Blog
Mark Madsen's Blog

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Phil Jackson, Coach
Phil Jackson is an retired professional basketball former player. Photo: shutterstock
I’m at home in MN today and I had the television on for the Jim Rome show and they were talking about Alonzo Mourning’s comments regarding Phil Jackson as a coach. Now it’s possible that Alonzo’s quotes were taken out of context. Everyone around the NBA knows Alonzo is a class act and so maybe either he was kidding, or maybe he was joking around, or then again, maybe he was expressing on an honest opinion. Regardless, I thought that as one who played for Phil Jackson for three years, I would go ahead and chime in on my thoughts on Phil Jackson as a coach:

First of all, here is Alonzo’s quote:

“To tell you the truth, Phil doesn’t have to do anything but call time outs,” said Mourning, the former NBA star who helped lead the Miami Heat to the 2006 championship and twice was the league’s defensive player of the year. “Kobe is the facilitator. He is the one driving the mission of this particular team right now,” Mourning said. “The communication level he has with his teammates out there, you can just see it. I think Phil is just showing up, to tell you the truth, and Kobe is doing all the work to make this team successful.”

So, first of all, I do agree with Alonzo’s view that Kobe is the facilitator and that Kobe definitely pushes his teammates to higher levels of play than they could do on their own. I can tell you that there were times when Kobe coached me on where to be in the triangle offense and things I could do to help the team. Kobe helped everyone’s level of play immensely in addition to getting a lot of teammates wide open layups and dunks.

But when it comes to Phil Jackson I have to say that Phil is an amazing coach. Let me give a few reasons.

TRIANGLE OFFENSE: First, the triangle offense allows every single person on the court to constantly be touching the ball. I once asked Phil’s trusted assistant for 15 years, Frank Hamblen (whose specialty is defense), why Frank liked the triangle. He said to me simply, “There is always someone in the triangle in position to get back on defense.” Simple, but incredibly important in preventing easy baskets. Phil was a great role player for the Knicks and when he coached he wanted everyone touching that basketball a lot so that when the time came to attack, they were in some kind of rhythm rather than not touching the ball for 5 minutes in a game which happens sometimes. In the triangle offense there is a counter for every single thing a defense can do. Believe it or not, there are a lot of NBA sets with no automatic counters. Phil has taken everyone on that LA team, in Hollywood, and made them buy into the Triangle which is essentially a team offense. That in itself is no easy feat! But even when I was there, he got everyone to buy into the triangle. And if you tinkered with the Triangle or abused it, Phil would pull you out of the game and give you some bench time–and not just for a few minutes….try a few weeks sometimes!

MENTAL COMPONENT: Phil kind of had a way of knowing how to motivate people. When the we lost games in Los Angeles, Phil would come in the next day and be upset. Not all NBA coaches are like that! One time he came in and told some guys that they were nice good guys….the types of guys that a girl would want to take home to their parents. Then he said something like “I need some guys that are going to be mean on the court.” Needless to say, our team got meaner the next game.

TRUST IN PLAYERS: This kind of goes with the triangle offense, but the way Phil coaches he allows the players on the court tremendous freedom to basically do anything they want, AS LONG AS IT WAS WITHIN THE TRIANGLE. One of the first rules of the triangle offense is that if you have a direct line to the basket, you immediately take it. (In other words, going on your own and being aggressive and even shooting an unexpected shot is part of running the triangle effectively) It sounds so basic, but some coaches run plays like a football play with a specific end in mind. So the result is that with the basketball coaches that coach like football, some players end up being “robots,” which is the worst thing you can say to any basketball player.

PR–This is an interesting one. When we played against the 76ers in the NBA finals in 2001, there was a lot of talk about Shaq swinging his elbows and hitting Dikembe and other 76er players in the face/head. During one of our team meetings, Phil told all of us that when we addressed the media later that day that we should emphasize the fact that “Shaq deserves the right to ‘pivot’ when going into a post move.” It was kind of funny, because it was a great counter-argument to the media storm and other teams public complaints about Shaq’s physical play. And we went on to win that series never losing another game.

