Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

The Nerve of Some Media People

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Yesterday afternoon I heard a talking head on one of the sports shows on Sirius-XM make the comment, “Steph Curry most definitely let us down. I’m not going to take back the things I said during the season but” . . . and the he blathered on about something or other. It was like he was saying that, while he extolled Curry’s virtues during the season, he wished he had tempered his comments because . . . now he looked bad. His callers, especially LeBron fans, were coming down hard on him – and it was basically Curry’s fault. His saying he wouldn’t take back any of his initial remarks meant he was a stand-up guy – but if only Curry had the intestinal fortitude, people wouldn’t be questioning the limitless knowledge he obtained by watching and reading about sports throughout his childhood and however much of the adult life he’s experienced. His biggest hope is the program director can get Steph to come on the show and apologize to his listeners for his (Curry’s) poor performance in the Finals (although it would be even better if Steph would ask directly for his forgiveness).

People are bringing up that this is the second straight year Curry has been regular season MVP and in neither, was he Finals MVP. This year, had he gone off in Game 7 and the Warriors won the championship, LeBron James would still have won the award – and not one negative word would have been said. James was simply that dominating (disregarding, naturally, Games 1 & 2).

Last year, Andre Iguodala was named MVP for not only his formidable stats of 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists, but mostly for the job he did on LeBron. For the record, James’ stats in 2015 were 35.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists. Curry put up 26.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists. During the regular season Curry’s stats were 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists so it wasn’t like there was such a dramatic drop-off. Had Curry received the MVP, there wouldn’t have been too much of an uproar.

As I was perusing the Internet last night, I came across an article in which Dan Le Batard was complaining about John Calipari being on ESPN nearly as much as SportsCenter. “It’s simply not right to give him the entire platform to be out recruiting by himself,” said Le Batard. He included his program which Cal was scheduled to make an appearance on later in the day, saying he should cancel it. This criticism coming from a guy who has his father as a regular on his show rings hollow. While there is certainly a segment of the viewing public who thinks his dad adds to the show, I’m not a member of that segment.

Calipari is so far ahead of every other coach when it comes to recruiting. He was the first to master the art of twitter (I assume it’s an art; I decided not tweet – for two reasons: I’m a technological dunce and, more importantly, can you imagine limiting me to 140 characters)? Unfortunately, the greater majority of coaches would rather complain about one of them gaining an edge than to create a (legal) advantage as Cal has. Isn’t it a major plus for Duke’s recruiting that Mike Krzyzewski (and, to a lesser extent, Jim Boeheim, when he assisted Coach K in 2008 & 2012) to coach the Olympic team and have access to all that publicity? Mike was selected because the decision-maker(s) felt he was the best coach to accomplish the United States’ goal of winning the gold medal. Along similar lines, ESPN is going to pick whichever coach they feel is best for ratings.

As far as Curry and Calipari hearing criticism, I recently received an article via email in which the following quote hit me as the ultimate thought process for someone who has been criticized. It was spoken by Mohandes Gandhi:

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

 

 

 

Was this Baylor Recruit’s Dad Really Surprised?

Friday, June 24th, 2016

There have been intercollegiate scandals nearly as long as there have been colleges. The only thing worse than the laundry list of recent transgressions by institutions, administrators, coaches and players is the fact that, more likely than not, there were so many more in the past that were never reported. With the power of modern technology, however, illegal and immoral acts are not only more difficult to get away with, they no longer can easily be covered up. That type of progress is applauded far and wide.

When it comes to misdeeds (to use the term much too loosely), one of the worst institutions from a historical perspective is the athletics department at Baylor University. Should there be any Baylor apologists, the Bears’ athletics department needs to be reminded of this: “If one person calls you a horse, it might be an insult. If three people call you a horse, it might be a conspiracy. If ten people call you a horse, get a saddle.”

