True Hoops

True Hoops

Thursday, December 29, 2011

LeBron, POST Lockout

Since we are on the topic of great players adding layers to their game to become even better, notice anything new about LeBron James lately?

33 points, 6 assists, and 7 rebounds through the Heat's 3-0 start?
No, that sounds about right.
No three point field goal attempts?
Hmmm.
Demanding and scoring the ball in the post?
What?!

If I had to pick a moment from last year's NBA Finals that was symbolic of LeBron James realtive futility, it would have to be in game 6 when he had JJ Barea isolated in the post. Rather than calmly get the ball and elevate over the helpless defender, LeBron (6'8", 250 lbs) seemed out of his element and forced the issue on Barea (no way is he 6'0", 175 lbs) and ultimately drew an anti-climatic offensive foul.

Everyone knew the best player in the world didn't have a post game.
Still, the look of incredulity on my face at that moment must have been priceless.

Well, it seems as if the dog days are over.
After the Finals, LeBron spent "two weeks in his room, not talking to anyone."
He eventually resurfaced. And apparently he has put in major work.
It was reported over the summer that LeBron was working on his post game.
Some of the fruits of his labor were on display during summer league games.

But now, LeBron is already implementing his newly found post moves into real game situations - as his go-to move!

Check out this gem from opening day in Dallas:

1) Pin your defender behind you with you left hand. Give a target/call for the ball with your right hand.



2) Catch the ball, locate your defender and protect the ball with your body


3) Plant your left foot. Use it as a pivot to turn your right shoulder to face the basket.


4) As you pivot, keep the ball high so the defender can't swipe at it - like a "big man" should.


5) Fully turned, face up and assess what the defense is giving you. Keep the ball high.


6) At this point, Shawn Marion is playing LeBron for the drive. I mean, why wouldn't you?
But with the ball already above his head, LeBron is in a perfect position to go right up into his shot. In fact, by pivoting 360 degrees to face his defender, the last thing he does is actually step into his shot with his right foot. 


7) Ball high, face up, step in and elevate into your shot.


8) So seem-less, quick, and efficient. LeBron is off the ground before Marion has a hand up.


What I love about this move is how fantastically fundamental it is.
I mean seriously, here you have the most supreme basketball athlete in the world simply posting, pivoting, and shooting. It's enough to make Tim Duncan jealous.

Also, what I love about this is that it shows posting up doesn't always mean trying to play bully ball and mindlessly back your man down to the rim. It shows that LeBron understands he can use his size and strength to gain position closer to the basket where he can access his repertoire of skill, footwork, and athleticism to get a high percentage shot. 
It's that simple. But what's even more amazing is how unstoppable it is.

And far from an aberration, LeBron has already drawn from this well numerous times, from multiple locations on the floor, with an array of footwork moves.  It's almost as if he relishes the chance to use his post game now. It's kind of like the year we first saw him chase down defenders from half court to block them at the rim. At first it was a novel occurrence. Then it became expected. I wouldn't be surprised if the same holds true for him working out of the post.

After all, everyone knows the best player in the world now has a post game.
The look of incredulity on my face must be priceless.








Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kevin Dirk-rant

How meaningful is one move in a preseason game?

Well, let's just say that the NYtimes wrote about it.
NBA.com wrote about it.
And of course,  the Oklahoman had to write about it.

Did you see it?
The move Kevin Durant pulled out of his new bag of tricks during the 2nd quarter of the Thunder's innocuous first pre-season game against Dallas the other night?
Even if you did, it's worth taking another look:


Yes, that's KD pulling out the Dirk Nowitzki one legged fall-away step-back jump shot.
As if this kid didn't already have enough ways the score the ball.

If case you're new to True Hoops NY, I'm a pretty big fan of the step back jump shot.
And you have to know that I gave a shot out to Dirk and his shot before.

What I love about this is that here you have the two-time defending scoring champ still looking for ways to get better and add layers to his game. That is what greatness is all about. It tells you not only about the dedication that Durant has to the game - but also about his intelligence.

I once heard Steve Nash (who should also get credit for taking one legged jump-shots) say "as a basketball player you are always watching other player's games. Half the time to try to prevent them from doing something - the other half to add some of their elements to your own game." 

There is something truly sublime about considering the evolution of the game and a great basketball player. One that is an amalgamation of countless great players before them - but with their own creative nuances as well.

And after what he did in last years playoffs, why wouldn't you want to add Dirk's game to yours?
And KD has been working on it too.
Game recognize game.

Here are some of the major points to executing KD's Dirk step-back:

1) Catch the Ball in the post. Keep the ball away from the defender and protect it with your body. Establish your left foot as your pivot.


2) Using your left pivot, rotate your body so your right foot and shoulder (shooting side for righties) is closest to the basket. Continue to protect the ball.


3) Use your dribble (so it's not a travel) to shift to your momentum to your right foot.


4) Lean into and jab into the defender. As you plant your right foot, use this momentum to push off your right foot and step-back to your left


5) Don't wait until your right leg comes aligned with your left. Once your weight is back on your left foot, lean back and elevate into your shot. This doesn't allow the defender to recover and keeps the space you just created.


6) Keep your right leg in front of you and raise your right knee to face the basket. This serves two purposes: It aligns your body to the basket/guides your shot to the rim. It also serves as a shield between you and the defender. If they try to get to your shot, the defender will have a knee in their chest.


