Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

The Raptors’ in-bounds play vs Portland

December 8, 2008

Given how the Raptors deployed their chess pieces …

What set Inbounds Play was Toronto trying to run yesterday during its final possession of the game vs Portland?

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Here’s the best read this corner has to offer:

Initial Player Alignment

PG/#1 – Jose Calderon [vs Blake] – Left Baseline Corner
OG/#2 – Anthony Parker [vs Roy] – Left FTL Extended
SF/#3 – Jason Kapono [vs Outlaw] – Inbound Passer, Right Sideline
PF/#4 – Chris Bosh [vs Aldridge] – Left Elbow
C/#5 – Jermaine O’Neal [vs Oden] – Right Elbow

First Offensive Action

* Parker was to cut above Bosh and O’Neal [who were to set stationary Staggered  Screens at the Elbows], in order to free himself in the Right Wing/Corner [outside the 3PT-line], to receive the 1st Pass from Kapono.

If Aldridge tried to Switch this screen, Bosh was to Dive toward the Right Low Post position for a direct entry pass from Kapono.

Second Offensive Action

* Kapono was to step in-bounds; then cut hard to his left, above O’Neal and Bosh [who were to set Staggered Back-screens], in order to free himself in the Top Of The Key area [outside of the 3PT-line, to receive a Flare Pass [the 2nd Pass in the sequence] from Parker.

* O’Neal was to set his Back-screen then Dive hard toward the basket.

If the defense tried to Switch this screen, O’Neal should have been open Slipping toward the basket.

* Bosh was to set his Back-screen, then step out beyond the 3PT-line as a potential pass recipient, if Parker was not able to pass the ball to either Kapono [for the 3PT-shot] or O’Neal [for the Layup inside].

If the defense tried to Switch this screen, Bosh was to Slip towards the basket, as well, in the wake of O’Neal’s into the lane.

* If Bosh received the pass from Parker, on the perimeter, he was to attack the basket towards the middle of the floor with his strong hand drive.

[Option I] If there was no Help coming off [A] Kapono [spotting up at the Left FTL Extended] or [B] Calderon [spotting up in the Left Corner], he was to [i] get to the hoop vs his defender, or [ii] get fouled on his drive.

[Option II]  If there was Help coming off either Kapono or Calderon, Bosh was to “Drive & Kick” to either of his two open teammates for the uncontested 3PT-shot.

* If all three passes of these passes were Hard Denied, Parker was to drive against his solo defender, in a 1-V-1 isolation play from the Right Wing/Corner. 

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What did the Blazers do to disrupt the play?

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First Defensive Action

* Travis Outlaw Sagged Off Kapono toward the Right Corner, denying an easy pass to that area on the floor.

Second Defensive Action

* Aldridge stayed with Bosh; held him, and prevented him from diving into the Right Low Post. 

Third Defensive Action

* As Parker cut above the first set of Staggered Screens, Oden Sagged Off from O’Neal to deter the easy pass from Kapono.

Given the Blazers’ First, Second & Third Defensive Actions vs this set play, Jason Kapono … remembering the difficulty the Raptors had inbounding the ball successfully against New Jersey, in a similar scenario two weeks ago … made the first available “safe” pass he could see, which was a direct entry to Jermaine O’Neal [stepping towards the ball].

For his part, O’Neal immediately recognized that the original play had been broken; quickly found and then got the ball to Bosh [the Raptors “best player”], at the Top Of The Key, and took his own defender away from the ball [by diving into the Right Low Post position].

For his part, when Bosh got the ball from O’Neal, he quickly recognized the situation and drove the ball towards the Left side of the floor, vs Aldridge [in a favourable match-up for the Raptors], using his strong hand.

For his part, Aldridge made a good defensive play, initially, by tipping the ball away from Bosh, when he changed hands with his dribble [beyond the 3PT-line], going from Left-to-Right; and, then defending CB4 by moving his feet, not reaching in, and not fouling Bosh, on his drive toward the basket. 

For his part, Blake did a solid job, Hedging in from the Left Corner vs Bosh’s drive to the basket, while remaining in a good position to still Close-out hard vs Calderon, if Bosh had tried to pass the ball to the Raptors’ PG.

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GAME REVIEW: Raptors vs Blazers [Dec 07]

December 8, 2008

The Raptors main problem this season is not going to be solved by the unjustifiable firing of Sam Mitchell.

FINAL SCORE: Raptors 97, Balzers 98
Game Info

48 Rebounds for the Blazers … with 18 of those coming at the Offensive end.

31 Rebounds for the Raptors …  with only 4 Offensive Recaptures.

That is everything you really truly need to know about the way in which this game was lost, from the home team’s perspective.

