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    Default Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Tbird PM'd me and wanted this blog posted. So here it is

    http://insider.espn.go.com/ncb/insid...26id%3d3868904


    Defining toughness in college hoopsComment Email By Jay Bilas

    ESPN.com



    I have heard the word "toughness" thrown around a lot lately. Reporters on television, radio and in print have opined about a team or player's "toughness" or quoted a coach talking about his team having to be "tougher" to win.


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    Playing against the likes of Ralph Sampson, Jay Bilas learned the value of keeping his hands up to deny and discourage a pass.Then, in almost coordinated fashion, I would watch games and see player upon player thumping his chest after a routine play, angrily taunting an opponent after a blocked shot, getting into a shouting match with an opposing player, or squaring up nose-to-nose as if a fight might ensue. I see players jawing at each other, trying to "intimidate" other players. What a waste of time. That is nothing more than fake toughness, and it has no real value.


    I often wonder: Do people really understand what coaches and experienced players mean when they emphasize "toughness" in basketball? Or is it just some buzzword that is thrown around haphazardly without clear definition or understanding? I thought it was the latter, and I wrote a short blog item about it a couple of weeks ago.


    The response I received was overwhelming. Dozens of college basketball coaches called to tell me that they had put the article up in the locker room, put it in each player's locker, or had gone over it in detail with their teams.


    Memphis coach John Calipari called to say that he had his players post the definition of toughness over their beds because he believed that true "toughness" was the one thing that his team needed to develop to reach its potential. I received messages from high school coaches who wanted to relay the definition of toughness to their players and wanted to talk about it further.


    Well, I got the message that I should expound upon what I consider toughness to be. It may not be what you think.


    Toughness is something I had to learn the hard way, and something I had no real idea of until I played college basketball. When I played my first game in college, I thought that toughness was physical and based on how much punishment I could dish out and how much I could take. I thought I was tough.


    I found out pretty quickly that I wasn't, but I toughened up over time, and I got a pretty good understanding of toughness through playing in the ACC, for USA Basketball, in NBA training camps, and as a professional basketball player in Europe. I left my playing career a heck of a lot tougher than I started it, and my only regret is that I didn't truly "get it" much earlier in my playing career.


    When I faced a tough opponent, I wasn't worried that I would get hit -- I was concerned that I would get sealed on ball reversal by a tough post man, or that I would get boxed out on every play, or that my assignment would sprint the floor on every possession and get something easy on me. The toughest guys I had to guard were the ones who made it tough on me.


    Toughness has nothing to do with size, physical strength or athleticism. Some players may be born tough, but I believe that toughness is a skill, and it is a skill that can be developed and improved. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo always says, "Players play, but tough players win." He is right. Here are some of the ways true toughness is exhibited in basketball:


    [+] EnlargeDaniel Plassmann/US Presswire
    Stephen Curry's effectiveness comes not from his strength or size, but because he's constantly in motion trying to find an open look.Set a good screen: The toughest players to guard are the players who set good screens. When you set a good screen, you are improving the chances for a teammate to get open, and you are greatly improving your chances of getting open. A good screen can force the defense to make a mistake. A lazy or bad screen is a waste of everyone's time and energy. To be a tough player, you need to be a "screener/scorer," a player who screens hard and immediately looks for an opportunity on offense. On the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, Bob Knight made Michael Jordan set a screen before he could get a shot. If it is good enough for Jordan, arguably the toughest player ever, it is good enough for you.


    Set up your cut: The toughest players make hard cuts, and set up their cuts. Basketball is about deception. Take your defender one way, and then plant the foot opposite of the direction you want to go and cut hard. A hard cut may get you a basket, but it may also get a teammate a basket. If you do not make a hard cut, you will not get anyone open. Setting up your cut, making the proper read of the defense, and making a hard cut require alertness, good conditioning and good concentration. Davidson's Stephen Curry is hardly a physical muscle-man, but he is a tough player because he is in constant motion, he changes speeds, he sets up his cuts, and he cuts hard. Curry is hard to guard, and he is a tough player.


