Thursday, July 9th, 2009 at 4:15 pm  |  82 responses

Links: Ricky Wuz Here?

Plus, we need your help…

by Lang Whitaker

Because the Ricky Rubio thing in Minnesota won’t go away, a few things about that situation to start today…

In new L-Wolves GM David Kahn’s interview with Henry Abbott earlier this week, Henry mentioned something about the Rubios not going out to visit Minnesota since the Draft, and Kahn responded, “You presume he hasn’t been here to visit.” Then he started talking about something else.

Why did he answer this way? He didn’t say Ricky had not been there, but at the same time he didn’t do anything to try and reassure the fans by saying that Ricky had in fact been to Minnesota for a visit and meeting. I know it was mentioned last week that Rubio might be visiting the Twin Cities, and then Kahn skated around it.

But from what I was told this morning, the Rubio family did visit Minnesota and met with the team last week.

(I reached out to the Wolves this morning and asked if this was correct. I was told: “No comment.”)

I’m not sure why all the cloak and dagger stuff from the Wolves. Someone I spoke with the other day assured me that Kahn understands a lot more than he’s letting on, that he’s just trying to underplay everything right now. Maybe so. But I still feel a big part of a GM’s job, especially in a market where your team hasn’t won in forever, is to keep the fans at the very least feeling engaged in what your team is doing. And I don’t get the sense that Kahn is doing that.

(BTW, when googling Rubio/Minnesota stuff this morning, I stumbled across an ideal place for the Rubios to hang out should Ricky end up playing in Minnesota.)

Also regarding Señor Kahn…I was IMing with an NBA person the other day who didn’t agree with my criticism of Kahn for drafting Ricky despite knowing he didn’t want to play there. If Kahn had not taken Ricky with the 5th and 6th pick, this person said, he’d be getting killed for passing on maybe the best player in the Draft, twice.

Perhaps. Although four other GMs passed on Ricky also. To me, you don’t pick players based on what you want people to think about you. That’s what you worry about after you put your team together. You pick players based on who can help your team. And while Ricky could definitely help the L-Wolves, he can’t help them unless he wants to play for them. And from everything I’ve read, he kind of made it clear he didn’t have any interest in playing for the team.

OK, that’s it. No more L-Wolves stuff. Been writing about them so much this week I feel like Myles.

• On Twitter the other day I received two DMs from my guy Geoff, who asked the following…

Besides watching games, reading news…any other good resources/books, etc. I can consult to be a more educated basketball fan? Basketball seems as abstract as soccer, but there are a lot of things about the game I just don’t know still. One of most neglected sports.

Great question, and one that I didn’t think I could respond to in 140 characters or less.

There are a lot of really, really good basketball books and films out there. I could probably recommend a dozen of each off the top of my head, but I want to keep it simple, at least my part of this. And I know we can name a lot of movies (“Eddie!”) and books, but I want to just suggest the best.

For movies, you have to see “Hoop Dreams,” if you haven’t already. I watched it again recently on cable, and even now, when we’re used to behind-the-scenes footage of stuff, it’s a very, almost uncomfortably real look at what it’s like to be a young kid in love with basketball. You also have to see “Hoosiers,” and “White Men Can’t Jump,” while you’re at it.

(BTW, for what it’s worth, my favorite sports book of all time is a soccer book, Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch.” If you’re a die-hard fan of a team, in any sport, you have to read it.)

The thing about books is that they tend to serve as a snapshot of a moment in time. Everyone hails David Halberstam’s “The Breaks of the Game,” which I finally got around to reading last week on vacation and enjoyed. It paints a vivid picture of the NBA in the 1970s, back when I didn’t even know what an NBA was, but the NBA has changed massively since the book came out. For a more recent NBA book, check out Jack McCallum’s “Seven Seconds or Less,” about his season with the coaching staff of the Phoenix Suns, which I also really enjoyed.

