New Jersey Nets 1992-93

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Record 43-39, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 6th in Eastern Conference.

Lost 3-2, to Cleveland Cavaliers in Eastern Conference’s First Round.

1992-93 NBA season is my favourite even though my Spurs got eliminated in the second-round of the Western Conference Play-offs by the greatest Phoenix Suns I have ever seen. In 1992-93 the New Jersey Nets, a team that was considered, and was, one of the weakest teams of the league, had finally gathered the right pieces and was in a position to compete with the best of them. The whole process of creating a play-offs team started two seasons ago (1990-91). New Jersey had the worst record in 1989-90 (17-65) and was lucky to have the first overall draft pick in 1990 NBA Draft. Derrick Coleman was the player the Nets chose at number 1; a power forward from Syracuse whose game was compared to that of the best power forwards in the NBA.

It was that season (1990-91) and in particular on 23 January 1991 that the Nets took part in a three-team trade deal (Nets, Nuggets, Blazers) and acquired one of the best, if not the best, European players ever from the Portland Trail Blazers; the Croatian shooting guard Drazen Petrovic. ‘Petro’ had not made a great start in his NBA career at Portland, where he didn’t have much playing time and he had a limited role behind the great Blazers backcourt, comprised of Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler. Petrovic came from the bench in 1990-91 for the Nets, but he had an immediate impact with 12.6ppg. In 1991-92 he started all 82 regular-season games, averaging 20.6ppg., 3.1rpg., and 3.1apg.

In 1991-92 Nets made two more decisive moves; drafted point guard Kenny Anderson at no.2 overall in 1991 NBA Draft and signed the former Piston’s and Dream Team’s coach Chuck Daly at the end of the season. In 1991-92 the Nets did well and made their first play-offs appearance since 1986, to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round 3-1. The last move that changed the team’s destiny was the trade of Mookie Blaylock, the team’s starting point guard, to Atlanta on 3 November 1992 that gave the opportunity to the team’s uprising star, Anderson, to start. So, at the beginning of 1992-93 season the Nets’ starting line-up looked pretty solid: PG. Kenny Anderson, SG. Drazen Petrovic, SF. Chris Morris, PF. Derrick Coleman, C. Sam Bowie. The squad also had great veterans such as the 80s superstar Bernard King, the starting PG of the 1983 76ers championship team Maurice Cheeks and the 1989 NBA champion with the Pistons Rick Mahorn. But most of all, the team had in Chuck Daly one of the best coaches in NBA history.

New Jersey and Drazen Petrovic started the season strong; they finished December with a 16-12 record and he was NBA’s player of the week for the first-week of December averaging 27.7ppg., 4.0rpg., and 2.7apg. I remember that I didn’t like Petrovic because I thought of him as an arrogant person and I could not forget the way he played, and celebrated, in Yugoslavia’s victory over my country (Greece) in the 1989 Eurobasket’s Final in Zagreb. I, now,consider myself lucky to have seen that great player and that game live even though Yugoslavia destroyed Greece at that game and took revenge, as we had beaten them in 1987 Eurobasket’s semi-final in Athens, when Greece won the gold. I will also never forget watching two of the best European players going at each other; Greece’s Nikos Galis and Yugoslavia’s Drazen Petrovic.  These two would have been great playing in the same team and this was the plan of Panathinaikos’ president in 1993, before Drazen’s death. Petrovic had said about that possibility before his death:

“I’d love to play with Galis in the same team”. “I would assist him the ball and he would put it in the basket.”

United Yugoslavia was an unbelievable team and I will never stop fantasising about a game of Dream Team against Yugoslavia; if Croatia was able to provide some resistance what a united Yugoslavian team  would have done? Petrovic’s performance against MJ and the Dream Team in the Olympics was also a joy to watch. In fact there was a great rivalry between these two, one that was being enjoyed by both, and the Bulls-Nets games had become a battle of these two great players representing two different basketball worlds.

