Guest Post from Lamar Hull on the Benefits of Practice

 

Lamar Hull is a former NCAA college basketball player from Davidson College in North Carolina, who also played on the European professional circuit. He now writes for Direct2tv. He poses an interesting question about the 10,000 hours of practice theory.

As a former basketball player with two NCAA tournaments and a professional tour in Europe behind me, I can confirm that Dr. K. Anders Ericsson’s theory about the quantity of practice required for success is true. Continually setting small goals works, and mental commitment is key. But the more you practice, the further you will go.

Pete Maravich, an NBA Hall of Famer, was a childhood idol of mine. Not just because of his raw talent for basketball, but because of his attitude and his tireless work ethic. He has a desire to be better than the last day, every day.

I decided to model my discipline after his. I started with dribbling drills in the driveway. I practiced shots for hours alone. His homework basketball drills is what molded my game in to what it is now. His drills challenged you to be uncomfortable so that you could become a better player by mastering unique drills.

The discipline continued through middle school, and eventually high school. While other kids were planning sleepovers and frequenting the mall, I dedicated myself to hours of practice. When I wasn’t playing for my middle school team, I was playing pickup games in the neighborhood. It was my practice regimen and perseverance that got me recognition from the varsity team coaches as a freshman.

I played varsity basketball all four years of high school and carried a reputation as a hard worker both on and off the court. I am short so I envisioned my game like former Celtics’ point guard and Hall of Famer, Nate Archibald. His nickname was ‘Tiny’ so I had something to relate too. But there was nothing tiny about Archibald’s game.

I decided I wanted to play college ball, and eventually go pro. I would stop at nothing to achieve those goals, and I would use practice as an avenue to get there.

But I went to a small high school in a small town. College scouts didn’t visit our high school games. I imagine for a lot of young athletes, this is where the road would end.

Mine didn’t.

Even after my senior season ended, I kept practicing. I knew if I kept my skill level constant and took matters into my own hands, I would reach my goal of playing professional basketball.

I wrote to colleges and universities, and sent packages documenting my basketball skills. I ended up earning a walk-on role at Davidson College, a Division I-AA school. I was able to play with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. We went to the NCAA tournament twice. Afterwards, I was offered a contract to play professional basketball for the Kings Lynn Fury in England.

It wasn’t the NBA, but it was still professional basketball. I set a goal a long time ago and I made it.

How did I get there?

It wasn’t my height (I’m 5’9″). I didn’t get “discovered” by a scout. I didn’t play for the top high school team in the nation. I didn’t play for the NCAA championship team. I didn’t have any outrageous high scoring records. It wasn’t for any of the reasons we typically see the top athletes in team sports excel.

It was practice, practice, practice, and more practice. Practice brought me to the goal I set for myself so many years ago.

According to the Ericsson’s theory, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve incredible success. I don’t know if I hit that threshold, or if I’d be deemed as a success like Michael Jordan. But I achieved my own version of success, I accomplished my goal.

I can tell you with full confidence that practice IS without a doubt the key to success. Whether you are playing an individual sport, or a team sport, practice determines your destiny.

Photo was supplied from Hull and can be found on his website inspirationalbasketball.com

Happy 56th Birthday Larry Bird

Well it’s another legendary Celtics player’s birthday. It was on this day 56 years ago in the small town of French Lick, Indiana that the Celtics greatest player of all-time was born.

There’s really no place to start with describing how good Larry Bird was when trying to write this blog. I could probably write 1,500 words, and it still wouldn’t be enough.

In sports, one of the most overused words is amazing. It’s used all the time when a big moment occurs, or when a player does something that stuns the fans and media. But using it to describe Bird isn’t an overstatement. He was that good, and for many Celtics fans, he was simply the best.

For 13 years he, along with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, led the Celtics to three championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986. In addition, they went to the Finals in 1985 and 1987. The three players also formed arguably the greatest front court in NBA history, and were dubbed the Big Three. But Bird was the straw that stirred the drink. During two of the championships, he earned the Finals MVP in 1984 and 1986.

Bird also won Rookie of the Year in 1980, league MVP three times from 1984-1986, and made the All-Star team 12 times.

Throughout the 80s, he and Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson formed a friendly rivalry that brought interest back to the NBA. After Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain retired, the league went into an attendance and lack of interest funk in the 70s. But the 80s were all about the Celtics and Lakers. Johnson would win five championships versus Bird’s three. In total, the Celtics and Lakers won eight out of a possible ten championships during this decade.

Despite the Lakers winning more, the 1985-1986 Celtics team is considered by many fans and media personalities alike to be the greatest basketball team of all-time. The Celtics went 67-15 on the way to their 16th franchise championship. They were so good that they lost just one game at home, in the Boston Garden, and that includes the playoffs as well. Like I mentioned above, Bird won the league MVP, and Finals MVP that year.

