LOOKING AHEAD AND BREAKING IT DOWN: Herb Brown and Peter Vecsey weigh in on Warriors vs. Spurs

 

Wizards v/s Warriors 03/02/11

Superstar guard Stephen Curry and the Warriors are vying for their second straight NBA title. Keith Allison/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

ANALYSIS
By Ed Odeven

TOKYO (April 15, 2016) —Looking ahead to the anticipated matchup in the Western Conference finals, the record-breaking Golden State Warriors (73-9) and  San Antonio Spurs (67-15), the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, should provide a compelling (and epic) showdown.

I reached out to longtime NBA coach Herb Brown and retired columnist Peter Vecsey to get their views on this enticing duel. Both offered their assessment of keys to victory for the title-chasing squads.

Brown, whose NBA coaching career spanned five decades, has seen enough playoff battles to know the schedule could be a big factor.

“Home-court advantage might be the decider,” Brown declared.

What else?

“Both teams have to remain healthy,” he insisted before adding, “no back-to-backs can help the Spurs older guys, but they have to be healthy and get their rest.”

For Golden State, Brown rattled off the following keys to knock off the Spurs:

1. Protect home court.

2. Do not turn the ball over.

3. Must make high percentage of 3-point attempts.

4. Transition offense — easy baskets — second-chance points.

5. Must play defense versus Spurs’ great ball movement and ball reversal.

6. Run Spurs’ bigs and contain Leonard and Parker.

For San Antonio, he pinpointed the following aspects of the game:

1. Limit Warriors fast break baskets and second chance points

2. Contest all 3-point shots. Must “Marry” (Defend) Curry and Thompson.

3. Rebound 3-point misses. Long rebounds.

4. Establish their tempo and inside game.

5. Make Curry, Thompson and Green defend.

6. Win the rebounding game.

7. Win free-throw game.

“It’s a very tough matchup,” Brown stated. “Very tough matchup. Both teams will try to establish their own tempo and rhythm and impose their will.”
***

Wizards v/s Spurs 02/12/11

Spurs big man and future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan enters the postseason with a shot at a sixth NBA title. Keith Allison/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Here is Peter Vecsey’s unabridged analysis.
Keys for the Spurs

l. The Spurs — Aldridge, Diaw, Leonard and Duncan  — must punish their defenders below the free-throw line to such an extent that the Warriors’ big men, who aren’t in foul trouble, are forced to play more minutes than usual, thus keeping Small Ball to a minimum.

2. Curry must be incessantly attacked defensively (preferably by lengthy Danny Green) and offensively. Tony Parker or whomever Curry covers, must stay intimately involved with the FGA column, hoping ultimately to wear him down in contested games. The Spurs must double the ball once he crosses midcourt whenever and wherever he has it. They don’t want him shooting remotely open shots (get over the damn pick and scream at the refs every time for not whistling it as moving) or positioned to set up teammates for relatively easy looks. That means never, ever leaving him to help out (it’s called a box-and-one) on another Warrior, which tends to happen with baffling frequency.

3. Regardless of how often Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala, or, for that matter, anyone else not named Steph Curry or Klay Thompson (yes, Draymond Green, too), accurately dial from long distance, the Spurs must accept them draining bloodshots, if able. If I were assigned to Barnes, I’d repeatedly remind him before he flicks his wrist, about his pending free agency and how much money is at stake.

4. The Spurs should not overly rely on Kawhi Leonard’s jump shooting.  He’s much more effective (and the team is better off) as an afterthought instead of the first or second go-to guy. The more offensive he gets, the less defensively efficient he becomes. San Antonio can’t beat Golden State four times in a seven-game series unless seven or eight players share the wealth, and two of the major contributors must by Parker and Manu Ginobili, whose infiltration is indispensable, as is their prudent baby sitting of the ball.

5. Age and glacial moving feet seemingly reduce Duncan to a non-factor status. Except his primary comp is Andrew Bogut. Should Timmy not outplay him, The Big Fundamental may very well call it a career without Yahoo getting so much as a sniff of the story.

Keys for the Warriors

1. The Warriors must pick up where they left off in their record-breaking 73-9 regular season. The key to ultimate success is defensive portability. When they go small, numerous players are capable of covering 1-thru-5, playmakers to pivotmen, and all points in between. Meaning every assignment is instantly switchable without creating a mismatch or losing flexibility. Meaning they’re on location to win even when not dropping shots.

2. Steve Kerr does a very good job of insisting on ball and body movement, which puts his players in place to be successful. Ultimately, the ability of Curry and Thompson to hit shots is reliant on spreading the floor and capitalizing on opponents’  inability to make correct decisions when faced with countless high pick-n-rolls that result in cuts-and-slashes and slips-and-lobs. Big or small, they’re almost all excellent passers.

3. For acclaimed heady players, the Warriors often are very careless ball handlers and passers. Curry always has been that way, probably because he’s so confident in his skills which often translate into a lefty cross-court, out-of-bounds fling as often as it does into a sensational assist. Trap Steph ardently and relentlessly and he’s apt to turn it over. Green, too, for all his double-digit assist games, is untidy and undisciplined. Kerr readily admits his team showed severe slippage in this area over the last couple weeks. Fact is, it had been happening for months because the Warriors were up 20 or more so early in so many games. Hence, they developed bad habits offensively and defensively that all but became acceptable. Kerr has two rounds to reverse that slide.

4. From where I’m sitting in front of the TV, it sure seems the Warriors’ understudies are vastly underrated. Not only do they maintain entrusted leads, they expand them. Iguodala was the MVP in last season’s Finals. Shaun Livingston, a calm leader, is superior at either guard position, never failing to stay true to his identity. An enforcer who enjoys his role, Festus Ezeli is a strong rebounder and defender, whose lone flaw is bad hands. Mo Speights is a 6-9 version of Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. Leandro Barbosa piles up points in a hurry. Meanwhile, Brandon Rush, Anderson Varejao, James Michael McAdoo and Ian Clark would almost make the Knicks and Nets respectable. No wonder Kerr doesn’t hesitate to mingle the first and second strings; everyone knows their job and their place.

5. Curry has no sweat glands.

***

BONUS SHOTS…
Bruce O’Neil, president of the United States Basketball Academy, dished out the following insight via email: “Obviously, the Warriors are special. Their unique blend of high-light talent, incredible shooters and selfless role players make their offense almost invincible. When you add their intensity on defense, this is a very unique combination that few NBA teams in any era have ever measured up to. Chemistry is something you can’t coach, and they have it. The Spurs have a similar makeup but without the youth and special firepower that ignites their incredible runs and fuels their crowds.” …

Here’s the link to an interview I did with Peter Vecsey last year: https://edodevenreporting.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/peter-vecsey-who-needs-deadlines-discusses-his-upcoming-book-and-the-stories-behind-the-stories/

Dikembe Mutombo speaks about life, basketball, his passion to make a difference

Here’s an in-depth article I wrote on Dikembe Mutombo in the summer of 2012.’

