May

Off-season seems to sneak up on me every year. Not in a sense of timing, more in a sense of expectations. When the season swallows you up and consumes so much of your time, the off-season starts to become this romanticized thing. For instance, as I’m writing this I’m sitting in a laundromat in Miami waiting for my workout clothes to get clean so I’ll have enough for the rest of the week. Some of you are thinking to yourself, “Why doesn’t he just do it at the hotel?” Because the hotel I’m staying at charges an INSANE amount of money to do laundry ($4 per pair of socks for example). I know I make good money but come on.   Now, in my limited experience I may not be the typical case but I can only imagine it’s fairly similar for a lot of players. During the season, our time is so consumed by basketball, whether its practice, travel, or games, so many days are spent on the road or in the gym. Even game days, although games only last 2.5 hours, are a day long commitment. Up at 8:30, shootaround at 10, pre-game workouts up to 3 hours prior to tip-off, and finally arriving home at about 10:30 or 11. Because of these experiences, I start to think about all this free time that I’ll have during off season to spend on myself as well as with friends and loved ones. Because I know as much as I wish I could spend all my time with my loved ones, they feel the exact same way if not more. Unfortunately it’s impossible to get enough time together in this career. The truth is, the phrase off-season is pretty misleading in a lot of ways. At least in my own experience. The more I think about it, depending on your status in this league your time in the summer can differ greatly. Those already established names and talents have more leeway in certain areas. Those of us not yet blessed enough to be a part of that group live very different off-season lives. A huge majority of my time is spent either in the gym, or traveling to other cities to train, because in order for my dreams to come true and for me to accomplish all the goals I’ve set for myself, sacrifices have to be made. But most importantly, what pushes me to do these things is my desire to take care of those around me. However, those are the people who often suffer both during the season and out of it.

I guess this is kind of turning into somewhat of an apology of sorts to those people. I was lucky enough to have time to go to Montana and Idaho for a little while and spend time with family and friends. Everyone can relate to that feeling of being home. Something about it grounds you and gives you peace. I wish I had more opportunities like that. But during my time at home was just reminded me of all the things I’m working for and the people I want to take care of. Unfortunately to do all that, I need to be away. I just hope they all understand it’s all for them.

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The Trees

The journey is tough…nobody said it’d be easy though. I feel confident in saying that anyone reading this wishes there were aspects of their life that they could change. It’s human nature, isn’t it? We all have things that we desire, ways we wish our lives were different. The grass is always greener on the other side. If we were to just have one more thing in our lives: more money, that new car, a bigger house, a different job…then life would be perfect. We’d have everything we wanted. I’ve written before about my own struggles with my mentality and how that’s affected my life. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. In college all I could think about was playing in the NBA. “If I could just make it to the league…then I know all my problems will be over and I’ll have everything I need.” Yet here I am writing this and my list of desires hasn’t gotten any shorter, and I’m willing to bet that if all of you got everything you wanted you’d end up feeling the same way. My career has been far from perfect. When you set out to accomplish something it’s hard to not have an image in your head of how it’s going to go. We all have expectations of the future and how it will work out for us. The saying goes “expectation breeds disappointment” and in a lot of ways that rings true. No player ever envisions themselves taking the path that my journey has taken me on. Like everyone else I saw it going differently. Many days and nights were spent lamenting over my situation, asking myself “why me?”. I’m human after all and when you don’t feel as though your expectations are being met, and you wonder if they ever will be, it’s natural to experience these negative reactions. Sometimes it feels good to wallow in that self pity, to feel yourself surrounded by the negativity and take on the role of the victim. After all, in the moment the world seems to be out to get you. I know for me that’s exactly how I felt. I was being cheated, wronged, and hurt by forces outside my control. However, we each have a choice in whether or not those feelings beat us. I asked myself, “Do I want to feel miserable for the rest of my career, always feeling victimized?” I knew that if I were to stay on that path, what could be a long career would be over before it really even got started.

