Thursday, August 18, 2005

Charley Rosen is a Moron
By Zach

God, I seem to start a lot of posts with that sort of headline. Oh well. Mr. Rosen, who've I've never liked as a writer, recently posted lists of the most over and under-rated players in NBA history. First, I think the mere concept of calling certain players over and under-rated is stupid. There's no standard to ascribe to, and who exactly are we saying is doing the under/over-rating? Fans? The national media?

But secondly, I think Rosen is plain wrong on many of the players he singles out. On his over-rated list, the first guy he takes shots at is Charles Barkley. While Charles was overweight at the end of his career, he never had the kind of body that would look anything but rotund. Secondly, he played power forward at 6'5". That takes serious bulk. Barkley may not have been one of the great defenders of all time, but he was a tremendous rebounder and somehow managed 1.5 SPG for his entire career. Furthermore, you can't knock one guy for being a mediocre defender (as he does Barkley) and then gloss it over with another guy (Rick Barry, who he considers assessment I'd agree with). The truth is, not many great scorers are also great defenders, and since Charles had to be the go-to guy in the clutch for his team, his efforts were understandably more focused on offense. Lastly, there are a lot of great players who never won a championship. Charles played in a league which was first dominated by Bird and Magic, and finished his career with MJ winning seemingly every year.

Knickerblogger has already defended Patrick Ewing, so I'll just touch on a couple of other guys. I'm not sure anyone has ever tried to call George Gervin a great all-around player. But he was, and is, one of the great scorers in NBA history. He could shoot the ball from the perimeter, hit midrange shots, post his man, and drive to the hoop, and the fact that he managed to do it all despite the fact that the league knew he wasn't much of a ballhandler makes it all the more impressive.

The Connie Hawkins that broke into the NBA was already 27 years old and had spent much of his prime unjustly banned from the NBA. He carried the Pittsburgh Pipers of the ABA to the inaugural ABA championship, and averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds his first season with the Suns. I'm too young to have seen him play, so I'll have to go on what my dad and others have said, taht he was one of the most dominant athletes they'd ever seen.

Of course I'll have to step up and defend Gary Payton, since he was my favorite Sonic for years. First, Rosen says that GP was a shoot-first point guard. Well, duh. From looking at Rosen's list of top point guards in NBA history, he clearly is biased towards points who pass-first. That's fine, but in today's NBA there simply isn't enough talent to deny your best scorers that freedom. If guys like Lenny Wilkins or Walt Frazier played in today's NBA, chances are that they wouldn't have Earl Monroe, Dave DeBusshere, Willis Reed, Bob Pettit, or Cliff Hagan to pass the ball too, and they'd have to score more. Furthermore, when measured against his contemporaries, Payton stacks up well. He doesn't have the gaudy assist numbers that John Stockton or Jason Kidd have, but he scored more, and did so without playing with a Hall-of-Famer like Stockton, or in the extreme uptempo style Kidd ran for a couple of years in New Jersesy. Furthermore, GP was one of the best defensive PGs of all-time, and he's the only point guard to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award. But most insulting about Rosen's paragraph about Payton is that he horribly misrepresents Payton's play in the 1996 NBA Finals. First, the Sonics were going up against the 72-10 Bulls. Payton, because of an injury to Nate McMillan, was forced to guard Jordan 40 minutes a night. Besides, George Karl's style of defense was to trap aggressively, which meant everyone on the team was supposed to gamble for steals, including Payton. The Sonics took the Bulls to 6, which was two games more than most people thought they would last, and Gary was a big part of that.

On the underrated list, there are a couple of guys who I agree with, the afforementioned Barry and Jerry Lucas. But to put Dennis Rodman on that list, especially with the reasons given, just shows that Rosen is nuts. First, he criticizes Barkley and Payton for not being good teammates but glosses over the fact that no one who played with Rodman could stand him. Only in Chicago did he behave at all, and that's because MJ didn't give him any room. Most of the time, Dennis was a travelling sideshow. Which shouldn't matter, but when you knock one guy for being a distraction, you'd better be prepared to do it across the board. Secondly, while Rodman was indeed an intelligent player at times, he also was exceedingly dirty, as witnessed by his shoving Scottie Pippen into a basket support on a breakaway, as well as a number of other undercuts and cheap shots. He also was prone to stupid technical fouls, as well as kicking cameramen. But more than that, he was an exceedingly limited player. While guys like Rosen want to glorify him for being a great rebounder (and he was, no doubt), they ignore the fact that Rodman's utter lack of responsibility on offense left him free to focus on the boards. Many other players could have put up similar numbers, had they not been needed in other ways by their team. Rodman was a good defensive power forward, though his reputation has been puffed up beyond what he warrants, since he rarely played against top power forwards for most of his career, and some of the good ones at him apart (Kevin McHale early in his career, Shawn Kemp in the 1996 Finals). This leads us to a point I've debated many times with my he a Hall-of-Famer. I say no, because one dimentional players rarely belong in the Hall. It's one thing if that sole dimension is scoring (like George Gervin), because I believe that guys who can score at will are far more valuable to their team than guys who rebound a lot. Had Rodman been more of a shot-blocking, lane-clogging presence, or had he been more than just an accidental scorer, his rebounding excellance would have put him in. But, in my humble opinion, he comes up just short. And since most people act like he's already in the Hall of Fame, I don't think he's under-rated at all.


Blogger David Arnott said...

Good points. Since Dennis Rodman was, inexplicably, my favorite player growing up, I feel the need to respond with my own feelings about him. Here's the thing: there was something incredible about how he played both entirely within himself and seemingly beyond his physical limitations. He ran with that weird kicking-his-own-butt gait, he didn't really have hops, and God knows he couldn't hit a jumper from beyond ten feet unless he was left completely alone (like me). I agree that he's no HOFer, and the attitude stuff was awful, but by all rights he should've topped out as a useful player in a lesser NCAA conference. So, while he was exceedingly limited, he also had no logical business being even as good as he was at what he was good at. I guess the sheer improbability of it all drew me in.

7:20 PM  

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