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Archive for June, 2008

Final Celtics’ Player Scorecards (Nos 8,9,10)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 25, 2008

8. PJ Brown: A little tough to pick PJ (Collier) Brown Jr over Leon Powe, given that Powe had more minutes, more production and more rebounds per rebound opportunity than just about anyone in the league, but the Celts plucked PJ from semi-retirement for his possible value come playoff time. His work in Game Seven in the 2nd Round versus the Cavs alone made his acquisition worthwhile. He called that left-wing 15 fter the “biggest shot of my career”. The Celts also were interested in him for his high character value. The winner of numerous sportsmanship and community service awards throughout his NBA career, pretty much assured that PJ, big as he is, posed no threat to rock the boat. He’s the consummate pro: knew his role (rebound, score a little, defend a lot), steadily improved stats and skills throughout his career. What I like best about him? That sweet short stroke on his perimeter shot. No extra motion. (You want to eliminate motion on your jumper: everything calm and in sync.) That’s why he’s an outstanding free throw shooter (at 6’11”). Short stroke. Easy to locate and repeat the proper release point over and over again. Not much can go wrong. That’s why he so confidently nailed that shot versus Cleveland. PJ Brown, in my book, is a certified authentic NBA hero.

9. Leon Powe: Everybody knows the story of Leon Powe by now. It’s one to remember when the tendency to stereotype NBA players comes around. The really tough times as a kid, the painful losses, the willingness to work hard, the will to survive. Here’s a guy we can all root for. What might get overlooked when we see the drive and determination is the talent that Leon Powe brings to the basketball court. Top five in his high school class nationally. Monster years early on at Cal in the tough Pac-10. Hobbled by multiple knee surgeries, he’s overcome that too and made himself into a legit NBA defender, rebounder and scorer. A hyper opportunistic, starving-for-the-ball and what-hard-work-can-accomplish type rebounder, Powe had the fourth highest Offensive Rebound Rate. Throw in his demolition of The Lakers in Game Two and you’ve got the perfect fit for a team on a roll to a storybook season. Leon Powe may be on the threshold of a big-time NBA career. And who could possibly be more deserving?

10. “Big Baby” Davis: Hard to know what the Celts thought they’d be getting when they got Davis from Seattle with Ray Allen. 35th picks often don’t make the roster. He’d made a “big” name for himself during LSU’s Final Four run in 2006. Even NTL players at our camps, grown men and women were asking that they be referred to as “Big Baby”. He had charisma and he had game. But he was one stocky dude. They had to see if he could get in shape and if that getting in shape would translate to enough stamina to compete. Vertically he was undersized, horizontally, no. Some stocky dudes use that well (Charles Barkley: “a fat guy who can play like the wind” – college recruiter upon seeing Barkley for the first time), but quick feet and good hands have to be part of the equation. In addition to taking up space (a “huge” advantage) for rebounding, a good feel for passing and finding open players, he seemed to be willing to work hard and learn. He survived rumors of a demotion to the NBDL and impressed with his early play. He looked a keeper. One of the Celts defining victories this season, one which helped silence doubters and bolstered their own confidence was their win at Detroit, Jan 5th. A classic regular season game, one which carried heavy post-season implications. Davis was immense finishing deftly around the hoop, often with his left hand, the recipient of great interior passing from KG and Pierce, especially. He didn’t get much run in the playoffs, mostly because of PJ’s experience and Powe’s emergence. I don’t think the staff lost confidence in him at all; there just weren’t enough minutes. I saw him play and frustrate Tim Duncan at The Garden in February, so the staff knew he could play good minutes against anyone. Could the Celts have won without him? Yeah, probably, but it has been much more fun with him and it will be interesting to see how huge he, I mean, how he progresses.

