True Hoops

True Hoops

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???
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.
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.

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

The truth will set you free. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Difference between LeBron and Durant pt.2

You may recall I pointed out a subtle difference between the two a couple of months ago.
Here is another one.

Remember a few years ago when everyone made a big fuss over the fact that LeBron James got dunked on in a summer pickup game?

Sure you do. Everyone gave him hell for it, even though it turned out not to be that bad.

Well, did you hear that Kevin Durant got dunked on in a summer league game at Dyckman park in Washington Heights last night?
No? (Did you even hear that he played there last night?)

Well see for yourself:

Okay, I don't think this was that bad either (I actually don't think getting dunked on is ever that bad unless it is chest to chest and/or involves the dunk recipient falling down afterwards).

But still, the fact is that this video isn't really getting that much play on the airwaves (306 views on Youtube as of writing this - compared to the LeBron incident being on ESPN).
Why not?

There certainly seems to be a lot more love out there for KD then there is for LBJ.

On a side note, what I find as hilarious, if not more than the dunk are two things.
1) A guy in a green jersey on the side pointing at Durant after the dunk to taunt him. What gall.

2) More subtle, but the fact that Durant tries to get the ball after the dunk (perhaps to retaliate but making a 40 foot jumpshot) but is frozen out by is own teammate who keeps dribbling up the court. Kudos to that guy. 

What do you think is more impressive: Dunking on Kevin Durant or not passing him the ball because you want to do your own thing? 

I believe only Russel Westbrook can get away with that sort of behavior.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No NBA, No Problem

By now, you have probably heard.
You have probably even seen highlights on ESPN.

And if not, where the heck have you been?
Kevin Durant dropped 66 points at Rucker park in Harlem the other night!

See for yourself:

This is actually an extended version of the video.

A few things:

1) Remember that saying that street ballers are better then NBA players or can at least compete with them?
Yeah....... not sure if I'm gonna believe that one.

2) Here is one difference: go to the 38 second mark.
Look at how #5 on the red team tries to cross over Durant, and then gets his pocket picked.
Oy vey!
Durant gave the dude 3 feet of space and practically begged him to take an open jump shot.
But nooooo! This is Rucker park.
Somebody tell that guy Kevin Durant is 6'9" with a wing span over 7 feet long. It's hard to cross him over.
Oh wait, it looks like Durant was telling him that very thing after he picked his pocket.

3) How about Durant's Rucker park name?
Wait for it...... "The Best."
In fact, "The Best," may be the best nick name yet, even better than Baron Davis' "Too Easy," and Kobe Bryant's "Lord of the Rings." (By the way, Kobe scored 15 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists in his lone appearance at Rucker park back in '02).

4) How about some of the street ball legends that were in the park?
"The Future" was on Durant's team (#3), and at 4:08 you can see Kareem Reid, aka "The Best Kept Secret," enjoying the action. (Reid played college ball at Arkansas). I'm sure there were tons of others.

5) And finally, go to 3:34
After Durant hits one of many 40 foot jump shots and is mobbed by fans, listen one of the guys in the crowd - who actually happens to be Jessie Sapp -  repeatedly say "I told you!"
(For those that don't know, Jessie Sapp is a NYC product that went to the Final Four with Georgetown and now plays ball overseas. I told you there were plenty of people there).

Wait a minute Jessie..... what do you mean you told us???
What exactly did you tell us???
What, did you say before the the game: "Hey guys, keep an eye on this Kevin Durant." "You may not have heard of him but he's a pretty good ball player." "I would't be surprised if he has a good game tonight."

Sorry to break it to you, but we kind of got a hint that Durant was a bad young man after he led the league in scoring the past two years - not to mention leading the US to a gold medal in the World Championships in between. We've seen him pull off nasty plays in the Western Conference Finals.

Now on the other hand, I would really be impressed if before the game you said:
"Kevin Durant is going for 60 tonight."
That would certainly warrant a "I told you so!"

My only response to that, and this whole event would be like the dude at the 3:38 mark:
"Yes sir!"