Sacred Hoops: A Book Review

 

Nothing that you may have read by or about Jackson makes any sense when you consider the utter train wreck that he helped facilitate during his days as the president of team operations for the New York Knicks. In fact, it is downright puzzling to witness a man–who at one time was considered one of the greatest active minds in basketball—shit on his own legacy in such a short period of time. From his awkward attempts at running a Twitter account, to his public breakup with Lakers co-owner Jeannie Buss, to his bizarre feud with Carmelo Anthony, things have been nothing short of cringe worthy for the Zen Master.

I’ve written extensively about Phil Jackson’s coaching acumen and his basketball I.Q. when I reviewed Crazy Basketball and More Than a Game, and I felt compelled to write about him again because why not? His insistence alone on espousing the basketball purity of the “Triangle Offense” is reason enough to doubt Jackson’s reasoning. You would think that someone who believes that impermanence is a fundamental fact of life (you can’t step into the same river twice) would be able to adjust with the times. But no. Phil fucked it up for everyone, and my boy, Alex Knapp called it the very first day that the Knicks introduced Derek Fisher as the next New York head coach (wow doesn’t that seem forever ago?).

I can’t say that this book has more to offer than Maverick, or More Than a Game, it details the beginning of his coaching career, when (much like Luke Walton) his playing career was cut short by injuries. Jackson notes that sitting next to the legendary Red Holtzman during games taught him a different way of looking at the game of basketball.

Jackson talks about the development of his personal beliefs in accordance with his own basketball philosophies. Raised Pentecostal, he grew to embrace a Zen Christianity form of religion, and used that to help teach his viewpoints about basketball, invoking phrases like “Chop Wood, Carry Water”, “Don’t let anger cloud the mind”, and “awareness is everything”. 

When Phil discovered Tex Winter’s “Triple Post” Offense, he felt that it encompassed everything he wanted to teach to his basketball players, that it was a structure that could empower everyone on the floor, and that it employed the seven principles of a sound offensive strategy.

The book does a great job of taking the reader through Jackson’t time coaching in the Puerto Rican Superior League and for the CBA’s Albany Patroons, where he experimented with his lineups and personnel. He played two five man units in eight minute intervals, with the best playing five guys in the final eight minute quarter. Interestingly enough, each player was paid the exact same wage, which is something a team could only get away with in a non-NBA league back then.

It is a pretty enjoyable read, and if one can somehow forget that any of the post Lakers era stuff happened, then it is easier to read Jackson talk about the philosophy of mindfulness without a bit of cynicism creeping in. It’s hard to not laugh when reading Jackson tell a player that the “power of we is stronger than the power of me.” knowing that he made Melo’s final season as a Knick a living hell. 

I suggest that any basketball fan, or aspiring coach read this book, but to also take everything with a grain of salt. I don’t know whether to think Phil Jackson is a genius, a guru, a huckster, or a hypocrite. I can say however, that he is one of the more compelling characters to make an impact in the NBA, and this book is just another example of this fact.

B +

 

BM

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

More Than A Game: A Book Review

Characteristics of a Sound Offense (According to Phil Jackson and Charley Rosen)

1. Must penetrate the defense.

      a)Create good % shots. Define what is a good shot for each player

      b) Stress inside power game. Play for the 3 pt. power play.

      c)Break down all defenses from full court presses to double teams.

2. Transition basketball starts on defense. Look to run!

3. Provides proper floor spacing 15’-18’, creating an operating room and clearing area on the court. Keeps defense occupied on and off the ball.

4.Provides player and ball movement with a purpose. There is only one ball and 5 players. All things being equal, a player is without the ball 80 % of the time.

5. Provides strong rebound position and good defensive balance on all good shot.

6.Provides the player with the ball an opportunity to pass to any of his teammates.Utilize the abilities of the individual players. Must create high % shots for a team’s best shooters, rebound opportunities for best drivers.

 

 

More Than A Game is as close to a philosophy book as you will find on the game of basketball. A coach is only as successful as their coaching philosophy. John Wooden had his Pyramid of Success, Don Nelson had Nellie-ball, which was about creating defensive mismatches by having the best five offensive players on the court at one time, and Tex Winters had the Triangle Offense (also called the Triple Post); which hit the peak of its success when Phil Jackson implemented it with the Chicago Bulls, and later with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Though some chapters are dedicated to filling in the gaps of the coauthor’s lives, the book doesn’t get bogged down in the “who, what, and why’s”. The narrative thread is seamless despite the jumps in place and time. The reader learns  about Jackson’s Knicks days and how he met Rosen during this time period.