Adding Jermaine O’Neal [and Nathan Jawai, C, out indefinitely with a heart condition] this summer, at a salary of $21 Million/per, was the wrong move for this team to make. Period.

Until the Raptors address the glaring deficiencies they have in their current roster, which include …

* No credible back-up PG [outside of Anthony Parker, who they refuse to play at this spot]

* No credible back-up C [outside of Jermaine O’Neal, of course, who they refuse to play at that spot … because of the $$$ they are paying him; and, possibly, Andrea Bargnani, who they also refuse to play at that spot … because he is the former No. 1 Selection from the 2006 NBA Draft]

* No credible back-up OG [outside of Jamario Moon, who they refuse to play at that spot … despite the fact he has improved his shooting noticably this season: [i] FGM-A/% = 42-90/46.7%; [ii] 3FGM-A/% = 12-33/36.4; [iii] LS-FGM-A/% 14-21/66.7% [LS = from outside the lane on the Left-hand side of the floor]; and, [iv] LS-3FGM-A/% = 6-9/66.7%]

related to the domino effect of that transaction, they are going to lose a slew of games like this, this season.

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re: the Raptors’ Defense and Rebounding on the Blazers’ final two possessions

2nd Last Possession

* Parker did a solid job on Brandon Roy
* Chris Bosh did a solid job coming to help, providing a shot-blocking presence [he may have actually blocked the shot] in arears of AP [which was a necessary rotation given the move which Roy attempted to make]
* O’Neal did a solid job “Middling” LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, i.e. the two players he was responsible for defending in that specific situation
* Unfortunately the ball was tipped and ended up deflecting to Oden
* O’Neal recovered well and challenged the shot by Oden, forcing a miss
* Because of their initial defense on the drive by Roy, neither Parker nor Bosh were able to establish solid inside position, vs Roy & Aldridge, respectively, and the ball was tipped out to Fernadez on the perimeter [Joey Graham was in the key attempting to rebound as well]

Last Possession

* The error Jose Calderon made was not forcing Blake to penetrate inside the arc for the pull-up J … but, given the time & score and the way he contested that Final shot, the inidividual D he played was acceptable.

Steve Blake hit a tough shot, off the bounce [with the benefit of an offensive foul that wasn’t called, to give the Blazers the lead; but, the Raptors still had more than enough time left to win the game.

————

Unfortunately, the Raptors then ran an in-bounds play poorly and lost the game instead; something which happens every day/night, in the NBA.

Time to move on … because they are going to have their hands full in Cleveland. 😦

A modern day Anthony …

December 8, 2008

… Mason, is the Heat’s Canadian Jo-el.

Thick, strong and agile, he can compete effectively at multiple positions in the NBA, and should now be able to carve out for himself a relatively long and fruitful NBA career.

The best part?

Miami Heat Center Anthony coming out of his shell
“I don’t need any type of signature. I just want wins. People will hear about me if I continue to get better.”
Joel Anthony

Good to know that Pat Riley hasn’t lost his touch, when it comes to assessing NBA talent with a keen eye.

As long as Miami can avoid a re-occurrence of the injury bug-a-boo which befell D-Wade two seasons ago, it should be a short time only before the Heat are once again legit playoff contenders in the EC.

Respect for tellers of truths

December 8, 2008

This corner of the net has a great deal of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for Jeff Van Gundy, as a person, a basketball coach and a NBA analyst.

“Hey, listen … that’s truth telling, right there … whether you like to hear the message or not. If Doc Rivers is always the one having to tell the truth, you will not be a championship team. Kevin Garnett risked being a truth-teller … maybe, at the expense of a friendship, right away,  I respect that about Kevin Garnett. I respect it about Paul Pierce.”
Jeff Van Gundy

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Amen, bro. 🙂

What is really going on here: Part II

December 5, 2008

Mandatory viewing for each and every Raptors fan …

[Dec 4 2008/post-practice]

Be sure to “listen” to the entire thing.

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According to this corner of the blogosphere …

Sam Mitchell hadn’t lost Chris Bosh …

[Dec 2 2008/post-game]

nor, Jose Calderon …

[Dec 2 2008/post-game]

nor, Jermaine O’Neal …

[Dec 2 2008/post-game]

… when he was fired by the Toronto Raptors [Wed Dec 3 2008].

This locker room was embarassed … by the lack of effort put forth against the Denver Nuggets … but, these three players had no desire whatsoever to see their head coach fired, 17 games into the 2008-2009 regular season, with a 8-9 W-L record … and the current roster of players. 

