Authors Posts by Mark Madsen

Mark Madsen

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Boston Game, Rotation, Latrell Sprewell, Ervin Johnson, Mike Montgomery, Golden State, NBA Head Coach, Minnesota
Talking about boston game, teammates, old college coach and economic lessons. Photo: shutterstock.com

The Boston game this past weekend was a great example of the need to “always stay ready.” Toward the end of the game the score got closer and closer and the rotation tightened up. Latrell Sprewell, who had started the game, sat on the bench for most of the fourth quarter. Sometimes when you sit too long you can get tight and your mind can start thinking any one of a million things if you let it. But Latrell stayed focused on the game and he was still involved by cheering his teammates on and staying positive throughout. Ervin Johnson always tells us, “You can’t control how much you’re going to play, but if the coach calls your name, be ready.” Spree was ready to go and he knocked in the game-winning shot.

It was good to see my old college coach, Mike Montgomery, last week when we played Golden State. We talked before the game for quite a while and he shared what he loved and the hard things about being an NBA head coach. Mike was one of the big reasons that I chose to attend Stanford over UCLA when I came out of high school. He’s a total family man and as a side note, his wife, Sarah, is from Minnesota. I remember early on in my conversations with coach, he talked about the goal to make it to the Final Four. Finally in 1998 with Arthur Lee and Jarron and Jason Collins, we made it to the Final Four before losing to the eventual champions Kentucky in overtime.

People ask me all the time how athletes at Stanford can go to class and compete in their sport. I studied Economics and there were some classes that were incredibly hard with an unbelievably tough grading curve, and of course some classes that were easier. The trick was to balance things so that you didn’t have more than two of those hard classes during the season.

One year I remember taking two finals on the road in St. Louis during the NCAA tournament. A teammate and I were so worried about this macroeconomics class that we studied on the plane, on the team bus, and pretty much everywhere else during that trip. We both studied so hard we almost got sick. I don’t think I’ve ever studied that hard before or after that class. Our professor arranged for the test to be administered in a conference room at our hotel.

One interesting thing I learned from that class is this: There was an economist named Malthus back in the day who said that the world couldn’t produce enough food for it’s growing population. He added that there would be food shortages and vast numbers of people would die from starvation and that the world’s population growth would stagnate. On one hand it makes sense–there’s a finite amount of land that can be farmed. In this macro class, we actually studied a mathematical model called the Solow Model that showed how the world has been able to grow enough crops to keep up with an exploding population rate. The variable that Malthus did not account for was technological/scientific advances in growing crops. Economists sometimes refer to technological advances as “manna from heaven” because such advances keep happening every year and crop production continues to expand and develop annually.

Well, I figured I’d get at least one economics lesson in too while I had the chance to write this diary. If I forgot anything on that explanation hopefully all the econ majors out there will write me and set me straight. I’ll talk to you next week!

— Mark Madsen

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Timberwolves, Mini Practice, NBA, Ervin Johnson, Fred Hoiberg, KG, Shaquille O'Neal, Perfect Shots
All Members on the Timberwolves Prepares in a Different Way. Photo: shutterstock.com

On a game day, everyone on the Timberwolves prepares in a different way. The team itself puts us through the same routine every time, however. We have a shootaround – a mini-practice – the morning of the game. There, our coaches and scouts tell us what the other team runs and the hand signals and calls for their plays. The team issues us a written scouting report, which if we don’t turn back in that night before the game carries a $100 fine. In the NBA everyone knows each other’s plays. But the crazy thing is that even when you know what’s coming, sometimes it’s still hard to stop. After our shootaround, the players go home and rest for the next few hours, in addition to eating a solid pregame meal. I think all the players try to sleep for a few hours. We may have arrived in town the night before at 2:00 a.m., or maybe we couldn’t sleep the previous night after being so wound up from a game. On our team, some players do things differently every game day and others do things exactly the same way. Here are a few examples.

