“If players were as sensitive in my era as they are now, it would have been a fight every quarter”

“If players were as sensitive in my era as they are now, it would have been a fight every quarter”


“If players were as sensitive in my era as they are now, it would have been a fight every quarter”

- by

Eddie Johnson - Getty ImagesIn terms of this upcoming season, with New Jersey upgrading with the acquisition of Magloire at the center position, and with the Celtics getting KG and Allen, how do you see Toronto fitting into that Atlantic Division? Do you believe we were riding luck last year, or you think we can hold off these emerging teams and retain our Atlantic Division title?

I think Toronto will be improved as well. They learned a valuable experience last year. They should have beaten the Nets and just that thought should have had each of those players in the gym all summer working hard. The key will be Bosh and staying away from the injuries to key players that affected them last year. Morris Peterson‘s defection to the Hornets will hurt, but the Raptors are talented enough to make a serious run at duplicating what they did last year although the competition has definitely gotten better.

How will the effect of playing for Team USA, or their respective countries, be on each of the players bodies? How much wear and tear will be done by participating in these games? Last year for the World Baseball Classic, a lot of those players saw a decrease in their performance and a physical decline towards the end of the season.

I think it does wear on you to an extent, but it all goes back to how you take care of your body. I think it will only affect the older players like Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups, but then again they did not play many minutes. I really liked how the players minutes were limited. So I don’t think it will be much of a factor during the season. LeBron is the only player that should be a little winded since his season lasted longer than any other player.

Eddie, I miss the good old days of the NBA, the days when you played and the game was physical. How do you feel when you see a hard foul in an NBA game and the player is ejected or even suspended, when if that happened back when you played, you just got two free throws and that was that? How many points a game do you think you would of scored if no one was allowed to touch you or give you a “Charles Oakley” clothesline when going into the lane?

You have gotten me so worked up now. People ask me all the time about the way the game has changed. I honestly felt it was needed, because players were becoming too sensitive. That might be the one major problem I have with players today… Why so sensitive? During my era everything was fair game including momma jokes. I tell you what, if players were as sensitive in my era as they are now, it would have been a fight every quarter. We had running dialogue all the time during the course of a game. I would have two or three trash talking conversations going on with different players all the time. The difference for us was that we did not take it personally and we used it as motivation to play even harder. Here is an example of players that I would have confrontations with every time I played them…

Xavier McDaniel and I hated each other on the court. I would be shooting and calling him a bald headed so and so at the same time he would come back and try and crack me with an elbow and then proceed to try and tear the rim down. It was vicious, but not one time did we have a fight and believe it or not we shared a drink and laughed about it during an NBA cruise during the offseason.

Larry Bird called me every name in the book when we played and I tried to reciprocate as much as I could and maintain some energy to guard him. The first time I guarded him in my career at Boston Garden he looked at me and said I am going to kick your @#$% and even during a game later in the season I popped him in the mouth with an elbow and laughed because they called a foul on him as well. He never lost his concentration and only waited till after the game to come in the locker room and drop his room key on my lap and said, “Let’s finish this at my hotel.” I reminded him of that years later and he laughed.

Lonnie Shelton was probably the quickest 6-8, 260 player I have ever seen and I hated him to guard me. He would throw me all around the court, but one night I got tired of it and I started talking about everyone in his generation to take his attention off the game. Nothing seemed to bother him till I came by the Cavalier bench and called him a fat @#$% in front of his teammates and they started laughing and he stared at me no matter where I was on the court till it really started to bother me. When he got in the game, he had nothing on his mind other than hurting me. I finally went up to him during a free throw and apologized and he said, “Cool, let’s play.” True story.

Tom Chambers and Frank Brickowski, I will mention them together because I use to get under their skin big time when they played for the Sonics. I would talk so much smack that both of them would take turns trying to pop me, but I was not stupid. I always took care of the wide bodies on my team and LaSalle Thompson and Mark Olberding would always be there to protect me. What’s so funny about those two is that in later years we would become teammates (Chambers-Suns and Brickowski-Hornets) and I consider both very good friends. They understood the method to my madness when we played together and they looked out for me as well.

Believe me, if guys were as sensitive then as they are now the league would have been out of control and David Stern would not have had one chance of turning the NBA around financially like he has done.

The only thing I will say about the defensive rule of not touching a player when he catches the ball and faces his defender is this, I would have scored at least 8 to 10 more points a game in my career. That would have put me at about 27 a game. So now what do you think Jordan would have averaged? Think about this, Jordan catches the ball 15 feet from the basket and he is allowed to turn and face the defender without the defender being able to touch him, are you kidding me. End of story!

Since you are Mr. Jumpshot, I would like to ask you about the NBA and “sidewinder” releases. Like Larry Bird and Chris Mullin, O do not square up to the basket; rather I turn about 40 to 45 degrees to the left. I think it gives a player the best chance to make the jumpshot a one-handed shot. Can I have your opinion on this release?

