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What my musings are all about...

Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.

The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.

The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.

Monday, January 12, 2015

NBA Review for the New Year

Looks as if Boston gave the Grizzles a New Year's present in Jeff Green, a very capable, border line All Star stretch forward/with power skills. For Dyshawn Prince? Definitely an upgrade. It gives the Griz fire power from angles they never had before. If Green pays off, and I can't imagine he won't, the Griz are going far in the playoffs. With the addition of Green, they're damn solid at every position, starter and backup. And they board and play tough D.

Rajon Rando make the Mavs a better team, not immediately but come March, watch out. They still might be a little thin off the bench come playoffs when things get nasty.

If Waiters can play some D, he' ll help the Thunder, but some intangible is missing from that team. It's not energy (a word I hate), perhaps a coherent offensive and defensive game plan. In my opinion, the team needs to incorporate some big-men-points into their offense (Adams and Ibaka). From my own experience as a player, it gets old if you're told to go out there and play D and grab rebounds and not have any touches. The Thunder needs to retool their philosophy.

Boy, was I wrong about the CAVS. But I'm not giving up on them. I watched them last night get absolutely whipped by the Kings, a team that is struggling to figure things out themselves, and I thought, they looked like a boat without a rudder, just going around any which way. I see no pattern, defensively or offensively. When James comes back, that will help, but its going to take a position by position overhaul to turn the season around. JR Smith? Really? Mosgov and Shumpert can help, but not without a plan.

Talk about being strong at every position, starters and off the benchers, the Golden State Warriors have got it covered. If all players are healthy, the Warriors bring five players of the bench that could be starters on at least four teams in the NBA whose names I'll not mention.

ERGO: To survive deep into the playoffs and/or to win the Championship, it is my belief a team must be solid at all positions ten players deep. There are other requirements, but personnel is a must. That means that bench players are not a huge drop-off from your starters.

Therein lies the problem for the Blazers, an excellent starting five (with Lopez), then a dramatic drop-off.
A team that could surprise in the first round like last year, but I doubt it.

The Clippers are 7 players strong. Not enough to take them too far into the playoffs. They may make it riding on their Four Horsemen: Paul, Griffen, Crawford, and Jordan. (If only Jordan could create a little offense?) Is Reddick or Barnes the fifth horseman? Maybe, maybe? Bench does not instill any confidence. A three point shooting backup center?

I'm a big Bulls fan, simply because I love teams that play tenacious and smart defense, but they too are thin off the bench. Butler, Gasol, Noah, Rose, Hinrich, Gibson, Brooks (meteoric right now, but capable of fizzling) and Mirotic. I've never been a Dunleavy fan. 

One has to believe that Pop has a strategy, so I'm predicting the Spurs will finish strong. Whether they win the Championship again, I think depends on getting all their players healthy by April. If that happens, the team is deep enough to do the job.

As much as I admire the Hawks, their bench is not dependable. Schroder is fine player but still a work in progress. Sefolosha can't produce any offense, and Antic is inconsistent. Inconsistency the rest of the way down the bench.

The Phoenix Suns is an interesting, go, go, go team. Mile D'Antoni would be proud of this offense. They're very deep. Their first round draft choice, Len, is starting to look like the real deal, so if he continues to grow as a player (able to produce some offense and block shots) and Plumlee can be a productive backup, that is cause some mayhem in the paint on D, the Suns with the firepower and speed they have could surprise the West.

The Wizards are also deep, but they can't quite match up player for player against some of the elite teams in the West. However, if a few of their players, like Seraphim, Butler, and Porter overachieve, they could win in the East. You have to have post strength to win in the playoff, and they do. Note, I didn't say height, but strength.

What is it about the Houston Rockets that doesn't quite measure up to Champions? On paper, they have 9 players that should be solid, but upon careful examination, are not. Smith is undependable and I'm not sure how smart. Pnikalau is inconsistent, Brewer runs hot and cold, So does Terry at his age. Harden doesn't play much D. Howard, given his physical talent, often under-produces. Beverly looks like a point guard, but really isn't. He should be coming off the bench. Montejunas is going to be an excellent power forward one of these days, but the Rockets miss Jones. Now, if the Mavs had signed Rondo??? With Beverly off the bench???? Oh, well, water under the Dallas Bridge.

If DeMar DeRozan returns, which it appears he will by February, the Toronto Raptors. With DeRozan back, the Raptors have seven excellent players. I worry about their bench and maybe shouldn't. For some reason, although he's playing well, I don't trust James Johnson's game. The same for Patrick Patterson, roaming too far away from the hoop where he could be of more use. Landry Fields is a question mark. What happened to his NY Knicks' game? And Hansbrough is a loose cannon. So, if my idea that you need solid at all positions both starter and benchers, I can't see the Raptors this year. Maybe next year if they can get their rookies Coboclo and Nogueira in some kind of shape. 

