The Grass Isn’t Always Greener: More Than Just Championships

Thunder Road – Sports Illustrated – Lee Jenkins – May 30, 2016

This article by Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated show’s why Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may stay in Oklahoma City no matter what their fate is this season in their quest to the NBA Championship.

It just goes to show that despite the yearly coaching carousel, the mass exodus by transfers every year in college basketball and NBA free agents bolting for the money, maybe, just maybe, Durant and Westbrook are mature beyond their years.

Sometimes the grass is not always greener and quality of life and building a lasting legacy will mean more down the road.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo





NBA Conference Finals: Open Court

Here are a few thoughts on the NBA Conference Finals:

– Isn’t it amazing how fast momentum can turn in a series? A famous saying in baseball is that “you are only as good as today’s starting pitching”. Maybe basketball’s version should be “you are only as good as you are when you are making shots”.

– All the pressure is now on the Thunder. If they lose game six, all bets are off. Durant and Westbrook could go from dominating a the best regular season team ever in a short series to losing a 3-1 lead in dramatic fashion. If they lose a 3-1 lead, the narrative will certainly change to “still can’t get win the big one” instead of “it’s their time and they are the most explosive duo to possibly ever play together.”

– If you are Coach Billy Donovan, you have to like the effort his team played with in Game 5 last night. It would have been easy for OKC to mail it in and say let’s win Game 6 at home. Instead, even with under a minute left, Westbrook rebounded his own free throw miss and kicked it to Durant who had a clean look at a 3pt shot, which would have cut the lead to a one possession game. It was great to see OKC’s bench reaction to Durant’s miss. They all gave him five and knew they were just a few plays away from stealing the game and closing out the series.

– Why does Draymont Green feel the need to kick everytime he jumps for a rebound/shot?

– The Raptors have been in this situation before. You know after Gam 2 when nobody gave them a chance to win. It should be interesting to see what kind of resolve they come out with tonight at home vs. Cleveland.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Basketball and Technology: A SOLID Bet

Anyone who is watching the Pistons-Cavs series can see that Detroit is competing every possession in this series. They have a solid young nucleus of talent and an experienced coaching staff that the fans of Detroit will be able to support for years to come as the Pistons look to return to their glory days.

Actually, if not for a few clutch shots, a stop here or there and being able to keep their best player, Andre Drummond, on the floor as much as possible, this series could look much different years ahead of schedule.

Most concerning are Drummond’s struggles from the line. Drummond’s free throw line woes (he shot a NBA all-time worse 35.5% from the charity stripe this season) have kept him on the sideline in this series more than Head Coach Stan Van Gundy would like. However, it is not because of SVG’s lack of creativity and coaching approach.

Van Gundy recently used some outside-the-box thinking with Drummond as he turned to SOLIDshot, a high-tech basketball solution company that’s slogan emphasizes: “Instant feedback for instant improvement.” (see Ananth Pandlan CBS Sports article and SOLIDshot video).

Of course if the NBA changes its “Hack-A” rule this offseason, then this change may also be a way for Drummond to see the floor much more. The “Hack-A-Shaq/Drummond/Howard/etc.” strategy has been used more widely (according to the Pistons-Cavs ESPN broadcast last evening) this season and makes for the NBA game almost impossible to watch when the strategy is employed for certain players. Even if there are rule changes, teams may still continue to put Drummond to the line with a less obvious off-the-ball approach if he cannot increase his free throw percentage.

Either way it looks like the SVG and SOLIDshot will be rooting for Drummond’s free throw percentage to improve. If it does, the NBA could see the Pistons rise to the top of the Eastern Conference and SOLIDshot could be a staple in NBA, NCAA and high school gyms across America.

In addition, NBA fans may no longer be subjected to the dreadful march to the free line but instead can watch the game flow as it was intended.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Flying the (Un)Friendly Skies: A Look at NBA Schedule and Injuries

This is a thought provoking piece by Tom Haberstroh regarding travel and rest in the NBA:

Once again, it seems like the Spurs and Pops are smarter than the a majority of the league.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


What Hack-A-Shaq Rules Changes Could Result In

NBA Commissioner wants to make changes to the “Hack-A-Shaq” rule that is plaguing the league this season (see article for Hack-A-Shaq stats and Silver’s direct quote).

Some will applaud the change the game is unwatchable now, while others will say, it’s only happening to a few select players and that they should improve their free throw accuracy.

Either way, I see a few things coming from this:

  1. Coaches will coach “Hack-A-Players” much differently – That is coaches who have these players will not be “afraid” to put them in before the two shot and possession penalty as they currently are.
  2. Players value will increase – Players who are poor free throw shooters but who are great defensively, on the glass, etc. will have an increased value in free agency once again.
  3. Coaches will find a new was to coach versus “Hack-A-Players” – I suggest that NBA coaches will merely be more physical with potential “Hack-A-Players”. That is when they get the ball, they will foul them on the floor hard/more obvious, in order to get a foul called. This could result in more fights and/or ejections, retaliations, etc.

The rules can change, however, Commissioner Silver cannot really take the fouling of bad free throw shooters completely out of the game. Moreover, the results may not be what he intended.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Two Great Reads (Adam Vinatieri & Becky Hammon)

Here are two articles worth reading in the latest Sports Illustrated (12-14-15):

Fossil Fueled – Adam Vinatieri article – Sports Illustrated 12-14-15 – Jack Dickey

Ponytail Express – Becky Hammon – Sports Illustrated 12-14-15 – Alexander Wolff

It is ironic that both reference Rapid City, South Dakota.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

The Big Ticket’s New Role

In the most recent issue of ESPN the Magazine, Jackie MacMullen wrote a piece on Kevin Garnett’s evolving role with the Minnesota Timberwolves   (“The Cruel Tutelage of Kevin Garnett – Jackie MacMullan – ESPN the Magazine – 12-7-15“).

MacMullen shares some great stories to add to the legend of KG and his ultra-intense personality.

Garnett acknowledges that “I don’t mind being the OG (old generation/old guard). It’s what I am. I’m starting to see my purpose. Every day, it’s clearer and clearer to me.”

For Garnett, who hates to even take a practice off (MacMullen shares a GREAT story of Garnett with the Celtics and Doc Rivers threat to him), the change is constant and Garnett is continuing to accept his role and excel in it.

In addition, MacMullen shares maybe the best Garnett quote of all-time: “You can’t teach the beast. It’s either in you or it isn’t. You can’t just go to the store and buy a six-pack of beast. It don’t work like that.”

The biggest thing I took out of this article was that if KG, one of the top 50 players to ever play the game, can take a diminished role on the court for the betterment of his team, then anyone should be able to do this.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo