TEAM TUESDAY – I didn’t have to look at the game to know who was going to win. I just listened to it as it ran in my living room and I worked on a wall art project. I heard what the commentators were saying right through the post-game. Oklahoma City players were demonstrating poor body language, yelling at each other and basically doing anything to show their teammate that being a respectful teammate not as important as winning the game. There was little mental or emotional control. And of course, as soon as they lost the mental game, the physical game went along with it.
The difference is Steve Kerr, yet maybe he lucked out with some cool, secure cats being in control when he drove up to take over the team. Billy Donovan was as classy as he could be in the post-game, saying he hopes the team will learn from what went wrong. He also said that they received him well early in his coaching year one, which he appreciated. He basically said that as new guy on the block, easing in was more important than finding a diplomatic way to tell grown men to stop acting like selfish, spoiled brats for the whole word to see. There’s no way that this was all new to him this far into the season. And the lack of respect for teammates and team building as a priority was exactly why The Thunder lost and deserved to lose even with all their talent. You don’t act like that and get away with it when it counts. You don’t coach like that – afraid to hurt people’s feelings – and get away with it for too long. So why does Kerr make it look so easy?
Let’s start by saying yes, he looks like boy next door. Yet he is the quintessential underdog and overachiever. It’s because he worked so hard and did not back down, not even to Michael Jordan, who apparently punched him in the face in practice. He knew the size of Jordan’s ego, and the power trips he pulled behind the scenes. Yet Kerr also knew his place and he knew better than to cross the line when and where it should not be crossed. I doubt he ever showed any negative body language in games toward Jordan even after the reported fight in practice. A good team acts like a good couple. A great team acts like a great couple. The best couples I’ve seen go out of their way to show extraordinary restraint in public when things are not going well. They do not embarrass each other. They do not blame each other. If they’re going to disagree or let emotions fly, they do everything they can to hit the pause button, put on the happy face, and deal with the disagreements, pressure and stress that everyone is under – in private. But I think there was something greater than this act of being a good teammate because honestly it stems from good parenting, by picking the right guys, by knowing better.
I think the Warriors do what Steph said in the post-game. “We are just going to have fun.” I also think that Steph has mentally trained himself even when the world is expecting him to be a magician on every play that he must fall back on mental training habits. And the crazy part is that either some powerful behind-the-scenes person is instilling basic mental habits in all of them as part of their contract or they’re simply rubbing off on each other. What are they doing out there? Watch the mental, physical and emotional habits of Curry and Thompson. Watch how you can see them not get too low, not get too high. They stay where they need to be to perform. They keep repeating the easiest phrases you can teach to a kid who’s just learning the game and how to manage all its moving parts.
When he or she makes a mistake, he or she says, “Next play.”
When he or she struggles and fills with self-doubt or fear, he or she says, “I’ve got this.”
If the player then gets too inward with the belief that they’re not doing enough or they’re messing up the team, they try this trick: “We’ve got this.”
Take the pressure off the individual. Distribute the weight and belief as a team. I kept thinking The Thunder cannot win this game not with so many kids and adults watching. If they get away with acting like a bunch of immature high school kids with no physical, mental or emotional discipline, then all coaches, teams, parents and kids are in trouble.
I’m happy that Klay Thompson let his actions speak in game 6 and say that he is a professional and a master of all aspects of his craft. I saw him come out early, tight on his first few shots. But he dug deeper, stayed focused and never turned his frustration at anyone. Curry felt that weight holding him down for most of the game, but he was a sideshow as Thompson caught on fire, which bought Curry time to get his game back on. Between every big shot, Thompson did what looks like a routine where he claps fairly hard and intensely at the defense or maybe just for himself, almost as if he’s saying to himself: “I’ve got this. We’ve got this.”
While the anxious Thunder players were too busy arguing about “this,” the Splash brothers, their supporting cast and rock solid coach were staying calm, and believing in the habits of trust, discipline, faith and teamwork.
Maureen Holohan is a former college player who now runs momotion.com in New York City.