picketfence

Note: This column was written before any of the first second round games had been played.

One round down and three more to go.

I absolutely love the playoffs. All my best NBA memories come from the playoffs. There’s nothing else in basketball like it. Purists bemoan the lack of team game in the NBA, the way the league can reward selfish play, how too many players mail it in during regular season games. It’s true. I can sometimes get bored watching regular season games where the players don’t seem to have much more of a stake in who wins than I do.

But the NBA playoffs is usually better basketball than you’ll see anywhere, including March Madness (that’s another column).

Even though the Raptors didn’t make it to the real NBA season, that doesn’t mean Raptor fans shouldn’t watch. The playoffs are not only a hell of a lot more fun to watch than the majority of the 82 Raptor games we had to slog through, there’s a lot you can learn from watching them. Here is a list of what I’ve learned (or had confirmed):

THE SPURS ARE BUILT FOR THE PLAYOFFS

I’m in awe of the Spurs organization. I will fully admit it. There was a time when I would predict the Spurs would win the title and be right half of the time.

Some background.

For twelve years, ever since Tim Duncan came on board, the Spurs were in the top 3 in the league in defense. Then, due to an aging core and lack of good defenders, their defense slowly fell out of the top 3, then top 5, then top 10. Last season, The Spurs ranked 11th defensively, allowing 100.6 points per 100 possessions.

Meanwhile, to compensate, they increased their offensive efficiency until, last year, they became the most offensively efficient team of the league, up from 14th when they won their last title.

Gregg Popovich, however, realized that if they truly wanted to have a chance at another title, they needed to improve their defense. Of the last 22 teams that won a title, only one, the Dallas Mavericks, wasn’t in the top 10 defensively during the regular season (read this article for more details on what they felt they needed to improve and why).

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While they did come into the season with more of a focus on improving certain things to help their defense, what I think changed the complexion of the team defensively was when Tiago Splitter was permanently inserted into the starting lineup in the middle of December. That’s when the Spurs’ defense really started clicking. Splitter is a much better interior defender than both Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair, who saw his playing time plummet after the demotion.

When Duncan and Splitter are on the floor together, the Spurs have easily the stingiest defense in the league. And to make matters worse for the rest of the league, they kept their offensive efficiency up so that, at one point before injuries hit, they had the best offense AND the best defense in the league.

Watching the Spurs dismantle the Lakers was a thing of beauty (unless you’re a Lakers fan), but what may have been most impressive was how they didn’t let up in game four when they easily could have.

The Spurs never let the Lakers have a chance to think they could win the game. They came out of the gate playing hard and won every quarter. When a team has easily won the first three games, it’s close-out games like this that are a good indicator just what kind of team they are. The Knicks came out in game four against Boston lethargic and looking like a team that believed they had already wrapped up the game and the series. And then they went on to lose the next two.

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And that’s why the Knicks should never have been considered a contender.

The Spurs, though, are the league’s best chance to beat the Heat in the Finals. Not only is their offense the most efficient and beautifully designed, and their defense one of the stingiest, what their close-out game against the Lakers showed is that they are professionals who take their job seriously.

Before the start of game four, Kenny Smith said that Gregg Popovich wouldn’t have to tell his players to play hard. That they just would. And that’s why the Spurs would win game four, which they obviously did. Smith was basically saying that the Spurs players were all self-motivating, so there was no need to have to try and motivate them.

Getting back to the Raptors, how many times have we read that if only this player were motivated or that player were motivated, then the Raptors would be better. The trick is not to motivate the players on your team. The trick is to have players you don’t actually need to motivate.

THE NUGGETS WERE NOT BUILT FOR THE PLAYOFFS

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The Denver Nuggets won an astounding 57 games with a roster of players that didn’t include one player who made the All Star team (although to be fair, Andre Iguodala is a former All-Star and Ty Lawson will probably end up becoming one). and without a top 5 draft pick. The Nuggets were the shining example for fans of all those teams that didn’t have an elite player, but still wanted a great team.