Few people have forgotten the 2003 tragedy that happened at Baylor when one basketball player shot and killed a teammate. An assistant coach recorded a staff meeting (itself an inexcusable act of disloyalty – even if it did expose the head coach as a liar and someone who had lost his moral compass, if not his mind) in which the head coach had decided the best way to handle the situation was to paint the deceased player as a drug dealer, hoping the public would dismiss the death as one less drug dealer on earth. Naturally, this strategy blew up in the faces of all concerned and the NCAA investigated that and several additional allegations, from players’ drug use to coaches making illegal payments to players. The school self-imposed punishments but the NCAA came down harder, including the elimination of one year of any non-conference contests. It was one of the harshest actions taken against a member institution, short of the death penalty.

Memories must run short in Waco. The most recent transgressions include allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence and other acts of brutality involving several Baylor football players, as far back as 2011 and as recent as this past season. It’s been reported that some coaches and administrators knew about the actions, yet the players involved were not disciplined. Worse, it’s alleged that school officials failed to adequately investigate, or did not investigate at all, the allegations of sexual violence.

In no way can any of what occurred at Baylor be discounted but in a story that could be entitled Ultimate Naivete, the father of a Baylor Bears football signee said he felt betrayed by the school. He said no one from Baylor ever informed its recruits that they were investigating sexual assault allegations. Because of the oversight, he demanded a release for his son from his national letter-of-intent.

Wait, this parent was disappointed the school never notified the prospects they were trying to recruit that there was an investigation going on regarding the mishandling and outright covering up of sexual assaults? What if they had told him and his son, he was asked.

If we would have known, we would never had considered Baylor,” was his response.

How could a school, undergoing a plethora of sexual assault and domestic violence cases, not tell a recruit and his family?

“Sir, I think you just answered your own question.”

Don’t Expect the Cavs to Repeat

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

One takeaway from the just completed NBA Finals is that the Cleveland Cavaliers made more people happy by winning the championship than the Golden State Warriors would have. One obvious reason is that Dubs’ fans have been riding an (almost) two year high. They need a break from celebrating. The star crossed city of Cleveland, with its 52 years of misery and series of bitter endings, as well as the entire state of Ohio, couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Include all the softhearted people out there who said they were rooting for the Cavs “because they haven’t won anything in so long.” Think about it. Doesn’t that group comprise a large majority of the nation? After all, when was the last time you won anything of significance (not counting the medium fries you scored in the last Monopoly game at McDonald’s)?

Something that’s been floated is that Cavs faithful should completely soak in the glory of this championship. Rather than giddily hoping for a repeat, the people should bask in the glow of this year – and not because of “staying in the moment.” The champagne wasn’t even dry when the rumors began flying around about the potential break up of the championship team. Richard Jefferson immediately announcing his retirement removed a vital cog in this season’s championship run. It’s unclear whether Kevin Love will be returning (not too frightening a proposition for many Cleveland people). In fact, if the Timberwolves want to swap Andrew Wiggins for their once consistent 26 & 13 machine, odds are favorable Dan Gilbert could be persuaded. How about the proposition of LeBron James, having fulfilled his promise of bringing home a championship for The ‘Land, bolting to another franchise (Los Angeles)? Who in the world would believe a kid born and raised in Akron would prefer living in La La Land? You don’t have to answer that.

Post game hugs and tears aside, there were too many stories of James and Irving not wanting anything to do with each other – on or off the court – but more of the “on.” A sportswriter who covered high school hoops in Oregon claimed Kevin Love’s high school teammates didn’t particularly cotton to his overall demeanor. As far as how Love got along with the best player in the NBA (tough to dispute after the recently concluded NBA Finals), Love admitted during the season he and LeBron were not “best friends.” NBA assistant coaches (many of whom revel in gossip – hey, they have a lot of free time on their hands) will readily disclose that K-Love has another member of the franchise who’s not a big fan of his. A hint is he may have the shortest name in the NBA (and he’s the coach). Come to think of it, though, how many coworkers really are?

One thing to keep in mind is that, teammates on championship teams aren’t always the closest of buds, e.g. Kobe & Shaq, Rondo & Ray Allen (or Rondo & Doc for that matter). Anyway, if you ever want the real scoop, figure a way to corner Brian Windhorst. Although, if he were to play basketball, his position looks less like point or shooting guard than pulling guard, the guy has his finger on the the pulse of the Cavs organization. It would be interesting, if not eye-popping, if he were hooked up to a polygraph.

