Monday, June 30, 2008

Why coaches must coach

Coaches have to coach. It's what they're built for. It's what they do. I grew up with a coach and have seen it first hand. When they're away from it, something important is missing.

Away from basketball for more than a year now, I recently had the privilege of coaching a group of high school players at an all-star game. I enjoyed that as much as coaching any NBA player.

As far as coaches go, I'm not alone in my love for coaching.

Take Mike Hargrove, who stepped down as manager of the Seattle Mariners last July. He's turned up coaching a semi-pro team in Kansas. Hargrove and his wife live in a friend's basement. He's not being paid by the team -- the Liberal Bee Jays.

After Hargrove's 11-year playing career ended in 1985, he went on to manage the Indians, Orioles, and Mariners.

So why is the 58-year-old Hargrove, a Big League manager, coaching in the semi-pros? Here's his answer:

"I realized that I missed the game. I realized I still wanted to do this. I hate the word 'passion.' I really cringe every time I hear that word. I think passion's one of those words that everybody thinks everybody wants to hear. If you use the word 'passion' in your talk about your job, everybody kind of feels that's the validating point that you do care about what you're doing and you're enthusiastic about what you're doing. I hadn't lost my enthusiasm for the job. I hadn't lost my love for the game. I really hadn't lost my passion for what I was doing."

How about Nolan Richardson, who spent 17 years at the University of Arkansas before the school bought out his contract? It was a messy end to a wonderful relationship.

But Richardson couldn't sit at home. Though he was in his 60s, he had to keep coaching. Despite a resume that includes an NCAA title, NIT championship, and junior college title, Coach Richardson had no offers to coach.

So last year, he went south of the border to coach -- in Mexico. He did it for free. In 2005, he coached Panama to its first berth in the World Championships in almost 20 years.

What drives him?

"Mexico, it's not the dreamland of basketball. So that's a challenge for me and that's all it is. I always liked to challenge what they say I can't do. Because all my life I've been an underdog at everything, even when we were champions we were underdogs. I think that's the biggest thing about me coaching, I love the challenge and I love teaching and I love to be different."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Notes from Avery Johnson's new book...

Spent Sunday reading Avery Johnson's book, Aspire Higher (that includes a great forward by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones).

A couple of notes from the book:

-- The decisions you make today will impact tomorrow, just as the decisions you made yesterday and the day before affected your life today. Tomorrow is a direct result of today. (page 39)

-- Pay attention to the small stuff. Forget those who tell you not to sweat the small stuff. Sweat it. (page 40)

-- You are in control of what you want to be -- but not if you're surrounded by TREADMILL people. People like the spouse, or lover, or boss who belittle you because of their own insecurities. They will disturb and distort or even try and derail your efforts to achieve your dream.

You'll have to eliminate certain negative people from your life or their going-nowhere "treadmill" mentality will effect decisions. You need to distance yourself from those people.

How do you do that? Begin by asking yourself these questions: With this person in my life, am I winning or losing? What sorts of things are they saying to me?

The answer to the second question will help answer the first one. (pages 46-47)

-- Changes -- even painful ones -- are going to be necessary at various points along your journey. If you keep making the same decisions that have prevented you from aspiring higher, you're going to get the same results. As I've said, if nothing changes, nothing changes. (page 48)

-- Great leaders also possess the ability to delegate. In order to delegate, you must have smart, decisive, detailed-oriented servants. Yes, I said servants. Above all, the men and women you entrust to execute your vision -- whether on the playing field, in the classroom, or in your company -- are there to serve you, not take your job.

Often leaders will hire a person for his or her skills without assessing the extent of his will to serve. The lack of willingness to serve is like kryptonite to higher aspirations . (page 92)

-- There is a bar representing the standard of behavior by which we all live our lives. Anything above it is acceptable behavior. They are the things we do that make us proud, that we would not be ashamed to talk about to anyone. Transgressions below the bar simply wont be tolerated.

The bar itself represents something. It represents EXPECTATIONS. It represents what we expect of ourselves. How high we place the bar represents to which we aspire. For many people the bar is too low. It's so low, they can reach it while sitting down .

No one sets the level of "your bar" -- your standards -- but you. (page 110)

-- We live in a microwave era when people expect things instantly .But real success has no timetable. (page 116)

-- Leaders must be able to communicate -- both verbally and non-verbally. Verbally it's important to communicate positively to individuals who work with in your inner-circle of support. Tell them you appreciate them. Tell them you need them. Tell them they did a good job, and keep working hard.

Tough communication is sometimes just as necessary, though. After I delivered bad news, I usually try to soften it a bit with non-verbal communication. Sometimes I'll take them to dinner, send them flowers or a restaurant gift certificate or a movie card. These are forms of communications that say, I care about you. (page 121)

-- Here's a bad habit most of us need to work on eliminating: ENVY. One of the things I tell my players is that they have to eliminate envy. If teammate gets on an All Star team, or is named player of the month, you must support that person because we are a team. We're all in it together: The good and the bad. If a teammate gets the glory, we all get a piece.

Don't be envious of a teammate who may be enjoying more success than you. If they're doing well in life , exchange envy for this thought: "I'M NEXT." (page 193)

Your team is like your house , a home under construction
A. Blue print
B . Solid Foundation
D . friendship
E .Welcome mat ( page 202)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The honeymoon's over: With draft in the past, reality sets in

Draft day is like wedding day: Everyone is happy, usually all the way through the weekend, but eventually (usually once summer league play begins), reality sets in. You can immediately see that some players are much better suited for the pro game while other guys struggle.

A former assistant of mine, Jim Boylen, now the head coach at the University of Utah, used to say, "You can't serve two Gods," meaning you can't play rookies and try to win at the same time. As a team, your focus is either on developing young players and building for the future, or making a full effort to win games and challenge for a title.

The day (or week) after the draft (both NBA and NFL), beat writers and talk-show hosts begin rating and scoring which team did the best. You'll start seeing grades less than 24 hours after the draft ends.

I understand that it's their job to provide analysis. But in truth it's impossible to rank a draft that soon. It takes time for players to develop. After 2-4 years, I think it's fair to score how players/teams fared. By then, you have a better understanding of how they've done as players have been put in various roles and different situations.

Coaches beware: The list of coaches who've lost their jobs over the playing time of rookies is a long one.

First, many rookies will be unhappy with their role next year. They come in with big expectations only to find out it's much harder than they expected or their teams have different ideas of how to use them.

I remember when the Timberwolves drafted UCLA's Pooh Richardson back in the 1989 draft, the team's first-ever draft. [As a sidenote, my father was coaching the T-wolves and really wanted Timmy Hardaway as his point guard.]

