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#TBT: The Garbage Man

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20 years before P.J. Tucker was doing the dirty work on the defensive end, Cedric Ceballos was taking out the trash for the Suns on offense.

1992 Slam Dunk Contest
1992 Slam Dunk Contest
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Although some of Ceballos’s other nicknames, like “Ice”, may have sounded a little sexier to other people, I always preferred the “Garbage Man” moniker. It seemed more apt, because Ceballos often picked up the trash on offense... scoring with putbacks on offensive rebounds or finding other ways to put up points without having plays run for him.

Ceballos wasn’t the longest tenured Sun, but he was a key cog during one of the most exciting times in Phoenix Suns basketball.

The Suns selected Ceballos 48th overall out of Cal State Fullerton in 1990. He played sparingly in his first two seasons, but was already making a bit of a name for himself as he captured the 1992 Slam Dunk title with a blindfolded “Hocus Pocus” trick dunk.

The 1992-93 season was when Ceballos began his ascension to becoming a very good player in the league. Trading time as a starter with Richard Dumas, Cedric averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while leading the league with a .576 field goal percentage.

Cedric earned the title of “The Point A Minute Man” during this time frame for his ability to pour in barrages of buckets in the blink of an eye. It might have been a minor case of hyperbole, since as it turned out he never put up more than 26 points per 36 minutes in a season.

The season came to an untimely end for Ceballos, as a fractured left foot in game six of the Western Conference Finals forced him to watch from the bench as the Suns lost to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. Having Ceballos available for the Finals matchup may not have made the difference between losing and winning, but it couldn’t have hurt.

I remember being not thrilled about the development at the time.

Ced’s 1993-94 season didn’t start until 1994 due to injury, but he played a big role for the Suns when he did return, averaging 19.1 points and 6.5 rebounds for the remainder of the regular season. Unfortunately, Ceballos was relatively quiet in the playoffs and was a spectator on the bench when Phoenix ultimately fell to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in seven games. That was the year Phoenix led 2-0 after winning two road games in Houston.

It was the next year Phoenix squandered a 3-1 lead to the same Rockets team. Those postseasons were just a cornucopia of disappointments.

The Suns ended up trading Ceballos to the Lakers before the 1994-95 season. The arrival of Danny Manning made him expendable and Ceballos wasn’t infatuated with the idea of a shrinking role.

Danny Manning tragically tore his ACL for the Suns 46 games into that season when they looked like the odds on favorites to win the title. Of course that’s the topic of a different edition of #TBT, and a much better one than this hatchet job if I do say so myself.

CC would end up making his lone All-Star appearance for the Suns bête noire while averaging career highs of 21.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

While Ceballos wasn’t necessarily the franchise savior the Lakers were looking for, he did help them rebound from their first season out of the playoffs in 18 years as the team catapulted from 33 to 48 wins.

The first round pick that the Suns netted in this deal turned into Michael Finley, who was quite a good player in his own right. Finley had two career All-Star appearances... after the Suns traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Cedric Ceballos era in LA only last two seasons and change, though, before he was traded to... the Phoenix Suns.

Some discontent regarding role on the Lakers made Ceballos available and the Suns were looking to purge their roster of the disease named Robert Horry after he had recently thrown a towel in the face of head coach (and former Ceballos teammate) Danny Ainge.

The Lakers had some rookie kid named Kobe Bryant on their roster that season and Robert Horry went on to never help a team ever again... so it was nice to see things didn’t work out for them.

Ceballos averaged 15.3 points per game in 42 games for the Suns that season. After diminishing production the next season he was shipped off to the Dallas Mavericks for three point marksman Dennis Scott.

There Ceballos would play for two seasons and change with Michael Finley, the player/draft pick he was originally dealt for back in 1994.

Unfortunately, Cedric’s career seemed to be punctuated by injuries.

He missed out at his chance to play in the Finals with Phoenix and only managed to play in 70 games twice during an 11 year career. He was even unable to play in the All-Star game the year he was selected.

After retiring, Ceballos would return to the Suns for a third time. On this occasion it was as the Arena emcee, showing off his talents as Cedric the Entertainer. I actually really liked him in that role, and to be perfectly blunt... the new presentation of some of the in game entertainment sort of sucks.

During his time in a Suns uniform Ceballos was a fan favorite. Although he was also tied to many missteps and letdowns during a time of Suns basketball that was punctuated by exhilarating highs and lachrymose lows, he was fun to watch in a way that has been sorely lacking from Suns basketball for the past seven seasons.

And as the rap album he released was titled...

That’s about a “Nuff Ced.”