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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview with Ted Green, Producer of "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story"

Ted Green's documentary "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story" chronicles the story of one of the most underrated players in pro basketball history. Roger Brown set the ABA single game playoff scoring record (53 points, later matched by Hall of Famer Julius Erving), he outscored Hall of Famer Rick Barry 32-23 in the decisive sixth game of the 1972 ABA Finals and he won the 1970 ABA Playoff MVP after averaging 28.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg and 5.6 apg in the postseason as the Indiana Pacers won the first of their three championships in a four season stretch. Brown was a key member of all three of those championship teams even though he lost the prime years of his professional career after being wrongly banned by the NBA for his alleged association with the notorious game fixer Jack Molinas; the NBA later officially acknowledged that it had no evidence against Brown but Brown stayed in the ABA out of loyalty to a league and a team that gave him the opportunity to play professional basketball. Brown's loyalty has undoubtedly played a major role in keeping him out of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Like Brown, Connie Hawkins was wrongly banned by the NBA for his alleged association with Molinas but Hawkins jumped to the NBA in 1970 after a lawsuit forced the NBA to lift its ban. Hawkins had four All-Star seasons in the NBA during the same period that Brown won those ABA titles (Brown made the ABA All-Star team four times) and Hawkins was eventually inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame. If ABA numbers are counted--and they certainly should be--then Brown and Hawkins have very similar statistics: Brown averaged 17.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 3.8 apg in 605 regular season games, while Hawkins averaged 18.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 4.1 apg in 616 regular season games. Both players lost several prime years because of the NBA's ban. Players who competed with or against Brown have long said that Brown deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. 

Green's previous film credits include "Naptown to Super City," "Hoosier Veterans: Faces of War" and "John Wooden: The Indiana Story". Here is a review of "Naptown to Super City": "Naptown to Super City"-- Required Viewing for Any City Using Sports for Economic Development.

This is the "More Voices" trailer from "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story":

Here is the transcript of my recent interview with Ted Green, edited for length and clarity:

Friedman: "Describe your background as a film producer and how you got into this field. What are some of the other movies and documentaries that you have produced?"

Ted Green: "It's interesting. This has been a real midlife change for me. I worked as a sports journalist for 20 years, starting with small newspapers. Then I went to the Cincinnati Enquirer. I was there for a while and then I went to the Miami Herald, where I became the deputy sports editor. Then my wife and I moved to Indianapolis. When we had our twin girls I took the first three years off--well, not off, but to watch the kids while my wife worked at the Indianapolis Star--and I wrote a novel, which is currently sitting in my underwear drawer and I am trying to find the nerve to rewrite it. I worked for the Star for six years in their sports department and what got me into filmmaking was when John Wooden--who is of course an Indiana icon--was approaching his 100th birthday. We felt like we had to do something special. A lot of people don't realize how many years he spent in Indiana. I started out to do just a quick little six minute video. As I did my research I realized that his Indiana story had never really been told before. People thought that his story started at UCLA. So, to make a short story long, that six minute video turned into a 35 minute video. I just walked it down the street to the local PBS affiliate because somebody said that they might be interested in it and, sure enough, they were. It has been on American public television, which is comprised of PBS affiliates, for the past three years. It airs in 80% of U.S. markets and it is called 'John Wooden: The Indiana Story.' It won an Emmy for research, an award from the Society of Professional Journalists and several other nice awards. That project turned me on to something that I really enjoy doing, the idea of telling stories in a more dynamic medium. After that I did another film, also involved with the Indianapolis Star, called 'Hoosier Veterans: Faces of War.' It had nothing to do with sports at all. It was about military veterans from all of the different wars, going back as far as Pearl Harbor and Normandy up through Korea, Vietnam and all the way to Afghanistan and Iraq. We looked at the commonalities and the differences in those war experiences. After that, my wife and I decided as our kids were getting older that I was so into filmmaking that I wanted to change careers and pursue this as a full-time gig. Fortunately, we were able to make that leap. The first piece that I did was just a small segment for WFYI, which is the PBS affiliate here in Indianapolis. It was for a movie called 'Indy in the 60s' and since I was a sports guy they gave me the story of the Indiana Pacers, which started in 1967. I got to talk to George McGinnis and I knew about Mel Daniels and certainly Slick Leonard but there was one guy whose jersey was up in the rafters at what was then, I believe, Conseco Fieldhouse, that I didn't know and that was Roger Brown. I hardly knew anything about him. When I talked to Mel Daniels and Slick Leonard they kept going on and on about this guy. I thought, 'How can this be that I don't know about Roger Brown?'

