For the past three or four years we have heard over & over again how offensive rebounding was the "most over rated" stat in all of basketball. I've heard that low post isolation offense is the best way to win games & that really guards & even small forwards should just get back on defense to stop any breaks & not help with the boards.
I've heard that fronting the post on defense is the way to go & that really the strength of the team should come from our wing player & that we really wanted speed in our big men. I've heard that assist were not an accurate measure of offensive success & I've heard player spacing was more important that player movement.
I've heard this for so long & so often that I almost started to beleive this.
The Diamond one & myself were debating after the game about the current style of play & what team it most copy's.
When I started speaking of free flowing offense he thought I was trying to describe the current Phoenix Suns & he suggested that is what I wanted.
After reflecting on this I have come to this conclusion, that is not what I want at all & that is not what we have.
What we have is a lesser version of the 99 Pacers. With Pollard & Foster you have the Davis's. Peja is similar to Reggie, Jax is Jalen Rose. A.J. will never be Mark Jackson but he is manning the point at present.
In other words what Carlisle has done is reached into his bag of tricks & pulled out the old play sets from the 97-99 team.
What we have right now is a combonation of strength, speed & ball movement.
No one on our team stays in any one position for more than 4-5 seconds at a time on the offensive end & our ability to drive & kick to the wings is not because they are just hanging out at the line but because they are moveing from side to side & working position.
That is just one of the reasons things are working now more than they were two weeks ago or for that matter two months ago.
I'm not saying we are title contenders but I am saying we are going in the right direction.
Let's examine some of the reasons why things are going better at the moment, shall we?
1. Chemistry. Less is more, their backs are against the wall, they ride together, etc., etc. Whatever cliche' you want to use here feel free, but it doesn't change the basic fact of this. These guys are enjoying playing together. Scot Pollard said in the post game interview that it was nice to have player playing together instead of against one another. I don't know what he meant by that for sure, but I think I have an idea. We have no star, we have no one out there above any of the others. They are all held to the same standard & IMO it has given them an identity. The bench players are getting theirs, the starters are getting theirs. Nobody resents anybody at the moment. Of course winning helps that a lot as well, let's see how they do when they lose a couple (which they will) but my guess is that this particular unit will not put it's head down & point fingers. They will group together & work harder.
2. The re-emergence of true centers. No offense to some of our power forwards who have been manning the spot for the past three years, but the truth is simple. Our resurgence has coincided with the fact that for over 90% of the last three games our center spot has been manned by (Gasp!!!) Centers. Scot Pollard has been a phenom. & Harrison has been delivering from the bench. All you have to do is look at these two men & you will see that they are big, thick, strong & talented. Unless foul trouble or injury occurs I never want to see another powerforward play center again.
3. We have not matched down to teams. As above we have done away with trying to play small ball for the most part. We almost always have a true center on the floor & so far it has worked. Make them pay by smashing it down low or make them pay for not having the size to match up down low. Either way, we win.
4. Power at our power forward spot. In all of this I have become a fan of Jeff Foster again. The reason? He's not being forced to be the physical player on the floor anymore. However as the second physical player on the floor he is an @ss kicker. He is bigger & stronger than a lot of powerforwards & he's as quick as any of them. Having him & pollard or Harrison in there together is usually an advantage for us. Having him play the center spot is a disadvantage for us in most cases.
5. Our offense has changed. This could be listed much higher but I'll keep it here for now. It's easy to guard one player, it's harder to guard two players it's d@mn near impossible to guard five players on the floor. When all five players on the floor are a threat it changes the entire defenseive scheme of the other team. Yes, in our current offense Jeff Foster is somewhat an offensive threat. Because of our new pick & roll that we are running Jeff is getting some wide open drives to the basket. He didn't take advantage of them in this game but he has been over the other two games. We are running screens at the elbow, we have player movement from baseline to baseline & most important we have lots of cuts going to the basket. We are shooting a lot of three's but with the way our new offense is we are in position to get offensive rebounds if our guys miss.
