Saturday, May 26, 2012

Los Angeles Clippers Hope to Learn from Spurs

The NBA Los Angeles Clippers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in their playoff series earlier this week. The Clippers find themselves contemplating the loss.

"Look how many back doors [the Spurs] got. When it was a close game, they come down and run this little play where they hit Timmy [Duncan] and then just drop it to Tony [Parker] for a layup. It's tough. They know how to play. They come out after timeouts and they execute."

It's difficult to praise the Spurs without touching on the particulars of their game between the lines. There are few pyrotechnics because they're not the quickest or most athletic group. The Spurs big men are nailed to the floor, but play virtually mistake-free ball. On the rare occasions the Spurs do err, you'll know it from venom spewing forth from Popovich off the bench. But overall, this is a team that's hyper-aware of spacing, rarely out of defensive position, and consistently willing to give up a decent look for a squeaky clean one."

--Chris Paul, Clippers' point guard, who, though injured, was outplayed by the Spurs' veteran Tony Parker.

"This is kind of the model team as far as how to run an organization year in and year out and how to win games and championships. The way [Duncan] plays is so methodical, but at the same time he doesn't overthink the game. That's something I want to get to."

--Blake Griffin, Clippers' spectacular young forward, discussing his learning.

Will the Clippers learn from their opponents and mentally regroup or decide to dismantle and rebuild?

"It's our system," the Spurs' Tim Duncan said. "We understand our system and have a bunch of guys who understand what we're capable of, and we just kind of plug things in."

Excerpts from (5/24/2012).

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Friday, May 25, 2012

The Miami Heat's Wade and James Catch Fire

Since losing teammate Chris Bosh to injury and then trailing the Indiana Pacers 2-1 in their NBA playoff series, the Miami Heat's Big Two have gone wild. LeBron James has averaged 32.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and eight assists on 55 percent shooting, while Dwyane Wade averaged 33 points (he scored 99 in the three games, James 98), 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 62 percent shooting.

"We needed it," Wade said. "When you talk about three games, two guys being dominant at the same time, this was probably the best we've been."

The Heat now await the winner of the seventh game of the Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers series.

Can the Heat's Big Two stay hot? Will they have to to stay competitive?

Excerpt from (5/25/2012)

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Leadership of Derek Fisher

"I'm used to having him in the locker room. I'm used to hearing his voice, saying things that he and I have talked about, in terms of the direction of the team and what the team needs to hear, and he vocalizes it. And I don't have that."

--Kobe Bryant, discussing the leadership of Derek Fisher that is missing in the Los Angeles Laker locker room.

Fisher was traded away from the Lakers in the mid-season. Fisher ended up with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who then beat the Lakers four games to one in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.

"Leadership. He says stuff every single day that helps us out and motivates us to want to go out there and compete."

--James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder guard, who won the NBA Sixth Man award.

Could Derek Fisher be the difference between these two NBA playoff teams?

Excerpt from (5/20/2012).

Chipper Jones Leads the Atlanta Braves Through Adversity

"It's really gratifying because the guys went home in the off-season and used what happened in September as a motivational tool. I've said this all along: if we end up winning an Eastern Division championship or a National League championship or a World Series in the next couple of years, I guarantee you all these players will look back at September and say we learned a lot."

--Chipper Jomes, Atlanta Braves all-star third baseman, discussing the Atlanta Braves' ability to bounce back from adversity after their late-season meltdown that kept them out of the playoffs last year.

Excerpt from (5/20/2012).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tim, Pop, and the San Antonio Spurs' Resurgence

The San Antonio Spurs have now won their last 18 games and 32 of their last 37. They have swept past their last two NBA playoff opponents in the first and second rounds, 4-0 and 4-0.

This dominance has the Spurs being touted as the favorites to win the NBA championship this year, potentially their fifth since 1999. They have sped past the Miami Heat, the pre-season pick to win it all.

Their coach, Gregg Popovich has won this season's NBA Coach of the Year award. And, their marquee player, Tim Duncan, has been rejuvenated this year with the energy and skills of an All-star after being considered well past his prime.

