Nov. 10, 2006 -- Please excuse me while I get a little preachy for the next several paragraphs. Know that I'm really not that holier-than-thou about my thoughts on basketball (and I welcome your comments), but in order to start this column off right, I need to make a statement about my beliefs when it comes to hoops.

You could be a fantasy "expert" without ever watching a game. Just check the boxscores and read the player news. Wins and losses don't mean a thing. Points, rebounds and assists mean everything. Blocks and steals mean even more.

That ain't me. I'm a reality guy.

I go to as many games as I can (and as my domestic lifestyle - see below - will allow me) to see who's busting their butt to get back on D, who's calling out screens and who's not afraid of a little floor burn. I try to watch the whole floor as much as possible (and as nice as it is to sit 10 feet from the action, the view from Bob Uecker country is better for this), to see what's going on away from the ball. I know that sometimes, the pass before the actual assist is more important and that a moving-screen foul is usually not the fault of the guy committing it.

I enjoy discussing the flex offense and how the Jazz can improvise within it and still keep their spacing on the floor.

I get to the arena early to watch the players go through their pregame routines. I take notice of the guy who has a regimented routine and the guy who walks out and just chucks a few up from beyond the arc before retreating back to the training room. And when players meet with the media after practice, I look around to see who's the last guy on the floor putting in work. He's my new favorite player.

One of my the best days that I've had at this job was this past August, when I drove up to Westchester, N.Y. for a few words with the Diesel. I had never really thought of Shaq as a leader and I didn't give him enough credit for his fourth title (because Dwyane Wade had seemingly carried the Heat through the playoffs). But what he said to me said changed my mind.

D-Wade needed his big man's support, more emotionally than physically, to become the player he is. That's leadership (which 18.5 percent of GMs recognized, by the way). And that's reality, not fantasy. So you fantasy freaks can avoid Shaq because of his free throw percentage. We realists still love him, despite his dimished physical skills.

In Barcelona with the Sixers for Europe Live, I asked Philly Assistant GM Tony DiLeo about camp invitee, Ivan McFarlin, who was fighting for a roster spot. I had liked the energy I had seen from McFarlin thus far in camp, feeling confident he would make the team for his intangibles. And even though he wasn't necessarily ready to be a rotation guy on a contender, he was somebody I would want on my bench any day of the week.

"I put players in a couple of different categories," DiLeo told me. "Some players help you win and some players help you lose. And Ivan's a player that helps you win because he does all the dirty work."

That's what I'm talking about. And I'm pretty confident that Ivan McFarlin is on a grand total of zero fantasy teams across the world.

I'll step down from the soapbox now. I must admit of course, that I do play fantasy (and Rick Kamla is my man), but I try to stick to "reality" players as much as I can when I draft and I don't give it much attention on a daily basis. Now, that doesn't mean I didn't beat a so-called "expert" 7-1 (head-to-head, eight-category league) last week... because I did. And it doesn't mean that I'm not the defending NBA.com league champ... because I am.

It just means that I live for the game itself, the wins and the losses... not the stats. Which, in turn, keeps me awake until 1 a.m. most nights watching League Pass until the "Good Night!" message appears on every channel.

So that's the premise of this column, which will run every Friday from here on out. In the name of full disclosure, here's a little more about your reality guy:

Background: Jersey born and raised. Son of an educator and an engineer-ref. Husband and father of one plus one on the way.

Hoops: Started playing ball soon after learning to walk and was somewhat of a role-player in high-school, wearing the No. 15 my senior year because of Jimmy Chitwood ("Don't get caught watching the paint dry.") Also reffed the kids for six years (I am the Son of Dad). I can currently be found at the local Y a few times a week.

Fandom: A Jordan disciple until retirement No. 2 (I can recite most of the lines in "Come Fly With Me") and choose not to acknowledge that he ever wore the teal (Mariah sure did though). Now don't get me wrong. MJ had every right to come back and it's not like I hate the Wizards or anything. I just would like to think of "The Shot" as his triumphant goodbye.

Meanwhile, I've always been loyal to the local team here, which means I could certainly out-do the misery of Bucks fans, despite the nice run of the past five years.

But we'll save that for another time.

Have a question or comment for NBA.com's reality guy, or perhaps a favorite reality player? Talk to me!