Ervin Johnson — No matter if we have a home game or an away game, Ervin will lift weights before our shootaround. He doesn’t lift really heavy weights and won’t lift for more than a half hour, but he always does it. If we’re on the road, you know you can find Erv in the hotel gym; and if we’re at home, he’ll be in our workout complex that morning.

Fred Hoiberg — If it’s a road game, when we get to the other team’s arena for the game, Fred will always turn around from his seat on the bus (yes, we all sit in the same bus seat EVERY time) and say to me “Go ahead, Mad Dog.” I then get up and go in front of him and he gets off right behind me.

KG — KG is probably the one who has the most consistent pregame ritual. After shootaround, KG stays after and lifts weights and then shoots to maintain his shot for the game. If you watch KG in pregame warm-ups you can write down the shots he takes and the spots he takes them from. You can note when he dunks in our warm-up lines and when he does a reverse layup, or when he just does a routine finger roll. Write down what order he does it in too. It will be exactly the same every time.

When I played with Shaquille O’Neal, he seemed to do something different every time in warm-ups. Shaq used to laugh and play around a lot before the game, but once they threw the opening tip up, he zeroed in on putting the ball in the basket.

My game day ritual has very few constants. I always try to shoot a few extra shots in the shootaround and end with a few perfect shots in a row. I go home and make sure to eat a solid meal and try to sleep and then mentally think about what to do and where to go in the upcoming game. Once I get to the arena, I pretty much do something different every time. The one constant is that I try to talk to the fans that are there early on the sides of the tunnel leading to the court. I’ve been playing basketball for over twenty years and I’ve played in a lot of games, but I still get a little nervous before every game. Talking to the fans and my teammates helps me relax and stay loose for the game. I’ll talk to you next week!

— Mark Madsen

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Quentin Richardson, Three point shootout, Fred Hoiberg, Dan Zamen, Physiologist,
Talking about players and other people. Photo: shutterstock.com

It was fun to watch the All-Star festivities from Denver this past weekend. I’m happy for the Suns’ Quentin Richardson, who won the Three-Point Shootout, but I still think that Fred Hoiberg would have had a great showing had he been invited. Every year the criteria for being invited to the Shootout are different. This year, to be included, you needed to have made 100 three pointers by the deadline and have a good shooting percentage. Right now, Fred leads the NBA, knocking down 52-of-100 from beyond the arc. At 52% shooting, Fred’s next closest competitor is Dallas’ Jason Terry at 47%. What makes Fred’s shooting percentage all the more meaningful, is that a lot of his makes come in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. I still think Freddy can win the Shootout and I hope he gets that chance in the coming years. I was able to complete a full practice on Tuesday for the first time since breaking my thumb. It was AWESOME to be able to work with my teammates again. The only hard thing is wearing a splint while I play to protect the bone. I think I’ll have to wear the protective brace for about two weeks and during that time I’ll just have to make some adjustments in the way that I play. On Tuesday when we arrived at practice our old friend Dan Zeman was there, and that means it was time to get our body fat tested. Zeman is an exercise physiologist and has worked with a number of local athletes. In the process, every player has to weigh himself and then Dan pinches our stomach, chest and thigh with a caliper to measure our body fat. We get tested three times a year. Dan has worked closely with cyclist Greg LeMond in the past. Greg’s success in the Tour de France is established and when Dan gives us tips on keeping fit and lean during the season, we pay close attention. We are taking off for the West Coast this week for a three-game trip that includes stops in Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. After practice on Tuesday, Kevin McHale said, “Everyone needs to be on the plane by 3:45. If you’re not there in your seat at 3:45, the plane is taking off without you and if I’m not there, the plane is taking off too.” One time when I was playing for the Lakers one of my teammates was a few minutes late and they closed the doors and off we went. If you do miss the plane, you have to schedule your own flight and meet the team out in the city where you are playing. You do not want that to happen and have to face everyone later on. Well, right now we are gearing up for the “unofficial” second half of the season. We need to win a few games and make a little run to better position ourselves for the playoffs. We’ve won a couple of games in a row now and I really think we can build on it. I’ll talk to you next week! — Mark Madsen

