TELANDER: Basketball, from top to bottom
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com March 9, 2013 12:58AM
Bulls star Derrick Rose’s knee injury and lengthy rehabilitation have affected him and Bulls fans in different ways. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:45AM
OK, I’ve got a lot to comment on, starting with Derrick Rose and real basketball and weaving our way downward to fellow columnist Rick Morrissey and a thing called Pop-A-Shot. Clock’s ticking:
◆ I FIND IT predictably amusing that people are freaking out about the return or non-return this season of injured Bulls star Derrick Rose.
This is what drawn-out knee rehabilitation does to both the player and the fans: It makes them crazy.
Rose is a lost soul right now. He has never not had basketball. He has no idea what being ungifted means. The one thing he always could count on — his body — has betrayed him. And his uncertainty about his recovery clearly has turned to fear — fear of going into games at less than 100 percent of his former self.
Fans, on the other hand, just want Rose to play. Their frustration — it has been more than 10 months since Rose’s surgery — has turned to jitteriness and even anger. You hear it on talk radio. You sense it in the sports pages. How much time do you need, pal? What about that Adidas ad? This isn’t about you anymore, it’s about us!
The tension is palpable. It’s turning Chicago’s most beloved athlete — the youngest most valuable player in NBA history — into a near-villain.
This is what injuries can do.
◆ YOU CAN’T FILL OUT your NCAA men’s basketball brackets yet because, as they say, the corn ain’t all shucked.
But you can think about some astounding stuff from tournaments of the past. And we will.
But before I forget, let me proceed with a thought about corn, shucking and hoops. Is there a better high school basketball school and nickname than the Hoopeston Cornjerkers? (You’re aware Ohio State coach Thad Matta is a former Cornjerker who has morphed into a Buckeye, aren’t you?)
Illinois, indeed, might have the best high school nicknames in the nation, if not the world. How about the Cobden Appleknockers? The Centralia Orphans? The Teutopolis Wooden Shoes? The Effingham Flaming Hearts?
I come from down in Peoria, as I often point out, and my high school, the bland Richwoods Knights, played wondrously named teams all the time: the Farmers, the Potters, the Silver Streaks, the Little Giants of Canton (formerly the Plowboys), the Grey Ghosts, the — I hesitate to write this for fear of offending anyone, but it is true — Chinks of Pekin. On and on.
Around us played the Bunnies, the Midgets and, way up north, the Pretzels from Freeport. Funny name, Pretzels. How about the fact there are more Pretzels, just 200 miles south of Freeport, at little New Berlin High School? According to my research, there are no other Pretzels in the United States. Which is perfect.
In my frequent drives to the North Woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I often go past the homes of the Watersmeet Nimrods and the Bessemer Speedboys (females are the Speedgirls). Those are cooler names than, if not as spectacular as, the Huron River Rats.
But the nickname I most would have wanted as a teen jock comes from an Indiana town I once drove through on my way to Indiana University: the Frankfort Hot Dogs.
◆ LARRY BIRD. The incredible player from French Lick, Ind., led his unheralded, undefeated Indiana State team to the 1979 NCAA men’s basketball championship game before it lost to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team 75-64.
En route, Bird had 35 points (on 16-for-19 shooting) and 16 rebounds in an Elite Eight victory against Mark Aguirre and DePaul.
◆ BILL BRADLEY of Princeton played in an NCAA third-place game (they used to have those) against a very good Wichita State team in 1965. The man who would become a U.S. senator and run for president shot 22-for-29 from the field and 14-for-15 from the free-throw line, finishing with 58 points.
His performance was so riveting that the ‘‘Big Dance’’ kept the silly third-place game around until 1981.
◆ BILL RUSSELL, Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor (who would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) were such giants and so athletic that their dominance scared the powers that be.
Because of that all-black trio, the NCAA changed or brought into play rules that it thought would keep the new players from destroying the previously close-to-the-floor, low-flying, pale game.
To keep those Hall of Famers in their place, the NCAA banned offensive goaltending, taking off from the free-throw line to dunk free throws and throwing baseline inbounds passes over the backboard. The NCAA also widened the lane from 6 feet to 12 feet and banned the dunk after Alcindor’s mad dipping. (The dunk was reinstated, thank God, in 1976.)
◆ NOW FOR THE NEWS on the Team Telander vs. Team Morrissey Pop-A-Shot contest Wednesday. You can watch Rick-Is-Right (me) vs. Rick-Is-Wrong (him) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the Cube.