Chicago's Aguirre has Hall of Fame credentials
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Mark Aguirre, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Works for me.
I recently ran into Aguirre, the Chicagoan and former DePaul star, at an introductory function for the National Basketball Retired Players Association. Aguirre, who in 13 years for the Mavericks, Pistons and Clippers averaged 20 points, is a business executive now. He's settled in Dallas and is director of consumer relations for AAR Corp, an aviation industry support company.
Aguirre had been on the Knicks coaching staff, but left with Isiah Thomas' group.
"I was back home watching my girls grow up," said Aguirre. "I was friends with the (AAR) chairman. I was fascinated by the work, sitting down and working with different executives from all the major airlines. I started three years ago. I got into it and I really love it. This came along. I was thinking about (doing something with) basketball. But this is something with the people I meet, the relationships and business I can see myself in 20 years from now."
Which got me to thinking who's been overlooked for the Basketball Hall of Fame. I think Aguirre's omission has been a major oversight.
"If it doesn't happen, I'm cool with it," said Aguirre. "Look, the Mavs' organization hasn't even (hung my number) in the rafters. So I wonder sometimes, but that's not something to worry about. But I will tell you, which is what I tell everyone, that it wasn't me. It was Ray Meyer. God gave me the skills, but when it came down to being unique for my size (6-5 post up forward) that was Ray Meyer.
"What I am offended about is he's not mentioned the way he should be when you talk about the great coaches," Aguirre said. "I know he didn't win a championship, but to be in Chicago and working with what he had, he was special. He taught me how to do what I do, where to be, and then when I was teaching it to Jermaine O'Neal, who they said wouldn't be anything, to Al Harrington. That was Ray. I got Eddy Curry for a half year and they were talking about him being an All-Star. But it's all what Ray Meyer taught me."
Aguirre wasn't always the most popular player. But it seems to me he clearly has the qualifications for the Hall of Fame, one of the great post up scoring forwards in the game. He was college player of the Year at DePaul and Naismith winner. He had a career scoring average of 20, but six straight seasons averaging more than 25 per game. It clearly puts him on a level, if not above, with Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Adrian Dantley. And then Aguirre sacrificed his individual numbers to help win two titles with the Pistons. He also was a member of the 1980 USA Olympic team. And Aguirre was before his time as he left Austin High School to pair with Eddie Johnson at Westinghouse in perhaps the first edition of the LeBron James move to Miami.
Including Aguirre, here's a top 10 of deserving players:
- Mark Aguirre: Only Dirk Nowitzki in franchise history has had more great scoring seasons.
- Spencer Haywood: Known perhaps most for testing — and winning — whether high school players can go right to the NBA, Haywood played for an NBA champion and gold medal USA basketball team. He was an ABA Most Valuable Player, played in five All-Star games in the NBA and ABA, even averaged more than 25 in two seasons overseas and averaged more than 20 in the NBA six seasons. Like Aguirre, he was a controversial figure at times, but deserving with his play.
- Jack Sikma: The Kankakee native was one of the best high post big men. Never averaged 20 points in 13 seasons, but never out of double figures. Seven All-Star teams and likely the most important player on a championship team. Played in the Finals his first two seasons in the NBA and had eight seasons averaging a double/double.
- Johnny "Red" Kerr: Unequivocally should be included as a contributor given being the only coach to lead an expansion team into the playoffs as well as many years as a top broadcaster and team executive. But he also was the original iron man of basketball, playing every game of his career until into his final season when he was benched by coach decision. A three-time All-Star center while playing in the same conference with Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Led his college team to the Final Four and played for NBA champion Syracuse as a rookie.
- Bernard King: One of the transcendent scorers of his era. Averaged more than 20 points in 11 seasons and was an All-Star for three different teams. Suffered catastrophic knee injuries and returned to be an All-Star. One of the most prolific collegiate players averaging more than 25 and 13 in three years. Holds a career playoff scoring average of 24.5.
- Guy Rodgers: Probably the elite playmaking point guard of his era along with Bob Cousy. Three seasons averaged more than 10 assists per game and twice led the league. First team all-American at Temple and remains the Warriors alltime assists leader even though he played elsewhere his last four seasons and led the expansion Bulls into the playoffs.
