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Archive for January, 2009

Observations on Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, Jan 19, 2009

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 21, 2009

1. Our seats are nine rows behind the visitor’s bench, even with the baseline, great place to watch pre-game, on-court preparations by the players. The Suns warmed up at that hoop before the game. Nash stood in the far corner talking to some guy in a suit, hoisting up three-pointers while they chatted. I’m assuming but I sure don’t know, that Nash had been out there earlier in the evening doing a more focused routine. One thing I noticed and had noticed before, is how far back Nash’s shooting hand sits before the release. It’s almost flat or ninety degrees to his forearm. Not entirely unusual but it became even more pronounced when I watched Shaquille O’Neal’s warm-up shooting form. He does not have any bend-back in his shooting hand at all! None. Whereas Nash’s fingers are pointed almost directly backwards before the ball goes up to be released on a jumper or free throw, Shaq’s fingers are pointing straight up! No wonder there is no backspin, no rotation on the ball. (Is there somewhere on the Internet that says that Shaq broke his wrist or something, some physical explanation for this?) Go ahead, put your shooting hand up in the air, point your fingers straight up, palm, in other words facing forward, and imagine shooting a jumper or free throw that way. This was the form he used while warming up/practicing his shot just inside the free throw line. I want to emphasize this was NOT a jump hook or anything he was shooting. This was his form. Unworkable. Unless he has some physical deformity, this is inexcusable. He basically pushes the ball at the hoop.

2. When Shaq caught the ball low, back to the basket and he was being defended by fellow LSU matriculant, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Shaq was unable to back Big Baby down. Never could he while dribbling, back to the hoop, gain hardly more than an inch. Dribble-pound, dribble-bump, dribble-grind. Three hundred twenty-five pounds plus and going nowhere. My guess is that no one else in the league could do that to Shaq. Davis was down low, center of gravity way down low, forearm in Shaq’s kidney. Shaq got called for one charge (Davis drawing it); Shaq traveled; Shaq missed; Shaq missed again; Shaq fell; Shaq dunked once or twice. On this night, anyway, rather amazingly, I thought, not a go-to match-up;

3. When at the beginning of the game, Brian Scalabrine was matched up defending Amare Stoudemire, I kept turning to my wife and saying, “G-a-w-w-d-d-d! There’s the match-up the Suns will go to!” I mean, there have been times in the past few years when you’ve been tempted to put Stoudemire top ten. Right? At times dominant, on big-time rolls. Forty points the norm. Alas, on this night, if Stoudemire caught the ball, matched up with the only guy on the Celtics who voted for John McCain, ten times, he failed to score ten times. His only basket on a three point scoring night was when KG was matched up with him and KG left him to double on Shaq (which elicited a “why did you do that?” look from Big Baby when Shaq found Stoudemire for a dunk). I just could not believe that he couldn’t take him. Another match-up that was going no where. Honestly, it had me wondering whether the offensive schemes for the Suns under Terry Porter are taking advantage of their players’ strengths;

4. Rondo vs. Nash. Nolo contendere. Kudos to Rondo. One sequence: from somewhere around the right wing, Rondo found himself isolated with Nash with a live dribble, Rondo threw about seventeen of the most heart-stopping, ankle-breaking, stomach-turning, head-spinning moves on Nash, sixteen of which Nash stayed with. Lay-up Rondo. Once again, what Phoenix was running was leaving Nash’s hands tied. Hands tied is not good for point guards. For one thing, Nash is among the best at transition passing. This Phoenix team (save Grant Hill occasionally) does-not-run. Secondly, Nash and the pick-and-roll? Non-existent in this game. Rondo (and the Celtics) in a rout. (It has to be mentioned that Rondo took three jumpers in this game, each out of team and ball movement, each in rhythm. Each went in. Previously, Rondo was taking jumpers either as the shot clock wound down, or when defense was daring him or embarrassing him by backing off and he had to shoot. Here, on this night, he was just a shooter shooting. Really nice to see development like that in a player.

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Presidential Hoops; Jersey #44

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 20, 2009

The rundown on who the best basketball playing presidents were:

Abe Lincoln played. Like Satch Sanders, he was #16 and could defend the heck out of it. Great in the lockerroom before big games, too.

