In a long NBA season, head coaches need to resort to unconventional tactics to get their team pumped up for the grind of an 82-game season. Phil Jackson is famous for slicing all sorts of pop culture references into his game tape, but he's hardly the only one. It's a practice that's much more common than you think.
At 8-25, and with one of their top players fuming and in a mental state of confusion, the Washington Wizards needed a spark of some kind to break out of their funk. It was time, then, for Flip Saunders to resort to an unconventional tactic.
According to several players, Saunders decided to show the team footage from "The Battle At Kruger," an eight-minute viral video that depicts a herd of Cape Buffalo chasing away a pack of lions that had captured a baby buffalo. Filmed in South Africa at Kruger National Park, it became one of YouTube's most popular videos. A team spokesman confirmed that this was indeed the video Saunders showed his team.
The symbolism is probably obvious, but I'll still let the players explain it.
Nick Young: "It was like a lion chasing a bull, and how about how all the bulls came back and rallied as a team and helped them out, so it kind of got us going. Everyone came out and played hard."
Andray Blatche: "It basically let us know that nobody should fall on their own. We got to stay together as a team and you can overcome all our challenges."
Hilton Armstrong: "Guys took real heat into it, paid real attention to it and got real excited about it. I guess we do need a little speech to motivate us right before the game. A couple of games ago, when coach [Randy] Wittman took over, he was really excited. He was like 'I believe we could win,' and everybody got hyped. We came out and won that game, and I think we needed a little mental uplifting before this game."
John Wall: "If one person's not playing well, you got to help them out as a team. You got to step up and pick it up for him and wait until he catches his rhythm."
Rashard Lewis: "It shows that you can't do it by yourself. If one guy is not on the same page as the rest of the team, it can mess up the team. When everyone is playing together as a team and one unit, it makes the team perform better together. Tonight, not one guy stepped out of bounds, and everyone played better on the offensive end and rotated on the defensive end."
JaVale McGee: "He showed a video -- like a National Geographic video of a herd of buffalo together. I guess there was a message that we need to stay together."
For one night, the message worked, as the Wizards put together probably their best performance of the season. Just think about this for a second before you think that coaches don't affect team performance.