Ok, this isn't all on Amaré. But since I had to register to read the other 3 pages I'll post it all.
He did everything but win
By Peter May | June 5, 2005
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has a week to prepare for the Spurs' opponent in the NBA Finals. He may need that long just to get the Amare Stoudemire nightmares out of his system.
''I need longer than that," Popovich said Friday by phone from San Antonio, two days after his Spurs had eliminated Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns to advance to the Finals.
For the sleep-challenged who dared stay up late to watch the very entertaining Western Conference finals
, the play of the imposing Stoudemire against the Spurs was, as my teens might say, ridiculous. Against arguably the best defensive team in the league, and one of the game's top interior defenders in Tim Duncan, Stoudemire simply did what he wanted to do -- and then some.
He averaged 37 points a game against the Spurs. He lit them up for 42 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the Game 5 finale. He's still only 22.
Popovich has been around for a while. After the Spurs eliminated the Suns, he was asked if he'd ever had anyone bully his team like that.
''Nope. Never," Popovich said. ''He's such an anomaly. He has the explosiveness. He has the big hands, which is huge. If he had little hands, this would all be for naught. He can go by you, around you, or over you. He has great
control. We had no answers for him and we knew it. So we concentrated on the other guys."
Over 15 playoff games, Stoudemire averaged 29.9 points and 10.7 rebounds in 40.1 minutes. He had three games of 40 or more points. He shot 53 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line. He blocked two shots a game and worked the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash with Stockton/Malone-like efficiency.
Among those watching from afar, and with wonderment, was Popovich's counterpart in Boston, Doc Rivers. The Celtics coach's history with Stoudemire goes back to their days in the Orlando area, when Rivers coached the Magic and Stoudemire was playing his high school ball at Cypress Creek.
''I saw him do those things back then and now, three years later, he's doing the same things," said Rivers. ''It's amazing."
While Stoudemire might appear to be little more than an emphatic dunker to those who see only ESPN highlights, he is much more. One of the reasons the pick-and-roll works is if both
players can shoot. Nash clearly can. And this past season, Stoudemire developed a pretty reliable shot from the elbow.
''Last year, he couldn't even find the basket from the elbow," said Rivers.
Agreed Duncan, ''He's extended his game so much. He was hitting 15-, 18-footers [in Game 5] like it was nothing. And with his athleticism and his ability, just knowing that he's going to get even better, it's kind of scary."
Page 2 of 4 -- It is indeed. Stoudemire already has more 30-point games (11) before age 23 than Kobe Bryant did. And Stoudemire has appeared in just 21 playoff games. Kobe had appeared in 66 before he reached his 23d birthday. The one time Phoenix beat the Spurs, in Game 4 in San Antonio, Stoudemire was the
factor and force down the stretch.
''The other thing is how good he is in transition," said Popovich. ''He gets two or three dunks a game because he runs better than any big man in the league. He just gets it on the wing and drives it right over you. If they put him in the post, you could guard him. But they don't. And when he has you, facing up, it's all over."
So, do we get the plaque ready in Springfield? Not just yet, cautions Rivers.
''The one area he needs to improve is his individual defense," he said. ''He doesn't guard his own guy very well. He has a ways to go defensively, but, with his athleticism, you know he'll get there."
We know this much: New Suns majority owner Robert Sarver had better be ready to pony up the big ones to keep Stoudemire in Phoenix. Under the terms of the NBA labor deal (which will soon expire), Stoudemire would be eligible for a max extension to kick in after next season. Whatever the max is when the smoke clears from the latest negotiations, that will be Stoudemire's take.
Two reasons to keep an eye on camp
Most of the NBA's personnel movers and shakers will descend on Chicago this week for the annual predraft camp. The competition likely will be among late first-rounders, second-rounders, and wannabes, because the lottery picks never
show for this thing (except to be measured and weighed). What adds some spice, however, is a pair of workouts scheduled for two promising European players, Rudy Fernandez
and Martynas Andriuskevicius
Both players are early entrants, so they can pull out of the draft if things don't go well.
Fernandez, who turned 20 in April, is a 6-foot-5-inch athletic guard who played in Badalona, Spain, this season and was also on the Spanish national team at the 2002 Olympics in Athens.
Andriuskevicius is your basic futures pick; he rarely played for his club team this season in Lithuania and is only 19. Ah, but he's also 7-2 and whichever team takes him has to hope that ''Andriuskevicius" is not ''Milicic" in Lithuanian.
Another possible early entrant, University of Connecticut-committed center Andrew Bynum
of New Jersey, was scheduled to have a workout yesterday in the New York area.
Payroll will come into play for Celtics
Celtics principal owner Wyc Grousbeck
said via e-mail last week that he has given Danny Ainge
the green light to use whatever becomes of the mid-level exception in the next collective bargaining agreement
. (There is one rumor that it will be divided into two exceptions, with the total being the same, around $5 million-$5.5 million.
age 3 of 4 -- ''If there is a mid-level exception or similar way to spend money on a veteran, Danny is authorized and encouraged to use it," wrote Grousbeck. ''He has a current confidential plan to use it, in fact."
