Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto (Review)

Sports nostalgia tour of the American Basketball Association whose heydays were in the late 60s and 70s. The league had some great players like Dr. J, Rick Barry, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel and others. Interesting stories about how they tried to create the league. Poor Pat Boone was one of the early investors and almost went broke. There were some smart owners and many greedy ones. George Mikan was the ABA’s first commissioner and insisted that the league’s headquarters be situated in Minnesota where he lived.

So many characters Marvin Barnes, Johnny Neumann, John Brisker etc. played in the league. The book details many of their antics. I remember Rick Mount, one of the best shooting guards in college at Purdue. Unfortunately his college game did not translate that well into the pros.

The financial status of the teams and the league were always in peril. They did not have a national TV contract like the NBA. Many coaches and players suffered returned checks or did not get paid at all.

I did not realize or remember that ABA teams played NBA teams in exhibition games and competed fairly well. There were some excellent ABA coaches including Hubie Brown, Larry Brown, Stan Albeck and Doug Moe. (Even Wilt Chamberlain was an ABA coach but not a very good or devoted one.)

There are a large number of amusing anecedotes and stories. This is a very entertaining sports book about a very interesting time in professional basketball.

This Could Be The Last Time

Well, this could be the last time

This could be the last time

Maybe the last time

I don’t know

The Last Time by the Rolling Stones

Once I lived in a time of firsts, first grade, first date, first kiss, first love, first job, first house… Youth created the illusion of an unlimited future and an infinity of repeat experiences, opportunities and time. 

Now I exist in a time of lasts, last job, last meeting, last look, last conversation, last vacation, last healthy day, last goodbyes, last breath… Realities of limited time and few opportunities…No guarantees that tomorrow will be the same as today. Or that I may have a tomorrow. Moments may never repeat. Family and friends may leave me. Or I leave them.

Sports Break

Caitlin Clark from Iowa was the best college basketball player that I saw this year. She may be the best women’s basketball player that I have ever seen. I don’t remember another female player with her shooting range and passing ability.

Though LSU won the NCAA Women’s Tournament yesterday, I don’t think they would have beaten South Carolina.

Best Matches from 2023 WrestleMania

  1. Rhea Ripley beating Charlotte Flair for women’s title
  2. Kevin Owens and Sammy Zayn beating the Usos for tag team title
  3. Edge beating Finn Balor (The Demon) in steel cage match.

To my surprise, I enjoyed yesterday’s ESPN Pickleball Challenge featuring John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Andy Roddick.  The levels of performance got better as the four legends played. I think the telecast helped improved the pickleball brand. I enjoyed McEnroe’s antics. Great job by the young woman who was the referee!

Phillies are 0-3.Too early to panic…

I’m slightly prejudiced for being a “homer” but Joel Embiid deserves to be the NBA MVP. He rarely has a bad game and most games I watch, he dominates.

Not sure who is the biggest disappointment give their career starts: Ben Simmons or Carson Wentz?

Still prefer “old guys” Michael Wilson and Tony Kornheiser as sports commentators ahead of Colin Cowherd, Steven A. Smith, Jim Rome etc.

Pickleball 5.0: A Journey from 2.0 to 5.0 by Phil Dunmeyer(Takeaways and Review)


Practice your serve as much as your other shots. 

Develop a variety of serves. 

The closer the serve is to  a lob the more difficult it is for your opponents to attack to serve.

Consider, keeping a very effective serve for a critical point in the game or time.

A medium high bouncing serve to your opponent’s backhand is always a challenge. Don’t hit serve too high, however, because it will give him/her time to run around the backhand, and hit a more comfortable forehand.

A player who steps onto the court from behind the baseline when his or her partner is serving, is in a seriously negative position, even if assuming a perfect stance.

Prior to serve, communicate with partner who has the middle on return.

Service Returns:

Hitting the return of serve with appropriate pace and deep enough giving you time to join your partner at your kitchen line is offensive in nature, but it puts you and your partner in the best defensive position on the court

For the intermediate to advanced players, the skill of “hitting the ball on the rise“ provides the following benefits: 

  • Returns the ball back to opponents faster, resulting in them having less time to prepare and hit the ball. 
  • Limits retreating, and moving backwards’ unforced errors. By stepping in, and hitting the ball early, you keep more angles to hit the ball into. If you back up, you lose some angles of return.

Two Handed Backhands:

If you don’t already have a two handed backhand, I recommend you use the time perfecting your one-handed backhand. The two handed backhand has much more potential use in singles.

The non-volley zone/kitchen stance

Feet wider than the shoulders. Knees bent and back straight. Center of getting gravity through the back and rear straight to the ground behind you.


