I wrote yesterday about the scenario which would have seen Hakeem, Jordan, and Drexler spend their careers together in Houston. A reader, Buckko, writes:
However I disagree about Clyde and Jordan pairing not working. At 6’7″ Clyde could have easily switch to SF. Then a few years later the rockets still could have traded for Otis Thorpe. Those four players, doesn’t matter who else you’re playing with, just that Russell would be 2nd in rings.
To begin, Thorpe never becomes a Rocket just simply because the chain of events set off from such an initial alteration would’ve made later events unpredictable. Also, Rodney McCray, who was traded for Thorpe, wouldn’t have developed the trade value necessary for the transaction if Clyde and MJ were on the team.
The more interesting matter is that of coexistence between Clyde and Michael. The swing positions are certainly interchangeable, even if they weren’t quite as much in yesteryear as they are today. But I’m more interested in ego management. Having watched the recent NBATV documentary on Michael Jordan (an interview with Ahmad Rashad), I understand better that Scottie Pippen really was a creation of Michael Jordan. Does that same dynamic play out with Clyde? With Scottie coming into the league later, there was a clear little brother-big brother hierarchy. Why would Clyde take a backseat? Even more, its no secret that Clyde wasn’t the easiest player to get along with, especially after the acquisition of Barkley. He got along with Hakeem because they were longtime friends and, who doesn’t get along with Hakeem? But in this scenario, I think Clyde eventually ends up getting traded, and if he’s sharing the ball with Michael and Akeem, its probably for 50 cents on the dollar…maybe for Otis Thorpe?
Another reader, @BrianEaton3, writes:
who do you think would’ve been “the guy” in that scenario? I lean towards Jordan but Hakeem wasn’t one to take a back seat
Inherently MJ, just by virtue of the simple fact that you didn’t have to get him the ball. He already had it in his hand off the inbound. Do these two guys reach their full potential if playing together through their formative stages? Let’s step back here a bit and conceptualize this discussion: we’re talking about a scenario where there was actually a possibility that the game’s greatest player of all-time could have spent his entire career on the same team as an arguable contender for game’s greatest big man.*
*Hakeem wasn’t the game’s greatest big man and if you polled ten NBA general managers, none of the ten would name him as such. (But at least five of those would probably pay Chandler Parsons $12mill/year or something similarly stupid.) But there’s a reach of mental gymnastics that can arrive one at such a desired end conclusion. Had he not toiled away the majority of his career with the likes of Sleepy Floyd as his second best player, as opposed to the ‘who’s who of Hall of Famers’ laundry list Shaq/Duncan have each enjoyed as teammates, he invariably has more success. I mean, think about it. Duncan came onto a team ready-made for a title, next to David Robinson. Shaq played with Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, and Lebron James, a list that could better be referred to as “the best perimeter players since MJ.”
But back to the fun. Hakeem’s defensive talents would’ve come out because that was just raw hunger and desire to swallow up anything near the basket vicinity. Same with Jordan, though in that case the origins were more an urge to humiliate his opponent. (I don’t think Hakeem wanted to humiliate anyone. He just felt ownership over his basket.) But do these guys coexist on offense? Does Hakeem’s offensive arsenal blossom into what it did (ie: the most unfathomable display of moves in NBA history)? I don’t know if the two young guys would’ve gotten along. I mean, Hakeem, errr Akeem, embraced Ralph, but Ralph wasn’t an alpha-male like Jordan. Maybe the two are at each other’s throats every day in practice but find a way to kill the opposition when between the lines. And this raises more questions about Phil Jackson because Phil Jackson would have made that work by suggesting some sort of spiritual retreat where each player has to close his eyes and imagine his purpose in life within thirty seconds. Does MJ become what he did without Phil? Does Akeem find Islam with Phil? Does Akeem turn to Buddhism? This whole exercise is getting out of hand. But I just am not entirely sure it would have worked.
And that’s the thing about maturity and ego. I spoke with a colleague recently about ‘Melo and we both agreed that we didn’t foresee either he or Dwight having problems relinquishing the spotlight. (Awesome. I was able to coherently transition this thing into a discussion on Carmelo Anthony, a matter I simply cannot get my mind off). I don’t feel Harden is anywhere near there, but Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard are now both 29 years old. They are cognizant of their basketball mortality and cognizant of their lack of success in relation to their ultimate peer, Lebron James. I think they realize that if they want success, they will have to share. And you saw Dwight do it last year. I think Melo would gladly do it as well. Would Harden? The ass-whooping he took at the hands of the Blazers couldn’t have hurt matters on that front.