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News » Mailbag: Did Shaq squander the most talent?

Mailbag: Did Shaq squander the most talent?

Mailbag: Did Shaq squander the most talent?
Do you think Shaq is the most underachieving superstar of all time? — Aaron, Beverly Hills, CA

Not at all.

He's won four championships, which places him in the upper echelon of the most elite NBA players. After all, Larry Bird, James Worthy and Kevin McHale only won three titles apiece; while Dave Cowens and Walt Frazier only won two; and Oscar Robertson and Jerry West each came out on top only once each — yet nobody has accused any of them of being underachievers.

For the most part, though, the color analysts are ex-NBA players and usually have a firm grasp of the game. However, many of these guys have complained to me that the team and the sponsors that employ them, will not tolerate any negative opinions regarding the home team and its players.

Besides, very few, if any, of this particular group gets to vote on any of the NBA awards. And neither do I.

And, yes, I do consider myself to be among the knowledgeable few, and here's why:

  • I've played the game with more than a moderate amount of success, albeit at a small college.

  • I've played against numerous pros with a slightly less-than moderate amount of success.

  • I routinely scrimmaged with every CBA team I've ever coached.

  • Most of all, I've coached in the CBA for nine years. During that time, I've coached dozens of once-and-future NBA players. And it's by coaching that the arcane details of the game are learned.

  • Because of the CBA draft, I've also scouted numerous players live and on video.

  • I've likewise spent long hours watching and re-watching ball games.

    For sure, there are members of the basketball media who know the latest news before I get the information. And there are several guys in the trade who know more about the game as a whole, and who can write better than I can.

    Still, I believe that my experience on the court, on the bench, and in darkened rooms eyeballing endless replays, have given me a unique perspective on the hows, whys and why-nots of NBA action.

    Shane Battier is my favorite player. Could you please do one of your Rosenesque scouting reports on him? — Emerson Engstrom, Reserve, Montana

    I like him, too!

    Here's the run-down:

    On offense, he seals well in the low post and can score from there using a right-handed jump hook and a turnaround jumper over either shoulder. Pump fakes are also part of his pivotal arsenal. However, ever since Yao Ming arrived on the scene, Battier seldom if ever gets to assume the proper position in the pivot.

    When facing the hoop, he'd rather attack with a right-hand dribble, but can also go left. Again, he'll use pump fakes trying to gain an advantage here. He'll also look for reverse finishes when he does get to the rim as a way to protect the ball. And, of course, he's a distinguished, if basic, master of the dunk. Although he has lost a step, he can still run well enough to be a factor in early-offense situations.

    He'll use a jab step (mostly right) to gain space for his jumpers, but he shoots best on the move going left.

    As he approaches his 31st birthday, however, Battier's offense consists mostly of knocking down open 3-pointers generally created by kick-outs and swing passes. And with his feet set, he's a deadly long-distance dialer.

    But Battier's specialty is playing defense — against anybody at any time. No challenge daunts him. When he's posted, he looks to strip the ball if his opponent brings it too low — and he's not above flopping. Otherwise, Battier plays defense as though he has a Velcro-chest.

    His penchant for taking charges speaks to his terrific anticipation as well as his thorough understanding of his opponents' favorite moves.

    He's strong enough to blast his way through loose high screens, and he rarely makes bad decisions on defense. Battier can also pass and rebound at a high level.

    What are Battier's vulnerabilities on D? His lack of warp-speed when moving laterally. And his eagerness to extend his defense to the point where he can occasionally be back-doored.

    Whether his team is winning by 20 or losing by 20, Battier always plays hard. Always.

    Why don't we see LeBron in the post more often? With his size and strength, he should be able to add that to his game and become a more complete player. — Ali Moore, Detroit, MI

    I agree, but I have no idea why he hasn't developed his post-up game. His very presence there would force defenses into extremely disadvantageous alignments — which would generate open shots and layups for his teammates.

    However, a lot of players get nervous when they can't determine what's going on behind their backs. Which is why even post-oriented centers are sometimes reluctant to be on the receiving end of lob passes.

    Several years ago, the two of us were on our way to the courts at the Kingston YMCA for a lunchtime run when we had a disagreement over a recent trade that the Knicks had made — Bill Cartwright to Chicago for Charles Oakley. You said it was a very bad trade for the Knicks and I said the reverse was true. Do you feel the same way now as you did then? — Jim Alba, New Paltz, NY


    Granted that Oakley played ferocious defense, had admirable range on his jumper and was an outstanding rebounder, though he rarely hit any shots in the closing moments of close ball games. And that "Medical Bill" had a chronically bad back.

    However, in Cartwright, the Bulls got the massive center they desperately needed, one who could hold his position on the blocks and receive the entry passes that initiated an important sequence of the triangle offense. More importantly, Cartwright was one of the very few opponents who could control Patrick Ewing.

    So the imbalance had little to do with what the Knicks gained or lost, but with how the deal improved Chicago's chances of beating them.

    In the final accounting, Cartwright also has three more championship rings than Oakley.

    Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website:
    Added: August 31, 2009


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