Gripe Session Shows Lack Of Maturity…Even From The Coaching Staff

By Gregory Moore
Updated: May 2, 2005

SAN ANTONIO – You know the NBA playoffs are here when players and coaches start looking for any excuse as to why their team is having a bad series. Usually that caterwaul of talk is coming from a squad that is getting an education that they didn’t expect. It has happened in Memphis, New Jersey and it is happening in the series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets. In the dozen years that I have covered this team, nothing really surprises me at the end of the game but the fact that I have heard more complaining and finger pointing by a bunch of professional athletes is a bit unnerving. What this readership should understand is that when you get to this stage of the season, there are two schools of thought. The first school philosophy is that of the ‘old school’ regimen. The second is of course the hip-hop school of doing things. When these two philosophical schools clash, undoubtedly there will be a ‘bitch’ session by somebody and nine times out of ten it is going the members of the latter school system not that of the former.

Look at the series of games we are witnessing as basketball fans and you can see my point in this editorial. Teams like Miami, Phoenix, San Antonio, Detroit and Indiana are doing what franchises who have veteran leadership do best; they take adversity head on and use it to fuel them to their next goal in the series. Most likely all of these teams have dealt with a little adversity during their series or are continuing to battle because of it. In the case of Miami, they are glad to be done with their series so that they can rest Shaquile O’Neal and prepare for a Washington/Chicago match up in eight days or so. For Phoenix it is the same thing. They have a few nicks and bruises but they can now prepare themselves ready for whomever they face. For Detroit it is all about trying close out their series against the Philadelphia 76ers and they have a fight on their hands. Indiana is looking to rebound from a blow out loss at home and right their ship quickly. For San Antonio, they are looking to put a dagger in the heart of a young team that cannot handle adversity well. These are all teams whose front office personnel and coaching staffs are seasoned veterans and on their roster they have veterans who are true leaders for their respective clubs.

When you look at the teams who are complaining, crying and what not, you can bring everything down to a common denominator; they are young teams. In San Antonio’s case the Nuggets are a very young team with Marcus Camby being the senior member of that squad. Yet having just one senior citizen on that team isn’t enough to quell the raw emotions that erupt from key players after losses. Kenyon Martin, a player who has been in the league at least five years now has always been a hothead and I can definitely remember him blowing up during the 2003 NBA Finals when he was a member of the New Jersey Nets. Tim Duncan was getting the best of him then and Duncan is doing that again, even with bad games. Then you look at Carmelo Anthony and what Bruce Bowen is doing to him and how frustrated Anthony is playing against Manu Ginobili. Both of these young stars are frustrated because they have no answers to the situation at hand.

It is easy to say that teams that are young in nature have problems but what of their coaching staffs? Why would a coach like George Karl, someone who has been in playoff wars for years or a player like Mike Fratello, a virtual legend it seems, have hard times dealing with their young talents? Maybe it is because of the very fact that I just mentioned; they are young. In Karl’s case I am rather disappointed that he would resort to blaming an opponent for why his team is not successful. Over this past weekend he all but blamed Manu Ginobili for the reason why his young star, Anthony, was having problems. He tried to blame Ginobili’s teammate, Bruce Bowen, for playing dirty basketball. He even tried to blame the referees for their lack of calling the game ‘clean’ as a reason why his team did not win their first playoff game on their home court. Is Karl taking on the mental make up of his young team? It would seem so. It would seem that way because true basketball aficionados would tell you that the reason why the Denver Nuggets lost on Saturday was because they did not execute down the stretch. Ironically it was the very reason why they were able to win the first game of this series. The Spurs didn’t execute and thusly the Nuggets were able to steal the first game. But to not place proper blame in the right context of this situation is something I did not expect Karl to do.

On the opposite end of that scale you have Fratello being fed up with a few of his players from the Memphis Grizzlies. One beat writer told me when the Spurs defeated them towards the end of the season that if the Grizzlies get swept out of the playoffs, they deserved every bit of it. I can understand that to some extent. The Grizzlies are very young and that is indeed a problem. They are very immature and that is saying a lot considering that one of their veteran ball players happens to be Bonzi Wells. However it is Wells and point guard Jason Williams that may have played heir last game as members of this team. Wells was told not to even show up at the arena for their last game of the season this past weekend and Williams decided to have essentially the same tantrum as a the five year old from Florida. Where one coach blames the opposing team for their problem, it is evident that Fratello and Grizzlies GM Jerry West are about to dismantle this team and make an example out of a couple of malcontents.

Gripe sessions aren’t anything new in sports and during this time, you can expect teams to complain a little about a lack of calls here or there. What is truly ironic is that you have more coaches complaining than usual and that is definitely a rarity these days. Everyone knows that the playoffs are a little different and maybe a war of words is what it takes to fire up key players of a team but for what Karl and a few other coaches has done this past week or so goes far beyond anything Anthony, Wells or Williams could ever dream up. It is one thing for players to cry to the press but for a coach to do so just shows the lack of maturity that his team has in handling adversity and ultimately that leads to that team not making it past the very round they are currently in. And if that premise holds true, that means that the Nuggets will be done in short order.