Rebuilding the Right Way

Hey guys! With all the talk about rebuilding and how to go about it, I thought I would provide my input as a coach and creator of a team. As a warning, this will take a while; if you're a "tl;dr" person you should skip this one :P

As a high schooler, I competed in an activity known as Speech. People think it's debate, but it's actually more like competitive acting. I'll throw in this video of my national champion friend's humorous performance, in which she plays various characters to tell a story.

NFL '09 - Humorous Interpretation: Sealed for Freshness (1 of 2) (via orlmgc4ever)

I was part of a team that was consistently among the best in the nation. 70+ team members, national champions, the whole nine yards. We had three head coaches (not sure how that happened) and they all were completely unforgiving on mistakes. Turning in forms late, not working hard enough, lacking professionalism...anything that went against being a respectful member who was a great representation of the team was unacceptable.

After years of representing my team well and working hard, I was made captain of the team and made sure to connect with every member and show them how to be professional and respectable.

I got hired to judge at tournaments by a coach who ran the best debate program in the country, but had a speech team which had about 2 members. After seeing how hard I worked, he hired me to build a speech team.

At the beginning of the year, we had a roster of 50 kids with 3 coaches. To be honest I was extremely appalled by the team's behavior. They would not show up for practice, for tournaments, dress sloppily, curse in competition, but worst of all they had absolutely no drive. No fire to compete and get better.

Iverson Practice! (via gordievsky)

At the conception of the team we tried to find where the talent was and get them where they needed to be with some special coaching attention. We figured that we would be able to show the talented kids who didn't work as hard that competing in speech meant a lot of dedication and effort. Essentially, we thought we could change them.

Well, as the season went on I quickly realized that the competitors I was spending most of my time coaching were not getting any more ambition and were therefore not improving, despite the coaching attention.

It was at this moment that I realized ambition cannot be taught. I figured since the area where I came from was filled entirely with kids who would stay at home practicing every night of the week rather than hang out with their friends that ambition could be bred into competitors with the right kind of culture, which is partially true. However, I realized, at the core, winners are winners. Competitors are competitors. A coach can't be expected to change a person into one. Sure, people can change, but that is not what a coach's job is.

About midway through the season, we started focusing on the kids who cared. The young students who weren't nearly as talented but were dedicated and open to coaching. I even took a freshman as my protégé; he has had absolutely no success and is still not where he needs to be as a performer but with his work ethic it's only a matter of time.

A few weeks ago we had a turning point as a team. We finally reached the point where everyone who was left (we kicked many people off for their poor attitudes and lack of work ethic, including a captain) was hard-working, dedicated, professional, and overall a good kid. There was a moment where I looked out at them working together and it clicked: I had finally built a speech team.

Sure, we're not by any means a great team. But what matters is that we have created a culture of winning, where new students will come in and see how much work it takes. Everyone now understands that it is a serious activity which requires ambition and passion. It is no longer a selfish, free-for-all landscape. We are a team.

Now, I hope you've been following along with how this applies to all teams so far and don't just think I like talking about myself.

When you're rebuilding a team, no matter the sport or activity, it is essential to not just build a collection of talent but a collection of people. You're creating a culture which will live on hopefully for while, or until the next rebuilding process happens.

As far as bad examples of NBA rebuilds, probably the best place to look is the Sacramento Kings.

Building their team around big-man Demarcus Cousins and combo-guard Tyreke Evans, they are much more talented than their perennial bottom-feeding status. Cousins should be their franchise player, but as you all know, his attitude is awful. I don't need to go in-depth about his fights with Callipari at UK, inability to work himself into shape, attitude on-court, etc. Here are some videos if you need an example of how he is a bad model to build your franchise around

DeMarcus Cousins: Perception v. Reality (via ESPN)

Cousins Ejected After Pushing (via kingsflix)

But obviously, character has not just been an issue with the Kings. Look at the T-Wolves, who have been rebuilt into a contender in one season by (former PDX great) Rick Adelman. He came to a team without a leader, toiling in inflated stats between K-Love and Michael Beasley. If you look at what he's done to turn the team around, he's rewarded the hard work of Rubio and Pekovic (!!!), letting them shine in roles while Kevin Love takes over as their overall leader. I'm not a big K-Love fan necessarily, but he's come a long way from last season as a person, regardless of stats. He got into great shape in a lockout offseason (NO MORE CUPCAKES) and has shown his team that effort is required night in and night out.

Adelman has also done a great job handling Michael Beasley, who has been struggling to lose his sense of entitlement since being selected 2nd overall by the Miami Heat. Adelman took a key cog of this team last year and turned him into a role-playing, pine-riding backup small forward. Rick quickly showed the T-Wolves that no one is given anything; they have to work for it.

