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[chron]The `80s: A retrospective/Rockets' bests and worsts

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by tinman, Apr 1, 2008.

  1. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    May 9, 1999
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    For the Rocket fans who love the Rockets..any decade
    ENJOY! :D :D


    Date: SUN 12/24/1989
    Section: Sports 2
    Page: 18
    Edition: 2 STAR

    The `80s: A retrospective/Rockets' bests and worsts


    Famous last words: "I could take four guys off the streets of Petersburg (Va.) and beat the Celtics." - Moses Malone, May 10, 1981. "The Celtics proceeded to win the next two games (by 29 and 11 points) to wrap up the NBA Finals, 4-2.'

    Famous first words: "I can score any time, anywhere, on anybody." - Derrick Chievous, June 28, 1988, upon being drafted by the Rockets. "He is averaging 6.5 points per game this season.'

    Shortest retirement: Robert Reid retired from the Rockets in 1982 to become a Pentacostal minister. One year later, he was back playing for the Rockets. In 1987, he opened a saloon along with TV/radio personality Dan Patrick. Groused Coach Bill Fitch: "Maybe we should get Dan Patrick in here to play guard.'

    Harshest words on the Rockets, by a Rocket: "What they need to do is put Dream (Akeem Olajuwon) aside on the untouchable squad, and the rest of those guys, get rid of them. ... These guys are all jealous of each other." - World B. Free, May 6, 1988.

    Greatest scoring streak: Moses Malone scored 30 points or more in 13 straight games (Jan. 26-Feb. 23, 1982).

    Most consecutive home victories: 20 (Oct. 29, 1985-Jan. 14, 1986).

    Most consecutive home losses: 11 (March 1-April 16, 1983).

    Most consecutive free throws made: 78 (NBA record), Calvin Murphy (Dec. 27, 1980- Feb. 28, 1981).

    Smallest opening-day crowd: 6,127 (Oct. 15, 1980, vs. Seattle).

    Best draft pick: Jim Petersen, third round, 1984.

    Worst draft pick: Steve Harris, first round, 1985.

    Best imitation of Oilers playing Cincinnati: Rockets lost by 56 points to Seattle on Dec. 6, 1986, in The Summit.

    Akeem's greatest game: In the 1987 Western Conference semifinals, Olajuwon scored 49 points and had 25 rebounds and 6 blocked shots in a double-overtime game against Seattle.

    Alas, the Rockets lost 128-125 and were eliminated from the playoffs.

    Most debilitating earache: Rockets guard Andre Turner suffered a punctured eardrum on Nov. 24, 1987, and remained on the injured list from then until the end of the season.

    Fights of the decade: Ralph Sampson v. Jerry Sichting; Akeem Olajuwon v. Robert Reid; Sleepy Floyd v. Jeff Hornacek; Jim Petersen v. Roy Tarpley.

    Best fight analysis: Boston guard Sicthing, who is 6-1, on being hit by 7-4 Sampson: "It was like being attacked by a mosquito.'
  2. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    May 9, 1999
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    Date: SUN 12/24/1989
    Section: Sports 2
    Page: 17
    Edition: 2 STAR

    The `80s: A retrospective/NBA, Rockets prosper in golden era/ Changes fail to faze Patterson



    Through the 1980s, little has remained constant about the Houston Rockets.

    They have had three All-Star centers, three head coaches, six starting point guards and two groups of owners.

    But through it all, they have had Ray Patterson as their chief executive officer.

    In fact, Patterson has presided over the team since 1972, a year after it moved from San Diego. Boston's Red Auerbach is the only NBA chief officer who surpasses Patterson in tenure with one club.

    Patterson, 67, has survived six ownerships, a remarkable achievement under any circumstances, but especially surprising in light of his overall won-lost record of 673-747 (414-432 in the '80s).

    But as Patterson likes to say, "For a period of time, hope sells as many tickets as reality.' And that philosophy may be the secret to his survival.

    Where Patterson excels is in marketing a team, giving fans reason to expect glorious days ahead.

    Occasionally, Patterson delivers the satisfying season. Though he has never brought this city a world championship, the Rockets are the only team in the '80s to beat out the Los Angeles Lakers for a Western Conference title.