I decided to get to know his ex-wife, Jeannie. They were married for a while and then they split up and then they sort of stayed together on and off for a long time. In fact, Roger passed away in their house. She took care of him when he had cancer. It took a while to get her to trust me but then she told me Roger's story. She opened up his past to me and she had all of these old boxes of articles. She talked about his Pacers days and the gambling scandal and everything and I was just stupefied that this story had never been completely told before. As a storyteller--and I'm sure that you can appreciate this--when you find a great story that affects you so much and hasn't been told before you want to do it. Ever since that day I became obsessed with telling this story. In the meantime, I did another project called 'Naptown to Super City' which told the story of how Indianapolis very consciously remade itself around sports. It really all started with the Pacers, because the Pacers were a very successful ABA franchise. Then Mayor Lugar, who became a long-time Senator, decided to build a new stadium right downtown and that became Market Square Arena. That led to many other things and we ended up with a whole new city. That was the most recent documentary that I completed. It came out in February and has been well received but all the while I was working on that I was also working on the Roger Brown story. I spent a lot of time in Brooklyn. I spent a lot of time in Dayton, where Roger lived for six years. I talked to a lot of people in Indianapolis. After the Super Bowl documentary wrapped up, I have been working full time on Roger Brown and my hope is to have it finished this year."

Friedman: "When do you expect that the Roger Brown documentary will be released and will it be a television movie or a theatrical release?"

Green: "Those are questions that are dogging me every day. The movie is being produced by WFYI, Indianapolis' PBS affiliate which produced my earlier films, and will definitely air on that channel. We have spoken with Lloyd Wright, who is the president of WFYI and is close friends with the presidents of several PBS affiliates around the country. The New York PBS affiliate recently let us use their studios to do an interview with Bob Costas. A lot of people are helping out and a lot of PBS affiliates are very interested in airing this piece. Also, we are in talks with people about having it released a la 'Hoop Dreams' as an independent release in a few major theaters around the country. We are just really early in that process. We have been talking with some of the bigger cable networks. Everyone says that this has to be an ESPN piece. That is very easy to say but I talked with ESPN very early in the process and at that point they didn't really know who Roger Brown was--which is completely understandable; that is why I am doing the piece--and they certainly did not know who Ted Green was, so those talks did not go very far. Since then, the story had gotten so much better and I would put this cast up against the cast of any documentary, when you look at some of the names who are involved. Also, the timing is excellent now because--although nothing is certain--Roger Brown has a very good chance of being the next ABA guy selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame. When I interviewed Bob Costas he said that he thought that Roger would be the next guy in. There is no certainty and there are other very worthy candidates; certainly right here in town we have two worthy candidates in Slick Leonard and George McGinnis. I, like many other people, believe that they should already be in the Hall of Fame. So, if Roger does get in the Hall of Fame in February, a lot of people are going to want to know who Roger Brown was and this documentary explains who he was and why you haven't heard of him before. This is one of the great sports stories that hasn't been told. I am very determined to have this released by February but, that said, we are still fundraising for the finishing funds. I am very, very grateful to the Indiana Pacers and to Bankers Life Casualty (whose name is on Bankers Life Fieldhouse), who are co-title sponsors and have kicked in a very nice amount to get this project off of the ground--but we still fundraising to finish it right and make it as good as it can be to tell this story right and also to get it released by February when Roger will hopefully make it to the Hall of Fame."

Friedman: "What did you find out in the course of your research about Roger Brown that most surprised you?"

