While I readily admit I am a diehard college hoops junkie and I live for the drama of March Madness, the NBA Playoffs come in close second. The NBA is the highest level of basketball on the planet, and come playoff time, the intensity, drama and pageantry escalate exponentially.
Here are a few of my observations from the headlined filled first week:
The NBA is recognized for its star power, but role players that are the glue that hold the top team’s together. Role players usually aren’t mentioned on SportsCenter and rarely fill up stat sheets. But they do all of the little things necessary for their team to win. They do what their coaches and teammates need them to do to for the team to be successful. They know their role, they accept their role, they take pride in their role, and they fulfill their role to the best of their ability.
Some role players can do a little bit of everything, like the Heat’s Shane Battier. Other role players have a distinct specialty, like the Knicks’ Steve Novak. As a Thunder fan, I really admire and appreciate guys like James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison. Those 3 guys are the epitome of high level role players and they are a major reason why OKC is one of the top teams in the league. They wear their ‘role player’ title like a badge of honor.
Game #1 of the Dallas vs. OKC series came down to a Kevin Durant game winner. KD hadn’t shot particularly well that game, but he remained focused, confident, and Played Present and was able to hit one of the bigger shots of his career. His ability to Play Present, and not let the past (a relatively poor shooting night) affect the present, is one of many reasons he is a superstar. And for those that thought his shot was ‘lucky’, remember what golfing legend Gary Player once said,
“The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
KD has hit that (proverbial) shot thousands and thousands of times in empty gyms with no one watching.
With no disrespect to the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, the headline of the first week of the playoffs was Derrick Rose’s unfortunate ACL injury. It was a devastating loss for DRose, for the Bulls, and for the league. I have had the chance to meet him on several occasions and have always respected his work ethic and humility. He plays basketball for the love of the game, not for the money or celebrity.
There has been a ton of speculation as to what caused his injury. In my opinion, it was a culmination of three primary factors:
- Previous Injuries: the body functions as a single unit and everything is coordinated and interrelated. Problems with ankles and hips cause increased stress on the knees. Something as simple as a slight ankle tweak can reverberate all the way up the body’s chain. Injuries that aren’t completely recovered are usually the biggest culprit in future injuries.
- Overworked: so much has already been said about the effects of the condensed season and the fact these guys have been playing so many games in such a short time span. Even with the highest level of training, medical support, and rest & recovery techniques – DRose’s body has been in a constant state of fatigue since the season started (thus drastically increasing his susceptibility to injury).
- Style of Play: DRose is like a NASCAR. He is high octane and does everything at 100 miles an hour. He is arguably the fastest player in the league and he jumps as high as anyone in the game. His body – particular his joints – take a beating 40 minutes a night, 3 to 4 nights a week for months on end. There is a reason NASCAR drivers have to replace their car after every couple of races and I can drive my modest Toyota Camry for years and years! DRose is a NASCAR, not a Camry. Granted, his style of play is what makes him such a special player and the reigning MVP, but the length of his career will be shortened accordingly.
Regardless, I sincerely wish him a speedy and complete recovery.
If you’ve heard me give my Play Present talk, you know how adamant I am about focusing on the two things you have 100% control over, 100% of the time – your effort and your attitude (which include thoughts and emotions).
Rajon Rondo and Amar’e Stoudemire are two players I genuinely like, but both let their emotions get the best of them. Both neglected to Play Present. And now Rondo has to sit and watch during a one game suspension and Amar’e may be out the rest of the series (depending on the severity of the cut on his hand).
Not many will argue that bumping a referee and punching a fire extinguisher were poor decisions. But I actually know some people that believe that type of macho posturing is an example of toughness! I wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Keeping your emotions in check and Playing Present is mental toughness. ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes said it best,
“Toughness is doing what is right when it is really, really, really hard to do what is right.”
Train hard. Train smart. Play Present.
PS: Whether you are a coach or a player, as you continue to watch the playoffs and go through your own off-season training, please aim to do these 5 things (per my friend Paul Biancardi):
- Love the game
- Respect the game
- Prepare for the game
- Learn the game
- Improve your game
PSS: If you haven’t seen or heard my Play Present talk, here it is: http://youtu.be/jWNRgSp9cqk