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    Entries in basketball (35)

    Thursday
    Jul062017

    Five HR and Talent lessons from the first five days of NBA free agency season

    Basketball is the world's greatest sport and the National Basketball Association provides the marquee platform and competition for the world's best basketball players. Being an NBA-level player is incredibly difficult and rare. There are about 450 people in the world at any given time who can call themselves active NBA players.

    And so it is that the competition among the 30 NBA teams for this batch of rare talents is fierce. Since there can be only five players on the basketball court at any one time, (and ofter, in important playoff games teams may only use on 7 or 8 players total in a game - side note, that is where the phrase '8 Man Rotation' is derived), identifying, attracting, and signing the very best NBA talent possible for your team is absolutely essential to have any chance at success. I can't really think of another business, (maybe the movie business), where talent acquisition and talent management is more important than in the NBA.

    In case you don't know, the NBA's annual 'Free agent season' started on July 1. This kicks off the period of time following the end of the season when players whose contracts have expired are free to negotiate with all teams for a new deal. There's tons of process/rules/labor agreement minutiae too, but none of that matters to this post. All we care about is the talent/team/agent/press/media dance that culminates in many of the NBA's stars signing new contracts.

    And lucky for us HR/sports nerds - much of the talent marketplace dynamics in the NBA play out in public with hundreds of basketball blogs, thousands of NBA geeks obsessively refreshing their Twitter feeds, and NBAtv spending literally hours upon hours discussion individual player moves. And really lucky for us, is that many of these NBA player/team contracts offer up valuable lessons and reminders for our own HR and Talent Management work - particularly when we are dealing with hard to find talent that are in high demand.

    Ok, enough preamble. Here are five of the more interesting NBA feee agent signings so far this year, and what we can take from them.

    1. Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics - 4 years / $127M

    Why interesting? Hayward, an emerging star and the face of the franchise for an up and coming Utah Jazz team, leaves the only team he knows (and a bunch of guaranteed $$ on the table due to the NBA's labor rules that allow current teams to offer higher compensation to retain a player than new teams can offer them to switch), to join the Celtics, shocking many Utah fans.

    HR/Talent angle: After stripping away team competitiveness, compensation, and potential, (kind of a toss up between Utah and Boston), Hayward elected to sign with Boston largely because the Celtics' coach Brad Stevens was Hayward's coach back in college at Butler University. The two formed a tight bond a decade ago that has lasted to this day. The HR lesson here? Make sure you know and leverage the relationships between people in your organization and the hot candidates you are trying to lure away from the competition. In this case, that one relationship likely swung the near-term futures of two franchises.

    2. Kevin Durant resigned with the Golden State Warriors - 2 years / $53M

    Why interesting? Durant, arguably the best player in the league and playing for the best team, signed a significantly smaller and below market deal than he could have demanded, (and received). Why? He wanted to allow the team more flexibility and salary cap space to try and retain as many of his Warriors teammates as possible, in order to strengthen their title defense chances next season.

    HR/Talent angle: I know we are talking about multi-millionaires here, but even for them, not everyone is completely motivated by money. Durant is so happy to be playing on the best team, in a fun location, and in a winning culture that those things possess value, at least to him, beyond just the $$. If you can get a lot of the 'not money' things right in the organization, you may be able to have a chance at competing for talent against your better-funded rivals.

    3. Steph Curry resigned with the Golden State Warriors - 5 years / $201M

    Why interesting? Remember the bit above about Durant accepting a below market contract for the good of the overall team? Well, two-time league MVP and champion Curry has been playing on a significantly below market deal based on his performance for the last several year. This was driven in large part by Curry's early career injury problems that for a time cast some doubt on his long-term potential. But since then, he has emerged as the leader of the Warriors, and probably no worse than the 3rd best player in the league overall. This new deal, for the maximum money allowed, will serve to 'make good' on his out performance of his last contract.

