What was Dominique Wilkins’ game like? Was it right for him to be left out of the 50 greatest players of all time? — Todd Uy, Philippines The most impressive part of his game was his spectacular hops. ‘Nique was a two-footed jumper so he didn’t need to get a running start to fly. He could dunk on the run, in rush-hour traffic and against the biggest of bigs because he was also extremely quick off the floor.
Because of his elevation, he could dribble to a spot, then suddenly jump to the sky to release his shots. However, his jumper was kind of flat, which made his long-distance shooting extremely erratic. Given he was somewhat selfish, he was an OK passer, but he was also a turnover machine.
The worst part of his game was his defense, especially when asked to defend screen/roll situations.
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For pure razzle-dazzle entertainment, Wilkins was an all-time top 10 player. Otherwise, there were too many holes in his game for him to be one of the 50 greatest. In the last two minutes of the most recent Spurs-Hornets game, it looked like Manu Ginobili was San Antonio’s coach. He did all of the talking during every timeout and Pop was doing the listening. Ginobili even took Pop’s chair. What’s with that? — Lou, Springfield, Mass.
It’s nothing more than a sign of Pop’s self-confidence and total sense of security. After all, he’s on the bench and the players are on the court, so it’s impossible for him to totally discern what’s really going on out there. Red Holzman occasionally did the same thing, i.e., asking his most veteran players what was what and then heeding their advice.
This is a terrific way to make the players responsible for their own performances while also demonstrating the coach trusts and respects them. Rather than Ginobili’s usurping Pop’s authority, what you saw was an exercise in togetherness. Just imagine a less secure coach — like Vinny Del Negro or John Kuester — or an egomaniac — like Nellie — doing the same thing.
This is just another reason Pop is one of the best coaches ever.
Bob Knight would certainly have team management and personal relation issues coaching an NBA team. But as a basketball mind, where would you rank him among all coaches — pro, college, high school, men and women? — Rick Reyes, Manila, Philippines
The General would quickly alienate his players if he ever coached in the NBA. They’d laugh at his attempts to intimidate them and eventually disregard whatever instructions he gave. Plus, NBA refs wouldn’t stand for the abuse he routinely showered on the college zebras. How Knight would do with women and in the high school ranks is simply beyond the pale of imagination.
As a college coach, however, his teams always played hard, his perpetual-motion offenses were screen-oriented, his defenses were aggressive, and his in-game adjustments were excellent — and his players always overachieved.
Just look at all the Indiana stars who were either ordinary or inept NBA players: Kent Benson, Brian Evans, Alan Henderson, Damon Bailey, Calbert Cheaney, Greg Graham, Jay Edwards, Dean Garrett, Keith Smart, Steve Alford, Uwe Blab, Jim Thomas, Ray Tolbert, Scott May, Bob Wilkerson and Steve Green — with Isiah Thomas being the exception.
In other words, Knight won multiple NCAA championships with guys who lacked transcendent skills proving beyond doubt that, though he may have been a jerk, Knight was a brilliant college coach — certainly among the all-time top 10.
Love reading your work. Recently, TNT analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley debated the inclusion of Paul Pierce as one of the 10 greatest Boston Celtics of all time, with Kenny in favor and Charles opposed. Who are your top 10 Celtics, and does "The Truth" make the list? — Ken Zhou
In alphabetical order: Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Tommy Heinsohn, Sam Jones, Kevin McHale, Paul Pierce, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman — with Pierce narrowly beating out Dennis Johnson.
First off, thanks for the quality work you put out week to week. I’ve been following your column for a while now. Please keep it up. Second, I’ve been wondering what kind of career Shawn Kemp had. I only saw him play live a couple of times, but it was when he was overweight and forgettable with the Orlando Magic. What happened to the dynamic player he started out as with the Sonics? — Jared Groten, Edmonton, Alberta
Thanks. I greatly appreciate your appreciation. In his prime, Shawn Kemp was a monster. At 6-10, 280, he had incredible power, speed and quickness. His pull-up jumpers were deadly, as attested to by his lifetime 49.7-percent shooting. He could post, drive, rebound, block shots — do everything but pass, play solid defense and take care of the ball.
When the Sonics played the Bulls in the 1996 championship series, Chicago had one of the best teams in NBA history. The Bulls were coming off a regular-season record of 72-10, and had breezed into the Finals by winning 11 of their 12 playoff games. They were the NBA’s highest-scoring squad (105.2) and the league’s third-best defensive team (92.9).
During the series, the Bulls had little trouble stifling Gary Payton, but they never found a way to counter Kemp’s phenomenal offensive skills. The Sonics’ money play was a low screen/roll involving Kemp and Payton. And with Kemp receiving the ball only a step or two from the rim, he was literally unstoppable. In fact, Phil Jackson said Kemp was the only player they’d faced all season long they were unable to even partially control.
Unfortunately, Kemp’s prime-time years were limited by his uncontrolled gluttony, womanizing and drinking. Plus, his disposition turned even more sour when he became convinced the Sonics were underpaying him. Even though he had signed a lucrative contract, he threatened to boycott training camp in 1996 — and when he eventually did show up, his competitive spirit was greatly diminished.
Too bad Kemp was distracted by so many off-court situations because he could have been an icon. If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email email@example.com and he may respond in a future column.