Friday, November 25, 2005

Style: Best hoops haircuts

We tend to take our hair for granted when we're young. We can do whatever we want with it. Grow it long. Shave it off. Shave some of it off. But aging takes its toll on our coiffability. Many of us start losing our hair. We go gray. Our fine, gleaming locks become bristly and stiff.

So while we still have some left, let's talk about the coolest hoops hairstyles. My favorite ever was on an asian kid I used to play with in Boston. His hair was cut marine-short all over, except for his bangs, which grew down to his chin. This wouldn't have been that remarkable except that he always rebounded one-handed, which made his bangs fly all over the place in a really neat way. I attempted this hairstyle myself for a while, but my head is too oval and I looked stupid. Plus, I rebound with two hands.

There was another white guy I knew who had a big curly afro. Again, no big deal, except that he always came to the gym in a full 1970s-style Lakers uniform, complete with short shorts and striped socks. This dude looked like he'd been time-warped straight from Walt Frazier's corporate basketball camp. He even played like he was from the 70s, with a straight up-and-down dribble and a two-handed quasi-set shot. And, he was awesome!

Setshotters: Share your favorite hairstyles here.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Tips: What would Jesus do?

The crazy kids of Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Maryland suggest another way of improving your vertical jump.

Click "more" for comments only.

Tips: The ultimate trick shot

Check out the "ultimate trick shot". Pretty tricky!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Equipment: Jeff's ankle brace review

My name is Jeff. I'm 31 years old. I look like I'm 16. I have the ankles of an 80-year-old.

My ankles have been brittle for as long as I can remember. I started rolling and spraining them as a teenager, and experienced a series of horrific injuries in my twenties. In 2003, I had a really bad one that put me on crutches for six weeks and kept me off the court for months. My doctor made me get an MRI. When we looked at it, he pointed out that one of the ligaments in my ankle had been completely torn away. My poor ligament won't ever grow back, and at some point, I will have to have surgery.

I had to start wearing ankle braces to play basketball about eight years ago. Over time, I've experimented with a few different styles and brands, and I will share my thoughts here.

1. Ace bandage. This is what the doctor/trainer wraps your ankle in immediately after a minor injury. It provides minimal support and will not prevent most ankle rolls. Don't try playing in this.

2. Standard neoprene ankle brace. If you have a very minor injury, this could do. However, for someone with ankles as bad as mine, this might as well be wax paper. When my ankles see one of these, they laugh and laugh.

3. Aircast. This is a serious piece of equipment, but it's not really for playing in. It's for walking around while your ankle is healing. If you try to play in one of these, your ankle will be protected from injury, but you will only be able to run at half speed, and turning will not really be an option. It should be called "The Mutombo."

4. Basic lace-up ankle brace. This is a good, affordable option. The brace has laces in the front, which can be tightened and loosened as needed, and there is usually some sort of lightweight wiring embedded in the side for additional support. It takes a while to get used to wearing this type of brace, but once you are accustomed to it, it feels like an old (but smelly) friend.
Lace-ups will prevent most injuries, but not all. My ligament-shredding ankleplosion happened in one of these.

5. Lace-up brace with inserts. This is one step up from the lace-up brace, and what I currently play in. I actually remove the inserts because they are uncomfortable, but these braces are still tougher than the standard lace-ups. I've never had a serious injury in one of these. McDavid and Tru Fit are good brands.

Setshotters: Share your experiences with ankle support here. Also feel free to contribute reviews of knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist and face supports. We'll start another thread for "best steroids," so hold off on that for now.

Monday, November 14, 2005

NBA: Paul Shirley on retirement

Former NBA benchwarmer Paul Shirley writes a fantastic blog about the life of an ordinary NBA basketball player. He is articulate, funny and honest. Today's entry is particularly relevant to Setshot, as it's about the prospect of retirement. He says that he idolizes Mark Pope, who retired this year without apparent regret, and plans to enter medical school.

Shirley got some attention last year with his "Road Ramblings" blog -- in which he wrote about being bored in practice, being bored on the bench, being bored on the road, and liking girls a lot. He tagged himself as an "embedded journalist," and was recently rewarded with a book deal from Random House.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Players: A 52-year-old college basketball player!