Delonte West never stood a chance. And he played pretty good defense as well.

To make things scarier for potential defenders, think about this: KD executes this move much quicker (with his jab step) than I've ever seen Dirk do it.

It's just the (rapid) evolution of the game.
A jab-step, step-back, one legged fade-away.
KD is mixing and matching different parts to construct the perfect move.

And make no mistake, this is a variation of his jab-step move.
If you feel bad for West, look at the move KD put on LeBron using similar mechanics in a summer league game.

Yes, this was just one move in a meaningless pre-season game.
But really, it was a real-time snap shot of a great artist honing his craft.




Saturday, December 17, 2011

If You Can't Join 'em...... Beat 'em


The Clippers take the Point in L.A.


No, Chris paul did not join the Lakers.
But as it turns out, he may be on the best team in L.A. anyway.

Within in the course of a week the fortunes of the Lakers and Clippers have dramatically gone in opposite directions right before our very eyes.

Has anyone in the NBA had as bad an offseason as the Lakers?
Conversely, has anyone in the NBA had as good an offseason as the Clippers?

Over the past couples of years, we've often heard that the Clippers have young talent. Well with the addition of Paul, and Billups, the Clips are brimming with talent and leadership. We're talking top 3 point guard/superstar leadership and 7 straight conference finals leadership. Maybe the Clippers aren't going to win the NBA championship. But they surely have a squad to get a top 4 seed in the west.

Don't think so?
Let me ask you a few questions:

Question 1: If Chris Paul was able to average 10 assists a game last year with his second best player being an injured David West, how many assists do you think he will average now? Keep in mind, he only has an out-of-this-world young superstar at the 4, a former Finals MVP/Mr. Bigshot at the 2 , a career 17 and 6 guy at the 3, and an athletic 7-footer at the five.

Question 2: If Blake Griffin was able to get 214 dunks last season, how many do you think he will get this year with Paul throwing him the ball? More importantly, how much better do you think Paul will make him?

Question 3: Do you think Paul can turn DeAndre Jordan into the next Tyson Chandler? You know, kind of like how he turned Tyson Chandler into Tyson Chandler a few years ago, when the Hornets finished with the 2 seed in the west. And for your info, Chandler is a career 8 and 9 guy, with 1.4 blocks per game. At only 23, Jordan is a career 7 and 7 guy with 1.8 blocks per game.


With their additions in the offseason, the Clippers have made all the right moves.
What have the Lakers done?

Okay, they tried to hit a home run and get Chris Paul themselves. But what would the cost have been? Besides a guy named Kobe Bryant, the Lakers strength the past few years has been the trees on their frontline named Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. I don't know if breaking that up for Chris Paul was a good idea. But what's worse than breaking up the bigs to get Paul? How about not getting Paul and then losing Odom for nothing because you insulted a major part of your championship core?

Really, there were so many other moves the Lakers could have made to vastly improve their point guard spot. What about going after Jamal Crawford or JJ Barea? Or better yet, once the Knicks let him go, why not doing everything in their power so they could acquire Billups? Could you imagine a line up of Billups, Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum, and Odom? There were plenty of points guards that could have made them better this season while keeping their bigs in tact. And they still could have made a play for CP3 or Deron Williams as a free agent.

The Lakers are still relevant becuase they have Kobe, a top 5 power forward, and a top 5 Center. But they have done obsolutely nothing to address their weakness at the point guard position. Anyone who watched last years playoffs knows they were severely outplayed at that position. And it's not just point guard, the Lakers don't have any guard other than Kobe that can create for themselves or others on their team.

Contrast that with Clippers, who have a top 5 power forward of their own to go along with a glut of quick and/or gritty guards that can handle, create and score: Paul, Billups, Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye.

I'm sure Kobe relishes a challenge, but in light of everything mentioned above, is it really unreasonable to think the Clippers now have a better team than the Lakers?

And let me just finish with Chauncey.
He could never beat Chris Paul at point once he got to New York (neither could Raymond Felton). Even after moving across the country, he still couldn't beat Chris Paul at Point in L.A. Ironically, he'll just have to settle for being Paul's teammate and move over to the two guard spot (which he did successfully during the 2010 world Championships with Derrick Rose at the point). And think about this, Billups already ended one Lakers reign with the Pistons in '04. He might just be apart of another Lakers decline again. Hollywood ending? Hopefully Billups gets to ride off into the sunset out west.






Saturday, December 10, 2011

Think Big


Is it possible that the Knicks front office is actually making all the right moves?
After the rumors regarding Chris Paul and a new big three in New York, the Knicks decided to focus on reality and pulled a 180 to fill a position much more vital to their ultimate success.
Now they have a really big, big three.

This is not to say that  Tyson Chandler is a super star. Actually, he isn't even an all-star (only a career 8 points and 9 rebounds/game). But, at the same time he is a 7'1" defensive minded big that is athletic with a winning pedigree. No, Chandler is no Marcus Camby, but he has a gold medal and a NBA championship. Furthermore, he allows A'mare to play his natural position at the 4. And with Melo at the 3, he arguably gives New York the best frontline in the league. Outside of getting Dwight Howard (who may be on his way to the Nets), this was the best big the Knicks could get to address their needs and complement their stars.

