TrueHoop: Patrick Ewing
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Back in 1985, the Knicks scored the top pick in an unweighted draft lottery and landed Patrick Ewing.
I was asked how I would end tanking in the NBA. We could get radical and do away with the draft altogether, screw parity and let the free market determine what each player is worth right out of college and which teams are willing and able to pay for him. That’s the libertarian answer that you might expect from an economist.
But I’m a bleeding heart liberal economist, one that’s concerned about equity. And in the NBA, equity means parity -- every team having a fighting chance.
The NBA draft tries to equal out the playing field by trying to direct the best talent to the teams that need it most. However, by doing so, we’re forced to risk tanking to improve parity. (Or at least the chance for parity, assuming management and owners know what to do with their draft picks.) How should the league manage this balancing act between parity and tanking in the draft?
Here’s the thing, they already have a great tool to tip the scales away from tanking, all within the current system of amateur drafts, luxury taxes and limited first contracts. But first, a history lesson.
Go back with me to 1985. New Coke. “Back to the Future.” Stallone at his apex.
And Patrick Ewing.
If ever there was a reason for teams to tank to get a chance at the first pick, Ewing was it. But, my colleague Beck Taylor and I have crunched the data, and we found no evidence that teams tanked that year (Taylor and Trogdon, 2002). Why? In 1985, the first year of the draft lottery, every non-playoff team had an equal shot at Ewing (at least in principle). Once a team was eliminated from the playoffs, there was no benefit from additional losing. In fact, the lottery was instituted to avoid tanking, which we showed was happening even in the prior season. So if the lottery was supposed to end tanking, why is it still a problem?
Jump ahead to 1989. New Coke is gone. Milli Vanilli. Shoulder pads. And the NBA switched to the current weighted lottery system, which gives teams with worse records more opportunity for higher picks (i.e., more pingpong balls). Eliminated teams don’t guarantee higher picks by losing, but they increase their chances. Here’s the key point from our analysis of this system -- teams were likely to tank again, but not as much as in the pre-lottery days.
That means the league already has a tool to address tanking -- lottery weights. The lottery weights are a control dial that can be set to tweak the parity/tanking tradeoff. On one end of the dial, the weights are the same for all teams (e.g., 1985). This would eliminate tanking but there’s a chance a “good” non-playoff team gets the top pick (less parity). On the other end of the dial, the weights just sort the non-playoff teams from worst to best to determine the draft order (e.g., pre-1985). The teams most in need of talent get the best options (more parity), but lots of tanking. You could even use the lottery weights to reward the winningest teams post-elimination.
If Adam Silver, the next NBA commissioner, is serious about ending tanking, he doesn’t need to reinvent the entire draft process to do it. He’s already got the right pingpong ball machine for the job.
Justin G. Trogdon is a senior research economist at RTI International.
AP Photo/Julio CortezJoakim Noah came up huge for the Bulls as they eliminate the Nets in Game 7
The Brooklyn Nets failed in their attempt to become the ninth team in NBA history to win a series after falling behind three games to one. The Nets fall to 0-2 all-time in Game 7s and have not won a playoff series since 2007.
What went right for Bulls?
Joakim Noah talked the talk and then walked the walk. After Chicago’s Game 6 loss Noah said, “We're going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn and we're going to win."
Noah made certain of that with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. Considering his foot injury, it was a heroic and historic performance. Read on for more on where that stat line stands among the all-time greats below.
Noah had a series high 1.33 points per play and shot 71 percent from the field Saturday.
With Kirk Hinrich out, Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler came up big. Belinelli poured in a playoff career-high 24 points. Butler played the entire game and was stellar defensively – holding Deron Williams to 4-11 FG and Joe Johnson to 0-5 FG when they were matched up.
What went wrong for Nets?
The Nets never led in the game - trailing by as many as 17 points, but they were able to cut the deficit to single-digits for most of the last quarter-and-a-half.
Johnson’s struggles were part of the reason Brooklyn couldn’t complete the comeback. After an alley-oop dunk at the 6:37 mark in third, he missed his last seven shots of the game, six of them coming from beyond the arc.
Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Game
Noah became the first player with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a Game 7 win since Kevin Garnett in 2004. In fact since blocks became official in 1973-74 the only ones to reach those numbers in a Game 7 win besides Noah and Garnett are Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Elvin Hayes.