Phil discusses his upbringing and the road that led him to him abandon the Pentecostal concepts of sinning, the afterlife, and redemption, for Zen Christianity (essentially trading in a belief in the otherworldly for something tangible and non-theistic). Jackson expresses how the attraction for the Triangle philosophy almost mirrors his personal religious aesthetic, as he recites the Noble Eightfold Path and how it relates to hoops:

  • Right Understanding
  • Right Thought
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration

Jackson goes on to further explain that “Right thought means being in the moment as much as humanly possible. Right action means playing every play, every quarter, every game to its fullest.Winning is only the secondary effect of right thinking and right action.”

Jackson embrace of the Triangle Offense came when he and Tex Winter were Bulls assistant coaches under Doug Collins. Jackson thought the Winter’s offensive scheme reminded him of his time playing for Red Holtzman (who Phil got to watch up close when he was on the bench with a back injury). When Phil was finally promoted to head coach (after Doug Collins’ dismissal), he kept Winter on as an assistant and let Winter install the offense that both credit for their coaching success. Why was it so successful? According to Phil Jackson:

  • Provides a clear purpose and direction with implicit goals.
  • Trains and educates new people, who in turn learn how they can contribute.
  • It rewards unselfish behavior which in turn renews the system.
  • Makes for easier transition through times of change.
  • Provides context within which a leader can integrate all the skills of the team.

The Bulls were able to win 6 titles despite not ever having a dominate point guard or center, and the Lakers managed to win multiple titles with a bunch of role players (some of them scrubs) filling the stat sheet with whatever Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal could not do themselves.

Some of the other highlights from this book are

  • Getting confirmation from both Charley Rosen and Phil Jackson that Rick Barry is indeed an asshole.
  • Jim Cleamons theory on why east coast bred players practice harder than west coast guys.
  • A scene with Phil, Charley, and Tex watching an instructional video by “Pistol” Pete Maravich and discussing the phenomenon of the palming violation.
  • Phil’s and Charley’s collective coaching experiences in the Puerto Rico Superior League and CBA.
  • Jim Cleamons and Quinn Buckner’s (separate) attempts to install the triple post offense as head coaches in Dallas, and the player reactions.
  • Despite Portland going 13 straight possessions without scoring, the Trailblazers lost not because they choked, but because they were gassed from coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 1999-2000 conference finals.
  • The genesis of the triangle going all the way back to USC coach Sam Barry’s “Center Option with a reverse action” playbook.

 

Littered with hoops jargon and diagrams that illustrate the basic ways to fill a triangle; More Than a Game strikes a beautiful balance of real life experiences with  X’s and O’s. The symmetry of Jackson and Rosen’s storytelling reveals accuracy of the phrase “basketball is an expression of life.” Each experience is treated as merely another step on the path to basketball nirvana. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to go into coaching–basketball or otherwise. A+

BM

 

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Talking Turkey

It was a good ass week for hoops last week. The Warriors somehow managed to wow me again, Kentucky hit the nation with the nastiest 1-2 combo I’ve seen since Lennox Lewis was boxing, and the NBA Rookie of the Year award has become a two person race.

I peeped the Champions Classic on Tuesday night and was rather impressed with what I saw. It was a basically a pair of Wackarnold’s All American games. After watching the Kentucky-Duke game, the KU-Sparty game was a serious letdown.

Bill Self still loves to keep his best shooters on the bench and clog the lanes with big men. I don’t understand why Brannen Greene (as of now suspended for 6 games) or Svi Mykhailiuk are not on the floor at all times to keep defenses honest.

If I’m playing Kansas I’ll take my chances with Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, and Wayne Selden shooting from behind the arc. Perry Ellis is a good shooter, but you are doing teams a favor by having him 18-25 feet away from the basket. Maybe he does become a Lamarcus Aldridge clone on the next level, but he is not there yet.

Big ups to Denzel Valentine (triple double), who was the only redeeming aspect of that game. Shit was weaker than a Drake diss record.

Kentucky continues to be a professional basketball camp. If I was an 17 year old stud about to choose a college, the only thing that would keep me from signing with the UK would be their historic legacy of racism. But a night on the town with Ashley Judd’s old ass may be enough to sway a brutha. Speaking inf Kentucky players, peep this article by former national (and NBA )champion Nazr Mohammed.

The Kentucky backcourt of Tyler Ulis ,and Jamal Murray is the best in the country (no disrespect to Ron Baker and Fred Van Fleet).

