We're using 'attitude' in an all-encompassing sense, meaning the quality of one's game and practice effort, the desire to accept and then do what is necessary to get better, the display of a sense of a personal affront when an opponent scores on you, the exhibition of a competitive fervor combined with a willingness to outwork each opposing player and an 'us' rather than a 'me' attitude.
With that admittedly broad brushstroke, such a combination of winning components was on display more individually and intermittently in 2008-2009 than collectively and persistently. All it takes is one member of the five on the court falling short -- even at times -- in order to have a deleterious overall effect, and that happened. Some players maxed out their own potential prior to their final season because of either an incapability or unwillingness to understand and implement the effort necessary to accomodate on-going personal improvement.
Sure, injuries absolutely hurt the San Jose State Spartans in the recently concluded season. Of that, there is no doubt. While that's an uncontrollable factor, employing the ambition and appetite for continuous betterment is an individual's prerogative.
Tied into this is the on-going development of one's basketball IQ -- the body of knowledge some players continue to accumulate that plays out in doing the right thing on the court at the right time -- something we too often label instinct. It's a learned positive, with no end in sight or completion to the accumulation of gained knowledge.
As usual, let's go to some cut-n-pastes --we can't recall the source of this one but it's quite instructive:
...In the midst of his state-of-the-Bears address to local media Saturday during the NFL Scouting Combine, Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo hit on a great truth surrounding the team's hope for success. Angelo said he hopes for marked improvement in 2009 through the better "attitude" of players.
He recognized a problem with the players the last two seasons.
"It comes back to players wanting to be great and then putting that into action in terms of their work ethic, in terms of doing all the things that they need to do and holding themselves personally accountable to be the best they can be," Angelo said. "That's all we ask of our players: Just be the best you can be, stay within the framework of the team and hang tough. If you get a locker room full of players with that mentality, you don't need great talent to win on Sunday...
Yes, sometimes it isn't who has the most talent that emerges victorious -- it's how many on which side work to achieve their best and put that into action
Here's another about someone few if anyone gave much of a chance to play, let alone, succeed in the NBA:
Turns out Wolves got good deal in Cardinal
Light on skill but heavy on will, the veteran has contributed with defense and threes.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
March 18, 2009
Last summer, the Memphis Grizzles were so determined to dump Brian Cardinal and the two remaining seasons on his contract that they accepted Marko Jaric's longer, more expensive deal from the Timberwolves in that midnight trade on draft night.
In Saturday's victory over Charlotte, Cardinal played 24 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter when he swatted and shoved down the stretch while rookie Kevin Love watched the game's final four minutes.
"It's tough to just sit over there and watch, but I knew at some point in time something was going to happen because that's just how this league is," Cardinal said. "It's crazy: Some days, you play. Some days, you don't. Sometimes, your number is called. Sometimes, it's not. You have to be ready at all times. I'm just lucky Mac has had some faith in me."
Cardinal, 31, admits he wondered last season if his career was over. It was obvious his days in Memphis were done, but the Wolves accepted the two years on his contract that pays him $6.3 million this season and $6.75 million next season because they were able to dump the contracts of Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner in the trade that brought Love and Mike Miller for O.J. Mayo.
The Wolves in return received a veteran who didn't complain when he didn't play and who has contributed with his defense, his ability to make the right play and even with his three-point shooting, whether he plays five minutes or 35. He has made seven three-pointers in the past three games.
"The last game, he had three steals, and he took three charges," McHale said. "That's six possessions. That's huge."
He did so Saturday with a package of abilities Cardinal acknowledges is heavy on will and seemingly light on skill.
"I'm not the greatest of athletes, the greatest of jumpers," he said. "The list of things I'm not very good at goes on and on. I try to make up for that with hard work and just knowing the game. I try to make people somewhat uncomfortable. Anytime you're in your comfort zone, you're at your best. So I try to make the other guy uncomfortable..."
Cardinal 'thinks' the game and utilizes that collected on-going body of knowledge to his and his team's greatest benefit. Despite his limited skills set and mediocre athletic ability, he is successful in his role because he understands what is necessary for him to contribute. The Spartans need that attitude and element to be much more pervasive in 2009-2010.
Kevin McCarthy is the Basketball Editor at Inside Sparta. You may contact Kevin with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org