Tag:Stan Van Gundy
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:53 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 2:59 pm

Why doesn't Dwight Howard want to be a Bull?

By Matt Moore

Back on Dec. 10th, the Chicago Tribune reported that Dwight Howard was not considering the Bulls. Chicago has not been on the list of teams Ken Berger has reported since February under consideration by Howard and his management. And Tuesday, ESPN reported that Howard's list has been narrowed to four teams, the New Jersey Nets, the Dallas Mavericks, the L.A. Lakers, and the Orlando Magic

So the question now is "Why won't Howard consider the Bulls?"

For starters, it would make a huge amount of sense for both parties in terms of basketball. For the Magic, they'd be able to get back a decent return on Howard, something that not many other teams will offer. Joakim Noah as a centerpiece, with Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, potentially Luol Deng, and a salary dump of Hedo Turkoglu along with picks could probably be had. That's a fine haul for the Magic. But maybe Howard simply doesn't care about what his team gets back and in fact wants to make sure they don't give up too much so that he can have a good group behind him wherever he lands. 

The bigger upside is for Howard. He would no longer have to be the sole source of offense and would have the pressure to be "the man" split between he and Rose. Howard wants help? How about the MVP point guard who can create offense for himself as well as anyone in the league? He'd be set with a young player just starting his rise to greatness and already established. Rose isn't an alpha dog and wouldn't have problems with Howard, Rose has good enough vision even as a score-first guard to create oop after oop for Howard on the pick and roll. Throw in Carlos Boozer as now a much-better-fitting third option (unless they unloaded Boozer which they may have to for salary purposes), and some combination of the Chicago shooters and you have all the help Howard's been asking for. 

Furthermore, how about the best defensive player in the league playing under the best defensive coach in the league? Tom Thibodeau could get the absolute most out of Howard's considerable abilities (not that Stan Van Gundy hasn't already done a stellar job and in fact in large part helped make Howard into the defensive presence he is), and would let him dictate what he wants on offense instead of forcing perimeter shots like SVG. 

The only conclusion is that it's some combination of weather and style that Howard balks at in regards to Chicago. Howard is rumored to prefer warm-weather destinations, coming from the south and having played there for his career. Chicago isn't exactly balmy. Then again, not like Brooklyn is all palm trees and sun tan lotion. The bigger question may be from a marketing perspective. New York or L.A. provide him with media opportunities galore, and for a guy who loves the camera as much as Howard does, that might be the kicker. 

One entity sad about this development? Adidas, who have both Howard and Rose under their label. The two teaming up under the colors of Nike's icon Michael Jordan's former team? Priceless. The money would be there for Howard in Chicago, but maybe not the level of fame he wants.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 10:21 pm

The top NBA defensive systems

By Matt Moore

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Defense wins championships. That's not actually true, as some of the best defenses never win titles because their offense can't muster enough points to outscore a college team. But it's certainly vital. You'll never find a modern NBA team win with terrible defense. But who have the best systems? We know who the great defenders are, but how much are they a product of the system, and how much is the system a product of them? We sought to answer those questions with our own form of the defensive system power rankings. 

1. Chicago Bulls:
There's a reason Tom Thibodeau is considered a defensive genius. Look no further than the fact that the Bulls were the defensive icon of the league despite considerable injuries last season and the fact that Carlos Boozer was a heavy-minutes starter. The key to Thibodeau's system is help and precision attack. There's no anticipation of meeting the player at the point of field goal attempt, the initial penetration is deterred by a series of help defenders cutting off multiple options. It's a system that masks individual defensive weaknesses. That's why players like Omer Asik, Boozer, and C.J Watson suddenly become strengthpoints.

An interesting component is that the Bulls are so focused on preventing scores, they manage to avoid fouling. They had the 22nd lowest free throw rate in the league. Compare that with Boston's 10th rating, and you find a much cleaner defense. That's partially attributable to the different personnel but it's also indicative of the Bulls' approach. They attack the dribble, cut off the lane, and contain, contain, contain.

Their cohesion is nearly perfect, their communication is nearly perfect, their approach is nearly perfect. Guarding LeBron James nailing long-range threes? You've got be perfect to beat that.

2. Boston Celtics: The ugly older brother of the Bulls' defense. The Celtics use the same help mechanisms to deter penetration and attack the rim, but are far more willing to commit to a club to the head to make their point. Intelligent design matched with brute force. Another key difference is their reliance on their individual personnel. Kevin Garnett is of course the field general, and its his willingness to commit to any assignment or range that fuels the system. But Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo are all equally essential along with the rest of the team. The problem is that the central reliance on personnel gives way to vulnerability. Eventually age catches up with the Celtics.