Here's a recent story from the Detroit Free Press to inspire us all. Maybe this guy can be Setshot's official spokesman.

Aging rookie gives college players run for their money

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) -- Gogebic Community College basketball players have a new incentive not to break team rules or skip practices: They might get benched in favor of a 52-year-old man.

Russ Maki, who is studying criminal justice at the Western Upper Peninsula school, has earned a spot on the roster as a walk-on.

"It's been a great experience, bonding with these younger guys," Maki told the Daily Globe for a story this week. He made a brief appearance in the Samsons' opening game Tuesday night but didn't score.

A long-ago member of the Wakefield High School squad, Maki played last year on a city league team with the Gogebic assistant coach, who encouraged him to try out. The head coach, Deke Routheaux, gave the OK.

"I was a little surprised he was willing to do this," Routheaux said Wednesday, adding that Maki was in "great shape."

There was one problem: Maki, who runs an insurance company, didn't attend Gogebic. So he enrolled as a full-time criminal justice major.

"Well, if the insurance business goes bad, I guess I can be a cop," he joked.

After working out with the team for a week, he decided he could keep up with the other guys and stuck with it, scoring nine points in a recent scrimmage.

Maki's life is hectic nowadays. Classes start at 8 a.m. He works at the insurance agency from noon until basketball practice, which ends at 5 p.m. Then he does homework and lifts weights for an hour.

He also squeezes in time for his wife and two daughters.

"It'd be nice to have 36 hours a day," he said.

Routheaux is noncommittal about playing time for Maki, but says he's a valuable addition to the team.

"He's an inspiration for the other players to work hard and be on time," Routheaux said. "They respect what he's doing and he fits in well with these guys, doing the little things right, playing hard. If he can get up at 6:30 in the morning, they shouldn't whine about it."

Maki said he shows up 30 to 45 minutes early for practice and tries to hustle during all the drills.

"I do it to show I can do it, and it seems like the players kind of follow suit," he said.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Psychology: Who do you think you are?

With the NBA season underway, I thought that it would be a good time to raise a topic that Cary had recently suggested. The question is: Do you ever imagine yourself as a pro basketball player, and if so, who do you imagine yourself as?

Nowadays, I don't really ever imagine myself as anyone else, but I often imagine that I am a better version of myself. The weather has been getting "bad" here in Berk
eley of late, so there have been quite a few nights of lonely foul shooting at Ohlone Park. The imagination runs wild. Jeff can dunk! Jeff is breaking ankles! Jeff pins that weak shit against the glass!

When I was a teenager, there were two pro basketball players that I liked to think of myself as. The first was John Stockton. Being small, I had to learn to play PG, and soon fell in love with passing. Stockton was an obvious role model at that time. NBA highlight shows would play reel after reel of "STOCKTON TO MALONE!" and I liked to think of myself finding all those tiny passing lanes and fooling all the big guys with my lookaways.

However, PG is not my natural position. My natural position is center. When I first started playing, I had no handle and no range, but I could jump really high and had good timing, so I got lots of rebounds and bloc
ked a ton of shots for someone my size. In pickup games, I'd go down low and pretend that I was Patrick Ewing. I remember seeing tape of that Georgetown game where Ewing goaltended all those shots and thinking that it was so cool, so intimidating, that blocking shots became my favorite thing in basketball. And believe me, when a little skinny asian kid blocks your shot, you're gonna hear about it.

I even taught my baby sister a bunch of big man trash talk. I'd take her to the park when I had to babysit, and she became a sort of mascot there. During shootarounds, I'd bring her onto the court and hold the ball in front of her. I taught her to slap the ball out of my hands and say "Get outta my house!" or simply "Ewing!" in her squeaky little voice. So cute. Actually, the cutest thing was when she would say "money" as she shot the ball, it went about two feet in the air, and rolled to the sideline.

Ok Setshotters, who are your NBA role models? Anyone who says Kobe Bryant gets a free trip to Guantanamo Bay.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tips: Best hoops reading

As we get older and less able to play, we have to find different ways to stay engaged with the game. I'm always looking for good basketball books, so I thought I'd start a thread where folks can post up their favorites. Here are some of mine.