    Patterson accomplished this feat twice, in 1981 and '86. His teams have made the playoffs eight times in this decade. The Rockets' 37-37 playoff record in the '80s is second best in the West behind only the Lakers.

    And since Patterson did bring Milwaukee an NBA title in 1971, there is always the feeling he could pull it off again.

    For one thing, his luck is legendary.

    He has managed to have four of the most sought-after centers of the past 20 years: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee and Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon in Houston.

    His lucky coin flips were necessary to land Sampson and Olajuwon. And Patterson has been widely accused of intentionally losing games in order to set up those coin flips.

    Patterson denies any such sinister plot, but he has never tried to bill himself as basketball's great idealist.

    He is a pragmatist who will say one thing and do the opposite depending on changing circumstances.

    Patterson, remember, would "never, never, never" trade Ralph Sampson. Or so he said.

    On Dec. 12, 1987, he unblinkingly traded Sampson to the Golden State Warriors for Sleepy Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll.

    Patterson also went on record saying John Lucas, Lewis Lloyd and Mitchell Wiggins would never again play for the Rockets after they tested positive to cocaine use.

    But the Rockets opened this season with Lucas, Lloyd and Wiggins back on their roster.

    How does Patterson get away with such flip-flops?

    Easy. Even though his office in The Summit has no windows, he has an acute feel for which way the wind is blowing.

    He sensed, correctly, that Rocket fans were down on Sampson and in favor of forgiving guards who were recovering from drug addictions.

    During his term in Houston, Patterson has restructured his team so many times it could be called the Rocket Shuttle.

    He has traded "franchise" players in Malone and Sampson and three of the most popular Rockets: Rodney McCray, Jim Petersen and Robert Reid.

    Some of his personnel moves have backfired. Craig Ehlo, waived by the Rockets in 1986, is averaging 14.5 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Two of the Rockets' first round-draft picks were sacrificed for aging subs Cedric Maxwell and Purvis Short.

    But then, considering the way the Rockets' recent drafts have gone, they might as well have traded away their picks.

    In 1985, the Rockets used their first-round choice on Steve Harris, who is no longer in the NBA. They could have had Terry Porter, who turned out to be the point guard they have always craved.

    In '86, the Rockets passed up another quality point guard, Mark Price, in favor of Buck Johnson, a moderately successful small forward.

    In '87, the pick the Rockets gave up for Maxwell could have brought Mark Jackson, yet another stellar point guard.

    And in 1988, the Rockets bypassed two more promising point guards, Rod Strickland and Brian Shaw, to take Derrick Chievous, who has talked a far better game than he has played.

    All NBA teams have blown first-round draft picks or waived the wrong guy.

    But is it simply a matter of bad luck that Patterson can't find a point guard? Or is it a matter, as scouts for other NBA teams have suggested, of the Rockets not doing enough research?

    Further: Does Patterson lack the knowledge necessary to put quality teams together?

    Tommy Heinsohn, the former Boston coach, suggested as much in his autobiography "Give 'em the Hook." Heinsohn claims he declined the Rockets' head coaching position in 1983 because of his lack of confidence in Patterson.

    Heinsohn says he tested Patterson by recommending the Rockets trade for Ronnie Lee, "because I knew we'd have super practices with him. ... But you'd have to be a basketball person to know what he could mean to a team. Patterson looked at me like I was nuts; and though we kept talking, that's when the interview ended.' Patterson good-naturedly admits, "I am not a personnel man.' He has relied largely on his coaches to draft players and advise him on trades.

    But if Patterson has made mistakes, he at least deserves credit for being alert and active and taking chances. He has never let a team stagnate.

    Yet with the exception of Ehlo, he has not lost a good player before giving him a chance to develop.

    "You shouldn't make trades until you have all your parts functioning up to what you think is their potential," he says.

    Looking at this year's sub-.500 Rocket team, Patterson says: "Right now, we don't have all our people. For us to make a trade tomorrow without (Larry) Smith, Wiggins and (Tim) McCormick would be insane. But if we're still playing like this in January and February, then we'll do something.' If Patterson's big-name acquisitions - Floyd, Carroll and Otis Thorpe - have not lived up to expectations, they at least served to generate interest in the team.

    Which translates to ticket sales.

