Spacing and timing. Sonny and Cher. Batman and Robin. Some things just go together. By themselves they work, kind of. But when paired? Look out. That's when the magic happens. Beautiful basketball pivots on offensive spacing and timing. And it seems to me that life swings back and forth on the same two hinges. So every week or so we'll be examining both, or maybe just pondering about one or the other. And who knows what might happen with the right amount of space and enough time...
Nov. 3, 2010: The First Impression
Oct. 11, 2010: Favorite Time of the Year
Sept. 1, 2010: One Step at a Time
Aug. 3, 2010: Shopping in July
March 15, 2010: Fight One More Round
Feb. 11, 2010: The Lesson
Jan. 26, 2010: Number 300
Dec. 17, 2009: The 2-For-1
Dec. 14, 2009: Groundhog Day
Nov. 26, 2009: Basketball is Cumulative
Nov. 13, 2009: Hot and Cold
Oct. 26, 2009: The Vision Part
Oct. 16, 2009: The Write Space and Time
Nov. 3, 2010 --
The dog days of pre-season are over, the adrenaline kick of early practices has passed, and we're just a day away from our one and only chance to make a first impression. Ready or not, on Thursday we go.
We're a long way from being good right now, but I have to admit that this bunch has me. I like them. I like their hunger. I like their wide eyes. I like their diligence in little things. And I enjoy teaching them because they want to learn.
Learning is the dreaded X-factor, you know. People ask about the science of recruiting; I scoff at the notion that there is one. Anybody can spot the great players. And while the good ones may take a little longer to uncover, if you watch them enough they're fairly easy to distinguish as well. But what we don't know -- any of us -- about any of them, is how they will learn. Or even if they'll want to. And that's the most important part. I read once that the world is divided into two kinds of people: learners and non-learners, and I believe it in my bones. I watched it play out as a high school English teacher who hammered away at rock solid heads who cared not about Katerina, the shrew, or even a king as famous as Macbeth. You can't saw open the top of a skull and pour in Shakespeare, no matter how wonderful you might think it would be for a child to know him. A willing mind has to open the door and invite him in.
A few weeks into this season that follows the "impossible-to-follow" season, that's one thing I think I have: willing minds. These guys really seem to want to know -- not only what, and how, but also why. That in and of itself puts them in a league of their own already.
This bunch also seems to have a really good feel. They get the beat of a possession, the extrapolation of a cut, the necessity of space. And they see more than simply what is in front of them. Their vision leans decidedly toward what could be. That gives me hope for special things. The great ones always separate themselves by what they see.
Those are fabulous, high ceiling kind of traits about this year's team, traits that offer promise and feed our sights, but what we don't know is who we'll be when our back is squarely smashed against the wall. We don't know who will fight and who will quit and who will cover their heads and hide. We don't know who will "screw (their) courage to the sticking place" or who will have the strength to continue long after their sinew is gone. That's stuff you don't find out from an individual meeting or from a personality quiz or in the grading of a slice of film. Toughness doesn't get ascertained, it gets revealed. And you cannot win without it, no matter how smart or good you might be.
So we dig ditches and throw our team in to see if they'll climb out. We erect walls, we throw curves, we booby trap the way. We want them to know how to get through hard because if they can, they can do whatever they want.