Happy Birthday to retired former Utah Jazz guard Calbert Cheaney! Cheaney turns 45 today, and we all want to wish him the best. Calbert Cheaney was an absolute stud in college back in the early 90s, playing four years at Indiana and making a name for himself as a two-way guard who could make baskets. His game was similar to Hall of Famer, guard Mitch Richmond. But unlike Mitch, Cal won a lot of hardware was the Player of the year in 1993 (from various sources from the AP to the big one, Naismith) to bookend all of his All-American selections. He also has a few gold medals for Team USA for FIBA events back in the early 90s as well. There's no doubting his resume, or his play on the court.
It was no surprise that he was a lotto pick, going 6th overall in the 1993 NBA Draft. He was an impact player almost immediately for the Washington Bullets (now: Washington Wizards). And some of my early NBA memories of him were of him being thrown out there by head coach Bernie Bickerstaff to defend Chicago Bulls megastar Michael Jordan in the 1997 Playoffs in single coverage.
The last shot in Bullets history
After six seasons in D.C. he bounced around to the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets before joining the Utah Jazz in 2002-2003. (A one year Free Agent deal) The Jazz were trying their absolute best to keep their window of championship opportunity open with a 40 year old John Stockton and 39 year old Karl Malone still fighting the good fight. And head coach Jerry Sloan gave Calbert the call, as he started 74 of his 81 games in the regular season, and all five of five in the Playoffs. He logged in over 2.3k minutes in a Jazz jersey and was one of the first "one and done" Jazz veteran mercenaries to play a lot and then pack his bags. He would finish his career with the Golden State Warriors, but let's not gloss over what he did for the Jazz.
He came as a long-term vet capable of being the starting shooting guard on a playoff team, and came to a team in need of one. He really didn't bring that diversity of play that Jeff Hornacek brought on offense, but he was a much more capable defensive player at 31 years old. He shot well, .499 / .400 / .580, but shooting under 70% from the free throw line as a shooting guard just underscored some of his less than high lights with the Jazz. On the flip side, the 40% from deep looks really nice; however, he took 25 total threes in 74 games. That's hoisting up only 0.3 threes a game. As an NBA Starter. At shooting guard. In the 2000s. As a point of direct comparison, bench forward Andrei Kirilenko shot 1.4 threes a game for the very same head coach Jeff Sloan, over 80 total regular season games.
Defensively he didn't have his best season either, tying for 2nd worst in Defensive Rating (DRTG) on the team with 21 year old DeShawn Stevenson and 23 year old Carlos Arroyo at 106. (In the playoffs that ballooned up to 122. Yikes. Double yikes when you see that his ORTG was 78.) The analytics weren't in his favor and I really truly believe that if he had played ANOTHER year with the Jazz we would have seen some great play from him.
Playing along side two Hall of Famers, and starting nearly every game while playing 29.0 mpg, Calbert did still average 8.6 ppg (8.0 FGA/g), 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, and 0.8 spg. It's puzzling to me to see these numbers be so low, as my memory of him was that of a very solid puzzle piece to another Utah Jazz playoff team.
Not 100% Calbert, but you get to see him in a Jazz jersey here.
Also, would have liked a "Last 2 minute report" for this game.
Cal played on the last Stockton and Malone Jazz team. And as a result, he's immortalized in my mind. After the NBA he went back to the NCAA, the seat of his power, and was involved as a Director of Basketball Operations, director of internal and external player development, and as assistant coach. Also follow him on twitter @calbertcheaney ! He needs more followers!
And once again, happy birthday to our Jazzman. He was there when the Bullets era ended, and was there when Stockton and Malone era ended as well. His efforts in those battles shall never be forgotten!