Big Threes these days come with Hall of Fame expectations.
It probably will be the case for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
It almost assuredly will be the case for Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
And depending on the long-term health of Dwight Howard, still could be for Howard and sure things Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.
But there was a time when being part of ensemble merely left you viewed as an ensemble player.
That was back in the early '90s, when Golden State's Run TMC offered as much fun as any modern-day triumvirate.
"C", as in Chris Mullin, finally made it to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
Last week, "T" and "M", as in Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond made it to the list of 2013 Hall finalists, their fates to be announced April 8 at the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta.
That will make the day of the NCAA men's championship game a South Florida story, no matter the fate of the Miami Hurricanes. Hardaway spent six seasons with the Miami Heat, Richmond's path to NBA success stared at Fort Lauderdale's Boyd Anderson High School.
Yet as much of a South Florida story as it is, it is even more a Mullin story.
He knows who he wants alongside in Springfield, just as they were alongside during those rollicking Bay Area days in Don Nelson's high-octane lineups.
"Obviously I'm not only friends and teammates with them, I think if you follow the game that they're clearly Hall of Fame worthy," Mullin said during a recent ESPN Radio Heat assignment. "Their numbers speak for themselves. I think of their accomplishments. Both Mitch and Tim, have Olympic gold medals. Mitch played in two Olympics. They were leaders of their teams."
And, Mullin stressed, far more than sidekicks.
"With Mitch, I think if you talk to Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Joe Dumars, any of those Hall of Fame two-guards that he competed against, I'm sure they would say he's in their class, and was the guy that was right there with them on a nightly basis," Mullin said.
Of course, that also is part of the problem, that because Richmond played in an era rich in shooting guards, he somewhat got lost in the crowd, never first-team All-NBA (three times second team, twice third team), despite making six All-Star Games. Still, he averaged more than 21 points for 10 consecutive seasons.
While past competition is Richmond's hurdle, current competition could work against Hardaway, with Mo Cheeks and Gary Payton, a member of the Heat's 2006 championship team, also among the 2013 Hall finalists.
To Mullin, it's a case of bring on the comparisons.
"When he was with us, with the Warriors, he was Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose," Mullin said of Hardaway. "That's what Tim was. He was the guy you couldn't contain. And then he actually had two pretty much separate careers. Because then he went through a little injury and when he left the Warriors, rejuvenated and had an incredible, almost another career with the Miami Heat."
While Richmond finished off his career with struggling Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards teams before a championship cameo with the Los Angeles Lakers, Mullin pointed to how Hardaway helped reinvent the Heat.
"In the long view of things, he laid the foundation for success," Mullin said. "When Pat Riley came in there, he relied heavily on Tim and Alonzo Mourning to set that work ethic and that winning attitude."
To Mullin the choice is easy, a Run TMC reunion in Springfield inevitable.
"If you look at the players they played again, their opponents, the coaches that had to coach against them, the Hall of Fame players that they played again, I consider them Hall of Famers myself," he said, "and I think most of those who played against them would tell you the same thing."
THE DEADLINE: The only downside of the NBA trading deadline from a Heat perspective might have been the J.J. Redick trade that bolstered the Milwaukee Bucks. Remember, the Heat get the Philadelphia 76ers' first-round pick the next time the 76ers don't make the playoffs. Milwaukee now is better positioned for the No. 8 seed in the East, which would put the Heat on the draft-pick wait list. The Heat's 2013 first-round pick was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2010 LeBron James sign-and-trade deal. Should the 76ers get the No. 8 seed in the East, it could give the Heat the No. 15 pick, the highest possible non-lottery selection. Further hurting the 76ers' chances were the Boston Celtics holding on to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as well as the Atlanta Hawks retaining Josh Smith, making it less likely one of those teams would fall behind the 76ers in the playoff hierarchy.
RILEY REMEMBERS: At the memorial service for late Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Heat President Pat Riley spoke of how Buss was the one who encouraged him to embrace his shift to New York Knicks coach after a career of playing for and coaching the Lakers. "When I said I was afraid to leave and go to New York," Riley said, "he said to me: 'You've got to be kidding me. They're gonna be paying you eight and a half million dollars, Riley.' He says, 'You've made it.' He says, 'You get out of town and go to New York and you do the best job that you can do.' What hits home is when things change, when the dream fades, life hits back, losses mount, the sky casts its dark shadow. That's not what's happening today. We may feel it. Today is an example of a lot more than darkness, but realizing this truth does not have to sadden us. To the contrary, it can give us greater appreciation for the many wonderful experiences we lived through together with Jerry Buss and the Lakers."
LIKE MIKE: Tim Grover, trainer of both Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade, along with numerous other NBA types, was asked in a recent interview on Charlotte radio station WFNZ whether the LeBron comparisons are starting to get to Jordan. "Being a competitor, he's definitely hearing it," Grover, who spends time around the Heat and Wade, said. "And it's part of what's probably stirring things up a little bit, is this whole debate. But I don't think it's bothering him, because listen, records and greatness, you always think somebody's going to come along and dethrone you." Of James potentially eclipsing Jordan, Grover said, "There's a long way to go to do what M.J. did, not only including the championships, but the rest of the stuff along the way."
AH, IRONY: And the winner of the Bourre, card-game tournament during All-Star Weekend? Uh, that would be former Heat forward Antoine Walker, who has a bit of history, to say the least, when it comes to cards and gambling. This time, though, there was a happy ending, with Walker's $5,000 winnings donated to the Tamara Jolee Children's Cancer Foundation.
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