    HR/Talent angle: Really excellent talent might be able to be persuaded to work for less than market rates for a time, if the other things your company can offer them are attractive enough. But they won't/can't do that forever. At some point super-talented people need to be paid fairly, maybe even a little bit better than fairly, in order to 'make good' to them as well. All the company culture in the world won't pay someone's rent, and we should all keep that in mind.

    4. Joe Ingles resigned with the Utah Jazz - 4 years / $52m

    Why interesting? You might not have heard of Joe Ingles, but he has quietly emerged after a late start to his NBA career as an extremely versatile and productive player for a developing Utah Jazz team. He's also friendly with (now former), Jazz star Gordon Hayward, (see above), and by signing Ingles early, (and paying him really well), the Jazz hoped that would be another chip they could leverage in their efforts to retain Hayward. 

    HR/Talent angle: As we know now, the Jazz management couldn't convince Hayward to stay, so let's hope for their sakes (and jobs), that the $52M investment in Ingles works out. There is always a lot of chatter and talk about the importance of having friends at work, but I wonder if this example makes us pause a little bit on that, at least in terms of elite talent. I am not sure the very best performers at any line of work get all that worked up about having friends at the workplace. The best talent makes its own friends, if you get my meaning. If you do, you are smarter than me. 

    5. Jeff Teague to the Minnesota Timberwolves - 3 years / $57M

    Why interesting? This move, signing a veteran point guard in Teague, combined with a prior trade for All-star Jimmy Butler is sending a signal to the league that the Timberwolves want to compete for playoff places and championships now, and not in 5 years. Last year the team failed to live up to its pre-season hype, and part of the reason is that its primary star players (Towns and Wiggins) are so young and inexperienced. Bringing vets like Butler and Teague signals a different, 'win-now' approach.

    HR/Talent angle: This is kind of the NBA version of the startup company that needs to bring in some pro managers to help run things arc. The young talent or founders have all the great ideas, can generate a ton of excitement and buzz, maybe can secure the first couple of funding rounds, but when things start to get a little dicey, (and they almost always do), the inexperience of the leaders starts to hurt. It's important for HR leaders to take that kind of measure of leadership groups, particularly in new companies, and think hard about when, where, and how to get more experienced voices at the table before things go sideways. See Uber in case you want to read up.

    There will be more to come from NBA free agency in the next couple of weeks. Even though I am really depressed that their are no more 'real' NBA games on for a bit, I am looking forward to heading out to Las Vegas in a week or so for the annual 8 Man Rotation trip to catch some live NBA Summer League action.

    The NBA - there's nothing like it, and for HR/Talent pros, there's plenty we can learn from it too. 

    Monday
    Apr242017

    VIDEO: Take That For Data

    Yes, I know this is a few days old, and yes I know the 'Take That for Data' meme has probably already flamed out from your Twitter feed, but there still may be someone out there who missed Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale's epic rant following a playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs last week.

    Tiny bit of backstory to set this up.

    In the game of interest, (which the Spurs won), the Spurs were granted a massive advantage in free throw attempts - with one Spurs player Kawhi Leonard shooting 19 free throws himself, more than the entire Memphis team. After the game Coach Fizdale reflects on the loss, and the officiating in an already classic 2:45 minute rant.

    Check the video below, and make sure you make it to the end,  (email and RSS subscribers click through), then some comments from me about why this was a really interesting take, (that have nothing to do with basketball).

     

     

    Not one but two great meme lines in the rant!

    But the walk off line, 'Take That for Data' is the one that stuck with me. Mainly because in the same video where Fizdale asserts 'I'm not a numbers' guy, he proceeds to rattle off 12 different statistics from the game - data points that strengthen his argument that the game was poorly officiated and that disadvantaged his team.

    Why does this matter at all to anyone except hard core NBA fans?

    Because Fizdale in his little rant makes plain the challenge and the tension that often arises in organizations and with leaders when they are pressed to take a more data driven approach to business/HR/talent when they are not naturally inclined to do so.

