(couple of quick notes - this is a rambling rant filled diary. It has my usual game stuff mixed in with a little story and lots of bellyaching by me. don’t take any of it too seriously ;-) )
“The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it. Otherwise a salesman wouldn’t be required.”
My Stepdaughter as a semifinalist at Miss Teen Arkansas (I’m a proud poppa)
Arkansas v Alabama Running Diary
Life is bursting at the seams with “Rites of Passage”, with landmarks on the path to manhood (or womanhood). Some days it seems like life is little more than a rush to grow up followed by quiet years looking back with muted regret at roads not taken and paths not crossed because of our endless hurry.
There must be joy in the PROCESS, I think. The journey must be its own reward because if it isn’t you never arrive. Such has been my theory, at least. I have spent my life chasing the process - avoiding the landmarks.
Things like marriage, children, home ownership, pajamas, a lawnmower - I managed to avoid all of them for 40 years. And then BAM! I’m having a serious discussion about whether our Nursery should be mint green and referring to a certain shade of yellow as “custard”. Welcome to manhood.
I’m not sure exactly how I feel as we make our way to the Bama game. Before the Miss St. game I promised myself that if they couldn’t open the conference slate with an upset win then I was going to write off the season, begin a boycott of my beloved program until finally someone, ANYONE, would actually pay more than lip service to the ideas of intensity, focus, and tradition.
The early, embarrassing whipping at the hands of a mediocre State squad just confirmed my worst feelings about this team, this staff. The defense went three steps beyond atrocious. State was dunking and cranking unguarded 3s by doing little more than curls around a high post screen and intermittently rolling to the basket. The defense of basic screens and rolls is SO fundamental and so entwined with aggression and effort that I simply lost all hope. Honestly, why does our team at times seem so confused by simple help and recover, switch and stay, hedging out and back. It isn’t like we were pressuring so hard that we were getting nailed backdoor, the opposite in fact. Our “man” defense is so soft that the sudden switch to aggressively going over a screen or hedging violently to stop the ball is nearly impossible. This is just one of the many, many examples in life where being cautious is actually MORE dangerous than accepting some risk.
But the Hogs climbed back, as much a function of State settling for jumpers and getting cold as it was Marshawn Powell’s re-emergence as a dominant low post and transition scorer.
Of course having Courtney running the show automatically makes this team somewhat competitive. He is better than I remembered, able to penetrate at will to the point it seems like every single possession should, at least result in a wide open shot for someone. His defense is pretty fair as well, though unfortunately spotted with incomprehensible total lapses of concentration. The same lapses occur on offense as well, evidenced by a ridiculously casual flick to Rotnei when we were down 3 with the ball. The pass went directly into the leg of a defender and effectively ended our chances.
Regardless I was encouraged, or I wanted to be encouraged I am not sure which. My rationalization goes something like this:
Put a team on the floor with Courtney at point, Rotnei at 2, Powell at 4, and Washington at 5. Now plug in Farmer or Britt depending on matchups and you have a starting five that should be able to score and score big, Feed Powell, or feed and kick, or Fortson penetrates, or penetrates and kicks, RC keeps the middle free and knocks down the open ones, the 5th starter shoots stanstill 18 footers, runs the floor and plays defense. Michael Washington serves as a rebounder and second low post option and in that role he is very very good.
Now that isn’t just a passable starting five - it is a very good one, one that could win the West IF . . . IF they could stop someone. There are defensive liabilities with each of those five but the good thing is that each also brings a few postives defensively. Rotnei has great hands, Courtney is a strong ball defender, Farmer is physical, and Washington and Powell can both rebound and block shots despite their atrocious post defense. In sum, it could work - maybe.
Now we plug holes. Stef, Nobles and Farmer or Britt each play 10-12 hell bent wild dog minutes of defense, creating pressure, confusion, transition baskets, and forcing the opponents to shoot their open jumpers from unfamiliar places at an unfamiliar pace. Johnson spells the posts for 8-10 minutes each.
Then comes Bryant . Freed from the halfcourt pick and roll he might explode. He can be a guy that runs the court, rebounds, steals, does a heat check with his jumper, and some nights play 5 minutes some nights play 25 (stealing some minutes at the 3).