Team payroll will be an issue. The Celtics have nine players under contract, not counting Justin Reed
(who has a club option for next season) and Vin Baker
, who is still on the books for $5.3 million for the next two seasons. Gary Payton
won't be back (''He's Rod Strickland
in different clothes," said one league personnel man) and Antoine Walker
, a free agent, had better be prepared to take a substantial cut from the $14.625 million he made last year. The Celtics could play hardball with Walker and offer him the mid-level, knowing he won't get more than that in the open market. The other option is a sign-and-trade.
As for the team captain, one league official said last week, ''Right now, there is no demand for Paul Pierce
out there. None."
Up close and personal
Before the Chicago predraft camp, the Celtics have workouts scheduled for around 10 players tomorrow at their training facility in Waltham. The numbers tend to be fluid because agents find out that a workout might hurt their client's chances, and the potential draftee suddenly comes down with a cold. Among those down to show their wares are Connecticut's Charlie Villanueva
, Kansas's Wayne Simien
, Providence's Ryan Gomes,
and Brandon Bass
from Louisiana State. After the Chicago trip, Danny Ainge
and general manager Chris Wallace
will head over to Italy for the Reebok Euro Camp and Big Man Camp in Treviso from June 11-18. Many of the best Europeans will participate, including those who are in the draft and those whose time will come.
Carlesimo a candidate
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
is torn about potentially losing assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo
, who is hoping to get his third NBA head gig, following tours in Portland and Golden State. Carlesimo interviewed with Minnesota, and no sooner did that happen than Kevin Garnett
, likely after talking to his buddy, Latrell Sprewell
, was said to have campaigned for Paul Silas
. ''Kevin Garnett would love playing for P.J.," Popovich said. ''It's just too bad that one thing can label you for so long. He's been with us now for three years and he's very important to what we do. I'd hate to lose him, but at the same time, I hope for his sake it works out for him." Should Carlesimo land a head job, don't be surprised if former Celtics coach (for 36 games) John Carroll
joins him on the bench. The two go back to Carlesimo's tenure at Seton Hall. Carroll also may get strong consideration for a spot on Brian Hill's
staff in Orlando.
Page 4 of 4 -- Postseason whiffs
has moved into third place among NBA players for number of games played without ever appearing in the playoffs. Abdur-Rahim appeared in 54 games this season for Portland, bringing his career total to 672 -- without a sniff of the playoffs. The all-time leader is Tom Van Arsdale
, who appeared in 929 games, followed by Otto
''Say No" Moore
, who was in 682 games from 1968-77. After Abdur-Rahim, among active players there's Popeye Jones
(535 games, although he may have retired and no one knows) and Adonal Foyle
(516 games in Baghdad by the Bay without a playoff check). Among those who saw long personal playoff droughts end this year were Erick Dampier
, Jason Terry
and old friend Danny Fortson.
Suns wouldn't go down
You have to admire the, well, spunk of the Phoenix Suns. As best as can be determined, they became the first team since the 1969 Philadelphia 76ers to win a Game 4 on the road when trailing, 3-0, in a playoff series. (In 1969, the format was home-away-home-away, etc., and the two teams were Philadelphia and Boston.) However, the Suns also lost all three games to San Antonio at America West Arena; the Spurs' victory in Game 3 was the only one in the five-game series won by the home team. The last time the Spurs were in the conference finals (2003), they also won all three games on the road, in this case, at American Airlines Center in Dallas. This year's Spurs also swept both playoff games in Denver and won one of three in Seattle. Heading into the Finals, Popovich has a playoff winning percentage of 63.1, putting him in fourth place (minimum 25 games) behind Phil Jackson
, Butch van Breda Kolff
(only 33 playoff games) and John Kundla.
A star at the top
With Utah's Andrew Bogut
and North Carolina's Marvin Williams
vying to be the No. 1 overall selection in this month's draft, it bears noting that of the last 15 No. 1 picks, only four have not appeared in an NBA All-Star Game (and one of those is last year's No. 1, Dwight Howard
). The unlucky trio: Kwame Brown
, Michael Olowokandi,
and Joe Smith.
Forget prep, just draft
High school guru Bob Gibbons
told the Charlotte Observer last week that the Bobcats, who have the fifth pick in the draft, would not be well served by drafting a prepster. (The Bobcats also have the 13th pick). That seems to fly in the face of the latest conventional wisdom, which has Houston-area phenom Gerald Green
going anywhere from three to six. New Orleans, picking fourth, is said to be high on the kid. Portland also likes him and would have taken him at No. 5 had it not moved up to the No. 3 pick in the lottery.
DJ added to the mix
USA Basketball has named former Spurs coach (31 games in 1983-84) Mo McHone
to coach the team that will participate in the World Championship zone qualifier this summer in the Dominican Republic. What's more interesting to Celtics fans is that one of McHone's assistants will be none other than Dennis Johnson
, who coached the Florida Flame in the National Basketball Development League this past season. Joey Meyer
, another NBDL coach (Asheville) as well as a former DePaul head man, also will assist McHone. The team will feature non-NBA pros who have no real pressure to qualify for the 2006 World Championships in Japan. The top four finishers (out of 10 teams in the Dominican Republic qualifier) automatically make it and FIBA, the sport's organizing body, also has four wild cards to dispense. McHone has coached two USA Basketball teams and most recently coached in Korea.
Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.