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Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns I loved that this book didn t follow a dynasty or even a championship team these Suns were hobbled by injury andego and didn t even make the NBA Finals, which makes the read a bit interesting McCallum has access likeno other writer i ve ever read as he basically becomes a trusted member of the staff, which allows for some verypersonal looks and conversations The book shines a favorable light on Coach D Antoni, which is someone I wasnever sure about, prior to the book It changed a lot of perceptions I had, be it good or bad, about certain members of this team.The word count McCallum uses trying to explain the inner workings of a pro athlete, especially a fringe athlete, issome of the best writing realizing these guys are scared of injury, of better players, of rookies, of coaching changes.It s fascinating stuff, reading the inner politics of a team trying to win, as opposed to the common reflectionby a winning team on what it was like to dig deep and win.Excellent basketball writing i d consider it in the same class as Season on the Brink in terms of it s access and the connection you begin to feel with certain members of the team and staff A Must read for any above average basketball person. Charles Barkley is a punk.Shawn Marion is a head case.Amare Stoudamire has huge issues. My favorite type of hoops book involves a writer writing about a team for a year If the writer is on the inside, it is even better.McCallum s rep as a NBA writer was established a long time ago in Sport s Illustrated This book started out as an article for S.I, then turned into a book McCallum was allowed into coaches meetings and allowed to travel with the team.The cast of characters is intriguing There is 2 time MVP Steve Nash, 6th man of year Boris Diaw, insecure superstar Snawn Marion, defensive ace Raja Bell, and injured superstar Amare Stoudermire, among others The coaches are the stars head coach Mike D antoni architect of the fast paced Phoenix offense that stresses putting up the shot within 7 seconds , his brother Dan, defensive coach Marc Iavaroni, well traveled Alvin Gentry, and the ever optimistic Phil Weber There planning, strategy sessions, personalities, and interactions shine through.Every game and almost every day of the playoffs are covered A few regular season games are mentioned The weaknesses of the book are that so little of the regular season is covered numerous stories and insights were lost and the players histories could have been covered in detail The first may have been because the author did not travel with the team all season perhaps because he was writing other articles for S.I The last was because the book was focused on the coaches This is unfortunate, since the NBA is a player s league That is why Stauth s book The Franchise is still my standard.However, the view from the coaches is unique and very well detailed. A well done season with a team book The Phoenix Suns of nearly a decade ago were entertaining but seemed snake bit when it came to the playoffs It was nice to remember how good Steve Nash was though his body was a bit creaky even back then. After being obsessed with the NBA as a teenager, 07 Seconds or Less was given to me one Christmas as a gift and yet shamefully it remained unread for many years, probably a decade or so in all actuality However as part of my pledge to read all my books before purchasing any, I found myself finally selecting it to be read in February 2019, and I m glad I did A great insight into the workings of an NBA franchise is given first hand by author Jack McCallum as he was granted unlimited access to the players coaches during the 2005 2006 NBA season, a time in which Phoenix were the most exciting team in the league and among the best in terms of competitiveness with 2 time MVP Steve Nash, The Matrix Shawn Marion and rim rattler Amare Stoudemire on the roster, and run n gun coach Mike D Antoni at the helm The book mainly focuses on the playoffs but some chapters relate to earlier points games in the season and training camps Without giving away too many spoilers, its interesting to read the dynamic that surrounds a team suffering with multiple injury issues and mentally draining consecutive 7 game series against the two LA teams The players come across as human, regardless of their wealth fame It is also refreshing to be able to read firsthand about the work ethic of star such as Nash and Raja Bell it just goes to show that the top athletes aren t at the top for nothing, their dedication work ethic are the foundation for everything they achieve In short, fascinating insight, easy to digest, funny, sad, interesting informative Recommended for all sports fans regardless if they are passionate NBA fans or not. Jack McCallum continues to be one of my favourite sports writers Regardless of the subject, including this