Thanks for the kind words. One of the reasons I go deeper is because I like to watch one player during the entire possession*. You can tell whether they are playing team basketball, or just biding time until they get the ball.

Sports talk radio, and idiots like Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and Charles Barkley are paid to say controversial things. It doesn’t matter if they’re accurate or not, it’s all about getting good ratings. So, in that way, unfortunately, sports has deteriorated into another form of politics. And that perversion has been exploited for profit by professional blowhards like Lavar Ball and Genghis Tang.

I’ve learned so much about basketball the last two or three years because of reading Zach Lowe’s columns on ESPN, and the Lakers’ best fan blog, forumblueandgold.com.

I’m totally serious when I say these guys there should be hired by the team. They use all kinds of advance analytics that I never thought existed and do film breakdowns that show why Lonzo’s court sense is the equivalent to Derek Jeter being in the right place to make the relay throw that saved the Yankees’ 2001 playoff run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApoJk9X7Vto. But they also show all the mistakes he’s making when he shoots, and suggest all the subtle corrections he needs to make that would immediately make him a league average shooter. (Specifically, he needs to use the same footwork he uses for his step back 3 on every jump shot, and learn to better recognize help defense when he drives, as it’s the one area where he actually needs to pass more.)

Sometimes, their deeper analysis just confirms what I’m seeing, but often it completely blows my mind. There was one video which explained how teams play defense against the pick and roll. The center is supposed to call out a screen to the guard, and the team will have a set way of dealing with the pick and roll in one of the following ways (skip the bullets if you don’t want too much info):

  • Immobile centers will usually just hang back at the free throw line, and it’s the guard’s responsibility to fight through the screen to challenge the shooter.
  • Mobile centers will move up to hedge the screen briefly, to slow down the ball handler just enough so the trailing guard can catch up to his man and contest the jump shot. After that, the center has to get back to cover his own man so he doesn’t leave an open lane to the rim.
  • Mobile center can also move up on the screen to completely block the path of the ball handler which creates a trapping action if the guard is running hard through the screen. Only truly great defensive bigs can do this.
  • The guard will position himself to the side of the ball handler in such a way as to prevent him from going in the direction of the screen. If the ball handler then goes toward the basket on the side where the guard is funneling him, the center is supposed to be there to take away the drive, disrupting the offense’s play, and wasting time on the shot clock.

But what happens if the center calls out the screen, but the screener only fakes a screen and suddenly runs away from the ball to either spot up for an outside shot, or roll to the rim? Answer: either the center recognizes this and calls off the defensive signal, or the guard looks like a matador moving out of the way to allow a ball handler an open lane to the basket. (Unless you’re James Harden or D’Angelo Russell, in which case you really have no interest in playing defense.)

We have a separate Lakers network. Unless the game is blacked out for some legal reason, I always watch the “homer” network. Bill McDonald and Stu Lantz are so much better analyzing the games, and they occasionally will say that the referees made the correct call, even if the foul is called against the home team.

As a former NBA player himself, one of Stu’s signature comments is that players should stop whining about every call, and that if they say “good call, ref” once in a while, they might get the benefit of the doubt at the end of the game.

On the other hand, if I’m forced to listen to Mark Jackson, I could turn off the sound as I know every comment he will make throughout a game: “Mama, there goes that man,” “Hand down, man down,” etc. The only interesting thing used to be when Jeff Van Gundy would advocate some bizarre rule change and the two of them would get into an argument.

As far as hating Ball, he did reject the invitation to work out for the Celtics, so that is a direct snub. I don’t know enough about Stephens’ schemes to know if he would have been the right fit for a Celtics team starring a guy who needs the ball in his hands at all times like Kyrie Irving. For that same reason, I don’t know if Lebron would be a good fit for the Lakers next year, if he chooses to come.

I think the Celtics had a fantastic draft by choosing Tatum instead of Fultz, Fox, or Jackson. Fultz at best would be a poor man’s Kyrie Irving in a few years, Fox is shooting 3’s WORSE than Lonzo Ball and not tall enough to guard multiple positions, and Jackson looks completely unplayable.

Finally, I did mention that the Celtics with Hayward wouldn’t beat the Warriors. And without him, they probably won’t win the East if the Cavs decide to play defense during the playoffs. You don’t have to be a clown like Barkley to see the writing on the wall.

Footnotes:

*I used to do this to watch Kobe, hoping to see him do something amazing. As he got older, I started noticing all the bad stuff, like not running out to contest an open shooter behind the line, or madly dribbling into double or triple coverage instead of passing to an open teammate. In 2012, he single-handedly lost two fourth quarter leads against the OKC Thunder that would have given the Lakers a 3–2 lead to play game 6 in L.A. Instead, they lost the series in 5 games, and Kobe basically threw his teammates under the bus. This was the point when I stopped being a Kobe fan.)

For the last two years, I focused on one of the young players to see if there was a chance any of them could either become a star, or a solid role player which was why Larry Nance, Jr became my favorite Laker, and why I was so frustrated by Russell and Randle. However, Randle made the jump this year when they turned him into a small ball 5 — he has a better PER rating than currently hyped players like Portland’s Nurkic.

Now I focus on Ball to see if he really is really as bad on defense as his critics say. They are completely wrong. He’s actually a very good team defender, and makes all the plays a guard is supposed to make: running out to contest three point shooters, recognizing the correct rotation, collapsing to the rim after a screen when his man drives, and timing his help defense. That’s why he’s got so many blocks.

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Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at https://guttmanshapiro.com. Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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