Michael Beasley Pushes Fan In The Face @ Dyckman Game (2011) (via ThePowProduction)

Even Lebron James (yes I'm going to bash him as well) truly lacks the heart of a champion. I hate to agree with Skip Bayless, but his performance in the finals proved to everyone that he's an attention-whor-- I mean, ...he loves attention. He crowned himself a champion before he came into the league, crowned the Heat champions before they even competed, and has done nothing to win. He is all talent, no heart.

I don't need to make the point any further but rebuilding processes in any sport are riddled with awful tales of talent ruined by character: Jamarcus Russell and the Raiders, the dream team Eagles of this past year, etc. I'm sure you guys could name a million more than I could (I'll take this opportunity to mention how amazing BE is. Just a reminder)

Of course, there are plenty of right ways to rebuild a franchise.

"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" -Kevin Durant (I've played way too much NBA 2k11)

Hands down one of the best rebuilds of recent history has been the Oklahoma City Thunder and it all starts with Kevin Durant. He gets a reputation as the hardest working player in the NBA and his attitude is obviously contagious. I would write a lot about this team but I feel like you guys get the picture. Scott Brooks and KD have created a culture of hard-work down in OKC and have taken no shortcuts in getting there. You go down their roster and not one player is lazy or has an attitude problem. Sure, Perkins has a short temper on the floor (and I hate him) but he works hard and does what his team needs him to do (but he sucks). Sure, Russell Westbrook is often careless with the ball and can be too focused on himself in games, but it's always because he wants to win, not due to some sort of glorification of his self-image (cough cough prince james cough cough).

Kevin Durant Interview (via nbaeu)

New England has had one of the best franchises of the past decade because they were built around strong team play and have been led by 6th round pick Tom Brady, who works hard on improving his play every day (not just before the draft, cough cough Tebow cough cough). Like him or not, Brady is never satisfied with his performance and has the passion that fuels champions. It's as simple as that.

Duke basketball has been an elite program for years thanks to Coach K, but their players are always lacking physical talent (who's the best NBA Duke alum? ...JJ Redick? Say it ain't so...). They always manage to win based on hard-work, professionalism, and dedication. They are the perfect example of a successfully created culture of success.

Obviously, I don't need to remind you all about the Jailblazers era and how important it is that we not take any shortcuts trying to get a championship (sorry for reminding you). I personally believe that in any rebuilding process you HAVE to draft for talent, not need (I think it's true for most of the time anyway). That being said, I, unlike many, consider character to be a huge part of what goes into 'talent'.

When you put a player on your team, you don't simply get stats, offensive and defensive production, various skills and get a person. You get someone who will influence the way your organization runs no matter how large of a role they play. With every person you add to your roster, you are changing the face of your franchise. In a league with 15 player rosters, it is extremely essential that you put together a team with 15 leaders. Not 14, not 13...but all 15.

Looking at our roster right now, there are clearly some people who fit in a culture of winning and some who don't.


LMA- although his leadership isn't there, he's young, a great kid, and most of all he's hard-working

Wes Matthews- He hasn't found his role as a player yet, but works hard and has passion for the game

Nolan Smith- Extremely young as a player but loves basketball and is a professional with potential


Raymond Felton- do I need to explain this? Piss-poor attitude, can't stay in shape, lacks focus and determination. He seems happier scoring 10 points than winning a game. Trading Andre Miller was trading a winner for a loser, simple as that (although to be fair this is with the time I thought 'yay 3-point shooting!')

Hasheem Thabeet- I wasn't going to list him because I wanted to make a joke saying how I wrote 'losers' as a plural because Felton counts as multiple people, but I need to make this point. Thabeet, based on scouting reports and not my personal knowledge, is lazy, apathetic, and cares more about money than winning. He's gotten by on the fact that he is as tall as Raymond is wide (had to work in a fat joke...) but I want his awful work ethic nowhere near our younger players and overall team as we go through this rebuilding process. I pray I'm wrong and we've found a potential franchise center, but it sounds like I'm right so far.

All the players I didn't mention are either somewhere in the middle or are pretty obvious (love you Joel)

If you've read all of this post, congratulations. You are as addicted to BE as I am. /Seriously, you have a problem. Go spend some time with you family. For real.

Now I want to hear from everyone out there...Lay your knowledge on me...Who do you want us to draft to lead our team in the coming phase of the franchise? Who is going to be the hardest working player in the draft?

What free agents do you think are great people to have on our team? Who has a great work ethic?

Here's a poll to appease the ADHD-ridden part of this blog.

Go Blazers!

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