Tags Posts tagged with "Utah"

Utah

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Michael Jordan, Bryon Russell, Basketball Challenge
Michael Jordan vs. Bryon Russell Challenge Photo: Shutterstock
Interesting the way things happen in life. Months ago, Utah Flash (The NBA minor league team I help coach) owner Brandt Andersen made a public challenge for both Bryon Russell and Michael Jordan to come to Orem Utah to play in a symbolic one-on-one game commemorating past times. 🙂 Brandt himself pledged a check for $100,000 to the winner’s favorite charity. I caught wind of the challenge even though I had become a Clipper (I was traded from the Timberwolves to the LA). But, in early October, after a series of events, I ended up being waived by the Clippers then joining Brad Jones–the Utah Flash Head Coach–as one of his assistant coaches. So, I personally lived through this Michael Jordan thing and I was there at the game where the stunt double went out on the court at halftime as Michael Jordan. I want to weigh in on this because I was here for it and because some media outlets are doing a poor job of representing the entirety of the situation.

First of all, I was in a Utah Flash meeting in October right there in Provo Utah, when someone from the basketball side asked the question, “Is Michael going to come for the home opener?” The answer I heard was interesting. The message Brandt Andersen and the Flash had received from MJ’s representation several weeks earlier was that if Michael did choose to come he would let the Flash know the day before, or the day of the event. Is the greatest player of all time entitled to some flexibility? OF COURSE! The possibility of his coming for the game, even to Provo Utah seemed to be there. So, now, there is context to what Brandt says in his blog below:

“I knew I would not know if MJ was going to attend until a few hours before game time. I never received the call indicating he would not attend.”

Even though I was born and raised in Danville California, I do have family ties to the Provo area, and I have spent some summers in Utah. I have heard mixed reactions from different people. Some people were upset that Michael was not at the game. But many many other people had a great night and thought the entire production was in good fun.But for ESPN to include the word “HOAX” in the headline of their story about the situation as a whole is misguided. Yes, there was a Michael Jordan lookalike in the tunnel at halftime and I thought to myself, “This guy is too short…MJ is 6’6″ and this guy is barely 6’0″.” But Brandt’s challenge was real, his willingness to write the check to charity was real, and everyone’s hope of MJ’s attendance was real.

Never once did Brandt Andersen, say that Michael Jordan was coming to the game. Could the situation have been handled differently? Hindsight is always 20-20 and of course things could have been done in a different way. But when I was playing for the Timberwolves, the game operations staff had a fake Jack Nicholson get kicked out of our home game against the Lakers. That was fun for the fans and everyone loved it! The biggest problem in this situation was that people started thinking Michael was coming for sure instead of looking it as a possibility. People started buying tickets believing Michael’s presence was a certainty. The 6’0″ bald guy, lookalike coming out at halftime did rub some people the wrong way, but others loved it and laughed and had fun. How did Brandt handle those that were upset? He came out on his blog within hours and offered full refunds for everybody who asked. In another telling move that shows transparency, Brandt’s staff even allowed every single negative comment in reaction posted on his blog.

The sports world needs more owners like Mark Cuban, Dr. Jerry Buss, and Brandt Andersen. When I first signed my deal to coach with the Utah Flash I received an email from an old friend from UCLA who now teaches in Utah. His email said,

“We have gone to a lot of Flash games, we think there is a great family environment there.”

My friend is right. Utah Flash games continue to be a wholesome fun experience for families, singles, and basketball fans……not to mention we are 5-1. So I will see you guys at the Flash Arena sometime! And again, in the media it would be nice to have the entire story told and not just a few newspaper selling fragments.

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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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Shaq, Garnett, Miami Heat, Miami Uniform,, NBA
The Miami Heat are a professional basketball team based in Miami, Florida, United States. The team is a member of the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association. Photo: shutterstock.com
Tonight we play against the Miami Heat once again here at home. They key to beating Miami is trying to find a way to slow down Shaq. I use the term “slow down” because there’s no way to stop Shaq from having an impact on the game. He is too talented of a player. Tonight you can expect us to double Shaq a lot with our smaller guards to make him throw it out and put someone else in a Miami uniform in a position to try to beat us.

Our last two games have left us with a bitter taste in our mouth. From blowing a huge lead against Seattle to losing in Utah, we really felt like we were in both of those games. We should have won against Seattle, and we had a real shot at spoiling Jerry Sloan’s 65th birthday when we played Utah a few nights ago.

If the MVP ballotiing were today and if I had a vote, I would have to go with Dirk Nowitzki. He’s just done so much this season and the Dallas Mavericks are the best team in the NBA. Although you have to give Kobe and Steve a look too. To me, no one else in the league has been as outstanding as those two. If you had to look at an impact player though, Chris Webber has been maybe the biggest difference maker in the league when he signed with the Pistons a few months ago. Chris Webber is one of the most skilled passers to ever put on a uniform in this league. When you play against him, he’s like Garnett. He boxes you out with his hands. Both those guys have the strength to hold people off with one hand and then be there for the rebounds.

