Friday, July 21, 2017

J-Speaks: The Passing of a Sports Broadcasting Legend


He was the voice of the former Washington Senators, now the Minnesota Twins of MLB from 1947-1961. He was the play-by-play voice for two of the most classic games in professional sports history, involving two of the most beloved sports teams in the New York area. For 33 years, this sports broadcasting icon was the television play-by-play voice of the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and the National Horse Show for the Madison Square Garden Network. In his later years, he was a staple on Long Island at the sports anchor and commentator for News 12 Long Island. In all, he was the longest running broadcaster in television and radio history that is not in one sports Hall of Fame, but two. Before the start of this week, that legendary voice that became all too familiar to soon many sports fans in the New York area was silenced.
Last Saturday, Basketball and Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster Robert “Bob” Alfred Wolff passed away at his home in South Nyack, New York, which was confirmed by his son Rick in a report by Sunday’s edition of the Washington Post. He was 96-years-old, and is survived by his wife of 72 years, the former Jane Hoy; sons Dr. Robert; editor, author, former college coach, broadcaster, and former pro baseball player Rick; daughter Margy Clark; nine grandchildren and 11 great-granchildren. Rick said that his father passed on peacefully last Saturday night.
The final appearance by the former Navy supply officer in the Pacific during World War II came in February where he delivered his final essay on News 12 Long Island and hosted the Con Edison Scholastic Sports Award program on WHUD Radio in Westchester, NY. Wolff is an original at the cable television station, that he joined when it started back in 1986.
“Wolff was the ultimate pro and consummate gentleman,” WNBC 4 New York’s Sports anchor Bruce Beck, who called Wolff his mentor said of him on the network’s Sunday night broadcast.
“In 1982 when this 25-year-old reporter joined MSG network, Bob took me under his wing. He did college basketball with me. Plus, the Milrose Games, and the National Horse Show. I will never forget the tips he shared, and his amazing personal touch. Thank you Bob, and rest in peace my friend.”   
Wolff was cited in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2012 for the longest consecutive run as a sports broadcaster of 78 years, that began in 1939 as a student at Duke University working for the CBS affiliate WDNC Radio. He also played baseball for the Blue Devils.  
He made history as the first sportscaster for Washington DC’s WTTG-TV on the old DuMont network in 1946. One year later, he was the play-by-play television announcer for the Washington Senators, now the Minnesota Twins at a time when the color on a television was in black-and-white and the sets were in taverns and hotels.
Before the name Marv Albert, current play-by-play analyst for the NBA on TNT became the voice of the NBA and of the New York Knicks for so many years, it was the voice of Wolff who many fans heard over the radio waves and eventually the television as he play-by-play man for the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers for the Madison Square Garden network for half a century.
That run included the Knicks two championships in 1970 and 1973, which consisted of the heroics by Hall of Famer Willis Reed, when No. 19 hobbled onto the court of MSG in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals when the Knicks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to earn that first championship.  
“Bob Wolff was not only one of the seminal figures in American sportscasting, but he was part of the very fabric of Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers for more than six decades,” Madison Square Garden and MSG Networks said in a statement on Sunday. “In addition to leaving behind an unmatched body of work, his spirit carries on in hundreds of broadcasters he mentored, and the millions of fans he touched. His legacy will live forever.”
He was on the call for the last half of the only perfect game in the history of the World Series when the New York Yankee’ pitcher and Hall of Famer Don Larsen accomplished that great feet against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
 “A no-hitter. A perfect game for Don Larsen,” Wolff said of Larsen’s memorable day 71 years ago. He added, “He’s being mobbed by his teammates. Listen to this crowd roar.”
Among the Yankee legends he interviewed included the late Hall of Famers George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Ted Williams, George Steinbrenner, and Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra.
Along with doing commentary for the Yankees, Mr. Wolff teamed up with the late Joe Garagiola on the then NBC-TV’s baseball Game of the Week in the early 1960s.
He was also behind the microphone for the Baltimore Colts’ overtime win over the New York Football Giants in the 1958 NFL title game at the old Yankees’ Stadium, that was dubbed, “The Greatest Game ever played.”
“The Colts are the world champions-Ameche scores!” Mr. Wolff said, with a rising voice, as Colts fullback Alan Ameche won the game with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Besides being a great sportscaster, Mr. Wolff as Beck pointed out earlier in a statement was a gentleman, and one way he showed it was by sharing his greatness for all to see and hear.
In April 2013, Mr. Wolff donated 1,400 video and audio recordings that represented 1,000 hours of his broadcast work to the Library of Congress. Those recordings included interviews with Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe, Ruth, baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, and boxer Joe Louis.
“He was an archivist at heart,” Gene DeAnna, head of the recorded sound section of the Library of Congress said to The New York Times. “He was systematic, organized and had this sense of the future, and the sense of the importance of his legacy to keep it, and to take care of it, and we were very grateful that he did.”
Hard work, attention to detail and consistently being a very prepared journalist were the hallmark of Mr. Wolff’s greatness.
As he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2005, “In the old, old days it was the voice that mattered. But, I felt the one thing that gave me longevity was coming up with angles, creative points, story lines. I approached every spot with the soul of a sports writer.”
Historian of baseball broadcasting Curt Smith said that Mr. Wolff’s voice was, “erudite, but not unapproachable.”
Smith also said about Mr. Wolff in an interview with The Washington Post in 1995 that, “He had a sense of humor-with the old Senators he had to-and he was always honest. There was no phony baloney with Bob Wolff.”
A perfect example of this greatness by Mr. Wolff came on Memorial Day 1957 when the then lowly Washington Senators were engaged in a double-header against the Yankees at Griffith Stadium, Mr. Wolff picked out an ostensibly typical fan in the stands to interview on the radio between broadcast.
In a memoir, Mr. Wolff recalled a moment where he said, “It’s Not Who Won or Lost the Game-It’s How You Sold the Beer.
Recalling that moment, Mr. Wolff asked the individual, “Are you originally from Washington, sir?”
He replied, “No, I’m a Californian. I was and still am.”
“Have you done much traveling around the country,” Mr. Wolff asked?
The man replied, “I’ve been in most of the 48 states at one time or another. And I’ve also traveled a bit abroad in the last few years.”
Mr. Wolff then asked the man, “What sort of work do you do, sir?”
He said, “I work for the government.”
Mr. Wolff reaction was, “Oh?”
The man then said, “My boss is President Eisenhower. I’m the vice president.”
Mr. Wolff then said, “Ladies and gentlemen, our guest has been Vice President Richard Nixon.”
As Mr. Wolff put in his memoir, “Politics notwithstanding, good straight men are hard to find.”
It is that kind of interviewing and ability to bring the listening and viewer at home closer to the action is why Mr. Wolff is enshrined in the broadcast wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995, where he played, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” on his ukulele at his induction ceremony. Mr. Wolff is also enshrined in the National Sportscasters-Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame and back in 2008 was voted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy Award for media, joining the late Gowdy as the only two sportscasters to be in both the basketball and baseball halls.  
In 2009, the Washington Nationals, who brought pro baseball back to the nation’s capital 12 years ago, unveiled a plaque that named the home broadcast booth at Nationals’ Park the Bob Wolff suite.
Born on Nov. 29, 1920 in New York, NY, Mr. Wolff was parents to a father, Richard, who was a mechanical engineer, and his mother, the former Estelle Cohn, was a homemaker.
At the previously mentioned Duke University, where Mr. Wolff went to college, he was an outfielder for the baseball team, but his career was cut short after he broke his ankle in a slide as a sophomore.
It was there he put his focus into the media side of sports by becoming a broadcaster the Blue Devils’ games for the previously mentioned CBS radio station WDNC in Durham, N.C.
After as mentioned earlier serving in the Navy as a supply officer in World War II, where he concluded his service as a lieutenant, Mr. Wolff became the sports director for WINX radio in Washington in 1946.
A year later he was hired as the Senators’ first TV broadcaster, at a time where DC had only a few hundred sets available. So, Mr. Wolff’s wife Jane went to the appliance store to watch the games.
He not only was the play-by-play analyst for the Senators, but he also did the pregame, and postgame shows; pitched batting practice, played the ukulele, and teamed with several ballplayers to form the Singing Senators, who one time displayed their musical talents for the entire nation to see on NBC’s “Today” show.
Mr. Wolff would continue to commentate games for the team through 1961, when they moved to Minnesota, and became the Twins.
In sports world, it is the players, both collegiate and pro that we remember in terms of the great accolades the displayed on the hardwood or the grid iron and we get a chance to see those great moments in the stands if you were or are lucky enough to have gotten a ticket to that event or had a chance to see it on the small screen. Those moments if you do see them on television though, have no meaning if not for the play-by-play, and color analysts that can eloquently say the words to describe those moments and no one did it better than Bob Wolff. He saw a lot; brought it to all of us, especially those in New York over the air and TV waves. He interviewed the best and got the best out of them in those interviews and he did very well for 78 of his 96 years on Earth. His great legacy lives on though the likes of WNBC’s Bruce Beck and all the other broadcast journalist that had the opportunity to learn from the very best.
Information, and quotations are courtesy of 7/16/17 11 p.m. edition of WNBC News 4 New York at 11 with Gus Rosendale, Jummy Olabanji, Bruce Beck and Erica Grow; 7/16/17 New York Times article, “Bob Wolff, Sports Broadcaster for Nearly 80 Years, Dies at 96,” by Richard Goldstein; 7/16/17 abcnews.com article, via The Associated Press “Bob Wolff, Versatile and Longtime Sportscaster, Dies at 96,” and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Wolff.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