    Don't tell me this is all about the data, then make decisions or drive toward outcomes that are incongruent with the data itself. 

    Or said differently, if you are going to be the hero in your organization that will push the 'data' agenda, then be prepared to have your data be called out and your conclusions challenged when others have a shot at interpreting the data as well.

    Take that for data.

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Mar312017

    Final Four teams, ranked

    I'm off to the Final Four and folks who know me personally know my allegiances well.

    But for folks that may not, here I present my unscientific, unresearched, subjective, and COMPLETELY biased breakdown of this weekend's Men's College Basketball teams.

    4. North Carolina - Almost as smug and easy to despise as Duke. Not quite at that level, but easily the most loathsome of this group.

    3. Gonzaga - I am so tired of hearing about this team being the 'little guy' that has only been a contending team for almost two decades. "Crying Adam Morrison" is my favorite memory of this squad. Google it.

    2. Oregon - Don't know anything about them. Have not watched any of their games. But they always have sharp looking uniforms.

    1. South Carolina - The only team worth supporting this weekend. Have not been relevant in 45 years. First Final Four ever. And the team that ESPN gives a 2% chance of winning it all. Everyone loves an underdog.

    Of course you could disagree with these rankings, but of course, you would be wrong.

    Have a great weekend.

    Go Gamecocks!

    Monday
    Jan022017

    VACATION REWIND: Five quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    NOTE: I am out of pocket more or less until the New Year, so I thought I would re-air a few pieces that I liked from earlier this year for folks who may have missed them the first time. Hope you are having a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!

    From July - Five Quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League

    I am out at the NBA's summer vacation also known as Summer League in Las Vegas joined by a couple of members of the 8 Man Rotation crew, Kris 'KD" Dunn and Matt 'Matty Ice, akaBruno' Stollak.

    As in the past sojourns to NBA Summer League, the reason to attend is not just about the basketball. In fact it is perhaps not even half about the basketball. Rather it is for what happens and is happening outside the lines - the observations of members of NBA team management, league staff, players on the sidelines, and the general approach towards talent management that the different teams take as they all strive to reach the same goal - an NBA championship - in many, many different ways.

    Add in the natural sideshow/carnival atmosphere that is Las Vegas, and Summer League becomes just about the perfect confluence (for me), of sports, Talent Management, development, management philosophy, and business strategy played out in the open and in real time.

    So with that said, here are my first five quick takes from about a day and a half out at Summer League:

    1. A little bit of 'real' experience makes a huge difference. The best players in this year's Summer League have tended to be more experienced players like Devin Booker, D'Angelo Russell, and even the Nets' Sean Kilpatrick. One commonality across these players? They all have at least one full year experience in the NBA already and have come back to Summer League to continue to work on and refine their games. These players and others have shown how much even one year of development and experience makes a huge difference in performance. The lesson to me for managers of talent is that of patience. Even in this world of 'go-go-go', it often pays to invest in talent and development and to be patient to realize increased benefits later on. In other words, don't look at new employees just as ones that have no idea what they are doing, try to envision the value that they can deliver after a year of prep and learning.

    2. Stakes matter, i.e., if you give someone a lousy project don't be that surprised if their performance dips. Friday's games at NBA Summer League were all loser's bracket games - the final game of the summer for teams that had been eliminated from Summer League title contention. Basically, there was nothing on the line in terms of team goals in these games. And perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of play suffered. Even though many of the players had plenty personally at stake in these games, collectively they had no goals in common. The result was a day of mostly sloppy play, bad shooting, ill-advised shot attempts, and generally bad basketball. The real world implication of this? When you give employees and teams thankless, low-profile, and low-impact work they are naturally going to be tempted to give less or worse effort. That is just human nature. Don't judge someone solely on how they perform when the nature of the assignment drags their performance down a notch or two.

