Lens-less: Balling without glasses or contacts

Contact lens
Contact lens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d been using disposable contacts for basketball since years ago. In an effort to preserve my dwindling funds, I started an experiment in saving money on contact lenses. Simply put, I would play without any form of optical aid – just good old myopia and blurry vision.

Surprisingly, the lack of clarity did not affect my game as much as I thought it would.

Shooting

Perhaps it boils down to trusting your body and instincts after so many years of experience, but shooting is more muscle memory than anything else. Your body already knows what to do. Set yourself up the same way every time, square up for the release, and keep the followthrough soft. Leave everything else to physics.

Court vision

Recognising teammates wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be. I could still see everyone moving around, and pass the ball if I had to. People are just people, although not being able to see their facial expressions made reading readiness just that bit more difficult. A lot more difficult, actually.

Focus

The most surprising change came in this area. Perhaps the lack of details allowed my mind to focus better without distraction, but I got into attack mode a lot easier without contacts. Trusted my instincts and body to work as they should, and just went with the flow without overthinking the game.

I also began to pass on the pick and roll better as well – what the hell? I’d been trying to remind myself to do hit the roll man more often without much success, and the answer came in the form of not wearing contact lenses. Strange, but whatever works.

I’m sure there will be a downside to this harebrained idea eventually, but for now? It rocks. Play better and save dough, what gives?

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The recipe for a blowout loss.

Have four guys in a game, add exhaustion and stir well. Final score, 50-12. I think this is likely the worst loss we have had since I joined. We were trailing close at the half, but the second half just killed us. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was seriously gassed. Took a ton of layups (five at least if not more), hit a baseline jumper, and that was it.

To be fair, we weren’t exactly seriously playing later on when it became evident we were not going to get back into the game. Josh suggested practicing the pick and roll instead, and man. I have to say, running the P&R 4-on-5 and with everyone not in sync is seriously tough. This is like the first game since forever that we actually ran the P&R multiple times. It’s something that I really like, but I reckon we need more practice to get it down pat. There were many instances when I drove in waiting for someone to cut and get the pass, and it did not happen. After that, it became a matter of forcing the layup, something I did really badly today. Fault’s still on me, but I’m confident we can get this sorted out with practice. Kudos to Josh, Gaz and Danny for playing the game out.

I have to sort of agree with Gaz on the point that missing Tsun is taking us out of the D grade level. This is something I have been thinking about for a while; having a player who makes 70% to 80% of your points is not the best recipe to long-term success. The moment he’s unavailable, it’s crash and burn time. Josh thinks we could do better with six guys in a game, but we have been through those situations before and most days it’s either a close loss or a loss. Either way, a loss.

I have to say, taping my ankle’s probably the best decision ever. It’s a bitch to do before every game, but the level of support it provides is unmatched.

Five guys and a L, no surprise there.

Just like what the title says, having five guys play the entire game is a bad idea. Even Gary (who’s usually the most energetic of us all) was gassed at the end of it. It certainly didn’t help that the game was at 1630hrs, MSAC is usually a stuffy, humid gym at that time of the day in summer. And of course, we were missing our first offensive option in James, who is busy being performing daddy-like duties at this point with little Jordan.

Good thing about last minute addition Tom though, he’s really good when running on the open court and finishing the drive. He’s easily the fastest in the team, no one is even close to that.

Another few shots in the blame game to myself today.

  • I thought the uniform rule was directed towards the singlets and not the shorts, and I was the one who said relax when Danny was talking about Tom’s shorts. There goes five points.
  • Ball movement was pretty bad today, and it certainly did not help that I made multiple sloppy passes that were picked off by the other team, leading to consecutive easy layups. So bloody hate my judgement today. Lesson to take away from this: calm down and ignore everyone else’s shouts for the ball, reset the possession and play it out.
  • Missed multiple shots as well.

Enough of excuses, on to the game.


Transition is bonus, but we work fine in the half-court. There is no need for no need to force the ball down low repeatedly when we do not have a competent low post presence. Gary is not a low post guy (yet), Danny operates out of the right wing. To dump the ball in to the low post and have double-teams stuffed in our faces is not the best idea. We end up kicking the ball out anyway, with no visible benefit. I like the way Gary and Danny took it in when they were defended one on one however, it forced their guys to foul and send us to the free throw line.

Thought: Nick handles the passing way better than I do, I think he should be the one dictating the passes while I get back to my original offense: mid-range drives and shots.

The problem with handling the ball, I don’t get to do my usual stuff because I’m too busy dribbling and looking around. When you get down to the core of it, I’m not a very good point guard, and it’s tough to progress on this role with limited playing time.

The idea I had been hammering into myself the past few weeks had been to run the pick and roll, but more often than not I dump it off to someone else at the wing than actually run it.

Conclusion: not following through with the plan.


Here’s a new thought.

Something we need to do more often, is to shoot the ball from outside. Outside of James and Josh, we are repeatedly refusing to shoot the ball. This is not a good thing, and I’ll explain why.

Think of the offensive options: we do not play out of the post, we do not cut into the paint often enough, not everyone drives and we do not look for the outside shot enough.

What does that leave us with?

Without James and Josh, our offensive menu more often than not consists of backdoor cuts, offensive rebounds/putbacks, free throws, Danny’s drives and the occasional mid-range. If you notice, most of our points come from inside the paint. While this is not a bad thing, this tells our opponents to tighten their defense into the paint, which makes things relatively difficult for our offensive rebounders and cutters.

So the point I’m trying to make here is: whoever’s playing the 1 and 2 spots need to be ready to shoot.