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If anyone would care to explain the integrated Plan of Action they see in place with the Toronto Raptors, since Feb/2006, when the current President/GM was hired by MLSE, yours truly would be overjoyed to read about it in the comments section below … as, to these eyes, it does not seem as though there’s been one, when reviewing the following list of transactions:

2006
* Kris Humphries acquired in exchange for Hoffa Araujo
* Rasho Nesterovic acquired in exchange for Matt Bonner + Eric Williams
* Maurizio Gherardini [Assistant GM] is added 
* Marc Eversley [Manager of Basketball Operations] is added

2006-2007
* Mike James [UFA] is not re-signed
* TJ Ford acquired for Charlie Villanueva
* Andrea Bargnani drafted [1st Round/No. 1 Overall]
* PJ Tucker drafted [2nd Round]
* Anthony Parker signed [UFA]
* Jorge Garbajosa signed [UFA]
* Fred Jones signed [UFA]
* Darrick Martin signed [UFA]
* Dave Hopla [Shooting Coach] is added
* Juan Dixon is acquired in exchange for Fred Jones [Portland]
* Luke Jackson is signed [UFA]
* Luke Jackson is released
* Sam Mitchell receives a 4 year contract extension
* Dave Hopla leaves
* Jim Todd [Assistant Coach] leaves
* Masai Ujuri [Director of International Scouting] is added

2007-2008
* Morris Peterson [UFA] is not re-signed
* Jason Kapono is signed [UFA]
* Carlos Delfino is acquired in exchange for two future 2nd Round Draft Picks
* Maceo Baston is signed [UFA]
* Mike Evans [Assistant Coach] is added
* Mark Hughes [Assistant/Development Coach] is added
* Jamario Moon is signed [UFA]
* John Lucas [Assistant coach] is added
* Primoz Brezec [Detroit] is acquired in exchange for Juan Dixon
* Linton Johnson is signed [UFA]
* Linton Johnson is released

2008
* Darrick Martin is not re-signed
* Jermaine O’Neal is acquired in exchange for TJ Ford + Rasho Nesterovic + Maceo Baston + flip-flop of 2008 Draft Picks [i.e. Pacers get No. 17/Roy Hibbert;  Raptors get No. 41/Nathan Jawai]
* Carlos Delfino [UFA] is not re-signed
* Hassan Adams is signed [UFA]
* Will Solomon is signed [UFA]
* Roko Ukic is signed [former draft pick]
* Jorge Garbajosa is bought out [contract off the books for the 2009-2010 season]
* John Lucas leaves
* Gord Herbert [Assistant Coach] is added
* Sam Mitchell, head coach, is fired [Dec 3 2008]
* Jay Triano [former Assistant Coach] appointed interim Head Coach [Dec 3 2008]

Wait a second … what’s really going on here

December 4, 2008

What to make of the Raptors’ decision yesterday to relieve Sam Mitchell of his coaching duties?

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Well …

First.

This whole business that …

Sam Mitchell was somehow never Bryan Colangelo’s CHOICE to run the Raptors’ team …

* Smitch is Out, Bring Back the Cursing

… is completely false.

The simple FACTS are these:

1. Sam Mitchell was the Raptors’ head coach when Bryan Colangelo was hired as the Team’s GM [Feb 2006].
2. At the conclusion of the 2006-2007 season Sam Mitchell was voted the NBA COTY Award.
3. During the summer of 2007, Bryan Colangelo CHOSE to re-sign Sam Mitchell [to a multi-year contract worth millions of dollars] as HIS coach for the Toronto Raptors.
4. Approximately 18 months later, on Wednesday, Dec 03 2008, Bryan Colangelo relieved Sam Mitchell of his coaching duties with the Raptors.

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Second.

A list of sights and sounds observed, thus far, by yours truly, regarding the explanation of events provided by Bryan Colangelo:

Part A – From the individual Conference Calls of Bryan Colangelo and Jay Triano with the Toronto media on Wednesday afternoon

