True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Point Guard Project - Derrick Rose

Welcome to the 10th edition of the Point Guard Project.

Previous participants:
PGP1 - John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey
PGP6 - Damian Lillard
PGP7 - Derek Fisher
PGP8 - Stephen Curry
PGP9 - Chauncey Billups

Today we are joined by Derrick Rose

You might have heard a lot of talk lately about D. Rose and his possible return to the Bulls this season. Out all year while recovering from a torn ACL, Rose was recently cleared medically to play. However, Rose has maintained for the past month and a half that he is unsure wether he will return this season at all. Of course this has led to numerous rumors and speculation......which will not be discussed here.

The reality is when healthy, Rose is a top 3 point guard in the league and perhaps a top 5 player. Mind you, he is the only player in the last 4 years to win MVP other than LeBron.

In his MVP year, Rose averaged 25 points and almost 8 assists a game while leading Chicago to the 1 seed in the East. For his career he is at 21 and 7, respectively.
24 years old and waiting to play his 5th year in the league, Rose is listed as 6'3" and 190 ibs. He was drafted #1 overall by Chicago in '08 out of Memphis (after leading them to the championship game).

He also won a gold medal with team USA during the 2010 World Championships.

Mr. Rose, welcome to the Point Guard Project:

Summary of responses:

1) Grew up watching Michael Jordan (you think?). But never wanted to play like anyone. Everyone has their own way of playing. You can take some moves from people but can't take their whole game.

2) Memorable point guard match-up: First game in the league was against Jason Kidd. It was pretty awesome. They (the Bulls) Lost. But it was still great.

3) Job of a point guard: Be the captain on the team. The point guard leads other players and sees if anyone is down. Picks others up emotionally. Has to make sure the game is very stable and make sure the offense is runs correctly. And being the voice while the coach is sitting down.

4) Pass vs shoot: Different for him - he is a scoring point guard. He has to score. Pass? Not really.

5) Typical workout: Hard. Go for about an hour and a half. Take a lot of jumpers,  probably 500-700. A lot of floaters and lay-ups and finishing with contact.

6) For aspiring point guards: Love the game. Appreciate it. Dedicate your lives to it and take it very serious.

Short and to the......point.

Growing up in Chicago, I would have been more shocked if Derrick said he watched anyone other than Jordan growing up. But there is an interesting consequence when a point guard takes moves from Jordan. I suppose the logical result would be a player like Derrick Rose - an extremely athletic & powerful scoring point guard. But think about how this has changed the norm for his position in the game today.

I do like the fact that he mentioned he "never tried to play like anyone else." This is actually a really important realization.

With regards to when to pass vs. shoot, it's obvious that when healthy Derrick is the best player on his team and the best scorer. And there is no point in denying this and not playing to his strengths. Absolutely he should always be looking to score first and get assists as a result of the defense converging on him and leaving his teammates open. Of course - it does take practice to read defenses and still be willing to make the right pass. More times than not, Rose will face a double team - so it is a hard task not to overpass and play into the defense's priority of getting the ball out of his hands. At the same time, there is a balance to keeping the ball when facing a double team and making your teammates happy by not taking bad shots over 2-3 people when someone else is open.

But either way, it seems like in the past year the answer of when to pass vs. shoot has become more clear for Rose. Listen to his response when I asked him the same question about a year ago:

Pass vs. Shoot

Last year, there was no question he seemed to still be learning the game and figuring out how to balance his incredible skills with his leadership obligation. And it was mentioned that his coach has to constantly remind him - yell at him if need be - that he is Chicago's first and second option offensively (I would say that is great coaching). He response this year was almost as comical as it was self-assurded: "He is a scoring guard - he has to score." "Pass, not so much."

So here you have a case where a point guard shouldn't be looking to pass first. And for him and his team, this is actually the right way to play.

Finally, I found his advice for aspiring point guards interesting and telling of his current situation.
"Appreciate the game."
After going from reigning MVP to not playing for a whole year - I'm sure Rose has a new found appreciation for the game. As great and young as these players are, nothing is guaranteed. And that's just about the truth in everything. I guess you can say there is something to living in the moment and always putting your best foot forward - because you never know how long something will last.

And how about:
"Love the game."
"Dedicate your lives to it."