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Home game against the Denver Nuggets, but it was a thriller and quick trip to Utah to see my parents and some siblings.

I’m not sure how many of your watched our recent home game against the Denver Nuggets, but it was a thriller. Sometimes I wish the fans could have a microphone implanted in our huddle, so that you can hear the emotion and involvement from all of the players. At a point very late in the game, when things looked the bleakest, newcomer, Justin Reed entered the huddle, and starting clapping and called out, “Keep believing that we can win this game!” I think Justin’s comments gave our team new life, because Trenton Hassell, Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis all made huge plays in the ensuing seconds. Ricky came back to the huddle after his huge steal and jump shot and called out for everyone to hear, “All we have to do is believe!” In the end, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but I was proud of everyone on the team because of how hard we fought.

One of the things I like about Ricky is how hard he plays. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that he wears an undershirt when he is on the court. What you don’t know, is that Ricky is really wearing an assortment of pads on his hips and his back for protection. It’s almost like football pads, but just a lightweight version. He likes to fight through screens and drive the lane with so much momentum, that bigger players are constantly hitting him. Plus when you play above the rim like he does, it’s nice to have some protection for the occasional crash landing. Basketball players have hips that get beat up all the time. It seems like there’s always at least one player on the team with a bruised hip, a hip pointer, or some kind of bursitis.

I made the most of my All-Star break by making a quick trip to Utah to see my parents and some siblings. Then I flew out to Washington D.C., early (our team had a game against the Wizards the Tuesday after the break and we had the option to meet up there) to see my sister and her husband and five kids. It was a lot fun to see my twin nieces. They gave me a gift of some drawings with words that said, “I love my Mad Dog,” with a pink dog surrounded by pink flowers. I think I was supposed to be the pink dog. My sister and brother-in-law came to the game against the Wizards with some longtime friends. After the game, they all loved it when KG came by and took the time to shoot the breeze with them a little bit, even though we had just suffered a tough loss.

The day before the Washington game, I met up with some friends and we saw a lot of the museums in the area. One of my buddies out there has the last name of “Nader” and he is a distant relative of Ralph Nader. We had a good time talking about a few years back when I was with the Lakers and we beat Sacramento in a playoff series. Ralph Nader publicly stated that he wanted an independent commission to look into the officiating of Game 6 of that series which was played at the Staples Center. I guess that meant Ralph was a Kings fan. Phil Jackson, of course, felt differently about the officiating (as did our team and the rest of Los Angeles). It was fun to reminisce about those two personalities, and how for a couple of days, they exchanged friendly/pointed quotes with each other through the media about the issue. The sporting world is a lot of fun and I’m really grateful that I get to be part of it.

Have a great week.

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My Grand Mother, Great Friend, Pneumonia, Coach Dwayne Casey, Minnesota, Salt Lake City Airport, My Grandpa
Past week my grandmother Helen Wells passed away. Photo: shutterstock.com

This past week my grandmother Helen Wells passed away. My Dad’s mother had always been a great friend to me and someone with whom I often confided. She was married three times to three awesome men and outlived each husband. Imagine, she’s been to a funeral for her husband on three occasions. Each died of natural causes. That must have been tough. On Tuesday afternoon after practice, my mom called me and gave me the news. My grandmother was 91 years old, and was in great health. She got sick with pneumonia and tried to tough it out like she had so many other things. When she finally checked herself into the hospital, the sickness had taken too strong a hold, and it was too late.

When I heard the news, my mind flooded with questions. We were scheduled to play Dallas at home the next night. Maybe I could play the game and catch a red-eye to Utah and be there the next morning for the 9:30 a.m. funeral. Or maybe I could play the game and fly out at 5:00 a.m. the next morning and still make everything work. I did not want to miss the funeral, but I was torn with my commitment to the team. What should I do?

My first phone call was to Coach Dwayne Casey. He offered his condolences and told me to “take whatever time I needed with my family,” and that I could rejoin the team “whenever it was appropriate.” It was very nice that he and the entire organization were so supportive. My grandma was very connected to Minnesota, as she was born in Eveleth up on the Iron Range. Her family moved to Utah when she was eight years old. It was in Utah that she met my grandpa and where they went on their first date together and eventually got married.

The funeral was both beautiful and emotional. It gave my family and I the last bit of closure we all needed. The service turned into a true celebration of a very beautiful person and her great life. My dad was one of the speakers and shared a lot of stories about my grandma, including the one about the time she beat all the boys in her school in a long race.

The strange part was after the funeral when I got to the Salt Lake City Airport, it dawned on me that I needed to get to San Antonio and get mentally ready to play the Spurs. There were Texas Longhorn fans everywhere at the airport catching connecting flights back to the Lone Star State. My flight was the last available and it turned into a “show and tell” with Longhorn fans regaling stories about the Rose Bowl the night before, and showing off digital photos from the game. When I told a Longhorn fan I thought Vince Young would declare for the NFL draft after this, his junior year, the fan said, “Yeah, I think he’s gonna stay… I have a feeling…” I guess I was right on that one.

