Posted on: November 1, 2010 1:31 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2010 1:32 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Kevin Durant and some of his teammates have nicknamed the Oklahoma City franchise "Thunder U" because of the college-like attitude the permeates from the team, ranging from the rabid home crowd to the togetherness of the players.
But the Thunder showed another college-like wrinkle in their 120-99 loss to the Utah Jazz Sunday night. A full-court press.
At basically every level except the professional one, basketball teams press. Nolan Richardson made "40 minutes of hell" famous with his swarming, intense full-court attack at Arkansas. Rick Pitino utilizes high-energy presses at Louisville (and before, at Kentucky) to try and turn up the Heat, speed up the tempo and get an opponent playing out of character and faster than they want to.
College basketball teams that know how to use a press often break it out when trailing by double-digits late in the second half of a game. It can lead to quick shots from your opponent, turnovers leading to easy buckets and sometimes, turn a 15-point deficit into a six-point one in a matter of minutes.
And with the Thunder trailing the Jazz by 27 mid-way through the third quarter, Scott Brooks called on the dogs.
Brooks used two different lineups with the press. The second one was the most interesting. Technically, James Harden was the point guard with Daequan Cook, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeff Green and Kevin Durant, who played center. Durant was the "point man" on the press, with Harden picking up the ball-handler. Unlike Pitino's press, the Thunder didn't really try trap, but instead went for steals and tried for turnovers. (The first lineup if you're wondering was Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green and Ibaka.)
It worked too. The Thunder quickly went on an 8-0 run, cutting into the Jazz lead while energizing the crowd. it helped too that Deron Williams was out because of foul trouble. So the Thunder funneled the ball into the hands of Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles, players that aren't deft ball-handlers.
Oklahoma City pressed for the remaining six minutes of the third and for about four minutes of the fourth. After Williams returned, the Jazz found a few easy buckets and started breaking through.
Brooks probably kept the press on a little too long, as the Jazz adapted and moved past it with ease. The surprise element definitely caught the Jazz off-guard, especially with secondary ball-handlers on the court. That part was pretty smart by Brooks - put on the press with Earl Watson, Hayward and Miles handling the ball, not Williams.
Malcolm Gladwell made a very strong case for why NBA teams should press, citing reasons like supreme athleticism and the versatility of players to make a difference on an opponents offense. For OKC, those things definitely apply. Even if the press doesn't work, you make the other guy exert effort, you drain time off the shot clock, disrupting their offensive sets and potentially you pressure them into a mistake.
And it worked in Oklahoma City for a time too, igniting a small run and some energy to an otherwise flat team and crowd. But the Jazz pointed out the problems with it being completely successful - when you've got good players, breaking a press isn't that difficult.
A press at lower levels often is successful because players aren't as skilled, are easy rattled and the frantic pace can mess with someone that's not an expert at handling the ball. NBA players don't suffer from those issues, well, for the most part. So while the Thunder press was fun and potentially something we haven't seen the last of, it's not quite a deadly secret weapon in Brooks' back pocket.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 2:08 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2010 2:09 pm
Posted by Royce Young
After a summer of wondering if he'd go elsewhere - specifically New York - Tony Parker is staying in San Antonio. The deal is for four years and close to $50 million, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
For whatever reason, whether it be George Hill's rise or some injuries that kept Parker out last season, people seemed to think Parker was dispensable. Another funny thing is that people seem to think he's older. In reality, he's just 28 and with a four-year deal, will be with the Spurs through the prime of his career.
The Spurs Big 3 though of Manu Ginobili, Parker and Tim Duncan is now staying together for at least one more season. Ginobili is in San Antonio until 2013, but Duncan can opt out next season. It's somewhat unlikely that he will, but there's a possibility that it happens. But after the trade rumors that bounced around for Parker, it's clear he's not going anywhere.
Hill is signed through 2012, but clearly he's not staying with the Spurs, unless he plans on moving to shooting guard. Hill is a starter in the making and will likely demand a contract over the Spurs head when he's up. It's not impossible to keep both but like I said, it would probably require Hill moving positions and cracking the starting lineup, therefore getting starter money.
A question is though, can Parker assume the role as the front man for the Spurs? Consider his numbers over the past couple seasons: consistently around 18 ppg and around 6.0 apg. But as one of the "younger" pieces on this roster, he's likely going to be part of some transition. Gregg Popovich is trying to get his team to play faster and that suits Parker's abilities. But how will a future roster fill in around him? The key with any good point guard is the players around him. And if Parker's running mates move on somewhere else and he's only left with Matt Bonner, James Anderson and DeJuan Blair he probably isn't enough on his own to get things done.