This was a home run for New York.

This doesn't make the Knicks a lock for a championship - as they are thin at the point guard position - but if playing to their potential, the Knicks should be a two or three seed in the East. They actually have nice depth now with Jared Jeffries and Shawne Williams. Throw in Landry Fields and they should clean up the boards.

Do A'mare, Melo, and Chandler really comprise the best front court in the NBA?
Let's look at the competition:

Los Angles - Was the best with Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. But trading for Chris Paul would breakup up the bigs.

Memphis - As seen in last year's playoffs, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are tough to deal with. Throw in a healthy Rudy Gay and watch out. Memphis should be a top 4 seed in the west this year.

Oklahoma City - Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison. Only one scorer, but if it's KD, then that's probably enough.

Chicago - Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson. Pretty Gritty.

Miami - LeBron and Chris Bosh with anyone may be the tops. Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are nice compliments but force Bosh to play the 5, although Bosh said he would welcome that this year. Ironically enough, picking up former Knick Eddie Curry might prove to be a big acquisition - if he can somehow provide close to 10 and 10 while protecting the basket.


After checking out the competition, and with the Lakers getting smaller, the Knicks look like they might be standing tall this year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Deal or No Deal?

NO DEAL.




Here I was ready to write about how the new CBA doesn't really restrict player movement.
Here I was ready to write about how the new CBA doesn't prevent players from going where they want.
More importantly, here I was ready to write about the implications of Chris Paul going to the Lakers.

Then David Stern stepped in and put an end to all that nonsense.

Two prefaces:
1) I'm not sure if trading Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for Chris Paul would have made the Lakers a better team than Miami, OKC, Chicago, or even Memphis (especially if they didn't follow it up by getting Dwight Howard).

2) I don't think this means that the NBA will meddle in the personnel decisions of every team, for every transaction from now on. This was after all, a new unique situation where the NBA happened to own the Hornets, and on the day of signing the new CBA into effect the owners had the ear of the commish.

But with that, let me say......

THIS IS WRONG!

On so many levels.
You could argue that, Stern made a business decision - in the best interest of the NBA as a whole. Could you imagine how disastrous it would have been if the owners pulled out at the last moment because they were livid about this trade? Alright, If Stern was candid about it, then I could see that.
But make no mistake, this was not done in the best interest of the Hornets or New Orleans, from a business or competitive standpoint.

Chris Paul is leaving after the season, no matter what. So rather than spending an awkward and distracting season filled with trade rumors and questions (a-la Denver), only to get nothing in return at the end of it (a-la Cleveland and Toronto), New Orleans decided to nip the problem in the bud by moving on and getting top value for Paul. Good for them.

This trade would have given them Odom (6th man of the year), Luis Scola (18 points & 8 rebounds/game last season),  Kevin Martin (23 points/game the last 5 seasons), Goran Dragic, and a 1st round pick. When I first heard it, I actually couldn't believe they got so much. I mean really, trading Shaq only yielded Odom and Caron Butler. Who did Minnesota get for Garnett? Who did the Nuggets get for Melo? Exactly.

This is no knock on Paul, but 4 qualities players and a draft pick for him is a good deal.
Shame on the owners for not letting the Hornets get top value.
What's the alternative? They get less value from another team?

Or is this just about not letting the Lakers get better?
What, they're not allowed to improve their roster?
Why, because they're a big market team that always dominates because they have a ton of money?
How has that worked out for the Clippers?
And did you see them in the playoffs last year? You know, when it was obvious their biggest weakness was their perimeter play - as they got destroyed by both Paul AND J.J. Barea.
Besides, they are giving up their second best player and the reigning 6th man of the year!

Oh I get it!
The owners did this to maintain competitive balance!
Especially in the small markets!
Hurray!
Here come the owners to the rescue!

What a load of CRAP.

I can think of 3 examples off the top of my head to dispel that notion right now.
1) The San Antonio Spurs - I seem to remember them winning 4 championships in the last 12 years.
2) The New York Knicks - I seem to remember them being a disgrace to New York and the laughing stock of the NBA for the last decade, despite having one the leagues highest payrolls.
3) The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzles. Even if this deal went down, I still would like OKC's chance to come out of the west and for Memphis to compete.

With regard to competitive balance, this it what it really comes down to:
No matter how you slice it, the reality in the NBA (and almost every other basketball league from recreation to summer leagues) is that there always will be only 4-6 teams (if that many) that have a realistic shot of winning a championship. Everyone else is mediocre at best. That's just the way it is.

Yes, it's true great teams have great players that can control the outcome of a game.
But also a big part of building a champion is making smart decisions and finding the right pieces and complements.

Yes, bigger markets will have an advantage in terms of spending money and attracting stars. But that just means, smaller markets with less money, have to evolve to survive by drafting and using strategy. When it comes down to it, I think most athletes want to be in a position where they can compete for a championship. Just like it's the job of coaches to put players in a position to be successful, it's the job of owners and GMs to but the franchise in a position to be successful.

Examples?

How about when Detroit decided in the mid-2000's to bring in a bunch of rugged veterans that no other team seemed to want? Seemed to work out for them.

What about what Memphis has done? Signing Mike Conley? Zach Randoph? Trading for Marc Gasol? Sheesh, Marc seems to be more untouchable than his brother now a days.