J-Speaks: Knicks Finally Have a New GM


There is one word to describe the 2016-17 New York Knicks, dysfunctional. From their play on the court this past season, where they went 31-51 under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. To how now former President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson acted to his players and how he commented on other players like LeBron James and his associates, who he referred to as a “Posse.” If that were not enough, their All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony and his future with the team is in limbo on whether he will be traded or not before the start of the upcoming season. It was clear that this team needed some new in the fold and immediately. That new person came in the form of a new GM that was announced on Friday.
Executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, Mr. James L. Dolan announced before this weekend that acting General Manager of the Knickerbockers Steve Mills has been named president of the team and that longtime front office man for many teams in the NBA Scott Perry has been named the team’s new GM, on a five-year deal, with the terms not disclosed.  
“Today marks a culture change for our organization where we reestablish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York,” Mr. Dolan said on Friday. “I’m confident that Steve is the right person take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA. He’s got an ambitious plan that centers on building a young team focused on player development, communication and teamwork.”
Dolan also added that, “His decision to bring Scott on as general manager is a critical first step in transforming this franchise. Scott brings tremendous skill and experience in helping to build winning basketball teams. He’ll immediately get to work adjusting our basketball operations department to make sure we have one of the most effective front office staffs in the NBA.”
“As Steve and Scott move forward, I will continue to not be involved in the operations of the team.”
For those who are not familiar with Perry and his NBA front office background, he has worked in the league for 17 seasons, most recently with the Sacramento Kings as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations since Apr. 2017. Prior to his work for the Capitol City of California’s pro basketball team, Perry worked for the Orlando Magic from 2012-17, as their Vice President and Assistant General Manager, where his responsibilities consisted taking care of the day-to-day operations of the basketball operations department, player personnel matters, management of the roster and player development.
For parts of 12 NBA campaigns, he worked for the Detroit Pistons, starting as a college scout in 2000, to being their Director of Player Personnel from 2002-07, and as Vice President of Basketball Operations from 2008-12. In Perry’s tenure with the Pistons, they reached the Eastern Conference Finals six straight seasons, made consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals in 2004, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1, and then in 2005, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.
Before that, Perry served as the Assistant GM with the then Seattle Supersonics from 2007-08, during which they drafted Kevin Durant, who is now with the newly crowned NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
Perry before that was the head basketball coach at Eastern Kentucky University, and was an assistant coach for nine seasons at the University of Michigan, University of California, Berkeley, and Detroit Mercy.
He is a 1986 graduate from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and was a member of the Warriors basketball team for two seasons after he transferred from the University of Oregon.
“It’s an honor to be joining Steve, Jeff, and the New York Knicks as we begin a new chapter for this beloved franchise. I am excited for the opportunity and the responsibility bestowed upon me,” Perry said. “As a general manager, I will work tirelessly to develop a culture that demands results, commitment and pride from everyone fortunate enough to be associated with our team-from our staff to our players. Nothing comes close to Madison Square Garden for basketball and it is our right and responsibility to showcase that tradition of excellence, day, and night. I can’t wait to get started.”
One thing that will be different with the hire of Perry as the Knicks’ new GM is they will have someone who will bring something that Jackson never did in his time as the team’s president, enthusiasm for the job.
That said, the Knicks had a chance at hiring former General Manager of the back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers David Griffin. A man who turned the Cavs into champions and made bold moves that termed them from a laughing stock the four years that James left for the Miami Heat, into NBA champions in 2016.
What kept that from happening, Griffin was told by the Knicks front office brass that he could not bring in his own people. Meaning that he would have had to work with the staff already in place, which includes reporting to Mills. Also, former Knick and Detroit Pistons Allan Houston is still the team’s Assistant General Manager, and the GM of the Knicks’ Developmental League team, the Westchester Knicks.  
With Perry getting in first real shot at running a team for the first time, he is working under Mills, who has been at the center of the Knicks inability to keep pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference, let alone the rest of the NBA.
When Perry was fired from the Magic, they cleaned the entire front office out because the team after trading away center Dwight Howard during his tenure went from a title contender to a lottery team and has not gotten any traction since.
To illustrate the kind of mess that Perry was hired to clean up, he has to find a way to convince Anthony that the Knicks will be different with the Knicks and he should stay to be a part of it or find a way to make deal that will send him and to the Rockets, which only happens if he waives his no-trade clause in his contract that has two years and $54 million left on it, with a salary of $26.2 million for the 2017-18 season.
Perry and the Knicks need to repair the fracture of the team’s leading star of the future in Kristaps Porzingis, who skipped his exit meeting back in May in support of Anthony.
Make sure that rookie guard Frank Ntilikina, who the team drafted No. 8 overall back in June out of France, when they had a chance to draft sharp shooter Malik Monk out of Kentucky or Dennis Smith, Jr. out of North Carolina State University, is the team’s floor general going forward.
After all that, Perry to build the current roster, with very limited salary cap space thanks to the four-year $71 million dollar deal they gave to restricted free agent Tim Hardaway, Jr., who will be making $16.5 million as he starts his second go-around with the team. The team salary also consists of the $17.8 million of forward/center Joakim Noah, who was shelved the rest of the season because of shoulder surgery; will miss the first 12 games of this upcoming season for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy, and has two more years left on a four-year $72 million contract he signed as a free agent the prior off-season. Then there is the $11.8 million this season for guard Courtney Lee.
To broaden the challenge ahead of Perry, since the hiring of Jackson back on Mar. 18, 2014, the Knicks had an abysmal record of 90-171 in his time as team president. That is an average of 26.6 wins per season.
If there is one silver-lining of the Knicks new hire is that they will be just one of two NBA teams that has two African Americans in major leaderships roles in a NBA front office. The other being the Charlotte Hornets. While that is a great headline, the Knicks, and their fans hope that the two can get them back to just being competitive.
With the roster that they had last year, that included former Bulls’ lead guard Derrick Rose, whose rights were renounced before the start of free agency earlier this month, should have at least been fighting to make the playoffs, let alone be the No. 7 or No. 8 Seed and we saw what happened.
It is on Perry and Mills to turn the Knicks from a laughing stock into a major player in the East again.
“Today is a new day for this franchise,” Mills said over the weekend. “Scott will immediately begin to put together a basketball operations department that is among the best in the league. We will all be united in implementing our strategy, which is to build our team by developing young players, emphasizing athleticism, length, and defense. We have several rising young stars in the organization and we expect to add more young talent to this core. Our message to our fans is clear: we will be disciplined in sticking to this strategy, hold our players and staff accountable to the high standards that we have set for ourselves, and deliver results.”
Information, and quotations are courtesy of 6/22/17 7 p.m. 2017 NBA Draft, presented by State Farm, from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY on ESPN with Rece Davis, Jalen Rose, Michael Wilbon, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, Allison Williams, Jeff Goodman and Tom Penn; www.nba.com/draft/2017/teams, by Sekou Smith, Lang Whitaker, Steve Aschburner, Fran Blinebury, Shaun Powell, and Scott Howard-Cooper; 7/14/17 3 p.m. edition of “NBA: The Jump,” on ESPN with Rachel Nichols, Amin Elhassan, and Ohm Youngmisuk; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_York_Knicks_seasonshttp://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Houston; and 7/14/17 official release on NBA.com, “Steve Mills Named President, Scott Perry Named General Manager of New York Knicks.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

J-Speaks: NBA Rule Changes


Over the course of time, things change. Sometimes that change occurs organically. Other times it happens because it is necessary, or it happens because people ask for change. That change can have a positive effect or a negative effect. Either way, that change will have an effect. That is what will take place in the National Basketball Association starting this upcoming NBA season as the Board of Governors unanimously approved several recommendations by the league’s competition committed at their meeting in Las Vegas, NV on Wednesday.

