Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

Kobe Thinks NBA Superstars Are Underpaid

Friday, July 10th, 2015

How many times have you heard a friend (certainly not you) say, “Man these NBA players have a lotta nerve – taking days off, not giving 100%, shooting under 50% from the free throw line, I mean, they’re making millions. You’d think they would be busting their butts all the time. Heck, I’d play for a couple hundred thou – and nobody would play harder than me!” The fallacy in your (friend’s) argument is a basic one: he has no talent. It wouldn’t matter if he was the hardest working baller in the league. Or if he paid the franchise a couple hundred thousand – or even a million. He has no place on an NBA floor.

A job in “the league” is a good one – if you can get it. Since there are 30 teams and rosters are limited to 15 players on a roster, the number of guys hooping in the Association is right around 450. The average salary is $4,383,232 – although that’s before taxes, so actual take home pay is quite a bit less. That number is skewed somewhat by the top earners who are pulling down upwards of $20-25M. The mode salary, i.e. the number that appears most often, is $2,380,440 (also before taxes but a salary that would afford someone a very nice life).

As you can imagine, there are a relatively large number of people vying for such high paying positions (relative, say, to the population of NYC). If someone is so lucky to land one, the following season he will find a whole new crop trying to take his livelihood away and claim it for themselves. Plus guys in the D-League and overseas. Also, unlike high school and college, none of the players graduate so, as far as the supply and demand are concerned, there’s a whole lot more supply than demand. Suffice to say, there are more one-and-dones from the NBA than there are each year from college. It’s a wonderful fraternity to belong to but, when it comes to money, some of the guys hauling in truckloads of dough think they should do better.

Kobe Bryant, for one, says players are underpaid (Note: this was part of an article on Kobe before he suffered last year’s season-ending injury – yet the topic is more relevant than ever, with the announcement that next year’s salary cap will be upwards of $70 million). He thinks that he and LeBron James (and others) should be getting closer to $75 mil. The Black Mamba believes it’s important to set an example in contracts. It bothers him to see superstars taking pay cuts. After all, which players are the fans coming to see? Whose jerseys are they buying?

Funny thing, he’s got a point – those guys really are worth that much dough. They are the ones responsible for the glut of money pouring into the league’s coffers. But how about players 8 or 9-12? They’re making over half a million (NBA minimum) and their contribution is . . . ? Sure, they practice and have to “stay ready” but why the inflated salary?

Hey, pay them $50-75K because that’s all they’re worth – until they prove otherwise. A couple questions for people who think that suggestion is ludicrous. If the guys who will fill out the rosters of the NBA teams were paid that amount (plus the per diem – which some families would trade their income for), 1) do you think franchises would have a problem finding willing – and able – players for those roles and 2) do you think the game would suffer? It’s a higher salary than an undergraduate commands straight out of school (naturally, with a few exceptions).

Kobe’s statement was, “Do owners buy teams for the love of the game?” His inference was that owners are in the business of acquiring assets with the goal of making more money. On this point, the Mamba and I think differently – about as differently as our games are. If he’s asking about whether owners buy teams as an investment, I’m not sure they do. In fact, I’m absolutely certain that they do not. Does anyone think Steve Ballmer forked over two billion dollars so he could add to his $20+billion portfolio – or because he wants to win a “Larry” (as he puts it)?

No matter how much money those guys have, there are some things they cannot buy. Does anyone think, for a second, that an owner would sell his team if someone offered double what he paid for it? A 100% profit. Remember, these guys are the world’s best businessmen and making wise business decisions is part of their DNA. Not a chance. Even the Nets’ Mikhail Prokorov, who allegedly has spoken of selling (he was one guy who thought he could actually buy a championship but found the team, indeed, has to win it), might only let go of part of the 80% of the club he owns. After all, would double the price he paid for the Nets make that significant a difference in his estimated $10.9 billion fortune? Currently, over half of the NBA owners are billionaires – and the others aren’t holding garage sales any time soon.

Pay the superstars mega-bucks (as if what they’re making now is sub-standard) because they are the draw? OK, but, as is heard ad infinitum on spots talk shows, “the NBA is a business.” Treat it like a business and pay the big earners what they’re worth. The others? Pay them what they’d make in the “real world.” If that were the case, one suggestion – step back when the doors open to avoid the stampede.

One thing for certain is there would be a lot fewer for him than against him if the following was proposed:

“Kobe for president of the NBA players’ association.”

 

DeAndre Jordan Decided What?

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

One thing I’ve tried to stay away from is self-aggrandizement. However, anyone who’s read my post from three days ago (7/6/15) on the DeAndre Jordan situation, has to admit that I nailed it squarely on the noggin. For those who haven’t yet read it, I implore you to do so.

The talking heads were all wondering if there has been precedence. Hedo Turkoglu’s name was bandied about, the position taken by Antonio McDyess way back in 1999, a coaching flip-flop from Billy Donovan all surfaced (you can bet many interns must have earned some overtime) – all were brought up. The real comparison, however, would be to college recruiting and young kids giving verbal commitments.