My point is that covering up the defensive holes in this team isn’t a matter of a soft zone or tepid man to man. It is an all out frenzy, taking advantage of our depth - yes I said depth, I am done with the talk of this team not having the players to run or pressure - that is ALL we have. What we don’t have are shooters, half court post dominance, or half court defensive competence. Slowing down and backing off doesn’t mask those weaknesses, it makes them more glaring and gives the opposition the time and space to pick them apart. Why have we suffered through 7 years of coaches telling us they don’t have the players to pressure? Clearly we haven’t had the players to do what we have been doing. Why not actually ATTEMPT what we CLAIM to believe in? (I actually think I know the reason but I will get to that later.
One of the rites of passage I have long avoided is the process of negotiating the price of a new car. Now I’m not saying I’ve never purchased or owned a vehicle. Its just that I have been more about writing the check and leaving the discussion of large numbers, the scribbling of figures on a piece of paper and sliding it across the table, the low balling, the uncomfortable silence when pretending to be disgusted by a price point, the coats slung over the back of a chair, cuffs rolled up and tie loosened, the scurrying of disingenuous men in off the rack suits from room to room so they can ask their boss if there is any way we can “make this work”.
I have some high minded reasoning for why I hate this ritual so. I say that I hate the “lie” of it, that I think people should say what they mean, that honor and pride should keep us from trying desperately to take advantage of our fellow man. But that is just rhetoric. There are really just 2 reasons I hate negotiations. 1) I desperately need everyone to like me and 2) I find social awkwardness to be worse than a rough mugging. I once stayed with a girlfriend I detested for an extra 6 months because breaking up would be kinda uncomfortable.
Today is going to be different. Today I must be a man. The heater is busted on my wife’s car and fixing it will cost more than the heap is worth. We have a baby coming and need a roomy form of transportation. Today I shall face the personal nightmare that is car salesmen.
We are barely in time for the game, sitting down as the ball is tipped. Surprisingly decent crowd, probably 10,000 actual bodies. For a team that has been this bad and this lifeless it is kind of encouraging.
Britt is starting for Farmer. I like this move. I think this is our best five - very light on shooting but still our best five.
Powell gets 3 straight buckets right off the bat. One of them off of, gulp!, a press and a steal. The place is very loud.
Bama calls timeout and Anthony Grant gets teed up. Could he wear his pants just a wee bit tighter? Gracious. I feel I could ID the man’s butt in a lineup.
His shirts are no better. Is he comfortable like that? I’m all proud of him for having muscles and all but he looks like a high price Vegas gigolo.
RC hits the tosses and we have mo.
Well maybe not so much now. An easy 5 points and it is tight again.
Pelphrey subs for Powell and Clarke. Well that makes sense. We are up 10-5 less than 4 minutes in and the crowd is rocking. Best to take out our top 2 scores who have scored ALL 10 of our points!! For what - a rest? After 3 minutes? Because Powell got 1 foul? THIS right here is what gets all over me. It is coaching for the sake of coaching, it is tactics without a comprehensive strategy. For instance, resting players at regular intervals is a reasonable tactic. But in the overall strategy of a basketball game the fact that we are on run, that a certain player is hot, that flow is disrupted MUST be taken into account when those tactics are deployed.
Basketball, especially in college, is all about guards and big runs of points. If you have a run you grab it so tight it strangles. You get every last bit of it. You don’t stop in the middle and say “wait, I intended to rest these two guys early.” You just don’t.
Bama gets a couple nice buckets.
FIRST Timeout Hogs lead 10-9
I have the SUV picked out, have scoured the internet checking prices and options and colors, emailed a dozen dealers requesting quotes and asking when they could have the car I need with the trim I want. The vehicle has been located in Fayetteville and basically I just have to show up, agree on a price, and drive away. If only life were that simple.
Bama is playing straight man. They are jumping and hedging on pick and rolls. UCLA is the best I have ever seen at this but it is fundamental to man defense. Why don’t we do it? Because we are afraid they will run a slip screen for a backdoor. The thing is that you have to have confidence in your help and rotations and those help and rotations need to be drilled to the point that players can do them in their sleep. It isn’t an issue of talent. It just isn’t.
Nice dish from CF to Bryant, me likey.
Powell and RC are back after a 2 minute rest. Just long enough to break our rhythm but not long enough to make a huge difference in terms of stamina - me no likey.
Courtney has another brain fart turnover. Our point guard simply has to value the ball more than he does. He can get us good shots every time down but he has to get us there first.
