35-YEAR-OLD NIQUE SCHOOLS ROOKIE GRANT HILL

35-YEAR-OLD NIQUE SCHOOLS ROOKIE GRANT HILL

After spending his prime battling the Celtics, Dominique Wilkins joined Boston at the end of his career in ’95. One of his most impressive performances of the season came on March 25th, 1995 when the 35-year old veteran lit up the rejuvenated Detroit Pistons led by super-rookie Grant Hill with a game-high 32 points.

Even though they were aware that Wilkins diminishing defensive capabilities could become a huge liability for their young squad the Celtics closed one eye and signed the forward for one season. Management believed that his presence, on the court and in the locker room, could become beneficial to the development of young players, particularly frontline anchors Dino Radja and Eric Montross.

Obviously not as nearly athletic as he was in his prime, Wilkins did what smart players do – evolved his game. The same way Vince Carter stayed competitive for so long, Wilkins became a three-point shooter. At the age of 35, Nique posted his best percentage from the arc ever – that season connected his second-best 112 triples with a career-high 38.8% efficiency from beyond the arc.

One of Nique’s most impressive performances of his lone season with the Celtics came on March 25th, 1995 when he lit up the Detroit Pistons led by the NBA Rookie of the Year Grant Hill with 32 points on 11-16 shooting from the field, hitting 3-4 three-point attempts, to go along with 7 boards and 2 assists.

In a direct match-up with Grant Hill, Wilkins scored with ease, connecting a number of perimeter shots from mid-range and three-point range. As the game progressed he also displayed his known ability to run and score from the break. Nique eventually prolonged his hot shooting streak all the way to the clutch time, in which he nailed a corner triple giving the Celtics 99-97 lead with 1:38 left in the game. Hill learned that athleticism isn’t all that useful if you don’t understand the game. Your strongest muscle is the one between your ears. 

However, despite Wilkins’s late-game shooting heroics the visiting Celtics were edged by 103-104. For the season Wilkins saw his numbers considerably drop from the previous one when he averaged 26.0 points per game (4th in the league), finishing the season in strong fashion by averaging 29.1ppg over the late-season 25-game stint with the run & gun L.A. Clippers.

As a valuable member of the 1994-95 Celtics Wilkins actually settled for only 17.8 points per game (his career-low since then was 17.5ppg with 1982-83 Atlanta Hawks) in a career-low 31.5 minutes per game. Despite his numbers decreasing aging superstar provided quality minutes at the small forward spot and as a regular starter blended in well with the Celtics promising young core.