Green: "That's a good question. A lot of things surprised me but I guess the main thing is how the whole scandal went down, pre-Miranda rights, how the D.A.s could keep the 18 and 19 year old boys--or young men, however you want to look at it--essentially locked up without offering them phone calls or lawyers, not charge them and keep them for days on end as they grilled them again and again in their attempts to nail the gamblers. It's draconian and it's impossible to imagine something like that happening today, to find out that this is what ruined the careers--for a long time--of two of the great players (Connie Hawkins and Roger Brown) in basketball history, plus also the careers of other good players like Doug Moe and Tony Jackson who were also unfairly caught up in that. It just should not have gone down that way. That is one of the things that surprised me the most, the logistics of how this happened. The other thing that surprised me the most was just how good of a player he was. I mentioned earlier that the documentary has an incredible cast. I've been very fortunate to be in contact with Zelda Spoelstra in the NBA Alumni office--and I want to thank Herb Turetzky for putting me in contact with her. She's in love with the story, she's always been a fan of Roger Brown and she helped me arrange interviews with big name players. Julius Erving told me that when he came into pro basketball Roger Brown was the best player he'd ever seen, describing Brown as a hybrid between himself and Earl Monroe. I asked him if he was serious about that and he said absolutely. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's eyes lit up when he described being a 13 year old watching Roger Brown and Connie Hawkins in an All-Star game for the first time and thinking that he never thought human beings could do some of those things. I talked to Oscar Robertson about Roger Brown's Dayton years. Roger and the Dayton guys would play pickup games against Oscar and some Cincinnati guys. They called it the I-75 series. Cincinnati had just won back to back NCAA championships with Tom Thacker and others. Oscar, who graduated earlier, played in those games as well. They played these games in a high school gym with no fans, no writers. Oscar and Roger did not play the same position but Thacker said that sometimes in the course of a game Oscar and Roger would hook up one on one and it was a wash. Again and again I found myself challenging these guys, saying how could he be this good and yet people don't know about him. Yet again and again that is what I would hear. Those are some of the things that surprised me."

Friedman: "How much footage of Roger Brown were you able to acquire and put in the documentary?"

Green: "I have been very dogged and determined about that. I have come up with quite a bit of excellent ABA footage from collectors and from local affiliates. Jeannie Brown had in her basement an old reel of film. She didn't know what it was. We got it digitized and it was some excellent footage. I actually do have a lot of footage and that is one of the things that I am looking forward to and I am not showing my full hand on this right now with what you see in the previews. As you understand, ABA footage can be very difficult to come by. I have been very fortunate to get some nice footage to show people just how incredible of a player Roger was."

Friedman: "You have touched on this in general but I want ask you this specifically: Why is Roger Brown's story so important to you?"

Green: "It's become a cause for me and I think that is because for so many of the people I talked to it is a cause for them: his family, his friends, his former teammates like Mel Daniels, George McGinnis, Bob Netolicky and Darnell Hillman, his coach Slick Leonard and on and on and on--his proxy family in Dayton, an incredible woman named Arlena Smith and her husband Azariah; Roger lived with them for two years in their very modest house. When Roger was kicked out of the University of Dayton in 1961 (after being falsely accused in the Jack Molinas scandal), the first thing that he did was go back to Brooklyn. He didn't feel comfortable there, so he went back to Dayton. He had no money and he had nowhere to live, so that is when the Smiths took him in. Azariah Smith coached the AAU team at the local GM plant.

A lot of Roger's friends in Dayton are still around. These are people when I call and say that I am doing a film about Roger Brown the phone will be silent for 10 seconds and then they will say 'I've been waiting 25 years for this phone call.' That is the kind of loyalty that Roger inspired and that is the nature of this cause, as hokey as it might sound. This has long been a cause for these folks, to right the legacy of this man. Will I be able to do that with this piece? I don't know. That is certainly the challenge. Honestly, it's become a piece from the heart for me. It's certainly not about money, because I'm going to be losing, but we're making this from the heart. It's important to the Indianapolis community, it's important to the Dayton community, it's important to the Brooklyn community and I think that it's important to a lot of people in the basketball community. It's just a story that needs to be told. This is a guy whose legacy was wronged but he fought through it. He really managed to make a success out of himself and a lot of people want to see his story finally told. Roger Brown's story touched people. His teammates tear up when talking about him and I think that's a good thing. That is what makes this film really special. This is not a dry eye piece."