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Final Celtics’ Player Scorecards (No 7)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 24, 2008

7. Eddie House: Our season tickets were right next to the Celts’ runway, where they’d enter and leave the court. Best part about it was being near enough to study the players during pre-game warm-ups and at halftime, see how they’d go about preparing. Those warm-ups are among my favorite times in The New Garden. Some guys go about it quietly, easily, mostly mental prep (Pierce). Some goof, play, joust gently with teammates (Cassell). Others are all business (KG, Ray Allen). Some are a nice, interesting mix of the two. Just about always my favorite guy to watch, study, was Eddie House. He had some simple ball handling routines he’d go through but it was all prelude to why House was there in the first place: shooting. The most impressive thing you notice is the perfect rotation he had on his shot everytime. EVERYTIME! As I sat there, I said out loud, more than once (to no one in particular, that’s the way it is sometimes), “he’s got the nicest rotation on his shot of anyone in the league.” I mean, it could not be better. And, he gets the thing off in a hurry. Catch, bing and up! No wasted motion, no hitch, no hesitation. Clearly, his pre-shot preparation – feet ready, shoulders and hips squared up – is outstanding. You want to get better at shooting? Watch what Eddie House does BEFORE he gets the ball, watch his feet, his knee bend. Understand that he sees the ball going through the hoop even before he catches it. Balance, rhythm, rotation, confidence. A desire to do it again. You gotta love this guy! (Eddie House’s 61 pt game versus Cal his senior year.) As too many analysts say, “he can score the ball”! (What else is he gonna score? Are we not talking about basketball here?)

Amazingly, and perplexingly (at first), House had very little run in the first couple rounds of the playoffs. Sam (“I’m Firing I Am”) Cassell and his playoff experience is what Doc Rivers seemed to favor. But as Cassell’s shot became less reliable and his feet slowed w-a-y down on defense, House got the call and brought energy and excitement to the floor. He made big shots and his dive for the loose ball save to James Posey was a turning point for the Celts’ psyche in the Cavs’ series. I think all these guys who were losing playing time (House, Powe, Davis, T. Allen, Rondo some in The Finals) and then getting playing time just plain believed in Rivers and believed in the team and honestly thought that their time would come, that Rivers had not necessarily lost all confidence. And for each of them, the time DID come, and it’s a good thing each was ready.

What they got out of House is what they wanted to get out of House: a “team first” guy capable of putting up big numbers (Arizona State stats), lending energy and life anytime he was on the floor. We were all “House Guys” from the moment he put on The Green, pre-season to last arcing corner, split-second, sweet spinning jumper.

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Final Celtics’ Player Scorecards (Nos 4,5,6)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 20, 2008

I’m thinking this list is sort of, kind of, in a way, ordered according to importance to the team. That the players as I present them are listed in order of indispensability. This, of course, is ridiculous, and because it’s ridiculous, par for the course when it comes to sports discourse. Still. KG less indispensable (more dispensable?) than Pierce? Absurd. Unfathomable. But, who could the Celts have survived without for the longest stretches against the Lakers (sorry . . . Fakers)? I don’t know. Make your own list. Anyway, it’d be like losing cylinder no. 2 in your v-12 Jaguar. That baby will not purr like it’s supposed to even if you pull the spark plug on any of these guys. (Backing up to yesterday: 1. Pierce 2. KG 3. Jesus Shuttlesworth)

