Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where to do the walkthrough

Tom Cable, who Al Davis inserted as coach of the Raiders recently, is working hard to get things turned around in Oakland.

He's brought in former Raider players to remind his team of the franchise's proud history. He's reinstituted the tradition of awarding game-balls after victories.

And now, to give his guys a better feel for where they'll be playing when on the road, he's having his team go through walk-throughs at the home team's stadium before the game.

It might seem like a little thing, but seemingly minor decisions can have a big impact on a team's performance.

For instance, visiting teams playing the Lakers or Clippers have to decide, on game days, whether to fight the traffic and make a long bus trip to the Staples Center for their shoot-around or walk-through, or have the shootaround someplace closer to the team hotel.

Some NBA teams stay at the Beverly Wilshire when in LA to play the Lakers/Clips. To bus over to Staples for a one-hour shootaround, then bus back to the hotel for a late lunch before heading back to the arena for that night's game doesn't make sense.

In the past, visiting teams have had shootarounds at UCLA (though that's changed recently). They've also done walk-throughs at health clubs close to the hotel. A few teams have even arranged to have their walkthroughs at a private residence in Beverly Hills that has a full basketball court.

One time with Orlando, Coach Daly had a shootaround outside on the half-court at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey where we were staying.

One summer many years ago, when coaching with Hubie Brown in the LeGrande Trophy Tournament in France, we had a team breakfast and a early game. Coach Brown had an idea for an impromptu walkthrough.

We went in hotel parking lot, chalked off a lane, and used a grapefruit as the ball as we simulated the opposing team (a Greek team) and how we would defend them. The funniest thing was by the end of the walkthrough, the grapefruit had split open and juice would squirt out on every catch.

On back-to-back games, most teams will have a team meal and a walkthrough at the hotel to help save the players' legs. Mike Fratello would create a "key" with athletic tape in the hotel ballroom so we could walkthrough the opponent's sets and how we would defend.

Some coaches elect to stay at a hotel closer to the arena and not worry so much about staying at a hotel close to the best restaurants in area or in the best part of city.

For instance, when in the Bay area to play the Warriors, most teams elect to stay across the bay from Oakland in San Francisco ("The City") which requires crossing the Bay Bridge to get to Oakland for the game.

But if you stay near the arena in Oakland, you avoid San Francisco and bridge traffic and it cuts down on travel time. Jerry Sloan, for one, has had his Jazz teams stay in Oakland for this reason.

Ideally, to get a feel for the arena, you'd like to have a walkthrough on the floor where you'll be playing that night, but that's not always practical.