I just finished reading “:07 Seconds Or Less,”the story of the 2005-’06 Phoenix Suns written by famed basketball scribe Jack McCallum and remain intrigued by two intrinsic passages from the latter pages of the book.
No. 1: With the Suns down 3-2 to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals that year, the Suns’ coaches, led by Mike D’Antoni, take time to discuss next season during the day off between Games 5 and 6.
“Discussions of next season, subconscious or not, have started to dominate the conversation in the morning meetings. How could they not? Analyzing weaknesses that have been exposed during the Dallas series inevitably lead to discussions about how to solve those weaknesses.”
Throughout the book, McCallum does an excellent job of detailing the mundane parts of an NBA season, the day-after-day practice, meetings and travel. I’m astonished, though, that the coaches, looking straight down the barrel at the biggest game of their collective coaching lives, could find time to talk about NEXT SEASON. Seems counter-productive, in a sense. Their season isn’t over and yet they don’t seem troubled by talking as if it were. In fact, they almost seem to look past the game in doing so. It becomes little wonder as to why they then lost their next game.
No 2: With the Suns’ season having ended in Game 6 against the Mavericks, players meet with D’Antoni and the coaches one final time before saying farewell for the summer. The meetings, though, become secondary as talk of splitting playoff shares (the extra money teams earn for playing ‘X’ number of playoff games) permeates the locker room.
“The exit meetings are designed to be air-clearing sessions during which the player is supposed to present gripes, and the coach and personnel men are supposed to give an honest evaluation of where the player does or does not fit in next year’s plans. After the exit meetings are over, the players will meet in private to divvy up the playoff shares. It’s a fitting symbolic end to the season: It’s all about the Benjamins.”
Where is the soul of this team? Or, I suppose, any professional team? Sure, pro athletes are paid pro dollars for their pro time. But where’s the sense of disappointment at actually having lost? McCallum quotes only one Suns player, Shawn Marion, as having any sour feelings that his season has ended. Marion, the lone Suns’ player portrayed as a malcontent, is the one who is sad the season’s over? While the others are consumed by how much extra cash they earned by playing an extra month. Marion’s pity party aside, it’s amazing how quickly the mood changed in the Suns’ locker room. How quickly the team went from losers to winners. And every player couldn’t be happier than to receive his share of the losers’ loot.
The two passages underscore the professional callousness of those within the game, a theme I did not expect to encounter when first opening McCallum’s novel. What I thought would be a behind-the-scenes expose’ of how the Suns actually approach offense in professional basketball turned out to be a behind-the-scenes expose’ of how offensive the Suns approach to professional basketball actually was.