4. James Posey: When I think about James Posey’s worth to this team, I think of four things, all you need to know to understand his indispensability: 1) Jeff Van Gundy is a coaches’ coach. When Thibodeau and I used to watch games in the late 80s, we loved it when Hubie Brown did commentary: it was like being at a coaching clinic (“when the defender goes to double team, you MUST dive to the rim”). I felt the same way when Rick Majerus was doing college games for ESPN. I watch games to learn more about basketball, and when the commentator is a serious basketball guy like Van Gundy, I pay attention. (Though I have to say the guy’s deadpan on the ESPN commercial with Mark Jackson was as funny-good as he is basketball serious-good. I think I cried laughing so hard.) At some point in The Finals, Van Gundy said of Posey, “If I’ve got a team, give me James Posey. Give me James Posey. That’s the kind of guy, if you’re putting together a team, you’ve got to have.” What he meant was: Posey is unselfish, tough, skilled, fearless, never backs down, physical, all business, ready all the time. If you’ve ever been in a situation on a pick-up court where you were one of the players choosing sides and you looked around, the Posey-type guy is the one you picked first if you wanted to win and stay on the court all afternoon. Right? 2) You always want a guy on your team who when he enters the game in an opposing arena, the crowd gets on its collective feet and chants his name followed by “SUCKS”! If that is happening in at least 2-3 gyms, all the better. Then you’ve got something, someone good. For instance, they don’t like James Posey in Chicago. (Ejected? they should eject the announcers. He obviously, OBVIOUSLY, went for the block, saw he didn’t elevate, grabbed the guy, Luol Deng, half to stop him from scoring, half to actually hold him up from falling hard. Technical on the announcing team! 3) Defense wins championships. We’ve known this since, like, the times of the Ancient Greeks. Posey plays defense. Chest-to-chest with Kobe. Great combination of strength, length, mobility, anticipation, intelligence and desire. I honestly did not know that Kobe could be guarded so effectively. It was worse, way worse, than Cooper or Rodman on Bird. 4) When I was done after my 7 years at Harvard, a friend asked me to coach her son’s team in a town rec league. I was scouting part-time, figured, I can squeeze this in. Sixth graders. I convinced them they all had talents and abilities they could bring to the team, and that no one talent or role was more important than any other. Role players. One kid I had could not shoot. I mean, nothing. 4’11” tops. Curly headed jewish kid. But he loved to hustle, had a nose for the ball and understood that when the other team had it, we wanted it and needed to go get it. Heart of a lion. This was 1992. I told him he was our Dennis Rodman. He showed up at the first game with his hair dyed green. I asked him “where’s the navel stud?” If I had that team today, I’d tell him he was our “Posey” and I bet he’d be there with that two-tone mouthpiece, a little bit of the craziness in his eye, the guy you gotta watch out for if you’re on the other team.

5. Rajon Rondo: What a beautiful Game Six. Not just because of the steals, the everywhere at once defensive quality he brought. Not just the pushing the ball up court, running the seams, finding knockdown spot up shooters EVERYWHERE. Not just the drives to the hoop that kept Kobe honest on defense. It was more where he came from – the depths of Games Three-Five where he was, because of a suspect jumpshot and an unwillingness to take it, risk it. He was buried. (Plus the sprained ankle.) Playing behind House and Cassell and even a little Tony Allen. Someone said something to him before Game Six. Someone, maybe he was talking to himself, someone said there’s a lot you can do to add to this team tonight. You’ve got skills and abilities that no one else on the either team has. Go out there and do them. (Chief Phil would have told him: “express yourself.”) No holding back. Rondo was a revelation, the game changer. The one who was on the gas pedal at the start and well into the game when they needed to be playing with the relentless energy and passion of an entire season in one game. And I love his demeanor: never changes expression. Never lets the other team have the satisfaction of seeing him distraught or distracted or down on himself. Heads could be exploding all around him as one guy’s confidence after another is shaken. Not Rondo. As poker faced as Larry Bird was when he was coaching The Pacers in The Finals. And this is a kid who Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe, in an article a couple years back questioning Danny Ainge’s moves (and who wasn’t questioning them) quoting Rondo’s Kentucky coach, Tubby Smith as saying, “glad to get rid of the kid . . . good riddance”, or words/sentiments to that effect. Rajon just rolled right outta Kentucky, right into an NBA championship, an accomplishment the Boston Celtics could not have achieved without him. And, of course, last night at an NTL clinic when a player stripped another, everyone knew exactly what I was gonna say, “you just got Rondo’d!

6. Kendrick Perkins: Perk, to me, is what the NBA is all about, or what it can be all about. I have no idea what his background is, what his parents did for a living, how many siblings he had/has, any of that. All I know is that when they drafted him, The Pope, Leo Papile, Assistant Executive Director of Basketball Operations for the Celtics said something to the effect of “if I had a daughter, this is the kind of guy I’d want her to bring home.” I think that meant that Perk had character. And part of having character means the ability to have discipline, a great work ethic, trust your teammates and be trusted by them. There were long stretches in Perks’ first few years here, where you had to wonder whether he was gonna make it. Least I did. His skills around the bucket were still very high schoolish. Catch one foot from the basket, put his head down, take a dribble, go up and get his shot blocked. 6’11”. Sheesh. The plantar fasciitis he had last year certainly did not contribute to him looking very good. A big guy with questionable mobility to begin with who gets slowed down by injury is not a big man who inspires confidence. But, this Celtic organization, to their everlasting credit, sticks with the right guys for the right reasons and Perk came through. He developed into one of the handful of best interior defenders in the NBA. I really think so. That is hugely valuable. But he needs to stop fouling or stopping getting fouls called on him. At minimum, he’s got to stop going nuts every time there’s a whistle on him. Does he think he’s never committed a foul? Must be, because he’s complained about every single one since he entered the league! Most importantly, I think his teammates trusted him, knew if they were to be in a basketball war, that if they needed a teammate in the trenches, so to speak, that’s he’s a guy who’d stand with them till the very end. This ending, the one he contributed significantly to, was a very good ending indeed.

