NBA Free Agency

Rashad McCants Is an Island

Photo by AtomicShed

If you haven’t already done so, it’s worth your while to check out Chris Palmer’s ESPN The Magazine piece on just why it is that our old pal Rashad McCants, despite his electric skills, can’t find a job in the NBA. The article is fairly illuminating for us fans who watched the slow car crash of his last year in MN unfold. It details McCants’s epic personality clash with Randy Wittman, his tepid relationship with his teammates and the truly amazing fact that no fewer than three of his former coaches have suggested that he seek psychological counseling. (By the way, it’s a magnificent testimony to the Kevin McHale era that the Wolves took McCants with the 14th pick in the draft despite the fact that both of his college coaches found him so temperamental that they sent him to get help.)

Here’s the piece’s most telling moment:

“They say I don’t smile,” McCants says. “Does that make me a bad person?” In his eyes he’s done everything asked of a good teammate. He sees none of the accountability issues everyone else can’t stop talking about. What coaches label as sulking McCants says is just being quiet. “Management doesn’t see how well I get along with my teammates when we’re hanging out together,” he says. “They’re not interested in that.”

No dude, not smiling does not make you a bad person. But making an exasperated spectacle of sighing and rolling your eyes when you don’t get the ball, looking vacantly into the distance during team huddles, and audibly castigating other players for minor sins for which you yourself are also guilty (all of which were on full regular display during his time as a T-Wolf) does make you pretty rotten teammate. Not someone I’d be too thrilled to spend seven months hanging out with.

Now, it’s clear that Randy Wittman was not much fun to play for; I have no trouble believing that he was vindictive in his instruction and allotment of playing time. But let’s remember that Shaddy’s monumental benching occurred while McHale, a habitual benefit-of-the-doubt-giver and an affable player’s coach if there ever was one, was in charge of the team. And let’s also remember that, on purely basketball terms, during that last season McCants was really, really terrible.

He constantly thwarted the offense with indulgent over-dribbling and infuriating shot selection. His defense ran the gamut from  excessively macho to absentminded and tuned-out (does anyone remember his bleakly hilarious attempt to go mano-a-mano with Lebron in the fourth quarter of a blowout? The knee-wobbling crossover and dunk that resulted was cringe/gasp-worthy).

In his 34 games with the Wolves in ’08-’09, Shaddy hit just 36% of his shots and posted a PER of 9.9 (that’s good for 61st among shooting guards that year). Even more damning, according to the Wolves’ offense scored a whopping 9.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor (and their defense was also about half a point worse).

The stats reflect what was readily apparent: McCants’s pouting, his ball-hogging and his insecure bravado prevented him from coherently participating in the team’s mission. As a consequence, his teammates, though they may have given him love off the floor, came to resent and mistrust him on it. They bristled at his chesty, on-court attitude; they grumbled about his heedless, futile gunning.

So McCants is wrong if he thinks that his coaches just want to see him smile. The fact is that no matter how skilled a player you may be (and make no mistake, Rashad McCants is a tremendously skilled player, with a finely honed offensive game) unless you can invest yourself in the idea of a group, you don’t really understand how to play basketball. McCants’s inability to insinuate himself into the working life of his team wasn’t just an irritating subplot to his on-court struggles, it was the substance of those struggles. Near the end of Palmer’s article, McCants’s pop James gives his son some good advice: “Make the changes you need to survive.” You have to wonder whether Shaddy knows what those changes are.

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11 thoughts on “Rashad McCants Is an Island

  1. I was just reading this on ESPN the Magazine, what Rashad McCants is – that player who just doesn’t get the big picture. I worked in a grocery store once, the first month I really didn’t smile much. Let me tell you what happened, the managers didn’t like that too much and no I don’t mean comparing my high school working experience to the level of the NBA but it really comes down to intangibles that this guy clearly doesn’t have. I do feel sorry for him though because it’s been blown out of proportion and most of his former coaches have been antagonist to his whole development. You here some really “shaddy” (no pun intended) things about Whittman, who seemed to have a genuine dislike for him and that part where he claims to not have remembered his captain status he had on the Timberwolves is crazy – how do you forget something like that. People just didn’t know how to meet halfway in this situation – Rashad not showing the emotions an NBA player should show and management not really addressing the problem thoroughly.

    Ben, you talk about how that 08-09 season went so horribly for him but certain things went down to make it that way. In the article, it discussed how Wittman started to turn on him that same season. Then, you top that off with Randy Foye assuming his starter’s role which he missed in 07-08 due to injury and then the clout of having a coach fired, when Wittman was relieved of his duties. The 07-08 season went really nice for him, probably the second best player on the team. He was a +6.5 per 100 position that year, if Foye wasn’t injured, he would’ve have been an excellent sixth man piece! The one that bugs me about him was his lack of not caring though and since he said he doing acting, he better acted with a smile on his face if he wants a job!

    Life isn’t too easy being Lamar Odom’s Wife past boy toy….. Oh the Kardashian’s, how they come up in every basketball related story! <<< nice cheap shot there

    ____________________________________________ <<< My blog on Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball

  2. I think we should bring Shaddy back. We already have Bassy. And I’m sure Marko Jaric isn’t doing anything these days. I mean, if Kaaahhhhnnnn doesn’t accomplish anything else, he might as well undo all of McHale’s mistakes… or would that be RE-do all of McHale’s mistakes? I don’t know… but either way, we would at least have a clear goal.

  3. On a serious note though, I hope Rashad’s mom is doing better. I heard that he had to miss Summer League with the Cavs to be with her. And I do sincerely hope he gets his issues taken care of, and gets back in the league. It would be a shame to see a player of his immense potential just fade out of memory.