Michael Jordan said about ‘Petro’ after receiving the ‘Drazen Petrovic Trophy’ in Paris’ McDonalds tournament:

“It was a thrill to play against Drazen. Every time we competed, he competed with an aggressive attitude. He wasn’t nervous. He came at me as hard as I came at him. So, we’ve had some great battles in the past and unfortunately, they were short battles. It’s a great pleasure to receive an award in his honour. For the short time he played professional basketball in the US, he was one of the pioneers of European players coming over and being successful in the States. Other players have tried to follow his leadership. We have a guy on our team who worshipped Drazen and that’s Boris Gorenc. It’s a great honour to win the trophy.”

Drazen finished 12th in NBA in scoring per game in 1992-93, with 22.3. He scored 44 points, his personal best in his NBA career, in a game against the Rockets in 24 January 1993.  After taking the opportunity to talk a little bit about Drazen as I could not include him in my top-ten lists (he played only 4 seasons during the 90s), let’s get back now to 1992-93 New Jersey Nets. Their record before the all-star game was 30-21 and they seemed as a team that would definitely be in the play-offs; in fact they were trying for home-court advantage in the first-round. But on 28 February 1993 in a game against the rivals Knicks, where the Nets won by 26 points, John Starks injured Kenny Anderson with a flagrant foul, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. Anderson had started all of the team’s 55 games by that point and was averaging 16.9ppg., 8.2apg. (9th in the league), and 4.1rpg.

Anderson’s absence was devastating for the Nets and after a month (March) were they coped well, 10-5 record, they had a very bad month in April with a 2-10 record, to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference with 43-39. Derrick Coleman had a great season as well for the Nets, with 20.7ppg. and 11.2rpg (11th in the league). Sam Bowie, the former Kentucky star that was selected in no.2 overall by Portland, above Michael Jordan, in 1984 NBA Draft, had another healthy and decent season for the Nets, while Chris Morris emerged in the small forward position as Bernard King most of the time injured and was playing his last NBA season.

In 1993 Nets were making their second consecutive play-offs appearance and they were going to face the team that eliminated them last year (3-1) in the first round; the sixth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers of the all-stars Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Larry Nance. The series was more competitive than one would have thought. The Nets played without their starting point guard Anderson, however they were able to force a game 5 after tying the series in a big win, 96-79, in New Jersey in game 4. The most competitive game was game 2 of the series, in Cleveland, when New Jersey behind 27 points and 14 rebounds by Coleman as well as 21 points by Petrovic, won 101-99 and tie the series 1-1.

In Game 5 of the series Cleveland was able to win 99-89, behind a great performance by Daugherty (24p., 20r. and 8a.) that overshadowed Coleman’s big game (33p. and 16r.). This way Cleveland won the series 3-2 and qualified for the second round. At that point nobody knew that this was also going to be Drazen’s last game as in 7 June 1993 Petrovic died in a traffic accident in Germany. Petrovic was a unique talent that will never be forgotten, especially his great rivalries against the world’s best scorers; those that have watched Petrovic against the Brazilian super-scorer Oscar Schmidt in 1989’s European Cup-Winners Cup know exactly what I am talking about (Petrovic 62p. – Oscar 44p.).

I have the impression that if Kenny Anderson had remained healthy throughout the whole of 1992-93 season, the Nets would have finished with a much better record, probably top-4 in the East, and would have had better chances of proceeding to the second round. In addition, Drazen’s death left them with a huge gap in their starting line-up, one that couldn’t be covered. However, New Jersey was able to finish with an improved record 45-37 in 1993-94 season, behind the all-star performances of Kenny Anderson (18.8ppg., 9.6apg. and 1.9spg.) and Derrick Coleman (20.2ppg., 11.3rpg. and 1.8bpg.), to lose 3-1 in the hands of the rival New York in the first round of 1994 play-offs. We can only imagine what this team would have been able to do if Drazen had not died in the summer of 1993.