This photo is from the recent "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story" fundraiser at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Pictured left to right are Darnell Hillman, Slick Leonard, George McGinnis, Tom Thacker, Freddie Lewis, Bob Netolicky, Jeannie Brown (Roger's widow), Mel Daniels and Jerry Harkness.

Green is still actively raising funds for "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story" and you can make your tax deductible contribution to this 501c3 project by visiting the WFYI page. Be sure to specify that your WFYI donation should be earmarked for "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story."

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:46 PM


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Friday, October 05, 2012

Herb Turetzky: The Original Net

Herb Turetzky was a Net before the Nets even were the Nets; the New Jersey Americans--one of the original ABA franchises--hired Turetzky to be their official scorekeeper in the league's inaugural season (1967-68) and Turetzky has been with the team ever since. The New Jersey Americans became the New York Nets in their second season and they were one of four ABA teams that participated in the ABA-NBA merger prior to the 1976-77 season. The Nets moved back to New Jersey in 1977 and were known as the New Jersey Nets from 1977-2012 but they will enter a new era in 2012-13 as the Brooklyn Nets. The team's journey back to New York takes Turetzky full circle; born and raised in Brooklyn, Turetzky played on several traveling teams as a youngster, including squads that won championships in the Daily Mirror-Department of Parks league (1960) and the Police Athletic League (1961).

In addition to being the Nets' official scorekeeper, Turetzky has coached touring basketball teams in Belgium, France, Greece and Israel and he worked for 12 years as a teacher/administrator in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville neighbor­hood of Brooklyn. Turetzky's 2010 book Basketball and Life--a collection of his poetry--can be ordered here.

When the Nets retired Julius Erving's number 32 in 1987, Erving's acceptance speech included the statement that people should "know about the history of the franchise, about people like Herb Turetzky." Turetzky later said, "Mentioning me on his night is an irreplaceable memory that I will remember for the rest of my life."

Turetzky has been honored by four Halls of Fame: the National Pro-Am City League Hall of Fame, the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Brooklyn U.S.A. Basketball Hall of Fame. Erving traveled from Florida at his own expense to present Turetzky into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. "It made me feel like the king of the world," Turetkzy told me. "That's Julius Erving and his concern for other people."

I recently interviewed Turetzky; our wide-ranging conversation went into some unexpected--but fascinating--directions as he reminisced about a rich basketball life that includes not only scorekeeping but also playing and coaching. The interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Friedman: "Before the 1974 season, the Nets acquired Julius Erving from the Virginia Squires. That 1974 New York team is really remarkable because despite being the youngest team in professional basketball the Nets had a very dominant playoff run. They went 12-2, which matched a record set by the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks. That record stood until Dr. J's 1983 Philadelphia 76ers went 12-1 in the playoffs. What stands out for you about that 1974 championship season and some of the players on that New York team, including 'Super' John Williamson and Larry Kenon?"

Turetzky: "'Supe' and Larry were both rookies. 'Supe' was a very dear friend of mine and of Doc's. He was very, very brash, probably the cockiest player I have come across. His nickname of 'Super John' was self-imposed! He gave it to himself. The player I compare him to is Levern Tart, who passed away a few years ago and also wore number 23. Levern was from Bradley, about 6-2, 220. He was a bull. He could have played football. When he went to the basket, he went through you. 'Super John' was that type of player; John went through anybody who was in his way. He just wouldn't let anybody stop him from scoring.

Brian Taylor could really handle the ball. Larry was laid back. He was content to be the second or third fiddle. I don't think that they called him 'Mr. K' in his rookie year; that took a little while. Billy Paultz was very solid. He was big and burly. Julius, obviously, was special. His skills were a combination of Connie Hawkins and Elgin Baylor and he just took over the games. I was thinking about this earlier today; LeBron James is a monster—about 6-8, 260 or so—while Doc is about 6-6, 6-7 and much lighter but he did the same things that LeBron does: he could get the defensive rebound—not by moving people out of the way but by jumping over them—and then just take it the length of the floor for a layup. He was a one man fast break. Kevin (Loughery) was the player's coach. He was a former player, they listened to him and he led them to the ring."