Mutombo using stature to make a difference in world

The ultimate friendship (Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman), and an interview with the author who wrote their story

By Ed Odeven

TOKYO (July 30, 2015) — Some stories are timeless and unforgettable; others are easily forgotten. But the vital lessons of the friendship between Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes ought to be told again and again for generations to come.

It’s a powerful reminder of friendship and kindness and common decency and profound courage. It’s a story that transcends racial barriers.

Pat Farabaugh captured the essence of their friendship in his 2014 book, “An Unbreakable Bond: The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman.”

Stokes (left) and Roy Campanella (right) became friends following accidents less than two months apart in early 1958 that left both sports stars paralyzed.  Campanella was a three-time National League Most Valuable Player as a catcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He and Maurice are seen here at one of the Stokes Benefit Games at Kutsher’s Resort.  In the back row, left to right, are NBA stars Oscar Robertson, Dave DeBusschere, Gus Johnson, Wes Unseld, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain (Saint Francis University Marketing and Public Relations).

Stokes (left) and Roy Campanella (right) became friends following accidents less than two months apart in early 1958 that left both sports stars paralyzed. Campanella was a three-time National League Most Valuable Player as a catcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He and Maurice are seen here at one of the Stokes Benefit Games at Kutsher’s Resort. In the back row, left to right, are NBA stars Oscar Robertson, Dave DeBusschere, Gus Johnson, Wes Unseld, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain (Saint Francis University Marketing and Public Relations).

Milton Kutsher (left) hosted the “Stokes Benefit Game” at his resort in the Catskills each August from 1959 to 1999.  Kutsher reached out to Twyman (center) in late 1958 and asked how he could help Maurice.  Kutsher’s son, Mark Kutsher (right), continued this tradition after his father died.  Following Stokes’ death in 1970, proceeds from the benefit game went to NBA players who needed financial help because of an unforeseen medical crisis (Saint Francis University Marketing and Public Relations).

Milton Kutsher (left) hosted the “Stokes Benefit Game” at his resort in the Catskills each August from 1959 to 1999. Kutsher reached out to Twyman (center) in late 1958 and asked how he could help Maurice. Kutsher’s son, Mark Kutsher (right), continued this tradition after his father died. Following Stokes’ death in 1970, proceeds from the benefit game went to NBA players who needed financial help because of an unforeseen medical crisis (Saint Francis University Marketing and Public Relations).

  Stokes defends against the New York Knicks’ Mel Hutchins during a game in 1958.  Jack Twyman is trailing the play (Courtesy of Jay Twyman).

Stokes defends against the New York Knicks’ Mel Hutchins during a game in 1958. Jack Twyman is trailing the play (Courtesy of Jay Twyman).

 

By all accounts, Stokes was a rising star. Entering the NBA out of Saint Francis (Pa.) College, the 6-foot-7 forward was the second overall pick in the 1955 draft. He joined the Rochester Royals and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

Twyman also joined the Royals in 1955 as a second-round draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati. He went on to play 11 seasons with the franchise, first in Rochester, then in Cincinnati. He was a six-time All-Star and a 1983 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While Twyman had longevity in the pros, Stokes, over three seasons, just three seasons, was a three-time All-Star and led all players in the fledgling circuit in rebounds (3,492) in that span. His career totals: 16.4 points, 17.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He was named to the All-NBA second team three teams. And he was on the verge of being one of the all-time greats.

What cut short Stokes’ career?

He hit his head on the court and became unconscious in the final game of the 1957-58 season. Days later, after the playoffs had begun and he kept playing, Stokes got sick, suffering seizures while on an airplane flight following a postseason game against the Pistons. He went into a coma and was later diagnosed as having post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that left him permanently paralyzed.

In a June 2013 article posted on ESPN.com, Curtis Harris summarized the plight that Stokes faced and how Twyman stepped in to help his teammate. Harris wrote, “The Royals were obscenely quick to remove Maurice and his $20,000 salary from their payroll. There was no pension or medical plan for NBA players back then, which left Stokes and his family unable to endure medical bills that would approach $100,000 a year. Facing financial peril, Stokes was saved by his Royals teammate Jack Twyman. The hot-shot small forward filled a void few would, and he did so for the duration of Maurice’s life.

“Twyman became his teammate’s legal guardian and undertook all kinds of fundraising efforts to round up the money and save Maurice. … Twyman, who worked for an insurance company during offseasons, successfully sued under Ohio law to have workman’s compensation awarded to Stokes.”

Indeed. Twyman spearheaded efforts to raise funds to pay for Stokes’ medical bills and other expenses for the rest of his life.

In 1958, Twyman and Milton Kutsher put together the Maurice Stokes Memorial Basketball Game, which became an annual event.

Stokes passed away in April 1970 at age 36. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2004, and Twyman was there in Springfield, Massachusetts, for the induction ceremony. Here is Twyman’s induction speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K1fg5xWc9s

Twyman died in May 2012 at age 78.

In June 2013, the NBA established the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, an appropriate way to keep their legacy current.

When the award was created, then-commissioner David Stern said, “The relationship shared by Jack and Maurice is as profound an illustration of compassionate and unconditional fellowship between two teammates that the NBA has ever seen. What better way to honor the life-long bond that developed between them by establishing an award in their honor that recognizes friendship and selflessness among teammates.”

I recently interviewed Farabaugh, an associate professor of communications and football play-by-play announcer at Saint Francis University, about his aforementioned book about Twyman and Stokes via email. I wanted to gain a broad perspective on his project and learn about the stories behind the stories, as well as his overall thoughts on this book, which is a valuable addition to sports and American history.

* * *

First of all, what prompted you to write this book? Was it a suggestion from a university colleague? Was it a project you decided to do based on your own intellectual curiosity? Was it in the back of your mind for some time because of Stokes’ association with the university?

Pat Farabaugh (Courtesy of author)

Pat Farabaugh

I served as sports information director at Saint Francis from 1999 to 2005. Stokes was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 and we retired his jersey number 26 at Saint Francis in 2000. At these events, I had the opportunity to talk to Twyman and the idea for a book project on the two men began to form following these conversations with Jack. It was such a fascinating story and it had been well-documented by newspapers and magazines back in the 1960s, but now it was largely forgotten, plus no one had written a book that told the entire story. A friend of mine – Vince Negherbon – also served as a catalyst to write the book. During my time as SID at Saint Francis, I became close with Father Vince. Vince is almost as much of a legend at the school as Stokes. He graduated from Saint Francis in 1943 and stayed to pursue theological coursework, eventually becoming a priest. He was appointed the College’s librarian in 1947. This was the first of several roles he served at the school over the next half century, including Dean of Students, Academic Dean, Executive Vice President and Vice President for College Relations. In 1966, Vince became president of Saint Francis, serving in this capacity until 1972. He was also a diehard sports fan. And he loved basketball. During the 1950s, he served as the Saint Francis basketball team’s chaplain. And a driver in the team’s carpool to away games. And a de-facto assistant to head coach Skip Hughes.

