During the summer before my senior year, my high school ran a developmental camp for all the junior varsity and varsity wanna-bes (and already ares) in the greater Kokomo region.

In addition to my alma mater, Kokomo High School, there were a handful of other high schools in the area (Eastern, Western, Northwestern, Taylor, etc.). This meant more people available for the camp...and more competition for me to test myself against.

The camp ran every weekday for two weeks in August. There were, I believe, eight teams, each of which was named after an actual NBA squad. I was "drafted" by the Chicago Bulls.

Going in, I was completely and totally stoked about the camp. I was also feeling pretty confident. In addition to my many battles against my buddy Dave, I had been roaming the various basketball courts throughout town and had yet to ever feel truly overwhelmed by any of the competition I'd been facing. In my mind, the key to success -- which I defined as setting a precedent for making my high school's varsity team -- was go out there and play harder than anybody else in the camp.

Of course, there were a few dozen other guys thinking the same thing.

The KHS coaching staff supervised the camp, but they didn't coach any of the teams. They left that to various college age assistants whose origins were (and still are) unknown to me. But whoever they were, they took their jobs pretty seriously. They screamed out instructions and diagrammed plays like each contest was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Winning was very, very important to them.

I have an embarrassing admission to make though: Winning wasn't all that important to yours truly. Yeah, I know. That's pretty Basketbawful of me, but it's true. I was like an NBA free-agent-to-be going for numbers so I could earn a big contract. All I wanted to do was play well enough to impress somebody on my school's coaching staff. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I went for personal achievement at the expense of winning, but I will say that team victories weren't something I concerned myself with.

Suffice to say, I have no idea what the Bulls' won-loss record was. If there was a gun to my head right now, I couldn't tell you whether we won every game or lost them all. I cannot remember the outcome of a single game in which I played during that camp.

However, I can recite my stats: 5.7 PPG and 8.9 RPG.

To this day, those numbers are still etched in my memory. They may not look like much, but I was pretty proud of them. After all, the games lasted only 30 minutes, and for most of the came, nobody logged more than 15 minutes a game. I shot 78 percent from the field. This was because almost every shot I took was a tip or a putback. During that camp, I took exactly one outside shot: A jumper from the left elbow (which I made).

Here's the thing: All anybody at that camp wanted to do was score. It seemed as if the assumption was that if you could score, you could make the team at your respective high school. So nobody wanted to give up the ball. Everybody wanted their shots. Like I said, the coaches were diagramming plays for specific players. But guys would circumvent the playcalling by fast breaking into an early offense and shooting before all their teammates caught up. It wasn't quite the chaos my intramural experience had been -- for starters, the talent level at this camp was generally higher -- but it wasn't any less selfish.

That's why I focused on rebounding instead of shooting. And my work on the board was strong. That's the one thing I remember my coach telling me over and over: "Good job on the boards, Matt." I crashed them with gusto. Nobody on the team was rebounding like I was. I didn't see many people on other teams rebounding like I was either. The way I saw it, rebounding was going to be my "in."

Of course, my rebounding success hinged on certain elements specific to this camp. First, most of the teams were employing a "hurry up" offense that featured fast and often times low percentage shots. This meant there were plenty of rebounding opportunities. It was kind of like 1960s NBA ball, minus most of the talent. But people were more concerned with running out on the break for a chance to shoot than busting their humps for rebounds. So many times, I was tearing down uncontested rebounds.

But hey, a rebound is a rebound.

I was also playing pretty solid defense. In fact, my coach would often stick me on the opposing team's best scorer. At the time, defense wasn't a focus of mine, and my fundamentals were pretty meh. But before camp, I had read an passage from a basketball book that quoted some of the defensive concepts touted by Dr. Jack Ramsey. The one that stuck with me the most was that defense begins before your man ever receives the ball. Therefore, Dr. Jack reasoned, if you can deny your man the basketball, you can beat him.

I embraced this concept to the fullest.

Therefore, I chased my man. I played full court defense on every possession. I had a body on my man constantly. Nobody got away from me. This got under people's skin. One player -- whom I believe was a starter for either Western or Northwestern -- got so pissed off at my relentless pursuit that he gave me a two-handed shove while screaming "Fuck OFF!" The move earned him a technical foul (which meant an automatic ejection) while earning me deep praise from my coach.

I also (unofficially) led my team in hustle plays. I dove after everything. If there was a loose ball, I went after it like a guided missile. My arms and legs were littered with bruises and floor burns. But I loved it. It fit with the attitude I brought into camp: Outwork everybody else.

