Scott Burrell spent eight seasons in the NBA, and made a career out of playing the game of basketball the way it’s meant to be played. One of the league’s most fundamentally sound players during his time, Burrell’s career was highlighted by an NBA championship win with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.
He also holds the distinction of being the first player in sports history to be drafted in the first round of two different major sports, having been drafted in both the NBA and MLB.
Burrell recently took part in former NBA competitor John Starks’ Charity Bowl in New York City this past Tuesday night, and was clearly enjoying himself as he bowled and joked around with fans and other participants, whom he mentioned he met and got to know at the previous year’s event.
As I heard Scott going back and forth in some heated debate with some passionate NBA fans at the end of the night, I swooped in to pick his brain myself.
Read on to see what the NBA champ had to say about the Celtics’ championship hopes, the Knicks’ ongoing quest to bring in more star power (who else they should have considered signing this summer), as well as if he thinks former teammate Michael Jordan could be suiting up for the Bobcats anytime soon.
Q: I heard you talking to some people about the ongoing Carmelo-Anthony saga. You’re obviously keeping up on today’s NBA.
A: What should the Knicks do, should they get him? Does he play defense though? I don't know. Defense wins games in the NBA. Older veteran teams are going to win.
Raymond Felton is playing great. But what if they get a guy like Chauncey Billups back? Chauncey’s an NBA Champion.
Q: Since your playing days, ended, you’ve taken up coaching and are an assistant coach for Quinnipiac University’s men’s basketball team. What brought you back to the college game?
A: It’s in my hometown—beautiful campus, great gym. My current boss was an old coach at UConn for about 15 years after I was there, so that makes it easier. It’s fun to be there.
Q: Over the course of your career, you played with stars like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Alonzo Mourning. Talking local hoops, what do you think of Amar’e Stoudemire’s star power?
A: I think he’s awesome—every night. He comes to play every night, and a lot of guys don’t. He does get paid a lot of money, but he definitely brings it. It’s awesome to watch him.
Q: So you think Amar’e was the right guy to bring in to start things off.
A: Definitely. He’s the kind of guy the Knicks are going to want to build around. I actually thought David Lee would have been great with Amar’e. You have to find guys that play hard and want to win. They can’t be worried about contracts or the limelight. Guys who are on the same page win championships. I learned that in Chicago.
Not everyone is always happy with their contract—Scottie Pippen wasn’t happy at times—but the one thing he did was show up every night. He took care of it at the end of the season. Professionals like that win championships.
Q: Who are some of your favorites to win the NBA Championship this season?
A: Definitely the Celtics.
I think the Heat are good, but they’re young. Plus, they have three studs, two of which do the same thing. Look at the Celtics—you have Ray Allen as the shooter, Paul Pierce can score, KG’s your inside/outside guy, and then you have Shaq and Kendrick Perkins in the middle. That’s a complete team that knows how to play with each other.
That loss to the Celtics [last Sunday] really hurt the Heat. The Celtics were banged up, and the Heat had a chance, but the Celtics really took care of business. The Celtics are putting doubt in the Heat’s mind, and that’s ultimately how you win.
The Lakers are another team that knows how to play with each other. They may need to make a move, but they know how to play.
Q: Playing in Chicago with the best there ever was, I have to ask about the team’s new resident star. Will Derrick Rose be the league’s MVP this season?
A: He could definitely be up there. You know, I think Stoudemire is a real MVP candidate too. The Knicks have made major improvements obviously.
I think Manu Ginobili is very underrated also. He’s not a superstar, but he’s very underrated! The NBA is going to promote who they want to, but Ginobili does a great job with the Spurs—they’re good.
Q: Amar’e is definitely leading the Knicks to a big improvement over last season. Does leading such a charge make him more of a MVP candidate than someone like Kobe Bryant, whose Lakers could win well over 50 games this season?
A: I think so. Kobe Bryant has so much talent around him—Gasol, Bynum—the Lakers have a defensive stopper in Ron Artest, and Odom too. They have so much talent on their team. Plus, that team has been to the Finals before.
Kobe does a great job, but Stoudemire has no all-stars around him, no “Dream-Team” type guys or Hall of Famers around him at this point. You look at him and you can see he’s given life to the city of New York, and that’s one is the biggest markets in the league. He’s done a great job.
Q: You’re talking about guys who can shine in the limelight. Aside from Carmelo Anthony, who everyone is talking about, what other guys do you think handle the bright lights of New York City?
A: Ray Allen’s my best friend. He’s so underrated. I was very happy for him last week. He’s just an underrated guy that takes care of business and does what he has to do.
He was a free agent last year, and I’m not sure why a lot of teams wouldn’t want to go after him to be the leader of their city and team. He’s a two-time “Dream-Teamer,” and he’s won two gold medals.
Q: If I remember correctly, the Knicks did give him a look this past summer, right?
A: Yeah, but what were they going to offer him, $4 million per year? Come on. I have a question—why wouldn’t you want to sign the best shooter in NBA history and put him next to Stoudemire? I think that would have made his job a little easier.
You know what you’re getting with Ray. Like I said, he’s just one of those guys that brings it every night. He may not be the best defensively, but offensively, he’ll be patient and won’t ever have to force it. He doesn’t need the ball and won’t complain. He’s just a pro—one of those classic vets.
Q: Finally, as a former teammate of MJ’s, did it surprise you to see him practicing with the Bobcats last week?
A: No way. In about three months, you’ll see him out there, haha! He would definitely consider it. He said it in his Hall of Fame speech. Michael doesn’t talk nonsense: he said we might see him out there at 50. He would be one of the best players—well, he wouldn’t be the best, but he’d be up there.