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Final Celtics’ Player Scorecards (Nos 1,2,3)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 19, 2008

Here are my thoughts, a look back at the players, where they came from, what they did.

First The Three Amigos:

1. Paul Pierce: listed first because he, in my mind, was not just the Finals’ MVP, but the Celts’ MVP for the season. I was down on Pierce the past couple of seasons, wanted him traded, outta here. All the usual reasons: selfish; egocentric; an unjustified, unearned overinflated view of himself; the constant pouting about calls, just a bad overall package. Sure he was an outstanding scorer but he always acted as though he were entitled to more. But sometimes, you gotta do more to get more. Doc Rivers and his unwillingness to bow to Pierce, especially the previous two seasons, is the salvation of Pierce. And Pierce’s own willingness and ability to change. (Great piece by Jackie MacMullan on the transformation of Pierce.) And change he did. We didn’t just witness a great basketball player playing his best on the world’s biggest basketball stage, we saw a young guy grow up. We saw him learn to take responsibility for himself and learn to trust others. Talk about not being able to win without Posey or KG or Thibodeau; the Celts could not have won without Pierce becoming a new and different and more mature human being.

Outplayed “the best player on the planet“. Changed the course of the series in Game Four when he proved Bryant could be guarded one-on-one in the Celtics’ defensive schemes. Went to the basket unbridled against absolutely anyone and everyone (okay, except Bryant when Bryant wasn’t in foul trouble). Dished the ball appropriately and effectively when the Lakers gave him too much attention (Game Six, nine first half assists!). Never cried, complained, whined about all the bad calls. Stayed focused, understood what it’s like to be on a team, and the true leader of the team. And the best part for me to see, what had to have been hard for him: listening to the MVP chants for Garnett when Pierce is the one who’d been here for ten years, when he had made the biggest sacrifices of all, when he was the one who went inside himself and brought out a new and better and more reliable and trustworthy version of himself. He could have pouted or seethed, acted out in some unseemly fashion, “I’m the MVP!”. Nope, Instead he embraced his teammates and put on display a “someday they’ll retire jersey No. 34” performance.

2. Kevin Garnett: How badly did he want this thing? How perfect a fit was this man for this team? How quiet were his critics, those who suggested he could not step-up in the biggest moments, after he could not miss in Game Six? Um, how much Red Bull does he drink??? And what was he saying to Michelle Tafoya after the game? Can we run that back one more time?

Funny thing about KG, his much criticized unwillingness to “takeover” during “crunch time” is probably, long-term, big picture, a good thing. I think the guy is just unselfish, truly believes in moving the ball to the next best open player. For a good part of the season and at least the first two rounds of the playoffs, I was thinking KG was the most automatic 17-20 foot jump shooter in the league. I was amazed. I didn’t think he could miss but he started to the first few games of The Finals, then he got it back late in Game Five and was back to form in the Final Massacre. We knew it was gonna be good when he, first game of the season, rejected, cartoon-style, a Gilbert Arenas (fellow adidas guy!) drive. Squish. Should have been a Celtic from Day One, right out of high school. I believe he thinks he was.

