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Friday, July 28, 2006

Hubie Brown Interview Reprinted at Legends of Basketball

Legends of Basketball, the official website of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, has reprinted my HoopsHype interview with Hubie Brown and added a couple nice photos of Artis Gilmore and Julius Erving. Here is the link:

https://www.nbrpa.com/news/featurearchive/hubie_talks_aba.aspx

posted by David Friedman @ 3:07 PM

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Basketball, Chess and Boxing, Part II

In a July 3 post I wrote, "Success at any form of competition is based on several factors: mastery of fundamental techniques, supreme focus on the task at hand and maintaining a state of calm in the heat of battle." An article by Philip E. Ross in the August 2006 issue of Scientific American takes an in depth look at the first of these factors and concludes, "Effortful study is the key to achieving success in chess, classical music, soccer and many other fields. New research has indicated that motivation is a more important factor than innate ability." Ross is a contributing editor at the magazine, a chess player and the father of Laura Ross, a chess master. In a sidebar to the main article, Ross writes, "Researchers have found evidence that chess grandmasters rely on a vast store of knowledge of game positions. Some scientists have theorized that grandmasters organize the information in chunks, which can be quickly retrieved from long-term memory and manipulated in working memory." If you are wondering what this has to do with basketball, read on: "To accumulate this body of structured knowledge, grandmasters typically engage in years of effortful study, continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond their competence. The top performers in music, mathematics and sports appear to gain their expertise in the same way, motivated by competition and the joy of victory."

Ross notes, "Even the novice engages in effortful study at first, which is why beginners so often improve rapidly in playing golf, say, or in driving a car. But having reached an acceptable performance--for instance, keeping up with one's golf buddies or passing a driver's exam--most people relax...In contrast, experts-in-training keep the lid of their mind's box open all the time, so that they can inspect, criticize and augment its contents and thereby approach the standard set by leaders in their fields."

When I read this article, I immediately thought of Pete Maravich, Julius Erving, Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods, who are among the most fascinating and compelling athletes of all-time. What I respect most about them is that they all worked tirelessly to improve their skills and did not stop doing so even when they reached the very top of their games. Pete Maravich spent hour upon hour with his "homework basketball" drills--dribbling, shooting and passing. Before Pat Croce owned the Philadelphia 76ers he served as a trainer for many professional athletes and he identified Julius Erving as one of the hardest working athletes he ever saw. Erving and Maravich were teammates briefly with the Atlanta Hawks (before a court order sent Erving back to the ABA's Virginia Squires) and the two future Hall of Famers used to stay after practice to hone their skills in one-on-one games; Erving later did the same thing with another future Hall of Famer, Squires' teammate George "Iceman" Gervin.

Jerry Rice has said that when he watched game film he focused more on one dropped pass than the 8 or 10 that he caught; he also went into every training camp with the mindset that he might get cut unless he put forth the utmost effort at all times. I once asked Scottie Pippen how he would would most like to be remembered as a player and he instantly replied, "A gym rat. A guy who worked very hard to make sure that his game was complete in every area and wanted to be looked at as one of the best players in the league." The work ethics of Jordan, Bryant and Woods are very well documented.

Each of these great athletes unquestionably has certain gifts in terms of size, speed and/or hand-eye coordination--but what set them apart is how hard they worked to refine and hone those raw materials until they glistened like precious jewels.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:20 AM

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Fab 15: USA Basketball Announces the Finalists for the World Championship Roster

USA Basketball Senior National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo and Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced the 15 finalists for the 12 man roster that will compete in the FIBA World Championship next month in Japan. Technically, no one is "cut" from among the 24 players who have accepted invitations to make a three year commitment to compete for the United States in international play. Everyone is still considered to be part of the team but 12 of the players will not be on the active roster. The selection process was made a little easier this time due to the fact that Chauncey Billups, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Paul Pierce, J.J. Redick and Michael Redd are unavailable because of injuries or personal reasons. Here are the 15 finalists:

