The name Moses Malone has been uttered more than usual as of late, and with good reason. After scoring 27 points on Friday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is just 39 points away from passing Malone to become the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history. Kevin Love, after his 20 point, 21 rebound performance against the Washington Wizards last night, now has 50 consecutive double-doubles — just one away from the record of 51, also set by Malone.
Malone, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, played 19 NBA seasons (after starting his career with two seasons in the ABA) and averaged 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds. His best season came in 1983 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers when he averaged 24.5 points, 15.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots, and won both the regular season MVP and the NBA Finals MVP awards. The Sixers won the title that year, which is also known as the infamous Fo Fo Fo playoffs (Malone predicted the Sixers would sweep the playoffs with four victories in each series. They lost one game in the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee, and then swept the Magic, Kareem and the Los Angeles Lakers for the title).
From 1986 to 1988 Malone had two All-Star years for the Washington Bullets. He and Jeff Malone (no relation) led the Bullets to two consecutive playoff appearances (both first round losses).
Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis, currently instructing Kevin Love, and previously serving as both an assistant and a head coach to Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, had numerous battles against Malone when he was a player (in their 14 head-to-head match-ups, Rambis won eight and averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds off the bench, while Malone won six and averaged 19.6 points and 10.5 rebounds as a starter). Saturday night, I asked Rambis to reminisce on the greatness of Malone and what it was like to play against him:
It was during the first minute of last Thursday’s Wizards game against the Timberwolves in Minnesota. John Wall did a nice job of quickly recovering on Luke Ridnour after he came off a ball screen and JaVale McGee did a nice job of helping. The attention paid to Ridnour forced him to attempt a pass, but that got deflected off the backboard by Wall who made the recovery and headed in the other direction. But for some reason, as he was pressured by Ridnour — but not too much — Wall decided to get rid of the ball, which, is not necessarily a bad idea … you can pass quicker than you can run … but perhaps not ideal when the pass goes to the big man McGee in the midst of him jetting up the court.
McGee caught the ball in stride, just before crossing the half-court line, put it on the floor once … put it on the floor again, a in-and-out move versus Darko Milicic … and put the ball on the floor a third time. Before anyone knew it, McGee was past several T-Wolves and scoring at the rim, an incomparable athletic maneuver for someone his size. That’s when Wizards television analyst Phil Chenier said:
“I still say that’s a curse and a blessing … the ability to handle the ball at 7-feet … that time it worked out well.”
Sometimes the blessing of McGee’s talents can be a curse when he thinks he can use them in just about any situation. And this time, he was unfortunately encouraged because it worked. The success rate of McGee pulling off such a feat is likely higher against a team like the T-Wolves, much lower against a team like the Boston Celtics. In any case, it’s never truly ideal. Hence, it’s difficult coming to grips with how to celebrate something that often causes chagrin in the heart of a coach, yet is pretty beautiful to watch.
[Al Thornton might not be as worried about the Wizards trying to end their 0-19 road record, he just wants his team to win two games in a row this season -- something Flip Saunders' squad was able to accomplish seven times last season, but they never got three in a row. The Wizards haven't won three games in a row since April 4-9, 2008.]
As frustrating as it is to see the Wizards fight to take a 94-90 lead with 5:45 left only to see the Timberwolves snatch the game from their grasp 109-97, it’s not as concerning as how they started the night. It was an all-to-familiar situation for Flip Saunders, one that probably had him invoking the basketball gods, as he’s done before when his Wizards lose a close game late after starting poorly out of the gate. Flip has never wanted his players to scorn the deities of James Naismith’s game, but now with a baffling 0-19 on the road, he’s probably wondering what he did to deserve all of this.
The Wizards are clearly not yet in a position where they can take games. And give Minnesota a lot of credit. In the end, they found their rhythm, they moved the ball well, they played like they wanted to be winners. Washington did not. After the Wizards took that four point lead late in the game, followers of the team on Twitter began to believe … it was their night, finally. Not so fast.
“Guys have to be disciplined. They have to be willing to turn down a shot at time. Tonight, we had no shot discipline. Tonight, it was, ‘I haven’t taken a shot, so I’m going to shoot it.’ when you do that, you shoot 38 percent from the field.”