George Karl deserves a lot of the credit for the Nuggets vastly overachieving during the regular season. He maximized the team’s strengths and minimized it’s weaknesses. The team had very little interior scoring, and few good outside shooters, which would normally be a recipe for disaster in the NBA, but Karl realized he also had an athletic roster, one of the fastest point guards in the league and an undersized power forward with boundless energy.

Unlike a lot of teams that try to run, the Nuggets still played good defense (finishing 11th in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions and 11th in opponent field goal percentage), anchored by their best defensive player, Iguodala. The fact that they gave up the the 7th most points per game in the league is deceiving, since they also scored the most points per game in the league. One of the things that made them successful, though, was the fact that they took an amazing 43% of their shots at the rim, shooting 66.4% there. They were took more shots at the rim than any other team and had the 8th best shooting percentage from that range.

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The team that shot the next most shots at the rim, the Houston Rockets, shot 37% of their shots there and shots 64.8% there, which was 14th in the league.

If you can play some defense, and can shoot that many shots at the rim, shooting that high a percentage, you’re going to be successful in the regular season.

But then came the playoffs.

While everyone loved the Nuggets during the regular season, there were questions about how they would perform in the playoffs. Nuggets general manager, Masai Ujiri, even stated outright that despite winning 57 games, the Nuggets weren’t contenders. And he was right.

The Nuggets have three major weaknesses that would come back to haunt them in the first round against Golden State. They can’t shoot from the three (25th in the league in 3 point percentage), they can’t defend the three (11th in the league in percentage allowed, but first in the league in 3 pointers allowed) and they have no one who can score in the paint in a half court set. Those three are all killers in the playoffs.

Golden State shot 40% from behind the arc as a team. Plus, they had one thing the Nuggets didn’t have. An elite player.

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When the chips were down, the best shooter in the league today, Stephen Curry, was able to hit the big shots for the Warriors, whereas the Nuggets by-committee play meant that no single person was expected to step up and no one really did.

No one should blame George Karl for failing to get a 57 win team past the first round of the playoffs (too much- I think he definitely got out-coached by Mark Jackson), because that’s not what they were built for. If Denver had played a team that would have slowed the pace down, the results would probably have been even worse. The only reason the Nuggets even had a chance against the Warriors is because the Warriors like to run, as well.

ANDREW BOGUT IS MORE VALUABLE THAN DAVID LEE

When David Lee went down with a hip flexor injury in game one against the Nuggets, it was definitely a disappointment. Lee was in his 8th season and was playing in the playoff for the first time in his career. Lee was having probably the most satisfying season of his NBA career, up until then. He was on the best team he’d ever been on, and made the All Star game for the second time. He’s an incredibly hard worker, scored 20 or more points forty times, during the season, and led the league in double doubles.

But David Lee is a horrible defender.

How bad? Watch this:

That’s right. Opposing players actually shoot BETTER at the rim when Lee is defending.

That’s why the Warriors traded for an injured Andrew Bogut last year, despite the fact that he had only two seasons where he played more than 69, and had two where he missed more games than he played. The fact is, he’s a very good interior defender and fundamentally sound big man who rebounds, passes, can shoot from outside and score in the post when needed.

In game six against the Nuggets, he scored 14 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked 4 shots, plugging up the paint and preventing the Denver players from scoring where they love to most, at the rim.

Bogut’s importance to Golden State getting to the second round highlights my theory that, despite the way the NBA has changed, having a good two-way center is still very important in the NBA.

It’s highly unlikely that Golden State gets past the Spurs, but Bogut is only 28 years old and is one of the keys as to whether or not the Warriors can build on their playoff success. If he can stay healthy and be somewhere close to the player he was in 2010, then Golden State has a legitimate chance to become a real contender.

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This is, once again, why Jonas Valanciunas is so important to the Raptors’ future. Now if only they can find someone at least as good as Curry to play alongside him.