For my money, the best basketball book I’ve ever read is John Feinstein’s “A Season on the Brink.” The book came out in 1989, and I think I got a copy for re-upping my subscription to Sports Illustrated. Feinstein spent the 1985-86 college basketball season shadowing Bobby Knight, who gave him complete access, even into the meetings with the coaching staff, etc. It was also a little jarring to read, at least for me, a book filled with curse words, something I wasn’t used to seeing in my local paper. It made such an impression on me that I still recall a lot of the stories and anecdotes. (The part where Keith Smart shows up to practice in a Puerto Rico t-shirt is priceless.)

One other book that I loved back in the day and had an effect on my knowledge of basketball was “Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the NBA,” which was co-written by two of the NBA’s greatest writers, Bob Ryan and Terry Pluto. (It’s on Amazon here, though it’s only available used.)

I bought this book at a used book store in Atlanta in the early ’90s, not long after it came out. I’m not sure why, other than I was a burgeoning hoops fan and it must have been pretty cheap, seeing as how I had no cash back then. But I still remember it well. The book is about one game in 1987 between the Celtics and Cavs, and it’s told through interviews with everyone involved with the game, from the players to the coaches, etc. There’s a lot of lead up into the game, but the game action itself is broken down play-by-play, with each possession getting its own diagram of the play and then interviews with all the guys involved in the play, explaining why they did whatever they did. That book taught me a lot about the strategy of basketball, about setting guys up on one play to take advantage of them on the next play.

Here’s where I’m looking for help: What’s your favorite basketball book/movie? What would you recommend to someone looking to learn more about the game.

  • Add a Comment
  • Share
  • RSS

Tags: , , ,

  • dma

    favorite of all time is hoop dreams. i like “loose balls” by jayson williams for the charles barkely references and how crazy they were.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    “How Soccer Explains the World” by Franklin Foer is the best book I ever had to read for a poli sci class. You ever seen that?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Oh, and IMO, baseball books tend to take the cake when it comes to sports’ books. Men at work by George Will was the gr8st.

  • dma

    oh and i forgot Friday night Lights the book. very good look on race in football/texas

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Tzvi: I’ve read it, if that’s what you mean. It’s sitting here next to my desk. Look up.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    C’mon, basketball people…stay on topic…

  • http://www.joelkimmel.com Joel Kimmel

    I loved Pat Conroy’s “My Losing Season.”

    Michael Leahy’s “When Nothing Else Matters” is the most unbiased book about Michael Jordan I’ve ever read. It says things about MJ that a Jordan fan probably doesn’t want to hear.

    Also, “The White Boy Shuffle” by Paul Beatty is awesome. Not exclusively about hoops, but really good.

  • http://www.teleprompter.com anchorman

    i really enjoyed ‘the jordan rules’, as it was a peek behind the curtain called the jordan show. it also revealed some of jordans (alleged) traits, which taught me how to be a leader both on and off the court.

    honorable mention goes to ‘basketballs best kept secret’, featuring dana barros, cedric ceballos, dennis scott and a young jason (back when he was still ason) kidd!

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    Kobe Doin’ Work.

  • Geoff

    Bill Simmons has “The Book of Basketball” which I’d cop immediately, if it was out…not dropping til the start of the new NBA season, unfortunately.

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    But seriously folks, The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Alamanac is mainly for big-time NBA fans, but it could shed light for the casual fan about how some of the game is seen by fans of individual players. It’s more about the style and psyches of certain players, rather than team strategies. It’s also beautifully illustrated.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Joel, I’ve had that Conroy book for years but haven’t gotten around to it.

  • http://thepoetryproject.wordpress.com/ Nick

    I recommend the OTHER “Loose Balls,” by Terry Pluto. It’s a history of the ABA — the NBA’s ugly step-brother (also the step-brother who brought you the 3-pointer and the slam-dunk contest). The history is 30 years old, but the material is still very relevant.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    OK, Peter May’s book on the 1986 Celtics was very good. His 2009 one was ehh.

