Born: July 18, 1971 Position: Point/Shooting Guard, Small Forward Professional Career:
Orlando Magic (NBA): 1993-1999
Phoenix Suns (NBA): 1999-2004
New York Knicks (NBA): 2004-2005
Miami Heat (NBA): 2007
During the last half of the 1990s, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was on top of the basketball world. Playing on a fresh new franchise and arriving just after the retirements of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, Hardaway promised to escalate the NBA’s popularity with a style that melded many of the talents of the aforementioned legends. His raw athleticism trumped Bird’s, his scoring outbursts surpassed those of Magic, and his passing was more deceptive than MJ could ever consistently hope for.
The aesthetic beauty of Penny Hardaway’s basketball game is still hard to imagine decades later. A long, lanky and tall point guard gliding up and down the court. Probing defenses for thunderous dunks or slick dimes. Anfernee’s distinctive nickname, “Penny”, gave a much-deserved trademark to the on-court festivities.
In a ridiculous turn of events, Robert Sarver apologized to Suns fans last night for the San Antonio Spurs resting two old ass players – Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili – and letting three other players with mild injuries rest up during a PRESEASON GAME.
“Hey, everybody, I want to thank you for coming out tonight,” Sarver said. “This is not the game you paid your hard-earned money to watch. I apologize for it. And I want you to send me your tickets if you came tonight with a return envelope and I’ve got a gift for you on behalf of the Suns for showing up tonight. Thank you.”
First of all, I’m of the opinion those fans wasted their money by buying preseason tickets.
Second of all, if Sarver wants to apologize to Phoenix fans for wasting their hard-earned money on the Suns, he oughta give a mea culpa for his apparent and silly mandate from 2004 to 2007 to discard any and all potentially useful draft picks.
After viewing the list of travesties, you’ll conclude, like I have that Sarver was a modern-day Ted Stepien… the infamous Cleveland owner from the early 1980s who gave away draft picks for next-to-nothing.
The Suns drafted Luol Deng with the 7th overall pick and hastily traded him to the Chicago Bulls for a Jackson Vroman and a 2005 1st Round Pick. As I’m sure y’all know, Deng has gone on to a fine career while Jackson Vroman has… what has he done? I’ve honestly never heard of him before this. According to Basketball-Reference, Vroman played a total of 57 minutes for the Suns before being traded away.
Well, at least the Suns used that 2005 1st Rounder from Chicago to select Nate Robinson…
Well, that didn’t last long. After the Suns drafted li’l Nate they packaged him with Quentin Richardson for the New York Knicks. In return the Suns got wild-eyed Kurt Thomas and Dijon Thompson. Dijon however was no good and wasn’t in high demand like Grey Poupon. Thompson would play a grand total of 43 minutes for the Suns.
In a separate deal, the Suns gave away 2nd Round draft pick Marcin Gortat to the Orlando Magic for the mythical “future considerations.” Seems like an even deal.
With an all-world point guard like Steve Nash, the Suns still needed to have some backup help and they coulda had it in spades this year by drafting Sergio Rodriguez and Rajon Rondo.
Instead, they wound up trading both men. Rodriguez was sold for cash to the Portland Trail Blazers. Meanwhile Rondo was shipped to Boston for a future 1st Round Pick. Don’t worry they’ll be trading that pick soon enough.
Instead of having Rodriguez or Rondo to back up Nash, Phoenix went out and signed… Marcus Banks. Jesus.
That 1st Rounder Phoenix got for Rondo turned out to be Rudy Fernandez. Rudy got sold for cash to the Blazers.
Don’t worry, just a week later the Suns dumped Kurt Thomas, a 2008 1st Rounder, and a 2010 1st Rounder on Seattle for the privilege of a 2nd Round draft pick and a trade exception. The two first rounders Phoenix dumped turned out to be Serge Ibaka and Quincy Pondexter. One an All-Star caliber player, the other turning into a fine rotation swingman. The Suns took Emir Preldzic, who has yet to play in the NBA, with that 2nd Rounder they got in return.