Somehow, San Antonio continues to push forward with good teams despite everyone waiting for a down year. In retrospect, it's kind of funny that people thought the Spurs would move Parker. Unless Parker really wanted a change of scenery or was thinking he could get more somewhere else, the San Antonio formula is to sign Parker to a multi-year and make sure he's part of the core for years to come. Other teams have started to adopt that same model, most notably Oklahoma City. The Thunder locked up Kevin Durant already, but with Jeff Green's contract issue yet to be resolved and Russell Westbrook up for an extension next summer, OKC will have to figure it out.
I think part of the key is finding guys that are willing to be part of a process and aren't necessarily looking for brighter lights. Again, Parker could've looked elsewhere. I'm sure there was a draw to New York and playing in Mike D'Antoni's system. But it's almost like if you're a part of this Spurs team, you understand you're not going anywhere. There's a real culture there that just keeps things together. it starts with Duncan and Ginobili, but obviously the torch is in the process of being moved to Parker.
The fact San Antonio inked Parker should come as no surprise. R.C. Buford is all about keeping the pieces together. It's been what's kept the Spurs as one of the league's best teams for over a decade now and it's what will keep them good while Parker plays out this extension. The worry is after next year when Duncan can move on. I guess all San Antonio needs to do is find another Tim Duncan. That shouldn't be too hard, right?
Posted on: October 28, 2010 12:03 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2010 12:28 pm
The Thunder are young, but don't overlook the smart, efficient way they play and how that helped them to a big opening night win over the Bulls on Wednesday.
Posted by Matt Moore
Kids these days. One minute they're struggling to win games against bottom-feeders and the next they're rolling out a huge win in front of a raucous crowd with a combination of stout defense and efficient offense. If there was any question about whether the Oklahoma City Thunder were really grown up; last night they answered that question with finality in their 106-95 win over the Bulls. It wasn't just the win over a tough, gritty, talented Bulls team that even without Carlos Boozer is loaded with talent and expected to contend in the East, it was the way they did it. And that started with Russell Westbrook.
While Kevin Durant led the team with 30 points, as he will nearly every single night, he did it on just 9-of-24 shooting. On the other side of the aisle, the Bulls' leading superstar, Derrick Rose, was even less efficient, launching 31 shots with only 12 makes. That's 39% for a player who was expected to have a much-improved jumper. For Westbrook? Try 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 12 of 13 from the stripe. Throw in 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and a block (and an acceptable three turnovers considering his usage)? You've got a masterful performance that should put Westbrook in the talks of the elite point guards in the league.
Westbrook wasn't just blinding with his speed, he was patient and deliberate when the situation called for it. It's been this progression since his rookie season two years ago that has brought him to stardom. Well, that and his insane athleticism and uncanny ability to both see the floor and attack opportunities to get his own buckets. It's the complete nature of his game, including his spacing defensively and intensity that makes him so dangerous ... and at such a young age (Westbrook turns 22 next month).
Coach Scott Brooks spoke strongly about Westbrook's performance after the game (as told to CBSSports.com's Royce Young): “I hoped we would start making some shots and we did, but I thought Russell did a great job of leading us, controlling the game, picking his spots and figuring out where they needed the ball. He filled up the stat sheet and that’s what we like about Russell. He’s not a one-dimensional player.”
But of course, Westbrook, forever the second fiddle to Durant, will be looked over. Just as some will continue to look over the Thunder, even as conversely the hype continues to grow and they thrive as one of the most fun teams in the league. Don't believe me? Watch the Thunder in transition. According to Synergy Sports, the Thunder were 10 of 13 in transition last night, getting points 78% of the time. It's a high efficiency opportunity but the Thunder took it to its furthest extent. And they were just as good on the other side of the ball.
While Westbrook and company were harassing Rose into a 12-of-31 shooting night, Oklahoma City poured it on defensively across the Bulls. While an 11-point win doesn't look overwhelming, the Thunder held the Bulls to a 96 efficiency (96 points scored per 100 estimated possessions; need to be above 100 to be "good" in this category) while logging a 107 themselves. The Thunder got to the stripe by forcing the issue (47 free throws to only 22 for the Bulls: thanks home-court advantage!), and held the Bulls to 14% shooting from the perimeter.
Those are numbers. In execution, the Thunder were always attacking and then pulsing back on defense. With the Bulls missing Carlos Boozer, there was no need for the frontcourt depth of OKC to rear its head. Coach Scott Brooks only went to a nine-man rotation, and Serge Ibaka was the only real "big" off the bench. Then again, with Ibaka bringing 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 31 minutes, Brooks didn't really need to turn to Cole Aldrich or Byron Mullens (Nick Collison is out with an injury).
For the Bulls, things looked eerily similar to last season. Unable to spread the floor with shooters, Rose was harassed by multiple defenders, Noah a beast but the bench a no-show. Each team shot exactly 45 jumpers, and the Bulls actually had a higher effective field goal percentage (eFG%, weighing 3-point attempts), and were better on the offensive glass. But the Thunder turned transition opportunities into layups and got to the line at will. With the Bulls aiming for long jumpers and a silent 3-point attack, this is the result.
