Category Archives: 90s

Throwback Thursday: NBA Live 99 and the lockout

Happy Throwback Thursday, everyone. 15 years and one day ago the lockout-shortened 1999 season tipped off. Labor disputes only lasted so long because Antoine Walker was on the cover of NBA Live 99.

Fine, that’s not true, probably. Maybe Walker wasn’t the best choice for the cover of the game, but neither was Tim Hardaway the year before and I played NBA Live 98 long after the Jordan era ended. ’99 held up in reviews too with IGN rating it an 8.0 for Nintendo 64, 8.6 for PC, and 9.0 for PlayStation. GameSpot wasn’t as friendly, basically giving the game one less point than IGN did for each respective gaming system.

There was nothing too memorable about the game to me, mostly because I bought it with a value pack with Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’99, Madden 99, and NHL 99. (Also, I was only 10 years old.) It was the first time the NBA Live series had a franchise mode, though, lasting 10 years. From what I remember, you could also goaltend either by mistake or intentionally. I turned that rule off, made my dream team featuring Chris Webber, among others, and protected the rim to the point SportVU’s player tracking data would blow up.

Antoine Walkers 1999 campaign wasn’t too shabby either, at least compared to the rest of his career. Looking at his Basketball-Reference page, a couple things stick out from that season:

  1. Walker shot a career-best 36.9 percent from three, which sums up his career but still. Okay, he followed that up in 2000 by shooting a career-worst 25.6 percent on 3.5 attempts, then took nearly 1,250 threes the next two seasons, but moving on.
  2. Walker recorded 1.9 defensive win shares, as many if not more than players like Shaquille O’Neal, Doug Christie, Kobe Bryant, Dale Davis, and Tracy McGrady. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts though, win shares have their flaws like any other stat. Heck, during the Detroit Pistons’ title seasons of 1989 and ’90, Dennis Rodman had twice the offensive win shares as Isiah Thomas. Also, Walker recorded 5.2 defensive win shares in 2002. His steal totals were nice and Boston was fifth in defensive efficiency that season according to NBA.com, but no.

Regardless of what happened in 1999, the NBA Live series came out with a bang in 2000 both with the cover player (Tim Duncan) and the gameplay itself. Kevin Garnett made the arguably the best cover the following year and then…ugh. To me, Steve Francis on the cover of NBA Live 2002 marked the beginning of the end of the franchise as king of the hill. It’s hard to find where it hit rock bottom but Kyrie Irving on this season’s cover is a decent starting point, especially after last night.

Any thoughts on NBA Live during the the ’90s are certainly welcome.

90s NBA: Players who shot worse from the shortened three-point line

During last night’s barn/dome burner at Syracuse, I noticed Derrick Coleman getting some love from the broadcasters. Looking at his NBA stats from Basketball-Reference, I noticed two odd things:

  1. Coleman shot threes, but like Charles Barkley and Josh Smith he bricked many.
  2. Coleman shot worse from the shortened three-point line, the one that went from 23’9″ around the arc to a uniform 22 feet from 1995 to 1997, than he did from the modern-day line. From 1995 to 1997, he shot 67-for-260 (25.8 percent) from three. His other seasons combined: 259-for-845 (30.7 percent).

Some searching on Basketball-Reference showed that quite a few other players had the same, weird drop-off in three-point percentage from a shortened line. Others shot better when the arc went back to the normal 23’9″ (with the 22-foot corners staying) in 1998 while some experienced both the drop off from 1994 to 1995-1997 and the uptick the following season.

Whatever the case, below is a table to show those players who met the criteria previously listed with an additional two requirements:

  1. Play at least 50 games in a season.
  2. Average at least one three-point attempt per game.

Seasons with the shortened three-point line are highlighted in blue and regular three-point lines highlighted in red. It’s a decent-sized list, so just use the bar on the right side to scroll up or down.

