Nelson, two ex-Warriors Hall of Fame finalists

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Nelson, two ex-Warriors Hall of Fame finalists

Former Golden State coach Don Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history, was named one of 12 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Joining him were former Warriors Jamaal Wilkes, who was a member of the 1974-75 NBA champions, and super-scorer Bernard King.

Official press release:
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today, at NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando, an elite list of players, coaches, an official and one team as the 12 finalists from the North American and Womens committees to be considered for election in 2012. The recognition of being honored as a Hall of Fame finalist is a career highlight in the sport of basketball. This years list includes previous finalists Don Nelson, Bernard King, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes, Maurice Cheeks, Dick Motta, Hank Nichols and the All American Red Heads. Among the four first-time finalists are five-time NBA All-Star Reggie Miller, five-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino, two-time NBA Coach of the Year Bill Fitch and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain. The Class of 2012 will be unveiled at the NCAA Final Four in April.

The finalists for the Class of 2012 are a decorated group consisting of some of the greatest leaders that we have ever seen in the game of basketball, said Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Governors. They represent all facets of the game from professional, collegiate, amateur and International levels for the sport.

Also announced today are five Direct Elects who are the initial members of the Class of 2012. They include Mel Daniels voted in from the American Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, Don Barksdale from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee, Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee and Phil Knight from the Contributors Direct Election Committee. This year marks the second year of the direct elect process. Last year, the ABA and Early African-American Pioneers committees were added to maintain a strong focus on keeping history on the forefront of the voting process and to preserve a balance between two eras of basketball. These five individuals have been directly elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame and will be a part of the Enshrinement Ceremonies in September along with the eventual members from the North American and Womens committees.

The complete list of finalists include from the North American Screening Committee: players Maurice Cheeks, Bernard King, Reggie Miller, Ralph Sampson and Jamaal Wilkes; coaches Bill Fitch, Dick Motta, Don Nelson and Rick Pitino; and referee Hank Nichols. From the Womens Screening Committee: player Katrina McClain and team The All American Red Heads.

The Class of 2012 will be announced on Monday, April 2 at a news conference in New Orleans prior to the NCAAs Mens Championship game. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2012 will be enshrined during festivities in Springfield, Mass. on Friday, September 7. Tickets to the 2012 Enshrinement and Induction Celebration are available by calling the Hall of Fame at (413) 231-5540.

North American Committee Finalists:
DON NELSON Coach Nelson, the all-time winningest coach in NBA History with over 1,300 victories is one of only two coaches to be named NBA Coach of the Year three times (1983, 1985 and 1992). He spent over 40 years of his life as a player, coach and general manager. He has led teams to 18 playoff appearances where he amassed 75 playoff wins and is one of only two NBA coaches to win 250 games with three different teams. In 2007, he led the Golden State Warriors to the first 8 seed upset over a 1 seed in a seven-game series when they defeated the Dallas Mavericks. He also coached Dream Team II to a gold medal in the 1994 World Championships. Nelson is the only coach with 1,000 wins and multiple NBA championships as a player, where he won five titles with the Boston Celtics (1966, 1968, 1969, 1974 and 1976).

BERNARD KING Player King is a four-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA First-Team selection, NBA All-Rookie Team and was the NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1981. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, he was a First Team All-America at the University of Tennessee before an NBA career that included stints with the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Washington Bullets. He averaged over 22 points per game during his 15-year career including a 34.8 points per game average in the 1984 NBA Playoffs.

RALPH SAMPSON Player Sampson is one of the top collegiate players of all-time, where at Virginia he became only the third three-time National College Player of the Year. He was a three-time Naismith Award winner, two-time Wooden Award recipient and led the Cavaliers to the NIT Championship and one Final Four appearance. He was only the sixth player in NCAA history to collect 2,000 points and 1,500 rebounds. In 1983, he was the No. 1 draft pick by the Houston Rockets. In the NBA, he was named to three NBA All-Star games, collected Rookie of the Year honors in 1984 and was named MVP of the 1985 NBA All-Star game.

JAMAAL WILKES Player Wilkes, a California native, spent his entire high school, college and professional career in his home state, playing under Hall of Famer John Wooden at UCLA prior to a successful NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. At UCLA, he would win two National Championships and receive All-America honors in 1974. He was also a three-time GTE Academic All-America selection. In the NBA, he won four championships while reaching the NBA finals six times. He was a three-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA All-Defensive second team and received Rookie of the Year honors in 1975.