In game 3, Phil ran the same triangle play 3 times in a row in the fourth quarter. He cut Lamar off of Pau and then Kobe and Pau played the two man game on the elbow. Phil knows when it’s time to get the ball to his best players.

And finally, I must say that when I end my NBA career and transition into coaching, one of my first stops will be to visit some of my old coaches to pick their brains. My visit with Phil will be very interesting because I already know which questions I want to ask him. I want to ask him what his substitution philosophy is and how he does it. It seemed to work for us in the 2000-2003 years, but I want to know why he does it the way he does. I am also going to ask him for advice on using the media to get points across to players. Sometimes he talks to players individually when there is a problem and sometimes he used the media. I want to know what factors influenced his decision to go with either way. I’m not sure what is going to happen in this Championship series, but I can say definitively that Phil Jackson is a Hall of Fame coach.

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Win Streak, Kevin McHale, Target Center, Al Jefferson, Phil Jackson
Talking about win streak, Coach, Players. Photo: shutterstock.com
A four game win streak is not too bad at all. Since Kevin McHale took over, it has taken time for us to get his system and philosophy but I think that we are all finally starting to click. We are also building on the defensive principles and system that Randy Wittman put into place befor the coaching change.

Tonight at the Target center, basketball was fun again. The fans were screaming, Randy Foye has 18 points in the first quarter and Al Jefferson continued to be the “Iron Man” that Don Nelson described him to be a week ago. If Al Jefferson does not make the All-Star game, then something is seriously wrong in this league. There are only three players in the league that can score down low the way Al can and it’s Mr. Jefferson, Tim Duncan, and the Shaq Diesel.

In fact, it was Al Jefferson’s birthday party on Sunday night a few days ago! He had the entire team over to his house and an amazing catered dinner along with some relaxation time where players and teammates shot the breeze, played pool and ate appetizers. Al had kevin Love get up and sing him happy birthday in front of all 40 people. Kevin Love ate it up and had a great time with going back and forth with his post player friend and mentor, the Big Al.

McHale’s coaching style reminds me a little bit of my first coach and NBA mentor, Phil Jackson. The one thing they both really have in common is that during practice they’re both all over people and once the game starts they don’t say a whole lot. It allows you as a player to relax, play loose, and just try to make a play without looking over your shoulder. They both cared a lot about effort an energy. Phil Jackson used to always talk about playing with energy.

McHale has a new tradition that no coach I’ve ever played for has used. At the end of practice or a game or before a game when everybody on the team puts their hand in for the break, (“one, two, three, TEAM, or WIN, chant), McHale takes a different approach. Everybody puts their hand in and then McHale will single out one guy and ask for example, “Craig Smith, what do you have for us today?” Craig might say “Family” (as he did once) and then on “three” everyone chants “FAMILY!” I like this as it keeps everyone on their toes and everyone thinking about what they want the chant to be if McHale picks them.

The best chant so far in my opinion has come from Sebastian Telfair, which he told us later he borrowed from the old Portland Trailblazers team chaplain “Too annointed to be dissapointed!” It was a little bit long to chant, but guys LOVED the creativity!

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Barry Bonds, Cia, Congress, Democrats, Steroid, Investigation
Barry Bonds is under investigation and involved in a trial regarding his statements to a grand jury. Miguel Tejada was charged with lying to Congress. Roger Clemens is under investigation for statements that he made to Congress. Photo: shutterstock.com
Over the last few years I have watched a number of professional athletes and pro-sports commissioners go in front of Congress to testify about performance enhancing drugs use in sports. Barry Bonds is under investigation and involved in a trial regarding his statements to a grand jury. Miguel Tejada was charged with lying to Congress. Roger Clemens is under investigation for statements that he made to Congress. All of these investigations into these athletes have to do with their statements that they made about allegations relating to steroid use. I feel terribly bad for the legal situation that each athlete finds himself in right now. I do not enjoy seeing their legal travail, and I am glad that each will have the chance to mount their defense.