All in all, there are a variety of personalities on Cleveland’s squad and, in a profession that has nearly as many outsized egos as outsized players, none of this is shocking. However, should the Cavs – or any other organization inside the world of professional sports or any other business for that matter – want to continue their era greatness (or begin one), the employees would be wise to heed the advice of a man who understood what it took to galvanize a group, lead them into battle and come out victorious. It was the late Vince Lombardi who said:

“Try to be great athletes, but don’t forget to be great friends. Teammates, above all, and leaders.”

Random Reflections on Father’s Day 2016

Monday, June 20th, 2016

From a personal standpoint, this was the first Father’s Day for me in 28 years without at least one of our two boys present. Probably won’t be the last. Not complaining – just another difficult part of growing old even if that’s the way we planned life to work. Raise the kids, have them leave the house and make a successful life for themselves.

On to the NBA. Game 7 was a nail biter. It’s baffling beyond words as to why the first six were so lopsided. It’s not as if the players didn’t understand what was at stake until last night.

Although the Warriors were obviously not at full strength (Bogut, Ezeli, Barnes and especially Curry – it wasn’t that he was missing shots, it was how badly he was missing them, including bricks and air balls seldom seen during the year), all with major or minor injuries – that should never be brought up because of the good fortune that shone on them last year.

Turning point of the series was Draymond Green and his inability to control his emotions. To me there is little to no doubt that, had Green played in Game 5 in Oakland, with his team up 3-1 and the Cavs devastated after being so dominant in Game 3, there would be a parade in the Bay Area in the near future. However, if any of his teammates had “brought it” to Game 7 like Green did, the Warriors would be back-to-back champs. 32 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists is a monster game from their third option and should certainly should have been enough to win.

Forget the idea of James baiting Green to throw a punch south of the equator so he’d be suspended. The 2016 Finals MVP was simply frustrated that, after such a beat-down they placed on the Dubs in Game 3, that his bunch were going to lose at home, go down 3-1 and have to win three straight, two of them in Oakland (after not coming close in Games 1 or 2) to claim “one for the ‘Land.”

If Harrison Barnes wants a max contract, he must have faith that some NBA front office didn’t watch the Finals. It’s hard to claim you’re a max player when, as a #4 option, you play as badly as he did. Maybe a bad ankle was to blame but, only in the NBA would somebody be able to turn down a $65+ million offer, put on such a bad performance and still wind up with a multi-year contract at $20M/per. Yet, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if a franchise offered him just that. If multi-million and multi-billion dollar owners made decisions for their companies the way they do for their toys franchises, they’d never be in the position they were in to be able to purchase them in the first place. Barnes might be a Kevin Love type – put up big numbers for a losing squad.

Key play last night was LeBron James running down and blocking a sure layup by Andre Iguodala. It’s a remarkable talent of LeBron’s, one we’ve seen again and again but, while most players don’t have the jumping or timing skills he does, a major part of the skill is that it’s all-out effort - something anybody can do.

Forget the idea of Golden State’s pursuit of the Bulls record wearing down the defending champs. In many of those games, the main characters didn’t play the whole fourth quarter. Other games were like the Globbies and the Washington Generals. So, unless someone in the medical field comes out and says that Curry (or others) sustained an injury in a late season game, suck it up and congratulate the new champions.

A valid point, however, is this fact: Cleveland breezed through the Eastern Conference Playoffs (two sweeps and a less difficult than it seemed 4-2 beating of Toronto) while the Warriors swept no one and needed a super human performance from Klay Thompson just to advance to the Finals. Mentally and physically, after an 82 game season (plus exhibitions), nothing is more welcome than an easy path to the Finals.

Something we’ll never know but a lot of people (majority?) feel: Had Oklahoma City beat the Warriors, that parade would have been in oil country.

Kudos to Ty Lue and Steve Kerr for the honest, forthright comments they made in the all the post game press conferences, actually explaining answers to difficult questions, as opposed to the politically correct BS we hear from other coaches and players.

