Seriously? How much room does he need? Despite dropping Game One to OKC in the Conference Finals last night, it’s impossible to ignore Stephen Curry’s amazing return from a sprained knee that cost him four games in the playoffs and the miraculous contribution he made to clinch the Warriors’ series-clinching win in Game 5 against Portland. One look at the play made by the back-to-back MVP in the final seconds of that game, similar to the amazing shot he hit at the end of last night’s game, is all you need to understand what makes Curry so special:
Most coaches will tell you that statistics do not tell you the whole story. Sure, stats like shooting percentages, points scored, rebounds, assists, and turnovers can tell you a great deal about player productivity, but far too often, the plays that truly matter and truly decide games often go unnoticed. While the NBA now utilizes advanced technology (see Basketball’s Eye in the Sky) to capture and analyze every movement on the court, the league is now giving fans and observers a better look at how players impact the game through plays that often go unnoticed in the box scores. Continue reading
After college basketball wraps up and the NBA Playoffs heat up, most basketball fans focus on the superstars and their teams, but my attention is drawn to the coaches. While the NBA Playoffs showcase the amazing talents of the world’s greatest athletes, the constant media attention often gives us a much closer look at the strategies, motivational techniques, and off-the-court sparring of the head men on the bench. While Gregg Popovich remains the most-respected and experienced (See Michael Pina’s article Foxsports.com), and Steve Kerr garnered Coach of the Year honors during what he calls “the hardest year of my life” (See ESPN.com), the respect that the youthful Brad Stevens is receiving in Boston, despite a first round, injury-plagued loss to Atlanta this past week, is something for all of us to consider. When players like Isaiah Thomas suggest “We just gotta trust Brad” I am reminded that the most important function of a coach is what he does to position his players to win – on the court, but also in life. And as I consider Stevens, I also consider the ultimate mentor we have in Jesus.
BASKETBALL – Trust Your Coach
Prior to the playoffs, ESPN Senior Writer Jackie MacMullan wrote a wonderful piece, including a terrific video, about the growing respect for Brad Stevens titled The NBA’s Next Superstar Coach. She shares numerous examples of how the young phenom has seamlessly transitioned to the pro game, a feat that many terrific college coaches have found difficult to master. If you’ve been with me on this journey, you may recall that Stevens is one of the coaches I follow most closely (see Does the Butler Way Lead to Celtic Pride?) and with what MacMullen reports, he has certainly impacted the Celtics and the entire league as evidenced in comments from LeBron James and others. Listen to Stevens’ take on his transition:
And for a look at the impact he has made through his X & O’s consider this terrific look from BBall Breakdown:
And finally, if you follow the league closely, you’ll also know that besides his leadership style, his effective communication skills, and his willingness to make non-traditional changes to his defense, Stevens has built his reputation as the master of end of game situations. This collection is a must-watch for coaches:
Stevens has gained the trust of his players – not just in his handling of those late game situations and the adjustments he makes, but in how he relates to his players.
LIFE – Who Can You Trust?
I’m happy for the Celtics who feel they can trust Stevens, but I’ll confess that too often I’ve lost trust and faith in people. We live in a world that teaches us to look out for ourselves and most people do just that. We tend to make our decisions with only regard for how it affects us. I realize that’s a pessimistic view, but it’s also reality. The human condition is limited. Even a coach like Stevens, or Kerr, or Pop will let down a player or two. It’s inevitable and unfortunate, but finding people to trust is essential for navigating though this world. I found my wife. And I’ve found various people at various points in my life whom I could trust. It doesn’t always last. Good people whom we trust may let us down and hopefully we can forgive, grow from the experience, and restore the relationships. The healthier and more productive way to look at trust, however, is from the other side. Rather than asking ‘Who can I trust?” ask “Can others trust me?” While we can’t always trust politicians, bosses, or friends who say they have our best interest in mind, when you place more focus on being trustworthy yourself, you” find it much easier to roll with the shortcomings of others.
FAITH – The Only One You Can Trust
When I consider the many times I’ve trusted others who’ve let me down or, on the other hand, people who’ve trusted me only to have me let them down, I quickly realize the only one I can truly and confidently trust is the one who made me, the one who knows me, the one who saves me. All of the problems we experience in life are derived from a lack of trust in God – just consider our country and the trust we place in politicians! Or it may even be within the world of the church. Well-meaning spiritual leaders may ignite a movement or belief system that filters through the community of believers only to be misinterpreted or confused. Satan has influence and he works really hard to have influence over all of us, and as human beings in a falling world, he often does. That’s why David said in Psalms 18:
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. (v. 8)
There certainly are those around us, like coaches, or spouses, or pastors whom we can trust, but we can’t take refuge in them. We can’t be completely safe from the danger, disappointment, and evil in our world. There is a limit to the trust we can put in others, but I don’t see that as a negative. I take comfort in knowing that God is my only refuge. People will let us down, but through prayer and regular study of His word, we find true comfort and guidance from the only one who can redeem a fallen world. You just gotta trust God.