Conversely:

Check out Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert's email to Commissioner Stern pleading to kill the Chris Paul trade. Hey buddy, what about some of the trades you made? You know, like trading for Antwan Jamison instead of A'mare Stoudemire, in LeBron's last year.

Or beyond Cleveland, what about decisions by other teams. Like Portland drafting Oden instead of Durant? Okay, that was a tough one. Well, how about Portland drafting Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan? Yeah, the drafts are tough to predict. Must be luck that San Antonio got Tony parker and Manu Ginobili, or that Oklahoma City thought Russell Westbrook could play point. Still, not to knock Portland, they made out relatively well in the late 80's/early 90's. And had it not been for injuries to their whole team, especially Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, they would be doing pretty well right now.

And speaking of Jordan, what he thinks Charlotte can't compete in the current state of NBA affairs? Then someone tell him to make better drafts picks and not trade Tyson Chandler the year after he helps lead them to the playoffs. Maybe the Hornets shouldn't have traded Chandler before that.

And speaking of Charlotte and the Hornets, they have been down this road before. Remember when Baron Davis was one of the best point guards in the NBA and played for the Hornets from '00 to '04? They made the playoffs all of those years - which is more than can be said for the Hornets led by Paul. But then all of a sudden, Davis was discontent and wanted to relocate to California. What happened? They traded Davis and then picked up Chris Paul in the draft! Most would agree that they were better off for it. So, what's to say they can't do something similar?

What, players shouldn't be allowed to go where they want?
Why, because they are using smaller market teams?
I tough it was all part of the business - you know, like when owners and GMs trade any and everyone whenever and to whoever they want.
How do you think Chauncey Billups will feel if the Knicks get Tyson Chandler?
How do you think Pau Gasol feels now? This dude was in LA for 3 and a half seasons and all he did was help LA get to three finals and win two championships. But since he had one subpar playoff performance, now it's time to go?

How about a little reciprocity?

And I'm not ranking on the owners.
I actually believe that many franchises were losing money and that it was reasonable to ask players to compromise on some issues. If that's what the lockout was about fine. But don't try to sell me on this competitive balance stuff. That's just a falsehood.

Do I sound upset?
Well it's not just me. Look at the players reactions (as an aside, in just two words Russell Westbrook manages to convince me that he is genuinely mystified about what just happened).

Let me end with this:
I am a born again knicks fan (still on the fence) that thinks regardless of what trades transpire Miami has the best team in the NBA. I could care less about this trade - other than the fact that it would make the NBA more exciting.

Still, this whole nixing of the trade business is crazy and it is dumb.
It almost feels like borderline tampering/point shaving.
It's not good for business.
More importantly, it's not good for the NBA.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Stuff Dreams are Made of

So, you mean to tell me that two groups of people - both rich in their own right - that are entrenched in their respective fundamental values actually can comprise for the sake of the greater good???

Wow. This really is cause for celebration.

Having NBA basketball back isn't too bad either.

Regardless of who you may think came out on top after this whole process, the reality is we are ALL winners for having basketball back.

Of course, some may argue that this was the plan all along. Some of my friends are under the impression that the NBA is fixed (sort of like wrestling). What? You mean to tell me it's not coincidence that opening day for the 2011-2012 season would see the Dallas mavericks receive their championship rings right in front of the Miami heat? Not coincidence the first game of the season would be at the "world's most famous arena" to see the knicks host the team that swept them out of the playoffs? Surely it's just coincidence that opening day would pit Kobe against reigning MVP Derrick Rose......right?


But let's be real about it.
The reason the NBA is back and will start on Christmas day is because nobody wanted to miss this:


For the love of the game,
Thank you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Foster the Creativity

While there isn't basketball being played, at least there is time to make extremely creative basketball commercials.

Of course I already highlighted my favorite basketball commercial.
Here are two of my more recent favorites:

1)

Let me just say it, this commercial is dope.
The beat is banging and the visuals are stunning.
My favorite sequence is when the beat loops (as if a DJ is replaying it) while Rose fakes throwing the ball at the matador before emerging unscathed from underneath his flag in slow motion.

There are times when I think that basketball is more than just a game. That it can change lives and even society. Something about this commercial brings out that sense. It's epic.

There are times when I still get the urge to play basketball seriously, and even go back to training. Something about this commercial brought out that urge (albeit briefly).

There weren't many times when I rooted for the bulls growing up (although I did root for them in the finals towards the end of Jordan's career). Dare I say as a Knicks fan, something about this commercial makes me want to root for the bulls. It certainly makes me want to root for Derrick Rose.

And for sure, it makes me want to buy those sneakers......



2)


I assume this commercial was made in reference to the lockout.
It made me smile more than anything.

The desire to play, for the sake of playing.
For the sake of comradery.
And also for the sake of competition.

In addition to the "jewish under 40 league" (oy vey, now leaving Brooklyn), my favorite scene is at the end when Carmelo and Paul team up and go to China only to find Wade is there also and ready to compete against them.

Is there perhaps a reference to a new-new big three vs. the new (soon to be new-old) big three? What, you thought it was gonna be easy? Game recognize game.


A few random thoughts about this second commercial:

1) Question: How come New York had the most jacked up courts? 


2) I have always found Jordan being an owner during the lockout intriguing.
Here you have the greatest player of all time, who you think would be sympathetic towards current players, falling more in line with the owners.