    Talk on defense: The toughest players talk on defense, and communicate with their teammates. It is almost impossible to talk on defense and not be in a stance, down and ready, with a vision of man and ball. If you talk, you let your teammates know you are there, and make them and yourself better defenders. It also lets your opponent know that you are fully engaged.


    Jump to the ball: When on defense, the tough defenders move as the ball moves. The toughest players move on the flight of the ball, not when it gets to its destination. And the toughest players jump to the ball and take away the ball side of the cut. Tough players don't let cutters cut across their face -- they make the cutter change his path.


    Don't get screened: No coach can give a player the proper footwork to get through every screen. Tough players have a sense of urgency not to get screened and to get through screens so that the cutter cannot catch the ball where he wants to. A tough player makes the catch difficult.


    Get your hands up: A pass discouraged is just as good as a pass denied. Tough players play with their hands up to take away vision, get deflections and to discourage a pass in order to allow a teammate to cover up. Cutters and post players will get open, if only for a count. If your hands are up, you can keep the passer from seeing a momentary opening.


    Play the ball, see your man: Most defenders see the ball and hug their man, because they are afraid to get beat. A tough defender plays the ball and sees his man. There is a difference.


    Get on the floor: In my first road game as a freshman, there was a loose ball that I thought I could pick up and take the other way for an easy one. While I was bending over at the waist, one of my opponents dived on the floor and got possession of the ball. My coach was livid. We lost possession of the ball because I wasn't tough enough to get on the floor for it. I tried like hell never to get out-toughed like that again.


    [+] EnlargeKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    The first player to get to the floor is usually the one to come up with any loose ball.Close out under control: It is too easy to fly at a shooter and think you are a tough defender. A tough defender closes out under control, takes away a straight line drive and takes away the shot. A tough player has a sense of urgency but has the discipline to do it the right way.


    Post your man, not a spot: Most post players just blindly run to the low block and get into a shoving match for a spot on the floor. The toughest post players are posting their defensive man. A tough post player is always open, and working to get the ball to the proper angle to get a post feed. Tough post players seal on ball reversal and call for the ball, and they continue to post strong even if their teammates miss them.


    Run the floor: Tough players sprint the floor, which drags the defense and opens up things for others. Tough players run hard and get "easy" baskets, even though there is nothing easy about them. Easy baskets are hard to get. Tough players don't take tough shots -- they work hard to make them easy.


    Play so hard, your coach has to take you out: I was a really hard worker in high school and college. But I worked and trained exceptionally hard to make playing easier. I was wrong. I once read that Bob Knight had criticized a player of his by saying, "You just want to be comfortable out there!" Well, that was me, and when I read that, it clicked with me. I needed to work to increase my capacity for work, not to make it easier to play. I needed to work in order to be more productive in my time on the floor. Tough players play so hard that their coaches have to take them out to get rest so they can put them back in. The toughest players don't pace themselves.


    Get to your teammate first: When your teammate lays his body on the line to dive on the floor or take a charge, the tough players get to him first to help him back up. If your teammate misses a free throw, tough players get to him right away. Tough players are also great teammates.


    Take responsibility for your teammates: Tough players expect a lot from their teammates, but they also put them first. When the bus leaves at 9 a.m., tough players not only get themselves there, but they also make sure their teammates are up and get there, too. Tough players take responsibility for others in addition to themselves. They make sure their teammates eat first, and they give credit to their teammates before taking it themselves.


    Take a charge: Tough players are in a stance, playing the ball, and alert in coming over from the weak side and taking a charge. Tough players understand the difference between being in the right spot and being in the right spot with the intention of stopping somebody. Some players will look puzzled and say, "But I was in the right spot." Tough players know that they have to get to the right spot with the sense of urgency to stop someone.