The best NBA regular season ever – winning 73 of 82 games (nearly 90%) should not be dismissed by anyone – unless those people can illustrate that they went through the same amount of time “winning” 90% of whatever it is they do. Including talk show hosts and their callers whose main message is, “The 73 game record means nothing. The simple fact is the Warriors just didn’t finish the job.” Compare their entire season to your own. How do they match up? And, consider, no one is playing defense against you.

No doubt who was going to be voted Finals MVP – whichever team won. It’s doubtful we’ll ever again see anyone lead a Finals in every statistical category: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.  That said, no one should forget that the same feeling existed after the regular season – or that that MVP voting was unanimous for very similar reasons.

Idiocy was on display but not in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The USGA is a laughing stock. In this day and age of technology, their officials told Dustin Johnson, a guy who hadn’t won a major – and gave away (OK choked away) last year’s U.S. Open – that he might be assessed a penalty stroke for something that should have been easily dismissed since he had nothing to do with his ball moving. In no other sport does an official go up to a player during the sporting event and say about a ruling:

“We’ll get back to you.”

What Did NBA Game 6 Tell the World?

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Before last night, fans of the NBA had a multitude of feelings about Steph Curry (and the Golden State  Warriors). A majority of them were positive. Those same fans had just as many feelings about LeBron James (and the Cleveland Cavaliers). A majority of them weren’t so.

Curry had the reputation of the quiet baby-faced assassin, oh-so-cool and clutch under fire; his Dubs were a team in the truest sense of the word, an unselfish passing and cutting squad who worked together as a well-oiled unit.

James’ character was always under scrutiny, incredibly skilled but with a proficiency of coming up short, especially in big games; his Cavs a group of talented individuals with little chemistry who, when the heat was on, resorted to “hero ball.”

So what happened in Cleveland yesterday? LeBron matched his unbelievable 41-point performance in Game 5, added 8 rebounds, 11 assists, with only one turnover while shooting nearly 60% from the floor (50% from three) and 75% from the line. From the 5:00 mark of the third quarter to 4:22 of the fourth, he accounted for 27 straight Cavalier points (scored or assisted). When he was subbed for an ovation, rather than heading directly to the bench, he went over and shook hands with each of the five Cavaliers who were entering the game.

Meanwhile, Steph did score 30 points, but had only one assist (unacceptable for a point guard), fouled out, added a technical foul on top of his sixth and was ejected (for the first time in his career). To cap off an unforgettable evening, he threw his mouthpiece (which hit a fan) and dropped a few obscenities on the referee to boot. (He did apologize to the fan).

After Game 6 we learned that it’s possible in a six-game series, in which no game was decided by single digits, that the two teams’ total number of points can be exactly the same (610 a piece). How does something like this occur?

I have absolutely no idea but, regarding the two observations on the superstars, here’s what fans learned from Game 6:

“1) That Steph Curry is human (and has emotions)

and

2) That LeBron James might not be human (and has his emotions completely under control).”

Did Harrison Barnes Hurt His Free Agent Chances?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

With the NBA Finals going back and forth in a big way (there hasn’t been a single digit victory all series), the one characteristic that’s mandatory is the ability to not overreact. But that’s only for players and coaches of the participating teams. For talking heads and their callers, overreacting is a way of life. It began during the prior series when the Oklahoma City Thunder went up 3-1 against the defending champion Warriors and prediction of the Dubs’ demise was heard in earnest. Somehow they came back to beat OKC and the “best team of all-time” chant began to heat up again. Then the Finals started with a home team sweep of the first two games in Oakland and the chatter escalated to sizzling levels.

However, after Game 3 ended and the Cavs blew out their rivals – to the tune of 120-90 – there was a complete 180 attitude adjustment from the same people (or maybe the rivals of those who had been calling in). Cleveland had “figured it out” said some of the hosts and more of those jokers who phone in. All claimed the Cavs would be crowned as champions – maybe as soon as three more games. One would think sanity would return when the Dubs prevailed in Game 4 but, nooooo, it just flipped. “Warriors in five” was so obvious because . . . well, whatever the reasons were after Game 2.

