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OutletPass
09-30-2003, 02:48 PM
Time and place are right for Olowokandi
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Tuesday, September 30
Updated: September 30
12:03 PM ET


Late bloomers can be the bane of everyone's existence in the NBA. They get fans worked up, get GMs fired and drive the media crazy with their tantalizing antics in practice and their slivers of greatness they show once or twice a season. They're teases -- peep shows that tantalize, but somehow never find a way to deliver the goods. On Monday, Insider broke down 13 players on the verge of breakout seasons. Inevitably, several of those players will disappoint, leaving fans mumbling the familiar refrain, "Wait till next year" as they watch their team count lottery balls in April. As pressures mount, expectations build and everyone grows restless, several players are walking into training camp today facing make or break seasons. Today Insider breaks down 13 players with whom we've lost patience. Some are young, maybe too young. Others have been playing peek-a-boo with us for years. Either way, this year we're not accepting any excuses. It's now or never. Time to put up or shut up. Pick your cliché.

Tim Thomas, F, Bucks -- Six years of pain and suffering have yet to dampen the confidence of the Milwaukee Bucks. First, they traded away their top scorer, Glenn Robinson, last summer to give Thomas more playing time. Then, they dumped the other two thirds of the Big 3 and have left Thomas as the first option this year. Will he emerge from the shadows of his mentors and become the star player the Bucks think he can be? It may depend on where the Bucks play him. His natural position is small forward, but with Desmond Mason and Michael Redd on the roster, he may be moved to the four. If he has to play a lot of minutes in the paint, disaster is coming.

The T-Wolves are hoping a change of scenery will benefit Michael Olowokandi.
Micheal Olowokandi, C, T-Wolves -- Speaking of long waits, Olowokandi has been holding us hostage for six years -- giving us a 20 and 10 game here and plenty of stinkers there. The former No. 1 pick has done his best to point his finger at the Clippers, an obvious target that certainly holds some weight. But the excuses stop now. In Minnesota, he's surrounded by talent, is being tutored by one of the best post players ever, Kevin McHale, and finally has the stability he's so desperately sought. Hopefully for T-Wolves fans, the big changes have a big effect on his work ethic. The tools are all there for Olowokandi to be one of the top centers in the league. Is this the year he shakes the Clipper curse?

Jonathan Bender, F, Pacers -- The word from Pacers camp the past three years has been consistent -- this is the year of Jonathan Bender. He's killing everyone in practice. Once Isiah turns him loose, watch out. Three straight years of sporadic minutes and injuries have given us little reason to cheer. Watch Bender for five minutes and you see he exudes potential. The athleticism, speed and shooting touch for someone that size are out of this world. But can he put together a solid season? The Pacers believe so and are promising that Bender will play a big role in the rotation this year. We're not expecting starter numbers, but 12 points and six boards isn't too much to ask from a fifth-year, No. 5 pick in the draft, is it? The Pacers ability to get over the elite hump and deep into the playoffs may depend on it.

Darius Miles, F, Cavs -- Miles was one of those "breakthrough" guys of 2002 who, instead, broke our heart. An improperly rehabbed knee left him lethargic. A hideous jump shot left debris everywhere. And his trademark headband pounding after a basket left us wondering whether he was knocking on his noggin to see if anyone was home. Miles swears that this year will be different. He got off to a great start, hitting the weights and court with Michael Jordan's trainer, Tim Grover. It showed with some dominating performances by Miles in the summer league. But will it translate into the regular season? If Miles regains his explosiveness and finds any semblance of a jump shot, the Cavs will be dangerous.

Keon Clark, F, Jazz -- Keon Clark's 15 minutes of fame officially began the day Kevin O'Connor pegged him as the team's starting power forward. Clark, like so many others on this list, is long on athleticism, size and upside -- and short on actual results. With the exception of a small dominant 10-game streak in Toronto two seasons ago, he's done little to prove that he'll ever realize his potential. Clark's camp will argue that he's rarely gotten the chance. Wherever he's played, there's always been someone better, more competent ahead of him. Not anymore. With the Jazz roster decimated by the loss of Karl Malone and John Stockton, Clark won't be an afterthought in Utah. In fact, he may be the only real option they have in the paint. If he responds to the challenge, millions await him next summer. If he doesn't? Smoke 'em now before the money runs dry.