How has this happened? Let’s look closely at a peak performance franchise.

Setting the Tone as the Backbone of the Team

"He is getting older, just like you are, and all of us, but Tim Duncan is still the backbone of the program," said Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich. "He's the guy we build around. He sets the tone for us.Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili] know that full well."

The Facts and the Numbers

For 15 seasons, Duncan has quietly gone about his business, winning four championships along with three finals and two league MVP trophies.

Here are the numbers and some accomplishments to consider:

13: Consecutive seasons to begin his career in which Duncan was named All-NBA and All-Defensive team, six more than anyone else in league history.

.702: The Spurs' winning percentage during the Duncan era, the best 15-year run by any NBA team in history.

0: Number of teams in the four major pro sports with a better winning percentage over the last 15 years than the Spurs.

One Game at a Time

For several years now, the media has wondered how long Duncan would continue playing. They and his opponents have been asking him nightly when he will retire.
Each night, Duncan says the same thing: "I got at least one more game."


In the summer of 1997. Coach Popovich flew down to St. Croix to meet his team's No. 1 draft pick.

Over the next few days the two men swam and lay on the beach, ate, and talked about life, family and priorities. Everything except basketball. Despite a difference of nearly 30 years, they connected in a way few athletes and coaches do. Today Popovich tears up just talking about it. "I really cherish that time," he says. "It was like an instant respect and understanding of each other. Almost like we were soul mates."


When the Spurs call a timeout and you see the San Antonio coaches huddle a few feet from the bench, it's not to hash out strategy. Rather, Popovich is giving his veterans, Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker time with the team. "You'll see Timmy over there with a young kid, talking about how he should do this or that or what we meant by such and such," says Popovich. "I'll come back to the timeouts sometimes and say, 'Are we square?' and Timmy will say, 'Yeah, we got 'em.'"
"He commands that type of respect because he doesn't demand it, if that makes sense."


What drives Tim Duncan? Everyone on the team says the same things: He loves the game. He cares just as much as the little guys do. It's one thing to claim to love the game and another, as Ferry says, "to make the sacrifices that are necessary to win."


"He's always known who he was and been comfortable in his own skin," Sean Elliott, a retired former teammate says. "In 15 years he hasn't changed."

Ask Duncan about it, and this is what he says: "It sounds somewhat arrogant, but I don't really want to change. I like who I am, I like how I do things. I try to be that way."

Continuous Improvement Mentality/Comfort with Change

Duncan grew up in St. Croix, raised by a loving father and a mother whose mantra was, "Good, better, best/Never let it rest/Until your good is better and your better is your best."

However, As Duncan's career evolved, the Spurs' strategy changed because it needed to.

"As we got a little bit older and the personnel changed, we were going to go from one of the best defensive teams to a more middle-of-the-road defensive teams," Popovich said. "Something had to change if we wanted to continue to win at a high level. So we went to the offense about two years ago and kind of shifted it to pick up the pace, to shift a little from inside to outside. Some of the offense went from Timmy a little bit more to Manu [Ginobili] and Tony. Attack early in the clock, kind of Mike D'Antoni-ish. We tried to get that into the program." 

The Spurs are a faster, more exciting, higher scoring team who gamble a tad more on defense and generally look to fast-break more than ever. Fans like it and opponents fear it. Popovich said that the change wasn't merely a product of necessity, but also rejuvenating for a coaching staff and roster that had known only one thing for the better part of a decade. 

"It was great because we'd been the same team for a long time," Popovich said. "If you want to keep winning you have to be aware of changes that might need to be made. It was pretty obvious we had to do it. But it did make it more fun. I think the players enjoyed it, too. They were probably getting bored of the same old stuff."

Continuity and Longevity Equals Peak Performance

On April 11, 2000, Tim Duncan tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee. He missed the final four games of the regular season and forced Spurs coach Gregg Popovich into a corner: go with Duncan in the playoffs, or keep him on the sidelines.