Don't get me started on love and dedication.
My first year coaching high school basketball I asked my kids:
"Have you ever dedicated yourselves entirely to something?"

Isn't this a requisite for love? Yes. But I would say, as much as this is a necessity - it is also a concept that can evoke a lot of fear. The question that inevitably comes up is "what if I fail?" What if I dedicate my life to something and I don't succeed? And let's be honest, for aspiring point guards, most of you won't become Derrick Rose.
I didn't.
But that's okay.

I would argue, it's the process itself that is most important. The simple act of dedication - as irrational as it may be - to a game. It will transform you. No question there are things more important than basketball. But perhaps basketball can prepare you for those other things. The trick is knowing when to apply the ability of love and dedication, as well as the transformation it induces, off the court to areas that become more important - relationships and helping others. And in that regard "love for the game" becomes transferable and actually has the ability to transform others as well.

You can also argue that whether or not you obtain your ultimate goal (although these things change over time), just having experienced that sort of love and dedication - the act itself - is the important thing.

Is this a basketball blog or a romantic novel???
Well I never claimed not be be a romantic at heart.

But I believe this. And when you hear someone like Derrick Rose mention this - it evokes a an appreciation and respect for those that follow their passion.

And that's a journey worth taking.

Much thanks to Derrick Rose for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this addition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Point Guard Project - Chauncey Billups

Welcome to the 9th edition of the Point Guard Project.

Previous participants:
PGP1 - John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey
PGP6 - Damian Lillard
PGP7 - Derek Fisher
PGP8 - Stephen Curry

This time we are joined by Chauncey Billups

Where hasn't Chauncey been and what hasn't he done in his 16 year NBA career? Selected 3rd overall in the '97 draft out of Colorado, Chauncey has had stints in Boston, Toronto, Denver, Minnesota, Detroit, Denver (again), New York, and now finally in LA with the clippers.

Of course, Mr. Billups was most revered while in a Pistons uniform. During those 6 years he averaged
17 points and 6.3 assists a game with 3 all-star appearances. He also led Detroit to 2 NBA Finals, winning the chip in '04 while earning Finals MVP honors.

But he didn't stop there. After moving back to Denver, he helped lead Carmelo out of the first round for the only time (just saying) and into the conference Finals - making it the 7th consecutive conference Finals appearance for him (one of only 5 players to do so since 1970). Chauncey was a two-time all star in Denver, averaging 18.3 points and 6.1 assists while there.

Listed at 6'3" and 210 ibs, Chauncey has career averages of 15.5 points and 5.5 assists per game.
Additionally, he won a gold medal with team USA at the 2010 world championships.

Mr. Billups, welcome to the Point Guard Project:

Summary of answers:

1) Grew watching Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Stockton, Mark Jackson, Sam Cassel, & Rod Strickland.
Took several things from all of those guys and made himself.

2) First memorable point match-up: Will always remember his match-up against Sam Cassel. Felt like he had some advantages over him going into the game: younger, faster, jump higher - felt like he could have his way....... When game was over he had like 12 points, 4-5 assist and 6-7 turnovers. Cassel had like 36 points and 11 assists! And he felt like he got all of those 36! Was the most humbling game he had ever been apart of. Cassel was just smarter. But, it made him realize he wasn't ready and that he had a ways to go.

3) Job of a point guard: Facilitate, keep everybody happy on the team, and just make sure you put your guys in a position to look good.

4) When to pass vs shoot: One of the toughest things to learn. It's all about game type situations. Having a feel - who's open and if thats their shot or if you have the advantage at the time. there are about 4-6 different reads that you have to make quick. And it takes time to perfect that.

5) Typical workout: Mostly done in the summer. Weight room first - core activation and full body workout. Then to the court. Warmup with some dribbling. Then start inside out: Post-up stuff and stay close to the rim. Then move to mid-range: floaters with right and left hand. Then work on three pointers. Finally work on pick and roll stuff.

6) For aspiring point guards: Study the game and how the game is played - the right way. Playing the game the right way means it's not just about highlights and stats. If you're a point guard you have to demand the respect of your teammates. The best honor for a point guard to have is for everyone in the locker room to say they enjoy playing with you.

First off, don't you just love the background theme music playing in the Clippers locker room??? It certainly made for a more crunk experience.

