The Sixth Man (cont.)
The questions are fabricated, my answers are for real.
I don't think I'm a bad guy, but then I hear people talking about how ruthless I am. I once quit a job by faxing in my letter of resignation. Another time I fired one of my best friends in order to take his job for myself. I look back and say I did the right thing both times! Does that make me a bad person? People expect me to come in and save the day, and then they snicker that it's all about me even while they're all succeeding because of me. There ought to be a book called, "Winning: Not All It's Cracked Up To Be." Don't even think about writing it yourself -- I'm copyrighting it before you can steal the idea."
-- P.R., Miami
The Heat's 8-7 start is not about you, Pat Riley, and it's not about coach Erik Spoelstra. It's about players who look like they've given up already.
They took credit for putting themselves in Miami. They wanted to play together. Tell them they need to figure it out. Tell them to stop moping and start locking down the perimeter and creating deflections and steals and altered shots that can put them in transition, because once they're running, then the game will flow naturally. Tell them they can have their fun on offense if they put in their work on defense. Tell them if Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce could carry a team of role players to the Eastern Conference finals a few years ago, then this team in Miami should be sprinting to the Finals.
Here is what LeBron James said about winning championships when he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had their Mission Accomplished celebration after signing with Miami last summer: "Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven. Hey, and when I say that when I say that, I really believe it. I'm not just up here blowing smoke at none of these fans, because that's not what I'm about. I'm about business. And we believe we can win multiple championships if we take care of business and do it the right way."
Riley, you know it's going this way in no small part because you publicly declared last summer you could take over as coach. But you know that isn't the answer now. This is not about you. This is about the team. Tell them you aren't firing anybody because the problem has nothing to do with coaching. Tell them to find the winner within, and don't enable them to blame others and create excuses. Be Pat Riley and inspire them.
People say I'm in this business for the championships, but they have it all wrong. I'm in it for the laughs. Everyone says, 'How can you put up with your crazy small forward?' when really, I love having the guy around. He cracks me up. It says everything about this league that everyone gets mad whenever I stick it to someone. Here's my advice to all of my "enemies" in this crazy NBA: Find a way to make yourself laugh. The richer you get, the more you should be laughing.
-- P.J., Los Angeles
Lakers coach Phil Jackson stuck it to Miami this week when he said, "Eventually these guys that were recruited -- Bosh and James -- by Pat Riley and Micky Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, 'We feel you [Riley] can do a better job coaching the team.' ... It could be the Van Gundy thing all over again."
A lot of coaches didn't like to hear Jackson appearing to undercut Spoelstra. But aren't these same coaches urging their own players against fraternizing with players on rival teams?
So, it's OK if rival coaches view themselves as a group and look out for each other, but it's not OK if rival players do the same?
This is not about Jackson trying to mess with another coach. Instead this is about the Lakers trying to disrupt a rival team. Red Auerbach used to do the same provocative things on behalf of his Celtics in order to get underneath opponents' fingernails and wedge them up.
This was a funny, clever and altogether competitive way of trying to disrupt a rival contender. And if people in the league think the NBA would be better off without teams trying to mess with each other, then they couldn't be more wrong. Fans want to know that these teams want to beat each other badly.
I have 450 or so friends -- that's how I see them because of all we have in common -- and I want them to save their money. Why buy eight or nine cars when you can get by on four or five? Does the oceanfront mansion you're building really need a submarine dock? No home needs it's own IMAX. Do you have any advice on how I can convince these guys to stash away some cash?
-- B.H., New York
Union chief Billy Hunter said the right thing for the NBA players this week when he predicted a 99 percent chance of a lockout after the season. He was criticized for appearing to give up on the labor negotiations prematurely, but his statement wasn't aimed at the owners on the other side of the table. He needs to convince the players to put money away because he knows the owners' lockout strategy will be to hold out until the players run out of money and they're forced to accept the owners' terms in order to receive the next paycheck. He is trying to negate that strategy.
How to keep the weight off. This comes from Boston's 6-foot-5 shooting guard Ray Allen, who, at 35, has maintained a size 29-30 waist:
"This summer, I tried to not get out of shape so I ran consistently. By the ninth or 10th of August I started really ramping it up and hitting the health club and treadmilling it.
"I'll go to the gym at 7:30 in the morning and stretch. I'll split my days between upper body and lower body. Say it's an upper body day: I'll do bench press, curls, shoulder lifts, and I have a routine for pushups.
