7 Ocak 2008

The All-Warrior Team

Alonzo Mourning has likely played his final game in the NBA. He suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee last month, and while a younger player could expect to return from a similar injury in time for next season, the 37-year-old veteran had already stated unequivocally that this season would be his last.

It's been 16 years since Mourning came into the league, and in that span he's established himself as one of the greatest defensive players of all-time despite missing one full season and portions of three others due to a kidney disease that eventually required a transplant. Not many players would have continued to persevere in the face of such tall odds, but Mourning has always embraced a true warrior's mentality.

In fact, that mentality made Mourning the type of player he was. He's been one of most intimidating defensive players for as long as he's been in the league, and even in a reduced role following his comeback he ranked among the leaders in blocked shots. Even as disease robbed him of his prime years and age slowed him upon his return, very few players ever matched the intensity he brought to the court each night.

In honor of Mourning's distinguished career, let's take a look around the league and recognize those who play every game with the same passion and fire by naming the All-Warrior Team.

C – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

Howard has improved each and every year he's been in the league, which is awfully impressive considering he came in averaging a double-double. He's the NBA's rebounding king (and could easily hold onto the crown for the next decade), ranks fourth in the league by averaging a 'Zo-like 2.7 rejections per game and leads his team in scoring with a career-high 22.4 points per game.

How consistent has Howard been this year? He has 30 double-doubles in 35 games, six more than anyone else in the league. Oh, and the next game he misses will be his first. The scary thing is that he's still only 22 years old. With his work ethic and off-the-charts athleticism, he's on path to going down as one of the all-time greats. That's a bold statement to make about someone who still has a good decade and a half left in his career, but it's true.

PF – Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

There are very few players who have Garnett's burning desire to win, and even fewer with such a strong sense of loyalty that he lasted as long as he did in Minnesota without requesting a trade. After finally being dealt this summer and shedding the burden of being the face of a franchise, he's embraced life as being just one piece of Boston's Big Three, along with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

But make no mistake: Pierce may be the leading scorer and Allen may take more big shots at the end of games, but Garnett is the glue that holds it all together. For example, when he sat down early in the first quarter after picking up a pair of fouls against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, the Celtics scored just two more points over the next eight minutes. It was only after he returned that they were able to turn things around and pull out the win.

SF – Ron Artest, Sacramento Kings

There's a good chance that Artest might be a little bit crazy, but that's part of what makes him so invaluable on the floor. He literally doesn't know how to play the game at any other speed than full-throttle: it's all or nothing when he's on the court, harassing his opponent on both sides of the ball from the opening top to the final buzzer. Yes, there's a lot of baggage that comes with having him on the roster, but at the end of a close game when you absolutely need a stop, there are few other players you'd rather have on your side.

SG – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Bryant may be the league's most competitive player since Michael Jordan finally retired for good. That's both a blessing and a curse; unlike Garnett, he's often lacked the tact to cope with the frustration of losing without alienating those around him. The Lakers are at their best when everyone on the team is able to contribute, but Bryant is obviously capable of taking over any game whenever he wants.

PG – Sam Cassell, Los Angeles Clippers

Cassell may not have made as many All-Star teams as some of the other players on this list, but the fact that he's not only still in the league at 38 years old but also starting proves that he's lived up to Mourning's standard of perseverance.

The Clippers aren't doing too hot this year, but Cassell's mere presence as a leader both on and off the court was credited as being one of the major factors in this franchise's resurgence a couple of years ago. Even though his shot isn't as consistent as it once was, he's just as willing to take huge shots with the game on the line now as back when he was winning championships his first two years in the league with the Rockets.

The NBA is filled with hard workers – some players make the game look easy, but nobody coasts on talent alone in the NBA. That said, the above five players are in a league of their own when it comes to combining work ethic, talent and determination. Mourning may be retiring, but he leaves behind players cut from the same mold.

kaynak : NBA