Archive for the ‘Detroit Pistons’ Category

Are the Spurs Really Boring?

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

It’s not surprising to hear – over and over again – that the San Antonio Spurs are boring.  Not surprising because most people don’t really understand basketball.  These people confuse team play with instantaneous excitement.  Unfortunately, for purists (a great many of whom are dinosaurs), the purpose of the game has changed from a group of players working together to beat their opponent to select individuals “breaking ankles” and making flashy, albeit impressive, dunks.  And then letting everybody in the arena and listening world know about it.

Today, guys are faster, quicker, stronger.  Nutrition, strength and conditioning, flexibility, even the mental aspect of the game have all improved by leaps and bounds.  Coaches are brighter when it comes to using the rules to gain an advantage.  The best ones have learned to connect better with their players, especially the team leaders whose trust they’ve gained.  Moneyball has come to basketball as it no doubt will to every sport, creating entirely new and different methods of evaluating players.  Years, maybe decades, from now we’ll find out whether the high tech ideas brought to the game significantly improved it.  Or whether it will be exposed as another beat-the-system, “new jack” operation that was no more, or possibly even less, effective than the “old-timer” way.  Stay tuned for that answer.

As far as the here and now, let’s discuss some things the Spurs do and why they’ve been able to win so consistently.  It’s not because they play “the right way” – a rather presumptuous saying that permeated the hoops world about 10-15 years ago.  The “right way” is the method that produces wins – whether it’s the glitzy “Showtime” Lakers or the nasty “Bad Boys” of Detroit.  So long as it produces championships and stays within the rules (or ventures outside them as long as no one gets caught – another issue that bothers dinosaurs), whatever produces championships is the right way.

Here are a few examples of the “Spurs Way.”  Tony Parker dribbles left toward the top of the circle off of Tiago Splitter’s high screen.  As soon as he does, he’s immediately double teamed, so he passes to the left wing to Manu Ginobli.  As soon as the ball touches Ginobli’s hands, he throws a two-hand, over his head bullet, cross court to Danny Green on the right side who is all by himself.  Consider what the defense has done.  First of all, the two guys in the trap are accounted for.  Ginobli’s man is guarding him.  The guy assigned to Tim Duncan has to zone off against Splitter rolling to the basket and Duncan coming up to replace him for a free throw line jump shot.  That leaves the man guarding Green.

He began on Green but as the ball moved left-to-right, he adjusted his stance toward the ball (and away from Green).  He also has to help on the Splitter roll, Duncan fill action moving a shade more to the left, meaning when Ginobli rifles the ball to Green, he has no chance to close out in time from preventing Green to take an easy, pregame three.  Unless he flies at Green, who just might give a shot fake and step back for an uncontested three, or put the ball on the floor for a shorter shot, or take advantage of the numbers opportunity and possibly get himself or one of the big guys an “and-1.”  Yeah, boring.

How about when they run pick-and-roll with Parker and Duncan and TP passes to TD for a short jumper – that Duncan forsakes to pass the ball to Splitter whose man has rotated up to guard Timmy?  Splitter lays it in.  Or mildly dunks it.  More boring.  Defensively, they force baseline, understand rotations, stay on their feet on shot fakes and usually get a body on each offensive rebounder.  Additional boredom.

There are many occasions in which the Spurs don’t have a single guy attempting to get an offensive rebound.  Is it because they have so much faith in their shooters?  It’s probably more so because 1) they get good shots which usually means a good percentage or 2) more importantly, because their other players are sprinting back to balance the floor so as to take away fast break points by their opponent.  Nothing sexy about that, either.

The answer to whether you think the Spurs are beautiful or boring can be found in a quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”


Amir Johnson Chooses a Strange Way to Make Headlines

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Amir Johnson was selected 56th in the 2005 draft – fifth from the last pick – by the Detroit Pistons.  He played at Westchester HS in Los Angeles, arguably the best high school basketball program in California (unarguably, one of the top five), both in wins and production of NBA players.  He was originally signed by Louisville.  Based on his recent actions, it’s questionable if he would have qualified academically.

