Month: April 2014

Rusty Larue on Role Playing (no double entendre)

I came across and excellent post today from former Wake Forest player, Rusty Larue, that wonderfully articulates a subject upon which I have been thinking recently.  With all credit to him, please enjoy:

“One of the biggest factors for basketball players finding success when they move up from high school to college or college to pro is their ability to adapt and adjust their roles. As players go from being the star player in high school or college to having a limited or different role at the next level, the guys who understand the transition and adapt are the ones who succeed.

There are very few players who get to go from one level to the next without changing their role. The Lebrons and Durants of the world are so talented that they are the man at every level. But most players have to figure out what role they will fill and often it is vastly different from what they are used to. I have seen players throughout my career who were big time talents in college never make it in the NBA. Why? Because they were used to that role and could not or would not change their game to fill a certain need. I played with and against some great players in the minor leagues and overseas who probably were good enough to be in the NBA. They chose to go play at a level that did not require them to adapt their role or at least only required minor changes.

The same thing is happening today at the college level and in my opinion is why we have so many transfers. It is easier to switch schools and try to find somewhere that allows you to stay in your comfort zone instead of changing your role to fit what the team needs. I was not a starter in college until my senior year at Wake Forest. My role on the team grew every year, primarily because I accepted my given role and tried to excel in it. A piece of advice to all the players out there, embrace the role you are given. By doing so you will not only get more playing time, but you will earn the trust of the coach and your role will grow. And if you work hard enough you may actually get the role you wanted in the first place.”

Are You Helping the Cause?

I am coaching two AAU basketball teams this Spring, and I did not have any input in selecting the players for either team.  The reality is that each team has a 6 or 7 player core that can function at a certain level of play.  The remaining 4 or 5 players on each roster are clearly below that threshold level of play. Between tournaments and a local league, we will play a lot of basketball, and some of these games will not be particularly competitive enabling everyone to play significant minutes.

The problem is in competitive games where many of the bench players are incapable of having a positive impact on the game.  The opponent and circumstances of each game impose demands upon a team that must be addressed for the team to competitively function.  All too often this Spring, I have looked down at the eager faces on my bench,  and felt this or that particular player cannot help the cause.  It is undoubtedly frustrating on both ends as I have no doubt that every player on both teams believes themself capable of making a play, and they are likely capable of doing so, but my concern is broader than just a fortuitous play and encompasses how the team functions as a five person unit.

First, a player must be able to defend someone on the floor or properly execute a defensive scheme.  If not, you are willingly submitting your team to play with a competitive disadvantage.

Second, a player must offer some valued skill that facilitates offensive execution.  This is not necessarily scoring, and can come in the form of ball handling, passing, screening, cutting and/or offensive rebounding.

There is the annoying, simplistic cliche that playing time is earned in practice.  This holds true in situations where the roster is balanced from top to bottom, but where the roster is out of balance, it is an issue of player development and ultimately commitment level. 

Players do not develop in two hour practice increments over the course of a Spring.  They develop over hundreds of hours invested over time, and not just idle hours of mindless repetition, but hours spent outside the envelope of their comfort building skills they do not possess and do not come easily to them.

A Distressing Note on Lebron James and Roy Hibbert

Through the virtues of NBA League Pass, I have watched a tremendous amount of Miami Heat basketball over the last two months, and I am concerned.  The supporting cast as it exists is what it is, and the only question of significance is how much quality basketball D-Wade will provide in the playoffs.  My concern is with Lebron James.

He appears to be laboring under the astounding work load he carries for the Heat.  Defensively, and this may be entirely related to coasting, he is not the lockdown force we have seen in other playoff runs.  He is by no means a liability, but his ability to shut down the likes of Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Paul George on command gave the Heat a decisive advantage in the vital closing minutes of playoff games.  Too many times in recent weeks, he has beem scored on in  fourth quarter one on one situations.

Secondly, James jump shot shows up every third or fourth game.  This is critical because a reliable jumper creates easy points (less wear and tear), and does not allow teams to play as much sagging defense.   The obvious lack of confidence has made James a ball stopper on offense and drawn the Heat into some ugly sub-100 point games highlighted by significant scoring droughts.   These droughts have cost the Heat some wins, and made several games uncomfortably close.

In the playoffs,  James must move the ball quicker, and spend more possessions in the post or off the ball as a screener/cutter.  This will create more easy baskets and keep the component parts of the Heat attack engaged and potent.

The Heat will not fall to the Pacers with Roy Hibbert in current form.  Hibbert was anonymous in this week’s 12 point loss to the Heat, as he was in the Heat’s other regular season win over Indiana.  In the match up of these two teams, Hibbert is decisive.  When playing well, his rim protection and post offense are a mismatch the Heat are ill-equipped to offset, but when Hibbert is hibernating, the balance tips substantially in favor of the Heat.