Monday, July 24, 2017

Real Reason Kyrie wants away from LeBron

Kyrie Irving’s desire to leave Cleveland on if face looks like an attempt to get out Cleveland before LeBron does, or a desire for more opportunity for a bigger role. What if it’s neither of those? What if Kyrie is motivated by a desire to play team basketball instead of “LeBron Ball”?
*LeBron Ball- style of basketball where LeBron facilitates all offense and teammates are turned into isolation scorers, or catch and shoot players.

Much of the criticism of Kyrie’s game is centered on him being and isolation scorer and lack of playmaking for teammates. So naturally when he asks to be traded it looks like he wants more spotlight and recognition. I disagree with that idea. I believe Kyrie wants out because he wants to team basketball the right way, not LeBron’s way. Look at the teams reportedly highly desirable trade destinations for Kyrie. San Antonio, Houston, Minnesota, Miami, New York. With the exception of NY (I have no idea why he would want to go there) what do all these teams have in common? He would not be the #1 offensive option on the team, and they all run an offensive system where no 1 player facilitates the entire offense. For 2 decades, no team/coach has empowered his role players, and bench players to be contributors than Popovich in San Antonio. Mike D’Antoni offense in Houston allows very little isolation offense. Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota is known for his defensive prowess and he has no “Superstar” so everyone has to contribute to facilitating offense. The same is true in the post Big 3 era with Spoelstra in Miami.

Kyrie’s list of teams he wants to be traded to clearly demonstrates a desire to play a beautiful brand of basketball. The kind of poetry in motion we see from Golden State, and San Antonio when every player on the team is giving a master class on screening, cutting, and passing to create easy shots.
This may sound like a knock on LeBron, and on some level it might be. But, proof is in the pudding. When the Cleveland Cavaliers do not have LeBron James on the court, even for short stretches, opponents routinely massively outscore them. Why is that? His teammates suck. Nope. His teammates are not empowered to initiate and facilitate offense like other teams. On San Antonio, Houston, Minnesota, and Miami their teams are able to maintain and sometimes extend leads with their stars on the bench because 1 player does not dominate the facilitation of offense. The Cavs don’t score a lot of assisted points (especially in the playoffs) when the pass did not come from LeBron James. Other contenders do. Kyrie is a magnificent scorer and finisher around the rim. Imagine him playing in a system that empowered all his teammates and he occasionally had to isolation score.

Being an isolation scorer takes a lot of energy and long term it makes you a far less efficient scorer. See Kevin Durant’s stats from OKC playoffs vs. GSW playoffs.

Chris Bosh told Kevin Love playing with LeBron is tough. He has found out, so has Kyrie. At least they got a championship in the process. Now can you blame Kyrie for wanting out?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016



Wednesday April 13, 2016

Dear Kobe,

My 20 year relationship with you the basketball player is ending. You don’t know it, but we have been tight and linked together for quite some time now. We are like family. We have been through so many ups, downs, triumphs, and failures together. We have won a lot of games, made and missed shots together, and I have been loyal and committed to our bond even when we disagreed, or you did things I didn’t like. When naysayers and detractors come around, I give them the gospel. But, when you were wrong and should have done better I spoke about that too.

Our relationship didn’t really start out on the best note. We were not cool because you were the anti-MJ and a threat to his greatness and Michael Jordan was my hero. In my book, Jordan inspired me and could walk on water so there was no room for anyone else. Plus, you were just an unoriginal Jordan imitation who happened to play for the Lakers. Kind of like a cover band who couldn’t make their own hits. When the Bulls broke up after a 6th championship, it broke my 16 year old heart. The Bulls lost me forever.  I needed a new favorite player and team. I searched for years. I tried Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill but the injury bug snuffed them out. I was searching for a player that inspired me and embodied all the things I want to be in life.

The Beginning

April 28, 2002, the day that changed my sports life forever. I was watching TV in my apartment at the University of Oregon, and stumbled upon Beyond The Glory: Kobe Bryant. It gave a three-dimensional view of you – one I had never seen before. I learned who you were and why you were that way. You were a kid who didn’t fit in with all the cool kids socially because you came from a different place. I could relate to that. That was my story. Your fire and desire to compete resonated in my soul. I too hate to lose much more than I like to win. Ever since that day I was all in with you. Over the next 16 years, you would inspire me in ways even Michael Jordan never did.