Bird was also the ultimate team player. He often sacrificed his body for the good of the team by diving on the floor for loose balls. In fact, his style of play led to numerous back injuries and an early retirement at the age of 35. To this day his back isn’t right, and it’s a reason why he resigned as president of basketball operations of the Indiana Pacers this past offseason.

There are even many moments of when he came up clutch, and I’ll name a few. Who could forget Bird stealing an inbound pass by Isiah Thomas during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons? How about him exploding for 60 points against the Atlanta Hawks back in 1985? In fact, it was Bird who scored all 16 of the Celtics final points in that game.

Today, when fans debate on who was the greatest Celtics player of all-time, the argument always ends with either Bird or Russell. The late Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach even dumped fuel onto that debate by saying Bird was the greatest basketball player of all-time. Despite all the accolades and honors from the basketball world, Bird is still just a quiet guy from French Lick, Indiana.

Happy Birthday Larry!

Photo (cc) by nantonin and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

New Orleans Hornets to Change Name to Pelicans

This is a tad off topic, but it’s definitely worth blogging about.

According to Yahoo! Sports, the New Orleans Hornets are reportedly going to change their team name to the New Orleans Pelicans effective for the 2013-2014 season.

Team owner Tom Benson, who bought the Hornets back in April and is the owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, has wanted to change the name of the team to something that would be fitting to the state of Louisiana.

The pelican is the official state bird of Louisiana, and it appears on the state flag and seal as well. The Pelicans were also a minor league baseball team based in New Orleans from 1887-1977.

As far as the The New Orleans Hornets go, the team first started out as the Charlotte Hornets back during the 1988-1989 season. In 2002, they moved to New Orleans and kept the same name. Meanwhile, the league granted the city of Charlotte an expansion team for the 2004-2005 season, which would end up being the Charlotte Bobcats.

Analysis

When I first heard the Hornets were reportedly going to change their team name I kind of laughed. I mean can you see players telling their agents, “I want to be a Pelican!”

Besides, I find pelicans to be kind of creepy. Those long beaks and mouths are just freaky. I think I feel like this because they remind me of that flying dinosaur from the mediocre Jurassic Park 3who trampled all over a main character, and tried to bring another to feed to its young. Just creepy, but I won’t hate on pelicans. That’s just the way they were made. It’s not their fault.

Now that the news has sunk in, I understand where Brown is coming from. A pelican is part of Louisiana’s history, which I respect. However, If we’re going to change names, we might as well change the names of the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, and Memphis Grizzlies.

It would’ve been nice to see the Hornets become the Jazz again like they were during the days of ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich. I also like the idea of the New Orleans Sound. It’s a fitting alternative to the Jazz, and a nice tribute to the musical past that New Orleans offers.

I also find it interesting that Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is open to the idea of bringing back the Hornets name to Charlotte. Apparently, there’s a small group of fans who long for the past to a point where more fans are wearing the old-school Hornets apparel rather than wearing Bobcats apparel.

We shall see.

Photo (cc) by bertknot and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Rajon Rondo Suspended for Altercation With Kris Humphries

The bad news just keeps rolling in for the Celtics. This time starting point guard Rajon Rondo will be suspended for the next two games due to his physical altercation with Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries yesterday.

Gerald Wallace and Kevin Garnett were also both fined for “escalating the incident.” Wallace was fined $25,000, while Garnett was hit with a $35,000 fine. Humphries wasn’t suspended or fined.

The fight started shortly before halftime during the Nets blowout win.

At the time, the Nets were up by 16 points. Kevin Garnett was driving to the basket when Humphries fouled him. Garnett fell to the floor, and by the time he got up, the pushing and shoving already started.

Rondo took exception to the foul and started shoving Humphries into the crowd. That led to other players going into the stands to pull them apart and for others to go and stick up for their teammates who were part of the scrum. Nets forward Gerald Wallace was the most physical player, outside of Rondo and Humphries, was shoving Garnett around pretty good.

So the question is, was the suspension Rondo received justified?

I believe it was. I’m probably in the minority for what happened, but the fact remains, he was the main aggressor. Humphries fouled Garnett a little harder than normal, but that’s basketball. But after the hit, it seemed like Garnett sold his fall to the referees a little bit. In other words, it was a little more dramatic than usual. Typical of NBA players these days.

What Rondo should’ve done was get in Humphries face, have a few words, and maybe shove him a little bit. Shoving meaning a few pushes, and not pushing him into the stands. That’s it. He probably wouldn’t have gotten suspended or even fined, and if he did get fined, it would’ve been real small.

