Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Worm Days In San Antonio (1993-95)

On October 6, prior to the start of the 1993-94 regular season, Michael Jordan announced that he was retiring from basketball.

Later in October, Dennis Rodman was traded to San Antonio.

Best Scenario: Despite his zany lifestyle, The Worm was the ultimate role player. Defense, rebounding and running the court were his main contributions. For sheer athleticism, no other power forward could compare with him. When he wanted, he was also an incredibly intelligent player. Physically strong, he was a versatile defender - he could throw a net over shooting guards, small forwards, power forward and centers.

In the 1993-94 regular season, Sonics led the circuit with 63 wins. Rudy Tomjanovich coached his Rockets to 58 wins. Hawks were a genuine surprise, winning 57 games behind new coach Lenny Wilkens to finish ahead of the Bulls. Knicks again set the standard for stinginess, leading the league in defense. Celtics fell from 48 wins last year to 32 (their star player, Reggie Lewis, died of a heart attack while practicing before the season). Magic were climbing the ranks because of Young Diesel.

After the All-Star break, David Robinson recorded a quadruple-double with 34-10-10-10 in the Spurs’ 115-96 win over visiting Pistons. In the season’s final game, The Admiral scored 71 points. Spurs won 55 gms.

Spurs Roster:
David Robinson (5th season as a Spur), Dale Ellis (2), Willie Anderson (6), Vinny Del Negro (2), J.R. Reid (2), Negele Knight (1), Terry Cummings (5), Lloyd Daniels (2), Dennis Rodman (1), Sleepy Floyd (1), Antoine Carr (3), Chris Whitney (1), Jack Haley (1), Chuck Nevitt (1).

93-94 season highlights...

-Atlantic Division (NY, Orlando, NJ, Miami, Boston, Philly, Washington)
-Central Division (Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana, Charlotte, Detroit, Milwaukee)
-Midwest Division (Houston, SA, Utah, Denver, Minny, Dallas)
-Pacific Division (Seattle, Phoenix, Golden State, Portland, LAL, Sacramento, LAC)

All-Star Teams:
First Team (Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, Latrell Sprewell)
Second Team (Shawn Kemp, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Mitch Richmond, Kevin Johnson)
Third Team (Derrick Coleman, Dominique Wilkins, Shaq O’Neal, Mark Price, Gary Payton)

MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon

Leaders (%):
Scoring -- D. Robinson, S. O’Neal, Olajuwon, Wilkins, K. Malone
Field Goals -- S. O’Neal, Dikembe Mutombo, Otis Thorpe, Chris Webber, Kemp
3-Pt FG -- Tracy Murray, BJ Armstrong, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Scott Skiles
Free Throws -- Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, R. Miller, Ricky Pierce, Sedale Threatt, Price
Assists -- Stockton, Muggsy Bogues, Mookie Blaylock, Kenny Anderson, K. Johnson
Rebounds -- RODMAN (17.3 rpg), S. O’Neal, Kevin Willis, Olajuwon, Olden Polynice
Steals -- Nate McMillan, Pippen, Blaylock, Stockton, Eric Murdock
Blocks -- Mutombo, Olajwon, D. Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Shawn Bradley
Turnovers -- Jim Jackson, Christian Laettner, Penny Hardaway, K. Johnson, Isiah Thomas

East First Round
-ATL vs. MIA 3:2
-NY vs. NJ 3:1
-CHI vs. CLE 3:0
-IND vs. ORL 3:0
East Semi-Finals
-NY vs. CHI 4:3
-IND vs. ATL 4:2
East Finals
-NY vs. IND 4:3

West First Round
-DEN vs. SEA 3:2
-HOU vs. POR 3:1
-PHX vs. GS 3:0
-UTH vs. SA 3:1 (89:106 at SA, 96:84 at SA, 105:72 at UTH, 95:90 at UTH)
West Semi-Finals
-HOU vs. PHX 4:3
-UTH vs. DEN 4:3
West Finals
-HOU vs. UTH 4:1

NBA Finals
-HOU vs. NY 4:3

King-of-Eccentricity worked out vigorously, even lifting weights and mounting an exercise bike after games, but frequently missed practices. He craved basketball’s dirtiest work, clawing for every rebound and playing physical defense, but off the court was inclined to get into full drag, wearing dresses and make-up around downtown with a different hair color each day of the week. He barely managed to to integrate all his warring tendencies.

