The technician

NEW YORK — Kyle Korver waits for the rest of his teammates to clear the court before making his way out to his semi-private pre game warm up. In the locker room, he puts on his black knee-high socks, two per leg, and slips on startlingly low profile Kobe Bryant model Nikes. As Al Horford finishes miming pick-and-pop actions, casually knocking in 20-footers, Korver emerges and circles the court, dapping up Dominique Williams and smiling to fans from Chicago who say they came to Madison Square Garden to beg his forgiveness and won’t he please come back?

Horford’s working the bank shot as Korver picks up a 4-foot aerobics bar covered in white towel and wrapped in athletic tape. He performs precise squats, holding the bar above his head and arching his back as though in an Olympic lift.

This is how Korver readies his jump shot, from the ground up. Everything Korver does gives the impression of a craftsman polishing and assembling different parts of a high-performance machinery, testing each aspect of the system to calibrate it just right for show time.

Next Korver activates the flexibility in his legs necessary to be on balance when whipping around a curl screen. A series of lunges and band work engage small stabilizing muscles throughout his lower body.

Horford finishes his routine and heads in. There’s no one left on the court besides a few ball boys, three Hawks assistants, and Korver.

Finally Korver touches a basketball.

He begins at the elbow, facing away from the baseline as a coach feeds him from the top of the key. Korver is still focused on his legs. Quin Synder passes him the ball as Korver rotates as though on a hinge, catching and turning to get his shoulders square

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HoopSpeak Network

Will we see more Melo pick-and-rolls?

Look familiar?

With J.R. Smith out of the lineup against Boston in Game 4, the Knicks leaned heavily on isolation play from Carmelo Anthony. His jumper was not able to bear the load. Melo fought his way to the line, but only shot 8-21 combined on isolations and post ups. When we include turnovers, that’s just 16 points from 25 possessions!

But when we count the 19 (!) free throws and 16 makes he earned off of iso and post up plays (this counts a foul on offensive board that came off of an isolation), he actually scored 28 points off of approximately 33 possessions, or a very respectable .848 points per possession, a rate that is actually not far off his season average Synergy.

The problem is that such a disproportionate amount of the Knicks offense came on these plays. Carmelo performs relatively well in isolations and the post, but his individual production in those scenarios still falls well short of the Knicks team output for the season, which is closer to 1.086 points per possession (per

The Celtics are expert at defending great individual scorers, and have rotated a few defenders on Anthony to apply maximum ball pressure and hopefully force him into jumpshots. Anthony has smartly countered by returning the physicality and fighting his way to the free throw line.

But there’s another way around the Celtics defense, and that’s with the pick-and-roll. Jeff Green, Paul Pierce and especially Brandon Bass are comparatively ill-equipped the navigate the intricacies of pick-and-roll defense, and Carmelo Anthony, as it so happens, is the best pick-and-roll scorer in the NBA.

That’s right, according to Synergy, no one scores more than Melo’s 1.12 PPP on these sets.

In the series with Boston, Melo has taken nine shots out

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Mike Woodson’s big year

Please take this test:

Watch a bit of the video below, which catalogues Mike Woodson’s reactions to everything from blown calls to children who want him to sign a hat.

(video via Oakley & Allen)

What did you think? Did you enjoy it? Did you even laugh a bit?

To a normal person, there is almost literally nothing interesting about this video. Sure, there is the occasional slack-jawed, blank expression that suggests Woodson is just zoning out, or trying to remember whether he turned over the laundry, rather than managing an exceptionally complex process in front of 20,000 fans.

But by and large this is pretty unremarkable stuff. To a normal person.

However, if you happen to be a Knicks fan, or just a basketball nerd, this reel suddenly becomes endlessly entertaining.  If you find yourself chuckling, good for you — you somehow get it about Mike Woodson, the most unlikely lovable character in the NBA.

From both a tactical and personal sense, Woodson was something of a cipher when he took his place on the Knicks sideline. Sure, we knew of Iso-Joe and the switch-heavy defensive system that Atlanta employed in order to take advantage of a starting lineup that included four quick players between 6-8 and 6-9.

But it was all so blah. Woodson wasn’t a maverick, riding into town to shake up a corrupt and struggling frontier outpost. He was the weathered deputy suddenly promoted to sheriff after the office’s previous occupant had skipped town.

Even the preseason profile from Will Lietch suggests Woodson’s best quality is that he is an utterly vanilla person “They want the predictable, they want the projectable … they want, frankly, the old.“

Everyone expected Woodson would deliver on this uninspiring mandate.

The players are old, and Woodson’s ideas on

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Tyson Chandler: Best Center, Best Minimalist

“I’m a basketball minimalist.” Brett Koremenos rocked my psyche with that self identification. The term now haunts so many of my NBA thoughts.

Brett offhandedly used his invented phrase over Gchat, in reference to the inexorably fluid spread pick-and-roll attack. It’s an approach that requires four three point shooters, one of whom waits for the pick from a non-shooting big man like Tyson Chandler. The offense conquers because it exists in just too much space for a defense to hug. It’s practically a cheat code.