I heard a story once about Phil Mickelson. Now, in no way, shape, or form am I a golfer, but the lesson I took from this really transcends sport. In 2010 Phil was on the 13th hole at Augusta playing in the Masters. His first drive left his ball resting behind three trees. Now, from the little I know about golf I do know that a conservative (aka smart) play would be to take a stroke and lay up back on the fairway for an easier shot at the green. Phil took the more dangerous approach and hit straight for the green from behind those trees. In doing so, he placed the ball directly on the green and went on to win the Masters that year. When asked about that shot and what was going through his head in making that decision he responded, “I love being behind the tree because that’s where I am.” That really stuck with me. What I took from that is here is this guy in an incredibly tough position, one that could cost him the win, and instead of feeling sorry for himself he was happy with his position because that was the hand he was dealt. There was no reason to be upset about what could have been or what should have happened because that was out of his control, and therefore, irrelevant.

In my life I’m learning to be happy with the position that I’m in, because it’s exactly where I am. Now, when I say happy I’ve got to clarify that there’s a difference between happy and satisfied. I am in no way satisfied with my position. I have dreams and goals I want to accomplish that I’ll never stop aiming for. However, I am happy with my life and where I am because it’s mine. I could sit and wish it was different in so many ways but where would that get me in the long run? It would only exhaust me and fill me with more negativity and drive me even further down. So even though this journey is tough, it is my journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Neither should you.

Madness

Three years. That’s how long it’s been since my college career came to and end in Memphis, Tennessee at the hands of the Dayton Fliers in the Sweet Sixteen. I figured what better time to write and reflect on that time in my life than during this year’s Sweet Sixteen. There’s so much emotion surrounding this time of year. For every coach with a super soaker there’s another consoling a team with players who will never play together again, and many of them who’s careers are officially over. My time in college was anything but perfect. I think most athletes, let alone college students can relate to that. There’s regrets, shortcomings, and letdowns that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives. With that being said, there’s absolutely nothing I would change about my time in college. In my 4 years at school, we were only every lucky enough to make the NCAA tournament once (my senior year). While this was a crushing failure my first three years to make that dream a reality, I really think it made my solo appearance that much more special. College basketball is a special thing. Something that the NBA can’t replicate. When I arrived on campus as an 18 year old kid from Montana, I was thrust into this family of players from around the country. We ate, lived, and studied together. These guys became my best friends. It’s still astonishing to me that it’s all over and it’s even been 3 years. Each one of my teammates is off doing incredible things in different areas. Our time passed and, even though at the time our loss was devastating, today I look back on it with pride. Knowing we finished with an accomplishment to be proud of. Something we’ll always remember, that was made even more special by who we made it with. But what I wouldn’t give for one more game with them…NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Dayton vs Stanford

Commitment

It’s becoming really interesting to see how this little side project of mine is evolving. Originally dedicated to just sharing my photos and commenting on the subjects, it seems like the site is starting to incorporate life lessons and inspiration I find too. Over the past however many weeks that I’ve been writing I’ve been blown away by the responses I’ve been getting. Not only on social media but the amount of times I’ve been approached in person by someone paying compliment to my writing and that’s really resonated with me. To know that I’ve had an impact on a person’s life outside of basketball is a great feeling. I always saw these types of inspirational and lifestyle writings as corny but I’m starting to think that I owe to those who read my stuff to share things I’ve learned and that have impacted my life.

For those of you who don’t follow Fred Katz on twitter (trust me, you’re not missing out), I’ve been reassigned to time with the OKC Blue for the week. The head coach is Mark Daigneault and, in my 3rd year spending time with this team, Mark has shared some pretty insightful topics with not just me but the team as well. Yesterday’s film session was dedicated to the topic of Commitment. Now, this next part is hard for me to write. During his talk, Mark, who is a die-hard Patriots fan and Tom Brady fanboy summarized a podcast Tom Brady was a guest on where he discussed, among other things, his regiment and commitment to the game of football that has allowed him to be such a force even through his 261st NFL game this past Super Bowl. This is hard for me because, besides my love for basketball one of my other favorite hobbies is talking smack about the Patriots and Tom Brady. It pains me to say but this year he really did cement his legacy as the GOAT in my opinion. How is it that someone 39 years old can still impact a game in the way he does, in his 261st game in which he plays 99 snaps which is 7 more than he’s ever taken in a game before?  In the podcast Tom talks about how he does this from his cabin in Montana (smart man) with Peter King. Tom tells Peter that there’s 2 things he loves, “playing football and preparing to play football.” When your love for something is at that level, everything you do is centered around that aspect. TB talks about how every decision that he makes is based around his game and how it will affect his ability to play the game he loves. What stuck out to me about TB’s commitment to the game of football and what obviously drives his ability and longevity is what he said when he was asked if he misses the things he’s “sacrificed” in his pursuit of football greatness, such as sugar and late nights out with the boys. TB tells Peter that if you truly love something, there is no such thing as making a sacrifice for it. This belief system is really what separates greats from their peers. This mindset can be applied to anything you want it to be. Whatever it is that you love requires a commitment from you if you truly want to get the most out of it you possibly can.

