Most diehard fans are eager to find some consolation when their favorite teams lose close ballgames. It's almost deemed to be a badge of honor to get beaten by 1-3 points by a team with a far better record.
These fans' fallback position is usually that the winners were lucky.
If only this guy would have made that free throw... If only that guy hadn't missed this layup ... If only the ref had made the correct call ...
The truth, however, is that believing in "ifs" is delusional.
Moreover, it's virtually always the case that a team loses a close game because the players failed to do what they had to do in order to win. There's also no doubt that, whether from the field or from the stripe, the difference between makes and misses is not accidental.
For sure, even the greatest players in history miss win-or-lose shots but, whatever the outcome, there are always several factors that must be considered:
Did the team play hard from the get-go? If so, they'd be much more likely to be successful in the clutch.
Or did they just try to ratchet up their effort in the endgame? If so, the odds of last-minute failures increase.
Did everybody properly execute the deciding play(s)? Were the screens sturdy, the passes accurate, the defensive rotations timely? If one player makes a mistake, the entire sequence is likely to be out of sync and doomed to failure.
Was the shooter ready and eager to shoot? Was he relaxed and confident on the foul line?
Did the players truly believe in their coach? Did they believe in each other?
Were the players too distracted by what the refs would or would not call?
There are no moral victories in the NBA. Moreover, losing too many tight games is one sure sign of an underachieving ballclub. Indeed, the release, recommitment and refreshening that can result from getting blown out can eventually be more positive than losing a game that could have been won if somebody didn't do something they were supposed to do.
To quote Branch Rickey: "Luck is the residue of design."
Rondo, of course, is much faster and quicker than Kidd ever was, which is why he has an easier time getting to the rim even in half-court sets. For the same reasons, Rondo is better at attacking opponents' dribbles and passes and can zip his way to many more breakaway layups.
J-Kidd was stronger but also had quick feet, and was therefore the vastly superior defender. Give Kidd a big edge in rebounding, too.
Although Kidd could occasionally post up a smaller opponent for profit, Rondo's speedier crossovers (going either way) make him the better finisher.
These days, Kidd is an extremely dangerous 3-point shooter, but even back then his long-distance dialing was more consistent than Rondo's.
Still, the biggest differences between these two stellar point guards is evidenced in their respective passwork and decision-making. Kidd saw the floor, made judicious passes (short, long or lob) in every circumstance, avoided taking ultra-high-risk gambles, implemented his coaches' game plans and could maintain his focus at levels that Rondo has yet to approach.
Because of his warp-speed dramatics, Rondo makes more spectacular plays. But, overall, J-Kidd is a surefire Hall-of-Famer while Rondo is still learning his trade.
TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY
Precisely 15 years ago today, my wife Daia and I had our first date -- and we had a magical relationship from the get-go.
While I certainly value her beauty, intelligence, honesty, courage, patience, sense of humor, spirit of adventure and compassion, I am also incredibly appreciative of her blissful ignorance of virtually everything that happens in the world of sport.
During our initial encounter -- dinner at her house -- I discovered that she really and truly did not know the difference between a baseball, a basketball and a football. She'd rather read a book than deal with any aspect of psychological awareness; or listen to a Gregorian chant, than watch the seventh game of a championship playoff. Choosing to be on the outskirts of popular culture, she tended to confuse Michael Jordan with Michael Jackson. And wasn't ashamed to do so!
Since I was a solid citizen of Sports America, this new gestalt was refreshing.
After 15 years, she now has a fundamental understanding of hoops and can differentiate Shaq from Kobe from LeBron. Even so, mindless celebrity worshipping still makes her cringe.
Along the way, she's visited with Phil Jackson, had dinner with Tex Winter and his wife Nancy, been introduced to the likes of Julius Erving, Scottie Pippen, Luc Longley, Steve Kerr and others. But more than their fame and their sporting accomplishments, Daia judges these folks by their capacity to care and be curious about others, by their essential humanness, and mostly by their sincerity.
Even after all these years, Daia's angle of vision still has the capacity to surprise and delight me. And in so many ways, she's helped me to be able to help myself -- which is the best gift that anybody can give to anybody else.
But perhaps the biggest surprise occurred not long ago when we both chanced to be on a basketball court at the Kingston YMCA. That's when Daia unveiled a low-slung and somewhat side-winding, but remarkably accurate one-handed push shot!
Happy anniversary, sweetheart.
If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future column.