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Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri will offer an assortment of observations on games, players, and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri also serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe. The Coaches Notebook will appear on HOOPSWORLD each Thursday – today is a special first edition, appearing on Friday.
MIAMI HEAT: Throughout their first two games, the HEAT played in spurts of reckless abandon on the defensive end. The more they are able to do this, the better. Creating turnovers and basic havoc should be the top priority for Miami right now, especially as they are still adjusting to each other on the offensive end. Boston got way too many structured looks which allowed them to execute without real pressure for much of the game. Playing this fast and recklessly will give up some head-scratchingly easy baskets, but the cumulative effect will be to influence teams to play faster in general. Against a team as talented as the HEAT, playing that way is suicide.
BOSTON CELTICS: Everyone saw how good Boston’s defense looked against Miami, but the aspect of their attack that really made a difference against the HEAT was their offensive spacing on the weakside. Miami’s length and athleticism was largely neutralized by the great spacing the Celtics maintained. Great coaches have always maintained that offense is spacing and spacing is offense, and Boston demonstrated that in their first game of the season. Perhaps the best part was their spacing was strong on both the fast break and in their halfcourt sets. This will allow Boston to get easy baskets throughout the season and will contribute toward keeping their fatigue and injury level low.
HOUSTON ROCKETS: Daryl Morey’s assemblage of his roster is nothing short of masterful. Is there any doubt that this is the best winless team in the league? His players complement each other and create difficult situations for their opponents. They are obviously capable of playing in a variety of styles and paces, and their versatility will only increase when Yao is able to play at full strength. Morey has gone well beyond talent acquisition and the results will eventually manifest themselves out on the court.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: Michael Beasley showed more than flashes of the kind of player he can be long term for the T-Wolves. At times he truly imposed his will on the game—rebounding, starting the break, and finishing in a variety of ways. A comparison that comes to mind immediately is Carmelo Anthony, with less polish and fluidity. As Beasley adjusts to his role with this group, and develops a more fake-heavy game that feeds on the aggressiveness of defenders and turns it against them, he will be even more impressive.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Anyone else think that every team in the league will watch film of the Wizards game against the Magic and use the same basic game plan against John Wall? Go under every screen, and rotate slow back to him – basically, entice him to shoot open jumpshots. Since this will most certainly be the gameplan aginst the #1 draft pick, the Wiz need to counter it immediately and effectively. Three thoughts for how to do so:
1.) Run less static (stationary) ball screens and more blur screens (where the ball-handler runs his defender into cutters)and more hand-off actions. These kind of screens prevent the defense from getting set and communicating with eachother to organize their approach.
2.) Run more precise weakside actions with better spacing. Because teams are backing off Wall, his vision to the weakside should be improve, and his ability to find open teammates will increase. For this to happen, teams need to be concerned with how they are defending the weakside of the floor. It’ll also allow his teammates to be more immediately involved, and prevent some of the touch and fire tendencies that occurred as they got frustrated.
3.) Wall needs to be more aggressive using the screens at the outset. He "took what the defense gave him." The problem with this approach: there is a reason a defense as good as Orlando gave him that. Instead, he needs to use the extra space to gather speed, survey the floor to find weak spots and help defenders, and attack accordingly.
By the way, what two other teams have quick, athletically gifted lead guards whose jumpers have been called into question? The Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose) and the Boston Celtics (Rajon Rondo). The case could be made that both teams have made adjustments and adapted their respective attacks in a way similar to what is described above.