The Australian Tsunami: Part 2 – The Bench Mob

In the Australian Tsunami: Part 1, I gave you the best Australian NBA players at each position; “the Starting 5’. If you missed it or you want to watch some of those awesome highlights again, here it is.

Before we get going, a couple of guys below may have you questioning The Hammer Shane Heal as the starting PG in Part 1. A lot of factors went into my thinking but the logic was: –

If you were a pioneer who chest bumped and talked trash to Sir Charles during Olympic competition and you made Hubie Brown gush on live television, you got double bonus points and you start. Sooooo… the defence rests.

In this cheekier Part 2 are the guys that made it, the guys that got drafted and didn’t make it and an honourable mention that had to be squeezed in. He was amazing after all. Enjoy.

These are the rest of my countrymen. The Bench Mob

The Godfather

Luc Longley “Luc” “Big Red” – 7’2 and 265 lbs.

1st Rd Pick 7 1991

1st Australian in the NBA

Teams – Minn 1991-94, Chic 1994-98, Phx 1998-00, NY 2000-01

Games – 567**

Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucc!

It’s only fitting that Luc Longley is 1st here. He was the 1st Australian to play in the NBA, the 1st Australian to be drafted and the 1st Australian to be a lottery pick.

My all-time favourite quote is from Charles Barkley; sometime from the 80’s in a foamy, bubbling spa bath looking like the lovechild of Muhammad Ali, you might remember it:

“Someone had to be me……. It might as well be me!”

Well, someone had to be Luc, it might as well have been the affable, laid back Luc.

If you asked Luc what his favourite achievement was, it wouldn’t be playing in a Chicago Bull 3-peat with the greatest player of all time and second best player of the 90’s (according to Tom Ziller, I thought Malone was unlucky)It wouldn’t be playing alongside that blonde haired charismatic bastard that now stalks the sidelines in the Golden State, while making it look all too easy. (Get well Steve, backs are no joke, you take it easy now ya hear?!) It isn’t being coached by the Zen Master and being told to keep his legs underneath him all the time.

Luc would tell you, it was purchasing his hometown Perth Wildcats around 2000, continuing its soon to be unparalleled world run of consecutive playoffs. He played 2 games for them waaaaaaaay back in 1982 as a ginger haired freckle faced teenager.

Think about that for a second. Noooo, not the ginger bit.

Hometown hero makes good, becomes a millionaire star in a foreign land, plays with the greatest team ever (the 72-10, 1995-96 Bulls), the greatest coach (Chief Triangle) and the greatest player of all time, then comes back to little old Perth WA to own and run the local team he grew up with. I love stuff like that, you couldn’t script it.

Until Bogut came along, Luc was most definitely the man.

He grew up in Fremantle, Western Australia and shattered the basketball inferiority complex we had and the notion that we weren’t quite good enough to play in the NBA.

He played 567** games across 10 years and averaged a serviceable 7 points and 5 rebounds.

Luc was a role player who became a champion and absolutely lived one hell of a dream. Now, he has become the Godfather, offering advice to Dante, Patty and Ben Simmons whenever required –

“I had a lot of people that believed in me, but I had probably more that didn’t – including me at times – so to be the first Australian to play in the NBA is something that I hold dear and am very, very proud of and when I see other Australian players over there it makes me feel good”. As told to Rob White of the Guardian – October 2013

We salute you Luc Longley.

(**That was the most by an Australian until Andrew Bogut passed that total in a road game against Dallas 04.04.15)

The Sparkplug

Patrick Mills “Patty” – 6’0 and 183 lbs.

2nd Rd Pick 55 2009

9th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Portland 2009-11 and San Antonio 2011-15

Games – 280*

Who doesn’t love Patty Mills?!

Besides Bogut, Patty is the little man chiefly responsible for ushering the next wave of Aussies into the NBA. A little dynamo, a pocket rocket of 3 pt ballistics, he is the ultimate team man but one still capable of conjuring memories of ‘the microwave’ and winning you championship games with his game changing streak shooting.

Patty was the unheralded reserve that taught us all how to properly towel wave. Despite what the Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge tell us, he was clearly the central reason that LMA wanted to go to the Spurs. He missed him. We (Aussies) have that effect on people.

Keeping with the Aussie/Warrior links, Patty’s career game came against the Golden State Warriors in April 2012. 34 points and 12 assists in what one can only describe as a virtuoso performance.