6. Our bench provides the other team no rest. In fact often times our bench comes in & kicks the crap out of the other team. I know that some people like a shorter bench & shorter rotation. I don't agree with that. Now if we had superstars, no we don't have any of them & we never have, then I could see playing them for as long as you could. But in our case I would like to still keep a deep rotation even when everyone is healthy. Harrison coming off of the bench is almost cruel to the other team at this point in time, as long as he can keep playing like this, then add into that Granger & you almost feel sorry for the other team. Well almost anyway. I like a deep bench as long as everybody is on the same page & everybody is happy in their roles which as of now, they are.
7. Rebounding rebounding rebounding!!!!!! I have hated the way our team rebounds for so long that I don't even remember when the last time I liked. That is until now. Every single player that played rebounded the ball. Eddie Gill didn't score a point but he got a board. Out of the players who got real min. on the floor Jax had the least with 3. Compared to Portland who had one player (Randolp) with 9 all on the offensive end but their starting guards combined for 3. I will always quote Pat Riley till the day I die. "No rebounds, no rings". I don't know what has made me more happy our new offense or our new dedication to rebounding. Oh who am I kidding, I love rebounding.
8. True defense. We no longer employ gimick defense (ie. fronting the post) because we don't have to. Our centers now can body up on almost any center in the NBA & in Harrisons case as long as he doesn't foul I will say it now. He can body up to any player in the NBA including Shaq. No, I'm not saying he will stop Shaq but I am saying that Shaq can't just bump him out of the way with his shoulder. Foster is good at guarding the quicker big men in the NBA & Peja is a hell of a lot better than I thought he would be. To be honest he played Randolph straight up several times in the second half & he stopped him cold. Granger is already one of our better defenders on both the perimater & down in the paint. Our guard defense has been steady, not spectacular but very steady.
9. Coaching. Actually Coaching is 1A. but I'm not talking about overall coaching in this particular part. I'm talking about Rick's new found patience. If a player makes a dumb mistake he is no longer yanked from the game & set on the bench for a long time. He is allowed to play through it & if he continues to make dumb plays or if he gets hot under the collar Rick then pulls him, let's him cool off & then puts him back in the game. This allows the players to not play scared. They are not looking over at the bench every time the miss a defensive assignment. I think this has helped greatly with overall team chemistry. We no longer have players out there who are treated differantly than others.
10. Freedom. There is a certain liberation when you no longer have any expectations. We come in as the underdog & maybe that is the way our fans & even our players like it. We didn't handle being the favorite to win it all very well but we seem to thrive as the team that everybody over looks. The Diamond one pointed this out to me before the L.A. game so I wanted to make sure he got credit for this.
Now let's deal with a couple of other things & yes we will address the big pink elephant in the room in a min.
Can I get everybody to climb off of Anthony Johnson's @ss? This guy is more pro than we deserve. This guy has gone from second p.g. to starter to DNP-CD to starter to second back to DNP-CD & then back to starter & each time he has come in & done his job. Did he make a fuss about any of this? Yes, of course he did. But he never quit & he never walked away what the team has asked of him.
I am saying it now, A.J. should just start for the rest of the year. That's right I said it. Jamaal Tinsley should not just be able to come back & get his p.g. spot without earning it from the bench for a few games. If he comes back & comes off of the bench & proves he can work in this system then by all means, but under no circumstance should he just get his job back the first day he is back.
Then we have to address what to do between Saras & A.J.? Well, sorry but my money is on the guy who is there right now. Saras can get some time but the first p.g. off of the bench, IMO, should be A.J. if it's not J.T.
I know that won't be popular with some of his fans but right now A.J. is giving you everything you would ever want from a backup p.g. & in our case it's even working as the starting p.g.
Well, we might as well go ahead & start the p!ssing contest about Jermaine O'neal right now.
Here is my fear. Take every single one of the 10 reasons I listed above & throw them out the window if J.O. comes back & we allow him to be the focus of our team again.
One of the reasons I didn't post after the Detroit game? What Jon Theodore said I was going to say, well not the racist part or anything, but what he was saying about J.O. I was going to fire the same thing out.
