Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh headline Basketball Hall of Fame finalists

Celtics forward Paul Pierce and Heat big Chris Bosh
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Paul Pierce made an All-NBA second team, three All-NBA third teams and 10 All-Star teams. He won 2008 NBA Finals MVP in helping the Celtics to a championship. He frequently stepped up in the playoffs throughout his 19-year NBA career.

Pierce should be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Then again, I said the same thing about Chris Bosh, and he wasn’t even a finalist last year. The Basketball Hall of Fame – with its secretive procedures – produces some odd outcomes.

But at least Pierce and Bosh are among this year’s finalists.

The finalists with NBA ties:

PAUL PIERCE [Player] – Pierce is a 10-time NBA All-Star (2002-06, 2008-2012) and 2008 NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics. In 2008, he was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. After 19 seasons in the NBA, Pierce ranks ninth all-time in free throws made and three-point field goals made, as well as 19th all-time in NBA scoring with 26,397 points. Drafted by the Celtics, Pierce was named a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1999. As a Kansas Jayhawk, he was a unanimous First Team All-American in 1998. With Inglewood High, Pierce was named California Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American in 1995. His number 34 is retired by the Boston Celtics and Kansas Jayhawks.

CHRIS BOSH [Player] – Bosh is an 11-time NBA All-Star (2006-2016) and a two-time NBA Champion with the Miami Heat (2012, 2013). In 13 NBA seasons, he averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Drafted by the Toronto Raptors, he was a member of the NBA All-Rookie Team in 2003-2004. As a collegiate athlete at Georgia Tech, Bosh earned ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003. As a high school standout in 2002, Bosh was named Texas Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American, while leading Lincoln High to a state and national championship with a 40-0 record. On the international stage, Bosh won an Olympic gold medal in 2008.

BEN WALLACE [Player] – Wallace is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006), four-time NBA All-Star (2003-06) and NBA Champion with the Detroit Pistons (2004). He earned NBA All-Defensive Team honors five times (2002-2006) and All-NBA Second Team three times (2003, 2004, 2006), while leading the NBA in rebounds per game (2002, 2003) and blocked shots (2002). As a collegiate athlete at Virginia Union University, Wallace was a CIAA Tournament Champion and Tournament MVP in 1995 and a Division II First Team All-American in 1996.

CHRIS WEBBER [Player] – Webber is a five-time NBA All-Star (1997, 2000-2003) and the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year. He earned All-NBA First Team honors in 2001 and All-NBA Second Team three times (1999, 2002, 2003). He led the NBA in rebounds per game during the 1998-1999 season and averaged more than 20 points per game for nine consecutive seasons (1994-2003). As a member of the “Fab Five,” Webber led University of Michigan to Final Four appearances in 1992 and 1993 and was a Unanimous First Team All-America selection in 1993. As a high school phenom at Detroit Country Day School, he was named the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, Michigan’s Mr. Basketball, and the Naismith Prep Player of the Year in 1991.

TIM HARDAWAY [Player] – A 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist, Hardaway played 13 NBA seasons scoring a total of 15,373 points while averaging more than 20 points per game for four consecutive seasons. He is the 1990 recipient of the Jack McMahon Award for most inspirational player and a 1997 All-NBA First Team selection. He currently ranks 18th in NBA history with 7,095 career assists. The Chicago native was a member of the men’s basketball team at the University of Texas at El Paso (1985-1989) and is known for making his signature move – the “UTEP Two-step” – famous in 1989, the same year he was named WAC Player of the Year.

MARQUES JOHNSON [Player] – Johnson is a five-time NBA All-Star (1979-81, 1983, 1986) and a member of the 1978 NBA All-Rookie First Team and the 1979 All-NBA First Team. He was also named the NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1986. In 11 NBA seasons, he averaged 20.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. As a student-athlete at UCLA under the direction of Hall of Famer John Wooden, Johnson was a member of an NCAA national championship team (1975). In 1977, he was named Pac-8 Player of the Year and the consensus National Collegiate Player of the Year. Johnson has been inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2013).

MICHAEL COOPER [Player] – Cooper is a five-time NBA Champion with the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and is best known for his defensive contributions to an offensively gifted team. He earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors five times (1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988) and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1987. In 1986, he collected the J. Walter Kennedy Citizen Award for outstanding service in his community. He played one season for Virtus Roma, where he received the Italian All-Star Game MVP in 1991. As a collegiate athlete at University of New Mexico, Cooper was named a USBWA First Team All-American.

