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NBA PM: The Danger Of A Losing Culture
Posted By Bill Ingram On December 5, 2012 @ 5:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
It’s one thing to lose games, even to have losing seasons. That happens to every team, sooner or later. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks have been particularly adept at avoiding sustained periods of losing, but even those teams have had their share of off years.
Other teams have not been so fortunate, and have had to endure sustained periods of losing. Whether due to injuries, poor drafting, free agent signings gone wrong or other circumstances, these teams run the risk of allowing a culture of losing to set in, and once that happens it can take years to shake the habit.
One team that is in the danger zone, not too far removed from their last championship, but also out of the playoff picture in recent years, is the Detroit Pistons. Burning through coaches and players like they grew on trees, the team is mired in a downward spiral that must not be allowed to become viral.
“Well, you can’t accept it,” Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank says of losing. “Regardless of what your record is, the things you can control in terms of having a championship culture, you can control that. You may not win a championship, but the way you prepare, practice, go about your business, those are all controllable. If you allow losing to pervade, and that’s going to impact how you go about your business, then that’s not a good thing.“
Second-year floor leader Brandon Knight came from a winning culture at the University of Kentucky, and believes that experience can help him be a part of bringing a winning mentality back to Detroit.
“Definitely, after games, after losses and just not being cool about it,” Knight tells HOOPSWORLD. “We got to have a mindset of being a winning team and in my mind, we are a winning team. I think we have to see that first, and before it starts to happen people are seeing it first, as well. So not accepting losing and not accepting losing habits. So when you see guys aren’t doing what they need to do, as a point guard, just saying something to them or try to correct it and also making sure when someone tells me of things I need to improve on or do better that I’m able to accept it and act upon it.”
Fortunately, the young players around Knight are more than receptive to Knight’s words of wisdom, and third-year center Greg Monroe says the Pistons are not taking losing lightly.
“Yeah, guys want to win here, we’re competitors,” Monroe tells HOOPSWORLD. “We want to win as a group, so it’s definitely something that we don’t like and we’re working hard as a group to try and change that.”
Even rookie Andre Drummond has seen evidence that this current group of Pistons are anxious to turn the page and put Detroit back in the playoff hunt.
“Yeah, after a loss you can see it on everybody’s face; nobody likes to lose,” says Drummond. “If you like losing, that’s a problem. For us, we just have to figure out a new game plan and really try get better and win games, that’s what it comes down to.”
It remains to be seen, of course, whether this group of players and this group of coaches can shake the grip of losing with which the Pistons are currently grappling, but it’s clear that there is a core group of young players in place who are up for the challenge. Changing the culture of a team starts with making sure the right influences are in place and the right voices are being heard. It seems the Pistons have taken significant strides towards making sure that’s the case.
Vote Of Confidence for Kenyon Martin
Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl is one of the more interesting and entertaining interviews in the NBA. He’s interesting because he’s seen so much during his career as both a player and coach across a number of professional basketball leagues and he’s entertaining because he pulls no punches when it comes to observing the NBA.
In a recent conversation with HOOPSWORLD, Karl expressed his surprise that former Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin has not yet found a team to play with this season.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Kenyon Martin is an NBA player,” said Karl. “He can help not only good teams, but also bad teams. Right now I think the trend in the league is to go young. Instead of maybe half the teams thinking they can go young, we have 25 teams in this league thinking about when they go pick up a player they’re going to go young. And then there are those four or five teams.
“I think an opportunity will come to Kenyon. Someone will have an injury or have a situation that will fit Kenyon. I think Kenyon will also be hungry and ready for it. I think Kenyon understands where he is in his career.
“Does he have to make a little step towards management and being a better teammate? Probably. But in the same sense, he knows what’s going on. He’s a very smart player, a bright player and one of the more dominating defenders I’ve ever coached.”
There are certainly a number of teams looking for front court help, including the Boston Celtics, who are said to be considering Erick Dampier. Martin may not be a seven-footer, but he is an active body and extremely competitive spirit, and with George Karl’s endorsement it seems that sooner or later Martin will find a home. He is, after all, arguably the best free agent still on the market.
Greg Smith’s Big Night
On a night when the majority of fans and media were focused on such players as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, James Harden and Jeremy Lin, it was instead another, much less well-known player who stole the limelight and, in the end, the show.
Greg Smith’s career in professional basketball started in about as unconventional way as you will find. He was playing in Mexico when the NBA Developmental League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers found him. Playing for the Vipers helped him get the attention of the Houston Rockets, who had him bounce back and forth between the D-League and the NBA throughout last season. This season, Smith has been more of a mainstay with the Rockets, appearing in 12 of their 17 games, but it wasn’t until he was up against what should have been his toughest opponent – Howard – that he put on his best show.
“It feels wonderful,” Smith told HOOPSWORLD after he scored a career-high 21 points in helping the Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. “I’m from California, so that was one of the teams I watched when I was growing up. It feels good to get that win, to go out there and play against Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, two of the best players in this league, and be able to showcase my talents and my skills, it feels good right now.”
Smith is not yet a consistent producer for the Rockets, but he has put together back-to-back double-digit scoring games and looks to be in the current plan for the team.
“It feels good,” said Smith. “I think the team really likes me, and the GM and everybody really loves me both as a player and as a person. It feels good to know that I might have a stable home here, and that they might keep me around for a long time. I’m very proud of that. It took me a long time, working from the bottom to get to the top. I’ve got to work hard and I know I will continue to do that.”
Despite going undrafted and starting his basketball career outside the US, Smith maintained a high level of confidence, and he credits that for his current success.
“My confidence in myself,” said Smith. “Knowing I could make it, knowing I could do it, I’ve been doing it since I was three years old. Knowing that I worked hard to be here, knowing that I earned it, and it feels good. … It was kind of hard going undrafted, playing in the D-League, but all of the work I did in the D-League, during the summer and during the lockout is starting to pay off. It feels good that I did all that. You have your ups and downs in life, and right now it’s up.”
That’s basically how the Rockets are, as a team, with some ups and downs, but on a little bit of an up after beating the Lakers. Smith believes that as long as the team sticks together they will have more ups ahead.
“We have a lot of potential, but we’re a very young team. We’re going to stick together and play hard, we’re going to defend together and go out there and play as a whole unit. I can see this team doing a lot of good things in the future.”
Watch HOOPSWORLD’s exclusive interview with Greg Smith below:
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