CF out and Stef runs point. uh-oh. Why not Nobles? Bama jumps in a trap and Stef gets stripped and fouls the guy for an and one. I don’t blame Stef for that. Bama knows he can’t run the point under pressure, every person in the stands knows it too. Why was he running it? Stef is a reserve 2 guard and can be terrific in that role. Nobles is a pure point. Bama is a team that wants to pressure. This isn’t higher math.
SECOND TIMEOUT Hogs down 12-18
Things start off badly when I locate the sales“man” that I have exchanged email with. I have crusty stuff under my toenails older than this guy. He looks like he just got out of the shower - moist just short of greasy. He is fit and smiley and shakes firmly and a little too long. He keeps using my first name over and over, as if this was stressed at the salesman refresher course he just took on the internet after updating his profile on Facebook and dousing himself with Axe body spray. My pregnant wife is flirting with him between sprints to the toilet to vomit and pee so I guess he must be pretty good looking.
“Powell has no butt” my wife informs me. She seems honestly troubled by this, as if maybe he just misplaced it and we should ask around.
Early momentum is gone. Crowd sitting back.
Nice 3 by RC on drive and kick from CF. CF drives for 2. Crowd back in. This team and crowd are desperate for PACE.
Britt is playing a lot and playing nicely. He gets his hand on a lot of balls, causes passes to be thrown at slightly worse angles that in turn don’t end up leading to wide open shots. Just basic stuff. He is a good ball player and I’m starting to believe he can really help us.
Cox in for Powell (just as we start another run). Seriously WTF!
My wife is beside herself. She loves Powell and has been claiming all year that despite his buttlessness he is our best player. I think she has a point, but I ask her if she is conflicted because she is frequently on about Cox’s fundamental cuteness.
“Look” she says, “Cox is cute. I’d do him but I wouldn’t play him. At least not for Powell. This is about winning.” So there you go.
Washington catches the ball out of control yet again but draws a foul.
We D up nicely for a whole possession but give up the rebound. The little things.
RC for 3 but we give it back underneath at the other end. At times we are sending ZERO offensive rebounders, I suppose because we want to get back. The gutlessness of this strategy offends me on many levels.
Fortson gets stuffed.
THIRD TIMEOUT Hogs trail 22-27
We drive the car up a few hills and around some curves. Our salesman is running his speil in a hard to understand monotone, pointing out switches and lights and doodads. Finally we make it make to the dealership. I am nodding sagely and seriously at my wife, pretending that I picked up great automotive knowledge during our 5 minute jaunt. I blah-blah with the guy for a sec and then we nod at each other like boxers before a fight, touch gloves and come out haggling.
Despite my wife’s and my protestations Cox played well during his stint. I can sort of see why he gets to play. He is the only one of the guys that play the four that calls out screens, hedges, pushes and shoves and generally lets the offensive guy know he is there. In other words he plays sound defense. When he and Britt are both in we improve exponentially on that end.
However he is severely limited by his lack of size and, at least from what I have seen, he has no offensive game to speak of. (apparently my wife may be willing to test that)
The Hogs make a mini run with Cox so he gets pulled.
Powell is back and is guarding the low post on the left (ball ) side. The wing defender gets lost and and the Bama guy is wide open outside. So Powell goes out, not ast enough to cover the shooter but fast enough to leave his man wide open 2 feet from the basket. The ball is delivered easily. Washington helps late but gets a break and draws a charge.
Now even though we didn’t give up a hoop that sequence right there showed so many basic flaws in our defensive tactics, strategy, and execution that the coaches should play it on a loop in the locker room.
1) The wing defender got lost and hung up trailing through a screen instead of fighting and clawing through it.
2) Instead of giving up a jumper to prevent a layup Powell helps outside with no help underneath. This would be okay if he helped quickly - with a purpose. Instead he guarded no one instead of at least covering up the easy shot.
3) Michael was late on the help, waiting for the pass to be made instead of anticipating the series of rotations that needed to be made when the first man came open.
4) All three defenders moved cautiously, more afraid of making mistakes then they are anxious to make a play (Washington may be an exception there). Ironically this leads DIRECTLY to mistakes showing once again that caution does NOT lead to a safer style of basketball.
Tasty drive from Courtney.