Anyone a horse racing fan? If you are, here's a sad poem about the sport of kings that made me think about athletes who play for the love of their sport, even though they know they're not going to be rewarded financially, who just keep trudging on, giving it their all. The poem was written by Ron Koertge.

A Jockey 

named Kovacs went down
at Pomona yesterday.
He was riding something
that was born to hold
one piece of paper
to another.

The crowd loves to hate
accidents and everybody
wanted to know who Ted 
Kovacs was. Like the
next winner, it was
a mystery.

This, then, is to set 
the record straight:
Ted Kovacs makes 14
thousand a year when
things go right.

His wife keeps a 
scrapbook that shows
the day he tripled,
the $9,000.00 Exacta
where he was second,
and all the times he
was in intensive care.

When he almost didn't make it,
the article ran to nearly
20 lines.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

As an Old Warrior, I can't begin to tell you how satisfying and fun it is watching the New Warriors. Taking a page out of the Spurs' book on how to play basketball properly and adding their own postscripts and addendum, the Warriors are showing the rest of the league what sharing the basketball and playing team D means to winning. It is significant that, while Stephen Curry and KlayThompson play crucial roles in terms of point production, the victories have a lot more to do with the rest of the players. This is best exemplified by the enthusiastic reaction of Curry and Thompson when they're resting and their replacements are doing well. For your stars to become the teams' best bench cheerleaders says a great deal about the Warriors' camaraderie. Let me repeat the word, CAMARADERIE - a spirited goodwill among friends and colleagues.
The word Chemistry belongs in a science lab.

I'm compelled to enumerate:

Draymond Green. I haven't seen a more productive undersized player since Adrian Dantley. Talk about mental toughness. Harrison Barnes keeps growing in all aspects of his game, that deadly corner three and lockdown defense for example. Can you imagine superstars like David Lee and Andre Iguodala on any
other NBA team giving up starting rolls to come off the bench for the good of the team? How about the Comeback Kid, Shaun Livingston, taking his comeback to a higher level?  Remember him in his rookie year with the Clippers - pure joy. And how about Mareese Speights, whose anguished facial expressions remind this writer of Job the Afflicted; can this solid defender, rebounder and sharp-shooter be the same Speights that was a less than effective journeyman in Cleveland? I'm particularly excited about the play of Justin Holiday. I remember watching him in the 2014 summer league and thinking, wow, this kid's got talent. Does his jumper remind anyone of KD's? Let's not forget the contribution of the swift defender Leandro Barbosa, ready in practice, ready to come off the bench to contribute a steal or a defensive stop. These are the Warrior Comrades that are winning right now. Waiting on the bench to make a significant contribution is Andrew Bogut, arguably the best passing center in the NBA, whose toughness, paint defense, shot-blocking, and passing may not be missed too much during the regular season, but will be crucial to how deep the Warriors go in the post season. I am not forgetting Festus Ezeli, a man who started playing basketball late, but whose back up role at center can't be overestimated. As he continues to grow and learn from Andrew Bogut, his minutes will increase as will his importance to the team, especially when protecting the paint becomes essential. Hats off to Brandon Rush and Ognjen Kuzmic; I'm guessing their contribution to the team takes place during practices, which does not lessen their importance to the health of the body of the team.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the coaches. Steve Kerr, the head coach and his top two assistants, Alvan Gentry and Ron Adams. I'm not sure how Kerr has managed in such a short time to bring these players into his field of dreams, his vision of teamwork, especially since he followed a charismatic coach and a winning season, but brought them together he has with a quiet verve and unflinching passion. (Loved those T's, Steve) And with the help of two solid assistants, Gentry working on offense and Adams working on defense. It is no cliche to say that a great symphonic orchestra is only as good as its conductor.

Since I'm talking hoops, let's leave the accomplishments of management for another blog. Suffice it to say it will be a complimentary blog. 

WELCOME TO THE NEW WARRIORS a team with glory waiting for them in June.

Here's a poem that comes to mind whenever I watch Stephen Curry shoot a basketball.

When I Got It Right   by  Carl Linder

The ball would lift
light as a wish,
gliding like a blessing
over the rim, pure,
or kissing off glass
into the skirt of net.
Once it began
I couldn't miss.
Even in the falling dark,
the ball, before it left
my hand, was pure.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hurrah for Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant nailed it. AUU basketball for youth stinks. Say Kobe, "Horrible, terrible, AAU basketball stupid. It doesn't teach our kids how to play the game at all. They (the kids) don't know the fundamentals of the game."

