Throwback Thursday: Walter McCarty relives the 2005 playoffs


In this week’s Throwback Thursday, I got the chance to talk briefly with former Phoenix Suns forward and current Boston Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty. He discussed his brief time in Phoenix that started weeks before the 2005 trade deadline and the 2005 Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs.

We all know the story of the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns. After winning 29 games the season prior, general manager Bryan Colangelo brought in Steve Nash and, well… you all know the rest. The Suns won 62 games. Nash won the first of two consecutive MVP awards and led the team all the way to the Western Conference Finals before falling in five games to those dreaded San Antonio Spurs. It was the start of the “7 Seconds or Less” era that brought Suns fans many wins and lots of joy.

During that season, the Suns made a deal prior to the trade deadline that brought in Walter McCarty from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Zarko Cabarkapa (remember him?) and a second round pick. McCarty added depth to a short bench but ended up having a minimal impact with the team. He played in 28 regular season games averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, though he did have a 20 point game. He got into eight playoff games, and saw extended action in only a handful of them.

After that season McCarty lasted one more season with the Los Angeles Clippers before he retired after a 12-year career. Though his stay was brief, McCarty has very fond memories of Phoenix and I talked to him before Celtics shootaround on Wednesday.

Sanders: What do you remember from your time in Phoenix?

McCarty: It was fun times. We had a really exciting team with Amare (Stoudemire), Shawn (Marion) , Quentin (Richardson) and Joe (Johnson). Also, Steve (Nash)… Stevie Wonder (Laughs). It was a fun time and playing at an exciting place, they do a really good job here, the fans, they support their team and it’s a great basketball environment. It was fun coming to games and playing here. It was a really good time.

Sanders: How much fun was it to watch Amare Stoudemire put up the numbers that he did against Tim Duncan and the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals?

McCarty: It was fun to watch and being a apart of to see him at that level. People forget how good he was and I tell people all the time. Listen man, I have seen him do some really special things to some really good teams and it was fun basketball.

Sanders: What went wrong for the team in that series?

McCarty: Joe Johnson went down. It was at that end of the court (basket by the Suns bench). He fell on his face and his eyes closed up, he was our go-to guy and was able to shut (Tony) Parker down and guard (Manu) Ginobli, but also get us points, they didn’t have anyone that could guard him. He was big for us and when he went down it hurt us.

Sanders: Can you say that the Suns win that series if Johnson is healthy?

McCarty: Definitely, we had a good chance winning that game and if he is healthy we definitely win that series.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire Joe Johnson Spurs Suns Walter McCarty

  • EBJM

    Speaking of Zarko Cabarkapa, how about a Danny Fortson throwback?

    Fortson was called for a flagrant foul on the play that sent Cabarkapa into the stands which resulted in a broken wrist and Suns owner Jerry Colangelo asked the NBA to fine or suspend the Dallas player.

    “Whether it’s a fine or a suspension, it’s not enough for him,” Colangelo said. “He should be put down for every day that he (Cabarkapa) is out. I’ll do everything in my power to see that happens. With the game over, there was no need for that.”

    The injury came with 2:58 left and the Suns leading 112-88.

    “He’s a thug,” Colangelo said.

    Before leaving, Fortson said he apologized to Cabarkapa.

    “I had no evil intent,” he said.

    Cabarkapa was in tears in the Suns’ dressing room, but later composed himself and said through a translator, “I can’t comprehend it. I don’t know exactly what happened. I just know I was trying to drive to the basket and Fortson pushed me.”

    That “push” effectively ended Cabarkapa’s career as he never got over being thrown into the stands by Fortson.

    Fortson also lost his defamation suit against Jerry Colangelo for calling him a “thug” and against Peter Vecsey (Vecsey characterized Fortson—directly or by implication—as “thugged out,” a “vacant lot,” a “wanksta” and a “meaningless mass” in his column in the Post).

    Here is one for you Forever: The District Court awarded Colangelo a summary judgement because he wasn’t stating “fact” but “rhetorical hyperbole”!

  • EBJM

    No interest in Fortson I see. Well it is strange, there isn’t any information on him after 2007. He has simply vanished!

    So I thought in the spirit of promoting Alex Len I would mention William Bedford. We all know Phoenix hasn’t landed a quality “true” center in the draft since Alvan Adams who is smaller than Marcus Morris.

    In 1986 7′-1″ center William Bedford led Memphis to the Final Four and Phoenix selected him #6 that summer. All of the same hype Alex Len now receives was heaped upon Bedford. But in Bedford’s case it was unwarranted.

    In a short and unremarkable seven-year NBA career that saw him go from Phoenix to Detroit, Clippers, Washington and then a final stop in San Antonio before he called it quits.

    He ended up going to prison for being in possession of 25 pounds of marijuana.

    So where is William now, almost thirty years later?

    He’s the president of operations for the Bluff City Reign of the ABA, a developmental basketball league for players holding on to a dream. He also volunteers as a mentor for the Shelby County Juvenile Court, in Memphis.

    Phoenix interestingly enough had three legitimate centers over seven-foot and Alvan Adams in ’86-’87. Second-year giant Nick Vanos had made a great impression on the Suns veteran center, A.A.. James Edwards was also on the team for a few games before being traded to Detroit.

    Current coach Kenny Gattison was battling Ed Pinkney, drafted #10 the year earlier, for the Suns starting PF job.

    For those of you keeping track, the Suns had also drafted PF Armen Gilliam the year after Bedford.

    So in consecutive seasons they drafted Pinkney, Bedford, and Gilliam. Numbers #10, #6, & #2.

    Passing on Karl Malone, Roy Tarpley and Scottie Pippen or Kevin Johnson.

    Suns had also taken PG Jay Humphries the year before Pinkney.

    To finish the six degrees of separation, who was the other significant player drafted after Bedford in the 2nd rd?

  • Scott

    Zarko had been tentative at first in games, but was loosening up and starting to look like a good player … and then he got undercut and he broke his wrist. Sad and strange how he never was the same after that.

    Fortson’s play reminds me a bit of Stackhouse’s play on JJ, that took him out of that series with Dallas.

    Dallas is still in my top 3 of Suns rivalries. (Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks)

    Of course, if Bryan Colangelo had not traded his high first round pick away for some jumping beans he could have drafted Andre Iguodala, and Iggy could have stepped up when JJ went down (and later when JJ asked to be traded).

    The Suns were very hit and miss with their drafting in the old days. Not sure if fans know about that, seeing how they’ve torn into Sarver.

    It’s early, but so far McD seems like he could be far and away the best GM the Suns have ever had.