Born: July 12, 1941 Position: Power Forward Professional Career:
St. Louis Hawks (NBA): 1964-’68
Atlanta Hawks (NBA): 1968-’69
Phoenix Suns (NBA): 1969-’72
Boston Celtics (NBA): 1972-’76
Denver Nuggets (NBA): 1976-’77
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977-’80
The Lowdown: Paul Silas was never much of a scorer, but his NBA career lasted 16 years thanks to his grinding defensive play and tireless effort on the boards. Silas was also heralded for the accountability he demanded from all teammates. He could begrudgingly forgive mistakes, but never a lack of effort. With this ensemble of talent, hustle, and personality, Silas carved out a place on two All-Star Teams and three NBA champions during his lengthy career. Continue reading →
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.
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
Rarely do you find guards like Walter Davis. He was sleek, his game was glossy, his style was gossamer and well-groomed. It’s little wonder Davis earned the nickname “Greyhound”. And at 6’6″ tall and just 195 lbs, Davis looked evermore the part of a greyhound as he bounded and sped up and down the court.
Davis also had an absolutely smooth, silky jumper. It was the definition of soft. It was the pinnacle of delicacy. The effortless stroke on his jumper begat another nickname, “The Man With the Velvet Touch.”
The Phoenix Suns certainly got themselves a gem of a player with the 5th pick in the 1977 draft. Davis wound up averaging 24 points as a rookie and was voted the Rookie of the Year for the 1977-78 season. From that season through 1981, Davis would average 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.5 steals, 55% FG, and 83% FT. The sensational shooting guard was placed on the All-NBA 2nd Team twice during this span, and also was named an all-star every one of those seasons.
However, the 1981-82 season revealed the true scourge of Walter’s career: cocaine.
Limited to just 55 games, and starting only 12 of them, Davis averaged a paltry (for him) 14 points and 3 assists per game. Mind you, he did those averages in just 21.5 minutes a night. In fact, that’s another important theme of Davis’s career: his ability to rack up lots of points barely any time.
During his 15-year career, Davis averaged over 30 minutes per game seven times. His career-high in minutes per game was 33.5 in the 1986-87 season. Despite this, Davis averaged 18.9 points per game for his career. If he had played “regular” starters minutes he’d easily have been in the 23 to 25 point range for his career.
But that scourge of cocaine plagued Walter’s career.
He bounced back in 1983 and 1984 averaging 20 points and 5 assists per game those two season. Then in the 1984-85 campaign, he relapsed and tested positive for drugs. He appeared in just 23 games that season. Davis, acting as some basketball phoenix, rose yet again. He would average 22 points and 23.5 points over the next two years after cleaning up. In 1987 he was named an all-star for the sixth and final time.
But that year, a huge cocaine scandal broke in the Arizona desert. Several current and former Suns players were charged with drug trafficking. Davis was not one of those indicted, but nonetheless admitted to still doing cocaine. Another stint in rehab followed for Walter. Now at age 33 and with a troublesome back, a third comeback for Davis didn’t seem likely.
But he did it anyways.
Over the final five seasons of his career, Davis got clean. In his mid-and-late-30s, the Greyhound maintained his velvet touch and scored 15 points a game in just 23 minutes a night. Finally in 1992, Davis retired from the NBA.
A great player that played mostly with the Phoenix Suns, Davis can’t be said to have had a great career. Actually, it was a great career, just one that didn’t run smoothly. The herky jerky nature of his career and the sensational nature of cocaine can lead one to falsely conclude Davis didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t leave a mark.
As the Suns’ all-time leading scorer, as a man with a perfect jumper, as a man who resiliently (if excruciatingly) rejected personal demons, Davis did truly leave a mark for those who bother to look.
Years Played: 1977 – 1992
Rookie of the Year (1978)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1978-’79)
6x All-Star (1978-’81, 1984, 1987)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1978)
NBA – 1033 Games
18.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 51.1% FG, 85.1% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1977-78 through 1991-92 season)
8th Points, 31st PPG
6th FGs Made, 37th FG%
31st FTs Made, 8th FT%
21st Assists, 33rd APG
15th Steals, 38th SPG
6th Games Played, 18th Minutes Played
Paul Westphal could have been the next Sam Jones or John Havlicek. Jones and Hondo began their careers as backups and bench players, but worked their way into star status with the Boston Celtics. Westphal began along the same track of patiently waiting on the bench for a time to shine in Beantown.
