Of Blowout Losses, Rez Ball, and D-League Playoffs

April 20th, 2009 | by Spencer Hall


When Kirilenko choose to fire a baseline pass into the 15th row rather than drive hard to the hoop in the closing minute, I’d seen about all I could take. And it’s getting cliche to point fingers at Boozer, but Basketbawful reader Misha said everything I wanted to say about Sunday’s game:

Carlos Boozer: From Basketbawful reader Misha: “I want to make sure that Boozer gets a mention in tomorrow’s WotW post. I don’t think I’ve ever been as disgusted by watching basketball on TV. Boozer’s selective effort was insulting. While I am sure he played as hard as he could on offense, he was practically absent on the other end of the court. He was absolutely abused by Bynum and Gasol in the post. After every turnover, he walked back on defence and several times the Lakers had the numbers just because he didn’t bother to run just a little bit harder. His screen and roll defense was by far the worst I’ve ever seen. Pretending to step out on a screen without actually doing so is much worse in my mind than doing nothing. During the game, he actually created lanes for Kobe to drive to the hoop (picking his own man, Kirilenko or Brewer, a few times).” Yep. The Booz was a loss on defense. But Jerry Sloan doesn’t have much choice other than to play him…and pray the Lakers miss a shot or two.


The important question came from the post game show on NBA TV. After Jerry Sloan finished his press conference, Andre Aldridge and Steve Smith took a few moments to appreciate Sloan’s old-school aphorisms and tough love for his team. Then Smith dropped the bomb by mentioning that he and Sloan once co-hosted a basketball clinic on an indian reservation and it was a great experience.


Google knows nothing of this mythical basketball camp for our indigenous ballers. Was it hosted by Kareem at the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona? Is this the explanation for the unbelievable basketball being played on reservations across the country?

That’s not a joke, by the way. “Rez Ball” is legendary among any baller who has seen it firsthand. Check this:

But what exactly is rez ball?

“Organized chaos,” says Mabry, “much more physical than organized ball.” Exact definitions differ but most agree that it’s a run-and-gun, fast-breaking endeavor full of showboating and no-look passes.

Rob McDonald, the spokesperson for the Salish Kootenai tribe and a longtime rez ball fan says, “Indian ball is its own kind of ball.”

He explains that there is a rare connection between players in rez ball. With fewer players, fewer time-outs, no organized plays, he likens it to jazz musicians who compliment each other. He insists there is a pureness and excitement in rez ball that exemplifies native traditional and family ways.

“Rez ballers were my NBA when I grew up,” he says proudly.

“Rez ball” has a long history in Indian Country and has existed largely as a world unto itself, mostly confined to reservations and surrounding areas. Indian basketball tournaments, essentially semi-pro events, have enjoyed a huge following for many years.  The Wapato Tournament on the Yakama reservation in Washington State, which is in its 52nd year, is one of the larger, more established events and hires state-certified officials to oversee competition.

Even with the tenuous “Basketball is Jazz” connections, I can’t imagine Jerry Sloan and Steve Smith crossing paths in the tunnel after a game and discovering they have a shared passion for hoops education on Indian Reservations and exchanging contact info to make it happen. But make no mistake: I would pay top dollar to attend that basketball camp.


Tonight is the second round of the D-League Playoffs. The Utah Flash are at home against the Dakota Wizards. As always, Ridiculous Upside has the preview.

Join me at the game in Orem or follow my live updates at http://twitter.com/saltcityhoops as I try to make witty commentary and enjoy the only team in Utah who seems to want to play another day.

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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One Comment

  1. Scrum says:

    I might be the only one that is OK with the way Booz played. He was the ONLY one that was consistent on the offensive end and he still got 2 steals, 9 boards, and got Bynum into foul trouble. There are so many other players that deserve finger pointing, AK, Brewer, CJ, even Deron and his 4-14. I am totally shocked at how many people still, STILL want to blame Boozer after he was the game’s leading scorer. Some people (I’m still speaking of Misha) will never be able to see any good things from him. Up until now we have gotten little defense AND little offense and once he has a great offensive game, everyone glosses over it. GIVE THE MAN SOME CREDIT!

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