3. Ray Allen: I believe Ray Allen’s biggest contribution was the demonstration before his teammates of his professionalism on and off the court. I think Pierce (and a whole bunch of others) saw it and learned from it. I remember waiting to talk to Thibodeau and Van Gundy after a game when they were with the Knicks and ML Carr was coaching the Celts – that was a good year in Boston! Anyway, Charles Oakley walked by as I talked (briefly) with Van Gundy (he asked me how Never Too Late was doing!). Oakley was dressed like a businessman, a three-piece, pinstriped suit, he carried a briefcase. This was their power forward, one of the best in the game. He was leaving work. When the Celts got Ray Allen this year, I thought of Charles Oakley that night and how that professional persona that Ray Allen too would bring would really benefit this team.

Here’s another thing that Ray Allen did: he improved Paul Pierce’s free throw shooting. This may sound absurd, but these guys, these NBA guys, the good ones, are competitive with one another as well. They know each other’s numbers. And they don’t want to look bad. Paul Pierce’s career free throw percentage was not nearly what it should have been given the kind of shooter he is. Enter Ray Allen and his gaudy numbers from the line. During a pre-season game, I said to my wife (ask her!) that Paul Pierce’s numbers would go way up, that he would not abide missing when Ray Allen was making. It was good clean competition. Ray won but Paul did, too. He had by far his best season from the line.

Ray Allen proved throughout The Finals, guarding Kobe for much of it, that he is an above average defender. He also is a great practitioner of what I consider the most astounding athletic feat regularly employed by NBA players: the catch on the dead run, pivot (turning 180 degrees), square up, elevate straight up and knock down jump shoot. Dunks I can understand, ankle breaking crossovers and spin moves I can see, but how do they run away from the basket, catch and turn and get themselves under such great control to finish with soft, smooth accurate 25 foot shots??? My favorite part of Ray Allen’s game this year were his drives to the basket though; proves he’s way more than just a shooter. Especially his embarrassment of Sasha and that lefty finish. That and when Mark Jackson said, “Rondo finds Jesus Shuttlesworth wide open in the corner!” Amen.

The RV ride with Van Gundy that proved they could overcome anything.

to be continued (James Posey, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, et al)

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Handicapping Game 6 of The NBA Finals

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 17, 2008

I’m not very good at making predictions, but I have some “feelings” as well as thoughts about the upcoming game.

1. If Kendrick Perkins plays, I see it as a fairly big plus for the Celts. Gasol proved in Game 5 that he can get the ball pretty deep against KG (I acknowledge the foul trouble KG was in); he can’t do that against Perk;

2. KG is due for a very big game. Pierce has a pretty big to very big game every game now. I believe Ray Allen is focused and if he doesn’t get too excited too soon could be in the 20s himself. Look for a Big Game from The Big Three;

3. The Celts are better because they are tougher, physically and mentally tougher. That toughness translates to defense. Unless fouling is a factor early, the Celts will probably jump on the Lakers. Decent lead early. Defense will be stifling, absolutely stifling;

4. I see the Lakers making a comeback. Or not. At some point, I believe the Celts will have a BIG, BIG lead;

5. Rondo will run the break well, find the seams and the shooters. He’ll have at least one dunk on one big purple shirted dude;

6. The young guys on the Lakers will wilt; that means no bench production from the visitors. Meanwhile, Leon Powe will get more than a rebound a minute;

7. There will be a lot of chest thumping. A lot. This will not so secretly irk Jeff Van Gundy.

8. Congratulations to Doc Rivers and the Celtics. (With a nod to Kevin McHale.) Banner No. 17. Celts 100 – Lakers 86 (Alternatively, Celts 95 – Lakers 94; Ray Allen with a buzzer beating winner. Fun!)

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Final Thoughts on the Final Moments of Game 5 of The Finals

