Cut up, chop, cube, gamble, risk, stake, bet, wager, venture, hazard, chance.
Find out what these blurbs mean after the jump.
Cut up, chop, cube. Gamble, risk, stake, bet, wager, venture, hazard, chance. These were the words that came out when I typed Dice and pulled up the trusty MS thesaurus, and maybe appropriately so. Everyone knows it’s a huge gamble to pay someone who’s on the wrong side of 30 and has had a history of scary knee injuries. But what a good investor always does and probably what excellent GMs do, is to look at factors which mitigate risk. We all kinda have an idea on what makes Antonio McDyess a great fit in the Spurs’ system. But what I’d like to emphasize on is one of his intangibles – toughness, which I believe is a huge risk-mitigating factor.
ATS previously mentioned in one of his posts, Cashmere, that we seemed to have lost an edge in the physicality and competitiveness department and then some last season. I think McDyess can bring it back. Not sexy back unfortunately, though we already have Manu for that. But you can count on Antonio to light up his teammates’ arses when they’re trying to take the night off. Heck, I’m wishing he lights a fire under my hood during Spurs games so I can follow what LatinD said and join this upcoming season’s game threads because that’s supposedly where the magic happens, ya know?
So since I can’t contribute any more geek-worthy statistics – the guys at 48MoH already did a superb effort on that – I’ll bore you, or maybe scare you with stories of how tough this nutcracker called Dice is. I ripped out some of the stories on this site. It’s a nice bio of ‘Tonio, and then some other stuff over the net that may prove to be interesting. Time to get intimate then.
Quitman Ain't For Quitters
He was born in Quitman, Mississippi, which at that time was a population numbering less than 3,000 and didn’t even register in map searches over the internet, pre-Google. His mother, Gloria, was a strict woman and one of the things he told young Antonio and his brothers to avoid was a body of water called the Chickasawhay River (say it again with me now). Eventually though, a pre-teen Dice couldn’t stop his curiosity for the said place, and ended up going there with a friend. With the river swollen from a recent rain storm, the two lost their footing and got sucked into the water. Dice couldn’t remember anything then, and the next thing he knew, one of his brothers was pulling him out from the river. After making sure her son was okay, Gloria meted out a mysterious but severe enough punishment to guarantee Antonio would never go near the Chickasawhay again. Small town boy with a bad-ass mother and barely survived the wrath of Mother Nature?
Toughness criteria # 1: Mothers Know Best – check.
They always had great cook outs by the river, I guess.
In The Navy... sort of.
Antonio McDyess has three older brothers (and a younger sister). The McDyess boys often played football. I could just imagine the athleticism going on during their scrimmages, it must’ve been frightening for a non-athletic dude like me. But Antonio also liked basketball, and his favorite player was --- any guesses? --- the Admiral himself, David Robinson. Whipped around into shape by monstrous big brothers and idolized a muscular Navy Man?
Toughness criteria # 2: It’s A Big Man’s World – book it.
It could happen for Antonio. (please disregard little box to your left and pretend that didn't even happen)
The Fab One
When he joined the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (man, I like this name) basketball team in 1993, the team was said to be long on talent but short on heart. With Antonio McDyess? No longer. He fractured his cheekbone in the preseason and donned a protective mask for the first 18 games, producing an average of 11.4 pts, 8.1 rebs, 1.5 blks and 1.1 stls during his freshman campaign while starting half of the Tide’s games. A kid showing older guys how it’s done?
Toughness criteria # 3: Age Got Nothing On Me – pwned!
The Ultimate Warrior lives!
Meeting With Greatness
McDyess was drafted 2nd overall in 1995 by the Los Angeles Clippers and, the Clips, staying true to the pathetic history of the franchise, traded him to the Denver Nuggets for Rodney Rogers, the 15th pick that turned out to be Brent Bones Barry, and complete season DVDs of Friends, Two And A Half Men, and I Dream of Jeannie. Okay, I completely made up the last one… but it’s the Clippers, so maybe not. McDyess had his first taste of the postseason in a clash with the Spurs in 1998 as a member of – surprise, surprise – the Phoenix Suns, and went up against the much revered San Antonio Twin Towers. In that series, Tim Duncan showed Dice how it’s done and more importantly, showed Dice how to win, posting 20.3 pts on 57% shooting, 9.8 rebs and 3.8 blks to promptly sweep the higher seeded Suns. McDyess wasn’t half-bad actually, averaging 17.8 pts on 48% shooting, 13.3 rebs and 1.5 blks. Tim Duncan-owned-me-I hope I join him in the future moment?
