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.
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.