True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anything You Can Do......

You have to admit, it's been a pretty impressive stretch for LeBron James and Dywane Wade their past week of basketball.

Hard to believe (or is it?) that after scoring just 5 points in game three against Indiana and everyone subsequently concluding he was too old, Wade has averaged 30 points, 4.5 assists, & 6 rebounds the last four games.

In most situations, those numbers might have been enough for anyone to deduce that Wade is the best player in the world. Fortunately for Miami, those numbers aren't enough to even consider him the best player on his team.

Hard to believe (or is it?) that after getting punked two games in a row by Danny Granger, LeBron James has erupted - averaging 32.5 points, 6.8 assists, & 11.8 rebounds the last four games.

It seems as if the only people these guys are in competition with......are themselves.
It's getting to the point where they try to emulate each other during the games.
Sort of like a game of horse......

LeBron: "How about a lefty lay-up?"

Wade: "No Problem."

Wade: "That a little too simple though."
"How about an in-and-out cross over into a contested fade-away of one leg"

LeBron: "Ooh, that's a good one." "Let me warm-up with some post moves and drives, and then try it out." "Do I get extra points for shooting it over KG?"

My Goodness.
Judging By the numbers, I think LeBron won this latest round.
You can tell by his late game reaction, but really, the moves by both of these guys are enough to make anyone say "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A picture is Worth a Thousand Words

So Miami lost a game and are now tied 1-1 in their second round series with Indiana, no big deal right?
Well, maybe more so than you think.

For now, let's leave out the possibility of Chris Bosh missing the remainder of the series. Yes, that is certainly a concern. However, personally I am more concerned with the reaction and body language of LeBron James to a play that occurred during the second half of last night's game (and I'm not talking about the final play call with 8 seconds left, but more on that in a bit).

Did you happen to see Danny Granger come down on top of LeBron with his elbow to his head, which resultantly knocked LeBron's headband off?

Well, as you might expect the two proceeded to then have a (no pun intended) heated exchange. This is understandable, if not expected in playoff basketball. Besides, how would you react if someone was extra physical with you and perhaps took a cheap shot in the process.

More importantly, how did LeBron react?
See for yourself:

Who do you think is the aggressor here?
Who you think does and doesn't want any part of this?

Let me play my own version of "create a caption" right here:

Granger (the bully who just knocked down a schoolboy's books): "Yeah, I just elbowed you in your head...... what are you gonna do about it?"

LeBron (the shocked schoolboy): "My gosh Danny, why did you do that?" "No need to get so physical, I-I-I-I don't want any trouble, I-I-I-I just came here to play ball."

Danny: "Yeah, that's what I thought."

Four words:
1) ARE 
2) YOU 
4) ME?!?

LeBron, let me introduce to yourself. 
You're LeBron James, baddest baller on the planet. NBA MVP 3 of the last 4 years.
Career averages: 28 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists
Playoff averages: 28 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists
All-star appearances: 8

Now let me introduce you to Danny Granger.
Career Averages: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Playoff averages: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
All-star appearances: 1

No offense to Danny Granger, but who the %@#$ is this guy?!?
How dare he get into you face like that?!?
Who the %@%$ does he think he is %@#$ing with?!?

Excuse me. Let me gather myself.

LeBron, you can't let this type of stuff slide - seriously. Dudes will start talking back, disrespecting you and your fam (the Heat), and just acting all sorts of stupid. What's worse is that they may start to gain confidence and even start to believe they are on your level. I get the whole cool thing. I get the whole, "I don't even take this dude serious" thing. But that's regular season drama. Now it's the playoffs. This is the time where you have to put these little guys in their proper place and exert your will. Not just for yourself, but to set an example for your team. 

Do you dig what I mean???

I wonder, what can I say or show you to convey my sentiments?
How about this:

I don't have to introduce the guy on the left, do I?