I read something the other day that stuck with me about commitment and priorities. “There’s no such thing as procrastination. If you put something off then it just isn’t a priority for you.” I believe we’re all guilty of this is our own ways…I know I am. Obviously I have made a strong commitment to basketball, as everyone in this league has. But commitment is on a spectrum. It’s not as simple as being committed or not committed. It’s more complex than that. As Mark put it, the spectrum of commitment goes as such:

Resistant——>Compliant—–>Conditional——>Committed.

Someone who falls under the Resistant classification is pretty self-explanatory. This is someone who actively fights any attempts by those around them to hold them accountable for their commitment. A Compliant person is someone who always does what they are told, but that’s the extent of their commitment to their cause. Never going above and beyond, they do the bare minimum…just enough to claim they are doing their job. Compare this to someone who falls under the Conditional part of the spectrum and you get someone who actually makes the effort to do more than the minimum or just what is asked for them. But there is a catch in that they only do these things when the conditions they’re in suit them best. If they don’t feel like it or other factors make it more difficult for them to perform their duties, they put their commitment aside since the conditions are not right. Finally there is someone under the Committed label who, no matter what, makes their commitment a priority and always performs their duties and obligations to their commitment regardless of circumstance or situation.

So there’s my motivational speech of the day. I’m not perfect. If I’m being honest with myself, I fall under the Conditional label more so than I’d like to be. I’d say that at least 90% of this league and even the world falls in that spot of the spectrum or even to the left of it. What makes someone great is their ability to decide what they want to commit to and never letting any factors divert them from the goals they’ve set for themselves. Maybe you’re looking at yourself right now and you see yourself as on the left 2/3 of the spectrum but I’ve got good news for you. It’s never too late to make a change and push yourself to be better. Start today.

Here’s the link to that TB podcast for those interested!

https://art19.com/shows/the-mmqb-podcast-with-peter-king/episodes/6ee16c76-b7f8-4b62-9272-b407f2acf5bd/embed?theme=light-orange

Mental Health

Just to forewarn everyone reading this I really think I’d regret it if I didn’t use this platform to talk about something that I have a personal interest in and experience with. Mental health, to me, is something that I think a lot about and I think a lot of people should. Everyone has battles they go through and adversity they face. Some more than others. We all handle it differently too, and in this world it’s so easy to fall into a really negative space. My mom is a psychotherapist so growing up I was always around her office and saw the work she did and the people she was able to help. That was a huge reason I studied psychology at Stanford. Seeing her ability to help people spoke to me…and like anyone growing up I experienced a lot of hard times and her expertise helped me so much. Not only did my desire to help people push me towards that study path…but almost my entire life my mental health has been something I’ve struggled with, and still do to this day. That’s something I’ve never revealed to many people…especially on a platform like this! I don’t expect or want sympathy in any way shape or form, I’m just hoping that I can speak to even just one person and show that we all have struggles. And maybe I can offer a little advice to help a few more along the way. Now, this topic isn’t completely out of the blue. It’s not like I woke up this morning and thought to myself, “I’m gonna write about mental health today.” Tonight the team and I were lucky enough to interact with season ticket holders at an event in the arena. Not only was this a great experience for them, but trust me it goes both ways. Being able to see first hand and up close the type of support we receive is indescribable. There was a moment during photo opportunities with teammates that I caught myself being disappointed and saddened by reactions from fans others were receiving compared to myself. In that moment I caught myself and thought to myself about why that bothered me so much. I think in my profession and in so many other people’s lives we find ourselves looking for love and appreciation from outside sources. I thought about the family and the friends that I have and that they love me and wondered why love from strangers, or perceived lack thereof, would affect me so much. I’m not perfect and this isn’t an epiphany that’s going to fix everything but I think it’s a start. It’s so easy to fall into a trap in which we crave approval from around us and when that doesn’t match our expectations, we believe there’s something wrong with us, leading to frustration, depression, anxiety, etc. I’m honestly writing this as much for me as I am for you. We all need a reminder that the only love we need comes from within and those closest to us. Hopefully this can be yours.

