Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #298 Hark, the unheralded! (On Jeremy Lin)

This column appears in the Monday, February 13, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
Kevin Gamble starred for Boston in the 90s.

Hark, the unheralded!
by rick olivares

When Kobe Bryant was asked what he thought of the New York Knicks’ newest sensation Jeremy Lin, the Black Mamba said "I don't even know what he's done. I have no idea what you guys are talking about. Who is this kid?"

Well after the Knicks beat Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers 92-85 and Lin outscored him 38 to 34, he sure knows him now.

When Lin, who was cut by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets before landing with the Knicks, began to play himself into the Knicks’ starting unit, I racked my brain trying to think of players who came out of nowhere to go great guns with their team. And I thought of a couple – Kevin Gamble and Henry James.

Gamble was the 63rd pick of the 1987 NBA Draft where the Portland Trailblazers selected him. He only played for 19 minutes and was cut a little over a month into that season. Gamble, an Illinois kid who stayed home for high school (Lanphier) and college (Lincoln), went to the CBA then to the PBA where he teamed up with Billy Ray Bates in Anejo Rum for four games before the duo was cut. I recall that before they were sent packing by the team’s management, Gamble asked Bates what they did wrong. The duo was scoring but Bates, clearly was not his Superman self.

The following season, he found himself with the Boston Celtics where he had two so so seasons before coming on strong. In 1990-91, the last time a Celtics team with Larry Bird in the lineup competed for the Larry O’Brien trophy, Gamble started 76 games for head coach Chris Ford and was third in team scoring. Gamble would play in the NBA for six more years before hanging it up to go into coaching. Today, he is the Director of Player Development and Video Operations for Providence College.
Henry James was huge - briefly - for the Cavs.

When I read of Bryant’s initial reactions to “Linsanity” that reminded me of the time when Henry James came out of nowhere to grab a spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rotation. He gained a measure of fame when he would knock down those long shots of his. His hot shooting prompted Michael Jordan to ask him during one game (while he was guarding James), “Who are you?”

James, who learned how to play basketball in only his senior year in high school was undrafted out of St. Mary’s, a Division II school in Texas in 1987. Sadly though, he never approximated his early success with the Cavs where he averaged over eight points per game. James became a journeyman suiting up for six clubs in eight years in the NBA. Today, he is serving a five-year prison sentence for selling drugs (after his life fell apart).

James, like Gamble, was a one-time PBA import with Ginebra (where he suited up for only one match as they were eliminated by Shell in the semifinals.

If you would like to go back farther, there was Bob Cousy who the player least desired by Red Auerbach during the dispersal draft for the defunct Chicago Stags. But during the draw (than included forward Andy Phillip), the Celtics’ brass clearly wanted Max Zaslofsky who was a scoring sensation in the league. Instead they drew Cousy. The Celtics’ owner Walter A. Brown was dejected with the pick and uttered, “I could have fallen to the floor.”

It didn’t take long for the Cooz to make Brown and Auerbach to change their opinions about the fleet footed guard from Holy Cross as Cousy began the first of what would be a Hall of Fame career with the Celtics.

Utah Jazz great John Stockton is another in a line of little noticed players who rose above the challenges to become a Hall of Famer. Ditto with the Chicago Bulls’ Scottie Pippen and his teammate Dennis Rodman (who also played for the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, and very briefly with the Lakers after his championship run with the Bulls).

But Gamble, Cousy, and Stockton were drafted while James and Lin were not. And that makes the latter’s story all the more exciting and front-page, Sportscenter, and chat room material. Lin is Tim Tebow in tank tops. And when was the last time you heard about a Harvard graduate (with a degree in economics and a 3.1 grade point average) who could not get work? C’mon. He got cut! And had he not been given a chance after the Knicks other guards failed, he would have been most certainly cut from New York as well.

So far, Lin has had an outstanding week for the Knicks. He was criticized as a player who can only drive to the basket, one who cannot play consistently, and one who had yet to play against top-flight competition. How’s handling the Lakers and outscoring Kobe Bryant for a stirring riposte?

I couldn’t care less what nationality or ethnic group he belongs to. I just love a feel good and underdog story. And with what Lin is doing for the Knicks – despite the presence of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire – is incredible. And all this while sleeping in his brother’s couch.

Jeremy Lin, every one knows who you are.

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