HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
‘Discomfort’ Key To Mavericks’ Repeat
By Bill Ingram
One of the first things that people who are new to Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle learns is that he is anything but traditional. His analysis of an NBA player don’t begin where it does with many coaches – the player’s height – instead, he envisions possibilities far beyond the obvious.
Just ask Shawn Marion, who played three positions for the Mavs at different times last season. Small forward was his natural position after spending ten years on the wing. He was known as a threat on the fast break, and also knocked down his share of threes. When he got to Dallas, where the half court set accounts for 86.2% of the offense, Carlisle asked Marion to think outside the box . . .well, actually, inside it.
Most specifically, Carlisle asked Marion to look for more of his offense in the low post, playing power forward in addition to his other roles. At times he would have Marion at the four and Dirk Nowitzki at the five, putting more offensive weapons on the court than in other more traditional lineups. Marion was reluctant to make the change initially, but he gave it a shot after Carlisle and his staff showed him a load of statistical projections and gave him some plays to run. Immediate success spawned buy-in from Marion, who wound up scoring 16.9% of his points out of post-ups last season. He also ranked in the 78th percentile league-wide, earning him a “very good” rating overall.
Shane Battier Taking Miami To Next Level
By Alex Kennedy
Shane Battier didn’t have the typical free agency experience.
Rather than face-to-face meetings over lavish meals, the condensed offseason forced the ten-year veteran to negotiate with potential suitors over the phone and then rush to a decision. Battier ultimately signed with the Miami HEAT for the NBA’s new mini mid-level exception, turning away teams like the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.
“It was anxiety-filled,” Battier told HOOPSWORLD. “I had to process a lot of information and figure out the best scenario for my family and myself in a very short period of time. It wasn’t champagne and caviar like most free agency periods are.”
While the process was hectic, the 33-year-old is happy with the end result. Battier wanted to be a significant contributor on a contending team, which is why Miami is the perfect situation for him.
Rondo Ready To Carry Celtics
By Yannis Koutroupis
Going into the Boston Celtics’ Christmas Day match up against the New York Knicks, all the talk was about how much better the Knicks have gotten and how the Celtics’ championship window was all but closed. It would be easy to look at the final score, 106-104 in favor of the Knicks, and think that a torch was passed from the Celtics to the Knicks that signifies their emergence as contenders, but that wasn’t the case.
The Celtics showed a lot of perseverance, battling back from a nine-point first quarter deficit to retake the lead in the third. They had an opportunity to win it late thanks to a huge third quarter in which they outscored the Knicks 35-17. Ultimately, it was All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony willing his team to victory with a stellar 2011-2012 season debut of 37 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Nearly battling him point for point was Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo, who dealt with trade rumors throughout training camp due to the Celtics’ interest in now Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, didn’t appear to be bothered at all by being recently shopped. He put the team on his back as he went off for 31 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and five steals.
Fortunes Changing In Minnesota
By Stephen Litel
The Minnesota Timberwolves tipped off their 2011-12 season Monday night in front of their home crowd and there was a buzz inside the Target Center which hasn’t been there for years. This was the official debut of Rick Adelman as the team’s head coach, as JJ Barea, Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio laced them up in a game that counts for the Wolves.
“Finally,” Rubio told HOOPSWORLD pregame. “We’ve been talking about it for a long time. When’s the NBA going to start? When’s the season? Finally on Christmas we could watch a lot of games and today we can finally play and see how it’s going to go this season and how we’re going to start. It’s good, it’s amazing, it’s finally here. The NBA season has come up and I’m excited to just start playing with my teammates, to start playing in the best league in the world and I’m ready.”
This is still a young team with a lot to learn, but if this singular game is any indication of the way they will play throughout the season, Adelman is doing his job incredibly well. Of course that was expected, as Adelman has always been able to find a way to get more out of his teams than critics have believed to be possible, making them focus on improving on their weaknesses in addition to playing to their strengths.
Top 5 Week 1 Surprises
By Joel Brigham
Well, every team has played at least one regular season game at this point, which means it’s perfectly fair to start talking seriously about the basketball side of basketball for the first time in six months. The lockout conversation is over, free agency is all but kaput, and trade rumors have slowed to a crawl for a few weeks while teams try to figure out what they’ve got before they make any drastic moves. That means all there is left to discuss is the actual game being played, and isn’t that the best part of hoops anyway?
Today’s Top Five looks at the some of the biggest surprises of the very young season so far. These are the things that have happened in the early games that caused double-takes by fans. There will be plenty more to come, but here are the most notable ones to have happened since Christmas:
#5 – Billups’ Shooting Spree – On the bright side, the L.A. Clippers are 1-0. Actually, there are a lot of “on the bright side” comments we could make about the L.A. Clippers, but on the not-so-bright side is the first game of Chauncey Billups’ career as a Clipper. He did pour in a respectable 21 points, but his 19 field-goal attempts, which led the team, can’t be something that continues if this organization is to see long-term success. To compare, Blake Griffin shot 18 times and Chris Paul shot it 12 times. You’d like to see more attempts from Griffin and Paul and fewer from Billups, but a win’s a win. Either way, 19 shots from Mr. Big Shot is still pretty surprising.
Clippers Learning Importance of Defense
By Yannis Koutroupis
As unthinkable as it may have seemed a few years ago, the Los Angeles Clippers have actually become the trendy pick in the Western Conference, much more so than the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs, despite all their veteran talent and four championships since 1999, were widely regarded as over the hill going into the season while the Clippers quickly became a popular choice due to the addition of All-Star point guards Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. On Wednesday night, though, the Spurs easily handled the Clippers 115-90 to move onto 2-0 overall, which they largely attribute to their defense.
One of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s chief complaints over the last few seasons has been the team’s lackluster defense. He has always been a defense-first coach and so far this year’s team has really adopted that philosophy.
“Shot went in tonight,” Popovich said. “That’s what happens. Some nights they don’t drop and that’s why we try to defend on our defense to get us through those nights but tonight the best part of our game was our defense just like game one. You can’t worry about the shooting, it’s going to be there or not there, same for everybody. Defense is something that can be demanded constantly.
Coach Casey Creating Optimism In Toronto
By Stephen Brotherston
The Toronto Raptors entered this season with only the lottery and next year to look forward to based on the expectations from the media, fans, and even President and general manager Bryan Colangelo, but the mood surrounding the team has been surprisingly up-beat. Part of that positive vibe comes from the team’s commitment to a genuine rebuilding process, however after the first few games under new Head coach Dwane Casey, the team is playing harder and looking more competitive than was originally anticipated.
After years of being among the worst defensive clubs in the NBA, Coach Casey has an offensive-minded group of players locking down on defense in expeditious fashion. A very short training camp that quickly led to two preseason games against Boston and now two regular season games has seen Casey’s team hold their opposition collectively below 40 percent shooting.
Nine-year veteran Rasual Butler who finished last season with the Bulls describes Casey’s impact on the Raptors.
“(Casey) is an excellent