True Hoops

True Hoops

Friday, March 30, 2012

Durant's Diversity

I was really tempted to call this post the difference between LeBron and Durant Pt. 4
This all started as a joke, but really their differences are becoming more apparent on a nightly basis.

It has already been a week since KD matched up against LeBron and the Heat.
While I’ve always been prone to giving LeBron his props and believing he has the decided advantage over KD, my viewpoint has started to change recently, Of course, this started with a summer league game in which KD put in work and got the better of LeBron. But after last week’s much anticipated showdown turned into a one-sided affair -  in which KD clearly outplayed LeBron – it appears that perhaps KD may now be the favorite in these types of head-to-head match-ups.

Listen, it’s not a secret anymore (even for LeBron supporters) that KD is the better - and dare I say far superior - offensive player. Earlier in the year I pointed out KD’s evolved post-game. But as evidenced by OKC's games in the last week, this dude just keeps coming through with more layers to his game! 

What do you do when you have one of the best players and athletes in the game holding you? 
Let's watch Kevin Durant: 

1) LeBron, literally holding Durant.

2) Fake going over the top of a Perkins screen to set up LeBron.

3) Then run under the screen and therefore LeBron into Perkins girth, causing LeBron to fall and free yourself up.

4) Run across the baseline to the opposite side of the court

5) Curl to the opposite block, with hands ready to receive the pass

6) Footwork: plant/push off with left foot as you catch the ball. This starts to turn your body and bring your momentum back towards the basket.

7) Turn to the basket, pivoting with your right foot. Shooting shoulder is already closest to basket.

8) Elevate right into your shot before defender recovers.

My, how quick and efficient - has KD become a two guard?
Forget Durant emulating Dirk. What about him getting his Reggie Miller on?
Using a baseline screen (or two) to set your defender up in order to get enough space to get your shot off is vintage Miller (trust me, growing up a Knicks fan I saw it plenty of times). Just so happens this other tall, long, and skinny shooter is now using it in his offensive game as well. And just like Miller, once Durant gets the ball in the air - more times than not it already should be counted as a bucket. KD borrowing from Dirk and Miller? How's that for having expanded offensive options? Now contrast that with LeBron. In all fairness LeBron has added post moves to his game. And he is also allowed to have a slump or two during the regular season. But still, LeBron seemed limited offensively (and passive) during the OKC game.

Of course, these types of moves are predicated on OKC running offense sets that are actually geared towards setting screens to get Durant open. And of course running these plays just makes things easier and provides more options for KD. Most importantly, they help KD get easy shots when he is struggling. For example, he started the Lakers game last night 0-8. Then OKC ran a play like this:

1) Durant starts in the right corner, Perkins on the right block.

2) Durant runs off the Perkins baseline screen.

3) Already open, Durant continues to the opposite block with his hands ready to receive James Harden's pass.

4) Footwork: catch and pivot.

5) Elevate right into shot before defender recovers.

Yes, that play resulted in two points. As a result, after the tepid start KD still finished with 21 points. Yes it was on 10-22 shooting, but that means KD went 10-14 after starting 0-8. And that's because OKC runs these plays to get Durant "easy" scores and back into rhythm. 

Let's just say, this is not a strong point of Miami's. And with that, we have stumbled upon another not so secret disparity in style of play, this time between the teams Durant and LeBron play for. Miami, while loaded with the talent of the big three – doesn’t seem to consistently run any offensive plays. It’s a shame, but because when they do they seem to have the desired effect. Rather, they tend to rely on their individual talents and play a lot of one-on-one basketball. While this offensive non-scheme may work against a majority of teams in the NBA, it can certainly be less than efficient when defenses are fully prepared and equipped to handle what you’re bringing. Like when a team, such as OKC, can man up to match Miami's superstars pound for pound and have interior walls like Serge Ibaka and Kendrik Perkins protecting the basket.