When I was playing in college or in the league, playing was my safe haven. No matter what was going on personally I could focus for those few hours on the field. I emulated you. Whether you got a high five or flipped off, it never changed you. You worked hard and were willing to sacrifice everything to be the best. Sometimes I have that, sometimes I don’t. But I want it all the time.

I have seen and read about you seeking knowledge from other highly successful people. Unbeknownst to you, you taught me how the principles of highly successful people translate to the field. The one thing I wish I had learned when I was still playing was how important the “process” is. You taught me that. Results are a byproduct of the process.

Today is a sad day, but I am happy for you. I’m proud of you and appreciative for all the greatness you have given me. I am sad because it’s over for us on the court. I’m happy for you because you are being recognized as the hero in this last year that all of us really want to be. I’m proud of you for falling from grace and picking up the pieces to inspire others. I’m appreciative for all the greatness you have given me on the court. Most of all, I thank you for everything that goes unnoticed. You gave ALL OF US more greatness off the court than on. I have had so many great debates and conversations with friends, at the barbershop, on inspired by you. Whether people like you or not, it was greatness. I can’t count the radio and TV shows that I have either watched or been a part of talking about Kobe. You may not realize it but friendships have been forged and people have gotten through tough times because of you. I can’t tell you how many times I have had people at the house and the time is so much more festive because we were watching you play. To some people you are the villain, some the hero. Either way, we bonded because of you. Who is better, Kobe or LeBron? Is he better than Jordan? Kobe doesn’t make his teammates better. No one wants to play with Kobe. Or does everybody? Is he top 5 all- time? Kobe is the hardest working basketball player ever. He’s such a great player, but he’s a jerk. The list goes on…

Honestly, this season has been rough for me. I’d imagine it’s been pretty humbling and tenuous for you as well. It has been painful to watch. I feel bad for you. Your mind wants to do things your body will no longer allow. I have been through the feeling of your body betraying you as an athlete (mental frustrating). The season hasn’t been rough because my team sucks, but because I still had hope. I still hoped you had a couple more Tim Duncan type seasons left to compete for a championship. I wasn’t ready to let US go. It was so bad that I almost wanted you to leave the Lakers so you could get #6. The fact that your last year is going to end with 65 losses initially seemed criminal. Then I remembered all the praise, love, and appreciation the great fans of other teams have shown you. If you were on a title contending team you would not get the cheers and presents at road games would be nonexistent. All this is a fitting end for you. The ultimate HERO VILLAIN.

Ever since you announced you were retiring, I have been preparing for TODAY. I don’t know what you will do in your final game today, but I know like everything else it will be with all your might.

Thanks for the memories. Thanks for all giving me far more than basketball.

You are welcome,

George Fredrick Wrighster, III

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Andrew Hawkins: Courageous. Thoughtful. Inspiring

Cleveland Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins’ was another athlete who wore a shirt in support and demonstration that a change needs to take place in our country. Hawkins’ shirt was protesting the recent shooting of two unarmed Ohioans. He didn’t wear an “I can’t breathe” shirt like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and many other collegiate and professional athletes. Instead he wore a shirt that read "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford" on the front, and "The Real Battle for Ohio" on the back, but didn't address it on Sunday. Members of the Cleveland police department were upset about Hawkins shirt and demanded an apology.  Monday, Hawkins spoke for nearly 6 minutes uninterrupted about why he wore the shirt and described what his protest was about.
Many people in life jump on the bandwagon when it comes to being vocal about social issues and trends. Often people join the crowd in protest but don’t have a truly thoughtful reason why they are doing it. 

After listening to Hawkins’ comments I was impressed. He was courageous, thoughtful, and inspiring. We can all take a page out if his book.

In life you must know your why! What is your why? When you do things make sure that you know why you did it. Don’t just do things arbitrarily. It’s important to know why! If you don’t know why you did something you are destined to make the same mistake again. If you make a good choice then in life you need to know why so you know how to repeat it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The NFL is Failing Adrian Peterson and its Bottom Line

You have a huge responsibility as an NFL player. You have a responsibility to yourself to take advantage of a great opportunity to give yourself a head start in life. You have a responsibility to family, friends, and fans who look up to you to be a good example and role model. You have a responsibility to the NFL to conduct yourself in a manner that always presents the league well.

