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?
Demanding and scoring the ball in the post?

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. 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?


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......


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!
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.


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.


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.