A reoccurring theme … the players not trusting, or deviating from, Saunders’ offense. Lets see what Antawn Jamison had to say:
“We played selfish basketball at times. On the road, you can’t do that. I don’t care who you’re playing against.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves might have blamed their poor shooting Saturday night on a cold gym (they finished 37.4% from the field and spent much of the game in the 30s), much like Gilbert Arenas did after a loss to Detroit earlier in December.
Instead, the young T-Wolves fired up energy and hustle to overcome their 57 missed shots (out of 91) to beat the Wizards 101-89, mostly due to crushing the heartless Wiz 19-7 on the offensive boards. At 39.5%, the Wizards didn’t shoot much better from the floor. But opposed to the inexperience of Minnesota, the bad shooting of Flip Saunders’ team was the result of an escape from the offense.
So, it’s another significant step back after a tiny-step forward. A lot of talent, but little teamwork. And once again with more turnovers (16) than assists (12), a lot of offensive selfishness and little to show for it.
Foye started feeling uneasy when David Kahn refused to meet with him after taking over general manager, but he still was startled to get the call from agent and Ernie Grunfeld that he was headed to Washington in a multiplayer deal.
I don’t know David Kahn personally, but I do know this doesn’t sound good. Even worse when you consider that Randy Foye first learned of his trade to Washington via HoopsHype.
I understand professional basketball of the NBA is a business, but that shouldn’t cast aside the common courtesy of rational, reasonable, and humane behavior toward a fellow employee when changing cities and potentially moving family is concerned.
In fact, this sounds downright cowardly of Mr. Kahn.
In the past weeks, NBA TV has been showing top games from 2008-09. I happened to catch several, one being Tony Parker’s career-high 55 point game, which came on an early November night in Minneapolis. That’s right, Mike Miller and Randy Foye had the privilege of being on the court to witness. Naturally, I perked up to pay attention, and take some notes on what I observed of the two new Wizards.
Word of Minnesota’s offense slowing down at the unspoken decree of Al Jefferson (approved by Randy Wittman) were confirmed. But at least Big Al was willing to take charges, such early in the third quarter when Miller chose a horrible angle to close out on Michael Finley at the three point line. Miller had no balance, and his hands were neither active, nor high. The 35-year old Finley easily blew by, but lost focus during his open path and plowed into Jefferson for the offensive foul.
The very next time down the court, Miller found himself helping off Finley, who was again spotted up at the top of the key. Tony Parker was curling off a Tim Duncan ball screen on the wing, so yes, Miller had to help stop the penetration. But once the ball was kicked back to Finley, Miller hesitated on the close-out, letting Finley’s previous drive to the hoop get into his head. Finley only needed that split-second of space to start drooling. The wide-open three was easy money for a shooter like him. Miller was never in a good position to even give a half-hearted contest.
Clearly, Mike Miller is not too swift on his feet … but this is something we all figured. His defense might be an issue, but not because of a lack of effort.
There was a mini-spike in Randy Foye news last week. On Monday, after watching a video about Foye on NBA.com, I wondered if he could be ‘the’ difference maker.
On Wednesday, the WaPost’s Michael Lee put together a nice piece on Foye off his notes from a previous meeting. Here, we learned of a potential style conflict between Foye and former T-Wolves head coach, current Wizards assistant, Randy Wittman. Lee also related something Kevin McHale once told Foye before a matchup against Dwyane Wade, “Anything he can do, you can do.” Foye battled and finished with 29 points to Wade’s 31. The game came down to a last second foul call that Foye did not get … Wade probably would have.
It’s been over seven weeks since June’s trade and I still don’t have a good feel for Randy Foye. What can we really expect from him?
I’ve heard the opinion of others, read breakdowns about him, seen his highlight clips, and read his ho-hum twitter feed. But it’s hard to fully gauge Foye as a player until I’m able to study his basketball flow through full game observations.
Then I saw the below video from NBA.com. In a clip that’s only about three minutes long, I came away thinking that basketball talent notwithstanding, it’s pretty cool to have a guy with Foye’s history of overcoming challenges on the team. He’s like a mini-Caron Butler full of inspiration.