As far as Chauncey himself, it's easy to tell this guy has a wealth of knowledge about the game and more importantly for us is willing to share it. I absolutely love the story about Sam Cassel. Yes, talent can earn you being selected third in the NBA draft, but it means squat against wily veterans that have mastered their craft. Perhaps everyone needs a good humbling experience early n their professional careers to learn what it takes to be successful. And by the way, I certainly remember Cassel, when he was making big shots in the '94 Finals to help the Rockets beat the Knicks.

To tell you the truth - I always think about Chauncey Billups when considering the difficulties for point guards to determine when to pass vs shoot. As he mentioned "it's one of the more difficult things to learn." But Chauncey is a great example of how mastering this skill can transform your career, let alone those of the teammates around you. Yes, there was a lot of trial and tribulation - like bouncing around 4 teams in his first 5 years in the league. But Chauncey found a home and really became an elite point guard in Detroit. The story goes that Larry Brown, as coach, kind of taught Billups to play the "right" way and become more of a traditional pass first point guard that runs the team rather than looking to score all the time. And thus he learned how to "facilitate," make "everybody on the team happy," but most importantly "put guys in a position to look good." What was the result? 7 conference Finals in a row.

Ironically, becoming a pass first point may have made him more of a consistent weapon offensively. It must have taken pressure off him and it probably forced him into taking higher percentage shots. And if the defense realizes your strength is passing - they probably will play off you in certain instances to force you into shooting the ball. Therefore you don't have to create, just take what the defense gives you. Imagine how that feels if you came into the league as a scorer to begin with?

But truth be told, Billups had the right pieces around him to enable this development. And certainly not all point guards should or can become this type of player. When coach Brown moved to New York - he tried to convince Marbury to become a similar player - and that didn't work out too well. You may want to insert some jokes about Marbury here - but I would argue that he was just a tad ahead of his time. Try telling Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook to become more traditional points. Sometimes you have to let these guys play to their strengths.

Finally, how about a nicely detailed and fairly straight forward workout routine?
Start in the weight room and on the court with post ups (he is 210 ibs). Was he inspired by Cassel to go to the post? Has he come full circle at this stage in his career?

In general, start in close and then work your way out - yes, you need to develop your touch inside before you take 30 footers! And work on game situation shots - finishing floaters with both hands and pick and roll stuff. As a facilitator it's your job to get guys in the right spots. But hone your skills for situations when the defense leaves you open and have to take advantage of it. Pass vs shoot - difficult to decipher? But maybe easy to practice.

Much thanks to Chauncey Billups for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Point Guard Project - Stephen Curry

Welcome to the 8th edition of the Point Guard Project.

Previous Participants:
PGP1 - John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey
PGP6 - Damian Lillard
PGP7 - Derek Fisher

This time we are joined by Stephen Curry

The PGP questions:

1) Who did you watch play growing up? And whose game did you try to emulate?

2) What was your first memorable point guard match-up, when you first got into the league?

3) What is your definition for the job of a point guard?

4) How do you determine when to shoot vs. when to pass?

5) What is a typical workout for you like?

6) Do you have any words of advice for young aspiring point guards?

In case you didn't hear, Stephen had himself a game last week in New York:
career high 54 points (11-13 from three!) go along with 7 assists and 6 rebounds.

And here I thought 50 point games at the Garden were only reserved for the Likes of Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron.

Truth be told, in his 4th year in the league, Stephen is coming into his own - posting career bests in scoring and assists at 22 (on 45% shooting) and 6.6, respectively (to go along with 4 rebounds a game).

Son of former NBA player Dell Curry (16 years in the league - best season averaged 16.3 points and 2.7 assists a game), Stephen is listed at 6'3" and 185 ibs. and was drafted 7th overall by Golden State out of Davidson. As a sophomore in College, he led Davidson to the Elite 8, where they lost to Kansas (the eventual national champions). Stephen also helped Team USA win gold at the world championships in 2010.

Mr. Curry, welcome to the Point Guard Project:

Summary of answers:

1) Grew up watching a lot of guys - not one in particular. Just a fan of basketball. Try to take bits and pieces of top elite point guards and emulate a combination of all of them.

2) First memorable point guard match-up: None really stick out, but was always a fan of Steve Nash and worked out with Chris Paul before rookie year. It's always fun to play against guys you have a relationship with and try to have a good game.