- Rudy Tomjanovich: Won two championships as a coach and an Olympic gold medal as a coach. Most known for being punched by Kermit Washington. But he was an elite scorer in college averaging more than 25 and 14, and in the NBA with five All-Star appearances.
- Roger Brown: He never played in the NBA, but probably was the most respected player in the ABA for his play and ability under pressure that led the Pacers to three titles.
- Mitch Richmond: Played with poor NBA teams most of his career, but was such a prolific scorer he made six All-Star teams, was rookie of the year and five times all-NBA. Was an All-Star game MVP and won medals on two Olympic teams.
- Sidney Moncrief: One of the best defenders in NBA history and the only guard ever to be Defensive Player of the Year twice. Also five times all-NBA and All-Star team in a career cut short by injury after 10 seasons.
Anyone else? There are plenty of worthy candidates and here are some you could make a case for: Lou Hudson, Glen Rice, Dikembe Mutombo, Charlie Scott, Zelmo Beatty, Richie Guerin, Mark Jackson, Bob Love and players who had extraordinary collegiate careers like Rick Mount and Austin Carr as the Hall of Fame isn't only for NBA accomplishments.
NBA news and notes
-- So why was it that everyone wanted Courtney Lee? I think they meant Marco Belinelli as most confuse the two. The Celtics have been plodding alone around .500, and can Avery Bradley be that important? Lee is averaging 5.9 per game, almost half his career average, and 29 percent shooting threes. The Celtics, meanwhile, have been in the bottom half to bottom third in most of the defensive categories this season. ... So now it was Kobe's fault? Well, it may have been, but Andrew Bynum keeps making it a curious decision for anyone when his free agency comes this summer. The 76ers are sinking and Bynum with the Lakers winning in Philadelphia Sunday told reporters, among other things, Kobe Bryant stunted his development by shooting so much (Kobe graciously agreed), the Lakers traded the No. 1 center (him) for No. 2, Dwight Howard, and Howard is going to have trouble playing with a coach who doesn't employ post play. It also was last week when Bynum met with Philadelphia media and basically acknowledged having chronically bad knees that might not heal this season. Or might in a few weeks. Just how can you ever invest in a guy like that? ... You wouldn't exactly call it a streak, but when you are 6-19, two wins in a row like the Raptors have gone means something. You don't see this often, but the community seems to be excusing the players and coach and mostly condemning general manager Bryan Colangelo. Columnists call for his dismissal and fans have created a site, firebc.com, analyzing every move Colangelo has made, including a complex series of deals that, in effect, helped Miami get Chris Bosh. And who said Canadians were so patient?
-- Good for Darrell Walker, the Chicago native and former Raptors coach who is now an assistant with the Knicks. Walker left the bench for a few days this weekend to participate in University of Arkansas commencement ceremonies. Walker finished credits unearned before he went to the NBA and earned a Bachelor of Science in education. That's a role model. ... Walker's boss may be in good shape for being coach of the year. Mike Woodson, though the Hawks improved under him every season, was seen as a short term replacement to Mike D'Antoni last season. But he's held Knicks players responsible and it seems Carmelo Anthony finally decided he's run out enough coaches and has embraced Woodson. The other top competitors have to be Golden State's Mark Jackson, who has finally brought some defensive accountability to the Warriors, Rick Adelman, who has the Timberwolves competing with major injuries, the Clippers Vinny Del Negro, whose team is the hottest in the league and the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau, who likewise has his team over .500 without Derrick Rose. Orlando's Jacque Vaughn could be another candidate. ... I know everyone was saying Dwight Howard went straight up and it was no foul when he put Anthony out for a few games. But it was the usual dirty play from Howard, the same body check he put on Derrick Rose to almost put him out of the All-Star game two years ago. Howard has this little trick of bumping guys in the air to knock them off balance for a hard foul. That straight up thing doesn't include jumping into someone and the NBA needs to watch him. ... Good for the Pistons for naming their press room for Matt Dobek, their longtime media chief who died in 2010 shortly after being fired in a major organizational shakeup following the sale of the team. Dobek was a rare media executive respected equally by players and reporters. Dennis Rodman was so upset by his death he initially didn't want his jersey number retired.