    3. But great organizations and leaders rise above these lousy circumstances. The best game amongst the losers, featured the Spurs topping the Kings in overtime. The game was entertaining because it went down to the wire sure, but the real reason I enjoyed the contest was that the Spurs, probably the league's best-run organization over the last 20 years, took such a professional, competent, and serious approach to the game, one that meant nothing in terms of the outcome. The players were engaged, the coaching, led by Becky Hammon, was exceptional, and the execution of the team when it mattered most was excellent, resulting in the win. So while I just said you can't judge individuals solely when things are going bad, you can see how world-class organizations get that way by seeing how they approach bad situations. The Spurs looked and acted like this meaningless game really did matter - and to great organizations everything matters, which helps make them great.

    4. Talent trumps everything. But you already knew that. The last game we caught on Friday night involved the Philadelphia 76ers and their new star, first pick in the 2016 draft Ben Simmons. Simmons was clearly the best athlete, had the best basketball instincts, and at times was held back by the inferior talent he was playing with and against. The key for Simmons' early development seems to be that he needs to understand both how good he is, and what he needs to do to improve. Simmons is a great rebounder and passer, but probably needs to work on his shooting in order to realize his full potential. It would be easy for him to stick with what he is comfortable doing, and excels at doing at the expense of working on the parts of his game that need improvement and he seems uncomfortable with (at least at the moment). But to be the best he can be, he needs to do more than just one or two things. HR lesson? The greatest talent can do more than one or two things exceedingly well, but they might need to be pushed a little to do those things that are uncomfortable with. But if you can and do that, then youu develop the rarest of commodities - someone who excels at all aspects of the game/job/function.

    5. You have to judge talent on performance, not by appearance. We had the chance to watch (and very briefly meet), NBA prospect Josh Magette, a point guard who starred in the NBA's Developmental League last season, and is playing for the Brooklyn Nets summer league squad. Magette was probably the best point guard in the  D-League last season, and has a real opportunity to break into the NBA this season. That means he is probably one of the best 500 - 1000 or so basketball players in the world right now. And Josh is listed at 6'1" , 160 pounds. And after seeing him up close, let's say those measurements are generous. Josh looks like he could still be playing high school ball, is not physically imposing at all, but yet can compete at the highest levels of basketball against guys that have six inches and 60 pounds on him. If you saw Josh on the street you would never think he was in upper echelon of basketball players in the world. And you'd be dead wrong. Final lesson from Summer League? Talent is everywhere - even in places you'd never expect to find it, and are often afraid to look.

    That's it - I'm out for now and about to hit another full day at the Thomas & Mack Center  - there might be a wrap post up early next week for those of you, (both of you), who can't get enough of these sports and HR takes.

    Have a great and exciting and prosperous 2017!

    Saturday
    Jul162016

    Five quick 'Sports and HR' takes from NBA Summer League - #8ManRotation

    I am out at the NBA's summer vacation also known as Summer League in Las Vegas joined by a couple of members of the 8 Man Rotation crew, Kris 'KD" Dunn and Matt 'Matty Ice, akaBruno' Stollak.

    As in the past sojourns to NBA Summer League, the reason to attend is not just about the basketball. In fact it is perhaps not even half about the basketball. Rather it is for what happens and is happening outside the lines - the observations of members of NBA team management, league staff, players on the sidelines, and the general approach towards talent management that the different teams take as they all strive to reach the same goal - an NBA championship - in many, many different ways.

    Add in the natural sideshow/carnival atmosphere that is Las Vegas, and Summer League becomes just about the perfect confluence (for me), of sports, Talent Management, development, management philosophy, and business strategy played out in the open and in real time.