  • Momma No Like Cold

    Lang, Rubio said he and his family visited Minne on 26 June + (enuf said). Don’t know why the hate, Lang? Those lions take a chunk outta u? Most writers and fans of other teams are entirely schizophrenic when it comes to Rubio and the Wolves. They don’t like that the Wolves drafted him, think he doesn’t like the Wolves, would like it if their team had drafted him, etc.

  • Geoff

    Jackie – that Macrophenomenal book looks dope. I may get that.

  • http://theghostofroyhobbs.blogspot.com Mo Charlo

    No “Heaven is a Playground”?

  • http://theghostofroyhobbs.blogspot.com Mo Charlo

    Also, on “Fever Pitch.” A book about Arsenal I can get behind. A book that spawned a Boston-fellating Jimmy Fallon movie? Fail.

  • Homie

    My Losing Season is a good read. Also recommend Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander.

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    Geoff – just so you know, it’s not really a “book” in the sense of the others listed here. There’s no narrative plot, the chapters are divided by types of players. There are a lot of charts, diagrams, and illustrations. But it’s still a neat book to read and look over, especially while you’re on the can, because you don’t have to remember where you left off, and you can pretty much start anywhere.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Mo: Yeah, the American movie of Fever Pitch was a fail. But there’s also an earlier UK movie adaptation of the book (and it’s about Arsenal) with Colin Firth that’s really good. I saw it on IFC a few months ago.

  • Michael

    has anyone ever read the earlier macallum book, where he hangs out with the celtics? i think its from around 1989, its damn hard to get a copy. i think its called unfinished business. Would love to hear if anyone had read it.

  • Geoff

    Jackie – I got that, but it looks like a visually dope book. Honestly, like…anything that has people talking the language with no regard for whether or not the reader knows what they are talking about is a plus for me. I do my own research. I’m still trying to figure out what the “low blocks” are, tho…and what the post is…I’ll learn someday.

  • http://www.joelkimmel.com Joel Kimmel

    Lang, the Conroy book was really good. Lots of stuff about running the point that was interesting.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    come on basketball people stay on topic

  • ntotheizzo

    Favorite basketball book… Fab Five by Mitch Albom, favorite basketball movie… He Got Game… “My name is Jesus, yeah, I am the man, yeah, what’s up with these questions, about my plan… J, J, Juh Jesus!”

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    I disagr…Sorry, bad habit. Co sign on Leahys book, Macro Almanac and White Boy Shuffle. I know Jones loved it too. I should probably give him his copy back…Wiley and Spikes Best Seat in the House wasnt bad either. And Lazenbys Mindgames on P Jax. Oh, and Oscar Robertsons Autobiography the Big O was great.

  • http://www.anwilson.blogspot.com/ rainman10

    Any of the books by Bill Russell. Especially his latest one “Red and Me”.

  • Joe

    I gotta recommend “Pistol” to everyone. Great book about the late Pete Maravich’s life from childhood til death.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Teams shouldn’t pick players who don’t want to play for them…
    Got it.
    Is this a rule for everybody, or just for Ricky Rubio?

  • Roberto

    Movies would be “Heaven is a Playground”, “Hoosiers”, and “Glory Road”.

    Books would be: “Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond” by Paul Shirley, “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Basketball Game That Changed American Sports” by Frank Fitzpatrick, and “I Love Being the Enemy” by Reggie Miller.

    Sorry, I’m from El Paso so I have to be a little biased..

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I thought “Pistol” had some interesting info, but wasn’t that interesting as a total book.
    It’s not a basketball book, but that book by the pitcher who used to cheat with spit and other stuff, I forget the name, was really good.

  • NicktheQuick

    Hands down my favorite book is “Second Wind” by Bill Russell and Taylor Branch. If you’ve seen Bill Russell on TV talking to KG, Dwight Howard or TD, and you appreciate his brilliant candor and the simpleness of his messages that sound very grandfatherly, then this is your book!