If Congress and the government allocate and allow so much time to pursue professional athletes and their statements about their own, or others’ possible steroid use, perhaps we should examine statements of elected officials and the CIA when it relates to interrogation, torture and national security. Surely we must pursue these issues with the same energy and effort with which we pursue the statements of professional athletes on personal steroid use.

If the statements made to Congress must be accurate and true and if suspicion of those statements leads to hearings, should the statements made by Congress members themselves also be subject to rigorous treatment?

Last week, water-boarding came up in the National media. I read and listened to various statements from Republicans, Democrats and the CIA and there appear to be some major discrepancies. I really want to know what happened because to me this is an important issue.

If we can spend millions of dollars investigating professional athletes and trying to determine whether their statements are truthful, surely we can invest the time and resources to determine if there is a systematic breakdown between the CIA and our elected officials. Do we hold our elected officials to the same standard as we hold professional athletes? Steroid use is not a good thing, but I would hope that we can all agree that torture, national security, and the checks and balances put into place to prevent these types of problems are perhaps at least equally important as the steroid issue.

While I rarely spend much mental time on whether a baseball player knowingly took performance enhancing drugs, I do wonder now what is going on with the communication between the CIA and our congressional intelligence committee. There appears to be a serious breakdown between the two. If the contradictory statements were an honest mistake, let’s get that in the open and all move on.

In the same way that I feel terribly about an athlete’s statements leading to a full fledged FBI investigation, I absolutely do not want to see any elected official have to go through the same thing over hastily made statements perhaps made in the heat of the moment. An apology would be enough for me from the CIA or the elected officials involved.

But if everyone maintains that they are telling the truth in the CIA vs. Republicans vs. Democrats debate then we as the American public deserve to know if there is a broken link in the chain of communication between the CIA and our elected officials.

When the congressional hearing of Jose Canseco vs. other MLB players created questions about steroid use, Congress acted quickly and decisively and spent the next several years with multiple Congressional hearings related to this important issue. I remember watching impassioned speeches by senators and Congresspeople talking about how important it is that steroids not be used. Can we please see the same passion now over a national moral issue of torture?

I’m assuming millions of dollars were spent on the pro-sports steroid issue. This seemed necessary because with the exception of Mark McGuire, (who, in my opinion, honorably refused to discuss past issues), everyone else steadfastly stuck to their story with definitive statements which did not match up.

I want to know why the CIA and Congress have different stories and I want to know what is going on with our National Security/Intelligence committee which was put in place to protect us and to help us maintain our worldwide leadership position on humane treatment of all people, prisoners included. If there is a problem here we need to fix it. But first we have to know if there really is a problem.

Steroids vs. Torture: Many people really want to know what happened. If we are going to spend millions of dollars on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, we must absolutely spend some time and money on the issue of water-boarding. Alternatively, I think a simple apology from someone, from anyone, would be enough. But someone has to come forward and tell all of us what really happened.

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Best Defenders, Bulls, Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Latrell Sprewell, Los Angeles, NBA
Talking about game and Players (Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest) Photo: shutterstock.com
This years NBA playoffs has been amazing. First we had the Bulls vs. Celtics series with who knows how many overtimes and now we get to watch one of the best players in the history of the NBA in Kobe Bryant go against one of the best defenders this league has ever seen: Ron Artest. And of course there are times when emotions are going to flare like they did last night.

Here is the Youtube video.

The one thing about both of these players is that neither one is going to back down. Having played with Kobe Bryant for three years in Los Angeles, I have to say that Kobe just does not back down or withdraw from challenges. And Kobe has to deal with the best defender on every team he faces. Not only that, but if you’re that “best defender” on a team getting ready to guard kobe, you’re going to be getting extra rest, extra conditioning and watching all kinds of videotape on Kobe Bryant in preparation–Kobe will probably still get 30-40 points. But when it comes to toughness not too many guys surpass Kobe.

