BalleyWood stories

BalleyWood stories


BalleyWood stories

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Steve NovakGreetings all! Please accept my apologies as I haven’t had a chance to read the responses to the last blog. We’ve had like five games in 10 days and I haven’t found time to do anything but sleep and eat outside of basketball. Oh! And yes, je suis un imbecil, pardon… It is “quasi-savant.” And you thought I was smart. Fooled you!

Let’s get it on! In the games we’ve played as of late I have had the chance to be irritated beyond comprehension and at the same time continue learning not to give a large mouse’s derriere about things out of my control. Because honestly, can you? I mean, really. How much can you really care without human nature driving you to discouragement? It’s almost like I feel it’s much easier to care when tons of money is coming in. Yeah, I said it. Isn’t it? I mean check this out… You’re in the D-League and you’re working, I mean working, to show everyone how good you are over the long haul and not just a couple of games and an NBA team, watch this, signs a guy who was at home frying grilled cheese sandwiches and working out with the guys from 24-hour fitness. Angering? Maybe five years ago. But now there are two reasons not to care too much:

1. You start to think like a GM and the crazy thing is, you would sign the same guy if it were up to you. Why? He’s done it before! (Sucks to turn into your dad, huh? Believe it or not, I am part of the NBA family and we’re all working for sale of the same product. Otherwise, how could Steve Novak get away with wearing the enemy’s jersey? Ha! Gotcha Steve!) Just a safe move if I were doing it.

2. You simply have no control over the outcome. So…

What do you do? You don’t give a (large mouse’s derriere). Until… Exactly. You’re there and tons of money is coming in! See? Yeaaaaah! Now you feel me. So it is easy to see why the only thing that concerns the guys in the big time is the “game.” The “game” being basketball and the “game.” You get it. So as I remain here transformed from a bruising undersized 4 to a lankier, quicker 3 man averaging 26 and shooting 56 percent from three-point range in the D-League (I know, I’m trippin’ too! And they said I couldn’t shoot with my eyes closed. That’ll show ’em. Now the eyes open thing I gotta work on. Just playin’. I can shoot the pee pee out of it.) I maintain a leg up on everyone else who cares too much because all I care about is satisfying myself to play the perfect game just in case that call does come. But unfortunately you always get someone who just has to grab a lasso, hog tie your goat and serve it to you gutted and roasted.

We beat Tulsa in a good game where I was consistently in my new guard-like frame, tossed around for numerous offensive rebounds I gave up. Now, all but one was a foul in my eyes (on one, the guy just outworked me and got it). But I was determined to find a way in the constraints of the game’s fundamentals to get the rebound or just keep him off the boards. I don’t like, sorry, I hate the idea of having to foul to achieve something in basketball. There is always a way to do it without fouling. And it usually works better. Here’s the problem. I’ve noticed in NBA summer leagues it is very easy to get a foul call. All I have to do is get position first. At that point NBA refs are damn good at not allowing a guy to physically dislodge you when your fundamentals are good. I mean, of course they miss a few โ€“ otherwise you’d never see Jerry Sloan respectfully and objectively questioning any calls. (I’m sorry. I love Jerry Sloan so…deal with it.) But for the most part the NBA refs in summer league are pretty consistent and pretty cool.

Eli, I call him E. He’s such a pro, talks to you and has no ego. Derrick (I should really know their last names; sorry guys) cool as a fan. Then of course guys like Jess Kersey and Jack Nece are great. I have the privilege of having them ref a couple of my games every summer in P.R. Oh and Zach Zarba! That dude is the best ref I’ve every been around. I just like his name. ZZZZZach ZZZZarba.

Floating back… The thing is in the D-League, the D is for developmental. Meaning everyone is developing. Players and refs alike. So here, there are rare… Aw, screw it… You get tossed around and it is not a given you will get a foul. The guy I was guarding crashed the boards, engaged with me and, floop, tossed me. Again floop! Goodbye! Again. You get the point. By the end of the game I was so tired of getting “flooped” I told myself, “I ain’t movin’ this time.” He came in, engaged, fl—. Uh Uh. that’s enough o’ dat. Nothing malicious. I just didn’t move. (We’ve already gone over that. If I doos it I says it.) Totally legal play. But he didn’t take kindly to me not accepting my flooping. Sorry. Next time I’ll just flop when you floop.

