Court Vision: The hoops-driven friendship of Dr. J and ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich
• There’s nothing earth-shattering in this excerpt from Julius Erving’s upcoming book, but it’s a blast nonetheless to learn the finer details of his relationship with Pete Maravich:
But when you’re playing with Pete, you realize that his game, which on TV looks like a flashier version of what I was familiar with from watching the Globetrotters, is actually much faster than anyone who is doing that kind of dribble, cross-over, snap-pass, no-look stuff. Pete has all of the Globetrotters moves, but he can do them at unimaginable speeds. He’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever played with.
… What is interesting, is that Pete’s basketball sense has previously been so far beyond his teammates, he’s not ready for anybody to be able to hit him with the kind of passes that he usually dishes out. I grew up imitating the Globetrotters, but I haven’t had much opportunity to try this stuff in practice, or on any other court except for Rucker — whenever I tried at UMass, Jack would practically cancel practice right then and there. So running with Pete is interesting in that I feel the freedom to throw some no-look and some behind-the-back passes as well, which can catch Pete off guard.
At one point, in practice, we have a two-on-one breakaway — I think George Trapp is the defender — and Pete dribbles between his legs and then hits me with a behind-the-back pass, then I dribble between my legs and hit him back with a behind-the-back pass. He is so surprised that he travels. None of his previous teammates has ever been able to match him move for move. But that establishes some kind of connection. As we were walking back down the court, he looks at me and nods. “OK, Doc, I get you.”
• Tom Sunnergren on Thaddeus Young: “What’s interesting, though, is that, despite how underrated the forward is, we don’t have to stray too far from the box score to understand why Young is such a productive and valuable player. His greatness hides in plain sight.”
• Even while the Spurs are rattling off wins, things aren’t going so well on the offensive end for Tim Duncan.
• With Kobe Bryant’s return to the court pending, Jeff Weiss reflects on the Lakers’ relationship to their preeminent star and the turn of events that took him out of the lineup in the first place:
Unless you spent the last 18 months searching for your mantra in a Marrakesh hashish den, you probably heard about the climax that crushed the Lakers’ already-frail playoff chances. Following a wrathful stretch that channeled the aerial unstoppable ghost of the “K.O.B.E” era, the Lakers legend tore his Achilles tendon. There are roughly 4,000 tendons in the human body, and the rupture occurred in the only one named after the vulnerable heel of a Grecian demigod.
If some lame with a laptop at the Bourgeois Pig crafted this scenario over his fourth pour-over coffee, his agent would refuse to take his calls. But it actually happened, and in its own perverse way, it was the only logical outcome for such a snake-bit season. The chakras were permanently blocked. The jello never seemed to jiggle. Defensive communication was dim. Offensive ball flow was largely stagnant. I’m sure other squads in human history have been equally hexed, but you usually you have to build your stadium on an Indian burial ground or steal a sow from a witch to experience luck this lousy.
• Sixers coach Brett Brown, on why he doesn’t like making specific lineup adjustments to match opponents’ size: “Maybe their apples are better than our apples.”
• Kevin Arnovitz takes a deeper dive on a topic we touched upon in this week’s Give and Go: The stark contrast between the defensive effectiveness of the Clippers starters and almost every other lineup at Doc Rivers’ disposal.
• Not every NBA staff is like this, but it’s refreshing to hear Tommy Balcetis — manager of basketball analytics for the Nuggets — offer a report of analytically open-minded coaches in Denver:
“They [the coaching staff] really have been excellent, I can’t overemphasize that enough with how open they are,” said Balcetis. “I hope that they use the [reports] that I put together. I’ve been told that they do use it — which is great, but at the same time I understand that numbers are not everything. Sometimes the numbers can give them one thing and they have a different strategy, so I never take it personally. At the same time, if there is something in those reports that will help them … then I did my job. It’s all about getting that extra percent of probability that we’re going to win the game.”
• All fear the repeater tax.
• When the Knicks struggle to score, they batten down the hatches and put the ball in the hands of Carmelo Anthony. But there are natural limits to what can be accomplished through those means, as leaving Anthony to his own devices essentially ignores what made New York’s offense so potent last season. Chris Herring reflects on that dynamic for the Wall Street Journal, and offers this bit on Anthony’s drift into isolation:
That impulse [for Carmelo to carry the offense] could lead the Knicks into real trouble as the season moves forward. For starters, [Anthony has] had no room to shoot. Anthony has been closely guarded on 82.8% of his jumpers this season — a number that, if it holds over the entire season, would make him the NBA’s most-heavily defended player in catch-and-shoot situations since 2005, according to Synergy Sports.
Last season, when the Knicks earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, they were often best when Anthony drew double-teams, then quickly kicked the ball out to an open shooter. With marksmen like Chris Copeland and Steve Novak on the floor, it was a solid strategy. But so far, he’s failed to do that quickly or effectively this year. The Knicks have shot just 30.6% (15-for-49) and scored 42 points when Anthony has kicked the ball out of a double team — down from last year, when they shot 40.9% (125-of-305) for 374 points in those situations.