New Jersey Nets 1992-93

pos. Name ppg. rpg. apg. spg. bpg.
p.g. Kenny Anderson 16.9 4.1 8.2 1.7 0.2
s.g. Drazen Petrovic 22.3 2.7 3.5 1.3 0.2
s.f. Chris Morris 14.1 5.9 1.4 1.9 0.7
p.f. Derrick Coleman 20.7 11.2 3.6 1.2 1.7
c. Sam Bowie 9.1 7.0 1.6 0.4 1.6
p.g. Rumeal Robinson 8.4 2.0 4.0 1.2 0.2
s.g. Maurice Cheeks 3.6 1.2 3.1 0.9 0.1
s.f. Rafael Addison 6.3 1.9 0.8 0.3 0.2
p.f. Chucky Brown 5.1 3.0 0.7 0.3 0.3
c. Chris Dudley 3.5 7.2 0.2 0.2 1.5
s.f. Bernard King 7.0 2.4 0.6 0.3 0.1
p.f. Rick Mahorn 3.9 3.8 0.4 0.3 0.4

http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/NJN/1993.html

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David Robinson (pre-NBA)

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David Maurice Robinson was born on the 6th of August 1965, in Key West, Florida. David Robinson was the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson. His father was a sonar technician at the U.S. Navy and this played a big part in his decision to join the Naval Academy later in his life. Robinson was one bright kid, he was really strong in mathematics and learned to play piano by ear. Robinson was an excellent student and a great athlete during his high school years, but the first time that he actually played competitive basketball was during his senior year at Osbourn Park High School, Virginia, were his family had relocated after his father’s retirement.

David Robinson was 5’9 inches tall as a junior at high school and 6’7 as a senior, when the basketball coach at his school noticed him and included him to the team without testing him. Robinson’s performances on the basketball court earned him all-area and all-district honours, but he was not able to earn the attention of college basketball coaches. Young David didn’t  seem to care that much about a basketball career back then. He scored 1320 on his SATs and decided to follow his father’s example and join the US Naval Academy.

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In his first year at the Naval Academy David was 6’8 inches tall, this put him two inches above Navy’s height limit, but the Superintendent of the Academy made an exception for him. However, his height continued to be a problem and put his Navy career in jeopardy, until Secretary of the Navy John Lehman placed Robinson in a program for training civil engineers for the Naval Reserves, reducing his active-duty obligation from five to two years.

Robinson excelled, again, as a student, especially in maths and he was also known for his athleticism and his ability to play chess. His college basketball career started slowly; he averaged 7.6ppg., 4.0rpg. and 1.3bpg in his junior year at college. Before his sophomore year, David Robinson grew to 7’1 inches tall and his basketball stats exploded to 23.6ppg., 11.6rpg. and 4.0bpg. This was the beginning of a special career in college basketball. Robinson averaged 22.7ppg., 13.0rpg., and 5.9bpg. during the next year (1986) and 28.2ppg., 11.8rpg. and 4.5bpg in his last year (1987) at college, when he was selected as the College Player of the Year.

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Robinson has also received the All-America recognition in his final two seasons, as well as the Naismith and Wooden Awards, two of college basketball’s highest honours. In addition, in his final collegiate game, in an NCAA Tournament loss to Michigan, he scored 50 points, just like the number of his jersey, which he picked because of his favourite player Ralph Sampson. By the time David Robinson left the Naval Academy he was considered as the best basketball player in the academy’s history. He also holds the record of most blocks in a single season in college basketball with 207. The legend has it that David Robinson was in Washington DC having breakfast with the US Vice President in the day the 1987 NBA Draft took place.

It was that NBA draft in the spring of 1987 that David Robinson was selected as the number 1 pick by the San Antonio Spurs. However, Robinson had to serve his active-duty obligation to the US Navy for two years. So, after graduating from the Naval Academy, Robinson became a civil engineering officer at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. Robinson’s obligations to the Navy were seen as a serious issue by many, but not by the Spurs officials who were prepared to wait, and they were right to do so, I would add. In May 17, 1987, after the Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery, CBS’s sportscaster James Brown and Spurs’ GM Bob Bass, had the following dialogue:

– James Brown: Bob, congratulations 1st of all. Clearly, David Robinson is the top pick in the draft this year, but he comes with some complications, that two year military hitch. Will you still go after him?

– General Manager Bob Bass: We waited 14 years…what’s two more, you know? What’s two more?

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However, Robinson’s situation was unique and there were speculations that if  the Spurs hadn’t offered enough money to sign Robinson before next year’s draft (1988), he would be eligible for next year’s draft. And if Robinson did not sign with the team that drafted him next year, he would become a free agent on the day of the 1989 draft. But, on the 6th of November 1987 David Robinson signed with the San Antonio Spurs a contract that was going to pay him as much as the average of the salaries of the two highest-paid players in the league each year. This way Robinson put an end to speculation and became one of the highest paid players in the NBA from his first season.