Then we lost to Austin because Darius Washington came into the gym armed with gasoline and match in hand. Flame freakin’ on! I don’t think he missed. (Then he proceeded to play the next game against the Lakers after getting recalled to San Antonio and not shoot one three.) Thanks for the torching, D. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe we can do it again sometime. He and Keith Langford played great and with 11 seconds left and Austin up by 8 I met a goat herder that felt it necessary to block me out as if were wearing a #32 Miami jersey. “Dude, chill. The game is over.” Ladies and gentlemen, his response: “You just mad cuz ya’ll lost.” Thank you and good night. Can anyone else see the difficulty in keeping my goats in the pasture? It’s easy to say it shouldn’t bother you. Truth is, those things bother everyone. But when you’re one of the more noticed players, your irritations are magnified when the fact remains guys in the NBA just have much more respect for one another than that, which is seen on a stage where everyone believes they belong in the NBA.

I know you ask, don’t I believe I belong there? I believe I belong… where I am. That is the D-League as, I believe, a person is where he/she is directly due to the decisions he/she makes. There are no accidents. So despite my agent, Larry Fox (good guy, and he actually returns my calls; wish I had someone working that hard for me out of school) hounding me to stop making the D-League sound like a jail sentence, I totally and completely think the D-League is incredibly useful. I guess it may sound mundane at times when I write, out of guilt. It’s hard looking at 23-year-old guys that desperately wanting to play in the NBA and a guy who is, well, really good hoggin’ all the minutes that I would’ve wanted when I was 23 years old and trying to show my skills to NBA personnel. So if you think the D-League is anything but the perfect stage at which guys, who by all constraints are already pros, can hone the details of basketball until he reaches the NBA, you’d be wrong. Quite often if you watch the guys who play in the D-League and go on to the NBA or overseas careers make very few dumb mistakes. They come here and just become solid, solid pros.


OK, I have never taken an anger management class. I’ve always thought that story was funny. If you can buy it (I hate saying it because it’s cliche but here goes) off the court I am very very passive. I have always been looked at as an enigma even to myself. But the thing is how complicated is anyone really? I’ve noticed public perception is just that. I mean me, for example: Gabe is crazy. No. Thug. Funny. Smart-ass. Ding ding ding. But that’s a far as it goes. I’m actually a nice guy and guess what? Almost every NBA team knows it. The only people that think I’m crazy are fans. Which I think is kinda cool. Kind of a hook for me, I guess. But very wrong. The good part about it is I can say that and not lose the perception of being tough as a coffin nail. Tough, yep. Years of getting my butt kicked will do that. Crazy? Too cliche. Too dismissive. What is crazy? I’ve never touched a drug, I don’t drink, I don’t break the law, I choose not to don tattoos or piercings and I simply never start altercations. I just didn’t demonstrate the rare talent of backing down. (Before I forget. Eduardo Najera and I never got into a physical altercation. He never cheap shot me. I never cheap shot him. Perception. We were and are actually friends. Yes, I just read the responses.)

I mean if I was crazy, wouldn’t I have one, just one incident involving police by now? If you ask me, there are many other traits often seen and accepted that could be much more readily considered crazy than the traits I exhibit. But then again, I am not the judge. The first person that ever made me think about what I really am was Rick Barnes. He literally made a tape to show me how I wasn’t that physical guy everyone said I was. He told me in actuality I was passive, shy and didn’t like confrontation. Then he proceeded to show me how I avoided contact at all cost. And he was right. I did. He figured me out and I had to learn to be myself.

Never been crazy, I’m just not scared of anything yet lazy by nature. So when I am forced outside my comfort zone, I’d better succeed or it just pisses me off. Again. Don’t believe the hype. I’m just a perfectionist that is not close to perfect. So my conundrum is knowing and accepting (that’s the hard part) what I’m good at. Thanks, Dennis.


Dennis is Dennis Lindsey. I swear he’s a robot. He’s like the Michael Jordan of NBA front office people. He was with the Rockets forever, it seemed like, and now he’s with the Spurs. I’ve always wanted to ask him this… Do you ever make a mistake? I mean the guy carries himself like a jedi warrior. Obi Wan! That’s it! Dennis is the Obi Wan of NBA front office personnel. He’s just so smart. Very polite. Very professional, knows the intricacies of basketball to a finely beveled point and he can beat you one-on-one with just a hook shot. I asked him once when I first got out of college what I could do to get better. It was incredible his response and I suggest this to every young ball player trying to get better. He told me to have my coaches at Texas make a video of all the bad plays I made (thanks, Russ Springman). Just the bad! He guessed most of my bad plays started with overpenetration. And on the offensive end, it didn’t cause most of the bad plays… It caused all of them. I couldn’t believe this guy just changed my game (even today) with two sentences. He’s an amazing guy I’m elated to be friends with and praise him all you want, he’s too modest to accept it. See what I mean? The NBA is full of guys like that. They should be cocky and are simply not. Refreshing, right?

Back… (Quasi-savant, remember?)