Toughness criteria # 4: Tim Duncan is the GPFOAT (Greatest PF Of All-Time) Realization – yes way.
Timmeh, wtf? Oh, nice block, Dice.
I know this wouldn’t be a complete primer on San Antonio (not the team, but the player) if we didn’t get the lowdown on his injury history. His first one came in the 2001-2002 season when he partially tore the patella tendon in his left knee during the Nuggets’ training camp. He tried to gut it out for ten games, but eventually decided on surgery that ended his season. After recovering and being traded to the New York Knicks, he would re-injure that left knee once again, this time in a game against Phoenix in a preseason clash. As Charley Rosen, our favorite resident bearded senile old man, then writing for ESPN’s Page 2, narrated,
Then came that fateful preseason game against Phoenix. McDyess had already logged 38 minutes, and the game clock registered 1:55 [time left in the game], when he jumped and reached for the moon, intending to dunk the ball before he landed.
As McDyess was a certified All-Star at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, with a history of effective pivot play (career averages of 17.7 ppg and 8.8 rebounds), it was not totally insane for Knicks execs, players and fans to see McDyess as their antidote to their recent fall from the playoffs. But, presto chango! A tangle of legs, an awkward fall, and when McDyess tumbled to the floorboards, he fractured his left kneecap. The Knicks' season now seems over before it had even begun.
Rosen then proceeds to smash the Knicks’ "brainless trust" for still leaving Antonio that late in a freaking preseason game. But that’s another story, and another smudge on the Knicks’ colorfully tainted history. Another promising season for Dice ended then and there. Six months into rehab, doctors determined that the healing was too slow and they wanted another surgery – a bone graft operation. In 2003, McDyess was back in Phoenix but struggled to stay healthy because of recurring knee issues. But that seemed to be the last of his injury struggles. He signed with Detroit in 2004, and the rest as they say is history. Surviving horrible franchises and a career-ending injury?
Toughness criteria #5: New York Knicks Survivor a.k.a. I’ve Been To Hell and Back – checkers.
Toughness criteria #6: The Injury Bounce Back – passed with flying colors.
Knee injuries: NASTY.
And I Quote
Some Antonio McDyess quotes:
"I just go and play hard. That’s who I am."
"I can’t be someone I’m not. I try to be a warrior on the court, but where I come from, being macho doesn’t get you anywhere."
"I got a big knot behind my head. What I went through for a couple years with my knee, this is minor." [speaking to the media while wearing a band-aid over the two stitches under his right eye, which was oozing with blood]
Other people on 'Tonio:
Darvin Ham: "He knows when to bring the dogs out. What that kid's been through, man, it's a blessing that he's still out here walking, let alone playing. I was with him my rookie year in Denver. He's one of the nicest guys in the world, great talent, great person to be around, no ego whatsoever. They say good things happen to good people and they have."
Joe Dumars: "His only agenda is to win."
Larry Brown: "He's an underrated defender, he can make a shot and he is the best teammate.''
Witness - San Antonio making diced meat out of KG and the C's.
Capping It Off
Antonio wears a mesh bracelet embroidered with a small reptile and the letters "F.R.O.G.," which stands for "Fully Reliant On God." Religious, grounded, humble man with a soft spot for amphibians?
He was also the MVP of the Otis Spunkmeyer Basketball Classic during his sophomore year at Alabama. Otis who? That’s right, it’s a joint distributing muffins and cookies! How cute. Destroying the competition in a tournament sponsored by a pastry shop?
Toughess criteria #... it’s off the charts!!!
Take that, French guy running down court who looked like Carlos Delfino.
In all honesty and to bring some sense of realism in here, I’m not sure if this pick up will deliver us the championship. Sometimes, however, I like to put my faith in something just because it seems worth believing in. Antonio McDyess is already far removed from his glory days as a thoroughbred athlete, but there’s something in the guy that made it hard for me to root against him when he was in Detroit. And now that he’s a Spur, I just think that the basketball gods had something to do with it. He’s one of the few nice guys in the league, but more importantly, he has never waivered for a minute on his true goal, and that is to win.
I'm shamelessly quoting a long segment from a Piston fan's blog (you can read the entirety here, it's a good read) because of two things: 1) to put in retrospect how lucky we Spurs fans were for winning that hard-fought 2005 championship (kudos to some people who don't need reminding as I've seen it discussed recently in a thread); and 2) it's a great anecdote on McDyess' will to win that would be difficult for me to rephrase and destroy in a silly manner.