RICK ADELMAN [Coach] – Adelman coached in the NBA for more than three decades, compiling an overall head coaching record of 1042-749 (.582). His teams reached the playoffs in 16 of his 23 seasons at the helm and he led the Portland Trail Blazers to two NBA Finals (1990, 1992). Adelman ranks ninth all-time in NBA career wins, including two 60-win seasons and 11 50-win seasons. He reached 200 wins in just 288 games, a record at the time. Adelman is a three-time NBA All-Star Game head coach (1991, 2001, 2003). He coached several Hall of Fame players including Clyde Drexler, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Mullin and Drazen Petrovic.

BILL RUSSELL [Coach] – Following the retirement of legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach in 1966, Bill Russell became the first Black head coach in the NBA. In his second season as player-coach, Russell led the Boston Celtics to the 1968 NBA championship, thus becoming the first Black head coach to win an NBA title. The following season, Russell would again lead Boston to the NBA Finals and championship, his eleventh and final ring. With the Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings, he compiled an NBA coaching record of 341-290 (.540), with a playoff record of 34-27 (.557). As a player-coach, Russell was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1968. Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1975.

Ben Wallace, Chris Webber and Tim Hardaway strike me as borderline Hall of Famers. An amazing defender, Wallace had an underrated peak but relatively short prime. Webber was awesomely talented but had notable deep-playoff issues. Hardaway also produced well in the regular season but lacked significant postseason success. (His case also has a potential complication.)

Marques Johnson can also make a case, but he falls behind those three.

Further behind, Michael Cooper was a good defender and key backup on the Showtime Lakers. But he also wasn’t a finalist until now, which is telling. I see no reason he should suddenly make the Hall of Fame after decades of minimal consideration.

Rick Adelman is another borderline Hall of Famer. He won plenty coaching the Trail Blazers, Kings and Rockets. His offense in Sacramento – led by Chris Webber – was innovative in giving bigs (including Vlade Divac) so much passing responsibility and spacing the floor. Adelman even has a winning career playoff record. But he never won a championship, and his stints with the Warriors and Timberwolves were duds.

Bill Russell was a great player. As a coach… He was a great player. He won two championships as Celtics player-coach. He also had losing records coaching the SuperSonics and Kings. Becoming the NBA’s first Black head coach was a phenomenal achievement. The only question is whether enshrining Russell as a Hall of Fame coach is the right way to recognize it.

The other Hall of Fame finalists:

LAUREN JACKSON [Player] – Jackson is a seven-time WNBA All-Star (2001-2003, 2005-2007, 2009) and three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player (2003, 2007, 2010). She led the Seattle Storm to WNBA Championships in 2004 and 2010, while collecting WNBA Finals MVP honors in 2010. In 2007, Jackson was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, while leading the league in rebounding and points per game. Jackson was named a member of the WNBA’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and the Top 20 Players in the league’s 20-year history in 2016. As a superstar of the WNBL, Jackson is a five-time All-Star (1999-2004), four-time MVP (1999, 2000, 2003, 2004) and four-time Grand Final MVP (2002, 2003, 2006, 2010). With the Australian national team, she is a three-time Olympic silver medalist (2000, 2004, 2008).

YOLANDA GRIFFITH [Player] – Griffith is a seven-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2001, 2003, 2005-2007) and two-time Olympic gold medalist (2000, 2004). She led the Sacramento Monarchs to a WNBA Championship in 2005 while being named to the All-WNBA First Team and WNBA All-Defensive First Team the same year. In 1999, Griffith earned WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, while leading the league in field goals, rebounds, offensive rebounds and steals per game. Griffith was named a member of the WNBA’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and the Top 20 Players in the league’s 20-year history in 2016. She began her pro career in the ABL, earning Defensive Player of the Year and All-ABL First Team in 1998. As a student athlete at Florida Atlantic University, Griffith earned WBCA Division II Player of the Year in 1993.