Prior to the 2006 draft, the NBA instituted a rule that requires American players to be at least one year removed from the graduation of their high school class to be eligible so barring still another rule change (who knows, maybe Adam Silver wants to put his footprint on the league once he takes over for David Stern), Johnson will be the last-ever high school player drafted.  Then-Pistons head coach Larry Brown thought that, eventually, Johnson could be an impact player.  After Monday night, he’s got a way to go – just to prove he’s mentally fit to play at all.

Johnson’s been traded twice, both coming in 2009.  Detroit traded him to Milwaukee who, two months later (before ever issuing him a uniform), traded him to Toronto.  He played in all 82 games (starting 5), shooting 62.3% from the floor and 63.8% from the line, averaging 6.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and .8 blocks in less than 18 minutes a game.  As (too) often occurs in the NBA, he then signed a 5 year, $34 million contract with the Raptors on the first day of free agency (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

While he makes big boy money, he displayed the temperament of a child Monday night in Portland where the Raptors were beaten 94-72.  After a made Portland free throw, referee David Jones retrieved the ball.  While he was holding it, Johnson reached over and grabbed the ball.  While it was a classic “jump ball,” anytime it’s between a referee and a player, the unwritten rule is “ref ball.”  Unwritten because it’s never happened!  An altercation between ref and player ensued.  Jones didn’t appreciate Johnson’s effort and let go to “T” him up.  Amir must have reached into his vocab book for a choice one because Jones turned and gave him the heave-ho sign.

Johnson absolutely freaked!  Teammates had to restrain him from Jones who was wisely heading in the opposite direction.  Johnson then did exactly what a spoiled child would have done in this situation.  He threw his mouthpiece at the authority official.  To prove he’s got game, the mouthpiece hit Jones squarely in the back.  The NBA suspended him one game without pay.  I wonder if anyone has put into perspective to him how much that tirade cost him – in terms of what that money actually means – especially when his career ends.  Even if it’s 15 years from now (when he’s 40). And people who act like he did last night never last until they’re forty.

Amir Johnson has made in excess of $45 million since he’s been in the league.  Early in his career, he spent a couple stints in the D-league.  Although he played well there, that’s not exactly the blueprint for a superstar’s career.  His actions in Portland can only be explained by the quote:

“The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits.”


When It Comes to Salary, NBA Players Have Options

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Salaries for professional players have skyrocketed beyond anyone’s beliefs, except for agents.  The justification for the mind boggling pay these guys get is that the owners are making money and they’re the ones who are making it for them.  Good point – but let’s delve a bit further.

Basketball players’ contracts are good to look at because they’re guaranteed.  Sure, tickets are sold out but with today’s economy, nearly all of the tickets are being purchased by corporations so they can entertain their clients in the most fashionable of ways.  Winning is considered more fashionable than losing and the guys at the end of the bench aren’t usually contributors so, in the business world, they’re referred to as non-producers and would be cut loose.  Some average fans-on-the-street are still buying tickets when they can afford them – but they’re going to see the best players, whether they play for their team or the opponent.

Another source of income is apparel.  The replica jerseys that are being sold are those of the stars, not players 8 through 12 on the team.  Heck, sometimes not even players 3 through 7.  Parking and concessions are revenue streams for the owners but once again, that money can be traced back to the best players except for maybe, when the game is a blowout and the kids say, “Hey, dad, the scrubs are going in.  Can we get something to eat now?”

The greatest money is made through the television contract and who do you think is driving that baby?  Did you ever wonder why you never get to see the Wizards against the Pistons on Christmas day?  The NBA Players’ Association, through the media, let it be known how much money the owners make.  “On whose backs do they make all that money?” the union leadership and the agents cry.

The answer?  Not on the backs of the many.  On the superstars.  NBA basketball is a team game but it is, without a doubt, a stars driven league.  Plus, if the owners want to play their trump card, all they have to say is, “Who takes all the risk?  When a guy signs a multi-year deal for nine figures and then spends more time in the training room and on the sideline in some sweet game time swag than he does on the floor, how about he give back a percentage so I can cut my losses?”  Just a hunch but I’d venture to say the Players’ Association would be against that proposal. 

When salary negotiations between teams and the players’ agents commence, the latter can take a lesson from the least basketball-looking guy ever, Buddy Hackett:

“As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.

Who Needs Larry Brown’s Help Anyway?