As the camp progressed, I was picking up steam. In Game 6, my camp experience culminated in what I saw as a breakout game: a 10-point, 13-rebound effort while matched up against our school's one and only seven footer. Mind you, those stats were compiled in the first half. I wasn't able to add to them because I never played in the second half.

In fact, I never played again for the rest of the camp.

See, there was something else going on that I simply couldn't see at the time. You have to understand, I had never been coached before, had never played any actual organized basketball. I played mostly one-on-one, or two-on-two, or 21, or some other bastardized version of basketball. My five-on-five experience was extremely limited. Playing within a team was virtually brand new to me.

As a result, I was fucking terrible in the set offense.

I struggled -- and I mean I really struggled -- to run even the simplest of diagrammed plays. I cut in the wrong direction, zig when I should have zagged, set a pick or scream at the wrong time or in the wrong spot on the court. I would get confused mid-play and then resort to freelancing as my teammates continued running what our coach had diagrammed. Hell, there were times when I would run into my teammates during plays.

Frankly, it was embarrassing. But I wasn't nearly as embarrassed as I should have been. I should have realized what was coming.

When I showed up for Game 7, the coach didn't put me in the starting lineup, which was weird, because I had started every game so far. I assumed therefore that I would get in and play for the entire second half. But that didn't happen either. I didn't log a single second.

The same thing happened in Game 8.

Before Game 9, I went to my coach and asked why I hadn't played in the last two games. This is what he said: "I know I haven't been playing you, and I'm sorry about that. But these final games are sort of reserved for the players who have a chance to make their varsity teams. They really need the minutes to prepare them for tryouts. If we go up or down by a lot, I'll see if I can get you in, okay?"

And just like that, I knew it was over. My fool's dream of making varsity was thoroughly crushed. I didn't even bother to stay for the game. Nor did I return for the 10th and final game.

I was seriously depressed and completely confused. All I could think about was my sky-high shooting percentage, my stellar rebounding and my stout defense. I had skills. Useful skills. All I needed was a chance! But then, I reasoned, I had gotten a chance and failed. And that failure felt as humiliating as any I had ever suffered. It wasn't even like I'd tried out for the team and not made it. I got benched a fucking developmental camp.

I was so bummed out that I briefly considered quitting basketball for good. But as much as I wanted to do that -- out of childish rebellion as much as anything else -- I couldn't. It was in my blood. I kept playing, even though I kind of hated basketball for a while.

As a side note, shortly after my senior year started, one of the assistant coaches saw me in the hall and stopped me on my way to class.

"Hey, I noticed you stopped coming to the camp," he said.

"Yeah," I muttered, not even able to look him in the eye. "They stopped playing me."

"Yeah, that happens," he said. "And I figured that's why you stopped coming. You know, I almost called you up. I liked your effort. I thought maybe I could set you up with [some player on the varsity team], and you guys could practice together. Unfortunately, I just never got around to it. Just remember, sometimes it pays to stick with things, even when they aren't working out."

And that was it. The conversation ended and he just walked away, leaving me even more frustrated and confused than I had been before. Was he saying that I might have had a chance to make the team after all? If he'd called me, could he have given me the pointers necessary to fulfill that crazy dream I'd had? Or was he just throwing me a bone, trying ot make me feel better?

I never found out. It probably didn't matter anyway.

So in the end, I didn't make my high school's varsity team. But I still had a lot of basketball left in me.

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Blogger Nick Flynt said...
Alright, this is great and everything but...c'mon McHale. Just get in on Twitter. Everyone wants you there, so do it.

Anonymous Jpaw said...
bro thats a freaking shame anyone can be taught how to run plays, that kind of hard work and sheer determination cant be taught.

Anonymous Gabe said...
Are you describing yourself in these games Bawful or Anderson Varejao?

Blogger chris said...
So in the Matt McHale: Technical Writer Challenge, one of the levels will be coming back to your high school to vindicate your 5.7 PPG against the folks who were ready to become professional college athletes!?!?!?

In a perfect world, it would've been like Rudy out there in developmental camp...except that you would have already earned much more playing time than that.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm so sad:(

www.NBAinfo.dk !

Blogger Unknown said...
I understand the pain bro... you shoulda made the team... brings back some painful memories for me reading your story....

I was cut from my public HS team too~ while being recruited to one of the top HS bball programs in the country~ but couldnt afford to go there~
i was cut in favor for some kids, whose fathers knew the coach... they couldnt even make a left hand layup!! it really hurt...bc bball was everything to me~
but it really fueled me to play harder~ and the end result wasnt all that sad~ probably same with you too.

