– Flip Saunders on the importance of screens (from Andy Greder, twincities.com):
– RUDY GOBERT IS REVOLUTIONIZING THE UTAH JAZZ (from Paul Flannery, SBNation):
” Rudy Gobert stands out even in the impossibly strange genetic environment of pro basketball. Listed at 7’2 with a 7’9 wingspan and a preposterous standing reach of 9’7, he appears even taller and longer in person, which is both frightening and fascinating. The fear manifests itself in all the would-be scorers who stay as far away from the paint as possible. What’s fascinating is that like Anthony Davis, young Rudy grew up on the perimeter as a guard.
While not as as skilled as AD, Gobert is a willing and surprisingly deft passer, which suggests that he’s barely scratching the surface of his developing skill set. His length forces even the most graceful opponents into awkward moments of indecision, but Gobert is surprisingly nimble. (He also tried his hand at boxing when he was younger, which helps explain his coordination and tenacity — his “spirit,” as he refers to it. “I had too much energy when I was young,” he says with a laugh.)
A late first-round pick by the Jazz in 2013, he was little more than an occasional League Pass curiosity as a rookie. That changed under first-year coach Quin Snyder, who has plugged him into the rotation. A trade deadline deal that sent Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City opened up a starting spot next to Derrick Favors, and suddenly Gobert became a cornerstone on the league’s most improbable second-half success story.
The numbers are staggering. Utah has the league’s top defense since February, allowing just 95.7 points per 100 possessions according to, shaving almost nine points per 100 possessions from its previous total. Since the Kanter trade, the Jazz have allowed just 89.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a team that ranked dead last defensively the previous season.”
– Defensive improvement now the norm for Jazz (from Jody Genessy, deseretnews.com):
” While they aren’t going to be a rags-to-riches story with a playoff appearance, the Jazz already have reached their wins total from a year ago (25). And there’s still 21 games to go before the 2014-15 regular season ends.
Defensively, the Jazz have gone from being the worst to among the best.
In the past 11 games, Utah has the NBA’s top defense, holding opponents to an average of 91.6 points per 100 possessions. That impressive performance — in a decent sample size, mind you — was impressive enough to be tweeted out by the league’s official statistics Twitter account (@nbastats).
Utah, by the way, is 8-3 during this dazzling defensive stretch.
“We’ve figured out how we want to play on defense, and are we able to do it all the time? No. But we’re approaching that,” Snyder said.
“I think if you asked our players, they know I’m not going to be satisfied with any of it frankly. I feel like that’s what I need to do to keep us improving.”
Snyder doesn’t just want defensive numbers to keep improving.
The first-year Jazz coach wants his players to attack different areas of defense more effectively, try different tactics, such as switching on various pick-and-rolls and utilizing a variety of schemes to throw at offenses.”
– Dante Exum answering questions about his defense (sltrib.com):
” Before Dante Exum heard his name called and walked across the stage at the Barclays Center on draft night, the Utah Jazz front office had questions.
Would he defend?
Could he defend?
“When we watched Dante’s tape before the draft, one of the questions we all had was ‘Can he defend at all?’ ” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said this week. “Because he didn’t. He just kind of hung out.”
Late in Exum’s rookie year, as he returns to the place where he was picked fifth overall last June, the Aussie point guard has done his best to quell those concerns.
“That’s one of his strengths right now,” Snyder said.
(T)here’s a reason the teenager has started 19 straight games for the Jazz, with his 20th likely a matchup against Brooklyn’s Deron Williams on Sunday evening.
“Dante is trying to contribute any way he can,” Snyder said. “He’s figured it out. He knows right now [defense is] something I can do that’s going to get me on the court and is going to help my team.”
– Celtics continue to gel under Brad Stevens (from Marc D’Amico, Celticslife.com):
” Stevens, from day one, has preached playing team basketball, and the players are listening. In the last 15 games, the Celts, who are 9-6 in that span, are averaging 23.7 dimes a game, good for third in the league. On Friday, the green dished out 19 assists.
Watching the Celts, you realize how much these guys enjoy the freedom on the offensive end, a credit to Stevens who never seems to get on his players for their shot attempts.
With 22 games remaining, and every win so crucial during the chase for the playoffs, having a squad who all believe in each other can only help.
The Celts play 12 of their remaining games against teams with losing records, so the wins are there for the taking. You know for sure that Stevens will have his guys ready to play. Stevens’ crew fights hard every night and rarely gets blown out.
Read and view it here: http://www.celticslife.com/2015/03/the-celtics-continue-to-gel-under-brad.html
Film Session with Brad Stevens: Transition Defense (from Abby Chin, csnne.com):
– Pau Gasol: The Indispensable Man (from Sam Smith, bulls.com):
” Gasol is probably the most talented all around center in franchise history and is having one of the best seasons of his career.
He is in the top 25 in scoring at 18.3 per game and in the top five in both rebounding and blocks. He’s first by a wide margin in double/doubles with 41. Call him team MVP, at least. Gasol is even among the league leaders in minutes played, tied for 20th at 34.7 per game. Not being quite sure what it means, but Gasol is doing something of the equivalent of the rarity of shooting your age in golf. He’s playing the same minutes as his age while more than 30 years old. He’s even only about 100 total minutes behind teammate Butler, who leads the NBA in average minutes per game.
And while the statistics are impressive along with one of the best mid range jumpers in the game, Gasol has been a team leader, not only urging the players through tough times but as another coach on the floor with his perceptive view of the game.
The E’Twaun Moore game winner against the Thunder Thursday, one of the highlights of the season, was special not just because of the way Gasol read the defense and made the instant pass for the winning shot. But how it all came about as Gasol has virtually a photographic memory for plays and statistics and basketball geometry.
The Bulls had run that set from coach Tom Thibodeau’s encyclopedia of basketball plays perhaps a month before. It hadn’t worked as the second defender had sagged into Gasol. So afterward as they were discussing the play, Gasol told teammates if they see that play and that formation again, he’ll make the quick touch pass and they’d get an open shot. Fortunately, Moore also is a good listener.”
Read it here: http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/indispensable-man
– Rajon Rondo Q & A (from Marc Spears, Yahoo Sports):
– Players who climb back to NBA have different outlook, says SVG (from Brendan Savage, mlive.com):
” Van Gundy, who has coached three NBA teams in nine seasons, said he’s always found players like (JohnLucas III) and (Quincy) Miller to be more appreciative of their situation once they’ve climbed back to the top of the pro basketball world.
“No question,” Van Gundy said. “I think that they understand really what a privilege it is to play in the league. They’ve got no air of entitlement at all. They’re just happy to be back here or here for the first time. They have a really different mind set.
“We’ve got all good guys to coach. Most guys are good to coach. But they do have a different approach and different attitude and certainly very few complaints from those guys.”
– HASSAN WHITESIDE BRINGING GLAMOUR BACK TO CENTER POSITION (from Shandel Richardson, Sun Sentinel):
QOTD (from Doc Rivers re: the Grizzlies):
“They ain’t playing but one way, and they’ve perfected it. So you have to deal with that. You’re not going to speed them up no matter how hard you try. They don’t care if you run or not. They don’t care what you do, and that’s what makes them good.”
Additional player notes, updates, profiles:
– Jeremy Lin/Jordan Clarkson: http://www.centredaily.com/2015/03/07/4639189_lin-is-overshadowed-as-rookie.html