The whole idea behind the dink is to “strike” the ball, so it drops into the opponents NVZ area. You do not hit it over the net! You push it over the net.

Players who hit their dinks, usually take a backswing of 2 inches or more, and this places far too much power into the ball when you were only trying to hit the ball 5 to 8 inches. There is no wrist movement in the dink shot. Your wrist is locked as you push the paddle forward.

Avoid hitting your dinks straight at the opponent in front of you. Instead, make him or her move laterally, keeping in mind most people have a weaker backhand dink than a forehand dink.

Avoid hitting the same dink in the same spot repeatedly. Aggressive opponents are trying to stay “in the mental zone“ and look for the right shot to attack. By changing the location of your dinks, especially to the same opponent, you minimize his or her ability to zero in on a attackable return.

Check your spacing and make sure you and your partner are staying linked together on every dink. Your opponents may be exploiting the gap/space between you and your partner because you are not staying “one step, and a reach” between you.

Hitting it back to the opponent that hit it to you is the safest way to hit it. Adding different spins to the ball, make it more difficult to hit the ball “squarely“ and straight.


The faster the ball is traveling towards you, the shorter the back swing. The slower the ball coming towards you the longer/greater the back swing.

Volleying while you are moving, is not productive, or a good idea. The closer you are to the net, the less the backswing.

Pickleball checklist for volley errors

  • moving while hitting the volleys; 
  • not anticipating volley hit to you; 
  • paddle face position errors; 
  • not using compact swing; 
  • getting jammed on volleys; 
  • not bending at the knees; 
  • overreaching for volleys;


Lobs can be a “rainbow” in your game, but they usually result in a “downpour” of unforced errors. Three things can happen when you lob: (1) the lob can be hit too long, and it goes out; (2) the lob could be hit too short and gets attacked by your opponents; (3) the lob can be the perfect rainbow arc and falls onto the court non-returnable by your opponents.

If your opponents are making your pickle ball life from lobs, miserable back up two or three steps from your no volley zone. They should convince them to try other shots such as hitting the ball at your feet, which is more possible the further you move away from the net, this, however, may be the lesser of two evils.

The best option for returning a good lob is to re-lob the good lob high and deep back over the net forcing one or both of your opponents to retreat to their baseline to reset the point/rally.

Important point: the height of your return lob is far more important than the depth. The higher, the lob, the more difficult it is for opponents to hit especially aggressively.


70% of points are the results of unforced errors. Unforced errors are usually offensively hit balls, not defensively hit balls.

Protecting your backhand – – from the deuce court if you are right, handed, and need to protect your backhand, stand so your left foot is only 3 feet away from the midcourt line. If you’re right handed and need to protect your backhand in the ad Court, stand 3 feet from the left side line/baseline intersection.

Reaching for the ball with arm extended, or reaching in front to hit the ball limits power.

Getting closer to the ball increases power.

If a player is moving, he or she is in the worst defensive position possible.

Give your opponent a chance to lose. By playing good defense you increase your chances of winning. 

You win more points by “playing smarter” than hitting harder. 

Force your opponents to hit one more shot.

Ball placement trumps power.

On overhead shot, turn your shoulders and body into a sideways – – facing the sideline – – position as quickly as possible.

Pickleball players are discovering an interesting fact: by a large percentage, the first team to attack the ball aggressively loses the points/rally. Don’t force the attack shot. Wait for the attack shot that has a much better chance of being not defensible.

Probably 70 to 80% of Pickleball hitting errors can be directly attributed to poor foot work. Footwork is the key factor in being in the best position to return shots.

Know the assets/liabilities of your opponents.

My Brief Review:

It is a long book (282 pages but very comprehensive). I skimmed through many of the illustrations and sections of little interest. The content is slightly dated but there are plenty of good tips and strategies for players of all levels.

The palest ink is greater than the strongest memory

Andrew D. Huberman, Ph.D.


The value of reading, and of writing things down that we read, or hear, cannot be overstated. Two expert guests (who specialize in speech and memory) on the Huberman Lab podcast explained that when we read text or listen to something and then write key aspects/takeaways down by hand- not typing, it engages our motor control centers in ways that deeply embed that information to our memory. Taking notes, however cursory, turns out to be the best way to remember and implement information later.

NCAA Picks, Big 5 and Dawn Staley

In full disclosure, I did not follow college basketball like I have years ago. For example, I used to be able to tell you the top 10 or 15 players in NCAA basketball. Today, the only All Americans or top draft picks I know about are the Purdue center, Edey and the Alabama forward, Miller, who just got in trouble. My NCAA picks (below) are basically wild hunches based on only a cursory study or familiarity of the teams. I am picking Purdue to win at all even though I have only seen a few of their games. Two of the games were against Rutgers. Rutgers beat Purdue in the regular season and barely lost to them in the Big 10 tournament.