Yesterday, my blog was about the choice Harrison Barnes would most likely face following the season. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine (who’s an NBA assistant) and I had a discussion about upcoming NBA free agency. When Barnes’ name came up, my comment was he was in a great place, playing for a solid, championship franchise with a modern-thinking owner (who, in all likelihood will continue to keep the Warriors in contention) and that Barnes would be wise to re-sign with his club (for the 4-year, 16.4 million/year the club offered him). My buddy said there was no chance of that happening because he was going to get a max contract from somebody. (Also, the Warriors could match any offer made by another team, even though that would give them four guys with sky high salaries). My retort was, “I’m not so sure he could be that type of player. Do you think he’s a max player?” His reply was that it didn’t matter because somebody was going to offer him max money. Probably more than one club, too.

My post yesterday pointed out the pluses and minuses of Harrison Barnes staying with Golden State or taking a max deal and ran the gamut of issues from having fun, making plenty and being an integral part of a potential dynasty to taking even more money, being the face of franchise and giving himself a chance to realize individual goals he may have set for himself at an early age.

Barnes certainly has the ability to be that go-to guy, somebody who can be a centerpiece of a team. For the Warriors, his role is the guy who usually makes timely baskets, plays solid defense, rebounds and, mainly, helps the team win. 73 games this season and, quite possibly, another NBA Championship. Every so often, he stuffed a stat sheet and showed the innate talent he’s capable of, put on a display that would open eyes of people who were used to seeing huge games from only Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and, occasionally, Draymond Green. That’s when the wheels in the heads of scouts and execs would turn and they’d visualize Barnes having games like no other player in their franchise could do.

If ever there was a time the Warriors needed Barnes to raise his game, it was during last night’s Game 5 when his team was without Green (due to his suspension). Unfortunately, he was a no-show. My friend and I spoke again after the game.

When a franchise has to invest that much money in somebody, I asked, would a performance like that have any effect? My buddy had a good answer:

“Don’t overreact.”

 

 

 

Harrison Barnes Might Be Faced with a Big Decision

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Unless they have an unprecedented collapse which, holding a 3-1 lead and having as much talent as they do seems beyond impossible (even without Draymond Green for Game 5), the Golden State Warriors are about to put Charles Barkley on his knees. That’s an(other) event that would sell out Oracle. It all started when, after winning it all last season, Sir Charles admitted the Warriors were the NBA champions – but with a caveat. Along with others who refused to believe a team could win a championship using an offense which had as its main weapon the three-ball, Barkley told Warriors’ fans to temper their enthusiasm for their newly crowned champs because not one opponent they faced throughout the 2015 playoffs was at full strength. If they did it this year, Barkley stated, he would get on his knees and apologize to Warrior Nation. Will Barkley begrudgingly admit these Dubs are the beginning of a, dare it be said, dynasty?

A reason to believe the “D” word can be mentioned is their core players are young. Klay Thompson and Green are locked up for multiple years. Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala are signed for next year at $11M plus each. Steph Curry is as well (at a little over $12M) but, when his contract is up and it’s time for a new one to be negotiated, the term “money is no object” will be heard from everyone in the Bay Area – and if there ever was a player who deserved a max contract, the Baby-faced Assassin is that guy. The one vital piece to, if not a dynasty then at least continuity, is Harrison Barnes. Earlier in the season, contract terms broke off between Barnes and the franchise. Actually, between Barnes’ representatives and the Warriors.

The contract that the Warriors reportedly offered Barnes is a four-year extension at approximately $16.4 million per year. Barnes, and/or his reps, are looking for a $20+ million/year deal. One decision, which is out of Barnes’ hands, is that, even if another team offers a max deal to the young small forward, the Warriors have the option to match it. Do that and everything else is moot.

However, if Barnes does have a choice, it won’t be an easy one (for him, the agent gets 4% – and 4% of a ton of money is more than 4% of not quite a ton of money). For the sake of argument, let’s say Golden State decides that the highest they want to go is four years and $16.4 million (after back-to-back championships, everybody feels they should get paid – a lot more than they were) and another NBA team, desperate for a “face” (especially one of someone with not only talent but character) offers (to keep the years equal) four years @$20M/year. Assume that as much as they want to, the Warriors don’t feel it’s prudent to match. What would be the thought process for Harrison Barnes?

Some people (led by Warriors’ fans) will say that money isn’t everything, that he’s a central figure, and a perfect fit, on a team poised for a three-peat (then the talk of “best team ever” gain a lot more credence). And who’s to say they have to stop at three? When LeBron moved to Miami, he initial spoke of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 . . . Dare the Warriors dream that high? There’s no reason to think Barnes wouldn’t improve the next few years and being a starter and major contributor on a team for the ages is quite a nice legacy. Plus, a guy ought to be able to live quite comfortably on $65.6M – and he’d be only 28 when his next contract comes up.

What also needs to be taken into account is something that few players consider (two exceptions being Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan) and that is their mental health, i.e how much fun it is coming to “work” every day, how the guys all seem to get along with each other and the coaches. Like family. Look around the league (or down at the other bench tonight). That doesn’t seem to be the case in too many places. Being the max player on the squad carries a huge burden. The team is paying for max production – every night. That goes for their fans and media as well. Even though, every time the lights turn on, opponents are game planning against you. Independent of whatever team Barnes would sign with, it wouldn’t be as good as the one he’s leaving and, chances are, it might not just be worse but a lot worse. In a best case scenario he’d probably wind up like Paul George, a sensational player, but one who leads a team that has to scrap to finish fourth or fifth in the conference.

Most likely his game would improve – but would it be good enough to keep disgruntled fans and media members from criticizing the franchise for giving max money to a guy who was a just complementary player on championship teams? Not to mention what all the cowards would have to say on talk shows and social media. Especially if the analytics said you were to blame or your production caused some wannabe to lose in his fantasy league. Some of that money would have to be spent on purchasing thick skin.

Now for the flip side. There would be plenty to spend on thick skin. The big money – a difference of $3.6M/year or a total of $14.4M – is a whole lot of dough to, as the saying in the NBA goes, “leave on the table.” If you don’t think so, ask his agent (who stands to lose over half a mil over the term of such a contract). If he wants to be “The Man,” moving and being the face of a team is what most every player of Barnes’ skill level dreams of. Being in that multi-year, $20M/per category separates a guy from the majority of the others in the NBA.

There’s also something most people haven’t thought of, simply because there’s no reason to have it cross the average person’s mind. Harrison Barnes was a highly regarded prospect. He was Mr. Basketball in Iowa and went to the University of North Carolina where he was ACC Rookie of the Year and second team all-conference his first season, first team all-ACC his second (and last). He was the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft. All this he accomplished by the age of 20. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if a player of that prowess doesn’t have dreams – dreams of being an All-Star (chances are pretty remote of achieving that goal if he stays with Golden State), of being one of the top five three-men in NBA history (if not higher) or of being the top dog on an NBA Championship squad. Pretty lofty goals but “from whom much is given, …”

With a person of his character (it was reported he had his first sip of alcohol when he tasted champagne at the post game celebration last season) and his skill set, he would be a PR director’s dream. He already is for Golden State but the question remains:

“Will he consider that to be rewarding enough?”

 

Five Years Later, the Problem Still Exists

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

What follows is a blog I posted five years ago – to the day. Other than my man, John Welch, having moved to a couple of other NBA franchises, this situation exists today as it did then. And isn’t getting any better.

Hall-of-Fame coach Larry Brown used to say high school coaching is the purest form of teaching the game of basketball. In California, high school coaches are allowed to work with their players year round. While this can be an invaluable time for coaches and their teams, overzealous members of the profession can, unwittingly, cross the line and put undue pressure on their players – and themselves.