Some reasons off the top of my head on why players would struggle with a shorter three-point line:

  1. With a shorter arc, defenders had less distance to cover when running a shooter off it. Shooters who took an extra tenth of a second to get their shot off would be affected the most.
  2. Three-point specialists might not have been used to shooting a foot or two closer to the hoop, though in time they would adjust.
  3. Some players are asked to create with the shot clock winding down. A closer three-point line may have led to more contested shots from beyond the arc versus 22-foot twos. That’s not a problem when three points are worth more than two, but the three-point percentage took a dip nonetheless.
  4. It was just variance running it’s course, though more often than not it reared its ugly head at the players listed in the table.

Other thoughts are certainly welcome.

Just for fun, I’ll end this post with a table featuring notable players who benefited from the shorter three-point line and then saw their three-point percentage (and possibly three-point attempts) decline after the 1997 season.

Opposite from the previous table, the shortened three-point line is highlighted in red and the modern-day line in blue:

Any excuses I made about players shooting worse from the shortened line might be crushed thanks to that second table. There’s a lot of what-ifs after looking at it, such as Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan, among others, having even more ridiculous point totals had the arc remained shortened. Clyde Drexler‘s another shooting guard who would’ve benefited.

Big men like Terry Mills and Arvydas Sabonis would’ve had all sorts of fun, and if a time machine could take LaMarcus Aldridge to 1995 to 1997, he too would feast. LUNCH MEAT.

Why Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters remind me of a backcourt duo from the 90s

Erik Drost | Flickr

Erik Drost | Flickr

Lately I’ve been getting my cavalier on, both with a more-lazy-than-usual weekend and a couple of my latest posts featuring the rebuilding, possibly playoff-contending franchise out in Cleveland. It wasn’t my intention to continue discussing them through this week, but the young backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters felt worth looking at.

Irving and Waiters arrived in Cleveland through the 2011 and 2012 NBA Drafts, respectively. The former went first overall and the latter sparked a lot of discussion about going fourth, drafted when Cleveland also could’ve used a small forward or center for the future. Nevertheless, Cleveland locked up their backcourt.

But the Cavaliers continue to struggle, 11 games under .500 as they approach the halfway point in the season. (They were 9-28 through 37 games a year ago.) Waiters is no longer in the starting lineup (not a terrible thing, to be fair), and he’s had a few words about his difficulties playing with both Irving and Tristan Thompson. He’s floated around in trade rumors since last summer, and it’d be no surprise if he’s playing for a new franchise by the end of his rookie contract.

It all reminds me of a backcourt duo from over 15 years ago, back in the mid-90s when the Philadelphia 76ers retooled their backcourt with the third and first picks of the 1995 and ’96 drafts, respectively. Jeff Malone and Dana Barros were out and replaced with Jerry Stackhouse and Allen Iverson.

Since ‘Stack’ was drafted before Iverson, it’s a little hard to make statistical comparisons between the Sixers’ ’96 and ’97 backcourt and Cleveland’s the last two seasons, which was built with the point guard first. Here’s my best shot though, with the help of Basketball-Reference. As always, you can click to enlarge each screen shot:

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There’s a lot to discuss from there. (If I missed something you’d like to include, feel free to use the comment section.)

First, I’m not comparing Waiters to Stackhouse or Irving to Iverson, though Cleveland could build around their point guard much like Philadelphia did with theirs. I’m grouping them together mainly because of their unique situations: two young, ball-dominant guards on the same team. Already mentioned was Waiter’s issues with Irving and Thompson, but Stackhouse had his own reported problems with Iverson that you can find here and here from the SI Vault. Bad things happen when backcourt duos consist of each wanting to score. Speaking of that…

Another reason I compared the two duos was because of their usage rates. Iverson and Stackhouse were the only starting backcourt in 1997 to each use up over 25 percent of their team’s possessions, according to Basketball-Reference. The same went for Waiters and Irving in 2013. Backcourt combos with similar high usage rates can succeed as long as they complement each other well, like Ray Allen and Sam Cassell for the 2001 Milwaukee Bucks and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for the 2010 Spurs. More often than not, however, guards with similar usage rates feature one starter and another as a spark off the bench, like how the Spurs have often used Ginobili.

