Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Walton has Lakers Moving in Right Direction

Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t win their fourth game until December, this year, they already have four wins and we’re still in the first week of November. Going in to the season, the Lakers weren’t popular NBA betting picks, but after the 20 point beat down they put on the Golden State Warriors on Friday, that is about to change.

Last year, the Lakers were one of the few teams that defeated the Golden State Warriors. At the time, the win was considered a fluke because the Lakers weren’t very good. This time around, other teams will be taking notice of the young Lakers, who have been one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA so far.

If the Lakers are somehow able to make the playoffs this year, rookie head coach Luke Walton will be the front runner for Coach of the Year.

Last season, the Lakers had an aging Kobe Bryant and rookies DeAngelo Russell and Julius Randle (He played in the first game of the 2014 season before suffering a season ending injury), but head coach Byron Scott deferred to Bryant during his last season in the league, and didn’t give the young players enough time on the court.

With Walton at the help and Bryant in retirement, the Lakers have embraced their youthfulness and are starting to have fun again. During the offseason, the Lakers also added veteran leadership by signing Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, and Metta World Peace, who have proven to be instrumental in helping the younger players adjust to life in the NBA.

Further proof of the new philosophy in Laker land is the transformation of Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who was one of the worst players on the team last year, but is now one of the best players on the team this year. Young, who was more into creating his own brand than playing well, had become a defensive force for the Lakers, and the team is hoping his play continues through the rest of the season.

Lou Williams, who was one of the odd men out last season, has also improved his play under Walton’s leadership this season.

Julius Randle, who was benched multiple times last season by Scott for not putting in a lot of effort on defense, has been one of the most improved players for the Lakers this season. He is currently averaging a double double and has improved defensively.

With the new look Lakers playing well under their rookie head coach, they are quickly becoming one of the teams to look out for in the future. While a lot of people are overreacting to their early success, they have to realize it is still very early in the season and the team is likely not going to finish better than 9th in the Western Conference.

However, from what we have seen from the team in their first seven games, Walton has them moving in the right direction, which is a big deal for Lakers fans because the franchise hasn’t had a stretch this bad since becoming an NBA team.

One thing is for sure, the future of the franchise is looking very bright.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Finding Solace In the Off-Season

Basketball hoop and net. Photo by Eric Wong
When there's no basketball to watch, what can you do? Get out on the court and make your own game! Get into your local gym, work on your game and play pickup.

The doldrums of the off-season are tough. There's nothing to watch, not much being talked about in the basketball world. Though the game never stops, everyone's working hard in the summer and it's imperative that you do the same!

Think of it like a summer cleanse, except you can make it a habit in the season too! Play ball at least three times a week during the season and five times a week in the off-season.

Your body will thank you and you'll forget how boring the off-season can be.

Just hearing the ball bounce and go through the net is so refreshing in itself. Eventually, as you progress, you can play (and hopefully beat) other players! It's fun, competitive and a truly indescribable expression of athleticism.

So, what are you waiting for? Go out to your local court and play basketball!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

USA Blows Out Serbia, Wins Gold

USA blew out Serbia to win Olympic gold! The US came out determined, made Serbia look like a minor league team and got it done. Serbia couldn't get anything going offensively; missing 20 three point shots and only getting nine points out of Milos Teodisic.

Hats off to the US! Kevin Durant was the major catalyst in this game. Durant finished with 30 points and hit five of 11 three's. Klay Thompson made some shots, but the MVP of this ball game by far was KD. When they needed that extra go ahead bucket, Durant nailed them.

Congrats to Serbia too! To grab a silver medal and make it all the way to the gold medal game was amazing for them. They are well coached and need some athletic scorers, but the convincing win against Australia was a joy to watch.

USA won, KD got the gold, but will he get a ring come October 2017?!?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Serbia Blows Out Australia Rio Olympics

Serbia destroyed Australia 87-61 to advance to the gold medal game. Serbia shut down Australia right from the start; they played intense defense, fundamentally sound offense and Miloš Teodosić made many timely jumpers. No one thought Serbia would take down Australia in this fashion, but Serbia came in with a game plan, executed and made it look easy.

Serbia showed how entertaining fundamental basketball can be. They moved without the ball, rotated on defense and played as close to perfect as you can get. Now the question is can Serbia put together another amazing performance against the US? Additionally, can Australia shake the disappointment of this loss and beat Spain for bronze?

Both questions will be answered Sunday. Hats off to Serbia, it was a pleasure to watch a tactically and fundamentally sound team make things happen.

USA Beats Spain, Advances to Gold Medal Game

USA beat Spain 82-76 to advance to the gold medal game. USA didn't play particularly well, continuity was again lacking, but DeAndre Jordan shined defensively (16 boards and 4 blocks) and Team USA pulled out a victory. Pau Gasol was solid for Spain, but Nikola Mirotic only chipped in seven points and was plagued by foul trouble.

The pace favored Spain throughout the game. Spain forced their pace on the US by fouling after misses and playing halfcourt offense. Every team the US has faced has lost, but if Team USA wants to blowout teams (like they did Argentina), they need to force an uptempo pace.