James K. Polk had extraordinary foot work in the post; knew it was a matter of gaining “territory” in there. Like it was his Manifest Destiny or something.

Rutherford B. Hayes, “The Big E”’s great-uncle, could kiss them high off the glass.

William Howard Taft could set a mean screen and, man, was he tough to get around when he boxed you out!

Hoover turned the ball over too much, inflated the score and, in the end, depressed everyone.

Truman could drop bombs. (But so could, and did, many.)

JFK was great to hang out with after the game.

Coach never let Jimmy Carter in, mostly because of what his brother Billy was yelling from the stands.

Ronnie Reagan cracked everyone up with his play-by-play from the bench.

Al Gore wrecked his knee playing hoops, didn’t he? Oops, he wasn’t President? He was just elected, that’s all.

#44 has got the rare opportunity to make both teams better by making the game better. There will be defense (you gotta have defense); there will be innovation (moves never seen before!); he’ll push the ball up court and share the ball. To make this thing work, we gotta share the ball. I’m lacing mine up! #44 didn’t choose me, but I and a whole lot of other people, all around the world, are on his team. (Each of us is ready to give this kind of effort for this team!) Tip-off is at Noon!!!

Posted in beautiful basketball | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

“Alternating Hands Dribble in the Open Court”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 14, 2009

When I was a kid going to camps and practices, coaches used to have us do the “speed dribble”. Basically going – supposedly – fast as you could using the same hand to dribble all the way up court. It’s what you were taught and directed to use during the hopelessly boring and inefficient use of time “relay races”. I’m pretty sure coaches at camps are still teaching the speed dribble. Last I looked, they were. Problem is, if what one wants to do in teaching hoops is to show players what the pros (and college players) do and help developing players master those skills, i.e., “do as the pros do”, none of the pros ever speed dribbles. Never! Watch! Instead, the technique they employ is the “alternating hands in the open court dribble”.

What is it? Well, what it is not is crossing over. Crossing over when running hard is too constricting, too tight to the body. That, in fact, is the problem with the speed dribble, as well; it doesn’t flow. Instead, imagine doing the Australian Crawl (swim stroke) while standing up and running with a basketball. That’s the “alternating hands in the open court dribble”. Push the ball out, almost as if you are telescoping your arm; out it goes then down goes the ball. Right arm out and slightly diagonally left, then left arm out and slightly diagonally right. Out and then down. Doing it that way never impedes your running progress and allows you to run quick-as-you-can with the ball, much speedier than the old, tired, seen-its-better-days speed dribble. (Video Coming Soon!)

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Sniffing Out a Last Second Play

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on January 13, 2009

So, in the Raptors/Celts’ game last night, after a missed shot by the Raptors (they were down three), long offensive rebound and heads-up one extra pass by the NBA’s all-time, three-point FG% leader, Jason Kapono, Andrea Bergnani hits a three to tie the game with one second on the clock. Time-out Celts. What was then surprising and fascinating from a coaching standpoint was who was on the floor for the Celts ensuing last second play. One second? What do you need? Minimum of some shooters, the real deals and the decoys. So, they come out of the huddle and first thing the announcers did (and should do) is give the offensive line-up, as if to suggest what the strategy will be: who will take the shot? First name they say? Rajon Rondo. Why is that interesting and, truly, if you think about it, illuminating, is what is Rondo, of all people gonna do in that one second? “What is he doing out there?” is what the Raptors’ assistant coaches should have been thinking (and pointing out, pronto)! Rondo is not a shooter. (The only negative in his game.) We know that, so he’s not in there to shoot. There is no time to do the other two things he does well: pass the ball and/or drive to the hoop. Right? No time for any of those three things: shoot (nope), pass (nope), drive (not enough time). And, at 6’1″, 160 lbs., he’s not in there to screen. Only possibility? Alley-oop for Rondo. And that is exactly what the Celts did: curled him off a ballside screen, down the middle of the lane he went, up to the rim the pass came. Timing was off and the play did not succeed but give the Celtics credit for a good play, but a play that with some quick thinking by those responsible for the defense (players and coaches) could have been sniffed out. (Postscript: the Raptors pretty obviously did not sniff the play out because had they, they would have stuck Rondo’s defender underneath the hoop, and instead he trailed him, bodied him up all the way around the screen, a step behind all the way!)

Posted in notes: college & pro | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

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