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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

At 91 Harvey Pollack Is Still NBA’s Leading Scorer

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Fittingly, Harvey Pollack was the one who scribbled the number 100 on the most famous photograph in basketball history: Wilt Chamberlain holding the piece of paper signifying his astounding point total in a 1962 game for the then Philadelphia Warriors.

After all, Pollack is basketball’s ultimate numbers and public relations man.

But the scrawling is hardly Pollack’s sole legacy in a nearly seven-decade career in basketball. He was the first to track a player’s blocked shots, rebounds, minutes played and dunks. The term “triple-double” for a player netting 10 or more points, rebounds and assists in a game — Pollack’s doing. These days he even charts which NBA players sport tattoos.

Pollack is the Philadelphia 76ers’ director of statistical information, a paltry title for the unofficial historian of all things throughout the National Basketball Association’s existence.

“The word ‘legend’ doesn’t appropriately describe Harvey,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver tells JTA. “He’s really the heart and soul of the 76ers, a walking encyclopedia of NBA history and a testament to the family nature of this league.”

Pollack, vigorous at 91, remains a Philadelphia courtside fixture, scrupulously keeping each game’s statistics without so much as eyeglasses to assist. Pollack, in fact, predates the NBA, going back to the Warriors’ Basketball Association of America debut in 1946.

Not even Philadelphia’s basketball-orphan status during the 1962-63 season — the Warriors moved to San Francisco and the 76ers had not arrived from Syracuse — could interrupt Pollack’s 68-year tenure in pro basketball: That season he handled public relations for NBA doubleheaders.

He’s on a T-shirt streak, too, never wearing the same one twice and nearly all donated to the cause. When a reporter visited this month, Pollack was on T-shirt day number 3,817. With pride he says the Guinness Book of World Records people told him he’ll own the record — actually no one sought it pre-Pollack — as soon as the streak actually ceases.

Like his work streak, that’s hardly imminent.

The native Philadelphian has outlived his wife of 58 years, his four siblings, three basketball arenas, the many newspapers for which he wrote and even Chamberlain. He’s at his 76ers office daily and works every home game, a must greet for referees and opposing coaches, players and trainers. Non-game nights he attends movie screenings and theater performances and visits restaurants for a society column he has penned for decades.

Lara Price, a 76ers executive, says Pollack goes to nearly every concert — most of them rock and roll — at the Wells Fargo Center, the team’s home. When seats aren’t available, he unhesitatingly nudges the arena’s owner, Ed Snider, for tickets.

Pollack is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and several others, but the ultimate tribute may have been the 76ers presenting fans with a Harvey bobblehead a few years back.

He’s loved sports since growing up with his immigrant parents, Louis and Rebecca, both dressmakers, on Dauphin Street, in the northeast section of Philly, not far from where he now makes his home. The family lived a few blocks from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, and Pollack and his friends would sneak into the baseball games there with youth groups admitted for free.

But basketball has been Pollack’s preferred sport since his senior year at Temple University, when he served as the hoop squad’s manager and started logging statistics the coach hadn’t thought to keep.

“They call me the last of the Mohicans because I’m the only one left in the league since [the NBA] started,” he says. “There’s no clone of me hanging around, so I’m one of a kind.”

Stoudemire Seeking Israeli Citizenship

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Israel may be about to import another self-anointeded Jew, this time New York Knicks start Amar’e Stoudemire, who claims he has Jewish roots.

His agent Happy Walters told New York magazine that the Knicks’ power forward is ”getting citizenship.” He added, ”He applied, and he’s there now,” meaning he is touring Israel.

Stoudemire went to Israel for the Maccabiah Games as the assistant coach of the Canadian basketball squad. The games ended earlier this week.

At his wedding last year to Alexis Welch, Stoudemire donned a kippa and prayer shawl for the “Hebraic” ceremony. In July, he announced he had become a part owner in the Israeli basketball club HaPoel Jerusalem.

He told the JTA in an exclusive interview last month that, he is in regular dialogue with New York rabbis, studies Torah and observes the High Holidays.

“I’m not a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person, so I follow the rules of the Bible that coordinate with and connect with the Hebrew culture,” Stoudemire told JTA.

In other words, he picks and chooses from the Torah whatever suits him.

The JTA contributed to this article.

Casspi to Sign with Houston Rockets for $2 Million

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Omri Casspi, the first Israeli-born player to join the NBA, has agreed to a two-year, $2 million contract with the Houston Rockets.

Casspi, 25, who played the last two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, told the Cleveland Jewish News that he hopes to sign the contract on Wednesday or Thursday.

