I have reviewed some basketball books on TrueHoop before.
And I have a little routine now, where I read with a notepad and pen nearby. I just read away, and enjoy the book. If I come across something really staggeringly cool, important, funny, or newsworthy, however, I'll reach all the way over there over for the pen and actually scribble a little something.
Usually just a few words like "p54 Fegan wants Marion to be MVP." Then, when I'm all done, I take the page or two of notes, and the book, to the computer where I write something that starts out seeming like it'll be short, but ends up really long.
Well, look. I have just finished Jack McCallum's Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' PHOENIX SUNS.
This is the book that broke the system.
When you see this book in the store, do not be put off by the cornball packaging, or the way the book is hyped with mindless chatter about the runnin' and gunnin' Phoenix Suns. That's like selling Gone With the Wind as a kick-ass war flick. It's a characterization that ignores entirely the subtleties, character, and nuance that makes the work great--while promising something the piece just doesn't really deliver.
But, oh, lordy, the book delivers a ton. Of course, I just finished it (so I'm all high on it at the moment, and lack all perspective). But at the moment, I can't remember ever enjoying a basketball book more. And a certain NBA tells me he's advising NBA players to read it to learn more about the league. Not to mention, I loved vicariously feeling like I was sort fo kind of on Mike D'Antoni's staff for a little while there. That's how incredible Jack McCallum's access was.
There's so much to talk about in this book, in fact, that I'm going to have to scrap my usual review technique. The formula in the past has been like this: two pages of book notes equals an absurdly long blog post. This time I have SIX PAGES of notes. I'm just not going to do that to you. And if I did, I'm certain I'd be offending both the copyright holders and my hosting service.
So, let's do this. Here are my notes, to give you a flavor of the kind of juice that's in these pages. If there's something in here that you just have to know more about, start a riot in the comments, and I'll happily indulge a topic or two:
p35 one video for players another for coaches, Tim Thomas lousy defender, D'Antoni doesn't embarrass players p36 "subplot from hell" is Amare p38 D'Antoni plays video games in the players' lounge p39 no one knows if Leandro Barbosa understands anything p44 Nash "doesn't hear" D'Antoni's call, later jokes he wasn't going to listen to him anyway p51 vibe from teammates that Amare is apathetic p54 coaches worry Marion has "gone into the tank" jealous that Nash won MVP p60 interesting: Marion doesn't want to switch off Odom when picked--if Odom scores big, Marion gets media blame p63 NO ONE understands the defensive three second rule p66 Nash asks D'Antoni if he believes the referee conspiracy theories (Bennett Salvatore always part of that conversation) p68 Raja Bell on "double secret probation" p74 scouting report on Eddie House: "won't shoot unless he has it in his hands" p75 who knew: referees are fined for bad calls p89 Tim Thomas is a "ball-stopper" doesn't move ball well p90 D'Antoni says they may have "loused up our offense" with Thomas p100 Mike D'Antoni, staunch democrat, listens repeatedly to this Pink song. When he hears that Kwame Brown is being investigated for sexual assault says "was the assault on Boris Diaw?" p110 Diaw: "I do not date American women. I have them." p114 Raja Bell led league drawing charges p117 at Boston University Raja Bell was sent for anger management p118 Barbosa got his nut tangled in this sack, Iavaroni says "that's some third world shit right there" p119 Raja Bell's dad was kicked out of his 50+ league for busting some dude's nose p122 D'Antoni's worst nightmare is that a certain unnamed ref will show up for game six against the Lakers--lucky him they spot the guy in the restaurant (FWIW that game was reffed by Ron Garretson , Greg Willard , and Leon Wood) p123 McCallum tees off on the "clueless" Blazers NOTE: throughout the book Suns owner Robert Sarver comes off as insane p128 Gentry calls Olowokandi a "pussy," someone from the league indicates they agree, then Gentry hides from Kandi p128 Hoopshype gets a mention p129 story: in Miami years ago player Ladell Eackles stood up and wrote "No Your Roll" on the locker room board, Glen Rice replied "sit down dumbass" p141 espionage! Suns get Laker intelligence from notes left in a hotel room and by listening in on practice p146 great description of what makes D'Antoni great p153 the pizza guy p163 Nash elusive and coordinated on the move but not fast p176 breakdown of who on the team eats what--and report that there's much farting on this team p177 James Jones poorly prepared, coaches want catch/shoot or catch/pass but he prefers catch/dribble (By the way, if you got this far, consider yourself a serious basketball junkie. I mean, just think about what you're doing right now.) p179 After Salvatore somehow didn't hear the Suns calling for TO in an earlier game, D'Antoni warns Salvatore that if it's close and Nash has the ball, they will be calling timeout p183 it's hard for Steve Nash to pee p189 Amare's lame rehab work ethic p190 Jason Collins is dirty p194 D'Antoni shuts Amare down p198 trainer Aaron Nelson is called "No Game" after he "came up empty" at a Vegas bachelor party with Charles Barkley. I can only guess what that means. p207 Kevin Tucker responsible for monitoring the players' nightlife--never worries about Shawn Marion p208 David Dupree's "divergent stats index" seems so primitive in an era of 82games etc. p215 Diaw hates physical play p221 Nash has a shirt that says Good Bush/Bad Bush with pictures of a woman's lower abdomen and the president p221 dress code either racist or at least racial p222 Penny Marshall squabbles with Robert Sarver p224 classy: Raja to Jerry Colangelo after big win: "Thanks for bringing me here." p226 Bryan Colangelo's wife Barbara Bottini is a big part of the reason Mike D'Antoni works for the Suns--told her husband to keep an eye on Mike p260-261 good underwhelming portrait of Amare p265 Suns offense is, essentially, whoever Keith Van Horn guards gets to embarrass him, and it works (might have something to do with KVH being out of the league) p265 great meat and potatoes coaching analysis (wish I could watch every game with this level of knowledge) p269 Alvin Gentry gets in trouble with the cops for being black p278 D'Antoni meets privately with Marion and talks desire and hustle (can't shake the feeling Phil Jackson or Pat Riley would make Shawn Marion unbelievable--he's great now and doesn't try hard all the time) p287 Out of nowhere, ROBERT SARVER OFFERS TO THIN JACK MCCALLUM'S EYEBROWS p294 D'Antoni says maybe Tim Thomas will "fool somebody into another big contract" p295 Suns coaches talk about players they like: Turkoglu, Darko, Piatkowski (tampering?) p299 more making fun of Keith Van Horn p310 SARVER PERSONALLY THINS MCCALLUM'S EYEBROWS ON DRAFT DAY
UPDATE: I talked to Jack McCallum about the book.