All non-mandatory timeouts will be 75 seconds long. That means there will be no more full timeouts, which lasted 100 seconds, or so-called :20 second timeouts, which a team had one to use per half, that lasted for 60 seconds in real time. The maximum number of timeouts in a regulation game will go from 18 to 14.

Halftime will commence immediately upon the conclusion of the second quarter, with the length of intermission being 15 minutes. Intermission previously began a little later some game nights or days or in some arenas.

Going forward, any team that is not ready to start play at the expiration of the halftime period will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty.

That same rule will also apply to free throw shooters who venture beyond the three-point arc in between free throw attempts.

Each team will be limited to two timeouts after the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter, or resuming play after the second mandatory timeout in the fourth quarter, whichever comes first. Before, teams could call three timeouts in the final two minutes of a regulation game.

One piece of downtime that was not addressed by the competition committee was the how some teams huddling in unofficial timeouts during replay reviews. A few broadcasters and coaches have brought up the suggestion that the 10 players on the court head to “neutral corners,” rather than convene at their respective benches for bonus coaching and strategizing.

“Ultimately the view was, if there was a break in the action, it seemed artificial and silly to suggest that coaches can’t speak to their players,” Silver said about that particular issue. “Our teams are so smart, they’ll be sending in hand signals and other things. It was just one area we decided we didn’t need to intrude.”

These changes are in direct effect of reducing the number of timeouts, the standardized length of intermission and cut down on the wanderings of free-throw shooters. The main goal though is to move the game along more rapidly, especially in the late stages of the fourth period.

“We’re pretty happy with the length of our game,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters said on Wednesday afternoon as the rule changes were announced.

“We were more focused here on the pace and the flow of the game. What we heard from our fans and heard from many of our teams was that the end of games in particular were too choppy. I think since I was a kid, people have been talking about the last two minutes of our game. We think these new changes will have a significant impact, especially at the end of the game.”

This new rule changes should bring to a conclude the pattern in the final moments of a game; a timeout being called; a foul taking place; free throws being shot; another timeout being called; basket scored; timeout; lather, rinse, and repeat.

The biggest news to come out of this week’s Board of Governor’s meetings along with the rule changes is that the approval of the February trade deadline has been moved from the Thursday after the All-Star break to the Thursday 10 days before the All-Star Game.

The purpose of this was to aide teams avoid the disruption of the addition of a new player, or players just as teams resume practices and games after the break.

It is also to avoid situations like at this past season’s unofficial mid-season classic in New Orleans, LA where then Sacramento Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins found out during his media obligations after the game that he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.

“There was a sense that it was more unsettling to have a player traded right after the All-Star break, that the All-Star break would have been an opportunity for the player to move himself, his family, get his family readjusted and get readjusted to the new team when they have that four or five-day period to do that.”

Silver also said on Wednesday that with the 2017-18 NBA campaign beginning a week earlier, supposedly Oct. 17, an earlier trade deadline allows players to appear in more games with their new teams. For an All-Star player who gets traded before the All-Star Weekend, Silver said that such cases would be addressed when the take place.
In fielding other questions about the state of the NBA, Silver addressed a recent comment made by Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban about how teams that are eliminated from playoff contention in recent years, so-called “tanking,” meaning losing games on purpose to improve its position in the draft lottery.
“Yes, it’s not what you want to hear a commissioner,” Silver said. “I will say that Mark has a long track record of being proactive, and it was something that we spoke to him directly about. I think he acknowledge it was a poor choice of words. When we looked at what was actually happening on the floor, which is most important to me, there was no indication whatsoever that his players were intentionally losing games.”
Two other issue that was brought up during Silver’s press conference is the concern of so many talented players being in the Western Conference and the playoff format being changed to a straight 1-though-16 seeding, taking conference standings out of the picture, something that the Women’s National Basketball Association began in the summer of 2016.
Silver and the league looked at the situation two years ago and said, “We concluded that given all the focus on sports science, health of our players, impact of travel, it didn’t make sense.”
He added that in the two years since that study, only one team with a Top-16 record, the 2016 Chicago Bulls, failed to secure a postseason berth.
Silver also addressed the continuous growth of the Las Vegas Summer League and its surrounding events from massive media coverage by ESPN and its teams gathering for offseason planning and management.
“We don’t have baseball’s equivalent really of their ‘Winter Meetings,’ but I think this is about as close as you can come to it,” he said.
Silver also took the time to commend Warren LeGarie and Albert Hall, who oversee the Las Vegas Summer League.
He also addressed with a Las Vegas reporter about expansion and relocation of any of the 30 teams by saying, “relocation or expansion is not on the table right now.”
Information, and quotations are courtesy of 7/12/17 NBA.com article, “NBA Changes Timeout Rules to Improve Game Flow,” by Steve Aschburner, and the 7/1317 7 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime,” with Rick Kamla and Sekou Smith.

Monday, July 10, 2017

J-Speaks: Bosh Released by the Heat


Seven summers back, the Miami Heat had one of the best days in free agency history in signing four-time MVP LeBron James and perennial All-Star Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade in South Florida. Together, the dynamic “Big Three,” led the Heat to four consecutive Finals appearances and two straight championships in 2012 and 2013. After losing in the 2014 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs 4-1, James declined his player option and left to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last summer Wade with the Heat going in a different direction returned to his hometown to sign with the Chicago Bulls. Bosh’s future unfortunately was not in his hands as medical issues cut his last two full seasons short and while the rest of the nation was celebrating, Bosh was concluding his time in South Florida.
After both sides came to a final decision on how to part ways and more than a year since his last appearance on the professional hardwood because of blood-clot issues, the Heat officially waived Bosh last Tuesday.
The move provided the Heat access to $25.3 million in salary-cap space for this coming off-season of free agency, which they used to re-sign guard Dion Waiters and James Johnson, and signed unrestricted free agency forward/center Kelly Olynyk.
Bosh, who was an 11-time All-Star still will get his salary, along with a $26.8 million for this upcoming season, and in theory could continue his career-if he can be medically cleared one of the other 29 teams to resume his career. It is unknown if that will take place.
This though gives the Heat much needed closure on the era of Bosh, and the team announced that when he does conclude his career that they will hang his No. 1 jersey in the rafters of American Airlines Arena.
“Chris changed his life and basketball career when he came to Miami,” Heat President Pat Riley said of the former Toronto Raptors, where he spent the first seven seasons of his career. “And he changed our lives for the better, in a way we never would have imagined when he joined the Miami Heat. We will forever be indebted to CB for how he changed this team and led us to four trips to the NBA Finals and two NBA championships.”
“He is without a doubt, one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise.”
Shortly after James left the Heat declining the last year of his contract to return to the Cavaliers, Bosh signed a new five-year deal to stay with the Heat, worth $118 million.
In the first year of that new deal, Bosh appeared in just 44 games in the 2014-15 NBA campaign as his season concluded at the All-Star break when the first known blood clot episode began. The next season, Bosh was shelved after just 53 games at All-Star weekend, when another clot was found shortly after he landed in Toronto for the 2016 All-Star Game. Bosh has not played another game since then, missing the Heat’s last 125 games.
“I’m kind of getting the taste of retirement now,” Bosh, who had been doing some analysis for the NBA on TNT said back in January.
The Dallas, TX native had hoped to make a return this past season, but he failed his physical prior to the start of training camp and the Heat made it very clear that they were moving on without him in their plans.
The team because of the sensitivity of the situation of Bosh, was not able to provide specifics-under NBA rules, any matter which could rise to the level of the possibility of life-threatening was not to be discussed in any open matter by any of the 30 teams without that player’s consent.
When the Heat announced that they were releasing Bosh, they made no reference to his health issues or status.
“You always want the best for Chris, whatever that is,” then Heat captain Udonis Haslem, who is a free agent said earlier this year. “I know how difficult this has been for him.”
Bosh played 13 seasons in the NBA, with as previously mentioned his first seven with the Toronto Raptors, who drafted him No. 4 overall in 2003 out of Georgia Tech. He averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds during those seasons.
He spent the next six seasons with the Heat, as he was part of that massive free agent haul in 2010 where the Heat not only re-signed Wade, but landed James to form what Riley felt could become a dynastic time for the franchise.
Bosh played a major role in leading to the Heat’s second title, when in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals down by three points late versus the Spurs, he grabbed an offensive rebound and tossed the ball to Ray Allen in the right corner where he nailed a three-pointer that nodded the game with 05.2 seconds left. On the Spurs’ final possession of regulation, Bosh blocked Danny shot as time expired. The Heat would win Game 6 in overtime, and would prevail in Game 7 to win back-to-back titles and the third championship in Heat franchise history. The front end of the back-to-back came against then Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook, who the Heat defeated in five games.
There are very few players who play for as long as Chris Bosh did and never win a championship, let alone accomplish what he has from their high school career, to college to the pros. In 2002, Bosh was named Mr. Basketball when he was at Lincoln High School in Dallas, TX, and helped the FIBA Americas under 18 team to a Bronze medal in Isla Margarita. In his one season at Georgia Tech, Bosh was named the 2003 American Coastal Conference (ACC) Rookie of the Year. In his time with the Raptors, Bosh made the All-Rookie First-Team in 2004, and was an All-NBA selection to the Second-Team in 2007. On the Olympic stage, he helped lead the “Redeem Team,” also known as Team USA to Gold in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Along with making the All-Star team 11 times in his career (2006-2016), Bosh was a part of the NBA Shooting Stars and was part of the winning team in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Bosh as mentioned earlier, helped lead the Heat to two titles. This is the kind of resume that lands most in the Hall of Fame and that will hopefully be the final stop in Bosh’s basketball journey when it concludes. The hope is that he remains in good health, particularly for the sake of his wife Adrienne and their four children.
“It was scary to leaving Toronto, a place where people really loved and supported me, and I wasn’t sure if that great feeling would follow me,” Bosh said in his thank you letter to Miami on heatnation.com yesterday. “When I arrived in Miami, I was hoping for glory and mention amongst the immortals of basketball. What I got was so much more.”
He concluded by saying, “People will always see trophies and banners and think that’s the whole story. But it’s only a piece, only a moment in time. I’ve learned that no matter what happens on the court, the game continues. We went through life together, Miami. You showed me how to stay strong and push through in the toughest moments. And although I didn’t like it at the time, it made all the difference in the long run. It made me a better man, the person I am today. Thank you.”
Information, statistics, and quotations are courtesy of 7/4/17 NBA.com article, “Miami Heat Waiver Chris Bosh; Plan to Retire No. 1 Jersey,” by Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press; 7/9/17 heatnation.com article “Read Chris Bosh’s Touching Thank You Letter to the City of Miami,” by Jonathan Sherman; and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Bosh.

