NBA centers should be judged against…

The expansion Indianapolis Olympians of the National Basketball Association featured a dozen rookies on their 1950 roster.  Six of these played for Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky where the Wildcats won NCAA championships in 1948 & ’49.  These teams were spearheaded by lightning quick guard Ralph Beard and versatile center Alex Groza.  The pair continued their winning ways upon turning pro as Indianapolis finished 1st in the Western division in 1950.

Groza proved immediately the most productive offensive player in the league. His only competition came from 6’10” George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers.  The previous season he led the league in scoring and began the Lakers dynasty while winning their first of five titles in Minnesota.

How did Alex Groza stack up to the gold standard of centers?  Here are their numbers from 1950 & 1951 (the only time they were both in The Association):

Mikan – 136 games, 1.2 points/FGA (1.2 in 19 playoff games), assisted on 14% of teammates field goals

Groza – 130 games, 1.4 points/FGA (1.6 in 9 playoff games), assisted on 10% of teammates field goals

The NBA averaged .98 points/FGA.  This puts Mikan 19% above average and Groza 40% above the rest of the league.  Compared to future great big-men this was highly impressive.  During their first two seasons Shaq was +22% and Wilt was +13%.

Alex Groza was generations ahead of his peers and no doubt the most efficient scorer in the early years of the league.  It’s unfortunate the NBA gods wouldn’t let his career play out as he, not Mikan, should be the player all great big-men are judged against.


“Poetry in Motion”, an open court basketball clinic

Early in the 3rd quarter LA is up by 19!  I contemplate turning it off.  Turn it off?  Why don’t you just fast-forward, this is YouTube you fool.  Fortunately Dr. J starts to get involved for the Sixers scoring three straight baskets including two dunks bringing Philly within 11 before the final period.

The shadows of Elgin Baylor’s high-wire act would affect Dick Stockton on this night as Julius flaunts the open court game like only Elgin could…

The rest of the game is worth viewing as well.  If it weren’t for careless passes by Erving and Caldwell Jones in the last few minutes Philly could have pulled within three points and knotted the series at two.  Going back home and feeling good they would be favored to take the series lead in Game 5.  That’s how fine this game is when two highly efficient offenses square off.  Mistakes are few and far between.

With Wilkes, Kareem, Magic and McAdoo each netting 19-24 points plus Nixon and Magic combining for 21 assists and only 2 turnovers the Lakers prove impossible to guard on the break or in the half-court.  Let’s hope the Philly defense has better luck at The Spectrum on Sunday night.

Cap Closes Down the Rim on the Sixers

After alternating big margin home victories in Games 2 & 3 the Sixers and Lakers played Game 4 of the 1982 NBA Finals at The Forum in Inglewood.  Let’s begin…

The Showtime Lakers dominate early as Norm Nixon and Magic Johnson direct the show.  LA’s defense keys offense as none other than Clay Johnson, who was signed from Billings of the CBA, gets a steal and a breakaway jam.  Dick Stockton mentions that Clay could be starting for a number of teams around the league.  Unfortunately these would be his only two Finals points.  The 6’4″ twenty-five year old Guard would play 97 career games in the NBA.  In his post playing days he mentors kids in Kansas City and began a foundation for youths.

Philly is down 29-18 after the 1st quarter.  Despite the Lakers excellent play SportsCenter would have to show this fine block by Maurice Cheeks…

Kareem set the tone on defense getting three first half blocks of his own.  Erving, Dawkins and the Joneses would not be getting inside baskets on this night.  Thanks to Cap’s presence The Doctor went only 3-4 in the first half.  His most memorable moment was actually a 2nd qtr charge call against him on a fast-break.

In addition to the lack of inside offense Billy Cunningham’s team was plagued by turnovers as the Lakers had 7 steals in the first half and accumulated 22 fast-break points compared to only 2 for Philly.