* Sam Mitchell was a good coach for the Raptors during his 5 seasons with the Raptors.
* Sam Mitchell is a highly intelligent basketball person, who understands the ins and the outs of the NBA game and was well-paid to coach the Toronto Raptors.
* There comes a time when a change is needed in the lead voice within a NBA team’s locker room.
* Sam Mitchell has always had a good relationship with the players he’s coached, who have always seemed to play hard for him, save for specific periods, so far, this season.
* The feeling still exists within the Raptors’ basketball brain-trust that this collection of 13 players is the “most talented” team put together yet by Bryan Colangelo.
* There’s an expectation that this team, as is, is under-performing.
* There’s an awareness that this team, as is, has a flawed roster.
* There’s a belief that this team, as is, has not been playing its best players enough.
* There’s a belief that certain players were not being put in specific situations offensively to maximize their abilities to help this team perform at a level which is consistent with its perceived talent-base.
* There’s a strong belief in the ability of Jose Calderon, as the PG for this team.
* There’s a belief that Jermaine O’Neal has shown, in a period of 5 or 6 games, so far this season, that he has what the Raptors’ basketball brain-trust was looking for when they traded for him this summer, i.e. 16 pts, 9-10 rebounds and 1-2 blocked shots per game.
* There’s a belief that this team should be “running” in offensive transition [and scoring] more consistently than it has been, to this point, this season.
* There’s a belief that the players on this team have a strong belief in one another.
* Jay Triano is the new coach for the Raptors, at least, until the end of the current season, at which time he will have an opportunity to be named the permanent head coach, along with any other candidates who might be available at that time.

Part B – From the Raptors’ Official Website

* The events of Wednesday do not coincide yet with the specifics of what this observer saw and listened to in the post-game interviews from Tuesday’s debacle vs the Nuggets:

I. re: Sam Mitchell II. re: Jermaine O’Neal III. re: Jose Calderon and IV. re: Bosh

“Cause, as you know, I played in the League. Mike Evans played in the League. Alex English played in the League. You know, at the end of the day, coach’s coach, but the players go play. You’ve got to out and compete every second you’re on the court.”
Sam Mitchell [former Head Coach, Toronto Raptors]

… which is most intriguing.

————

Third.

John Hollinger’s take on the situation … which has considerable merit.

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Fourth.

The exact timing of this decision yesterday [early Wednesday afternoon] … of all days, when there was a “players only” meeting scheduled for the morning, in place of a regular practice session between games, that followed the post-game “players only” meeting  … is a key to understanding, in part, some of what is still insidiously wrong/corrupt with MLSE, and the way in which this organization chooses to conduct its pro sports related business.

Trust that this corner will be seeing and listening intently over the next little while to the words and the quotes which come directly from the different parties involved in this decision, made abruptly yesterday … to decipher accurately what it means for this franchise, short and long term, going forward from here.

—–

To wit:

Analysis: Mitchell firing not a surprise
This team’s a lot better than an 8-9 record,” Colangelo said during a late afternoon teleconference. “Despite the criticism of this roster, this is a roster that was put together on a consensus basis…you might look back at last season, and the games, a series of games, where we underachieved. Expectations were high.”

—–

* Did that 2nd “players only” meeting happen Wednesday morning?
* Did it happen prior to this decision being made?
* Or, did that 2nd meeting not take place at all?
* If it did … Who exactly was running this team, at that moment, when Sam Mitchell was relieved of his coaching duties with the Raptors, from amongst this specific group of players?
* And, if it did … To whom is that person[s] reporting?
* What was really accomplished by making this move yesterday?

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When dealing with an entity like MLSE, and a most intelligent person, like Bryan Colangelo, know that it’s an elaborate Game of Chess … and, Every Move Must Have A Purpose.

Part of the fun, therein, lies … with trying to figure out what that purpose actually is.

Deciphering the correct code for the Raptors

December 3, 2008

FINAL SCORE: Raptors 93, Nuggets 132
Game Info

Jeez-louise … that one was ugly.

Three points to make.

1. The person responsible for the Raptors’ current situation is not Sam Mitchell, the team’s head coach … it is Bryan Colangelo, the team’s President/GM, who has made the decisions which have led this franchise dangerously close to “Treadmill Status” [right now], something that was relatively easy to see as a likely predicament for this group of players since this past summer, at least, for those who have not been drinking of the Kool-Aid from MLSE.

It’s not necessary to re-hash that long list again, is it?

[Let’s hope not. 🙂 ]

The 2nd-3rd week of December is approaching quickly, and the FACT IS … the man has a history of changing head coaches during this first part of the regular season, if/when there’s a need for a scapegoat to be found to explain the sorry plight of a team which he has been responsible for constructing in the first place.

Will he do it again this year?

Hmmm …

For the sake of the Raptors’ long term goal, which should be trying to eventually bring a NBA Championship to the City of Toronto, let’s hope not.

2. That said …

There are some individuals in this world who are positive thinkers … despite what certain others might have to say about them and their ideas, which can sometimes be complex and difficult to understand, especially at first glance … and incapable of ever accepting a No-win Situation, for what it appears to be, on the surface. These individuals, IN FACT, are properly characterized as out-of-the-box-thinkers who have learned the lessons well of Sun Tzu, and knowing both themselves and their opponent, at all times, are able to “Make chicken out of chicken salad”, on a regular basis, because it’s who they happen to be and what they happen to do in this world. Different strokes for different folks.