Monday, July 3, 2017

J-Speaks Early Activity of NBA Free Agency


Since the Golden State Warriors captured their second title in last three seasons, the other 29 NBA teams have been putting in major work from the draft and prior to the start of free agency this weekend to put themselves in position to either contend with the Warriors; position themselves to for a better run or to even get into the postseason or have better chance in the future to just make the playoffs. There has been a lot of activity that has occurred and the first major move took place even before the start of free agency and it involved the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers.
On Wednesday, the Rockets acquired nine-time All-Star lead guard Chris Paul from the Clippers in exchange for starting guard Patrick Beverly; forward Sam Dekker; guard Lou Williams; forwards Montrezl Harrell, Ryan Kelly, DeAndre Liggins and Kyle Wiltjer, a 2018 Top-3 protected First-Round pick and cash considerations.
The team also agreed to re-signed backup center Nene to a new three-year, $11 million deal. They also according to “The Vertical,” agreed to sign forward/guard P.J. Tucker to a four-year $32 million.
“Whenever you can add a USA Basketball member; a Hall of Famer, it’s pretty easy to make it work,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on Thursday’s edition of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” about Paul and Harden being able to play together.
“The guys who can play with James Harden are players who can defend, shoot and handle the ball. Usually we have to pick one of those three. With Chris Paul, we get one of the best of all-time and all three.”
Morey also said to Kornheiser and Wilbon during the interview segment “Five Good Minutes,” that head coach Mike D’Antoni, the 2017 NBA Coach of the Year is met with Paul that evening to talk how to make his high octane offensive style work. That by working with both during USA Basketball gives him a major advantage
According to a report from ESPN, the Clippers were determined to get something for a guy that has been the driving force behind the best six-year run in the Clippers history to get something for a guy that has led them to the playoffs for the last six seasons in succession than lose him for nothing as he declined his team option to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m.
To put into perspective how big of an addition the former Wake Forest star and Winston Salem, NC native was to the Clippers since joining them in 2011-12, they have made the playoffs in all six of his seasons as their starting floor general and won 50 games or more the last five seasons. In the first 27 seasons the Clippers as L.A.’s second pro basketball team to the Lakers, the Clippers made the postseason just four times (1992, 1993, 1997 and 2006), with their highest win total of 47 wins in the 2005-06 season, where they lost in the Semis to the Phoenix Suns in seven games.
This trade came to fruition because several dominos fell into place. For starters, Rockets All-Star and this season’s runner for MVP James Harden had been recruiting Paul very hard in recent weeks to join him in Houston, TX. They now, at least on paper form one of the most dynamic scoring and playmaking backcourts in “The Association.”
General Manager Daryl Morey had been working hard to clear cap room and contracts to allow the team to acquire Paul. When Paul met with the Clippers front office of owner Steve Balmer, head coach and President of Basketball Operations Glenn “Doc” Rivers last week to hear their plans for winning a title, and even though the Clippers could offer him more money, he felt that their plan was not good enough for him and told Rivers, Balmer and new team consultant Jerry West that he was not going to be in a Clippers uniform next season and that he wanted to pursue a championship elsewhere.
He will try to make that dream a reality with the Rockets, at least for next season as he opted in on the final year of his contract, which will make him an unrestricted free agent next summer, as Rachel Nichols said on the Wednesday afternoon addition of her show “NBA: The Jump.”
In the short term, Paul is leaving close to $11 million on the table, but could collect that money back in the long term, if he does not get injured or something else crazy happens, which it has for Paul in recent years as he has missed some time in the regular season because of injury.
“It’s truly just one more year. We’re hoping to get with him when we’re allowed to get with him and talk about bringing him back,” Morey said Kornheiser and Wilbon.
“We’ve never lost a superstar in Houston. Players fight over playing here with our ownership, and the history. The second-best team record wise in the last 10 years. Two championships. Not many franchises can say they have two championships. So, we’re not worried about in a year convincing him to come back. We feel very good about that. That’s why we have multiple Hall of Fame Banners of our players up in the rafters.”
With Paul out of L.A., the Clippers now needed to focus on re-signing their other All-Star in forward Blake Griffin, who also opted out of the final year of his deal, which made him an unrestricted free agent.
Upon hearing of his now former teammate’s departure, Griffin cancelled meetings with the Phoenix Suns, and Denver Nuggets and he and the team agreed on a new five-year max deal worth $173 million late on Friday night.
“You don’t have Chris Paul. You really don’t have much. I think you have to,” former NBA forward Stephen Jackson said on “The Jump,” on Tuesday. “You need a star. You need somebody to hang your organization on. Blake is the only guy there. The only way I can see them keeping their fans happy and keeping everybody around L.A. happy is at least keeping Blake. You can’t lose Chris and Blake and expect everything to be good at home.”
The big trade that took place at the start of free agency this weekend, Indiana Pacers All-Star swingman Paul George, who had been rumored to be dealt before the start of next season to a few teams this off-season, mainly the Los Angeles Lakers, was dealt in the early hours of Saturday morning to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Pacers in return received guard Victor Oladipo and the No. 11 overall pick in last June’s draft forward Domantas Sabonis.
The recently crowned champions also made their own headlines at the start of the free agency frenzy re-signing All-Star and two-time MVP floor general Stephen Curry to a five-year $201 million supermax deal, which will make him the highest paid player in NBA history. Re-joining him in the Bay Area will be backup guard Shaun Livingston, who agreed to a three-year at $24 million deal. They also agreed to re-sign swingman and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala to a three-year $48 million deal, and according to a report from TNT and NBATV’s Insider David Aldridge, veteran forward David West agreed to re-sign a one-year deal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Two teams that have unexpectedly have agreed to some solid additions in the early stages of free agency have been the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers.
In an under the radar move, the defending Southwest Division champion San Antonio Spurs agreed to re-sign backup guard Patty Mills to a new four-year $50 million deal. The return of Mills and the solid showing in the postseason from rookie guard Dejounte Murray this past season puts the Spurs at ease as they are unsure when starting lead guard Tony Parker will be back this upcoming season as he recovers from surgery on a quad tendon he ruptured in the Spurs’ Game 2 victory over the Rockets in the Semis back in May.
After acquiring All-Star forward Jimmy Butler along with the No. 16 overall pick in last month’s draft in center Justin Patton, the Timberwolves agreed to sign free agent point guard Jeff Teague to a three-year deal worth $57 million.
This is on the heels of the Timberwolves trading starting lead guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz before back on Friday for a Top-14 protected 2018 First-Round pick. It has also been reported that veteran forward Taj Gibson, who played for head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau, when he was with the Chicago Bulls from 2010-2015 agreed to a two-year $28 million deal.
For the Sixers, who hope that No. 1 overall pick in point guard Markelle Fultz; last year’s No. 1 overall pick in forward/guard Ben Simmons and the No. 3 overall pick from three seasons back in center Joel Embiid, will lead them to consistent playoff appearances in the future and hopefully a championship or two, added some solid veterans to aide them along the way in agreeing to sign sharp shooter J.J. Redick and forward/center Amir Johnson to one-year deals worth $23 and $11 million respectably.
The former Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors, who were ousted in the Semifinals to the eventual back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, agreed to re-sign forward/center Serge Ibaka, who they acquired at the trade deadline in February to a three-year, $65 million deal.
In hopes of getting more scoring off their bench, the defending Southeast Division champion Washington Wizards agreed to sign guard Jodie Meeks to a two-year $7 million deal. 
While re-signing Ibaka is a good thing for the Raptors, they hope to re-sign starting lead guard and three-time All-Star Kyle Lowry. Late Sunday night, it was reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that the Lowry announced he will re-sign with the Raptors, as the two sides agreed on a new three-year $100 million deal.
“At the end of the day, this was an easy decision,” Lowry said in a post on The Players Tribune.” “And all of those roads… they all led me back to the same place: home. They led me back to Toronto.”
Another team hoping to re-sign their All-Star is the Jazz and their centerpiece Gordon Hayward.
The former Butler forward met with the Miami Heat on Saturday; then the Boston Celtics, where his former college coach Brad Stevens is now as the Celtics head man on the sidelines on Sunday and then is expected to meet with the Jazz today.  