Just my two cents... sharing the pain.
Great stories!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You have pretty much summed up in one entry why youth sports can really, really suck. Unless they are athletic freaks or are really tall, there can be no room for late bloomers in basketball. There is generally a pipeline, and coaches feel safe with the kids coming up through that pipeline.

And I'm the father of a kid who went through that pipeline and started for two years on his HS team.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I didn't even bother to stay for the game. Nor did I return for the 10th and final game."

THAT...is why you fail.

Blogger Benjamin said...
"set a pick or scream at the wrong time"

funnily enough, Bawful, my biggest downfall as a basketball player was also that I could never figure out when was the best time to scream.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I didn't even bother to stay for the game. Nor did I return for the 10th and final game."

THAT...is why you fail.


That's easy to say, and that might be how Bawful feels now, but 16 year old kids don't have the wisdom that time brings. Nor did it sound like he had the parental guidance of someone who could have said "You know...why don't you stick with it."

(And believe me, I am not saying that Bawful's mom was uncaring or anything...just that she may not have been involved, or even aware, of how important this was to him.)

Anonymous JJ said...
Oh man, I really wanted to see a happy ending. Like you made the team, went to play college ball, and then to NBA, and became an All-Star! Well, I guess I already knew that you didn't play college ball from your other stories, but I was at least hoping to see that you made the varsity team.

Blogger BJ said...
Oooooh. I can feel the heartbreak from here, dude.

Blogger Steve Lee said...
Well you know what? Most of those guys who played Varsity for Kokomo HS don't have a kickass basketball blog. Passion is what passion does, and you got bball passion in spades.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Bawful, you should have added a "I've got a family to feed!" at the end of that conversation with the coach, just to make your whine about minutes less generic ;)

Blogger Dan B. said...
AnacondaHL -- You forgot to include choking the coach and getting his boat repossessed. Oh, wait, wrong player. Sorry.

NBA Jam news!! EA Sports has decided that they WILL release the game on Xbox360 and PS3 instead of making it a Wii exclusive! However, there's a catch: you gotta buy NBA Elite 11 first. You'll be given a one-time-only code to download the new NBA Jam (which can NOT be purchased separately). Plus the game will NOT be identical to the Wii version and will leave out some gameplay modes. So EA gets to hurt the resale value of NBA Elite to put a damper on the used games market cutting into their profit margin, and they get to basically sell you a glorified demo of NBA Jam in hopes that you'll buy the full game for the Wii. I can't decide if the customers should be happy or pissed off at this, or a little of both. (And how much do you wanna bet that a few months down the road, EA decides to sell the game on PSN and Xbox Live, and then offer the missing gameplay modes as DLC for an extra few dollars after that?)

Anonymous Heretic said...
Ah high school bball days, I made the team but we were just terrible. Every single player on the team (myself included) wanted 2 things from being on the team:

1) Showboat by attempting every single play seen on Jam Sessions.

2) Bang one of the cheerleaders.

We had some awesome players that were athletically stellar but we played as individuals and didn't give a shit if we won or lost as long as we looked good. I still remember shooting a three on a fast break, there was a guy open under the basket my thought was "Fuck that guy". On the bright side the coaching was pretty horrible too so it wasn't like I wasted anything.

Blogger B Treece said...
I just love the fact that, though you changed the header picture, you kept Peja with a beanie and no shirt.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Continuing what I posted about NBA Jam earlier, here is some info on the NBA Jam "Remix Tour" featuring old-school players (which sounds awesome). (From my understanding, this will only be on the Wii version.)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I've been reading (and enjoying) The Basketball Diaries, though my experience and Bawful's experience in HS basketball are very different: While I played on my school's varsity team, I was burned out on basketball halfway through my junior year (mostly due to my coach, the biggest dickhead I've ever met and quite possibly a distant relative of Hitler, or perhaps Stalin). I had been playing basketball since I was able to walk and I was easily one of the most talented guys on the team, but I eventually dreaded going to practice and just went through the motions, didn't improve much, and I was mentally checked out before too long. Looking back, it was a shame because I should have and could have contributed more than I did. Part of it was teenage laziness and a lot of it was absolutely hating my coach and not giving a crap.

(Ahh teenagers....what little assholes we were.)

That being said, the other things that came with being on the team were great. I made a lot of my life-long friends through the basketball team, the away game trips were always fun (and it was cool to get out of school a few times a week), and I got a dorky sense of pride out of getting to represent my town and wear my school's colors on the court about 30 times a year.

Anyway, the point I think I'm trying to get at is that, while I gained a lot from the experience of being on the team, basketball-wise it just sucked the joy out of playing the game for me. In a way I envy you Bawful, because I don't have the desire to play anymore, no matter how much I'd really like to. The entusiasm I had for basketball that I had when I was 13 -- the amount of enthusiasm I think is NEEDED to play the game -- just isn't there. I blew my proverbial load on basketball before I could legally purchase a Playboy, while I think your route will allow you to enjoy playing for a long, long time.

