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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Oscar Robertson's Website Contains a Wealth of Information

Oscar Robertson's website is packed with information about his Hall of Fame career, the books that he has authored and the Oscar Robertson Trophy, which is awarded by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) to the National College Basketball Player of the Year.

Here is the link to the main page:


One of the many interesting pages within the website is a media page full of links to articles about and interviews with Robertson dating back several years. Recent additions to the list are my two interviews with him, one for HoopsHype.com in July 2005 and the other for ProBasketballNews.com in January 2006.

Here is the link to the media page:

About the Big O

posted by David Friedman @ 3:05 AM


Friday, March 10, 2006

Legends of Basketball Features Austin Carr Article

Legends of Basketball, the official website of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA), agrees that March is the perfect time to look back at Austin Carr's career. Here is a link to Legends' reprint of my HoopsHype article about Carr:

Carr's Records Stand the Test of Time

Even if you already read the article at HoopsHype, this link is worth checking out because it includes several different photos of Carr.

posted by David Friedman @ 4:55 PM


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Austin Carr's NCAA Tournament Records Have Stood the Test of Time

Austin Carr currently serves as an analyst on the Cleveland Cavaliers Television Network, but three decades ago he set numerous NCAA Tournament records that will likely never be broken, including: points in a game (61); scoring average in a single NCAA Tournament (52.7 ppg in 1970; he also has the second best average, 41.7 ppg in 1971); career NCAA Tournament scoring average (41.3 ppg); most 50 point games in NCAA Tournament history (three; no one else has more than one). Carr suffered a knee injury early in his NBA career that changed his game, but he still ranks as the second leading scorer in Cavaliers history. Here is a link to my article about Carr (9/28/15 edit: the link to HoopsHype.com no longer works, so I have posted the original article below):

Even Dick Vitale would run out of superlatives to describe Austin Carr's performances.

The 6-4 Notre Dame guard holds NCAA Tournament records for points in a game (61), most field goals in a game (25) and most field goals attempted in a game (44). He scored 158 points in three NCAA Tournament games in 1970, averaging an all-time single-season best 52.7 ppg. He made 68 of his 118 field goal attempts in those games for a sterling .576 shooting percentage. The next year Carr "slumped" to 41.7 ppg (125 points in three NCAA Tournament games).

No one else has averaged even 36 ppg in a single season in the NCAA Tournament. Carr's 41.3 ppg in seven career NCAA Tournament games shattered Bill Bradley's 33.7 ppg record. He has three of the six 50-plus point games in NCAA Tournament history (the other three are by Bradley, Oscar Robertson and David Robinson) and five of the 12 highest scoring NCAA Tournament games. Carr says that preparation and focus played a big role in his success in the NCAA Tournament.

"Usually what I tried to do--what I was taught to do--was to really diagnose the whole team, not just who I had to guard," Carr recalls. "I think that's what really helped me a lot. At that time in college, they were trying the 'box and one' and 'triangle and two,' so I had to understand the scheme of the defense in order to figure out where I could get the shots from. That helped me going into the pros, too, because--as a lot of the veterans taught me--I learned how to get ready to play the game not just physically but mentally. When tournament time came, my game was just on because I wanted to win a championship so bad. I got in a zone because of the desire to win a championship."

Carr's productivity was not limited to March. He scored 1106 points in 29 games in 1970 (38.1 ppg) and 1101 points in 29 games in 1971 (38.0 ppg), the eighth and ninth most points scored by a Division I player in a season. The AP and UPI voted Carr the 1971 National Player of the Year and he also won the 1971 Naismith Award. Carr ranked second in the NCAA in scoring each of those years. In 1970, Pete Maravich set all-time single-season records with 1381 points and a 44.5 ppg average; in 1971 Johnny Neumann averaged 40.1 ppg (923 points in 23 games). Carr shot .576 from the field and .814 from the free throw line during his college career. His 34.6 ppg career scoring average trails only Maravich.

The former Notre Dame guard explains the physical conditioning and mental discipline required to be such a prolific scorer: "Especially when defenses are set up to stop you, you have to be in great condition and you have to be able to play without the basketball. When I was in high school, my coach always told me that in a 40-minute game, you are only going to have the ball in your hands for five minutes. So you have to learn how to play without the basketball and do things to help your team to win when you don't have the ball. I learned a lot about how to move without the ball and how to put myself in position to take shots. At the same time, when you are the focus of the defense you have to be in great shape. In the game that I set the record, I shot the ball 44 times and I made 25 of them. That was basically my guideline: the coach didn't care how many times I shot the ball as long as I shot 50 percent from the field or better--which means that I had to be in great shape because I took almost 40 percent of our shots."

The Cleveland Cavaliers, fresh off a 15-67 season as an expansion team, drafted Carr with the first overall pick in 1971. Carr averaged 21.2 ppg as a rookie, making the All-Rookie Team despite being limited to 43 games by injuries.