The Jazz hope that the addition of Rubio as well as agreeing to re-sign backup guard Joe Ingles to a new four-year deal worth $52 million will signal that they are growing as a team, especially with their seven-game victory in the opening round against the Clippers this past postseason, where they took Game 1 and Game 7 on the Clippers home court.
The team unfortunately with the acquisition of Rubio signaled that they have no intention of bringing back this past season’s starting lead guard George Hill, who had a great season and is very close with Hayward from Hill’s time as a member of the Indiana Pacers.
What the early stages of free agency has signaled is that some of the best players have taken their talents to the Western Conference and for right now the Eastern Conference seems to be the Cavs to lose again.
While the Raptors have their dynamic backcourt back in the fold in Lowry, and fellow All-Star DeMar DeRozan and re-signed Ibaka, the question is, are they still in fold to compete with the Cavs for supremacy in the East. The 2016 champions swept them 4-0 in the Semis this past season and for a majority of that series they were dominant even with Lowry, DeRozan and Ibaka.
Lowry, who averaged career-highs of 22.4 points, seven assists and 4.8 rebounds per game in 2016-17, said to reporters, according to a story on ESPN.com that he returned to the Raptors because he feels this is the best place for him to win a championship.
“My heart is telling me that this is the best city in the world, with the best basketball fans in the world,” Lowry wrote in his post to “The Players Tribune.” “It’s telling me that the Raptors can be a championship-level team, sooner than later.”
While the Rockets have made a big splash with the acquisition of Paul, the Warriors core of Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Livingston, Iguodala and soon to be Finals MVP Kevin Durant remain intact and the Rockets will need to make at least one more move if they can to compete with them for supremacy in the West in 2017-18.
The Rockets of making that a reality will not be easy because the addition of Paul means that the team must remake itself with him being the new floor general in place of Harden who had a career-highs across the board in points, rebounds and led the NBA in assists per game and the Rockets the beneficiaries as the team made an all-time single-season high for three-pointers with 1,181 connections.  
“We had a Top-10 offense ever last year, and obviously we were going to work to be better than that. So, I tell Mike, ‘no pressure.’ He’s just got to be the best offense ever now.” Morey said to Kornheiser and Wilbon.
“We think it’s going to work together great. The players that work with him. I think Clint Capela is already planning out his 450 lob dunks he’s going to have this year. When you have very multiskilled guards. It’s a guard’s league. This is today’s NBA. You got to have multiple ball handlers. Multiple shooters and Chris as you know is a tremendous defender on the top defensive team for years and years.”
With all that has transpired for the Rockets this off-season so far, have the moves they made closed the gap between them and the champion Warriors?
Morey, who has used the term “weapons race” in terms of the Rockets loading up their roster to take on the best of the NBA particularly in the West feels that the Rockets have closed that gap between them and Warriors.
While the Warriors have four All-Stars in Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green, and the Cavs have three in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Rockets have only two in Paul and Harden. As Morey pointed out to Kornheiser and Wibon, the Rockets have Eric Gordon, the Sixth Man of the Year and who made the fourth most triples this past season with 246; forward Trevor Ariza, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA as well as a fine marksman from long distance with 191 makes himself in 2016-17 and Ryan Anderson, one of the best stretch power forward in the league with the ninth most threes this past season with 204 connections.
“Normally as were planning this out, we’re trying to get into that 60-win range, which really gives you a very high probability to be the one that’s holding the trophy at the end,” he said to Kornheiser and Wilbon.
“Unfortunately, in today’s NBA, you win 60 games, your odds are usually a little longer than you want to admit. But we got James Harden in his prime. We got Chris Paul in his prime. We have to go all in at this point. That’s why we we’re to get Chris and we’re willing to keep making moves until we can get this team to give Golden State at tough as hell seven-game series.”
For the Timberwolves, their moves signal that they want to end their 13-year playoff drought, the longest currently in the NBA.
To put that into perspective, they have not made the playoffs since they had future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett was a part of the team.
The team hopes that the additions of Butler, Gibson, and Teague, who have been big parts of playoff teams in the parts of playoff teams that have made it to the Conference Finals in the East can drive home some of that wisdom and knowledge to the young talented core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Gieng.   
One thing is for sure in the “Twin Cities,” Butler will be ready to go this upcoming season, particularly with the fact that he learned that he was being dealt to the Timberwolves while playing a game of spades with New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, and his former Bulls teammate Dwyane Wade on the other side of the world.
That is the same hope in the city of “Brotherly Love,” where the Sixers front office hopes that the additions of Redick and Johnson and the work ethic and habits that made them solid players in the NBA rub off on the young core of Fultz, Embiid, and Simmons players to emulate. How to practice? How to take care of your body during the season, especially on off days? How to prepare from for games from the mental aspect? All the small things necessary for a team to perform to its fullest potential.
With Griffin, back in the fold in L.A., the Clippers still have a star player to build around, even though he has missed a tone of game over the past three regular seasons and has had the last two postseasons cut short because of injury.
They will enter this next season without their starting backcourt of the last couple of seasons in Paul and Redick and the question remains, who will at the lead guard spot for the Clippers this upcoming season and going forward. For now, that will go to “Doc” Rivers’ son Austin for the time being, but with some salary coming in with the trade of Paul, they can look at the open market and see if they can find a backup or a starter if they chose to keep Austin coming off the bench.
For the Raptors, it all comes down to how much they want to pay Lowry and for how many years. While he has been an All-Star over the past three seasons and has helped the Raptors have the most successful two seasons in franchise history, he has had his struggles in the playoffs and he is 32 years old. On top of that, the market for point guards has dwindle, especially with Jrue Holiday agreeing to re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans for five-years at $126 million, with includes a player option after the fourth year.
The hug name left in free agency that still has a big decision to make is Hayward. If he stays with the Jazz, he will still be part of a solid team, with a great young core of Defensive Player of the Year candidate this past season in center Rudy Gobert; the previously mentioned Ingles; backup swingman Joe Johnson; forward Derrick Favors; Rubio and guard Rodney Hood. If he chooses to go East to join the Celtics, he will be reunited with his former college coach as mentioned earlier in Stevens and be joining a team that has a solid chance of becoming a title contender with a mix of young players and veterans, and not to mention has a war chest of draft picks over the next four Junes. If he chooses the Heat, he will be going to a team where he could become their marquee face and one that can become a major player in the East. They showed signs of that by having the best record in the East in the second half of this past season at 30-11 and just missed the postseason. Also, Hayward would be living in a part of the U.S. that has no state income tax, and that the weather is nice all year round.
We’ve seen two major trades happen. A lot of talented players change conferences from the East to the West. The current champions agree to terms with some of their core players to keep the band together to challenge for more titles. One of their conference rivals put themselves in position to challenge them for supremacy, at least on paper. We have an emerging first-time All-Star whose decision on where he decides to go could alter the fate of the franchise that drafted him. It will be interesting to see what occurs next over the next few weeks in the off-season of the NBA and its free agency period.
Information, and quotations are courtesy of 5/5/17 cbssports.com article, “Spurs guard Tony Parker Undergoes Successful Surgery on Injured Quad,” by Jack Maloney; 6/28/17 3:30 p.m. edition of “NBA: The Jump,” on ESPN, presented by LaQuinta Inns & Suites with Rachel Nichols, Brian Windhorst, and Stephen Jackson; 6/29/17 edition of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption, with Tony Kornheiser Michael Wilbon; 6/30/17 11:30 p.m. edition of “Free Agent Fever,” on NBATV with Jared Greenberg, Dennis Scott, and Billy King; 7/1/17 8:30 p.m. edition of “Free Agent Fever,” on NBATV with Kristen Ledlow and Stu Jackson; 7/2/17 ESPN.com article, “Sources: Kyle Lowry re-signs with Raptors on 3-year, $100M Deal;”  www.basketball-reference.com/teams/HOU/2017/html; www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Los_Angeles_Clippers_seasons; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Thibodeau and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Gibson.   


