ProHoopsHistory HOF: Randy Smith

Randy Smith
(buffalobraves.net)

Few great players come from as much seeming ignominy as Randy Smith. He was from eastern Long Island. He went to college at little-heralded Buffalo State. He was taken 107th overall in the 1971 draft by the Buffalo Braves who were just in their 2nd season of existence. Why not take a flier on the local basketball product to get a little fan buzz and attention during the summer and exhibition season? If he makes the team, that’s just gravy and he can warm up the bench.

As it turns out the local product would arguably become the greatest Buffalo Brave in the team’s brief history.

Now make no mistake, Bob McAdoo is the greatest player to put on a Braves uniform, but Smith spent seven seasons with the Braves. He was there before and after McAdoo reigned supreme as MVP and has  a tight claim on being the greatest Buffalo Brave.

When it comes to Braves players, Smith ranks 1st in games played (568) and minutes played (20,018) by wide margins. He’s 1st in field goals made and 2nd in free throws made. At 6’3″, the guard is 3rd in total rebounds. He almost doubles up second-place Ernie DiGregorio in assists with 2911 to Ernie D’s 1457. To finish things up he’s 1st in steals with over two-times as many as 2nd-place Gar Heard and is 1st in points scored.

Yep, he’s Mr. Buffalo Brave.

And just for kicks… when it comes to the greater history of the Braves/Clippers franchise, Smith still reigns supreme thanks to his two years of service with the San Diego Clippers, as well. He’s 1st in games, minutes, field goals, assists, steals, and points for the franchise that’s now over 40 years old and who he last played for 30 years ago.

Smith is Randy

So, how did Smith go from bottom of the draft barrel to the top of the litter? He was a spectacular and outstanding athlete who was tireless and unbreakable. The man set an NBA record of 906 straight games played. He didn’t miss a single contest from 1972 to 1982.

He worked on and greatly improved his jumper from his rookie season. He could leap out the gym and was noted for his springboard dunks. He was a lockdown defender on the ball. He was lightning quick and loved to push the offensive tempo and score before defenses could get set.

His best season came in 1978, the last one the Braves played in Buffalo. Randy averaged nearly 25 points a game and dazzled the league in winning the All-Star Game MVP that February with 27 points on 11-14 shooting.

Unfortunately, playing your best years and nearly your whole career for a team that no longer exists doesn’t do well for your legacy. Especially when that team has morphed into the Clippers. Still, Randy Smith was a terrific player whose memory deserves better. Within these digital walls, Smith’s place in basketball history will be as ironclad and secure as he was during his magnificent 12-year career. That he missed just eight games during his whole career is amazing since he was such a zealous breakneck player.

The footage of Smith cooking on the court starts at 1m15s. Also, for more on his career, please read The Lowdown: Randy Smith.

Years Played: 1971 – 1983

Buffalo Braves
Buffalo Braves

Accolades

NBA -
All-NBA 2nd Team (1976)
2x All-Star (1976, 1978)
All-Star Game MVP (1978)

Statistics

NBA - 976 Games
16.7 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 47.0% FG, 78.1% FT

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1971-72 through 1982-83 season)
6th Points
5th FGs Made, 15th FTs Made
1st Steals, 12th SPG
3rd Assists, 19th APG
2nd Games Played, 3rd Minutes Played

Pro Hoops History HOF: Bob McAdoo

(Sports Illustrated)
(Sports Illustrated)

There was something elegant about the way Bob McAdoo played basketball. Although a center, he was slender, sinewy, and slippery. His way to dominate a game wasn’t through sheer power, but through irrepressible ability.

McAdoo’s run from 1974 to 1976 is one of the greatest three-year stretches in NBA history. The twig-like center led the league in scoring every season. He paced all players in FG% in 1974. He finished runner-up for the MVP award in 1974 and 1976. In 1975, he won the honor.

He certainly deserved all of that appreciation as he averaged 32 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.5 blocks, 51% FG and 79% FT during this mid-70s heyday. McAdoo’s high scoring average came on remarkable consistency, however. During these years he scored 50+ points only four times. His Buffalo Braves also proved consistent in winning 42 then 49 and then 46 games in this stretch.

