The Final Four of the NBA began Sunday with the Spurs taking a 1-0 lead over Memphis and on Wednesday, the Pacers and Heat will begin. The 7-game format makes the NBA’s playoff less suspenseful than the college Final Four – which leads many fans to take a casual approach in following the games. After all, summer is upon us, the White House is dealing with scandals, and for me one of my childhood favorites, the Chicago Blackhawks, are battling for the Cup! It’s easy to get distracted, especially when you can just check the highlights on SportsCenter – but, as a coach, I have a purpose for wanting to watch the games. I’m watching each of the four teams remaining because I want to grow in my effectiveness as a coach and in my life and faith, I’m also learning to watch with a purpose.
BASKETBALL – Here’s what I’m watching.
Memphis Grizzlies: Not only has Memphis won without having home-court advantage, but they’re winning with a traditional High/Low post game It’s interesting to watch how they mix the ballscreen options of today’s NBA with an old school post-up offense. I’m a fan of Bill Self‘s Kansas Offense and see many similarities in the Grizzlies.
San Antonio Spurs: I recently heard Stan Van Gundy say that Greg Popovich has one of the thickest playbooks in all of basketball, yet when it comes to the playoffs, Pop narrows it down and relies on very basic, well-spaced sets to get the most out of his proven veterans. Here’s a great look at the Spurs from last year:
I’m watching the Spurs to see if Tony Parker remains the focal point and if Pop continues to simplify.
Miami Heat: Aside from having the best collection of top players in their prime, I’m watching how many ways the Heat handle defending the pick and roll. Their defense can be so disruptive and it fuels their offense.
Indiana Pacers: I watched a lot of Georgetown games when Roy Hibbert was in school to learn the Princeton offense. I came to respect his low post game which now fuels the Pacer attack. I’m watching to see how Indiana involves Hibbert’s low post presence against the reigning champs whose only weakness seems to be on the interior..
LIFE – Does anyone have time to pay attention?
Life continues at such a fast pace that if we’re not watchful, major issues that affect our circumstances fly right by us. Does it concern anyone else that so few of us have any understanding of how our government operates (or, doesn’t operate) on our behalf? In the wake of mounting scandals in Washington that should make all of us ashamed, I was amazed recently watching one of those “Man on the Street” interviews where random citizens were asked about current events. Many could not name our Secretary of State, past or present, or the role the position plays in protecting our representatives abroad and most had no understanding of the charges brought against the IRS. Even most Christians are unaware of the current threats to our religious freedoms as displayed by the assault on a beloved Christian leader like Dr. James Dobson, who this year co-authored Fatherless, the third novel in a series about potential clashes of culture that could be in our future We all need to be more watchful and need to pay attention!
FAITH – Why don’t we watch more carefully?
I was raised and educated in the church. Admittedly, I missed a lot over the years. Sermons, lessons, and liturgy often slipped between my ears, but through much of my wandering, God never left my side. I’ve always felt His companionship and I know that He has prompted me to deeper convictions and thoughts at various points in my life. Recently, I’ve had a struggle with what I perceive to be insincerity in those of us who are Christians. We hear the highlights of mission work being done around the world and in the impoverished areas near us, but how often do we fail to reach out within our own church community? Paul’s wisdom remains true:
10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10
In recent years, I’ve been on both sides of this equation. Sunday services and other church activities often become “everything is wonderful” parties, yet the truth is that many of the people sitting beside us are broken and hurting. That’s what life is, yet we tend to neglect the issues and problems of our fellow believers. We criticize and judge without watching for opportunities to show the compassion that Jesus showed or we simply ask people to give us their SportsCenter highlights because we don’t have time or worse, we simply don’t care.. Just as I’m watching the playoffs to learn from the adjustments the coaches will make and just as I’m watching how the decisions of my elected officials line up with my values, I need to watch for opportunities to do good for the hurting people around me. There’s a lot to watch!