For the offense to be even feasible, the Knicks need Tyson Chandler to compensate for all those defensively-deficient shooters with defense and rebounding. He does that, but he’s also about as good an offensive player there is to do it on seven shots per game.

Tyson Chandler can’t shoot well, or dribble well, and he’s a bit skinny. Though, I sometimes wonder whether he’d be worse for his team were he any more blessed in those categories. His lack of a jump shot has led to a cartoonish 70% field goal mark. His lack of a handle has led to one turnover per game. His lack of bulk means fewer shotclock ticks sacrificed to the altar of dribble-dribble-back-down post-ups. New York’s big man enters a game, and only expertly controls a manageable amount of reality.

The reigning assumption is that the best center must be someone who does a lot, especially in the scoring department. Chandler might be changing that notion, if we would only bother to notice what he’s doing.

Catch-all player performance statistics are inherently problematic, because the value of taking a shot will always be up for debate. I do like Win Shares on Basketball Reference because the metric rewards volume shooting less than some other stats do. This is not

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Can we stop spending Steve Nash’s money?

Steve Nash is coming to save your franchise. I know your team is over the cap, but he’ll take the mini-mid level exception. Why? Because money doesn’t matter to Steve. Because Steve’s the easy-going dad who trundles down the Whole Foods aisle with a bag full of red quinoa. Because Steve likes Radiohead, and you like Radiohead. Because winning a title obviously means more than anything in the universe to Steve Nash, loyal soldier of Sarver misfortune.

Not so fast!

Steve Nash is still killing it, and could get upwards of $10 million per year for a short term deal on the open market. Teams like the Knicks and Heat would need Nash to take a contract in the three million per year range, per the mini mid-level. So Nash-hopeful fans are assuming he’ll give up, say, seven million dollars of his money, per year to a private, cold-hearted business. Would you be shocked if Portland offered Nash to three years, $35 million? Then don’t be shocked if he rejects three years, nine million from Team Dolan.

It’s just so much fun to imagine, though. Editors have certainly pushed the Nash-to-big-market storyline on me, and I’ve buckled. Such Nash wishing unfortunately makes little sense in the actual world. The idea of “giving up money” is largely abstract to us, and it’s conveniently not our money. The statement, “All he has to do is give up some money” rarely comes with any acknowledgement that some dollar amounts are larger than others. Ya, I could see a player giving up a million or so to play where he wants. But $20 million? Who does that?

My best guess is that the “Who does that?” question can be answered, “Probably not Steve Nash.” Remember, this is someone who left his good

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NBA Playoffs: Adjustments for May 3 games

Some adjustments we might see for tonight’s games.

Miami Heat (2-0) vs. New York Knicks (0-2)

Coming into the series, how Mike Woodson managed his rotations was an important issue for the Knick. Who he played, where he played them and when they played were going to be a key to New York’s success. In Game 1 the rotations were questionable but Woodson’s use of his personnel improved in Game 2. Now, thanks to Amar’e Stoudamire’s post game tussle with a fire extinguisher, they will need work once again.

The best fix is to slide Carmelo Anthony to the four and insert Steve Novak into the starting lineup on the wing. The Knicks offense could receive a boost early on with the additional space the sharpshooting Novak can provide for Melo. On defense, there will have to be some creative cross-matching with Tyson Chandler marking Chris Bosh, Melo shadowing LeBron James and Novak moving to the limited Udonis Haslem (This of course becomes infinitely easier if Bosh is gone for Game 3).

That lineup makes much more sense than does inserting JR Smith into the starting lineup where he’d be forced to guard Dwyane Wade. And in case you’re struggling to remember who that Wade guys is, he was the guy that absolutely demolished Smith in the low post all Monday night. That dominance forced Woodson to double on every Wade catch, a strategy that virtually always led to open looks for Miami.

Fields on the other hand, acquitted himself well against Wade down low (yet oddly received double-team help near the end of the game. Perhaps Woodson confused his and Smith’s jersey numbers). He needs to see his minutes mirror those of the Heat’s star shooting guard in order give the Knicks a chance to commit only one

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NBA Playoffs: Game 2 adjustments

Some adjustments to look for heading into Monday night’s games:

Chicago Bulls (1-0) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (0-1)

Obviously Derek Rose’s injury is devastating. From this point forward, the Bulls must be nearly flawless if they want to make a run to the Finals. The biggest adjustment is that Tom Thibodeau must have either Kyle Korver or Rip Hamilton on the court at all times. The threat that both those players bring coming off screens is the one surefire way the Bulls can shift a defense and use their excellent ball movement to find the open man for easy looks. With their devastating defense, Chicago may only need to reach the 90-point mark consistently to keep advancing. Korver and Hamilton running opponents ragged through screens is probably their best bet to get there.

Miami Heat (1-0) vs. New York Knicks (0-1)

New York looked nothing like the team that battled Miami tooth and nail during the last regular season matchup. Getting Tyson Chandler over the flu should help immensely. Chandler was in a complete fog during Game 1.