- NBA stars are severely underpaid vis-a-vis their market value to their sport. They're not the only ones. From Paul Doyle, a track and field agent, via Sports Illustrated and Forbes: "'Bolt is the highest-paid athlete in the history of track and field, but he’s also probably the most underpaid athlete in the history of track and field.' ... His appearance at the Penn Relays in 2010 resulted in the highest single day attendance (54,310) in the event’s 118-year history."
- Younger (and newer) Clippers fans need to appreciate that if some of the longstanding fans of Clipper Nation seem cautious headed into 2012-13, they have their reasons. From John Raffo of Clips Nation: "I'm old enough (and grey enough) to have seen this before. Twice before. While, admittedly the long winter of the nineties is not nearly as interminable as the distance between 2005-6 and now, but I believe I've learned my lesson. Unless the Clippers are very very careful, unless they commit to inspired coaching and visionary management."
- As Rob Mahoney writes at The Two Man Game, teambuilding is rarely a linear process. And at Red94, Rahat Huq wonders if most "young cores" are destined to fail.
- Philadunkia's Tom Sunnergren chats with new Sixer Nick Young. If anyone in Philly has a place to lease, Swaggy P is looking.
- Former Atlanta Hawks standout Dan Roundfield tragically died while swimming in Aruba. Roundfield was a pro's pro -- a dogged defensive player and a three-time All-Star while with the Hawks. Danny Solomon, a Hawks ballboy during the 1980s and my classmate at the Hebrew Academy of Atlanta, told the AJC's Michael Cunningham that Roundfield was “the nicest dude in the world," but that, "[b]ack then, all the centers were very, very strong. That’s back when it was ‘real’ basketball and if you tried to go to the hole against a guy like Roundfield, you would go straight down to the floor. He was known for being really rough. He was a stud down low."
- Chris Bernucca of Sheridan Hoops runs down the remainders in the free agent market. The list isn't void of useful players: Carlos Delfino, Anthony Tolliver, Mickael Pietrus and Jannero Pargo might not be world-beaters, but worse players have been signed to guaranteed deals this offseason.
- When economist Tyler Cowen hosts a talk, he often has the audience write out questions in advance. Cowen says that, at one recent event, "I was asked about Jeremy Lin, and whether he or LeBron James did more to maximize global wealth. I suggested that Lin did more to maximize utility, as his fame in Asia did not much detract from the fame of any other NBA player, but that LeBron did more to maximize wealth, in part through endorsement income."
- Get ready for the "Obama Classic" with Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony and Patrick Ewing.
- A man from central Illinois is picking up and moving his family to Haiti to build a basketball court and to teach.
- Attention Phoenix press corps, especially those in the locker room: Kendall Marshall values his personal space.
According to AccuScore, which ran 10,000 computer simulations, the 1992 team would win 53.1 percent of the time and by an average margin of one point per game.
No one will ever know the true answer, but let's take a look at the Next Level analytical facts about the rosters at each point of their careers to help make the case either way.
REBOUNDING AND DEFENSE
Much has been made about the current team’s weak frontcourt. The 1992 team had four players who grabbed at least 15 percent of available rebounds in 1991-92 (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson). The current team has three players at that rebound rate last season (Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love).
The 1992 team had two players (Ewing, Robinson) who blocked at least 5 percent of the shot attempts they faced in 1991-92. No 2012 player had a block percentage higher than 3.4 last season (Chandler).
Four current members had a true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws) of at least 60 last season (Chandler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James). Chandler (70.8 in 2011-12) led the NBA each of the past two seasons. Only one of the 1992 members had a 60 true shooting percentage (Barkley), although three others fell just short of that threshold in 1991-92 (Malone, Robinson, John Stockton).
Five Dream Team members assisted on at least 25 percent of their teammates’ field goals in 1991-92 (Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Stockton), plus Magic Johnson had a 49.3 assist percentage in his most recent NBA season (1990-91). LeBron, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams had a 25 assist percentage or better last season, but none were as high as Stockton (53.7), who was in the midst of leading the league in assist percentage for 10 straight seasons.
AGE, EXPERIENCE AND CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 1992 team was about 2½ years older on average (28.8-26.2). Other than Bird and Magic, every Dream Team member was 30 years old or younger. Every member of the current team is 29 or younger, other than Kobe, who is 33.
But the NBA experience level is about the same. The 1992 team had, on average, 7.3 years of experience per player. This year’s team has 7.1.
As far as NBA titles, give the edge to the 1992 team. Its players had a combined 12 championships as they entered the Olympics -- five by Magic, three by Bird and two each from Jordan and Pippen.
The 2012 version has seven championships among them, carried by Kobe’s five. LeBron and Chandler each have one. The current team has members of each of the past four NBA champions, while the 1992 team had members of the then-past two champions.
Using average win shares per 48 minutes in their previous NBA seasons, (including Magic’s 1990-91 season and not including Christian Laettner), the 1992 squad’s average is higher by 9 percent (.215-.198). Prefer player efficiency rating to win shares? The Dream Team’s PER was 3 percent higher (23.8-23.0).
IN THEIR PRIME?
Other than Laettner, all 11 Dream Team members are Hall of Famers. And only two could be considered in the twilight of their careers. Bird had just finished his last NBA season, while Magic had retired the previous year, although he made a brief comeback in 1995-96. As for this edition, one could make the case that all but the 33-year-old Kobe on the roster could appear on another Olympic team again.
The 2012 team gets under way with an exhibition game Thursday against the Dominican Republic on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Only time will tell whether this team is the modern-day Dream Team.
In the case of Dirk Nowitzki that is exactly how it felt this postseason. Particularly after Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle proclaimed him one of the 10 best players all-time despite lacking the one thing that ultimately seems to define every great player’s career: a ring.
Nowitzki is now closer than he ever has been to relieving this burden and cementing his legacy. In the process he also has the chance to remove himself from some unwanted lists among great players.
Nowitzki, with 10 all-star selections, is tied for the sixth-most by a player without an NBA title in league history. The only players with more are Karl Malone (14), Charles Barkley (11), Elgin Baylor (11), Patrick Ewing (11) and Allen Iverson (11).
Malone, Baylor and, LeBron James are the only other players in NBA history besides Nowtizki with career averages of more than 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds without an NBA championship to their credit.
His 22,792 points are 23rd-most all-time in NBA history, but 10th-most among players to never win a ring.
This postseason though, Nowitzki hasn't just pushed himself to the brink of a championship but has also established himself as one of the premier clutch postseason scorers.
Nowitzki has been at his best in crunch time, defined as those moments under five minutes left in game with the score within five points or fewer. He’s scored 26 points in those situations in the Finals while going 8-for-13 from the field. The entire 'Big Three' of the Miami Heat have combined to score just 21 points in crunch time.
Over the last 15 postseasons only O'Neal and Michael Jordan (1997 and 1998) have averaged over 10 points per game in the fourth quarter of an NBA Finals series. Each of those players led their teams to NBA Championships while also winning the Finals MVP award, something Nowitzki is well on his way to doing.
If the Mavericks win the title and Nowitzki takes home Finals MVP honors, the legacy that his coach was hyping up will be solidified. He would become the 11th player in NBA history to have at least 10 NBA All-Star appearances, a regular season MVP award and a Finals MVP.
- Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle on Olajuwon's first days at the University of Houston, when he was still new to basketball: "Michael Young was a high-flying member of those Phi Slama Jama teams and marvels at how far Olajuwon progressed so fast. 'They told us at the time that he had only been playing basketball for three months and that was tough for me to believe on that first day,' Young said. 'Because the guy could catch and didn't have a bad touch. In our early practices, coach Lewis would put Hakeem at one end of the floor to defend the basket and we would go three-on-one against him. The first few times, we'd go down and dunk on him, because he couldn't recover fast enough. But as we got deeper into the season, we'd go up to dunk and he'd contest that shot. So you'd pass to another guy and before he could go up for a dunk, Hakeem had already closed and was over there to block that shot, too. That's three-on-one and we couldn't score."
- Highlights of Olajuwon's NBA days.
- A mini-documentary on the Rockets' two title runs. Watch that, and you'll think: When he was presented his MVP award, right before a playoff game against the Rockets, David Robinson really should have named Hakeem Olajuwon among the great players he had played against. Olajuwon became a man on a mission, and the Rockets got a title out of the deal.
- Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle tells the story of Olaujuwon's entire career, starting with his first dunk in Nigeria, his discovery a few months later by an American baskteball coach, and his swift arrival at the University of Houston: "It is true that he arrived at Intercontinental Airport and there was no representative from the school to meet him. It is true that a still-doubting Guy V. Lewis told him to take a taxi to campus. It is true that his Nigerian accent caused him to mispronounce the name and asked the cabdriver to take him to the 'University of Austin.' His correct destination at last settled, Olajuwon, wearing a white dashiki, white pants and polished dress shoes, walked into the basketball office to meet Lewis. 'He smiled,' Olajuwon remembered. 'He was happy to see that I was a real 7-footer.' It was September 1980 and the members of the Cougars, including Clyde Drexler, Michael Young, Rob William and Larry Micheaux, were holding informal workouts. Lewis asked Olajuwon if he'd like to get in a pickup game with them. 'You must remember, I was coming into the unknown,' he said. 'All I knew is I could play in Nigeria. I was dominating. But I did not know if I could play in America.' The trainer took Olajuwon to the locker room and gave him a T-shirt and shorts. 'Then he asked about basketball shoes and what size I wore,' Olajuwon said. 'I told him 14 was my usual size. I was shocked that he produced a brand new pair. It wasn't something you could find in Nigeria. I squeezed them on and they were tight. I was going to take off a pair of socks and he said, 'No, let's try 15.' More new shoes. Still tight. He got 16s. I could not believe all of these brand new shoes. I put them on and they fit. For the first time ever, I would play basketball without pain in my feet. It was always a distraction when I was running and jumping. But this was comfortable. I thought, 'Oh, man! They're in trouble out there on the court.'"
- Hakeem Olajuwon, real estate magnate.
- William Davidson as told by Detroit Free Press news services: "Davidson built The Palace of Auburn Hills two decades ago with a different type of financing: one without a penny from taxpayers. 'There's so much you have to go through to get public funding,' he explains. 'And I'm not big on big government.' He also didn't follow a trend when he bought a plane for the "Bad Boys" to travel in, replaced it with a newer one and built luxury suites into the lower level of his arena. Leading the pack also has made Davidson a rich man. Forbes magazine reports Davidson's net worth is $4.5 billion to rank first in Michigan, tied for 68th in the country and knotted at 227 worldwide. Most of his wealth is tied to Guardian Industries, a family owned glass manufacturing business he joined as president in 1957 and bought three decades ago. Davidson is motivated by winning on and off the court and he's witnessed many victories from his front row seat near the Detroit bench at The Palace. He said circulation in his legs prevented him from being the regular fixture last season, adding that a succession plan is in place for the future of his basketball team and businesses. 'The Pistons won't be for sale,' he said. It's also priceless that Davidson won't be the center of attention when he goes into the Hall of Fame. 'It's more fitting than it is ironic,' said Tom Wilson, an employee of Davidson's for three decades. 'It's how he lives his life. Mr. D loves it when a coach, player or somebody at Guardian gets heaped with praise. I think deep down he knows he makes that possible, but he's very comfortable staying in the background.'"
- Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "Dick Vitale was speechless. He knew what was coming when Pistons owner Bill Davidson's office contacted him on the morning of Nov. 8, 1979. Davidson wanted to meet with him at Vitale's home. Vitale was gone after only 94 games as the Pistons' head coach, his team and his health crumbling at an equally accelerating pace. Vitale understood Davidson had no alternative following a 34-60 record, but that didn't ease the catastrophic sense of failure that sent Vitale into a sullen funk. 'Little did I know then that day would change my life,' Vitale recalled this week. 'Mr. Davidson probably saved my life that day. I would have been dead by 50 if I stayed in coaching because of my bleeding ulcers.'"
- Davidson talks to Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press about all kinds of things, including his relationship with Isiah Thomas: "Well, I was very, very close to Isiah, and there were times he was almost like a son. But, because of his background, um ... I told him he had to change -- you know, coming from where he came from. I said, 'You've got it made now. Don't keep doing those things that you've been doing.' I won't tell you what they are. But he couldn't change. ... We're the best of friends. ... One day I decided -- this was about five years ago -- that there's only one guy that
I'm really not friendly with. So I called Isiah up, and I said Isiah (chuckling) -- before I go to my grave -- you know, whenever I do -- I want you and I to be friends."