So, let’s tally the score shall we. From 2004 to 2007, Phoenix traded away draftees and draft picks that became Rajon Rondo, Serge Ibaka, Luol Deng, Nate Robinson, Rudy Fernandez, Marcin Gortat, and Sergio Rodriguez for cash, Marcus Banks, Dijon Thompson, and “future considerations.”
Wasn’t like Phoenix was a title-contender all these years, coming perilously close to the Finals.
Sam Cassell enjoyed a lengthy career as an NBA point guard, but only after an arduous college basketball journey. At age 20, he began playing junior college ball with San Jacinto College outside Houston. Then, at age 22, he transferred to Florida State. After two successful seasons there, Cassell was finally drafted into the NBA at age 24.
And nearly everywhere he went in the NBA, Cassell catalyzed improvement for his teams.
Selected by the Houston Rockets, the geriatric rookie immediately made a huge impact for the Rockets. No one doubts Hakeem Olajuwon was the primary fuel for the Rockets that won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, but Cassell’s role as backup point guard and big game performer helped pull Houston out of some tough fixes. In the 1994 Finals, Cassell hit a huge three-pointer in the final moments to win Game 3. He finished that game with 15 points on 4-6 shooting. Not bad for a rookie who averaged 7 points in the regular season. In the 1995 Finals, Cassell exploded for 31 points on 12 shots leading Houston to a 2-0 series lead over the Magic.
These huge playoff performances paid dividends for Cassell. By his third season, 1995-96, he was averaging 14.5 points and 5 assists per game off of Houston’s bench. Following that season, however, Cassell was traded to the Phoenix Suns and thus began his wandering days.
Over the next three seasons, Sam played for the Suns, Nets, and Mavericks before finally settling in Milwaukee. Not that he wasn’t productive. Cassell averaged 18 points and 6.5 assists in this span, but no club seemed to truly appreciate what he offered. The Nets were particularly foolish. They made their lone postseason between 1994 and 2002 while improving from 26 to 43 wins in their one full season with Cassell.
With the Bucks, though, Cassell found a home and exploited his talents to the max. His biggest assets, oddly for a point guard, were his abilities to post-up and generate lots of free throws. Milwaukee lacked a power forward or center capable of scoring, so Cassell’s production of 19 points and 7 assists per game while making 87% of his free throws was sorely needed. In 2001, teaming with Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen, Cassell’s Bucks narrowly missed out on the NBA Finals losing to the 76ers in a tough 7-game series.
Ever the wanderer, though, Cassell’s time in Milwaukee finished in 2003. Still, Cassell had a couple of curtain calls left.
The Timberwolves in 2004 enjoyed their best season in franchise history after Cassell’s acquisition. Indeed, it was a career year for Cassell who finally made the All-Star Team and was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team at the tender age of 34. With Kevin Garnett as league MVP and Cassell riding shotgun Minnesota made the Western Conference Finals. An unfortunate back injury to Sam kept the Wolves from mounting a full challenge to the Lakers, though, and they lost the series in six games.
In 2006, after an injury-plagued 2005 season, Cassell helped lift the Los Angeles Clippers from their wretched depths. Yes, the Clippers, a franchise that hadn’t won a playoff series since 1976 as the Buffalo Braves. Cassell’s savvy, leadership, and still potent skills mixed beautifully with another superb power forward (Elton Brand) as the Clippers won 47 games. In the playoffs, Sam’s Clippers advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Finals where they lost to the Suns in seven games. From that point on, Cassell was severely limited by injuries, but managed to snag a final NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
With his ebullient energy, pull-up jumpers, fearless forays to the rim, and confidence Cassell improved every team he appeared with. The Rockets, Nets, Bucks, Timberwolves, and Clippers were all demonstrably better with the services of Cassell. Even if those teams’ appreciation for Cassell usually proved very short-lived, that kind of track record is no accident, but proof of his prowess. In a career that was anything but short-lived, you can see that prowess almost from the get-go.