1. My favorite basketball book ever is Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam, which is about Michael Jordan. Halberstam is a big-time historian, and he provides a fantastic level of detail. The running theme of Playing for Keeps is that the cause, and price, of Jordan's success was basically a pathological need to win. This is not news, but there are some great stories around this theme, like when Jordan cheats at a game of Old Maid with his college roommate and his roommate's grandma. ("Did you just cheat my grandma in Old Maid?") The sections about Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas are also really fun to read.

2. Another good one is The Last Shot by Darcy Frey. This one follows the Lincoln High (Coney Island) basketball team around in the early 1990s, and focuses on the twisted process of college recruiting. A bratty 14-year old Stephon Marbury makes some extended cameo appearances, the first of which has him rolling into Coney Island's famous "Garden" basketball court on a Big Wheel.

3. I also loved The Last Season by Phil Jackson, mostly for the Kobe-Shaq gossip. Jackson does his best to handle the Bryant sex scandal delicately, but in reading between the lines, it looks to me like Jackson's saying: "I think Kobe raped her."

4. I'm right in the middle of The Jump by Ian O'Connor -- the new one about Sebastian Telfair. Telfair gets treated pretty gently (this is the price of total access), but the high school/NCAA/NBA exploitation machine does not. Some good Marbury-bashing in this one as well. I find it riveting.

Ok Setshotters, share and review your favorite books here!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tips: How to shoot a set shot

We named this site "setshot" to reflect the repertoire of the player that's just too old and broken down to jump or drive the lane anymore. For me, the name also conjures up my dad and his old-fashioned moves. And that conjures up an era when the set shot dominated basketball. Jeff and I don't go back that far, of course, (we're aging, not old) but the game has changed in many ways since our childhood. So, to celebrate our diminishing abilities and our years of hoops love, I offer you a mini-clinic on the set shot.

In seventh grade, I felt honored when my coach chose me to read an article on the set shot by Pistol Pete Maravich and then teach my fellow players how to do it. I only realized later that this was his subtle way of correcting my unorthodox elbow-akimbo shooting style.
An inspiration to aging hoopsters, Maravich died on the court at age 40. After, a pick up game with Focus on the Family's James Dobson, he said, "Let's do this again, I feel great." He then collapsed and died of a heart attack.

Back to the set shot, first, don't shoot like the old-timer at the top of the page--his form looks terrible--he's shooting with both hands and leaning forward crazily as he takes the shot. Second, you could try the BEEF method. Jason Rogers suggests that the coach should have some beef on hand for the lesson "or something that looks like beef (a large picture of a cow would be a good prop!)". After showing the prop, the coach should initiate a discussion about beef. "Ask students if they think that "beef" has anything to do with basketball? Anything to do with shooting a set shot? (The answer should be "no")." The coach then asks the students to list all the elements of a good set shot on the bulletin board. The coach then singles out the four responses that spell BEEF--Balance, Eyes, Elbow, and Follow-through. If only my coach had brought some beef to the gym--my stomach wouldn't have grumbled so much during wind sprints and I'd hold the NBA three-point title--though three-pointers didn't exist back then.

Coaches Clipboard has a very good page on the set shot. I especially like the Form Shooting drill that they show in the video clip.
Start with shots directly in front of the basket, just a few feet away, to develop correct technique. Shooting further away does not allow the shooter to focus on this repeatable form. Do this drill for just 5 minutes every day. Even experienced good shooters who are going through a "shooting slump" find this drill helpful in restoring their shooting mechanics and confidence.

Finally, 81-year-old Ken Lindsay's excellent Guide to Coaching Basketball also has a good page on shots of all types (and many other things), including the two-handed set shot--"This shot is hardly used by modern-day players; however, Bob McDermott, the best shooter I ever saw used it with great success. Therefore, it is described here because I feel it is the most accurate shot from long range." McDermott, who played in the 1930s and 1940s with the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, could hit reliably from anywhere inside half court--a skill he used to spread the zone offenses of his time. The one-handed set shot and the running one-handed shot were invented around the same time by Hank Luisetti of Stanford and then the Phillips 66ers and St. Mary’s Pre-Flight of the AAU (the ubiquity of the set shot evidently prevented them from calling themselves "Air" anything). Luisetti was named the second best player of the first half century behind George Mikan.