Pondexter is not a name longtime Bulls fans hear mentioned and smile. Perhaps it will be different this time.
The Bulls Friday announced the acquisition of veteran small forward Quincy Pondexter from the New Orleans Pelicans. The acquisition, which includes a second round draft pick in 2018, fits the new Bulls profile of using salary cap space to acquire potential components that can be used in trade or to add players.
Pondexter, who has not played the last two seasons after knee surgeries, figures to get a look with the Bulls. After all, they are not exactly loaded. And with the trades of Jimmy Butler and Doug McDermott, the roster isn’t deep at small forward. Pondexter is 6-7 and shot 43 percent on threes when he last played for the Pelicans in the 2014-15 season.
But it’s hearing the name of his uncle Cliff that can make longtime Bulls fans wince.
And because of injury, as well.
Cliff Pondexter, one of the top prep prospects in the nation in the early 1970s, was the Bulls first round draft pick in 1974. He was heralded as part of a nucleus of young players that could take the handoff from the Sloan/Van Lier/Love/Walker/Tom Boerwinkle teams that were an early 70s powerhouse.
The Bulls were so confident in Cliff Pondexter’s potential they let their other No. 1 draft pick that year sign with the rival ABA. That was fellow power forward from Marquette, Maurice Lucas.
But Cliff Pondexter seemed so much more, a 6-9 super athlete with all around abilities. The Bulls would after Pondexter’s rookie season push out Chet Walker in planning to move in Pondexter.
Then coach Dick Motta after the Bulls crushing seventh game loss to eventual champion Golden State in the 1975 Western Conference finals told Chicago Tribune writer Bob Logan that with Pondexter and young guards Bob Wilson and Leon Benbow the Bulls would continue their excellence.
The Bulls were 24-58 that season and Motta was gone to Washington.
Actually, it was a little regarded local prospect, Mickey Johnson from Aurora College, who became the Bulls top young player that season and second leading scorer to Love.
Much as it always has been, you have to be smart and you have to be lucky. The Bulls and Cliff Pondexter were not lucky.
There was little reason to doubt Cliff Pondexter.
Sports Illustrated wrote a story when he was in high school, where he played in Fresno, Calif. on the same team with Robin and Brook Lopez, that all of collegiate basketball feared Pondexter would end up at UCLA.
“Cliff Pondexter has the potential to challenge the world of the big men just as Sidney Wicks did,” recruiter Frank Arnold told Sports Illustrated. “He is a man among boys in high school, a better than average outside shooter and he is quick laterally with great explosion to the basket.”
Cliff, putting on weight after leaving school and signing for a then fabulous $750,000 guaranteed, was working out in preparation for Bulls training camp. He sustained a stress fracture in his foot and didn’t play as a rookie in 1974-75.
The injury never fully healed.
Cliff Pondexter went on to play three seasons for the Bulls, averaging 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds. He then played for six years in Europe. He retired in 1984 when the Bulls drafted another highly regarded young player. Perhaps aware of team history, the Bulls didn’t promote Michael Jordan quite as effusively as they had Cliff Pondexter.