Mills had been with the Spurs only 1 month but this game must have left a glint in Pop’s eyes. The 34 points are the most scored by an Aussie in an NBA game, surpassing Bogut’s previous record.

Patty is 1 of 4 Aussies that have become an NBA champion, along with Gazey, Boges and Longley.

He will go down as one of our best ever players, without question.

The Mullett

Mark Bradtke “Mrs Provis” – 7’0 and 253 lbs

Undrafted

4th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Philadelphia 1996-97

Games – 36

Another of the frontier men, a real pioneer of Australian basketball and one of my most hated players in the NBL. Bradtke dominated the NBL for 20 years but unfortunately played during an era when overseas players were barely given a look-in at NBA level. Certainly when compared to today.

A bruising rebounder who could step out and hit the 15-18 footer with regularity, he was similar in style to a young Arvydas Sabonis, including the hairstyle. (Think Agassi mixed with Billy Ray and a sprinkling of Macgyver)

Mark played a total of 36 games with a Philly team that went 6 – 30 in games he played. His best game came against the Charlotte Hornets on the 15th March 1997, a whopping tally of 8 points and 10 rebounds, just missing a double double. The first bit of footage of Mark came against…you guessed it…the GSW’s

After returning to the NBL he went on to win an MVP in 02 and numerous rebounding titles. Infact, he retired in 2007 as the all-time leading rebounder in NBL history, a record that still stands.

Mr Potential

Dante Exum “X”– 6’6 and 195 lbs.

1st Rd Pick 5 2014

14th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Utah Jazz 2014-15

Games – 82*

Dante was scared last year. Like, sh*t scared. A frightened bambi in the headlights, seemingly by himself in a cold, unfamiliar place with beasts twice his size and age, ready to cut him down and gobble him up at any moment. I can’t imagine what that feels like for a 19 year old but it didn’t look like he was having much fun last year.

Was it understandable? Completely!

Is all hope lost? No way man! Not with plays like this.

Then, the Jazz traded Kanter and stuck Exum and Gobert into the starting line-up. Whoah, did this team become a defensive BEAST!

There is so much to like about Dante. He has supreme length, elite speed, 1st team all-defense potential and surprising durability (until his knee gave out). To go from playing high school ball in Australia all the way to the Association AND still be one of only 4 rookies to play in all 82 games! That’s a supreme effort worthy of praise and should not go unheralded.

I want to see Dante comeback with a “last day on earth” attitude next year. You know what I mean??

No settling for 3’s and spot up jumpers because you are afraid of the lane! I want ‘unrestrained fury’, a Dante hell bent on being a force that just attacks, attacks, attacks at every opportunity, like a Westbrook. I want him to come back with the realisation that it could be over before it begins, there’s only so many chances and you only get one NBA career… so “to hell with it”, just go for it!

Mr Handsome

David Andersen – 7’0 and 253 lbs

2nd Rd Pick 36 2002

10th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Houston 2009-10 Toronto 2010-11 and New Orleans 2010-11

Games – 103

The Chandler Parsons of the Australian team.

Actually not that bad a player. He did pretty well with the Rockets in limited action as a rookie, scoring in double figures 12 times despite averaging only 14 minutes per.

Had a penchant for the outside shot, with pretty solid deep range, shooting just under 35% from 3 over his 100+ games. This is obviously why D Morey was attracted to him. It wasn’t the dreamy blue eyes guys! C’mon! He was Montiejunisoficicus before Motiejunas

Has claims for being Australias most successful basketball player ever… a big claim I know but it could be true. Andersen has won 3 Italian Championships, 3 Euroleague Championships, 4 Russian League Championships and a Spanish Championship. Nice!

The Scrapper

Matthew Dellavedova “Delly” – 6’4 and 200 lbs.

Undrafted

12th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Cleveland 2013-15

Games – 139**

I have to say this again.

Delly is not a dirty player, he’s not! That whole thing last year was laughable and completey OTT.

He is like Donny though … he’s out of his element!!

Delly displays everything synonymous with Australian sportsmen out on the court. All heart, grit, determination and never say die attitude. He’s a bit like Shane Heal but without the skill.