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Coaches are an interesting breed.  If ever there was a profession that exposes incompetence (and competence for that matter), it’s one that keeps score and has a winner and a loser in every game.   Because no one wants to be thought of as a failure, it’s also a profession which comes up with an inordinate amount of excuses.

Ego plays a major part in athletics, coaching included.  Sometimes a seemingly small quote or action occurs that makes for a good story years down the road.  This past August at Michael Jordan’s Flight School (basketball camp), some of the coaches recounted stories from past camps and, if not the best story, certainly one that’s in the finals was when the camp had Larry Brown as the guest speaker.  It was 2004 and he had just led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship.

His son was attending the camp so he agreed to speak to the whole group.  After he spoke, the camp broke up for afternoon games.  Prior to the games, there was a period during which the camp coaches were to have their teams go through a brief practice.  I was one of the eight commissioners and, as fate would have it, Larry’s son was in my league.

As his team went out on one of the outdoor courts at UCSB, I could see that Larry, who is the definition of a “coach’s coach,” couldn’t help himself.  The guy who was the actual coach of the team was more of a philosopher than a coach and was doing what he usually did – talking about how things should be.  Since the kids were standing around while the other eight teams were practicing, Larry jumped in and got the guys in a 4-on-4 shell drill.  From a health standpoint, he wasn’t in tip top shape but this was his element.  He never feels better than when he’s teaching the game.

To me, it was an amazing sight.  Upon seeing what was taking place, the “coach” of his son’s team turned to me and, incredibly said, “Is this my team or Larry Brown’s?”  I was stunned to the point where I was speechless.  If you want to know what the significance of that is, ask someone who knows me.  Here’s a guy who just won an NBA championship and he’s helping coach your team.  And you’re complaining about it?

This story reminded me of a quote George Raveling once said:

“You can get a lot done in coaching if you don’t let your ego get in the way.”

P.S, Check me out on  Click on #JackAndCoach.

2010-11 NBA Season to Finally Begin

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Pundits said time and time again that with LeBron’s”Decision” people were talking about the NBA during the summer, heretofore something they’d never done.  Well, the season’s upon us and opening day brings us Miami at Boston, Phoenix at Portland and Houston at LA against the Lakers, the defending champs, determined to three-peat.  Wow!

The following day has Detroit at NJ, NY at Toronto, Atlanta at Memphis, Sacramento at Minnesota, Milwaukee at New Orleans and Indiana at San Antonio.  Somewhat of a letdown after Day 1.  And there are seven more months with a combination of those teams – plus squads like the Wiz, Clips, Cavs, Sixers, Charlotte and Golden State.

There are numerous ways to look at anything and we have are (at least) two options.  You, the fan, has to decide which one you like – and I’d love to find out how fans feel now, and how they feel near the end of the season:

“The glass is either half full or it’s half empty.”

World Wide Wes Has Nothing on MJ

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

For whatever reason, William Wesley, aka World Wide Wes, has been in the news recently.  A sneaker salesman, who allegedly sold more kicks in a bad neighborhood of Philly than other store owners in affluent areas, World Wide Wes caught the attention of some power brokers and, voila, a real life version of Where’s Waldo? came to life.

Many call this cat the most influential man in all of sports and for someone who has no “stats,” he burst on the scene like nobody’s business.  But “the most influential man in sports?”  Here’s a past blog that shows how Michael Jordan defines influence – even when you don’t have it.  This is reprinted from 8/14/07. 

As I mentioned, I spent from Aug. 1-10 at the Michael Jordan Flight School in Santa Barbara where I serve as one of the eight league commissioners (there are eight leagues of eight teams in each league).  This was the fifth year I’ve worked the camp.

Considering most of the campers (ages 8-18) don’t remember seeing Michael as a player, observing the adults is much more interesting than following the kids.  The most amazing story occurred two years ago at the tenth anniversary of the camp.

There was to be a mystery guest speaker on the third night and the speculation ran wild as to his identity.  The camp director is George Raveling.  If you’ve read my blogs, you’ll know I worked with George as a graduate assistant at Washington State in the early ’70s, as an associate head coach at USC in the early ’90s and as assistant chairman on the Recruiting Committee of which he was chairman for about 17 years in between.  During the second day of MJ’s camp, George confided in me the speaker in question was Larry Brown, recently signed as coach of the Knicks, who had a fabulous coaching career which included an NCAA Championship at Kansas and a World Championship with the Pistons.