Does what happened in the DeAndre Jordan scenario, described as continued recruiting after a prospect gives a verbal commitment, occur in college recruiting? In a word, yes. Maybe not all that often but, yes. Discounting the fact that the schools that lose out have spent a great deal of time and money recruiting the prospect, there’s the feeling that you know the kid made a mistake and that, deep down, he knows it, too. Maybe it was a case of listening to the wrong people, getting bad advice. So, you make that last ditch effort. Most of the time, you move on but, in a very special case, you’ve just put in too much effort to go down without exploring every option.

Who was it who gave him the erroneous advice in the first place? Or, in some cases, who made the decision for him? You believe, that if you could talk with him one more time, after whatever it was that turned his head. The first move is to get him away from those influences who, quite possibly, convinced him to do something that wasn’t necessarily in his best interests. (Guess whose best interests the person had in mind?)

Here’s an example of a story that made the rounds back in the late ’70s. I was coaching at Western Carolina at the time and, since it was an instance of shady recruiting, the law of averages would say that it took place in the south. Since I was not directly involved, I’ll leave out the names but suffice to say, if you’re someone who enjoys following recruiting (and are old enough to remember), you’ll probably be able to figure out the principal figures.

I recall speaking with a fellow assistant who made the following comment to me when we were talking about the subject of recruiting. “We love it when a kid verbally commits. Then, we only have one team to beat.” In this particular situation, that line of thinking got them one of the best high school players in the nation. If you need a hint, he went on to have a spectacular professional career as well.

One school had finally got this superstar’s verbal commitment. Another school (yeah, the one referred to above, who was pleased with it) “kidnapped” this kid. Actually, lured would be a better word, convincing the prospect he ought to take a ride to campus (of the “other” school). Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. Once there, the second college’s staff convinced his that he would be much better served (read into that as you will) if he switched allegiances and matriculated right where he was at that time. He signed on campus, infuriating the kid’s original school.

A verbal commitment is not binding; a signed one is. Just as the NBA has a moratorium on when a player can sign a contract, the NCAA has a designated signing period. The NBA, apparently, needs the week to look over each deal to make sure it passes several criteria, salary cap among them. Nothing prior to that date is set in stone, similar to a prospect committing to a school.

As for retaliation by the Mavericks, maybe accusing that illegal tactics were used to “change DJ’s mind,” consider the post script to the story of our “kidnappers.” The coach of the school who “had” him but, then, lost him at the eleventh hour, called the player’s “new” coach and threatened to turn in the school to the NCAA for rules violations – of which they were oh so guilty. After hearing his rival’s rant, the coach said, “When you call the NCAA to turn us in, make sure you mention where he got this nice, new van he’s driving.”

What, no honor among thieves?

Good advice for DJ would be to show remorse and admit he made a mistake (which does not mean he has to throw anybody under the bus). Ours is a most forgiving country. “I made a mistake” is a powerful statement and draws empathy from most people for the simplest of reasons. Who among us hasn’t made a decision we regretted?

Take Bill Parcells’ advice:

“When you make a mistake:

1) admit it,

2) correct it,

3) learn from it,

4) don’t dwell on it,

5) don’t repeat it.

 

Another Career Stalled, Maybe Ruined, Because of Lack of Self-Control

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

The latest incident involving an athlete’s lack of understanding of the mores of society occurred last week in a bar in Tallahassee. Florida State has dismissed freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson after video surveillance showed him punching a female in the face. As is his right, he retained the services of a lawyer (a wise decision on his part because after all the past events the public has been privy to, this was no time for a blatantly guilty party to represent himself).

De’Andre, have you already forgotten exhibit #1, i.e. Ray Rice? Different versions of stories abounded – until video evidence (inside the elevator) was presented for public consumption. At that point, Rice’s supporters became silent. Those two were a couple, determined (at least for the time being) to stay together. His wife wasn’t some girl sitting at a bar who, according to your mouthpiece, was obnoxious, hurling racial epithets at you, kneeing you in your privates and even taking the first swing. A better strategy is the quote he made about you being “extremely embarrassed” and “currently participating in community service, and faith-based programs focused on battered women, substance abuse, and the empowerment of children.” Wow! He sure figured out the magnitude of the predicament you got yourself into.

It’s always been true, not just from a common sense viewpoint, but one of basic decency toward your fellow human being that you don’t haul off and slug somebody who disagrees with you – even if they really piss you off. In today’s world, everybody is walking around with a camera.

Former Michigan wide receiver Csont’e York was sent to jail to serve seven days for two misdemeanor assault convictions. In addition, he had to serve 20 days on a jail work crew, attend anger management classes, undergo a substance abuse assessment, pay $540 in fines and court costs, plus $2,134.70 for his victim’s current medical expenses. His guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt – based on video evidence of him sucker punching a guy.

All men, mostly athletes because they are “targets,” need to be educated that, regardless of provocation, you just can’t hit others, in particular, women. That behavior will simply not be tolerated. Independent of who started the argument, or what subject it was about, or what words were used, you, the athlete, are most likely bigger and stronger than whomever you are confronting – or is confronting you. If alcohol is involved, keep reminding yourself that you will not allow a fight to undermine the position you have worked so hard to attain.

A good rule of thumb is:

“Never do something permanently foolish just because you are temporarily upset.”