Mention the 2005 NBA Finals to a Pistons fan. One thing usually comes to mind immediately. Game 5...Rasheed...Horry...ballgame. In a nutshell, that was the series. Or so everyone is led to believe. That loss, while as devastating a loss that any team could experience, did not decide the series. The Pistons stormed in to San Antonio and snatched Game 6. It was now a one game series. Winner take all. And to nobody's surprise, Antonio McDyess came with everything he had in Game 7. He was magnificent. Burying his patent fadeaway on the left baseline, hitting the offensive and defensive glass harder than anyone else on the floor, dishing to Big Ben for easy dunks, blocking shots...he was doing everything. When Rasheed Wallace picked up his 4th foul early in the 3rd, the score was tied. And you know who was entering the game. I always felt that if the Spurs were given an option at that point to remove two of Wallace's fouls and let him stay on the court instead of bringing in McDyess, they would have agreed without an ounce of trepidation. You just didn't wanna mess with Antonio in Game 7. It was his night. Or at least it should have been.
As the 3rd quarter wore on, a pattern was starting to emerge. The Pistons were taking control of this game. A 9-0 run culminating in an easy layup for McDyess had the San Antonio fans nearly silent. Not ones to go away softly, Duncan and Ginobili teamed up for 7 straight of their own. Larry Brown called timeout. The lead was down to 2, and the crowd was practically tearing the roof off of the SBC Center. The Pistons needed a bucket in the worst way. Out of the T.O., our man cans a 20-footer. Nails. Nobody wanted it more. Another Dyess board. Tay with a jumper, and the lead was 6 again. You got the feeling that the Pistons had taken the Spurs best shot, and managed to steal the momentum right back. We were 16 minutes from back-to-back titles. Then came one of the most questionable coaching decisions in basketball history.
McDyess picked up his 4th foul with about 4 minutes to go in the 3rd. Boom...here comes Lindsey Hunter jumping up off the bench. This was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There was just over a quarter of basketball left to decide a champion. If you asked anyone who had been the best Piston to that point in the game, the answer would be simple: Antonio McDyess. The only way that decision makes any sense is if Larry Brown was planning on inserting Dyess at the beginning of the 4th quarter, and he wanted to make sure he still had 2 fouls to work with. Get him out now for the rest of the 3rd, try and keep the cushion, and bring him back to start the final quarter. But even trying to justify the move with that line of thinking is flawed. The Pistons were in control, on the road, with limited time remaining in the most important game of the entire season. And we were willingly removing our best player from the lineup because he had 4 fouls? A guy that had fouled out exactly one time in the last 89 games? There has never been a more appropriate situation to say, "If we lose this game, it's gonna be with our best players on the court." The rest of the night is still blurry in my mind...everything happened so fast.
Much like the Pistons of this year, the small lineup LB employed (Chauncey, Lindsey, Rip, Tay, Ben) to end that 3rd was a disaster. The 6 point lead McDyess left with evaporated and the game was deadlocked heading into the 4th. Only, McDyess was still stapled to the bench. You'd have thought his removal in the 3rd was strictly done so he could come back aggressively to start the 4th. Incorrect. Larry Brown left him sitting there, unable to help his team win the title that he so desperately craved. Rasheed Wallace now played in his stead. The same Rasheed Wallace that had left Robert Horry alone at the end of Game 5 and would total exactly one rebound in this deciding contest. Duncan took over from there, either scoring or drawing double teams to allow for open 3's. Bowen...Horry...more Manu...the game that had once looked so promising was now turning into a nightmare. By the time Coach Brown decided it was safe to allow Antonio McDyess to reenter with his 4 fouls, half the quarter was gone and the 6 point lead he'd left with was now a 6 point deficit. It was uneventful from there. McDyess stayed on the court for all of 3 minutes, took 1 shot, and was removed for good. The Spurs ended up winning by 7, a 13 point swing from the moment McDyess was yanked in the 3rd.
Mr. Duncan, I’d like to believe the title of kingmaker belongs to you and not Shaq. You made David a champion. You gave a Larry ‘O Brien to Sean Elliot. You had Finley sleeping at night childishly cuddling that championship-winning ball to sleep. You helped Manu complete his championship resume. You gave way for him and Tony to excel while silently sculpting behind the scenes another one of your championship pieces. I say – no, humbly request – that this season, even year notwithstanding: win it for Dice. Win it for someone who truly deserves it and really wants it more than any bushwhack in the league pretending to do so.
To my beloved Spurs: let’s win it for the good guy.
"Never underestimate the heart of a champion." - Rudy T.