YOUTH IS NICE, BUT VETERANS WIN

Anyone who watched the last few minutes of game six of the Warriors-Nuggets game saw what happens when you have too much youth on the floor in clutch situations. The Warrior players were basically handing the ball to Denver on offense, and the Nugget players seemed to completely forget how bad they are at shooting threes. There were more bad decisions made in in the last two minutes than during an Amanda Bynes Twitter session.

The only player on either team who didn’t play poorly was Iguodala, who was one of the few players on the floor that had been in big playoff games before. It was as if neither team wanted to win, and were begging the other team to take the game.

On a side note, I understand keeping Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the floor at the end, since they are the “greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the NBA“, but why on earth would Mark Jackson leave the rookie Draymond Green out there, especially to throw an inbound pass in the dying seconds with Denver trying to smother every Warrior player? It’s not as if Golden State didn’t have some veterans on the bench who probably wouldn’t have wilted under the pressure. There’s giving your guys experience and then there’s hanging the team out to dry at the worst time. They were lucky. If they had been playing the Spurs, San Antonio would have wiped the floor with them in those last two minutes.

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I’ve always said the difference between a good team and a bad team is what they do in the last few minutes of a ball game. That’s why coaches tend to play veterans over young players, even when it seems to make no sense (cough*Casey*cough).  They know that veterans tend to make better decisions than young players in the clutch.

Note to self: Figure out a way to determine how well veterans play in the clutch versus players with less experience.

The Raptors are a young team, but not that young. Both Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry have been in the league 7 years, now, and Amir Johnson just finished his eighth. The Houston Rockets they are not. Yes, Valanciunas was a rookie, and DeRozan just completed his fourth season, but I wouldn’t put too much weight on the idea the Raptors lost because they were too young. Adding more veterans to the team might certainly help, but doing that just to get into the playoffs doesn’t leave you many options to improve once you get there.

MAKING THE PLAYOFFS DOESN’T MAKE PEOPLE CARE ABOUT YOU

There is a line of thinking among some Raptor fans that if only they’d make the playoffs, they’d start getting attention outside of Canada and garner respect around the league. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

Case in point, the Pacers-Hawks series.

If you watched that playoff series, then kudos to you, because you were one of the few outside of Indianapolis and Atlanta who did. And quite frankly, given the fact that they were the only playoff teams to finish in the bottom third in attendance, you were one of the few, including those in Atlanta and Indianapolis. And the Pacers are a good bet to get to the Conference Finals.

The Hawks won 44 games to make the playoffs for the 6th year in a row, have one of the best, all around big men in the league, in perennial All Star Al Horford, and will have more cap room than any other team in the league this summer. But no one cares about the Hawks. They’ll get in the news as one of the teams that went after, and failed to get, Dwight Howard, but then they’ll probably end up overpaying someone like Al Jefferson or Brandon Jennings, or simply re-sign Josh Smith for way too much money, and go back to being a mediocre team no one pays attention to.

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Of course, if the Raptors had snuck into the playoffs, they most likely would have taken Milwaukee’s place as chum for the Miami Heat. Miami swept the Bucks, beating them by an average of 15 points over the four games. Let’s not forget that Milwaukee beat the Raptors in all three games they played against them. They have apparently the best interior defender in the league (see the video above), a “dynamic” backcourt, and the average age of their starting five is just 25 years old.

And nobody cares or talks about them.

And neither team is a place where free agents are lining up to go.

And no one is betting against either team falling into the lottery next year.

So while making the playoffs is nice, the whole “creating a winning culture” thing is overrated when you don’t have the talent to actually do something other than just make the playoffs year after year.

THE NETS ARE IN TROUBLE

Before the trade deadline in 2011, the Nets surprised the rest of the league when they traded Deron Williams, who most people didn’t even realize was available. Elite players like Williams are such a rare commodity that the Nets were willing to gut their team in order to acquire him. They traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, their 3rd pick, which turned out to be Enes Kanter, and a future first rounder for him.