Last night I was witness to what Kobe was talking about. My wife and I drove to a mega-basketball venue called Courtside Palace where we paid ten bucks a person to watch her grandson. His team played four games in one day. We only watched two. The Courtside Palace is one of two huge AAU basketball arena next in the same area containing eight basketball courts, all of them in use. One team off, one team on. It's a supermarket of basketball. Teams come from a hundred mile radius to play against each other. The games have referees and coaches. The refs seem good enough. The coaching? That's another story. I watched horrified at the lack of fundamentals on display. There was plenty of fancy dribbling, (I hear you Kobe) most with little effect, lots of three point shooting, tons of turnovers, virtually no blocking off the boards, and defenses so porous that any player who put his head down and drove made it safely into the paint. Freethrow shooting was abysmal. Weakside defense was non existent.

From what I saw, it's clear that AAU youth basketball stresses playing games over teaching skills. Too bad for the future of American basketball. I'm nut sure parents understand what's happening to their children. They better listen to Kobe Bryant and call for some fundamental changes. But maybe that's unimportant to them. I saw lots of tall dads dreaming of college scholarship. Is that what this is all about?

High school coaches, what do you have to say about the AAU? Or doesn't it matter to you if these young kids come into your programs with zero fundamentals?

I found this strange little poem by Susan Bright about tennis but the message could be about all sports. What it says about young players is important.


            "If I played myself last year,
             I'd beat her."
                          - Martina Navratilova

I let roots pull foot tendons
until I am just about
I know what 
I can get away with.
When I am tired,
I stop.

The young ones
run circles around me,
seem translucent,
They do everything
make mistakes,
lack experience.

That is how I keep up
with them. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Few Year's End Comments Not in Any Order of Importance

Let's call it the way it is: Forty-Niners FIRE Jim Harbaugh. Now, where are they going to find a better coach? Dell Rio? Really???How about Rex Ryan??? Just kidding!!

There are some brilliant owners and GM's in professional sports, and there are some owners who need to enroll in developmentally disabled classes.

To which of the two categories will Pete D'Allesandro and Vivek Ranadive of the Sacramento Kings be consigned at the end of the day? Baring a miracle, firing Malone guaranteed the Kings will have a losing season. It's already started for those of you who didn't watch the Kings stink it up in Boston, Cousin's throwing a fit, in the midst of a general lack of defense, offense, assists, and rebounds.

Will the King's new coach be George Karl? If it's run and gun, management wants, he's their man. It sure ain't going to be Tyrone Corbin. Poor fellow. He's been set up to lose. In his heart, he's a defense first kind of coach, having come out of  Jerry Sloan's half-court, pick and roll system, now being asked to coach against his best instincts.It's a little like people who vote against their best self interest, just because they don't like the candidate.

Great to see Patty Mills back and playing like he was never out. Two Saint Mary's players in the NBA, doing well. Is Randy Bennett a fabulous coach, or what??? By the way, how many people out there believe Pop has a strategy in mind to get him to the playoffs with all his players rested and healthy?

Speaking of Saint Mary's. Brad Waldo, the Gaels' terrific low post center needs to develop some jump shooting skills. If he does, he might have a chance of joining his ex teammates in the NBA as a power forward.

I find the NFL video ads against domestic violence amazingly hypocritical given their complete lack of interest in the past. But let's be honest, how much effort is our national, state, and local law enforcement agencies putting forth to combat domestic violence?

Something to consider in 2015. Will the Cleavland Cavalier experiment work? Miami started their experiment with Dwayne Wade, a super star adult vet, totally involved and leading the charge. Kyrie may have some super star creds like Wade, but he's hardly an adult. And Love still can't play D. Coach Blatt might want to start looking for a job in Europe.

Can't feel sorry for Rex Ryan after how he _  _ _ _ ed up Mark Sanchez' career.

Can Jason Kidd actually be a good coach?

Does Stephen Curry have the quickest release in NBA history? 

I predict the Rocket's acquisition of Josh Smith will hurt rather than help the team.

Up the road from Houston, the Mavricks' trading for Rondo places them squarely in the mix for Western Division champs. Welcome back Tyson Chandler.

The two opponents in the NBA Finals will be, ta da! ta da! The Golden State Warriors vs the Chicago Bulls.

NBA Champions: ________________________

When do you think pro athletes will stop pounding their chests and screaming after they make good plays, like every single time? Come on, man. Next thing you know they'll be pounding their chests during warm-ups.  I"m ;sick of this kind of churlish, "Look at me, look at me" behavior. When did basketball players and football players stop being classy? One might ask, were they ever? Yes, I believe they were.