Finding THE WAY OUT for this year’s team is akin to the classic “trap scenario” involved with the single room, two doors [one which leads to eventual escape and salvation; the other which leads to death and damnation], two gate-keepers, one who always tells the truth and the other who always tells a lie; and, the single question which you, as the solo game player, must be able to ask correctly, of either gate-keeper, in order to choose the one RIGHT door, without knowing in advance which keeper is the truth-teller and which is the falsemaster.

i.e. All the pieces to the puzzle have been laid out in front of you already; what you have to do is decipher them correctly. Once the answer to the riddle has been told to you, it makes perfect sense. It is not earth-shaking, in any sense. It is simple “common” sense; which really isn’t common at all, at least, not until everyone IN FACT has it “in common” with each other, which unfortunately not all do in this topsy turvy world. Still, if you think it through carefully, there is nothing preventing you, or anyone else for that matter, from arriving at THE correct answer for yourself. One of the keys? “See” and “listen” very carefully, as “Looking” and “Hearing” alone, won’t get you very far. The answer to the riddle is always to be found in the original source material. Sorta like THE pudding and THE eating. 😉

When a team’s roster of players looks like this:

Calderon, Parker, Bargnani, Bosh, O’Neal
Ukic, Kapono, Moon, Graham, Humphries
Solomon, Adams, Jawai

a coach who is incapable of negotiating his way through the labyrinth correctly SHOULD NOT be held accountable for failing to be an out-of-the-box-thinker, in the first place …

as the simple FACT IS … relatively speaking, few men/women are, including the President/GM responsible for the operation of the Toronto Raptors.

3. There are some NBA observers who actually do know what they’re talking about when it comes to understanding, both, the League, in general, and the Raptors, specifically. If you wish to disregard what they have to say, on a regular basis, that’s your decision to make.

Complex, out-of-the-box-thinking is not everyone’s preferred method of operation.

THE most important skill in basketball?

December 2, 2008

That’s an interesting question.

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Raise your hand if you’ve heard the following axiom before?

“In basketball, the mental is to the physical as 5 is to 1.”
Robert Montgomery [Bob] Knight, one of the great teachers and coaches in the history of the game.

For Coach Knight, what exactly does “the mental” mean?

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[Courstesy of virtualbasketballcoach.com]

An excerpt from, “Knight: My Story,” by Bob Knight with Bob Hammel …

Cornerstone and Credos

Among all the things I believe, and all I’ve gathered from the people who have influenced me, I think one tops the list:

The importance of preparation.

We talk in coaching about “winners”–kids, and I’ve had a lot of them, who just will not allow themselves or their team to lose.

Coaches call that a will to win. I don’t. I think that puts the emphasis in the wrong place.

Everybody has a will to win. What’s far more important is having the will to prepare to win.

I’ve said that often enough that there’s a man on the Supreme Court now, justice Clarence Thomas, who told me he saw that quote attributed to me in a newspaper or a magazine years ago, clipped it out, and carries it-to this day in his billfold. I’m flattered, but credit for it should go to Bud Wilkinson, the great Oklahoma football coach. I grew up an Oklahoma football fan, because that’s where my dad was born, and Coach Wilkinson was one of the great middle-of-the-century football coaches that I later got to talk to about coaching. Somewhere along the line I read that Wilkinson said, “The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win:’ Ralph Waldo Emerson said that next to the author of a good phrase is the first to quote it. So, though I’m sure I wasn’t the first, maybe I deserve a little credit. But certainly not full.

That feeling hasn’t changed for me and I’m sure never will, but a whole lot of other things have changed in basketball since I first began to coach.

Certainly, the pay is enormously better. But that’s about the only change I’d consider a positive.

I hate the elements that recruiting has brought into college basketball-the know-it-alls but know-nothings who have made fortunes by feeding the national recruiting frenzy with gossip and guessing that is passed off as inside information; way out-of-control AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) summer programs; shoe-company financial involvement that attracts unqualified and sometimes undesirable people in. The worst effect of all this may be the damage done to the egos of sixteen- and seventeen-year-old kids, in way too many cases convincing them they’re far better than they are.

I don’t like the three-point shot and the shot clock. Those two changes take away some of the control I felt I had on the outcome of the game.

The three-point shot exclusively favors raw talent-the ability to shoot the basketball, period. I think the intent of the rule was to take the zone defense out of college basketball: by awarding three points for an outside shot over the zone.