David Robinson has also played in two major international basketball tournaments as a member of the US national team before joining the Spurs in 1989-90 season. He played in 1986 World Basketball Championship, where he won the gold medal and was selected as a member of the all-tournament team.  He was also a key member of the 1988 US Olympic team, which won the bronze medal after losing to the USSR in the semi-finals. In addition, he was a member of the US national team that played in the pan-American games in 1987, at Indianapolis and won the silver medal after a surprising loss to Brazil in the final.

During the 1986 and 1988 Robinson’s international appearances, a rivalry was born between him and another great big-man of that era that was just unlucky and never reached the level he was meant to; the name of that big man was Arvydas Sabonis. The Lithuanian giant that played for USSR’s national team was considered a miracle of nature and there is, even now a mythology that he actually dominated David Robinson in their epic battles. However, a quick look at the stats of their two showdowns shows an entirely different story:

1986: Robinson 20p. 7r. 4b. – Sabonis 16p. 13r. 4b.

1988: Robinson 23p. 12r. 2b. – Sabonis 13p. 13r. 1.b

David Robinson had a great college basketball career and is considered as one of the best college basketball players ever. Among his achievements are a game of 14 blocks in January 1986, recording 2669 points and 1314 rebounds in total in 127 games as a college player for Navy, leading the NCAA in blocks per game two years in a row (1985-86, 1986-87) as well as lead the league in rebounds per game in 1985-86. Finally, I think by now it is obvious why his nickname is ‘the Admiral’, however, his real Navy rank upon fulfilling his service commitment was Lieutenant, Junior Grade.

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
College Career 21.0 10.3 0.7 1.2 4.1

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Washington Bullets 1996-97

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Record 44-38, 4th in Atlantic Division, 8th in Eastern Conference.

Lost 3-0, to the Chicago Bulls in Eastern Conference’s First Play-offs Round.

The 1996-97 NBA season was the last for the Bullets; since 1997-98 Washington’s franchise name has changed to Wizards. Washington was one of the NBA’s worst franchises during the 90s and made it only once to the NBA play-offs, in 1997. Washington had a number of disappointing seasons in the early 90s with many injuries and line-ups that were lacking true stars; Bernard King was at the dusk of his career with many injuries, I cannot count Michael Adams as a star even though he played at the 1992 All-Star game and Tom Gugliotta became an all-star in Minnesota, however, he never reached the potential that NBA experts had seen in him and he never became the franchise-saviour the Bullets hoped for. But, Gugliotta became the centre-piece of a trade that helped Washington become a force to be reckoned in the East. He was traded alongside three future first-round draft picks to the Golden State Warriors for Chris Webber, in November 1994. Earlier in that year, Bullets had chosen Webber’s college teammate and member of Michigan’s Fab-Five, Juwan Howard and created a duo of forwards that could change their fate.

In the summer of 1996 Howard became a free agent and  after the end of a great season for him, averaging 22.1ppg and 8.1rpg. Miami Heat offered him a huge contract and that would have made him the first NBA player to sign a contract worth more than a $100 million; $105 million for seven years. However, the NBA disallowed Howard to move to Heat as it claimed that the Heat did not have enough room in the salary cap. The case went to courts but in the end the Heat withdrew and Howard re-signed with the Bullets. In that summer, Bullets also signed center Lorenzo Williams from Dallas Mavericks and small forward Tracy Murray from Toronto Raptors. In addition, they sent Rasheed Wallace along with Mitchell Butler to Portland for point guard Rod Strickland and power forward Harvey Grant; the twin brother of the three-time NBA Champion with the Chicago Bulls, Horace Grant, whom they had sent to Portland in 1993 for Kevin Duckworth.

I remember reading the 1996-97 Bullets roster at the beginning of the season – in one of the American NBA season preview magazines ( I think it was Pro-Basketball Preview) that I used to find in Greece when I was lucky enough – and thinking that this was the first time I was excited for a Bullets team. I have been following the league as closely as possible, for someone that was living in Thessaloniki, Greece, since the 1990-01 season and Washington Bullets was one of the less attractive teams. It seemed that the 1996-97 season was going to be different and I wanted to follow that Bullets team more closely. I was a Webber fan and I thought that Howard was also a great player, the addition of Strickland and the development of the league’s tallest player, the Romanian giant Gheorghe Muresan of 7.7 feet, whom I knew and had watched play in-person, when he was a part of the the French Ortez team, created at least some expectations for the upcoming season.