    "You have to always be thinking of reasons why people will buy season tickets next year," Patterson says.

    And when it comes to selling tickets, Patterson has few peers. That, more than anything else, probably explains why Charlie Thomas and prior owners have been satisfied with his management.

    The Rockets in the 1986-88 period had 87 consecutive sellouts at home, even while their won-lost record hovered barely above .500.

    Patterson's marketing and ticket-selling apparatus is smoothly efficient, and he keeps a watchful eye over it.

    "You can't make the right decisions," Patterson says, "unless you know about every aspect of the organization. Everything addressed to the Houston Rockets, I don't care whose name is on it, comes to my desk, or used to.

    "If there are any complaints somebody has about the ticket manager, I want to know about them.' He is much less a hands-on operator this season, after giving up the general manager's title to his son, Steve.

    "My job is to be available in decision-making processes when Charlie and Steve call on me," says Patterson.

    As he reminisces on this decade, Patterson says, "The most important thing to happen to the Houston Rockets in the '80s was Ralph Sampson. Winning the coin flip for Ralph Sampson (in 1983) brought credibility to the franchise.

    "He was so well-known nationwide, and getting him was the start of increasing the gate from a nominal amount of people to a situation where we were getting sellouts.

    "If you look back on the record you will find that Ralph was a very dominating player the first two years. The image that comes to my mind was his fall in Boston (March 24, 1986).' Sampson hurt his back in falling to the floor of Boston Garden, and his play declined thereafter. More injuries followed.

    "People talk about us being unfortunate in losing Wiggins, Lloyd and Lucas to drugs," Patterson says, "but the loss of Ralph Sampson in the '80s goes way beyond the loss of Wiggins, Lloyd and Lucas.' Patterson had hoped that the combination of Olajuwon and Sampson - The Twin Towers - would be enough to offset the ballhandling virtuosity of the Lakers' Magic Johnson.

    In Patterson's view, the Lakers' rule of the West is due to "one thing: Magic Johnson. If your dominant man has the ball 85 percent of the time, you don't have turnovers and you keep everybody happy.' In '80s basketball, with the running game replacing the post-up game, Patterson feels the dominant players are ball-handling guards and small forwards rather than centers.

    "You've got to bring the ball up and be responsible for where it goes," he says.

    With Sampson and McCray, both smart passers, in their frontcourt, and the irrepressible Olajuwon overpowering an aging and tiring Abdul-Jabbar, the Rockets knocked the Lakers out of the '86 playoffs.

    Sampson delivered the decisive blow, what some have called the Shot of the Decade.

    Lakers Coach Pat Riley, in his book "Showtime," describes how the Rockets broke a 112-112 tie in Game 5 to dismiss the Lakers:

    "McCray looped the ball in from out of bounds at midcourt, and I could see Sampson going up for it and twisting in the air. Kareem was up close on him, ready to deny the shot. Ralph knew that, and he knew that the buzzer would sound before his feet could touch the floor.

    "He continued his twisting motion and flipped the ball, almost nonchalantly, toward the basket.... The ball went up in a soft arch. Good backspin ... bounced straight up, almost to the top of the backboard. All the spin had been absorbed when it hit the rim. The ball slowed until you could see the grain and the seams.

    "Then it ripped straight through the net like a cannonball.' That was the high-water mark for the Rockets in the '80s.

    In the ensuing Finals against Boston, Sampson wilted in the Garden, psyched out by his fall two months earlier. And the following season, injuries to Sampson and versatile Robert Reid and drug suspensions by Lloyd and Wiggins dismantled the Rockets.

    So the shuttling began. Players come and go as Patterson searches for the blend that will make a champion. Of the team that went to the Finals in '86, only Olajuwon and Wiggins are still in Houston.

    But Ray Patterson endures, doing whatever must be done to keep the fans' hopes soaring above the reality.
  3. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    May 9, 1999
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    Date: SUN 12/24/1989
    Section: Sports 2
    Page: 18
    Edition: 2 STAR

    The 80's: A retrospective/Rockets' All-Decade team centers on big men



    Anyone trying to choose a Rockets team of the decade encounters the same problem that bedeviled the real-life Rockets: too many centers; not enough talent elsewhere.

    Houston actually had three outstanding centers in the '80s: Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon.

