Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Yesterday, in the first entry to "NBA Holiday Week," we focused on the tumultuous and partially wasted career of Vin Baker. Today, our attention shifts to a player that has gone underappreciated and unnoticed for far too long. Well, the buck stops here. He gets the spotlight today...for the first time in his life. So take the stage, Mr. Rick Brunson. You were a journeyman backup point guard, and nobody's ever done it better.
This group of players has always formed a special bond in NBA circles. These guys live their lives 10 days at a time. Sometimes, they get that second 10-day picked up, but more often than not, it's a week and a half, and then it's the door. These guys are not flashy. In fact, most of them are completely anonymous to the casual NBA fan. But they are out there. Guys like Kevin Ollie. Anthony Goldwire. And one of the founding fathers, Nomadic Tyronn Lue. But the preeminent figure in this long line of nameless heroes remains Eric Daniel Brunson, or as he's always been known to his loyal band of followers, just Rick.
I really cannot think of a more perfect player to truly symbolize this unique fraternity of players. Brunson was the ultimate "serviceable" point guard. He had no real definitive skills, and the fact that he played parts of nine seasons in the NBA remains one of the more remarkable accomplishments in sports history. And our boy Rick definitely knew how to get around. Chances are, if you were a team looking for a plug-in floor leader for a couple weeks, he was available.
Brunson began his career in Portland in 1997. From there, he moved on to New York. Then to Boston. And back to New York. In 2001, it was Portland. Next year, Rick was in Chicago. Then to Toronto for a quick three-game stay. And back to Chicago. Of course, he had to be a Clipper at some point, so that came next. Finally, in Rick's final season, he spent a half hour in Seattle (literally...he logged 31 minutes), and then bopped over to Houston to close out the year and his career.
(Sidenote: I love that Brunson got stuck with the #40 for his short tenure in Boston. How much more disrespectful can you be to a point guard than to staple a number in the 40s or 50s on his back? Those digits are typically deserved for plodding big men that require such a high jersey number to represent their oversized...umm, wingspan. But to see a little fella like Brunson rockin' the 4-0, the team was obviously trying to get a very clear message across. Don't get too comfortable, kid...you ain't gonna be here long. They were right. Brunson lasted seven games for the Celts. But it was a blessing in disguise. A mere seven days later, Rick was a Knick, and his famous #9 was etched on to his gear.)
Talk about a guy being just good enough to keep finding NBA jobs, but also just forgettable enough for none of these franchises to ever want to be attached to him for more than a couple months at a time. He wasn't a good shooter, but he wasn't the worst. (36 3P%, 69 FT%) He was definitely no lockdown defender, but he was still usually good for a swipe or two every couple months. And most importantly, like any respectable hooper that plays the point, Brunson could handle the rock and find his big man for an easy deuce off the pick-and-roll. And let's not forget that in 2004-05, Brunson ranked 9th in the NBA for all qualifying point guards in the illustrious "Assist Percentage" category with a sparkling 32.7%. I'd put that number right up there with Gretzky's 92 goals and Chamberlain's 100 points on the list of greatest statistical accomplishments.
There were journeyman PGs that came before him, and plenty that followed, but when it comes down to it, Ricky B. is the gold standard. He is the absolute definition of the "journeyman point," and he's got the frequent flyer miles to prove it.
So congratulations to you, the reader. You now officially know more about Rick Brunson than any member of his own family. You should be proud...I know I am.
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