    [+] EnlargeNick Laham/Getty Images
    The toughest players never shy away from taking a charge.Get in a stance: Tough players don't play straight up and down and put themselves in the position of having to get ready to get ready. Tough players are down in a stance on both ends of the floor, with feet staggered and ready to move. Tough players are the aggressor, and the aggressor is in a stance.


    Finish plays: Tough players don't just get fouled, they get fouled and complete the play. They don't give up on a play or assume that a teammate will do it. A tough player plays through to the end of the play and works to finish every play.


    Work on your pass: A tough player doesn't have his passes deflected. A tough player gets down, pivots, pass-fakes, and works to get the proper angle to pass away from the defense and deliver the ball.


    Throw yourself into your team's defense: A tough player fills his tank on the defensive end, not on offense. A tough player is not deterred by a missed shot. A tough player values his performance first by how well he defended.


    Take and give criticism the right way: Tough players can take criticism without feeling the need to answer back or give excuses. They are open to getting better and expect to be challenged and hear tough things. You will never again in your life have the opportunity you have now at the college level: a coaching staff that is totally and completely dedicated to making you and your team better. Tough players listen and are not afraid to say what other teammates may not want to hear, but need to hear.


    Show strength in your body language: Tough players project confidence and security with their body language. They do not hang their heads, do not react negatively to a mistake of a teammate, and do not whine and complain to officials. Tough players project strength, and do not cause their teammates to worry about them. Tough players do their jobs, and their body language communicates that to their teammates -- and to their opponents.


    Catch and face: Teams that press and trap are banking on the receiver's falling apart and making a mistake. When pressed, tough players set up their cuts, cut hard to an open area and present themselves as a receiver to the passer. Tough players catch, face the defense, and make the right read and play, and they do it with poise. Tough players do not just catch and dribble; they catch and face.


    Don't get split: If you trap, a tough player gets shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammate and does not allow the handler to split the trap and gain an advantage on the back side of the trap.


    Be alert: Tough players are not "cool." Tough players are alert and active, and tough players communicate with teammates so that they are alert, too. Tough players echo commands until everyone is on the same page. They understand the best teams play five as one. Tough players are alert in transition and get back to protect the basket and the 3-point line. Tough players don't just run back to find their man, they run back to stop the ball and protect the basket.


    Concentrate, and encourage your teammates to concentrate: Concentration is a skill, and tough players work hard to concentrate on every play. Tough players go as hard as they can for as long as they can.



    No team can be great defensively without communication and concentration.It's not your shot; it's our shot: Tough players don't take bad shots, and they certainly don't worry about getting "my" shots. Tough players work for good shots and understand that it is not "my" shot, it is "our" shot. Tough players celebrate when "we" score.


    Box out and go to the glass every time: Tough players are disciplined enough to lay a body on someone. They make first contact and go after the ball. And tough players do it on every possession, not just when they feel like it. They understand defense is not complete until they secure the ball.


    Take responsibility for your actions: Tough players make no excuses. They take responsibility for their actions. Take James Johnson for example. With 17 seconds to go in Wake's game against Duke on Wednesday, Jon Scheyer missed a 3-pointer that bounced right to Johnson. But instead of aggressively pursuing the ball with a sense of urgency, Johnson stood there and waited for the ball to come to him. It never did. Scheyer grabbed it, called a timeout and the Blue Devils hit a game-tying shot on a possession they never should've had. Going after the loose ball is toughness -- and Johnson didn't show it on that play. But what happened next? He re-focused, slipped a screen for the winning basket, and after the game -- when he could've been basking only in the glow of victory -- manned up to the mistake that could've cost his team the win. "That was my responsibility -- I should have had that," Johnson said of the goof. No excuses. Shouldering the responsibility. That's toughness.


    Look your coaches and teammates in the eye: Tough players never drop their heads. They always look coaches and teammates in the eye, because if they are talking, it is important to them and to you.


