We all know who the best 2-guard was in the 1990s, but who else made the list?
Joe Steady. Joe Cool. UnflapaJoe.
Those weren’t Joe Dumars’ nicknames (he went by the understated “Joe D”) but they should have been. A member of the universally hated Detroit “Bad Boys,” Dumars somehow managed to avoid the muck his teammates wallowed in. He was the Piston that most folks grudgingly hated.
The sort of low-key leader general managers lust after, Dumars brought serious game to table along with his character. His numbers weren’t outstanding, but given his talent on both ends of the floor, Dumars and Isiah Thomas have to be considered among the top three backcourts of all-time. Easily.
Dumars topped 20 ppg only a few times in his career, but it was obvious watching him play that if he cared a little less about the team, he could have put up monster numbers. Instead, he was content playing his role, and used his rugged game to abuse smaller guards, and his sweet stroke to tantalize the bigger ones. A six-time All-Star and regular member of the League’s all-defensive team, Dumars was recognized as true talent by his peers.
Good old Joe Steady.
Why did he have to choke him?
Yeah, P.J. was riding him and clearly he isn’t the easiest coach to get along with since he managed to alienate an entire Oklahoma City Thunder team that is now balling under Scott Brooks, but choking him was stupid. Really stupid.
It was stupid because that, and his ill-timed comment about feeding his kids, have become the epitaph on Spree’s NBA headstone. Here lies the joker who couldn’t feed his kids on $21 million and didn’t know how to disagree with his coach without resorting to asphyxiation. What a waste…
Latrell Fontaine Sprewell was a flat out hooper in his prime. Insane hops, fearless drives and a nasty streak to boot. Old school fans remember him as a blur on the wing in Oakland, rising up for that patented two-handed, scissor-kick dunk that was immortalized in the incomparable NBA Live 95. In 1996-1997, Sprewell averaged 24 ppg, 6 assists and 4 boards, while shooting 45 percent from the field. That’s what people should remember.
Sure, Latrell found redemption in New York by leading the Knicks to the Finals, and even managed to help K.G. get out of the first round. But, a true appreciation of his game is lacking, and instead he’s become the poster boy for out-of-control NBA thugs.
Remember kids, sticks and stones…
When Steve Smith came out of Michigan State, he was supposed to be the next Magic Johnson.
Clearly that was hyperbole.
But, even if he could never match up to Earvin, it didn’t stop Smith from using his fellow alum’s world famous “old man game” to confuse and confound swingmen across the league. Smith wasn’t especially quick, didn’t jump high at all, and only had average physical strength.
But, somehow he managed to punish players smaller than him, out quick guys slower than him, and out jump opponents just enough to get his shot off consistently. Smith loved directing traffic from the block, and knew how to use his body to create contact and get to the free throw line for easy points.
Smith debuted in Miami, had several solid years there, including two years where he topped five assists and four rebounds per game to go along with his 17 points, but it wasn’t until he got shipped to Atlanta that Smith became a real star. Alongside Dikembe Mutombo and Mookie Blaylock, Smith would do his best to engage the Hawks’ fickle fan base, including going off for 25 ppg on 57 percent shooting in the 1997-98 playoffs. However, the Hawks could never get over the hump, and Smith eventually ended up as a steady veteran in Portland and San Antonio.
But, the old man could hoop.
Allan Houston’s image is a study in contradictions.
He’s known as a knockdown shooter, but his field goal percentage only exceeded 46 percent twice. He’s criticized for being injury prone, but typically missed fewer than seven games a season. He was paid like a franchise guy, but was clearly a second fiddle. And, even though the NBA’s amnesty clause that allowed teams to cut one player with no salary cap repercussions was called the “Allan Houston Rule,” Houston didn’t even get cut.
It’s just confusing.
But, what is clear is that Houston could put the ball in the hole, and he did it with one of the prettiest jumpers this side of Sugar Ray Allen. Houston should have never been confused with superstar, or paid like one, but he was clearly one of the best players at his position in the 90’s, and paired with other talents gave the Knicks their last taste of playoff success. Whether coming off pin downs, spotting up on the wing, or pulling up from the triple threat position, Houston knew how to get his jumper off. While driving to the rack wasn’t his strength, he could finish over the giants.
Just ask the Miami Heat about his floater.
Jeff Hornacek must have broken quite a few mirrors in his youth.
There’s no other way to explain his horrible luck when it came to trades. Hornacek was a second round pick of the Suns in 1986, but that pick came from the Lakers who were in the midst of Showtime when Hornacek entered the league. Just think what he could have done with Magic Johnson setting him up in the corner before he got old?
Then, after efficiently and quietly killing in Phoenix for seven seasons, (Jeff got his 20 ppg on 51 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3 and 88 percent from the line) Hornacek got traded to Philadelphia in the now infamous Charles Barkley deal.
But, when Hornacek left Philly, his luck finally changed and he found the perfect home in Utah. Stockton and Hornacek formed the NBA’s most fashion-backwards but fundamentally sound backcourt. Any true aficionado of quality basketball had to respect his grit, skill and unflappable demeanor. Surrounded by bigger, stronger and more talented competitors, Hornacek found a way to consistently be a threat, even if Jerry Sloan was crazy for asking him to guard Pippen in the NBA Finals.
Then again, that was better than guarding the other guy.
This was supposed to be Eddie Jones’ spot. With his sweet shooting stroke, tough defense and ability to keep his generation’s best player on the bench for three seasons, Jones had this spot locked up.
But, the Hawk wouldn’t be denied. (I considered debuting “Mr. Chocolate” as a new nickname but that seemed cheesy and in desperate need of a “pause.”)
Fresh off averaging 36 ppg at Bradley University, Hawkins managed to avoid the Clippers curse thanks to an early trade. He would take his jumper to Philly, where alongside the Chuckster he hovered around 20 ppg as the team’s second option before getting shipped to Charlotte and later Seattle. He was a great complement to the Payton, Kemp and Schrempf show in the Pacific Northwest, but that team would never capitalize on its potential.
Hersey Hawkins fans are rare, and that’s really no surprise. He doesn’t even merit a highlight mix on YouTube. Hawkins was a shooter, and while some shooters can capture fans’ attention, Hawkins lacked the necessary flair. But, besides wet from outside, Hawkins was regularly among the top ten in the league for steals and was the consummate professional.
Honorable mention: Eddie Jones, Ron Harper, Ricky Pierce, Dan Majerle, John Starks, Reggie Lewis and Nick Anderson.