After I lift, I do my cardio, so I get on the elliptical for 30 minutes, and then I get on the treadmill and I run for 10 minutes on the treadmill and then I take it up. I start at level 7.5 and then after 10 minutes, I increase it to nine and then I get to 10. Then I'll increase it to 11 and every 30 seconds I'll increase it by _ notch -- 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. I do 10 of those sets, so the treadmill gets up to level 14 and I'll run for 30 seconds and get off for 30 seconds, to the point where I'm dying. But it's a great feeling once I finish. It's a great feeling.
"So on Mondays, I do upper body, on Tuesdays I do lower and Wednesdays I spin -- spin class is at 9:15 a.m. -- and then on Thursdays and Fridays I'll do what I did Monday and Tuesday. Then on Saturday I'll go to the track and run a mile, and then do 10 sprints. I'll run the 100 meters of the track and walk to the corners, and do 10 of those.
"I hope that I'm an example -- not only for my teammates but for the kids who watch and even the guys who I play against. Because the one thing I remember is the example that Michael Jordan set for me, the example that Reggie Miller set for me. When I saw them on TV at press conferences, they always had a suit and tie on, and me and my brothers always used to be thrilled to see what they were wearing. And that just made me feel so good about myself, because these were black men who I could aspire to be like and who were such great role models, whether they realized it or not.
"Somebody's watching you at all times, and I think we've lost that, where a generation now thinks that it's too stuffy or it's too corporate or whatever it may be.
"Kids nowadays are not in great shape, and that applies not only to athletes, but all our young generation. We've gotten lazier. Hopefully, people know and understand about being in better shape. My son has diabetes, and that's an aspect of our world -- we've got to eat better and help him eat better. There are people in the world that we kind of get mad with because [they have] Type 2 diabetes, and those are people who have control over having diabetes. They have to take control over what they eat and their lifestyles. My son didn't have a choice. So it's like we want people to make better choices."
With Tolga Tugsavul, the top player agent of Turkey who represents Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and many other Turkish players in the NBA. On Allen Iverson's move to the Turkish club Besiktas of Istanbul: "It's very difficult for him in Europe; it is totally different than in the NBA. He didn't play for almost six months and he is getting older. This is a great opportunity for Besiktas -- they can make some money and it is good advertising for them and it is great for Turkey. But he will need a long time to get in shape and he is very weak defensively -- he can't guard anybody right now, and in Europe if you don't guard anybody it's difficult for you to play.
"In the NBA the regular season is a joke. It's a theatre -- they don't play defense because they play seven games in 12 days, they play back-to-back games. In Europe it's completely different. If you lose the exhibition game in Europe, they may fire the coach; if they lose a friendly game, they fire the players. Every game is like a war and you have to play hard.
"It is a very different organization in the NBA -- they travel with the private jet, they stay at the best hotels, they have unbelievable comfort. In Europe, you have to share a room with somebody, you have to travel economy class and go to the airport and wait a long time. Everything is so different over there. It's a different lifestyle. When Iverson went over there, the first day he went to a couple restaurants and he didn't like the Turkish food, so he ordered something from McDonalds.
"At the same time, Iverson needs a team like this, because Besiktas has a very soft coach. He's a players' coach, and they have crazy fans -- they support the players a lot but the players have to do something. Iverson will have to do something. Everyone can love him and it is there if he wants it."
With Houston GM Daryl Morey. On the playoffs as a goal for the 4-10 Rockets as they await the return of Yao Ming from a bone bruise in his left ankle: "Last year, we went in feeling that we wanted to get into the 45-50 win area, and we were hoping that would be good enough to make the playoffs. It looks early on like we might get 45-50 wins this year. I think that's still a realistic target that can put us in the mix. That 45-50 wins is still an area with some of the other teams out there that were thought to be good but are struggling -- they might have a shot at making the playoffs at that range."
With an NBA advance scout. On third-year guard O.J. Mayo, who is averaging NBA lows of 13.3 points and 38.7 percent shooting for the 6-9 Grizzlies: "Right now he's still trying to find out who he is in the league. I'm suspicious when teams depend on young players to be leaders when they haven't grasped who they are and where they fall in the hierarchy. Mayo will probably show more leadership this year, but I look at their young team and I really don't see a leader."