Although maybe its not that surprising considering he is a business man.

Still, with this commercial you have Jordan "the owner" - of the brand and NBA team - approving a commercial that seems to support players - that happen to make him money.

3) It's hard to pick a side in this lockout - when you have billionaires fighting millionaires. 
This commercial seems sympathetic towards players - hey they love the game so much they'll play in recreational leagues.

You know what I would love to see???
How about the players stick to their demands of 53%, or 52.5% of the BRI until the owners cave.
Then, the players take a portion, if not all, of the difference from a 50-50 split (3%) and donate it to charity just to show it's not about the money but getting a fair deal.

Of course that will never happen.

4) More than two sides
We talk about how the owners pay the salaries and create the platform for players to become stars and rich. We talk about how the players are the star power and generate owners and the league huge amounts of revenue.

Well, one thing these commercials tell me is how much the social media, arts, labels, commercials, technology, and marketing drives all of this. It has it's own economy that caters to our dreams.
We buy half this merchandise so we can dress up and be in our own reality show where we are the basketball players. Where we are the star athletes - or even underrated role players that make a team successful (even though most of us really look and play like the people in those recreational leagues - oy vey). An economy of fitness and training - where we have something that drives us. Where we can sweat for a purpose and compete.

Of course, that's where Jordan really revolutionized the game right? Through the development of his sneakers and brand through nike. Through these commercials. Where our "love of the game" allows us to buy all this stuff - which in turn provides and even bigger platform (and market) for both the owners and players.

How much are the creative designers behind these commercials worth? What's their fair deal?

Better yet - how much are the people who watch these commercials (and write about them) worth?

What's our fair deal?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Top Ten Things We Will Miss this NBA Season


10) Jimmer Fredette wins the three point shoot out during all-star weekend

Is it possible that this guy is the best shooter in the league already?

Well if the lockout keeps going he may be by default, as some of the other greats just may have to retire (Steve Nash, Ray Allen).

Seriously though, name a shooter in the NBA better than this guy. Steph Curry?

Imagine Jimmer coming down to Orlando and putting on a show.
Craig Hodges might have been in trouble.

9) The best slam dunk competition ever.

Is this the year the NBA would have finally got it right?
Is this the year that superstars finally stepped up and into the competition (at least to make it up to the fans for the lockout)?

Think about this line-up:
LeBron James (goes from preliminarily to actuality)
Derrick Rose
Russel WestBrook
Blake Griffin

My Good-ness
Why hasn't this happened already???

8) The knicks having their first 50 win season in over a decade
Think about what it's like to be a Knicks fan:
We could never get over the hump with Ewing.
(Thank Jordan and Texas for that).
We went through the 00's as a joke.
We finally pick up Amar'e and Carmelo. Back on the map???
Nope. Now we have the lockout to prevent us from winning.

NY just can't catch a break.

Think about how fun the renewed Miami/New York rivalry would be.
Or how about a new Chicago/New York grudge match?

7) Dwight Howard's last year in Orlando/Chris Paul's last year in NOLA 

For all of the bad luck the Knicks have, maybe the next time there are NBA games CP3 will be in NYC. New Yorkers are already used to waiting till next year in basketball. Might as well wait one more year for Chris Paul.

At least Orlando and NOLA won't have to go through all that annoying and distracting trade talk the way Denver did last season. Although, I suppose that means that both teams won't get any sort of just compensation for their loses with a trade.


6) The Miami Heat win 73 games
What? You don't think these guys will get better?
How about when they add a piece or two and stay healthy?
Then they can really be in the NBA 2K12 talk for greatest team of all time.

What would Jordan think?

5) The Gasol brothers meet in the western conference 2nd round
Remember when you thought the Lakers robbed Memphis by getting Pau Gasol for practically nothing?
Well, what do you think now? Who was the better Gasol in last year's playoffs?
(Hint: Pau wasn't the brother that was second in the NBA in rebounding).

Is Marc Gasol one of the better centers in the NBA now?
Bynum/Pau Gasol frontline? What about the Randolph/Marc Gasol frontline?
You're talking Hollywood vs. beast mode.

When was the last time we saw brothers go up against each other in the NBA?
On this this type of stage? Think about how epic this would be.

4) Opportunities abound
My, look how many players have signed to play overseas.
Question: What if there is a season? What about all the players that don't have an opt-out clause in their contract (you know like half the Denver Nuggets team)? Does that mean there will be a lot of teams looking for players to fill needs at various positions?

Could be a great opportunity for players who may normally have been over looked.

3) World Peace (Metta)

Has the back of an NBA jersey ever said so much?



2) Kobe vs. LeBron (Finally)
In '09 and '10 Kobe was waiting while LeBron couldn't get the Cavs over the hump.
So, last year LeBron jumped ships to Miami to get to the finals only for Kobe and the lakers to pull a dud  in the second round.

Was this going to be the year?

I always had a question if these two met with a title on the line.
Who would Kobe be?
Would Kobe be Jordan  - in the sense that he would win and therefore deny everyone of his contemporaries a championship.
Or would Kobe be Magic - in the sense that after 5 rings, he would lose to the next greatest player in his last finals appearance and pass the torch to a new era.

I guess it just wasn't meant to be.