Has anyone else experienced this?

Anonymous Dawran said...
@Bawful (or anyone else who knows)

I wanted to know what your hops were like at the time. I think you once said you're 6'2", but could you dunk? Also, are you a one leg jumper or a two leg jumper?

I'm asking cz I had a similar experience. Didn't play much organized ball, but I tailored my game to be efficient in 3 on 3s. Became a pretty good all rounder, played hard D, got rebounds, blocked shots, made open jumpers, had a little post game. Kinda like a Gerald Wallace type of game. Problem was, I was 5'9". And though at the time I was thriving cz my competition was average and I did the things most people didn't care much for, that mentality was going to come back and bite me in the ass a few years later.

My biggest asset was that I was strong for my height and I could dunk off a drop step. I didn't really need a running start to get to my max reach. So when it came to rebounds and blocks, I felt I could hold my own against most people.

Whatever my team lacked at the time, I'd jump in and do that. Guard the post, or a fast guy, handle the ball, or play inside, I'd find ways to be useful.

By the time I tried to switch to organized basketball, I hadn't honed my point guard skills well enough. I was ok, but not great. The things I was good at, my teams had better people who were suited for them. Players didn't have glaring holes in their games anymore; cz when ur 5'9" and everyone remembers to box out it doesn't matter how high you jump, rebounds won't come easy.

My go-to-move was now almost useless. It was drive hard off the high post or either block, jump stop and do a hook shot(the regular Duncan, Gasol one, not the Kareem kind). In a 3 on 3 I had plenty of space and time to pull that off. It didn't matter how tall u were, I could pull it off all day. In a 5 on 5, getting that close to the rim without taking steps was far more difficult.

By the time I started to figure it out, and adapt my skills and abilities to play the point guard position, I wasn't playing ball often enough to stay in shape. And I'd also tried to change my shot (Better Basketball anyone?) and ended up losing it altogether cz I wasn't playing often enough.

When I finally got my shot back, my knees were gone. I'm in my last year of college now, I go to a D-III school. No one on the team is close to where I was athletically in H.S. And talent wise, I'd more than hold my own now that I understand how to play in a system. Sadly, my body has gone into early retirement. But hey, that's what you get for growing up in the UK where high school ball is a joke for the most part.

Blogger David Robinson said...
I can really empathize with not making the Varsity team either. I was a starter on both freshman and JV, and the leading scorer/rebounder on my JV team. However, at only 6' tall, I was a little too short for the position I was playing (PF aka the "4"). I played summer ball at the 2 before my JV year, but they put me back at the 4 again during the JV year due to a lack of talent at that position (not a lack of height mind you). Before my Junior year (and trying out for varsity) I tried to go back to the 2, however I was completely lost in the offense after having not run it for the prior 2 years. Throw in the fact that my outside shooting was suspect, (I could can 15 footers but 3 pointers were not falling for me) and the fact that I hadn't practiced any ball handling for years, I was pretty much done. I asked the coach after final cuts were made as to why I didn't make the team, after having such a splendid season the year before, and his response was: "I'm sorry, but you're what we call a 'tweener.' Too short to play the post, and not skilled enough to play the guard.

I was crushed, and honestly didn't play basketball with any consistency for about 5-6 years. I've gotten back into a pickup league now, and I can honestly say my love for the game has never been higher. So Kudos to 'bawful for still enjoying the game. I enjoy reading these "pickup diaries" quite a bit, as it gives me flashbacks of my youth. Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Playing team sports is very frustrating. Your performance is largely affected by your teammates play as well as the coach's perception of your abilities. You can bust your ass to be your very best, but never get a chance to shine because you don't get in the game or your teammates fuck it up for you.

That is why I have always loved individual sports like running and swimming. The clock doesn't lie, and hard work ALWAYS pays off. You get out of those sports exactly what you put into them.

By the way, I asked you for your 1/2 marathon time a while back, and never got an answer. Don't make me athlete stalk you on google, bro.

Blogger Ash said...
Agree with most comments.

Except NO! Do NOT join Twitter. I lose 45% of my respect for people who use that soul-sucking service that promotes using "netspeak," ugh.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Ash -- Some people know how to make Twitter not suck. It's a great venue for one-liners and spur-of-the-moment jokes like that, plus sharing links. However, if someone tells you what they just ate, then follows it up with a statement like "OMG traffic sux!" or something like that, I fully agree with you.