Sorry, I'm not talking about all of you, it's just that there seem to be so many dimwits.

The two most overused excuses for loses in the NBA are: 1) We didn't bring any energy 2) We couldn't get our rhythm. What does rhythm have to do with it. You play your butt off, or you don't.

Trash talk needs to go in the trash. All coaches: it's on you.

Jack Ramsey passed this year. His Portland Trailblazers were the most efficient NBA Champs I ever saw. Bill Walton was the best NBA center ever with an asterisk: for one and a half years. 

James Hardin should be called for walking 50% of the time he drives to the basket. No problem in the Euro-League where two steps are allowed.

Will Joe Johnson ever play defense? Will Jason Thompson ever stop pushing defenders in the back, then acting like he didn't? Will Carmelo ever adjust to the triangle? Will Deron Williams ever get his mojo back. He was at his best with Jerry Sloan, the coach he helped fire. Don't you love it when the universe works a little pay-back.Will Demarcus Cousins ever grow up? Will Brook Lopez ever have an injury free season?
Will Eric Gordon ever have an injury free season? Will Seattle ever get its Sonics back? Will LA ever have an NFL team again? Will NBA refs ever get moving screen calls consistently right? In a Pick and Roll, the center rolling to the basket is NOT a moving screen. Will Chris Webber ever stop looking like a used car salesman? Will the NBA ever take Stan Van Gundy's ideas seriously? Will the NFL ever give its TV viewers a little advertising relief? Will professional sports ever lower their tickets prices?

If a family of four wants to go to an NBA game and sit in a decent viewing seat, it will cost said family approx. $100.00 per ticket; $20 to 25 bucks for parking; Five bucks for bad popcorn times at least two members of said family; tasteless hotdogs, soft drinks or beers. Total? You figure it out. No one ever thought the housing market bubble would ever burst. Owners better pay attention.

Let's hear it for owners, like Jerry Jones, who built their arena on their own dime, and not use city tax dollars, like Joe Lacob of the Warriors is planning to do in San Francisco. As an old San Francisco Warrior I can't wait to get to our roots. The question is will the Warriors reclaim their old name? Nothing wrong with Golden State, but the city of Saint Francis is where it's at.  

Question: Now that New Orleans has renamed their team the Pelicans, why doesn't the Utah team drop the Jazz (Salt Lake = jazz, Come on man!) and rename their team more appropriately The Locusts?

I have never been a Tony Romo fan, probably because I've never been a Cowboys fan, not since the days they began calling themselves, America's Team. Gag me! And it sure has seemed over the years that Romo was cursed. Well, this year, hat's off to Tony, one tough hombre. The "Boys" have a chance to win it all.

The Raiders have three solid rookies: Kahil Mack, Latavius Murray and Derek Carr. Now all they need is John Madden.

My wife's a Duck so, I'm pulling for the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl and the NCAA Championship. The NFL team that drafts Mariotta will be getting an adult, unlike the childish Manziel. Has Johnny Football got a pea brain, or what?

Speaking of pea brains, how about Jameis Winston?  How classy was it to jump up on a table in the university commons and yell what he yelled? Got a lot of respect for women? Wonder what his mom thought of her son?

Everyone is talking about duos of point guards in the NBA, but let's be clear, centers win championships: Chicago with Noah and Washington with Gortat in the East; Gasul, Chandler, Bogut, DeAndre Jordan, and Duncan in the West. I'd love to put Robin Lopez with the Blazers in the mix, but the Blazers have no bench, so why bother?

Commenting on college sports becoming more and more like the pros, the Big 12 commish, Bob Bowlsby, stated, "I don't think this is a profession, I think it's a function of higher education." Bob, baby, did you really say that? Football is a form of higher education? Like quantum mechanics?

Light bulb goes on. Okay, if football is a form of higher education, why not create a degree based on football. Lots of great football literature around for the players who are literate. How about classes in Football statistics and NCAA business strategies. The psychology of football would be an interesting class.
I can think of a bunch more. Use your imagination, Bob.

It is time for the 49ers to stop showing scenes of San Francisco (cable cars, Golden Gate Bridge, ocean beach, Fisherman's Wharf, etc.) during broadcasts of their games and begin showing scenes of San Jose and Santa Clara. That is the honest thing to do. The San Jose metropolitan area sprung with their tax money to build you a fabulous state of the art arena, you owe it to them to advertise the beauty of their city and environs.

