Tag Archives: Ron Artest

Energy Is A Talent

Watching the Lakers lose to the Mavs was quite a trip.  In my mind, the Lakers were the favorite to win the whole thing — the only team with a superstar on the perimeter, and multiple quality big men.

My theory made perfect sense.

Until the games started.

Watching the Lakers big men be so inconsistent reminded me of a conversation I had during last year’s playoffs, with my friend JZ.  JZ is a wise old hoopserver.  In fact, he’s a member of the Jedi Council of Hoopserving Masters.

Around this time last year, I told JZ that I just couldn’t understand why some players were as inconsistent as they were.  I can’t think of a different profession where someone who performs at a superstar level sometimes, an average level sometimes, and below average the rest of the time is still regarded as useful.  Yet, in basketball, it happens frequently.  We simply accept such players as “inconsistent.”  It was flabbergasting to me, I told him, that such “inconsistent” players get paid millions of dollars and do not even exert 100% effort every time they play.

JZ explained that energy is a talent.  I think it’s an excellent hoopservation, and would only add two points of clarification:

1.  “Energy,” for purposes of this discussion, includes the thing we call “focus.”  The inability to devote the same effort to every game includes “energy,” which refers to the physical component, and “focus,” which refers to the mental component.

2.  When someone like, say, Lamar Odom, or Andrew Bynum, or Pau Gasol, looks like a superstar on Friday and a scrub on Sunday, it’s not because he isn’t trying, or stayed out too late on the Sunset Strip on Saturday night.  It’s just that energy isn’t one of the talents that made him a professional basketball player, so, even though he is exerting 100% effort on Sunday, it is 100% of a different energy level than he had on Friday.  In other words, the players who have the talent of high energy wake up every day with a high energy level, and when they exert 100% effort, it is 100% of an energy level that hardly changes.  The players who do not have the talent of energy do not wake up with the same energy level every day, and when they exert 100% effort, it is 100% of a different energy level on different days.  People who resent these players for not trying their hardest every game are missing the point.

Put a few guys on the same team who do not have the talent of high energy, and you’ll wind up with a team that looks like it has a personality disorder.  Like, for example, the Lakers.  The Lakers won two championships in a row, and looked, at times, like a juggernaut on their way to a third.  But, when their superstar (Kobe) started to slip just a little bit, and one of their other high-energy players (Artest) lost a half a step, then, all of a sudden, the team was heavily dependent on its low-energy guys.

It can work, if a few of those guys are playing at a high level each game, but it’s a risky venture.  There are lots of ways to try to win in the NBA, but talent usually wins out.  And energy is a talent.



  • Champ

    I find the concept of energy being considered a talent an interesing one. How does one distinguish between those with varying energy levels and those who simply don’t give 100% on a daily basis though? Is the assumption that all professional athletes give 100% of their energy every day? More than half the players in the league barely play defense so how could those players be giving 100%? On another note, maybe the Lakers didn’t win the series because Kobe isn’t as good as everyone says he is. If Lebron were in his place, they certainly wouldn’t have lost.

  • ZackNovakJr.

    I think your point that energy/focus has a mental component is a crucial one. Unlike height or athleticism which are god-given talents, energy is primarily a learned skill. Some can learn it on their own, but others need coaching. Teaching players how to consistently focus is a coach’s most important job. The Lakers loss to the Mavs because of a lack of focus is therefore an indictment of Phil Jackson. One could argue that Gasol, Odom, Bynum, etc. are uncoachable, but I’d disagree. Almost all players are coachable, the coach just has to figure out how to reach each one or get rid of the ones that are truly obstinate. However, few truly obstinate individuals ever make it to highest level of their field. Gasol, Odom, and Bynum are all coachable. Phil Jackson just failed. Good thing for the Lakers that they will probably have a new coach next year.

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One of the most commonly made mistakes in pro basketball is that a guy gets underrated because he is a “tweener.” Lemme tell ya’, it should never happen.

According to Wikipedia: A tweener in basketball is a term, sometimes used derisively, for a player who is able to play two positions, but is not ideally suited to play either position exclusively, so he/she is said to be in between. A tweener has a set of skills that do not match the traditional position of his physical stature.

When teams decide to stay away from a guy because he’s a “tweener,” they could be making a huge mistake. A large part of the problem, as I blogged weeks ago, is that there is really not much of a difference between shooting guards and small forwards. (I’d go further and argue that the line between a 3 and a 4 or a 4 and a 5 is really not that clear anymore, either. A point guard is a point guard, but, as to the other positions, it’s not clear where one ends and one begins.)

Consider Antawn Jamison. He was an absolute star in college, but, because he was perceived as a tweener, was drafted after Michael Olawakandi and Raef LaFrentz. How’d that work out?

On a related point, if the word “tweener” means anything, isn’t Michael Jordan a tweener? I mean, I don’t see why you couldn’t play him at 3 if you had a star 2, or couldn’t play him at 2 if you had a star 3. But look at the trouble the Blazers got themselves into by thinking too rigidly about the five positions on a basketball team.

Bobby Knight has a classic quote about his advice to NBA GMs about Michael Jordan (full article here):
One day during at an Olympic practice before the June NBA draft, Knight remembered standing next to an NBA team executive, whom he refuses to identify.
“I was standing next to my friend as we watched us practice and I said, ‘You’re luckier than anybody could be in basketball, you have a chance to get Jordan,’ ” Knight said. “He said, ‘Yeah, Bob, he’s great, but we need a big man.’ And I told him, ‘Play Jordan at center and he’ll lead the league in scoring. He’s that good.’ ”

Speaking of classic basketball quotes, I must digress for a minute… Ron Artest has what might be the best quote of all time, when referring to a skirmish he had with Kobe Bryant. He says that he went over to Kobe and said “You’re hitting the wrong person. Don’t you know you’re hitting Ron Artest?” Video here (around 0:35).

When I want to make myself laugh, I envision a fight between Kobe Bryant and me. When Kobe makes an aggressive move towards me, I say to him “You’re hitting the wrong person. Don’t you know who you’re hitting?” The look of confusion on his face is hard to describe. His brow gets furrowed, and his eyes go crossed. In fact, his eyes get so crossed that his eyeballs actually switch eyes.

Anyway, back to the point I was making…

Nobody fails to succeed in the NBA simply because he’s a “tweener.” Lots of “tweeners” excel in the NBA (MJ, Vince, T-Mac, Dirk, Barkley, Antawn Jamison, Lamar Odom, etc., etc., etc.) For those guys, position doesn’t matter. The coach wants to put them on the floor, and let the other team worry about how to match up with him.

Bottom line: when a guy is good, his ability to play multiple positions leads to people calling him “versatile.” They only call someone a “tweener” if the guy isn’t good enough to play.

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