Pooh had a great rookie year -- almost a "career year" for him -- but he wasn't happy and made it known publicly. This had an influence on my Dad's firing after two seasons, even though the team's performance exceeded many expectations.

What happened is no different than what happens with a lot of
players. A few years later, the player realizes that expectations are (unreasonably) high for rookies and that his role that first season was the right one for him.

With Pooh, he realized that Minnesota's offense, with its grind-it-out-pace and pick-and-rolls, were designed to hide his weaknesses and highlight his strengths. He didn't see it at the time, but it became more clear as his career went on.

Sometimes a coach will get fired due, in part, to the front office's high expectations for a rookie. When they're unhappy with his role or development, management looks for another coach who will use the player how they see fit.

In the end, it wasn't the coach (or coaches). And it wasn't that the player wasn't "good." It was that expectations were simply unrealistic. I've seen players leave the team that drafted them and go on to have long, productive careers with another team (or teams) where the expectations of the team and fans were different and the system was better-suited to their style.

It's not only the players who voice their opinions. Their agents can be just as outspoken as they work to help their client land his first "big contract." In many cases, it's the coach who is holding them back, keeping them from the "real money."

The GM wants his pick to succeed for his team. He and his scouts worked hard in evaluating the player. The owner holds the GM responsible for the pick. And fans and the media are, as I mentioned earlier, begin grading the pick almost immediately. It's important the player finds success early in his career.

When I worked for Golden State, GM Garry St. Jean made it clear that he wanted rookie Mickael Pietras to get experience over the last 20 games of his first season. His role was clear: Be a defensive stopper. And he was, locking down on the opponent's point guards. [His role has changed over time. Today, he's playing the power forward spot, so he's no longer guarding point guards.]

There are other groups who are watching rookies closely. The media, of course, is monitoring the story closely. Fans hope the rookie is the future of their team. [I know when my favorite NFL team, the Chargers, draft a player, I'm hoping he'll help get them back to the Super Bowl.]

Even the team's marketing and accounting folks are watching the rookies. A rookie's performance can impact season ticket sales, merchandise sales, TV contracts, sponsorship deals, etc.

The most pressure, as you'd expect, is with lottery picks. There's intense pressure -- on the coach, GM, and player -- for him to produce immediately.

Mid-range picks get more time to develop. For example, when I was an assistant with Memphis, Jerry West's primary objective was to win, so he wasn't in a hurry to get Hakim Warrick big minutes. Instead, the coaching staff worked with Hakim, taking some of the pressure off.

Usually, if a guy can play right now, he's going to be on the floor. If not, it's the responsibility of the head coach and his staff to develop the player, creating a plan for helping him develop -- in his first year, second year, and beyond.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Two coaches who understand (and accept) their roles

Couple of terrific articles on coaches recently, including another one on former SMU soccer coach Schellas Hyndman, who took over as head coach of Dallas' pro team a week or two ago.

[I had a previous post on Hyndman here.]

I love how this coach interacts with his players. By asking them what "cooperation" means to them is a great way to get them thinking about the team and buying into the system.

He knows that he's making players uncomfortable by pushing them to play up to their potential and he knows he'll eventually need players who are best-suited to play his style.

Look at what his captain had to say in the article:

"Every coach has his own style and thinking. Here the coach thinks we should play that way because of the players he's got. We have to convince ourselves of that and try to make the best we can."

Known for his intensity, Hyndman is quoted in the article as saying:

"As I feel more comfortable, my intensity is going to come out, my demands are going to come out. But there comes a point in time when you tell somebody something three times and the friendliness has to go away. "

There was also a good column in the Orlando paper about U of Florida football coach Urban Meyer. It's a good example of how a coach creates an identity for his team and the importance of recruiting at college level.

A psychology major, Coach Meyer also works hard to find ways to connect with his players. In the words of ESPN's Chris Fowler, who is quoted in the article: "Urban is as dialed in to what makes young people tick as anybody I've ever seen."

The columnist also quotes a motivational author who describes Meyer this way:

"Even though he might have come from a more conservative, homogenized background, he has been able to bridge the gap and speak the language that kids understand. He has connected with them and got people from diverse backgrounds to buy in. Doesn't matter what business you're in, if you want to be a leader and influence the marketplace, you have to get people to believe in you."

Meyer also understands how to generate excitement and energy around his program. It's a reflection of his program's culture:

When the Gators open their new $30 million football offices later this summer, the entrance will be filled with huge high-def TVs running endless video loops of Florida's national championships and Southeastern Conference titles. When a recruit walks into his office, all he sees is video and photographs of green grass, full stadiums and pretty girls.

"That's what's appealing to young people," Meyer says. "We spend an inordinate amount of time on presentation. Video is the No. 1 way to do that because that's what recruits respond to. Nowadays it's all about music and video."

Everything he does is geared toward driving UF's recruiting machine, from ESPN's broadcast of the Gators' spring game to Meyers' appearance at the ESPYs.

It reminds me a lot of the pre-game routine my Dad orchestrated when he was at the University of Minnesota back in the early 1970s. (He actually created the routine at Ashland a few years earlier.)

When the Gophers would come out, the lights would go down, music would start, and the team would go through an intricate warm-up routine that really got the crowd excited, which gave the Gophers a true home-court advantage. Of course, every team does that today, but at that time it was pretty innovative stuff.

The point is, it's important for coaches to help market the team, keeping in mind the various audiences their teams appeal to, whether fans, boosters, recruits, students, the community, or sponsors. Find ways to give your team/program an advantage.

Today, a coach's job doesn't begin and end with a whistle and an understanding of the X's and O's. There are plenty of coaches out there -- at every level -- who know the game. The key point of difference lies in things like communication, motivation, relating to people, innovation, creativity, willingness to test and try new things, an interest in trends and what's happening in the lives of your players, etc.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Draft picks mirror new coaches' styles

As I sat watching the draft tonight, I couldn't help thinking that some of those guys should have stayed in school. Just look at the underclassmen who went in the late first round and second round. With another year or two, they'd likely gone higher.

Interesting that seven players from Kansas and K-State were drafted, while only one was drafted out of the state of North Carolina. No one from UNC, Duke, or Wake. That's rare.

Teams' style of play dictated their picks. For example, you can see that the Suns' style is changing as PHX drafted Lopez. New York went with a guy who fits their new system.

Why some picks slip and why it might not matter

I've read where various players are slipping in the NBA draft. Interestingly, guys who slip sometimes end up being good picks. Paul Pierce dropped the year he was drafted and, as we just witnessed, has developed into one of the league's premier players.

So why do players drop?