Duncan didn't make the decision any easier.

"I was doing everything I could to get ready to play," Duncan said.

Nevertheless, Popovich was just too worried about his star player.

"He was young, a franchise player," Popovich said. "He wasn't just a No. 1 pick. With him, you've got an opportunity to win multiple championships, if you don't screw it up. I didn't know if [the injury] could get worse, or get chronic."

Popovich liked his team, and he liked its chances in the playoffs. He just liked Duncan even more. He was looking long-term and betting on the future of the franchise. He told Duncan that he would not play any more that season. Duncan was done.

"I don't know if it was right or wrong," Popovich said. "But we did it."

Fast-forward to 2012, it turned out to be the right decision. And Duncan has come to appreciate Popovich's decision to sit him down in 2000. Even though he might not have liked it at the time.

"He's always been the voice of reason," Duncan said.


Tim Duncan has said he uses silence to "destroy people's psyches." He explains, "The best mind game you can run on someone is just to keep going at them and at them until they break." Don't respond, don't show emotion. Just keep playing. "Eventually," he says with a grin, "you'll piss them off."

Emotional Intelligence

Duncan prefers mellowness to emotion as a virtue. 

"It's essential," Duncan said of that mellowness. "Trying to stay cool and collected when things are going in all different directions around you -- if you can keep that even keel, you're not affected by the good or the bad as much. It's a great quality to have."

A Legacy of Winning
Does Duncan care about how he's viewed, how he's remembered?

Duncan thinks for a second, pulls on the sleeve of his silver Spurs sweatshirt. "Why?" he says. "I have no control of that. All I can do is play and try to play well. Winning should be the only thing that matters. I can't manipulate how people see me."

Excerpts form Los (May 17, 2012), (May 18, 2012), (May 20, 2012) and (May 21, 2012).

For more about the San Antonio Spurs, click on: and

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Kevin Garnett: Mastering His Craft

"You know, I don't want to come off kind of wrong, but I really go at my craft and take it very seriously. ... I always have, since '95, since I've been able to come into this league, and it's almost like you guys are shocked. Like this ain't what I do every day, like this ain't what I was made for. It comes off as disrespectful at times." 
--Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics, after winning the opening round NBA playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.

Excerpt from (5/10/2012),

For more on Kevin Garnett, go to

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

OK, NFL! Here is the Plan!

John Mackey, Mike Webster, Steve McNair, Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, Junior Seau.

The list will surely continue.  Veteran NFL players suffer from dementia, concussions, domestic violence, drug addictions, financial problems, depression, and post-football adjustment.  We have the wake-up calls. 

OK, Roger Goodell and the  NFL!  Here’s the plan.  Performance Vertical Consulting, a leading performance and sports psychology consulting firm, will set up the Performance Vertical Institute as a not-for-profit organization to address the mental health and mental conditioning needs of these elite athletes, veterans, and  retirees.  The essential services will be offered to players from the time they enter the league through their entire post-football lives to provide the necessary coping skills and other tools to maximize their post-NFL mental health.  We will mobilize.  We must. 

Fifteen hundred players are suing you.  There is a big problem and you are now seeing the tip of the iceberg.
What we need from you, NFL and NFL owners is to set aside at least 1% of all drafted rookie contracts each year to fund this institute.  This funding gets things started on the service side. However, more research is needed as well.  Now is the time. 

Fans we need your support, your time and, ultimately, your donations.
If you like this plan, please call or write me.  Call or write the NFL.  Use your social media tools.  Your voice is needed.  You know where to find us at Performance Vertical Consulting. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Andrew Luck, the NFL's #1 Draft Choice

"He always said and did the right thing.  He was very aware of people around him, how they felt.  He knew how to make them better. He saw the picture at a very early age. "

--Elliot Allen, Andrew Luck's high school football coach at Houston Stratford High, discussing Luck's early maturity and emotional intelligence.

Andrew Luck was the NFL's number one draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts after a stellar career as a quarterback at Stanford University.

Excerpt from (4/26/2012)