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Q&A: Rasheed wasted much of his talent
Now that Rasheed Wallace has decided to retire, how would you evaluate his legacy? — JJ, LA
He was an extremely talented and versatile post-up scorer, as well as an excellent long-armed defender. But, although he had the skill set to do so, Wallace rarely bothered to exert himself enough to dominate critical stretches of critical games.
It's amazing that he never averaged 20 points with Portland. In fact, beginning with the 2001-02 season, Wallace lost his appetite to bang heads (and chests, and hips, and elbows) in the pivot, and began launching 3-pointers at every opportunity. Yes, he made a decent percent of these (33.7% for his career), but at the cost of routinely getting opposing bigs into foul trouble. Indeed, the only period in which he truly played up to his full potential occurred in 2004 in the 22 regular-season games he played in Detroit along with portions of the championship series with the Lakers.
His short fuse and paranoic insistence that the refs were out to get him likewise diminished his effectiveness. Indeed, he'll be better known for his hundreds of technical fouls than any of his on-court achievements.
It is true, however, that last June, Wallace did play some excellent defense against Pau Gasol in the Finals. That is, until his chronically sore back finally gave out.
In the end, Wallace was a chronic underachiever who cheated his fans, his teammates, his coaches and saddest of all, himself out of the Hall of Fame results that should have been commensurate with his skills.
A while ago, when Andrew Bynum seemed to be making huge progress, you stated that the Bucks would eventually be sorry they drafted Andrew Bogut over Bynum in 2005. Now that both players have developed, who would you rather have? — Radu Nedelcut, Bucharest, Romania
First, let’s compare the two young big men.
If Bynum’s hands are much more adhesive, Bogut’s footwork is superior. They’re both legit 7-foooters, but Bynum has better hops, is quicker, heavier (285 to 260) and stronger. Indeed, many of Bogut’s moves in the low post require him to slightly fade away to prevent his rather flat-footed shots from being swatted. Even so, Bogut has a better left hand and much more sophisticated scoring options down there.
Bynum is more accurate from the free-throw line (68.9 to 60.0 percent), but Bogut is a better jump shooter. In fact, Bynum’s jump-shooting range is limited to about eight feet. Bynum’s field-goal percentage (.567) exceeds Bogut’s (.531) only because the former takes only close-in shots.
Bogut scores more (12.7 to 10.0 per game) primarily because he takes more shots per game (10.2 to 7.1). And although Bogut is one of the better passing centers in the NBA, he has more turnovers (2.0 to 1.3), only because he handles the ball more than Bynum.
Even though Bogut’s rebounding numbers are superior (9.0 to 6.6), both snatch one rebound for every 3.6 minutes of daylight — so this category is a wash.
Despite Bynum’s edge in quickness and athleticism, Bogut is a better shot blocker because he reads defensive situations more accurately. Bynum’s advantages in strength, length and quickness of lateral movement make him a slightly better man-to-man defender, whereas Bogut rotates more precisely.
The biggest problem for both of these guys is staying healthy. Bogut averages only 66.2 games per season; since he became a starter, the number for Bynum is a dismal 54.3.
The comparative value of each player entirely depends on the caliber of his teammates and the game plan of his coach. Suffice it to say, however, that Bogut is as good as he’s ever going to be, while Bynum (if he ever really gets down to work) has infinitely better potential.
On the basis of this elevated upside, I’d take Bynum.
What are the essential elements that a player must possess in order to become a "superstar"? It's not just physical talent, is it? I highly respect Tim Duncan's game, and he'll never be called athletic. — Hank, Sydney, Australia
Talent, of course, is a must, but guys like Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Joe Fulks, Mark Jackson, George Mikan, Chris Mullin, Robert Parish, Willis Reed, Glen Rice, Dolph Schayes, Jack Twyman and Bill Walton were never superior athletes in their halcyon days. Nor, as you suggest, is Tim Duncan.
There are several reasons for these players’ superstar status (all of them are in the Hall of Fame and/or were perpetual All-Stars):
• Maximizing their respective strengths and working hard to maximize their weaknesses. In other words, combining realistic thinking with lots of sweat.
• Possessing the discipline to take the fullest advantage of favorable situations.
• Having the advanced understanding to recognize these situations.
• Mastering the arcane skills that too many super-talented players disregard (footwork, boxing out, setting screens, sharp cuts, pre-emptive defensive positioning, etc.) and never taking short cuts.
• Practicing just about as hard as they play in games.
• Having the courage to take and make clutch shots.
• Having the instincts to anticipate where the ball or the player is headed.
• Being totally grounded in fundamental skills.
• Playing as hard as possible regardless of the score.
• Being resourceful and willing to do whatever it takes to win to the point of totally dominating the action.
• Always expecting to win.
In sum, commitment, heart and understanding are the keys.
If you had the power to change the rules of the game, what would you do? — Evan Afaghi
All of the following:
• Reinstate hand-checking to put more defense in the game.
• Institute the international no-goaltending regulation that puts a ball up for grabs once it hits the rim. This would reduce the mayhem in the lane, make boxing out critical and reward hustle and athleticism.
• Put two refs on high chair (like tennis officials) and make them solely responsible for three-second calls, basket interference, lane violation on free throws and questionable ball-rim-contact when the shot clock goes off.
• Keep the basket where it is but make the court six feet longer and six feet wider. The bodies are much bigger than ever before and have outgrown the traditional dimensions of the court itself.
• Eliminate foul-outs by adding one free throw to the normal penalty whenever a player exceeds the six-foul limit. This would introduce another dramatic and controversial end-game strategy for coaches to consider.
• Require refs to make their calls when a violation occurs and not wait until an easy shot misses before tooting their tooters.
• Follow the NFL in allowing each coach to demand TV reviews of two plays per game. As in the NFL, a review that upholds a call costs the protesting team a timeout.
• Increase the minimum age at which a player can be drafted to 20.
• Reduce the regular season by 10 games and thereby eliminate back-to-back contests.
• Have the referees huddle and vote on all charge-flop calls.
• Give refs lie-detector tests after each game.
Since all of these “Super Friends” have joined forces in Miami, who would you put on an All-NBA “Legion of Doom” team to combat them and make their own NBA championship run? — Cornelius Williams
My 15-man squad would include Kurt Rambis, Wally Osterkorn, Al Attles, Jerry Sloan, Dave Cowens, Xavier McDaniel, Rich Mahorn, Vern Mikkelsen, Jim Loscutoff, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Paul Silas, Bruce Bowen, Ron Artest and absolutely the roughest, toughest guy who ever played in the NBA — the guy who literally gave opponents nightmares before they faced him … Zelmo Beaty.
Institute my no-foul-out rule and these guys might not beat the Heat, but they’d certainly test the Super Friends’ will to win.
If you have a question, comment or column idea for Charley Rosen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future column.