Certainly, those aren’t juggernaut win totals, but the Braves were a formidable squad. All three years McAdoo led the Braves to close and gut-wrenching losses against the Celtics (twice) and the Bullets. And Big Mac was a big game performer:

Game 4 1974 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 44 points in a 2-point win
Game 6 1974 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 40 points in a 2-point loss
Averaged 32 points for the series (6 games)

Game 4 1975 Eastern Semis vs. Washington: 50 points in a 6-point win
Averaged 37(!) points for the series (7 games)

Game 1 1975 Eastern 1st Round vs. Philadelphia: 36 points in a 6-point win
Game 3 1975 Eastern 1st Round vs. Philadelphia: 34 points in a 1-point win
Averaged 30 points for the series (3 games)

Game 2 1976 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 40 points in a 5-point loss
Game 4 1976 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 30 points in a 2-point win
Game 6 1976 Eastern Semis vs. Boston: 28 points in a 4-point loss
Averaged 27 points for the series (6 games)

When 27 points is the least a player averaged across four playoff series, he’s a bona fide star. But the Braves were in desperate straits as a franchise and couldn’t afford to keep McAdoo. He was shipped to the New York Knicks midway through the 1976-77 season, and thus began the vagabond phase of McAdoo’s career.

In February 1979, New York traded McAdoo to the Celtics. In September 1979, the Celtics traded McAdoo to the Detroit Pistons. In March 1981, the Pistons waived McAdoo. He was then signed by the New Jersey Nets. In December 1981, he was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2nd round draft pick.

From MVP to waiver wire fodder… that’s a helluva fall.

However, when McAdoo left the Los Angeles Lakers after the 1985 season, he had helped the team capture two NBA titles. By then in his 30s, McAdoo was certainly not the irrepressible force he once was, but he could still summon that inexorable quality from time to time. In the 1982 Finals, for example, he eviscerated the 76ers with 16 points a game on 57% shooting.

No player who had been an MVP, Rookie of the Year, and 3x scoring champ in his first four years had ever endured such a precipitous fall or a more determined rise from the ashes. However, one can only suppose that no other phoenix had ever possessed such a soft, looping jumper as that of Bob McAdoo.

Years Played: 1972 – 1986

Accolades

NBA -
2x Champion (1982, 1985)
MVP (1975)
Rookie of the Year (1973)
All-NBA 1st Team (1975)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1974)
All-Rookie Team (1973)
5x All-Star (1974 – ’78)

Statistics

NBA Career (1972-73 through 1985-86)
Peak Career Production
(1973-74 through 1979-80)

Average and Advanced Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 852 94 503 28th
PPG 22.1 18.3 28.2 1st
RPG 9.4 7.6 12.2 8th
APG 2.3 1.4 3.1 78th
SPG 0.97 0.77 1.2 68th
BPG 1.49 1.61 1.86 11th
TS% 0.551 0.531 0.561 27th
2PT% 0.504 0.492 0.513 26th
3PT% 0.081 0.25 0.125 134th
FT% 0.754 0.724 0.752 144th
PER 20.7 18.5 22.5 5th
WS/48 0.151 0.11 0.174 15th
Ortg 104 103 104
Drtg 100 102 98

Aggregate Stats

Stat Career Playoff Peak Peak Rank
Games 852 94 503 28th
Minutes 28327 2714 20360 4th
Points 18787 1718 14186 1st
Rebounds 8048 711 6160 5th
Assists 1951 127 1535 47th
Steals 751 72 602 36th
Blocks 1147 151 937 6th
2PTs 7417 696 5569 2nd
3PTs 3 2 3 77th
FTs 3944 320 3039 1st
WS 89.1 6.2 73.8 2nd

Ship Ahoy! The 1979 San Diego Clippers

raisingirl21 (flickr)

The final years of the Buffalo Braves were a despondent set of circumstances. Abysmal ticket sales and a perilous financial situation enveloped the franchise. A concurrent fire sale of Hall of Fame and All-NBA talent was also taking place. From 1976 through 1978, Buffalo discarded Bob McAdoo, Jim McMillian, Adrian Dantley, and Moses Malone. Whether the chicken of financial peril caused the egg of this revolving door of trades or the other way around may never truly be known. But the death of the Braves was sealed when their owner John Y. Brown conducted the most important trade in franchise history by actually trading his franchise with Celtics owner Irv Levin. Brown took off for Beantown, while Levin took off as well, not for western New York, though. He quickly absconded to his native southern California and rechristened the Buffalo Braves the San Diego Clippers.

The 1st order of the Clippers was to conduct yet another trade with the Celtics, one that would drastically makeover both clubs. The Clippers sent Tiny Archibald, Billy Knight and a draft pick that would become Danny Ainge to Boston for center Kevin Kunnert, forwards Kermit Washington and Sidney Wicks, and swingman Freeman Williams.

In Kunnert the Clippers received a backup center who could mix it up on the boards in tandem or in relief of their starter Swen Nater. The Dutchman Nater was coming off a spectacular final season in Buffalo where he produced 15.5 points and 13 rebounds a game. Standing beside both these men would be the magnificent Kermit Washington, a burly and gritty power forward who was perhaps the most tenacious, if not best, rebounder at that position in the league.