Imagine this, you are a 20-23 year old male. You are a physical specimen. Faster, stronger, and (in many cases) worshiped you since you were a kid for your athletic prowess. Then, you have a financial windfall that often instantly makes you the person financially responsible for your family. It also enables you to have life’s greatest vices at your disposal on a daily basis. That is a lot to deal with for any man, let alone a very young man. While people are constantly telling you to “make good decisions”, every bad decision is at your fingertips and without education you may not know the difference. Forty year old men make bad decisions with financial windfalls, so how can a boy be taught to consistently make good decisions. What types of bad decisions did you make in your 20’s?

If the NFL is concerned about its players (and the investment that they are making into their players), it needs to dedicate some of its extensive resources to take responsibility to educate the VERY young men entering this league so that they grow into great men. This starts with mandatory, ongoing classes that extend and expand the Rookie Symposium throughout the season.  Specifically, these classes should educate the players on parenting, legal issues, domestic violence, interpersonal relationships, communication & conflict resolution, and substance abuse. Some of these issues were covered in the Rookie Symposium when I attended yet, but not to the extent necessary to inspire change. I’ve seen many players punished and teams lose valuable players because of decisions in these areas. There is a one or two hour “seminar” once or twice a year that focuses on, “Choices, Decisions, Consequences” and it is simply not enough… OBVIOUSLY.  While the intention of the seminar is great, it falls well short of the constant reinforcement necessary to make major breakthroughs that are sustainable.

Handing out long suspensions to players treats the symptom but does not address the real issues that are causing the problem. This does not mean that we excuse bad behavior. It means that giving players long suspensions cannot be the only recourse to resolving the problem. As players, many times our talent takes us places we are not mentally and emotionally prepared for. Many players come from socio-economically disadvantaged situations with no real financial education. Others were raised in unstable home environments without positive male figures in the home.

Don’t get me wrong… Adrian Peterson took things entirely too far with the discipline for his son. While his son may have required discipline, Adrian needed better tools and different options to offer that discipline. Long after his NFL career is over, he will still be a father and a long suspension from the NFL will have done NOTHING to educate him in these areas. I think that part has gotten lost in this whole saga. Peterson has stated that was raised with harsh discipline and an iron fist as many of us were. From his perspective, he probably believes that is what enabled him to become successful and the football player we all love. I’m sure Adrian Peterson loves his son just as all fathers do. He just did what he knew.  I think he just needs more options.

The NFL ruling that came down was expected but it's not the ruling from the arbitrator from the hearing on Monday. I believe that the letter was a PR move designed to protect the league but it is not the most effective method to making a real change.  As a father myself, I know that harsh punishments may serve as a deterrent that don’t address the root of the behavior.  If NFL players are going to be punished on the field for the decisions and behavior that they do OFF the field, then let’s set them up for success and provide them with the education, resources, and tools necessary to do this.  Players need to be coached to be great players on the field.  If the league wants these players to be great men off the field, they need to provide coaching in this area as well.  If they can be coached to be great on the field, I know they can be coached to be great off the field.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Steve Nash Journey to 'The Finish Line' Episode 1

Every professional athlete wants to leave the game on their own terms, but reality is no one ever gets to do that! Most athletes retire because their body gives out due injury, or diminished skills. Even Hall of Famers get traded, or pushed out the door at the end of their careers. Try to name a player who retired wasn't old and lost a step, could no longer play every night, or had a dispute with management. Either way, those are not your terms.

People do not see the work athletes go through to get back. But most importantly, they don't understand the mental and emotional struggle athletes go through when the lights are being turned out on your career. There are not enough accolades, records, or recognition that can soften the pain of the loss of your love.

Steve Nash knows the window is closing on his Hall of Fame career. If you want a little insight into what is really going on watch Episode 1 of 'The Finish Line'. Nash documents the struggle to get back on the court and see his career finish the way he wants it to.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Highest Bidder!: Coaches and Players Loyalty for Sale

While the USC faithful have been celebrating the firing of Lane Kiffin, few realize how many people are affected when the head ball coach gets his walking papers.

