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NBA PM: What If Michael Jordan Hadn’t Quit?
Posted By Bill Ingram On September 21, 2012 @ 5:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Today we conclude our ongoing discussion with Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon, who has been making headlines through his work with some of the NBA’s top stars in recent months. In this, the final installment of our recent conversation, we answer one of the most frequently asked questions about the Houston Rockets’ 1994 and 1995 championships. If Michael Jordan had not quit for a year and a half, would the Rockets have won those two titles?
“That’s a very good question,” said Olajuwon. “Anybody who has basketball sense, people who understand the game, understands that we would have won anyway. Let’s analyze that correctly. First, people don’t give Orlando the respect that they beat the Bulls with Jordan that year. They had Shaq (O’Neal), (Penny) Hardaway, (Nick) Anderson. Before that, Jordan played Charlotte in the first round. He scored 48 points in one game, looked great, had a great series. He was in form. They played Orlando, Orlando beat Chicago, period. Anderson got a big steal on Jordan to close them out. Orlando beat them. That’s a fact. Shaq was a monster. They had the inside game with Horace Grant too, and outside. They were a real team, they won 60+ games. Orlando was a real team. They had an advantage inside with Shaq. So, that’s the first answer is to remind the people.”
Olajuwon was also quick to remind us that it was Seattle, not Chicago, that had Houston’s number in the 90′s.
“When we played Chicago, every time they came to Houston they already knew they were going to lose to Houston and San Antonio. But, Seattle wouldn’t let us get into our plays. It was all this scrambling, turnovers. It was George Karl. He figured us out. We couldn’t beat them. There was no structure with them. They pressed in the backcourt. I’d be under the basket waving and they couldn’t see because of the press of Payton and McMillan. All of a sudden turnover here, turnover there, four straight, before you know it we’re down 10. Seattle was more of our problem. We loved to play Chicago. Chicago would come in with a winning streak, we’d love that. This is true, a fact. To discredit the loss to Orlando that’s not being sincere with reality. The reality meaning they had Jordan and the guys who played. You ask Michael Jordan, he’ll give you a real answer. You ask him, he’d say Orlando beat us. Can Chicago beat them? Yes, but Orlando had the advantage, a complete team with Shaq in the middle with a good power forward in Horace Grant, Penny Hardaway in his prime. They had everything. They beat Chicago. We won the championship clearly. We swept Orlando, but those games could have gone either way. That was a very good team.”
Hakeem became quite animated in emphasizing that anyone saying Jordan’s decision to step away from basketball influenced the 1995 Finals did a disservice to the Orlando Magic team that beat Chicago.
“To say that, oh, Jordan was out and that’s why they won, that’s ridiculous. You, as a writer, have to remind the people how can you take the credit away from an Orlando team that beat them convincingly. It was a tough series, but they had no answer for Shaq. They had a great team. Jordan played a great series, but the costly mistake that Anderson capitalized led to them beating losing. They beat them very clearly. They say he wasn’t in full form. He was in full form in the first round and in that series, too. But that team beat them, so that’s my answer to that.”
Olajuwon would have welcomed a chance to play the Bulls in the Finals, though he is also quick to point out that their center position was not as bad as some would have you believe.
“My championship that’s most satisfying is playing against Ewing because he was the best at my position. When we dominated against Chicago, they’d say, ‘Ok, they don’t have a center.’ That’s not true. They had three seven-footers! Those guys don’t count? It’s amazing how people talk. Those guys made you work. Chicago was a balanced team. The center position wasn’t their strength, but they had guys who could take any big guy and keep him occupied. They weren’t small. They had 18 fouls to waste on you. But, they say you can’t win a championship without a center, except Chicago. But they had three centers! Yet people talk like that. I played against those guys, I knew they were real strong. And Jordan was a master of making you help, then those guys would have the best game of their career cause they’d score all the points with me helping off. Those guys all of a sudden have a lot of points. My point is, people say like they had no center. But, is that really true? They don’t give those guys any credit at all. I’m a center, I have respect for these guys. They may not be superstars but they’re legitimate centers and they’re good fundamentally. They can play. You had to fight against them. I wasn’t just going to dominate them. They made me work so hard. I had respect for them because I knew how they made me work, what I had to do to score. But other people don’t respect them? They don’t know what they’re talking about. I have respect for those guys as a player in my position, how can you not? I don’t understand.”
We can thank Phil Jackson, then the coach of the Bulls, for the little mythology that suggests Jordan was in some way not ready to play when his team met up with Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando Magic in 1995. The truth, however, is that the Bulls ran up against a dominant team that they just couldn’t beat and the Rockets, behind the MVP play of Hakeem Olajuwon, then summarily dismissed that team to be crowned the NBA champions.
Jeremy Lin Putting In The Work
Few NBA players enter the 2012-13 NBA season with as much anticipation as Jeremy Lin has inspired in Houston Rockets fans. After his inspiring run in New York last season, many anticipate that he will be the player to lead Houston back to the playoffs eventually. Rockets.com recently sat down with Lin to discuss a wide range of issues, starting with how important it is for a point guard to read the defense as he looks to set up a play.