ultimately disappointing year for the Phoenix Suns, you understand that the characters make the NBA so entertaining The author always knows how to portray the characters involved with tremendous detail especially telling the stories of their careers This book is less entertaining than Dream Team but the author s work is an incisive look into everyone from the superstars to the end of the bench players More crucially for those who are not involved in the NBA, we learn about the immense workload of a coaching staff Early on it is noted that the perception that basketball is an undisciplined game is further from the truth it is often overcoached The book was at is strongest when it is in those coaching rooms preparing gameplans and telling stories It was also a joy to learn about Shawn Marion s complex relationship with fame and status, Dan D Antoni and the blur, and everything involving the world s most interesting man, Boris Diaw.I only disliked the author s takes on Amar e Stoudmaire since they seemed of the traditional critiques of many basketball players gifted but stupid This could be true, but it was treated without some of the richness that McCallum treats everyone else, well except maybe Kobe Bryant I appreciated the author s honesty about the now universally derided dress code that it was somewhat racist but he prefered when players like Iverson did not dress the way they did I disagree but it was at least a frank accounting of a contentious issue at the time. As a fan I must give both this book and the 2005 2006 Phoenix Suns season, 5 stars That postseason I had gone to several home games of the Suns and most watched the rest live on TV Apologies to my family who at the time had to witness my frustration with the team and the refs during some tough loses and probably wins as well I ve toned it down a bit recently, but strong emotions still arise when I watch basketball I remember driving home from a concert with some friends on the night of Game 6 against the Lakers The radio was on in the car and I remember the moment where Tim Thomas hits the overtime 3 pointer to keep the suns alive and push a game seven back in Phoenix I can t recall specifically which game I went to in person, but I am pretty sure I went to game 5 or 7 of the Clippers there in Phoenix or maybe both We had dinner at a restaurant in downtown Phoenix before the game The wait staff was so happy that the Suns season had extended a series again As it was good for business We were happy about the Suns success as well, but for a different reason With such a connection to that postseason it was comforting to relive the moments from each playoff series This while peeking behind the scenes into the locker room, the closed doors meetings and strategies of the Phoenix Suns I give a tip of the hat to Jack McCallum for spending his time on the road and back at America West Arena for an entire season and postseason There is no critique of the book s writing itself If you are a Suns fan or basketball fan go read it Go Suns This was my first experience of participatory journalism, and I enjoyed it very much from start to beginning McCallum writes the book in a personal and engaging way, without the tales becoming too much about him At the beginning of the book he apologises for his of I during stories, though these are not noticeable while reading.As for the team itself, well, there are plenty of characters to talk about Steve Nash is one of my favourite players, Eddie House provides some comic relief, and Diaw, Barbosa and Marion are interesting, though complex, players to understand Even the coaches are good personalities to follow in particular, the relationship between the D Antoni brothers provides an insight to working with family in sport Amar e Stoudemrie doesn t get a lot of pages written about him due to his season long injury, though his stories are a welcome interjection when they appear.The only reason it doesn t get five stars from me is the sometimes slow pace, quite unlike the Suns style of play I feel there were tales from the regular season to tell Nash and Marion s appearances at the All Star Game, Diaw s acceptance of the Most Improved Player award Minor quibbles though in an otherwise riveting read.After this, I would definitely read another book involving participatory journalism, and if McCallum s name is on the front it would be a bonus. Participatory journalism will always get me going, whether it s George Plimpton playing quarterback for the Lions or AJ Jacobs reading the encyclopedia I was excited, then, to read that Jack McCallum conceived of his project as one of participatory journalism Unfortunately, McCallum appears to have either not read or completely missed the point of Plimpton s great work in this field, because this book is not participatory in the least It s just a book about the Suns for which McCallum was given access than a journalist usually gets.After that initial