Blogger Mintz... said...
@In BC We Trust

But when you DID scream... it was truly terrifying. Your outbursts of rage contained unbridled amounts of intensity.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
the right time to scream:

1) when you're too far away from the guy taking a lay up or shot to contest, so you lunge at him and scream

2) when you fake a drive to the basket. lunge hard and grunt loud and your defender will back off so you can pull it back and take a shot. for the rest of the game, whenever you grunt or scream, your defender will tense up and be confused.

3) when you're driving in and pass the ball off, then pretend to go up for a lay up and scream. everyone will still be guarding you for the lay up, so jump right next to the defender and you can usually get at least one guy to follow you in the air. sometimes their whole team will look at you.

4) when a girl is walking by. yell something to get her attention, make eye contact for a couple seconds, do some fancy looking crossovers (they don't have to be good, girls can't tell), make eye contact again and shoot a long 3. the further the better. if you make it, look back and nod knowingly while she has an amazed expression on her face. even if you airball it, if you smile, you can usually get a laugh out of her. undress her with your eyes while you walk slowly back on D. if she starts walking with a bounce to her step, you just made her day. if your team starts yelling at you, you get bonus points. milk it for as long as she's looking. the madder everyone else is, the better you look to her. you might have just blown the game, but who's the real winner in this situation?

the right time to set a pick:

when you want to let someone know he's a bitch. at the beginning of the game, go up to the biggest guy on the other team and start setting picks on him. real easy soft moving screens to test him to see if he knows how to play. if he starts getting pissed and swings at you or pushes you, screen him hard until he calms down. works especially well if you're much smaller than him, but you have to know how to not get hit and know how to handle yourself. once you rattle his confidence, you just took out the biggest threat on the other team and pretty much won the game for your team.

Blogger Siddarth Sharma said...
Anyone here ran a full marathon? I completed it in 4 1/2 hours, same timing as Oprah Winfrey.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Ash -- Some people know how to make Twitter not suck. It's a great venue for one-liners and spur-of-the-moment jokes like that, plus sharing links. However, if someone tells you what they just ate, then follows it up with a statement like "OMG traffic sux!" or something like that, I fully agree with you.

But you have to love the unintentional hilarity when there is a "Must use the restroom now!" comment sandwiched in between those two inane comments.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Sid -- My boss runs marathons (he's somewhere in the 3 hour bracket), and another guy in my department is a crazy sonofabitch who runs ultramarathons. You know, those 50 mile races through the trails on a mountainside. I have no clue how they do it. I can't even chase my dog around my backyard for two minutes without feeling like I'm going to collapse.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
organized ball alsmost killed my love for basketball on more than one occasion. I'm also what you call a late bloomer. When i was playing organised ball my general condition was way better but i started playing too late to catch on with the guys who had been playing for 4-5 years by then. Now my skills have caught on but my conditioning is very poor mainly because of smoking. And having a kid (=less time to practice).

Organised indoor ball = crappy macho, egotripping coaches. They always have a "favourite" too. A guy with one specific skill. He's usually not that good but he's fast, tall or has a good handle. This will enable him to do pretty much anything he wants without getting pulled from the game. This really pisses me off.
As stated in your story, hard work doesn't really pay off at all. The coach knows who he'll play and how much he'll play them before the season starts and they'll never deviate from that. That slightly taller guy will have the edge over you no matter how hard you work, or how lazy he is at practice.

Now i only play outdoor pickup ball in the spring and summer. This is a much more pure and enjoyable form of playing for me. You find some guys you mesh well with and just have fun playing the game

Anonymous D. Highmore said...
Dawran - too true about bball in the UK being a joke. My high school team was a rag-tag bunch of misfits that couldn't play to save our lives the first few years - we won 4 games in our first 3 seasons. By our last year, we'd got pretty good - we'd all grown, there was no one under 6-foot on the team (I was a 6'3" center), which gave us an advantage, and our coach was a referee for the British Basketball League, so we got tons of freebies like game tickets.

Sadly, after a few years playing low-level semi-pro ball over here I discovered and fell in love with girls and booze (I was a late starter), and that, combined with a knee blowout pretty much ended any hopes of a decent pro career at age 22. Still, it was about the most fun I've ever had at any "job"...

Blogger Unknown said...

I ran into the same problem with shitty coaches in high school. Look, I've got no problem getting on the floor, taking some bruises, and knocking a guy down when necessary. You'll play through the pain of any game if it means getting better at it, but I stopped playing in high school because I hated the coach.

