Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hoops-pedia: Game of Destiny

Hoops-pedia is a new section (but not a weekly one like YouTube Tuesdays or Flashback Friday) where I would like to take some time to explain something about the game -- be it a play, or a rule, or terminology or something. Often I use terms that are only really known to me and those I regularly discuss basketball with. That's fine and good for those people and I, but not for the general population (i.e. the rest of the world) who are unfamiliar with that term. Hence . . . the necessity of Hoops-pedia. [Of course, there already is a web page named "hoopedia" which was the original name of this section until I typed it in to Google and found out that I shouldn't use that name.]

Anyway, today's Hoops-pedia is about the elusive Game of Destiny. This is a term only to be used in the most reverent ways. We all have Games of Destiny in our lives. They are not just limited to NBA players, or even professional athletes. Every kid in high school who sticks around after school to shoot hoops to the older guys (like me) who lace it up at the YMCA are allowed at least one Game of Destiny in their lives. The Game of Destiny is bigger than basketball though, it's in life when you do the best you can, better than even you thought you ever could -- this is when it becomes a Moment of Destiny. (i.e. something ridiculously great like fighting off a bear with your bare hands in order to save your pregnant sister's life or something . . . while blindfolded and exorcising your demons by finally overcoming your crippling fear of fighting bears)

In the small scale world of the NBA, the Game is Destiny is best realized when a guy with limited talent, Basketball IQ, playing time or heart puts it all together and helps his team win. While it may not be the best example, I look at the game back in the 1997-1998 season where Adam Keefe had a Game of Destiny.

Upper Deck card image from checkoutmycards.com Adam Keefe was probably a better volleyball player than basketball player -- but he had a few things going for him. He was 6'8, and he could jump all day. This allowed him to bat lose balls in the direction of more talented team mates, and surprise people by blocking their shots. He was a starter on an NBA Finals team -- but his NBA career (and relative skill level) was nothing to write home about. He did play in 681 games (regular season and playoffs combined) in the NBA, which is more than I ever will. For a 10th pick in the Draft he didn't really wow people, and ended up with career averages of 5.0 ppg (.502 fg, .714 ft) and 4.1 rpg in about 16.7 mpg.

He's nearly a double double guy if you extrapolate his stats to 36 mpg (10.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg career) -- but no team would wish to play him that much. The most he has ever averaged in a season was 25.6 mpg for the Jazz back in 1997-1998. Essentially, he was Jerry Sloan's Matt Harpring before Harpring was even on the Jazz. A gritty, scrappy, under-athletic garbageman.

On March 22, 1998 the Utah Jazz were finishing up their 2nd Eastern Conference 5 Game Road Trip of the month with a game at MSG, in New York City against the Knicks. This game was a great game, as the Jazz ended up coming back from down by 17 (11 in the 4th) to win in Double Overtime 124-119. Karl Malone had 30 points (55% fg, 8/10 fts), 14 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocks. John Stockton had 22 points (61.5fg%, 2-3 3pts), 14 assists, 3 steals and 3 rebounds. If you just look at the boxscore, and the boxscore alone it would appear that they were the main reasons why the Jazz defeated a very deep Knicks team (Charles Oakley, John Starks, Larry Johnson, Charlie Ward, Allen Houston, Chris Childs, Chris Mills, Terry Cummings, and injured Patrick Ewing) that was coached by Jeff Van Gundy. If you watched the game live on NBC (like I did), or the YouTube videos of this game, you may notice that Adam Keefe was huge.

You may just notice that Adam Keefe had a Game of Destiny!

Keefe played 41 minutes in the game, shot 8/10 from the floor and 9/11 at the line for a whopping 25 points (or the same number of points as how many points Allen Houston scored as the primary option for a team in a game that goes to double overtime). He had 7 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals to boot. The scorekeepers at MSG cheated and took away the 2 blocks he also had. Just as a point of reference, that season Keefe averaged 7.8 ppg and did not regularly shoot 80% from the floor, . . . but he did in that game. And the Jazz needed it -- as everyone but John and Karl were having horrible games -- even John was missing gimmie shots, getting the ball stolen from him, and shooting 50% at the FT line, Hornacek was missing three throws as well. I would embed part of the game, but the YouTube user TRJ22487 has disabled that method of sharing videos . . . so here's the link instead -- watch Adam Keefe show all the other garbagemen in the NBA how to have a proper Game of Destiny! (It is a really interesting game, so if you have half an hour to kill on YouTube, click away -- this link is only for a section of the end of the 4th quarter though, and does not include any of the over-time periods, you will have to click on the next videos for those).