Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Nice Is it To Be Appreciated?

I first wanted to ask "How Does it Feel to Cheat on How Blank?". The answer: not great. I've been putting together weekly recaps of the Knicks' offseason for the fan blog The Knicks Wall. It's fun, but tends to lead me away from my home here at H.B. Check 'em out every Thursday afternoon/Friday morning from now until the regular season begins.

Speaking of basketball minutiae, tonight I happened upon a story in the Jalen Rose Podcast on Grantland that was too good not to share...

Jalen changed his pick for this year's NBA Champion from Miami to Oklahoma City. When asked why, he said it all had to do with Kevin Durant's MVP acceptance speech, in which he thanked each of his teammates individually for helping him achieve that individual honor.

--This is the part where I urge you to listen to the story, as Jalen tells it as only Jalen can. It starts at the 9:00 mark and wraps up at 20:00--

If you can't listen, here are the details of the story.

  • As mentioned, Jalen picks Oklahoma City to win the championship based on Kevin Durant's acknowledgements of his teammates in his speech. 
  • Jalen fashions himself as the greatest player that Reggie Miller, now a TNT broadcaster, ever played alongside. He said that from the moment he arrived in Indiana until the present day, Reggie has never acknowledged as much, and really has never acknowledged Jalen in any positive way. He does recall Reggie seeking Jalen out to hug first upon winning the Eastern Conference Championship in 2000. Jalen explains how appreciated he felt in that moment. 

  • That is all set up for the real story: In 1996, Jalen Rose was traded to the Indiana Pacers for Mark Jackson, who was Reggie Miller's buddy. This was to be Jalen's third year in the league, and in his sophomore campaign he had averaged 10 points and 6 assists in 26.7 minutes per game. Unspectacular numbers, but he was the most talented point guard on the roster heading into the next season. 
  • Over the course of summer leagues and team scrimmages, it became apparent to Jalen that head coach Larry Brown "wanted Jalen out of the league". He thrived in practice and even dominated at times, but couldn't crack into the starting lineup or even into the main rotation at times. 
  • The fourth game of the season held special meaning for Jalen, as it was against the Washington Bullets. The Bullets included Jalen's best friends and teammates on the iconic Michigan Fab Five, Juwan Howard and Chris Webber. After having played over 20 minutes in each of the Pacers' first 3 games, Larry Brown limited Rose to only 4 minutes played, presumably just to make Jalen mad. 
  • The next day, Brown called Rose into his office and said "Juwan and Chris are up here...Ray and Jimmy (other 2 Fab Five members) are down here...I'm still deciding which direction I'm going to make you go in". This, to Rose, confirmed his suspicion that Brown wanted him off the team somehow. 
  • Rose would go on to get 15 DNP's that season, in what he believes was all a set up by Brown to get him to "explode" in frustration and give everyone a reason to think Rose shouldn't be on the team. At this point in the story, Rose launches into a life lesson about working hard, wearing your misgivings and grievances with a smile, and not letting people drag you into their negativity. 
  • While Brown was trying to marginalize Rose, Reggie Miller saw how good Rose was playing in practice, and as the undisputed best player and leader, did absolutely nothing to get Rose more minutes or even encourage Rose to remain positive. 
  • Reassurance came that season only from Pacers GM Donnie Walsh, who was Larry Brown's college roommate at UNC (imagine running an NBA team with your college roommate. Jalen Rose's playing time would be the least of your concerns). Walsh, to Rose, said something to the effect of "keep doing what you're doing, I believe in you. You'll be around longer than Larry will."
  • Walsh made good on that promise when Larry Brown was gone the following year and Rose was on the Pacers until 2002, at one point averaging over 20 points and 6 assists per game. 
  • To this day, Rose says that while Reggie Miller doesn't owe him anything, Miller has never "shown him love" for their years and successes together in Indiana. Rose followed Miller on Twitter, but Miller never reciprocated, so eventually Rose, the poor thing, had to "unfollow" his former teammate. (What's interesting is how public both of these guys have remained as media members in their post-playing days.)
  • That's when it comes full-circle to the Thunder. Jalen is clearly affected by getting "no love" from Reggie all those years. He thinks that Durant's show of appreciation and love will be just as powerful for the Thunder players but in the opposite, positive way. 

So how good does it feel to be appreciated? Good enough to win an NBA title, perhaps.

As for me, I appreciate this blog, I appreciate errbody that reads it, and I appreciate everyone around me. Please don't unfollow me on Twitter.

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Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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