It wasn't just that this guy singled me out half of practices, he seemed to take pleasure in it. I don't know exactly how to describe it without coming off as whine-y, but whenever we practiced and did the "jungle ball" drill, he seemed to enjoy his players getting hurt much the same way sadistic bastards like lighting a cat's tail on fire or burning ants. He enjoyed putting people through pain, not because it made them better players, because he liked watching them in pain.

The best example of his assholeyness is when I quit. I walked into his office, told him the news that I needed to focus on school (honestly, because I knew by 15 that I wasn't going to get a bball scholarship, so why keep playing organized ball), and his reaction was to punch a hole in his office, and later, try to pin it me. Nice.

Luckily, I switched volleyball in the spring, a sport where I've never had an asshole coach. Random note: If you want to increase your vert but hate the gym, play volleyball (preferably beach) for a summer. I went from palming the bottom of the backboard to dunking in three months. It was finding out you had secret superpower.

Blogger Unknown said...
Also, since there are a few Celtics fans here, how about Shaq on the C's? Good move? Bad move? It's probably only a good move if they can convince him to come off the bench in some games.

My city's rec league and the Celtics have something in common now. Both only take players who are over 30.

Blogger Siddarth Sharma said...
@ Dan B.- There are even more crazier people around. This crazy dude ran 50 marathons in 50 days.

Amazon.com 50 marathons in 50 days

If you jog 15 minutes a day, I'm sure in a couple of weeks you'll be able to keep pace with your dog. Good luck.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Sid -- I've heard of that guy. Completely, totally insane in my opinion.

Back in high school, I used to run or bike every day either during gym class or after school, and I still never could get to the point that running one mile didn't make me feel like I had been repeatedly kicked in the chest and shins. (Not to mention it took me over 8 minutes just to run one mile) And that really surprises me because I walk a fair bit and almost always take the stairs at work and so forth, and I'm pretty damn skinny actually (I'm something like 5'11" but only 147 pounds).

Blogger Siddarth Sharma said...
@ Dan B.- A mile in 8 mins is a fairly good speed. It's about 6.4 min per km. My goal, to run a marathon under 3 hours, is to take 4 mins per km.

I was in a hostel at a young age, they had us running and exercising mildly every morning, and with the kind of food they served up, it was easy to get in good shape. By now, running has become an addiction for me.

Btw, here is an account of my experience running a marathon.

Running the Kolkata Airtel Marathon, 2010

Blogger Unknown said...
Sorbo: I'm in total conflict about Shaq to the Celtics. As a Lakers fan, my immediate response to a former Laker joining the green goblins is "Fuck you". On the other hand, there's always the possibility that he pulls a Suns and totally destroys team chemistry, which would bring me nothing but joy.

On the third hand, the Suns are a very different team from the Celtics, especially at the center, and with Perkins likely out for a while, he fills a need. He may be a pile of human molasses at this point, but he can still be a force down low for short periods of time.

I think I agree with you. Off the bench, he'd help them more than he hurts them, especially as a backup for Perkins.

Anonymous Karc said...
@Adam - I'm thinking that Shaq kills the team, or quits before the Celtics let him kill the team. I was premature before, but he's crushed every team he's been on, and he doesn't have the luxury of his early years, Kobe, or D-Wade to justify the phantom mid-season injury or the record to proclaim that he's the reason they are on top.

Anonymous AK Dave said...

I ran a 3:08 last year. (22nd place out of 450+)

Sub-3hr is also a goal of mine, but I did manage to qualify for Boston, so that was cool.

Re: Shaq

Send him to the glue factory already.

Blogger Unknown said...
Karc: I didn't follow much of the Crabs season very closely; How much damage did he do to them? I mean, he was an obviously terrible fit for the Suns and they were useless with him in the lineup, but I got the impression that he performed well enough for the Crabs when they needed him to. It seems to a layman like me that he'd fit in better with the Celtics who play slower than the Suns and who need a big body to put in Perkins' spot.

I don't think he'll do wonders for the team, but I'm having a hard time (however much I'd like to) thinking that he'll outright ruin them. I guess we'll see though. I only have general knowledge of Shaq post-Heat.

Blogger Unknown said...
@Adam and Karc:

The Cavs ran a system that played to Shaq's strengths (slowed down, quick perimeter defenders), but that same style hindered Lebron's strengths (Shaq clogged the middle on offense, no up-tempo game), so it might have been something of the system in Cleveland, too.

Then again at some point, it's just proof that he's old and slow, with no system able to really work for him. That's why I think the back-up role would work for him great. He can still get his offense, and basically play better than the other team's scrubs while getting that teams' back-ups into foul trouble.

Do you think Cleveland does a sign-and-trade with Boston to get Wallace's "retiring" contract? Is that even possible?

