I'm a big believer that the NBA suffers from a surplus of so-so journalism, and a shortage of really great journalism. For instance, my copy of The Greatest Sports Writing of the Century is 776 pages, just about none of which is about the NBA.
As a nod to those who are doing great basketball journalism, I'm hereby announcing my first Article of the Week. Simply put, it'll be the best newspaper of magazine article about the NBA from a given week.
Our first recipient: Have you seen Sport Illustrated's Jack McCallum's essay about his time as an assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns? For five days he spent 12 hours a day with the Suns coaches, and he wrote a little essay about it that'll make you like the NBA. First of all, being very up and close exposed a lot of really very nice personalities. (Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver, for instance, asked the team to call a timeout so that he could send Steve Kerr out to thank the hosts and crowd. The coaches all seem to be pretty good guys.)
The article is also just chock full of the kind of basketball information that you can't get without that kind of access. The coaches, for instance, envision great things for Raja Bell. If Dijon Thompson ever wonders why his career isn't going like he wants it to, he should be sure to read McCallum's piece. We hear the coaches debating things like Amare Stoudemire's best dunk, and the NBA dress code. And McCallum also got some insight into how the team plans to run things without Amare Stoudemire, how Kurt Thomas will change the team, and thoughts about the departed Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson.
And here, for instance, is Coach Mike D'Antoni's rebuttal of a cherished piece of basketball wisdom: in addressing the team, he says he doesn't see why fast-breaking teams should have more turnovers.
He goes over the offensive goals, one of which I find particularly interesting. The Suns were seventh last season in fewest turnovers committed, but he would like them to be in the top three. Running at breakneck speed would seem to induce a high turnover rate, but Mike doesn't see it that way. "We only make two or three passes a possession because we're looking to score quick," he tells his team. "So we should be real good in that area."
This is in the October 31 issue of Sports Illustrated, which should still be on newsstands for a couple more days.