I came home after the game & watched the game on Tivo before I even got online I made the Diamond one & even my wife look at a freeze frame of the exact same shot on the bench that Theodore saw. Remember this was before I read what any of you were saying. I said right there & then to my family that this was not the face of a happy team mate. There was Saras all smiles, there was Pollard & Harrison laughing & haveing a good time there was even shot of Eddie Gill smiling. But there all alone stood a sour looking Jermaine O'Neal. Now I would be willing to buy that he was trying not to get his team to not celebrate a regular season win, hell in fact I would admire him if that were the case. But this is the same guy who looks as though he has brain worms exploding from his head every time he dunks the ball on someone.
Your team just won a hard fought game vs. the best team in the NBA he should have been over there with a high five & a butt slap for every player that came out of the game, he should have been waving a towel & leading all of us in the fieldhouse in cheering for the players. I've seen Reggie do that many of time btw.
But no, that's not what we got.
Now is it ever fair to look at a bench shot & believe that we know what the player is thinking? No, of course not. But demeanor & body language sure tells you something of what a person is thinking.
But that is just the mental side of this topic & I hope we don't get drug down in the mud arguing over it.
What I want to talk about is whether Jermaine O'Neal the player can fit into this style of play?
The answer? Probably not.
No, not because he is not talented enough to do so. We all know he can. But because he is not skilled enough at certain things to do it as well as the other big men.
Why are we rebouning as well as we are? Yes, the change on offense has helped with the "o" boards but the fact is that Pollard & Harrison are space eaters & rebound by position. Foster still is using his speed but he does know enough to try & block out.
Jermaine O'Neal is an athletic rebounder, not a skilled one. In other words J.O. jumps higher to get the boards than others do & often times he does not block out to do this. So if he can't get the board the other team often time does. Pollard & Harrison block out so well that even if they don't secure the boards they have cleared a path so our guards or other forwards do.
Could J.O. do this? Yes, but it would take a change in mentality to do it.
J.O. is a decent passer, actually I think he is underrated in this aspect of his game. But J.O. would also have to become more of a mover. He would no longer be able to plant himself in the post for 15 sec. & just sit there till the team gets him the ball.
Now this does not mean he could not do post up offense. If you will notice we still have some post up plays, but we no longer run 80% of our plays as post ups anymore.
He still could do this, he even would have more of the 15' shots he loves so much. But he would have to be willing to do this. He would have to be willing to go down on the offensive end & not even touch the ball on occasion.
Would he be willing to do that?
The fact is this, none of us know. He always says the proper thing in the paper or on radio. But again, body language & demeanor go a long way in explaining ones thoughts. Let's just say I am skeptical that this is all Rick Carlisle.
Now call me Fox Mulder because I do want to beleive that he would be willing to do it, but I am also very very skeptical that he would.
Are we sure it was all the other player who was only worried about their touches?
Jackson also had a comment on the post game show that was telling as well. He said that players were getting more touches & that made everybody play harder.
Now he could have just been talking about himself, but it seemed to me like he was speaking for more than one guy.
Trust me I certainly understand that our former problem child was a problem here. But I will not totally lay the blame at his feet as being the only player worried about getting his. Yes, Jax does the same thing but let's just say I don't think he "rides alone" in that case.
Now is the time for Bird, Walsh, whoever, to actually look at this team & see if this really is the style we should be playing with. If it is then I'm sorry to say but we really should look to move J.O. for a great guard & a solid big man who can help with depth.
Now if they believe that this style is not the way to go then by all means bring J.O. back & then truely surround him with the players who will make his style of play work.
As to Jamaal? Sorry, injury prone or not he just is not available enough for me to care anymore. I know he is almost impossible to move right now but over the summer it is time to do something else & no Saras is not the answer.
Now before everybody has a seizure with me complaining about things after a three game win streak understand this. I know we are on a hot streak right now & as soon as teams get us scouted this may change again, who knows.
But right now I am looking at the sytem & this is the style of play I like to watch better & here is the truth. This style of play wins better as well. Because while the other system has it's advantages it also causes disharmony amongst the team & thus is a self defeating style of play.
This style got us to three E.C. finals & one NBA finals apperance & in reality this is also very similar to the style that Brown played here as well so it was 5 E.C. finals if you go back that far.
Feel free to flame away at me, but before you do know this.
I am giving you some free happy dancing fruit.
And if that isn't enough to make you happy then I will throw in this picture for free, how can you stay mad at me & look at this in the face?