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 17, 2008

What Coulda Been

Can we go back to the last game, Game 5, for a moment? I have searched YouTube for a clip of the last 20 secs and didn’t come up with anything so you’ll have to check your own DVR or TiVo or come over to the NTL office to look at this, but did anyone notice what I saw after Eddie House hit that three-pointer from the left corner with less than 15 seconds remaining, cutting the deficit to three? I bet the Celtics coaching staff did. House hit the three and the Lakers then inbounded the ball against all-out pressure. Gasol, passing it in and guarded by KG, tossed it cross court where Kobe and Derek Fisher had moved. That was a mistake by those two; you always space out the defense. So, the ball is passed up and soft between them. Problem is: two guys cannot both catch the ball. It, natch, gets fumbled. Eddie House, alert, alive, wanting the ball, wanting another shot at a three, steps in and, diving, pokes it loose. Kobe then dives for the ball as it’s going toward the corner; KG’s coming over and in the play, taking away the baseline return pass to Gasol. Sam Cassell, and here’s my point, is drifting s-l-o-w-l-y over from the lane where he was taking away middle and never matched up with anyone. Okay, as Kobe’s is diving on the ball, Kobe, similarly alert and alive, is thinking about where he’s gonna throw it before he potentially slides out of bounds or gets hit with a travel call. There’s a passing lane from Kobe, who’s now on the floor, up the sideline, to Fisher. An obvious passing lane. You could have put up a neon flashing street sign with arrows: Passing Lane Here. What is defense supposed to do in almost every defensive situation? Get in the passing lane. And when you need the ball, and oh-do-you-need-the-ball when you are down three with 12 seconds to go in a game that could clinch your team the championship, you play in the passing lane (or cat-and-mouse your way in to the passing lane). Cassell had an opportunity to generate a “CASSELL STEALS THE BALL” moment, but he just stood there, spectating, not anticipating the way Bird did against the Pistons, the way, Havlicek did against the 76ers. As Kobe was on the floor, he was only going to be able to throw it one way and to just one possible player. Calcified, mummified, deer-in-the-headlightsified, Cassell did not make the move. Too bad, Johnny Most was ready. Onto Game 6.

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Ray Allen’s Layup

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 13, 2008

Ray Allen’s one-on-one (that’s being generous to Sasha Vujacic) drive and layup to seal the Celtics’ incredible come from behind victory over the Lakers last night was many things. One of the things it is is something we teach and drill players on at the NTL clinics and camps: the lefty layup off the righty dribble.

The lefty layup off the righty dribble (cousin to the righty layup off the lefty dribble) requires eliminating a step from the normal dribble-one-two that happens with the righty dribble, righty layup, etc. Allen does it perfectly because he switches the ball in the air, not on the floor (just like we teach it – but, wait a second, I don’t remember Ray Allen taking one of our clinics).

Other things to watch: 1) Vujacic does nothing to dictate to Allen; he lets Allen decide if he’s gonna take him right or take him left. Vujacic should have forced Allen to go the way the scouting report says Allen would prefer not to go. (NBA scouting reports can tell you the percentage of times a player drives one way or the other); 2) Vujacic gave the whole thing minimal effort after Allen got an advantage, a couple of soft waves was about it; rather pathetic; 3) the other perimeter defenders did NOTHING to influence Allen. I understand Bryant couldn’t leave Pierce, Odom couldn’t leave Posey, but couldn’t they have shunted or faked at Allen? Tried to make him guess, worry a little that a double might be coming, see if they could force some hesitation, maybe leading to a mis-dribble?

A truly unworthy effort from the Lakers all the way around.

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NBA Refs

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 12, 2008

In today’s Boston Globe, Hall of Fame sports columnist, Bob Ryan addresses the issue of former NBA referee and now convicted felon, Tim Donaghy’s accusation that, in essence, some NBA playoff games in recent years have, in effect, been fixed. In particular, Ryan confronts NBA Commissioner David Stern’s smirky, closed-door, closed-case response to the serious and damaging accusations. In the midst of all this (and certainly many times over the course of my basketball life), I have thought, “no, I would not want to be an NBA ref”.

It is a tough task because an NBA ref is asked, simultaneously, to be human and not human. Human in that it is expected, because you are interacting with human beings all over the place – players, coaches, fans – needing, probably wanting to show respect, courtesy, even a modicum of friendliness with a dash of personality. Is that not natural and even called for in this position? But it is almost paramount, necessary, in fact, that the referee be inhuman as well, oblivious to the emotion surrounding him (or Violet Palmer), unaffected by the thought of what the reaction to a call made before 20,000 home town fans at a crucial moment in the game might be. Is that even possible?