But Rory LOVES Soccer

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

On the surface, it seems a rather irrational decision on Rory McIlroy’s part to play soccer with friends at this time of the year. People who are criticizing him for getting hurt playing soccer, however, are not taking into account that pros have lives, too. Why is this any different than, say, Jason Pierre-Paul’s Fourth of July mishap (severe burns on his hand and possible nerve damage)? Here’s why and it’s simple. The reason is that McIlroy plays an individual sport while the New York Giants entire team depends on Pierre-Paul. Team sport athletes are paid by the franchise whereas golfers, tennis players, track & field competitors, etc. only get paid if they perform well enough to deserve to get paid, i.e. they are the franchise.

Where there is a similarity is with the sponsors who pay athletes, independent of which sport is involved. To cover themselves, i.e. if the companies want to limit what their pitchmen (and women) can and cannot do, they ought to have clauses prohibiting such activities, just like teams do in their player contracts. In his case, Pierre-Paul didn’t violate any such clause in his contract but the Giants have pulled the $60 million max offer. Shed few tears as he will, in all likelihood, earn $14.8 million this coming season - although he has yet to sign. His foolish handling of fireworks could have, in fact, cost him a great deal more. McIlroy’s injury will prevent him from playing this weekend – and probably throughout the summer, if not longer. His team, though, suffers much worse than the Giants. With individual sports, unlike what our team coaches told us, one man is indispensable. Women fall into this category as well. Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn once sliced open her right thumb on a celebratory bottle of champagne after a victory in the World Championships.

Whether or not Vonn loves champagne that much is unknown (at least it is to me) but it’s common knowledge that McIlroy has a passion for futbol and has played it with friends in the past during the “golf season.” It’s doubtful any of his sponsors will attempt to include a “no-soccer” clause (c’mon, I gave the other term a mention, a big concession for somebody from the U.S.) for no other reason than he just might decline their offer. “Total rupture of left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage . . .” is the beginning of the text sent by McIlroy, informing his fans of his unfortunate situation. This news puts a real damper on the Jordan Speith-Rory McIlroy rivalry. Yet, no matter how much of a McIlroy fan you are, this definitely hurts him more than it does you. This includes all his sponsorships that would have been shown on television innumerable times when he plays.

Adversity doesn’t always mean losing, though. As creative as some agents are, the injured athlete might even wind up with endorsement opportunities because of the injury. McIlroy is probably weighing offers for the “boot” he’s wearing (assuming there’s more than one company making it). At least, then, fans would know he actually used the item he was pitching. I mean, does anybody really believe Shaq uses Icy Hot or Blake Griffin drives a Kia? Of course not, they’re just following their role models for (un)”truth in advertising” (as long as the price is right) – Ray Lewis for Old Spice, Karl Malone for Rogaine and Rafael Palmeiro for Viagra – an example of the extent guys will go for some extra income (possibly only surpassed by Jimmy Johnson for Extenze). If people only could understand that the reason celebrity pitchmen (and women) continue to line their pockets – with our money – is because we keep buying the product. Maybe the companies are the fools, e.g. their merchandise would sell equally as much if they didn’t pay celebrities. Then, again, if the public has it and continues to spend it, thus keeping the businesses profitable and putting their athlete endorsers further in the black, it’s a win-win for everybody.

Whenever bizarre incidents occur, like those with Rory and JPP, usually there’s an over-the-top reaction from professional franchises. As far back as when Bill Bradley played for the Knicks and the front office was alerted to an off-handed remark that their small forward made – that he heard sky diving was a thrilling experience – was a clause inserted into his contract prohibiting sky diving. And he’d never done it! Any player found to be in violation of such a clause could have his contract terminated. If you were bank rolling as much money with these guys as the owners are, you can bet you’d be just as protective of your investment. Ask any Patriots’ front office employee (or Pats’ fan for that matter) what his or her reaction was when video was aired of Tom Brady jumping off cliffs in Costa Rica, and a gasp would be the most likely response. Don’t be surprised if New England isn’t trying to amend his contract with a “no cliff diving” clause. Or any other potentially crippling injury to Brady – which the Pats feel by proxy.

While it can’t be written into a contract for athletes who participate in individual sports, common sense needs to be applied a bit more liberally. McIlroy and soccer is an example that straddles the border. On one hand, he truly enjoys playing and has done so, probably as long as he’s golfed. On the other hand, a bit more discretion – especially with the British Open almost upon us – might have been the more prudent move. After all, not only does Rory make his living at the game, he’s vying to be the best in the world at it. Tough decision.

Maybe in this case, Rory can learn from Thomas Edison, who said:

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”

 

 

 

(Many) Western Conference Teams Rejoice

Monday, July 6th, 2015

The sound heard throughout the western part of the United States was the thunderous applause by the opponents of the Los Angeles Clippers. At least a half dozen NBA teams in the western conference (OKC, Memphis, Golden State, Houston, San Antonio and New Orleans) – and maybe one or two others if they find a way to improve their rosters a little – just had their chances to get to the NBA Finals improved . . . without even making a move. They just checked their twitter accounts and when they saw DeAndre Jordan had signed with the Dallas Mavericks, they raised their glasses.

