Last August, I watched Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra hoist a giant jug of coconut wine in his uncle's backyard in Los Baños, Philippines, and tell his family that next year, he hoped to bring back an NBA championship trophy. It was the closest Spoelstra, the famously self-effacing and tight-lipped coach, would come to bluster during the week I spent following him through Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Back then, the lockout rules forbid him from even uttering the names LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but I heard from coaches in the local professional league that Spoelstra spent more time questioning them about their offensive sets and strategies for breaking zone defenses than holding forth on what it was like to coach two of the best five basketball players on the planet. When I got to speak with him, our conversation followed a similar pattern: He asked me about life in the Philippines, how to hail a jeepney in Manila, and how weird it felt to call next in a street corner pickup game when I was a 6-foot-3 white guy. Now, there are hundreds of factors that go into making a championship team and coach — luck being a pretty damn big one — but I think Spoelstra's patience and open mind are important aspects of his success. The man seemed to treat every experience as an opportunity to learn something new and useful, and that seems like as good a recipe for improvement as there is. This year, Spoelstra and the Miami Heat certainly improved on their finish in the 2011 NBA Finals, and though there's really no way to improve on "NBA champions," Spoelstra will keep searching for ways to learn more about his craft and the world, and to make himself and his team even better.
Hey, remember the shortened NBA regular season? Now that the playoffs have started, it feels like the regular season only existed to serve as a talking point for diagnosing Derrick Rose’s torn ACL.
The 66-game season was actually a blessing for die-hard and casual NBA fans. There was rarely a night off to forget that the NBA existed, even if it meant a bleak matchup between the Pistons and Bobcats. From night to night, we found out that we didn’t actually care about watching quality basketball, just as long as it felt like the NBA TV B-list player analyst of the night was crashing on your couch when it all ended. We officially learned that practice means even less to fans than it does to a lazy NBA player. We only cared that the NBA is there for us every night, like a friend that we can turn to in order to distract ourselves from darkness and loneliness. Sure, legacies are defined in the playoffs, but the regular season is still a necessary routine that we take for granted when it’s over.
Now that it’s over, we can look back on what we expected out of the NBA season versus what actually happened. For some reason, we thought that the lockout would change the course of the season, but there were few surprises. For instance only two new teams made the playoffs (Blazers and Hornets were replaced by the Clippers and Jazz), but really only one did if you consider Chris Paul to be a superhuman who puts mediocre teams on his back. Here are some more widely accepted-as-reasonable NBA preseason predictions and how they actually panned out.
It looks like David Stern picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue. After a lengthy and contentious lockout, a brief antitrust skirmish, and the cancellation of 16 regular season games, the owners and the NBPA finally agreed to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. The months of bad publicity quickly washed away, and then Stern stepped right into the Chris Paul nightmare, vetoing a three-team trade that would have sent the inevitably-soon-to-be-ex-Hornet Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and a solid core of players — Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, and Goran Dragic — to the league-owned Hornets. Meanwhile, Stern and the Hornets continue to search for a trading partner for Paul.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns as the Seahawks beat the Eagles 31-14. Afterward, Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid was so ashamed that he shaved off his mustache and tried to disguise himself as a normal fat guy, but the plan failed when a group of Patriots fans heckled him for his foot fetish.
Thanks to Friend of Grantland, Michael, who e-mailed boss of Grantland Bill Simmons last week about the NBA lockout. Yeah, yeah, weknowit’sovernow. But we’re running this e-mail anyway! Because we like how you think, Michael. Thanks for writing!
And now: a collective “You’ve got to be kidding me.” For weeks, whenever we saw Billy Hunter and David Stern -- respectively, National Basketball Players Association executive director and NBA commissioner -- they were in suits, the suit being, of course, the attire of business, and business being, for 149 days, what both sides of the NBA lockout said they meant. That the lockout lasted as long as it did proved they meant otherwise; and, anyway, on Hunter, a suit always asked, “Where’s my Pineau des Charentes?” Mostly, he and Stern wore suits because what else would they have worn to such high-stakes, high-profile negotiations?
Well, on Saturday, at close to 4 a.m., after a reported 15 hours of hammering out a deal that would end the lockout, we discovered exactly what else. Hunter and Stern sat at the center of a long conference table at a midtown Manhattan law firm. They weren’t in suits. They wore just about the last thing you’d expect from two people who have been as entrenched as they claimed to have been. Both men sat at that table wearing a piece of clothing that totally belied the incompetence and complacency and intransigence on both sides of the lockout, the heartlessness, cluelessness, ruthlessness, and indifference to the sport itself. They wore the tasteful opposite of boardroom business, and they did so in a move that, under the circumstances, can be understood as an act of desperate cynicism, a calculated plea for gratitude, sympathy, and hugs.
At 3:40 a.m., Billy Hunter and David Stern ended the NBA lockout in sweaters.
After months of negotiation, NBA owners and the vestigial representatives of the players’ association agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that saved the 2011-12 season. Here’s a look at some of the fine print.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
The NBA is back! Pending ratification, a new labor agreement has been reached between players and owners that would allow for a 66-game season beginning on Christmas day. Which means that the first Christmas memory for many young children will be the terrifying image of Kevin Garnett screaming at them through the television.
Don’t feel too bad if you still don’t understand the goals or logic of NBA players during the lockout. Their inability to communicate their concerns has been one of the larger criticisms of the National Basketball Players Association during these negotiations.
The players' union — or the trade association formerly known as the players’ union — began clearly coalescing its points Tuesday. The union invited about a dozen reporters to its offices to hear executive director Billy Hunter and David Boies, the freshly hired and well-respected attorney who will lead the union’s efforts in court against the NBA, discuss the organization’s next step.
The following is a rundown of the players’ complaint. Portions of this blog post that are presented in italics are excerpts from the complaint itself. The quotes are spliced with explanations from Boies.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski passed Bobby Knight for first place on the all-time D-I wins list with a 74-69 win over Michigan State. Unfortunately, the NCAA determined shortly after the game that Kyle Singler wore illegally thick socks throughout his career, meaning 100 of those wins will have to be vacated.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Aaron Rodgers threw three four touchdown passes and the Green Bay Packers improved to 9-0 with a 45-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. I'm trying to suppress a decade's worth of media influence here God help me I'm not strong enough BRETTFAVREBRETTFAVREBRETTFAVRE.
On Monday, the NBA labor negotiations completely imploded. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher, with seemingly half of the NBA at their side, declared their intentions to disband the union and file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. In response, NBA commissioner David Stern appeared on SportsCenter and said, "They seem hell-bent on self-destruction, and it's very sad."
The rhetoric now moves from meetings in hotels to courtrooms. But what did Monday's action actually mean? We asked Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has worked with the players' union in the past, to try to explain it all.