“Especially being in a pick-and-roll league, the first thing you have to look for and recognize is figuring out what kind of coverage the defense is in,” Lin said. “Now your strategy at that point changes based on the type of players you have around you – are they shooters, slashers or post-up players? – that can really change the equation, but it all starts with that initial recognition and the faster you can do so the better. That’s what I’ve got to get better at actually.”
Lin may have taken the league by storm, but once teams had some film on him he was much more down-to-earth in his second month in New York. He admits that he’s still learning and will make mistakes, but is also anxious to learn and grow from those mistakes.
“I’m going to make mistakes, I just have to be able to learn from them as quickly as possible,” Lin said. “To learn faster, I watch film of myself and other good point guards, and then breaking down my mistakes and really analyzing them and seeing where I could have made better decisions. I think you definitely need your reps but how fast you learn I think is really up to the player in certain ways.”
As part of his learning process this summer, Lin has been watching a great deal of film on other NBA point guards to pick up tips and tricks.
“I’ve watched everybody and some of the names might be shocking, but the thing is every point guard does something better than me, so the key is learning from whatever that is. Players that I’ve watched – the obvious ones: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Gary Payton. And then you can go on to the ones who have very specialized skills: Juan Carlos Navarro and then Chris Duhon and Raymond Felton. They do things that are really, really good and better than me that other people might not see.”
Really? Chris Duhon?
“Quick reads. If they draw two, they get rid of it quick,” Lin says of Duhon and Felton. “I tend to hold onto the ball too long. They read the floor and there’s a certain type of pass where they pick it up real fast and fire it – they’re great at that, and that’s something I needed to learn and see. You can’t always go against a double-team; once you’ve drawn it you’ve done your job and the question becomes: How do you get rid of it to the right person? They’ve done that really well.”
The 2012-13 Rockets are built to run, and appear to be a team that will struggle in half court sets. Last season Lin was in just the 12th percentile across the NBA in transition efficiency, as compared to his 58th percentile ranking in the half court. Lin expects that to change this season.
“I love the transition,” Lin said. “I was surprised that my transition numbers were off last year because traditionally I’ve been a good transition player. I like to play fast. I like to get it on the go and just run with it, make plays quickly and get the ball up very early in the shot clock. … I think (those stats) tell a lot of the story but they don’t tell all of the story. I think it would be silly and naïve not to listen to the numbers, but I think it would also be silly to make that everything.”
As for the pressure that’s facing him in Houston this season and how it might influence him on the court, Lin says he feels like once the ball goes up all attention is on the game.
“In crunch time it’s all about winning,” Lin said. “My mentality then is just about making plays. There’s not too much that really goes on in my mind during crunch time besides the fact that I just have to make a play to get my team up one by the time the buzzer sounds. It really just depends what my role is. That play might be a rebound or a steal or a hockey assist – just whatever it takes. I think that’s true for the whole game but there’s definitely extra focus on doing those things at the end.”
Success is measured differently for different teams. In Los Angeles, for example, anything short of a Lakers championship will be considered a failure. The same can be said in Oklahoma City, Miami and Boston, in particular. The Rockets, though, are in a different situation, and Lin offers his definition of success for his new team.
“If we, as a team, can work as hard as we can, but also to build the right culture, that would be a success for me,” Lin said. “Obviously, we want to make the playoffs, but if we don’t make the playoffs, if we’re close to making the playoffs but we had a lot of adversity or injuries or different things that we had to get through, and we still manage to establish a good culture and build and get better, I think that’s a success.”
Morrison Among Blazers’ Camp Additions
The Portland Trail Blazers have signed Adam Morrison, Demonte Harper and Dallas Lauderdale, it was announced today by General Manager Neil Olshey.
Morrison (Forward, 6-8, 205) was selected with the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats out of Gonzaga, earning NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors in 2006-07. He has career averages of 7.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 161 games over four seasons with Charlotte and the L.A. Lakers. He played in Serbia and Turkey before joining the Brooklyn Nets and L.A. Clippers summer league squads in July. Morrison averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 30.0 minutes in five games with the Clippers.
Harper (Guard, 6-4, 195) was a four-year standout at Morehead State, where he finished his collegiate career in 2010-11 by earning All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team and conference tournament MVP honors his senior year. He spent last season playing in Croatia before playing for the Denver Nuggets NBA Summer League squad in July.
Lauderdale (Forward, 6-8, 260) also made a 2012 NBA Summer League roster, appearing for the Golden State Warriors. He played collegiately at Ohio State from 2007-11, finishing his four-year career with the Buckeyes averaging 4.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game. Lauderdale spent the 2011-12 season playing in Poland.
With today’s signings, the Trail Blazers training camp roster stands at 18 players.
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