Kwame Brown, F, Wizards -- At 21, it may be just a little early to throw the towel in on Kwame Brown. But after two tortuous seasons with the Wizards, forgive us if our patience has worn thin. Kwame blamed Michael Jordan and Doug Collins for his lack of production. Abe Pollin must have believed him. Now with Jordan and Collins collecting unemployment checks, Kwame's on his own. He got off to a shaky start this summer when he bolted the summer league after three games, despite claiming he was struggling to grasp the intricacies of Eddie Jordan's new offense. With questions about his work ethic and competitiveness dogging him, this should be the year we find out what Kwame is made of. If he's for real, the Wizards could be a surprise playoff team in the East. If he's made of mush (as Jordan suspected), Kwame may want to call up Joe Smith for career advice.

Stromile Swift, F, Grizzlies -- The Grizzlies got Swift's mama on his butt during the All-Star break last season and the results bordered on spectacular. For the first time in his career, Swift played with the potential that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft. Maybe it's time for mama to move in. Swift's athleticism and shot blocking are essential to any shot the Grizzlies have at the playoffs this season.

Tyson Chandler, F, Bulls -- Like Kwame, it's probably too early to write off the 21-year-old Chandler if things go awry this season. But with teammate Eddy Curry making huge strides toward the end of last season, Chandler, who was picked two picks ahead of him, is in danger of being left in the dust. There's nothing wrong with Chandler's work ethic, but his hands and his confidence could sure use a transplant. Chandler still doesn't play like a 7-footer, and remains tentative, especially on the offensive end. Defensively, he has the potential to be a dominant shot blocker, but he's too foul prone to keep himself consistently in a game. All of these mistakes can be corrected with time, but with the Bulls hungry for the playoffs, are they willing to wait around for Chandler?

When focused, Bonzi Wells (6) is one of the top guards in the game.
Bonzi Wells, G/F, Blazers -- When his head is on straight (about 20 percent of the time) Wells is one of the top guards in the game when it comes to abusing his man in the post. The other 80 percent of the time he follows Rasheed Wallace's lead, which is akin to the blind leading the naked. The Blazers are desperate for leaders and Wells has the talent to be one on this team. But the selfishness and asinine behavior has to stop. Rasheed will be gone in a year. If things don't change for Bonzi, he'll follow him to the curb.

Joe Johnson, G/F, Suns -- Johnson is yet another guy who probably deserves more patience. But his stellar play the last two summers have inflated expectations. The talent is remarkable. Johnson has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, run the offense and even grab rebounds. Now all he has to do is show up every night. Last season Johnson would follow a fantastic performance with two duds. This summer, the most important thing about his strong play at the Rocky Mountain Revue was his consistency. Can it translate into the regular season? It better. The Suns are counting on Johnson to be a key contributor this season and the heir to Penny Hardaway's spot at the two. However, if Johnson continues to wax and wane, he may never be able to shake the label of guy who just lacks the passion to compete night in and night out.

Jerome James, C, Sonics -- At 7-foot-1, 290 pounds, you can understand why the Sonics are willing to be patient with James. He's a dying breed in the NBA -- an athletic center who can play with his back to the basket. As long as James is on a short leash and a shorter contract, the effort, and the production, seem to be there. A three-year deal signed last summer pushed him into a personal comfort zone and into Nate McMillan's (who lobbied for James) doghouse. If James rebounds this season (remember Jerome, your contract's up in two years) the Sonics will be much better than people give them credit for. If he stumbles, chalk him up with the other 20 overpaid 7-foot windmills with fat wallets and skinny stats lurking around the NBA.

Hedo Turkoglu, F, Spurs -- At the start of training camp last season, a stronger, more polished Turkoglu appeared poised to de-throne Doug Christie at the two. One miserable season later, Turkoglu's on a new team -- and playing on an expiring contract. The results better be there this season. Bruce Bowen and Stephen Jackson proved that Tim Duncan can turn anyone into a decent player. Turkoglu has more talent than both of them. If he becomes a committed defender, he'll see a ton of minutes and even more open looks. If he resorts to his shoot-first, ask-questions-later style that got him traded from Sacramento, Turkoglu's NBA visa could be set to expire.

Devean George, F, Lakers -- When your teammates are Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, you're almost guaranteed that for 98 percent of the game, no one will be guarding you. I've never seen George play one-on-none before, but for five million a season, he should be able to average 10 points a game standing alone in the gym.

