Cavs & Warriors: Beyond the Talent

  • While the NBA attempts to maximize revenue by waiting over a week for the Finals to begin, we have heard quite a bit about the “talent” that will be on display.  Is LeBron better than Jordan?  Are the Warriors better because of Durant?  All we hear about is the talent. Make no mistake, there will once again be plenty of talent on display in the rematch we are about to witness, but talent is only part of the equation when it comes to winning a championship.  Let’s consider three elements beyond the talent that often determine champions and consider how those same elements are the keys for each of us to maximize our own God-given talents and more importantly,  our God-given faith.

BASKETBALL – The Big Three

Last year, the physical talents of LeBron James were enough to help the Cavs surpass the collective talents of the Warriors.  As arguably the most physically dominant player of all-time, James is worthy of his own discussion, especially if he can lead the Cavs to a title defense against the Warriors.  But since I tend to watch more of the Warriors’ games, I’d like to focus on them and their big three – Effort, Chemistry, and Passion – as they look to take the title back:

EFFORT  It remains a simple truth that one cannot determine talent, but effort is always a choice. Effort frequently outplays talent – we see it all the time, but get the most talented players or the most talented teams to play with the highest effort and they become unstoppable.  In an article for Sports illustrated, The Warriors Deadly Combo of Hustle and Flow, Lee Jenkins wrote:

“The four-star juggernaut that won 67 games this season, that led the NBA in field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense, that posted a higher net rating and point differential even better than last year, outworked everybody too. The Dubs created the most deflections (18.7) and corralled the most loose balls (7.7), while racking up the second-most contested shots (68.4) and screen assists (12.7). After their opening-round sweep of the Blazers, they led three of the five major hustle categories in the playoffs.”

A lot of teams have talent, but it seems that the Warriors have more.   But then again, maybe they just play harder than everyone else!

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

CHEMISTRY  In a sport, a league, and a culture that often elevates the individual over the team, winning teams typically are the ones that blend their talents together. In high school chemistry we learn about the bonds formed between electron particles.  Some bonds are stronger than others and some require one particle to give up more than another. Chemistry on a team loaded with talent happens only when players are unselfish and are willing to sacrifice for their teammates.  The media circus looks for drama in Draymond Green’s antics or marvels at the wild drives and shots of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but this team has worked hard at being unselfish and playing for each other as outlined by Alex Torres in The Warriors’ Chemistry: Its Superhero Connection & Why It Matters.  It also extends off the court – see The Warriors’ Secret Sauce? Team Dinners on the Road  by Jordan Brenner of ESPN.com.

PASSION  And finally, nobody appears to have more fun with their craft than the Warriors.  You may be tired of hearing about it or you may be a bit envious, but one of the most remarkable things about Steph Curry, and through him, the rest of the Warriors, is how much fun they appear to have and how obvious it is that they enjoy what they are doing.  I get it.  They’re making millions to play a game, but think of how many other players and coaches seem stressed and worn out by the pressure and the competition.  The Warriors play with a joy and a passion that you see in their faces, every game.

And when the most talented play with passion and joy, look out!  This is true of both teams.  The Cavs are talented and play hard, play for each other, and play with passion just as the Dub’s do.  While they have the talent, look for one of these factors to be the difference in the series.  Let the games begin!

LIFE – The Big Three at Work

Although it’s not a certainty and can often take years of trial and error, many of us identify our talents and find our ways to careers to use that talent.  I realize that many factors go into that.  Not all of us get to work in the careers that best utilize our talents – timing, obligations, and circumstances often lead us into work we never intended, but effort, chemistry, and passion will lead to long-term job success in any job.  It’s true for all of us, but especially for young people starting out.  Look for jobs where you can give your best effort – you control that, jobs where you can serve others and blend your talents with others – you control that, too, and jobs where you find joy and can be passionate about either what you do, who you do it with, and who you do it for.  The big three will go a long way in your finding success and fulfillment in whatever career path you take, but if one or more of them is missing, it’s probably time to consider other options.

FAITH – Beyond Faith

Faith in Christ is like talent – it’s a gift!  When you believe and are baptized God gives you faith and that faith can grow and help draw us closer and closer to God.  How we go about that and how we use it, is up to us.  Sitting on your faith and doing nothing to grow spiritually is like an athlete wasting his talent. (Proverbs 13:4)  Living an isolated life, rather than living unselfishly to serve others, is like a ball-stopping NBA player who only thinks of himself (Galatians 5:13).  And which of us can truly grow closer to God if we don’t enjoy being a Christ-follower?  Our joy should be evidence of our faith (Romans 15:13).  Is it enough to have talent?  Is it enough to have faith?  Absolutely, because with God anything is possible – but if you truly want to grow as God intends and to make the most of your faith, look beyond your faith and sprinkle a little effort, chemistry, and passion!

Setting the Pick and Roll

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What’s not to love about the Pick and Roll?  Turn on the NBA playoffs and you’ll see a ball screen just about every other possession.  While there’s nothing like pacing and spacing to rev up an offense, ball screens and the actions they create, like rolling, popping, or slipping, force the defense to do something.  And that’s when an offense can truly be effective by responding to how a defense attempts to play.  We’ve talked about them before in Snaking the Ball Screen and Sex and the Pick and Roll, but teams in the playoffs continue to advance in their creativity in utilizing ball screens.  As the complexity grows and filters down to all levels, however, learning and teaching ball screens remains a basic fundamental that none of us should ignore.

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Losing the Low Post Tradition

Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

As we shift focus to the NBA playoffs, I’ve been catching up with my hometown Milwaukee Bucks and have witnessed a transformation that most of us in the basketball world have noticed happening for quite some time – the vanishing low post (We took a closer look in 2013 with Christmas & Post-Ups). Gone are the days of Milwaukee’s Lew Alcindor hitting sky hooks and drop-stepping from the block, but we have welcomed in two other seven-footers in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greg Monroe wheeling and dealing from the elbow.  They’re still posting up with their back to the basket, but they provide evidence of how the game of my youth has changed and it reminds me of the struggles going on within the church of today. Continue reading