In conjunction with the release of his new book about the 1992 Dream Team (which can and should be bought here, or at a bookstore near you), the great Jack McCallum was kind enough to answer a few questions for ClipperBlog. Many thanks to Jack, and we hope you enjoy.
Charlie Widdoes: You talk some about Jordan and Pippen, and to a lesser extent Stockton and Malone on the Dream Team. What did you gather it was like for NBA teammates to be a part of the this team? Personalities obviously differ from one guy and one pair to the next, but did you happen to notice how that dynamic played out over the time together, and perhaps even how it affected each pair once they returned to the NBA? Can you imagine how Blake Griffin and Chris Paul could benefit from the experience, on the court or off?
Jack McCallum: Interesting question that played out in different ways. Pippen benefitted from Jordan’s Alpha Male status. They were, truly, A DOMINANT DUO, mostly because of Jordan’s primacy as a player but also because Pippen was at the height of his versatility. They were also part of the in crowd that played cards, Michael more “in” than Scottie but Scottie right there.
John and Karl were different. It played out in much the same way as it did back in the States. The Utah Jazz was just … a little bit out of it. Not quite in the center. That was fine with both of them, particularly John, who liked nothing more than hanging with the family. On one occasion — I put this in the book — Barkley gave Stockton shit about always passing to Malone on the break and John said, “That’s because he catches it.”
CW: With Tyson Chandler as the only center, it’s looking like Blake Griffin will have an opportunity to play a big role on this team. His midrange jumper became a real weapon over the last two months of last season — any thoughts on how his game is suited for international play, and how Coach K might use him? What would you expect him to learn/improve from the experience? Any chance he becomes this version’s Charles Barkley as a breakout star/personality?
JM: Ooh, man, a breakout star like Charles? I just don’t see it. In the 20 years since the Dream Team, Charles is the only one who has become more famous. I don’t know Blake like you guys but — this is just me — he doesn’t seem like Charles II.
As for his game … well, now who wouldn’t love it. I think international experience is a great teacher. Slightly different rules, slightly different rhythm because of the time difference, slightly different feel. It has to help any player who wants to be helped by it. And Griffin always struck me as a guy who WANTS to get better.
CW: Blake Griffin has already missed an entire season due to injury. Chris Paul’s had serious knee issues and he sprained his thumb on the first day of Team USA practice. I’d imagine that teams, agents and players are more conscious of the value of franchise superstars than they were 20 years ago, when the idea of NBA players competing in the Olympics was fresh and new. The guys in ’92 were essential to their parent clubs, as well, but with all the money at stake now, has the climate changed?
JM: Fresh and new are the operative words. There was a little bit of mumbling back then about the Dream Team, but nobody had the guts to really cast a shadow on the whole thing. It’s different now. Harder. Not as rewarding for the players. I hate to agree with Mark Cuban, but — you know what? — if I was an owner, would I want to send my guys there? Would I want C.P. to get banged up from November to May and then get banged up in July and August? I’d have to think long and hard about it.