- Last Updated: 4:22 AM, June 1, 2012
- Posted: 2:40 AM, June 1, 2012
HOOP DU JOUR
Last season at this time, the Spurs, who had finished at the top of the NBA’s Western Conference, already had been eliminated two rounds previously by the eighth-place Grizzlies.
The Celtics, meanwhile, had been erased in the preceding round by the Heat.
Both franchises were in the mood to renovate their rosters.
Spurs management called around the league to let the right people know that every player was touchable, exempting Tim Duncan. Owner Peter Holt, team president/coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford were committed to honor Duncan’s reign of scandal-drama-free excellence (four titles) over 14 seasons until he decided not to play for pay anymore.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, I must reemphasize, were available for the appropriate equity.
The idea was to get longer and younger, another meaning for less brittle. Ginobili’s wrist injury the final game of the regular season last year had as much impact on San Antonio’s malfunction as Memphis’ magnification.
Luckily, the Spurs weren’t overly tempted by anything offered for Parker or Ginobili, who were in the midst of a fairly fruitful outbreak before the Thunder rudely ruined their team’s 20-game roll, 102-82.
You know what they say, “Tricks of the trade that are best not made” or something like that.
On the other hand, George Hill was moved. Popovich and his coaching staff loved the 6-foot-2 guard, but felt when he played alongside Parker and Ginobili they were too small. Plus, he was a rising free agent and would warrant an ample long-term investment. So Hill was exchanged for the Pacers’ No. 15 pick, which was used to draft unobtrusive 6-7 small forward Kawhi Leonard, whose value covers every nook and nuance.
The Spurs hit a home run.
Eight months later, they swapped Richard Jefferson for Stephen Jackson.
That’s called “multiplication by subtraction.”
That brings us back to the Celtics. Before and after the lockout, general manager Danny Ainge repeatedly tried to convert Rajon Rondo into Chris Paul by using assets from a third team — Pacers, Warriors, Clippers, etc.
According to even those who swear up and down by the multi-dimensionally dangerous Rondo (nine playoff triple-doubles, tying him with Wilt Chamberlain for third place), he’s tough to coach, not easy to play with and is a First Team All-League Loon, a personality peculiarity he does not deny.
Luckily for the Celtics, Ainge’s longing for comparable acumen and skill couldn’t be satisfied.
You know what they say, “If you can’t pack ’em, then re-rack ’em” or something like that.
That’s what I was thinking Tuesday night as I watched the unflappable Rondo become a legend in his overtime as he nearly beat the Heat (44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds) single-handedly.
Such rhyme has so much reason in this season’s Final Four.
* This just in from Patrick Ewing: The lottery was fixed.
Fittingly, the Bobcats finished second, something Michael Jordan’s organization has down to a science.
Decent of His Airness, I thought, to alert Ewing personally his coaching services would not be needed. At last check, the field had been narrowed down to Ahmad Rashad, Shaquille O’Neal and Herman Cain.
If the Spurs’ 20-game win streak, snapped last night, was under the national radar, as ABC-ESPN play-by-play analyst Mike Breen submitted the other night, whose fault is that? HIS EMPLOYERS!!
TNT’s Steve Kerr, the Spurs’ spiritual advisor, accused James Harden of flopping after being undercut by Ginobili, who took the shooter’s legs away and then got entangled in them.
Responded column contributor Richie Kalikow: “Then I guess JFK flopped in Texas, too.”
For all the promotion of NBATV’s The Dream Team movie, I sure hope it won!
* Jack Twyman, who died Wednesday from cancer at 78, elevated the meaning of “teammate” to an unchartered altitude when he took responsibility for Maurice Stokes, and later became his legal guardian, after the futuristic forward went into a coma three days following an accident during a Royals game March 12, 1958, and woke up paralyzed.
“Mo was stranded in Cincinnati and I lived there,” Twyman told me when we last spoke three or four years ago, utterly downplaying the sacrifice of his family and the enormity of the undertaking. “I did what anyone would have done for a friend.’’
A year older than Stokes, they had competed against each other and played alongside one another in the Pittsburgh area. In 1955, they became teammates before the Royals moved from Rochester to Cincy.
As great a scorer as Twyman was (31.2 ppg in ’59-60; 19.2 overall), his 11-season Hall of Fame career was shaded by his compassion for Stokes, whom he cared for until his death from a heart attack at 36.
I still can see Jack’s right hand in the air as he turned downcourt after nailing another jumper. And I still can see that ever-present arm around Mo.Follow @NYPostsports