Allen Moll is an avid NBA and College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen is a regular columnist for thehoopdoctors.com, Bleacherreport.com, UpperDeckblog.com, and his own site, Hoops Haven.
In recent weeks, the soap opera between Rockets Coach Rick Adelman and pouting superstar Tracy McGrady has headlined many local news outlets. Instead of focusing on the Rockets surprising success after re-tooling it’s starting lineup without T-Mac and Yao Ming, the drama between coach and player has taken center stage. Instead of sorting out their differences, the two have apparently parted ways, for now, with McGrady being sent home rather than disrupt team chemistry, like a misbehaving child sent to his room for punishment. Unfortunately, this man-child has probably played his last game in a Rockets uniform.
For those of you who were fans of the NBA during the mid 90′s, like myself, you may remember that this isn’t the first time that Rick Adelman has has issues with a superstar returning from a major injury. Back in the ’95-’96 season, Adelman was the head coach for the Golden State Warriors. He was handed the reigns of a successful franchise which had made the playoffs 4 times in 6 seasons under future Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson, in his first stint as coach of the Warriors. He also inherited a talented roster which included 9 players who averaged double figures in scoring featuring Latrell Sprewell(pre choking any coaches), Chris Mullin, and a then 28 year old Tim Hardaway. Tim, who had already made a name for himself as the distributor on the prolific scoring trio known as TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin) and for breaking ankles with his now patented killer crossover dribble, which he aptly named the UTEP 2-Step, after his alma mater, the University of Texas at El Paso.
Unfortunately, Hardaway was playing despite of some nagging injuries and was forced to sit out some games in late ’95 and then eventually decided to have knee surgery that would ultimately end his season. During the season, he averaged more than 19 points and 9 assists even though he was playing on a bum knee, which is still excellent production from the point guard position. While he was away from the team re-habbing after the surgery, Adelman convinced upper management to shake up the Warriors roster by bringing in B.J. Armstrong from the World Champion Chicago Bulls(similar to bringing in Trevor Ariza), even though Hardaway was expected to make a full recovery.
Before the ’96-97 season, Adelman used the media in a number off convincing statements and press conferences stating his intent to ease Hardaway back into the lineup slowly by coming off of the bench to provide some instant offense in limited minutes which sounds eerily similar to McGrady’s situation this season. Adelman also brought in one of his favorite players from Portland, an aging Jerome Kersey, to force future Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, to the bench as well.
Adelman used the media to influence the fanbase into thinking that the injury prone Hardaway could no longer be a premier player in the league as he continued to play him in limited minutes in favor of Armstrong until the situation reached a boiling point. Hardaway and Chris Gatling were sent to Miami for Bimbo Coles and a way past his prime, 34 year old Kevin Willis.
These untimely decisions on personnel ultimately led to Adelman’s demise since he was fired only after 2 seasons after posting a record of 66-98. Hardaway under Pat Riley’s tutelage in Miami, had probably the best 6 seasons of his career by being a mainstay on the All NBA 1st or 2nd Teams while leading the Heat deep into the Eastern Conference Playoffs every season into the early 2000′s alongside Alonzo Mourning.
Is history repeating itself, or has Adelman learned from his mistakes? It’s hard to tell since we really haven’t seen how far back McGrady is from injuries. As far as age, T-Mac is hardly ancient. many of today’s premier players are older than McGrady including Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter, who both are still among the game’s best players. Even if he cannot dominate like he is used to, Tracy can undoubtedly still contribute on a contending team by scoring in double figures. Many players have come back from micro-fracture surgery and become very productive like Kenyon Martin, Amare Stoudemire, and Greg Oden(OK, maybe not the best example).
Even though Tracy McGrady has been prone to injuries, Hardaway was as well. Is T-Mac truly done, or are we seeing a deja vu situation repeating itself where Adelman prematurely pushes his former All star out the door?
Remembering the UTEP 2 Step: