When it comes to basketball, I like to think I know a little bit about a little bit. But having never actually played basketball at a level organized enough to require coaches, the interactions between a player and coach are a mystery deep and vast. Coaching seems to involve helping shape the mind, body and spirit of a player, but I have no idea where the actual lines are drawn in theory or in actual best practice.
Which brings me to last night, Frank Vogel, Lance Stephenson and last night’s ear-blowing. If you’re Frank Vogel, what in the world do you do with this?
First of all, I don’t know if anyone has pulled off such a ridiculous bit of childish gamesmanship with so much badass panache. The look on Lance Stephenson’s face belongs at the end of a Visa commercial, priceless. But if you’re the head coach of a professional organization, how do you handle this? Gently blowing in another player’s ear is about as far from professionalism as you can get on a basketball court, short of violence and nudity. But this would also appear to be the projection of a (possibly) essential fearless persona. They Pacers can’t be afraid of poking the beast, it’s already awake and set to devour them. There is no sneaking up to be done, only distractions to be created.
If distractions are part of the plan (implied or otherwise), then Stephenson deserves the game ball for his efforts last night — flopping, gritting, grinding, talking, intruding and just making a general nuisance of himself. But this ear blow was a bridge very, very far.
So did Vogel give Lance the business? Tell him to act his age and remind him that playing in the National Basketball Association is a luxury, not a right, and should be treated as such? Or did Vogel go through those motions, tongue planted firmly in cheek, finishing with a smiling shake of the head and an arm around Stephenson? Or was this part of a film session today? With Vogel telestrating, pointing out the space Stephenson left and reminding him that a firmer lip shape would have produced a more forceful steam of air? Or is this gone? Out of sight, out of mind, a piece of this basketball game that Vogel would rather not acknowledge for fear of encouraging it?
Basketball is curiosity and inside information is a currency I have precious little of. But I’d visit the pawn shop a hundred times over trying to find something I could trade for this particular nugget.