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Photo credit: Zach Beeker

Lifestyle vs. Performance

I think one of the best outcomes of this blog is that it allows me to put a lot of my thoughts and opinions out there for people to read and form their own opinions and thoughts based on what I wrote, and when they do this, it provides an opportunity for us to discuss them and learn from one another. For instance, I had a talk yesterday with our strength coach, Dave, about my post about Nick. He told me that a common misconception that people have about Nick is that he comes in and just does whatever he’s told to do. Now, I’m not saying that Nick doesn’t do what he’s instructed to do. In fact, he’s never really told to do anything…if that makes sense. That’s what Dave talked to me about and used the phrase, “Lifestyle athlete versus Performance athlete.” I’ll do my best to paraphrase exactly what he said. A Lifestyle athlete is someone who, wherever he goes, asks himself, “How can I change my surroundings in order to best suit me and help me improve?” Compare this to a Performance athlete who asks themselves, “How can I use everything here at my disposal to suit me and help me improve?” The difference comes in the way that a Lifestyle athlete looks to change his/her surroundings to better suit them while a Performance athlete will look at what they already have around them and exhaust every available resource to accomplish the same goal. This is where it all ties in to what Dave was saying to me about Nick. Nick is a Performance athlete for example. That’s why I say that Nick doesn’t do what he’s told because he never has to be told to do something. A performance athlete such as that will take the initiative to schedule their own workouts, lifts, film sessions, etc. They will take advantage of every opportunity to improve themselves with whatever it is they have around them. I think there’s a lot of Lifestyle athletes in the world…especially in the NBA where so often individual achievement is celebrated and more often than not players view their current team/situation as a stepping stone to where they’d like to be some day. This approach may seem like the most effective way to get to where you want to be but I think that taking the Performance approach will have the most positive effect in the long run.

Roots

Honestly I feel pretty corny titling this post “Roots”. I’m sure this is one of thousands of posts littered throughout the internet with the exact same title about something extremely similar. But, if you guys bear with me I promise I’ll do my best to set mine apart. Obviously everyone comes from somewhere (duh, I know) and where someone comes from can greatly influence who that person becomes. Now, I’m not saying that everyone from the same area is exactly the same, but you can’t deny that your home has influenced you in terms of your morals, values, work ethic, etc. The good and the bad things we experience throughout our lives at home lead us on a path that has many twists and turns, but we use those morals and values to navigate and make us into the people we are and the lives we want to lead. I’m no different. Where I come from is the same as so many others. A small, middle of nowhere town 99% of the country has never even heard of. Even the state I’m from leaves people in disbelief when I tell them…”Great Falls, Montana.” A “city” of about 60,000 people situated a few hours south of the Canadian border, surrounded by farms and farm towns. A city where in middle school we had to learn evacuation drills just in case the oil refinery were to explode one day and a large percentage of my classmates were only there because their parents were in the military and happened to be stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base. We were blue collar in every sense of the word. As literally all of you have probably thought to yourself at some point while reading this, “What the hell is there to do in Montana?”, I should let you know there’s…almost nothing. That’s where sports come in. If you ever want to find a large portion of the population on any given Friday night, the first place you should look is Memorial Stadium during a Great Falls High or CMR football game. I’m starting to come off a little like a black Buzz Bissinger here, I know. My whole life I played sports with my friends with dreams of being a starter on the varsity team at C.M.Russell high school. That was my first real goal. Every kid wants to be in the NBA, but I was from Montana…how could I do it? So like every other Great Falls youth, I looked forward to the days of hometown stardom in a green and gold jersey. Dreams such as my NBA aspirations had a way of dying as you grew. With no role models in professional sports from there, who existed to show us that even we had a chance? The defining moment in my childhood is one I’ll never forget. In 7th grade on the first day of school our teacher asked us to split into groups and discuss with each other what we wanted to be when we grew up. I knew immediately and shared with my team…”I’m gonna play in the NBA.” For the first and definitely not the last time, a girl in my group laughed at me and told me how impossible that was. That was the first of many forks in my path I would reach throughout my life. I could let what she said resonate and define my dreams, or I could use it as fuel. I guess at this point it’s clear what I chose. What I did wasn’t out of spite, rather the desire to not be limited by other’s words and beliefs. I may be right where 12 year old me always dreamed he would be, but there are thousands of other people out there, doubting me, doubting the kid in class with pro dreams…All I want is for them to see me and know it’s possible. It won’t be easy…but it’s possible. img_0385img_0384