From 1972 to 1975, Westphal sat in the wings and backed up Don Chaney and Jo Jo White. Team success for Boston stunted Westphal’s cravings for a starter’s gig. The Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1973 and 1975, and won the title in 1974. Still, Westphal knew he was too good to languish in the shadows for much longer. After Boston’s loss to the Washington Bullets in 1975, Westphal was traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for guard Charlie Scott.
“… this is a fine opportunity for Westphal. He’s played in the shadow of (Jo Jo) White and (Don) Chaney for three years and now he’ll get his opportunity to shine.”
Westphal got the opportunity and ran with it for the next five stunning seasons.
While with the Celtics Westy had averaged 7.3 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 RPG, and 0.7 SPG. Over the next five years with the Suns, Westphal delivered 22.5 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.4 RPG, and 1.8 SPG. He was an All-Star selection every year and three times was named a member of the All-NBA 1st Team.
The man was an athletic freak and an exemplar of what you wish all shooting guards could be. He was a hustling, determined defender who went the extra mile to snag a steal or recover for a block. His jump shot was pure as the driven snow. He nailed his free throws (82% career shooter). He was a fantastic driver who could make it to the rim for limber layups. And on the break he was good for gliding slams.
And in a quirky twist of fate, he led his new club against his old one in the 1976 NBA Finals. In a hard-fought six game series, the Celtics prevailed, but Westphal’s Suns continued to be a perennial contender while the aging Celtics quickly faded thereafter. The Suns won 49, 50, and 55 games in 1978, 1979, and 1980, respectively. They appeared in the 1979 Western Conference Finals and were defeated by the eventual champion Sonics in 7 games, losing the last two games by just 5 combined points.
In June of 1980, Westphal was again traded. After negotiations for a contract extension failed, the Suns dealt him to the Sonics for Dennis Johnson. Westphal, who’d grown unhappy under Phoenix’s “stale” offense, welcomed the trade. However, his time in Seattle was extremely brief.
A stress fracture in his right foot that initially was said to sideline him for approximately two weeks, ultimately limited him to 36 games with the Sonics that season and hobbled his effectiveness for the rest of his career. Playing two seasons with the Knicks and one final year with Phoenix before retiring in 1984, the post-injury Westphal was certainly no slouch but was not be feared as he once was. He averaged just 10.5 points and 4.3 assists after the fracture.
Westphal’s absolute peak was a five-year window of brlliance in which he was most likely the best two-guard in the NBA. Before the peak, he was one of the NBA’s best role players on a title contender and winner. On top of that his style of play was joyous to watch and enjoy. These are the things that make Westphal an all-time great, even if his own brilliant time was brief.
For a greater look at how impactful Westphal could be, check out his demolition derby at the 1977 All-Star Game.
Years Played: 1972 – 1984
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1977, 1979-’80)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1978)
5x All-Star (1977-’81)
Connie Hawkins endured one of the greatest wrongs ever set upon a basketball player. The NCAA, NBA, and New York City’s justice system ran Hawkins through the mud, sullied his reputation, and did their damnedest to ruin his basketball career in the early 1960s. It was all a part of a sanctimonious effort to purge Jack Molinas, fixed games, and gambling from basketball, but Hawkins was merely an innocent fish caught up in the drag net.
This fish was saved by Pittsburgh, though.
In 1961, Harlem Globetrotters owner Abe Sapperstein created the American Basketball League (ABL), and thus the Pittsburgh Rens were formed as a member of the new circuit. Hawkins would clearly be the dominant player in the ABL. In the 1961-62 season, Hawkins led the ABL in scoring with 27 points a game and was named MVP. The league, never on sound financial footing, folded midway through the 1962-63 campaign. Sapperstein, however, snagged Hawkins from the wreckage and signed him to a deal with the Globetrotters.
From 1963 to 1967, Hawkins toured the world with the Globetrotters displaying his legendary athleticism. However, the ‘Trotters were no longer a serious outfit. Hawkins plotted his re-entrance to the world of competitive basketball. Suing the NBA for $6 million and reinstatement, Connie would eventually settle the case in 1969 and became an NBA All-Star four times before retiring in 1976.
Fittingly, Hawkins played for the Phoenix Suns, but the Hawk’s true rise from the ashes occurred in the ABA.
Awaiting the results of his lawsuit, Hawkins left the Globetrotters in 1967 and became a member of the newly-formed ABA’s Pittsburgh Pipers. Just like his stint with ABL’s Pittsburgh squad, Hawkins was named league MVP and won the scoring title. This time however, he took his ball club all the way to the Finals and defeated the New Orleans Buccaneers in a thrilling 7-game series in which all games were decided by less than 9 points.