MAURICE CHEEKS Player Cheeks has been involved in the NBA either at the playing level or coaching level since 1978. As a player, he was named to four NBA All-Star games, a four-time NBA All-Defensive team selection, member of one NBA championship team and set the steals and assist records for Philadelphia. This Chicago native would then go onto coaching careers with the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers. He retired fifth on the NBA career list for both assists (7,392) and steals (2,310). Cheeks is currently an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

BILL FITCH Coach Fitch is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year (1976 and 1980) who led the Boston Celtics to the 1981 NBA Championship. The Iowa native began his coaching success by leading North Dakota University to consecutive NCAA Division II Final Fours (1965, 1966) and was a staple on the sidelines for 25 NBA seasons with five different teams from 1970 to 1998. He recorded over 900 wins and ranks eighth in NBA history in victories while reaching five conference finals and becoming the second coach in history to lead a team to three straight 60-win seasons.

REGGIE MILLER Player Miller was one of the greatest clutch scorers in NBA history, playing his entire 17-season NBA career with the Indiana Pacers finishing as the franchises all-time leader in points (25,279) and steals (1,505). He was a five-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA Third Team selection and won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1996. From Los Angeles, he guided UCLA to the 1985 NIT Championship and finished third on the schools all-time scoring list. He ranks second on the NBA all-time list for three-point field goals made (2,560) and attempted (6,486). He is ninth on the NBA career free-throw percentage list (.888) and seventh in career minutes played (47,619). In addition to some memorable NBA playoff performances, he has the most three-pointers made (320) in playoff history.

DICK MOTTA Coach Motta had coaching success at all levels of the game starting at the junior college level in 1954. Hes collected more than 1,000 victories while at the junior college, high school, collegiate and NBA levels. He guided the Washington Bullets to the 1978 NBA Championship, won NBA Coach of the Year in 1971, led Weber State to two Big Sky regular season championships, and won a state high school championship in Grace, Idaho. Over his NBA career, he led five different NBA teams the Bullets, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets.

HANK NICHOLS Referee Nichols focused his career in basketball around the rules of the game. A long-time NCAA basketball official who has refereed six national championship games, 10 final fours, three NIT Finals and 13 ACC Championships officiated at the top of collegiate basketball for decades. He officiated on the world stage officiating two Olympic games and one European championship. After his officiating career, he would become the national coordinator of officials for the NCAA for over 20 years and was instrumental in the progression of rule changes at the collegiate level and he remains one of the most influential rules architects in history.

RICK PITINO Coach Pitino is the only coach in mens history to lead three different schools to NCAA Final Four appearances as he did with Providence College, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. He led Kentucky to the 1996 National Championship and then reached the title game again with the Wildcats the following year. He has won over 600 games in his collegiate career, reached the Final Four five different times (1987, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 2005), led his teams to 20 postseason appearances and won nine conference tournament championships. He earned Coach of the Year honors from different sources three different years. Pitino also held two stints as an NBA head coach with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, leading the Knicks to two playoff appearances.

Womens Committee Finalists: ALL AMERICAN RED HEADS Team The All American Red Heads are known as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters and the first womens professional basketball team. The team regularly played more than 200 games per season, winning 70 of them while touring thousands of miles reaching 49 states, Canada and the Philippines. Over six decades (from 1936 to 1986), the team broke social barriers and stereotypes playing in small towns and rural hamlets, as well as Madison Square Garden and Chicago Stadium.

KATRINA McCLAIN Player McClain is one of the most decorated athletes in USA Basketball national team history, winning two Olympic gold medals (1988 and 1996), Olympic Bronze (1992), three FIBA World Championship medals (gold in 1986 and 1990; bronze in 1994) and five more medals at the Goodwill Games, Pan Am Games and World University Games. She was named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year in 1988 and 1992. Before stepping onto the International stage, she was a two-time Kodak All-America (1986, 1987) and the 1987 WBCA National Player of the Year at the University of Georgia.

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant returns, which could happen as soon as next week, the Warriors will be an appreciably better team than they were when he left.

Better because in Durant’s absence, veteran wing Andre Iguodala found the best of his game and fully regained his shooting confidence.

Better because David West, who spent the first two quarters of the season acclimating to his new teammates and the third on the injury list, has settled in and turned up his fire and production to a level that pleads for more playing time.

Better because Stephen Curry is dancing and Klay Thompson is cooking and Draymond Green is destroying opposing offenses.

Better because everybody on this team can sense the postseason and is making the mental adjustment, while knowing they’ll get an emotional bounce from Durant’s presence on the floor.

