Thursday, October 2, 2008

What 10 NBA teams are focusing on this season

Here's a quick look at what 10 teams are emphasizing as camps open:

CLEVELAND: Cavs coach Mike Brown "is revamping the way he's conducting practices with an eye toward keeping legs, arms and backs fresh."

''I am going to try and be more efficient this season,'' Brown said. ''As a coach, you always want to be learning and implementing new things and that is something we're trying to do.''

"To that end, even though the team will be gatheringfor two-a-day workouts for the first 10 days of training camp, Brown will only be allowing contact in one practice per day. Players will not even get their ankles taped for some of the workouts with a focus on play sets and learning concepts instead of hardcore drills and scrimmaging."

DALLAS: "The first day of camp was spent running. More specifically, it was spent running hard for three quick steps at the start of each change of possession. It's something the new coaching staff will be unwavering about. They will demand that players turn on the jets the moment they switch from defense to offense, or vice-versa."

DETROIT: Pistons coach Michael Curry "plans to employ more full-court transition play with trapping on defense and running on offense. Curry also wants to return to the days when opponents could go almost entire quarters without getting an open look at the basket. And he wants to get more offense from the low post, which requires strong legs and endurance to bang and get good position in the paint."

"Offensively, Curry is adamant about pushing tempo and getting quick offense off turnovers and missed shots, but in the half-court he is dead set on establishing a consistent low-post presence."

Said DET coach Michael Curry:

"We are going to be aggressive in everything we do. What we want to do is establish ourselves as a team that's going to compete at a high level every night. We are going to be really good defensively and offensively we are going to be a team that can beat you 120-110 or we can beat you 80-70."

HOUSTON: Coach Rick Adelman "wants the Rockets to reach a point where the offense clicks without anyone saying a word. Last season, too often, he and his coaches had to call out plays from the sideline and give the opposing defenses a chance to react."

"When you make calls in this league, everybody in the world knows it," he said. "It's harder to run anything. Our offense, if we don't have to make calls, if we're just making the right pass or right cut, then the defense can't set up or gear up for what you're going to do, because they don't know what's coming. That's what I expect this year. We're going to be able to do those things a lot better than we did last year."

INDIANA: At the team's first practice, Pacers coach Jim O'Brien "constantly told his players to keep the ball moving. He believes over dribbling allows teams to catch their breath. He doesn't want that. He wants constant ball movement so they can wear teams down throughout the game." Coach O'Brien also stressed that practices would be competitive: "We want there to be great competition. We want there to be daily wars at [the center] position, to see people getting their lips cut and nose bloodied so that whoever gets that job will be toughened by his teammates."

LA LAKERS: According to Luke Walton, defense is "the goal of training camp. We're going to be doing new things, working on different type of rotations. With everyone pretty much coming back, we can focus on other stuff such as defense. Last year, we spent the most time on defense since I've been here. This year, I'm assuming from what the coaches are saying that we're even going to spend more time on that. We feel that's why [Boston] beat us [in the Finals]. They played better defense, they were more consistent on the defensive end. We met Boston in the Finals, and they made it hard for us to get every bucket, and we weren't able to do the same against them."

MILWAUKEE: Said coach Scott Skiles: "I want us to be a very good defense and rebounding team and then that starts your running game. Everybody wants to push the ball up the floor but it's very difficult to do out of the net. You can do it but it's very difficult to do out of the net. And then on the other hand, we want to go down and look at the early offense. If we don't have anything, we want to get a good shot because good shots generally lead to good backcourt coverage. So now you've got your transition 'D' covered. So it all fits together. I want us to do all those things."

MINNESOTA: At the T-wolves' camp, "Coach Randy Wittman said he’d like his team to emulate the Minnesota Twins, who were expected to finish well back in the division but lost a postseason berth in a playoff game at Chicago Tuesday night."

“They’re a scrappy team that plays hard every night,” he said. “I want to make sure that’s what we do. We can learn from that.”

“We can’t be a playoff team if we play defense like last year,” Al Jefferson said. “Coaching is really pressing that. Guys who play defense are the one who get the minutes.”

“These six days in Mankato will really be spent on defense,” Wittman said. “I’m not worried about where we are offensively. We can score points."

PHOENIX: Said new Suns coach Terry Porter: "Defense is the most important thing you have to do in this league. You might not have to be the best, but I think you've got to be top five [to win a championship]. That's something I think at times this team has not done. ... That's going to have to change for us in order to be successful."

TORONTO: With a revamped roster, Raptors President Bryan Colangelo says TOR is focusing on chemistry.

"We felt as a whole that we got better last year, maybe on paper but it didn’t pan out in terms of the win-loss record at the end of the day. Sometimes, on paper things look great and you play the season and things happen and injuries occur and chemistry issues develop. Although we were more talented last year, and deeper, I don’t think we had the same chemistry and that’s something we’re going to be striving for this year."