Nick

In this profession, wisdom and advice is something shared frequently between players. Specifically from vets to “young fellas”. I’ve been blessed enough to be able to learn from Mr. Thunder himself. Just to give you an idea of Nick’s veteran status…when he was drafted I was living it up at Paris Gibson Middle School, unaware and ignorant to the life that was quickly approaching. Now, it’s rare enough for a player to have a career spanning 14 seasons let alone to be with one team throughout that time. I think a lot of people see him and really do respect the body of work he has made, being the consistent piece to this organization, relentlessly and consistently providing a service dedicated only to winning. Shunning accolades, fame, and stardom. I’ve learned a lot from Nick and I can guarantee you can ask anyone on the team, past or present and they would echo that sentiment. Everyone is familiar with the standard definition of “professional”, but in the NBA the term takes on a different meaning. A “pro” is someone who shows up every day and regardless of circumstance and does all that is required of them, without fail. The league is an unforgiving place, and outside of a select few players with otherworldly talent and ability, someone without that professional approach will find themselves looking for a job. This league has seen countless incredibly talented players come and go, replaced by players that, in terms of ability, fall short in comparison. However, you can ask any GM or head coach, this asset is what sets them apart and allows them to stick. Nick is one of those guys. Now, I don’t want to speak for Nick but I can say with a lot of confidence that Nick would agree that he is less talented than many players that have come through the league. But what sets him apart is his approach, which is what I’ve learned more from him than anything else. I respect the hell out of this guy. Every day I can promise you that Nick Collison will be the same person he was the day before and will continue to be just that. His blood, sweat and tears has helped build this organization. Anyone who watches Thunder basketball frequently can attest to the fact that it is not surprising to go 10 games or more without Nick making an appearance. Even though that is the case, whenever his time does come there’s no question that he’ll be ready. I think a lot of people don’t understand just how hard that is. To sit day in and day out, never sure of when you are going to have your number called. That’s what ties me to Nick I guess. A vast majority of games you’ll find us on that bench…unsure whether or not tonight is the night. And every single night I just try to emulate what I’ve learned from him. I doubt Nick even knows just how much he’s taught me… I just hope that I can one day pass on the same knowledge to someone else. dsc_0786

Frisco

Outside of a very select few, you can ask any nba player if their career has gone how they thought it would and I can almost guarantee they’ll answer with a resounding “no”. Part of what makes it possible for anyone to make it to this level is the lifelong dream/desire to be the best that’s ever done it. To be a star. A legend. Like Mike. Now obviously not everyone can become that but you can’t deny it’s importance in developing your skill and love for the game. I could be wrong but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a child who’s dream is to be a role player. Yet, 90% of this league is exactly that, and for every role player in the league there’s dozens of players on the outskirts, desperate to get a foot in the door. None of us saw ourselves crammed on a bus on a 3 hour drive with a driver who must wear out his brake pads every trip. Now in my 3rd year I’m here in Frisco, TX to play with our D-league affiliate. Like what I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the path I saw my career taking. But here I am…and to be honest, I’m ok. Not to say I’m satisfied in any way shape or form, but because this is my path. This is my journey. Like every other player in this locker room this is a stepping stool to another destination. So for now, Frisco is my favorite place on earth.