What bolsters them, though, is a philosophical dedication. The Celtics are willing to do the hard job, no matter how tough. It's not just a matter of professional dedication, its a prideful philosophy, an extension of the family unity they've tried to instill in the team. That's really what separates the Celtics, their almost militaristic dedication to the defensive discipline they try and execute for 48 minutes.

The Celtics' defense is only going to continue to slide as the players' abilities downgrade with age. But until then, they're still stocked with the most experience, ability, and knowledge of their system of any team in the league.


Again, with the LeBron thing.

3. Miami Heat: If the Celtics and Bulls both rely on system built on systemic fundamentals and philosophy, then the Heat's concept is a bit different, if nearly as effective. Their strengths begin with their talent. Having three of the most athletic players in the league gives you a basis. LeBron James' ability to play on the perimeter, on the wing, in the post, and battle for rebounds gives them versatility. Chris Bosh is never going to win anyone's heart over with toughness, but guarding those stretch fours in a league where they can torch you is important, and Bosh does it well. Dwyane Wade still gambles more than he should, but he also makes plays more often than you want if you're facing him.

This isn't to say the rest of the Heat are schlubs. Udonis Haslem is a big, tough, difficult defender who has the savvy to arm wrestle a weapon to the proverbial ground. The Heat have veteran players who don't lack for experience, and it helps tremendously.

The most interesting wrinkle in their defensive system, though, is one of their anticipation. Consider that the Bulls and Celtics both react to where the ball goes. They're always playing a game of stop what's in front of them. It's a very Eastern-philosophy, "stay in the moment" kind of mindset. But the Heat look to anticipate. They run to the corner shooter before the ball arrives. They play on a string, but not just in terms of shutting down one option and then reacting, but getting ahead of the offense to prevent the quick open look opportunity. The result is a load of shot clock violations.

The problem is personnel. They have neither the wing stopper they can commit at the cost of offense, nor the body in the paint at center to defend the rim. There's a reason why Shane Battier and Eddy Curry reportedly top the Heat's list of targets in free agency. A few better options defensively in terms of personnel might have won them two more games in the Finals, which was all that stood in their way of vindicating all that premature boasting.

4. Orlando Magic: It's good to have the best. Dwight Howard makes more of an impact defensively than any other player in the league, the reason he's the defending Defensive Player of the Year (again), and why he was an MVP candidate last season. If you don't believe me, watch just the Orlando Magic defensively some time. A team with Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu in prominent roles was a top five team defensively last season, and that impact begins and ends with Dwight Howard. Howard reacts to the baseline, swats the weak side, covers both the ball handler and roll man on the pick and roll, and is big and tall and super-athletic. He's a freak of nature, and one that's learned to be smarter on defense every year.

But to say that it's all Howard does a disservice to Stan Van Gundy's work. Van Gundy, after all, is the coach that has brought Dwight Howard to the defensive level he's at, making it a priority for the young big man since 2007. And it's Van Gundy who manages to pull this kind of defensive effort out of a team with that roster. That Van Gundy is able to generate cohesive defensive efforts with Brandon Bass, Jameer Nelson, and Jason Richardson in key roles along with the others speaks volumes of what SVG is capable of.

His biggest weakness is that personnel, which has gotten worse each season since 2009. Howard's hit his ceiling defensively. Unless SVG gets better supporting talent, there's only so many rabbits he can pull out of his hat.

5. Los Angeles Lakers: It's good to be tall.

The Lakers' defensive system is a question mark as Mike Brown takes over. But if we look at what the Lakers have done well in the past, it's pretty simple. Be tall, be active, apply pressure. The Lakers will talk about experience and veteran savvy, but their biggest asset is the fact that Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum combine to create a redwood forrest down low through which passes cannot flow. The result is a lot of perimter passing just to get the ball to the other side, or wild looping cross-court volleys. Combine that with Derek Fisher's ability to counter his slowness with pestering opposing point guards into personal fouls, and Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest's proficiency in perimeter defense, and you have quite the set.

Honestly, this roster probably has a lot of upside in defense, still. Jackson was too busy handing out novels and waxing poetic on what other player or coach he was degrading that week to really focus defensively other than to talk about, well, focus. The Lakers with Brown could be the best defensive unit in the NBA next season. Whenever that is.