Friedman: "The 1976 New York team that won the championship was significantly different; it was much less talented and deep than the 1974 team because the Nets got rid of Paultz and Kenon. Doc had one of the greatest playoff runs ever, capped off with that phenomenal Finals against Denver when he led both teams in every major statistical category. What do you remember about the 1976 team and specifically about that 1976 Finals against a Denver team that included two Hall of Fame players (Dan Issel, David Thompson) and a Hall of Fame coach (Larry Brown)?"

Turetzky: "It was a great series. Doc was very special. The team was much different. Dave DeBusschere (New York's General Manager) did not like Billy Paultz because Billy was not athletic but he couldn't touch him because we were a championship team. When we lost to St. Louis in the 1975 playoffs, that gave Dave the opportunity to do something without being criticized. He got rid of Billy and Larry. Billy had a great career after that with San Antonio. Dave brought in Rich Jones to play the power forward spot. Rich did a good job. Kim Hughes and Jim Eakins played center. This was more Doc being a one man team, except for the final game against Denver when--as great as Doc was--'Supe' had 24 points in the second half and 16 points in the fourth quarter. We didn't know if that was the ABA's last game; it was something that had been talked about but it wasn't a sure thing. My biggest memory about that game is that afterward in the locker room Brian Taylor and Willie Sojourner threw me into the shower. I was wearing a sports jacket, standing in the shower getting soaking wet, and I looked around and there was Doc in his uniform in front of me, just resting, staying away from the media for a little while. For about three or four minutes Julius just stayed there, talking about what a great experience it was to be a champion again."

Friedman: "Artis Gilmore and Mel Daniels have finally been inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame. What are your memories of Roger Brown, another great ABA player who should be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame?"

Turetzky: "There is a documentary that will come out in the next six months or so. It's being made by Ted Green in Indianapolis. Like Roger, I'm a Brooklyn guy. I was a mediocre ball player. In high school at Thomas Jefferson I played with Harvey Jackson, who is a good friend of mine to this day. Harvey's older brother Tony was an All-American at St. John's. Tony is the best pure long distance jump shooter I've ever seen. Then came the scandal of 1961, which was not really a scandal, but Roger, Tony, Connie Hawkins and Doug Moe got blackballed by the NBA because of their relationship with Jack Molinas, a former Columbia player who was a big-time gambler. Since they were not able to play in the NBA, they bounced around. Connie went to the Harlem Globetrotters, Roger played for an AAU team in Dayton, Ohio and Tony went to Chicago to play for the Majors in the ABL and then he bounced around to the Eastern League and different places. There was an AAU team called the ABC Freighters, owned by Arthur Brown and coached by Max Zaslofsky, who was also from Brooklyn and played at St. John's. Zaslofsky led the NBA in scoring (in 1947-48). Brown owned the New Jersey Americans during the ABA's first season and Zaslofsky was his General Manager and Coach. Zaslofsky's first draft pick was Tony Jackson. I went to the first ABA game to watch Tony play against Pittsburgh and Connie Hawkins. Max saw me and asked if I would like to help out with the scorekeeping. I became the Americans' official scorekeeper, which I have been doing since that day. Roger, who I followed since his days at Wingate High School, was unbelievable. He outscored Connie Hawkins in a high school game 38-18. When I finally saw Roger in the ABA, he was the same player. He had so many moves. He had a magnificent jump shot. When Tony Jackson took a jump shot, he jumped three feet in the air. Roger was maybe six to eight to 10 inches off the ground when he shot but it was as pure as can be. He was called the man with a thousand moves. There was nothing he couldn't do with the ball offensively. When the Nets lost to Roger's Indiana team in the 1972 ABA Finals, Roger just killed Rick Barry, who had been the NBA's leading scorer and an All-Star in both leagues; Roger just killed him. I am very hopeful that next year—I know that George McGinnis' name is already on the Hall of Fame ballot and it will be difficult to get two ABA players selected in the same year—Roger will go in or if not then the year after that."

When Turetzky mentioned Tony Jackson's brother I did not catch his first name and after I asked Turetzky to repeat it he did so, adding that there were four Jackson brothers and that Harvey played for the Seattle University team that handed the 1966 Texas Western team their only loss; Texas Western went 28-1 (including five NCAA tournament games) and became the first Division I team with five black starters to win a national championship.