That wasn’t the case for the ’97 Sixers or the 2013 Cavaliers, though, and neither team won all that many games as a result. That’s not to say those four players were solely responsible for so many losses, but a team isn’t going far with two players taking over a combined 30 field goal attempts per game while recording effective field goal percentages (EFG%, when accounting for threes worth more than twos) below league-average, which usually ends up between 47.5 and 50 percent. In particular, Iverson and Stackhouse couldn’t spread the floor, shooting around 30 percent from the arc and playing an average of nearly 40 minutes per game. Bad times all around.

Cleveland has since put Waiters in the role of a sixth man rather than pull the trigger on a trade. Philadelphia eventually scrapped their backcourt pairing and surrounded Iverson with players known more for their defense, starting when Stackhouse was sent to Detroit in December of ‘97 with Eric Montross and a 2nd round pick for Aaron McKie, Theo Ratliff, and a 2003 first-rounder. That first rounder, with the help of hindsight, was treated pretty unfairly. 25 months after trading Stackhouse, that pick would be sent to Houston for Mirsad Turkcan. (Turkcan didn’t do much at all in the NBA, but in fairness he ended up being a force of nature overseas. He was a nominee for the 2001-2010 Euroleague All-Decade team, but did not make the list.) In June of 2001, the first-round draft pick was then traded from Houston to Atlanta for Terrence Norris, then traded to Sacramento for Dan Dickau, and finally sent back to Detroit with Jon Barry for Mateen Cleaves. The draft pick ended up being Carlos Delfino, but treating a pick like that in the one of most loaded talent pools could’ve led to disastrous results.

But trading Stackhouse deserves a ton of credit when the Sixers’ front office had top-10 draft picks each year from 1992 and 1998, yet only kept two of them – Iverson and Larry Hughes – by 1999, when Philadelphia finally made the playoffs. They too logged usage rates of over 25 percent each, though Hughes came off the bench instead of starting. He was traded the following season for Toni Kukoc.

This all actually makes it a little more interesting that, despite the results from the Stackhouse-Iverson combo, Denver made the trade in 2007 to pair Iverson with Carmelo Anthony. Denver had a better supporting cast than Philadelphia in the mid-90s, and the Nuggets played 10 points better/100 possessions when Iverson was on the court in 2008 (according to Basketball-Reference), but it’s hard to expect two mediocre perimeter defenders and outside shooters like themselves to go deep in a loaded Western Conference.

In Cleveland, Irving remains relatively safe from trade rumors while Waiters, like Stackhouse, has been thrown around in plenty. The Cavaliers still have plenty of trade assets left over even after acquiring Luol Deng, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Waiters is eventually moved before his next contract. The value of rookie deals in today’s NBA is so different from when Stackhouse and Iverson entered the league, though. Both trading and keeping Waiters feel like gambles, but at least Cleveland still has time to decide which decision is better for their long-term future.

LeBron James and the Heat look young again while I age myself

Sometimes aging is smooth and graceful, like realizing I’m only 24 and have plenty of life left in me. Other times it’s a rude awakening, like stressing out over crazy things like responsibilities while being reminded of more enjoyable times, like the first time I watched a basketball team chasing a three-peat make their stop in Minneapolis.

There’s very little I remember about the time the 1998 Bulls came to Minnesota, likely because I was playing basketball with a five-foot hoop, one with an oval-shaped cardboard backboard and an Orlando Magic logo slapped on it my dad squeezed into the basement a couple years earlier. The space to chuck bricks at it to the point it looked like I was trying to mash a hole was something like 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. To the left of the hoop were the house’s furnace and firewood which represented out of bounds along with wherever the carpet near it ended. The right right side of the basement featured a couple steps leading to a worn out couch and a television I watched basketball from when I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, which was basically never.  

