the roller coaster life that Griffin went through as big recruit who jumper from team to team. I can’t say that the high school, NCAA, or NBA don’t try to prevent such problems (both the NBA and the NCAA have very public rules and prevention programs) but is fair to say that his life should be examined to see how, if at all, young players from similar backgrounds can be protected.
8/9 Sign Eddie House and Scot Pollard
The Celtics now turn to adding some degree of depth to the roster. House should help as a shooter off the bench. As an aside, I’m not quite sure why the Celtics are toying with an older Reggie Miller when he highly unlikely to be better than House at this point. I suppose Miller can’t hurt but this is much ado about very little.
As for Pollard, I don’t expect too much. Pollard was once a very nice backup center but he hasn’t been healthy since 2001-02. The last five years, Pollard have averaged 40 games per season and he’s coming off of career lows in most categories. No matter what, Pollard is a pretty funny guy. Here’s Pollard’s tongue-in-cheek response, no doubt to tweak the Boston media frenzy, to questions about playing with the Celtics: “As a side note, I always hated Kevin Garnett.”
8/6 Sign Eddie Jones
Nice snag for the Mavs. Jones was given a two-year $4 million deal to come off the bench for a deep Mavs team. For those who think Jones looked done on Memphis earlier last year, his numbers when returning to Miami were pretty much in line with his career. Jones should be a useful player in Dallas for the life of this deal but he is now going to be a confirmed part-timer, getting no more than 20 minutes per game unless we see injuries to Jerry Stackhouse.
8/17 Sign Jarvis Hayes
Interesting move for the Pistons. Hayes has not been great as a pro. He can shoot a little but the rest of his game is, at best, adequate. His best bet at a long NBA career is to follow the George McCloud career path of hitting enough threes to make up for his lack of ball-handling skills. If Hayes can continue to hit threes at his current clip (36%) he will have some use to the Pistons who are, at best, average at shooting the three. At the very least, Hayes will give the team a dimension that the poor shooting Flip Murray does not. Continue reading NBA Transactions 7/28-8/17…
Continuing with our examinations of each franchise’s top rookies of All-Time, here is the Central:
-Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have two Rookies of the Year in their franchise history and they are doozies. Elton Brand was great in 1999-00 and one can only wonder where the Bulls would be the last few years if they would’ve kept him. The other is some guy named Michael Jordan in 1984-85. With the shooting guard slot and power forward locked up, can we find any other decent rookies for the Bulls?
At point guard, the Bulls have had all sort of decent young point guards but no stars. In fact, before 1999 there were virtually no rookie point guards for the Bulls. Veterans Guy Rodgers and Norm Van Lier ran the point for most of the 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1970s, Reggie Theus led the team in assists as a rookie but he was actually more of a two guard then a point. Theus was actually the best theoretical rookie point guard but since he didn’t play the point (Wilbur Holland really did) and Jordan couldn’t stand him, I am loath to put Theus in the backcourt of even a theoretical Bulls team. Need more details? Sam Smith’s ever trusty “The Jordan Rules” lays it out:
“Jordan hated Theus as much as he did any player in the league. Jordan disliked hot dogs like New York’s Mark Jackson, but his face always turned hard and cold against Theus. He’d angrily slap Theus’s hands away hard, with a short, chopping slap, when Theus tried a hand check. It was a common defensive move against Jordan and he’d usually just push away the defender’s hand. Against Theus, his response was more like a karate blow. ‘He tried to undercut me in Kansas City my first year in the league,’ Jordan said once when asked about why he disliked Theus so. ‘I hate his game,’ Jordan said another time. ‘He’s so selfish, always berating the referees and yelling out there.’ None of the reasons made sense. The story around the Bulls, though, was that Theus had briefly date Jordan’s wife, Jaunita, before Jordan met her.”
Each summer as NBA activity slows to a crawl (referee controversies and Kevin Garnett trades notwithstanding) we like to get a little more reflective and some historical perspective-type series. This summer I thought we’d go over the All-Time All-Rookie squad for each franchise. Hopefully, we’ll see how many useful rookies each franchise produced and, also, find out about a few players who didn’t quite develop after good starts. For ground rules, our teams will be limited to NBA only, which knocks out any ABA teams or pre-1954-55 players. In finding our teams, we are not looking to pick the best players career-wise but whoever was best only as a rookie. We’ll start today with the Atlantic Division….
-Boston Celtics: The Celtics have had a long illustrious history but great rookie season aren’t typically a staple. It’s not that the Celtics haven’t had some really good rookies, but they’ve had a ton of really good players who started out as bit players and developed. This was the hallmark of the Boston dynasties. In the 1960s, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey, and John Havlicek were far from key player early on. Later on, JoJo White, Paul Westphal, Cedric Maxwell, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, and Reggie Lewis all followed the same processes. The Celts rookie point guard slot, in particular, suffers from this. In fact, the Celtics have a bunch of players of mediocre rookies point guards: JoJo White (1969-70), Brian Shaw (1988-89), and Dee Brown (19990-91) were all in the same boat as decent bit players. Of the groups, White gets the nod, as he has slightly better stats and he actually developed into an All-Star (though both Shaw and Brown were good players).