The Joy of the Warriors

Chris Paul is back from an injury just in time to give James Harden a rest from taking 30 shots a game for the Rockets. I tuned into a Rockets game and they have the most predictable offense in the NBA.

If Harden brings the ball down, he performs some fancy dribbling well out past the 3-point line. Sometimes he can beat his man to the basket, but he’s often looking for the foul. He’s an amazing talent, but he’s the biggest ball hog we’ve seen since Kobe retired.

Occasionally Chris Paul brings the ball up the court. He’s more likely to pass the ball, but he too will dribble around trying to get to his spots for an easy jumper. Both Paul and Harden are rare talents who can get their shots most of the time.

But I can’t imagine it’s very fun playing on the Rockets unless your name is Paul or Harden. Contrast the way the Rockets play to that of the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors have three of the best players in the game: Curry, Durrant, and Thompson. Curry and Durrant could get a shot every time down the court, Yet both are fantastic passers. Not only are they great passers, but they genuinely enjoy getting their teammates involved in the game.

The Warriors unselfish plays make for a much more entertaining game of basketball because you never know where the ball is going. When your star players are unselfish it becomes contagious with the rest of the team. While the Rockets are built to get Harden and Paul a shot each time down the court, the Warriors are built so that every player on the court can pass or score.

Other teams are trying to replicate what the Warriors have assembled, but it’s not easy to do. The Warriors have won 3 NBA Championships in the past 4 years so their approach to the game is working. But it still takes the right players buying into the coach’s philosophy of unselfish play.

It makes me wonder why any player would leave the Warriors to play for another team?

Lance

From Esquire article on Lance Armstrong:

Never the most expressive person, Armstrong was awkward with other cancer patients at first, but he developed a practical approach. He would tell them to fight for better treatment, to insist on the best doctors, and to be ready to go to war with insurance companies. He would tell them to forget God and focus on good science, which made some people uncomfortable, but in this as in everything he would not be restrained.

Link to full article. 

The Best Half Inning of Baseball

A year earlier I had moved from Utah to Seattle to enjoy the first full season of Major League Baseball. During the fifth and deciding game of the ALDS I found myself in a hotel room with my friend and his parents cheering on Griffey and the gang on a 20-inch TV.

That night I would lose my voice, but add a sports memory that hasn’t been surpassed in 20 years. The Seahawks winning the Super Bowl last year comes close. But this game and those leading up to it were magical.

Here’s the bottom half of the 9th inning. The Mariner’s are down a run, and facing Jack McDowell of the Yankees. Cora’s bunt and then avoiding the tag at first is one of the most athletic plays you’ll ever see.

”Griffey….is coming around….” still gives me chills.

Ray Allen on Preparation

From the Miami Herald:

"Believe it or not, I work on it quite often," said Allen, who finished Miami’s 103-100 Game 6 Houdini act victory against San Antonio with 9 points, including two critical free throws in overtime. "I try to put my body in precarious situations coming from different parts of the floor, different angles to try to get my momentum going forward.”

"When it went in, I was ecstatic," he added. "But at the same time I was expecting to make it."

The Big Fundamental

Mysterious, Wise and at Peace: Duncan is just Duncan from Joe Posnanski at NBC Sports:

Layup lines don’t end. They dissolve, like rock-and-roll bands. One guy decides to go solo and get his own basketball, another takes a long three-pointer instead of a layup, another refuses to chase the bouncing ball, and without any obvious transition the layup drill becomes a shoot-around with everyone doing their own thing.

Everyone, that is, except Tim Duncan.

He goes to the ball rack and gets three basketballs, which he promptly dishes out to three teammates. He then stands underneath the basket and rebounds his teammates’ shots. They are all shooting, all the Spurs, except Duncan. He grabs a rebound, looks for a teammate without a ball, and passes it to him. Again. Again. You keep waiting for him to take his own shot, but he doesn’t. Duncan is joined in the lane by a ballboy and a Spurs attendant of some sort. Basketballs ricochet and carom and bounce around them like popping kernels of popcorn, and they chase. Of the three, Duncan is the most enthusiastic. He acts like it is his life’s dream to retrieve balls for his teammates.

A Spectacular Move

Although I had homework to do it was the NBA finals and Tivo hadn’t been invented yet. So I ran home from University of Utah library just in time to catch Michael Jordan the Bulls take on Magic and the Lakers.

I did own a VCR in which I put a blank tape in and hit record before settling down on my couch. The game wasn’t all that interesting except the Lakers had shocked the Bulls taking game 1 in Chicago putting the pressure on the Bulls to win game 2 given the next three games would be played in Los Angeles.

But with about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter and the Bulls up by 24,  AC Green missed a shot that ended up in Scottie Pippen’s hands who dropped it off for Jordan. Jordan dribbled up the court before flicking the ball to Cliff Levinston who takes a single dribble before passing the ball back to Jordan just outside the foul line.

And then spectacular happened.

I sprang off my couch to get a closer look at what I just saw. Are you kidding me? I fumbled for the remote to the VCR and watched it again. And then again and again and again.  I must have watched that 20 second stretch at least two dozen times.

I know what I saw: Jordan takes one dribble at the foul line, elevates as if he’s going to throw the ball down with his right hand. Then, at the last second, moves the ball to his left hand and gives the ball just enough English to bank it in off the square.

My eyes saw it but my mind could not comprehend it.

That was 20 years ago and it’s still the most spectacular shot I’ve ever seen.

The Joy of Baseball

“The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.”Bryant Gumbel

My son nudged me while I sat at my computer. I looked up to see him wearing the black baseball pants and socks I bought him last weekend. He also wore the hat his grandfather gave him;  the bill worked in just so.

Baseball brings back so many good memories. Like the time I smacked the ball over the outfielders head in t-ball for a certain home run but was called out when I failed to touch home plate. Or learning to spit sunflower seeds or spending hours playing catch with my dad until my hand hurt.

No other sport has planted itself in my memory like baseball. It’s the only sport where the equipment I used nearly 30 years ago, still means something, or the reason I’ve watched the Moneyball trailer at least 150 times.

Lincoln was heading off to his first baseball practice and he wanted my help tying his cleats. He pulled up a chair, and I slid his new black Nikes onto his feet and cinched up the laces. I showed him how to store his batting glove in his back pocket.

Of course, he was full of questions:

Why is being left-handed an advantage in baseball?

Why do baseball players chew sunflower seeds?

How do I throw a curve ball?

How long is one inning?

What position should I play?

I answered a few and left some for him to find the answers to. The strategy and unwritten rules of baseball are a major component of its enjoyment, and I want him to discover that on his own, just like my father allowed me to do.

I wasn’t able to attend his first practice, and honestly, wasn’t sure how much he’d enjoy a sport where there’s a fair amount of standing around waiting for the next pitch or batter. I explained to him that baseball isn’t like soccer or basketball where you’re always on the move and involved in dozens of plays each game.

Any worries I held disappeared shortly after he returned from practice with a smile on his face and a dozen more questions.

I didn’t tell him that the sunflower seeds were the only thing that kept me awake during games when I played center field and our best pitcher was on the mound.