One reason is the three-day postseason camps in Orlando and Portsmouth, where if a player performs poorly, it could really cost him. In other cases, he may not even get invited.

Then there are the individual workouts, speed and agility testing, and height/weight tests, etc. In my opinion, at the workouts, because of the rules, teams are no longer allowed to have players play 5-on-5 basketballm, which emphasizes real competition in a game situation.

Nor can teams have prospects compete against one of their current players.

Who will be drafted tonight, but struggle once he hits the NBA (e.g., lottery picks Sheldon Williams, J.J Reddick, DerMar Johnson) and who will be a second-round surprise (like Monte Ellis and Gilbert Arenas).

In every sport, there are guys who've been labeled by scouts as too short, too slow, too whatever. And yet these players often do wonderful things when they actually get on the floor/field/ice. That's because they (1) know how to compete; (2) are smart, understand the game, and know how to make up for their weaknesses; and (3) are fundamentally sound in other facets of the game.

I remember when I was an assistant with Orlando when head coach Chuck Daly taught me a good lesson about evaluating players. Coach Daly sent me down the Magic weight room to observe Rashard Lewis as he worked out with the team's strength coach Mick Smith.

I went back to Coach Daly to report that Rashard (a high school kid at that time) could barely bench-press 135 pounds. It was then that Chuck looked at me and said, "That stuff doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what he does in a 5-on-5 game."

Well, we know how the story ended: Lewis slipped to the second round, where he was drafted by Seattle. This past season for the Magic (after nine seasons with SEA), he averaged close to 20 ppg.

Lesson learned.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Analyzing the off-guards in the NBA draft

O.J. Mayo: Mayo's an off-guard who some believe will eventually make the move to the PG position. I see him as a player who can help distribute the ball, handle it, and help his team get into its offense, but his strength is as a scorer. He doesn't have a point-guard mentality.

I think O.J. will be a better pro than college player as he's had the benefit of playing under Tim Floyd, a former NBA coach.

Eric Gordon: A strong player who can take contact, Gordon's not a true point and is probably better suited to play the 2 spot as he can score it. His three-point percentage is a concern and he played poorly the last two months of the season during conference play.

Chris Douglas-Roberts: Playing under former NBA coach John Calipari and Coach Cal's open style of offense has helped Douglas-Roberts' stock. I love the fact that his game is hard to scout as he has an unorthodox, almost herky-jerky style. He will find a way to put points on the board.

Courtney Lee: A shooter with an NBA body, Lee plays like a winner and has played within a system at WKU.

J.R. Giddens: Giddens is a second-round pick who I've liked on tape.

Nicolas Batum [photo at left]: An athlete who can play the 2 and 3 spots, Batum doesn't make many mistakes. He's a jumper who can really run the floor, but not much of a ball-handler. He can also defend several positions. I don't think he's ready to play right now.

Kyle Weaver: A skinny off-guard. Well coached. Played in a discpline system. A combo as a 2 guard who might be able to play some point. Lacks nba 3 point range.

Shan Foster: A 2-3 tweener with 3-point range, Foster will be good for a team as he works and has a speciality -- he can shoot. He will also make practice better for his club.

Gary Forbes: I'm not sure Forbes has one NBA skill that stands out. He's athletic, but what's his specialty? A fifth-year senior, so NBA scouts have had plenty of time to evaluate him.

Sonny Weems: An athletic slasher who runs the floor, Weems would be good fit in a system that runs (e.g., like the Knicks will). Not a half-court player, but has good size. He's a potential second-round pick.

Jamont Gordon: Left-handed with a strong physical build, Gordon is another potential NBA second-rounder. His size is problematic for a two-guard since he doesn't have an NBA point guard mentality. [photo at left]

DeMarcus Nelson: Bay-Area kid who spent the last few years of high school in SAC, Nelson defends well, which makes him attractive to NBA scouts. He's a potential second-round pick, but might have to play his way onto an NBA team in summer league. Poor foul shooter for a guard.

Marelus Kemp: Though he was injury-prone in college, Kemp is a scorer with 3-point range who could go late in Round 2.

A closer look at point guards in the draft

Derrick Rose: Rose has a great combination of speed and strength. Plus, he's an unselfish player, so guys will want to play with him. His shooting touch from the foul line and 3-point range should improve over the next two years; in the meantime, teams will dare him to shoot. And, as we've all seen, he's excellent in the open floor. Will be a great pick N roll player

Defensively, he can defend the ball and will be able to defend post-up point guards like Baron Davis. He can also defend off-guards, if necessary. If he's drafted by Chicago, Ben Gordon could defend smaller point guards with Rose defending the opponent's off-guards. [photo at left]

Jerryd Bayless: A super-quick scoring point who can put points on the board. He doesn't really have a point guard mentality, but I think he'll be a good NBA player.

D.J. Augustin: I feel too much is made about small point guards. (I loved Earl Boykins and Speedy Claxton, and both had productive years.) Augustin is a great leader who will make his team's scorers' jobs easier because he knows how to get the ball to the right guy at the right time and in the right spots. He's one of the few college players I've seen who can run the pick-and-roll.

Russell Westbrook: What a difference a year makes. A year ago, Westbrook averaged just nine minutes per game. Athletic and quick, he can really push the ball and will be best on a transition team.Great athlete !

Mario Chalmers [photo at left]: A combo player who can defend either position, I think Chalmers will eventually be a third guard in the NBA, but not a starter. Chalmers plays under control, is such a smart player, and has been well coached, so he'll get solid minutes next season as a rookie. I love his on-court demeanor and think he'll be an excellent player for many years.

George Hill: Hill can shoot the ball consistently, a combo scoring guard not a true point guard but should be a solid NBA player.

New coach's first team meeting sets tone

By now, you've read a great deal about the firing of NY Mets manager Willie Randolph. I thought Mets management mishandled Randolph's firing as they left questions about his job unanswered and let it drag out.

Of course, Randolph wasn't without fault. I was puzzled by some of his rules on things like facial hair and hair length. There are enough battles to fight during the season and these aren't the ones I'd choose.

As is typical in sports, the team hired a replacement who takes a much different approach than the previous coach. I like what Jerry Manuel's done, including a seemingly minor change of having his starting pitchers hand the ball off the relievers during pitching changes to help build camaraderie.

He's also simplified team rules and made it clear what he expects from his guys: Just play hard.
When a new coach takes over -- whether during the season or in the offseason -- the first team meeting is so important. Players begin forming their opinions immediately, so it's critical that the new coach clearly communicate his vision, style of play, and overall coaching philosophy. Players must understand what's expected of them -- on and off the court -- from the start.