-- The Pacers continue to have difficulty at point guard after trading Darren Collison. D.J. Augustin has been playing so poorly they elevated Ben Hansbrough to backup point guard. It's a big reason the Pacers' offense has been stagnant. Well, other than Roy Hibbert being unable to outrun a turtle. The better Hansbrough, Tyler, also has struggled scoring, averaging 6.1 points and shooting 41 percent. ... With Kyrie Irving, Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson wearing facial masks after injuries there's a chance all will get supporting roles in the next Batman movie. ... The Spurs just can't win. Everyone always says they are boring and they always claim the league keeps them off the main television dates because they lack controversy. So this season, coach Gregg Popovich got the team fined $250,000 for sending his players home instead of playing in Miami, several players including Tim Duncan were photographed at a costume party pretending to shoot referee Joey Crawford, who was once suspended over a dispute with Duncan and Stephen Jackson was fined for threatening Serge Ibaka in a tweet. And they still aren't getting on TV. Go figure. ... Houston's Omer Asik got one of those flopping warnings. We saw Asik enough to know he doesn't do that, and Asik explained after having his nose broken several times he was just backing away to avoid another. He is a guy that it's been said too literally will stick his nose in there.
-- Jeremy Lin returns to play in New York Monday coming off another poor game in a loss to the Raptors. He's shooting under 40 percent and averaging about 11 points. It was likely no coincidence his best game by far this season was with James Harden out as Harden likes the ball in his hands. ... Not great news for Dallas as Dirk Nowitzki told reporters he's "not close" to a return. ... They were pretty even statistically Sunday with 15 points for Anthony Davis and 16 for Damian Lillard, though Lillard converted the winner with less than a second left as he maintains his surprising lead for rookie of the year. ... The Nuggets survived the toughest opening schedule since 1985-86, which was the Bulls', 17 road games in the first 23 with an 11-12 record. The Nuggets remained in the top eight in the West and should have a chance to move up now. ... The Bulls, by the way, were 8-15 in that stretch as Michael Jordan went out injured three games in ... Kevin Love stirred up considerable angst in Minnesota with his interview with Yahoo! Sports condemning the organization. They have no plans to trade him as he cannot be a free agent until 2015. Yes, I could see leaving the weather, and as he played at UCLA there'll always be rumors about going to the Lakers, who have no one on the roster now under contract for then. Though they are hoping Dwight Howard will. But with a point guard like Ricky Rubio, Love is reminding many of Stephon Marbury, who opted to leave Minnesota rather than play with Kevin Garnett because he felt he wouldn't be as important. Love said he was upset Minnesota apparently was saving it's five year extension for Rubio instead of giving it to him. A player like Love with few individual moves to break down defenders, you assume, would love to play with a great point guard. You got it, Love felt disrespected despite a four-year deal averaging $15 million with an opt out. Of course, it hasn't exactly been the model organization with a succession of disastrous lottery picks and giving Al Jefferson away just to create cap space. It's one thing to give away Kirk Hinrich for that. But Al Jefferson? The Timberwolves may be forced to deal him, but like the Thunder with James Harden, likely not until the summer of 2014.
-- It was encouraging for fans anxious about Derrick Rose to see Rubio return Saturday and play well with nine assists in an 18-minute limit. Team doctors refused to allow Rubio to play in overtime, though the Timberwolves won. So, yes, if Rose returns it likely will be with a minutes limit. Though there's also been thought among some Rose shouldn't return until he can play full games, which might not be this season or late in April. ... Classic Dwight Howard response about where he wants the ball. "That's obvious," Howard told L.A. media. "On the block." Asked about the pick and roll, Howard responded: "On the block." D'Antoni, of course, believes in pick and roll and open court play and not playing through the post. ... The Kings have asked top pick Thomas Robinson to watch tapes of Denver's Kenneth Faried, the 22nd pick in 2011. ... While there's still plenty of head scratching about the success of the Warriors, just coming off their best road trip in 40 years, a big difference is physical play by rookie Draymond Green and sixth man Carl Landry. Stephen Curry and David Lee have been putting up great numbers, but the Warriors aren't so easy to score on as they have been maybe since Nate Thurmond played there. The Warriors haven't had an All-Star since Latrell Sprewell 15 years ago. ... The Kings are viewing it as progress as DeMarcus Cousins was only suspended once last week for punching a player in the groin. He does seem to be growing up.