Emre mentioned before the value of the corner 3, and it’s a waste not to use that part of the court. I’m inclined to agree, but we get to a problem here. Everyone has their own idea on the game plan, and I’m not sure how proper consensus can be achieved, then communicated across to everyone without training sessions, because this involves a huge change in our shot selection. It’s not likely a pep talk during timeouts can change the way we play immediately.

So, what next? I’m not sure either, but the one thing I’ll try to do is to move myself off the ballhandling and start playing my original game, off the ball and on the attack.


Sidenote: thanks for reading guys, I wasn’t aware anyone else other than Nick has been reading my weekly post-game comments. I’ll keep writing, and don’t worry about it changing anything, because I’m writing it more on as a collection of thoughts to the self rather than anything else.

Basketball: Towards new grounds! Part IX

Second last game of the season, it’s amazing how quickly a season goes by.

Once again, we got killed by this team, felt like a rehash of the last game against them. What really hurt though, was that we got out-rebounded on defense. Nothing to say on that, they deserved the win purely on rebounds alone. Emre fouled out and was really pissed about losing to “a bunch of old cunts”. Well, them old fellas whooped our asses upside down.

I was talking with Josh before the game, and he has an interesting view on the league basketball. He doesn’t care too much about the W and L columns, but rather on whether everyone played a good game. It sort of makes sense, because there’s no point to one guy scoring fifty points every game and winning the thing single-handedly – the point is to work together as a team. That being said, the working together as a team thing is still a project at this point.

Botched a few things here and there today, talk about awkward once again. Got hit with a travel call on a fast break opportunity and got a pass stolen when bringing the ball up (thankfully the bloke missed his layup). So need to buff these little mistakes away, gees.

I think I’ve figured out why Danny keeps hitting me the wrong way with his passes every single time though. If I’m not mistaken, he’s passing to my right hand every single time when I wanted the ball on my other hand. I’ll talk to him about it the next time round, and we’ll see if that helps.

More practice, more experience, and I hope to do better.

Basketball: Towards new grounds! Part VIII

An amazing 22 point blowout. There, that’s the game summary.

James got his stroke moving and hit plenty of threes, Gary was moving really well and drew a ton of fouls (and free throws), Emre was scoring in plenty on layups, Josh/Danny made a few shots, and that was the game.

The other team had four guys to start, the fifth guy arrived late in the first, albeit with insufficient firepower to pull a comeback win.

The latecomer interestingly enough, showed only two obvious moves on offense – a set shot on the three, and driving into the paint like a rampaging rhinoceros. After a few possessions, I realised what he was up to, so began to limit his drives rather than the shot. Even though we were playing zone, I made sure to pay extra attention to his position, and to box him out whenever I could, so that the rest of the guys could clean the glass up.

Took two or three shots, missed all of ’em. There’s not much to take away from this game, other than hints on what I should be doing. Like bringing the ball up and not dumping it off at the first sign of pressure (check), getting the ball at the high post so that I could feed cutters (check), getting back on defense to contest the shot (check).

It was still a good game nonetheless, marred by Josh’s finger sprain in the second half. Emre was being funny when he asked, “Is that your piano playing finger?” Everyone had to chuckle at that.

Interesting how quickly time goes by, it’s coming to the end of the season! Imagine that.

Basketball: Towards new grounds! Part VII

Feels so good to be balling again, after a hiatus of two weeks or so. Had a nap before the game and got there early as usual. Did my warmups and honestly, I was quite relieved to find that the shots were still going in. I think I should make it a habit to get there two hours early, so that I can sneak in some practice time before the game starts.

Sidenote: Chris Paul’s routine of “pounding the ball” does help the body to get warmed up pretty quick. Loosens the fingers, lets the hand get used to the feel of the ball in double-quick time.

So we lost tonight’s game late in the second half by an overstated margin of eight points. The game was even throughout the game, but the other team had this long guy who hit his shots when needed, created a few turnovers through the full-court press, and that was basically it. It was a pretty good effort today though, everyone was moving much more than usual. Danny is actually pretty good when he gets the ball mid-range and goes in, and Gary was giving a solid rebounding effort today.

Interesting quirk noticed: Joe likes to pass off to the left wing much more than the right.

I did my best to pass the ball today, and on the scoring bit I managed to hit a baseline jumper. Four shot attempts, only hit one. And it’s really weird that the made shot is usually the first one. Not to mention the slight cramping feeling I got in my inner thighs when I had my rest in the second half, bloody ouch. I suppose this means a definite deterioration in my conditioning – wonderful.

Looking forward to the next game, and I’m gonna continue to work on my drills at home in the meantime.

Basketball: Towards new grounds! Part VI

Finally, back to the Sunday night game after skipping out last week – good thing housemoving is finally fixed. That being said, it was a trifle annoying having to drive thirty minutes to the court, when you actually consider the physical distance involved. That being said, I would happily drive further to play the damn game though.

Not much to be said about tonight’s game; it was James’ offense 80%, everyone else 20%. Nick did well on the boards (had a few nasty turnovers), Gary and Danny did good too. Emre as always put the correct perspective into the game, giving the right pep talk. I had two shot attempts, two steals and a block. The rest of the time, quite invisible. And yes, an embarrassing moment in the final seconds of the game, when I tried to block a layup without fouling – hadn’t realised I ended up jumping backwards instead of straight up. Safety first, overly first heh heh.

We lost the game mostly from free throws, and bad turnovers. Things are easily corrected, thankfully enough. The offense still doesn’t seem to be flowing though, it’s sticking in places here and there. And I’m still trying to figure out my place, something that still hasn’t materialised sufficiently yet.

What exactly is my niche? Life as always, is a journey of self-discovery. And I’m still learning about the basketballer bit, day by day.