In Golden State, I spent an entire week with Tom Sterner, one of my assistants, working on our first team meeting, making sure we'd identified our goals for the season, which were to lead the NBA in scoring and be the league's most improved team (we finished the season second in scoring and the most improved team).

The key was identifying goals that were both aspirational and achievable, and then making those goals clear (i.e., putting them in writing) and talking about them daily and creating strategies to achieve them.

In our second season with the Warriors, one of our goals was to be the most improved team defensively (we held opponents to almost 10 fewer points). The Celtics did that this year, preaching defense the entire season to the point where it became Boston's team identity and a key to their title run.

As a side note, I really loved watching Willie Randolph when he played. I remember in 1988 making the drive from Albany, where my Dad was coaching in the CBA, to Yankee Stadium for a game. Yankees OF Dave Winfield, who played basketball for my father at the University of Minnesota in the early '70s, got us tickets. As a baseball fan, it was wonderful to watch Randolph play the game.

At the same time, I'm pulling for Jerry Manuel. He seems like a genuinely good guy who deserves a chance to lead a Major League team.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Easy baskets will mean easy wins for Team USA in Beijing

USA Basketball announced the group it will be sending to Beijing to compete in the Olympics. In my opinion, Team USA should win the gold. With the exception of one game, the Americans will blow out its opponents.

When it comes to piecing together a roster (and a coaching staff) for the Olympics, we've done a good job of learning from our mistakes.

My only concern about the roster is whether we have enough shooting. Our only real specialty three-point shooter is Redd. I think the roster could've used one more spot-up shooter -- a Ray Allen type.

The good news is, Team USA is stocked with guys who can create their own shot. In fact, Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade may be the top three players in the world in terms of shot-creation.

I think the team will miss Garnett and Duncan, who opted not to play. They would've made the team better because both are effective mid-range shooters. Also, I think a four-man like David West could've helped because of his outside shooting. Still, it shouldn't matter much.

The key will be how many easy baskets the Americans can get in transition before teams can set up their zone defenses. Point guards Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams must force the tempo with the push of the ball.

Of course, you can't run unless you dominate the boards, so Boozer and Dwight Howard must pound the defensive boards, something that Duncan and KG could've helped with. When Coach K goes small with Carmelo or LeBron at the power forward spot, they'll have to hit the defensive boards versus an opponent's bigger front line.

And how will Team USA attack the zone defenses that the international teams will throw at them. Coach K's college experince with zones should help players get open looks. Chris Bosh's ability to shoot from the perimeter vs zones will be a key. Also, Redd and Prince must hit the 3-ball consistently during the Games.

On the whole, I think most people are happy with our roster for Beijing. Looking forward to August.

Scouting the upcoming NBA draft

Every year around this time, there are stories about guys who are readying themselves for the draft.   Some of them are sure-things.  The ones I find more interesting to read about are the long-shots -- the underdogs who aren't likely to make it or who are on the bubble, but persevere nonetheless, ignoring those who tell them to give it up and "get a real job." 

I often wonder what would have happened to guys like Sam Mitchell if he'd listened to the nay-sayers.  He didn't make it to the NBA until he was 28.  

While I was in Florida recently, I read where two kids from Hillborough Community College worked out for NBA scouts at Walt Disney in Orlando.  One of the HCC players was Othello Hunter [photo left].  The 6-foot-8 power forward was bagging groceries in Winston-Salem before his high school coach persuaded him to join the basketball team as a senior.  He didn't even start in high school, but Ohio State liked his potential.

Then there's Keith Brumbaugh, Florida's best high school player in 2005, the year he declared for the NBA draft.  He landed at HCC in Tampa (not far from my grandmother's house) where he averaged 35 ppg.  So what's the problem?  The 6-foot-8 forward was arrested six times in 26 months.  That's been enough to give NBA teams pause.

A quick look at some of the other players I've seen play this past season, either in person, on TV or on tape:

Brook Lopez:  The best center in the draft...a good offensive player from 15 feet and in...could end up as a starter in the NBA...has good size...a smart player who knows how to draw fouls...plays hard.

Roy Hibbert:  Knows how to play in a system...likely to be a role player in the hard, but will be an NBA back-up.

Marrese Speights:  Strong athlete with a soft touch...good quickness for his size...he needs work defensively...will need a good coaching staff that will help him develop.  [photo left]

Kosta Koufos:   Center with good hands...offensively skilled...will improve.

DeAndre Jordan:  Has some upside...NBA athlete, but he must get stronger...not a physical player...may be a team's 11th or 12th man for a year or two...might get more work in the D-League...didn't have a productive season in college last year...will be a better pro than college player.

Jason Thompson:  Big and strong...had a good season, but low level of conference play makes him somewhat of a risk...a senior, but must improve to play at the next level...can play C or PF...showed some shot-blocking ability, but he's poor in defensvie schemes. 

Devon Hardin:   Did not improve much this past season...great body...NBA size...put up poor numbers on a team that didn't reach the NCAA's important for him to get drafted by a team with a good big man and a coach who will challenge him.

Alexis Ajinca:  Frenchman with good size and length...good athlete...NBA shot blocker...must work on his strength...needs some time to develop.  [photo left]

Michael Beasley:   Will score at the NBA level...a top-two pick...face-up player who also scores in post-up...inside, he can finish left and right...go-to player...even at the NBA level, teams will get him the ball...he's a four-man, but could see time at the 3-spot if he can defend other SF and learn to put the ball on the floor.

Kevin Love:  Great outlet passer...knows how to play...good shooter...fundamentally sound...who will he guard in an NBA game?

Ryan Anderson:  A multi-dimensional offensive player...will be a good pick-and-roll player to stretch the defense out...can post-up defenders of equal size...will struggle on the defensive end.

Anthony Randolph:  Left-handed athlete...needs strength...has a high ceiling...still young after just one year at LSU...needs coaching.

Joe Alexander:  Effective from 17 feet and in...draws fouls...because he competes, he will fit in on any team...can he ever be a 3-man?...will he find a way to get on the floor?

Darrell Arthur:   Will see minutes in the upcoming NBA season...I spent a week at KU this past season and can attest to his skills...will make mid-range shots.    

Robin Lopez:  Good defender...plays within himself...non-offensive player...back-up at the NBA level.  [photo left]

J.J. Hickson:  Low post player...tough kid...not a face-up player...role player.

Javale McGee:  Long player, but needs to get stronger ...soft...needs playing time, but won't get it in an NBA game right now...project...size makes him intriguing.

Donte Green:   Athlete...skilled...shoots the ball...can create his own shot, but will take bad shots...has the ability to play in the NBA right now and is still improving.

Danilo Gallinari:   Good ball skills...handles...passes...a specialty player.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The four stages of a new coach's transition

My sister went to college at SMU in Dallas, so I try to keep an eye out for news related to the school.

