07 September 2009
Robert Pack can still dunk.
Okay, maybe the 40-year-old former NBA point guard who was known for his ability to rise above the rim won’t be putting it down any time soon, but luckily YouTube clips of Pack keep his hops alive.
“My nephews do, because they’re basketball players and they do their thing now,” Pack said when asked if he’s ever seen his YouTube highlight reels.
“They’ll show everybody. I wasn’t very familiar with it at all but then they pulled it up for me.”
Wonder if Pack’s nephews helped him relive his facial on Shawn Bradley, the 7’6 center who certainly saw his share of posters during his 12 seasons in the league. Pack was with the Denver Nuggets at the time when Bradley – then playing for Philadelphia – attempted to stop “Pac-Man” from coming down the lane for a dunk.
It didn’t happen.
“It was one of those things that it didn’t matter who it was under the basket – but he was waiting for me at the basket as I came down and my eyes go real wide,” Pack started, evoking visions of his appearance at the 1994 Slam Dunk Competition where he was beat out by Isaiah Rider.
“He dared me and just because he was bigger it was like he was going to wait and not try to be outside the paint? I remember just coming down the lane and taking off. I wanted the foul, but the ref was shocked too. But that was my approach and my aggressiveness. It didn’t matter who was there. When I went down there I was going to the rim.”
That was some time ago – long before Pack retired after a 13-year career between Portland, Denver (twice), Washington, New Jersey (twice), Dallas, New Orleans, Minnesota and finally a stint overseas for Kauno "Zalgiris" in the Euroleague.
Today though, Robert is known as Coach Pack. After spending last season in the NBA Developmental League as an assistant coach with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Pack recently joined Byron Scott’s coaching staff as an assistant with the New Orleans Hornets.
“It’s definitely something I’m excited about and I’m looking forward to it. It’s something I knew I wanted to get into and that I had a feel for,” said Pack, who played for Scott in New Jersey.
While Pack said he and Scott will sit down in the coming weeks to detail exactly what Pack’s responsibilities will entail for the upcoming season, he’s already got a glimpse this offseason working out with backcourt rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll have a role in working with these guys defensively and spending the extra time discussing what they can expect from the game.”
As Pack can attest from his rookie year, it’s best to expect the unexpected. After going undrafted out of USC, Pack made the final roster spot as a free agent for the Portland Trail Blazers in 1991. That season, Pack played in 72 games on a team that advanced to the NBA Finals on the shoulders of “Blazermania” before losing to the Chicago Bulls, 4-2. A couple seasons later in Denver, Pack played an instrumental role with his timely three-point shooting helping the Nuggets become the first eighth-seeded team in NBA history to defeat a first-seed team when the Seattle SuperSonics fell in the first round of the 1994 Western Conference Playoffs.
Now Pack is trying to teach a younger generation what it takes to get to the Promised Land.
“I think guys listen but until they have to go through it, it’s going to be tough to really, really understand. If you haven’t been, there’s a lot of work every day,” Pack explained.
“I know the focus it took every game to maintain playing at a high level against the best competition. Then when you get to the NBA Finals, you’re one of the elite teams and play at an elite level most of the year. That’s in practice and in games – they have an elite focus. That’s what it takes. I don’t think some players as an individual or as a team understand that.”
So can New Orleans – a team that endured an injured riddled season last year before being bounced from the playoffs by Denver in the first round – save face and return to the glory from the 2008 season when they went 56-26, won the Southwest Division, advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals, and Scott was named NBA Coach of the Year?
“I think there are some things that have to fall into place. Any team that is an elite team, there is a little luck that goes along with that as well. Talent wise, the team has the ability to play at an elite level day in and day out,” Pack said.
“It’s just a matter of focus and guys committing to playing at that level. That’s what it’s going to take this year for New Orleans to bounce back from an injury filled year. That happens to everyone. But players are focused on getting back and are prepared to make a run this season.”
It’s a new look Hornets with New Orleans acquiring center Emeka Okafor from the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler, trading Rasual Butler (who was expected to make $3.9 million this season) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a second-round pick in 2016 in a salary cut move, and receiving Collison and Thornton in June’s NBA Draft.
Still, the popular belief is the Hornets will only go as far as their all-star guard Chris Paul takes them.
“He’s the point guard of the future and he’s done a lot with his career already in a short period of time. I’m looking forward to game situations where I can plant a few seeds,” Pack said of Paul, before admitting he sees a bit of himself in Chris.
“He likes to get in there and mix it up. He’s aggressive and tough.”
That certainly sounds like Pack.
Back during his days in New Jersey and even later with the Dallas Mavericks, Pack ended up being teammates with the guy he once notoriously dunked on – Shawn Bradley.
“It was funny, because one day we were in the locker room and he (Bradley) said he didn’t totally recall. But the rest of the locker room did. I just sat back and let the rest of the guys get on him about it,” Pack remembered with a laugh.
“It was one of those situations where you didn’t have to fight your battle because everyone else was.”
Robert’s dunking days may officially be behind him, but now in New Orleans Coach Pack remains a throw down kind of guy.
|< Prev||Next >|