  4. I read that article a few days ago and I thought the most telling line was in one of the last paragraphs where Rashad claims he could still beat anyone in the league off the dribble. That line flushed all the good will he was trying to show down the toilet for me, and it’s exactly the kind of attitude I watched with you during that 08-09 season that made him so bad. You could see it on the court…it’s like he thought he was the next Allen Iverson and he could take the other team on 1-on-5 and beat them. But he’s not AI. He’s a backup at best.

    I’m glad you brought up that moment with LeBron…I remember that play well. I think LeBron blocked one of his shots on the other end too. What an embarrassment. That was the game where the crown actually cheered LeBron when he checkout out of the game, if I remember correctly.

    I remember keeping track of the Timberwolves’ record that season; when Rashad played any minutes, they were something like 0-12 at some point of the season. Some of that was garbage time, but a lot of those games he was out there for significant minutes.

    I almost feel bad for him after reading that article, but the fact is…on the court, he’s a cancer.

  5. A Man Raised Among Wolves – Did you even read the article? Comparing it to your experiences working in a grocery store is quite frankly, dumb. It wasn’t simply about not smiling. Read the article.

    Rashad McCants is a man in denial. if it were only Randy Wittman who had a problem with him, fine. But it was also Kevin McHale, Matt Doherty, and Roy Williams. The fact that he claims that McHale problem with him was because he was “dating a celebrity” is deluded and laughable. And if I were an NBA GM, I’d find the fact that he doesn’t hold himself accountable for his problems in even the smallest bit to be very telling.

  6. In response to all the negative comments and to the editor of this article. WTF is wrong with you people? This young man has been under constant scrutiny ever since he entered into the NCAA’s. First of in these United States it seems that a black man always have to put on a happy face regardless of the circumstances. Well, in the case of Minnesota a town that is known not be “Negro Friendly” and this is not hearsay it’s my experience I’m not surprised by the negative comment by some of the people of Minnesota. Kevin McHale and Randy Whitman are two idiots who ran the Tumbleweeds in the toilet, and after reading the article I found neither to have any creditability on any statement that was presented “In his 34 games with the Wolves in ’08-’09, Shaddy hit just 36% of his shots and posted a PER of 9.9 (that’s good for 61st among shooting guards that year). Even more damning, according to the Wolves’ offense scored a whopping 9.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor (and their defense was also about half a point worse).” Are you kidding me? That whole team was bad and you are going to lay the blame on Rashad! The blame lies on the incompetent coaching Rashad was simply doing what was instructed for him to do. He had a great season the year before (14.9ppg, 2.5apg) when the coward Whitman turned on him and if you read the article you’d see the lie Whitman told. I’m not going to say anything more except KARMA IS A M****F*****, SO HATE ON FOLKS.

  7. I agree, reading the article you feel sympathy for McCants but it’s also very clear that (1) he blames pretty much everyone but himself for his predicament, and (2) he thinks he’s a lot better than he actually is. With that attitude it’s hard to feel like he deserves to be in a better situation. I realize he has emotional problems and had a tough upbringing, but the thing about living in a democracy that protects individual rights is that adult individuals have to be held accountable for their own actions. McCants’ primary argument in his defense seems to be that if people knew what a star he could be, they’d put up with his crap. Where to even start . . .

    I went back and read the Draftexpress profile on him from 2005. Can’t say the signs weren’t there, that’s for sure.

  8. Ouch Robert, why all the hostility? I did read the article and I know it wasn’t all about smiling and body language! Just saying that was the first thing people noticed of him and everything snowballed as they found out more of him. I don’t like that he feels entitled to something when he hasn’t shown greatness that would maybe be okay to dealing with all this stuff!

    ____________________________________________ <<< My blog on Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball

  9. Great article Ben. I really enjoy your writing and you were spot on here. Shaddy is his own worst enemy. Too bad he doesn’t understand that.

  10. I know all you people want to throw this young man under the bus. I realize he was given an incredible opportunity to live his dreams. Maybe it appears that he doesn’t appreciate the opportunity he was given. What you have to understand many young black men hold on to their pride because that is the only thing that can truly control. Some of you may think well I will swallow my pride for the opportunity to live my dream. His confidence got him through a lot of tough times in his life. It is hard for him to change his consciousness, the same consciousness that got him through all the tough times. Rashad McCants is a talented individual, this should be the beginning of his career. He has so much potential to grow and truly live up to his potential. I hope one of the coaches will take time to truly know Rashad. Take time to nurture his talent and guide him. What the young man needs is guidance. I know he made millions and you guys believe he is a grown man. But he is a young man that needs the nurturing and guidance he never received. To me this is not about a paycheck its about a young man doing what he loves and living up to his full potential. We all have EGOS. The ego is inescapable. He only needs to learn awareness. We love you Rashad, we want to see you grow into this incredible player that you were destined to become. It is not too late young man.

  11. I met and talked to Rashad several times and he seemed like a perfectly good guy. But there is no denying that on the basketball floor in the 08-09 season he was truly horrible. I saw every game at Target Center that year. The Wolves were a terrible team, but numerous other players on the roster (most of them black) were working hard and trying their best to work together as a team. Rashad constantly over-dribbled, refused to pass to open teammates, and jacked up ill-advised shots whenever he got his hands on the ball. By the last half of the season scores of fans in the stands would stand up and yell “Get McCants out of there!” every time he entered the game. And then he would just jack up another bad shot. Opposing layers also consistently drove right past him when he was on defense–like he was a tree stump. It was embarrassing!

    So, we can talk about all of the trials of his personal life, or talk about the challenges facing black men in this society in general–this is all valid–but in Rashad’s case he simply didn’t show any effort and played about as badly (and selfishly) as one could imagine. He may have been the worst player in the NBA in 08-09.

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