Before the season, coach John Lucas allowed him to do as he chose, provided he came to games and got rebounds. He did both, leading the league in boards (not to mention tattoos and body piercings). Then Nike aired its infamous commercial, in which Santa Claus chides Rodman for missing practices and being late for games. *But I led the league in rebounds,* he replies, whereupon Santa agrees to give him the shoes he wants for Christmas. *Rodman has made a mockery of the NBA,* fumed Wayne Embry, *and we publicize him. This just galls me.*

However, overall in San Antonio, the team just didn’t have enough strong leaders managing to control him (unlike in Detroit - Zeke, coach Daly, Laimbeer, later in Chicago - MJ, Zenmaster, Pip). He started to lose interest and show persistent indifference and bad behavior - like undressing in the huddle, coming late for games, and even turning his back on the team by not showing up at all.

Not surpisingly, his suspension in the 1994 playoffs against Jazz was a big reason that Spurs came up short, 1:3. (Interestingly, after SA’s playoff loss, Gregg Popovich was named Spurs GM on May 31, 1994.)

That the 1994-95 season would be no ordinary, from beginning to end, was apparent from get-go. In the first week of the campaign, Glenn Robinson, a college scoring machine, signed the most lucrative rookie contract in NBA history, a 10-yr $68 million deal with the Bucks. They would jump to 34 wins from 20 last year. Even the play on the hardwood proved worth the wait. Magic rose to 57 wins. They ranked first in scoring and owned the best home record at 39-2. Pacers combined a second-tier offense with a first-tier defense. Hornets won 50 games. Two days after the All-Star Game, The Glide Drexler was traded to Houston, where he was reunited with college teammate Hakeem. All these occurrences, however, were upgraded by MJ’s return (back) on March 17. Suns continued their excellent play with 59 wins. Spurs had a league-best 62 wins (The Ninja Elliott came back from one-year stint in Detroit), two gms ahead of Jazz. Defending champs Rockets were a distant third, 15 gms out.

Spurs Roster:
David Robinson (6), Sean Elliott (5), Avery Johnson (4), Vinny Del Negro (3), Chuck Person (1), J.R. Reid (3), Terry Cummings (6), Dennis Rodman (2), Doc Rivers (1), Willie Anderson (7), Jack Haley (2), Moses Malone (1), Chris Whitney (2), Julius Nwosu (1), Howard Eisley (1), Corey Crowder (1).

94-95 season highlights...

-Atlantic Division (ORL, NY, BOS, MIA, NJ, PHI, WSH)
-Central Division (IND, CHA, CHI, CLE, ATL, MIL, DET)
-Midwest Division (SA, UTH, HOU, DEN, DAL, MIN)
-Pacific Division (PHX, SEA, LAL, POR, SAC, GS, LAC)

All-Star Teams:
First Team (K. Malone, Pippen, D. Robinson, Stockton, P. Hardaway)
Second Team (Barkley, Kemp, S. O’Neal, Payton, Richmond)
Third Team (Detlef Schrempf, RODMAN, Olajuwon, R. Miller, Clyde Drexler)

MVP: David Robinson

Leaders (%):
Scoring -- S. O’Neal, Olajuwon, D. Robinson, K. Malone, Jamal Mashburn
Field Goals -- Chris Gatling, S. O’Neal, Horace Grant, Thorpe, Dale Davis
3-Pt FG -- Kerr, Schrempf, Dana Barros, R. Miller, Bogues
Free Throws -- Spud Webb, Price, Barros, Hubert Davis, Stockton
Assists -- Stockton, K. Anderson, Tim Hardaway, Rod Strickland, Bogues
Rebounds -- RODMAN (16.8 rpg), Mutombo, S. O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, Tyrone Hill
Steals -- Pippen, Blaylock, Payton, Stockton, McMillan
Blocks -- Mutombo, Olajuwon, Bradley, D. Robinson, Mourning
Turnovers -- Glenn Robinson, Chris Mullin, T. Hardaway, Pippen, P. Hardaway

East First Round
-ORL vs. BOS 3:1
-IND vs. ATL 3:0
-NY vs. CLE 3:1
CHI vs. CHA 3:1
East Semi-Finals
-IND vs. NY 4:3
-ORL vs. CHI 4:2
East Finals
-ORL vs. IND 4:3