Later that evening, I was approached on five separate occasions by parents asking me who the speaker was going to be.  Each conversation went something like this:

Parent: “Who’s the mystery guest?”

JF: “I can’t tell you.”

Parent: “But you know who it is?”

JF: “Yes.”

Parent: “Oh, come on, you can tell me (us).”

JF (looking around surreptitiously): “OK, it’s…George W. Bush.”

On no occasion, not once! did anyone question my answer.  I got replies from, “Oh, great, he’s my favorite” to “Good, that will be a great experience for my son” to “I wonder if he’ll wear shorts.”  No one ever said, “Come on, you’ve got to be kidding.”

I did eventually tell them it really wasn’t the President.  They were all disappointed, but no one ever said, “I knew you were putting me on.”

This experience reminded me of Colin Powell’s line:

“You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”

And it explains why kids today are so gullible – it’s an inherited trait.

NBA Free Agency: Much Ado About Something

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I’m just not sure what. 

To have a countdown is good theatre but is it that important?  Unquestionably, LeBron James is the most high profile athlete to be on the open market, so to speak, yet where he winds up is limited to a handful of teams, each of which has its reasons why LBJ should establish residence there but anointing this newly formed squad as the latest dynasty might be a little (lot) premature.

Keep in mind that in 2003-04, the Lakers signed Gary Payton and Karl Malone to go along with Kobe and Shaq.  At the press conference, Payton made the classic comment, “You can’t double team all of us.”  On the flipside, I remember wondering how anyone was going to score on them.  In Payton, they had “The Glove.”  Kobe was a lockdown defender even that far back, meaning those two could match up with the best two perimeter players the opponent had, leaving the weakest of the three for whoever would be the fifth starter.  Karl Malone could defend any power forward in the league and just Shaq’s physical presence was enough to enable him to guard a center.  

Yet, not only did they not win it all, they only managed to win one game in the finals, losing 4-1 to Detroit.  Sure, there were injuries – but who’s to say this new superteam that LeBron and whatever other free agent(s) decide to join him, combining with that team’s nucleus, e.g. DWade, or Rose and Noah, or whoever’s left with the Cavs, Knicks, Clippers or even some mystery team – doesn’t encounter the same fate? 

Plus, even with all that megatalent, they won’t exactly have a corner on the superstar market.  I don’t see Kobe joining that bunch and rumor has it that he’s a rather competitive sort, someone who might cotton to the challenge of taking on all comers – especially a “stacked” team.  And, in the process, win his third straight title.  Lest we forget, wherever LeBron takes his talent (unless he fulfills Tiger’s wish), his new (or old) club will be attempting to dethrone the two-time champs.

Then there are other factors that play just as big a role as where the King and his new court, eventually settle.  With the remainder of the talented free agents, how the draft picks perform, sign and trades, and other wheeling and dealing that inevitably will ensue, there are so many other combinations that could arise that one of them, possibly, on paper, could look just as formidable, if not a tad better, than the much awaited consortium, in the process making the new “Unbeatables” the underdog.

Next, throw in the coaching changes that currently exist.  It looks like a few of the soon-to-be co-favorites (Bulls, Cavs and Clippers) will be coached by assistants who have yet to call a time out or by a coach with minimal head coaching experience.  Include the possible (probable?) coaching changes to each of last year’s finalists and it makes for interesting barroom chatter. 

This blog has done nothing but muddle the picture, so the quote that will further confuse the reader.  It’s by that well-known basketball aficionado, William Butler Yeats, and has to do with those fans who dream of multiple championships when the smoke clears:

“But I being poor have only my dreams.  I have laid my dreams beneath your feet.  Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

Now It Really IS “Win or Go Home”

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The difference between the NCAA’s March Madness and the NBA Playoffs is that the colleges have a single elimination tournament, i.e. “win or go home.”  This year, the NBA’s brass, master of slogans, used that phrase to describe their post-season.  If they meant the Lakers in Game Five in Boston, they were right. 

LA lost and had to go home.  Of course, had they won, they would have gone home.  Not only did the Lakers go home after Game Five, but their opponents went home with them.  However, now, it truly is win or go home and primarily because each series is best of seven, the magnitude of a Game Seven – at any point but, especially in the finals, is through the roof. 