Father Vince got to know Stokes well during Maurice’s four seasons in Loretto. Years later, he asked Maurice if he would allow the school to name its new athletics facility after him. In April of 1970, Vince presided over Stokes’ funeral mass. He and I became close friends during my time as SID at Saint Francis and he shared stories with me about the Stokes Era at the school. In 2008, Father Vince died at the age of 87. I thought back to all the stories he had shared with me and kicked myself for never having written anything down. This also motivated me to share the story of Stokes and Twyman.

Was St. Johann Press the first publisher you pitched this book to? Was it difficult to convince SJP to approve the project?

No. I pitched the book to a number of different academic and commercial publishers before signing a contract with St. Johann Press. I had some interest on both fronts, but no offers. I remember it was a Friday afternoon during the dead of winter and I was doing a Google search of publishers and I happened upon St. Johann Press. I had cold-called some other publishers without much success, but I called the number for this publishing house and, moments later, I was sharing information about my book with the owner, Dave Biesel.

Dave was interested – he was a sports fan and knew about the Stokes-Twyman story. He asked me to send him some more information about the book, so I sent him what I had written up to that point. Shortly after our phone conversation, I traveled to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. When I got back, I had a message from Dave saying that he liked what he had read and wanted to publish the book. I really liked some of the ideas he had regarding the book – they were in line with what I was thinking. My instincts told me that this was a good fit. They proved to be right.

Since the book’s release last year, how has it been received? What kind of feedback have you been given?

Reviews of the book have been very positive. It has been written about in a lot of newspapers and magazines, as well as on-line sites. The Altoona Mirror, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati Herald, Johnstown Magazine, Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Mainline Newspapers, Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh Sports Report, UC Magazine (University of Cincinnati Alumni Magazine) and others have written about the book and I was very happy with these reviews. Readers have also reviewed the book on-line (Amazon, Goodreads, etc) and these have been positive, too.

I have done a number of book signings and presentations, including one at the University of Cincinnati last November. Amazingly, the first game following the book’s release for both the Saint Francis and University of Cincinnati basketball teams – Stokes and Twyman’s alma maters – was against each other. The two teams played each other to open the 2014-15 season. Prior to this game – which was at Cincinnati – I did a book signing in the Twyman Lounge at UC’s Lindner Athletic Center. Some of Jack’s family stopped by and it was really special.

People that I talk to – at presentations and in one-on-one conversations – are amazed at the selflessness of Twyman. Many of them are just floored that a young man with so many other responsibilities would step up in such a huge way for someone. And then honor that commitment for so many years. And they are equally impressed by Stokes’ approach to his life following the accident. Twyman’s selflessness and Stokes’ perseverance in the face of all his physical challenges are the two things that stick with most readers.

Is the timing of your next book (“Strike Three: The 1977 Johnstown Flood”)  specifically planned to coincide with its 30th anniversary?

That’s the plan. I have LOTS of work to do before then, but I am hoping to release the book right around the anniversary of this event.

What were the interviews with Twyman like in the summer of 2011? Were there many emotional highs and lows for you and for him? Where did you meet him? Can you describe these interview sessions? Were they real straight forward journalism-style Q&A sessions? About how many hours and sessions were there? After all of those interviews, did your impression of him change at all? Was he essentially the person you felt he was going into the book project?

These interview sessions were a lot of fun. The first time I told Jack that I wanted to write a book about his relationship with Maurice, he told me that the book should be about Stokes, and not about him. I told him it would be impossible to share the full story of Stokes without explaining to readers all that he had done for Maurice.

He was initially leery about the idea. He thought about it for a while and then told me that he would participate in the project because he wanted more people to learn about the person Stokes was. Jack constantly dismissed all those who were quick to praise his efforts on behalf of Maurice. He always said something like, “anyone else in a similar situation would have done the same thing.” Which, of course, is not true.

Our conversations – most of which were over the telephone – were pretty much storytelling sessions. Was it emotional? Yeah, at times it was. I remember when Jack was telling me the story of when Father Vince came to his home in Cincinnati to ask Maurice if Saint Francis could name its new fieldhouse after him. Jack got choked up telling that story. Vince hid in the basement of Jack’s home and they surprised Maurice after Jack picked him up at the hospital. When Vince asked Maurice if he would consent to his name being given to the new fieldhouse, Stokes started crying.

They were definitely not traditional, journalistic question-and-answer sessions. I sort of steered the interviews and gave Jack a lot of latitude to take our conversations in all sorts of different directions. In terms of hours and number of interview sessions, that’s hard to say. Some of our conversations were long, some were short, some were interrupted by things that came up for me or him, and sometimes we played phone tag.

Going into the interviews, I was already a bit in awe of the person Jack was, because of all I knew about what he had done for Stokes. After talking to him during our interviews, I had even greater respect for him. Twyman is a no-nonsense kind of guy. His work ethic and commitment to everything that he took on life is probably what I appreciated much more following our conversations. When this man set his mind to something, he did not rest until he achieved his goal. And when he gave his word, you could take it to the bank. Jack gave his word to Maurice and the Stokes family that he would look after his friend, and he never wavered from this responsibility.

How has learning about the friendship between Twyman and Stokes enriched your own life? Has it given you a greater appreciation for friendships and family bonds?

I have learned so much from these two men, but two “life lessons” stand out above the others. From Maurice, I learned that things in life can change very quickly and we can’t control a lot of this. What we can control, however, is the attitude that we decide to adopt when facing life’s challenges. Despite his paralysis and loss of independence and everything else that went along with the last 12 years of Stokes’ life, Maurice’s attitude was upbeat and positive and almost unbelievable. He didn’t wallow in self-pity and simply “wait out” the years that he was confined to Cincinnati hospitals. He lived his life to the fullest and grew as a person and worked to improve his limited mobility and speech and made an impression on the people he met. He never gave up. His perseverance is awe-inspiring.

From Twyman – and I touched on this earlier – I learned that hard work produces results and that giving to others is a blessing that we all should cherish. Jack succeeded at everything he put his mind to because he worked and worked and worked to see things through. This is a guy who was cut from his Central Catholic High School basketball team as a freshman, as a sophomore, and as a junior. He is now in the Naismith Hall of Fame. This is a guy who excelled in basketball, in business, in broadcasting, but more importantly, as a father and as a husband and as a human being. And certainly as a friend.

