Tuesday, June 13, 2017

:07 Seconds or Less - Jack McCallum

The Mike D'Antoni/Steve Nash/Shawn Marion Phoenix Suns teams came along at just the right time for me. I had abandoned the notion of having a specific team to live or die with, because I had foolishly chosen the Minnesota Timberwolves as that team many years earlier, and it was becoming increasingly likely they were never going to build a consistent contender around Kevin Garnett, the attempt to partner him with Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell having worked for approximately one season*. So I opted to root for whatever teams caught my fancy, due to style of play or particular players they had. The Suns ran like crazy, shot a bunch of threes, scored a lot. They were pretty much my ideal team, and :07 Seconds of Less is about the 2005-2006 season when they reached the Western Conference finals, minus Amare' Stoudemire and his 26 points per game the previous season.

McCallum, a Sports Illustrated writer, had gotten the Suns to agree to make him a part of the coaching staff, and he could use that access to write a book. I expected it would start in training camp and move chronologically through the season, but McCallum mostly focuses on Phoenix' playoff run, jumping back to key moments during the regular season as they become relevant. As Boris Diaw becomes a key player, jump back to when he was acquired in the off-season, and the debates among the coaching staff about what, exactly, he could do for them. Raja Bell is fighting (sometimes literally) to contain Kobe Bryant, jump back to a regular season game when Bell went off on the team for lackluster effort. It's effective, but I was left wishing for more about the regular season.

I was surprised at how candid the coaches were with McCallum, knowing there was a book coming. The fact the coaching staff and front office question how seriously Stoudemire is taking rehabbing his knee, or how much effort they put in to trying to make certain Shawn Marion doesn't feel slighted. That the coaches make sure to mention Marion's birthday when announcing Nash won MVP again, or pleading with the local beat writers to prominently mention Marion's contributions to a big win. Marion has physical gifts and a range of abilities no one else on the team can match, can fill up the box score in ways the others can't. Because of how much talent he has, when he doesn't do that, the coaches attribute it to lack of effort, and from Marion's perspective, unfairly single him out for mistakes in front of the team (especially compared to Steve Nash, whose defense is, let's be charitable and call it really fucking bad).

It's a funny book, at times. The coaches mess with each other, everyone talks shit about Charles Barkley, who is busy dismissing them from his comfy (and no doubt heavily reinforced) seat on TV. They all give McCallum grief about various things, they bitch about the refs favoring the Lakers, they complain about Kobe Bryant. I appreciate that the players, like the fans, believe the NBA favors certain teams.

'If Barbosa is nervous about doing battle with Bryant, he doesn't show it. "I am thinking about your backyard," Barbosa tells Dan. The older D'Antoni had jokingly told Barbosa that he desperately needs the extra $60,000 that players and coaches earn for reaching the second round so he can make pool and landscaping improvements to his new home in Scottsdale. "That's the way to think, L.B.," says Dan. "Every time Kobe makes a move, just remember he's trying to reduce the size of my pool and take away a shrub."

* At this point, it's been over a decade since the T'wolves managed even one winning season. They don't get the amount of scorn for their incompetence the Sacramento Kings do, not since they fired David Kahn as GM anyway, Maybe because they seem to have a plan now, but they haven't had any more success actually building a winning team than the Kings.


SallyP said...

I have to admit, that those Charles Barkley commercials... for something or other... with Samuel L Jackson and Spike Lee were a hoot.

But I only watch UConn Women's basketball. Men's is no longer any fun after they stopped wearing short shorts.

CalvinPitt said...

Those were commercials for the NCAA Tournament, or something related to it, I think. Barkley's OK by me when he doesn't start taking himself too seriously. Sometimes he gets his head up his butt about how profound he is and it's irritating.

SallyP said...

He made me want to wear a hoodie backwards and eat cheetos out of it.

CalvinPitt said...

That was a keen bit of insight there, although what happens the next time he goes to put the hoodie up? he gets cheeto dust all over his head. That's fun for everyone around him, but not so much for him.