My whole issue is everybody saying it’s good he showed toughness and leadership, and that he’ll stick up for a teammate. Does Rondo really have to prove to the world that he’ll stick up for Garnett who has been his friend and teammate since 2007? No it doesn’t. This isn’t the streets of Boston or Lawrence, Mass., where you’re trying to prove to your high school buddies that you’re tough. People promoting and saying Rondo “kicked Humphries ass” are ill-informed. If Rondo is going to be a leader, he needs to show better judgement. Celtics analyst Donny Marshall said it best by saying “being a leader means staying on the court.” Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers said it was a boneheaded move by Rondo. I understand that he won’t throw his players under the bus, but Rivers is usually a pretty stand up and honest guy. I believe he meant what he said.

I like Rondo a lot. He’s improving everyday. There was a time where I never thought he’d learn how to shoot a decent midrange jumpshot, but now he does. What he needs to improve on is his judgement of situations. This is the third time he has been suspended in the last nine months. That’s unacceptable of someone who is going to be a leader.

Personally, I think he isn’t ready to be called a leader. Some media members might have put that label on him because of the way he plays and facilitates a game.

But right now, Rondo is more of a leader in training, and whether or not he becomes a real leader is debatable. For all we know, he might not even want that title. The way I see it, as long as Paul Pierce is playing, this will be his team until he retires.

As Expected, the Celtics Waive Rob Kurz and Micah Downs

The Celtics announced today that they’ve waived forwards Micah Downs and Rob Kurz.

Downs, a 6’8″ forward out of Gonzaga University, played in seven preseason games and averaged 3.0 PPG and 2.3 rebounds in about nine minutes of playing time.

Kurz, a 6’9″ forward out of Notre Dame, played in six preseason games and averaged 1.7 PPG and 1.8 rebounds in 8.3 minutes a game. He previously played for the Golden State Warriors in the 2008-2009 season, where he played in 40 games and averaged 3.9 PPG with 2.0 rebounds in about 11 minutes a game.

The Celtics’ roster is now set with 15 players, and is at full capacity for the season.

Analysis

These two moves were expected. It was just a matter of when for the Celtics, especially after it was announced Kris Joesph won the battle for the last roster spot.

Kurz and Downs played their asses off during training camp and the preseason. They also got to learn from the best group of veterans currently in the game.

The question that remains is what happens to them?

It would be nice to see someone give them both a legitimate shot to play in the NBA, but the reality is that the game is a business and they don’t have the talent to stick around.

However, both Kurz and Downs have the chance to play in the NBADL, especially with the Celtics’ affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. That’s probably their best bet moving forward.

As for now, good luck to them.

The Biggest Surprise of the Preseason: Jeff Green

Jeff Green was an athletic freak during the preseason. His athleticism and the way he played led some people to compare him to Los Angeles Lakers great James Worthy, who was an athletic freak and built like Green himself. Hell, even Worthy acknowledged Green’s talents, but the humble Green didn’t want to hear that and felt he wasn’t worthy enough (pun intended!) of that standard. That’s the promise Green showed this preseason.

After not playing one single game last year because of heart surgery, and playing a mediocre 2010-2011 season; Green was the biggest surprise.

Many people wondered what his play would be like after missing last season. Some fans even scratched their heads wondering why GM Danny Ainge would cough up a 4yr/$36 million contract to keep an unknown commodity in Boston. Experts and people from around the NBA said Green’s contract was the worse in the league.

However, he shut up many of those “experts” with his play on the court.

What was different? Athleticism.

His athleticism was the main difference and could be seen sprinting up and down the floor. Baskets were being dropped and he was second on the team in scoring to Paul Pierce averaging out at 13.4 PPG.

He was also rebounding and blocking shots too. Yes, he was blocking shots and at a regular rate. Against the New York Knicks he blocked two shots and against the Philadelphia 76ers he blocked four more. That was something he hasn’t shown since his college days at Georgetown University.

Rebounding has always been a weakness for Green, but this preseason he was among the team’s top rebounders averaging about five a game. In fact, he pulled down 10 of them against the 76ers as well.

I’m not saying Green will win a scoring title, but his youth and athleticism at the small forward and even the power forward position will give the Celtics a weapon they haven’t seen during the Pierce and Kevin Garnett era. Green will provide quality minutes off the bench and will give Pierce a good breather during the regular season. Look for Green to play 20-25 minutes every night. If he keeps his play up during the season he’ll keep getting valuable minutes.

Believe me when I say this, if Green is really good off the bench, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts games over Pierce. I think the Celtics’ plan is to integrate Green into the starting lineup in hopes that he’ll be Pierce’s heir at the small forward spot for many years to come.