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

J-Speaks: The Evolution of the Triple-Double


In Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals, won by the Warriors 132-113 on June 4, perennial All-Stars, and former MVPs LeBron James of then defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry of the World Champion Golden State Warriors became just the second pair of opposing players to post a triple-double in NBA Playoff history, with Curry posting his first in the postseason with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and James had his eighth triple-double in The Finals, which tied Hall of Famer and five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers Earvin “Magic” Johnson with 38 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists on Wednesday night. He set a new Finals record in the Cavs 137-116 win in Game 4 back on June 9 with his nine triple-double of 31 points, 10 boards and 11 assists. This past regular, an NBA record 119 triple-doubles were posted, with 42 of them, a new NBA record for a single season authored by MVP candidate and perennial All-Star guard Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Second to him was perennial All-Star floor general and fellow MVP candidate James Harden of the Houston Rockets with 22. Following the two former Thunder teammates was James, with 13 triple-doubles. Basketball fans and fans who like eye catching stats saw the full spectrum of that with the number of triple-doubles that occurred in the NBA.  The evolution of this amazing stat and how the players of today seem to put up triple-doubles at a high rate. They have one player to thank for that though, “The Big-O.”
Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who is the all-time leader with 181 is the player who essentially was the father of the triple-double, being the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double with averages of 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists back in the 1961-62 season for the then Cincinnati Royals. He also during that season set the then single-season record of triple-doubles that NBA campaign with 41, which was top by the Westbrook this past season.
He said to NBA.com’s Shaun Powell in an interview in April that during this time he did not know what a triple-double was.
“Just playing trying to win,” he said. “We had a team that wasn’t the greatest of team’s. So, they called on you to do a lot of different things.”
Those amazing things that he was asked to do, scoring, rebounding, and getting assist was how Robertson averaged a triple-double his first five seasons in the NBA, which for most fans is an incredible stat. To Robertson though, it did not matter if he had a great game statistically if a victory did not follow.
Victories were hard to come back then for Mr. Robertson and the Royals, especially against teams that had the likes of the late great Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell, Nate Thurmond, and Walt Bellamy. Centers that were some of the best rebounders in NBA history, who were always around the basket area to defend.
“We didn’t have the opportunity to have a free pivot, where you could go in there anytime you want to.”
“Magic” Johnson, who is second all-time with 138 triple-double said a few years back that, “What Oscar did with the triple-double, that will never happen ever again. Never in the history of the game.”
Current Milwaukee Bucks’ head coach and NBA champion with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 Jason Kidd, who ranked third all-time with 107 triple-doubles concurred by saying, “I think that’s one of those records that will never be broken.”
Then along came Westbrook this season, who averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 assists and 10.4 rebounds this regular season. In the Thunder’s five-game setback to the Houston Rockets in the first-round of the playoffs back in April, Westbrook averaged 37.4 points, 10.8 assists and 11.6 boards.
To put Westbrook’s historic season into perspective, he was the first player since the “Big O” to average a triple-double late into a season during the 2016-17 campaign. In just this past regular season, the former UCLA Bruin moved past James and Hall of Famers Larry Bird and the late Wilt Chamberlin on the all-time triple-double list.
Westbrook authored one spectacular triple-double after another and he did it in a way where his teammates, the opposition, and the fans in Oklahoma City to road crowds all felt his presence.
“He’s one of the most unique players that we’ve seen in our league. Not because of his ball handling. Not because of his shooting ability, but because of his motor. Because of his engine and his will to keep pushing,” Hall of Famer and two-time champion with the Detroit Pistons Isiah Thomas, who posted five triple-doubles in his career said.
That relentless energy and determination to led the Thunder to wins as the top dog with Kevin Durant now with the Warriors is why Westbrook had triple-doubles where he had 30-plus points; 40-plus points and three where he scored 50-plus, which is the most in NBA history and they all came this past regular season. 
While Westbrook posted his triple-doubles through a relentless, high octane, non-stop Thunder storm, no pun intended, Harden’s were put up with precision.
When new head coach moved Harden to the lead guard spot to start the season, he showed every single skill he had in his arsenal. That helped him go from a far cry not making one of the All-NBA teams a season ago to making the All-NBA First-Team this past season.
That change resulted in career-highs of 29.1 points, an NBA leading 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 22 triple-doubles this past regular season, which was second to Westbrook.
Two of them came when Harden scored 50-plus points, with the best of the two was authored on New Year’s Eve 2016 versus the New York Knicks where he had a career-high of 53 points, 16 rebounds and 17 assists in the Rockets’ 129-122 win. He was a remarkable 14 for 26, including 9 for 16 from three-point range and 16 for 18 from the free throw line.
What made this somewhat back-and-forth of garnering triple-doubles between Westbrook and Harden incredibly special is that they each missed just one game during the regular season. In a season where several high-profile players sat out to so-called rest, Harden and Westbrook took the court night-in and night-out and gave those that saw them in the stands their money’s worth.
While many of us may revel in the amazing stats that Westbrook and Harden put up during the regular season, there was a time when the great Michael Jordan could have accomplished what they did.
A few months before what became known as “The Shot,” MJ hit in Game 5 of the first-round of the 1989 NBA Playoffs that ended the season for the Mark Price, Craig Ehlo, Brad Daugherty led Cleveland Cavaliers, Jordan was at a major crossroad. While he was the reigning MVP, No. 23 had yet to get passed the Semifinals of the postseason. A big-time scorer that did not have the ability to lead his team to the mountain top.
On Mar. 8, 1989, Jordan was unable to play against the Boston Celtics to do an illness, the Bulls were routed, trailing by 29 points going into the fourth quarter and the C’s were without eventual Hall of Famer Larry Bird. It was the Bulls third straight defeat and prompted then head coach and now EPSN color analyst Doug Collins to make a bold lineup change. That move was making Michael Jordan the Bulls’ point guard in place of then starting floor general Sam Vincent.
The move worked, beginning with a 17-point win versus the Seattle Supersonics as Jordan tallied 18 points and 15 assists. Two nights later, the Bulls romped the Indiana Pacers 122-90, with Jordan recording his first triple-double as a point guard with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists.
After a small slump where they dropped two of three games, the Bulls put together a winning run that got them back on course, which featured one of the best triple-double streaks in NBA history, garnering double-digits in points, rebounds and assists in seven straight games. It was the longest such streak since Chamberlin’s nine straight games with a triple-double in 1968.
Westbrook matched that streak of Jordan’s with seven straight triple-doubles from Nov. 25, 2016 to Dec. 9, 2016.
From Mar. 21 of that season through Apr. 4, the Bulls won eight of nine contest that put them 18 games over .500 and into the No. 5 spot in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. The Bulls scored at least 100 points in all nine games, with a couple of victories in the closing seconds.
The Bulls’ good run for that two-week period was halted by their arch rivals the Detroit Pistons, who swept their home-and-home set behind the spectacular playmaking of Thomas and the sharp shooting off the bench by Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. 
Despite Jordan scoring 71 total points in the home-and-home set, the Pistons ended his triple-double streak and swept the regular season series 6-0.
“We’ve been on the verge of beating this team a few times, except for down the stretch. We make mental mistakes and errors and they capitalize on it,” Jordan said after one of the losses to the Pistons.
Jordan bounced back quickly recording triple-double the next three games in a row including an effort of 47 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a 109-105 win at the Pacers on Apr. 13, 1989. That gave Jordan 10 triple-doubles over an 11-game span that encompassed 21 days.
