It’s officially that time of year where NBA fans normally settle in for a long season.
By this time next week, teams are usually beginning their regular season, with many setting out to prove they’ve made improvements over the offseason and are ready to make a run at a NBA championship once again.
But this time, there’s been no training camp, no preseason, and no start to the season is in clear sight, all due to the NBA lockout.
For the fans that have already begun to feel withdrawal, "Steiner Sports" has had them covered, holding meet/greet and autograph sessions with NBA legends at its Long Island location over the last week.
After hosting Magic Johnson and Bernard King, the best place for sports memorabilia welcomed Brooklyn’s own, recent Hall of Fame inductee Chris Mullin, this past Saturday.
The last couple months have been a whirlwind for the former NBA star and original “Dream Team” member, who returned home last week to be celebrated by his ala mater, St. John’s University, and of course, the local fans, who followed his tremendous career so closely. Those same dedicated fans showed up to greet Mullin with memorabilia ranging from old college jerseys, “Dream Team” posters, and long kept newspaper clippings.
Though Mullin said he chose to enter the Hall of Fame as a Golden State Warrior and a member of the St. John’s Red Storm (the Hall of Fame lets inductees select two logos to represent their legacies), many Knicks fans will remember him as a member of those fierce Indiana Pacers’ squads that competitively fought (and often beat) the Knicks in the 1990’s.
Most recent Knicks President, Donnie Walsh, was at the helm of those great Pacers’ teams, and in fact brought the longtime Warrior to Indiana.
Mullin, who maintains a strong relationship with Walsh, called him a “miracle worker” for the job he did rebuilding the Knicks.
Even so, the Brooklyn native wasn’t entirely convinced the combination of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony was simply enough to take the Knicks to the next level.
Mullin noted, “I think you have to take a look at that a little longer, you know? Both players like to play with the ball. You need to get somebody who can take the ball out of their hands in order to play more like a cohesive unit, as opposed to the two of them just taking turns. Maybe it comes down to putting Stoudemire in the game one quarter where he has the ball, and then Anthony’s got it the next time. There has to be a way where they are actually functioning together.”
With two players who dominate the ball as much as STAT and ‘Melo, Mullin appears on point when suggesting there needs to be more fluidity in the Knicks’ offensive game plan.
During the first half of the season, the team’s run and gun offense, headed by Raymond Felton, seemed as though it was coming together, thriving under Coach Mike D’Antoni. The team was building chemistry when the trade for Carmelo Anthony shook things up.
Afterwards, the offense appeared stagnant with Chauncey Billups at the helm, but as Mullin noted, the ball isn’t moving if it is always in the hands of one of two players.
Though they only played together for three seasons, “Run-TMC” (consisting of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Mullin) injected life into a rebuilding Warriors squad in the early ‘90s.
Mullin said being able to work together and complement one another was what made the three so good, insisting, “The most important thing was we had very different skills. Tim was obviously very dynamic with the basketball. He had the speed to break guys down. Mitch was a good post player who could play well in the open floor. He was good with the ball too. I kind of worked off the guys; I was a good complement around them.”
“But ultimately,” Mullin said, “all three of us had very different talents. We had one guy who could work with the ball in Tim, and Mitch and I were able to play without it. That’s important, because if you simply have guys that can only play with the ball, it’s hard to incorporate that as a team.”
Though Mullin played on a “Big Three” of his own, he did it in one of the NBA’s smaller markets, and addressed the desire of stars to move into big markets like New York, asserting, “I don’t have a problem with it, as long as the migration is for basketball. The guys I watched, like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, always kept basketball as their main priority. If that’s the reason you move, to get into the best situation basketball-wise, I’m all for it. If you migrate for reality TV or some other aspirations, I kind of question that, because ultimately, I think it takes away from your performance.”
With that said, looking back at his own team’s past success, Mullin did agreed that the Knicks need a playmaker if they want to become serious contenders.
“Yes,” said Mullin. “They need a guy who can distribute the ball, line things up, and balance that attack.”
There’s been talk of Coach D’Antoni sort of molding and utilizing Anthony into somewhat of a point forward, but it’s no secret that New York City craves for a point guard, with Chris Paul’s name coming up in countless conversations.
Mullin should know exactly how playing with an elite point guard can elevate one’s game on the court. He had the benefit of not only playing with one in Hardaway, but another in his good friend Mark Jackson, who teamed up with him not only in college at St. John’s, but on the Pacers as well.
What does Mullin think, now that his good friend is the head coach of the Warriors, the team with whom Mullin built his legacy?
“I think Mark is going to do a great job, “ Mullin added. “He’s got great leadership qualities and I know he has the respect of the players. He’s got such great knowledge, and will be so well prepared, but ultimately it’s going to be about how the talent meshes together.”
“They’ve got some good young players, which can be a good thing. I do think expectations need to be managed a bit, at least for the first year. The team has some things they need to figure out roster wise. Young talent is a good thing to have, but it’s not always the right formula for big time winning in the NBA. With that said, I think Mark is going to get more out of that team than anyone else would.”
It’s no surprise that Mullin has his own constructive thoughts about the state of the Warriors, perhaps knowing them in and out better than anyone. Aside from being one of the best players in team history, Mullin also served as Vice President of Basketball Operations after he retired, from 2004 to 2009.
He is credited with assembling the “We Believe” Warriors, who in 2007 defeated the first-seeded Mavericks in the playoffs as an eighth seed. The upset was one of the most triumphant in NBA history.
During the lockout, players are coming together to organize different charity exhibitions for the fans, but perhaps the most unique of all is coming to the Bay Area. Members of the “We Believe” squad will be coming together one more time to take on members of the current Warriors.
Asked which side he thought would prevail, Mullin showed pride in his creation, adding, “My question is which of those are actually showing up, but based on pure talent, the team from the 2007 playoffs would get it done, there’s no question. If you laid that roster out—guys like Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington—they all have years of playoff experience. Not much of a question for me!”
While fans attend these charity games, how is Mullin getting his own hoops fix during the lockout?
For starters, he took his talents to Broadway, working with the cast of the upcoming play, “Lysistrada Jones.”
“It’s going to be debuting December 14th Off-Broadway,” he said. “A good friend of mine is producing it, so that’s how I got involved. It’s going to be a great show. The backdrop is a basketball theme, so my role was to work with the cast to do some fundamental work to get the basketball parts looking real authentic. It was a great experience, and I’ll be there opening night!”
Mullin can be seen next on NBATV as he and his two “Run-TMC” teammates sit down to reminisce with Ahmad Rashad for a Q&A to premiere Tuesday, October 25th at 5:30PM EST.