Apparently, Jordan had his reasons for switching squads but the major effect of his decision was that it reduced the number of contenders for an NBA title by one. Not that DJ isn’t a considerable upgrade at the center position for Dallas, it’s just that his addition is not nearly enough to vault the Mavs past the elite teams in the loaded west – that is, until they make another roster move or two.

One of the main reasons Jordan had for leaving LA was he wanted a bigger role in the offense. I was listening to NBA radio and, although I can’t recall which, one of “stat heads” (I’ve given a brief explanation of the term but a future post will delve more deeply into the world of stat heads – stay tuned) came up with the following tidbit: of the 379 made hoops by DJ last season, not counting lobs, offensive rebound baskets or fast break buckets, 18 came off of post ups, i.e. 18 times the ball was thrown directly into Jordan while he posted up his defender and he scored. That’s less than 5%! And he really believes Dallas is going to run, even some of their offense, through him?

Even if the Mavs make him the focus of the offense and he scores a couple times in a row (assuming he does score – remember, nothing he has done in his past justifies such an outcome), wouldn’t it stand to reason the opponent would just start fouling him, given that he’s a 40% free throw shooter?

Suffice to say that more of those made buckets came off lobs than post ups. He’s giving up Chris Paul, certainly one of the best passing point guards in the league for . . . an inferior point guard? There have been stories of friction between DJ and CP3. Only Jordan can say whether whatever was between them was irreparable but he’s taking a monumental gamble that the Dallas point guards will compare in offensive efficiency to Paul. Another point made by Jordan (or his “people”) is that he wants to be an All-Star and he’d have a better chance of being one of two from Dallas (Dirk’s pretty much of a lock) than one of three from the Clippers. If, in fact, that’s the case, why isn’t anyone saying that he is placing more importance on being an All-Star than winning an NBA championship?

The fact he’s from Houston would only be a factor if the choice was between the Clippers and the Rockets because 1) it’s not like his family is going to be piling into cars to drive the 240 mile (one way) trip to Dallas, 2) it’s a good bet he keeps his house in California (so living there ain’t all that bad) and, if having his people at the game was all that, 3) he could have paid for them with that extra $29 million he’d have gotten from LA. For those folks who say there’s no state tax in Houston and mega state tax in Cali, you’re exactly right. Does anybody think that ever entered into the decision – or is a convenient justification after the fact?

Anyone who has ever seen or heard DeAndre Jordan in an interview – including photo-bombing a teammate who’s being interviewed – realizes there’s more to his persona than the average NBA player. An articulate, clean cut, good-looking guy, with a keen sense of humor, he’s a natural for the world of TV and movies. Whether part of the Clippers’ presentation was a guarantee of roles in cinema (maybe even a major role, say, in a reality show – don’t think deals don’t get done that way in Tinseltown) is unknown but if it was, and DJ still chose to join the Mavericks, he just might have violated the #1 rule when deciding to change jobs:

“Make sure you’re running TO something and not AWAY from something.”

Recruiting at the Highest Level

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

The clock struck midnight and July 1 was upon us, meaning the beginning of NBA free agency. With it came the wining and dining of guys who have no trouble wining and dining themselves. Instead of colleges wooing 18-year olds, NBA franchises are begging getting together with older guys (some in their 20s), but who are now more proven performers. Many of these are the same guys who, after graduating from high school (and holding all the cards at that time as well), had to decide on where to ply their trade – and continue their education (unfortunately, but realistically, in that order). Although there was a time period in between (called the NBA draft) in which they were being told who they’d be employed by), they have regained control of their respective situations.

The NBA free agency process is similar to college recruiting, only on a much more expensive level. People who have only read or heard about both would be shocked at how much work goes into trying to sign a recruit or a free agent. Because there are rules on each, e.g. a college official visit can be no longer than 48 hours and NBA teams have salary limitations they can offer, the presentations must be as personalized and creative as possible. As an example, let’s look at the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan.

The main three competitors for Jordan’s services are the Clippers, Lakers and Mavericks. In my estimation, the Lakers have next-to-no shot because everything the Lakers can offer, the Clippers can at least match – unless he was a huge Lakers fan as a kid or is steeped in NBA tradition. For the purpose of this blog, let’s assume neither (or that he yearns to play with Kobe for a year, two max).

So, it’s down to a two-horse race. Here’s a list of positives and negatives (in no particular order, mainly because I’m not privy to what Jordan’s priorities are – beyond what has been reported, which is usually quite a distance from the truth). It usually comes down to the comfort level of the player – on, and off, the court. One point in Dallas’ favor is Jordan, a high character guy, is originally from Texas (Houston) and, undoubtedly, still has family in the state. However, the number of NBA players who live in Texas is dwarfed by the number who have homes in LA – independent of whichever NBA team is their employer. “Family” is something that doesn’t change, e.g. the Clippers can’t give him “better” relatives. Ditto when it comes to weather. Neither franchise can make a dent in the other’s strength – nor should they try.

Money, which is a determining factor in the lives of so many humans, is not really a factor because the Clippers can offer 5 years and $110 million, while the Mavs can put a 4 year deal for $80 million on the table. However, Texas has no state tax while California residents pay an ungodly sum to the state – and, without getting too technical, it’s reported some of this season’s free agents want shorter deals because after a new collective bargaining agreement is signed, there will be – as if what they’re paying players now is chicken feed – unprecedented spending.