Speaking of that Duke-Kentucky game, I’ve figured out the formula for the Dukies winning a title. Last year’s title game was easily the blackest roster I’ve seen since I’ve been a hoops fan. Anytime they have had more than four white guys getting major minutes, you can pretty much pencil them in as first weekend flame out.

Grayson Allen had a good weekend up in New York, but you saw what happened on Tuesday when he played against future professionals (2-11 with 6 pts). I saw Bobby Hurley play at Duke, and Allen is no Bobby Hurley. I’d say he’s a “Wojo” with hops and a better shot (no disrespect to “Wojo” or to short white guys—some of my best friends are short and white).

And before you say something about the 2010-2011 team, when they beat Butler; that was a down year for college hoops.

Watching college hoops reminded me of why I prefer NBA ball though. College hoops is so sloppy, coach dominated, and frankly, just an inferior product. The gap between college hoop and pro ball is huge. I basically watch for scouting purposes alone. If you wanted to put money on how many college games I’ll watch this year, I’d bet -25. Call your bookie now.

Now, onto the pros:

 

Monday

Some good ass games to start the week with

New York-Miami

The hype on Kristaps Porzingis is getting loud. Playing in a buzz heavy city like New York lends favor for a guy like Porzingis. I hope Justice Winslow is using this as fuel to show out against the Knickerbockers. The media is dying to give Porzingis a nickname and they are reaching. Frankly his last name alone is better than “KP” (there is already a KD why add confusion?), “The Zinger”, or “Rook.” Its much easier for me to yell “Porzingis” when homie is going Fed in a big game. Reminds me of basketball bromance with Sabonis. The syllables just roll off the tongue.

San Antonio- Phoenix

Any other year, the Spurs would be number one option, but with League Pass, the urgency isn’t as strong. I can’t say enough about how much I want to see how they match up with the Dubs. More on them later though.

Sacramento vs. Charlotte will be worth checking out. Rondo is putting up triple doubles faster than you can say Russell Westbrook. I still fux with Rondo, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

This Detroit-Milwaukee game is the perfect example of why I love the condensed game feature on NBA league pass. It’ll be interesting, but not exactly beautiful. Kind of like “ugly” women in New York–still exotic enough to make it worth checking out.

 

Tuesday

Chicago-Portland will be the best game of the night, but the Golden State-Lakers game will be the best blow out game you’ve ever seen.

Speaking of the Warriors, Last Week’s Good Ass Game of the Week, lived up to the hype. Even though Golden State was down, they never panicked. Draymond Green’s three at the end of the 3rd period may as well have been the game winner. His reaction after he hit it, just showed how much swag they have right now.

I love how confident they are. Last year they thought they were good, but this year they know they are good. It is making all the difference in the way they prepare for games.

In Phil Jackson’s “Eleven Rings” (a great read), he talks about the 5 stages of tribal culture.

Level 1 is “All Life Sucks.” The best example of this are franchises like the Kings, and the 76ers.

Level 2 is “My life Sucks” This would be the Clippers right up to the point of them drafting “Beige” Griffin.

Level 3 is “I’m great and your’re not.” Kobe era Lakers without Phil.

Level 4 “We’re Great” Spurs.

Level 5 “Life is Great.” Innocent Wonderment. Talk is about infinite potential and making history. The tribe is in competition with what is possible, not another tribe. Think the 72 win Bulls.

 

Level 5 is where the Warriors are right now. They know they are special, and young enough to enjoy the newness of it all. They are having fun, which makes it fun to watch them. I haven’t seen this kind of buzz surrounding a team’s offense since the showtime Lakers. It is fitting that they can tie the record for best start to a season by beating them on Tuesday.

Wednesday

Cleveland-Toronto

I hope this is a second round matchup in the playoffs.

Atlanta-Minnesota 

Trust me. By the way. I love me some Karl Anthony Towns. He plays D, he has a good post game, and he can pass. I’m just sayin’

Sacramento-Milwaukee

The highlights alone will be worth watching.

Miami-Detroit

Hassan Whiteside will be the starting big man for the Eastern Conference All Stars.

Dallas-San Antonio (GOOD ASS GAME OF THE WEEK)

Can you say live tweet session? #FULLSASS

Thursday

This some good ass Turkey.

Friday

Sacramento vs. Minnesota

Some young talent in this one.

Golden State vs. Phoenix

Suns will hang with them for about 2 -3 quarters before Dubs run away from them. Records will be broken.

Detroit vs. Oklahoma City

The return of Reggie.