TV execs pray for this to occur.  Ticket scalpers drool over an event such as this.  Not just a Game Seven (it’s been five years since the Spurs beat the Pistons and all the way back to 1994 for the Rockets over the Knicks for the one before that) but a Boston- LA final!  Pundits, as well, live for these moments.  If their pick wins, they get to remind everybody how they had it all figured out.  Or have a fellow prognosticator (probably the person they did it for last year when that guy got it right and they missed) sing their praises as all-knowing.  I’ve always felt that picking the winner is a 50-50 proposition, but if somebody can get the score right, or at least the final spread, that is impressive.  Or if the person gives (before the game, columnists) the reason a certain team will win – and it’s something beyond, “The Lakers will take this one because they’re at home and Kendrick Perkins isn’t going to play,” that’s doing homework and putting the pieces together.  Sometimes even the best research goes awry as some role player has a career game – or a superstar falls flat.

I’ve already confessed to being totally befuddled when it comes to making sense of this year’s series, so I go along along with the Ol’ Perfessor, Casey Stengel, who said:

“Never make predictions, especially about the future.”

As crazy as this year’s NBA Finals have been, I can’t wait to hear what those “in the know” have to say.

Does Coaching Psychology Matter in the NBA?

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Larry Brown has made the statement that he doesn’t know whether his Charlotte Bobcats can actually beat the Orlando Magic.  Many in the field of psychology would be appalled if they heard the leader of a group say something that would plant a seed of doubt in his team.  Being the underdog in the series, you’d think the coach would try to bolster the confidence of his club.

Why, then, would Brown make a comment like that?  My guess is that what Larry Brown said is exactly what he believes – and he’s been around long enough and has had so much success that he feels it would be foolish to try to play mind games or use some other psychological ploy.  As Charles Barkley (another who’s been known to speak frankly) pointed out, if Charlotte is to win (a game), the Bobcats need someone to have an other-worldly experience in terms of point production, because the Magic, who had five players in double figures in their game two victory, simply have too much firepower for Charlotte.

In the first two games, Dwight Howard, aka Superman, had subpar production, mainly due to foul trouble, yet the Bobcats never even posed a threat.  In game two, they scored a mere 30 points in the first half.  Their defense, or rather their half-court offensive philosophy of walking the ball up the floor on each possession, limited Orlando to only 41 points themselves.    

Gregg Popovich called his team out after their game one defeat in Dallas.  He said the Spurs played “like dogs.”  Whoa!  Psychology majors are in for a real challenge trying to analyze these two veteran coaches.  None of the players for San Antonio, though, when questioned, took exception with their coach’s comments.  And wouldn’t you know it, the Spurs came out in the second game and played like gangbusters, jumping to a 9-0 start and never looking back, leading by as much as twenty points.

The game did get close, however, when the Mavs cut the lead to five in the fourth quarter but eight straight points by ageless Tim Duncan squashed any hopes the hometown club had on sweeping the opening two games.  Not surprisingly, Duncan made no mention of his desire to prove to Pop he wasn’t a dog in the post-game press conference.

Both Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich have grabbed the brass ring – on more than one occasion – Brown claiming an NCAA national championship (Kansas) and a World Championship (Detroit) and Pop winning multiple titles with the Spurs.  Then why did Pop’s psychology work better than Larry’s?  I’ve done a great many of these blogs in which I’ve stated Jerry Tarkanian’s philosophy of coaching (click on the “Jerry Tarkanian” category and you’ll be sure to find it mentioned on numerous occasions).  “Talent” is always Tark’s reply.   

There’s an old saying that sums up why Charlotte couldn’t do to Orlando in game two what San Antonio did to Dallas (even though each is a #7 seed playing a #2).  Substituting for the chicken products that Charles Barkley – The Round Mound of Rebound – or, as he might now be referred to following Tuesday night’s TNT broadcast, the Prince of Profanity – would use in the old adage, the message is:

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Just In Case You Get the Chance to Coach Superstars

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

On last night’s Lakers-Bulls telecast, they showed the “retired jersey” of Phil Jackson in the rafters at the United Center.  As always is the case, mention was made of Phil winning all those rings but . . . how he always had great players.  First, Michael & Scottie, then Shaq & Kobe and then Kobe and the cast of characters from last year’s team (with the emphasis on Kobe). 

