I’m excited for the start of the NBA season this week because I love hoops and I love to learn. I’m excited to see if the Warriors can continue their dream run, if the Spurs can plug in some new parts, if Kevin Durant can return from his foot injury, and if my Milwaukee Bucks will continue to make progress. I’m anxious to watch the coaches I love and I’m anxious to find teaching points to pass on to our team. As we move into our second week, we’ve implemented the basics of our dribble drive offense, but since we’ll be playing with a size disadvantage, we’ve taken a page out of Golden State’s playbook of small ball concepts – concepts that only work when players clearly communicate. Sometimes that communication is very difficult, especially with players who are hesitant to talk or have concerns about how their teammates will hear the message, but we expect our players to say what needs to be said to help each other grow and as we do that, I’m reminded of the Christian’s call to be “salty.”
BASKETBALL – Communication
Teammates on and off the basketball floor have to be able to communicate – both verbally and non-verbally. When that communication occurs, basketball is a beautiful game, as the Warriors displayed last year:
That early offense is something we’re trying to replicate, but it takes everybody being on the same page. If any of the Warriors take a “me first” attitude, there’s no way they can maintain spacing and create scoring opportunities. As you take a look behind the scenes of their championship run, the Warriors’ ability to communicate stands out, but many times things have to be said that a player doesn’t want to hear. A coach or a teammate may have to get a little “salty” with his words to help a player see things from a different perspective. Salt as a seasoning can be a flavor enhancer and a preservative, but used too much or used to the extreme, it can be over-bearing.
Our team this year is loaded on the extremes. We have several experienced seniors balanced with key, inexperienced freshmen and only a few sophomores and one junior. How well we learn to communicate will be a critical factor in our season and sometimes, our experienced guys will have to step and use a little “salt” to help our young ones see things that aren’t always apparent to them. Issues like shot selection, creating space, and reading secondary defenders can be difficult for new players to process or to hear and more importantly, off-the-court situations will also require some salt!
LIFE – When Salt is Required
Sooner or later, each of us will be confronted by situations and conversations that require a little salt – salt that enhances and salt that preserves or maybe even salt that challenges. Family relationships and close friendships can be deeply affected when we speak up, but even though we may risk damage to the relationship, there are times when faith and morality will be tested by family and friendship. Basketball teammates and coaches can be more effective with those salty conversations when they consider when, how, and why they will deliver a message that a player needs to hear. If the message is driven by judgement, jealousy, or resentment it may not be a message to give right in the moment. Lizzy Harden of Relevant Magazine has some great advice in How to Navigate Tough Conversations. Just remember, the danger of avoiding those conversations can lead to a loss of saltiness and a life without flavor!
FAITH – Salty or Unsalty?
God has planned for each of us to be salty – not in an overbearing or judgmental way, but in a way that brings flavor to our lives and to the lives of those around us. We have been designed and created to reflect God’s love throughout a fallen world. Jesus tells us we’re the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and Paul reminds us that God gave us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). And here’s the kicker, many times when you speak up, others may not like it and they may not like you:
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you.” (Luke 6:26)
Sometimes Christians can be a little too salty. We’re not called to outwardly oppose everything wrong in our culture – I mean, let’s face it, there are so many things in our country and in our world that we can speak up about, but God will direct each of us on when it’s appropriate if we’re willing to listen. And when He does direct us to be the salt, we may not be liked for the position we take and some people may not speak well of us. In my book, just as teammates on the basketball floor may have to make an unpopular statement or take a stand, God expects us to be salt to the world. So, let God be your guide and when needed, pass the salt!