The next season (1968-69), the Pipers moved to Minnesota, but Hawkins’ knees began to show signs of strain that would ultimately undermine his career. Playing in only 47 games due to surgery, Hawkins’ Pipers backed into the playoffs but put forth a strong effort. The Miami Floridians, in the semi-finals, finally dispatched the Pipers in a high-scoring seventh game that ended 137 to 128.
Hawkins’ ABA days were over and he jumped ship to the NBA. Finally, after nearly a decade, the mainstream of basketball witnessed what had been unfairly denied. The Hawk razed the NBA with his swooping dunks, elongated turnaround jumpers, soaring rebounds, pin-point drop-off passes to cutters, and acrobatic layups. He ball-faked opponents by swinging the ball around like a grapefruit in his hands. Indeed, his massive hands were likely the most impressive thing about Hawkins. He could manipulate the ball however he pleased with his talon-like grip.
But this was an old bird in flight. Hawkins was already 27 when he joined the NBA and after years of playground ball on bad courts, doing Globetrotter stunts, and just the natural wear-and-tear that comes with age, the man was eroding. He truly enjoyed only three great NBA seasons before tailing off.
If this were solely an NBA Hall of Fame, Hawkins would struggle to make the cut. But the National Basketball Association did nearly all it could to deprive Hawkins, fans, and themselves of the talents Hawkins possessed. Fortunately, Connie was an undeniable man and found every which way he could to right wrongs.
And since this is not an NBA but a Professional Hoops Hall of Fame, the Hawks flies in easily all day, every day just like he did for the ABL, the Globetrotters, the ABA, and finally, the NBA.
Years Played: 1962 – 1976
All-ABL 1st Team (1962) ABA -
Playoff MVP (1968)
2x All-ABA 1st Team (1968-’69)
All-Star (1968) NBA – All-NBA 1st Team (1970)
4x All-Star (1970-’73)
ABL - 94 Games
27.2 PPG, 13.2 RPG
PPG Leader (1962) ABA - 117 Games
23.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 51.5% FG, 76.5% FT
PPG Leader (1968) NBA - 499 Games
17.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 46.7% FG, 78.5% FT
Jeff Hornacek stood 6’3″ tall, never weighed more than 200 pounds, and certainly didn’t dunk the ball much, if at all in his NBA career. Still, the man possessed athleticism you rarely find in the NBA, or any place.
Hornacek had an innate ability to release practically any conceivable shot from any given angle or spot. Of course, he’d also make a ridiculous amount of these shots. If caught 30-feet from the hoop with two defenders on his tail with just a second left, Hornacek seemed to have the opposition right where he wanted them. A shot would be flung up on the run, off the wrong leg, with two hands, and the sucker would go in… off glass for extra absurdity.
A fantastic dribbler, Hornacek would more often dispense this kind of trickeration in the lane. Few players have utilized double-pumping hesitation better than Jeff while attempting shots. Or he’d just leave you off-balance and then toss a wrap-around no-look pass to a trailing or cutting teammate. There’s a reason why as a shooting guard he averaged five assists per game over his career. In fact, it’s better to just think of him as guard. Whether he should shoot or pass would be dictated by the circumstances.
The assist tally becomes even more noteworthy, though, when you consider he played the vast majority of his career beside Kevin Johnson (in Phoenix) and John Stockton (in Utah). Both of those point guards routinely shattered the 10-assist per game barrier, but Hornacek still carved out a sizable chunk of play-making duties.
But back to the man’s shooting…
For his career, Hornacek averaged 49/40/87 from the field, three-point line, and free throw line. Starry eyes appear whenever someone approaches those numbers for a season. Only Steve Nash has replicated that kind of shooting for a career.
His shooting, his athleticism, his passing, (and also his quick hands that liked to nab steals), helped make his clubs perennial playoff teams and regular title contenders. With the Suns he wound up in two Western Conference Finals. With the Jazz, Hornacek played in four Western Conference Finals and twice advanced from that lofty position to the NBA Finals.
Although winning an NBA championship ultimately eluded Hornacek, does he really need a title when he clearly had such a great career? And, besides, NBA-champion Dickey Simpkins can’t glowingly look back at a bevvy of brassy, ballsy shots that somehow went in like Hornacek can.
Seasons Played: 1987 – 2000
NBA - 1077 Games
14.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 49.6% FG, 40.3% 3PT, 87.7% FT
FT% Leader (2000)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1987 – 2000)
16th FGs Made, 32nd FG%
19th 3PTs Made, 5th 3PT%
25th FTs Made, 6th FT%
11th Assists, 26th APG
13th Steals, 31st SPG
4th Games Played, 9th Minutes Played