The Thunder are exciting. They've got highlights (like this one , good night, nurse). But they're also very smart, and that starts with Russell Westbrook. They play with emotion but they play with control. And if the Thunder are looking to take the next step in their rise to NBA championship contention, this was a solid first step. Teacher's pets, I suppose.
Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:04 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:12 pm
Blake Griffin impresses in his debut, Russell Westbrook gets way up, Thabo Sefalosha talks block and "The Most Interesting Man in the World" makes a cameo in Los Angeles.
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: BLAKE GRIFFIN MASHES IN HIS NBA DEBUTLos Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin was the Talk of Twitter Wednesday night, charging out of the gate with astonishing energy in the first quarter of his NBA debut, dropping jaws and immediately earning rave reviews from commentators and fans alike. First things first: if you haven't seen the video of his right-handed alley-oop catch followed by his left-handed putback slam, both of which took place in the game's opening five minutes, then go here right now. Griffin's energy and fearlessness in his return from a season-ending injury last year stood out most prominently, but his all-around game shouldn't be overlooked. His stat line speaks to his game-changing ability - 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and a steal - and the only downside was that his Clipper teammates and coaching staff apparently forgot he was on the team down the stretch. While he's not yet a finished product, Griffin is by no means raw. He did almost all of his work around the basket tonight, finishing 6-10 on layups and dunks, while shooting 2-4 from outside the immediate basket area. There's a pro and a con to those numbers. The upside? He's attacking the basket relentlessly, both off the dribble and while crashing the offensive boards (he had nine offensive rebounds, and it felt like 29). The downside? Defenses will adjust quickly, daring him to shoot the mid-range jumper, a shot that is in his toolbox but that he didn't look particularly eager to shoot tonight. Forget the nit-picking, the kid is special, and he set a high standard for his main competition for Rookie of the Year - Washington Wizards point guard John Wall - to match tomorrow night, when he makes his NBA regular season debut. Keep reading for a frame-by-frame look of one of Griffin's prettiest offensive moves, a stunning 360 degree spin move that left the Portland defense flat-footed.
GO-GO-GADGET LINE OF THE NIGHT:Russell Westbrook: 28 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steal, 1 block, 8-15 shooting Two of Westbrook's 28 points came in spectacular fashion : a must-see coast-to-coast drive and dunk. Honorable mentions go to... Joakim Noah: 18 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7-13 shooting and... Monta Ellis: 46 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 18-24 shooting
DON'T MISS:Ken Berger was on hand for the Miami Heat's first win of the 2010-2011 season in Philadelphia. He wonders when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will start clicking?
FRAME-BY-FRAME SPIN MOVE ANALYSIS:
OK, back to Blake Griffin. Below you'll see a frame-by-frame look at a second-quarter spin move Griffin executed against Portland's Dante Cunningham. Let me set the scene a little bit. Frame 1: Griffin received the ball at the elbow with his Clipper teammates standing around in semi-hopeless fashion. With all five Blazer defenders eying him, Griffin slowly took a dribble to his left toward the paint, lulling Cunningham to sleep a little bit. Frame 2: Cunningham, an undersized power forward with good core strength and lateral quickness, trusts his defensive abilities on the perimeter and attempts to body Griffin to force a pass or tough turnaround shot. Rudy Fernandez dives down to make life for Griffin a touch more difficult but he doesn't commit fully, and Griffin is able to continue operating with relative calm. Frame 3: Griffin absorbs the body contact from Cunningham and explodes off of it, rotating nearly 360 degrees towards his strong hand with a reverse pivot and taking a monster gather step towards the basket in the process. The result is as explosive as it looks in the freeze frame: Griffin was in one place and then instantly in another, while Cunningham barely has time to react. Portland's help defenders are similarly stunned, as Brandon Roy stays home on the corner shooter and new Blazers big man, the aging Fabricio Oberto, has no chance to come over from the weak side to help. Frame 4: While Cunningham makes a game effort to recover and contest the shot, Griffin has created a clean look at the rim at close range, and he converts on the move. His quickness into his jump ensures no one will be able to block the shot. As the clock shows, the entire move, including the original dribble, took place in just two seconds.
WHIMSY:"The Most Interesting Man in the World" of Dos Equis fame took in the action between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Seated in front of him appears to be a member of Napoleon Dynamite's extended family. Video Clip Mania: Oklahoma City guard Thabo Sefalosha talks about how he sent back a Luol Deng shot attempt. Via Royce Young.
HERO OF THE DAY:
Cleveland needed a hero to ice their huge win. Anthony Parker, with an assist from the clock crew, stepped up and became that hero.
By Matt Moore