From a basketball perspective, it’s been reported that Jordan doesn’t want to be fourth or fifth option on offense (his current offensive role with the Clips). Dallas will undoubtedly paint a rosy picture of Jordan offensively, sharing center stage with Dirk Nowitzki (no player’s ego is so out of control that he thinks his offensive role will surpass that of the face of the Mavericks franchise). Since there are no stats to hold them to, Dallas can claim pretty much anything and, certainly, will point out the fact that when Blake Griffin was out with an injury, Jordan’s points per game jumped from 11.5 to nearly 15. There are many holes in that argument but most have to deal with DJ actually believing (which, apparently he does not) that his major role – with whomever he plays – is to rebound and block shots. Why is it that people who excel in an area of life seldom are satisfied with being the best at what they do? Oh, and rest assured, there will be no mention of “Hack-a-DJ” by either team.

Side story: One of the college teams I worked with had a guy whose role with our squad was identical to DJ’s – and, naturally, he wanted a bigger offensive role. One day he approached me and said that we had “plays” for each of our other four starters and questioned why there wasn’t a play or two for him. My message was, “We shoot 43% as a team. That means 57% of the plays are designed for you.” He laughed, not happy with the response, but understanding it.

The yin and yang of this story is the Clippers’ roster has a better chance of winning it all but the Mavs actually won one – and the guy who was the Finals MVP is still there. Doc Rivers couldn’t have promoted a player any more than he did DJ last year but there are rumors of a personality clash between Jordan and Chris Paul. Then again, who would you rather have as your point guard? Nowitzki is a bona fide All-Star; Blake Griffin is today’s superstar. But then you get into that third banana thing again.

Whoever wins the wooing of DeAndre Jordan will come down to which franchise will tug most at his heart strings/appeal to his ego. Also, will his decision be made by his head or his heart (or his agent, but that’s another story altogether)? Both owners are filthy rich (Steve Ballmer has a more money than Mark Cuban but once someone’s net worth exceeds $1,000,000,000, you figure, unless the fortune is inherited – not the case for either man – the person’s intelligence is not to be questioned).

It might just come down the strength of Los Angeles, e.g. Hollywood (that Dallas can’t come close to) versus the imagination of Mark Cuban. Listening to Jordan speak, and seeing his personality in action, he seems like he’d be a natural for TV or movies. And, unless there’s something we don’t know, it seems that those kind of roles would be very attractive to him. Endorsement opportunities abound in LA, but Cuban knows enough people “in the business world” to make comparable offers happen.

Rumor has it the Clips are putting together a kind of This Is Your Life, DeAndre Jordan presentation for their meeting with their center. What X factor will Cuban counter with? If I knew that answer, I guarantee you I wouldn’t be blogging at 2:30 am. Creativity and shrewd thinking are characteristics of Mark Cuban. He lives by the quote I read long ago:

“Did you ever go to a movie and laugh? Ever go to one and cry? You think it’s because of what they put in the seats?”

 

Larry Nance, Jr. Surpassed Frank Sinatra in One Tweet

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Way back in 2012, a young college kid tweeted, in reference to the case in which a female hotel employee claimed Kobe Bryant had forced himself sexually on her, “Gee I sure hope Kobe can keep his hands to himself in Denver this time,” ending his message with “#rapist.” That college kid was the University of Wyoming’s Larry Nance, Jr. Fast forward to this past season and the younger Nance garnered the Player of the Year award in the Mountain West Conference. He also realized the dream of every young boy who grew up playing basketball – he was a first round draft pick in the NBA.

Yet, not everything went so smoothly on draft night for the younger Nance because of the team that selected him. Yup, the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe it’s not every youngster’s favorite squad growing up but it can’t be lower than third. Whether or not that was the case for younger Larry, the tweet changed everything. Frank Sinatra, in his mega-hit My Way, sang that the regrets he had were “too few to mention.” Larry Nance’s tweet would definitely not fit into that category.

Nance, Jr. understands what the NBA is about since his dad, Larry Nance, Sr., following a stellar career at Clemson, spent 13 highly productive years in the league for the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The elder Nance scored over 15,000 points, won the slam dunk contest (1984), was a three time All-Star and had his jersey retired by the Cavs. If he made any comments to his son at the time the youngster used social media to make a statement regarding Bryant’s behavior isn’t known, but there’s little doubt dad has since provided some wise counsel to his son.

The apology from Larry, Jr. was immediately sent to Kobe. After its contents became public, it showed someone who displayed a great deal of remorse. The 2012 tweet, and subsequent letter of apology, should serve as exhibit A when kids anyone decides to use social media to criticize another person. The charges in that case were dropped after the woman refused to testify, a civil suit was settled and Bryant, while never admitting guilt, publicly apologized. Yet, at that time, Nance’s feelings were shared by an abundance of others throughout the country. Once his name was called on draft night, however, had he had the power to go back in time to that particular moment, you can bet his choice would have been different.