Ryan calls it “subconscious crowd orchestration”. But is that right or accurate or capture all of what is going on for a ref? I might call it “subconscious crowd response awareness”. Orchestration is more subversive, more, even if “subconscious”, power hungry than what a good intentioned referee would be engaged in. If you give the benefit of the doubt to a referee, and I believe you can do that for the majority of them, even the great majority, it still leaves them vulnerable to who they are: humans. A human being who may like or dislike a team or a player or a team winning or a team losing and in need of sympathy. A belligerent crowd that needs shutting up, or an underdog playing valiantly and with sound character. How can these feelings, as Ryan says, “subconscious” not creep into it? Impossible.

What I wonder is whether any of this is talked about among the refs. Referees must review what they are going to do pre-game, just like any team does. They sit in a lockerroom and surely talk about positioning, reminding each other of how they’ll deal with situations, last-second shots, conflicting calls made by two refs, rough plays, fights and near fights. But do they say: “hey, let’s remember to leave any feelings we have beforehand and that get generated at the moment, in the course of the game out of this. Let’s make the call as it should be called, clean and simple, as if no one were in the gym, like we knew none of the participants and were unaffected by who they are and seem to be. Let’s call the game out of the rule book and let the game as it’s played and should be played decide. Let’s get our hands together. Rule Book on three: one-two-three – RULE BOOK!”.

Do they say that?

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Doc Rivers Has Won the Coaching Match-up

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 10, 2008

I am moved to write this because I profoundly disagree with the assessment of so many: that the Lakers, in The Finals, have the coaching advantage.

First of all, please don’t give me this talk about rotations. I’ll answer the question with a question: Was Leon Powe ready to play? What Celtics players have been told is “be ready to play”. That’s all the rotation that’s needed.

Bottom-line: a basketball coach’s job, any coach’s job, is to prepare his team. Prepare in terms of physical readiness, strategy, execution, honed skills; have them ready to execute his vision. But more importantly, absolutely paramount, the coach’s job is to ensure that the players are mentally and emotionally prepared to, plainly put, give it their all. A sustained, determined, consistent, focused, confident effort. I believe that from the moment this Celtics’ coaching staff started putting together their long-term goals during that European trip and all the way to the pre-game preparation for the Lakers (sorry . . . Fakers), he has done the job and done it extremely well. Every move, every decision was made to prepare the team for a no-nonsense run to the championship. Look at the result. And, I believe, it would have been very easy to screw this up. Great as these guys are, they are no Bird-McHale-Parish-Walton-DJ outfit. With all due respect, KC Jones could not have crooned his way to a title with this group. Doc’s a smart, genuine, knowledgable players’ coach, who’s learned his lessons well enough to have a vision and to communicate exactly what was necessary to get them there. They, the players, bought into it enough so they’re gonna win this thing. Comparatively, the Lakers look woefully ill-prepared, at the beginning of games, on defense, end-of-game situations. You would have to agree, easy to see. And you’d have to agree that that is the biggest difference in this series: one team has been readied for the long, hard, physical, don’t-back-down haul of it, the other not. Doc deserves a ton of credit.

Now I’m thinking, wondering about taking this to the next logical Doc versus Chief Triangle match-up; what if you gave Doc Rivers Kobe, Pau, Odom and the rest of that crew last October and gave Jackson The New Big Three and friends? What if you give me your guys and I give you mine? Not buying it? What would the present group of Celtics be like without the never-say die commitment to defense? And what would the Lakers be like with it? And where do teams get that attitude from? The coach, plain and simple. Sure, Doc couldn’t do it without KG anchoring the focus end of the defense, but couldn’t he do the same with Kobe? Have in-and-out-of-focus defender, Kobe, commit to defense to the degree that the rest of the team would follow? I’ve become enough of a believer that I think at this stage in their careers, Rivers’ new team could actually take Jackson’s in a seven game series. I just don’t see this Lakers team playing together, being together, playing with a purpose and determination and confidence. All that sits in Jackson’s lap. Sure, the better team can take that out of you, but, if you’re mentally tough, prepared with that mental toughness and determination, you can’t all of a sudden look like Federer playing Nadal. Impossible. The body language has made it clear right from the start: the Lakers know they can’t beat Doc Rivers’ team. Phil hasn’t told them anything or done what it takes to make them believe they can.

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