The Internet is filled with hundreds of thousands of nostalgic tales, but that’s to be expected. As a wise man once said, “Nostalgia is a mild form of depression,” and everyone can get a little blue when thinking back to 1997. With the summer sun shining, however, we’re in a cheery mood. And with the NBA having settled down after a busy first few weeks of offseason transactions, we thought it best to highlight some random NBA players who may have done their best work a decade or two ago.
This isn’t a list of your “Top 12 File Sharing Services of 2002” or “27 Ways Britney Ruled the VMAs.” No, this is …
Random Players, NBA Edition
We continue with our All-1990s Team.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
PG: Matt Maloney
The 1996-97 Houston Rockets were built to be a SuperTeam, a win-now gamble featuring three future Hall of Famers in Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and the newly-acquired Charles Barkley. To pick Barkley up, the Rockets had to part with Sam Cassell, the team’s clear X-factor in two NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. With Kenny Smith’s knee woes forcing him into what would be an eventual early retirement, the point guard slot was wide open.
Enter Brent Price, the brother of All-Star Mark Price, and seemingly the perfect low-usage guy (and long range bomber, hitting 46 percent from the three-point arc in 1995-96) to help divvy up the left low post touches for Hakeem, Barkley, and even Drexler. Price, however, re-aggrevated a knee injury in the preseason and re-tore his ACL (which cost him the entire 1993-94 campaign) midseason, only playing 25 games (with no starts).
It was Maloney, coming off of a year in the CBA after going undrafted in 1995, that earned the starting nod for the entire season.
That move came after Barkley, appreciating Maloney’s low-turnover approach, suggested as much to Rox coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Maloney (making the league minimum of $247,000) went on to play as expected, nailing 40 percent of his threes while throwing endless entry passes to the old men down low. The Rockets flamed out in Game 7 of the Western finals against Utah, as John Stockton (if we’re honest) lit Maloney up to the tune of over 20 points and 10 assists per game, even hitting the series-winning three at the buzzer.
Stockton lit everyone up back then, however. Maloney wasn’t alone, in that regard. How about a mixtape?
Maloney started at times for Houston the following year but was waived in 1999’s training camp just ten months after signing a seven-year deal with the Rockets. He later saw stints in Chicago and Atlanta.
SG: Anthony Peeler
Peeler is perhaps best known for throwing an elbow and punch at former teammate Kevin Garnett in the 2004 Western semis, resulting in a suspension and possibly costing his Sacramento Kings a chance at advancing, but that happen in the aughts and as a result IT DOESN’T COUNT.
Anthony was a talented but troubled hybrid guard for the post-Magic Los Angeles Lakers, famously acting as salary cap fodder in the summer of 1996 as the Lakers dealt him to Vancouver in order to free up space for Shaquille O’Neal. The Timberwolves later dealt a man that at that time was probably Mr. Timberwolf, Doug West, to Vancouver for Peeler in the hopes that Anthony could act as Minnesota’s missing piece at off guard. It didn’t work out.
What Anthony Peeler is most famous for, to me, is skipping out on an ‘Anthony Peeler Day’ celebration at a Missouri Tigers football game in October of 1998, citing other professional commitments at the time. You’ll recall that the NBA had locked out its players in October of 1998, and Anthony Peeler had no other professional commitments at the time.
SF: Bryon Russell
The Utah Jazz swingman is obviously best known for letting Michael Jordan score two straight baskets on him to close out the 1998 season, as Chicago took the championship. He should also be known for being expertly, decidedly, average.
For several years in the late 1990s, the NBA’s website released yearly results that tagged the average NBA size as 6-7, and 220 pounds. It would then identify Russell as 6-7, 220, and the NBA’s “Mr. Average.” His play – kinda good at shooting, kinda good at driving, kinda good at dribbling, kinda good at defending – backed up the statistical anecdote.
He also, weirdly, came off the bench for all but seven games in the 1997-98 season. Yes, a Utah Jazz team that won 62 games and finished first in offensive efficiency started Adam Keefe at small forward for nearly every regular season game that year.
PF: Terry Mills
For the first decade of its placement in the NBA, 6-10 and 230-pound dudes just didn’t take a whole hell of a lot of three-pointers, and for good reason – even NBA guards, back then, just weren’t all that adept at nailing 25-footers.
When the three-point line was moved into 22 feet, however, things started to lighten up. Mills, who had taken just 136 threes (making 42) in nearly 300 games in the four seasons prior to the movement, began to fire away.
In the three seasons with the shortened line, Mills fired up 907 three-pointers in 233 games, mostly coming off of the bench. His Detroit Piston coaches no doubt cheered this exhibition on, as Mills hit for over 40 percent of his treys during this stretch, basically inventing the idea of a stretch-4. The line was moved back after 1996-97, and injuries dimmed Mills’ prospects for the two years that followed, but he roared back to hit over 39 percent of his three-pointers in 1999-00 at age 32 before retiring during the following season.
C: Loy Vaught
It’s unfortunate to end this compilation on such a bummer, but sometimes that’s how these things tend to work. We’re also going to end this on an Andy Rooney note, as a noted television show of the era did back then.
In the days before widespread internet use, and the culture that came with it, a Clipper was hard to find in the early and mid-1990s. Eastern and Midwestern newspapers couldn’t display most of their home box scores due to deadline issues, and ‘SportsCenter’ often couldn’t play their rare highlights due to the fact that most of the video available to ESPN was scoreboard-feed only. Back then NBA teams were allotted one nationally televised game a year, which means you had to be around on that rare Tuesday in December when TBS or TNT gave the squad a look. Even the team’s rare playoff appearances in 1992, 1993 and 1997 were first round affairs; buried on Turner Sports late in the evening.
All through this, Vaught toiled. Acquired in the deal that brought Ron Harper to Los Angeles, in exchange for Danny Ferry, Loy became a regular starter in his fourth year and averaged nearly 12 points and eight rebounds in just 28 minutes a game. In 1997, after three straight years of averaging over 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clips, Vaught tore his Achilles and missed nearly all of 1997-98. He was the prized free agent acquisition of the Detroit Pistons after the 1998-99 lockout, ready for his prime time starting slot, but the 31-year old just couldn’t get back on track prior to retiring in 2001.
- - - - - - -