That’s probably why I remember very little from that game 16 years ago between the Bulls and Timberwolves. Outside of watching basketball, roughly 99% of my freezing Minnesota winters from 1996 to 1999 – first grade through fourth for me – were spent shooting hoops in the basement or playing NBA Live 95, 97, or 98 after school. Having the flu didn’t stop me from any of those hobbies, and especially not after Michael Jordan’s ‘Flu Game’ during the ’97 Finals. I still remember the times I labored from my bed to the basement, humming the theme song of NBA on NBC only for my legs to feel like Jell-O a few minutes later. It was never a good idea to create my own flu game, but I couldn’t help it.

The little I remember from the time the Timberwolves beat the Bulls, though, like Stephon Marbury celebrating by heaving the ball into the stands, will stick with me for as long as I’ll live. Marbury and the fans acted like they won the NBA Finals that night, but I can’t blame them. After that game, Eight-Year-Old Me thought Minnesota escaped the cellar of the West for good and became a contender.

Here are some highlights of that game:

Even though this season’s Wolves and the one of ’98 were looking to put years of rebuilding behind them, not much was alike in regards to what actually happened during their games. The crowd last night was mostly dead and so was I. The gravitational pull of recliner left me with no urge whatsoever to stand up and pass time between dull moments by exercising. I chose instead to stare blankly at what appeared to be a payment plan for college loans, while other times I scrolled Twitter and online discussion forums about visual snow. It even took me midway through the second quarter to realize the last time I saw Minnesota host a team chasing its third championship was when I was four feet tall. In 2002 I was glued to the PlayStation 2 when the Lakers paid themselves a visit, and I was playing online poker both times the 2011 Lakers won at the Target Center.

Like the enthusiasm, the result of the game wasn’t close to what it was like in ’98. A youthful Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had the luck of playing a Bulls squad missing Scottie Pippen while last night’s Heat were at full strength and Minnesota was missing Kevin Love. If that sounds like a recipe for a blowout, you would be right. LeBron and Dwyane Wade ended the Heat’s two-game losing streak by doing LeBron and Wade things. After their 21-point victory, Wade video bombed LeBron, giving an accurate summary of the game:

That’s what I’ll remember most about last night. Neither lasting memory from the Timberwolves playing host to the ’98 Bulls or ’14 Heat were highlights from the actual games.

After watching Stephon Marbury celebrate Minnesota’s victory over Chicago by heaving the ball into the stands, I celebrated by shooting hoops in my basement and pretended I was Kevin Garnett with my newfound energy, banging a ball against my head and pretending to be a seven-foot freak of nature. 16 years later, 24 Year-Old Me lounged in the recliner long after the Heat mopped the floor with the Love-less Timberwolves. The time I should’ve spent trying to get back into shape, or anything really, was instead wasted wondering if Wade would ever videobomb LeBron while dressed as an elf. I dozed off shortly after, waking up four hours later and tweeting in my foggy, half-asleep daze about the need for an all-you-can-eat French fry buffet.

For more Timberwolves memories, check this out.

Throwback Thursday video: Scottie Pippen dunks on Patrick Ewing, leaves a high five hanging

I forgot to include a Throwback Thursday video last week, so I’ll include two today.

The first one comes from the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, a year without Michael Jordan but that didn’t matter to Scottie Pippen. After putting in a season that cemented himself as more than just a sidekick to Jordan, he had himself a highlight Jordan himself performed three years earlier: a memorable dunk on Patrick Ewing:

Lots of stuff to look at here.

First, Pippen and Ewing’s flattops are sooo ’90s. Good stuff.

And even back then, players got technical fouls for taunting. That caught me off-guard. Still, Ewing doesn’t become a spaz, instead reacting quite well to being put on (yet another) poster. Maybe that’s because he knew ’94 was his year to get by the Bulls, or maybe because he had Charles Oakley by his side, or maybe he knew guys like Spike Lee and John Starks would tweak for him. Such team players, except Spike’s not a Knick. Someone tell him that already. We’re in 2013 and he has moments where he acts like he’s the second coming of Latrell Sprewell.

Last but not least, here’s a shoutout to Pete Myers. Go to 1:35 and see one of the best high fives left hanging of all-time.

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