I’ve never played on the same team as Ron Artest, but I’ve played against him dating all the way back to college. Of all the guys I’ve played with or against, there were always two people who stood out as aggressive defenders who guys around the league don’t want to mess with. Both Latrell Sprewell and Ron Artest are guys who you absolutely want to go to battle with. They are known as great players around the league, but everybody also knows not to cross the line with either one.

This is just a great matchup. Ron Artest is 6’8″ and 250 and Kobe is 6’7″ and maybe 220 or 230, and they can each play finesse basketball or scrappy basketball. If you can’t watch the next game live, be sure to get out your TIVO!

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Kevin McHale, Coach, Head Coach, Glen Taylor, NBA, Go Green
Kevin McHale is a former American professional basketball player. Photo: shutterstock.com
Kevin McHale Returning to coach? I sure hope he comes back as the head coach next season! But this question has been the question of the past few weeks from media members, fans, and even amongst ourselves in the locker room. This is one case where it’s possible that even Mac doesn’t know what he’s going to do! Glen Taylor has publicly said that if Mac wants the job then he’ll be the coach next year. I’ve known Mac for the past 6 years and from what I’ve observed and the brief conversations we’ve had, I think that he truly is not sure yet what he’s going to do. I know it’s going to be a family decision because the Kevin McHale is a family man first. Here is one of the reasons why I want Kevin McHale to return as the head coach of the Timberwolves:

About a week ago, the NBA allowed all of us players to take part in a “Go Green” campaign to help promote great issues like environmental awareness, recycling, and other types of “green thinking” issues. Of course it’s a great opportunity and every team around the NBA wore warm-ups for one week with a big recycling logo on the front. Undoubtedly we have to take care of the environment in many many different ways.

Well, the first game we wore these special warm-up tops was against the Utah Jazz in Utah. After we had our 1-2-3- “Win” chant which was an event in itself that night, McHale held everybody up for one more minute and said something along the lines of,

“Hey fellas….I just want you to know about this global warming thing…..25 years ago it was Global Cooling and they were telling us we were going to freeze to death….so when they tell you all about global warming don’t worry about it too much…….”

It’s just nice when the head coach can crack a joke to loosen guys up. The guys on the team loved it and everyone was laughing so hard and it kind of took away the tension of a tough part of the season. We went out that night and took it to the Utah Jazz and won the game with a shorthanded roster.

Then a week later I walked into a breakfast meeting before it got started in San Francisco when we were playing the warriors and the first thing I hear is Kevin McHale explaining to a couple of guys on the team, “Yeah…the ice cap off of Greenland is receding but the ice caps off Antarctica are actually expanding….” It was good natured and fun and sometimes you need some fun on a long road trip.

Of course Mac loves the environment, but he’s also not afraid to mess with players and other coaches and just get guys thinking about things in a new way. McHale speaks his mind and you have to respect that. In the same way he’s not worried about saying something politically uncorrect, he’s also not going to worry about hurting a players feelings if he has to get on that player. The player will get over it.

But it does help that he jokes around with us and makes guys laugh. So in practice and at games when he does get on us or really challenges a player, you know that he’s on your side. It’s just been a lot of fun playing for him, and before a rash of injuries our record spoke for itself especially in the month of January. I think the most important thing about McHale as a coach is that he knows the game like no other. Especially when we were rolling in January (before all the injuries), he just had a great feel for what our defensive schemes would be as well as how we would attack other teams.

The biggest issue is that Kevin McHale doesn’t need to coach….he could do a lot of different things within the world of sports, or in business or in public service. Rumor has it that he’s up at the family cabin in Hibbing for some time to reflect and rejuvenate a little bit. But even today at our exit physicals, one of my teammates and I were talking about it and both of us were not sure what would happen. I guess time will tell, but I hope he’s back next season as the head coach!

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Twitter, NBA Players, Expression, It's Public, Communicate with people
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read short 140-character text messages, called "tweets". Photo: shutterstock
Last weekend I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal talking all about the new website: Twitter.com. NBA players are constantly in hotel rooms resting and sometimes watching CNN, Foxnews, or NBC. As a group, I must say that NBA players are *extremely up on current events and what’s going on in the world. Even in the training room, it seems like CNN is always on! So recently, on a lot of these news shows, there’s been mentions about Twitter.com. For example, after a feature about foreclosures or something there might be three websites listed on TV, including a Facebook page, a MySpace page and now a Twitter.com page!