The 6-9 forward became an unrestricted agent earlier this month when the Cavs opted not to extend his $3.3 million contract.

Casspi had seen his playing time diminish in Cleveland, where he averaged 4 points and 2.7 rebounds this season, playing nearly 12 minutes a game. He had played two seasons with the Sacramento Kings, coming into the league with great fanfare in the Jewish community, before being traded to the Cavs.

The Rockets have been interested in signing Casspi for a long time, according to Yahoo!Sports. Houston recently signed star center Dwight Howard, the most coveted free agent on the market.

Last week a second Israeli, Gal Mekel, joined the NBA, agreeing to a contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Mekel last month helped lead Maccabi Haifa to the Israeli championship in an upset of Maccabi Tel Aviv.

ESPN: Israel’s Mekel to Sign with NBA’s Mavericks

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Israeli point guard Gal Mekel is poised to become the second Israeli to play in the NBA after giving a verbal commitment to the Dallas Mavericks.

Mekel, 25, informed the Mavs early Monday morning that he would sign a three-year contract with the 2011 champions at the end of the annual trade and signing moratorium on July 10, ESPN reported.

He  has agreed to sign a minimum salary contract, which according to ESPN’s Marc Stein helps his chances of being signed since the Mavs are looking to save money as they pursue star center Dwight Howard in free agency.

Mekel led Maccabi Haifa to its first Israeli championship and was the Super League MVP. Shortly after winning the title, he arrived in the United States, where he was also courted by five other NBA teams – Milwaukee, Toronto, Atlanta, Indiana and Memphis.

Mekel played in college for Wichita State from 2006 to 2008.

In other NBA news, Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the league, became an unrestricted free agent on Sunday after the Cleveland Cavaliers opted not to extend his $3.3 million contract. He has played in Cleveland for the past two seasons.

Israel’s NBA Player Omri Casspi Undergoes Appendectomy

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, had an appendectomy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers forward had his appendix removed on Saturday night at the Orlando Regional Medical Center and stayed overnight at the hospital, CBS Sports reported Sunday, citing a team news release.

Casspi was to be re-evaluated on Sunday.

He had been taken to the hospital on Saturday and diagnosed with acute appendicitis, the statement said, adding that his status would be updated as appropriate.

The 6-foot-9 Casspi, a native of Yavne in central Israel, was averaging 4 points and 2.2 rebounds in limited minutes this season.

Media reports said that Casspi’s agents had requested a trade from the Cavs, but in a recent interview with JTA, Casspi said he had never made such a request.

Time Out

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

South Florida has received quite a boost from the newly crowned National Basketball Association champion Miami Heat. It’s difficult to describe the frenzy of Heat fans in their quest for victory. It is truly compelling that in this time of economic downturn, the Heat sold out every home game. Apparently, the thrill of experiencing this type of event is quite powerful.

Sports is the quintessential bonding experience for diverse members of a community. CEOs and janitors, professors and school dropouts, men and women, youngsters and grandparents all get caught up in the euphoria.

Hotels were filled with tourists. Many visitors came from out of town. Some were fans of the opposing team. Some took advantage of the party-like atmosphere to take vacations. There were sportscasters and “wannabes,” family, friends and entourages of the players, and individuals who just wanted to be part of the exciting mix.

One visitor, however, was so unlikely that his presence was almost surreal. Former prisoner of Hamas Gilad Shalit was in town to launch his new career as a sportswriter. He watched the NBA finals and visited the Miami Dolphins training camp and the University of Miami football team.

Shalit was a 19-year-old Israeli soldier when he was kidnapped in a raid by Hamas terrorists in 2006. He was held hostage for over five years. His photo showed a bespectacled sweet-faced kid. He could have been anyone’s brother, son, neighbor or grandchild. In all that time his whereabouts where unknown. His captors denied him visits from the International Red Cross. Jews everywhere were haunted by his wrenching story.

Prime Minister Netanyahu ultimately did the unthinkable to save this one Israeli soldier. On October 17, 2011, Shalit was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Arab prisoners.

Gilad has kept out the spotlight since his return. He came to Florida with his newfound mentor, Arik Henig, a popular Israeli media figure who writes for newspapers and television. Henig, a seasoned reporter, was showing the ropes to his young protegé.

The question, of course, is how was it possible? Shalit is painfully shy and soft-spoken. How did this young man survive his ordeal? He was a kid alone. How did he muster the strength?

Shalit is a very private person. He does not like to be interviewed. He usually shuns discussion about his time in captivity. However, he shared some insights while in Miami. His revelations were poignant.