It seems Phil Jackson’s championships can’t be mentioned without someone bringing up the “Yeah, but he had great players” line.  While it is true, there have been many coaches with great players who have failed to win championships – at all levels (remember the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars of Guy Lewis)?  It takes more than just great players.  And the way championships are won differ with the different personalities of the coaches who lead those talented squads.

There’s Phil and his Zen approach.  Imagine getting NBA players to understand Zen, much less embrace it?  There was a story of how he tried it on one of his early championship Bulls’ teams.  He told the guys to sit quietly and close their eyes.  The legend goes that a few (or more) of the players peeked – and saw Michael Jordan sitting with his eyes closed – and that sealed the deal.  Moral: Get your best player to buy into your philosophy and the others fall right into line.

Doc Rivers coached a team put together by Danny Ainge (with help from his best friend, Kevin McHale) which initially had perennial all-star, but perennial also ran (as far as his team went), Paul Pierce.  Ainge added Ray Allen, one of the best shooters in NBA history (and in case you haven’t noticed, scoring is more important in basketball than any other team sport) and superstar, but also mired on a mediocre team, Kevin Garnett.

Doc knew he had an abundance of talent, but none of these guys had ever won.  He came up with the rallying cry/mantra, “Ubuntu” which (some thought meant “Help me, I’m in my contract year”), but actually, according to none other than Nelson Mandela, meant a concept made up of traits like unselfishness, caring and enabling others.  They rode it to a championship, to the point that when many of the Celtics were asked what their championship secret was, they claimed, “Ubuntu.”  That’s buying in.

Speaking of the Celtics, Red Auerbach had his run of championship after championship.  Bill Russell wound up with more rings than fingers.  What Red did was clever.  He made everybody else hate him, thus taking all the pressure off his guys.  It’s not like he had a bunch of slouches, but the shenanigans he pulled at the old Boston Garden (dead spots in the floor, turning up the heat in the visitor’s locker room, no hot water, and the piece de resistance – the victory cigar).  Plus, he did subtle things, like going to Big Russ and telling him not to pay attention when he yelled at him in practice, but if the rest of the players saw Russell getting an earful, they’d have no right to complain when Red jumped their cases.

The master of massaging egos (and in the NBA, there’s no shortage of that commodity) was the late Chuck Daly.  He took a team and gave it an image.  The “Bad Boys” aka the Detroit Pistons won back-to-back championships with nasty (dirty?) Bill Laimbeer; tough guy Rick Mahorn; bordering on lunatic, Dennis Rodman; if-you-need-a-score, call-me, Vinny Johnson; classy Joe Dumars (how did someone so respected, with so much class become a – vital – part of this team?) and Mr. Hidden Agenda, Isiah Thomas. 

I was working at the University of Toledo (less than an hour from Detroit) during those championship years and a little known fact is that the Pistons’ owner, Bill Davidson, made his early (and big) money in glass – and Toledo was known as the Glass Capital of the World.  We’d get choice seats (Mr. Davidson’s own – right behind the basket at the Pistons end of the floor) because there were many people in Toledo who were quite friendly with Mr. D. 

One of his confidantes told me a story that was not allowed to be leaked (so how did I find out)?  Mr. Davidson was so fond of Thomas that he pledged to him a million dollar bonus if the team won a championship.  Imagine what that kind of dissent that would have caused if it got out.

That’s how good Chuck Daly was.  Because he knew and, yet, had the ability to mold this apparent group of misfits into not one, but two championship teams.  His main strength was that he possessed so little egoWinning was his goal and he focused on working individually with each player on the team. 

Many people have said he knew how to handle players, but as Wilt Chamberlain told his new coach, Alex Hannum, when the coach said to the Big Dipper, “I heard you’re hard to handle.”

“You don’t handle people.  You handle animals,” said the player who caused more rule changes than any other in the history of the game.  Talk about making a statement early in a relationship.

When it comes to winning championships, sure, great players are needed, but as the late & great coach Chuck Daly (coach of the Original Dream Team – talk about egos!) said:

“It’s harder to take a group of really talented players and make them a championship team than it is to take a group of average guys and make them competitive.”