The other day, SMU's head soccer coach Schellas Hyndman was lured away from the school where he'd been incredibly successful for more than two decades, his teams challenging for a national championship almost every year.

He accepted the job as the head coach of FC Dallas of Major League Soccer (MLS), a team owned by Lamar Hunt, whose son played for Hyndman at SMU.

It's this article that shows why this guy has been so successful for so long. I love his concept of four stages -- Formation, Storming, Norming, and Performance.

This demonstrates that he has a philosophy and plan. Based on his experience, he's planned out what will happen.

The Formation stage: Players and coaches are typically comfortable in this stage, though it only lasts for a practice or two. Most of the new NBA coaches who were hired over the last month or so are in this stage.

The Storming stage: Every coach goes through this. It's when players start to question the new coach's strategy. You'll hear questions like "Why is he not playing me? Why has he changed the offense?" There are rumblings as the new coach puts his plan into place. The key is how quickly he can effectively move through this phase.

The Norming stage: This is the most difficult stage as players start to see where they fit in the new system. Their roles become clear. It's the hardest stage because veteran players might not accept their role. It's critical to work with your team's leaders, securing their buy-in so that the team can move forward to the next (and final) stage.

The Performing stage: This is what every coach strives for. It's "when the team is playing at 85 percent or higher to their ability." As Hyndman points out, some teams never get there. In fact, many don't make it out of the "Storming" phase.

It will be interesting to watch teams with new coaches move through these stages in the upcoming NBA season. Those coaches who can reach the final stage will be considerably more successful than those who get stuck in the first or second stages.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Can the NBA develop players like Major League Baseball does?

I was sitting at Tropicana Field the other day with my sons watching the Rays take on the Astros. Tampa Bay is a team with a lot of great young talent acquired through the draft: Longoria, Upton, Crawford.

A few years ago, San Diego Padres GM Kevin Towers was nice enough to let me in their draft room on draft day. Baseball's draft is considerably more complex than the NBA draft. A player's "signability" is a major factor with players not only in high school and college, but Latin America and Asia, as well.

A team's regional scouts make their detailed reports; then "cross-checkers" have to give strong opinions on each prospective draftee. Finally, the GM must have faith in his staff before orchestrating the the whole thing. The result is that there are many more gambles in the MLB draft than the NBA draft.

NBA teams might say they're considering so-and-so as a "project," but there's still a good chance that player could log minutes in NBA games over the next season or two. In baseball, even strong prospects might not reach the Majors for several years as they develop.

Baseball teams carefully develop their players by bringing them up through their minor league system -- Rookie League, Instructional League, Class A, and so on. They carefully watch their prospects along the way, meticulously tracking their progress.

After years of a loose affiliation with the old Continental Basketball Association, the NBA's D-League is pro basketball's more formal attempt at a minor league system, though it's no where near the level of complexity of baseball. As NBA teams begin to replicate what the Lakers have done and own their D-League affiliate franchise, you'll begin to see more players stay in the States (versus heading overseas to play). You'll also see more "bubble" players reach the NBA more quickly as their NBA clubs help them along.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who knows the most about the player you're about to draft?

I've always wondered why more NBA people don't use the opinions of college coaches when evaluating players. Every team will call around. Other even meet with the coaches in person. But I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "College coaches don't know our league."
I disagree. In the minor leagues, where I was a general manager and coach, there is no scouting budget. Zero. So I went off film and my own opinion, but really valued the opinions and insight of college coaches, guys who've gamed-planned and schemed for and against players you're considering drafting. They know, without a doubt, who can play and who can't.
The key is to ask what you're looking for, how you're considering using the player, what his role will be, and then find out how the player will fit into your system. Way too much is put into the individual workouts and the post-season pre-draft camps.

My advice would be to get out of the office, get on the phone, and talk to the experts who have not only coached, but recruited, counseled, and practically lived with these college kids. You'll go away with a much more well-rounded picture of the player -- his game, habits, family, personality, likes, dislikes, attitude -- both on and off the court.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Organization, collaboration keys to success on draft day

While on the subject of the draft, I've always loved being a part of the draft process and experiencing how coaches, GMs and scouts interact and collaborate.

My first NBA draft was almost 20 years ago when I was an assistant with the the Minnesota T-wolves. It was early in the franchise's history and Billy McKinney and John Hammonds were a great team.

In Orlando, the draft room with John Gabriel (photo, left) and Chuck Daly was an interesting place to be. Coach Daly always talked about how great Gabe was in the draft room on draft night, balancing trades and being prepared for all scenarios. Gabe thrived under the pressure and was as cool as could be.

With the Atlanta Hawks, Pete Babcock was incredibly organized and thorough. He and Chris Grant worked so hard at the draft process, allowing everyone from scouts to coaches to personnel people to be involved, but only if they got both feet in, meaning you really had to study film work on players and do your homework.

At Golden State, Garry St. Jean had a great eye for talent and really used his scouting staff. For the Warriors at that time, Ron Meikle (photo, left), who was a great communicator with coaching staff, and Bob Rinehart (a real pro who who was right on in wanting to take Josh Howard late) played key roles, along with all of the experience of Gary Fitzsimmons, who like Saint saw the draft through a coach's eye with the experience of a GM.

Saint also had the balancing act of helping develop two great future GMs in Otis Smith and Chris Mullin, both of whom had a voice in the draft room.

With Memphis, Jerry West knew exactly who he wanted. He had great eye for what his team needed and who would fit in. And, even in the draft room, Jerry was an intense competitor. Tony Barone and his son, Tony Jr., were both excellent evaluators of talent.

And in Sacramento, Scotty Stirling and Jerry Reynolds (photo, left), two guys who've spent their lives in and around the NBA, were great in the draft process.

It's interesting to watch how a front office works together and communicates during the draft. It really provides insight into the team's culture -- what they value, how they operate, how they interact with each other, etc.

Looking back at one magazine's 2003 draft "busts" and "sleepers" lists

With the draft coming up on June 26, I went digging through my old draft files yesterday when I came across some articles about "draft predictions." One was from the November 2003 issue of a magazine that listed T.J. Ford as the pick for "biggest lottery bust."

Clearly, they were off on that one.

Others on the list were:

- Kirk Hinrich (missed on that one, too)
- David West (really missed on West)
- Luke Ridnour (tbd)
- Boris Diaw (another miss)

In the same magazine was an "All-Rookie Sleeper Team" that listed Marcus Banks as the top sleeper. The rest of the 2003-04 Sleeper Team was:

- Josh Howard (great pick)
- Mario Austin (way off)
- Marciej Lampe (way off)
- Luke Walton (solid pick)
- James Jones

The point is this: Even after most played in summer leagues following the NBA draft, it takes time for players to develop. A lot of times, a player is traded or goes through a coaching change. In those situations, it takes time to adjust and adapt, which can set a player back. In other cases, they're not in the right system, something I've posted about previously.