From your interview with the Cincinnati Herald, does this poignant statement (“Sure, it’s a basketball story, but it is so much more than that,” he said. “At its essence, it is the story of two men – one who overcame tremendous challenges and another who embodied selflessness.”) remind you of other highly visible friendships chronicled in popular culture in recent years?

I can’t think of any recent friendships that have been highlighted by the media that come close to the levels of love and sacrifice and stick-to-it-tiveness of the Stokes-Twyman story.

What does the friendship of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman, when the Civil Rights movement was underway, tell us about how American society can and should be?

This story certainly transcends race, but it is important to appreciate the state of race relations in the country during the period in which Stokes and Twyman’s relationship evolved. It was not until 1954 – when Stokes and Twyman were still in college – that the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the integration of the nation’s public schools in Brown vs. Board of Education. The Stokes-Twyman story was a beacon of light shining from the sports world during the tumult of the Civil Rights era. Twyman served as a role model for all Americans – in Jack, we have a man’s whose vision of the world was truly colorblind. During a decade of upheaval, one in which Americans grappled to determine what the “proper” relationship between blacks and whites should be, all Twyman saw was a friend and teammate who needed his help. And he never wavered.

How can their friendship be an important learning tool for American society at a time when rampant gun violence, police shootings of unarmed blacks and a symbol of hatred (Confederate flag) are in the public spotlight?

Racism stubbornly persists in American society. It’s like a weed that you pull out of your garden – but before it comes out altogether, it breaks off. You don’t get the roots, and that weed is out of sight for a little while, but soon it grows back because the root system is still intact.

Anyone who thinks we are living in a “postracial society” just needs to move that dirt a little to see the roots of the weed. We have seen these roots over the last year in some of the events that you mention. What we can learn from Stokes and Twyman’s friendship is that we do not need to be afraid of those who are different from us – in race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or whatever. That fear keeps us from growing and learning and understanding.

Although Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club in the Catskills, in upstate New York, location of the annual summer fundraisers for Stokes is now closed, can you share a few memorable anecdotes about people you spoke to from the upstate New York resort area?

I interviewed Mark Kutsher, who was a child when his mother and father hosted the Stokes Benefit Game at the family’s country club each summer. My interview with Mark was really special because he was talking about all of these legendary players visiting his family’s resort. He recalled meeting the NBA’s biggest stars when he was a kid and he had a childlike enthusiasm when he was describing these experiences to me. And I understood exactly where he was coming from. When Stokes was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2004, I attended a reception before the induction ceremony and I was a 30-something kid in awe, meeting and chatting with my childhood heroes – James Worthy, Dr. J., Moses Malone, Robert Parish. Even though you are an adult, you can be taken back to your childhood. I was taken back on that Hall-of-Fame weekend and I felt like Mark took me back to his childhood years as he shared stories about the Stokes Benefit games at Kutsher’s.

What made Jerry Izenberg an ideal choice to write the foreword for your book? And how did that come about?

St. Johann Press had published Jerry’s memoirs – “Through My Eyes: A Sports Writer’s 58-Year Journey.” This book came out in 2009. Dave Biesel – the owner of St. Johann Press – knows Jerry pretty well and he suggested that we reach out to him and ask him to write the foreword for my book. I was ecstatic when he agreed to write it. He was indeed the “ideal choice” for this part of the book project. He had covered Stokes, but not only that. He had gotten to know Maurice more than a sportswriter covering a sports figure. The two had struck up a friendship and they enjoyed each other’s company. He knew Maurice well and he had seen the daily challenges and struggles Stokes faced following his accident.

Who were a few key sources for the book that may surprise some people because they may not be household names or folks who hold/held the prestigious or most visible jobs in the NBA and college hoops?

Two of my favorite interview subjects were not basketball people at all. They were with Maurice’s speech therapist at Good Samaritan Hospital, Sylvia Meek, and with his brother, Terro Stokes Jr.

Sylvia’s ability to recall experiences she had with Stokes during their speech therapy sessions was impressive. These sessions happened more than a half century ago, yet she was quick with details and specifics during our conversations. It was obvious that she had a fondness for Stokes and it was also very apparent that she respected the effort that Maurice had put into their speech therapy sessions.

Maurice’s brother, Terro, shared insights from Stokes’ years growing up in Homewood, a community just outside of Pittsburgh. You could hear in his voice just how much his brother meant to him. He also expressed to me how much Twyman meant to the Stokes family. He was at a loss for words as he tried to describe his feelings for all that Jack did for Maurice.

After all of the painstaking research that went into writing the book and what you learned along the way, do you agree with this assessment: Twyman remains one of the lesser-known greats to ever play the game?

Yes. No question about it. Twyman could score the ball, especially from the corners along the baseline. In 11 NBA seasons, he played in six All-Star games. He finished his career with 15,840 points in 823 games (19.2 per game). He finished runner-up in the league in scoring two times and led the NBA in field goal percentage (45.2 percent) in 1957-58.

Twyman ranked 20th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list when he retired. He played in 609 consecutive games before a broken hand sidelined him during the 1963-64 season. This is remarkable – think of the pounding that he took night in and night out as a professional basketball player. Twyman was tough.

His best scoring season came in 1959-60, when he averaged 31.2 points per game (2,338 points in 75 games). This was second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 37.6 points per game that season. Talk about lofty company. Twyman and Chamberlain became the first two players in NBA history to average more than 30 points per game for a season. This is a good trivia question to spring on your friends who think they know NBA history. It was the second straight year that Twyman finished runner-up in the league in scoring – he averaged 25.8 per game (1,857 points in 72 games), second behind Bob Pettit (29.2 per game) in 1958-59.

Which players in the NBA over the past quarter century most remind you of Twyman and Stokes from what you’ve seen and heard?

Stokes’ combination of scoring, rebounding and passing abilities, combined with his unselfishness and basketball IQ, was something that the NBA had never seen before he got to Rochester in 1955. He was a power forward and ferocious rebounder who could not only finish on the fast break, but also handle the ball in transition. He was the first big man in the league with outstanding passing skills. I think his skill set was most similar to that of Magic Johnson and LeBron James. There are differences, sure, but he could do things that these two can also do. Besides Stokes, the only other player in NBA history to finish in the top three in rebounds and assists for two straight seasons was Chamberlain.

I think Twyman’s game was a lot like Paul Pierce in his prime. Like Pierce, he could score in a lot of different ways – from the outside, on the drive, getting to the line. He could also deliver key passes at important moments, although he definitely possessed a “shoot-first” mentality.