While neither Favors or Kanter have set the league on fire, yet, they are both considered two of the leagues better up-and-coming big men. In fact, Bill Simmons had them 41st and 45th on his Top 50 Trade Value list. Deron Williams was just four spots better than Favors, on the same list, at 37th. I will admit that’s probably not the best way to argue a player’s worth, but the fact is that if you offer Williams or one of those two bigs to every team in the league, I’m guessing more than a few would pass on Williams and go for either Favors or Kanter. If you give them a choice between BOTH big men or Williams, I don’t know if there’s a team in the league that wouldn’t take the young big men. Including New Jersey.

Williams is still an elite player, but he has more than $80 million coming to him over the next four years. And there’s always the question of whether or not he can remain healthy. Even at his healthiest, he’s not the best defender in the league. When he’s hurt, which he has been for most of his time with the Nets, he’s a veritable sieve.

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And you’d hope that when you pay him the kind of money he’s making, that he can help take the team past the first round.

But then you add Gerald Wallace, who the Nets gave up the 6th pick in the 2012 draft, which ended up being Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. By the time the Nets traded for Wallace, his game, dependant almost entirely on his athletic ability, was already on the decline. This year, his game fell off a cliff. He averaged 7.7 ppg on .397 shooting (.282 from three). Oh, and he’s still owed more than $30 million over the next three years.

When the Nets traded for Joe Johnson, this summer, they basically went all in on acquiring massively overpriced, declining talent. And he rewarded them with his worst season in more than a decade. And he has $69 million owed to him over the next three years.

By the way, Billy King, the Nets GM, just got a four year extension.

The Nets situation is a great one to look at, if you’re a Raptors’ fan. A lot of fans feel that the team can trade for an elite player, but just look at the Nets. Actually look at the 76ers and Lakers, as well. All three paid a high price to acquire their elite players (Williams, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum) and not one of them have had much success with them.

Trading away lottery picks in order to win now can also backfire. At this point, it seems like the Raptors didn’t give up a Damian Lillard for Kyle Lowry, but we won’t know what the final result will be for a few years.

And lastly, the Nets skyrocketing payroll should be a huge warning to the Raptors. Just because you spend the money doesn’t mean it will help you win. You need to spend the money wisely.

Let’s hope MLSE doesn’t make the same mistake the Nets did when they extended King.

PREDICTIONS FOR THE SECOND ROUND

Miami vs Chicago: Miami in five

By stopping the behemoth that was the Miami Heat during their win streak, the Bulls, even with Derrick Rose, showed that they matchup well against the Heat. But the Bulls probably won’t win more than one game against a Heat team that has been dominant all season.

Indiana vs New York: Indiana in six

New York has home court advantage, but Indiana has to be the favourite. The Pacers feature the league’s stingiest defense, allowing just 99.8 points per 100 possessions and should be able to control New York’s isolation driven offense. Indiana’s offense, though, is inconsistent, at best, and if David West doesn’t have a good series, the Pacers might be in trouble.

Oklahoma vs Memphis: Memphis in seven

While Russell Westbrook is a flawed player who can hurt the Thunder almost as much as he helps them, you can’t go from Westbrook to Reggie Jackson and expect to weather Westbrook’s injury well. Without Westbrook, Scott Brook’s rather rudimentary offense has been exposed and Memphis’ defense will give them fits. Oklahoma could still win the series, but someone other than Kevin Durant is going to have to come up big.

San Antonio vs Golden State: San Antonio in four

As I said earlier, if Golden State had played like they did in the final minutes of game six in the first round against the Spurs, San Antonio would have made them pay dearly. Golden State is definitely a team on the rise and one to watch for, but San Antonio is playing some of their best ball since they last won a title and mistakes are few and far between with this team. If Stephen Curry gets hot, they might be able to sneak a win in, but even that is unlikely.

  • smh

    Makes me wonder why Atlanta or Milwaukee even have teams. Too bad they are Easter teams, as it’d be nice to see ’em move to Seattle–Vancouver.

    Is it going to be Spurs vs Heat in the finals? Is this the last chance for these current Spurs?