I don’t think rules should ever be made that favor the team with the most talent. And both the shot clock and the three-point shot are talent-oriented rules.

I say these new rules reduce my control of the game as a coach. It’s not truly a matter of control; it’s a matter of teaching a game in which intelligent play is rewarded by giving it an edge.

Playing smart, in discussing how to play basketball, is a function of percentages. Playing smart is a function of positioning, of placement, of recognition.

We try to teach our players to play intelligently. A key to that is getting them to understand not just that something works but why.

Identifying what each player can do and can’t do is important. 1 can’t expect any player to do everything well.

‘I consider it my fault if one of my players who can’t shoot the ball shoots it.

I think it’s my fault if the ball is in the hands of a poor free-throw shooter at a critical time at the end of the game and he’s fouled.

I think it’s my fault if I don’t have the right defensive match-up. Not every kid can guard every opponent.

I have to understand the strengths and the weaknesses of every player who plays for me, and make sure they understand them, too. What a player can’t do is every bit as important for him to know as what he can do.

Part of my teaching process is to tell our players:

“Learn what you do well. Learn your strengths and weaknesses. You can, on occasion, improve your weaknesses. You can work to steadily improve your strengths, but there will be some inherent weaknesses that you have as a player-or as a team-that you just can’t improve greatly. In your play, stay away from weaknesses like those.

“Learn your shot range, what kind of shot you can take effectively. Then, don’t shoot out of your range. Take shots that have a fifty percent chance of going in, not thirty percent.

“Don’t try to make passes that you can’t make. Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses, while at the same time understanding each teammate’s strengths and weaknesses. Help them to play to their strengths and away from their weaknesses. If one is a big man who doesn’t handle the ball out on the floor, don’t throw him the ball when he’s moving toward the bucket on a break, thirty-five feet out. Give him the ball where all he has to do is catch it and lay it in. It’s just as important to know the strengths and weaknesses of your teammates as it is to know your own.

“Great players maximize their talent and make everybody around them better. It’s no accident that they do this. They understand the game, and they understand the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates and their opponent. That comes from thinking. There’s nothing more important that a basketball player can do. Above all else, think!” The worst phrase ever used in teaching kids how to play a sport is, “Don’t think, just do it”

If you can’t think, you can’t play:

A quick way for an player to make himself better is to think about what he himself doesn’t like to play against. On offense, no one likes to play against a guy who’s in his jock, all over him, making it tough for him to do anything. No one likes to play against a guy who won’t let him get the ball, who makes it tough for him to get a good shot.

And it’s the same thing on defense-no one likes to play against a guy who is moving all the time, a guy who goes to the offensive board on every shot, a guy who makes good fakes and takes the ball hard to the bucket. “Be hard to guard” is one of the things we continually emphasize to our players on offense.

“Think about those things that you don’t like to play against,” we tell our players.

“Then do them yourself, at both ends of the floor.”

I use the word “understand” often. I want my players to understand why teams lose: poor shot selection, bad passing, failure to block out defensively, lack of pressure on the ball. Often the reason players and coaches give for losing a game is how well the other team shot, when the actual reason is how poorly their own team played defensively in giving up so many good shots. Another extremely poor excuse for losing a game is that “we just couldn’t hit anything tonight,” when in actuality the team that lost didn’t work hard enough to get good shots and took a lot of bad ones.

To me, concentration is basketball in a nutshell. Concentration leads to anticipation, which leads to recognition, which leads to reaction, which leads to execution.

The concentration I’m talking about involves four key words.

The first two are “look” and “see.” Everybody who plays basketball looks, but very few players see. Very few players train themselves to use their eyes. Not everybody has the same shooting ability as everybody else, nor the same size, nor the same quickness. But each person who’s playing this game can develop the ability to see what’s happening on the court-see the open man, see where to take the ball, see the guy who’s being defended, see who’s open on the break.

“Hear” and “listen” are the next two words. Most people only hear. The key is listening to what you’re being told, what’s being said, what is expected of you in your role as part of any team.

A basketball player who learns to see and to listen has improved tremendously without doing a single thing involving physical skills. Once learned, “seeing” and “listening” are valuable traits for anyone doing anything.

We all want to win. We all talk about winning. But I’m a great believer in understanding what goes into losing, because if we know how we can lose, if we know those factors or reasons that cause us to lose, and we eliminate those things, we stand a much better chance of winning.

I don’t apologize to anybody for really wanting to win or for hating to lose.

Win at any cost?

No. Absolutely not. I’ve never understood how anybody who cheated to get a player, or players, could take any satisfaction whatsoever out of whatever winning came afterward.