On the other hand, actually running offensive sets (or just plain motion offense) can effectively out-manuver any defense, especially those that rely on athleticism instead of fundamentals. Speaking of which, aren't the Heat just like that one summer league team you always see destroy most of it’s opponents simply by pressing, forcing the tempo, and making the opposing teams commit tons of turnovers which lead to easy fast break points? You always say to yourself , "if only a team could just limit their turnovers and make fundamental plays, they could win." Well guess what? OKC took full advantage of Miami’s defense by taking care of the ball and making fundamental plays by not over dribbling and swinging the ball to find the open man.

What was really fascinating about the OKC/Miami game, was how the Heat's defensive strategy actually enabled KD to beat LeBron at his own game. We expected KD to be more skilled and aggressive scoring the ball, but he was also the better playmaker and finished with more assists. This was mainly due to OKC having a proper game plan and taking advantage of Miami’s overzealous defense. When handling the ball, every time KD came off a pick Miami swarmed him with a double team. Rather than forcing up a shot – KD willingly found the open man, which more times than not was either Serge Ibaka or Kendrik Perkins under the basket for a dunk (it does help when you're tall enough to see over the defense). Off the ball, OKC ran Durant off screens like the one above to get open looks. When Miami decided to help LeBron on screens and/or curls to the basket, KD found the man left open by a Miami big looking to help.

It's all about having diverse options.
And KD had many at his disposal to pick apart LeBron and Miami.

Of course, Durant and OKC match up again with LeBron and Miami this Wednesday.
Maybe things will be completely different this time around.
One thing's for sure, it will be interesting to see how LeBron reacts as an underdog.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Baylor Banger

How much swagger do you need to rock neon green uniforms???

Never mind.

Apparently Quincey Acy has had that type of swag since high school:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mad Moves!

Okay, I know this is predominantly a NBA blog. But still, it's always good to take some time and give props to the youngsters - especially during the NCAA tournament. There certainly has been a lot of shining moments this past weekend on the way to the Sweet Sixteen (4 teams from the Big East!), but let me point out two of the better moves of the tournament thus far.

There is always one breakout performance a year. Enter CJ McCollum.
Playing for the Leigh Mountain Hawks of the patriot league, McCollum dropped 30 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists while leading the no. 15 seeded Hawks over no. 2 seeded Duke (only the 6th time in NCAA history that's happened). With all the big name players on the floor for Duke, it became quite obvious fairly early on that McCollum was the best player on the floor. Check out this move:

Sheesh. That dude was dancing like CP3 during last year's NBA playoffs!
Break it down: 
1) Come off a down screen to get the ball  (a-la reggie Miller/Rip Hamilton).
2) Clear out the right side for an isolation by waving off your teammate in the post (it's not like he's the two-time patriot conference player of the year).
3) Crossover behind you back (left to right) then in front of you (right to left) - this is all just pretense.
4) Throw the ball between your legs, then reverse between your legs (a-la Tim Hardaway).
5) Freeze your defender by doing an exaggerated crossover  (a-la Allen Iverson).
6) To finish - instead of just going to the rim for a lay-up, take a step back jumper - going to your right.

Very nice, very nice. 
But oy vey, so involved!

Honestly, I prefer the more efficient methodology utilized by Jeffrey Taylor from Vanderbilt against Wisconsin:

Ahh, nice and right to the point.
What do they say about profoundness in simplicity?
1) Jab right, then go left
2) Cross back over to go right
3) Watch your defender fall.
4) step back into your three point shot.

Okay, Taylor only finished with 9 points and Vanderbilt lost the game.
But he made his man fall - should't that count for something?

In any event, shot out to CJ McCollum and Jeffrey Taylor for providing tournament gems that will last for a long time to come.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brother to Brother

It's amazing that no matter how much a younger sibling tries, it's hard for them to get the better of the older bro. Take Marc Gasol of the Grizzles for instance. Look at the moves he put on older brother Pau in last night's match-up against the Lakers:

I didn't even know Marc could move like that. Nice use of the pivot, nice spins. Pretty Nifty stuff.
And check out the stats.
Marc: 20 points, 11 rebounds
Pau: 14 points, 5 rebounds

But despite individual performances, in the end it was the Lakers that won the game in double overtime. And let's not lose sight of the fact that Marc had 25 points on 10-25 shooting, while Pau was slightly more efficient at 6-14 shooting. Plus, Pau had 8 assists. Perhaps with age you realize that sometimes less is more.