Anonymous JJ said...
I think Shaq was pretty low-profile (by his standards) at Cavs and didn't disrupt them much, if at all. So, I'm assuming he'll be focused on getting 1 more ring at this point and behave similarly, especially since he finally seems to be accepting that his market value is virtually non-existent by taking vet minimum.

Blogger Christopher Todd said...
The biggest issue Shaq posed while with the Suns and Cavs was being a horrendous fit - both teams feature players that need space near the rim (Amare and LeBron) and Shaq clogs the lane, preventing them from driving as effectively. With the Celtics, this won't be as big of a factor, as the only player who truly drives to the hoop is Rondo (he passes in the pain 50% of the time, anyway). I say he helps more than he hurts because the team is so experienced and full of leaders, his personality shouldn't get in the way.

I'm a Laker fan, but I do think this makes them more dangerous, and also presents additional match up issues for the Heat.

Anonymous kazam92 said...
How odd is that the only two O'neal's in NBA history are teaamates and both way past their expiration date?

The Big Shamrock is the new nickname. I'd prefer the Big Freeloader

Anonymous Karc said...
Statistically, Cavs were a better team without him (points per 100 possessions were up by at least 10 when he was not playing). There's also the stuff Sorbo mentioned, 2-guards can run the perimeter better than 3's who need more access to the paint.

There's also the issue that he was the highest paid person on that team (20 mil to LeBron's 16), and it was clear that the number 2 guy was doing most or all of the work (old song for guys like Nash, Kobe, Wade, etc). Must have led to locker room issues. Unlike the other teams, though, the Cavs meltdown had more to do with James than Shaq, but he was there.

Back on the subject of high school sports, though, I wonder how NBA players would fare if they had their egos crushed in college (for example, Jordan more or less made his career as a result of rising from failure and rejection). Say LeBron went to Ohio State as he claims he would have done, got to the Final Four in his third year and had to go up against Florida (against, strangely enough, his "nemesis" Joakim Noah). Wonder how he would have reacted losing the NCAA title. Would it motivate and/or humble him, or would he dismiss it, since he knows he going to be better than anyone on that Florida team once he gets to the pros?

Anonymous AK Dave said...

1) Never mention that game again. (kthx!)

2) With LeBron on that team, Ohio State blows out UF, and LeBron would not be humbled.

Seriously: can you imagine him on a college team? Can you imagine him on a college team for more than 2 years? As barren as the talent landscape of NCAA ball is today, a 21-year-old LeBron would absolutely rampage.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
AK Dave - he might have rampaged,
BUt it might have still Changed his game. I cite Glenn Robinson - absolutely dominant in college. Absolutely lacKing in his timE Yanking it in the pros. I'm also not surE Ohio State winS over UF just Because LB shows up. And on top of that, he would have been Like 18 Or 19 - at 21 LBJ had 3 years Working in the pros.

Blogger Unknown said...
That team would have killed it: Oden, LBJ, and Conley. I know Florida and Joakim, Davis, and Brewer were good, but still I think Ohio St. wins that game. I mean, you got to remember, Oden played left-handed that entire season, and Ohio St. came within a game of the championship. LBJ would have put them over the top. Ugh. Too bad Oden's injuries screwed him out of a decent NBA career. He really could be good if he could get over them.

But if the question is that LBJ would be better if he lost a college basketball game? I think he's already experienced enough loss in Cleveland (2007 Finals, 2008 EC Finals, 2009 EC Finals, 2010 Eastern semis) so that he should already be humbled. Are you asking that if he suffered that type of defeat as an amateur, it would have made him better as a pro?

Blogger Unknown said...
BadDave: Something wrong with your keyboard? I spent far too long looking for some sort of hidden message in the capitalized letters.

Anonymous Nate said...
Adam - And you didn't find it? Look again.

Blogger DC said...

You're assuming that Lebron would stick around into his Senior year had he gone to Ohio State. Then again, that's been the basic premise since Karc mentioned the Noah/Horford/Brewer Gators team. But it's still a faulty premise since Lebron would have been one and done at whichever school he hypothetically chose to go to.

So let's assume that he played in the NCAA for the 2003-2004 season. The champions that year was the UConn team led by Okafor and Gordon. IMO, while guys like Melo and Durant thrived in the college game, they did so because they're mid-range to outside shooting game was solid. Not so with the young Lebron (or even the current Lebron, in spite of his improvements in that area). Couple that with the tight "true" zone defenses, the smaller courts (in some venues), and other factors (such as NCAA refs possibly not allowing him to lower his shoulders on his drives), and I'm not entirely convinced a young Lebron has the skills to dominate as people have assumed.