    Move on to the next play: Tough players don't waste time celebrating a good play or lamenting a bad one. They understand that basketball is too fast a game to waste time and opportunities with celebratory gestures or angry reactions. Tough players move on to the next play. They know that the most important play in any game is the next one.


    Be hard to play against, and easy to play with: Tough players make their teammates' jobs easier, and their opponents' jobs tougher.


    Make every game important: Tough players don't categorize opponents and games. They know that if they are playing, it is important. Tough players understand that if they want to play in championship games, they must treat every game as a championship game.


    Make getting better every day your goal: Tough players come to work every day to get better, and keep their horizons short. They meet victory and defeat the same way: They get up the next day and go to work to be better than they were the day before. Tough players hate losing but are not shaken or deterred by a loss. Tough players enjoy winning but are never satisfied. For tough players, a championship or a trophy is not a goal; it is a destination. The goal is to get better every day.


    When I was playing, the players I respected most were not the best or most talented players. The players I respected most were the toughest players. I don't remember anything about the players who talked a good game or blocked a shot and acted like a fool. I remember the players who were tough to play against.


    Anybody can talk. Not anybody can be tough.

    Jay would like to hear from you. If you have comments, stories or examples of true toughness in players, and what toughness means to you, please e-mail him at jbilas@carolina.rr.com. The best examples will be included in one of Jay's blog entries in February.

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    Administrator Peck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Here allow me.....


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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Quote Originally Posted by Peck View Post
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    Here allow me.....

    I guess it is true. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Here is one word to get us started toward 1,000. BADASS.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Thanks for posting that for me UB!

    I wanted you guys to see what is being printed out and handed out to players all over the college and high school landscape this week by coaches looking to motivate their players. I thought it was extremely well written and put together by Jay Bilas, and I wanted you all to see it. The program I am helping printed it this morning and handed it to the kids at lunch, to hopefully pump them up and get them in the right frame of mind for tonight's big rivalry game.

    How many of our Pacers do you think meet the "toughness" standard in the article?

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Good read....the more important thing is whether this blog has been sent to JO'B and the Players themselves.

    If anything....this reads like a article about the importance of teaching the proper fundamentals to play the right way. The one thing I learned was that an average player that can learn to do the right things ( properly setting screens or getting around players ) will be more valuable to his team then a far more talented Player that can do alot of things but does them the wrong way.
    Last edited by CableKC; 02-06-2009 at 01:50 PM.
    Ash from Army of Darkness: Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun.

    This is David West, he is the Honey Badger, West just doesn't give a *****....he's pretty bad *ss cuz he has no regard for any other Player or Team whatsoever.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    This was a good read. I've always thought that toughness was a state of mind, and not a physical adjective. Toughness is the will to keep playing through pain. It's your brain telling you that when you complete this difficult task, it will have been worth it.

    Danny is a good example of a player with toughness in his vocabulary.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Quote Originally Posted by thunderbird1245 View Post
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    Thanks for posting that for me UB!

    I wanted you guys to see what is being printed out and handed out to players all over the college and high school landscape this week by coaches looking to motivate their players. I thought it was extremely well written and put together by Jay Bilas, and I wanted you all to see it. The program I am helping printed it this morning and handed it to the kids at lunch, to hopefully pump them up and get them in the right frame of mind for tonight's big rivalry game.

    How many of our Pacers do you think meet the "toughness" standard in the article?
    I would say 2 or 3, but you need to have everyone being tough. It becomes contagious and the whole team becomes very confident in themselves and takes pride in their skills.

    Toughness is also a "refuse to lose" mind state, which we have not seen here since the days of Reggie, Artest and that team. Ron would get so pissed when we lost a game he would smash cameras pictures etc... God I miss that team. This team might care a bit, but not nearly enough. It seems after every loss people are laughing, hugging the opposing team members getting ready for a good night out on the town.

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    100 Miles from the B count55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burtrem Redneck View Post
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    I would say 2 or 3, but you need to have everyone being tough. It becomes contagious and the whole team becomes very confident in themselves and takes pride in their skills.