The winner of Australia versus Serbia will play for the gold against the USA. Australia played the US earlier in the tournament, losing by 10. Australia would be the more fun, start studded match-up, but either way, we've got more amazing international basketball to look forward to!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Team USA Must Set the Tone Against Spain

Team USA has a big showdown with Spain tomorrow afternoon (2:30 Eastern time to be exact!). Team USA is coming off of a big 105-78 victory over Argentina. What does Team USA need to fix after winning by 27?

Team USA simply needs to come out much stronger. Set the tone, lead, rather than follow the tone Spain will try to set. Spain is coming away from a big 92-67 win over France. Remember that France gave Team USA a battle in group play, losing only by three (without Tony Parker playing!).

How Team USA plays in the first quarter will dictate how the game will go. If Team USA gets in the head of their opponents early, you can just hand Team USA the gold. It's win or go without the gold now, so Spain will come out with a sense of urgency. Will Team USA be up from the get go?

They ought to be, if they want the gold. Moving the ball more offensively would really help. The ball movement has been porous at times and while the spacing has been solid, the flow to Team USA's offense is lacking. Off the ball movement will be imperative too. Getting Klay Thompson moving and setting off the ball screens (back screens) would be awesome.

Another factor is defending Spain's front-line. Pau Gasol is bound to want go off in this game (especially after his 5 point flop against France) and DeAndre Jordan's response (along with
DeMarcus Cousins) will be crucial.

Team USA has quite the task with Spain. Spain is long, athletic and they spread the floor. Team USA is stacked and should be able to meet them head on. That being said, talent doesn't trump hustle. Team USA needs to bring the intangibles from the get go. Dive for 50-50 balls, play aggressive defense and get in the heads of Spain.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rio Basketball 2016: How France Can Beat USA

France and team USA face off tomorrow afternoon. How can France defeat the US?

Watch the video for some analysis:

Let's hope for a terrific game and may the best team win!

Néstor Colmenares Shows Potential

Néstor Colmenares showed potential to be a solid backup player in France's blowout win over Venezuela. While the Venezuelan offensive execution was porous most of the time (that's why they lost by 40!), Colmenares proved he can get shots off quickly in the paint and use his athleticism to make great plays on defense. Néstor Colmenares also has quick hands and when he drives right, he finishes with ease. Does he have a lot to work on? Yep, like all players, Colmenares is no different.

Néstor Colmenares needs to expand his offensive repertoire. Mid range jump shoots, floaters off the dribble and better footwork would propel his scoring output. Colmenares is already a great back to the basket finisher, despite how small he seems on the court (he is 6' 8" but plays smaller).

Defensively, Néstor Colmenares isn't bad at all. While defending NBA players could be difficult initially, when you talk about size, strength and quickness all in one player, Colmenares is strong, but lateral quickness is something he needs to work on.

Néstor Colmenares is a solid 28 year old talent. Could he do a ton in the NBA? It remains to be seen. Does Colmenares have the potential and time to become a great backup? Most likely. Use the time and ability you have, Néstor Colmenares! Most people would beg for Néstor Colmenares' skill-set.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Phil Jackson's Concentric Three Point Line Idea

Phil Jackson photo by Keith Allison on Flickr
Phil Jackson was interviewed on Today's Fastbreak and among many other intriguing insights, he talked about a concentric three point line (a three point circular arc, having the same distance all around). This is a great idea!

Here's exactly how Phil Jackson put it:
The court should also be widened so that the three-point arc would be concentric, and players wouldn’t be stepping out of bounds so much when looking to shoot treys from the corner.
Phil Jackson would like to see the court lengthened by 10 feet too, which bails players out, but the idea of having a consistently deep three point arc is gold. Keeping the arc the same distance gives players a better idea of where to shot from (less checking their feet) and allows referees to more easily call the game.

Let's make the three point arc concentric! Widen the court a wee bit and let the three point shot be more easily integrated into the game. Phil Jackson may even throw on some sneakers and nail a three; when the arc is concentric!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Give LeBron, Cavs Credit

As hard it was to write the title to this post, LeBron James and the Cavs deserve a tip of the hat for winning the Cavs first NBA championship. While there's a slew of excuses Warrior fans will come up with for why they lost, at the end of game seven the Cavs took it all and for Golden State, it's time to regroup this off season and come back better than ever.

While overall LeBron winning the Finals MVP made sense, it was surprising to hear no one bothered giving Kyrie Irving a vote. Kyrie Irving was the most consistent offense assassin for the Cavs, could create his own shot at will and Kyrie never shied away from taking and making clutch shots. LeBron was much more multifaceted, making a more noticeable defensive impact, but his jump shot was only consistent for two (maybe three) games. Either way, the final decision stands, but to say Kyrie Irving was anything but fantastic is a misnomer.

Congrats again to Cleveland, Ohio, LeBron and the whole Cavs organization. It was an entertaining series, someone had to lose, but adversity and momentary discomfort is the only way to truly transform and grow. The Warriors are planting next seasons seeds now and their organization is full of extraordinary gardeners!