Sunday, October 3, 2010
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
No absurd stories this time, no silly Alfred E. Neuman photos or abstractions about a Ukrainian blowing into town with a single-minded obsession to put the biscuit in the bucket. No jokes, no Sasha, no YouTube vids, just some thoughts about camp. The more far-reaching aspects have been covered by other outlets, stories abound about London and Kobe’s Italian roots and even a touch of international brouhaha as Ron-Ron makes some salient points about Eurobasket quota systems (only two Americans allowed to a team). My own thoughts run closer to home and derive from last night’s viewing of NBA TV’s "Real Training Camp", going into 2 o’clock in the morning Austin time when I knew I was getting up in a few hours for work.
I had the TV on for background filler, had browsed my favorite hoops sites and finished an excellent book that had nothing to do with sports. The Knicks were on and to be honest, I haven’t watched many of their games for years but it caught my attention nonetheless. Amare’s definitely the man there now, very vocal and positive and there were a couple decent halves of scrimmage. Next up was Miami and I’m less a fan than ever due to decision related reasons. They held camp at Elgin Airforce Base and there was a long wait between halves as military families left in order to make room for the next batch. It was a nice opportunity for those that serve, to see training camp up close and personal. The Miami press is finding lots of good stuff to say about the Riley-centric knock down battles but I personally thought it looked disorganized, not much flow and communication, lots of banged-up bodies and sour looks until it was over with LeBron tossing wristbands to the crowd. I had no idea the Lakers were up next, hadn’t bothered with the basic guide function but when the action switched to El Segundo, all bets were off and I stayed up and was all the happier for it.
I’ve caught Lakers camp action before but it always strikes me afresh, especially coming on the heels of more prototypical NBA hoopla. It’s just so quiet, almost Spartan. Jackson’s notoriously reluctant to allow outsiders into the sanctum and even though cameras were there, the overall atmosphere was both calm and serious. It was almost entirely the rudiments. Jackson started off showing players how to hold the ball, how to get into a proper stance and I could swear, in one early shot he was hobbling around with some kind of wooden flute or peacepipe. From there it progressed to run and pivot drills followed by simple passing, spacing and conditioning. It took me back to elementary school P.E., chest passes and simple lay-up drills and the Lakers still run these basics today and nearly each and every day. B-Shaw sat down for an interview, saying how he really feels it’s a lost art and how they’ve been doing this his entire time with the team as both player and assistant coach. As Phil writes in 'More Than a Game', "repetition from the first day of training camp to the last day of the playoffs, is essential".
Mitch Kupchak gave a detailed and honest assessment of Bynum’s knee which contrasted with the recent media sturm und drang, saying that sewing the cartilage instead of removing it was the right thing to do but it takes a lot longer for the blood flow to do its work. He thinks it could be up to 12 weeks recovery but they’ll deal with it. Kobe talked about his decision not to have surgery on the sausage he calls a finger, saying it’s stronger after a summer of rest and rehab and he’ll try going without wrap or support. Lamar also had a turn on the folding chair as well, talked about his one-year anniversary and FIBA. When asked about all the attention Miami's now getting, he shrugged it off, saying "well, we're still all rock stars here in L.A.".
Last up, fittingly, was Phil himself who talked a lot about basketball fundamentals and drills and why he thinks they’re so important, adding that they do mix things up to keep it from getting boring - defense one day, the complexities of the triangle the next, and ultimately scrimmages to allow the guys some fun. Still, it all comes back to basic concepts and as I watch this markedly calm and almost old-fashioned approach to the game, I’m left feeling that it’s basketball at it’s purest and most seminal and that the only thing missing is Tex Winter, the snowy-haired guru of triangle. More will have to be written about Tex, he deserves a post of his own. Lastly, a programming note: the Lakers first preseason game against the T-Wolves will air Monday at noon pacific, 2:00 central, on NBA TV and 7:00 pacific (time delay) on KCAL 9.