The Bulls did not garner victories in the fashion they did early on as the dropped eight of their last 10 games to close the season as Jordan recorded another triple-double on Apr. 21, 1989 against the then Washington Bullets of 34 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists.
In the 24 games as Bulls’ starting floor general, Jordan averaged 30.4 points, 10.7 assists and 9.2 rebounds, registering 12 triple-doubles.
While the Bulls went just 13-11 in that period, it showed the entire league and fans that watched how the great Michael Jordan can dominate a game besides scoring.
The Bulls as the No. 6 Seed beat the No. Seeded Cavs thanks to “The Shot” Jordan hit over Ehlo from the foul line in the final seconds of Game 5 of the First-Round series that sank the Cavaliers and planted his flag on one of the indelible moments in NBA history.
“I don’t know. We just try, and try, but it is just hard to stop that guy. I don’t know what to do,” Cavs All-Star center, Brad Daugherty said after the loss.
In the Semifinals, the Bulls took down the No. 2 Seeded New York Knicks in six games as Jordan averaged 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists over the final four games of the series.
“Michael Jordan is the greatest player. Going to go down as the greatest player, if not of all-time. Because he makes people better,” then Knicks head coach, now the head coach at the University of Louisville Rick Pitino said. “He’s phenomenal and we are not embarrassed to lose to the Chicago Bulls.”
Unfortunately, the Bulls magical playoff run came was ended by the eventual NBA champion “Bad Boy” Pistons in a very competitive six games of the Eastern Conference Finals, with each game being decided by single digits.
“We kind of stood in their way. We gave them a little competition. We gave them a little fight,” Jordan said. “I think we humbled them. I think we learned a lot. We gained a lot of experience by going against a team that may win it all.”
What that season showed was the evolution of Jordan, who went from being known as just a scorer to being an all-around player who can make plays in the clutch for himself as well as his teammates. He became the ultimate leader and that evolution would pay off in 1991 when the Bulls won their first of six titles in eight seasons with two three-peats. In their journey to their first title, the Bulls and Jordan swept the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals 4-0 and in the final seconds of Game 4, the back-to-back defending champion Pistons walked off the floor and did not shake the hands of the Bulls.
Of all the amazing accomplishments of the great Michael Jordan, probably the most remarkable of all was that he was on the All-NBA Defensive First-Team nine times.
Traditionally the three main components that make up a triple-double are double-digits in points, rebounds, and assists. There have been times that a player has gotten a triple-double by having double-digits in either blocks or steals.
In a season where the biggest appeal to the league were the mindboggling offensive stats that were put up by Westbrook, Harden and James, Warriors forward Draymond Green to the less glamorous path to a triple-double with just four points scored, but garnered 12 rebounds, 10 assists, franchise record 10 steals and five blocks in his team’s 122-107 victory at the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 10. It was the first triple-double in NBA history with fewer than 10 points.
“A lot of people don’t realize that you can be in a defensive grove. Tonight, I felt like I was on point at that end of the floor,” Green said after one of the most blue-collar games played in league history.
Of all the triple-doubles in NBA history, Green’s effort was not just while scoring in single-digits, it was just the 10th all-time with double-digit steals. His 10 thefts on the night were also one shy of tying the all-time NBA record in one game.
To put into perspective how special this night was for Green, blocks and steals did not become an official stat in “The Association” until the 1973-74 campaign. If those two stats were official years earlier Hall of Famer and 11-time champion Bill Russell and Chamberlin would have had notch on their belts years earlier.
Those to achieve 11 steals as part of a triple-double were former American Basketball Association (ABA) and NBA All-Star Larry Kenon, who had 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 steals for the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 26, 1976 versus the Washington Bullets.
How good was Kenon? He owns the second highest scoring average in Spurs history 20.7 points per game, behind only Hall of Famer George “Ice Man” Gervin’s 26.3 points per game average.
Former New Jersey Net, now NBA studio analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago Kendall Kill, who had 15 points, 10 boards and 11 steals on Apr. 3, 1999 versus the Miami Heat;
Hall of Famer and 11-time All-Star Clyde Drexler used 11 steals twice as part of a triple-double tear, when he posted 26 points, 11 assists, and 10 steals on Jan. 10, 1986 versus the Denver Nuggets and 25 points, 10 boards and 10 steals on Nov. 1, 1996 versus the Sacramento Kings, and former Trail Blazer to post a triple-double with 10 steals, was ironically enough a guy Larry Steele, who got 10 of them in a game versus the Lakers.
Drexler is the only player in NBA history with two steals triple-doubles, posting them a decade a part, and in both cases nearly posted a quadruple-double and Steele is fifth on the Trail Blazers all-time steals list. He was also part of the franchises 1977 championship team that defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in six games.
Unknown to the average NBA fan, but well known in NBA circles, former guard Lafayette “Fat” Lever, whose is ranked No. 8 all-time in triple-doubles with 43 of them, and is 24th all-time in steals posted one on Mar. 3, 1985 for the Denver Nuggets in a loss at the Bulls with 13 points, 15 assists and 10 steals.
One of the best thieves in league history Alvin Robertson had one of the best all-around games in the history of the game. He recorded just one of four quadruple-double in the 71-year history of the National Basketball Association with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 steals on Feb. 18, 1986 versus the Suns, which happened on this blogger’s fifth birthday.
Former Phoenix Suns’ All-Star guard and the current Mayor of Sacramento, CA Kevin Johnson on Dec. 9, 1993 versus the Bullets had a triple-double with 17 points, 13 assists and 10 steals and the last triple-double in the league with 10 steals was former Atlanta Hawks’ lead guard and No. 11 all-time in steals Daron Oshay “Mookie” Blaylock, who registered 14 points, 11 assists and 10 steals on Apr. 14, 1998 versus the Sixers.    
While those players garnered their triple-doubles with steals, some of the best centers and forwards in the game got theirs by blocking shots.
Since the 1973-74 season, there have been 88 triple-doubles registered where a player had double-digits in block shots, and that list did not include Russell or Chamberlin.
The players who have done it frequently are the all-time leader in the NBA in blocks shots with 3,830 in Hall of Famer and two-time champion with the Houston Rockets Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, who recorded 10.
He is tied with fellow Hall of Famer who made shot blocking an art form and put an exclamation point on it with the wag of his right finger is four-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient Dikembe Mutombo, who is 541 rejections behind Olajuwon with 3,289.
Third on the list with nine of these is Hall of Famer, two-time champion, former Defensive Player of the Year, and the 1993-94 scoring champion David “The Admiral” Robinson, whose sixth all-time in blocks with 2,954 and won the league MVP in 1995.
Next on this list is Hall of Famer known as “The Captain,” in six-time champion; six-time league MVP and the all-time leading scorer with 38,837 points Kareem Abdul-Jabbar posted seven 10 block triple-doubles.
Another former Laker Elmore Smith authored six 10-block shot triple-doubles, and once blocked 17 shots in a game for L.A.
Former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton, whose 3,064 career blocks are one spot behind Abdul-Jabbar’s 3,189, which is third all-time, authored six 10-block shot triple-doubles in his career, who against the Trail Blazers in 1985 had 20 boards and 14 blocks as part of his triple-double.
Former No. 2 overall pick by the Sixers in 1993 out of BYU recorded six 10-block shot triple-doubles. One of them came in 1998 against the Trail Blazers where he had 22 points, 22 boards and 13 blocks off the bench for the Dallas Mavericks.
There are two players who share the NBA record of blocking 15 shots in registering a triple-double. Hall of Famer and current NBATV/NBA on TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal did it for the Orlando Magic when he had 24 points, 28 rebounds and 15 swats on Nov. 20, 1993 at the then New Jersey Nets. It was one of two triple-doubles he had in his 19-year career.
The other was the late 7’7” Sudanese-born center Manute Bol for the Bullets on Feb. 26, 1987 recorded his only triple-double with 10 points, 19 rebounds and 15 blocks versus the Pacers. Bol finished his 10-year NBA career with more blocks (2,086) than points (1,599).
