Yesterday marked the first time that I've laced 'em up and played some real basketball in probably over a year. An old friend from college (and arch fantasy football enemy) put together a 32-man 4-on-4 full court basketball tournament at his home in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
Aside from having a lot of fun and avoiding the tornados, hail, and rain I learned a lot about where my game is at right now ... in the bottom of a truck-stop toilet.
All the things I watched the Nuggets do this past season and all the things I wished they would do on the court were completely lost on me. Here are the major areas that I need to work on in order to compete with some success in the second 4-on-4 full court tournament next month ...
- Dribbling. When you are out of touch with your game ... or at least when I am, I have about 0% confidence that I'll be able to drive the ball successfully around anyone. So, instead of taking on that challenge I just shot or passed the ball when I got it. (Minus the one pump fake and running floater I connected on ... it was a beautiful play ... at least in my head.)
Shooting. When I was a kid I had no shot to speak of. My range was basically the lower paint. I worked tirelessly as I got older to get some range and fell in love with the three-point shot ... to a fault. You can pretty much say I play like Linas Kleiza most of the time ... it's either going to be a three or a drive to the hoop (minus the dunking.)
I have continued to do some shooting around at the gym and such, but no game situation shooting. No hand in my face and no shooting on dead legs. Let's just say that my 0-3 shooting display from the outside would have been a lot better if I had drawn ANY rim on my attempts. I was so embarrassed by the release of my final three that I didn't even bother to see where the shot wound up. Priding yourself on being a shooter and then completely crapping the bed is a tough thing to swallow, especially in front of a bunch of your peers ... 31 of them to be exact.
Passing. I love to harp on the Nuggets to move the ball and yesterday my team did a pretty good job of finding the open man in our lone win of the day, but a slew of inaccurate passes that led to turnovers did my squad in. There probably wasn't a bigger turnover in our last loss than the one where I allowed my man to steal my pass and go basically uncontested down the floor for an open layup. I didn't notice any shovels around ... otherwise I would have dug myself a nice deep hole to crawl inside of.
I did show signs of regaining some of my passing ability on a few plays ... I also pride myself on being a distributor at times, but overall my court vision was definitely cloudy at best.
- Offensive Rebounding. The key in pickup games is knowing you are not going to see a lot of world-class shooting. I tried to hit the offensive glass as much as I could, but aside from my two extra possession grabs ... I was either unlucky or not doing a good job judging where the miss was going to come off the rim.
Conditioning. My biggest weakness of the day and probably the biggest weakness for everyone was conditioning or the lack thereof. Had an oxygen vendor been in the area yesterday he or she would have been able to put their kids through college on the amount of sales that would have taken place after games. The number one thing muttered between breaths yesterday? "I need to get in better shape for the next tournament."
Each game lasted on average about 20 minutes yesterday and they felt like an eternity at times. I found myself having to take a possession off here and there and even batted a ball purposefully out of bounds to get a few extra seconds to suck down as much suburb-air as possible. I could not imagine having to play an NBA game in my current state. I know I'd definitely be leaving the game in an ambulance if I were required to play 48 minutes. I don't think I'll be taking the term, "Play a full 48 minute game" for granted any time soon.
After watching so many basketball games this season it was great to finally get out and try my hand, once again, at the game I love. It's so easy to take the Nuggets for granted and demand they do things better on the court. After my pathetic display yesterday I know for sure I'll be more appreciative of the game that I love so much.
Even after sensing how much I stunk the joint up yesterday ... all I can think about today is getting back out there and correcting my miscues and improving. If I were an NBA player I'd be right in the prime of my career age wise ... guess I'd better step up because right now I'm not even good enough to get off the bench.