It’s June and every weekend there are tournaments (whether high school or AAU) in which teams can play up to six-eight games.  My philosophy has always been that when kids are in the gym, they don’t get into trouble. Recently, I spoke with John Welch, an assistant with the Denver Nuggets (and with whom I served on Jerry Tarkanian’s Fresno State staff). John is a true basketball junkie, known to those in the business as “Johnny Workout.” He has strong feelings about kids playing too much. Too much five-on-five, that is. John, as well as many other coaching “lifers,” sees two problem areas. One is not enough attention to fundamentals. The other, a real bone of contention with Welch, is that kids don’t play enough one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three.

John’s belief, shared by many other veterans in the business, is that kids learn much better how to play when fewer guys are involved. Young guys playing five-on-five can hit a jumper, leak out for a breakaway layup and hit another shot during the course of the game, then “hide” – and think they played well. Fewer guys in the game force kids to be more active participants – in pick and roll situations, help and recover, understanding offensive spacing, etc.

Another issue with five-on-five is that it’s a game - meaning score is kept. Sure, score is also a factor in three-on-threes, etc. but there’s one difference: coaches aren’t involved. Last night, a few of us “dinosaurs” watched high school competition and saw a varying amount of “coaching intensity”- ranging from some coaches encouraging to others enraged. Somewhere, someone made the claim that losing is unacceptable – ever! – when individual player improvement should be the ultimate goal of the off-season.

The “win-win-win” adage was adopted by a few coaches, some of which became extremely successful. My feeling is that these coaches would have been successful anyway – without the excessive pressure these spring and summer games inflict upon teenagers. Yet, due to this desire to excel, too many coaches are coaching like the outcomes actually mean something – and, unknowingly, burning out their most valuable assets.

The consensus among the group I was with is that:

“The only coaches in the country who need to be stressing this late into June are the staffs of the (two teams still playing).”

Game 4 Wrap Up

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

After hearing the Chicken Little prophecy of the Warriors being exposed – and, after the Cavs, who now had the formula to beat the defending champs, won again, how all the pressure would be on the Dubs, the NBA world has U-turned back and it looks like there will be a repeat champ. Chauncey Billups made this point: the Warriors have about four two-way players (good offensively and defensively), while the Cavs have only one.

Luke Walton must have forgotten that his head coaching gig doesn’t begin until next season, picking up a technical foul at the end of the half – on a call that showed the officials were wrong. But an assistant coach needs to, as the current saying goes, “stay in his lane.” Judging from the Lakers’ roster, there will plenty to get frustrated about next season. The NBA coffers will be overflowing if Walton brings that act south.

At halftime, Jalen Rose proclaimed Kyrie Irving, who did have a marvelous opening 24 minutes, was playing like Uncle Drew (referring to the old commercial). It was almost like somebody went and told Irving because he played the second half as he did in the commercial. He, alone, could handle everything (on the offensive end). He reverted to going one-on-one (“hero ball” as the TNT guys call it) and the Cavs’ offense became his high- (and low-) light show. Too often, low.

The Cavs had entirely too many missed assignments on defense. This can happen to any team but against the Warriors, the penalty is so severe (usually, resulting in a made three). You know they had a great defensive game plan and that plan was not to leave Curry or Thompson open. All series the Cleveland defense had done such a great job of “staying connected” to the Splash Brothers, giving them no room, limiting their touches and contesting every shot. Not so last night, as the two guards combined for 11 made threes, many practice Js.

Sports commentators, be they former professional players or simply professional journalists, analyze the action and players’ performances, pointing out the good and bad. What separates Stephen A. Smith from his colleagues is that his style is more spewing hatred and disgust toward guys when they don’t perform as he believes they should, almost as if he is personally offended by what they did on the floor. Maybe he’s just more passionate about his livelihood and how the game is played.

Tristan Thompson did a sensational job on the offensive glass (especially in the first half) but he showed some remarkable ability when he was matched up defensively against Curry on the perimeter. His one-on-one defensive prowess were something not often seen by a big man against a guard. Especially considering which guard he was facing.