    Toughness is also a "refuse to lose" mind state, which we have not seen here since the days of Reggie, Artest and that team. Ron would get so pissed when we lost a game he would smash cameras pictures etc... God I miss that team. This team might care a bit, but not nearly enough. It seems after every loss people are laughing, hugging the opposing team members getting ready for a good night out on the town.
    I never thought Ron was particularly tough. He could be physical, he could be very, very good. He could be single-minded. However, I never thought he was tough. In fact, there seems to be a lot of evidence that he was, in fact, pretty fragile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by count55 View Post
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    I never thought Ron was particularly tough. He could be physical, he could be very, very good. He could be single-minded. However, I never thought he was tough. In fact, there seems to be a lot of evidence that he was, in fact, pretty fragile.
    Right, and as far as this article is concerned, Ron does not exemplify that type of toughness. However the dude was serious about giving a full effort and his desire to win. He took losing very hard, probably too hard. Our guys today take losing a bit too easy.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Quote Originally Posted by Peck View Post
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    Here allow me.....

    When I saw the thread title, the beast in your photo immediately came to mind. The definition of tough in my mental basketball dictionary.
    I'd rather die standing up than live on my knees.

    -Emiliano Zapata

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Quote Originally Posted by thunderbird1245 View Post
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    How many of our Pacers do you think meet the "toughness" standard in the article?
    Danny's fairly tough and he's set a precedent of improving lots of aspects of his game so I'd say he's probably our toughest. Outside of him I don't really think we've got anybody much beyond average if this toughness could somehow be translated into a scale or something.

    Theoretically, any of our guys could improve their position on the continuum. However, I often wonder who has potential to improve the most? Guys like Murphy and Dunleavy seem like the necessary attitude is not part of their core on-court persona from my observations. They definitely lack the projection of confidence or toughness part. And I suspect the belies other underlying obstacles to really maxing out toughness.

    Anyway, the rooks look like they could develop in this area. Roy has shown me some indicators at points already. Rush, too, much fewer. Some people may find this hard to believe, but I think Jack is halfway decent based on the Bilas description. Doesn't mean he's our most talented performer, but I honestly think he has decent toughness. Diener, too.

    I thought TJ might have some of these things coming in, but he just hasn't shown them to me consistently. For example, I really thought he would be more effective defensively in the passing lanes, using his quickness to pressure his man heavily outside, etc.

    Of course, even using the "definition" provided, it not an easily qualifiable or quantifiable thing to assess. Suffice it to say that I believe our team is noticeably lacking in toughness. However, what role might other variables play in the toughness discussion? Coaching? Personality dynamics and chemistry amongst the team? Wins and losses? And on and on.
    I'd rather die standing up than live on my knees.

    -Emiliano Zapata

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    You know who could bring that kind of toughness to our team...

    malone_140_1997.jpg

    I wonder if he and Reggie would come out of retirement.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Quote Originally Posted by pacergod2 View Post
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    You know who could bring that kind of toughness to our team...

    malone_140_1997.jpg

    I wonder if he and Reggie would come out of retirement.
    If Malone played for the Pacers, I wouldn't go back to Conseco until he left.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Why do some posters get yelled at for not properly citing an article because of legal issues (not talking about myself) when others can post premium content (Insider) that people have to pay for?

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    You're not talking about yourself, yet you were one of the people we've recently had to contact about this issue. Okay.

    To answer the question, ESPN has been contacted previously by Able. He might explain it better, but basically as long as we cited our sources and linked back to them (in other words, what we ask people to do for any pasted article here), they were okay with it.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Oh, just how valuable is a 25 year old Dale Davis? He...and maybe Mark Jackson...define what this team is missing.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Great article. This is the stuff that casual fans do not get. The way I started to learn this stuff was watching games on Tivo knowing the outcome, and specifically rewatching plays after knowing who was going to score to see how he got open in the first place.