MARIANNE STANLEY [Coach] – Stanley has a women’s basketball coaching career that spans more than 40 years at the collegiate and professional level. In the collegiate ranks for over 20 years, Stanley led Old Dominion to an NCAA national championship in 1985 and compiled an overall collegiate coaching record of 416-222 (.652). She led her teams to three NCAA Final Four appearances (1983, 1985, 1996) and guided Old Dominion to consecutive AIAW national championships (1979,1980) and a WNIT championship (1978). Stanley has been named AIAW National Coach of the Year (1979), Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year (1984, 1985), and Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1993). Since 2000, she has served as an assistant and head coach for several WNBA franchises, earning WNBA Coach of the Year in 2002 at the helm of the Washington Mystics.

JAY WRIGHT [Coach] – Wright is a two-time Naismith National Coach of the Year (2006, 2016), six-time Big East Conference Coach of the Year (2006, 2009, 2014-16, 2019) and the first coach in NCAA history to lead a team to four consecutive 30-win seasons. He led Villanova to two NCAA national championships (2016, 2018) and seven Big East regular season championships (2006, 2014-17, 2019, 2020). In all, Wright has guided Villanova to three Final Fours, four Elite Eights and four Sweet Sixteen appearances. Through the 2019-20 season, he had compiled an overall coaching record of 594-267 (.690). Wright was named the recipient of the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2018.

LETA ANDREWS [Coach] – Andrews has coached high school basketball for over fifty years and is the all-time winningest high school coach, male or female. She has coached five high schools in Texas since 1962 and has led them to sixteen state Final Four appearances, plus a state championship in 1990. Andrews has served as Head coach of the McDonald’s All-America Game West team (2004) and Gatorade All-America Game West team (2009). She was named the NHSCA National High School Coach of the Year (2007) and recipient of the Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award (2007). She has been inducted into the High School Basketball Hall of Fame (1995) and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2010).

Khris Middleton says he will miss start of season following wrist surgery

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Two
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
0 Comments

When Khris Middleton first went under the knife this summer to clean up issues with his left wrist, he expected to return in time for the start of the season.

At Bucks media day Sunday, Middleton said he’s not going to make that opening night goal but should be back early in the season, as reported by Jamal Collier of ESPN.

The Bucks open the season on the road Oct. 18 against the Celtics (who have their own set of issues heading into this year).

Middleton’s importance to the Bucks was evident in the playoffs, when not having him as a secondary shot creator was a key aspect of their seven-game loss to the Celtics.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last season. A healthy Bucks team — with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday as the core — enter the season as serious title contenders. But they need Middleton, so they will not rush him back.

Zion, Nash, Davis: Seven players, coaches who enter NBA season under pressure

0 Comments

Every NBA season comes with pressure — the pressure to win, the pressure of fan emotions and expectations, and for players the pressure that this is their livelihood. There is real pressure to stick in the NBA and earn that handsome paycheck.

But some players and coaches enter this season under more pressure than others.

Here are seven players and coaches who are under added pressure this season.

Anthony Davis

“This is not going to work without AD. No disrespect to Bron, no disrespect to Russ. They’re going to be who they are… but AD, having AD available…. it’s going to be invaluable. He’s the centerpiece to that championship table we’re trying to build.”

That was new Lakers coach Darvin Ham talking about Anthony Davis — the lynchpin to everything Ham hopes to do in Los Angeles. As he said, LeBron James will be LeBron (read: elite, even at age 37), and Russell Westbrook will be Russell Westbrook (he’s saying all the right things, but…), but if the Lakers are going to be any threat in the West it starts with Davis. Ham needs the Davis from the bubble — healthy, elite defender, playmaker, solid midrange jump shot — because he plans to run the offense through AD.

More than just this season, the Lakers have to come to a decision: Is Davis the No.1 option they can turn the franchise over to after LeBron steps away? Can he physically carry that burden and not break down? Davis can be one of the game’s elites, but is he ready to carry the Lakers franchise? Their future direction depends on that answer.

Zion Williamson

The acquisition of CJ McCollum last season helped bring the Pelicans together. They made a push into the playoffs with a solid core of McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance, Devonte' Graham and others. Watching New Orleans you couldn’t help but think, “If Zion Williamson were healthy…”

Now we get to find out. Williamson is reportedly in the best shape of his life (take all offseason conditioning comments with a shaker of salt) and ready to resume his role as a No.1 offensive option and maybe the best interior scorer in the game. The pressure of getting paid is off Williamson — he got his max extension — but the pressure of living up to it is just starting.