For a time last year, he was the second best player in the Finals for Cleveland. How in the world did that happen? It seems a bit surreal but the greatest Australian performance in a championship game probably belongs to Dellavedova. Game 3, at Cleveland, all square, 1 game apiece, fighting exhaustion he clearly hadn’t read the finals script. Instead he was writing his own, to the tune of 20 points 5 rebounds 4 assists.

We’d all k*ll for a game like that on the national stage in the most pressured environment. For one brief, absolutely unfathomable shining moment, Matty turned the script and the basketball planet on its head! No-one can ever take that away from him! Ever.

I’ll get crucified for this but will he still be on a roster in 3 years? If I’m proved wrong and he brings this up… from one Matt to another, I’ll absolutely take whatever challenge you want me to Matt.

The Brick Sh*thouse

Nate Jawai “Outback Shaq””Big Nate”– 7’0 and 253 lbs

2nd Rd Pick 41 2009

8th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Toronto 2008-09 and Minnesota 2009-10

Games – 45

Nate is one biiiiiiiiiiiig drink of water and the best nickname belongs to him, Outback Shaq (I’m pretty sure he hates it too).

You may also be familiar with the term Brick Sh*thouse. That’s Nate, he is one helluva solid man. Big Nate, coming off a deserving Rookie of the year campaign in the NBL in 2008 where he averaged 17.3 points and 9.4 rebounds, was drafted by the Indiana Pacers and immediately shipped to the Toronto Raptors. In a deal involving Roy Hibbert.

His best game came early in 2009 when he scored a team high 16 points against the Trailblazers.

The Cuddly/Grizzly Bear

Cameron Bairstow “The Bear” – 7’0 and 253 lbs

2nd Rd Pick 49 2014

15th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Chicago 2014-15

Games – 18

I honestly do not know what to make of Cam Bairstow. He is a Thibs kind of player…not sure about the fit with Hoiberg though. Look, it’s early days, but appears to be batting way out of his league in the NBA. Could, should and probably will have a long and illustrious Euro/NBL career though.

The Big Stiff

Luke Schenscher “Schensch” – 7’0 and 253 lbs

Undrafted

7th Australian in the NBA

Teams – Chicago 2005-06 and Portland 2006-07

Games – 31

How did Luke Schenchser get here? I call him Big Dufus, but seriously, how did he make a final NBA roster AND then play in 31 games across 2 seasons with the Bulls and Blazers? Wow, I wish I was 7’0 sometimes.

This man is exhibit A of the changing NBA attitude towards foreign players. Opportunities, particularly for big guys from 2000 onwards were now more plentiful. Could expansion be the main reason for that? Or is it just being a bad GM, jumping on the latest trend without really knowing? Our greatest player (Gazey) played 26 games and Paul Rogers who was a million times better player than Luke, never played a single game.

Put it this way, if you youtube search “schenscher NBA highlights”

NOTHING

comes up about Luke.

This leaves me perplexed.

I’ve said it before folks, timing and opportunity is everything in this game!

The Traitor

Kyrie Irving– 6’3 and 185 lbs.

1st Rd Pick 1 2011

Technically Australian

Teams – Cleveland – 2011-15

Games – 139*

C’mon, I was only joking guys, but once Kyrie was seen wearing that practice Team USA jersey and by the time he had made the final USA roster, reality had set in that the World Championship MVP would never suit up for the country he was born in. You know what, I am totally cool with that.

His career NBA averages to date are impressive.

I have included him only on a technicality. While he has citizenship, he lived in Melbourne for only 2 years before returning to the US. He is no more Australian than Serge Ibaka is Spanish, or Shawn Bradley and Chris Kaman are German. He wasn’t raised in Australia, so it’s a long bow to draw in my opinion and certainly not enough for him to supplant Hammer Heal in the starting 5.

The Drafted

(but never played)

Seriously, why did the below happen in 1997? Anyone?

Calvin Bruton Jnr

“CJ” – 6’2 and 194 lbs.

2nd Rd Pick 52 1997 by the Vancouver Grizzlies

Never played in the NBA

I went to High School with CJ and I got my butt kicked every other day for 2 years going up against him. (it’s one of my claims to fame, the other is being a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) We were both point guards and I was fighting a losing battle. Think Steve Kerr against Michael. We could all tell this guy was going to be special. It was so obvious. He lifted our whole school to basketball heights they never would have otherwise reached. He never played in the NBA but retired last year a 6 time NBL Champion and an all-time Australian great without question.

