LONGSHOTS: The all-decade choices — Part II
by Dave Long
As promised, here’s the second installment of the more exotic greatest this and greatest that of the decade that just concluded along with a few selected awards. And remember these are the greatest to me — not necessarily the greatest to everyone else.
Most Significant Fan Move: Steve Nash going back to Phoenix to transform a league that nearly had the life strangled out of it by micro-managing, hold-it-until-two-is-left-on-the-clock coaches. Nash was a perfect match for Mike D’Antonio’s up-tempo office and voila, the fast break was back in basketball. It got him two MVPs and me my sanity back after spending much of the 1990s wanting to strangle the life out of those micro-managing coaches who had hijacked the most athletic game known to man. Thank you, Mr. Nash.
Best Draft Pick: Considering he came at 199 after every team in the league had passed over him five times, it goes to Coach B’s selection of Tom Brady. Not many guys have been picked that low and wound up in the Hall of Fame, which is where Brady is headed.
Worst NBA Blown Pick: Unfortunately Greg Oden could be coming up on the outside, but his issues are health-related and that’s bad luck. This one is close. It happened right when everyone was assailing Pistons GM Joe Dumars as a genius after the Pistons won it all thanks to picking Michael Jordan’s pocket in getting Richard Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse and getting Rasheed Wallace for a bag of bolts as the final piece. Of course picking Jordan the GM’s pocket wasn’t exactly a rare feat as he also spent the first overall pick in the 2001 draft on Kwame Brown. But Dumars gets it for taking Darko Milic at number two in 2003 because he passed on Carmelo Anthony, who went next. Although Pao (the goat) Gasol went two after Brown, so it’s close.
I Take That Back Award: Scratch Darko — I just thought of a worse one. I’m going with Jamarcus Russell of Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders. Honorable mention to Alex Smith, David Carr and Joey Harrington, who went first, first and third overall.
Best Red Auerbach-like Celtics Trade and Use of the Draft Pick They Got: Admittedly an odd category, but I had to get this in some way and the deal for KG wins for best trade. But Danny Ainge turning the first-round pick (30th overall) he got from the Pistons — for allowing them to use the long forgotten Mike James to balance off the salaries in the aforementioned Wallace deal — into Kendrick Perkins. That’s up there with Rick Robey for Dennis Johnson AND a first-round pick — which helped the Cs win in 1984 and 1986. But given the known quantity DJ was, that was a no-brainer compared to taking a high school kid with no obvious offensive game who turned into a valuable contributor on the 2007 title team. And he’s still got 10 years left.
Best Supposed to Be Draft Pick: Got to be LeBron James. He was supposed to be great and has lived up to every single expectation, although he has yet to win a title, though thanks to him the Cavs franchise came back to life and they almost had the Cs in Game Seven in 2007 when they escaped by the hair of their chinny, chinny, chin, thanks to a great game from Paul Pierce and that unexpected 15-footer from PJ Brown.
Worst/Best Trade: How about the Bruins sending Joe Thornton out of town in a not so subtle statement that he was the reason for the Bruins’ lost season in progress? He then went on to become the only player in history to win the league MVP in the SAME season he was traded in. It led to Mike O’Connell’s firing and massive changes on the team. So in some way, even though they only have Marco Sturm left to show for it, at least it led to something good.
Adolf Hitler – Eastern Front Award, a.k.a. If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It: When Marty Schottenheimer got the job in 2002 the Chargers were coming off a 5-11 season. They were in the playoffs by his third season. But after going 14-2 in 2006 he was fired because of a rift with GM AJ Smith, which was justified by losing to the Patriots at home in the playoffs. With basically the same personnel since, they’ve gone 11-5, 8-8 and 13-3 and been bounced out of the playoffs all three times. Yet Norv Turner got an extension a day after losing to the underdog 9-7 Jets and Marty got bounced. What changed?
Most Misused Word of the Decade: DYNASTY for Patriots winning three times in four years. A very nice run that jut few teams have had, to be sure. But dynasty refers to a looooong time and fits maybe the Bill Walsh -George Seifert 49ers and Tom Landry-Jimmy Johnson Cowboys in the NFL. The Celtics, Yankees, Lakers, and Canadiens in pro sports for sure. And definitely the Manchester West girls in soccer.
Best Thing Sports Did: When the 2001 World Series came to a New York City that was still reeling from the 9-11 attack to help it rally behind God Bless America being sung in the seventh inning as it was energized by not one but two walk-of Yankee wins in Games Four and Five. That spirit of our nation as one, instead of the partisan none-sense that prevails today, still gives me goose bumps.
Biggest Bust When the Money is Thrown In: Technically this happened in the previous decade — but since it was a rebuilding job, the real results were expected this decade, so it’s Rick Pitino who got the mammoth contract and then never got the team out of the ditch. Nationally, got to be the L.A. Galaxy giving over-the-hill David Beckham $250 million for five years in the worst sports contract of all time.
Local Sports Star of the Decade: Is it the player, Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick or the owner, Bob Kraft, who hired Coach B, built a great stadium and won three times? Of course it could be John Henry and Tom Werner, who bought the Sox, saved the greatest Park known to man by refurbishing it in a way that makes it look like it’s always been that way and hired the 29-year-old GM who went on to win twice. Theo — a great job, but not as good as Coach B because he’s got a HUGE salary advantage over most teams and football has a salary cap. Curt Schilling and the bloody sock? KG, who brought the region’s greatest team back to life? A hard choice. But I’ll go with Brady — because he was smart, tough, clutch, about team and overcame the greatest odds to get to the top of the mountain.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.