The time Jordan got smoked in Chicago Stadium

During M.J.’s prime (age 28-35) the Bulls won 58 of 69 home playoff games.  In these seven post-seasons just two franchises won multiple times in Chicago.   Barkley’s Suns outscored the Bulls by an average of 114-110 in the three Finals contests in The Windy City.  Also Shaq and Penny won two games including the close-out Game 6 on the road during their run to The Finals in ’95.  Ten of the eleven losses were decided by margins of 10 or fewer (or in OT).  The eleventh should go down in Bizarro World history….

Game 2 of the 1992 Eastern Finals was played between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls on May 21 in The Madhouse on Madison Street.  Michael and Co. were coming off a comfortable Game 1 victory and were heavy favorites to repeat as world champs that year. Well, Lenny Wilkens had a plan.  His squad came out like a Blitzkrieg on the Bulls and held them without a field goal for the first 8 minutes of the game.  The rout was on!  Craig Ehlo (4 steals) and Mark Price (23 points on 9 shots) were such studs that they high-jacked the “Jordan highlight reel” on YouTube.

Cleveland won by 26, handed Jordan his worst home playoff loss ever and stole home-court advantage for the series.  Craig Ehlo and Mike Sanders had put the Cavs in the driver’s seat to the NBA Finals thanks to their harassment of #23.  He could score only 20 points on 22 shots while committing 6 turnovers.

The Cavs wouldn’t get this far in the playoffs for another 15 years and we know where the franchise is today.  If you’re a Cleveland fan keep space in your memory bank for Price, Daugherty, Nance, Ehlo and Sanders* because for one beautiful night in ’92 they provided all the hope a fan could need.

*Here is the full cast of characters…

Fear the “D”eer

Will Bynum of the Detroit Pistons matching up ...
Brandon Jennings

Despite winning only 35 games this year the Milwaukee Bucks were a tremendous defensive team.  In fact they were well above average at 3 of the critical “Four Factors”.

  1. Andrew Bogut’s NBA leading 2.6 BPG helped hold opponents to an Effective Field Goal Pct of .48 compared to a league average of .50.
  2. Thanks to all those missed shots the Bucks had 9 more defensive rebound opportunities/game than expected. They capitalized by receiving efficient rebounding from all five positions and ranking 8th in team Defensive Rebound Pct.
  3. In addition to quality boarding Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino specialized in harassing opposing ball-handlers.  Only three teams forced turnovers at a higher rate than the green team from Wisconsin.

In the last decade  only one other “D” has been so ferocious without producing even 40 wins*.  Can you guess who coached this team???  Who get’s the blame for the slow-down pace of the late ’90s???  Hint: He coached the greatest fast-break offense of all-time.  Surely the name Pat Riley crossed your mind.  Riles’ 2002 Heat missed the playoffs for the first time since the Kevin Loughery era. This was quite frustrating for the seven Heat fans in existence at the time.  See Miami was on par defensively with the Nets and Spurs who each lost to the champion Lakers in the playoffs.

Like the Bucks, Riley had an absolute dominant presence in the center, Alonzo Mourning (’99 & ’00 DPOY), and a lock-down guard in Eddie Jones (3 time All-Defense).  Their scoring wouldn’t prove adequate until they drafted that kid from Marqutte.  Wait a minute, in what city is Marqutte?

*Honorable mention to the 2003 Denver Nuggets who were tied for the worst record in the league (17-65) yet finished 6th in “D”.  Nene was already holding his own at age 20 leading the team in steals (127) and blocks (65).

LeBron, the next Mr. Clutch

Here is some detail from only 24 months ago on this 4th quarter stuff with LeBron:

“the 2008-09 Fraternity of Clutch” from Basketball Fiend:

President – LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)

LeBron is the ultimate clutch player. …. On top of that amazing arsenal, King James also has an amazing sense of the moment.

Perhaps he really does need Mo Williams or a healthy Mike Miller.  There is always might be next year.