Once again, like last year, as part of previewing the up and coming 2010-2011 NBA season, we pay respect to the league’s elders – NBA legends and others who are still surviving in the league, here are the 10 oldest players heading into next season.
Number 10 – Antonio McDyess, San Antonio Spurs, 36
Born September 7, 1974, McDyess will begin his 15th NBA season and his second with the Spurs. McDyess was usually a starter for San Antonio last season, averaging 21 minutes a night, 5.8 points and 5.9 rebounds. This season, with the new Brazilian, Splitter, and Blair probably getting more minutes, the former Alabama player won’t see more then 15-17 minutes a night.
Number 9 – Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers, 36
At 36, starting his 15th NBA season after his second consecutive and 5th overall NBA title, Fisher will try and prove, again, that he still deserves to be a starting point guard on a contender. The 2009-2010 regular season wasn’t kind to Fisher who averaged 7.5 points while shooting 38% from the field, but as usual, the playoffs proved just how vital Fisher is to the Lakers. Interesting fact – Fisher has played 82 regular season games in 7 of the last 8 seasons and more than 100 games, including the playoffs, in the last three. How much does he have left?
Number 8 – Marcus Camby, Portland Trailblazers, 36
Born March 22, 1974, Camby will begin his 15th NBA season with the Blazers, who he helped keep afloat and make the playoffs last season after arriving from the Clippers, averaging 7 points and 11.1 rebounds with the team. Till Oden returns, Camby is Portland’s man in the paint, and he is still one of the better rebounders and shot blockers in the league, 5th among active players in career rebounds and 3rd in blocks.
Number 7 – Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns, 36
Nash had somewhat of renaissance year in 2009-2010, as the Suns found their old selves again, making the Western conference finals on the way while finally beating the Spurs, 4-0, in the playoffs. Nash averaged 16.5 points and 11 assists per game (best in the league, 4th time), moving past the 1000th career game milestone. Usually, numbers really take a dive after that 1000 mark. Nash has been playing less minutes each year, going less than 33 a night in 2009-2010 for the first time since 1999-2000, and it’s a safe bet he’ll be playing a bit less this year as well.
Number 6 – Theo Ratliff, Los Angeles Lakers, 37
Beginning his 16th NBA season, Ratliff is making his ninth stop and sixth in three years. He played only 49 games in total for the Spurs and Bobcats last season and hasn’t had anything near a full season since 2003-2004, when he played 85(!!) regular season games. With Andrew Bynum out for the beginning of the season, Ratliff might be more than just a bench-warmer and towel waver for the Lakers next season.
Number 5 – Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks, 37
Kidd will be starting season number 17 in his NBA career which has seen everything, except winning a title. Dallas had, again, a very good regular season, including fantastic trade-deadline moves, but as usual, folded in the playoffs. Kidd actually had a better than (I) expected season, with 10.3 points and 9.1 assists per night (5th in the league). I remember some commenter made fun of me when I suggested something about Kidd and how much juice is left to squeeze out of him. New year, same question. Same Dallas, same Kidd, same Dirk. He’ll be good, but not great, with sparks of amazing coming once in a while.
Number 4 – Juwan Howard, Miami Heat, 37
Beginning his 17th NBA season, Howard scored 6 points and grabbed 4.6 rebounds last season for the Blazers, his best year since 2006-2007 with the Rockets. Now he’s with the Heat, hoping to be a useful piece in the puzzle surrounding LeBron and Wade, and if he stays healthy and produces like last year, maybe a title, the first of his career, will be waiting at the end of the rainbow.
Number 3 – Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns, 37
Grant Hill had a wild start last season but the numbers evened out eventually, and Hill finished averaging 11.3 points per game, the lowest scoring average of his career. In the playoffs it was even lower – 9.8. Still, having Hill with us, still playing, after all the surgeries and the injuries is somewhat of a miracle, and it’s great having him around on such a fun team for another season.
Number 2 – Kurt Thomas, Chicago Bulls, 37
Played 15 minutes a night last season with the Bucks, coming off the bench 61 of 70 games, scoring 3 points with 4.2 rebounds. Chicago would like the same production this season as he gives Noah or Boozer a bit of a breather in a year that is looking very promising for the Bulls. Thomas will be starting his 16th NBA season with Chicago being his 8th stop.
Number 1 – Shaquille O’Neal, Boston Celtics, 38
One last try, one last shot at a fifth NBA ring? Now that Kobe has five, who knows when O’Neal will call it quits. Now joining “Geriatric Park” in Boston, Shaq for the first time of his career will be a bench player in the beginning of the games. Good chance he won’t see more than 15-17 minutes a night. It’s hard watching a guy who was so dominant a few years ago becoming just another player hoping to get a few minutes and ride the stars to a title, but he keeps us laughing and smiling while doing his part in the C’s final attempt with the three musketeers at getting the NBA title, it was worth it.