In my FIRST position meeting in Jacksonville, my tight end coach Alfredo Roberts introduced me to the NFL. He said, "When teams don't win in sports, two things happen, coaches get fired or players get fired. The coaches just got fired, so guess who is next if we don't play well.". In the world of college and professional sports everything boils down to two things, winning/losing and money. Good players are released or traded because they make too much. The NCAA continues to find additional revenue streams to make money from athlete's likeness. Coaches aren't fired because they have too many years and too much money left on their contract.

Ever wonder why coaches win and continue to ask for additional years to their contract? Head coaches typically have a guaranteed contracts, unless they get fired for "cause". FYI, losing is not "cause". You have to pull a Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) or Mike Rice (Rutgers) to get fired without pay. The head coach gets all the praise with wins, and all the blame when you lose. But, it is nice to be the head man because when you get fired with years left on your contract, you have a golden parachute. If I were a head coach, sign me through the 2025-26 season.
When coaches like Lane Kiffin, Norv Turner, Rick Neuheisel, or Lovie Smith don't live up to
expectations and are fired, they leave with some financial security. They often have assistant coaches who are doing a great job, but they typically get thrown out with the head coach. You could be the best tight end coach in the world, but when the head man goes, so do you.

Assistant coaches and their families are affected the most. Most assistants make peanuts compared to the head coaches salary.  Even when the head coach doesn't get fired, they often change assistants through the years (for various reasons). There is NO job security. Assistant coaches are typically journeyman until they get the job security of being the head coach. Most never achieve their dream, and are tied to finding job with the guys they have worked with in the past who get jobs. Their families are drug across country searching for stability and their dreams to come true. As much as assistant coaches love the game, they are no different than any other husband/father. They are using their particular set of skills to provide a comfortable, and stable life for their families. Since 1999, when I graduated high school, Alfredo has had a job every year because he is a GREAT tight end coach, but has made stops at Florida Atlantic, Jaguars, Browns, Buccaneers, and is currently at the Colts. He has a wife and kids, but the only roots he can put down are the roots on his coaching tree. Imagine every year, win or lose, not knowing if you will have a job. Imagine the stress it puts on your wife, children, friendships, and families to move from place to place for years, just hoping for the day you land the big job.

According to USA today, "The average major-college football assistant coach now earns roughly $200,000, a USA TODAY Sports analysis finds". The list of the top 124 college coaches 2012 salaries and their assistants totals is very interesting.

Next time you wonder why there is very little loyalty in sports, know why. If you were a coach would you be loyal to a program or team that will throw you out without notice? Or would you continue to look for the best available opportunities until you optimize your personal goals, and maximize your family's happiness?

A pro coach's dream career should look like this: Get a position as a quality control coach for an NFL team, do well and a position coaches job opens up on that staff, someone recognizes you as a young talent and you land a coordinator job, your offense/defense is tops in the league for 2 years, an owner takes a huge leap of faith and hires you NFL coaching job with not head coaching experience, win a bunch of games, win a Super Bowl, get a long term contract, get fired with 3 years left on your deal, ride off into the sunset and have fun being a grandpa, and hold seminars and mentor new young coaches.

A college coach's dream: Get a position coach job in college, someone recognizes you as a young talent and takes a huge risk on you as a coordinator, you have great success and land a head coaching job at a mid level division 1, beat some big teams and go to bowl games, get a job a big school who has been struggling, build the school into a powerhouse, get a NFL coaching job, win a Super Bowl, get a long term contract, get fired with 3 years left on your deal, ride off into the sunset and have fun being a grandpa, and hold seminars and mentor new young coaches.

Coaches have to look out for themselves and do what is best for their families. That type of system trickles down to the players. So when your favorite player changes team, just realize it is part of the cycle. Loyalty is sports is bought, and it usually only lasts until someone else has a bigger, better deal for you. Is your loyalty for sale?

Real Reason Kyrie wants away from LeBron

Kyrie Irving’s desire to leave Cleveland on if face looks like an attempt to get out Cleveland before LeBron does, or a desire for more...