- Riley wrote about his college experience for Sports Illustrated: "At Kentucky they didn't need to go out of state -- most of the best basketball players were local. There was a scout in New York who would report to the coaching staff in Kentucky, and that scout recommended me to Rupp, who came to Schenectady to sign me personally. It was my understanding that he rarely did that. [His visit] sealed the deal. When he walked through the door in that brown suit, he was bigger than life. He said to my mother, 'Mrs. Riley, don't worry about your son. We're going to make him an All-American at Kentucky and we're going to take care of him.' I don't think any kid knows the impact a teacher or coach is going to have on him. It was only years later that I realized [playing for Rupp] was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Being in his program for four years and experiencing his no-nonsense approach -- he probably influenced me more than any man I've ever been around, other than my father. I didn't have any problem with hard work or discipline, and I didn't mind somebody calling me out. That's the way I wanted it. I liked to be in that kind of system because I wanted to win. Rupp never played any favorites, and he rarely called you by your first name until you gained his respect. You had to earn it. If you didn't do it, man, would he let you know it. He would let you know verbally and he would put you down on the third team. You did not want to be on that third team. In his system it was the starting team, the second team and then there were the turds. If you were on that third team, you knew where you stood."
- Let us never forget Pat Riley's magnificent dance after winning the title in Miami.
- Chick Hearn interviews Pat Riley in the 1980s.
- Video highlights of Riley's coaching career in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.
- Heat players talk about the things Riley has done to motivate them.
- Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Between 1980 and 1986, Dantley played 461 regular-season games with the Jazz. He averaged a Jordan-esque 29.6 points, shot 56.2 percent from the field and established himself as one of the game's greatest low-post players, despite being only 6-foot-5. 'I was always fascinated by how he could get his shot off in traffic against bigger guys,' said broadcaster Ron Boone, who was also Dantley's teammate with the Lakers. "The things he could do ... just amazing.' Said Layden: 'Wilt Chamberlain once said Adrian Dantley was the best pivot man he ever saw.' Professionally, the Hall of Fame is as far as a player can get from the Utah Jazz in 1979, when the financially fragile franchise moved from New Orleans and players like Tom Boswell, Paul Dawkins, James Hardy and Jerome Whitehead were good enough to carve out significant roles. Not that many fans noticed. In their first-ever game at the Salt Palace, the Jazz played Milwaukee and drew a crowd of 7,687. Three nights later, the Jazz faced Portland and drew 5,443. On the court, the Jazz also struggled. They finished 24-58 during their inaugural season in Utah. Over the first four years in their new home, the Jazz averaged 26.8 wins and never finished better than 30-52. Still, Dantley legitimized the franchise with his work ethic, focus and ability to produce points. Said Boone: 'I just remember the hard work. ... Professional basketball is all about being prepared, and he prepared himself to succeed every night.' Dantley was 'the consummate pro on the court,' said Eaton. 'The way he handled himself. The way he prepared. His conditioning. ... The guy was basketball-basketball, 24-seven.'"
- "He fears no defense." Career highlights.
- Extended video of Adrian Dantley.
- Traded three times in his first three years in the League, Dantley told Sports Illustrated's Bruce Newman: "Sometimes I think these owners just trade for the sake of trading. Each of those guys I've played for has told me, 'You're going to be here, buy a house, you're going to end your career here.' I've heard that so many times it's ridiculous. They say, 'Trust me, trust me.' But I don't trust anybody anymore. I hate to get close to people now, and I feel bad that I've never had a home, but I think I'm at the point where if I got traded again, it wouldn't bother me. I just go out and play my game and don't bother anybody."
- A huge video tribute to Patrick Ewing.
- Isolated in the post against Alonzo Mourning. Years after dunking on him, Ewing offered Mourning one of his kidneys.