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NBA, Business, Flip Saunders, Basketball, NBA Head Coach, Phil Jackson, National Basketball Players Association
Talking about Flip Saunders, Players and practices. Photo: shutterstock.com

If there’s one phrase about the NBA I never liked it’s this one: “It’s a business.” Unfortunately as players and coaches we know the phrase is true. We know that we can get traded, released or let go. This week the organization made a business move and relieved Flip Saunders of his coaching duties. I think that all of us players feel partially responsible and we’re very sorry to see Flip gone.

Flip coached me for a year and a half and during that time I learned a tremendous amount about the game of basketball. I reached Flip on his cell phone right after practice when they announced he wouldn’t be our coach and we had a good talk. He said he was going to find the positive in the situation and enjoy spending time with his wife and kids. Believe me, there are only a few people out there that have what it takes to be an NBA head coach. You have to know how to handle and communicate with today’s athlete, which is no small task. You must know the X’s and O’s and be resilient. Flip has all of those qualities and he is passionate about the game. I’m looking forward to the next time I see Flip so that I can thank him in person for a great two years.

Every coach is different. I still remember my rookie year in the NBA with Los Angeles losing our home opener. After we all got to the locker room, Phil Jackson walked in and said, “The dogs bark and the caravan moves on… practice at 10:00 tomorrow.” Then everyone just got up and wrapped ice on their knees and stepped into the shower.

Kevin McHale will coach us from now on. Mac (as everyone calls him) will be different than Phil and Flip. I think as far as the offense goes, Mac is going to run a lot of the old Boston Celtics’ sets which rely on setting hard picks, making crisp passes and throwing the occasional “dribble weave” into the mix. The “dribble weave” is where a post player dribbles the ball toward a guard, hands it to him and then knocks the living daylight of the guard’s defender with a screen. Prior to being named head coach, Mac always worked out with players after practice and taught us post moves. I think the transition should be smooth.

All-Star Weekend is here already and Ervin Johnson (player representative) and Kevin Garnett will be going to Denver in different capacities. Erv will go to Denver to help out with negotiations between the owners and the National Basketball Players Association, while KG will be appearing in his eighth All-Star game. Hopefully the owners and players representatives can make progress in working toward a new collective bargaining agreement to avoid what hockey is going through right now. Erv is someone who is always involved in helping others. He loves to do things in a quiet way to help out folks and he’d probably hit me with a forearm to the chest if I told any of the things he’s done (just kidding). Let me share just one thing: Erv rounded up donations from our locker room and from players on other teams, in addition to digging in his own pocket, to help pay for the NBA chaplains from each team to attend All-Star Weekend in Colorado.

Hopefully you are enjoying this journal. If you have any questions you want me to answer, you can send them to me on my website: www.madsen35.com. Have a great week!

— Mark Madsen

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Timberwolves basketball clinic, Minneapolis, NBA, Timberwolves
Talking about injury treatment, Life in NBA, Italian restaurant. Photo: shutterstock.com

On Thursday my hand doctor decided it was time to pull the pins out of my wrist. I have to describe the process to you, so skip this paragraph if you are squeamish. They took a pair of sterilized pliers and grabbed the end of the metal (which was sticking out of my wrist) and pulled the two pins out, one by one. They were both about two inches long. It felt great to get rid of the hunks of metal sticking out of my hand. The bonus is now I won’t beep if I go through a metal detector at the airport. More importantly, I think I’m probably about two weeks away from returning to action on the court, so I’m excited to renew practicing with my teammates.