* * *

This book is available on Amazon and elsewhere: http://www.amazon.com/An-Unbreakable-Bond-Brotherhood-Maurice/dp/1937943178

Additional recommended reading: http://grantland.com/features/bryan-curtis-tragic-inspirational-story-maurice-stokes/

Peter Vecsey, who needs deadlines, discusses his upcoming book … and the stories behind the stories

Peter Vecsey and Al Skinner, former NBA and ABA player and longtime college coach

Peter Vecsey and Al Skinner, former NBA and ABA player and longtime college coach

By Ed Odeven

TOKYO (April 13, 2015) — Decades ago, Peter Vecsey defied the boundaries and labels that were the norm in newspapers’ sports departments. When he became the New York Post’s NBA columnist in 1976, he was the nation’s first single-sport newspaper columnist. It was a role he was born to have, dispensing wit, biting commentary, insider info, countless scoops and unforgettable nicknames (“Larry Legend” and “Next Town Brown,” for instance), all with a fearless approach to the job.

In addition to his work for NBC and TNT, Vecsey’s thrice-weekly Hoop Du Jour column became must-read material for NBA aficionados from coast to coast, an in the Internet age, it appeared in email inboxes spanning the globe.

Peter Vecsey and former NBA scoring champ Bernard King

Peter Vecsey and former NBA scoring champ Bernard King

Former Nets owner Joe Taub (left) and Peter Vecsey

Former Nets owner Joe Taub (left) and Peter Vecsey

What’s more, he gained unique perspective and expertise as an ABA beat writer in the 1970s and cemented his status as a one-of-a-kind hoop fixture by coaching teams (and winning titles) at the famed Rucker Tournament in Harlem in the 1970s and ’80s.

Vecsey received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, a long overdue honor. And he was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in ’01.

Since retiring from the Post — he penned his final column for the July 1, 2012, issue — Vecsey has slowed down. Columns are not his meal ticket. Deadlines don’t consume him. He’s appeared on a number of radio shows and online podcasts to discuss basketball, but it’s not a 24/7/365 mandate anymore.

That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t maintain strong ties to the game. He keeps in touch with now-retired commissioner David Stern. He recently visited Philadelphia 76ers stat guru Harvey Pollack in the hospital. He champions the accomplishments of the game’s past greats and forgotten standouts with equal enthusiasm.

His respect for the history of the game and the personalities who have grown it (streetball, the ABA, the NBA) and have made it thrives is peerless.

And some of his Twitter missives and conversations about the game’s legends are akin to a classroom lecture. Really.

For many years, Vecsey and his wife, Joan (“The Mysterious J” to Post readers), have rescued animals (see below).

***

Vecsey, 71, is working on a book, his memoir.

I caught up with the Queens, New York, native recently for a wide-ranging interview.

What is your typical writing schedule for this book?

I don’t have a typical writing schedule. I wish I did, but there’s so many things going on, with the animals, the family, the (weather) and everything like that, that it’s very difficult to get a time every day where you go and you do it. So that’s been a problem.

You’re so used to deadlines where you have to write, so you kind of step back from that and have a life away from that, with so many other things that you are able to do. Are you able to give yourself some kind of first-tier, second-tier, third-tier deadlines for certain aspects of the books?

(He laughs) I don’t. I have an agent (who’s based in New York) who gently pushes me. You mentioned deadlines, and we discussed this at length, and there’s no question in my mind that I need a deadline for sure. So he said for so many years if you know you have to do it at a certain time and that means getting paid and having all the benefits that go with it … you’ve got to do it, no matter what’s going on. You blot it out and you get it done.

To have a deadline is difficult, but my agent has been kind of pushing me and so a couple weeks ago he said, “OK, fine, you’ve got a deadline. Here it is: I want a chapter by such and such a time.” And it really works, I got him a chapter, and last night I got him a second chapter. … The one I got him yesterday was (on) Jordan. The one before that was the Rucker (Tournament), but the Rucker expanded into maybe four chapters because it’s just so many interesting people that were involved in the Rucker in my life, starting with Julius Erving, and just branching out into all sorts of people that either played for me, played against me — you know, like, here at the park. So each one was a story, basically.

Tiny Archibald became a big story in this chapter and my relationship with him. There are just so many stories … about Charlie Scott. He played for me and that became a big story.

Of course finding things in my clutter, in my disorganization I am finding things, and I found a story that I had written about Charlie Scott when he jumped from the ABA to the NBA, and here I was his coach the previous summer. So I was the only media guy he was talking to, and I was at the Daily News then, and they did not send me to Phoenix when he jumped from the Virginia Squires, and I went on my own, and I wrote a huge piece for a small weekly (New York Insiders Newsletter). … There were like three or four weeklies in those days, and I wrote for all of them at certain times. So anyway, this one had the story, and I never read it for years or so, and there were so many great details. I remembered some of the other things, and Jerry Colangelo was the (Suns) general manager, Cotton Fitzsimmons was the coach, Connie Hawkins was on the team.

David Wolf, who wrote the book “Foul” on Connie Hawkins, I met him out in Phoenix. That became part of this chapter, my relationship with David Wolf. And it just kept going and going.

I handed it in to him and he was laughing. He read it and said he really liked it and there’s an awful lot here. And then we happened to meet for lunch the other day. I went into the city (NYC) and met with him on another project introducing him to Dick Barnett — Dick Barnett’s writing a book — and so I’m with my agent and he’s saying I really like it. And then he tells me, “I know how to edit this. I know what we are going to do with it.” And I said, “Fine, I really don’t know how. I know there’s a lot of stories there. We can break it into chapters or whatever, but it’s all Rucker related.”

And he sent me a note yesterday, actually, and he said something like, “I’ve read this again, and it’s too good for me to mess with. I’m not gonna to mess with it. We’re going to use it and the Jordan one and we are going to sell it this way.”

Two publishers were interested in it and have been waiting on me patiently.

Finding this stuff is unbelievable. That’s all I can say. Finding what I have is confusing because there’s just so much, like the Bob Seger song: “Words, you don’t know what to leave it, what to leave out.” I don’t know.

Do you consider your column material your primary sources for research? is that the basic way you are approaching this and your memory to also fill in the blanks?

It’s my memoir and my memory is not what I think it is. I’ve discovered that many times over now. So it’s imperative for me to have, like, the Charlie Scott stuff. I remembered a lot, but then when I read this piece, it was so detailed and had so much information in it that it was mind-boggling and nobody read that, nobody had ever read it. Now I’m not saying we’re going to reprint anything like that, but I did use a lot of the info and then explain what I was doing there and what happened.

And then I used David Wolf (material) and we became really good friends after that.

I’ll tell you one story that just blew my mind is that while I was writing the Rucker I was re-reading “Foul.” It’s truly an amazing book. I knew it was an amazing book. … I read it, re-read it, read it so slowly because I was just enjoying it so much.

Now I’m looking back at all these things that happened … and then I had my own stories, so I became mesmerized by the whole thing.