Years Played: 1993 – 2008
3x Champion (1993-’94, 2008)
All-NBA 2nd Team (2004)
Regular Season Record: 325-463
Regular Season Win Percentage: 41.2%
Playoff Appearances: 3
Playoff Series Wins: 2
Playoff Record: 8-15
This was a miserable decade in Hawks’ history. They only had three winning seasons and they were all frontloaded in 1997, 1998 and 1999. During this three-year stretch, the Hawks won 64% of their games. Naturally, the selections for this decade’s players are also frontloaded in this period. Dikembe Mutombo was brightest spot for the Hawks nabbing back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 1997 and 1998. After being swept by the New York Knicks in the 2nd Round of the 1999 playoffs, the aging Hawks were blown up and Lenny Wilkens left as coach in 2000.
From 2000 till 2006, Atlanta mustered a pathetic winning percentage of .328, bottoming out in 2005 with just 13 wins. From that point on, Mike Woodson would slowly rebuild the Hawks into a frisky playoff team during their next decade.
The following article was contributed by John WIlmes. As you’ll see, he is a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls. Currently, you can can find John’s basketball writings at red94.com, a member of ESPN’s TrueHoop Network.
I was just eleven, when Michael won his sixth. I have only the most ephemeral, only the blurriest of recollections of John Paxson’s shot, when I was seven—but I’d certainly say I prefer it that way. You all had to watch Hoosiers, and pretend the whole thing happened for you, when you were my age. By the time I was ten, Paxson had morphed into Steve Kerr.
I grew up in Bullsdom — my formative memories are slathered in their tinges of triumph. I was privy to the some of the greatest basketball ever played; I was privy to the force it creates, to the favorable sense of gravity and confidence that such a mind-blowing form of awesomeness grants to the land around it, as if it were an earthquake of good will.
But the most fun I’ve ever had as a Bulls fan was when I was twenty-two, and living beyond the rim of that glory, hours west in Iowa City.
What Grant Hill’s career could have been is something of joyful imagination mixed with sorrowful reality. The prodigious talent was mixed with demoralizing foot injuries, the endless rehabs, the near-fatal staph infection he suffered… it’s all enough to dash the fantastic dreams we had of Grant Hill leading the Detroit Pistons or the Orlando Magic to potential title glory.
It surely was enough to dash what should have been the middle portion of Hill’s career.
From the 2000-01 season to the 2005-06 season, Hill played in just 135 of 492 potential games. And half of those 135 came in the 2004-05 season. He also missed all of the 2003-04 season. His sojourn in Orlando was just rife with pain. But taking a step back from the sorrow, we do realize that Hill’s career was its own brand of magnificent.
He was co-Rookie of the Year in 1995 for the Detroit Pistons. In just his second season, he was approaching triple-double territory with regularity averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. He kept up a similar pace through the 2000 season. This era was undoubtedly the apex of Grant Hill. Amongst all NBA players of this era, Hill ranked 9th in PPG, 15th in APG, and 24th in RPG fully displaying his versatility.
But his final games for Detroit were played on an injured ankle that should have been rested. Hill’s impending free agency, however, cast an unfair pall. If Hill wisely sat out the playoffs to heal his ankle, accusations would have arisen claiming he was unfairly putting himself above his team. Yet another selfish millionaire athlete. If he played, he’d be a “team player”, but he’d put his health in jeopardy. Which is exactly what happened. To keep alive the season for a middling Pistons squad, Hill practically sacrificed five years of his career.
After finally emerging fully healthy in 2006, Hill enjoyed a surprising rejuvenation. Over the next five years – one with Orlando, the rest with Phoenix – Hill would average a respectable 13 points and 5 rebounds. Clearly, not what he once was, but after what he had experienced, these twilight years were glorious for Hill.
Only three other players (Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Larry Bird) had replicated Hill’s 1996 season of 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. But his season at age 38 in 2011 was nearly as remarkable. His 13 PPG that season was the 11th highest ever for a player that age or older. And he did it shooting nearly 40% from three-point range, quite the change from his early days. Nearly 20 years before, Hill happened to have the world’s best spin-cycle on his drives going to the hoop… but he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from downtown.
Nonetheless, he did what he had to do as time went on to remain an effective basketball player. Truthfully, he did what he had to do just to simply remain any kind of basketball player. He easily could have given up at any number of points without any complaints. But his perseverance is astounding.