 

Saturday

Atlanta vs. San Antonio  will be something like this.

Sunday

Minnesota-Los Angeles 

If you really need to tap that vein.

 

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Peace.

Continue reading

Week of Beatdowns


MMMMPPPHHHHHH.

That’s all I say when I was watching Kansas get that ass torn up against Kentucky. The Wildcats made the Jayhawks look like Tweety Birds. Bill himself “tawt he taw a putty tat” and realized he needed something stronger, after that game was over.

My goodness. You can learn a lot from a blowout, and in what equated to be a glorified McDonald’s All American game, there was so much to watch. Make no mistake about it folks, that was an NBA tryout camp. And if you didn’t go to Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, or Kentucky, then that meant you are not a projected lottery pick.

In a match up of what some call “stacked vs. stacked”, Kentucky’s stacked is significantly bustier. Tuesday night’s game was like watching four Beverly Hills Housewives comparing boob jobs. The rich just get richer.

When the #5 team in the country cannot get within 32 points of the #1 team in the country, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the field. Coaches, scale back the expectations, dial down the criticism, and just trust the process of learning. Think of yourselves as teachers (but paid really well) and help these young men become better ballplayers and sportsmen.

Use the film sessions as good teaching opportunities, and focus on specific and immediate goals for the season. Develop the chemistry through team building, win your conference, and gain an At Large- Bid for your school. But most of all, just have fun and enjoy the ride……………… because there is no way in hell that John Calipari can mess this up for Kentucky.

It is absolutely crazy how good they are. Calipari is the dude you sometimes play in XBOX who likes to jack with the slider ratings, and create his own players for his favorite team. But Calipari is gangsta with it,

Cuz this ain’t no game. This is real life. Tuesday looked like a Seniors vs. Freshman high school scrimmage. Once again, Kansas is the #5 team in the country. Sometimes the season lines up when you know that it can be anyone’s “chip”, and sometimes you are pretty sure who the top 5 teams are, and out of that pool–it’s anybody’s title. Well last night may as well have been the national title game. Because you can almost put to rest the notion of Kentucky more than three times this year (if at all).

If your goal as college basketball fan is to see your favorite team win it all this year (and that team is not Kentucky), then don’t even bother watching hoops this year. “Ya Playin Ya Self” like Jeru The Damaja says.

If you lived through the 90-91 UNLV, ’91-92 Duke, 92-93 Michigan, 96-98 Kentucky Wildcats, or even arguably the 94 Arkansas era, then you recognize a juggernaut when you see one. Think about every team that I just mentioned, besides the star players can you name more than one of the role or bench players? The scary part of this team is that even their 12th guy could start at any other school in the country.

KU fans can take solace in the fact that this year’s uniforms are sicccckkkkkkkkk. They are so nice.

I like the new modern cut of the sleeves with classic striped trim. The classic lettering and Jayhawk on the belt of the shorts is a nice touch too. Big ups to whoever designed this year’s uniforms.

Also I’m feeling the Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk era. This boy is going to be good. He is going to be the basketball czar of Lawrence when its all said and done. I will be shocked if he doesn’t win a ton of Big-12 award nominations by the end of his hoops career at KU. He may even be “Fred Hoiberg” good. The kid can shoot and was not scared—not even a little bit.

This week saw a lot of blowout games. I realized after my last post that I’d forgotten to include last night’s Portland-Chicago on my list of “Good ASS Games” of the Week. How could I forget about Bulls vs. Blazers game? The match-up that has historically brought us “The Jordan Shrug” and the Bulls-vs-Blazers video game was on I didn’t put it on the list of Good ASS Games? Amateur move right?

Maybe not. Bulls got smacked on which in turn made the Easter Conference 1-11 for the week against Western Conference games. Portland whupped that ass, and I knew that Dallas was going to go HAM on that Lakers defense. Byron Scott’s crew gave up more booty than Kim Khardasian–letting Dallas score 140 Friday night. One Hundred and FORTY POINTS, WHAT THE FUCK???

Even in the 1980’s when teams had trouble playing defense—the slightest move could create a wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions (Why do you think Dyan Cannon has seats so close to the action?)— you rarely saw one team score that many points on the road. 8 Mavericks players scored double figures last night. Crazy.

The best “Good ASS Game of The Week” was the Cavs-Spurs of course. I wasn’t sure what to expect once I read that the Spurs had a four hour flight delay on their way into Cleveland. I feel like that evened the odds a little bit for Wednesday night’s game. To be honest I wasn’t all that impressed with the Cavaliers. Lebron left behind a better supporting cast to baby-sit a bunch of kids in Ohio.