Speaking of the older guys.
How amazing is it that the Lakers, at 26-16, have the third best record in the west right now?
How is this even possible? They lost Lamar Odom and didn't address any of their weaknesses.
It certainly pays to have a guy named Kobe - who is averaging 31 points a game with a broken nose. But it also helps to have perhaps the best front court in the NBA in Pau and Andrew Bynum.

Interestingly, it seems Pau is settling into more of a role player position while Bynum emerges as the Lakers 2nd option and perhaps most dominate player on the team. In the Lakers win over the Celtics, Bynum had 20 points and 14 rebounds. Last night in their win at Memphis, he had 37 points on 15-18 shooting to go along with 16 rebounds. At 25 years of age, Bynum is averaging career highs in points (17) and rebounds (13) this season.

Any chance the Lakers could add a point guard (Nash) before the trade deadline?
Any chance Kobe can continue to evolve his game and play more pick and role with his bigs and feed them more in the post - including in clutch situations?

Even if they don't add a new face and keep the team in tact the way it is - would it be too much to say that the Lakers can come out of the west?

I guess being older does have it's benefits.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rose comes up Rosy*

While we're on the topic of great point guards, it's getting harder and harder to say that Derrick Rose isn't the best point guard in the NBA. At 23 years old, he is already the reigning league MVP, has been to the conference finals, and is leading Chicago to the best record in the NBA for the second year in a row. He is currently averaging almost 23 points and 8 assists a game while shooting 45% from the field.

He has the speed and he has the athleticism. That's enough to make him a great talent. He also has the humility. That's enough to make him not dance at an all-star game. But most importantly, he also is developing his skill set. All of these things combined is what makes him rapidly ascending as one of the best players in the world.

The latest addition to his repertoire? A step back jump shot as a go to move in the clutch:


I would say Rose isn't necessarily a true point guard, but what does that mean anyway?
Last night he had 30 points and 11 assists. Perhaps most mind boggling about Rose is the fact that he is still learning the game and position. But as evidenced by last night's game winner, it seems at only 23 years of age he already understands when to make his teammates better by facilitating and when it's time for him to take over the game and score. Make no mistake, this distinction is tough for anyone to master  - even LeBron has trouble with it.

To me, it is fascinating to hear the thought process behind these types of decisions. Luckily enough, I was actually able to ask Derrick Rose about how he determines when to pass versus when to score (as I promised Steve Nash and Dan Majerle I would). His response, although not as elaborate as Nash's, is still interesting none the less. Take a listen:

I think there are a couple of elements here that are actually consistent with what Steve Nash said. The main thing is to always put pressure on the defense. This keeps you in the flow of the game and opens everything up for your teammates. Also consistent (and scary for opposing teams) is his recognition and willingness to continue to study and learn the game. He essentially shot down my suggestion that deciding when to pass and when to score is instinctual - rather, it's something that you master from experience. Additionally, it's somewhat gratifying to hear that even though Rose is the best player on his team - he "never forces himself on the game." Instead, "the game will let you know" when to pass and when to score. 

Apparently, last night's game in Milwaukee let him know the last ten seconds of the game was his time to win it. 


You'll notice an asterisk next to the title. 
That's because it's actually a reference to a news headline from from a New York news paper circa 1995. The actual title was: "Roseman come up Rosy" and it was in reference to LaGuardia high school's senior Steve Roseman dropping 40 points against Chelsea (20 in the 4th quarter) to lead a comeback victory in the PSAL B division league opener.

Why do I mention this? Well, it just so happens I was a freshman on that team, my first time playing varsity ball, and that was my first league game. Needless to say, that headline and Steve Roseman himself was extremely influential in my basketball career and development. As a senior (and eventual McDonald's all-american honorable mention), he befriended me and set an amazing example through his hard work and commitment to the game. I still remember him running up 10 flights of stairs with a weight vest on. I still remember him coming back from his senior trip earlier to make a basketball game. Those things stick with you.

