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Article on D.A. & some interesting quotes from DW: Pacers almost traded Saras
Armstrong still hustling at 38
INSIDE THE NBA
July 30, 2006
For a league that really didn't want Darrell Armstrong in the first place, it sure is having trouble saying goodbye.
The NBA doesn't want him to leave. And with good reason.
Armstrong, 38, defied the odds again by signing another one-year contract for more than $1 million earlier this month, allowing the Dallas Mavericks to trade him to the Indiana Pacers.
This will be his 13th year in the league, proving again that you don't have to be John Stockton or Gary Payton -- forever all-stars -- to last a long time playing point guard. He may have lost his quickness, but he never was all that quick to begin with. It's the tenacity, the basketball know-how, and the willingness to sacrifice for whatever team he is on, that has made him so valuable.
"I don't know how much he'll play, but he's the type of guy when you put him in, good things usually happen," said Indiana Coach Rick Carlisle last week. "His experience is invaluable.''
Armstrong didn't reach the NBA until he was 26, not until he spent four years at tiny Fayetteville (N.C.) State, then at least one season in the Global Basketball Association, the United States Basketball League, the Continental Basketball League, Cyprus and Spain, before finally finding a home with the Orlando Magic.
It was here that the NBA finally took notice, watching him carve his niche in the post-Shaq era, becoming one of the most popular players in franchise history.
It wasn't that he was so good -- because he never really was -- it was just that he played so hard every night. He played hurt. He played sick. He played bruised and battered, and people noticed.
"When we signed him, [former Magic coach] Chuck Daly called just to tell me what a great pickup it was for us. All he talked about was Darrell's heart, and the way he hustled," Carlisle said. "He said he was the best locker room guy he ever had."
Armstrong spent nine seasons with the Magic before they opted not to re-sign him, leaving him for New Orleans to snag for much the same reason that Indiana wanted him. The Hornets later traded him to Dallas, which wanted a reliable backup. It may have been Armstrong you saw in the NBA Finals last month, often leaping off the bench to wave his towel and cheer on his younger teammates.
"In this league, good chemistry is essential to winning," Carlisle said. "So many factors are pretty consistent. The difference in talent from team to team, in many cases, is negligible. Many cases, it comes down to which group of guys are more tied together. We're firm believers in that. And we're taking steps to shore up that aspect of the team.''
Armstrong was the fourth oldest player in the league last season, trailing only Dikembe Mutombo, Cliff Robinson and Ervin Johnson, all frontcourt players. It's really unusual for a little guard to last this long.
"I can't play as many minutes as I used to in Orlando, but I can still pick up a guy and defensively hound him for 94 feet, make him do things he doesn't want to do," Armstrong said. "I'll just play hard, practice hard, and hopefully teach the young guys how to play the game, just by example."
Armstrong said this probably would be his last year, unless of course someone offers him another contract.
"I've always loved going to work," Armstrong said. "Maybe that's why I play the way I do.''
Armstrong, Carlisle, Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge, Byron Scott and Wally Szczerbiak all were in town last week to play golf for two purposes. First they played in the Big Break All-Star Challenge, which will be aired on The Golf Channel Aug. 29.
But more importantly for most of them was the annual golfing fundraiser the next day for Shepherd's Hope, the local organization that helps provide access to health care for the uninsured in Central Florida.
"The number of uninsured people in this area has skyrocketed. The problem is growing rapidly, and it's alarming," said Cindi Kopelman, president of Shepherd's Hope who first enlisted Rivers support. "That's why Doc has been so great for us and what we do."
Rivers, now coaching in Boston, brought Ainge, his general manager, and Szczerbiak, his forward, to help him this year in Central Florida.
Rivers, who plays golf as often as time allows, struggled during the putting part of The Challenge. He missed three consecutive easy putts, prompting a laugh from professional golfer Scott Hoch.
"The good news, Doc, is that there still is plenty of room left in that hole," Hoch said.
Around the Rim
According to those close to discussions involving the proposed new arena for Central Florida, which will be used by the Magic, there is nothing certain about the facility being in downtown Orlando. There are rumblings now that it could end up on the tourist side of town, possibly near the Orange County Convention Center.
Dee Brown, who played in both Boston and Orlando during his career, has opened EDGE (Elite Development Growth Environment), a basketball facility in Southwest Orlando to help players of all ages develop their skills. He is using a motion analysis system like golfers have used for years. "I'm competing with Jerry Rice now to become the former-athlete-on-the-most-reality-TV shows leader,'" Brown said.
You don't often think of Switzerland when it comes to basketball, but that's where Magic assistant coach Tom Sterner was last week as part of a basketball camp for the seventh time in the last 10 years. "The biggest sports here are football (soccer), team handball and probably skiing," Sterner said. "But in the years I've been coming, the basketball has improved tremendously."
The Magic lost a loyal fan last week in Lake Mary/Sanford when Kim Reynolds, 43, lost her battle with cancer. During the Magic's early years, she used to decorate her Christmas tree with a Magic theme, with homemade ornaments that included pictures of her favorites like Armstrong, Nick Anderson and Shaquille O'Neal. She even had an ornament with the goggles that Horace Grant used to wear. As caring as she was, just a month ago, she called to ask if someone -- anyone -- with the Magic could autograph a basketball, so she could give it to her elderly grandmother. "She likes anything Magic just like me," Reynolds said.
A Final Thought: There could be a few deals in the works as teams look to solidify their rosters.