As far as Kobe’s reaction to the apology? “The kid figured it out himself,” Bryant told him. “Dude, listen. We’ve all said things and done things that we regret and wish we could take back.” Kobe Bryant is known for his elephant-like memory but, maybe, time – and maturity – have mellowed him. Still and all, when the two play together, it would be a wise suggestion to the rookie that he’d better not blow an offensive or defensive assignment.

In what might be the leading candidate for top understatement of the year, Larry Nance, Jr. said:

“It was definitely something I’ll learn from.”

Why Not Give Analysts Won-Loss Records?

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

There is a thought that has been rumbling around in my head for quite some time (there’s plenty of room to rumble in there now that I’m retired). What might have finally got me to comment on it was watching Ryne Sandberg’s press conference announcing he was stepping down as the Phillies’ manager. The move was certainly one he’d never dreamed would happen when he took the reins at Philly. No coach ever takes a job and expects to fail, especially to the point where he steps down or is let go. When we listen to some guys after a big win or a championship, it often sounds like the coach might have “practiced” the comments. Yet, what coach would ever work on a speech after he lost – be it a game or his job? I mean, who goes into a job thinking anything but success?

Here’s my idea. There is so much commentary from the media about sports – and a large portion of it deals with the negative. Talking (and writing) heads have been saying either Phil Jackson is ruining the Knicks by drafting a not-ready-for-prime-time-player in Kristaps Porzingis (the next Darko Milicic) or he got the steal of the draft getting a guy with size (by the way, didn’t he look three inches taller than 7’0″ Frank Kaminsky?) and incredible skills who could be the next Dirk Nowitzki. Some media guys are saying Phil’s biggest mistake was overpaying Carmelo Anthony, someone who took the deal because he’s more interested in money than winning; others are complaining Jackson screwed over Melo by not consulting with him regarding the selection of Porzingis. Still others believe in Phil Jackson and are casting their “vote” for him. Let’s see how it plays out in New York and, then, “look it up” to see how those who weighed in with a comment fared.

Or, all the folks who feel the Lakers made a mistake by selecting D’Angelo Russell with the second pick (or those who praised it), should be on record for all to see (with modern technology, it doesn’t seem like there couldn’t be a link, constantly updated, where a fan could go to see D’Angelo Russell: super, good, average, poor – and which media member went which way regarding how the young guy would fair in the NBA his first (second, third, etc.) season.

All of that chatter makes for intriguing reading and listening. So why don’t we, in this “age of information.” keep accounts of which talker (or writer) made which claims. Coaches are usually paid (at least after a few years on the job) based on their record of success. Should the teams they lead win (which, like it or not, is why they get paid), they are in for bonuses and/or contract extensions. Since it’s become so easy for the techies to gather and store information, why not record prognosticators’ predictions?

If somebody hits on 90% of his opinions two or three years running, that guy ought to be lauded – and paid. If somebody’s selections (based on his research, experience and gut instinct) comes in at only 25%, that guy ought to be terminated – with, of course, some type of severance package. Then, those analyzing the draft (or who’s going to play in the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series, whatever their “specialty” is), would understand what it’s like to be a coach. If the guy’s picks are continually low but he’s a “fan favorite,” i.e. he draws viewers and listeners or gets major hits, he can certainly be retained at the station’s or paper’s discretion – but at least his “won-loss” record would be public knowledge (doesn’t “the public’s right to know” apply to what comes out of a media member’s mouth or mind, as well)? My idea would be especially intriguing for the new breed of “stat heads” – guys who never strapped it on but who love to be part of athletics so they’ve memorized tons of sports minutiae, e.g. who the leading rusher was in Super Bowl XXI and how many yards he had.

Sure, there will be situations beyond someone’s control, e.g. Jabari Parker and Julius Randle get hurt before their careers even get started, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson getting suspended for actions no one could have (or, at least, did) predicted. There are others who fail drug tests, subsequently, losing games or, even, a season. We’d have to give a pass in those instances. But, consider what happens to a coach or manager. It makes winning exponentially more difficult and, almost always, the team’s performance falls off. It hurts the team’s chances for success immeasurably, putting the coach’s job at risk. Such unexpected situations would be the same with predictions so, if nothing else, the media (who’s record would likewise dip) would experience empathy – a trait that’s severely lacking in TV, radio and print comments.

TV and radio analysts, as well as columnists (and social media) tend to gloss over their inaccurate calls. Really, who wants to point out mistakes – especially if it occurs again and again (and, sometimes again and again)? Coaches don’t have that luxury because they’re held accountable for the team’s performance. My proposal is to give the mouthpieces “records,” too, so they can be held to the same standards. Think of the bragging rights that would go to the guys who, time after time, have their prophecies come true.

Unfortunately, it would never fly if the vote where left up to the talking and writing heads. It wouldn’t be agreed to by those people mainly because, while it might be a way to increase their earnings and, certainly, popularity, many aren’t nearly as confident, be it because they find having an opinon so much easier after the fact and because, face it, poor performance could lead to losing a sweet gig. Other than lewd and lascivious behavior – and, possibly, plagiarism – job security in that business is relatively stable (except for cutbacks which, will never be a factor in coaching). Falsifying a resume has caused several coaches their jobs but when media people exaggerate their accomplishments, it’s just a public embarrassment. And, then, only if exposed. What many of them say and what they actually did, often vary – by a quite a bit.