disappointment, though, I was ready for a good yarn team, supposed to be on the verge of greatness, loses Amare Stoudemire but makes use of new additions Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to make a run through the regular season and then into the Western Conference finals before finally falling to Dallas No such yarn emerged To say that there s a narrative here would stretch the meaning of the word It s a collection of anecdotes loosely tacked on to the playoff run, with timeouts so that McCallum can have flashbacks to anecdotes from the regular season that he thinks are appropriate at the time This could have worked, but it didn t The timeouts didn t really add flesh to the playoff story so much as provide secondary anecdotes marginally related to the ones he d told in the chapter before.Now that I ve lowered the expectations from masterwork of participatory journalism down to collection of anecdotes about an interesting team , did the book work as the latter Kind of I don t think I have a lot insight into Steve Nash or Mike D Antoni, the two leaders of the Suns revolution I didn t get anything new about Tim Thomas or the down bench guys Pat Burke, for instance.But it s not all bad The role of the assistant coaches is illuminated effectively, as McCallum shows how each coach takes on a particular persona and has very specific responsibilities on the team, with some of them acting as the personal coach of particular players who the coaching staff thought needed individualized attention Amare Stoudemire s slow comeback from knee surgery is revealed to be at least in part due to his lack of desire to do the work necessary to come back Although there is one infuriating moment when Stoudemire hurts his other knee and attributes it to overcompensating McCallum dismisses this out of hand as a predictable layman s theory , which is absurd Injury cascades due to changed mechanics from compensating for the pain or inability to move an injured joint the same way are well known Dismissing Amare s theory out of hand in this way may have been correct in this case the doctors said the two injuries were unrelated , but to dismiss the entire idea is silly More on silly comments later The most fascinating character in the book ends up being Shawn Marion, the guy who thinks the coaches dump on him harder than anyone else, the guy about whom the coaches admit they might dump on him harder, the guy who can dominate a game or completely coast through it, the guy who wants desperately the attention and adoration given to Nash and D Antoni Bill Simmons took potshots at Marion for years, but having read the book, I m not sure they were entirely warranted Marion s complex than he wants his own team and it s unfair to characterize him with simple aphorisms.Boris Diaw, meanwhile, has become my new hero because he is apparently the consummate Frenchman diet, clothes, attitude The best line someone breaks wind and Diaw responds, Someone has died but does not yet know it Is that not brilliant coming out of a 6 9 basketball player It is.Ok, now to my actual biggest complaint about the book McCallum s horrible homerism I understand that as you get close to a team, you start to root for them You get to like the players and the coaches, you re watching all their games, it s only natural But as a professional journalist, as someone who, as a Sports Illustrated writer, is supposedly at the top of his profession, I d expect McCallum to be able to separate his personal feelings from his professional feelings a little bit better than this The most egregious examples are when McCallum simply takes what a coach or player has presumably told him and repeats it as fact, not D Antoni says X but simply X A brief catalog of infuriating instances 1 On pg 142, Kwame Brown is quoted saying that the Suns are not a fundamental team They just go out and they just run a bunch of screen and rolls and have such good shooters McCallum launches a mighty defense of the Suns In Brown s world, fundamental equates not to movement and spontaneity but to isolation plays and set offense No, Jack, that s not what Kwame said at all He said that Phoenix doesn t run an offense, they just run around, set a few screens, and hope one of their shooters gets an open look Kwame, as a guy who was trying to learn the triangle, understood very well that basketball was not about isolation plays the triangle is very motion oriented, with backdoor cuts and interior passing being staples of the Lakers repertoire There s a reason that the Lakers, as an inferior team, almost won the series with the Suns they were able to slow the game down and the Suns had no real answer in the half court set because they don t have an offense to fall back on How many times did the Suns offense actually devolve to isolation, with Nash or Barbosa breaking their man down McCallum bought into the revolution a little bit too hard.2 On pg 151, McCallum