I asked Turetzky about the Nets' first round victory over Erving's 76ers in the first round of the 1984 playoffs but it turns out that New Jersey's two home games in that series are the last two games that Turetzky missed, so he has no firsthand recollections of New Jersey's upset of the defending NBA champions. However, without any prompting, Turetzky shared some stories that illustrate what kind of character Julius Erving has.

Turetzky: "Greg Cluess, a 6-8 forward, played at St. John's from 1970-72. He was drafted by the Knicks and the Nets. He didn't make either team...Greg passed away from cancer in 1976. That season, Billy Schaeffer (Greg's teammate at St. John’s who later played three seasons in the ABA) asked what we could do to help Greg's family. We decided to put together an All-Star benefit game at St. John's that summer. The first person I went to was Julius. I said, 'Doc, I want to do this benefit for Greg's family but I can't have an All-Star game without you.' And he let me know he wanted to do this and when he would be available. Thanks to him, we had Tiny Archibald, 'Super' John, Kim Hughes came in from California, Ron Behagen and a bunch of other players...In the St. John's alumni game, Tony Jackson played, Alan Seiden played; Coach Carnesecca coached one team and his assistant coached the other team. In the NBA/ABA game, Kevin Loughery coached one team and Herb Brown, who was the Pistons' coach at the time, coached the other team. Dick Bavetta was one of the referees. We raised over $5000 for Greg's family. That was an example of Doc being Doc; someone was in need and he wanted to help.

'Super' John was a great friend of mine and of Doc's but he came from a different background--single parent home in the projects--and John got very sick. He did not always take good care of his body. He developed a lot of problems with his kidneys and he didn't have the money any more to take care of it. The IRS had taken away two houses he owned when he was playing for the Nets; his agents did not do a good job for him. We had two benefits for 'Supe.' One of them was at St. Anthony's High School in Suffolk County. Doc came into town to meet and greet people and encourage them to donate some money to help 'Super' John out. It was great. There was another benefit at New Haven. Doc signed autographs and I have one of them in my basement on a picture of John Williamson blocking Julius' shot. He said that it was the only time he had ever signed a picture of himself getting his shot blocked. John Williamson gave that picture to me. Again, that is just the kind of guy that Julius is. He is always there to help people out, especially his friends. He would never forget someone. The last season of his career, they were honoring him around the league. I owned a trophy shop at the time and Fritz Massman, the Nets' trainer, asked if I would custom frame one of Julius' jerseys so that it could be presented to him when his number was retired. Massman gave me two jerseys so that I could frame one for myself and I have it in my basement now. When they gave the framed jersey to Julius, he held it over his head and spoke to the crowd of more than 20,000 fans. My wife and kids were there and my in-laws were there. In the middle of his speech, he told the fans of New Jersey that they need to know about the history of this franchise, about the New York Nets and people like Fritz Massman and people like Herb Turetzky. When I heard him say that, my legs crumbled underneath me. It was incredible; on a night when he was being honored he took the time to mention me and Fritz. It was unbelievable. In 2008, I did my 1000th game with the Nets. They had a very nice ceremony honoring me. Doc couldn't make the trip but they had a six minute videotape that he made congratulating me and telling people what kind of guy he thought I was."

Turetzky has worked 1177 consecutive Nets' games since missing their home games in the 1984 playoff series versus Philadelphia. The reason that he missed those two games is very interesting; Turetzky was running the New York-New Jersey Pro-Am Leagues at that time and he took a team over to France to play in a tournament. Team members included Al Skinner (a member of the Nets' 1976 championship team who later became the head coach at Rhode Island and Boston College) and Craig Robinson (the current Oregon State head coach who is also President Obama's brother-in- law). 

Drazen Petrovic was the first great foreign player in the NBA who did not play college ball in the United States. Petrovic was a bench player for Portland before becoming a star in New Jersey. The 28 year old Petrovic died in a car accident in the summer of 1993 after making the All-NBA Third Team. I asked Turetzky about his memories of Petrovic's time with the Nets.