 

I had no idea what Twitter was and so I decided to do some research and really figure it out. As I was checking on it I found someone’s blog who pointed out that a bunch of NBA players have Twitter accounts. Then on my own I found some other NBA players with accounts. Some of the players are listed below.

Rashad McCants
Fabricio Oberto
Brian Cardinal
Chris Bosh
Andrew Bogut
Danny Granger
Steve Nash
Shaq
Charlie Villanueva
Tyson Chandler
Jalen Rose @jalen rose
Dwight Howard @dwight_howard
Baron Davis @baron_davis
Alvin Gentry @alvingentry
Jason Richardson
Troy Murphy
Mark Cuban

So I signed up for Twitter myself to try to figure it out. After about three weeks of trial and error I feel that I finally understand what Twitter is all about. Here are some of the things Twitter is good for:

1) Expression: Twitter is a way for people to express themselves in 140 characters or less. For those of us that use Facebook, it’s almost like a Facebook ‘status update.’ For example, I just looked at Tyson Chandler’s Twitter account: Click Here, and it says: “Time 2 run off another 7.8.9.10.11 in a row.” This message is broadcast to anyone who is “following” Tyson Chandler on Twitter.

2) It’s Public: You can request that your Twitter updates are only shared with people approved by you. But most athletes have their Twitter accounts open to the public so that anyone can see what is going on with them. Not only are these Twitter.com pages public, but they also are indexed by the Google bots, which effectively open up their posts to the Google search engine as well.

3) Communicate with People: Through Twitter, if I am “following” someone, then that someone is able to send me a direct “private message” or basically an email that is 140 characters or less. If they are “following” me, then I can also send that person a private message.

4) You know what people are seeing and thinking around the world: This is probably the coolest thing that I like about Twitter. As the Wall Street journal article points out,

“During the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November, people scoured Twitter for postings from eye witnesses. When US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, one of the first pictures was posted as a link on Twitter.”

So basically Twitter is a great way to get up to the minute info on events and ideas that are out there.

So basically you can search all of these public 140 character mini blogs to see what is going on in the world. I tried to figure out how to do this, but I couldn’t figure out how to search Twitter.com. Then on an obscure blog, someone indicated that there appears to be a “beta” search page that is not very well known to the general public. It is www.search.twitter.com.
For example, try going to the search.twitter.com page and typing in “stimulus package.” You can then see what other twitter users around the country are thinking, wondering, and talking about as it relates to the stimulus package.

As far as the NBA players listed above, it’s unclear to me if the athletes themselves are updating their status or if they have a friend doing it for them. I update my own twitter page: www.twitter.com/madsen_mark, but I also know of another player who has an account, but his agent or someone else updates his status for him.

I think Shaq writes his own Tweets personally, but I haven’t asked him about it yet. Twitter allows you to write a brief bio about yourself on your Twitter page as well so that people can figure out a little bit about who you are. Andrew Bogut’s Bio reads: Pro Athlete Living in Milwauke,WI. Grew up in Melbourne,Australia!

Here is what Shaq’s Bio read: VERY QUOTATIOUS, I PERFORM RANDOM ACTS OF SHAQNESS.

I’d be interested to know if MLB or if the NHL or even the NFL players are out there on Twitter the same way some of the NBA players are! We’ve got Steve Nash and Shaq on Twitter. Between the two of them, that’s several MVP awards and four championship rings, and these guys are out there sharing their NBA experiences with fans and supporters on Twitter.com. How many other professional athlete blogs can rival the creativity and fearlessness of the Gilbert Arenas blog?