Thursday was a big day, as I helped out at a Timberwolves’ basketball clinic at Jefferson Elementary School in Minneapolis. The team’s community relations department sets up a number of events around town and we can help out if it fits into our schedules. Everyone on the team likes to do different things in the community. I especially liked this clinic because at the end, the principal asked me to answer some questions in Spanish from the largely Latino group of students that were gathered for the clinic. I learned Spanish while on a church mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints in Spain from 1994-1996. Doing a clinic like this helps me to keep my language skills polished. It’s been a huge privilege to be involved with basketball over the years and so if I can share some fun drills or stories with kids, I feel like it’s a small way to give back to the game and to the community.

People ask me all the time about life on the road in the NBA. The Timberwolves always put us up in very nice hotels and each of us has his own room with one king size bed. Even though the beds are pretty big, sometimes my legs dangle over the end, or I’ll have to lie diagonally. The only time I have a real problem is when there’s an end board and I can’t stretch out all the way (Imagine what it must be like for KG, Candyman and Erv). If we are on the tail end of a back-to-back and get into a city late, sometimes instead of going over to the arena the next morning for a shoot-around we will have a team breakfast. At those breakfasts, I always know what Wally Szczerbiak is going to eat. He will take a bagel and cut it in half, then hollow out the extra bread on the inside and fill it up with egg whites and a tiny bit of cheese. Then he’ll have one package of instant oatmeal. I keep telling him that I’ll need to follow exactly what he eats because our body fat test is coming up. A big fitness magazine recently put Wally on the cover of it because he has such a great nutrition and workout regimen. I believe Wally, KG and Spree have the lowest body fat percentages on the team. I think they’re all around five percent. We get tested three times during the season.

Last week I went to lunch at an Italian restaurant in the Minneapolis skyway. I must admit that it was probably my first time going through the skyway system during the lunch hour and I couldn’t believe how many people were up there! It felt like NYC! I usually eat at Biagi’s in Eden Prairie and I always call ahead and pick up the food there and then bring it home to eat. My usual is spaghetti and two grilled chicken pieces.

Well, we’ve been losing lately, but sometimes when things look bleak it means there’s sunshine right around the corner. I always remember what Tex Winter used to say. “Everything can turn on a trifle.”

Thanks for reading this journal and I hope to have some more inside information for you next week.

— Mark Madsen

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West Coast Trip, Seattle, Portland, L.a., NBA Season, Basketball Trip
Talking about Trip, Wins, Place, Teammates and Players. Photo: shutterstock.com

We needed a couple of wins on our West Coast trip and we got them over the weekend in Seattle and Portland. We felt like we should have gone 3-0 out there, but we had a tough loss in Los Angeles. It’s been a little frustrating in some ways this year, in that we have dropped some games that we were right there in the fourth quarter. Some games we just couldn’t put our opponent away, or others we couldn’t climb all the way back from a deficit.

So it was nice to put together a couple of wins against division rivals on their home floors. We feel that we are capable of not only competing in the Western Conference, but also winning a championship this season. I believe that we have the pieces to do it; it’s just about stringing some wins together and getting a little confidence and momentum going our way.

I’m sure many of you heard or read about our travel troubles on this last trip, but we don’t want to make excuses for not picking up a W in Southern California. We were supposed to fly to Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon of last week, but due to mechanical difficulties with our charter plane, the flight got pushed back until that evening and then eventually to the next day. We did not leave Minnesota until mid-morning on the day of the game versus the Lakers. We arrived in Los Angeles in the early afternoon, only hours before the tip-off. I know many of you fly for business all the time, so I am not going to complain about the way we travel. However, getting off a cross-country flight and playing is not ideal.

After the game against the Lakers we were in the air for about 10 minutes when the pilot came over the loudspeakers and announced that they could not retract the landing gear. He said that it was unstable and that we were heading back to Los Angeles to figure it out. After circling the airport for 90 minutes or so, they decided to do a fly-by past the control tower. I guess the folks in the tower got out their binoculars as we buzzed by at 300 feet to see if the gear was set for a landing. The flight attendants said to prepare for the worst, so obviously there was a little concern on everyone’s face. Needless to say we were all buckled in pretty tight as we came in for a safe landing back where we started.