Its a crucial juncture as we close the gap. So we sit CF. Yup.
“I gotta pee” my wife chimes in.
“I’ll tell Cox” I say.
Powell with an awful jumper. He is out of rhythm now.
He needs to be option #1, always in the middle of the action.
“Look at Powell” my wife says. “His no-butt can’t even hold up his drawers. He’s like a tube. Clothes just slide off him.“
LAST TIMEOUT Hogs down 26-27
Patrick, thats my car salesman’s name, Patrick - (I find myself wondering if he has a handle like the guys on “Jersey Shore” - Pat “The Handshake” Dugan.) slides a price sheet to me and I stare at it, pretending to be considering an offer but actually thinking about Snooki and wondering how much she spends on make-up a month and about her roommate Mike and his abs and deciding he will soon be getting spit out the bottom of the porn industry, broken, pale, bald, flabby, impotent, addicted to cheap coke and expensive cough syrup and trying to explain to the girls he is trying to get in the hot tub why he has “The Situation” tattooed across his man boobs.
The guy from the band that runs around during the “William Tell Overture” and tries to get everybody up seems to be deadly serious about his mission. I’m a little frightened. My wife wants me to point out that his plastic band pants “aren’t very flattering either”.
Stef hasn’t come back since he got stripped early on. Maybe because we are better with Britt. Maybe because he has 2 fouls. Hopefully it isn’t the latter because that would get me started on another rant about imprudent caution.
RC swatted on a jumper. That is gonna happen. Gotta just reload. Fortson pretty feed to Farmer. We are really moving nicely off the ball and defending fairly well.
We look so good Pelphery takes RC and Powell out.
Farmer misses a pair but plays some good defense.
CF nice tweener shot. Needs to pull up more often. Bad foul from Farmer on the perimeter.
Powell back in. Are we doing offense for defense subs in the FIRST FREAKIN’ HALF?! Aye Carumba.
Washington boards and scores.
Cox and Nobles in. Can you say overcoaching in order to maintain a false sense of control and direction? Tactics without strategy again.
HALFTIME Hogs down 32-34
I scribble and pass back an offer. My wife takes a call and seems to be talking to another dealer. She hangs up and informs Pat-man that Tulsa has a Platinum edition for only $1000 more than this Limited edition we are bidding on. Pat is thrown by this and is scrambling on his computer, trying to find this Tulsa car. I picture Pat-man having an evil nemesis in Oklahoma, thwarting him at every turn, possibly wearing a cape and bandana.
We have decided that Anthony Grant looks like Taye Diggs. I feel better now.
RC makes a nice drive for a pull up bank shot. He needs a couple more of those a game.
Our switching in our man is frightful. One guy switches and the other doesn’t. Or one switches and they both jump back to original man. Our defense seems to lack a theory - for lack of a better term.
Nice feed from Courtney to Michael. The potential for respectability is right there folks. Right there.
I think Courtney is going to choke on his mouthpiece some day. He plays with it like an adult pacifier or something.
CF takes a 3 and bricks badly. Its a shame he will never be a good shooter. He would be unstoppable.
Farmer makes a bold drive and it rims off. I’ll take more of that though. Powell with a follow slam. Now we are cooking. Better sit him down. (Can you tell I am bitter?)
Britt’s steady defense is really making a difference with his increased minutes. He is part of our best five.
Powell Lay up.
RC is out and we have not a single shooter on the floor.
FIRST TIMEOUT Hogs lead 42-38
Pat-man recovers but I don’t. I’m pretty certain my wife just totally faked that call. She is like an evil genius of some sort. I am filled with admiration as well as a fear that she has been faking many other aspects of our lives.
RC is back in. He is simply a must in order to spread the floor.
The Pom squad danced to a Poison song at the timeout. Can’t get enough of 20 year old Brett Michaels songs.
We still close poorly on shooters. It is certainly an art but do we have to be SO bad at it?
Bad turnover by Courtney. Just uneccessary. Difficult pass when an easy one would be fine.
Nice rebound and putback by Mike. He is controlling the paint now.
Courtney takes a block call for a Bama and 1. Criminy!
“Did you see the way the ref called that?” my wife says. “I just don’t care for his attitude.”
“Right call though” I say.
“Well he doesn’t have to be so rude about it.” She counters. So there.
CF out again. Stef in. This blew up in the first half.