Also considered:

Milwaukee Bucks: Skiles continues to struggle with offense, but his teams always attack the ball and stay disciplined. It's sloppy at times, but Skiles' grinding approach is a proven tactic.

Dallas Mavericks: Rick Carlisle talked in the Finals about "defending with five guys" and that's the best part of the Mavericks. They use any and all weapons at their disposal. Their defense isn't why they won the NBA championship, but it was why they won the Finals. Versatility combined with determination and good chemistry with sound principles made them formidable enough to compromise teams enough for their offense to do the rest.

Memphis Grizzlies: Unconventional is the word, here, as the Grizzlies run counter to every defensive tradition in the NBA. They don't play position, they attack the ball. They don't focus on misses, they swarm for steals. They don't deny layups, they pester and pressure until the offense collapses. Out of nowhere, Lionel Hollins turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best. Tony Allen's influence helps, so does Shane Battier's, but it's Memphis' adoption of the blue collar ethic of the town that helped them make their playoff run.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 10:49 am

Stan Van Gundy has some words on amateurism

By Matt Moore

Stan Van Gundy is not afraid to speak his mind. He's not bombastic or a braggard, he just has his opinions and would be happy to share them with you. His pragmatism and basic viewpoints actually harken back to Red Auerbach, in a way. Van Gundy was at the University of Miami this past weekend, dropping his daughter off for school, and was asked about the ongoing scandal there. Let's just say Van Gundy didn't exactly hold back. From the Miami Herald:
“The system is set up for everybody but the kids while pretending to be about the kids,” Van Gundy said. “Athletics and education should be separate. Colleges shouldn’t be farm systems. It doesn’t make any logical sense. But the schools don’t want to be blatantly in the situation of being professional sports even though they already are professional sports. They just want to disguise it, so they hide behind education. But, really, all you want is enough of your athletes to graduate so it looks like that’s what you care about. Anyone around sports knows it is all a bunch of bull [expletive].

“I am not calling college coaches or administrators hypocrites. I believe that, in general, they care about the kids and education. But the system is wrong. Being a farm system creates problems that are beyond the control of even the best and most well-meaning administrators of which [UM’s] Donna Shalala would be at the top of my list.”
via University of Miami scandal brings out hypocrisy on campuses - Dan Le Batard - MiamiHerald.com

Well, then. Don't hold back, SVG. Really let your feelings out. It's good to see Van Gundy taking a stand on the issue instead of deferring since it's part of the traditional basketball system. What gets overlooked in all the discussion is the fact that much of what goes on is exploitation. The reaction is to say they can't be exploited, they're getting a college education. But you can be exploited while still getting something in return, and in this case, an education that is barely existant in some cases and largely useless in a great deal of them doesn't exactly make things equal. But wait, there's more from Van Gundy. He's actually got a proposal for a solution.
“Let the schools decide whom they enroll and how — no entrance or eligibility requirements, how much the boosters want to pay them and whether or not they go to class,” he says. “There are two rules. You play only four seasons, and the upper age limit is 25. No other rules. Players who are paid must declare their income and pay taxes on it. If they don’t and get caught, then they have to deal with the IRS and instead of giving back the Heisman they risk going to jail. This drops the myth about amateurism and education. It allows players to get paid but puts it out in the open. Now people can stop hiding behind their idealism about the purity of college athletics and let you know what the school and alumni truly value. NCAA enforcement is the drug war. We’ve lost. Let’s find a different, more realistic approach.”
In essence, Van Gundy wants to call a spade a spade, which is pretty reasonable. The NBA is a lot of things, but it doesn't try and pretend to be something moral. It's a business at its core, and it acts accordingly. Look no further than the lockout for proof on that. 

Maybe if we start talking about the issues within the context of reality and not the moral ideal that isn't even ideal for most of the people involved in it, we can start to move towards some solutions. Call it the Calipari-Van Gundy approach. 

Half of you just started vomiting, didn't you?
Posted on: August 3, 2011 5:06 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2011 5:08 pm

Stan Van Gundy's swaggin' at basketball camp

Posted by Royce Young

Too bad Dwight Howard doesn't need to improve on his ball-handling. Because Stan Van Gundy's got plenty of that to go around.

The Magic's head man is helping run a youth basketball camp and while going over a little dribbling drill, SVG decided to casually bust a move.

I like how he kind of pretends to not care that he's showing off by just acting like he's totally coaching. But he knows. He knows. If we ever got that one-on-one showdown with Jeff and Stan, I'm pretty sure we know which Van Gundy is taking that one. I mean, how do you stop that, Jeff? Other than by grabbing his ankles of course.

