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ROHNERT PARK — In the 20 minutes Bill Cartwright spoke Thursday to the SSU men’s and women’s basketball players, not once did he mention Michael Jordan’s name, even though he was Jordan’s starting center for five years in Chicago. Must brag on that, having played with the greatest player in the NBA history. Right?

Not once did Cartwright mention he is a five-time NBA champion. Most guys with that resume would hand out business cards with that information. Right?

Not once did Cartwright mention he played 16 years in the NBA, averaged 13.2 points a game and could have repeated what Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown once said of him — “Every coach should have a Bill Cartwright on his team.” Right?

Phew, some of the SSU kids had to be thinking, did this guy really play in the NBA, an acronym for Nothing But Attitude? He was polite, well-spoken, quiet even. Where was the ego? The greatness lies within, somewhere. What will it take to bring it out into the open? It was an innocent question that did it.

“What was your toughest matchup?” a men’s player asked.

“I would never ever think of my opponent that way,” said Cartwright, now 59 and director of university initiatives at the University of San Francisco. “I’d want him to think like that about ME. ‘I’m coming at you. Get ready. So I’m coming and I’m coming at you really hard.’”

Cartwright paused. The crowd was set up for the punchline.

“The first time I played Bill Laimbeer (of the Detroit Pistons) I broke his nose. The first time I played Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) I fractured his eye socket.” As they say, a hush came over the crowd. Cartwright may be 59 years old and own a balky left foot that has been fractured four times and walk slowly because of that. But those two sentences unmasked that civility and humbleness.

Cartwright was, is, a warrior of the first order, the relentless aggressive who didn’t have to say a thing to get another player’s attention.

That’s why I paid close attention to what Cartwright had to say about the Golden State Warriors.

A little background is necessary at this point. Cartwright does not throw out thoughts casually. Cartwright promised his mother, Marie, that he would graduate from college first before entering the NBA. So after one of Cartwright’s All-American seasons at USF, Milwaukee Bucks coach Don Nelson called Cartwright daily. Leave college early. We love you. We’ll make you rich. Please, Bill. Cartwright refused. He promised his mother he’d get his degree first.

Cartwright’s not given to flippancy or an idle, unfiltered opinion. He’s given considerable thought to the Warriors and — take a breath, Golden State fans — the next sentence you read will require some elaboration.

“It’s bad basketball,” Cartwright said.

Whoa, Daddy.

It’s the preoccupation with the three-pointer.

“Why do you have the best-scoring center (Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins) in the league on the perimeter as an outside threat?” Cartwright said.

That’s an easy answer. Because it’s the current hot thing. The Warriors have turned the three into an art form, a game changer, like that 28-2 run they had the other night against the Kings.

“No question, it’s (the perimeter game) entertaining,” Cartwright said. “No question. But right now there are two positions missing on the court. There’s no center. There’s no point guard.”

The complete game is missing, that’s Cartwright’s opinion. In so many ways Cartwright feels the preoccupation with the three-pointer is not sustainable. And the Warriors, oddly enough, provide the example of that.

“Teams emulate winners; it happens in all sports,” Cartwright said. “The Warriors have the three best shooters in the world right now (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant) on one team. If you are another team, how do you copy that? You can’t.”

Cartwright gets a headache when he sees team after team cast off like it’s a fire drill. It offends him, offends common sense.

“When I played,” he said, “we had a rule. If you missed two threes in a row, the next time you get the ball you penetrate.”

If the bricks keep flying, the offense, the movement stalls.

That said, Cartwright loves watching the Warriors. When they are hitting. And sure, he can’t help to compare his Bulls with these Warriors. It’s a comparison often made. And when Cartwright allows himself such a musing, he finds himself inevitably drawn to Chicago’s defense.

“Who’s going to match up on our defense against that little guy (6-foot-3 Curry)?” Cartwright said. “We had a big guard, Ron Harper (6-foot-6). We would destroy the small guys.”

Cartwright, however, will not tie up his mind into a headache predicting if his Bulls would beat these Warriors.

“There’s not one team that won a championship who would predict otherwise (winning),” Cartwright said. “Isaiah (Thomas, Detroit) wouldn’t. Magic (Johnson, Lakers) wouldn’t. Hell no they wouldn’t. None of us old guys would ever say that (today’s teams are better).

“Remember the advantage the players have today. All the advanced medical technology. All the offseason programs. We had to work jobs in the offseason and then lose 20 pounds in training camp to get back in shape. And look at the awful shoes Bob Cousy had to wear, those Converses. Look, if you were great in one era, you’d be great in another. Like K.C. Jones or Cousy. Players great in one era would be great in another.

“None of us old guys would say any differently.”

But not all the old guys would say what Cartwright is about to say.

“Warriors know they have something special going on,” he said. “They should really enjoy it. You don’t know how long it’s going to last.”

Such as a single, incapacitating injury to one of the All-Stars. No matter, says Cartwright. Change is inevitable, logical, and necessary even.

“For that’s how the league has grown,” Cartwright said. “It will evolve from what it is now.”

In Cartwright’s view, the NBA will become the complete game. It will have a couple Currys in the backcourt. It will have a couple aircraft carriers near the basket. It will have the ball go inside and out, back and forth. It is inevitable for only this simple reason — a good, er, a great big man doesn’t belong in the cheap seats, tossing rainbows. A great big man makes life easier for everyone. A great big man makes the ball go everywhere. A great big man pushes the game along. Cartwright knows that all too well.

“The first time I played Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal),” Cartwright said, “I gave him a hard foul.”

Cartwright, 7-foot-1, 245 pounds, likes to make a good first impression.

“The next time I go down the court,” Cartwright said, “Shaq goes like this ... ”

Cartwright takes his left hand and arm and moves it in one swift motion parallel to the ground. Like swatting a fly. Except the fly was 7-foot-1, 245 pounds.

And Cartwright smiled and shrugged in the telling. It’s basketball, you know.

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.

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