Normally a flight is the time when we as players can kind of sit back, relax and unwind. In the players’ section you can normally find a group of guys playing dominoes or cards. Last year there were a few guys that were really into chess. Latrell Sprewell is a great player and Gary Trent was just phenomenal as well. Jerry Sichting represents the coaching staff, as he dabbles in the game a little. There are a lot of guys that just want to unwind by watching a DVD. Recently, Fred Hoiberg and Wally Szczerbiak had not seen the movie Napoleon Dynamite, so I brought it along. They both gave their critique of it. I will say one liked it way more than the other, but I won’t reveal the bigger fan. There are a few guys that like to play computer games against each other. The thing that I enjoy most is when we get in a cabin-wide discussion of a variety of topics, or when KG, Erv Johnson or Sam Cassell tell stories about different guys they have played against during their careers.

One of the memorable events from this last trip was that KG had food catered on the plane from an upscale restaurant. We got to have steak and chicken and all the good things that go with them. While KG’s gesture was very generous, it is even more so when he is the one who is serving the food to everyone. He doesn’t get his own plate until everyone else has eaten and is situated and comfortable for the flight. The thing that really stands out is the way Kevin treats people. On every team or in every organization there is a hierarchy of players or workers and usually everyone knows where they stand. In our hierarchy, KG is definitely the top dog. He demands the best from everyone in our locker room, but he is also outstanding at communicating with everyone on the team and he really just wants to see us all succeed. I truly believe that he is one of the best leaders in professional sports.

I look forward to writing this diary every week and will do my best to give you readers an inside glimpse into an NBA season. Until next week take care.

— Mark Madsen

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My 29th Birthday, Injury, Ndudi Ebi, NBA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Utah, Kevin McHale, Sacramento
I celebrate my 29th birthday, talking about games and peoples. Photo: shutterstock.com

Sometimes if the team makes a one-day trip, the players on the Injured List stay at home. So right now, I’m at my house recovering from our practice while the rest of the team is on a flight to Milwaukee.

Even though I don’t practice in the conventional sense, they still work me very hard. Today our strength coach put me through a pretty intense, full-body weight room workout. My broken thumb is getting better slowly. Right now there are two pins sticking out of my thumb about a quarter-inch that are drilled another inch or so into the bone to hold everything together. On either Thursday or Friday of this week the doctors are going to remove them. I will gradually start doing some rehabilitation and hope to be on the court in three to four weeks.

On a more personal note, I celebrated my 29th birthday last Friday. I didn’t do anything too out of the norm, as we had a morning shoot-around and then a game against Utah that night. After the game some friends of mine took me out to dinner in uptown Minneapolis. These are people that I’ve gotten to know since arriving in Minnesota, and have become good friends in the last year. It was a little bit different then the birthdays I celebrated as a kid with nine siblings (four brothers and five sisters). We had the same family traditions that everyone else has, the cake, ice cream and gifts, but with one twist.

The only difference is that my parents would have us go around the table and have everyone say one nice thing about the person celebrating the birthday. It’s always fun to hear the different comments that everyone makes. That’s how we did it growing up and that’s how we do it to this day when we get together as a family.

With me not traveling this week, I’ll go in to practice tomorrow with Ndudi Ebi and we’ll both lift weights and maybe ride the bike. When we both get healthy enough, Kevin McHale will work us out and put us through a bunch of really hard drills on the court. I think Kevin is one of the few GMs in the NBA who really works with players constantly. Some of us watched him play when we were growing up (although I don’t think Ndudi was born yet) and I can definitely remember when he seemed to leave his man in the dust in the post.