Would he have been a top player? No doubt about it. But I certainly wouldn't automatically give him an NCAA title just because he's Lebron.

BTW, that Florida team was a pretty badass team for winning two consecutive NCAA titles. I mean, it's hard enough to win one championship, but for Noah/Horford/Brewer to say "I think we're going forgo the draft and stick together to win another title" and then backing up their claims? That's Red Auerbach territory of boldness right there.

Anonymous Karc said...
@Sorbo - Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm asking. You can lose as a pro when you're making millions of dollars. It doesn't really matter. Just ask Joe Johnson. Besides, most of the blame for James' losses in Cleveland were his teammates (the "he has no help" argument), or his coach ("Coach of the Year cannot coach offense" argument), but it was never his fault (although there are many examples to show that in fact it was). In college, he does not get that luxury, since it's almost all dependent on raw talent. Carmelo Anthony spent one year at Syracuse, had a good coach, and won the whole thing.

If anything, the coach would have made a point to dent James' ego in practice enough so that he would not even think of being as self-centered as he is right now until he at least won something of significance. That's mostly been LeBron's problem. Not enough people in his ear telling him that he's not as good as he thinks he is and that professional teams win in the NBA, not individuals or collections of friends.

Anonymous AK Dave said...

IIRC, Daequon Cook(sp? who cares.) was also on that team. Also let's not forget David Lighty, who will be OSU's best player next year (as soon as he's out of the cast... ugh), and was one of Team USA's best players at the U-19 world championship in '07. And if they had waited another year, they would have also had Evan Turner on-board. And GO would have been backed up by Kosta Koufos.

As much as I hated UF, their guys (noah, brewer, humphries, whoreford) did what you need to be a champion: stay together. They played 4 years (or 3 for some), while OSU has been a bunch of 1 or 2-year wonders until Evan Turner came along.

Still, with LeAkron on that '07 OSU team, man... that would have been a juggernaut

Blogger Henchman #2 said...
The Boston Celtics: Stay Off Their Lawn.

Blogger Unknown said...

It all makes sense now!

On topic, being "humbled" in college would have done nothing to stop the freight train of "you're the best eva!" comments LeBron's been getting since childhood, so I'm not really sure it would have changed his game or ego much.

Blogger Unknown said...
@Karc - It's interesting idea, and a great "what if" scenario, but I'm not sure losing in college would have made him any better. 99% of pro athletes lost (meaning no championship) and look how many of them don't give a shit as pros. It's just a combination of an inborn thing and mix of your parents (either through good means or bad) pushing you to have a Jordan-esque attitude.

Random note, Celtics fans: Did someone say Larry Hughes? The man who had this website dedicated to him (heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com/) may be a fighting leprechaun next year.

Anonymous Nate said...
If you take the letters that would normally be capitalized (names, initials, starts of sentences) you're left with BUCKEYESBLOW.

And now it's clear that I've spent waaay to much time analyzing BadDave's post. What can I say? I'm jonesing for a new Pickup Diaries entry.

Blogger Unknown said...
Ahh, I didn't think about excluding proper capital letters. A cryptographer I am not. I'm impressed enough the thought even occurred to me!

And yes, please Bawful, more Pickup Diaries soon!

Blogger K.A. said...
i do that deny the ball before guys get the ball and a lot of hand checking. man that annoys the hell out of ppl who i man up. but i do play certain guys differently: guys who score off the ball you want to play close. but guy who create i let em catch the ball but away from their comfort zones. these guys you almost want to make them score on their own rather than create for ppl. but if the guy gets hot you live n die by this strategy.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I agree that failing to win an NCAA would not have "humbled" Lebron James. He didn't win a state tile his junior year or senior year (though obviously he couldn't play that year). He didn't win a ton of games his first year in the NBA. So I don't get what the difference would have been. He would have been the best player on a very good team, just like he has been his whole life.

Its hard to know if he could have dominated at a carmelo or durant level, but I think he would have. You could zone up on him as some have mentioned, but he would be very tall for a college player and the game is slower which I think would make him a deadly passer in a zone offense. And though his shooting wasn't much his first year in the NBA, remember that the college 3 pt line was much shorter and that the speed and height of college defenses would have given him extra time to get those shots off, making them much easier.

Also, you could put him in the high post against a zone. He could be really tough there because he would be a serious rebounding threat, a really good cutter/finisher on ball reversals, a good passer if you packed it in when he got the ball there, and a fantastic driver and finisher from that spot as well

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Maybe I missed this, but you went through all this training and then never bothered to try out for the team?

Or was the camp the tryouts? Just a bit confused on that part.