LeBron, I'm not trying to compare you to Jordan. That's not fair and no one should.
But learn from this. 
If a dude tries to punk you or, more importantly, someone on your team, you get right up in their mug and let them know that ish ain't going down around here. And then after you get up in their mug, you convince them how serious you are by letting your ice grill linger on:

By the way, that was game 7 of the 1992 conference semi-finals. You might recall that the upstart Knickerbockers from New York pushed the defending champion Bulls to 7 games - mostly by being physical and beating the crap out of Scottie Pippen. 
Then in game 7, the encounter above happened.
Oh yeah, then Mike dropped 42.
Then the Bulls beat the Knicks in game 7.
Then the Bulls beat the Knicks in '93.
Then the Bulls beat the Knicks in '96.

Homie, your body language has all sorts of repercussions towards the outcome of a game and even your career. You've been down this path before. Enough is enough. There are just certain things you can't accept.......

Speaking of which, 

For goodness sake, can someone tell me what planet coach Spoelstra is on?
Down three with 8 seconds to go in last night's game, you think he would be drawing up a play on the final possession of the game for either Wade or LeBron - you know, the two best players on earth (or at least the eastern conference). So what did he do? Utilize Wade as a passer and LeBron as a screener...... to get Mario Chalmers a three point shot??? 

Wait a minute. What?

Mind you, this was about a week after the Heat lost game 4 against the Knicks.
You remember, the game in which LeBron had 6 points in the last minute of the game to bring Miami within two points with ten seconds to go...... only to have coach Spoelstra forgo LeBron's torrid play and, in his infinite wisdom, put the ball in Wade's hands for the final shot. How could you not give LeBron the ball in that situation?

Enough is enough.

There was a great article in ESPN the magazine earlier in the year about how meticulous coach Spoelstra is with regards to game preparation. He studies films, stats, as well as player and team tendencies. Apparently the dude doesn't get much sleep. Having been in the Miami Heat locker room myself and seeing their chalk board, I can attest to the fact that this guy has around 10 different plays and team mantras written on the board. That's 10 different plays for both sides of the ball. 

There is no questioning his diligence and intellect. But, how much brains do you need to realize you have the best player in the world on your team and sometimes it's as simple as getting him the ball in a position where he has the best chance to be successful?

Coach Spoelstra, let me introduce you to LeBron James.
LeBron, one of the members of your team, is NBA MVP 3 of the last 4 years......see above for the rest.

If you have the best player in the world on your team, you use him to obliterate opponents. That's your strength. You don't use him as a decoy. You don't take the ball out of his hands. 

You may say that LeBron has certain flaws, that makes Spoelstra not want to give him the ball at the end of games. My goodness, he just might have to actually coach and find a way to correct those flaws. Is such a thing possible?

Beyond scouting and film, part of being a great coach is knowing how to manage your personnel (which varies and can fluctuate on a yearly basis). It's knowing how to get the best out of each specific player - no matter how regal or how provincial they are. It's knowing how manage egos. It's knowing how to instill confidence and discipline at the same time. While ultimately it's up to LeBron to rise to the occasion and demand the ball in those situations, don't you think it would be nice if Spoelstra helped him out - just a little - with all of that. If LeBron has certain flaws, shouldn't Spoelstra - in the best interest of his team -  try to help LeBron overcome those flaws by at the very least putting the ball in LeBron's hands to instill confidence and aggression?

How about if coach Spoelstra said this during the final timeout:
"LeBron, we're gonna get you the ball and you are going to take the last shot. I don't care if they double you and someone else is open. We are going to live and die with you taking - and making - the last shot for us."

And one last thing.
For all that's said about X's and O's, it means nothing if you can't make series adjustments, let alone in-game adjustments. With Bosh down for the series, is it really thinking that far outside of the box to give Eddie Curry a shot in the lineup? You might contest that he doesn't play defense or rebound. But he is big and takes up space. I would rather him guard Hibert than Anthony. And, even without playing the last two years he is still more of an offensive threat that Anthony and Turiaff, combined. What's the worst that could happen? You lose home court advantage? Oh wait......