3) Job of a point guard: being a leader, trying to make all the right plays, and being aggressive. The point guard is the starting point for both the offensive and defense ends. Good point guards make an imprint on the game early and often.

4) When to pass vs. shoot: read the defense and let the play decide for you. Got to be aggressive and get in the paint and make plays. For those that can shoot the ball you have to use that as a threat.
Usually the play develops and will tell you what to do. If you have a guy that's held up on a screen you got to knock down the shot. But if he is right on your tail and you can still get in the paint then you have to make plays.

5) Typical workout: Such a hard question (well, I try my best). Get up as many shot as you can in the summer. 300-500 makes a day - however long it takes. During the season continue to work on your game, protect your legs and stay fresh - but there is still opportunity to work on your game.

6) For aspiring point guards: continue to be a student of the game. You can always learn and get better. And practice at game speed. That's the best way to add those things you learn by watching other players when you are in the gym by yourself.

How about a little bonus???
Care to see Stephen work before a game?

Here you go:

As usual, a few things.

First, I am really into the part about watching many different people growing up and taking something from each one of them and adding it to your game. An amalgamation of skill sets that create a new unique player. Is it not like some sort of evolution?

And it's interesting that Curry mentions Steve Nash - because you can sort of see the similarities in their respective games in terms of shooting ability and craftiness with the ball.  Shooting wise, this year Curry is at 45% from the field and 45% from three (47% and 45% for his career, respectively). Nash, currently in his 17th season, is shooting 51% from the field and 44% from three (49% and 43% for his career, respectively). I would argue that Nash is one of the best shooters of all time. Curry is perhaps one of the best contemporary shooters in the league.

How do you get there?
300-500 makes, presumably a day in the summer. And then keeping your game sharp during the season. Look at the workout above - the whole thing took perhaps 10 minutes - but was super efficient.

And there is a flow to it.
First off - start in close with one legged floaters and layup/hook shots. This makes a big difference and helps to get going. Then move out to the mid-range and go around the world. A lot of spot ups, but in the middle get a little rhythm by mixing in one dribble moves: between the leg pull up, behind the back pull-up, step-back, between the leg then step back. All fairly simple variations on a theme, but extremely effective. As a shooter, all you need to do is just create enough space to get your shot off - so sometimes less dribbling is more. The less energy you expend the better!

Then check out his pick and roll work in the second video. Besides a quick one dribble move to create your own shot, pick and rolls are the other way point guards do most of their damage (Steve Nash). In Curry's pre-game routine, make 5 shots coming off either side of the screen. They will mostly be mid-range pull-ups, but mix in some step backs. And on the wings, mix in some drives to the basket/floaters as well as coming off a screen without the ball. And check out how much contact he makes with the screener - you don't want to allow any room for your defender to get over the screen!

Now that you have this skill set and can essentially score from anywhere on the floor - it gives you the confidence to follow his words of advice: "be aggressive - you have to make plays. And the good point guards do it early and often."

Well if you can shoot like that then it's probably something you relish doing!

Much thanks to Stephen Curry for his time!
I Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!

Monday, March 4, 2013

By Any Means Necessary

Someone must have forgotten to tell Kobe Bryant that it's his 17th year in the league.
I mean it's one thing to still be the best two guard in the NBA with 27 points (on a carer high 47% shooting), 5.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists a game (yes, this guy is still un-gaurdable).

But it's another thing to straight up embarrass your younger peers.

First Brooklyn:

(Mind you, this play came late in the 4th quarter in a close game).

Then Minnesota:

And now last night against ATL:

Apparently Josh Smith didn't get the memo.
Again, this is late in the 4th quarter of a close game!

All of this within the last month (for which Kobe was named best player in the western conference).
My, what's with all the hostility?

Well, as you may remember Kobe not so long ago guaranteed that Los Lakers would make the playoffs this year. At the time, they were 26 and 29.

What he has done for you lately to back up those words???
How about ~35 points, 5.8 assists, and 7 rebounds a game over the last 5 while leading LA to a 4-1 record?

Think that suffices? 

And how about Dwight Howard last night with 11 points and 15 rebounds?
Or Steve Nash with 15 points and 10 assists?

Don't look now, but these guys are 30-30 and only 3 games out......of the 6th seed in the west!

Anyone want to bet against Kobe keeping his word?