There’s been a lot of talk about the new collective bargaining agreement coming up for negotiation in two years time in the NBA. When I see players like Charlie Villanueva and retired players like Jalen Rose reaching out to the fans via Twitter.com, it tells me that guys in the NBA are out there wanting to connect with fans. These players love the game of basketball and want to continue to make our league one of the most fan friendly leagues in the world. Remember Chris Bosh posting his video on Youtube campaigning for him to be sent to the All-Star game? That was a classic! As the playoff inch closer, I’m amazed by how great and passionate NBA fans are. And at the same time, you gotta love they way great players like Shaq, Steve Nash and others are out there sharing their personality and their thoughts about this game we all love.

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Bob, Amazing Flop, Andrei Kirilenko, Video
Flopping by Andrei Kirilenko. Photo: shutterstock.com

A good friend, Bob A. sent me the following link to an AMAZING flop by Andrei Kirilenko. Check it out. This one is my all time favorite so click on the “video link” below.

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Shaq, Flop, Fake, Floppers, Flopping, Los Angeles, NBA, Timberwolves
Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal, Ed.D., nicknamed Shaq, is an American basketball player of the NBA. Photo: shutterstock.com
There is a term in the National Basketball Association that some more casual fans do not know. The term is “flop” and some NBA players have perfected the skill into an art form. Some of the old battles between two great players (Shaq and Vlade Divac) included some pretty convincing flops by Vlade.

Now, the first time I ever heard this term, I was at an athletic club in Northern California called “ClubSport.” I was on the court and NBA player David Wood (experienced NBA veteran and very involved with ‘Athletes in Action’) was on the court too working out with his trainer. We struck up a friendship and he gave me a lot of advice on how to play the game as I was heading to Stanford as a freshman to begin playing basketball and going to school.

He told me I needed to learn how to ‘flop.’ I had never heard of the term ‘flop.’ He explained that “flopping” is when you basically fake getting hit really hard so that the referee calls a foul on the other player. Nobody does this too much in high school because ironically most high school refs don’t call it a lot. But a lot of players do it in college and in the NBA and refs in college and the NBA sometimes do call flops.

This past week, there was an incident when Stan Van Gundy (Orlando Magic Coach) called out Shaq for flopping. The incident was all over ESPN. Let’s take a look at the play first on Youtube.

Shaq and Dwight Howard (video)

So Shaq tries to take the charge/flop and he doesn’t get the call from the ref, and Dwight Howard gets the two points on the dunk.

Now in the next video Shaq comments on the play and gives more insight and basically says it might have been a flop but that he was trying to take a charge.

Video

(Fast forward to 2:00 out of the 4:23 minute long youtube.com video.)

Now, I played with Shaq for three years in Los Angeles and while I did see the big fella sacrifice his body and step in and take charges, I never once saw him flop in those three years. And the funny thing is that almost every team in the NBA tries to flop against Shaq. There are probably even coaches that teach their centers and forwards to try to flop on Shaq. So, this whole commotion about whether or not Shaq’s play against Dwight Howard was a flop is so funny because everyone in the league tries to flop on Shaq and Shaq never flops back.

The funny thing about this is the way the game is called on this type of play at the NBA and college level. Every year, an NBA official comes in and talks to every NBA team at the beginning of the season. One year, we were in this meeting and a Timberwolves player made the point that NBA players are strong and have good balance and that for an NBA player to fly backwards after getting hit is actually almost “impossible” without the player faking it. The referee disagreed, but hey, I can tell you it’s true.

In some ways, the art of the flop makes the game fun because fans get so riled up over it. In another way it takes away from the game because it’s purely acting and it takes away from the athletic skill of other players. Last summer the NBA was thinking about imposing a $10,000.00 fine for every flop attempt. (That would be hard to enforce).

Some of the great floppers around the NBA let out a scream when they get hit and then when they eventually get themselves up off the ground they squint their eyes a lot and rub their eyes and forehead and act like they’re dizzy.

To help illustrate this art, here are some examples of “successful” flops. (These videos below are *great!).

