Here are just a few of them. Enjoy
MAGIC GM COULD GET
'WHACKED' ANY TIME
February 3, 2004 -- HOOP DU JOUR
WHEN Orlando was awarded an expansion franchise in the late '80s, its driving force was Pat Williams, celebrated for his promotional/personnel ingenuity as GM of the Bulls and 76ers. Upon kick-starting the Magic, his right hand man was John Gabriel, fairly fresh from his landscaping business on the Jersey shore; since there wasn't much call for grass-cutting in the winter, he'd begun a one-man video company, which is how he became a Sixer, hired part-time on the cheap by junior executive John Nash.
Early in his team's construction, Gabriel drove to Miami on an information-gathering weekend visit with Billy Cunningham, yet another Pfond Philly connection. The Heat had gotten their NBA license to play for real in '89, a year ahead of the Magic, and there was plenty to talk about. "I was really enjoying the process of putting together a franchise from the ground up," Gabriel recently recalled. "I was having a ball. No problem was too big that it couldn't be solved."
Cunningham was happy to hear it. Gabriel's passion was contagious. On the other hand, years as a professional player and coach had malformed him into a certified cynic. He counseled the value of being prepared for the inevitable.
"Things are great now," Billy C alerted his young friend whose time as Magic GM is dwindling to a precious few months, "but always remember to keep the weed whacker gassed up."
Eddie Griffin may have left Seton Hall after one season, but evidently he came into the NBA well-schooled in certain base, er, basic skills. Unfortunately for his violatin' curfew carcass, Houston's police force has been back-doored once too often, I suspect; they anticipated the Rehab Forward tryin' to run the Betty Ford Clinic on 'em.
Listen up, high-school seniors and college undergrads; if you're able to compete with your elders, Griffin's law breaking is another good reason to declare early (earlier, earliest) for the draft.
Shaq has really done it this time. His f-troop tirade on live TV against the game officials (wonder if it'll wind up over the Delta Center P.A. as an obscene phone call?) did jot go unpunished. Last night's one-game suspension versus the Pacers is the easy part. I'd hate to be Shaq when his mother gets into his ear. . . .
Sunday's Newark Star-Ledger branded my report (Al Harrington asking to be traded at least twice) nonsense, and accused Isiah Thomas of planting the small forward's acute Knicks interest in this space. As I learned from working with Charles Barkley, you can't win an argument with the ignorant. The author would better serve his readers, I submit, if he actually had a source other than the Indy beat writer who's made a career of getting beat on Pacer stories by The Post.
Oh, yeah, Harrington was quoted saying he's happy as a Skylark, er, Pacer being part of a winning team in Indy. What a shock he failed to validate his dissatisfaction with being the sixth man! Meanwhile, in case the Ledger would like to hear the tape, agent Andy Miller admitted to me the discussions with management, indeed, took place, which, of course, I'd already confirmed long before his frantic phone call. . . .
This just in: The Nets are in love with Vin Baker. And Griffin claimed dibs on the Brooklyn House of Detention.
GARDEN GRUDGE MATCH
By MARC BERMAN
Larry Bird (left) and Isiah Thomas.
- NYP: C. Wenzelberg
February 3, 2004 -- A still-bitter Knick boss Isiah Thomas shot down Larry Bird's contention that the two of them couldn't work together in Indiana, saying Larry Legend falsely accused him of lacking communication skills and work ethic during their six weeks together last summer.
Bird's Pacers and Thomas' Knicks butt heads tonight at the Garden.
Thomas, fired as Pacer coach on Aug. 27, will be in his trademark spot in the tunnel. Bird, whose Pacers lead the Eastern Conference with a 35-13 record with new coach Rick Carlisle, is on a college-scouting trip.
When asked if Bird's work-ethic charge had racial overtones, Thomas remarked, "I'm not going to get into that. Everything I've accomplished in life in the sporting arena and outside the sporting arena, you couldn't have the type of success without working hard for it.
"I've never, ever been accused of that. I have never, ever had a problem with communication. Those things I was accused of in Indiana, never, ever been associated with myself."
Bird was hired as Pacers GM in mid-July and fired Isiah on Aug. 27, after free agent Jermaine O'Neal re-signed.
Thomas' Pacers were knocked out of the first round three straight years but he believes that if he still were there, he'd be reaping the rewards of a club he built.
Thomas said the club was too young to win a title last season and had too many personal tragedies (O'Neal's stepfather shot himself, Jamaal Tinsley's mother died).
During a 45-minute interview yesterday, Thomas hinted he got hateful e-mails and letters from Indiana fans and wouldn't deny they were racially charged.
"The basketball stuff was good," Isiah said. "The other stuff, I would have to lie to you and I'm not going to lie to you."
Pacers fans have been accused of racially charged heckling Allen Iverson, Latrell Sprewell and Patrick Ewing. When asked about his mail since joining the Knicks Dec. 22, Isiah said, "The fan mail and e-mail has been extremely positive. They've only talked about the game."
Thomas knows he can't compete with Bird in Indiana, even if he won an NCAA championship in the basketball-mad state and Bird fell short.
"He's the hometown kid who's come home and made good," Isiah said, "Even though I went to Indiana University and won the championship and he lost, I think the hometown guy will always get the nod. I was still seen as a person from Chicago."
Bird and Thomas' rivalry date to the 1980s, when Thomas said the former Celtic would be just another good player if he were black. Bird declined comment, but Indiana president Donnie Walsh supports Bird's decision.
"There was nothing happening between them [last summer] to think it would change," Walsh said.
Said Thomas: "I thought we had a chance to do something really special with the influence we could've had with the players. He was much more comfortable with [new coach Rick] Carlisle than myself. I think if he came in Day 1 and said, this is what I want to do, I don't think anyone would've had a problem."