This proposal would mean more work (definitely for their interns if they’re so fortunate) and preparation would be necessary, as opposed to talking off the top of the head, which many find so much simpler, not to mention a heckuva lot more fun. However, it would be immensely popular with the fans. Studio analysis has become synonymous with games – pre, during and post (including days pre and post). In fact, game results (and accompanying strategies) are talked about more, in terms of actual hours and minutes, than the contests themselves. Anybody can pick an upset but for someone to do – and explain why - and then have it happen, that’s makes for serious credibility. As fans have their favorite coaches (to love or disrespect), this idea would give them media members to brag about – or call for their heads. On a personal note (as I’ve blogged so many times in the past), preparation and ability to call plays before they happen is why I believe Gary Danielson is, far and away, the best college football color commentator.

As Stephen Covey said many years ago:

“We judge others by their actions, ourselves by our intentions.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing the “What If” Game With the 1984 Draft

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Welcome back. Here’s hoping the computer – which just got a clean bill of health – will function the way I, a techno-idiot, needs it to.

For the sake of argument (and this blog), let’s consider the following situation: The 1984 first two draft picks were reversed, i.e. Portland had the number one pick and Houston selected second?

Portland, obviously, would have selected Hakeem Olajuwon (since no one felt Sam Bowie was better than Olajuwon – and they had a rising superstar in second guard Clyde Drexler). Then, it would have been Houston’s pick. Houston – who had just finished 12th (last). Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes had just retired at the end of the 1983-83 season and although The Big E appeared in 81 of 82 games, the 6’9″ forward averaged a mere five points in only a little over 12 minutes a game. The Rockets had traded 6’9″ power forward James Bailey (and a pick) for 6’3″ point guard John Lucas (and a pick). In addition, 6’11” center Caldwell Jones had moved from the Rockets to, of all places, the Bulls, and Caldwell’s brother, 6’9″ power forward Major Jones, played the following season in Detroit.

The only size the Rockets had was 7’4″ center/power forward Ralph Sampson who won the Rookie-of-the-Year award after having been the number one overall pick (the Rockets had finished last the previous year as well). They returned 6’6″ second guard Lewis Lloyd who had averaged nearly 18 points a game during his second season in the league and 6’8″ small forward Robert Reid who was the team’s third leading scorer at 14 points a game. It’s already part of history that Houston loved the idea of a “Twin Towers.”

The big question, then, would be, did the Rockets know what the Blazers apparently didn’t, that Sam Bowie’s bones were worse than he was letting on? Or, did they truly feel that Jordan was the better choice? That is a subject that has never been discussed. Did the Rockets believe that Michael Jordan was destined to be the G.O.A.T.?

Even if they did – why has everyone given Houston a pass on not selecting the greatest player of all-time? Sure, they picked a guy who was voted one of the best 50 players ever and he did lead them to two NBA Championships but . . . they only won when Michael “retired” (please don’t count the mini-season he had). It’s hard to find fault with their taking The Dream but, the fact remains that they, as well as Portland, picked someone other than Michael Jordan – when they could have. Note: There is a school of thought (although I’m not too sure exactly how big that school is) that the championship Rockets’ clubs would have beaten the Bulls had MJ not gone to baseball. But that, too, is something that will remain talk for guys at the bar – or the ones who call in to talk shows (probably the same guys).

It probably will never be known what would have transpired had the order been reversed but there was a guy who not only knew, but is on record, as thinking MJ was the way to go. As the story had been told many times, Bob Knight, who’d coached Jordan in the ’84 Olympics told is good friend, Portland general manager Stu Inman, to take Michael with the second pick. When Inman explained to Knight that they had a budding superstar 2 guard in Drexler (who also was voted a Top 50 player of all-time) and desperately needed a center, Knight’s advice was:

“So take Jordan – and play him at center.”

Of Birthdays, Facebook and Doctor’s Appointments

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Yesterday was my birthday. It began innocently enough as I went for my once every six weeks haircut. My stylist is a terrific guy, I really enjoy visiting with him but I’ve noticed it takes half the time it used to to cut my hair. And costs four time what it did in the old days.

Otherwise, I spent the day like I do most days – going to doctor’s appointment(s), riding a stationary bike, doing yoga (mostly restorative), stretching, core strengthening exercises and fitting in some writing, e.g. blogging, research for future articles and speeches and, someday, a sequel to my book, Life’s A Joke. And, of course, eating. Some people eat to live, I live to eat. Sleeping 8-9 hours daily is considered a fun activity. That is pretty much my entire day.