So I don’t know what part of the book I said to my wife, “I really have to get back in touch with David Wolf.” He and I were really good friends for quite a while. He mentored me a lot, even though we were the same age basically, he was so far advanced than I was. He wrote for Life Magazine … he broke the whole Connie Hawkins thing in that magazine and then wrote the book off of it, but then he became a boxing guy, he became a boxing manager. He gave up basketball, so we drifted apart.

(Note: Vecsey’s wife looked up Wolf’s contact info, which led to her finding out that he had died in 2009).

That just crushed me because I didn’t know that.

You ask about the memory and I’m doing it from memory, but then I have to go and check my facts because almost every time I’m finding out that the facts are different than I remember. So that’s kind of scary, but, yeah, it really is. It’s a long time ago. We’re not talking about what happened five years ago, we’re talking about what happened in the ’70s.

So you’re basing the book from the mid-70s on primarily? Or even further back?

Well, no, it’s going to be my life so it’s going to be stuff growing up, high school, the first story I ever broke and on and on. It’s an unbelievable story. It’s a very personal story. …I haven’t even written that part yet. These two chapters were key, I’ve written an awful lot down about different phases of my life and most of it, I think what I’ve got to make you understand, even though I’m using the columns in certain spots, and I really don’t know how to do that — how much do you use? Do you use the entire column?

I went down to Orlando when Michael Jordan was just playing baseball and he gave me an exclusive. Do you remind people of that peripherally, just throw in some salient facts? Or do you print paragraphs at a time? I’m not sure but I think the key to this whole book is I’m going to give you the stories behind those stories.

So that’s your mission: the stories behind the stories?

Yes, on every level.

The biggest story I ever broke, for instance, you’re going to talk about (Golden State Warriors star) Latrell Sprewell choking (Warriors coach) P.J. Carlesimo (in 1997), and I’m going to give you how I got that story and then what happens afterward. Which I’ve never written that stuff. Will I reveal sources? I know I’m going to reveal some sources that led me astray. That’s for sure; absolutely for that. But I doubt that I’ll reveal the real sources, but I’ll tell people how I arrived finding out what happened that night in breaking it … and that’ll happen in every one of them, every one of the big ones.

What convinced you to write this book? You’d joked about it sometimes that “I’m never going to write a book.” Was this ever really a mission until recently?

And what changed?

Being on a fixed income changed it. (he chuckles)

I think in all these interviews I’ve done telling all my stories I think people would really like to read all of the stories that I have, and I’ve told it to my agent and he goes nuts about it. In fact, everybody I’ve told stories to they go, “Oh my god…!”

How many chapters do you think this will realistically be?

I don’t know. I have a bunch of them in mind, obvious ones. The Rucker, the ABA, the NBA, NBC. You start breaking them down further like all the people who wanted me to write their books — What was that all about? Who were they? Why didn’t I do them?. Relationships that started out good, turned sour, became good again. That’s a chapter. There’s all different chapters.

I’m really terrible at recognizing people. You can be the biggest superstar in the world and I can be talking to you and the next time I see you I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what it is with me. if it’s not basketball…

So I’ve got a chapter on that happening to me with numerous people, including Denzel Washington. (He laughs)

There’s a certain cutoff point where a large percentage of the population doesn’t know what Rucker is, what it represented, that it even ever existed. I don’t know how many of them will pick up this book, but for any basketball enthusiast they might have no idea that this was ever a big part of the culture.

This could be a real eye-opener to them, and just as a historical document as well. You will be able to give it some proper due many years later when it’s a lot different.

Correct. And I didn’t show up there until ’71.

And before that you had books written about the Rucker, “The City Game” by Pete Axthelm, in which he brings out all these characters: Earl (“The Goat”) Manigault, The Helicopter (Herman Knowings), The Destroyer (Joe Hammond), Pee Wee Kirkland. … I met all those people, so I have stories on them. But aside from those street guys, now you had Wilt Chamberlain playing. One year, in the summer of ’69, seven of the top 10 Knicks played in the Rucker that won the championship the next year. Willis Reed, (Dave) Stallworth, Cazzie Russell, (Walt) Frazier, (Bill) Bradley, they all played up there.

There were so many things that went on up there and then people have to know this. The Celtics sent Dave Cowens there before his rookie year, so I’ve got some great stuff on that. Tiny Archibald played with Cowens on the same team, Austin Carr was on the same team. Their team was loaded. I had Julius coming out of college (UMass). My team was loaded; Charlie Scott, Knicks, Nets.

But also in the Rucker piece I want to debunk stuff that’s been passed down erroneously over the years. I really resent the fact that it has been reported on erroneously. So I definitely go after a couple writers on that one.

I think even if you don’t know these people you certainly know the top guys if you’re any kind of a basketball person. But even if you don’t, the stories are unbelievable, the one-liners are funny as hell. They paint a pretty good picture of being in Harlem in the early ’70s. And then came back in the ’80s with another team. And I had guys playing for me that had very famous relatives. Whitney Houston’s brother played for me, Tom Chapin’s brother played for me. and they weren’t stars yet. It’s just funny. And the (Harlem) Globetrotters played, so the Rucker is really fascinating and my agent just loved reading it.

I think the back story behind the NBC stuff — Vecsey worked as an NBA analyst during the network’s 12-year run (1990-2002) — will be fascinating for people that don’t pay attention to the dynamics of live sports TV and just those kind of shows, either.

Right, right. We’ll definitely get into NBC. But again being around a bunch of stars. I worked with Pat Riley for the first year of NBC. You look at the people that I worked on the same set with: (Bill) Walton and Erving and Isiah (Thomas) and (John) Salley and Kevin Johnson and on and on and on. Jayson Williams. I was the only constant for the 12 years out of that whole crew. So that makes it kind of interesting, too. Yeah, sure I’ll throw in some TNT stuff, too, with (Charles) Barkley. So the TV chapter will be interesting.

What do you think is a possible release date for the book?

I wouldn’t have any idea.

There’s going to be a chapter on anecdotes, too. I’m thinking about this all the time. They don’t fit anywhere but just were fascinating anecdotes, whether it’s Julius apart from his regular career, involving Joe Barry Carroll — god, there’s just so many of them — (the late Jim) Valvano and Jeff Ruland, just things that people would be amazed to read that I never printed. No reprints other than you have to know the story to know what’s going on; for the behind-the-scenes story, you have to know the story.

So you want to provide a partial recap?

Yeah, I have to. How do you do P.J. and Sprewell without explaining what happened? And then I’ll tell you how I got that story, and my relationships afterward with P.J. and Sprewell, it’s pretty interesting.

One of the proudest things in my career is that everything I broke in that story that night was unchanged, never got changed. There were no corrections.

Unlike when I broke the (Gilbert) Arenas-(Javaris) Crittenton guns story — (A Christmas Eve incident involving two Washington Wizards teammates in 2009 was summed up this way in a Foxnews.com headline: “NBA Players Reportedly Drew Guns in Christmas Eve Argument”) — there were some minor things that I had wrong. Minor, but the major things I had correct, even though they denied it, denied it, denied it until it went to court, and then everything came out, and we learned out it was true.