Coach Spoelstra, it's time for you to step up to the plate.
Coaches are supposed to help their team and their players be the best they can be. And that holds true no matter of much of super stars they are.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Have to Have Faith

The "Truth" will set you free.
Well here it is: Paul Pierce is no Tim Tebow. 
He's been doing this for years.

Question: After losing game 1 of their first round series against Atlanta and coming into game 2 without Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, how any of us thought the Celtics were sure to fall into a 0-2 hole and finally fall into playoff oblivion shortly after? 

Another question: Now with home court against the Hawks and Derrick Rose out of the playoffs due to injury, how many of us think the Celtics can make a run to the conference Finals???

Talk about resurrection.
Is it me or has Boston done this sort of thing once or twice before?

More on pierce.
After being held to 12 points on 5-19 shooting (2-3 from the line) and 4 rebounds in a game 1 loss, Pierce came back with 36 points on 12-26 shooting (11-13 from the line) and 14 rebounds in game 2. And with Boston trailing heading into the 4th quarter last night, Pierce came through and dropped 13 points in the final period. 

Beyond Pierce.
Something has to be said about how this team just gets things done regardless of the circumstance. We all keep trying to write them off, saying they're "too old," "too injured," or "don't have enough depth." But no matter who is or isn't in the lineup, how old or novice their personnel on the floor is, collectively they find a way to win.

How much of this has to do with swag?  Look and that Tebow pose - on the opposing team's floor! It's in some way reminiscent of "the wink" Paul Pierce gave to a national audience after going up 2-0 on Orlando in the Eastern conference Finals a couple of years ago and saying they were going to sweep the Magic (they didn't, but they still made it to the Finals). What breeds such confidence? More importantly, does it enable them not to panic and simple turn on a switch to perform when needed?

Surely they have a core group that enables them to withstand fluctuations on the periphery. And this group has been together long enough to the point where they can substitute various parts into their system and still operate smoothly. 

How much of it has to do with the coaching? I would say a lot.

How about after losing Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal this year, Doc Rivers moved Garnett to the 5? Why not? The league is playing smaller and faster now anyway right?

Or how about, with Ray Allen down towards the end of the regular season, he starts Avery Bradley (listed at 6'2", 180 ibs) at the 2? Why not? You still surround him with Rondo at the 1 and Pierce at the 3.

Or how about with Rondo (league leader in assists) out last night, he starts Bradley at the 1? Why not? How does he respond? 14 points. 

Why not.

It seems you can do just about anything to this group and they'll still find a way to remain relevant. It certainly will be interesting to see how the rest of this series goes for Boston. 
And then the next one. 
And then the next one after that.

Any chance some of this can rub off on Melo and the Knicks?


Speaking of Avery Bradley. You may remember this play from a month ago:

It was enough to get him a couple of votes for defensive player of the year.
No seriously, see for yourself here.

Many of you may wonder where this guy came from.
He is a 22 year old second year player out of Texas. Although he was selected 19th in the draft, he only played in 31 regular season games last year, averaging 5 minutes per game. He didn't play at all in last year's playoffs.

This year, Avery played in 64/66 of Boston's regular season games and has been starting over the last month or so - mostly at the 2 position, but last night at the 1.

What changed in a year? 

I actually had a chance to talk with Avery after their win against the Heat last week. Did you know that during the Lockout, Avery was playing in Israel? Considering that is where I worked out for several professional teams, I jumped at the chance to ask him about his experiences playing there, the differences in style of play, and more importantly how playing there helped him prepare for this season.

Take a listen:

You got to love this kid's enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and appreciation for his experiences in other cultures. Certainly these are very important attributes to have for personal development, both on and off the court. And they certainly are paying dividends for both himself and the Celtics this year.