Carmelo Anthony
Gilbert Arenas
Shane Battier
Chris Bosh
Bruce Bowen
Elton Brand
Kirk Hinrich
Dwight Howard
LeBron James
Antawn Jamison
Joe Johnson
Brad Miller
Chris Paul
Amare Stoudemire
Dwyane Wade

Shawn Marion would probably have been added to this group, but he developed soreness in his knee late in the team's Las Vegas training camp. The two players who are healthy and available but were not included are Adam Morrison and Luke Ridnour. The team will rest for five days and then begin the second phase of the Las Vegas training camp with a greater focus on the specific plays and sets that Kryzyzewski plans to run in Japan. Hinrich and Paul are the only true point guards among the 15 finalists but James and Wade can certainly handle playmaking duties as well.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:55 AM

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NBA Extreme Makeovers

Several NBA teams have taken advantage of free agency and the draft to significantly change their rosters. The most dramatic example of this is the Chicago Bulls, who signed free agent Ben Wallace, drafted Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha and traded for P.J. Brown and Viktor Khryapa. The Bulls also briefly acquired J.R. Smith before sending him to Denver in exchange for Howard Eisley (who the Bulls are expected to release) and two 2007 second round draft picks. Chicago gave up Tyson Chandler and the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge and Rodney Carney in these transactions. The end result is that the Bulls now have a four-time Defensive Player of the Year (Wallace) patrolling the paint, some more frontcourt depth (Brown and Khryapa) and two promising players (Thomas and Sefolosha). These moves not only strengthened the Bulls but weakened a key division/conference rival--the Detroit Pistons, who lost Wallace, the heart and soul of their team.

The Portland Trail Blazers acquired Aldridge and Brandon Roy in the draft and traded for Dan Dickau and Raef LaFrentz. Roy is a strong Rookie of the Year candidate and he could combine with Aldridge to form a nice inside-out combination for years to come.

The Toronto Raptors have been extremely active. Fittingly, the only NBA team based outside of the United States is taking on a very international look, including the hiring of Maurizio Gherardini as Vice President and Assistant General Manager. Gherardini, formerly the GM of Benetton Treviso, is the first European to hold a senior management position with an NBA franchise. The Raptors used the number one overall pick on Andrea Bargnani and also acquired Rasho Nesterovic and Jorge Garbajosa, the 2005 and 2006 Spanish Cup Finals MVP. Toronto also traded Charlie Villanueva for speedy point guard T.J. Ford, perhaps indicating that General Manager Bryan Colangelo would like to see Toronto employ the running style that the Phoenix Suns used so successfully when Colangelo cut his teeth with that franchise.

The Indiana Pacers have turned over nearly half of their roster, unloading Peja Stojakovic, Austin Croshere and Anthony Johnson to bring in Marquis Daniels, Darrell Armstrong, Rawle Marshall, Josh Powell and Andrew Betts. Free agent guard Fred Jones is about to sign a deal with Toronto.

The NBA Champion Miami Heat have kept the core of their roster intact, but the Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks clearly believe that they need to upgrade their roster to get over the hump. Gone are Armstrong, Daniels, Marshall and Powell in two separate deals with the Pacers; they have been replaced by Croshere and Johnson, plus free agent Greg Buckner. Croshere's acquisition could mean that free agent Keith Van Horn will not be re-signed.

The San Antonio Spurs acquired Jackie Butler, Matt Bonner, Jacque Vaughn and Eric Williams and lost Nazr Mohammed and Rasho Nesterovic. None of those are big name players but that still amounts to changing a third of the roster and losing the tandem that combined for most of the playing time at center. Will young Butler now get those minutes, will Tim Duncan shift from power forward to center or are the Spurs not done making moves?

While the Seattle SuperSonics have not made any notable player moves the sale of the franchise to an Oklahoma City investment group led by Clayton I. Bennet seems likely to mean that the entire franchise may soon be on the move to Oklahoma City, which provided such a warm welcome to the Hornets in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The most notable players who stayed put by re-signing or signing an extension are LeBron James (Cleveland), Dwyane Wade (Miami), Carmelo Anthony (Denver), Chris Bosh (Toronto) and Sam Cassell (L.A. Clippers).

posted by David Friedman @ 1:03 AM

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