There's too much pressure on players who went high in the draft, and on the coaches to play those players. Imagine if the Hornets had given up on David West after one year.

More on the draft later...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Final thoughts on the Finals

The more I think about it, a real key to the Finals was Boston beating LA to loose balls -- something the Celtics did the entire series. I believe the game is won or lost when the "ball is in the air," not when ball is in a player's hands.

And Boston clearly out-reacted LA to the ball when it was loose or in the air. That's a credit to Boston's athleticism and mentality.

Another key was the small forward position where Boston had the MVP while the Lakers have role players at SF and no true starting three-man.

During the long regular season, players like Radmanovic and Luke Walton are not exposed as much as in the playoffs. The Laker bench might have been overrated. Plus, injuries to Bynum and Ariza really hurt.

Rondo has developed at a quicker pace than Jordan Farmar, who was drafted just five spots behind Rondo.

[As a side note, Farmar was actually in the D-League and, at one time, played in a D-League game and, that night played in an NBA game against the Kings. As the D-League develops, I think you'll see more of this, by the way.]

Rondo had a major impact on two of Boston's wins. In Game 6, he was off the charts, pushing the tempo and creating steals. He also developed as a distributor.

Challenge yourself

"Unless you try to do something beyond what you've already mastered, you'll never grow."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Success at work is a drug...

I don't normally read the Financial Times, but picked up a copy at the airport the other day. In it, I found a great article titled "Success at Work is a Drug."

It discusses our culture's addiction to work. According to the author:

Many would see nothing wrong in this approach. Sir Alex Ferguson, the highly successful manager of Manchester United football club, is a good example. Asked last month how he felt about his latest triumph of winning the European champions league, he admitted that, of course, he would be celebrating that evening.

But: “The thing about me is that I won’t get carried away with it, and tomorrow morning I will be thinking about next season,” Sir Alex went on: “It drains away very quickly – that drug, that final moment. I will be thinking about the future and looking into the players’ eyes to make sure their hunger is still there.”

Drive, hunger, ambition: today’s workplace seems to demand more and more of such stuff.

The author also discussed how each person is like a team in that they must have a strong identity. I've always heard of a team creating an identity, but never thought about it on an individual level.

As for work addiction, after completing a successful season or winning a championship, I feel strongly that a coach and his players must enjoy it and get away for a while.
 My dad was a workaholic, but he always took the entire month of August to hit the beach and relax. He felt as a coach it was important to re-charge your battery.

I talked with someone the other day who, after about 18 months with an entrepreneurial internet start-up company, joined a major corporation. The internet start-up had a small staff with people who worked intensely while in the office. They worked strange hours, but while in the office they worked hard. If their work was done at 11 a.m., they had no problem leaving the office (though they might return at 7 p.m. that same evening). They had a purpose and a passion.

In his new job, employees are expected to be in the office by 8:30 and remain there until 5:30. Period. As you can imagine, people end up wasting away much of their day.

I've never believed in office hours just to be in a office. Do your work and do it well.
 If you can do the same quality of work in a place other than the office, that's fine with me. What's important is not time in the office at a desk, it's achievement -- what are you getting accomplished.

Just to say you're in the office makes no sense to me. 

The work-week in pro sports has always been a 7-day-a-week commitment. But now there's no off-season. In the NBA, the regular season is followed by the playoffs, then draft workouts at the pre-draft camps in Portsmouth and Orlando, the NBA draft, summer leagues, free agency, staff planning for the upcoming season, and on and on.

Even when I'm on vacation, it's hard to really get away from it. As I sit here with my boys and my 98-year-old grandmother on her back deck, I'm studying and reading and talking on the phone and emailing from my BlackBerry. Of course, 98 percent of it is related to basketball.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Celtics out-work Lakers on way to NBA title

Congratulations to Doc Rivers and the Celtics. This is how it should be: The team with best regular season record earns home court advantage and wins the title on its home floor.

The 82-game season plays out where every game is meaningful as home court advantage helps a team all through the playoffs -- even in the first round where Boston's home court played a big role in the Celtics beating the Hawks.

Doc and his team did a great job. I loved his club's intensity this season. LA had a great season, but met a better team in the Finals and some of the Laker players lacked competitive fire in the championship series.


-- Fisher had a high volume of free throw attempts and drew early fouls in first four minutes.

-- LA was careless with the ball early, turning it over four times in the first five minutes.

-- As has been the pattern, Radmanovic picked up two fouls in the game's first seven minutes. Radmanovic vs Pierce is the worst defensive matchup I can remember. Obviously, it was too late to change him out of statring lineup, but its a broken record. Luke Walton subbed in for VR and did a better job on Pierce as Pierce did not score until there were 40 seconds left in the first quarter.

-- Ray Allen did a great job early with eight points until he gets poked in the eye.

-- Bston was trapping Gasol on his post-ups. The Celtics did not want Gasol to get off early.

-- Defensive adjustment: Lakers switched on pick-n-rolls with Pierce handling and KG setting the pick. It's a great adjustment as the Lakers defenders on pierce are the 3-man or 4-man switching on to a 4-man, so it's not that big of a size disdvantage. Really Luke Walton and Radmanovic are at times better on a 4-man than a 3-man like Pierce anyway.

-- With Pierce handling and House setting, the Lakers stab and under and recover to own. The Lakers went under the other pick-n-rolls with Rondo handling.

-- Rondo was very active defensively and really showed how good his defensive anticipation and quick hands are. Rondo is a different player at home. He really bounced back in this game. Young fresh legs in quick turnround game is a real key.

-- Bryant came out in an offensive mind set and shot three early 3-balls. He had 11 points in opening quarter.

-- KG countered with 10 first-quarter points, making some tough mid-range shots and getting great early post-ups vs Gasol, who was not meeting him early on his post-ups.


-- It was all BOS in the second as the Celtics score a remarkable 58 first-half points.

-- LA inserted Turiaf to try and be more physical vs Garnett to start the second quarter, but had no effect on game.

-- A surprise in Game 5 was LA sub Chris Mihm. In Game 6, Boston makes the surprise sub with Glenn "Big Baby" Davis. Boston had Davis and Powe in up front in a close-out game. Remember, Davis had not played in the series, but PJ Brown and Perkins each had two fouls. It demonstrated the depth of Boston's bench.