The one thing that the giants of our game to those that got a headline for their unbelievable night they put together have in common is they put on a show; displayed that they can do a multitude of things on the court and stood out as one of the best on the hardwood. That best describes Fat Lever, who was Westbrook before Westbrook, minus the athleticism.
This is a guy who had a triple-double with 23 assists in a game against the Bulls in 1988 and against the Warriors in 1989. Lever had a near quadruple-double with 31 points, 16 rebounds, 20 assists in a game.
“It’s nice to be recognized, and I’m a low-key type of guy at times. But, whenever those statistics comes up, it’s bringing you back to reality to show some of your accomplishments,” the two-time All-Star who averaged 19. Points, 9.3 boards and 7.9 assists in the 1988-89 season said to NBATV’s Vince Cellini back in April. He jokingly added to that by saying, “As long as I stay in the top 10, I’ll be okay.”
Lever said that the triple-doubles that stand out the most are the ones he authored where his team was on the wrong end of the scoreboard, like the one he had at the Bulls, where on Jordan was not the only star on the Chicago Stadium floor that day.
“We lose the game and you look at the stats, I had no idea the stats were there, until you look back at them and see them now,” Lever said to Cellini about that game at the Bulls. “But during the game, never really thought about it. Your worried about winning and losing, especially winning at Chicago, and beating a Michael Jordan team. That’s all you wanted. The satisfaction of the triple-double was there, but it wasn’t like, ‘Hey. You win the game and get the triple-double on national tv.’ I think that’s more accomplishing.”
It is why that Lever also said to Cellini that a triple-double type player is one that must possess a winning attitude; winning mindset; a hardnose attitude that puts his team first.
Statistically, that is Westbrook in every sense. When he got a triple-double this past season, the Thunder were 33-9 this past season.  
There have been times however when players garnered a triple-double, but tarnished the moment and their reputation in the eyes of their opponent. For many role players, achieving a triple-double is something that is like a feather in their cap for that season, and sometimes that one real highlight for their career. There are times when it has occurred, it becomes a stain that rubs the opponent the wrong way.
In the Mar. 19, 1996 contest between the Pistons at the Magic, reserve guard Anthony Bowie was one rebound and one assist away from his first career triple-double.
The game was going to be in the win column for the Magic, who were up by 20 with less than 10 seconds remaining. In every instance like this you dribble out the clock and end the game. Bowie though grabbed the rebound with 02.7 left; called a timeout.
Then head coach and current Magic analyst for FOX Sports Florida Brian Hill had the kind of look on his face that said, “Why?”
Pistons head man, now color analyst for ESPN Doug Collins instructed his team to remain near their sideline for the remaining seconds.
The Magic inbounded the ball and Bowie passed it to forward David Vaughn who dunked it with 00.8 seconds left, giving Bowie the triple-double of 20 points, 10 boards and 10 assists. When went over to shake the hand of Collins, he shrugged him off and went into the locker room.
It was nowhere near what Ricky Davis, who had two stints with the Cavs did versus the Jazz on Mar. 16, 2003.
With the score 120-95 in favor of the Cavs with 06.1 seconds remaining, Davis caught the inbound pass from Jumaine Jones, drove to the basket and shot it. Rebounded his own miss and that gave him a triple-double. He paid for it later when DeShawn Stevenson fouled him with 02.0 seconds left. Jazz head coach for 22 seasons in Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan, who was known as a player and as head coach who always preached and played the game with a level of respect for it like any other had a shocking look on his face that asked, “Why would you do that?”
“He shot at the wrong basket. He was trying to embarrass somebody by doing that. DeShawn fouled him. I would have fouled him too. I would have knocked him on his ass,” Sloan said.
One year later, then Hawks guard Bob Sura, a former Cav was trying to become the first player in seven years to rack up three straight triple-doubles.
Their Apr. 12, 2004 tilt versus the Nets, that they won 129-107, Sura was one rebound short of that accomplishment.
After catching a long inbound pass, Sura took a shot that hit the iron. He rebounded it, and appeared to register his third straight game with a triple-double. However, the NBA the following day reviewing the video, Sura’s field goal attempt as well as the rebound was stricken, thus ending Sura’s triple-double streak at two games.
Before resurrecting his career with the now World Champion Warriors this past season, center JaVale McGee on Mar. 11, 2011 with the now Washington Wizards at the Bulls authored a memorable triple-double.
A slam dunk, plus a foul gave the former UNLV star nine points, 12 boards and 12 blocks. He needed just one point for the triple-double.
In the last 3:43 seconds of the game, McGee missed a free throw; was short on a running one hander; air-balled a fade away jumper and mishandled a driving layup going to his left. Finally, he received a pass in the lane from then rookie lead guard John Wall, that at first was fumbled, but McGee got it and dunked it hard to garner the triple-double, and received a technical foul for doing a pullup on the rim after the dunk.
“Your down 20 and you get a triple-double. I am not impressed,” NBATV/NBA on TNT analyst and Hall of Famer Kevin McHale said during the highlights of the McGee’s triple-double of 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 blocks in the Wizards 98-79 loss on that edition of “Gametime,” he did with Chris Webber and Rick Kamla.
The most pathetic attempt at a triple-double though was not by McGee, but by his one-time teammate Andray Blatche on Apr. 4, 2010 versus the Nets.
Sitting at 29 points, 13 assists and nine boards, Blatche with less than 30 seconds left and up by 10 points, Blatche attempted to get a rebound off a miss, but a foul was whistled on him.
A right corner three-pointer by Chris Douglas-Roberts of the Nets was an air ball that was rebounded by his teammate Cartier Martin that denied Blatche of the triple-double and he was not pleased at all.
McGee was fouled with 08.1 seconds left sending him to the foul line. McGee made the first and prior to the second attempt, Blatche in a selfish move was bargaining with the Nets’ Yi Jianlian to allow him to grab the rebound if McGee missed to get the triple-double.
McGee made both with 08.1 seconds left and after a made layup by current Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris, Blatche’s attempt at a triple-double was thwarted in the Wizards 109-99 win versus the Nets.
“My teammate robbed me man,” Blatche said to reporters in the locker room after the game. “My own teammate robbed me. I can’t even believe it. I’m shocked and appalled.”
If there is one difference from those that got triple-doubles back when Robertson, “Magic” Johnson, Lever and even Kidd were getting them compared to Westbrook, Harden, and James of today, those triple-doubles came with solid scoring nights of high teens and maybe mid-20s with some rare 30-plus, 40-plus point contest. Now, those kinds of triple-doubles are happening at a high clip now, especially with Westbrook and Harden this past year. On top of that, triple-doubles have become as Lever said to Cellini, “It’s sociable. It’s the talk of the town and I always say because analytics are numbers. And, right now we talk about in all aspects of the game.”  
What the phenomenon of the triple-double has done more than anything is allowed this generation of NBA fans to have a major look at some of the past greats like Robertson, “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Chamberlin, and Fat Lever and give us an appreciation for the evolution of what we are seeing today from the likes of Westbrook, Harden, James Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and how they are taking the art of getting a triple-double to a whole other level.
What can also be said about this feet that has taken the sports world by storm this past year is that while it may be common place for some, can be impossible for many others and in the pursuit of garnering one, many have been done masterfully and some have been done or attempted foolishly. There have been many masterpieces and others that have left as Cellini said in scattered pieces.
Information, statistics, and quotations are courtesy of the 4/4/17 3:30 p.m. NBATV special, “The Art of the Triple-Double,” hosted by Vince Cellini, with interview of Oscar Robertson done by Shaun Powell; 4/16/11 SBNation.com article “JaVale McGee and The Most Pathetic Triple-Double in NBA History,” by Andrew Sharp; www.espn.com/nba/player/gamelog/_/id/3992/james-harden; www.espn.com/ba/player/gamelog/_/id/3468/russell-westbrook; www.espn.com/nba/player/gamelog/_/id/6589/draymond-green; www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/bolma01.html; www.basketball-reference.com/players/k/kenonla01.html; www.basketball-reference.com/players/g/gervige01.html; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shawn_Bradley;  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Kennon; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Basketball_Association_career_scoring_leaders and www.landofbasketball.com/all_time_leaders/block_total_career_season.htm.