Another big story was I broke the insurrection of the Magic players having the insurrection for Brian Hill, Penny Hardaway and that stuff. I broke that on national television, and nobody ever — I don’t care what sports, not sports — nobody ever breaks the story live like that. They just played on television, and I’m breaking the story that the coach is going to be fired because of an insurrection. …

Matt Goukas did the game; he was the color commentator, and he used to be the Magic coach. And he and (play-by-play man) Marv (Albert) are going, “No, no,” and this is live. “No, no, that’s not true. I would have heard about that.” Brian Hill hadn’t heard about it.

What did the producer and the director say about your report? He’s just nuts?

They knew I had it. We probably should have tipped them off … but that’s the way they wanted it. That was their call. The boss of NBC Sports, Dick Ebersol, that was his call. We were going to do it before the game, and he said no we are going to ruin the whole game then — it would just take away from the game. So we waited until after the game, and that’s when we broke it. That was pretty heavy, that was very heavy.

Vecsey also recalled that he was offered a chance to go work for The National Sports Daily, an upstart publication that lasted from January 1990 till June 1991. He declined the offer.

I was the first one they came after. It was (editor-in-chief) Frank Deford and (publisher) Peter Price, I believe, who was the editor of The Post, so they wanted me bad, and offered me big money. In the end, I said, I don’t want to work for this paper. Nobody’s going to read it. Why do I want to do this? And I turned it down.

***

How is the satisfaction and just the enjoyment of rescuing dogs, the interaction with animals and with your wife and others who are involved with that, different from when you finished a good column and knew it was good … how is that different?

I don’t think you can compare them. Nothing compares to rescuing dogs, cats and horses. We’ve said it a hundred times, a thousand times, it’s heartwarming and it’s heartbreaking, because we usually take animals that nobody wants that have been abused and they consume our life.

The first dog that we rescued was a 9/11 dog. It’s master died in the tower, a woman that tied in the tower, we found out. Others were looking for money and we didn’t want to give money. I just didn’t trust anybody … but I said I would like to give something and then my wife actually ran into the policewoman who was in charge for getting homes for the animals that they found of the people who died. So we wound up taking a dog, a yellow lab named Charlie, and that was our first dog ever.

And then we just kept going and going. At one time, we had nine I don’t know how many we’ve had in total, but I think at one time we probably had 18 cats, and then they die.

We just buried a dog yesterday in the snow. So we’re down to six. We’re down to 10 cats and one horse, well actually three horses, because two of my horses are being taken care of by (Hall of Famer and Pacers legend) Mel Daniels on his ranch in Indianapolis … because it was just too much for us. …

I’ve got my chocolate Lab lying right next to me. He’s like 12 now, I’ve had him since he was like 2, and he’s getting old. He and I have a bet on who’s not going to make it up the stairs first.

Is this primarily restricted to Long Island, or are you also rescuing dogs from the New York tri-state area?

We’ve gotten them mostly from the South. Tennessee, Louisiana … several dogs from Tennessee, one is blind. He was beaten blind. So we’ve gotten them from all over. Kentucky, a couple from Long Island.

Are they brought to you? Do you go pick them up?

No, my wife finds them. The ones from the South they come up on a truck. That’s how they get up here. But over the years she’s gone out of her way to find animals that we don’t adopt and we’ll find homes for them …

I’ll give you one, for instance, real fast: She found a dog that they were going to put to sleep, a pit bull that they were going to put to sleep, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Pregnant. And so she arranged for a vet to take the dogs, take the puppies when they were born, she’d keep them for a certain amount of time because she had a litter of eight, and so we funded it … and so now we have the mother and four of her puppies and (brought) them up to Connecticut, where transport leaves them off.

We wound up getting homes for all five, and the mother lives on a palatial place in Connecticut, like a hundred-acre place, and she lives their alone, and they love this dog like you can’t even believe. So it’s an unbelievable story. And then we found homes for the other four, one of them lives on Shelter Island, not that we go see her, but they’ve all turned out great.

***

Follow Peter Vecsey on Twitter: @PeterVecsey1

San Antonio Spurs (circa May 2005)

This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on May 24, 2005.

Suns dig deep hole

By Ed Odeven

PHOENIX — “He’s our guy.”

That’s Tim Duncan’s value to his team, according to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

In Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, Duncan proved it once again, hitting 9 of 12 shots from the field in the second half to lead the poised, playoff-tested Spurs to a 111-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

The two-time NBA MVP was 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, but when it mattered most, his shots found the bottom of the net with regularity. He scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half, including 14 in the final quarter.

Young star Manu Ginobili, who led Argentina to the Olympic gold medal in Athens last summer, scored 14 of his 26 points in the decisive quarter.

The series shifts back to San Antonio for Game 3 Saturday. Trailing 0-2, the Suns will try to become the first team in NBA history to win a conference finals series after losing the first two games at home.

“Our backs are to the wall,” said Suns forward Shawn Marion, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds. “The bright side of it is that we’ve got the (league’s) best record on the road (31-10 during the regular season). We just have to go out there and try to get this done on the road.”

Especially in the fourth quarter.

The Suns haven’t been able to finish games, particularly on the defensive end — in the fourth quarter against San Antonio. They allowed 43 points in the final stanza Sunday and were outscored 31-23 Tuesday.

Duncan certainly understands the Suns’ frustration. Or as he put it: “The Suns shot almost 56 percent and they lost. I mean, they have got to be thinking, what more can we do?”

“We did not make a stop when we had to,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said.

The Suns trailed by 10 points in both of the first two games at home after one quarter, but they found themselves in the thick of things entering the final quarter in both games.

Trailing 97-94 with 5:43 left Tuesday, the Spurs used a 13-5 spurt to pull ahead 107-102 at the 1:19 mark.

Tony Parker, who scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting by slicing his way to the hole with ease, converted a layup to start the run. After Marion missed a short J, Parker made another inside bucket.

The Suns retook the lead at 102-100 on Steve Nash’s pull-up 3 with 2:56 to go. The Spurs called a timeout. Then they ran a set play and got the ball to one of their steady, clutch performers — Robert Horry.

The 13-year veteran, who owns five championship rings, knocked down a 3 from the right wing to give the Spurs a 103-102 lead at the 2:31 mark

Phoenix never regained the lead.

“It was huge. It’s what he does and we will often run things for him to shoot that. … He’s confident with it and he did it again,” Popovich said of Horry.

The Suns scored enough points to win a basketball game, but again, the Spurs got too many good looks, too many open, uncontested shots in the fourth. On Sunday, the Spurs made 71 percent of their shots in the fourth quarter; Tuesday’s numbers were similar: 70.7 percent, or 12 of 17.