-- With Powe defending Odom, Odom was able to get to the rim. And with Davis on Gasol, Gasol's length was too much for Davis. But Davis played his minutes and didn't hurt his team as Boston opened up a big second quarter leader.

-- As I watched the game, I'm thinking about Fisher not being in the game. But when Fisher checks in, he picks up his third foul.

-- House and Posey have hit momentum 3-balls all series. They did it again midway through the second quarter. Posey got open 3-point looks all game.

-- The Lakers begin to stall offensively as guys are standing around and there's lots of one-on-one play.

-- Beyond that, Boston totally out-worked and out-hustled LA in the second quarter.

-- Radmanovic picked up a terrible foul on an inbound play when Boston was in the bonus. Plus, on the prior possession, VR launched a poor 3-point shot attempt.

-- Boston had two illegal defenses as the Lakers had the floor spaced and limited offensive cutters.

-- Big stat: Bryant had no FG in the second quarter.

-- The Laker subs had no positive impact in the first half. In fact, the Boston bench totally out-played LA's bench.

-- Pierce really passed the ball well with nine first-half assists. Excellent.

-- Pierce and Garnett, two of Boston's "Big 3," played well and Ray Allen had 8 points in his first 8 minutes until the injury. Boston had great second-quarter energy.

-- LA committed several careless turnovers and had low defensive intensity. Phil Jackson was really searching to find five players who wanted to compete hard.

-- Boston did a great job on the glass. Excellent defensive rebounding. LA was inactive on the boards.


-- Perkins picked up his fifth foul, but Boston actually gets better when Perkins goes to the bench and PJ Brown comes in.

-- With 9:11 left in the third, Radmanovic's poor defense is on display as Pierce drives right by him. VR lacks defensive urgency.

-- Rondo's steals helped change this game. And in a bounce-back game, Rondo was aggressive with his shot attempts, as well.

-- At 5:57 of the third period, Gasol's lack of defensive rebounding was evident. Rebounding is about pursuing the ball aggressively. Pau isn't showing that aggressiveness.

-- Radmanovic was shooting pull-up 3-balls like he was playing a pick-up game at a rec center in LA someplace. Watching these quick pull-ups that VR is taking, I can see why Kobe goes through stretches where he's trying to do it all by himself.

-- At points during the third quarter, the Lakers weren't running anything resembling a Triangle offense...

-- Posey did a great job defending Kobe.

-- Celtics played as good of defense in second and third quarters as a team could play.


-- Boston has a 29-point lead heading into the fourth.

-- Ariza checked in for the first time tonight to start the fourth.

-- The Lakers' passing is so poor and nonchalant. Really disappointing.

-- 10:00 mark: Sasha gives a ton of air space and tries to shoot the game over top of screen of Ray Allen. The only way to play this catch and shoot play is to "chase" and stay attached. The result is back-to-back shots for Ray Allen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

BOS-LA notes: Going through Gasol

[Traveling today to visit my 98-year-old grandmother. Along the way, I'm trying to get some of my notes posted...]

LA might look to go through Gasol in Game 6. The Lakers are undefeated when he has five or more assists in the postseason (8-0).

Boston's plane delay is another small distraction for the Celtics. Rest will be a factor for players like Cassell, who contributed in Boston's Game 5 win. Look for Rondo to play better at home than he did in the three games at Staples Center.

How the game of basketball shaped Barack Obama

Good story from the Associated Press today about the role basketball played in Barack Obama's life. Evidently, Obama was a good hoops player in his prime, playing in high school for a team that won the Hawaii state title.

According to his former coach, "He could have played and started on any other team in the state."

According to the AP story:

On a playground under the sweltering sun, "Barry" found refuge and identity. The pudgy boy of mixed race — his mother a white woman from Kansas, his father a black man from Kenya — spent hours alone, working on his jumper, crossover dribble and other moves. With his maternal grandmother watching from her 10th-floor bedroom window, he would shoot hoops into the night.

There's a great quote in the article from a guy who used to play pick-up games with Obama in college who remembers Obama's defensive effort:

"I truly believe the way someone plays basketball definitely gives you a sense of who they are in their character."

Here's a similar article from the NY Times about Obama and hoops that ran last year. In it, Rickey Green, a 6-foot guard who played in the NBA for 14 seasons and who played with Obama in a pick-up game a few years ago, said: “I didn’t think he could play at all, to be honest with you. He’s above average [for a pickup player]. He’s got a nice little left-hand shot and some knowledge of the game.”

As Finals wind down, injuries stack up

Injuries have really played a role in not only the Finals, but the postseason for both BOS and LA. Celtics Pierce, Perkins, and Rondo have been slowed by various problems.

For LA, Ariza missed most of the playoffs and and their starting center -- Andrew Bynum -- has been out since mid-January. [Again, what a difference he'd have made in this series...] Mihm just returned from injuries and has only played in a single game this series.

It's not football, but NBA players put an incredible amount of stress on their bodies over the course of an 82-game season. And for the Lakers and Celtics, these guys have been playing for nine months. Over time, even the best-conditioned players wear down. If the average active Baby Boomer is having trouble with wear-and-tear injuries, imagine what playing pro basketball can do to your body.

Teams have different philosophies and approaches to medical problems and injuries. Moreover, players take different approaches to their own injuries and what's reported to the media through the training staff.

I've had players who didn't want anyone knowing when they had small injuries that wouldn't impact their minutes. Others wanted every knick and knack -- even head colds -- reported.

College hoops: Jordan leaving, others returning

I really believe that DeAndre Jordan (pictured at left) could have used at least two more years at Texas A&M under a terrific coaching staff led by Mark Turgeon. Jordan's got good size (7-0, 250), and although he logged about 20 minutes per game last season, he wasn't even a full-time starter for the Aggies. Given another year or two under Turgeon and he would have blossomed. At least Josh Carter has decided to stay in College Station for another season.

At the same time, I've gotta believe that UNC fans are celebrating this morning as three of their guys decided to pull out of the draft and return to school. With Lawson, Green, and Ellington returning, the Heels will be one of the top three teams in the nation. UNC also had a great recruiting class and now has its best six players returning, so expect big things (again) in Chapel Hill.

UAB guard Robert Vaden made the right decision to come back and play for coach Mike Davis. Coach Davis, a former guard who played in the CBA and overseas, understands pro basketball and will help develop Vaden's game. Vaden wouldn't have been a first-rounder this year. Given some time, he could really improve.

Finally, look for Texas to have a great 08-09 season now that Abrams has decided to return to Austin. The Horns will have four starters back from a team that reached the Elite Eight.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tom Edison: Master catalyst, motivator, and idea generator

I came across the book Innovate Like Edison by Michael Gelb recently. Thomas Edison was a pretty amazing guy. But his legend goes beyond his inventions like the light bulb and phonograph.