Every young player needs a positive influence and to be steered in the right direction - both athletically and academically. I was lucky enough to have plenty of positive influences during my high school days - including my older brother and close friends/teammates. 

Part of the reason I ask these questions to guys like Nash and Rose is because they are experts at their craft and serve as role models for so many young players. Hopefully their dedication can instigate a commitment to excellence in younger ball players.

But it's also important to point out, inspiration can come from multiple sources.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Performance Pick 'em

Rajon or Deron?

As March Madness descends upon us - many of us will inevitably have to make some tough choices pertaining to our favorite college course: Bracketology. However, this time of year also affords us a chance to make some interesting decisions in the pro ranks as well.

Last year at this time, we played Player Pick 'em in deciding/predicting who would have the better pro career between Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker (you can see Dr. JRS' pick and determine how that has panned out thus far).

This time around, let's use this opportunity to choose between two already established all-star point guards, who provided us with their very own version of Selection Sunday with their respective brilliant performances.

So, Which was better?
Rajon Rondo's masterpiece against the New York Knicks: 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 20 assists


Deron Williams offensive onslaught against the Charlottle Bobcats: 57 points

Let the debate begin:

The numbers game
Total points
   Rondo - 18 points + 20 assists (6 assists led to three point shots) = 64 total points
   Williams - 57 points + 7 assists (none for three pointers) = 71 points

Shooting percentage
   Rondo - 7/20 from the field (35%), 4/7 foul line (57%), no threes
   Williams - 16/29 from field (55%), 21/21 foul line (100%), 4/11 from three (36%)

Percentage of team points
   The Celtics finished with 115 points, with Rondo accounting for 56% of offense.
   The Nets finished with 104 points, with Williams accounting for 68% of the offense.

Assist to Turnover ratio
    Rondo had 4 TOs. With 20 assists, that's a 5:1 assist to Turnover ratio.
    Williams had 1 TO. With 7 assists, that's a 7:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Advantage: Williams
More total points, higher percentage of team's offense, and a far superior shooting percentage. However, even though lower than Williams, I wouldn't hesitate to say Rondo's assist to turnover ratio was more impressive. Furthermore, it's hard to give a value for rebounds as it pertains to team offense/points scored. Just as an aside - Williams had 6 rebounds.

The historical perspective
Williams' 57 points is the most scored in the NBA since Kobe dropped 61 on the Knicks back in '09. However, as far as 50 point games go, Kevin Durant scored 51 points last month.

On the other hand, Rondo is the first player to record a triple double with at least 17, 17, & 17 since Magic Johnson did it in 1989 (Magic finished with 24 points, 17 assist,  & 17 rebounds).

Advantage: Rondo

The clutch factor
Rondo scored 5 points to go along with 5 assists during the 4th quarter and overtime. He also had 8 rebounds during that time. But when push came to shove, Paul Pierce did the heavy lifting to get the Celtics into overtime.

Williams scored 18 points in the 4th quarter......with 1 assist (for your info, he had 40 in the second half). I'm gonna go ahead and say that's a lot of lifting.

Advantage: Slightly Williams
Yes you can say that Rondo's total points (22 points, two assists on three pointers) were more than Williams (20 points), but he had an extra 5 minutes to do it and he didn't assist on Pierce's game tying three at the end of regulation.

The competition
Both games were competitive and each performance was absolutely required to ensure their respective team's victory. But let's look a the context of each game:

The Nets beat the Bobcats 104-101.
In other words, we are talking about a team tied for the the third worst record in NBA (Nets, 12-26) beating a team with the worst record in the league (Bobcats, 4-31). Was the game even televised?

The Celtics beat the Knicks 115-111, in overtime.
Consider the fact that these two teams came in with similar records and are vying for not only playoff positioning but potentially the Atlantic division title as well. It also had to rub Boston the wrong way that despite dominating New York in recent years and having a better record, many analysts were saying the new-new(new?) look Knicks are a better team.