My phone was blowing up yesterday and while I figured some people would wish me a happy birthday, I was stunned to get one message after another, all day (and night) long. Anyone who has been a loyal reader of my posts is cognizant of the fact that I am beyond technologically challenged. My entering the world of Facebook was moving into unchartered waters for me (I’ve never even attempted twitter, instagram, snapchat and whatever other “new forms of communication” I hear about from my two sons – both in their 20s). Still, when my phone wouldn’t stop vibrating – and it was going strong even as I began this blog – I thought it might have been experiencing seizures. I mean, over 125 (and counting) birthday wishes doesn’t exactly vault me into Oprah’s class but, for someone who’s been retired going on four years now, it was nice to know that many people would take even a couple seconds out of their day to send kind thoughts my way. Having lived in nine states, I’ve made a multitude of acquaintances. I heard from classmates (some I’ve known for over 60 years), former coaching and teaching colleagues, administrative and staff members, college players, high school students, radio and TV broadcast partners and, of course, friends. At my annual 10-day job as one of eight commissioners at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp in Santa Barbara, I’ll have to ask MJ how he deals with such unbridled adulation.

One message was from a friend who asked if birthdays counted when you retired. My reply was they counted when you retire . . . until “they” retire you. Then, nothing counts. After responding to him, I left for, what else, a doctor’s appointment. On my way, my college buddy gave me a happy birthday call and I explained I was off to a doctor’s appointment.  When he asked what for, I told him I wasn’t sure.

The day prior to this appointment, while in my primary care doctor’s office, I mentioned to him that I understood why people are upset with the insurance industry. I told him that the following day (yesterday) I had an appointment with a doctor and had no idea what the purpose of it was. I’d seen the guy (referred to me by my doctor) months ago and had just noticed it when I entered this appointment in the calendar on my phone (pretty tech savvy, huh?) a few days ago. When he asked me which doctor I was seeing, I said, “Smith,” whose office is across the hall.

My frustration with the doctors and insurance companies stemmed from, among others, my previous visit to that doctor. I related that I’d seen Dr. Smith and explained about the problem I was having with my right foot. An emergency surgery (a diskectomy at T 10-11 – thoracic back area) had caused severe nerve damage that affected me from my mid-back on down. He told me he couldn’t feel anything wrong and sent me to get x-rays – which were also of no help. His suggestion was that he could “burn” or “kill” those nerves in my right foot and I wouldn’t feel anything in that area. When I asked if that would solve the problem with my right foot, he said it wouldn’t but it might make me feel a little better. However, he cautioned, it might exacerbate my situation. I asked what percentages would he put on the success of surgery.

“50% chance of feeling better, but 50% percent chance of feeling worse.” What?!? I know how bad I feel now and, although my life’s no day at the beach, I’ve learned to deal with it. Worse? I voted no. When I questioned him as to whether he’d do it “if he were me” (a question I’ve found helpful in getting a clearer answer), he said he would not. I thanked him, yet his office set me up with a “follow up” appointment three months later. I explained to my doc extra procedures that were added by another doctor I’d seen the previous week but, after hearing the results of my visit, my primary care doctor (who’s been our family doctor for 20 years and in whom we couldn’t have more faith) agreed with that doctor’s findings. “Your EKG results were showing him something different and anytime we see something different, we believe extra care should be taken.” That was not the case with Dr. Smith, however.

So, there I was yesterday, across the hall, signing in right on time at 3:00 for my appointment with Dr. Smith. The guy at the desk asked me if I was sure about this appointment because they didn’t have it listed. Once again I checked my calendar and, sure enough, there it read, 3:00pm doctor’s appointment with Dr. . . . Jones. I had seen Dr. Smith previously (he was of no assistance) but, hey, Smith, Jones, it’s a natural mistake. As is usually the case, I didn’t have Dr. Jones’ number, only that he was a neurologist. I asked another worker if there was a Dr. Jones in that building, hoping I’d catch a break (since I was already late) but, no, there was no Dr. Jones – only another Dr. Smith.

I called my wife, who takes copious notes, and asked if she could give me Dr. Jones’ number. She said she’d check and get right back to me. I headed home. When I got there, she asked if I had received her text with the number and address I needed. She said she sent a text because if she called, I’d have to either write the number down (while I was driving) or remember it (and, while I used to have a great memory, it’s still great, only much, much shorter). I didn’t hear my phone announce the text (I was listening to John Maxwell’s latest audio book) but wondered why it hadn’t vibrated. Turned out it had vibrated but it was constantly vibrating with birthday wishes.

I called the office and, of course, heard “If this is a medical emergency, hang up and dial 911” (like if I had a medical emergency my first reaction would be, not to dial 911 but to look up my neurologist’s number), then listened to voice mail. The lady returned the call and I explained my confusion between the two most common American names and said that, unless there had been a medical breakthrough in my case, that there would be no need for me to reschedule. If they needed to bill me for the missed visit, so be it.

My next move was upstairs to punish myself on the exercise bike for wasting a good part of the day – with which I could have been exercising, reading or writing. Or doing my favorite activity (now that I can no longer play tennis or golf) – doing sudokus. For the record, I’ve never encountered one – easy, medium, difficult, extremely difficult, whatever category – that I couldn’t do (one of them took me a couple days but after starting over a few times, I successfully completed that one). Life’s little pleasures take on new meanings as you get older – especially if you refuse to immerse yourself in new adventures).

I never realized how powerful Facebook is. These messages, some as short as “HB,” were very much appreciated. Already, I’ve sent two “happy birthday” wishes – one to a friend and his wife who had a C-section on my birthday and the other to a girl whose birthday is a day after mine. Sometimes we need to be reminded that:

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”