Don’t sleep on Grant Hill’s actual talents, though. Few small forwards ever handled the ball like Hill. Few have ever passed like Hill. Few have ever encapsulated so many grand qualities with such grace like Hill. He’s a Hall of Famer and an astounding one at that.
Years Played: 1994 – 2013
Rookie of the Year (1995)
All-NBA 1st Team (1997)
4x All-NBA 2nd Team (1996, 1998-2000)
7x All-Star (1995-’98, 2000-’01, 2005)
NBA – 1026 Games
16.7 PPG,6.0 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 48.3% FG, 76.9% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1994-95 through 2012-13 season)
20th Points, 16th FTs Made
22nd FGs Made, 32nd FG%
20th Assists, 29th APG
18th Steals, 32nd SPG
22nd Games Played, 20th Minutes Played
For 15 NBA seasons, Chris Webber silently put together one of the best careers in NBA history. If the actual merits of his achievement remained but a deft whisper, there was nonetheless a lot of noise surrounding it.
Coming out of college, Webber was the most prominent member of the University of Michigan’s Fab Five. His talent and the hype surrounding that fabled squad bolted Webber to the top of the draft board in 1993 and the Orlando Magic took him #1 overall. However, he was quickly traded to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for the draft rights to Penny Hardaway. This inaugural experience set a big tone for Webber’s career…
Highly coveted, but often traded.
He lasted one year with the Warriors as the ultimate dream for Don Nelson’s small ball center, but the two men didn’t see the least bit eye-to-eye. Webber was traded to the Washington Bullets after his rookie season and he was reunited with his college teammate Juwan Howard. His time in DC was rocked by injuries, but in 1997 he put together one of his finest campaigns and led the Bullets to the playoffs for the first time in ages. But as an 8th seed, they were ravaged by the Chicago Bulls.
After the 1998 season, Webber was shipped back west to northern California. The Sacramento Kings gave up Mitch Richmond for Webber. What he did for the Bullets was amplified for the Kings. He pushed that franchise to their highest point since moving from Kansas City in the mid-1980s. They became perennial playoff participants and in 2002 were moments away from the NBA Finals. A searing, controversial loss to the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately blocked the Kings’ path.
That ’02 season was the last truly monumental season Webber put together. Over the ensuing years, he’d play well, but he’d also play increasingly injured. In 2002 he missed 28 games. In 2003 he was out for 15 games. Then in 2004 he missed all but 23 games due to a knee injury. The Kings traded the damaged Webber to the Philadelphia 76ers where Chris amazingly put together a 20/10 season on one good leg. But he shot just 43% from the field in the process clearly showing he was withering.
His final two seasons (2007, 2008) were spent split between Philly, Detroit, and back in Golden State.
The slow limping Webber of these seasons was nothing like the dynamic force of the 1990s and early 2000s. When so inclined, especially in his Warriors and Bullets days, he was a menacing dunker. He was always a great rebounder. He could rain in points with his superb jumper. And best of all he was an amazing passer. Watching him and Vlade Divac pass in and out of the post is one of the greatest basketball joys one could ever imagine.
The effervescent joy that came with those passes was always fleetingly around the corner when i came to Webber’s career, though. No doubt a Hall of Famer. No doubt a super talent. But there was so much of Webber left on the table for various reasons that his career nonetheless remains a bit unsatisfying.
It’s moments like these, however, where it’s wise to appreciate what we receive and what we’re given. When that sage advice is followed, we can indeed fully appreciate the greatness of Chris Webber.
Years Played: 1993 – 2008
Rookie of the Year (1994)
All-NBA 1st Team (2001)
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1999, 2002-’03)
All-NBA 3rd Team (2000)
5x All-Star (1997, 2000-’03)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1994)
NBA – 831 Games
20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 47.9% FG, 64.9% FT
RPG Leader (1999)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1993-94 through 2006-07 season) 7th Points, 14th PPG
6th FGs Made, 32nd FG%
36th FTs Made
7th Rebounds, 10th RPG
11th Steals, 20th SPG
14th Blocks, 17th BPG
25th Assists, 31st APG
34th Games Played, 13th Minutes Played