Here’s a better one for you. I remember while at Texas, Chris Mihm had the rep of being soft. Why? Because he was a 7ft 265lb guy who was actually athletic enough to not bang around all the time? No, because he was a 7ft 265lb guy who was athletic and well off. Because in actuality, he was tough as hell. Chris was just cavalier. He laughed all the time and enjoyed life. But believe me, he would fight your ass if it came to down to it. (As I learned. No, we didn’t fight. We’re good friends. But he was ready and willing to get in my face when I got in his).

I remember a game my senior year at Kansas State. The crowd was complaining, the coach was complaining, everybody in Kansas State purple was whining how they weren’t getting a fair shake. They complained so much on one play where a KSU forward drove and Chris blocked it. Chris went absolutely nuts! As the ball went out of bounds, the crowd booed even louder. Chris bit his lip and said, “Fuck this!” And proceeded to beat every shot that came in the paint followed by a “gimmie that bullshit!” Man I’m crackin’ up! He was so mad I was asking him to chill. And that we needed him in the game. We didn’t want him in foul trouble…”Fuck that! Let ’em foul me out! Bunch a (felines).” That was so gangster.

But the same guy that wouldn’t back down to anyone walked with me down 6th St. in Austin one night and a drunk fan hit him with this one, “Hey dude! Aren’t you Gabe Muoneke?” “Yep,” I said. “Hey man, I love you, dude!” Then to Chris: “Hey dude! Aren’t you Chris Mihm?” “Yep” “You fucking suck!”

And Chris cracked up! I mean he thought it was so funny, I started laughing. That crap woulda pissed me off. And it did as I had the same chance to laugh at myself when a drunken girl in a club on 6th St. introduced herself to “all you tall guys” that was most of the hoops team. She went on talking to my teammate, Drew Bundini Brown IV, about how she knew Chris Mihm and Gabe and the whole team. We were all standing right there listening to her and no, none of us knew her. She looked Ivan Wagner in the face and said Ivan Wagner was much taller than him whom she was addressing. So Drew’s joke was to act as if it was so cool she knew Gabe “Minnecki” (my name has been pronounced wrong all my life.). He continued with his playing of the situation and said, “Wow, you know all those guys? Coooooouhl! But that Gabe character, isn’t he an asshole?” …”He is!” She said she knew me so well and we hung out all the time. Nope. Never met her. So as she thanked us for the convo and went around to get names before she left, Drew, Ivan, Chris, Mo, (yep her anxiety built up) “Gabe, nice to meet you.” She was so freaked out she pushed me away and ran off while the guys went on to floor in laughter. I wasn’t laughing. Remembering how Mihm (I say Mihm as our UT group has two Chris’. One CO the other just Mihm) never took things too seriously reminds me too let things go easier… Even today. But that is who Chris is. He simply loves life and I wish I was always as cavalier as he was and still is.


My quick confession that might have helped in the soft perception:

When I was interviewed pre-draft by the Bulls. I was asked if Chris was soft. I said no, but I guess I didn’t answer quick enough because I didn’t know how to describe him. So they asked me in a different way….”If you were in a foxhole, would you want Chris Mihm or Chris Owens?” (Sorry, Mihiemie). I said Chris Owens. But wait! It was nothing against Mihm! Have you seen Chris Owens!? (Spartan… nose… dunk… yadda yadda.) Not a fair question man. MeeeeHiem! My man.

Unfortunately, my rep has remained and likely won’t change. Everywhere I’ve gone, every camp I’ve attended, I’ve heard it. Yet the teams invite me back because they see who I am. To this day, one of my greatest compliments was when Kevin O’Connor of the Utah Jazz sought me out after the last summer league game. I mean he cut a path through all the players, shook my hand, looked me in the eye and complimented me on my professionalism and told me he wanted to personally invite me to veterans camp and showed me the guy to contact about what number I wanted even though I barely played. Kevin O’Connor! (Sorry, that was so incredible, I got nervous. I thought I did something wrong when he approached me). I mean that, to me, could cap off the career of a guy always perceived as a nutcase. And for me I still feel great about it. But as I was fighting huge knee issues, I declined the invite, because I just wouldn’t have made it.

I would have liked to be more entertaining. And I promise next time I will be. Cuz I’m telling you my experiences in camp with JVG and the Rockets were great and Detroit as well. And when I was released it sucked but it was still entertaining. Anyway, as I knock this stint out in the D-League I’m trying to transcend the constraints of the past. Be bigger than what perception projects and somewhat forces me to be. I don’t have to be that. The mind is a machine that gathers and learns from experiences. So these experiences, new and old, are essential for my mental tune-up. In turn, I ask you bare with me and exhibit patience while I digress in between these “Charlie Murphy True BalleyWood Stories”. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go bang my head against the wall.




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