Hold up, you just gave me a headache. I only have an opinion about one thing when it comes to shooting and that is what’s the result? Bird, Mullin, Miller, Redd and Stojakovic were and are not text book shooters. Who cares? They have and had a great result. When I teach players, I try and work within their mechanics and go from there. I think anyone can become a very good shooter with proper understanding of why the ball has the best chance to go in. I will give no more of my secrets unless you pay or go to my website and purchase the best shooting DVD on the market!

How will Memphis Grizzlies do for the PG position with four guards (Tarence Kinsey, Damon Stoudamire, Juan Carlos Navarro and Mike Conley)?

I have no idea how they will do if Marc Iavaroni just hands the point guard duties to Conley. I do think they will have some stability if he allows Stoudamire to run the team and allow the youngsters to move slowly. The one thing Iavaroni does not want to do is alienate his scorers because he is force feeding young point guards and they are struggling to get the scorers the ball efficiently. The Grizzlies have talent, but it remains to be seen if they can develop heart and toughness to get back to the 50-win plateau again.

Am I the only one that is a little concerned about how Kevin Durant will hold up for the season? He is really good but you have to wonder, how will his skinny frame hold up over the 82-game season? As a catch-and-shoot player ( i.e. Reggie Miller) he would be OK. But let’s be real, he wasn’t drafted to be a catch-and-shoot player.

You just answered your own question. If you remember Reggie Miller early in his career, he drove the lane consistently and gave up his body and played 18 years. The offensive players in today’s game are protected and because of it Durant will be fine. He is an extremely committed young man and will get stronger and better as the season goes along.

I’ve been following the Bobcats since their inception. They appear to have done things the right way – building through the draft. They seem to have many talented players, but it can be hard to tell because so many players are young and many others have been injured. How does a team like this reach the next level? How does management or a coach decide what players are the nucleus of the team, and which ones are not (I remember Charles Barkley saying once that every NBA player is good enough to play). The next two years seem crucial to the Bobcats. What needs to happen for them to be successful?

Hopefully, Michael Jordan is allowing everyone to have a hand on decisions, which I am sure he is this time around. Luck plays a lot with getting to the next level. Assembling a team is extremely difficult because mixture can either enhance or destroy. If you look back at history, great teams have started with either the center position or the point guard position. Well, the Bobcats have neither. Yes, they can improve and win. But if they are to get out of the Eastern Conference it will have to be with the formula I just described. Emeka Okafor is not the answer at center and Raymond Felton is a stretch at the point position. Bottom line, the Bobcats need to find a way to convince some big time free agents to get on board in the next few years or they will just be termed a team that competes but comes up short.

Did you listen to some specific kind of music or song before you had to play a game?

I did not have a set order of doing things before a game. I just went with the flow. I never listened to music once I got in the locker room. That is another pet peeve of mind with today’s player. They isolate themselves from the people they are going to battle with. When I played, we talked to one another before games and not just about basketball. We would talk world issues and debate at times as well. That’s really the only part I miss about the game when I played – the fun we had in the locker room. For instance, when I played with the Charlotte Hornets in 1993, we had a fashion show before each game. Players would actually wait for you to walk in the locker room so they could dissect what you were wearing. Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues and Johnny Newman wore a different outfit for 82 games. I often wondered why Muggsy Bogues had his suits tailored when he was only 5-5 and could have bought his wardrobe at Target. They would hang up the worse outfit of the night and debate about it before our team meeting before the game. I have never laughed so hard in my life. I got to know all of those players that year because they did not isolate themselves and that was special.

I was just wondering what your thoughts are on the upcoming season for the Suns. Do you think DJ Strawberry and Alando along with Grant Hill will be enough to make up for losing Kurt Thomas and Junior or do they really need another quality big man to come off the bench before they can make it to the Finals? Also, Amare shot 66 percent from three-point land with Team USA. Are you going to give him some shooting pointers so he can become a deadly threat from anywhere on the court?

The question for the Suns this year and probably for the next three years with Steve Nash around is if they can get over the emotional hurdle the San Antonio Spurs present. That’s it! There are no other teams in the conference that can beat the Suns in a seven-game series (sorry, Maverick fans). The lost of Kurt Thomas and James Jones will hurt a lot if the Suns can’t find decent replacements. PJ Brown would be a welcome addition, but I believe he should jump in the fold now instead of during the season which is being tossed around. The hardest thing to do is come to a running team and try and catch up. Go ask Jalen Rose. If they do not get another big man, then Boris Diaw will have to play huge – which I personally believe he will this season. This will allow Amare to stay out of foul trouble and continue to dominate the paint for the Suns all season long. And yes, when the time comes he might be the second or third best three-point shooter on the roster. His mechanics are excellent.

Grant Hill will have the best season he has had since his years in Detroit. The pressure to perform and lead will not be there and so his relaxed role will pay major dividends on and off the court for the Suns this season.

, , , , ,

To leave a comment, you will need to Sign in or create an account if you already have an account. Typed comments will be lost if you are not signed in.
More HoopsHype