Court Vision: When NBA coaches attack
By Ben Golliver
• Gregg Popovich did not use Stephen Jackson’s injury as an excuse for a Monday loss to the Clippers, deciding instead to dog out his Spurs in his postgame comments, the San Antonio Expess-News reports.
“I thought for a portion of that game we were an embarrassment,” Gregg Popovich said.
“I thought of all our games, this game was in the soft category,” Popovich said. “We never had five guys who competed hard enough to win a basketball game against the Clippers.”
“I’m looking down the whole roster,” he said, “and if I had a cell phone I’d be calling the waiver wire trying to find another body. I mean, I’m just searching right now — searching for people to give me consistency.”
“I don’t know who to start, who to play, who not to play,” Wittman said. “It’s the confusion of different guys every game. We have no consistency of play in our group.”
“These guys can win,” he said. “I don’t have any doubts of it. I come in here every day thinking this is the night. I feel good. I might be dumb, but I believe in them. I really do.”
“Nothing’s going to change,” Gentry said in response to the comments. “We try to throw him the ball, and we’ll try to get him the ball as much as we can and … We’d love to be able to throw him the ball and have him post up and score for us. That hasn’t been one of his strengths, really.”
“It’s up to him right now,” Rivers said. “He has some family issues, more his mom. Not playing, and being in another country, and the NBA hasn’t gone exactly great for him over his career. So, it’s a lot of reasons for him to want to leave. And I understand that, and I told him that. So, I pretty much left it up to him. He has my blessing either way.”
• Ken Berger of CBSSports.com looks at the relationship between Mike D’Antoni and former star pupil, Jeremy Lin.
“I was just in a rhythm, in a zone for that stretch, and now I’m figuring out a new set of challenges and a new team,” Lin said. “And I’m working to get to the point where I can help them and be my full self when I am on the court. … I don’t think it gets more pressure-packed than it was last year in New York.”
D’Antoni has spoken glowingly of those two magical weeks with Lin running his offense to perfection, calling it “one of the best moments I’ve ever had coaching.” But he’s also used it as a way to explain how things ended so badly for him in New York, and that’s fair, too. It was too much for everyone.
“It was just a lot at once, and it just kind of overwhelmed me,” Lin told reporters at the Rockets’ shootaround Sunday.
• Bethlehem Shoals reflects on Royce White’s struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder over at The Classical. Shoals finds himself relating to White as a person and yet isn’t totally drawn to him as a player. He wonders why.
But still, I can’t help but fixate on those other athletes, the ones who make my life seem bigger and more unpredictable as opposed to White, whose life serves as some reflection of my own. That’s the problem with nearly all sports-watching, and the escapist/happy tribalism excuse only ever answers so much. At bottom, we should watch because we want to find ourselves, or the world as we know it. If sports belongs only to knights and robots, we are that much closer to a video game universe and entertainment (or community ritual) becomes that much more dehumanizing — for audience and participant alike. This is the challenge that White presents: watching sports to find ourselves and see our world is one thing; actually finding ourselves and everything else is something else entirely.
There’s a gulf between what it feels like to watch sports, unencumbered, and all the baggage we bring to it.
• Beckley Mason, Eric Bledsoe’s biggest advocate.
As an athlete, Bledsoe’s combination of lateral quickness, power, speed and improvisational grace sets him well apart even in the NBA. But his body seems oddly misshapen. It’s his arms, mostly. They don’t belong; as though Bledsoe stole them from a much taller man, or some parts were mixed up in the factory. In fact Bledsoe’s wingspan exceeds his height by more than seven inches. That’s the same discrepancy as ol’ cartoon arms himself, Kevin Durant … except Durant is almost a foot taller.
Of course Bledsoe is physically imposing, and at just 6-0, he somehow manages to be a defensive wunderkind. As a general rule, it’s more difficult for point guards to have as constant and profound an impact on a team’s defense than a power forward or center. More or less, that’s because point guards are constantly dealing with ball screens, which means they need lots of help, while big men have a singular ability to impact those valuable shots near the basket.
• Does Andrew Bynum, he of the crazy hair and bowling-related knee injury, even like basketball? One former teammate reportedly says “no.” Spike ESkin of CBS Philly with more.
I sent SLAM Magazine senior editor Tzvi Twersky a text message on Friday night, asking him if he had heard anything about Bynum injuring his left knee while bowling. As someone who is generally plugged in to these sort of things, I thought he might have some insight.
“I started investigating [the bowling] a little bit,” Twersky said. “And one of the people that I hit, a guy who has played with him before, he texted me back and said ‘I don’t know if that’s true [the bowling], but I do know that I’ve never met another player in the league who likes basketball less [than Bynum].”
“The disclaimer is, I don’t know Andrew like that. From what I hear, he’s a good guy,” Twersky said. “But the fact that I heard this from a guy who has played with him before, it kind of made me think, ‘what’s going on here exactly?’ That’s not the kind of a guy that I necessarily want to be maxing out.
• Adrian Wojnarowski with some 2013 NBA draft tidbits and a first look at UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad from the Legends Classic in New York City.
Muhammad has constructed his pre-college reputation on how fiercely he competes on the floor, how he uses that explosive and chiseled 6-foot-6 frame inside and outside. “His greatest talent is his competitiveness,” said an assistant GM who spent several days watching Muhammad in national team practices at the Hoop Summit in the spring. “He’s relentless. But does he have the skill level to be the No. 1 pick? I still need to see that out of him.”
As one assistant GM of a likely lottery team said, “Whoever is the No. 1 pick, he’ll play himself into it this year. I don’t think it will ever be a clear-cut choice.”
As one Western Conference executive was leaving Barclays on Monday night, he knew he’d have to see Shabazz Muhammad over and over this season. After watching Zeller and Muhammad, he did have a suspicion about this spring’s draft. “I think you’re going to see a team who gets that first overall pick who will seriously think about trading down and moving out of it.”
• Chad Ford of ESPN.com has a draft-themed notebook from the Maui Invitational, too.
This is a down season, talent-wise, in the NCAA. “If Cody Zeller, Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel and James McAdoo are your top four picks, it’s going to be an ugly, ugly draft.” Other than McAdoo, I couldn’t find a scout or GM convinced there was another first-round prospect here. If Kabongo plays, that could be two. But that explains, in part, why the field is so weak.
• The NBA will soon air this creative ad, which features Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and others dribbling basketballs to the tune of a recognizable Christmas song.