It is absolutely amazing the information Brian Windhorst, aka “The LeBron Whisperer” gives the world. How he has the access he has is nothing short of miraculous (sure, they went to the same high school – but not at the same time). He’s known around the league as LeBron’s guy, yet he’ll make negative comments about King James. Often what he says isn’t so much negative as it is personal. The fact that he was the one who showed the video replay of the dust up between James and Draymond Green near the end of the contest (when he and LeBron were the last two people in the Cavs’ locker room), sharing the fact the two of them (James & Green) share a business interest. Windhorst refused to say what LeBron’s reply was after watching it, claiming it was private between them.

Also, with so many players and coaches being so diplomatic in their responses, it was shocking Windhorst told the viewers that LeBron looked despondent after the game and was at odds with Kyrie Irving, in that the latter strayed from the game plan (see above comment).

Regarding the James-Green “disagreement,” it was interesting to hear some commentators speak of LeBron stepping over Draymond as the ultimate show of disrespect, while others thought the fault lie with Green for taking a shot at his privates (as if he needed another one of those incidents to be added to his resume) and whatever unbecoming, personal comments he made subsequent to the act.

In the end, it appears to a basketball fan that the Warriors are the more talented squad but, more than that, they are the more disciplined club.

After Golden State’s performance in Game 3, Steve Kerr made the statement that his team was “soft.” At last night’s press conference, when asked about that comment, Kerr stated that one of his team’s problems is that they couldn’t handle prosperity. That reminded me of the following quote:

“Most people can’t handle prosperity. Then again, most people don’t have to.”

Anonymous Sources, 24 Hour Coverage, “New” Brand of Media

Friday, June 10th, 2016

While I don’t know for certain how many times in this blog space I’ve mentioned my disdain for people who feel the need to become “secret informants” on topics from petty to vital, rest assured the number approaches double figures. What would possess people to seek, or allow themselves to be cornered, by a media member who is out to further his career? Whether it’s information on a potential trade, which coach is about to be hired (or fired) or simple gossip in a locker room – especially when the last one directly follows devastating loss?

The reason can’t be fame because the deal is they must remain anonymous so fame is the last thing they want. I doubt it’s money because what’s usually revealed is of little value. What gets scooped never really even seems to be of any great importance. Maybe it’s a quid pro quo, i.e. the guy spilling his guts to acquire a chit that can be called in later, for . . . what? Help with procuring a job? Exposing somebody who did them wrong? Unloading frustration? So if some person happens to be one of the “lucky” ones who gains the confidence of a media member, or if that person is foolish enough to be duped into disclosing information that would be better left in house, who wins?

The fact that none of the Denver Broncos players leaked Peyton Manning’s retirement announcement (he’d let his teammates know that he had made the decision to retire prior to going public with it) is one of the great team accomplishments of all-time, possibly ranking behind only the University of Missouri’s football team keeping Michael Sam’s sexual proclivity quiet until Sam decided it was time to tell the world.

An opposite example would be Game 6 of the Western Conference Playoffs. Oklahoma City was up 3-2 with a home game looming against the defending champion Golden State Warriors – the team they’d thrashed in taking a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series – the winner to undoubtedly play the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA Championship. The Warriors won at home but had to go to OKC for Game 6. Everybody knew the joint would be rocking and the champagne on ice.

The Thunder were ahead and their future looked bright until a collapse of epic proportions in the last few minutes of the contest. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, whom most would consider the main reasons the club made it that far, played poorly, especially the former, whom the Warriors couldn’t keep out of the paint throughout the series. ESPN’s supersleuth, Chris Broussard, who prides himself on being a true NBA insider, reported after the game that a player/some players/all the other players felt the two stalwarts cost them the game and, thus, a spot in the Finals (and while we’re pointing fingers, probably the Larry O’Brien Trophy).

“As far as their own stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder felt like they were playing to protect the lead in the fourth quarter, whereas the Warriors were playing to win,”  were the words of Broussard. With that, and other comments he obtained from disgruntled Thunder players, a few questions come to mind:

“How much cooperation from Westbrook and Durant does Broussard ever expect to get from here on out?’

“Will the Thunder ever again allow Broussard to talk to players without having someone from the team present at the dialogue?”

“After his report, would anyone but a malcontent ever want to have a conversation with Chris Broussard?”