A quick first step, between the legs, behind the back, spin, between the legs and all while yelling instructions at a bunch of children. I get the feeling this type of coaching impressed these 10-year-olds. I don't think Vince Carter ever really bought into it.

Posted on: July 26, 2011 10:20 am

Is the Magic's offense flawed?

By Matt Moore

This is not a new subject. Since the Magic came into relevance in 2009 with their blistering 3-point barrage to make the NBA Finals, pepole have been questioning their offensive philosophy. The basics go somethings like this: 

  • People think that shooting the 3-pointer is not an effective way to run an offense because it relies on long-range jump shots and eventually, those aren't going to fall and what are you going to do then?
  • The response, then, is that you should drive more, because that creates high-percentage opportunities, which are around the rim, or at least forces the defense to react to that threat, allowing easier pull-up and spot-up jumpers. 
  • In order to do that, you have to have the personnel which can create off the dribble, attacking the rim. There are a lot of questions about whether the Magic have that kind of system. If they don't, it's wondered if that's the case because of the system they've designed. 
But here's the rub: the Magic's offense has actually been really efficient the plast few years. So what happened last year? Talking to the Orlando Sentinel, who he apparentl is not a big fan of, Stan Van Gundy says it was just one of those years. He also thinks you can't magically force your personnel to drive if they're not good at it. From the Sentinel
“Especially from an offensive standpoint, this is a personnel driven league,” Van Gundy continued. “You do with what you have. We get it from our media all the time and our fans. We’ll have those nights, 2-for-23 from three. They say you gotta drive the ball more. Who? Who? That’s my question. Who? Who’s going to drive the ball? That’s not who we have. If I had a different team, there are a lot of guys in the league that I wouldn’t shoot threes with. We have who we have and we’re going to build our system around it.”
via Stan Van Gundy defends Orlando Magic’s style of play – Orlando Magic BasketBlog – Orlando Sentinel.

Van Gundy's right that they have who they have and they should build their system around it. Unfortunately, their personnel wasn't well fit for anything last season, which is why they ended up out of the first round. The 3-point shot didn't just abandon them, it snuck out in the middle of the night and took the cat.

But there needs to be a priority to change that personnel and bring in someone who can create off the dribble. Additionally, the Magic offense became so dependent on the 3-pointer last year that it abandoned what had made that approach so successful in 2009, the extra pass. The Magic took whatever was the first 3-pointer available last season as opposed to pushing that extra pass to the player who has time to spot up.

Orlando needs a lot of work to re-open the window. That starts with getting a perimeter playmaker who's more than just a spot-up shooter.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 10:18 am
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Posted on: June 20, 2011 9:56 am
Edited on: June 20, 2011 3:55 pm

Oh, good. Dwight Howard's back to armchair coach

Posted by Matt Moore

You know, it had been awhile since we've had one of these. Dwight Howard's been so busy trying to get the media and fans off his back about being a free agent in 2012 (without ever ending the debate by saying "I'm staying, it's over, I'll sign the extension as long as the money's right," which it will be, of course) that he hasn't had any time to take pot shots at his coach, who keeps finding ways to drag the aging carcass of his team into the playoffs as a top four seed. This, with Howard still having offensive nights where the lob isn't there that make you shake your head sadly. So it's reassuring to know that Dwight's still out there. Waiting. Watching. Criticizing his coach over things he doesn't really understand.

In an interview with Hoopshype while traveling "The Continent" as some call Europe, Howard was asked about his teammate Gilbert Arenas and his struggles. Instead of pinning Arenas' struggles on adapting to the system, not being fully back from injuries, pressure or any number of easy-out answers, nor turning to even criticism of Arenas' mental preparedness or a reasonable discussion of how old Arenas is, Howard instead elected to pin the struggles on dear old Stan Van Gundy.
“I don’t think our coach used him the right way, but I think he can do a lot of great things for our team,” Howard said. “He promised me this summer he was going to get better, physically and mentally, so he can come back and have an awesome year. I’m looking forward to that.

“I just felt like he didn’t get the opportunity to play his style but also play with me. I think he needed to. I think he got a couple of opportunities to do it in the playoffs, but it was kind of too late. So I think he will be great for us.”
via HoopsHype.com NBA Blogs - Jorge Sierra » Howard critical of coach’s use of Arenas.