West First Round
-SA vs. DEN 3:0 (104:88 at SA, 122:96 at SA, 99:95 at DEN)
-PHX vs. POR 3:0
-HOU vs. UTH 3:2
-LAL vs. SEA 3:1
West Semi-Finals
-SA vs. LAL 4:2 (110:94 at SA, 97:90 (OT) at SA, 85:92 at LA, 80:71 at LA, 96:98 (OT) at SA, 100:88 at LA)
-HOU vs. PHX 4:3
West Finals
-HOU vs. SA 4:2 (94:93 at SA, 106:96 at SA, 102:107 at HOU, 81:103 at HOU, 111:90 at SA, 100:95 at HOU)

NBA Finals
-HOU vs. ORL 4:0

The Worm Era in SA ended when Spurs lost to Clutch City in six games in the Western Conference Finals. With The Dream outplaying The Admiral, Rodman was again a disruptive force on his team, showing up late before games. During huddles he removed his sneakers and sat off to side or stood out of earshot, conveying his disinterest in what coach Bob Hill had to say. Hill benched him for one game of the LA series and didn’t start him in a single game in the Houston series. This was Spurs’ real chance to get the rings. They lost first two close battles at home (Dennis should have covered Hakeem, but he did not help whatsoever), then battled back (2:2) and were ousted 2:4. Imagine what would have happened if Rodman had played his best, say, in G1 & G2... He was traded to Chicago in October 1995 (Will Perdue went to SA).

Rodman’s stats:
Year Games Pts FT% FG% 3PM 3-pt% Reb Tos Ast Stl Blk Min
1994 79 4.7 .520 .534 5 .208 17.3 1.7 2.3 0.7 0.4 37.8
1995 49 7.1 .676 .571 0 .000 16.8 2.0 2.0 0.6 0.5 32.0

Recenty, Rodman was ranked by SA Express-News as the 18th player on the Spurs all-time players list. The greatest rebounder in team history, his average of 17.3 rebounds in the 93-94 season remains the Spurs' all-time best. To better appreciate those seasons, consider that next-best on the list is Robinson's 13.0 in 1990-91. Rodman has nine of the Spurs’ top 10 single game rebounding marks, including a 32-rebound game that stands as No. 1. He had 10 games of 25 or more rebounds among the 118 he played in silver and black.

Despite his legacy of disruptive, boorish, and self-promoting behavior, he is unmistakably a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player. He remains one of the best defensive forwards and the very best rebounding forward in basketball history. (-Ken Shouler)

For Spurs, too bad that The Worm chose for his worse self in his San Antonio days. In the end, their dream about NBA championship would come true in 1999. But who knew it in the fall of 1995 after that humiliating loss?

p.s.: *if he /ian mahinmi signed with spurs recently/ comes in and kicks tim's /duncan/ butt in training camp, then maybe he'll earn the right to be part of the team,* said spurs general manager r.c. buford.
p.s.2: *mentally, i don't know if i can do eight months. february, march, i would have been dead,* said reggie miller on his nba return.
p.s.3: tim duncan has been sitting in his living room for the past three months. *i called him several times and he didn't pick up,* said tony parker. *and when i got worried enough to go look through his window, i saw him just sitting there. i'm pretty sure he's conscious and not in any pain, but it doesn't look like he's moved since late june.* the spurs front office confirmed that duncan requested a call at midnight on oct. 1 to ensure he did not miss the first day of training camp.
p.s.4: yes, team usa is great. but on any given day, mike krzyzewski's team is beatable. that's the way the world is these days, the way it has been for nearly a decade now. (-chris sheridan)
p.s.5: there are no more dream teams. there are teams with dreams, and the u.s. is merely one of them.
if they play the best, they'll be the best. and if they win the gold medal in beijing, they'll have earned it. but do not approach the future thinking the gold is a lock. that would be arrogant, and there's no place for arrogance in this day and age. (-chris sheridan)
p.s.6: team usa was SPECTACULAR in the toa (yes, the competition was awful...) and they’ll win the olympic gold. eurobasket is thrilling so far. we have wnba finals today. september looks fantastic!

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Sep 5 2007 10:40AM

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