    Following guys from the start of the play like that brings all these "toughness" factors into stark contrast with lesser efforts. I especially loved this one...
    Jump to the ball: When on defense, the tough defenders move as the ball moves. The toughest players move on the flight of the ball, not when it gets to its destination. And the toughest players jump to the ball and take away the ball side of the cut. Tough players don't let cutters cut across their face -- they make the cutter change his path.
    If the pass is already there then you just lost. If the possession is a war then each pass is a battle, and letting a team get clean pass after clean pass it how you quickly find yourself losing the possession, scrambling more and get poor results even though you are putting in a lot of effort.

    You have to work ahead of the play, not after the fact trying to catch up. That's how a guy can work his butt off and still kill your team.


    I semi-disagree that Danny is tough because of what I just mentioned. He's got a bad habit of drifting off the play on defense when the ball is away from him. I know Rush has become my cause-de-jour but this is exactly why I liked Rush in college and still do. He does know that anything you can do to slow the entry pass, to make a guy make that extra fake or bounce the pass or reposition with a dribble is something that gets you ahead on the play. Rush is much better than Danny about getting to the place the team needs him BEFORE he needs to be there, thus denying more passing opportunities.

    Danny is talented and his on-ball defense is getting better. But the toughness he lacks still is in discipline. He bites hard on fakes for example. Why? Because he hasn't toughened up enough to restrain himself from the homerun play. He wants that block or steal.

    See that's the thing, that's effort and aggressiveness and we all like that, but winners learn to control that and not let it be used against them. Danny's not there yet on defense. He's better, but he's not there.

    I think he's emotionally tough, he's not shying away from contact or challenges. But he's still got room to grow on overall focus and discipline. If anything keeps him from being Pippen it's that aspect on defense. Pip could peek in on your man without letting his own man come free.


    BTW, what I thought was great above Kevin Love's defense was his toughness in terms of discipline. He refused to chase for blocks, he never let up for second on playing fundamentally sound even if it gets boring. Body up on his man, hands up, and makes the guy shoot over him. Guys put fake after fake on him and gained exactly jack squat for the effort. It not a highlight play, but it's a winner's play.

    When Dale Davis learned to wait out the shooter and then use his jump twitch to chase up after the shot rather than trying to jump ahead of it he went from solid to defensive monster. It let him stay on the floor and be physical, yet still also get up and intimidate shooters.

    Of course Dale was arguably the toughest Pacer ever, even over guys like Reggie or Mel Daniels. Not just physical, but uncompromising on working the fundamentals every single play in order to always put himself in the best position to win.


    I give Peck a lot of crap for his Dale crush, but at least it's a well-placed interest.

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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    Quote Originally Posted by count55 View Post
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    I never thought Ron was particularly tough. He could be physical, he could be very, very good. He could be single-minded. However, I never thought he was tough. In fact, there seems to be a lot of evidence that he was, in fact, pretty fragile.
    I sort of agree. By that I mean that in runs of quarters, games, days, weeks Ron could be focused, a sign of toughness. And a focused Ron is a tough player, he does do all these things in a game which is where the love comes in.

    But then he's not tough because he seems totally unable to consistently maintain that focus. His good game is built on toughness, his bad game is not, and the fact that he can't keep from drifting into his bad habits is also a lack of toughness. So I guess that makes him 33% tough.


    But his good game...man. He wasn't about the homerun defense, the big block or steal. He was about making every second of your offensive possession pure misery. He made guys like Pierce hate being on offense. And then at the other end he's always been great at getting into traffic to pressure the defense and often draw the foul too. And he works enough on his outside shot to also keep you honest.

    A focused Ron would have been a 50 greatest ever guy. I really feel that way. The fact that he is so far from being considered in that category tells you just how much he's wasted and how much he's disrupted the teams he's played for.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Defining toughness in a basketball player

    A great read - thanks for posting.

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