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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good Effort Pays Off for a Good Guy

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The Bucks' re-signing of Ersan Ilyasova isn't the only new NBA deal of special interest to Milwaukee. In a classic tale of “local boy makes good,” Steve Novak of Brown Deer and Marquette University re-signed with the New York Knicks for a reported $15 million over four years.

Novak, a 46% three-point shooter in four years at MU, bounced around with four NBA teams in five seasons before joining New York last December. He made the most of the opportunity. The “Linsanity” craze involving point guard Jeremy Lin got the headlines, but Novak's league-leading 47% shooting from behind the arc also spurred the Knicks' rise to a playoff spot.


The new deal is a fitting reward for Novak's determination and hard work. Better yet, as one of the Observers can attest, it's a nice thing happening to a nice guy.

Frank: I knew Novak had kicked around the league, but I hadn't realized it was four teams before the Knicks.

Artie:
A couple of seasons with Houston, then two with the Clippers before time with Dallas and San Antonio in 2010-'11.

Frank:
Before New York, the only time he got double-digit minutes per game was in '08-'09 with the Clippers. He made 41% of his threes, but the next year his time went way down and L.A. let him go as a free agent in 2010.

Artie:
I remember hoops maven Bill Simmons writing several times about how he couldn't believe the bonehead way the coach, Milwaukee's old pal Mike Dunleavy, would use Novak. Simmons said there often were nights where Novak had hardly played but Dunleavy would bring him in at the end in a tight situation, expecting him to make a clutch three. Just wasn't fair.

Frank:
Who knows how close Novak was to calling it a career when the Spurs waived him, but he sure came through in New York.

Artie:
And it was more than just shooting the lights out. I watched a lot of the games during “Linsanity,” and I noticed things he never gets credit for—really good effort on defense and hustling up and down the floor. The stats don't reflect it because roles can be so specialized in the NBA, but he has an all-round game.

Frank:
I noticed it too. He wasn't just standing around at the arc all night. He's quite good at zipping the ball to an open man if a guy's running at him, and he'll battle under the boards, too, if he's in that position. Remember, when he scored 41 points against UConn as an MU senior, he also got 16 rebounds.

Artie:
There's another reason I'm glad he got his deal. I have it on good authority that he's one of the genuine good guys.

Frank:
How so?

Artie:
I know a young man named George who went to several MU summer basketball camps a few years back, when Novak was still in school. Novak was one of the instructors, and George said he was just great with him and his fellow teens—friendly, helpful and respectful. And pretty awesome on the court! George said that before the sessions would start, Novak would be out there shooting and just nailing everything.

Frank:
I always like to hear it when a big-time athlete doesn't stay aloof from the “ordinary” folks, especially kids.

Artie:
There's more. A few weeks after one of the camps, George and a friend were at Summerfest, sitting at a table near one of the food stands. George looks up and there's Novak wandering by, and he spots George and comes right up and asks, “Hey, how's your summer going?” And he chats with the kids for a bit.

Frank:
Excellent!

Artie:
George said Novak liked to joke around too. So George asked him, “So, have you learned how to shoot yet?” And Novak got a big chuckle out of that.

Frank:
And I'll bet George got a big smile out of the new contract.

Replaying Tired Arguments

Frank: During baseball's All-Star break, Bud Selig stalled again on expanding the use of instant replay to review some calls.

Artie:
It figures. They've been using it to decide home run issues for several years, but why not for fair-foul calls or trap-catch calls?

Frank:
Last week Selig said that among professional baseball people, “I can tell you very candidly that the appetite for more instant replay in the sport is very low.”

Artie:
Whenever Bud uses the word “candidly,” that's my cue to disbelieve him. Of course nobody wants ball-strike calls or most tag plays to be reviewed. But why not calls where there's a definitive white line or a clear “grass or glove” view?

Frank:
Selig did say, “We're going to expand instant replay when we have the technology to do it.”

Artie:
Hey, Bud, ever see a game on the tube? We all see whether calls are accurate within a few seconds.

Frank:
And Selig trotted out one of his favorite cautions: “We want to make sure the pace of the game is not affected.”

Artie:
Pace of the game? How about keeping batters in the box, putting pitchers on a clock, limiting player meetings at the mound, making managers hustle when they change pitchers?

Frank:
Or calling a few strikes between the belt and the letters.

Artie:
A couple of minutes to review a replay is the least of the pacing problems.

Frank:
Selig did raise one valid issue, saying, “If replay shows a foul ball is fair, where do we put the runners?”

Artie:
There'd have to be arbitrary decisions, but so what? A ball that really hit the line beyond a base: two bases for everyone. A trapped ball: one base.

Frank:
They already have the arbitrary thing where, on ground-rule doubles, any runners who started on first have to stop at third—even if they ran on the pitch and are rounding or past third when the double was declared.

Artie:
Whatever happens with replay, here's something Bud should do: Make the Brewers turn down the volume on all the music and commercials at Miller Park!

Frank:
Amen, brother curmudgeon.

Artie:
The last time we were in your regular seats in the top deck, it sounded louder than ever.

Frank:
I have trouble hearing the lady two seats to my right when we try to chat—and that's before the game, during the string of promotional ads.

Artie:
Then there are all those ridiculous little snippets of music between pitches.

Frank:
Seven seconds of the “Brady Bunch” theme, eight seconds of “Ice Ice Baby”—why? Can't we have even the time between pitches to chat or discuss strategy?

Artie:
I know we geezers aren't the No. 1 target audience, but are young people really so needy of noise?

Frank:
This brings up something I thought was unfortunate—the atmosphere during the tragedy on July 1, when grounds crew member Jeff Adcock suffered a fatal heart attack in the Brewers' bullpen.

Artie:
I know you were at that game.

Frank:
There was a delay of about 20 minutes while paramedics worked on Adcock. Meanwhile, the sound system blared several songs, including “Shout” from Animal House, and the scoreboard showed fans dancing merrily. It was a somewhat bizarre scene during this medical emergency.

Artie:
I don't think anyone involved in running the scoreboard realized how serious it was, ain'a? It was hard to tell because it was in the bullpen.

Frank:
Agreed; I'm not accusing anyone connected with the Brewers of deliberate insensitivity. But precisely because the situation was unclear, I think there should have been restraint. Not total silence, perhaps, but maybe having the organist go through some less-lively songs. If a player or umpire was down on the field, I daresay the atmosphere would have been quieter. It seems like when there's no game action, the "default setting" is high noise. Give us a break or two!