Turetzky: "You're killing me. I loved Drazen. Let me tell you one thing about the championship game that we played in Europe against a team from France. They had a 6-5 jump shooter named Herve Dubuisson. He was just killing us in the first half. He was shooting jump shots from 25, 28, 32 feet. It was either Al Skinner or Craig Robinson playing defense on him. In the second half, I said 'Hit him and let him know that he's playing in a ball game here!' And they did and we won the game. After the game, Herve Dubuisson became a friend of mine. I went to the Nets' General Manager at the time, Lewis Schaffel, and I recommended that they consider bringing him over. Herve Dubuisson was a great kid. He played for France in the Olympics in L.A. in 1984 but then he got very sick. He just didn't have the energy to keep going. He didn't make our team. He also just missed making the L.A. Clippers. If he had been healthy he would have been the first non-American to play in the NBA. He was 6-5 and he had crazy range.

Drazen did not do much in Portland, he just kind of blended in. My son David was a ballboy for the Nets at the time. He was a junior in high school. He would work with Drazen before the games. They both wore the same size shoe, size 12. Drazen would give David his shoes. I still have about six pairs of them in David's old room. One time Drazen scored 44 points against Houston and I asked him to sign his shoes. He asked why and I said that 44 points is a lot. He said, 'No, it's not. I scored more than 100 points in a game.' Drazen was a great person and an incredible player. If he had not been in that accident there is no question he could have been an all-time great NBA player."

Here are some Dubuisson highlights:

This is footage of a 1985 scoring duel between Herve Dubuisson and Drazen Petrovic:

Hervé Dubuisson vs Drazen Petrovic by basketnews
Here are some highlights from Petrovic's 44 point game against Houston:

Friedman: "The highlight for the Nets in the NBA so far has to be the period of time that included the back to back trips to the NBA Finals with that squad led by Jason Kidd. What do you remember about that era? Also, I am interested in your thoughts about Kidd compared with Stephon Marbury. It seems like every team Kidd joins becomes better and every team he leaves becomes worse, while the opposite seems to be true of Marbury."

Turetzky: "The teams that made it to the Finals with Jason Kidd were tremendous. He should have been the MVP in 2002. The award went to Tim Duncan. J. Kidd got (robbed) in that voting, I believe. Kidd turned the entire franchise around. We had a very good team--Kerry Kittles, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin--but J. Kidd made the difference. All of a sudden, these guys ran like deer because they knew that he would get them the ball for layups. It was unbelievable. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Jason Kidd is the most valuable Net since Julius Erving. Julius Erving is the greatest Net of all time and J. Kidd is number two. J. Kidd is a great player who makes other players better. He changed his game and developed a jump shot toward the end of his time in New Jersey. He used to be known as 'Ason' because he did not have a 'J.' That changed.

I first saw Stephon play when he was in the eighth grade. He was a great player in high school. I think that his downfall started with the Nets. When he first came to the Nets, Stephon Marbury could pass the ball as well as most guards. Then Keith Van Horn changed Stephon Marbury. Stephon would pass the ball to Keith and it would either bounce off of Keith's hands or he'd miss a shot or get his shot blocked. After watching this and seeing his passes go no place, Stephon decided to take it upon himself to do more of the shooting. He became more self-centered."

Friedman: "What is the hardest part of your job as a scorekeeper?"

Turetzky: "I don't think that there is a hard part of the job. When I was growing up in Brooklyn I used to play punchball but after I learned how to play basketball I never played punchball again. At the Boys and Girls Club they didn't just teach us how to play basketball; I also learned how to run the clock and how to keep score and how to collect the tickets. It's really very basic. To me, the key thing is I know the game and I love the game. I played it, I love it, it's part of my life. It's instinctive. You can see things develop 40 or 50 feet down the court because you can anticipate what's going to happen. It's not difficult if you know the game. You have to be unbiased. You work with the officials on the court to make sure that the game flows, that subs come into the game when they are supposed to come into the game; I can't allow something to happen that affects the flow of the game: if a sub is at the bench and not at the scorer's table I can't sound the horn to let him in because that affects the flow of the game and could take a fast break opportunity away from a team. Those are the kinds of things that I have to be on top of."

