The late, great Detroit Pistons head coach Chuck Daly once asked his team if they could deal with prosperity in a huddle during their third consecutive trip to the Finals; this one vs. the Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trail Blazers.
Daly, considered less a greaseboard wizard and more a personalities tactician who was so deft in his dealings with multimillionaires in short pants that he, not the coach of the 1991 NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson, was tabbed to manage and guide the greatest roster of sporting talent ever assembled, The Dream Team, for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
There would only be one Dream Team ever.
And the squad to whom Daly posited his query was on its last legs after winning back to back titles.
Those teams were anomalies, however.
Many a great team had fallen prey to an endemic best described by an all-time great NBA coach: Pat Riley.
The Disease Of More rears its head in the Riley tome, Showtime, where he asserts that “success is often the first step toward disaster.”
As an assistant coach who earned a ring in 1980 with the Los Angeles Lakers, Riley noted a marked shift in priorities and attitude within the squad as a result of gaining the title.
Everyone wanted more: money, court time, endorsements, invites to the Playboy Mansion.
If the phrase “There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’ had a home, it was probably in L.A. after the 1980 season.
The Lakers were caught up, either by choice or by the blinding glare of increased recognition, and now the merits of unity took a back seat to personal desires.
Needless to say, those Lakers didn’t make it back to the Finals in 1981.
“The Most Difficult Thing For Players To Do When They Become Part Of A Team Is To Sacrifice.
It Is Much Easier, And Much More Natural, To Be Selfish.”
– Pat Riley
Today is my parents’ 47th wedding anniversary.
Never really asked why they got married on Dad’s sister’s birthday, but today is her special day as well.
Though My Dear Ol’ Dood (Bless The Dead) isn’t here to be apart, I know he is in spirit.
Moms won’t ever marry again, but it blows my mind that my folks are approaching fifty years together… kinda.
Though he’s been gone for seventeen years now, his urn sits in the living room and the essence of the man still permeates their home.
Known each other since they were thirteen.
They knew right then.
That was It.
Her and Him. Him and Her.
In the midst of their thirty years of marriage prior to his passing, the longevity of their union must have produced all kinds of joy and pain, acceptance and surrender, ups and downs, elation and heartache.
Some sacrifice, too.
Never understood what it meant for him to join the Army when I was a young teen in order to make a better life for us. I always thought it was about boredom with his work and getting his kids away from streets that were doing more than just watching.
As a parent in trying urban environs, it would seem the desire to craft a life for your youngins greater than the one you led as a child would have been the Gift and the Curse.
In the arms race to get ahead, could you lose your truest identity as a result?
It would be easy bake to push the panic button because the Cleveland Cavaliers sit in a virtual tie for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, even dropping to second place briefly for the first time since November 2015.
But after getting recently cooked by the San Antonio Spurs, languishing near the very bottom of the Association in defensive efficiency and looking disinterested in the regular season while pining a bit too soon for the playoffs to begin, the Cavs don’t seem to possess the disposition of a championship level squad right now.
The grind of another 100-plus game campaign is real.
The mettle it takes to maintain over that time is as intensely mental if not more so than physical. Injuries have determined every title in NBA history. Injuries have been big part of the Cavaliers season, in particular, the extended absences of Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.
In order to maintain consistency as a unit very basic steps must be followed:
Where most fail is the follow through.
“It’s Much Harder To Keep A Championship Than To Win One…
You Can’t Rely On The Same Drive That Makes People Climb Mountains For The First Time; Winning Isn’t New Anymore.”
– Bill Russell
There is a level of indifference to detail, instead of attention, present in Cleveland that may be difficult to overcome.
This indifference could create a danger to the Natural Order of Things, where fans, rabid and causal alike, wait to see the best face the best to unlock their stalemate in NBA Finals wins.
Instead of staying true and consistent to the things they did to get to the title, it appears the Cavaliers believe it is a given to achieve that same success without the same desire, effort or focus.
The margin for error becomes slimmer without team discipline and the ability to flip the switch when it counts most may not be readily available without adherence to habit.
The Burden of Leadership is a hell of cross to bear; it ain’t for e’rybody.
But it is a burden LeBron James has earned the right to hold.
In vacillating between ranting for bodies and better bench production, cajoling elite level effort from his team and understanding when it’s best not to further fray nerves with scathing critiques, James’ ability to take the temperature of his squad while putting the ‘b’ in ‘subtle’ is key.
Management of all of the voices and potential doubt in the locker room is a sign of growth and experience from a man who is threatening to take his team to a seventh straight Finals.
But are you convinced yet?
Winning is a habit.
The process of sustaining a winning mentality is habit forming.
Some call consistency boring and logical.
Those generally labeling consistency as such clearly lack the vision, steadfastness and strength it takes to be boring and consistent like the Spurs or in the NFL, the New England Patriots.
But, in the oddest of ways, could ‘boring and logical’ also apply to the 2016-2017 Cavaliers, who proved last season in the most historic of fashions that they play best with their backs against the wall?
In the Cavs’ case, injuries, severe brain cramps and roster rotation inconsistencies before the real season begins could be a good thing.
The drama, perceived dysfunction and intrigue that have surrounded James and his teams basically since he has been part of the National Basketball Association might quite naturally end up being his unique version of boring, logical… and consistent somehow.
Will the Cavaliers be healthy, mentally prepared and in tune with one another to be ready for the playoff grind against hungrier foes in the Eastern Conference?
Or will they succumb to the disease that has plagued so many before them?
My son’s mother got married recently. I am happy for her and her spouse, too.
Dammit, now their anniversary will be in March as well.
My family pre-Christmas playoffs are just warming up now, threatening my gift budget.
I wonder what my Dear Ol’ Dood would be doing for his anniversary with Moms were he alive today.
It’s hard for me to even fathom forty-seven years of anything with anyone.
I honour them. I salute them. I love them.
Some players… some teams… some coaches, just like my parents, or so it would seem, are cut from a different cloth… even have different tailors as well.
Those who fully understand what it takes to not only win, but sustain, adhere to one simple mantra:
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work.
Perhaps the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, despite all of the hand wringing and worry outside of the locker room, will recognize and realize the opportunity to do their part in the drama to make history with the Golden State Warriors as the first teams to face one another in three consecutive NBA Finals…
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
Something Out of Nothing
It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.
We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.
Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.
It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.
We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.
I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.
Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.
The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).
Stay tuned, because it’s not over.
Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?
Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.
Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.
Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.
Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting.
These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA:
- 14.6 Points
- 7.6 Assists
- 6.0 Rebounds
- 1.8 Steals
- 0.8 Blocks
- 55.1 FG%
- 41.2 3P%
He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.
Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.
He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.
|2012||Damian Lillard (co-MVPs)||PG||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Josh Selby (co-MVPs)||PG||Memphis Grizzlies|
|2013||Jonas Valančiūnas||C||Toronto Raptors|
|2014||Glen Rice Jr.||SG||Washington Wizards|
|2015||Kyle Anderson||SF||San Antonio Spurs|
|2016||Tyus Jones||PG||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|2017||Lonzo Ball||PG||Los Angeles Lakers|
With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.
The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.
Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.
If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
Trading Places | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Christmas Day Showdowns | The Break | Episode 10
Western Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 1
Eastern Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 2
NBA & More Mailbag with Josh Howe — TWT 102
Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101
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Something Out of Nothing
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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
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