Around the League

Several Western Conference GMs are scratching their heads, trying to figure out who will grab the last two playoff seeds in the West. There is a consensus that, barring a catastrophic injury, the Lakers, Kings, Spurs, Mavs, T-Wolves and Suns will be there. The popular consensus on the last two is some combination of the Rockets, Blazers and possibly the Sonics. However, several GMs are starting to back away from the Blazers. The team lost its only two leaders this summer, Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis, and did nothing to replace them. Who is going to be the team leader this year? If you have the answer, give Mo Cheeks and John Nash a call.

"You look at our roster now, nobody on this team really has been a leader," Cheeks told the Oregonian. "That's why the question comes about. So until that leadership role is filled, the question will persist." The pickings are slim. Rasheed Wallace? Please. Bonzi Wells? C'mon. Derek Anderson? A good candidate if he could stay healthy. Zach Randolph? Cheeks approached him about the job during the summer league, but given that this will be his first year starting, does he really have the respect of his teammates? Remember, he's the guy who sucker punched teammate Ruben Patterson in the face last season.

"Ideally, you would like your point guard to lead, but it doesn't have to come from there," Cheeks said. Especially when your point guards are Damon Stoudamire and Jeff McInnis. Now do you see the problem?

One of the reasons the Heat were anxious to move Eddie Jones this summer was a fear that his new role on the team will only further diminish his stats and thus his value around the league. Now with Lamar Odom and Dwyane Wade both in the fold, those fears are already coming up in camp. Pat Riley noted that Jones has had to bear an enormous burden the past few seasons because very few of his teammates could help out on the scoring end. With more options comes a changed role for Jones.

"Really, the pressure is off for Eddie now, it should be off for him now," Riley told the Sun Sentinel. "He shouldn't feel the pressure any more." "With the ability of Dwyane and Lamar and Caron to make plays, we want Eddie to be the beneficiary of those plays, making jumpers," Riley says. "He's probably going to be our best shooter. We're going to create a game that he's going to be very comfortable in, a lot of slashing and cutting. And still, he's going to be somebody we're going to depend on."

Joe Forte lasted a total of one day in Sonics camp before getting the ax on Monday. I was in Seattle on Sunday watching the Sonics scrimmage, and Forte actually played pretty well. But his stormy history with everyone in Seattle (from fights to refusing to go on the injured list) doomed him.

GM Rick Sund told me on Monday that the only reason Forte was in camp on Sunday was that the Sonics were looking at a sign-and-trade option that included him. Once that fell through, the team decided to let him go now, so he has a chance to catch on with someone else during training camp. Given Forte's rep around the league, that chance may be in the NBDL.

Murphy3
09-30-2003, 03:07 PM
i'm thinking that dirk is a late bloomer...he should start to turn it around this year

Nash13
09-30-2003, 03:21 PM
I've given up all hope on Kwame Brown. They gave him too many opportunities to step up, but nothing's happened. He should've went to college.

Don't expect Darius Miles to step out this year either. Cleveland will probably go with something like Wagner at Point, Lebron at 2, and Ricky Davis at 3. Throw in Jason Kapono, Miles will not break out, but won't be that bad.

Stromile has proven himself to be a decent player, not necessarily a star.

There should be no reason that Jonathan Bender and Keon Clark not to break out. They both are on a team with mediocre front courts.

Jeremiah
09-30-2003, 04:05 PM
Originally posted by: OutletPass
Time and place are right for Olowokandi
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Tuesday, September 30
Updated: September 30
12:03 PM ET


The T-Wolves are hoping a change of scenery will benefit Michael Olowokandi.
Micheal Olowokandi, C, T-Wolves -- Speaking of long waits, Olowokandi has been holding us hostage for six years -- giving us a 20 and 10 game here and plenty of stinkers there. The former No. 1 pick has done his best to point his finger at the Clippers, an obvious target that certainly holds some weight. But the excuses stop now. In Minnesota, he's surrounded by talent, is being tutored by one of the best post players ever, Kevin McHale, and finally has the stability he's so desperately sought. Hopefully for T-Wolves fans, the big changes have a big effect on his work ethic. The tools are all there for Olowokandi to be one of the top centers in the league. Is this the year he shakes the Clipper curse?



I'm not knocking him, I just want to know where the evidence that McHale is such a great tutor? Even a good tutor? The man could play, but if he could really convey his know how to other players, then why isn't KG a great post player? To Ford's defense, he doesn't say McHale is a great tutor, but rather "one of the best post players ever." However, he does seem to be using that as basis for a reason that Mike should be a better post player this year as well.
I can make the same argument for John Stockton with point guards.
Just something that annoys me.

