West teams in market for big men, more notes (cont.)
I was having a conversation with Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles on Friday night about how long ago it was that he was playing for the Orlando Magic and set the single-game all-time assists record of 30. It was on Dec. 30, 1990, against the Nuggets.
Shaquille O'Neal joined that Magic team two years later, and Skiles played with him for a year before joining the Washington Bullets, where I covered Skiles for a season.
He was trying to recount the players remaining in the league with whom he played. O'Neal and Juwan Howard immediately came to mind. And then he said a strange thing: "Jerry Stackhouse."
I looked at him quizzically.
"Well, he's not playing in the league, but he could still play for anyone."
The Bucks signed Stackhouse on Sunday.
Score one for Sloan
The first thought that came to mind when I saw Utah's Sundiata Gaines drain a buzzer-beating three to beat Cleveland last week was: Why is Jerry Sloan allowing a player on a 10-day contract to take the game-winning shot against one of the best teams in the league?
Certainly, that question would have been asked had Gaines missed. But Sloan's philosophy is that there are only a couple of percentage points separating a good three-point shooter and a bad three-point shooter in the NBA. And a warm body makes up the difference, so it doesn't make sense to replace a player who's been in the game with one who's been sitting on the bench, even if the bench player has a higher shooting percentage.
Turns out, Sloan was right, as was Jazz radio play-by-play announcer David Locke, who predicted Gaines' winning shot.
This is the difference between the veteran leadership of Sloan and the inexperience of a coach like Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks. The night after the Jazz beat Cleveland, the Mavericks and Thunder were in a close game. With Dallas leading 99-98, Jason Terry missed two free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining. Unlike Sloan, who had saved one last timeout that helped set up Gaines' game-winner, Brooks did not have a timeout to call. That left Russell Westbrook to sprint up the floor and take a three from beyond half-court rather than getting a better look, like the one Gaines had.
Brooks will learn. But it takes time -- and a few losses.
Welcome to the big league
A week ago, Cartier Martin was playing for the D-League's Iowa Energy. Last Monday, because of the Warriors' extensive injury woes, the 6-foot-7 Martin found himself in an NBA game -- guarding LeBron James.
"You see him on TV all the time and I'd always wonder, 'Can I guard him?' " Martin said. "Of course, I am never going to think I can't guard somebody. But I like a challenge.
"I think I did pretty well against him, to be honest with you. I don't think I did horrible. He is one of the best guys in the league. He is going to get shots, he is going to get fouls, but I did my best to contain him. I did what I could do."
James had 37 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and four blocks in the Cleveland win, though, to be fair to Martin, 15 of those points came in the low block against Corey Maggette in the fourth quarter.
Recalling a Sonics original
One last acknowledgement of longtime Sonics broadcaster Bob Blackburn, who died Jan. 8 at age 85. Blackburn was the team's announcer from its inception in 1967 until 1992, when he handed over the microphone duties to Kevin Calabro. Blackburn was a sweet, classy man who loved the time he spent with that organization and is considered an icon in the Pacific Northwest.
Slick Watts once said of Blackburn, who has a banner hanging in KeyArena: "He always made me sound like the player I wanted to be. Bob would make me sound like I was 7 feet tall on the radio."
I sat with Bob a few years ago and asked him to recount the best basketball game he ever called.
"It was not even an NBA game," Blackburn said. "It was when Seattle U. was playing a team at an arena in Vancouver, Wash. And Elgin Baylor grabbed a rebound under the basket with one second left and threw it the length of the floor. He swished it to win. It was the most incredible shot I've ever seen."
NBA Truth & Rumors