    Malone led the NBA in rebounding and averaged 27.8 points per game in 1980-81, when the Rockets advanced to the NBA Finals.

    The next season Malone again was No. 1 in rebounding while scoring 31.1 points per game. He was named the league's Most Valuable Player.

    But the next year he was in Philadelphia.

    Rather than meet Malone's contract demands, General Manager Ray Patterson traded him to the 76ers for journeyman center Caldwell Jones and a high first-round draft choice that turned out to be Rodney McCray.

    Predictably, the Rockets proceeded to finish last in the Western Conference in 1982-83. That record, combined with Patterson's coin-tossing wizardry, resulted in Houston snaring Sampson with the NBA's No. 1 draft pick in '83.

    As a 7-foot-4 center, Sampson was unanimous Rookie of the Year, scoring 21 points per game, shooting .523 from the floor and averaging 11.1 rebounds. He also blocked 197 shots.

    It was arguably Sampson's finest season as a pro. The next year he was shifted to power forward to accommodate Olajuwon.

    Akeem the Dream has not been quite the scorer or rebounder that Malone was in his prime. But he has provided tenacious, end-to-end defensive play that had never been seen before in a center.

    Olajuwon has blocked more than 200 shots every season. Malone's best for the Rockets was 150 in 1980-81. Olajuwon had 213 steals last season. Malone has never had more than 89.

    Neither Malone nor Olajuwon has shown much team leadership or a knack for distributing the ball. But for overall individual excellence and sheer athleticism, the Rockets' center of the decade is Olajuwon.

    Sampson was a disappointment at power forward. Some would put him on the All-Decade Dog Team.

    But the fact remains he rang up impressive numbers before injuries demolished his game. He averaged 22 points per game in 1984-85 and made the All-NBA second team at forward.

    He averaged 18.9 points the following year and averaged double-digit rebounds for a third consecutive season.

    As a power forward, 6-10 Otis Thorpe has been a poor-man's Sampson, another big guy who shrinks at crunch time.

    Though physically stronger, Thorpe doesn't score or rebound as well as Sampson did. And unlike Sampson, Thorpe is no shot-blocker.

    Therefore, as maligned as Sampson was, he is reluctantly selected here as the Rockets' power forward of the '80s.

    There should be little disputing the choice of Rodney McCray as the team's small forward of the '80s. During his five years in Houston, McCray provided class, unselfish play, relentless effort and bruising yet intelligent defense.

    Not so clear-cut is the all-decade backcourt. Or is it all-decade halfway house?

    John Lucas, during the stretches when he was both young and drug-free, was a splendid point guard who dedicated himself to helping his teammates play better.

    The off-guard position has had no standouts. Lewis Lloyd was a one-on-one, shake-and-bake terror, but because of cocaine addiction he was unreliable.

    Before going on the injured list recently, Mitchell Wiggins was making an amazing comeback from drug woes and was giving the Rockets their best guard play of the decade.

    But Wiggins hasn't done it long enough to be an all-decade contender. By default, Lloyd gets the nod here.

    A case could be made for Robert Reid at off-guard. He was never implicated in drugs, and he contributed 10 solid seasons to the Rockets. But he was mostly a very good sixth man who filled in at three positions. He was never the scoring threat that Lloyd was.

    Rockets Team of the '80s Pos. ..Player ..Yrs

    ..G..FGA..FGM..Pct...FTA..FTM ..Pct...Reb...Ast...Pts...Avg... Power forward ..Ralph Sampson ..5.

    265..4985..2489...499..1532..1012...661..3189..827..5995..19.7 Small forward ..Rodney McCray ..5.

    405..3720..1940...521..1544..1178...763..2718..1521..5059..12.5.. Center ..Akeem Olajuwon ..5.

    386..6719..3481...518..2859..1920...672..4677..780..8883..23.0.. Point guard ..John Lucas ..4.

    276..3025..1371...453..848..662...781..702..2120..3470..12.6.. Shooting guard ..Lewis Lloyd ..4.

    278..3480..1824...524..840..660...786..898..991..4317..15.5.. #Includes 1979-80 season. Does not include 1989-90 season.
  4. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    May 9, 1999
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    To the haters who think the 80s don't rule!
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