In about two months we, as Americans, will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the greatest NBA blockbuster that did, well, absolutely shit.
In case you’re wise enough not to remember, on Feb. 17, 1997, New Jersey (coached by John Calipari—the man no professional athlete ever seemed to respect) and Dallas brought forth a deal that gave the Nets five new players and the Mavericks four.
I vividly recall learning of the swap and thinking, “Hoooooooly shit—the Nets are officially in the game again.” And, really, it was logical. In exchange for Shawn Bradley (a shot-blocking center with minimal offensive game), Khalid Reeves (a very mediocre guard), Robert Pack (OK-but-undersized at the point) and Ed O’Bannon (enormous bust), New Jersey received the high-scoring Jimmy Jackson, the three-point gunner George McCloud, center Eric Montross (minimal skills, but not all that worse than Bradley), point guard Sam Cassell (a two-time world champ with Houston) and sixth man Chris Gatling.
Again, hoooooooly shit.
There was just one problem. The guys the Nets acquired were far more talented than the guys the Mavs acquired, but they were pretty lousy as a unit. I mean, Cassell was a tease, because he scored in droves but played no defense. And Jackson was an even worse defender. And McCleod had, truly, no skill besides spotting up. And Gatling was exposed beyond 25 minutes. And Montross actually was far worse than Bradley (who wasn’t particularly good).
So, come February, let’s all kick back and say “Mazel tov” to the blockbuster that wasn’t.
Long live Robert Pack.