Also, Let's not over look the dynamics between Rondo and Jeremy Lin.
Here we have a three week veteran already mentioned with elite players and being hailed as the Knick's savior versus a guy that is a three-time all-star and NBA champion but continuously in the middle of trade rumors. Not to mention the fact that this game was in essence a homecoming for Lin, returning to Boston to play in front of his coach at harvard, Tommy Amaker

Can you say statement game???

Advantage: Overwhelmingly Rondo

The Headbands
Rondo = White
Williams =  Red

Rondo has been rocking his longer.
I'm just saying.

The verdict
A wise man once said, when it comes to scoring - "50 is 50."
And no doubt Williams 57 points is 57 points. Despite having 13 fewer assists, he still made up a higher percentage of his team's offensive production. Furthermore, his offensive efficiency is far superior. And don't sleep on the fact that he also had 7 assists and 6 rebounds (What if he had a triple double to go along with 57 points?!?) It's quite clear Williams is the better scorer and perhaps individual talent.

But...... Rondo's game truly was a rarity. 23 years since someone did what he did.
Forget the triple double, the numbers by themselves are impressive. 20 assists? 17 rebounds? Those 17 rebounds speak of the toughness and intangibles that Rondo provides for his team. And while we can't give rebounds a discrete value as it pertains to total points, who's to say they aren't valuable towards points scored? And when considering clutch, how important were his 8 rebounds in the 4th quarter and overtime towards deciding the game's final outcome?

But perhaps most impressive about Rondo's performance is the significance it served to both himself and his team. He stepped up to the plate on national television against a challenging opponent - individually and franchise wise - and went to work in every facet of the game - in historic proportions.

DR. JRS' pick: Rondo

These two performances not only display how deep with talent the point guard position is in the NBA (it may be the most competitive position), but also how diverse it is.

In fact, Rondo and Williams are a perfect representation of the variations at point.

Rondo is more of a traditional/pure point that best serves his team by setting up the offense, finding teammates in their proper positions, and makes others better by facilitating. Williams is more of a new school/scoring point that is powerful, a better scorer than passer, and perhaps puts his team in a better position to win by shooting. Think about this difference: Rondo scores mostly from defenses playing off him looking for the pass. Williams assists mostly from defenses looking to help on him when he drives/dribbles to score.

Rondo falls in line more so with Jason Kidd and Steve Nash (although Nash is a shooter). This is where Ricky Rubio belongs.

Williams falls more in line with Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Younger guys would include Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, and John Wall. This is where Kyrie Irving belongs.

I would say Chris Paul is more in between - he can be a pure point and make his team better by facilitating, but many times it seems as if his team is better served when he is looking to score (I would almost but Nash in this category as well - just because he is one of the best shooters of all time).

Who is the best???
It depends on who you ask and what day of the week it is. ran a poll asking readers who they felt was the #1 point guard to start a team with.
As of completing this post, the numbers were:

Food for thought. Think about how many scoring point guards there are in the NBA. Now think about how many true point guards there are in the NBA - that truly make others better. Which is rarer? Who do you think more people would want to play with?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Orange and Blue

Any chance the Knicks can finally get over the .500 mark tomorrow?
Well, maybe if they play this new Jeremy Lin street banger as their theme song:

Shot out to Pants Velour for providing the video. Keep Rockin'!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Not up to watch the Miami Heat in Portland to give the Blazers the business???
Well, here's what you missed:

I'm sure Reggie Miller is not the only one that would like to know, "Are you serious?"

Come on Reggie, LeBron James is always serious (at least when he's not dancing).
And just for good measure, he'll show you he can do it all by himself:

Hey Reggie, is that the furthest you've ever seen the ball go back on a tomahawk?
Reggie Miller: "Why not?"
You're right Reggie, I mean it is LeBron.

But can he play defense?

Why did I even ask that question?

Does it even matter what LeBron did the rest of the game?
Well let me tell you anyway: 38 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals to go along with that 1 block (Dwayne Wade wasn't that bad either: 33 points and 10 assists).

Turns out he has the second highest scoring average all time there (behind Jordan) with over 31 points a game.

All I can say is......Let that man dance!!!!!!