    So with that said, here are my first five quick takes from about a day and a half out at Summer League:

    1. A little bit of 'real' experience makes a huge difference. The best players in this year's Summer League have tended to be more experienced players like Devin Booker, D'Angelo Russell, and even the Nets' Sean Kilpatrick. One commonality across these players? They all have at least one full year experience in the NBA already and have come back to Summer League to continue to work on and refine their games. These players and others have shown how much even one year of development and experience makes a huge difference in performance. The lesson to me for managers of talent is that of patience. Even in this world of 'go-go-go', it often pays to invest in talent and development and to be patient to realize increased benefits later on. In other words, don't look at new employees just as ones that have no idea what they are doing, try to envision the value that they can deliver after a year of prep and learning.

    2. Stakes matter, i.e., if you give someone a lousy project don't be that surprised if their performance dips. Friday's games at NBA Summer League were all loser's bracket games - the final game of the summer for teams that had been eliminated from Summer League title contention. Basically, there was nothing on the line in terms of team goals in these games. And perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of play suffered. Even though many of the players had plenty personally at stake in these games, collectively they had no goals in common. The result was a day of mostly sloppy play, bad shooting, ill-advised shot attempts, and generally bad basketball. The real world implication of this? When you give employees and teams thankless, low-profile, and low-impact work they are naturally going to be tempted to give less or worse effort. That is just human nature. Don't judge someone solely on how they perform when the nature of the assignment drags their performance down a notch or two.

    3. But great organizations and leaders rise above these lousy circumstances. The best game amongst the losers, featured the Spurs topping the Kings in overtime. The game was entertaining because it went down to the wire sure, but the real reason I enjoyed the contest was that the Spurs, probably the league's best-run organization over the last 20 years, took such a professional, competent, and serious approach to the game, one that meant nothing in terms of the outcome. The players were engages, the coaching, led by Becky Hammon, was exceptional, and the execution of the team when it mattered most was excellent, resulting in the win. So while I just said you can't judge individuals solely when things are going bad, you can see how world-class organizations get that way by seeing how they approach bad situations. The Spurs looked and acted like this meaningless game really did matter - and to great organizations everything matters, which helps make them great.

    4. Talent trumps everything. But you already knew that. The last game we caught on Friday night involved the Philadelphia 76ers and their new star, first pick in the 2016 draft Ben Simmons. Simmons was clearly the best athlete, had the best basketball instincts, and at times was held back by the inferior talent he was playing with and against. The key for Simmons' early development seems to be that he needs to understand both how good he is, and what he needs to do to improve. Simmons is a great rebounder and passer, but probably needs to work on his shooting in order to realize his full potential. It would be easy for him to stick with what he is comfortable doing, and excels at doing at the expense of working on the parts of his game that need improvement and he seems uncomfortable with (at least at the moment). But to be the best he can be, he needs to do more than just one or two things. HR lesson? The greatest talent can do more than one or two things exceedingly well, but they might need to be pushed a little to do those things that are uncomfortable with. But if you can and do that, then youu develop the rarest of commodities - someone who excels at all aspects of the game/job/function.

    5. You have to judge talent on performance, not by appearance. We had the chance to watch (and very briefly meet), NBA prospect Josh Magette, a point guard who starred in the NBA's Developmental League last season, and is playing for the Brooklyn Nets summer league squad. Magette was proably the best point guard in the  D-League last season, and has a real opportunity to break into the NBA this season. That means he is probably one of the best 500 - 1000 or so basketball players in the world right now. And Josh is listed at 6'1" , 160 pounds. And after seeing him up close, let's say those measurements are generous. Josh looks like he could still be playing high school ball, is not physically imposing at all, but yet can compete at the highest levels of basketball against guys that have six inches and 60 pounds on him. If you saw Josh on the street you would never think he was in upper echelon of basketball players in the world. And you'd be dead wrong. Final lesson from Summer League? Talent is everywhere - even in places you'd never expect to find it, and are often afraid to look.

    That's it - I'm out for now and about to hit another full day at the Thomas & Mack Center  - there might be a wrap post up early next week for those of you, (both of you), who can't get enough of these sports and HR takes.

    Have a great weekend!