Friedman: "Do you think that--either in terms of the official rules or just the way that the rules are handled from a practical standpoint--the standard for what an assist is changed from 1968 until now?"

Turetzky: "Absolutely. Absolutely."

Friedman: "How has it changed?"

Turetzky: "An assist is supposed to be a pass that leads directly to a basket. If a player catches the ball at the foul line, takes two dribbles, spins and makes a layup then there should not be an assist on that play."

Friedman: "It seems like assists are given on those kinds of plays now."

Turetzky: "There is an awful lot of flexibility now. As the numbers have gotten bigger, I think that they want assists to be given out and so you see players getting 10, 11, 12 assists in a game."

Friedman: "Do you feel pressured either directly or indirectly to give assists to Nets players or do you get pressure from other teams that have top playmakers who they want to receive credit for a lot of assists?"

Turetzky: "See, I don't do that; I oversee the scorekeeping for the game. They have a stat crew who sit behind me, four of them now with their computers. They have discussions and I hear the discussions sometimes and sometimes it is a little troubling. It is almost amusing at times. Many years back, I just had two people working with me at the table and we would just do it between us, before the computer systems came in. I did the scoring on every play and the stats would go from my mouth to a typist who put it down on paper and that was it. The NBA then went to the computer system and it switched out of my hands and into the hands of the computer people. That is how it is all around the league...To me, that's been the problem."

Friedman: "When did that change happen?"

Tutetzky: "Probably about 10 years ago. I don't remember specifically."

Friedman: "Prior to that, you had more input—"

Turetzky: "I did the play by play along with a play by play typist—and I had some great ones, including Jonathan Supranowitz, who is now the Vice President of Public Relations for the Knicks."

Friedman: "I did a study of regarding assists. I watched some games and charted how many assists should be awarded by rule--which, as you said, is a pass leading directly to a basket. What I noticed is that a lot of times someone would get credit for an assist even if the recipient of the pass went through the whole Kevin McHale low post repertoire before making his shot. You think that the change has taken place in the past 10 years or so."

Turetzky: "Yes. I think that some of this is that executives started keeping track of the statistics and the records. You didn't see Bob Cousy setting these kinds of assist records. It's not quite the same."

Friedman: "What is your favorite memory or your favorite moment from your time with the Nets?"

Turetzky: "Being in the shower with Doc after the 1976 championship. No question about it. That's a once in a lifetime experience. After Michael Jordan came into the NBA, it probably took me six years or more to accept that he may have surpassed Doc. I thought that Doc was the greatest player of all time. I eventually became resigned to the fact that Jordan took it to a little bit of a different level. But I was in the shower with, to me, the greatest basketball player of all time. What could be better than that?"

Friedman: "Yeah. I know from talking to some of the ABA players and coaches that there was camaraderie not just among teammates but among everyone in the league, even opposing players and rivals. There was a camaraderie that was not quite matched after the merger."

Turetzky: "The guys in the ABA were all in the same boat. They were struggling for recognition against a league that looked at us like we were second class people--even after the merger: they considered us a circus act with the red, white and blue ball and the three point shot. I used to drive through the city and see that ball at every playground. It was the greatest teaching tool that coaches had because you could see the rotation on the shot. It was marvelous. But the NBA was very, very established and very strong and our guys realized that they were second class citizens compared to the NBA, that they were all in the same boat. They weren't established but they had a fraternity. After games, we would all go to the same restaurants with some of the ballplayers and it wouldn't matter who picked up the check. You can't have that today when ballplayers are making $15 million and you are making $70,000. We travel in different circles. In those years, there was a club up in Hempstead that had a buffet after every game for the players and the staff and the fans. The night after we beat Denver in six games for the 1976 championship, I was at the bar next to (Nets' owner) Roy Boe. He pulled three tickets for game seven out of his pocket and said, 'I guess I won't need these.' I put them in my pocket and the next year I had Julius sign one, I had David Thompson sign one and I had Kevin Loughery and Larry Brown sign the same ticket together. Those tickets are in my basement now. I have scorebooks from the two championship seasons signed by all of the players. You could have the players and staff in the same restaurant together eating, drinking and talking. That can't happen now."

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:48 AM


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