Don’t believe me?

Here is his FIRST shot, in his FIRST game for the Perth Wildcats as an 18 year old.

See what I mean?? A 3 qtr court, buzzer beater for his 1st shot in the NBL!!!…the guy was blessed man.

(You might have also seen a certain fuzzy haired coach with a Boston drawl that oversees the 6’ers in that clip)

Paul Rogers

“Big Rog” – 7’0 and 260 lbs.

2nd Rd Pick 53 1997 by the Los Angeles Lakers

Never played in the NBA

Big Rog was better than Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and countless other big men that have played in the NBA since he was drafted. Is a former NBL Champion and NBL MVP with the Perth Wildcats. Injuries cut down his productivity

Timing and opportunity folks! Timing and opportunity!

Ben Pepper

“BennyBoy” – 7’0 and 247 lbs.

2nd Rd Pick 55 1997 by the Boston Celtics

Never played in the NBA

Ben Pepper made it 3 Australians in just 4 picks late in the second round of 1997. It was a watershed moment. We all thought we had arrived, the Tsunami was peaking and was about to hit the US shores.

Sadly, not one of the 3 mentioned above played in the big show.

Every team needed a big stiff for 6 fouls I guess but how did Ben even get drafted?

The New Zealander

Aron Baynes “Big Bad Baynesie”– 6’10 and 260 lbs.

Undrafted

Not Australian

Teams – San Antonio 2012-15 and Detroit 15-16

Games – 139*

Despite being ‘claimed’ by us and playing for the Australian Boomers, he was born in New Zealand. Therefore he is not one of the 15. Which is a real shame because I am an unabashed Baynsie fan, the dude is not afraid to mix it up and bump and bang, doesn’t matter who you are.

He’s a role player. Guys like Baynes are absolutely essential ingredients in a Championship teams make-up. They are selfless and do the right things for the team, think Cliff Levingston or Nick Collison. They can help you win championships. They’re not concerned about money or minutes or endorsements or accolades. They just help you win games.

Honourable mention

Mr Naturalized

Ricky “Amazing” Grace – 6’1 and 174 lbs.

3rd Rd Pick 67 1988

1st Naturalized Australian in the NBA

Teams – Atlanta 1993-94

Games – 3

“He’s so quick, he could steal the hubcaps off a moving car”

With those now immortal Cal Bruton Snr (CJ’s dad) words in 1990 (yes, we know it’s an old joke) Perth was introduced to Ricky Grace and the Wildcats would never be the same again. They promptly won back to back championships and 4 titles (90,91,95,00) out of 6 finals appearances (90,91,93,95,00,03) with him running the ship. Perth was like the showtime Lakers during his career there.

Ricky was absolute sustained excellence and invariably he was the difference between winning and losing.

Grace made an NBA roster in 1993 when he was signed to a 10 day contract by the Atlanta Hawks. I remember I was so pumped for Ricky, I just wanted him to score some points. He was a hero to all of WA. His stint was short-lived but he got the chance to team up with former Oklahoma Sooner teammate Mookie Blaylock (another ex Warrior).

Fulfilling every boys dream, Ricky played 8 minutes and scored 4 pts across 3 games then returned to Perth to dominate the NBL for many years to come.

He became a most welcome naturalised Australian in 1996 and played for Australia at the Olympics of 2000 in Sydney.

OWNERS and GM’s – DO NOT IGNORE THIS!

More than a quarter (4/15)* of the Australians that have played in the NBA have becomes champions. I’m telling you all, this is not a coincidence.

Nearly half (6/15)** that have played in the NBA were on teams that made the NBA Finals that year.

There has been an Australian in the last 3 NBA Finals series. A tied record heavily favoured to continue this year.

The Vegas bookies have the top rated teams and likely champions for 2016 as one of these 3 teams: Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Do you see what those teams have in common?

Do you have an Australian on your team?

Make it happen and do it, do it now man!

NB: If you have any stories about any of the guys, have played with or against them, in High School, College, Junior College, down at the park or local rec center, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks a mill.

*The four are Longley (96,97,98) Gaze (99) Mills (14) Bogut (15)

**The six are Longley (96,97,98), Gaze (99), Mills (13,14), Bogut (15), Dellevadova (15), Irving (15),

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s