According to Carr, Lenny Wilkens eased his adjustment to the pro game. "Lenny was very instrumental in me becoming a better guard," Carr says. "I was more of a shooting machine when I was in college. I had to learn how to conserve my energy because I had to play a lot of minutes. At the same time, I had to learn how to get the other four guys involved, because I was so used to everything coming to me. Lenny taught me a lot about how to make passes. I had a problem making backdoor passes and Lenny taught me how to do that and when to do it--little things like if I am going to pass the ball but don't quite have the angle, always pass the ball at the guy's head or at his ear, because he has to react to that. That gives you just enough time to get the pass through. I learned those kinds of little things from Lenny that really helped me throughout the rest of my career. Once I started having injuries, I had to start using my mind to stay successful because I lost a step. Once you lose a step in this game, you are in trouble."

Carr agrees that the mentality of a good shooter is similar to that of a football defensive back who may get burned for a touchdown but has to forget that and be ready for the next play. "I would say that you have to have a short memory," Carr explains. "Your mentality has to be to focus on the quality of the shots you take. You can't go in there taking crazy shots. Lenny Wilkens told me, 'As a shooter coming off of the pick, you have to take the shot. You can't hesitate.' Because the rebounders are getting into rebounding position--everybody gets into position because they know what your job is. If you don't understand your job, you are going to have a tough time in this league. Believe me, even the stars have roles to play and they have to play them night in and night out. On teams like the Pistons and the Spurs, everybody understands their role and that's what they do."

Carr scored 20.5 ppg in 1972-73 in 82 games and 21.9 ppg in 1973-74 in 81 games, earning his only selection to the All-Star team. He played 3097 minutes in 1972-73 and 3100 minutes the next year, marks not surpassed by a Cavalier until 1980-81 and which still rank seventh and eighth in franchise history. Carr averaged 27.7 ppg in the first six games of the 1974-75 season and led the team in scoring in 14 of the first 20 games before injuring his knee. Carr returned to action later in the season, but he was not the same player, finishing with a 14.5 ppg average in 41 games. The Cavs were 12-8 before Carr was hurt and finished the season 40-42.

The injury forced Carr to alter his game. "What it really did is make me learn how to take shortcuts," Carr says. "When I had two good legs, I could just jump over people or overpower them and do what I wanted to do. Once I had that knee injury, it changed my gait. Consequently, you run differently. Some nights you have good balance and some nights you don't have good balance. If you are going to be an athlete, you have to have good balance at all times. I had to learn how to shoot on the move because I could never get my complete balance. On nights that I had good balance, I shot the ball well. It was so much of a change because I had to learn how to 'cheat.' In other words, instead of taking two steps to go to the pick, maybe I had to take two steps away from the pick to make sure I got the extra second to get the shot off. I just learned little ways of doing the same job but doing it better."

Austin Carr was a key reserve on the 1975-76 Cavaliers team that won the Central Division title and defeated the defending Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets in the playoffs before losing to the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics. Carr, still recovering from his knee injury, scored 10.1 ppg during the regular season and increased his average to 11.8 ppg in the playoffs.

He says that the difference between a good, solid team and a championship team is mental, not physical: "Your mindset has to be focused on doing whatever it takes to win. The championship teams understand that fact. Consequently they may take a little extra time in practice working on defensive schemes; they may take a little extra time after practice to work out. They don't hang out as long socially. They take care of their bodies. They do everything that they have to do (to win) and they sacrifice. You are not guaranteed that you are going to win every game even if you sacrifice but they do that because they know that is one of the best ways to get to the goal, which is winning the championship. What happens is, as you get up the ladder--first round, second round, third round--the teams that sacrifice the most are usually the teams that win in the end because they have the mindset and the physical presence to get the job done."

The 6-4 guard averaged 16.2 ppg in 1976-77, including a career-high 42 points on April 10 in the season finale against Boston. The Cavs again qualified for the playoffs, but shot only .402 from the field in a 2-1 first round loss to Washington. The arrival of Walt Frazier in 1977-78 cut into Carr's minutes, but Frazier was injured before the playoffs and Carr averaged 17.5 ppg (second on the team to Campy Russell's 27.5 ppg) in a first-round loss to Frazier's old team, the New York Knicks. Carr had his best post-injury season in 1978-79, averaging 17.0 ppg, but the Cavs did not make the playoffs. He played one more season for the Cavs before finishing his career with Dallas and Washington in 1980-81.

Carr is the Cavaliers all-time leader in field goals made and attempted and ranks second to Brad Daugherty in points. Coming into the 2005-06 season, he had the fifth and seventh best single season scoring totals (1775 in '74, 1685 in '73) in franchise history.

He is now the Cavaliers' director of community and business development and has been an analyst on the Cavaliers' TV network.

He also highly values his membership in the National Basketball Retired Players Association: "Guys who have fallen on hard times--we are helping them out. Medically, you can always get something done (with the NBRPA's help) if you have to get it done, not only for yourself but for your family. I am a vested member in the NBRPA and I'll be that way the rest of my life because I just think that's the way it should be. We are a fraternity that should be organized and should be together. Now everybody is in different phases of life. It's just a good feeling to have everybody together because everybody has a different kind of expertise that they can add to the association. That, to me, is what it is really all about."