Filling out the forward spots would be veteran Nick Weatherspoon and the newly acquired Wicks. Both men approaching their final years in the NBA, but Weatherspoon had always been a journeyman scrounging out a living as a backup, while Wicks was a former Rookie of the Year and one of the most astounding players of the early 1970s. By decade’s end, though, he’d fallen into the role of reserve after disgruntled years in Portland and his dispassionate stay in Boston.

In the backcourt, San Diego could rely on the Iron Man of the NBA, the venerable Randy Smith. Between 1972 and 1982, Smith set a record of 906 consecutive games played. Although pushing 30, the guard was still quick, explosive and athletic. He was also the last link to the franchise’s glory years in the mid-1970s.

With this tentative roster set, the Clippers tapped Gene Shue as their head coach in August of 1978. Although he was the NBA’s active leader in coaching wins, thanks to stints in Philly and Baltimore, Shue was aware the task at hand in the Pacific Division was a monumental one:

“… San Diego finds itself in a bracket in which every team – Los Angeles, Phoenix, Golden State, Seattle and Portland – had winning seasons last year.

‘That’s major problem – the unbelievable competition.'”

Shue nonetheless promised an uptempo, enjoyable brand of basketball for the San Diego fans, while also believing that the key to Clipper success was Sidney Wicks returning to his all-star form and also on finding backcout help for Randy Smith and rookie Freeman Williams. In Wicks, an all-star form would not return, but the backcourt help would arrive…

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The Lowdown: Jim McMillian

Years Active: 1971 – 1979
Regular Season Stats: 631 games, 32.1 mpg
13.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 48.2% FG, 83.2% FT
Postseason Stats: 72 games, 37.8 mpg
16.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.3 spg, 45.1% FG, 79.1% FT
Accolades: NBA Champion (1972)

Jim McMillian
Jim McMillian (#5) between Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain (#13) and Bob Dandridge (#10) / Photo via Sports Illustrated for Kids

“An 18 point forward, he is as unnoticed as the butler in a mystery… It’s also unnerving to play someone who looks as if he’s just playing solitaire on the kitchen table all night. Is it put-on? McMillian shakes his head. ‘I have to keep my composure or I can’t be effective. I can’t play if I’m upset.'”

Via “McMillian Out of Character in Laker Basketball Uniform” by Jim Murray

Selected 13th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970, Ivy League standout Jim McMillian had an inauspicious start as he rode the bench behind Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Also on the team were PG Gail Goodrich and mammoth center Wilt Chamberlain. With 4 future hall of famers, Jim’s services weren’t much needed until Jerry West was lost to injury midway through the season.

The 6’5″ McMillian slid into the starting lineup and was a refreshing revelation, especially as the playoffs began and the stout Chicago Bulls awaited in a titanic 1st round struggle. “I felt all year that once Jimmy got a chance to play, he’d show what a fine basketball player he is.” Well, Gail Goodrich was right. Jimmy showed the world to the tune of 26 points in Game 1, as LA won a nail-biter 100-99 after being down by as much as 17 points. The Bulls were stunned:

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The Lowdown: Randy Smith

Randy Smith (1972 – 1984)
Career Stats: 16.7 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.7 rpg, 1.7 spg, 47% FG, 78% FT
Accolades: All-NBA 2nd Team (1976), 2x All-Star (1976, ’78), All-Star Game MVP (1978)

Randy Smith

They now know exactly who Randy Smith is “ a sleek, quicksilver fellow with a marvelous outside jump shot and incredibly fast hands that can catch flies in mid-air and steal hubcaps off speeding automobiles.

Via the February 7, 1978 edition of  “What’s New, Harry?” by Phil Ranallo

The Los Angeles Clippers’ disappointing history has obscured (and certainly wasted) much talent over the years. The taint of Sterling and the haziness of memory has also overwhelmed the Clippers’ brief stay in San Diego and positively buried their ancestral home of Buffalo, New York. Only Bob McAdoo, by virtue of winning an MVP and three scoring titles, has managed to survive the purge of Braves memory. Well, today I’m here to reacquaint the world with the greatest Brave and, by extension, Clipper to have ever played: 6’3″ guard Randy Smith.

Smith was about as local a product the Braves could have drafted back in 1971. He was born on Long Island and later attended Buffalo State College for his collegiate ball where he averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds in four years. The Braves rather lucked into Smith’s talent though, selecting him in the 7th round and not expecting much. Much to everyone’s surprise Smith played his way onto the final roster during training camp in the fall of 1971 and he stuck around for a mighty long time. To this day, he is the Clippers/Braves franchise leader in 8 statistical categories: Games Played, Minutes Played, FG Made, FG Attempted, Assists, Steals, Personal Fouls, and Points.

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