The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
Everyone wants to play the Spurs way, with unselfish passers, fluid ball movement, great shooting and a strong bench. What teams either don’t want to or can’t do, as Brian Windhorst pointed out on a recent episode of The Lowe Post, is run their organizations the Spurs way. This excellent column sheds a little bit of light on that side of the team, with details from a variety of different interviews and articles that illuminate what makes playing for the Spurs so wonderful. A picture comes into focus of an organization that legitimately cares about its players, a team that eats dinner together just to chat about their personal lives. That connection, the empathy as Pop calls it, between the players as individuals is what lets them come together as a team. Erler is wrong about one thing, however. Aldridge will truly become a Spur when he appears in his first H-E-B commercial, and not a moment sooner.
After two seasons of watching fringe NBA players attempt to revitalize their careers under the bright lights of Staples Center, the plan for this year was to start building towards the future. To most fans, that meant tons of minutes for potential stars Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo “Voodoo” Russell to learn the game and get comfortable playing together, with Kobe Bryant acting as their mentor and guide. To head coach Byron Scott however, it seems to mean using his proven veterans to make a run at the playoffs, even if that means having Russell come off the bench.
This is obviously a terrible idea; the Lakers would struggle to beat the Sacramento Kings in a seven game series this year; they would be hopelessly outmatched against even the second-tier contenders in the West. One does feel some sympathy for Scott, though. His job is to win basketball games, and there are surely directives to do just that from a Lakers organization anxious to regain its former glory. But when you waive a high-upside player like Robert Upshaw to keep 26-year-old bench celebration MVP Robert Sacre around, it’s hard to feel sorry for you at all.
DeMarcus Cousins has been shooting threes this preseason. It has been fun to watch, because he’s a giant man, and it makes very little sense for him to be that far from the basket. It brings to mind Andrew Bynum chucking from deep with 16 seconds left on the shot clock, or every time he touched the ball in practice with the Cavs. It is also a deeply terrible idea, because as Harper mentions, Boogie’s size and skill make him nigh unstoppable in the paint.
George Karl’s attempts to force Big Cuz towards the perimeter inspired Harper’s piece, but it examines a variety of big men, sorted into tiers named for different types of shooting bigs. There are some odd moments, like the inclusion of Drew Gooden and Charlie “Chunks” Villanueva, but overall his assessments make sense, and make interesting points about how and why players choose to expand their games. Plus, Pau Gasol and Al Horford were sorted into the Rasheed Wallace tier, an enjoyably ironic placement for two of the kindest players in the NBA.
If you read Harper’s piece above, you were probably not surprised to find a tier of shooting dedicated to Josh Smith, with the descriptor “please stop taking those shots.” Smoove has long been a frustrating player, whose poor shot selection and inconsistent effort make it easy to second-guess your team for signing him. If you’re a Clippers fan who watched him shoot you out of the playoffs, the third and fourth guesses come easily as well. This piece dwells on that feeling of doubt and distaste, of having a team you cheer for populated with players you dislike. It’s an interesting exploration of fandom, and the ways in which winning can cure everything. It’s also a little bit misogynistic and tasteless, which unfortunately makes it hard to take what is otherwise a well-written and even funny piece seriously.
The received wisdom on the Boston Celtics right now is that they’re a team of nice pieces, a group of fifth through 10th men with no star to coalesce around, which frankly is a pretty fair assessment. In fact, if you want to make the case against that view of the team, your only real argument is the potential for continued development from second-year point guard Marcus Smart. Early returns on that front look promising. Using a series of gifs from Monday’s game against the Nets, this piece highlights Smart’s improved court vision and passing ability. It also dwells on the sophomore’s newfound ability to moderate his speed and change pace during a play, slowing down to see the floor more clearly before making his move. It was learning this skill that launched John Wall into the ranks of the NBA’s best point guards. While Smart may never reach those lofty heights, this has to be an encouraging sign for Celtics fans.