—————————–

As far as the Toronto Raptors are concerned, there’s at least one player on the current squad who is already aware of this all-important aspect of How to Play the Game Properly [i.e. at its highest level].

———-

Calderon brings sandpaper to mix
“We’ve got to fight everybody, we have to fight for 48 minutes and forget about who we play and where we play,” Calderon said after the Laker game. “I think we’re going to be a pretty good team, we have to keep working, be patient. We just have to concentrate for 48 minutes.”

———-

Yes, indeed.

What some astute NBA observers are able to “see and listen to” when they watch a NBA game is very different from what most players, coaches, administrators, fans and other observers are able to “see and listen to” when they watch the very same game.

GAME REVIEW: Raptors at Lakers [Nov 30]

December 1, 2008

When you read other reports today that detail the Raptors’ loss to the Lakers, pay close attention to which ones focus on the ineffective play of Chris Bosh and the absence of Jermaine O’Neal …

FINAL SCORE: Raptors 99, LAKERS 112
Game Info

as the principal reasons for the eventual L, and which ones do not.

Yes, Chris Bosh, the Raptors’ best player, had a sub-standard performance [i.e. 36:54/MP; 4-13/FGM-A; 3-4/FTM-A; 12 Pts; 6 Rebs; 3 Ast; 1 St; 4 To]; and, yes, Jermaine O’Neal was missing from their line-up.

However, these are NOT the main reasons the Raptors lost yesterday’s game.

—————————–

Beginning at the 10:00 mark of the 4th Q, in what was then a 6-Pt contest, this is the specific sequence of Possession Outcomes which determined the eventual outcome.

PositionLAKERS—-vs—-Raptors
PG/1——Farmar———-Ukic
OG/2——Vujacic———-Kapono
SF/3——Ariza————Moon
PF/4——Odom———–Graham
C/5——-Bynum———–Bosh

LAL 90, Tor 84

#1. LAK Poss 1 – Vujacic beats Kapono off the bounce; Makes twisting Layup slicing between Moon & Graham … LAL 92, Tor 84
#2. RAP Poss 1 – Graham Misses a Pull-up Jumpshot
#3. LAK Poss 2 – Odom fouled while posting-up vs Graham
#4. LAK Poss 3 – TO [Ariza]; Steal by Bosh
#5. RAP Poss 2 – TO [Ukic]
#6. LAK Poss 4 – Farmar Misses Jumpshot [vs Ukic]; Team Rebound to LAL
#7. LAK Poss 5 – Ariza Makes Turn-around Jumpshot/hook vs Moon … LAL 94, Tor 84 
#8. RAP Poss 3 – Ukic Misses Jumpshot
#9. LAK Poss 6 – Bynum Makes Dunk on lob pass; Bosh helping vs Odom [fronted by Graham] … LAL 96, Tor 84 
#10. RAP Poss 4 – Graham Makes Layup vs Farmar … LAL 96, Tor 86
#11. LAK Poss 7 – Ariza Makes Jumpshot vs poor switch by Moon [with Graham] on the ‘Post-Split’ action … LAL 98, Tor 86
#12. RAP Poss 5 – Graham Missed Turn-arond Jumpshot/Layup vs Odom
#13. LAK Poss 8 – Bynum Makes Dunk + fouled on rejected Pick & Roll with Farmar; Graham late arriving with weak side help [coming off Odom] … LAL 101, Tor 86

07:26 mark of the 4th Q … Calderon replaces Ukic; Bargnani replaces Graham

—————————–

What should you have noticed from these 13 possessions?

In General:

* The Lakers were able to generate 2 extra possesions. One, when Odom was fouled, in the Low Post by Graham; and, two, from their Team Rebound.

* The Lakers were too quick, athletic and physical for the Raptors to handle [which ultimately resulted in a decisive Rebounding edge over the course of the entire game, i.e. Total Rebounds: LAL 54, Tor 36].