There are some awesome locker room vets on that team with Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, and James Jones. But they are too old to play the kind of minutes the Cavs need. Lebron is already talking about needing less playing time in order to be fresh for the playoffs. Even when they play bad teams they aren’t blowing them out. If Lebron has to laboriously lead them to the playoffs, it will be an early to playoff exit for Lebron and company. Their defense is no where good enough to get them to the promised land.

It was a Good Ass Game though, it felt like a playoff game in its intensity, but the Spurs superior bench was the difference I think. Notice how Ray Allen still hasn’t made his decision on coming back this year? I bet he’s watching the Cavs right now and is like “NAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH”. By the way–how about that Foot Locker commercial with Derrick Rose and Tim Duncan? Brilliant! I stood up and clapped when I saw that thing.

On to the “Good ASS Games” of next Week.

You’re fucking up if you don’t watch that Memphis-Clippers tomorrow night at 6pm ET. This may be the point where Blake Griffin finally tees off on somebody. I’m imagining the horror in his eyes when he gets hyphy with Zach Randolph and then realizes it was the worst mistake he could have ever made. I just don’t know if he is about that life.

Portland-Boston is worth peepin’ with Lillard and Rondo facing off at the point. I’ll probably watch most of this one then flip to the Grizzlies game(which is on at the same time). I could take or leave the rest of the games that night–depends on how bad I’m jonesin’ for some hoop.

Monday
This is a trap! Take the night off and do something productive. Read a book, go to an open mic, or baste a turkey, but don’t sit around all night and watch hoop.

Clippers play Charlotte after what will be an emotional night in Memphis. Chris Paul comes home to Carolina, and plays in front of family and MJ. Maybe it will be a good game, maybe CP-3 goes HAM for Thanksgiving Week, but maybe it would be best to do something else. It’s a long season, don’t waste a night on a back-to-back game of middle of the pack teams. But if you don’t have anything better to do, then all means peep game.

Tuesday

Golden-State vs. Miami

I would be way more excited if Lebron were still in Miami. The Heat would be about as good as the Denver Nuggets if they played in the Western Conference. This could be a fun game though and certainly worth checking out at least until Sacramento-New Orleans comes on.

Wednesday

I’ll probably toggle between Washington-Cleveland, and Portland-Charlotte that night. I’m all in on the Mavs-Knicks game. That should be entertaining too. You know Phil Jackson can’t wait to unload J.R. Smith onto some poor sap. My guess is that Phil’s brother-in-law loses a bet to him and has to take on his salary in an uneven trade that gives the Knicks the Lakers’ lottery pick for next year. Speaking of the Lakers, I will definitely tune in to watch the Grizzlies maul them at home. Can’t Wait!!

Thursday

All food and no games makes Bobby a fat boy. All food and no games makes Bobby fat boy. All food and no games makes Bobby a fat boy.All food and no games makes Bobby a fat boy.All food and no games makes Bobby a fat boy.All food and no games makes Bobby a fat boy.
All food and no games makes Bobby a fat boy.All food and no games makes Bobby a fat boy.

(BLACK) Friday

MMMPHHHH! So Many GOOD ASS GAMES THO!!!

Chicago-Boston What do you know? Bulls players are getting hurt. Fuck.

Golden State-Charlotte I’m sure there is at least one Davidson alum who will especially interested in this game right?

Clippers-Houston
Dwight Howard-DeAndre Jordan?? It’s gonna be a krunk night in Houston–one thing is certain, this one is sure to be a long ass game.

Dallas-Toronto OooWWWWEEEEEEEEE!!!!
Definitely gonna be a good ass game.

How about closing out the night withMemphis-Portland?
We are going to find out just how good these teams really are. I’m excited for the PG and PF match ups– this could be a grimy one. Just warning you.

What better way to finish the weekend but with Spurs-Celtics in an early Sunday afternoon affair. It’s worth it alone for the Rondo vs. Tony Parker match up–two of the illest around.

Houston and Dallas face off tonight. Definitely worth checking out if you got the time.

Hope your Turkey Day is filled with warmth and mirth. I feel for Lakers’ Wayne Ellington who just recently lost his father. It is never easy losing a family member, but having it happen this close to the holidays makes it even tougher. Best wishes for that man and his family.

Happy Thanksgiving to every one out there. We have a lot to be thankful for as Americans. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to play this.

BM
@clickpicka79
#itsagoodassgame