Big Boy Laroux
09-30-2003, 05:09 PM
most of these late bloomers are guys who came out of high school, or only had a few years of college (hell, kandi (even though he stayed in school) didn't even start playing basketball until college, if i remember correctly). seems to me that if there were less young guys in the league, there'd be less late bloomers.

Drbio
09-30-2003, 05:17 PM
I'd like to add Donnell Harvey to that list. He will break out this year imho.

QCarFan
09-30-2003, 05:29 PM
Agree with you there Drbio..........

Congrats on 20k plus!

MavsFanFinley
09-30-2003, 10:12 PM
I've given up all hope on Kwame Brown. They gave him too many opportunities to step up, but nothing's happened. He should've went to college.

I haven't. I think he needed to go to a team that would support him better. Get him in an environment that would make him want to be better.

Is there anything worse than being grilled so bad by Jordan it made you cry?

irontoad
10-01-2003, 03:10 PM
Originally posted by: Big Boy Laroux
most of these late bloomers are guys who came out of high school, or only had a few years of college (hell, kandi (even though he stayed in school) didn't even start playing basketball until college, if i remember correctly). seems to me that if there were less young guys in the league, there'd be less late bloomers.

I wonder if we'll be throwing leBron James' name in here in a few years?? After all, Kwame was a first pick, too... who knows.

Nash13
10-01-2003, 04:19 PM
Originally posted by: MavsFanFinley
Is there anything worse than being grilled so bad by Jordan it made you cry?

That just proves my point that he's not now or was ever ready for the NBA. Jordan knew what he was doing, his 6 championships proved that. But it's partially his fault b/c it was his decision to draft him.

Big Boy Laroux
10-02-2003, 08:53 AM
it was freakin jordan! if you are an 18 year old kid, and you suddenly are thrust into an environment where you are playing with your freaking idol, anything that idol does can make or break you. and jordan rode him hard. some people react differently to different motivations. it seemed to me that jordan didn't care how that type of motivation would work with kwame, simply because he's jordan and can do no wrong.

kwame has the talent to succeed in this league. he is going to be like jermaine o'neal. everyone was wondering why o'neal was even in the league a few years after he was drafted.

Mavs Rule
10-02-2003, 09:45 AM
Chad Ford is a great writer, but is he living in the past? i/expressions/clock.gif


Jonathan Bender, F, Pacers -- The word from Pacers camp the past three years has been consistent -- this is the year of Jonathan Bender. He's killing everyone in practice. Once Isiah turns him loose, watch out.

MavsFanFinley
10-02-2003, 09:45 AM
Exactly BBL.

I forgot to check this thread after I posted. Jordan is perfection just about and has a bar set higher than most. It doesn't surprise me that he made someone cry. Especially a kid out of high school trying to adjust to the NBA game.

I think if Kwame had been on another team, we would see someone who has had an easier transition.

Jeremiah
10-02-2003, 01:08 PM
Originally posted by: Nash13

Originally posted by: MavsFanFinley
Is there anything worse than being grilled so bad by Jordan it made you cry?

That just proves my point that he's not now or was ever ready for the NBA. Jordan knew what he was doing, his 6 championships proved that. But it's partially his fault b/c it was his decision to draft him.

In any sport, being great at it does not mean being great, good, or even having the capacity to "know what one is doing," at coaching it...but you knew that already.

thebac
10-03-2003, 06:06 PM
Kwame Brown hasn't really had a chance yet. The past two years were all about MJ, and his last run at the playoffs, not about the future of the Wiz and/or developing young players. Kwame has shown glimpses of dominance, so I think there's still good reason for hope with him. Of course, if he doesn't turn it on this season, he'll have run out of excuses.

Nash13
10-03-2003, 06:29 PM
Michael Jordan wasn't the official "coach", so he didn't decide not to play Kwame as much. I will be willing to give him another season, but i doubt he does anything.

thebac
10-03-2003, 06:33 PM
Originally posted by: Nash13
Michael Jordan wasn't the official "coach", so he didn't decide not to play Kwame as much. I will be willing to give him another season, but i doubt he does anything.

MJ ran things in Washington. Doug Collins was nothing but a figurehead. Like I said, if Kwame doesn't bust out this season, it doesn't look so good any more. However, don't forget, Jermaine O'Neal was buried on the bench until his fifth season (although admittedly the competition at POR was tougher than for Kwame with the Wiz).

EricaLubarsky
10-03-2003, 06:41 PM
Kwame isn't going anywhere, but I won't hold it against anyone if they want to drool over what he might have been.