1) Durant vs. LeBron
Forget all that Kobe/LeBron talk anyway.
It's all about LeBron/Durant now.


This was the year they were going to meet in the finals - for the first time.
(A Dwayne Wade/Russel Westbrook matchup wouldn't be that bad either).

But if it makes you feel better, these two will have plenty of time to compete for championships.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Greetings

I recently received this post card in the mail, and decided to share it with all of you:

Greetings Dr. JRS,



Hope you're enjoying the lockout as much as we are .


Yours truly,


Reigning NBA champs Dallas Mavericks.
(Soon to be two-year defending champs!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Difference between LeBron and Durant: Summer League

Something tells me, if there is an NBA season this year, come December 23rd and March 25th we'll be looking back at last week's Melo league vs. Goodman league game.
If we're really lucky, we may even be looking back at it next June.

All these years talking about who was better between Kobe and LeBron.
Turns out, we had the wrong matchup.
The real question is: who is better between LeBron and Durant.
While there is plenty of time to resolve this (LeBron is 26 and Durant is 23), let's take a look at who got the better of whom at the end of the summer.




Yes, this is a only a summer league game.
But still, here is Dr. JRS' assessment:

Post game/Mid-range jumper: Advantage LeBron.
Hard to believe this area has become a strength for LeBron - at least how fast it has. I was critical of him  earlier in the year, but there is no question he has made tremendous improvement and shows much more confidence in this part of his game (if only he had that in the Finals). Maybe those lessons with Hakeem paid off.

Seriously though, check out his post move at the :58 mark and then this one at the 1:03 mark:




LeBron's footwork in this move above is beautiful, but it also requires a lot of strength. Notice how LeBron spins away from his shooting shoulder/hand and has to do a complete 360 degree spin to get separation and his shot off. 

Ball Handling/shooting off the dribble: Advantage Durant.
Talk about quick improvements - it seems as if Durant has transformed his entire game. Last summer, he was primarily a spot up three point shooter when leading team USA to a gold medal in the world championships. But my goodness, look how fluid his handle is and how much bounce he has to his game. How about the sequence at the :28 mark? You know, where Durant cooly does a behind the back crossover on someone at half court and then proceeds to in-and-out LeBron at the three point line before getting to the basket for a lay-up.

Further, in the video above Durant crosses LeBron up 6 times (:13, :35, 1:20, 1:32, 1:40, 1:46) with most leading to a score (although LeBron does manage to recover and block one). What's crazy is that Durant creates feet of space on some of his crossovers, effectively moving LeBron out of the way completely. Never mind that Durant is 6'9", how about the fact that LeBron is first team all defense?

Durant seemed to have LeBron on a string this whole video, ready to bite at any move he threw his way.
So, sometimes all he had to do was hit LeBron with a jab step and step back.
Check the move he put on LeBron at the 1:06 mark:






Wow.

LeBron actually executes this same exact move himself at the 1:36 mark.
But throughout the whole video, you never see LeBron get his whole body in front of Durant in a one-on-one situation. Ironically enough, he has to resort to step-backs and post-moves.


Pulling up in transition/three point shooting: Advantage Durant.
When you have the defender on his heels, reacting to anything you do with the ball - chances are you will get almost any shot you want. It also means that you will have tons of opportunities for pull-up jump shots as well as stop-and-pop jump shots just by taking what the defense gives you.
Durant does plenty of that.

Attacking the rim in transition/finishing above the rim: Advantage LeBron.
Any surprise here?
No question LeBron is a physical specimen that possesses both tremendous power and athleticism. There isn't really much you can do to stop him in the open court - ask Austin Daye at the 1:17 mark.
LeBron had 7 dunks in the video above.
Yes, you can say that this is a summer league game with far inferior competition. However, LeBron does this on the regular. Remember when he bullied the western conference all-stars in transition during the 4th quarter of last season's all-star game to bring back the east almost single handedly?

Still, let's not forget the fact the Durant caught an and-1 dunk on Carmelo at the :23 mark.


Winner: Durant
I realize my analysis has them tied 2-2. But really it isn't even close.
Yes LeBron had an advantage in post moves - but there isn't a large enough sample size to really consider that significant. And yes, his dunks were impressive, but how important is that? Not to mention, Durant had several dunks of his own that were fairly impressive - including the best move of the game at the :49 mark. How about between the legs, crossover, back between the legs, step back to the corner, hesitation, then blow by baseline for the one handed dunk?

Conversely, Durant had major advantages in several areas that are more pertinent in game situations.
For sure, he appeared to be the better on-one-one player.
Durant scored 59. LeBron scored anywhere from 32-39 (depending on your source).
But if we're talking head to head......
In the video above, Durant scored 26 points on LeBron.
In contrast, LeBron scored 11 points on Durant.

Just by the numbers, you would therefore say Durant also has an advantage over LeBron defensively.
Indeed, all the shots LeBron hit on Durant were fairly well contested. 
In contrast, many of the shots Durant hit on LeBron  had an impressive about of separation to them.

It just seems Durant had more bounce and swag to his game. More importantly, it seemed like he had more skill. Maybe Durant took this game more seriously. Maybe he had more to prove. Maybe he had to do more because he had less talent on his team.

But still, the fact is he went at LeBron.

Two years ago, people started telling me they felt Durant was better than LeBron. I didn't even take them seriously. I think now, I'm starting to see their point of view. At the very least, I don't know if LeBron has a decided advantage over Durant anymore.