Watching recent shots of an angry Steve Kerr getting a technical (he leads the league for coaches) and I'm thinking, my God, he does the same thing with his face as Coach K, you know, that sort of wolverine look. That can't be a bad thing, if Coach K does it.Right?

If the NCAA is serious about promoting education, it should set aside a significant amount of its TV money at the end of every year to distribute to Division I universities and colleges whose male football and basketball players earn a degree.

Happy New Year.

Not a sport really, but got to love this poem about the game of Chinese Checkers

Chinese Checkers  buy Arleen Cohen

The dragons
tell me how to move,
like a grasshopper across
the multi-colored field
springing from hole to hole
outmaneuvering the beetles.

I see the sacred star
and one by one
I deposit my eggs
until it is
filled and full.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I've noticed in the last couple of years that teams are going a long way towards honoring their team's history. Lots of attention being paid to their legendary players.

Therein lies a cautionary tale for the Sacramento Kings who yesterday fired their coach, Mike Malone giving as their principal reason a difference in basketball philosophies. General Manager, Pete D'Alessandro believes in an offensive/speed ball game while Coach Malone  embraces a defense first view.

In this morning's sports news, GM D'Allesandro stated he wanted the Kings to be more like the great King teams coached by Rick Adelman or the new look Warriors, or the San Antonio Spurs of the past couple of years. The NBA game today, he claims, is a fast paced one. He's probably right, but the Memphis Grizzlies might have something to say about that. Anyway, he's not wrong. The teams that run and move the ball unselfishly are the teams that win.

So what's the cautionary tale? Mr. D'Alessandro, in the process of remaking the Kings, must not forget how important lock-down defense was to those successful running teams, he wants to emulate. Yes, they run, but they don't allow their opponents easy looks at the basket either. And, when it comes to playoff time, it is the team's defense and rebounding that make the difference between a champion and an also ran.(pardon the pun). Running teams can only go so far into the playoffs before they succumb to a defensive mindset. Mr. D'Alessandro should k now, coming from Denver and George Karl's futile attempts to take the Nuggets beyond the first round.

There was nothing wrong with the Nuggets. They won way more than they lost, and I have a great respect for George against whom I coached during my short stint in the CBA years ago and whose brave struggle against and victory over cancer did him proud, But when it came to NBA championships, it was Miami Heat's suffocating pressure D that won for them. Same goes for the Spurs last year. Their D was the key, not their O. When Dallas won the NBA championship, it was Tyson Chandler's control of the paint that was the deciding factor. And since we're talking about NBA history and Legends these days, let's not forget, in the middle of this debate between Defense-minded coaches and Offense-minded coaches, a historic model, the great Boston Celtic teams of Bill Russell and John Havlick coached by the legendary Red Auerbach.

I submit that Red had it right from the start. He allowed his teams an enormous amount of freedom to run (which was a given with Russell's rebounding and outlet passes) and take quick shots. As someone who played against those Celtic teams as a Warrior, I can testify how often they were on the run. However, and the HOWEVER is a big one, for that offensive freedom Red extracted his pound of flesh. He demanded that his team play tough DEFENSE, simply stated: no easy baskets and no second shots.

So, as the Kings transition to an Offensive style of play, whoever they hire as coach should not forget that history has provided clear evidence that Championships are won on the defensive side of the court. Pure run and gun coaches, like Karl and Nelson have never won The Big One.

As this transition takes shape, I wonder how many players from this Kings team will remain? Mr. D'Alessandro and his staff surely realize that Rudy Gay comes out of the Memphis tradition, which emphasizes a half court game. Jason Thompson is not a run type player, neither are Landry, Evans, Hollins, and Cousins. Perhaps Cousins can run, but so far all I've seen him do is jog. No doubt he is a force in the paint, a little like Shaq. Using Shaq as the model, perhaps there is some hope for him as a trailer or if the break doesn't materialize, as the main "go to option" for the team's half court offense.

So, Kings' fans, let's see what the Ranadive/Pete D'Alessandro era will produce.

Here's a poem about a sport far removed from the world of money sports.

After A  Game of Squash   by Sam Albert

And I thought of how impossibly alone we were,
up in the room where the lockers are and the showers,
he with wiping the sweat from his face and head,
and I loosening the laces from my sneakers.

We had just finished this long game of squash.
Then, we were much closer, smashing the same ball,
lurching forward, out-maneuvering each other
hard down the sidelines, death to the opponent.

It was a battle, the killer's eye in the middle
of the round black ball, two men struggling
to find each other out, what made each one's mind work
and with what heart each fell to the long odds.

And when the game was over we thanked each other generously,
complimented one the other on his skill, his finesse.
And I though of how impossibly alone we were,
up in the room where the  lockers are and the showers.