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:51 PM


Monday, March 06, 2006

LeBron James and the Cavaliers Deliver a Perfect Birthday Present for Coach Brown

Cleveland Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown received the best possible present for his birthday: a 91-72 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron James led the way for the Cavs with 37 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Anderson Varejao contributed a season-high 13 rebounds off the bench and starting power forward Drew Gooden had a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Ben Gordon had a team-high 17 points for the Bulls, but shot only 8-22 from the field.

The game was very much a tale of two halves. In the first half Cleveland looked sluggish, allowing the Bulls to shoot 55.9% from the field en route to a 42-40 halftime lead. James was only 3-9 from the field in the first stanza for 10 points, although he did have a team-high four assists. In the second half the Cavs outscored the Bulls 51-30, holding Chicago to 12-35 shooting from the field. James scored 27 points on 12-19 shooting, including 16 points in the fourth quarter when the Cavs blew the game open. James has received criticism for not finishing games strongly but that was definitely not a problem on Sunday.

The Cavs beat the Bulls in far more dramatic fashion on Thursday, with Flip Murray hitting the game winning three pointer in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. The Cavs squandered a 25 point lead in that game. Coach Brown mentioned in his pre-game standup on Sunday that he had looked at the film of that game with his team and pointed out some breakdowns, so I asked him what specifically went wrong when the Cavs lost the lead. He replied, "Our transition defense was a little suspect during that time. They hit a couple 3s in transition. Also, our pick and roll defense--Kirk Hinrich got hot and knocked down shots. More importantly, they were getting stops. They weren't getting stops early in the ball game. They were getting stops during that period and that fueled the crowd and fueled them. The momentum really helped them on that end of the floor offensively." I followed up by asking if the Bulls were getting more stops because of something that they were doing or if Cleveland's offensive execution was to blame. Brown answered, "Our offensive execution hasn't been great all year. I'll take the blame for that. But it's something that we need to continue to work on."

An additional problem for the Cavs in Thursday's game was that Flip Murray had just joined the team and did not yet know all of the offensive sets. Although Murray hit the game winner on Thursday and only had three points on Sunday, after Sunday's game Brown credited Murray's increasing comfort with the offense as a factor in the Cavs being more efficient as a unit at that end of the court.

Notes From Courtside:

ESPN commentator Tim Legler appeared on Outside the Lines on Sunday morning to discuss the topic of the vanishing White American player in the NBA. I spoke with Legler about this subject before the Cavs-Bulls game and he made some additional points that he did not get a chance to mention during the OTL broadcast. Legler said that it is difficult for White players to break out of the preconceived roles that are assigned to them--usually being a spot-up shooter. During his college career and when he led the CBA in scoring, Legler posted up, drove to the basket and employed a variety of shots but when he played in the NBA he did not get a chance to showcase those elements of his game. Legler also mentioned a double standard that exists at the defensive end of the court--if a White player stops a superstar scorer on several possessions but gets burned once, all that is remembered is the time that he got beat. Legler said that if a White player had been burned the way Allen Iverson crossed up Washington's Antonio Daniels the other day that he would never live it down. Legler concluded that White American players are told from a young age that they cannot compete with Black athletes but that White players from Europe and South America do not buy into such thinking; Legler said that this is a big change, because when he played in France in the early 1990s most European players at that time would have never dreamed that they would be good enough to play in the NBA. The success of Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol and others has changed that.


Before the game, I asked Chicago Bulls' radio analyst Bill Wennington, who played on three Bulls' championship teams, for his take on the recent Rasheed Wallace flagrant foul against Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the aftermath (or lack thereof). Wennington said that he had not seen the play in question, but that there are a variety of ways to respond to that kind of situation. He said that when he played he would never do something that would result in getting thrown out of a game but that there are ways to deliver an elbow or a hard foul to clearly send the message to the opponent that he is not going to get away with cheap shots. I asked Wennington how the championship Bulls would have responded to a similar situation and he replied, "A good team will stand up for all the players and help each other out. Obviously, the rules have changed now as far as retaliation and coming onto the floor or being the third guy involved in an argument or a fight or a skirmish on the floor, but players should back each other up. Not just that, but if a guard gets two or three layups in a row, someone has to step up and knock him down. That's what really happens with teams when they are ready to take that next step." I asked Wennington if the Cavs display that kind of intensity and he said, "They do it at times. LeBron is a great leader and a great scorer but I think that overall everyone is going to have to step up. I know from watching Michael--and watching Scottie that one year--he can't do it by himself. The rest of the team has to do their job. Your leader can lead and be the guy and do all the right things all the time but he is going to need help."

Wennington's quote about "that one year" of course refers to the surprising 1993-94 Chicago Bulls team that won 55 games without Michael Jordan. Wennington said that he means no disrespect to Jordan but that he has said on more than one occasion that Scottie Pippen was his favorite teammate of all-time, calling him a "stand-up" guy who was a great player and a great leader.

posted by David Friedman @ 7:07 AM