Of course, these are just highlights of a summer league game.
Hopefully, we'll get an opportunity to see the real thing later this year.


















Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mamba Owns the Block

You may have heard of Kobe Bryant's buzzer beating game winner at the Drew league a few weeks ago. Other than to provide sheer entertainment, did you also know Kobe was there as a professor emeritus to educate everyone in the building on how to play basketball?

Check out his highlights from the entire game:


One of my teammates from a summer league I play in put me on to this video. 
This display by Kobe seems so effortless and so artistic. 
I was so enamored with it I had to blog about it.

Really, look how easy it is for him - he does any and everything he wants on the court. It doesn't even seem like he is moving that fast, yet he blows by DeMar DeRozan at will in the beginning of the video. And just so you know I'm not picking on DeRozan, look how he blows by James Harden and finishes with the dunk at the 2:25 mark. 

And do yourself a favor, check out the referee's facial expression in the foreground after Kobe's back-to-the basket, double clutch reverse lay-up at the 3:00 mark.

But what I love about these highlights is the complete evolution in Kobe's game.
For goodness sake - look at this dude's post game!
No lie, after watching these highlights, I worked on my post moves and footwork for an hour in the gym the next day (I am a 6'1" point guard, mind you).

I know this was only a summer league game, but really, it's more like a tutorial. 
Check out this example:

1) Isolation on the right wing. Back to the baseline, ball in left hand. 
These are actually important details -  it positions Kobe to see the whole floor, but also, it places his shooting hand/shoulder (right hand) closer to the basket. 


2) Kobe takes a dribble to his right but keeps the ball in his left hand, thus protecting it with his body.
This is where he sets up his move. Look at his right foot (next to the 'D' in Digital). His momentum is going to the right - so he is going to use his right foot to plant on the floor and push off.


3) By now, this move should actually look a little familiar. Kobe is using his right foot to push off and step back from the defender (James harden), thereby creating space. Also, check out how Kobe has aligned his right shoulder to face the basket now - putting him in perfect position to shoot.


4) After Kobe pushes off his right foot and steps back, he switches to his left foot from which he will elevate into his shot. Also, look how Kobe still keeps the ball on the left side of his body - away from the defender. This still enables him to protect the ball, while the defender tries to swipe at it (check out Harden's hand).


5) What's really cool here is that Kobe is actually taking a step back and fading away at the same time. Normally on a step back you tend to gather yourself after your set up move and jump straight up off two feet. Here, Kobe is raising up to shoot while fading away  - he doesn't even let his right foot touch the ground and is jumping off one leg! Also, notice how Kobe brings the ball over to his right side only after his elbow is shoulder level (and after the defender tried to swipe the ball).


6) Perfectly aligned to the basket - text book shooting form. Think about the strength it takes to elevate off one foot like that. And consider this, as Kobe elevates off his left leg, his right leg serves as a sort of buffer between him and the defender. I previously mentioned how it doesn't seem like Kobe is moving fast. Look at the first picture, you'll see the time mark is at 1:06. Now look this last picture, 1:07. The whole move takes 1 second. 



I know what you're thinking - a step back fade away jumper off one leg out of the post?
Where have I seen that before???
Hmmmmmm. 
I've got it!
Sounds and looks to me a lot like Dirk Nowitzki.
Any chance that Kobe watched and took notes during Dallas' run to chip?

I wouldn't be surprised. 
Remember a couple of summer's ago when Kobe took post move lessons from Hakeem Olajuwon?
And that was before it became the thing for perimeter players to do.
Look at that Hakeem/Kobe work out - now check out the 3:22 mark in the highlights video above.
Practice makes perfect


******


Now to digress a little.
NBA Players from the Drew league (Brandon Jennings, James harden, etc.) recently played and lost to NBA players form the Goodman league (Kevin Durant, John Wall, etc.). It was sort of an West coast vs. East coast bragging rights thing. The Drew League lost 134-133 after Brandon Jennings missed the potential game winning jump shot in the final seconds.

There is talk of a potential rematch.

In light of their loss, the Drew league is in talks with Kobe to have him play. Good idea right?

Well apparently this is not cool with Brandon Jennings. He feels since Kobe is not from L.A. he shouldn't be allowed to represent L.A. or the Drew league.

Oh boy.
Brandon, I know you jest (at least I hope you do).
But let's look at the numbers:

You are turning 22 in September.
You went to Oak Hill in Virginia, you played a year in Italy, and now play in Milwaukee. 

Kobe has played in L.A. for 15 years (since you were 7). 
He has brought L.A. five championships.
I'm sure he is more synonymous with L.A. than you are.

Do yourself a favor. Let him play. 
Your team will probably win.
More importantly - look at the video above. You may learn a thing or two.











Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Lost Tapes: Miller Time Shooting


Question: If you played with two of the baddest players on the planet, what do you think you should be good at?

Answer: Making open jump shots.

That was the plan when the Heat signed Mike Miller last summer after their coup of LeBron and Bosh to form the new "big 3."

Unfortunately, Miller was injured for the majority of the season. But, we got glimpses of what he, and the rest of the supporting cast, can bring to the table during the playoffs. If Udonis Haslem was the difference maker in game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Bulls, Mike Miller was the Difference maker in game 4, finishing with 12 points and 9 rebounds to push the Heat lead in the series to 3-1.