Photo (cc) by Keith Allison and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Position by Position Preview: Centers

Let’s start off with the center position preview.

Last year, the Celtics started the season with Jermaine O’Neal at center. Anytime you have Jermaine O’Neal starting, it’s not going to end well and the team is going to have to expect that he’ll get injured.

That’s exactly what happened, and it turned out to be a blessing is disguise. What happened next would change the Celtics’ fortunes for the season and for the future.

That change is Kevin Garnett.

Garnett was moved to the center position after O’Neal went down with a wrist injury, and the result was the team was faster. Garnett posted numbers that he hadn’t put up since his first season with the Celtics back in the championship season of 2007-2008. He was rebounding better and scoring at will against almost every opponent. His post moves and shooting ability was deadly. In other words, he found the fountain of youth.

Last season, when he was starting at the four position, he looked old. His numbers were down. He was averaging just 14.3 PPG and 7.5 rebounds a night. When he moved to center, his numbers spiked. His numbers ballooned up to 16.8 PPG and 8.7 RPG. It was great seeing the old KG.

The playoffs was where he really shined. It was like the clock turned back about eight years. Garnett was dropping in double-doubles almost every night. When the Celtics playoff run was ended by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Garnett was averaging 19.2 PPG and pulling down 10.3 RPG. Those were numbers that we haven’t seen the 36-year-old Garnett average since he was a 27-year-old.

So what’s the reason for Garnett turning into a “younger player” all of a sudden.

Simple, he’s that good and the center position is a position that’s weak and is fading out of the NBA.

Once upon a time the center was key in putting a team together. Almost every team had someone who could at least dominate the paint with rebounding and defense. The last true center in the game was Shaquille O’Neal and he retired after playing with the Celtics during the 2010-2011 season.

The NBA is all about athleticism now. Teams can outrun and outgun anyone with athleticism. Centers on the other hand are normally known for being slow and one-dimensional. In fact, finding a true center who can produce night in and night out is all but extinct if you exclude Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.

Garnett is part of the new breed of centers in the NBA. He’s tall, athletic, plays defense, can rebound, score and block shots. He does everything well. The downside of him being at center, is he gets abused by some of the top big men in the game and that takes a toll on his body. KG isn’t muscular, so going against a big center is a challenge. It’s a well-known fact that Garnett can’t handle Bynum or Howard. Who can right?

If Garnett puts up numbers like he did in the playoffs and plays his typical stellar defense, the rest of the league is going to have issues with the Celtics. With Howard out west in Laker land, all Garnett has to deal with is Bynum a few times a year. That isn’t bad and he should dominate the competition night in and night out.

To help Garnett get rest and to preserve his body, the Celtics resigned Chris Wilcox, who should be fully recovered from heart surgery last season, and Darko Milicic, the enigmatic 2nd overall pick of the famed 2003 NBA Draft who was a dud. The team also signed defensive-minded and post-up specialist Jason Collins, who gave Garnett a tough time in the playoffs last year when he played with the Atlanta Hawks.

Barring any injury, this position is DEEP. Doc Rivers like the versatility with the personnel he has.

Before Wilcox underwent surprising heart surgery last season, he became a favorite target of Rajon Rondo during fast breaks. He can also rebound, play defense and also fill in at the forward position when needed.

Milicic is a wild card. He’ll never live up to being the 2nd pick of the LeBron James draft.

Never.

What he has to do is accept his role as a key bench player and so far he seems to be doing that. During the preseason, he was one of the team’s best players at setting pick-and-rolls. His passing was excellent for a big man too, and he was able to show off his rebounding prowess and shot blocking ability as well.

I’m not anointing him as the next great center, but for this team, in the role he’s in, he could excel. His six fouls and willingness to use his body to draw fouls is a major plus. Milicic should fill in well with this veteran team. Look for him to get some good playing time this season.

Jason Collins is a veteran who can hold his own against Bynum and Howard. His seven foot frame and large body will keep guys from getting into the paint consistently. That will be his role. Collins was a bust coming out of college at Stanford in 2001. He never fulfilled his potential, and has played very little over the last five years. That shouldn’t change with the Celtics. He’ll play when guys get into foul trouble and against the top centers, so Garnett won’t get his body abused. Collins is an excellent option to use when the Celtics want to use up six fouls on a player.

Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass are also around to play center when the Celtics go small.

Overall, this position is deep and versatile. Everyone knows what Garnett can do, but the question is can the other guys perform consistently every night? Can they rebound, play defense and draw fouls? Can they all accept their role? The Celtics are probably the only team in the league with four legitimate guys who can play center. I believe they can, and if they perform up to standard, then this position will be a position of strength.

Photo (cc) by BangEmSmurf and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.