defense and depth

I've been trying to free the Holy Spirit to loosen the control which the love of sports can have on my heart. Targeting the compulsive aspect. Enjoy it, without being addicted to it. Increasingly I feel the contradiction of following sports with such obscene salaries - and thereby feeling a little bit complicit - in a world where the great inequities remain a great iniquity. It becomes evil and I want to keep my distance from it a little bit more.

But sometimes I console myself with the spiritual principles that emerge in a life of following sports - from a greater distance now, of course.

I played basketball (as the photo demonstrates - back in my hey day, almost 40 years ago). I enjoy following the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, having lived in that great city in early 1980s.

Later today it is the NBA Draft where college players are selected by professional teams. What a show they put on! In the NBA today there are two ways to build a championship-winning team:

(a) The Big Three model. Pour your entire salary provision into securing three stars. Fill out the roster with 'role players' and people willing to take pay cuts in order to win a championship. The Miami Heat has done this. It has worked to a certain extent. The Big Three are LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosch ... and then the 5-7 role players who are part-time spectators of the Big Three doing their spectacular work. Everything inside me revolts against this model. And it seems that the Chicago Bulls are considering it - UGH?!

(b) The Play-as-a-Team model. Duh?! Afterall basketball is a team game, isn't it? Miami has made it to the finals four years in a row (that is amazing) - but twice they have been beaten by this model. Dallas (in 2011) and San Antonio (in 2014). I love journalism and the weekly columns from a guy called Sam Smith, covering the Chicago Bulls, tend to be a weekly read. Here are some extracts from a recent column:
In four seasons, the Big Three stars of the Miami Heat lost twice in the NBA Finals, and both times to teams without transcendent stars as much as high quality veteran players and depth ... Didn’t the Spurs and Mavericks beat the star Heat - and the Spurs were exceptionally close in 2013 - with defense and depth? ... These are the difficult questions the Bulls - and other teams chasing All-Stars - will be asking themselves this week with the NBA draft Thursday. If it’s so important to have a multiple star team, then how come teams with defense, size and depth won two of the last four Finals and were within one free throw or rebound of winning a third? 
Exegete that paragraph for the secrets of San Antonio's success - because it was pretty sweet. 'Defense and depth' is the phrase that stands out for me. Have a good defensive game. Play deep into your bench. Become reliant on lesser players who are intelligent, disciplined - and well-coached. Can't you overhear the application for functional leadership and healthy community?

Can I add a couple more things to the mix which is true of San Antonio, but omitted here by the Great Sam himself. San Antionio are exquisite passers of the ball. They will always give up their own shot, if someone has a higher percentage shot - no matter who it is on the team. Serving others. Making others look good. That is what it is about. It is bee-u-tiful to watch. There is a bit of this around on the internet at the moment. Here is one example, narrated a bit by Magic Johnson.

I have a son who coaches a basketball team. I urged him to start by establishing an unflashy, tight defensive game. It is a great way to get everyone involved. Then on offense have players target two statistics above all else: (a) assists, making the final pass that leads to someone else getting an easier shot - it is called servanthood; and (b) offensive rebounds, following up your shot and those of others and if the shot misses, getting the (offensive) rebound - it is called redemption. What? Why? It creates a second chance for the team. The missed shot, even the mistake, becomes lost in the redemptive action of an offensive rebound. A great team celebrates not points so much, but assists and offensive rebounds.

Defense. Depth. Assists. Offensive rebounds.
The key to effective team basketball ... and effective team leadership.

Over the years of working with students and young adults I have become convinced of the value of the unspectacular. Doing simple things well - attached to right convictions and right character and for the long haul. Unspectacular preaching. Unspectacular care. Unspectacular leadership. Unspectacular mission initiatives. We are too starstruck. We are too impatient. The trouble with flash is that it often comes packaged with dash. Nah - that is not the answer.

There is a lot to learn from San Antonio. I hope the Chicago Bulls are watching and I hope you are listening. Focus your leadership on building teams with defense and depth. Then within those teams focus on being the leader both in assists and offensive rebounds. Don't worry about point-scoring - it'll happen.

Now where was I?
Oh yes, the Holy Spirit loosening the control which the love of sports has on my heart...

nice chatting



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