He dropped passes and was consistently a half-second late on rotations he’d normally makes in his sleep. His ability to play 35-40 minutes with the same effectiveness he had in the regular season is a must.

New York’s rotations are also a total mess. Mike Bibby shouldn’t be on the floor and Jared Jeffries playing on half a leg doesn’t do them much good. With Shumpet now out, J.R. Smith should slide into the starting lineup and Baron Davis now has to find a way to provide a relatively productive 25-30 minutes a game. Mike Woodson also needs to hand Jeffries’ minutes to Stoudemire with the hope he can provide some offensive a small-ball five.

On top of that, Woodson should

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Mike Woodson will succeed in New York*

*to the extent that success is limited, and possible.

We now understand that the Knicks effectively fired D’Antoni the moment they shipped off a group of players well-suited to his system in exchange for a single player, Carmelo Anthony, who was uniquely unfit for his perimeter-oriented, ball-movement focused offense. No surprises here, but twelve months ago, now resigned General Manager Donnie Walsh was against the Carmelo trade.

D’Antoni resigned “on his own,” but the franchise chose incoming talent over incumbent leadership months ago.

D’Antoni cuts a charming and affable character, what with his disarming West Virginia accent and photoshoppable ‘stache. He encourages the kind of fast-paced basketball that we love to watch, and has a reputation as a players coach. We like him, so his resignation with only 25 games left on a four-year deal smells funny to some, rancid to others.

It reeks of valuing the individual superstar (no less a player we now know is undeserving of that distinction) over the team concept. Anthony, a player who contributes next to nothing on defense and has been unwilling to fit his game to his surroundings on offense, was valued above the beautiful basketball that D’Antoni philosophically represents.

We should also consider that while I’ve been a bit fatalistic so far, there were other options, even after the Carmelo trade. Howard Beck reports that D’Antoni pushed for a trade for Deron Williams, a player who would have thrived in his system and made the whole team make sense.

But it sounds like owner James Dolan never considered abandoning the prized superstars he pushed so hard to acquire. Like I said, D’Antoni was gone the minute Anthony came over.

In his place stands Mike Woodson, who is actually a great alternative on short notice. The Chandler-Stoudemire-Anthony frontline presents some

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The Carmelo Problem

Life is a bit unfair to Melo at the moment. Linsanity coincided with an easy Knicks schedule, which Anthony missed out on. Now the schedule is brutal and he’s back. Even if New York loses, the Knick-killing factors could be wholly divorced from whatever he’s doing. So why harp on the guy, especially when Amare’s wane has to be chief among New York’s problems?

Well, because our conversational scope is still too narrow when it comes to points merchants. We pay homage to the idea of how overvalued some are, without going one step further and drastically adjusting our rankings. It is as though–despite acknowledging the perils of No-D ball-stoppers–the impulse still exists to bless such players as “elite talents,” and “pure scorers.”

So I believe that “trolling” Melo is about having the courage of my basketball philosophy convictions, even if such convictions sound deviant when espoused publicly. Yes, I think Andre Iguodala is better. No, I don’t believe Anthony’s the “best player” on his team–that would be DPOY candidate Tyson Chandler, thank you very much. Defense matters, passing matters, and scoring efficiency matters. And if you believe that, then it is difficult to believe Melo matters all that much.

It would be nice to espouse “I don’t think Melo’s very good,” and have such an opinion recognized as within the sphere of legitimate debate. It feels necessary to say it loudly when Beijing 08′ is often, bizarrely brought up as greatness-proving evidence (Carmelo shot 42% in the games. Wade shot 67% on more attempts). To my eyes, nearly every game–including last night’s–is a reminder of how ridiculous the Knicks were for pursuing The Trade, especially in light of their bad history with overvalued volume scorers.

To those same eyes, Anthony is a value neutral player. Better in

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Making it all fit together can be puzzling or whatever is the best puzzle pun here

Puzzles kind of suck.

There is almost no reward as you are putting them together and there is really no point. I guess you could say it’s a test of will, recognition and patience but you could also just as easily say it’s a complete waste of time. The problem with puzzles is there is nothing to display once it’s done. It’s not like you can frame it or keep it on your coffee table.

While you’re putting it together, everything starts to blend together and all of the pieces begin to look the same. Sometimes, you can’t even tell if something fits into the appropriate cutout because it looks just close enough that you assume the company who made it wouldn’t screw with your head like that. The reward of finishing such a task is knowing you completed it, but if there is nothing to show for it, does it even really matter?

That’s the great thing about putting together a championship puzzle in professional sports. Once it’s completed, you don’t have to just awkwardly display the puzzle for when people come over and you show it to them, hoping to elicit a response other than pity. You don’t have to just immediately take it apart and have that be your little secret between you, your dog and the Roseanne marathon you watched while completing the puzzle.

You get something tangible to show people. You get rings, a parade, commemorative DVDs, a banner, and the ability to complain to the media about how you’re still not respected enough after nobody believed in you and disrespected you before you won. There is no fruitless reward or only being stuck with the feeling of a job well done. Continue reading “Making it all fit together can be puzzling or whatever is the best puzzle pun here” »

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