Speaking of Rutgers, I was one of those people who were a bit disappointed that they did not make the NCAA tournament. However, I can’t feel too bad for Rutgers today. Last night, as the number 1 seed, and playing in their gym, they lost to Hofstra in the first round of the NIT. Rutgers did not exactly bolster their objection into not getting into the field of 64 or 68.

No Big Five team (Villanova, Saint Joe’s, Temple, Penn and La Salle) made it into the NCAA tournament. This was the first time since 1977 that a Philadelphia-based school failed to play in the tournament. Penn actually came the closest to playing in the tournament with their semifinal game in the Ivy League tournament against Princeton, which they lost. Not sure that any team will play in next year’s tournament either…

I have not seen a lot of Big Five teams play. However the two best players in the Big Five for this year are Jordan Dingle for Penn and Erik Reynolds for St Joe’s. I’m not sure that either of those players or NBA caliber or will be drafted. However they impressed me more than Cam Whitmore of Villanova who probably will be picked early this year in the year’s NBA draft.

One of the best ideas that I have read on Twitter of all places is that Dawn Staley should replace Aaron McKee as head coach of Temple’s men’s basketball team. If any woman could succeed in coaching men’s basketball at a major college level, it is Dawn Staley. It would be nice to see her back coaching in Philadelphia!

The Hot Seat: A Year of Outrage, Pride, and Occasional Games of College Football by Ben Mathis-Lilley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If this book had just been about Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan football program, I would have enjoyed it. However the author also extended this book to commentary about politics, religion and our national culture. Unlike some others, I enjoyed and appreciated the author’s forays into those topics. I have to admit a certain sympathy for Jim Harbaugh. Despite all the money that he is being paid, he can never satisfy the rabid desires of a typical Michigan football fan. And by the critiques and scorn that I read and see on various sports venues, Harbaugh cannot satisfy many critical commentators as to his worth.

Lord knows that many football coaches at major universities are way over paid. And one bad season can have them looking for new work quickly. Just note the unrealistic expectations at Nebraska from the Athletic Director and its football fans.

This is an excellent read if you are a college football fan or even if you are not. You don’t have to be a football fan to see how crazy college football is. For the past few years, Michigan has been Ground Zero for much of this craziness. I highly recommend this book… Excellent narrative… Cogent commentary on college sports in general.

View all my reviews

My 2024 Political Crystal Ball

  1. While I think that Joe Biden has done a very good job under very difficult circumstances, I don’t think that he should seek re-election. His greatest contribution has been to bring back dignity and decorum to the oval office.
  2. My suspicion is that Donald Trump will withdraw from seeking the Republican presidential nomination primarily as he will be in significant legal jeopardy.
  3. I don’t view Mike Pence as a serious presidential contender. Pence did show some integrity and even some courage on January 6, 2021. But he was basically a toady during the Trump administration and he was very inept during the coronavirus crisis.
  4. I am not sure why Kamala Harris is being buried as a potential presidential candidate. It does not appear that she is being taken seriously by members of her party. Her only chance would come if she needed to assume the presidency in the event that Joe Biden is unable to complete his term.
  5. There has to be a more capable woman than Nikki Haley in the Republican Party to run for president!
  6. My concern is that no moderate or at least rational candidate will come from the Republican Party. I would even view Chris Christie as a welcome candidate for 2024.
  7. I think that there is a good chance that the handling of the coronavirus crisis will be an issue for 2024. I’m not just talking about the various lockdowns but the necessity for vaccine mandates given some of the medical information that is now filtering out.
  8. I view with growing concern the decline in support of Ukraine in their war against Russia. I also see that being a critical issue in 2024 if the war is not over.
  9. It is so easy to manipulate and fool not only the American public but also the American press. The 2024 election may all be about which propaganda campaign will win.
  10. Please, no celebrity candidates! No Rock. No Matthew McConaughey. No Oprah. However, I might like to see some successful business CEOs choose to run. I am not talking about Elon Musk!


What H.L. Mencken might say about our current politicians and celebrities based on his past writings…

Current Politician or News CelebrityMenckenians
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lisa BobertThe problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
George SantosIt is [a politician’s] business to get and hold his job at all costs. If he can hold it by lying, he will hold it by lying; if lying peters out, he will try to hold it by embracing new truths. His ear is ever close to the ground.
Kevin McCarthyThe only way to success in American public life lies in flattering and kowtowing to the mob. A candidate for office, even the highest, must either adapt its current manias en bloc, or convince it hypothetically that he is done so.
Donald TrumpIt is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.
Fox News viewersThe most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
Alex MurdaughIt is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.