  • Gym Rat

    Co-sign w/ My losing season and of course Hoop Dreams. Here are some others…
    The Last Amateurs
    Above the Rim
    The Heart of the Game

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    Allenp : it should be a rule for everybody. I like heaven is a playground because it introduced me to bo kimble and he got game because of the behind the scenes look at the recruiting game. Above the rim cause kyle lee watson was the shiz.I think I even created him in nba live when I was like 12.I don’t read very much so that’s as far as I can take this discussion.

  • http://www.twitter.com/nichosmegasport andrew

    ’7 seconds or less’ is the best sports book I’ve ever read. The details and intricacies of the team stuff are really amazing, and McCallum writes in a really engaging manner. Antoher is Paul Shirley’s “Can I Keep My Jersey” – that’s a great read by a fairly literate sports person that as far as I know wasn’t ghost-written by a two bit journalist, and funny too.

  • http://www.joelkimmel.com Joel Kimmel

    Of the two recent Pistol Pete books I thought the “Maravich” titled book was a lot better. It seemed to tell more of the story, where the other book, “Pistol”, didn’t seem as complete.

  • http://www.youtube.com/tripledouble TripleDouble

    ‘Hoop Dreams’ gets me every time… Watch it a second time with the commentary… who would’ve thought, his knee wasn’t even hrting that bad… poor kid. I absolutely love that documentary, it’s incrdibly well done. You gotta reepect filmmakers who put in five years on piecing together one project…
    As for Rubio, Lang do you think Vancouver were stupid for drafting Francis? Or the Bucks with Yi?? I mean, if Ricky declares for the draft, dude should play the game and play for who he was drafted by shouldn’t he? The draft is full of crappy teams at the high spots, and he was always gonna be a high pick. I guess it’s complicated with him due to the buyout, but still, they knew all the variables before entering the draft. If he was a Clipper would it be ok because he’d be chillin in the LA sun (market)? I mean the Cippers are horrible. Surely, regardless of who picks you, it’s something you gotta roll with isn’t it?

  • BP

    The Inside Game by Wayne Embry.

    One of the best NBA books in my collection. A great historical perspective from a true man in the league.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Seriously: Semi-Pro. Ushers in the concept that the modern game is about ENTERTAINMENT….
    …lets get tropical.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Andrew Gaze co-authored a book about his career (which spanned everything from the heady Australian league, playing in Greece, the NBA and the olympics and an amazing NCAA run with Seton Hall) called ‘Perfect 10′. It’s a great read.

  • Double J

    HOOP DREAMS! book and movie…

  • http://www.garrettelliott.com Garrett

    “Sacred Hoops” by Phil Jackson is surprisingly good. And I’ve always really liked Bill Bradley’s “Life On The Run” because I wasn’t around in the 70′s to be a fan, and it gives some cool insight into the players, lifestyle, and important events during that era. For movies, you need to watch the re-released DVD compilation of Super Slams 1, 2, and 3.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Am surprised nobody mentioned Celtic Pride yet.

  • that dude

    “Through the Fire” was pretty good. It made me think wow “He Got Game” wasn’t an exaggeration at all.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    joel, youre tryin to be funny, but its a look at the insaneness of some fans and how they can take it too far, just like The Fan.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    @Tarzan: Yeah, you’re right. That was a good movie though. I’ve actually not read any basketball… books, none of those mentioned by the rest of you guys. I did read Dennis Rodman’s “Bad As I Wanna Be” though. I don’t know, I know it’s summer and everything, but reading a book about ball… really, really can’t beat watching and playing basketball. I mean, wanna get educated about basketball? Read Slam, watch NBA games and take everything homer announcers say with a grain of salt, and you’ll know what you need to know, I think.

  • Atrain

    Books: How about The Last Shot by Darcey Frey? Great story about early 90′s Lincoln High School in Brooklyn when Starbury was a frosh…altho he isn’t the main focus of the story. Heaven is a Playground is a must. I liked the Jordan Rules from Sam Smith, also enjoyed the MJ Bio by Halberstam – Playing for Keeps. Loose Balls (ABA) is phenomenal. The Punch by John Feinstein (in regards to Kermit Washinton slugging Rudy T) also good. Someone mentioned Fab Five agree on that as well.

