Posts Tagged ‘William C. Rhoden’

A Different Take On Isiah

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We understand that the natural reaction of many people to the name Isiah Thomas is a pained look usually followed by some unflattering comments about his work as an NBA executive and coach.

Long before “The Decision” and the crazy free agent summer of 2010, Thomas held the top spot as the scourge of the basketball earth, the one guy whose name alone opened the flood gates of negativity for fans, particularly in New York.

Now that he’s back in the Knicks fold in a special consultant’s role, the venom has kicked up again, and again, and again.

(And you can save the conflict of interest bit, because there are all sorts of college/pro/grassroots/shoe company conflicts that no one says a word about so long as the folks involved are in the good graces of the powers that be!)

But what if there is another side to this story?

While the league decides if this dual set up as the coach of Florida International and special consultant to the Knicks passes the smell test, the venerable William C. Rhoden of the New York Times explores the possibilities while detailing all of the facts, good and bad, after catching up with Thomas over the weekend:

Why? Why keep at it?

Thomas maintains a home in New York and lives in Miami during the school year to coach F.I.U.

“I love basketball,” Thomas said. “You know how kids say they love the game? I’m for real about it. I love it. These are the things that make me happy: I like to ride my bike. Every now and then, I go swimming. And I love basketball. Those are my three passions.”

Thomas spoke enthusiastically about his recruiting class at F.I.U. and about the challenges of coaching, nurturing and mentoring still-forming 19- and 20-year-olds.

At a time when he was being cast as the scourge of the Knicks, Thomas received his greatest endorsement, from the parent of a potential recruit. Doris Ward’s son is Josiah Turner, a guard from Sacramento rated among the top high school players in the Class of 2011.

A year ago, when Turner was generally being ignored, Thomas told anyone who would listen that Turner was a potential pro. Going into his senior year, Turner is being recruited by most of the nation’s top programs.

“Isiah saw Josiah before the rest of them jumped on board this year,” Ward said Sunday during a phone interview. “He never strayed either way. Whether Josiah played great or he had an off-day, he’s always said he’s going to be a great player.”

She added: “He saw stuff in Josiah that now everyone else sees it a year later, but he saw it a year earlier. I have to respect him for that because he’s never wavered.”

His critics have never wavered either.

There probably is no way to repair the damage done between Thomas and Knicks fans. The best chance floated away to South Beach the minute LeBron James decided to join the star-studded cast Pat Riley assembled in Miami.

There’s always the summer of 2011 and the chance that a certain special consultant could help the Knicks land their next superstar piece (Carmelo Anthony still hasn’t signed that contract extension in Denver).

That said, we won’t spend too much time daydreaming about some happy ending to this Thomas-Knicks story.

But it’s hard to shake the words of Doris Ward, the mother of the high school recruit.

There’s always another side to the story.

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All Good For Kobe

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Every second we wait for a decision from LeBron James is a small victory for Kobe Bryant.

Seriously.

The longer James waits to make a decision on where he will play the next five or six seasons of his career, the more time we have to admire Bryant and not only what he and the Los Angeles Lakers have accomplished and what might be in store as they chase a championship three-peat next season.

Folks will inevitably tire of this entire free agency drama starring James, Dwyane Wade and others. And when they do, someone will be sure to remind them that all these free agents are chasing Bryant. They are chasing the man with all the rings, the man who will show up to training camp with a team superior to whatever the free agent frenzy creates and the man who found his peace at home (LA has been his for his entire adult life) after contemplating the same sorts of stay-or-go dilemma that James and Wade are wrestling with right now.

William C. Rhoden of the New York Times illustrates that sentiment beautifully here:

Winning a title is hard, winning two is extremely difficult, three heroic. Winning four or more is close to miraculous.

Which is why the more I see of LeBron James, the more I like Kobe Bryant.

This has nothing to do with life outside basketball, just life on the court — life on the scoreboard. Right now, the scoreboard reads: Kobe Bryant 5 championships, LeBron James 0.

Last month in Johannesburg, Bryant was one of the invited guests at the first day of African Fashion Week. He relaxed in an informal viewing area and watched a World Cup match.

He talked briefly about his first trip to Africa. He mentioned the safari he had gone on a day earlier. He excitedly described how the truck he was in had come upon a clan of hyenas that had identified its prey.

What stood out for Bryant was how the hyenas were so focused on the task at hand that they didn’t even glance at the truck of spectators. That’s what impressed Bryant: the pack was locked in, singularly focused on that moment, on that prey. It was as if the truck did not exist.

In that instant, I realized the difference, at this particular time, between Bryant and James: Bryant is focused on championships — now No. 6 — and his legacy in being regarded as the greatest ever.

James, who is expected to make an announcement about his basketball future this week, is multifocused. He wants to be a billionaire, wants to be an icon like Muhammad Ali, and wants to win multiple championships.

We can debate the best player all day long, without either side making much progress in swaying the other.

But it’s clear that the longer it takes for this free agency drama to play out, the better it is for Kobe Bryant.

It’s all good for Bryant these days.

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