Steve Nash

When your star player says “him or me” during the offseason — even if that ultimatum gets rescinded — you enter the season under a microscope. Nash would have been getting a close look even if Kevin Durant didn’t drag his name into his offseason drama — there are plenty of front office people around the league not convinced Nash is up to the task in Brooklyn. There is enormous pressure on this team to get things right — to avoid a meltdown — and if things go at all sideways in Brooklyn Nash will be the fall guy. His seat is already warm.

Kyrie Irving

While we’re in Brooklyn… Ben Simmons is the logical first name to pop into your head when thinking of players under pressure with the Nets — and with good reason. We haven’t seen him on an NBA court in over a year and his play and fit are critical to the Nets’ hopes of contending. But there is another player who faces real contract pressure in Brooklyn.

Kyrie Irving wanted a trade out of Brooklyn this summer, the Nets said “go ahead and find one,” and Irving found his market was not nearly as deep and strong as he expected (the Lakers were interested, and he reportedly was interested in them, but any trade would have involved Russell Westbrook and got too tricky). Irving is in a contract year now and there is pressure on him to remind everyone that, when focused and committed, he is an All-NBA point guard and game changer. But will he stay focused and committed this season?

Tom Thibodeau

Knicks president Leon Rose came out this week in a softball-filled interview on MSG Network and backed his coach. When asked if Thibodeau was under pressure, Rose said, “I don’t see it that way at all. The way I say it is we’re continuing with the plan.” Nothing went according to plan with the Knicks last season. While not all of that was Thibodeau’s fault — he didn’t cause Julius Randle‘s shooting regression — if things get off to another slow start after spending money on Jalen Brunson this summer, somebody is going to have to pay the price. Thibodeau’s job may not be as secure as Rose tries to paint.

James Harden

James Harden is positioned to have a monster regular season. He’s asked to be more of a playmaker, get the ball to MVP candidate Joel Embiid, put Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris in positions to thrive, and score a few points in there as well. Harden could be poised for an All-NBA level regular season — and then the playoffs start. That’s where the pressure is. Harden’s long history of playoff foibles (including some flat outings against the Heat last year) will be under a microscope this season because Daryl Morey has built a team of solid role players — this team is good enough. It’s up to Harden (and Embiid) to prove he can also be an elite player in the postseason.

Kawhi Leonard

Steve Ballmer has paid an enormous… well, it’s chump change to him, but it’s still an enormous amount of money to turn the Clippers from league laughing stock into a respected franchise (sorry, it’s true Lakers fans). These Clippers are contenders. But that title contention rests on the shoulders of Kawhi Leonard. He has to both be healthy and play like the guy who helped lift the Raptors to a title. If Leonard and Paul George are healthy and playing like their All-NBA selves come the postseason the Clippers are a massive threat — two-way wings win playoff series and the Clippers would have two of them. It’s just on Leonard (and Paul) to be that guy.

Westbrook says he’s ‘all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win’

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Welcome to NBA media day, when optimism overflows and everyone swears there are no chemistry problems, no fit questions, it’s all puppies and rainbows with their team.

The night before Lakers media day, Russell Westbrook got a head start on saying the right thing in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Trade? Not worried about it. Fit? Not going to be a problem. Everyone is good now if you ask Westbrook, and he was in trade talks all summer is irrelevant.

“I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted [by the Lakers] or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete…

Maybe [he is] as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”

Words are nice, but actions are what will matter. Westbrook reportedly said all the right things to LeBron James and Anthony Davis a year ago before getting traded to the team, but his not wanting to play a role and fit in was a big issue. Westbrook swears it won’t be this time, whatever Ham wants Westbrook will execute.

“There’s so much optimism on how we can be great, how AD, LeBron, myself — can be unstoppable in my opinion,” Westbrook said.

That’s optimism. Even if Westbrook fits in, Davis stays healthy all season, and LeBron continues to defy father time, these Lakers are not title contenders. A playoff team for sure, but not contenders.

These Lakers will face adversity — maybe early, Los Angeles has a rough first couple of weeks — and how the Lakers, under new coach Darvin Ham, respond to those challenges will define their season. Last season’s response from the Lakers was… not good. They rolled over. Ham has promised not to let that happen, but there will be things out of his control.

Last season Westbrook was one of those things for Frank Vogel, we’ll see how he responds this season.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

Jae Crowder does salsa dance in Suns-Lakers Game 6
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.