“Our guys are pretty new to this,” Nash said, “and I think it shows, not necessarily in the lack of production from our guys but in the super production of their guys.”

Amare Stoudemire poured in a game-best 37 points and Steve Nash had 29 and 15 assists. The NBA’s 2004-05 MVP has four straight playoff games of 25 or more points and 15 or more assists (Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson are the only guys to do it three straight games). Quentin Richardson rebounded from a seven-point outing in Game 1 to score 18, while Steven Hunter scored seven points off the bench.

“Again I thought we played well enough to win,” D’Antoni said.

But they failed to convert in crunch time.

They missed four layups in the final minute. Nash’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, too.

“Playoff games, the game is so close, just a couple of mistakes and you lose the game. So we didn’t do it,” Ginobili said.

Said Nash: “I still think we were good enough to win a game tonight and if we play as well as we did tonight we have got a great chance to win the next game.

“So we just have to stay positive and hungry and go out there and give ourselves a chance again.”

Both teams had big runs in the first half. The Spurs used a 14-2 spurt to take a 26-13 lead in the first quarter, the biggest lead of the game.

The Suns answered with a 13-0 run to make it 40-38 at the 6:49 mark of the second after Stoudemire hit a short J in the lane. He had eight points during the run, asserting himself with strong inside moves in the paint.

The Suns may face an uphill battle as they try to stave off elimination, but don’t expect them to feel hopeless.

“My confidence is always high,” Stoudemire said. “It’s never going to change as long as I live.

“We just have to go into San Antonio and play extremely hard.”

There’s no need to overanalyze

By Ed Odeven

After he won the 3-Point Contest, I read sharpshooter Stephen Curry’s interview comments posted online from the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in New York on Saturday.

His detailed response underscores his understanding of what works for him.

Curry was asked if he used statistics or analytics to improve his shooting.

“Not really,” he answered.

“Most of it is kind of‑‑ I look at shooting charts to know where my hot and cold spots are, but mostly it’s kind of just watching film and having a feel for the game. That’s kind of how I learned the game and what I’m comfortable with.

“I know the analytics there’s a lot of good things that go with it. But for me I don’t want to cloud my head as a player with too many stats and ideas and information that may slow me down on the court. It’s more just about having a feel for what I need to get better at. I know in the games if I’m going to my right‑‑ if I’m shooting terribly over the course of a season, there’s usually a reason for it and I have to work on it.

“So it’s kind of how I approach it. And it works for me. ”

Curry knows the game isn’t played on paper, reminding the press that execution on the court comes from practice, from repetition and from experience. He’s improved his shooting form … year after year after year by, well, shooting the basketball.

And that’s not a novel concept.

Stephen Curry’s rise to superstardom has been a joy to watch

Few players bring the same level of excitement to the court game after game as Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. This was also true while he played in college.
Today’s entry takes a look back at Curry’s college career when he was still a junior.
This Hoop Scoop column appeared in The Japan Times in January 2009.

Neumann analyzes Curry, recalls Pistol Pete

By Ed Odeven

Every dozen years or so, a young athlete arrives on the scene — Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt or LeBron James, for instance — with the demeanor, athleticism and poise beyond their years to be the next standard-bearer of excellence in that sport.

You may not know it yet, but Stephen Curry is on the verge of becoming one of those special players, and Rizing Fukuoka coach John Neumann is one of his biggest fans.

“I wish Curry the best,” Neumann said recently, “because he is a credit to basketball and a leader. These are the things I admire about him.”

Curry, a junior guard from tiny Davidson College (enrollment: 1,700) near Charlotte, N.C., became an instant success story as a college freshman when he averaged 21.5 points per game in 2006-07.

The son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry increased that output to 25.9 last season, a season in which his scoring prowess earned him legions of fans thanks to his magical performance in the NCAA Tournament — four straight games of 30 or more points.

In doing so, he became only the fourth man in NCAA Tournament history to do this in his first four tourney games. He was held to 25 in an Elite Eight loss to Kansas.

This season, he is the leading scorer in the NCAA’s Division I (347 schools), averaging 29.1 ppg entering this week’s play. He also leads the Southern Conference in both assists (6.5) and steals (3.0), and is among the nation’s top 10 in both categories. No other player is in the national top 10 in all three categories.

Dick Jerardi, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, wrote a recent piece that offered historical perspective between Curry’s career and that of the late “Pistol Pete” Maravich, whose rise to stardom began at Louisiana State University (1967-70) before a 10-year NBA career.

Jerardi pointed out that Curry has an outside shot at breaking Maravich’s all-time D-I points record (3,667) if he continues to average in the neighborhood of 30 points per game for the remainder of this season and returns to college next fall, instead of skipping his senior season to enter the NBA, and does the same.

Maravich played three seasons — freshmen were not permitted to play on the varsity squad at the time — at LSU and averaged a staggering 44.2 ppg, a career record that will probably never be broken.

Neumann, of course, remembers those days vividly. The second-year coach of the bj-league’s Fukuoka squad starred at the University of Mississippi from 1969-71, and played against Pistol Pete in college and in the NBA.

He, too, was a gifted scorer, averaging an NCAA-best 40.1 ppg in the 1970-71 season.

Now, after nearly four decades since Pistol Pete and Johnny Neumann were the brightest offensive stars of the Southeastern Conference, Neumann was asked if he would like to see Curry break his former foe’s NCAA record.

“To be honest, Pete was a good friend of mine and no I wouldn’t like anyone to break his record, because he was special and he found God late in life and he died on a basketball court,” Neumann said.

Indeed, Maravich died on Jan. 5, 1988, suffering a heart attack in a 3-on-3 game in Pasadena, Calif. He was 40 years old.

Maravich was a pure scorer, capable of knocking down shots with regularity from anywhere on the court. His astounding scoring totals would have increased dramatically if he had played his entire career in the 3-point era (the NBA adopted the 3-point shot for the 1979-80 season; the NCAA followed suit a few years later).

For astute students of the game, Curry’s shooting ability reminds them of Pistol Pete’s. His all-around skills are quite impressive as well, according to Neumann.

“I think Curry is a great passer and plays to help his team win,” Neumann stated.

The numbers support that claim. Davidson posted a 29-5 record in 2006-07, went 29-7 last season and took a 14-3 record into Wednesday’s contest against Furman College.

Curry isn’t just a talented scorer who tries to beat opponents all by himself.

“I know that he can shoot and does it as good as anyone, but what no one ever talks about is how he sees the floor and can pass and generate offense for his teammates also,” said Neumann.

Curry’s rise to stardom has been a joy to watch. And here’s even better news: The journey isn’t over.

In terms of potential, Curry has just scratched the surface, showcasing skills that ooze out of every pore in his body, skills that only a handful of players possess every generation.

Just ask Neumann.