The next morning I joined Kevin Garnett, Trenton Hassell and Ronald Dupree for breakfast at the hotel before our morning shoot around. KG asked me all about the funeral and shared with me about one of his own family funerals years ago. Kevin is someone who really understands when someone is going through something and he always reaches out to sympathize or empathize. He told me that longevity runs in his family, as he’s had great grandparents who have lived well past 100. I think he said that one of them lived to be 107, and that his great grandpa not only lived on his own until his passing, but was still “cut” or in great shape. When I came back to the team, there were hugs, embraces and kind words from everyone. It makes my transition that much easier in such a team/family environment. More than anything, I want to thank all of my family, friends, and teammates for their support during the passing of my grandma.

I am always open to suggestions as to what Timberwolves fans want me to write about. If you have a topic suggestion or a question you want me to answer, please feel free to drop me a note atmark@markmadsen.com. Have a great week.

– Mark

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Robert Horry, NBA Finals, San Antonio Spurs, Utah, Text Massages, Mark Madsen
I sent massages to Robert Horry. Photo: shutterstock.com
I think you guys will find this pretty funny. Last year during the NBA finals Robert Horry had just hit a HUGE three pointer and basically won a huge game for the San Antonio Spurs. I was in Utah at the time and was so happy for Rob. I knew he’d be getting bombarded with phone calls so I sent him a text message from my new phone. (My phone keeps all text messages from the last six months, so I’ll basically quote it).

———————

June 15th 1:41 AM (I wrote to Rob) Congratulations on the 3 pointer record. Now hurry up and get your 6th Ring! MM

June 15th 1:54 AM (Rob wrote to me) Who is this?

June 15th 8:25 AM (To paraphrase my text to Rob) Your buddy, Mark Madsen!

June 15th 8:57 AM (Rob to me) What’s up Dog? Didn’t have your number stored. How’s the family? Better yet, how’s the hand? (My parents and some family members had met Rob and loved him.)

June 19th 11:54 PM (Me to Rob) Rob….great job! It couldn’t be happening to a better guy!

———————

I didn’t include everything from our texts during the finals, but I put most of it just because I thought some of you guys might get a kick out of it. I included this because Robert Horry was my first true mentor my rookie season along with Rick Fox and Shaq. But I have to talk about Rob a little beacause our lockers were right next to each other and he was such a great veteran for me to have. We sat next to each other in Phil jackson’s “Warrior Room” toom. (That’s what Phil called the film room.)

One time I came to the bench after I missed a shot and Tex Winter said, “Your job is to pass the ball!” Robert looked at me and said, “Don’t listen to that…..you are a scorer….when you get on that court you are a scorer!” Of course Rob and Tex had a great relationship but sometimes as players we have to keep each others’ confidence high.

Another time we were having a team meeting and Derek Fisher said something like, “We’ve got two superstars in this room (Shaq and Kobe) and the rest of us are role players and we have to do our job.” Derek was one guy who would tell everything like it was. He and Phil used to have heated exchanges from time to time and Phil loved it. He once called Derek the “emotional leader” of the team or something like that. We were losing at the time and it was sort of a clear-the-air type of meeting. I kind of agreed with what Derek had said. I could tell Rob was uncomfortable with what Derek said because he started shifting around and looked ready to say something. These meetings were great because the respect level was high so guys could say whatever they wanted and no one took it personally.

Rob then went on to tell everyone in the room, “Yeah, we have two superstars in this room and the rest of us are STARS. There are no role players in this room there are stars in this room.” I’ll never forget that because that is truly the way Rob plays basketball. I think his confidence level is so high that when the huge shot comes he just has such great self belief he always seems to knock it down. I could go on talking about Rob and the lessons he taught me.

Ocasionally Rob had a bad game as every single pro-athlete does. One time I think he played about 20 minutes and didn’t score and had one rebound. (I have plenty of games like that too.) I was curious to see how he was in the locker room. The media guy came by and handed everyone a copy of the box score of the game which is the routine. Rob glanced at the sheet of paper and then crumpled it up and tossed it away and went to shower. It was like Rob was not going to dwell on anything negative at all. I now do the same thing after a bad game. For me it’s kind of a mental way of telling myself. “Hey, I played terribly, but I’m crumpling up this bad memory and flushing it down the toilet and tommorrow I am coming back with all my confidence and effort! I’m going to be strong and forget about it like Rob does.”

I was lucky to have Robert Horry as a mentor. On every team some players really have a sports mind and can see every little nuance and others can’t see any of it. Rob is one player who seemed to see every single detail of every game. When we were on the court together, he’d see something on defense and shove me and yell “Go double team that, I’ll watch your man.” The first time I was scared to leave me man for fear he’d score and Phil would highlight it on film review the next day. But soon I realized that Rob was rarely wrong with his defensive assignments and he ALWAYS had my back when he told me to go double. I wish Rob the very best in everything and I look forward to seeing him soon on Dec. 15th.

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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