I heard Jeff Van Gundy has been getting a little lippy as of late—big surprise, right? He said recently that the Heat will break the Bulls single-season record of 72 wins and then went onto Mike and Mike in the Morning and expanded, saying they won’t lose two games in a row and could even challenge the 71-72 Lakers 33-game winning streak record.
Imagine if ESPN’s golden boy Stu Scott had made a similar statement. You can’t because he couldn’t if his life depended on it. The closest he’d get would be something like, “The question now is, can the Heat possibly have a chance to pursue the all-time regular season wins mark, set by the 1998 Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan. Only time will tell.”
(Column continued below video of Chris Paul calf roping.)
This should be the only type of event Scott is allowed to report on.
That’s why I love Van Gundy. His claim about the Heat solidifies my decision to coin the term “Van Gundys” as a new euphemism for male genitalia (I'd be less scientific there, but I don't want to be The Chrony's next victim of institutional prudery). Going back to the days of coaching, this little twerp has spent his life Van Gundys out, and not even ABC could Rocky Mountain Oyster-ize him—which is saying something, since they slipped the rubber band on Michael Wilbon ages ago.
Classic Jeff “Van Gundys out” moment. “Someone’s at the bottom of that pile. Jeff Van Gundy is at the bottom of the pile!”
Aside from applauding him for saying something of significance about the NBA this offseason—and there’s been few—I want to agree with him because:
A. LeBron James is the best regular season player in the game today. Just don’t get him anywhere near a 2-2 playoff series game five.
B. Dwyane Wade is going to go through a season where he isn’t the most feared player on his team. The last time that happened: the 2008 Olympics. Uh-oh.
C. At some point, Chris Bosh is going to get the ball. As long as he doesn’t develop a Maurice Lucas type of inferiority complex this year (and even if he does, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing), he’s like a Steve Jobs’ Toni Kukoc.
D. The regular season is pretty worthless, as a whole. I’m going to say the Heat will lead the league in players on opposing teams’ DNP-injured list. Who thinks Elton Brand is going to suit up for a meaningless midseason game just to get embarrassed by a team with multiple chips on their shoulder? I have a feeling the New Orleans Hornets might have to cancel every game against them due to this same reason.
E. And the final reason is because as Van Gundy specified, he thinks they’ll get the best record ever, not be the best team. So to say they'll have the best ever record doesn't really mean as much as one might think
To expand upon this:
The 71-72 Lakers won 69 games (with the string of 33 straight) during a period when the league was watered down due to the facts that the Celtics dynasty was done, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still stuck in Milwaukee with no one but a completely washed up Oscar Robertson, Willis Reed didn’t play for the Knicks that year (including the finals where the Lakers ultimately won in five games) and there was this little thing called the ABA that employed basketball legends such as Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore and Rick Barry at this point.
(Side note: Pat Riley averaged 6.7 ppg and started 26 games for this Lakers team. Pat Riley coaching the greatest team of all time—I could conceive that. Pat Riley playing on it—not so much.)
Gail Goodrich and an old Jerry West led this Lakers' team in scoring. Elgin Baylor retired 9 games into the year (never getting his title), and Wilt Chamberlin was praised heavily for NOT playing like a sis down low against the 6-8 Jerry Lucas and 6-6 Dave DeBusschere when he had five fouls in overtime of game four of the finals. You see, Wilt never fouled out of a game ever in his life, and usually ensured this by playing no defense at all with five fouls.
Did I mention a dude named Gail led them in points in the regular season and playoffs? I don’t think I’ve sufficiently stressed this point. Maybe some photo evidence will help.
And as for the Chicago Bulls of 95-96:
They had the best of all time and the best sidekick of all time, they had Rodman version 3.0 (bulky and slow, but still great), Toni Kukoc and a mess of role players.
(Side note: The afore-mentioned Kukoc doesn’t get enough credit for his role on the team, which is why I don’t feel bad comparing him to Bosh. The Bulls don’t win the Finals in 97 and don’t even make the finals in 98 without him. Well, not really, since we’ve long since established that MJ was going to win regardless of whether he had Scottie and Toni or Rusty LaRue and Keith Closs as his offensive sidekicks, but still.)
