On Chris Herren, his new book, and my conversation with him over at Crossover Chronicles

Basketball JunkieThe late 1990s version of myself – a short, unathletic, high school point guard of sorts from an Irish-American family – first noticed Chris Herren the basketball star way back in the day at Fresno State. The shamrock he had tattooed on his arm caught my attention; I thought dude was cool.  I might even be in my cubicle today rocking that same ink had I rendered my game tattoo-worthy back then as a kid. But fortunately, as far as that goes, I didn’t.

I did soon find out though that Herren played with an overwhelming passion as an undersized guard on the D-I level.  Big shot taker, big shot maker, could get to the rim, create for others, and was just flat-out fearless on the basketball court.  I began to follow his career some from there.  When he got drafted into the league by Denver with the 33rd pick overall, I was happy for him.  Chalk one up for all the short ballers everywhere who’d ever get – or contemplate getting – tatted up with shamrock ink.  We made it.

I did hear some of what was reported back then in regards to his battle with substance abuse, but it didn’t seem like a big deal to me.  I thought the media was just blowing a couple isolated incidents way out of proportion back then.  Turns out they weren’t though.  Barely scratching the surface in fact.  chris-herren-celtics

I lost track of Chris Herren’s career after his second year in the NBA, just after he played for the Celtics.  I heard he was playing overseas for a while soon after that, and pretty much forgot about him as the years went by.  I first noticed him again though earlier this month, heard he’d written a book.  A book about his life in basketball, and his battle with substance abuse that dragged into the depths of hell for more than a decade.

I read the book, Basketball Junkie by Chris Herren and Bill Reynolds, this past weekend.  I was then fortunate enough to talk with Chris about it earlier this week over at Crossover Chronicles.

An excerpt of my thoughts on the book, and my conversation with Chris, are each are each below:

My thoughts on the book…

Herren describes the darkness inside his dramatic rise to prominence, and gut-wrenchingly details his ultimate collapse.  He then talks about what it took to eventually get up, beat his addiction, and become now a bigger star in life than he ever was on the court.  My words there, not his.  And like I did, you can’t help but end up cheering for the guy now more than ever.  The book is moving, horrific, self-deprecating, sad, and remarkable.  But more than anything else, his road to recovery is nothing sort of inspirational.

To me, this story dares you to believe that it’s never too dark to dream.  It dares everyone.  No matter how far you’ve fallen, you can always get up.  There’s always one more shot you can take.  One more dream to pursue.  One more reason to hope.

An excerpt from my conversation with Chris Herren…

How difficult was thinking back through all of these painful experiences in your mind, and going through the process of actually writing this book?

Chris Herren: The process was exhausting. There were times when I was going through the process of doing the book that I was ready to pull out of it.  It was tiring, it was emotionally and mentally exhausting.  But I got through it, and once I got through it, there was definitely a healing side to it.  It was all out there, I talked about it, and could try to recover and heal from it.

If you fell asleep last night, Skyenga is now 3rd place in Cavs scoring for those who wore the number 8!

The Cavaliers looked like the Cavaliers of old last night.  No, not the Cavaliers of the past few years, but the Cavaliers of December and January of this season.  They gave no effort, they let the Bucks do what ever they wanted and it showed in a 90-110 loss.  The Alonzo Gee as an NBA starter experiment is not going well.  He has now started the last 5 games, and the Cavaliers have gone 1-4.  Last night Gee had a terrible +/- of -29 in 26 minutes of action.  In other words, on average the Cavaliers lost by more than a point for every minute Gee played.  Not a good performance.

Christian Eyenga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand Christian Skyenga, who was benched in favor of Gee, was one of two Cavaliers with a positive +/- last night (Boobie Gibson was the other).  Skyenga played 21 minutes and had a +2.  Additionally, he scored 11 points (on 5-8 shooting), had 2 assists and 1 steal.  For the first time in his 28 game NBA career, he was not able to pull down a rebound.

The 11 points moved Skyenga past 3 more former Cavaliers on the team’s All-Time Scoring List:

Rank
Player
Years
G
Pts
Avg
169
Christian Eyenga
2010-11
28
227
8.1
170
Brian Skinner
2001-02
65
224
3.4
171
Reggie Johnson
1981-82
23
223
9.7
172
Reggie Williams
1989-90
32
218
6.8

Reggie (Silk) Williams was the 1987 Big East Player of the Year for Georgetown.  He was also a two time 1st Team All-Big East selection.  He is the 3rd leading scorer (behind only Eric Floyd 2,304 and Patrick Ewing 2,184) in Georgetown history with 2,117 career points.  His great college career did not fully translate into a great NBA career though.

Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was the 4th overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft by the Clippers.  He averaged over 10 points per game for the Clippers in 2+ seasons.  He was then part of what many people consider the downfall of the late 80’s/early 90’s Cavaliers, as he was traded with the rights to Danny Ferry to the Cavaliers for Ron Harper, two 1st Round draft picks and a 2nd round draft pick.  He was waived later that season by the Cavaliers after playing 32 games and scoring 6.8 ppg.  Williams later in his career had a very solid 5 year run with the Nuggets, scoring 5,693 points in 367 games (15.5 ppg) from 1990-91 thru 1994-95.  For his career he averaged 12.5 ppg in 599 games and played for 6 different franchises.

Reggie Johnson is the 5th leading scoring in the history of the University of Tennessee.  He was named one of the 20 greatest players in the program’s history.  He was the 15th overall pick in the 1980 NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs.  He averaged over 10 points per game for the Spurs over a season and a half, before he was traded to the Cavaliers with Ron Brewer for Mike Mitchell and Roger Phegley.  As was the custom of the 1981-82 season, Johnson was then traded a month and a half later to the Kings for Cliff Robinson.  In his two month stint with the Cavaliers, Johnson played 23 games (starting 22) averaged 9.7 points per game and pulled down 5.4 rebounds per game.  Johnson went on to be traded twice more and play 2 more seasons in the NBA.  His career totals were 305 games played, 8.4 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game for 5 franchises in 4 seasons.

Brian Skinner was a 6′-9″ power forward out of Baylor who was the 22nd pick of the 1998 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.  He played three unproductive years for the Clippers at the start of his career.  Then he had a very busy offseason in 2001.  He was traded three times in a four month period in some pretty significant trades.  On draft day, he was traded by the Clippers with draft pick Tyson Chandler to the Bulls for Elton Brand.  A month later, the Bulls then traded Skinner to the Raptors for Charles Oakley.  Then just prior to the beginning of the season, he was part of a three team trade in which he was sent to the Cavaliers along with Ricky Davis.  In that trade, the Heat got Chris Gatling and the Raptors got Don MacLean and some cash.  Skinnner played one season for the Cavaliers as a back-up, playing 17.0 minutes per game and scoring 3.4 points per game.  Over the remaining years of his career he was traded 3 more times, including a 4 team 9 player trade in 2006.  Skinner was on the Bucks earlier this year, but was waived on January 5th, 2011 and is now playing in Italy.

By passing Skinner, Skyenga moves into 3rd place in Cavaliers scoring among players who wore the #8.   The Cavaliers now have until Sunday to catch their breath and get healthy.  Skyenga will surely keep up his movement towards the top of the Cavalier Scoring List, so stay tuned to StepienRules.com for further Skyenga updates!

John Hollinger’s got Skyenga and JJ on his all 2012 break-out team

It’s getting harder and harder to not actually believe that JJ Hickson has in fact turned the corner.  Officially.  Like, turned it for sure to stay and only become better and more consistent from here.  He’s been pretty good lately, and while it remains to be seen how close he’ll end up getting to becoming an All-Star caliber player next season, there’s definitely good reason to be encouraged at the moment.  ESPN’s John Hollinger, for one, expects the progress to continue.

In naming his All-2012 Break-Out Team, Hollinger made note of JJ’s recent development, and he also shouted out our boy Skyenga too.

skyenga-interview-pic---stepien-rules

 

First what Hollinger said about JJ:

J.J. Hickson, Cavaliers

Probably the most encouraging development in a mostly lost season in Cleveland has been the turnaround by Hickson over the past two months. Early in the year, he was barely playable as a low-efficiency robot in the post and an indifferent rebounder at best. Since New Year’s Day, however, a new, more energetic Hickson has emerged.

He has pulled down more than four offensive boards a game since the start of the year, with salutary effects on his free throw opportunities and shooting percentage. Overall, he’s averaging double-figure rebounds in that stretch. While he’s still likely better off in the long term as a 4, rather than as an undersized 5, he is only 22 and has shown Cleveland’s earlier faith in him was not misplaced.

Then his take on Skyenga…who he also called Skyenga too by the way:

Christian Eyenga, Cavaliers
This is more a subjective call than a stats-based one, but “Skyenga” can fly and needs to only add experience to become, at the very least, a quality defensive player. He didn’t see any game action until January but has taken over the starting small forward role.

While his offensive game is a work in progress, his quickness and elevation defensively put him in stark contrast to most of his teammates. Eyenga’s dunks get the attention right now, but it’s his defensive potential that bodes best for his future.

Agree, agree, and agree on the Skyenga points.  Specifically though, he is right to point out the defensive potential.  In addition to those points made, Skyenga has also shown the desire to go up and challenge the best in the game.  Whether it’s Kobe, Melo, or whoever, it’s just like Eminem says in that one song, he’s not afraid.

The other players named to Hollinger’s break-out list include the following:  Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers; Paul George, Pacers; Chase Budinger, Rockets; Gerald Henderson, Bobcats; Marcus Thornton, Kings; Toney Douglas, Knicks; Austin Daye, Pistons; Rodrigue Beaubois, Mavericks

For the full article up at ESPN, go here.