- At the time of Ewing's arrival in the NBA, Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum dared to mention Bill Russell: "When William Fenton Russell played his first pro game against the St. Louis Hawks , on Dec. 22, 1956 -- his arrival had been delayed by his participation in the Melbourne Olympics -- the Celtics had a 16-8 record. They went on to finish the season with a 44-28 overall record, the best in the NBA, and beat the Hawks in the championship series for Red Auerbach's first title. Russell was obviously the spark, but he also had a great supporting cast: Cousy, Sharman, Heinsohn, Ramsey. When Patrick Aloysius Ewing strides out to midcourt to make his pro debut Saturday afternoon at the Garden against Philadelphia, he will look around and see such unheralded teammates as Pat Cummings, Gerald Wilkins, Rory Sparrow and Butch Carter. 'Obviously, Ewing has the determination, and he's hardnosed,' says Celtic coach K.C. Jones, a teammate of Russell's. 'But whether or not he can become another Russell may depend a lot on his first year. He's in a make-you-or-break-you town.'"
- The 13 best plays of his career.
- The draft lottery that led to New York winning the top overall pick that became Ewing.
- The NBA Encyclopedia: "The Jamaica-born Ewing arrived in the United States at age 11, and the gangly youth who had reached the height of 6-10 by junior high school was initially awkward on the court when introduced to the game. But by the time he was a senior in high school, the world knew he would be something special. 'He will be the next Bill Russell, only better offensively,' high school coach Mike Jarvis said of Ewing while the budding giant played at Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge & Latin School. Many had similar thoughts as he was heavily recruited and was the focal point of media attention throughout his basketball career. He understood the hoopla that came with his stardom but always reserved his right to just play basketball. Perhaps that is why he chose to attend Georgetown, where he blossomed under the mentor-like guidance of coach John Thompson, a 6-10 former NBA backup center to Bill Russell on the Boston Celtics in the mid-1960s. Ewing's pro career was presaged by four superb years at Georgetown. Besides his team accomplishments, he was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player as a junior and as a senior, and his long list of honors included The Sporting News College Player of the Year Award and the Naismith Award. Although many of his contemporaries -- including Olajuwon, Jordan and Charles Barkley -- were leaving college early to join the NBA, Ewing stayed all four years and earned a degree in Fine Arts. His patience paid off as the yearning for his services reached almost epic proportions with the first-ever NBA Draft Lottery in 1985. As recounted in Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Clippers president Alan Rothenberg and GM Carl Scheer joked about enlisting 33 (Ewing's jersey number) Hasidic rabbis to chant Ewing's name in unison to enhance the teams chance of winning his draft rights."
First of all, as I mentioned earlier, one of my missions for my day on the set of these commercials promoting the NBA on ESPN was to hit the craft services table.
Mission accomplished. I have been hitting that thing hard -- right down to the free espresso. I'm unlikely to sleep at all tonight.
I had an interesting conversation with Hubie Brown, who's in some of these commercials.
We talked about Shawn Marion's trade demands and stuff. But I'm a Blazer fan, so I also asked him if he could think of any young players in NBA history who have been through anything like what Greg Oden is facing, and Brown told the tale of Patrick Ewing.
Ewing's rookie year he started out scoring like crazy (although his rebounding was underwhelming) and then right around the All-Star break he tore his ACL. "At that point," recalls Brown, "if you look at the history, guys who tore their ACL came back to perform at about 50% of what their athleticism and talent would have dictated. But Dr. Scott, the Knicks' doctor, had just perfected the surgery, and he had done it on Bernard King."
So, there you go, Greg, something to think about. At one point they thought Patrick Ewing was a good bet to be cooked. He did all right for himself.
Another example, of course, is Bill Walton before he became the star we know. "No one ever talks about that," says Brown. "He missed about 80 games over those two seasons before Jack Ramsay took over." The Blazers then were pretty miserable. The rare times in his career that Walton played a lot of games, and was healthy in the playoffs, he practically always won titles -- one in Portland, and another in Boston nearly a decade later.
Now, as to the TV commercials -- they're good. Understated. Funny. Hats off to the creative people at Wieden + Kennedy. Sure, I'm probably biased because seeing it happen live, you can't help but root for it. But I'm pretty sure the one with the three Celtics and Jeff Van Gundy will be remembered. And the one they're shooting now, with Chris Bosh busting on Mike Breen, that's really cool too.
We get to watch the shooting live, on TV monitors, listening to headphones. On the headphones, it's especially clear that Bosh has a good, deep, resonant voice. If you ever need an NBA player to sing bass in your barbershop quartet, you'd want to call Chris Bosh first.