I actually think Miller can be more of a play maker (he was the number 5 pick in the draft and rookie of the year), but most people think of him strictly as a shooter (46% shooter for his career, 40% from three).

Therefore, it might be a good idea to see how he practices shooting:  




What I like about this video is that Miller isn't just practicing spot up shots, he is mostly practicing shooting on the move.

When we think of complimentary shooters, when tend to think of stationary shooters that just wait with their hands ready to receive a pass from a double-teamed star. There is more to shooting than that. 

But don't just take it from me. In preparation for his induction into the basketball hall of fame, I watched an old interview with Chris Mullin - who many would put up there as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. At one point he said "I have never practiced standing still - I always practice shooting on the move."

Look at Miller above. 
Check out this mechanics - he always catches the ball in stride and seems to take a little hop step after initially touching the ball. Also, look at how straight his arm is after every shot. Look how he holds his follow through up till the ball goes through the net. Look at how his fingers are pointing down. 

Finally, look at how he breezes through this routine.
Think about how much conditioning that takes. Think about the type of shape he must be in.

The numbers:
Left corner to left elbow: 5/5 (100%)
Right corner to right elbow: 5/8 (62.5%)
Left corner to left wing three: 5/8 (62.5%)
Top of key to left wing three: 5/5 (100%)
Top of key to right wing three: 4/7 (57%)
Right corner to right wing three: 5/6 (83.3%)

You can imagine after shooting on the move, spot up shooting would probably be a little easier.
Well......
Right wing three spot up: 20/23! (87%)

I remember I turned the camera off at that point because I thought it was boring.
How much fun is it to see a guy make every shot in warm-ups?......okay, maybe I exaggerated......he only made approximately 80% of his shots.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Lost Tapes: Truth Pre-Game Workout

Time to dig into the vaults.

Before the lockout made him a poker player, Paul Pierce was a basketball player.
Actually, he was a pretty good basketball player.

I was fortunate enough to be in Boston for games 3 and 4 of the Heat/Celtics series this past post-season.
Such was the source for my previous posts of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh working out.

Did you know that I was also able to see the the Truth workout?
See for yourself:


The Truth doesn't really seem to exert himself that much on his jumps shots - as his release seems fairly effortless. It is interesting how many of his mechanics are perhaps opposite that of Ray Allen, but still in the games he is just as effective.

Some numbers:
Right wing three pointers: 8-13 (61.5%)
Left wing three pointers: 15-28 (53.5%)
What I like about his pre-game workout is how he gets into a little one on one/isolation moves. You can see towards the end of his right wing three pointers he starts to work on his jab-step and go.

Like with any good workout, you have to make sure your sneakers are tied. So of course, at the 4:20 mark, Pierce did just that. I zoomed in on this process and found it hilarious that his sneakers actually say "TRUTH" on them. 

But seriously, another thing I appreciated seeing was Pierce working on one of his patented go to moves.
You may remember I wrote a post detailing the mechanics of the step-back jump shot (using Kemba Walker as a case study). At the end of that post, I mentioned that I felt Paul Pierce was perhaps the best in the NBA today at utilizing that move.

Therefore, you could imagine how delighted I was to see Pierce work on his step back (although briefly) from each elbow (he shot 9-9).

Pierce finished his routine with top of the key three pointers, shooting 10-19 (53%).
The numbers may not blow you away - but then again, does it really seem like he is trying?
Imagine when he is really warmed up and into the flow of the game.
Or consider this, the Celtics where down 0-2 heading into game 3 (and this workout).
Pierce went on to score 27 points later that night on 45% shooting (5-7 from three) to lead Boston to their only win of the series.

But let me tell you a story of what happened before game 4......

In the Celtics locker room, I came across a picture that I thought was both amazing and inspirational:


Think about it. 
This is a sign hanging up in the Boston Celtics locker room.
The Franchise with the most championships in the NBA.
Does that say it all or what?

I took this picture with a tremendous amount of respect and the thought of perhaps showing it to the high school kids that I help coach.

As it turns outs, to the immediate right of this picture is a door to the Celtics medical treatment room.
Funny enough, as soon as I snapped the picture above none other than paul Pierce walks out of the door to see me with my camera in my hand.

His response?

"What is this?" "A memorial!"
"What is this?" "A museum!"
"We got people taking pictures of stuff on the walls"

It elicited a few laughs from the locker room and made me feel a little awkward. 
At the time I didn't really appreciate it and thought the dude was trying to play me (although looking back at it, perhaps it wasn't that bad - maybe he was just trying to have a little fun).

I was already rooting for Miami in the series, but was pulling extra hard for them that night.
As for Pierce, he again finished with 27 points on 50% shooting, but only 1-6 from three.
He also had an isolation play with LeBron at the end of regulation but missed a step back jumper to win the game. The Heat went on to win in overtime and the series in 6.

Paul, I respect your game and gave you props in several of my posts.......
Why would you come at me like that????

I guess you had to learn the hard way, it's not a good idea to try and play Dr. JRS.
It might cause you to miss your go-to move during crunch time.
Hopefully next season we get to meet on more amicable terms.

Sigh.
I'm glad I got that off my chest.
It was really liberating.

The truth will set you free.