    Movies – Hoops Dreams, Above the Rim, Hoosiers. He Got Game, Blue Chips, Soul in Hole very underrated documentary about Booger Smith

    Havent seen a great hoop movie in a while…

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    He got game, and heaven is a playground!!

  • http://nbainchina.com NBA China

    So the Clippers should have passed on Blake if he said that he doesn’t want to play in LA?

  • http://ballislife.com Moose

    The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac from FreeDarko is perfect for all frequent commenters on this site. I was cracking up the whole time.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Paul Shirley’s book was good. I also think Bill Simmons’ upcoming bball epic is looking pretty interesting. On that note, anything by Ryan Jones too.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    White Men Can’t Jump is my favourite basketball movie. And on the other hand, Semi Pro – which was utter trash – is something I would not recommend. Ever. Also… just ordered The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac. Been meaning to get it. This post reminded me.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    If you guys want fiction and basketball, check out Walter Dean Myers. I’ve been reading his books like “Hoops”, “Slam”, and “The Outside Shot” since I was in the fourth grade. He also wrote a lot about the inner-city. Great reads all around.

  • jath

    bad as i wanna be. jk jk. uhh.. david halberstam’s jordan bio was pretty good.. the book about stephon marbury that i can’t seem to remember the title of.. and phil jackson’s tell-all about the lakers.

  • jc

    Hoop Dreams, The Last Amateurs, Hoosiers.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    easy: sacred hoops by the Zen Master is one of the best b-ball books out there. Great insight into tactics, players and motivation. Loose balls and bad as i wanna be for comedic value. And the Jordan Rules (shocked the hell outta me when it came out. Movie? Here’s a hint: “we going sizzler, we going sizzzler’s”.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Todd Spehr

    Of Halberstam’s two NBA books, I actually preferred Playing For Keeps. Foul: The Connie Hawkins story is a chilling tale on why Hawk was blackballed from the NBA back in the 60s. McCallum’s Suns book was brilliant – and he did the same in 1991 with the Celtics and Bird called Unfinished Business. And Rick Barry’s Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy is typically candid.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Todd Spehr

    And Loose Balls by Pluto is great – documents the nine-year ABA.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Todd Spehr

    The Last Banner by Peter May is ANOTHER good one – it’s on the ’86 Celtics. The highlight was either Bird pranking one of his teammates by sending him to a gay bar, or having a stripper at their practice for Walton’s birthday. I can’t decide.

  • http://danchamb.com.br Lz – Cphfinest3

    Agree on Fab Five, The Jordan Rules. Actually haven’t read to many bball books – hmm big mistake I guess. Read one called ‘The Selling of the Green’ which is a look into the history of the Celtics, it got kind of boring in the long run but has some fun parts about all of Red’s schennanigans (spelling?), which is worth reading. Especially for bean-town fans I guess.

  • Mr.2012

    Like Mike and Space Jam

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    lol @ Mr. 2012.
    ‘Hoop Dreams’, ‘Heart of the Game’, ’7 Seconds or Less’, ‘The Last Season’, ‘One Last Shot’.
    There’s so many good texts and films out there though.

  • Krishan

    Am I the only guy here who enjoyed “White Men Can’t Jump” thoroughly?

  • Dusty

    Pete Carril’s “The Smart Take From The Strong”. Recommended reading for any coach.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    no Krishan, you most certainly are not.

  • DJ Pierrot

    Basketball movies when they want to be closed to reality suck.
    So my favorite is “Semi-pro” !
    About books : Sole Provider and “Pastis à L’OM” (soccer book).
    Fever Pitch UK movie is dope !

