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Eddie Griffin – The Lost Generation

I’ll never forget the moment I heard news of The Eddie Griffin Trade.  It was one of those moments in life that stay with you simply for no other reason than that you make it a point at the time to remember.

His was amongst the saddest of tragedies.  A tormented soul who caved from the pressures of professional basketball.  A tale that perhaps not everyone is made for the NBA; a warning of care, even for the most gifted of athletes.

Yet the human story has already been told, many times.  What of the effects on the team?


I heard the news on the radio.

At the time, I was trying to envision the just-drafted Richard Jefferson next to Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley.  I liked the Wildcat, but wasn’t sure of his potential – he seemed finished and I wanted someone who could one day become a star.

“Wait a minute.  This is huge.  I just got word of a trade…involving the Houston Rockets,” said Matt Jackson of Sports Radio 610 in Houston, the incredulity in his tone manifesting a deafening silence.

My ears perk up.  The Rockets still had two draft picks remaining and had been rumored to be attempting a trade.

“The Rockets have just traded their three first round draft picks to New Jersey for…Eddie Griffin.”


The Rockets were pretty good in 200-2001, winning 45 games.  But still, something was missing.

They had Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Mo Taylor, three first round draft picks, and a wad of cash under the cap.

This was the summer when the franchise would take that bold leap forward.  They would chase Chris Webber and solidify their depth through the draft, building the nucleus that would restore former glory.  Yes, the future looked bright in Houston.

Draft night came as a bonus.  Eddie Griffin was the 6’10 gazelle you could dream on.  He had the body that let you imagine him as anything you wanted.  And imagine I did.

He was frail, but we would feed him, and he would grow.  He would grow into the second fiddle that would help Francis bring the Rockets back to respectability.  He would be just the latest in a line of great big men in Rockets history.  Yes, I had let my mind wander and imagine the possibilities with Eddie Griffin.


The thing I remember most about Eddie was his keen sense for the shot-block.  He was like the quarterback that didn’t have to set his feet to throw – he could jump off either foot for the block and do it without even gathering.

Eddie wasn’t even that athletic.  He didn’t have that Amare Stoudemire to him – that explosion that let a guy jump over buildings.  He just had a sense.  In his rookie year, Eddie averaged a shade under 2 blocks per game in 26 minutes, but many were the nights when he’d get 5.  At only 19, some even wondered if he could someday challenge Hakeem’s record.

But Eddie wasn’t very good.  He was too skinny, too weak in the post and really only had one move.  He hit a lot of 3’s but boy was it ugly.  He had a shot that you could hang a wash from.  By his second year, he might have even gotten worse.  We told ourselves he just needed guidance and Jeff Van Gundy was en route to save the day.  Yes, we would teach Eddie and he would learn.  He would learn to be the presence we so desperately needed.


When the rumors about Van Gundy’s arrival began to swirl, most thought of his potential to discipline Steve Francis.  I thought of Marcus Camby pressuring the Pacers full court.  Eddie would become that player.  With Eddie next to the team’s newest hope, Yao Ming, the future looked bright in 2003.


As is known, things didn’t work out.  Shots were heard outside his home and Eddie never even took the court.  He was released by the club later that year.

But the impact wasn’t just of human tragedy.  Eddie Griffin’s absence symbolized the frustrations of an era.  Eddie Griffin’s absence symbolized a lost generation.

It’s unlikely that a team ever hits on all three of its draft picks.  But in trading three that through trades and losses they had earned, the Houston Rockets robbed themselves of the youth of which they were in dire need; robbed themselves of the rotation players who might have made a small difference.  The effects lingered for almost a decade.

Until ‘09, when the cupboard was finally restocked, every time the Houston Rockets took the floor, evident it was that they were in want of something more; in want of something from their past.

Every time the likes of Ryan Bowen or Rod Strickland, or Clarence Weatherspoon or Derek Anderson took the floor, we were reminded of what we missed, what we had had, what could have made a small difference – “The Lost Draft of 2001.”

No, it was never just about Eddie Griffin.  It was never just about a man who could have saved Steve Francis’ career.  It was never just about a 20 year old in line to mature with Yao for a decade.  It was about what Eddie carried; the two or maybe three players the team sacrificed in his trade; the three picks Eddie represented.  Eddie personified the frustrations of an era, his case the epitome of what went wrong for a team starved of young talent.  Eddie was the missing man of an era.


The Eddie Griffin Trade was the decision that changed everything.  Yet still, I can never criticize Carrol Dawson for the move.  Dawson had his faults, but the man dared to be great.  Even in hindsight of what has transpired in the decade since, I would make the trade again.  Eddie was the ‘big’ that we needed to pair with Steve to take the next step.  Eddie’s trade was our only avenue of obtaining the player we hoped he would one day become.

No, I can never find fault in Dawson’s decision.  Even if it was his most costliest of moves.  Even if it lost an entire generation.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of www.Red94.net.

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