In my eyes, back then, that team had everything a team needs to succeed; a really good, even though somehow unstable, point guard in Strickland, a great duo of forwards, even though neither of them was a small forward, a talented shooting guard with a lot of potential in Calbert Cheaney and a solid center. When I was younger, coaching, team-chemistry, bench-depth, timing and all of these details that actually make the difference and determine success were not important to me; I was judging a team merely by its stars and talent and the 1996-97 Washington Bullets were full of talent. However, with Jim Lynam as their head coach they made a usual, or a slightly better, Bullets’ beginning of the season. Eventually Lynam was sucked while the team had a record 22 wins to 24 losses.

Bullets brought one of their own, to replace Lynam. Bernie Bickerstaff, an assistant coach of the championship-winning Bullets team of 1978 took the responsibility to turn around a season that was looking already as a failure. With Bickerstaff at the helm Bullets played winning basketball and finished with an over-50% record (44-38), which was their first winning record in ten years (42-40 in 1986-87). But the icing on the cake of the best Bullets’ season in the 90s was the win in what seemed like the seventh game of an NBA Finals series, which in fact was the last game of the NBA’s regular season against the Cleveland Cavaliers; the winner was qualifying for the play-offs. Bullets prevailed finally after a dramatic game and defeated the Cavaliers 85-81, to take the 8th spot in the East that led to the NBA play-offs and was sending the Bullets to play against the NBA champions Chicago Bulls.

The first round of the play-offs was where the Bullets’ journey ended. They resisted as much they could against a great Bulls team that went all the way and won a back-to-back title. The best of five series lasted only three games, Bulls won 3-0, but their wins where not as easy as the outcome of the series may lead you to think. Except from the first game the other two were close games and especially the last one was decided at the last minute. Chris Webber was the best player of that team that had its own big-three in Strickland-Howard-Webber, but his productivity declined during the play-offs and did not help Bullets as much as they needed him to win their first play-off game during the 90s. Webber also represented the Bullets in that season’s all-star game, as a replacement for the injured Patrick Ewing.

This was the best team that the Washington franchise had in the 90s. A team that looked really promising, with lots of talent, a duo of young star-forwards, one of the most talented and unpredictable point guards the game has ever seen and the player with the league’s highest FG% in the 1996-97 season in Muresan. Unfortunately they were not good enough to match the Bulls. I suppose if they had a better record in the regular season, Orlando Magic got the 7th spot with a slightly better record (45-37), they could have played against Miami Heat and maybe recorded a win. I would not say that they could have beaten that Miami team but they could have had better chances to at least win a game. In 1997-98 they did not qualify for the play-offs and in 1998-99 Webber got traded to Sacramento for Mitch Richmond.

Washington Bullets 1996-97

pos. Name ppg. rpg. apg. spg. bpg.
p.g. Rod Strickland 17.2 4.1 8.9 1.7 0.2
s.g. Calbert Cheaney 10.6 3.4 1.4 1.0 0.2
s.f. Juwan Howard 19.1 8.0 3.8 1.1 0.3
p.f. Chris Webber 20.1 10.3 4.6 1.7 1.9
c. Gheorghe Muresan 10.6 6.6 0.4 0.6 1.3
p.g. Chris Whitney 5.2 1.3 2.2 0.6 0.0
s.g. Jaren Jackson 5.0 1.8 0.9 0.6 0.2
s.f. Tracy Murray 10.0 3.1 1.0 0.8 0.2
p.f. Harvey Grant 4.1 3.3 0.9 0.6 0.6
c. Lorenzo Williams 2.4 3.6 0.2 0.3 0.4
s.g. Tim Legler 2.9 1.4 1.4 0.2 0.3
c. Ben Wallace 1.1 1.7 0.1 0.2 0.3

http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/WSB/1997.html

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Filed under 90s Season, Top Teams of the 90s