There are any number of things idiotic about this comment. First, Arenas hasn't shown an ability to play "his style" in three years. Even when he was playing well for Washington before the click-clack, he wasn't playing at the level Orlando needs him to. And that will be two years ago once play resumes in the fall (if it resumes).

Second, if you're going to talk about that, don't talk about how it was a matter of SVG not using him right. If you feel that way, tell the coach. Sure, you're the superstar and get to do things like that, even though your talking about how people need to be used better on offense is like Amar'e Stoudemire giving defensive pointers (yes, it's true that Stoudemire can play defense, but it's not as if he's an expert, even if Howard's offense is worlds better than STAT's defense). But talking about it in the press only fuels posts like these that in other places will wonder how discontent Howard is with his coach. 

This despite the fact that Howard went on to talk about SVG in good, if not glowing, terms:

 “I think Stan did a good job coaching this year,” Howard said. “He’s had us prepared for every game, for every playoff series that I’ve ever been in… He’s made sure that we were well-prepared. I like what he did.”
See, now, a lot of outlets are going to skip right over that because Howard said Arenas wasn't used right. This interview was less about him slamming his coach and more about him throwing his considerable weight around. Not only did Howard give his thoughts on how a perimeter-offense-based guard should be used by one of the more complex strategizing coaches in the league, he also said he felt as if he should be included in decisions. 

“I should be involved.. I think I deserve an opportunity to help make decisions as far as the future.”
Right, because I'm sure Dwight Howard's understanding of the CBA (current or future) is/will be exemplary. I'm sure he has the experience to see how pieces fit together, what does and does not work with him regardless of his perceptions. 

Next up, Dwight Howard will be asking to take over brain surgery at your local hospital and criticizing the design of your local power plant. Just don't ask him to sign a contract to stay long term to help those places get the stability they need. 

That would be asking too much. 

Posted on: April 27, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 3:33 pm

Magic will retain coach Van Gundy, GM Smith

The Orland Magic will retain head coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith for the 2011-2012 NBA season. Posted by Ben Golliver. stan-otis

'Tis the season for coaching changes, especially when playoff teams don't reach lofty expectations. The Orlando Magic, though, is adament that its key basketball personnel will be back next season.

The Magic sits on the precipice of disappointment, trailing the Atlanta Hawks 3-2 in their first round series. The team entered the season with championship aspirations, made a roster-flipping midseason blockbuster trade and were regarded as heavy favorites coming into their series with the Hawks. 

Despite sitting one game from elimination, Orlando Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide issued a public show of support for coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith to the Orlando Sentinel.
"We're happy with Otis and Stan," Vander Weide said. "Neither are in jeopardy. I've been around now 20 years in the NBA and I've got a good idea of other people's skill-sets are out there, and Stan and Otis are as good a complement as any in the league."
The Magic's struggles against the Hawks, plus their slide to 52 wins this season after two questionable mid-season trades, drew speculation about job security for Van Gundy and Smith --- Smith in particular.
"You can second-guess, but the changes we made were made to win a championship," Vander Weide said. "We didn't feel we were going to win with the guys we had."
Van Gundy has guided the Magic to the playoffs and won 50+ games for four straight seasons, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009. That track record more or less speaks for itself.

The Magic are faced with a franchise-defining moment in the relatively future: Can they convince center Dwight Howard to sign an extension? Besides the obvious benefits that go with maintaining stability and familiarity, keeping Smith along with Van Gundy is smart for two reasons. 

One: Smith knows Howard and has a far better chance of selling him on the Magic than any newcomer could, given the benefit of their shared history. Two: if Howard decides he wants to play in a bigger market or to team up with other superstars, Smith has a proven track record for not blinking when it comes to making big deals. Trying to picture Danny Ferry trading LeBron James? Impossible. Trying to picture Smith trading Howard? Definitely not impossible.

In other words, Smith is poised to be an asset to his organization whether Dwight Howard becomes the next Dirk Nowitzki or the next Deron Williams. He's smart and experienced enough to realize that this is a business, and he's dealt with Howard for long enough to establish a relationship that will keep the negotiating and closed-door conversations where they belong: out of the media.  

Perspective is also important here. While the Magic took a step back this season -- winning 52 games, seven less than the last two seasons -- this is still the golden era of Magic basketball. This is the only time the team has won 50+ four times in a row and there's nothing standing in the way of this group doing it again next season, save a work stoppage. 

Surely, roster changes are needed and expected. But stability has value, especially in Orlando right now.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com