When I was a free agent trying to decide between Minnesota and Dallas, I remember when Kevin told me on the phone that he works with players after practice. When I told my Dad how he gets involved in the teaching process, my Dad was so excited because he was a Celtics fan for quite a while.

Today’s practice was pretty intense. I think everyone was a little bit frustrated that we lost the game against Sacramento yesterday. But after a loss, most teammates and coaches just come the next day with more resolve and ready to work hard. Once you start working out and start to practice it’s a lot easier to let go of the mistakes of the previous game. I still remember what Sam Cassell said to me early last year after a game we lost. I think he saw that I was down and said, “Don’t worry about it Mad Dog…just remember Annie.”

I tried to figure out who Annie was and I really couldn’t figure out what Sam was talking about. Then he added, “She’s the one who has the song, ‘The sun will come out tomorrow.’ ” Sam is someone who never lets anything get him down and he’s a teammate who cares about everyone in the locker room.

Thanks for reading this journal and I hope to have some more inside information for you next week.

— Mark Madsen

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Minnesota, Timberwolves, NBA Players, NBA, Samuel Dalembert, Thomas McKinney, Eddie Griffin, Trenton Hassell, John Thomas
Minnesota is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. Known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Photo: shutterstock.com

I’m very excited to share with Timberwolves fans in Greater Minnesota and the Upper Midwest a glimpse into what life is like for an NBA player on a weekly basis. I want to show people the rigors of the NBA, the ups and the downs and all that comes in between. Hopefully this weekly diary will give people an insider’s view into what our team is going through in the good times and the bad.

Unfortunately, just as I was gearing up for this project, I had a little bit of a setback in that I fractured my left thumb in a game against Philadelphia on January 7. I was trying to draw a charging call on Samuel Dalembert and hit the deck. From the way the thumb swelled up right away, I knew that probably was not a good sign – but at least I drew the foul! I had surgery the next day and during that process had a couple of pins implanted in my thumb. Additionally, I had my hand placed in a cast. The doctors are telling me that it likely will be a four-to-eight week healing process, obviously I’m hoping for the short end.

In the mean time I’m trying my best to stay in shape. I’m working out every day with our strength and conditioning coach Thomas McKinney. He is putting me through cardiovascular routines and working on quickstep and explosive squat drills. My hope is to come back with better stamina and endurance then I had prior to the injury.

As I write this I can’t help but think how excited I am to be traveling with the team this week for the three-game road trip out west to Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. It is always a lot of fun to go back to Los Angeles where I played three years for the Lakers. Obviously, I have a ton of good memories from my days there. Additionally, I will get to see my grandfather and a lot of close friends.

I suppose I should talk a little bit about basketball and what our team is going through right now. We entered the season with our team intact from the one that went to the Western Conference Finals a year ago. Plus, we were able to add good players in Anthony Carter and Eddie Griffin. I think right now one of the big things for our team has been the lineup change and the fact that everyone, coaches and players alike are working hard in finding combinations to put on the floor.

We have had a lot of success with one lineup in the past and I think Flip (Saunders) made a decision to bring scoring and firepower off the bench and start the game with a more defensive group. It’s nice to have a player like Trenton Hassell in there because he is such a great defender. To me he brings a dimension to the game where he can lock up such a wide variety of players. Then the other team is going to have to adjust to a great scorer in Wally Szczerbiak coming off the bench. Wally has been so selfless in coming off the bench and has really put up some big numbers in this role. He can score from so many different areas on the court.

After my injury we went out and added a new player in John Thomas. He was with us in camp and was one of the final cuts. John adds a unique dimension to the team as he can bang and scrap and claw down low, but then he can step out and has a soft touch on the perimeter and in the slot area. John has the ability to defend seven-footers because of his strength, in addition to being able to step-out and defend the pick-and-roll.

I’m looking forward to writing this diary each week and will let you know how it goes on the trip out west.

— Mark Madsen