Steve Kerr was great at hitting threes at a time when players were much more choosy on taking them (and thus meant more). Ron Harper was old but still a great defender.
Luc Longley and Bill Wennington were tall…and once had a sweet t-shirt.
To round out the rotation, Jason Caffey could hit the open jumper and Jud Buechler played like a man named Jud Buechler should—gritty, no stats defense that allowed Phil Jackson to give Scottie and MJ a few more minutes of rest.
Add into the equation that MJ was pissed and back for his first full season. Actually, pissed isn't strong enough, MJ was/is ALWAYS pissed. This was some other unworldly level of anger. Kind of like his Hall of Fame speech.
I still say: If he'd gone into the Hall of Fame any other way, it wouldn't have been Jordan. Thank God we get an encore with him introducing Scottie Pippen this year.
And then add in that the addition of the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies brought the number of teams in the league to 29, six more than there were in 1988—which was the last real year of the '80s for the NBA with the Celtics aging fast and the Lakers winning their last title. And then take into account drafts from 1990 to 1994. The best players drafted over those six years were: Gary Payton (’90), Shaq (’92), Alonzo Mourning (’92), Penny Hardaway (’93), Chris Webber (’93), Jason Kidd (’94), Grant Hill (’94).
Compare that last list to the best guys taken from 1995-1997: Kevin Garnett (’95), Kobe Bryant (’96), Allen Iverson (’96), Steve Nash (’96), Ray Allen (’96), Tim Duncan (’97) and Tracy McGrady (’97). Kobe and Duncan were both awarded a big man superstar upon arrival, and the Spurs and Lakers won the first five post-Jordan championships.
Then consider how Alonzo, Kidd and Hill all toiled in obscurity for most of Jordan’s remaining days—and only Payton, who had Shawn Kemp, and Shaq, who had Penny, were paired with another stud (neither Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Johnson nor the Three Js count). Combined rings from the franchise guys taken ’90 to ’94: five. Four from Shaq and one from Alonzo, who has Dwyane and Shaq to thank. Combined titles from the ’95-’97 group: 11 (and only three have anything to do with Shaq). Not to mention that Kevin and Ray, before teaming up, lead their teams to a Conference Finals and that Steve Nash and Allen Iverson are up there with Elgin Baylor as greatest players that deserved a ring (both are way ahead of Karl Malone in that category).
The league was, as it was in ’71-’72, at one of it’s most watered-down periods, despite the fact that the talent level of its superstars was possibly the highest it’d ever been. That's what 29 teams does to a league.
Too many teams with too many cartoon logos and not enough young talented franchise players holding up the previous class from the 80s.
The drop-off amongst the best and worst of the playoff teams was the worst thing of all, since the playoffs are when it’s supposed to actually get good.
There was only one game seven, the Conference Finals between the Jazz and Sonics, and that was really just the consolation game for who got to lose to the Bulls.
The Bulls were clearly more impressive than the Gail Goodrich Lakers, but the point is that both relied on timing.
Which is exactly what the Heat have on their side.
When Garnett and Allen joined Paul Pierce on the Celtics, it was the greatest collection of stars we’d seen since the ’03-’04 Lakers.
And just like those Lakers, it really wasn’t have as big of a deal as this. How many real title contenders are there right now? There’s the Heat, Lakers, Thunder and Celtics. That’s it. Think of the Magic as the New York Knicks of the 1990s—they’ll be in the mix every year, but they’re not to be taken seriously.
After that, there’s a lot of good teams that are about to look a lot worse when they play a team with three players that have spent their entire careers being double teamed. And when one of those three doesn’t take the shot, there will be spot-up specialists like Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Udonis Haslem and Eddie House wide-ass-open.
So am I putting my Van Gundys on the table as well? You bet I am: 73-9, that’s what they’ll finish at.
Of course, that prediction has less significance attached to it than a Mtn. Network halftime show, (Only click on this link if you want to cry.) but I might as well give my completely irrelevant prediction. Everyone else is doing it, and outside of Van Gundy, they’re doing it without any real substance or zest.
And just in case you regret reading this entire thing, here’s a video that will make you laugh without fail. Good day, all.
This article was originally posted by the author at dailyutahchronicle.com/buttereport.
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