Like many successful coaches, he was optimistic and a good story-teller. He was also a big believer in hustling -- making the most of every moment.

In the words of Abe Lincoln, "Things may come to those who wait... but only the things left by those who hustle."

As Edison put it, "I have got so much to do and life is so short, I'm going to hustle."

I love Edison's optimism and zest for life.

"Optimists get better results than pessimists in most areas of life. Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

Edison claims that when confronted with obstacles, road blocks, or bad news, pessimists tend to focus on the negative.

As I've discussed on this blog in the past, successful leaders tend to surround themselves with people who can "illuminate his blind spots and complement his talents. [Edison] cultivated his inner circle, brought together individuals from diverse disciplines. The teams were bound together by common values of respect, integrity and desire to be the best in the world."

According to the author, "Edison was general manager, coach, and star player of a championship team. He was master catalyst, motivator, and idea generator; he placed value of team accomplishments at the heart of his labatory. His collaborators had complimentary learning styles and came from diverse disciplines. All were commited to Edison's philosophy of team accomplishment."

Edison was like a successful coach in other ways. He wasn't afraid to experiment or try new things and he kept exhaustive notes, something I really feel strongly about. Mike Fratello, a terrific coach who I worked for in Memphis, was also meticulous when it came to notes.

Finally, Edison's energy and positive attitude was amazing:

"Edison's optimism created an irresistible magnetism that drew others toward him. He inspired confidence in colleagues. Even when Edison was not getting results, he cheerily replied, 'Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work.' Edison viewed negative events as temporary set backs on his inevitable path to success."

This is a great lesson for coaches at every level. Imagine a coach having the same outlook on his team after a loss. What if we judged "results" as more than just wins and losses? What did we learn from the loss? How can we apply that knowledge in our next game? How did we improve? How are we smarter -- as a player, team, and coach?

Analyzing the Game 5 box

I've broken down the box score from Game 5 from the Lakers' perspective (click on image at left to enlarge).

Yellow is a positive for LA, while red is a negative/concern.

You'll note that not a single Laker bench player got to the foul line. That's remarkable. Further, only four Lakers even attempted a FT. From the field, LA's bench only contributed eight field goals.

But, the Lakers outscored Boston 13-2 in fast-break points and Odom and Gasol's shot selection was excellent.

Notes from Game 5

Sorry for the straightforwardness of these post-game posts, but I'm literally pulling right from the notes I took as I watched the game.

-- What's surprising is that -- even in a win -- LA's Triangle offense isn't effective. What I'm seeing is a ton of iso and one-on-one play.

-- I mentioned in a post from yesterday that the mental state of the Lakers would be a key.

-- Gasol's post-ups will be big in Game 6.

-- It's the first game of the Finals that the Lakers have won a third quarter (24-18).

-- Odom and Gasol really stepped up in this game, another key I emphasized on a post from Sunday.

-- LA won the battle of the boards (40-37). Again, this was big for the Lakers.

-- We know now that the series will be decided in Boston, where the Celtics have a big advantage. Boston's struggled on the road all postseason, but it was going to be tough for LA to win three in a row against BOS, even at home.

-- Phil Jackson played Farmar and Fisher together some -- two point guards in a two-guard front.


-- Powe starts in place of the injured Perkins, but PJ Brown checked in five minutes into the game.Powe in effective entire game playing just 5 minutes entire game even with K Perkins in street clothes

-- Defending Rondo: Basically, LA had a "foot in the paint" defense with Kobe roaming off the ball. When Rondo got the ball, Kobe backed off and had a foot in the paint. When you don't guard a man, it allows even a point guard to get offensive rebounds, which Rondo did in the first quarter because his defender was too far off to block out.

-- Keys to LA's lead: Bryant's 15 points. He was hitting his 3-balls.

-- Lakers had the rebounding edge early.

-- LA is scoring before Boston's defense gets a chance to get set up. The result is a big lead.

-- Lakers' big advantage: Points in the paint.

-- Defensively, LA made BOS start its offense higher out on the floor.


-- Mihm make his first appearance of the postseason and, as you might expect, he's rusty. He airballed his jump-hook, then picked up a foul 94 feet from the basket.

-- LA's subs do a poor job early in the quarter, leading to Boston's 8-0 run (which turns into a 15-0 run).

-- Both teams subbing a lot early.

-- KG has three fouls by the middle of the second quarter.

-- PJ Brown out-reacts Gasol on the glass and he's more physical.

-- Radmanovic picks up a tech. The next time down the floor, Tony Allen blows by him. VR's play has really hurt the Lakers.

-- Odom has success posting up against a smaller Boston unit.

-- Pierce has a huge first half and he plays every minute of the half.

-- Bryant has a quiet second quarter in terms of scoring.


-- For the first time in the series, LA wins a third quarter.

-- LA has a poor baseline out of bounds defense ( Indecisive on switches on Guard to Guard screens )

-- Gasol has one of his stronger moves to hole, forcing Garnett to foul (his fourth).

-- Celtics do a great job of stepping in and taking charges -- something they've done all season.

-- Fisher draws two big shooting fouls. Then he converts a big three-point play off a mid-range shot.

-- Radmanovic is still assigned to Paul Pierce and continuous to struggle .( Later L Walton also struggles vs P pierce )

-- Kobe's quiet again this quarter.


-- Lakers struggle with pick-n-roll defense , With P Pierce handling and K Garnett setting screen . Boston setting screen so high it gives Pierce more room to operate . Late game K Bryant gets a steal to seal game on this play .

-- When Radmanovic checks out, Luke Walton is defending Pierce. That's still a tough match-up for the Lakers.In game # 6 in Boston who will defend PPierce a key decision .

-- Sasha: Poor shot selection. Impatient tonight at offensive end . Game #6 Lakers shot selection on the road will be so important .

-- Sam Cassell playing aggressive offensively.

-- Posey is a willing 3-point spot-up shooter. He takes big shots at crucial times.

-- Lakers fumble and bobble way too many rebounds. They're getting their hands on a lot of rebounds, but must secure the ball.But this is Lakers best night in series from a rebounding standpoint .

-- Garnett hits his first FT with 3:54 left in the game.

-- Pau did a good job putting fouls on KG.Gasol must remain aggressive in Game #6 in Boston .

-- Pierce did a great job getting to the foul line all night.

-- KG has had a double-double in every game this series. Although game #4 was just outplayed by P Gasol , also Game #4 played more center than in games #1,2,3 .

With the series headed back to Boston, we're getting another chance to watch NBA Finals basketball.