Saturday, March 31, 2012

Basketball from a different perspective

A couple of days ago, I blogged that in my twenty years of adult league basketball experience, I had seen just about everything.   Today, I learned something about basketball that I didn't realize or understand.

A couple of weeks ago, I had planned some activities with my friends.  Alas, the plans had to get adjusted to later due to logistical issues.   With my original plans changed, I made new plans.

As I was suddenly free this morning, I made plans to visit a young high school basketball player I knew.  Even though I had officiated her games quite a bit, I had actually never just watched her play as a spectator.  As it turned out, she was playing in a tournament this morning at a gym close by to my house.

For some backstory on why I was visiting this player, read this blog entry:

Behind The Whistle:  Encouraging Players As An Official

The main plan was just to watch her play.  However, I wasn't going to just watch and leaveI.  Knowing the tournament structure, I knew there was some down time between her team's games.  I figured we would have some time to talk as well.  I wanted to know more about her struggles during the high school basketball season as we had not discussed in detail the last time.

So after the young lady's first game, we took a few minutes to talk a bit.  In sharing her story, she opened my eyes to her experience as the last player on the bench of a high school basketball team.    It definitely WASN'T what I was expecting.

While I have played years of adult league basketball, I never played high school basketball.  I just never really good enough to make my school team.  I've known plenty of people who have played high school basketball but only really talked to one person about their experience.  That one person was a guy friend who played one year of JV ball and was a bench warmer throughout.

For the young lady I visited today, her experience sounded like a combination of politics and poor communication.  I won't share her whole experience as that is for her to share.  However, it really opened my eyes to the high school players WHO DON'T get to play a lot.

There are kids who are good enough to make teams but aren't good enough to play regularly.  In this young lady's case, she is a talented and skilled player but yet somehow got buried on the bench for reasons not entirely clear.  In many ways, this is almost the same problem Jeremy Lin had, except the young lady didn't get much of a chance to show she could play this past high school season.

As someone who didn't play basketball in high school, I always wondered how that experience would be.  I did play other sports but none were as high profile as basketball (or football or baseball).  This young lady's experience shows that just being on the team isn't always glamourous and can be a frustrating experience rather than a rewarding one.   

It is unfortunate that the young lady had to go through the experience she did.  However, she has a good head on her shoulders, has great parents and goes to a good school overall.  She has a lot of support and other basketball activities (via her club teams) to fall back on so she will be fine.

However, I did tell her that if she never needed anything, she could always reach out to me.   I know that I lean on friends quite a bit and having extra support is never a bad thing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Basketball can be a humbling and frustrating experience

I've played organized league basketball for over 20 years and have seen just about everything.   I've been on both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.  I've been on winless teams that lost every game by 15 points or more.  I've been on championship teams that went undefeated.   I've been on teams that won some / lost some.  So you can say I have some perspective.   Winning is nice but temporary.  Losing sucks but also temporary.

Yet, this spring season has been surprisingly frustrating for my Monday and Thursday basketball leagues.    Combined my teams are 2-11 (0-6 Monday, 2-5 Thursday).   The record doesn't particularly concern me as all teams make the playoffs.

My Monday team has grown since the early part of the season but we have fallen into a pattern of bad 2nd halves.  We compete and play hard but when the going gets tough, some guys start going one-on-one and the game goes downhill.

My Thursday team is just undersized.  The past two or three weeks, we have basically played with 4 guards and 2 forwards.   Offensively, we don't have enough role players.  We have 4 to 5 guys on the floor who want to shoot.  Unfortunately, I include myself in this group and probably get frustrated when the ball doesn't come my way.

The issues I see with both my teams is chemistry.  Most of the guys have never played with each other before and some guys feel they need to carry the load to get the respective teams on track.   This is fine at times but sometimes result in the majority of shots going to certain guys.

On a personal note,  I admit to being concerned with playing with two teams of guys I have NEVER played with.  In the past few years, I've played with teams that had some new guys but some other guys I have played with.   This proves tough as the new guys don't know my favorite spots.

I've had some decent games but also some games where I feel I didn't really get the ball enough.  Last Thursday, I believed I scored 11 points.  I shot 1 of 2 from the free throw line and shot 5 of 6 from the field.   Making 5 of 6 shots is a good percentage but why I didn't shoot more?  I didn't my usual energy and was content to shoot when I got the ball and not force shots.

Unfortunately,  I was semi frustrated that the ball didn't come my way enough.  Even the opposing team commented after the game that I was hitting my shots but wondered why I didn't shoot more.  The answer is I play within the flow and sometimes that flow just doesn't come my way.

All in all, basketball is fun but sometimes can humble and frustrate you.   I was openly frustrated tonight but will get over it.  I'll play with some friends on Saturday and then get ready for the final weeks of league games before the playoffs in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Happens When Linsanity Ends?

Actually Linsanity ended when Carmelo Anthony returned from injury.   However, any chance of Linsanity returning when out the door when New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni resigned today.

The Knicks blew out the Portland Trail Blazers as Jeremy Lin had 6 points, 6 assists, and 6 turnovers in 24 minutes of play.  What might raise eyebrows is that Baron Davis had 10 assists in 18 minutes of action.  The scary thing for Jeremy Lin fans is that the new interim coach (Mike Woodson) may not favor Jeremy Lin as much as D'Antoni.

What happens next to Jeremy Lin remains to be seen.  However, as I wrote on a message board yesterday, Jeremy Lin has learned more about the BUSINESS of NBA in the past few months (being waived by the Warriors, Rockets and now the coach quits).   Also, big money players like Carmelo hold a lot of sway over how basketball should be played than just the coach.

Best wishes to Jeremy Lin as he navigates another challenge in his career.  I do have confidence he will be fine.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Guard / Forward / Center

For those who are familiar with basketball, the three positions in a game of basketball are guard, forward and center.  The guard and forward positions had sub positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward).  If you're playing high level basketball (NBA, college, top high school teams) your position generally reflects the skill set you bring to the game of basketball.

However, in most adult basketball leagues, your position if sometimes determined by height / weight as much as skill.  If you're a big and tall guy, you're usually going to be a center or power forward.  If you're a decent shooter / ball handler / reasonably tall, you'll probably be a shooting guard / small forward.  If you're a guy who can dribble and pretty short, you'll be the point guard.

Drilling down even further, Asian adult basketball leagues are a little more different.  There aren't any Yao Ming's running around though you'll get a few 6'3" or taller guys ever now and then.  But the reality is that most player fall between 5'6" and 6'1".

For me, I happen to stand around 5'10" and generally an shooting guard / small forward on offense.  I usually defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards on defense.  For our Thursday night basketball league this sping, I am probably the tallest guy on my team.  With the other teams having tough post players, I end up guarding the perimeter AND the post players.

Last night, my team played my friend's team in our league.  My friend is 6'1" 180 pounds.  He can post and has some guard skills.   Seeing I was guarding him, my friend tried to post me and I had to battle just to keep him away from the basket.  Alas, I got into foul trouble and later switched to guarding the point guard.

It was definitely a rough night on the court as my team lost 78-72.  I scored 14 points but was somewhat beat up banging with the big boys inside and chasing the guards outside.  I don't mind the challenge but being an older guy, I can't bang like I used to.