Specifically:

#1. Jason Kapono is an inferior NBA athlete, in comparison with Sasha Vujacic.
#2. Graham’s strength is not his Pull-up Jumpshot. As a perimter player, Graham is effective when he can ‘Catch & Shoot’.
#3. Odom vs Graham, in the post, is a mis-match [despite the fact that Odom picked up an offensive foul earlier in the quarter, in this situation]. Graham should not be defending Odom.
#4. Bosh is a capable Post defender … when he uses his quickness.
#5. Ukic is an inexperienced PG who sometimes makes poor decisions with the ball.
#6. Ukic is a solid NBA athlete at the #1-spot. The Lakers size & athleticism is difficult for the Raptors to handle … especially with Kapono [too slow vs Vujacic] and Moon [too weak vs Ariza] and Graham [under-sized vs Odom] on the floor together … the Raptors have difficulty gaining possession of loose balls.
#7. Ariza is too strong for Moon to handle on the block. Moon needs to check Vujacic. Graham needs to Ariza. Humphries needs to check Odom.
#8. Kapono cannot dribble the ball vs Vujacic. Ukic is a poor perimter shooter.
#9. Graham should NOT be checking Odom.
#10. Graham is a solid Low Post option for the Raptors.
#11. Moon is not a strong enough player to check Ariza.
#12. Graham is a solid Low Post Option for the Raptors. Odom, however, is too big for him.
#13. Bynum is among the VERY BEST ‘Aerial Finishers’ in the NBA. Graham should not be cheking Odom. 🙂 Graham should be checking Ariza, with  Moon checking Vujacic, and Humphries in the game, checking Odom.

At this point in the regular season … with these two player rosters assembled by their respective GMs:

* The Lakers are 14-1 and poised to amass 70+ wins; as forecast by this corner last season, prior to their predicted loss in the 2008 NBA Finals;

while,

* The Raptors are 8-8, on pace to put up approximately 40 wins; and, in all likelihood, finish in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference.

Despite a less-than-stellar performance yesterday by the Dinos, the signs are there, however, that this group of players [at these positions] …

Starters
1/Calderon + 2/Moon [3] + 3/Graham + 4/Humphries + 5/Bosh

Key Bench Subs
1-2/Parker + 4/Bargnani [3]

Situational Subs
1/Ukic, 2/Kapono [3], 5/O’Neal [or a different veteran Big]

either [i] without JO altogether, or [ii] with him in a decreased role …

has the capacity to become a solid contender for a playoff spot in the EC, down-the-road, if those responsible for running the basketball operation at MLSE, in fact, [A] know what they’re doing, and can [B] begin to make the best use possible of the resources at-hand [i.e. current players & draft picks, plus coaches].  

In the NBA … every organization has access to a similar set of ingredients. What separates the performance of one from another is the manner in which their Head Chefs choose to combine those ingredients in their recipe.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Anonymous

NBA’s upper echelon begins to emerge

November 28, 2008

The NBA’s regular season schedule is now in full swing with each team having played a minimum of 13 games.

As was mentioned earlier in this space, there are three tiers of teams in this League that reveal themselves on an annual basis:

1. HIGH END [above a .549 Win %]
2. MIDDLE-of-the-Pack [between a .450-.549 Win %]
3. LOW END [below a .450 Win %]

At this point, here’s what each team’s W-L record is, in conjunction with their respective Rebounding Differential Ranking [which regular readers here know is a crucial factor towards playoff success]:

HIGH END

1 LA Lakers 12-1/.923; +5.00/#3
2 Boston 14-2/.875; +3.43/#7
3 Cleveland 12-3/.750; +4.33/#5
4 Phoenix 11-5/.688; -0.25/#14
T5 Detroit 9-5/.643; +0.92/#11
T5 Atlanta 9-5/.643; -0.42/#16
T5 Orlando 12-4/.643; -0.37/#15
T5 New Orleans 9-5/.643; +0.07/#13
T9 Utah 10-6/.625; +3.50/#6
T9 Portland 10-6/.625; +4.37/#4
T9 Houston 10-6/.625; +2.06/#9
T9 Denver 10-6/.625; -0.43/#17
13 San Antonio 8-6/.571; -2.28/#24 *

MIDDLE

T14 Dallas 7-7/.500; +3.07/#8
T14 New Jersey 7-7/.500; +0.21/#12
T14 Toronto 7-7/.500; -2.14/#23
T17 Miami 7-8/.467; -5.26/#28
T17 Philadelphia 6-7/.467; +6.33/#1
T17 New York 7-8/.467; -7.20/#30

LOW END

20 Chicago 7-9/.438; -1.31/#19
21 Indiana 6-8/.429; +1.00/#10
22 Milwaukee 7-10/.412; +5.58/#2
23 Golden State 5-10/.333; -3.20/#26
24 Sacramento 5-12/.294; -1.64/#20
25 Memphis 4-11/.267; -2.40/#25
26 Charlotte 4-10/.286; -2.07/#22
27 Minnesota 3-10/.231; -1.30/#18
28 Washington 2-11/.154; -3.46/#27
29 LA Clippers/2-13/.133; -5.53/#29
30 Oklahoma City 1-15/.063; -1.81/#21

* Have played mostly without Ginobili-M and Parker-T, thus far.