NBA Stars: Where Are They Now? (Sunday Sports Column)

nba logowhere are they now

BY COREY MUELLER

Just for fun, I decided to take a look at the ESPN Player Rater to see who have been the absolute worst players in the NBA this year.  Some expected names came up, like Dexter Pittman and Royal Ivey, but as I kept scanning the list, names kept coming up that I hadn’t thought of at all.  Guys that were former NBA champions and All Stars have somehow vanished from their roles and have limited production nowadays.  My findings are as follows.

The name that sparked my interest was the 19th worst player so far: Stephen Jackson.  Jackson, now 35, was a free agent until the Los Angeles Clippers signed him on December 10th.  He then played 9 games, and was waived less than a month later on January 7th.  Jackson, a former NBA Champion with the ‘03 Spurs, has seen a drastic decline since he left Charlotte back in 2011, when he was then averaging over 18 points and a steal per game.  This year, Jackson is averaging 1.7 points and shooting 23.1% from the field. With San Antonio last season, Jackson was part of the 50-40-90 Club in the playoffs, but has struggled with a 7.1% 3pt percentage this year.  I can’t say for sure why exactly Jackson has been so bad this year, but I can tell you this: 35-years-old seems to be too old for the NBA.  As a small forward/shooting guard, Jackson just can’t make it in the League anymore.  Au revoir Mr. Jackson, you’ve had a nice run.

Hedo Turkoglu, one of the best point forwards in recent years, is one of the most surprising names on this list.  A man who, alongside Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter (my all time favorite player, salute to Mr. Vinsanity), made it past LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2009 NBA Championship, was only just recently signed by the LA Clippers.  He’s posting a measly 2.6 points per game, with 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists, nowhere close to his best. Turkoglu, now 34, struggles to fulfill his role as a small forward and is uncomfortable not being able to be the point forward he’s been for so long.  Unfortunately, the Clippers don’t need Turkoglu in the role he’s used to, so his numbers should stay just about where they are.  Unless he finds a new team, Turkoglu won’t likely make a revival to his career stats, and soon head into retirement.

On to the next one: Udonis Haslem.  With as well as Haslem has historically been for the Heat, you would expect him to get more time, right? Wrong. He plays 7 less minutes than Chris “The Birdman” Anderson, and is only averaging 2.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.  He’s a 3-time NBA Champion and the Miami Heat’s all-time rebound leader, but has declined significantly.  With the addition of Oden, Miami doesn’t seem to need Haslem anymore, and this 33-year-old looks like he’s on his way out.  Can’t say it’s been a pleasure, being from Cleveland and all, but best of luck with the rest of your dwindling time in the NBA Udonis.

The next guy is someone I was a huge proponent for when he signed with my Cavaliers, but since his stint with the Lakers, Antawn Jamison has been a nonfactor in the league.  He was playing for the Clippers until he was traded to Atlanta at the trade deadline, where he was dropped immediately.  Jamison was only averaging 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds this year, significantly less than what he’s been capable of recently.  This is just another case of old age, and it’ll be a surprise if this 37-year-old can make a comeback.  Antawn is an underappreciated player, and it’s sad to think he’ll go out so quietly.

Another of my personal favorites, Jason “JET” Terry has struggled with Brooklyn, and been injured as well.  Terry is getting older, currently 36, and has been in the league since 1999.  JET is well renowned as one of the best 6th men in the league, especially with his 3-point daggers against the Heat in the Finals in 2011 (one of the biggest reasons I like him, take that LeBron).  Since Terry left the Mavs two years ago, though, he has played for 3 separate teams.  Currently on the Kings roster, Terry is averaging 4.5 points and 1.6 assists per game, which is pitiful in comparison to the numbers we’ve seen him put up.  Jason Terry is on the final stretch of his career, and is unlikely to make a stellar comeback.  Although this is a sad thought, the good news is that my Terry Mavs jersey will soon go up in value.

Al Harrington is the next guy on the list, averaging only 6.8 points and 1.4 rebounds, with 0 rebounds for the Washington Wizards this year. Harrington, who is now 34, was averaging 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds just two short years ago.  Harrington has battled injuries, but that’s no excuse to miss an uncontested dunk against the Magic on February 25th.  Between his surgically repaired knee and his approach to the golden age of 35, Harrington has limited time left in the league.  He’ll only be around for 3 more years at most, but he’s definitely been fun to watch.

I mentioned the next guy in my Trade Deadline article last week as a person who has a ton of potential, but lacks in performance.  MarShon Brooks of the LA Lakers hasn’t been able to match his rookie numbers from 2 seasons ago, where he scored 12.6 points and grabbed 3.6 rebounds for the then-New Jersey Nets, but now scores 1.9 points with .7 rebounds.  A young scoring guard, Brooks should be producing more than he is.  He now has the opportunity in LA with Kobe gone and the rest of the Lakers team injured, but it’s up to him to capitalize.  We’ll see how he holds up.

30-year-old Carl Landry is another NBA player that has vanished from the spotlight now that he’s made his way back to the Sacramento Kings.  In the 2009-2010 season, Landry put up 18 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Kings, but now he only scores 4.2 points and grabs 3.2 rebounds per game.  He’s only played 18 games this year due to hip surgery at the beginning of the year, but hasn’t been able to bounce back since his return.  Landry is overshadowed in Sacramento, and won’t be able to get his numbers back up to what they should be.  Carl Landry will continue to be a bench-player, and it’s truly a shame to see it happen.

Finally, one guy that has disappeared almost entirely from fantasy leagues and ESPN headlines, Devin Harris rounds out the list of the diminishing stars.  Harris, who was scoring 15.8 points per game and had 5.4 rebounds in 2011, now averages half of that with 8 points and 1.9 rebounds for the Dallas Mavericks.  Harris, who was traded for Deron Williams, one of the best guards in the league at the time, now has a limited role on the Mavs.  Harris, age 31, still has some juice left in the tank, but it’s hard to say if he’ll still be a productive in years to come.

Since I couldn’t talk about everyone I wanted to, here’s some guys I considered, but left out.

“Dis-honorable Mention:”

NYK Metta World Peace (4.8 ppg, 2.0 reb, .6 ast)

HOU/FA Ronnie Brewer (.3 ppg, .6 reb, .4 ast)

BOS Keith Bogans (2.0 ppg, .5 reb, .5 ast)

DET Charlie Villanueva (4.6 ppg, 1.6 reb, .3 blk)

FA Lamar Odom (4.0 ppg, 5.9 reb, .7 blk)

I understand some of these guys have been injured, like World Peace, but even in the games they’ve played, they’ve been absolutely terrible.  It’s a shame, and hard to say goodbye to some players that have been vital to championship-caliber teams, but it has to be done.  So there you have it, the worst of guys that used to be considered stars.  Hopefully some of them can bounce back and actually be productive again, but until then, they’ll ride the bench.  Until next Sunday,

Corey

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