  • qp

    i enjoyed the fab five book very much, also ryan jones book on lebron james. as far as movies: heaven is a playground and above the rim, also the heart of the game was excellent, glory road, he got game, i know it wasn’t a great movie but does anyone remember sunset park, that was hilarious but it did have a great movie soundtrack.

  • JD

    I’m wondering how can you say Rubio has made it clear he doesn’t want to play for MN? The only thing I’ve heard him say from interviews is that he wouldn’t mind playing with another PG, his mom may prefer warm weather but he only cares about minutes, and the only thing keeping him is his buyout. It seems everyone saying otherwise is reaching their own conclusion but stating it as fact not opinion, unless there is something I’m missing.

  • JD

    A basketball movie I thought was great that never became too popular is Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault. I think it was an HBO movie about 12 years ago. Stars Don Cheadle and James Earl Jones. Kind of sad, one those don’t do drugs type of movies.

  • http://www.facebook.com mat smith

    Book – 7 seconds or less. Film – Blue Chips <—- not sure why, maybe cos Shaq makes me smile.

  • fragile

    Along with other books that have already been mentioned, I really enjoyed “Paddy on the Hardwood” by Rus Bradburd.

  • t2c.wah

    “Love me sexy” Pierrot!
    Fever Pitch is a classic book, period!
    Just read it y’all!
    B-ball flicks, what about:
    “Blue chip”
    “Coach Carter”
    “Magic sneakers” with Lil’ Bow wow!
    Damn seriously there’s another one about a girl that is in love with her neighbor, has a succesfull NCAA career & then becomes pro B-baller in Europe… Can’t remember the name!
    Help me y’all!

  • http://adfji.com Jukai

    Best basketball movie: Steel! That counts, right?

  • Erik

    Hoosiers. Favorite book is My Personal Best by John Wooden.

  • Orlando Woolridge

    It seems to me that if players in the draft are going to choose where they want to play, there is no point in having the draft lottery. Teams like the T-Wolves might as well just fold now because they would have no chance at becoming good enough to truly compete with the teams that everybody wants to play for. Play for who drafts you and STFU.

  • http://www.thebiglead.com AOCPR

    @ JD: Definitely one of the best.
    Rebound should be a staple for every basketball player and I’m not talking about the Martin Lawerence flick. Along with Cheadle and Earl Jones, it also stars Forest Whitaker as Mr. Rucker of Rucker Park.

  • Mike

    As for the “Kahn knows more than he’s letting on” bit, I think it is true.

    Since Rubio slipped to 5, it seems like it’s been Fegan’s strategy all along to make DKV Joventut think that Rubio is going to come back and play. Rubio’s camp has distanced itself from the Wolves and vice versa to give the impression that he actually may go back and play for DKV Joventut. The team would then lose out on all of his buyout, so its like a high-stakes bluff game. Having Kahn back Fegan up is a strategy that might not keep all fans in the know and completely happy regarding the Rubio situation, but it’s ultimately the best way to get his buyout reduced and get him in the NBA this season.

  • Ken

    I enjoyed “Through the Fire,” but “Hoop Dreams” was more powerful for me, since the kids were talented but still fell in the 99.9% of the population that don’t make it to the NBA, much less become lottery picks.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    MASSIVE co-sign on Hoops by Walter Dean Myers. I read that when I was little kid and it was EASILY one of the most interesting fictional sports stories I’ve ever consumed. Just the thoughts about how the black kid and white kid approached the game, plus the race stuff, man it was nasty.
    The scene where the coach made the black kid play 2 vs. 1 against the white players, and then had to cheat the black kid to stop him from beating them was classic.
    I also enjoyed Second Wind, which was an interesting look at the dynamics of the league. I’ve read a lot of basketball books, but Id on’t remember all the titles.

  • http://www.alloutblitz.com Cordeazy

    Hoosiers!!!!!! best forgivably racist movie ever.

  • DJ Pierrot

    If you like motorsport and formula 1 : “Australian Grand Prix” is hot !

    … Joey Silveira is the best !