He told of his saving grace: he was given a radio by his jailers and was allowed to listen to sport broadcasts. Sometimes he even watched a televised soccer game with his guards. He had a distraction; a way to avoid dealing with his terrible predicament. He had a way to survive.

There are many who have great disdain for sports. They dismiss it as nahrishkeit (nonsense). They look down on those who play and those who watch.

The Rambam advised pleasurable distraction as a way of refreshing oneself and going on in one’s life. He suggested walks in a beautiful garden. Obviously he never heard of the NBA.

Life is often difficult. It is always terminal. One does not have to be a prisoner of terrorists to become overwhelmed by it all. Torah study, prayer, work and obligations are important. Sometimes there is a great need for a time out to refresh and revive.

What We Can Learn From The Old New York Knicks

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The delayed start of the professional basketball season due to a labor dispute has left me indifferent. It has been many years since I watched an entire game, even more since I actually attended one in person. There are simply better and more enjoyable ways to utilize my time, not to mention that, realistically, “professional” basketball has unfortunately not been played in the metropolitan area for some time.

To someone who was an avid Knicks fan in his youth, reared on the glories of the Knick championship teams now almost four decades gone, much of professional basketball has become unwatchable – a parade of dunking, jumping and individual efforts more suitable to TV highlights than to success in a team sport.

That is why I read with great delight Harvey Araton’s recently-released When the Garden was Eden, a chronicle of those glorious Knicks teams of Reed and Frazier, Bradley and DeBusschere, Barnett and Monroe, Phil Jackson and Red Holzman. It is an account not only of their victories and struggles, but especially of their disparate backgrounds and personalities that meshed to form what might be the greatest team in NBA history, even if it was never composed of the greatest players in NBA history or even of that era. There is heart, self-sacrifice, unselfishness and determination, a microcosm (as Araton notes in a running subtext) of what America could have been like with racial harmony and mutual respect.

The team revolved around Willis Reed, and the narrative of Game 5 (1970 Finals – Reed injured, team trailing, but somehow miraculously defeat the Laker behemoths of Chamberlain, Baylor and West) makes as riveting and inspiring reading today as it was listening to that game. And Game 7 – Reed emerging through the runway and limping onto the court shortly before the game began, having taken shots of painkillers to ease the throbbing in his torn hip muscle – is the stuff of legends and clichés. DeBusschere turned, saw the Lakers mesmerized – frozen – by the sight of the injured Captain, and said to himself, “We got ‘em.” They did, in a rout.

I missed that game – May 8, 1970, a Friday night. Having seen the game in subsequent years on film, it remains enthralling entertainment and a slice of life. Walt Frazier, who had one of the greatest Game 7’s ever – 36 points, 19 assists – resented that Reed received the MVP award after having played barely five games in the series. But watching the game again with Araton – for his first time ever, Frazier said – he retracted and apologized for his earlier sentiments. It was Reed’s presence alone that intimidated the Lakers, and he deserved the MVP status.

The backgrounds of the major players were as diverse as America. Reed from the deep South, Frazier from urban Atlanta, DeBusschere from working class Detroit, and Bradley from upper middle class Republican bankers in Missouri – but all bonding through an understanding and appreciation of their diversity.

There was some underlying racial tension on the team – specifically the resentments of the talented Cazzie Russell who was the sixth man behind the slow-footed, cerebral Bill Bradley (my personal favorite player). Russell chafed in his role – even called Reed an “Uncle Tom” once for rebuking him, to which Reed essentially glared him into an apology and greater deference – but most basketball pundits saw Bradley’s genius, outside the numbers of the box score, in running the floor, passing, setting up teammates, disrupting the opposition, and creating offensive harmony.

It was a joy to behold – the team game, the movement without the ball, the shot going to the open man, the helping out on defense. It will surprise no one who watched those teams that Bradley was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, despite a career average of 12 points a game, with his season high topping out at 16 points a game. Indeed, seven other players from those teams are also Hall of Famers, and yet they succeeded in keeping their egos in check. Even the magical performer Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, a 1971 addition, learned to sublimate his skills for the good of the team –for example, insisting when he arrived on the team that he not take Dick Barnett’s starting position.

It was a different era. Most players did not earn great amounts of money from professional sports, held off-season jobs and actually needed the playoff money. Only Bradley had signed the big contract after college, his career delayed by studies in Oxford and then service in the Air Force – another relic of a bygone era. Willis Reed lived in Rego Park, a far cry from Derek Jeter’s penthouse in Trump Tower, and not far from where my own great aunt lived. It was a middle class existence, to which the average fan could easily relate.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/what-we-can-learn-from-the-old-new-york-knicks/2011/12/14/

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