refers to the Lakers walking off the court without shaking hands as poor sportsmanship He notes that the Pistons did the same thing to the Bulls in 1991, but at least the Pistons, who had won the previous two championships, were somebody First, it s entirely unclear to me how that last thought is relevant If you re somebody whatever that means , you can get away with not shaking hands But not if you re a struggling seventh or eighth seed Second of all, poor sportsmanship Raja Bell had clotheslined Kobe Bryant earlier in the series Not even in the context of a play Bell literally put the cheapest shot I ve ever seen in my years as an NBA fan on Kobe, and the Lakers were supposed to shrug that off and shakes hands etc Fuck that.3 Avery Johnson notwithstanding, there is something irritating about the Mavericks He goes on to cite Jason Terry and Mark Cuban Does Jason Terry really irritate anyone who s not a Suns fan And come on, if you can t acknowledge that Mark Cuban is irritating precisely because he wants to be irritating, because he wants to be like the small town mayor who bets a turkey against the other small town mayor on the high school football game, then you need to take a step back.4 Probably the most egregious and utterly irresponsible moment comes when he lauds Raja Bell s takedown of Bryant as a big moment for Bell Not in a neutral way does he say this, but in a positive way, as one of his three big moments in the playoffs, the other two being a game tying three pointer and his Willis Reed moment against the Mavs I really couldn t believe when I read it that McCallum would applaud Bell s ugly thuggish move like this.5 On page 289, he refers to the Dallas PA announcer as obnoxious I don t know what planet McCallum is on where every PA announcer in the NBA isn t obnoxious To call out Dallas s isn t really justified.Those aside, there was one place where he just said something dumb that I feel obligated to point out On pg 101 02, he writes H ome teams generally get favorable calls than visiting teams O verall, a home team gets the majority of close ones But does he back this point up in any way I don t expect him to break his chapter down and start an empirical study, but come on, a footnote maybe This kind of unattributed nonsense without any pretense of proving it s true is the worst of the journalistic world.One thing McCallum gets right If the dress code is not inherently racist, it is certainly racialI like that he took two paragraphs to basically just give his thoughts on the dress code, and I like that he got it right.Finally, one other bit Raja Bell s mom actually talked trash to Kobe after the series was over pg 153 , proving that Raja Bell s mom has exactly the same amount of class as Raja Bell. In Seven Seconds Or Less, Sports Illustrated S Chief NBA Writer, Jack McCallum, Gets In The Paint With The Phoenix Suns And Takes A Season Long Look At The NBA S Most Exciting And Controversial Team A Few Weeks Before The NBA Training Camps Began, Jack McCallum Called The Phoenix Suns Ace Director Of Public Relations To Propose A Story Idea For Sports Illustrated He Would Spend The Preseason With The Team As An Assistant Coach And Then Write A Story About His Experiences He Was Quickly Granted Access, And While His Role As Assistant Coach Lasted Only Through The Preseason, McCallum Stayed On With The Team Throughout Their Amazing Season McCallum Was Looking For Real Inside Access And He Certainly Got It He Spent The Season In The Locker Room And In The Coaches Meetings, Learning What Makes This Wildly Popular, Innovative, And International Assemblage Of Talented Players And Brilliant Coaches Tick For Years, NBA Basketball Was Marked By A Plodding, Dull As Dishwater Style Of Play That Was Until Coach Mike D Antoni, Point Guard Steve Nash, And The High Flying Phoenix Suns Set The League On Fire With Their Old School, Run And Gun Approach To Offense Along The Way They Won Back Legions Of Disillusioned Fans And Demonstrated The Virtues Of Team Play To A League Preoccupied With One On One Theatrics In Seven Seconds Or Less, McCallum Describes His Year Trying To Keep Up With The Fast Breaking Suns On And Off The Court He Takes Readers Inside The Heads Of Nash, The Team S Mercurial Floor General The Maverick D Antoni And Dozens Of Others Who Make Up The Close Knit Suns Family On The Court, There S Excitement As The Suns Overcome A Rash Of Injuries To Once Again Battle For A Conference Title Off The Court, Controversy Rages As The Team Endures A Major Front Office Change In Midseason Throughout It All, The Team Continues To Bedevil Opponents And Challenge The Status Quo With Their Throwback Style In The Spirit Of Buzz Bissinger S Three Nights In August And John Feinstein S A Season On The Brink, Seven Seconds Or Less Is An In Depth Look At One Of The Greatest Shows In Sports


About the Author: Jack McCallum

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