Big Shot Bob A Hornet?

Mike Monroe
San Antonio Express-News

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen finally have earned championship rings.

So, too, did 38-year-old P.J. Brown, who is older than every NBA player not named Armstrong or Mutombo.

He is even older than Robert Horry, who won’t turn 38 until Aug. 25.

Brown came out of retirement in March, and gave the Celtics precisely the sort of front-line help they needed in their run to a 17th title.

Horry has seven rings, and no player who wasn’t part of the Celtics’ first dynasty has more. Bill Russell, who was, gets to keep all 11 of his rings now that Garnett, to whom he famously pledged one if the Celtics did not win the title, has one due him at a ceremony this fall.

Horry would like an eighth ring, not to mention a shot at redeeming a wasted 2007-08 season. It was so choppy, it rivaled 1996-97 as the worst of his amazing, 16-season run that has stamped him as one of the greatest role players in league history.

Then, the Suns traded him to the Lakers after he threw a towel at Suns head coach Danny Ainge during a regular-season game. Can you imagine how thoroughly that incident would have been revisited had the Spurs advanced to the Finals against the Celtics?

For now, Horry remains “up in the air” — his words — about returning. He will become a free agent July 1. If the Spurs decide not to offer him another deal, there are only two or three other teams for which he would consider playing. Presume one is the Rockets, because he still has a home in Houston. The Hornets would be another, both for their proximity to Houston and the presence of a championship-contending core.

What Horry says he won’t do, though, is what Brown did: wait until late next season to come out of retirement to help a team with championship potential.

“I wouldn’t feel right doing that,” Horry said. “You’ve got to go through training camp with the rest of the guys. Don’t just sit back and wait and get all the glory.”

Horry doesn’t begrudge Brown his ring, but when you already have seven, you can afford a more rigorous set of standards.

Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have joked that Horry has been sitting back through the regular season and waiting for playoff glory since he signed with the Spurs in the summer of 2003.

His response: “If Pop would play me more during the regular season, he’d find out I could give him a lot more than he’s gotten the last couple of years.”

In fact, Popovich couldn’t play Horry often last season. When training camp began, he sent Horry to Houston to deal with a serious illness of a family member.

Then Horry was plagued by injuries all season, including a deep knee bruise that carried into the playoffs.

It should be noted that when the Spurs were pressed by the Hornets in the second round, Horry still was in Popovich’s regular playing rotation. In Game 7 of that series, “Big Shot Rob” made two 3-pointers.

With the Spurs’ 2007 first-rounder, Tiago Splitter, re-signing with a team in Spain, can the Spurs completely dismiss the notion of bringing Horry back for one more run?

Horry didn’t pay much attention to the Finals. In fact, he missed the media feeding frenzy that followed felonious referee Tim Donaghy’s assertion that two NBA “company men” refs made sure the Lakers won Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals vs. the Kings.

“I’ve been wondering why a bunch of people have been asking me about that the last few days,” Horry said on Monday afternoon. “I didn’t even hear anything about what (Donaghy) said.”

Was Horry angry that such an allegation would diminish his legacy, since his “Big Shot Rob” reputation pretty much grew out of the amazing 3-pointer that won Game 4 of that memorable 2002 series?

“I don’t believe I have a legacy,” he said. “I think that went down the drain after the Steve Nash play (in the 2007 Western Conference semifinals).”

It didn’t, but Horry always has maintained a humility about his personal achievements that is rare in a look-at-me league full of chest-pounders.


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