Carlos Boozer (video)
Pau Gasol (video)
Bonzi Wells (video)
Tribute to Vlade Divac’s flopping ability(and speculation that Del Harris taught Vlade how to flop. Del refutes this and says that Vlade brought the art over from Europe and taught the entire NBA how to flop.)

Lastly, and Shaquille touched on this, there is a dramatic difference between “taking a charge” and “flopping.” Taking a charge is when a player is coming at you full speed and out of control and you step outside of the charge cirlce and sacrifice your body and fall backwards. This hurts, it takes skill, and you might really get hit hard by the fast moving player. Most NBA players respect “taking a charge.” A “flop” is when you barely get touched and fall to the ground or flail uncontrollably. Comments from the readers?

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Ron Artest, Best Defender, Freindship, NBA, Madison Square Garden, Minnesota
Ron Artest is an American professional basketball player of the National Basketball Association. Photo: shutterstock.com
Ron Artest is known around the NBA as one of the best, if not the very best defender in the entire NBA. He recently emerged as one of the Houston Rockets go to guys (along with Yao Ming) and is helping them to a great record in the past few weeks. We’ve played them at home twice now and after our first game when I bumped into Ron, one of the first things he said to me was “How’s Corey Brewer doing?” Corey had just suffered a season ending injury and Ron wanted me to pass along to Corey that he hoped Corey’s recovery went well.

Then two nights ago in Minnesota some friends of mine came to the game and wanted to the chance to meet Artest and take some pictures with him. (and Yao Ming of course also). While Ron was shaking hands and meeting my friends his main focus at first was asking me how Al Jefferson was holding up after Al’s own season ending knee injury.

To me it just kind of shows what’s inside of Ron. On both ocasions, the first thoughts Ron is having are about other people and what they are going through. And it makes it all the more unique given that Ron is one of the most intense, tough and respected players throughout the NBA. I first played againt Ron Artest in college in 1999 in New York City in a tournament at Madison Square Garden. A year or two later, Artest had an injury and my older brother who was doing his orthopedic surgery residency in New York City was one of the doctors that initially met with him. All my brother could say was how cool of a guy Ron was. Over the years, we’ve developed a friendship through the bustle of the seasons. I guess I just hope that fans can get to know Artest for the community service he does and for his very real and down to earth self that he is.

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On a sidenote, we lost to the warriors tonight at home. It probably wasn’t our best game, but aftewards I was talking with some fans who had come out and one of them said, “This is the best ticket in town.” Our owner just lowered season ticket prices for next season and now there are actually $5 dollar tickets at the Target Center in some sections! Another fan said to me, “We just renewed our season tickets for next season tonight!” It made me happy that even though some of our best players are injured, the fans appreciate the hard work and intensity that our team is showing. I guess that’s one thing that the Timberwolves can offer every single night: 100% Intensity and Effort!

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Shaquille O'Neal, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, NBA
Shaquille O'Neal is an American basketball player. Photo: shutterstock.com
Most of our shoot around practice this morning covered how we were going to contain Shaq, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire. The early part of this season was frustrating to say the least because we were ahead in many of our games going into the 4th quarter and then it seemed like somehow we disintegrated in the final minutes of the game. But finally a few days we had a breakout game in Detroit where our defense and our offense came together and we had a nice win.

People ask me about Shaq all the time and I just tell them that off the court, he’s one of the most community oriented and genuine people but on the court he has a “mean streak” (in the positive sense of the word) as some basketball executive types like to say, meaning that he takes the game very seriously and he’s going to do everything within the rules to dominate a game.

Of all the players in the NBA Shaq has a way of really being honest with reporters and connecting with the fans in a way that is rarely seen in any sport. Right now, Shaq’s coach, Terry Porter is limiting Shaq’s minutes right now to ease Shaq into their new offensive system. Here is Shaq’s quote:

“They (Suns athletic trainers) do a good job of massaging me and getting me ready,” O’Neal said recently. “Just the agility, the bones, the muscle. Terry does a good job of managing my minutes and how I practice and all that. But I’m ready to go. I just want people to know that and understand that.”

Tonight we have our chance to try to put a dent in the Suns record.