Powell misses a runner. Rotnei with a turnover they convert for 2. Couldn’t see that disaster coming at all, could we?
Britt gets a board and feeds Powell. Big, big play.
RC gets jacked in the face for the 3rd time and they finally called it. Goodness! that was ugly.
Long break while the refs look at the replay to see what actually happened. How exactly did they miss it along with the first 2 times? And why isn’t Courtney going back in since we have this long rest. This is the time to finish it.
Dude got ejected. CF is back. I’ll just shut up now.
Mike makes a swooping lefty dunk that doesn’t count but was surprisingly graceful.
Britt nails a massive 3!
And now we are running clock. Hmmmmm.
Britt had a really quiet play where he took a left handed dribble and reversed the ball. It was subtle but it was the pass that set up the pass for the shot. Always the little things.
SECOND TIMEOUT 53-48 Hogs
The Patster scribbles again but I just can’t hack it. I make an offer aloud. The whole dealership falls silent at my etiquette breach. I try to break the tension by asking my wife if she passed gas. She isn’t amused but her son is laughing hysterically. 13 year old boys “get” my sense of humor.
Washington another nice board. Rc misses a three - too bad. Britt misses a three. At least we are looking for the knockout. Bama is self destructing with the least bit of pressure.
RC misses a good look. Bama calls timeout falling out of bounds. Thats the second time they have gotten that call when not in control of the ball completely. Didn’t they pass a rule or am I dreaming?
Torrance is a nice, big guard for Bama.
Cox in for RC. No shooters again. Delvon gets a lucky putback.
THIRD TIMEOUT 58-52 Hogs
Pat leaves us pretending to be asking his boss how low he can go but in reality going to the bathroom to re-slick his hair and practice his mannerisms in the mirror.
Pat counter offers but prefaces by giving my wife a soulful look and saying “I just really hate this part of the job” - meaning the negotiating. I nearly puke on my sandals and then think to myself that my wardrobe of shorts and a hoodie with sandals probably isn’t giving the alpha male vibe I am going for in this situation.
Delvon got a bucket then a block. He is pumped up and looking aggressive for the first time in a while. He was replaced. Natch!
Still no shooters with Cox in but this group is playing the best defense of the day.
We are stalling. I’m not joking. We are stalling.
Britt misses but clears a nice board on the other end. Best game of his career.
Courtney bricks but Mike cleans up again. Really good ballgame from him.
We go to a zone. Again this is a tactic that at some times might be reasonable but right now it makes no sense at all strategically. Its as if he is making in game decisions based on a card he filled out before the game, completely ignoring the fact that the situation has changed.
Bama misses a couple open jumpers. RC misses a long 3 that Powell cleans up. Gorgeous slip screen from Britt to Washington.
LAST TIMEOUT 62-52 Hogs
I cave to Pat and cut the check, a hint of shame in my eyes. Pat-arooney leaves again, I can only assume to laugh wildly with his buddy about how badly he just screwed the dork in the sandals, while my wife looks at me like she just now discovered that I am, in fact, completely and utterly without balls.
There is a guy a couple sections over with a forehead so large I think it must contain a twin that failed to mature. It is truly spectacular. I can’t look away.
RC hits a 3 and gets tackled. No call.
Courtney swatted again. More passing less shooting please. Share the sugar.
Washington starts a drive from somewhere near Springdale and still manages to get to the hole. Thats some special defense there.
Bama is losing their grip. They have no go to guy.
Sweet drive and dish from RC to Powell.
It’s basically over but Courtney makes one of those plays that just makes me wonder. Bama is in open court and CF stops at the top of the key, making no effot but looking at other guys like it is their fault. Who cares who’s fault it is? Just play.
Mop up time.
FINAL SCORE 71-59 Hogs win
“Well that’s a side of you I could have done without seeing” she says.
“My aggressive killer capitalist dominant male side?” I ask, twisting one of my remaining strands of hair with my index finger.
“Yup. That’s the one .” she says and excuses herself to the bathroom where I fear she is ripping off Pat-man’s sweaty shirt and saying “Give momma a kiss”.
Until next time. I’ll be back after the Florida game. They have tricked me into having hope again.
(couple of quick notes - this is a rambling rant filled diary. It has my usual game stuff mixed in with a little story and lots of bellyaching by me. don’t take any of it too seriously ;-) )