“Obviously, you hate to see KD go down; he’s going to be back soon,” Curry told reporters after a 110-98 win over the Spurs in San Antonio. “But we never really lost confidence in ourselves. There was no panic. We’ve just battled.”

Consider that the Warriors, who own the best record in the NBA, are coming off two nights during which they also proved to be the best team. Going into Houston and San Antonio on successive nights, they extended their seven-game win streak to nine, the longest active streak at a time when all playoff teams wish to peak.

By wiping out a 22-point deficit to a Spurs team that simply doesn’t allow that but did anyway even with Green completely off his offensive game.

And this was done with Durant observing and cheering from the bench in street clothes while also learning more about his teammates and appreciating what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Most notably, as a team, what they’ve done on defense. After recovering from the body blow that was losing Durant, losing five of seven in the process, the Warriors have pulled off a dazzling stretch during which they’ve taken apart all comers.

Prior to holding the Spurs to 41 percent from the field, the Warriors limited the explosive Rockets to 38.8 percent, the Grizzlies to 44.7 (34.8 in the decisive second half), the Kings to 48.2, the Mavericks to 35.9, the Thunder to 42.5, the Bucks to 40.4, the Magic to 37.2 and the 76ers to 43.8.

“We play a finesse style . . . but when we’re at our best, you talk about our defense,” Curry said. “It’s about having each other’s back, trying to do little things, physically, to keep teams out of the paint and off the glass.”

What has happened is most everybody in the playing rotation has grown in the absence of Durant. And while some had to if the Warriors were to withstand his loss, that they managed to do so is significant. The evidence is visible and palpable, never more than late Wednesday night.

“We have what it takes to win all sorts of ways,” Curry said. “Whether you’re down 15 and can’t figure out what’s going on in the first quarter, or you put together a beautiful performance for 48 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Night in and night out, you’ve just got to be ready to play."

At no point this season have the Warriors had reason to feel as good as they do returning home to Oracle Arena, where they will play six of their final seven games. Winning five more games gives them the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of what the Spurs do.

They’re on top of their game and they’re a few games away from adding the man who was their best player through the first 60 games.

By all appearances and insinuations, Durant will be back for the final two or three games of the regular season. That beats any trade-deadline deal eight days a week.

Instant Replay: Warriors erase early woes for big win vs Spurs

Instant Replay: Warriors erase early woes for big win vs Spurs

BOX SCORE

The Warriors won their ninth consecutive game, and this one was profoundly more significant than the previous eight.

With a 110-98 win over the Spurs at AT&T Center in San Antonio Wednesday night, the Warriors took a giant step closer to achieving their goal of the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs.

They now lead the Spurs by 3.5 games in the Western Conference. The magic number is five, meaning any combination of Warriors wins or San Antonio losses adding up to five would give the Warriors (61-14) the top seed throughout.

Stephen Curry scored 29 points, Klay Thompson tossed in 23, David West a season-high 15 and Andre Iguodala 14 as the Warriors, coming off a win at Houston on Tuesday, swept the toughest back-to-back set of the season.

Kawhi Leonard paced the Spurs (56-17) with 19 points, on 7-of-20 shooting. The Warriors offset a 42-34 rebounding disadvantage by limiting San Antonio to 41-percent shooting.

STANDOUT PERFORMERS

Curry carried a large measure of the scoring load, but Iguodala and West had terrific all-around games that included timely scoring.

Curry’s line: 29 points (9-of-20 shooting from the field, 4-of-8 from deep, 7-of-7 from the line), 11 assists and three rebounds. He played 35 minutes and finished plus-6.

Iguodala’s line: 14 points (6-of-9, 2-of-3 from deep), six rebounds, two steals and one assist. He played 30 minutes and was plus-17.

West’s line: 15 points (7-of-11, 1-of-2 from deep), five assists, four rebounds and two blocks. He played 22 minutes and finished plus-23.

TURNING POINT

When the Spurs went up 43-29 on a jumper by Kawhi Leonard with 6:46 remaining in the second quarter, the Warriors went on a 16-2 run to pull into a 45-45 tie on a Shaun Livingston jumper with 3:29 left in the half.

That wiped out a deficit that had ranged as high as 22 points.

The Warriors took the lead for good 80 seconds into the second half. San Antonio got no closer than five in the fourth quarter.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: F/C James Michael McAdoo (L eyebrow laceration) was listed as probable and made available. F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain, bone bruise) and F Kevon Looney (R hip strain) were listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

Spurs: G Dejounte Murray (L groin strain) was listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors return to action Friday night, when they close out their season series with the Houston Rockets at Oracle Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.