    • ezz_bee

      People have been saying that for the last 4 years… so no. This is not the “last chance” for these current spurs.

    • WhiteVegas

      Atlanta is a huge media market (Turner everything is located there), so the NBA needs to have a team there. Unfortunately, Atlanta is mainly full of people who didn’t grow up there, and have an affection for a different team. It’s not just the Hawks though, even the Braves struggle with attendance, and they have been contenders for what, the past 25 years? The only games the Braves sell out are against the Mets, Red Sox, or Yankees, and the stadium is full of fans of the other team. It’s the same at Hawks games. No one followed the Thrashers so they lost the team. ATL just has shitty fans for the most part, with a tiny minority of super fans.

  • raptorspoo

    These playoffs makes me think how I would rather have some of these players that are not suppose to be as important to their teams as the players we put so much importance on.

    Take for example Jimmy Bulter vs DD. Last pick of the first round! I would take Bulter in a heartbeat over DD. He can defend, can score with the best of them, can shoot 3s! and he plays like he gives a dang.

    Nate Robinson is the PG that we want Lowry to be.

    and so on and so on. This is depressing…

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I don’t think you’re the only one who would take Butler over DeRozan. DeRozan is a better scorer, but Butler’s the type that fits better on a good team.

      As for Nate, he always goes through periods when he plays out of his mind. I recall him doing it in New York, then became a free agent and didn’t find a lot of takers.

  • raptorspoo

    As much as I love the Spurs and what they’ve done, I think Memphis is going to run them over with their youth and their bigs.

    If Bulls can get Deng and Hinrich back for game 3 then I going to make a bold prediction and say Bulls win this series by bullying Miami non-stop until Lebron starts crying – like when they broke their streak. The refs were calling touch fouls (which favors the soft Heat) for game 2 cause they were in Miami but it’ll change once they’re back in Chicago. If the refs let the boyz play then Miami’s done.

    I say a Memphis Chicago (Indiana, if Chicago can’t last with all the injuries) final.

    • theswirsky

      bullying Miami until Lebron starts crying? what? You don’t try to ‘bully’ players like Lebron – thats like cornering a bull and poking it with a stick. Nothing good can come from it.

      The best hope is to play defense but let him get comfortable. He has shown what he is capable of when people get him fired up. And nothing good can come from it for everyone else in the league.

      • raptorspoo

        Lebron’s a big muscular baby. They need Boozer to get rough with him again. As big as Lebron is, he’d avoid the paint if it was old school cause he can’t take hard fouls. Mind you, there aren’t many in the league that could give a foul considered hard to Lebron as he does shrug most of it off with his size, BUT when he does come across someone who can rough him up he starts whinning.

        He’ll have to take abuse from Boozer/Noah, Hansborough/Hibbert and Randolph/Gasol to win it all – if my predictions are correct, and if Miami even gets that far. Not sure he can handle it emotionally.

        • SR

          raptorspoo: Your comment wins today’s Out to Lunch award. Congratulations.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I was tempted to change my prediction about the Spurs after their overtime win against Golden State. And now the series is even. While Duncan and Ginobili are definitely past their prime, no one else on the roster is.

      • raptorspoo

        I would include Parker to that. Not that he’s that old but he plays a young mans game. But I do love that game of his.

      • ItsAboutFun

        ….

    • c_bcm

      I’d love to see Indiana win it all. Mostly fore nostalgia sake. I’m a huge Reggie Miller fan-boy and feel that he was robbed of his one and only chance to win it all when is team-mates went berserk at the Palace.

      These are certainly not the “sexy” picks that everyone else is making, but anything can happen in the playoffs.

  • Big_chris1

    If Westbrook was healthy, he trample your theories and Spurs with his young legs. He’s as flawed as a superstar can be… But he helps a team way more than hurts it.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I never said westbrook hurts the team more than he helps. Quite the opposite. But his decision-making really hurts the Thunder, and the playoffs, that can be a killer.

  • vino

    “Getting back to the Raptors, how many times have we read that if only
    this player were motivated or that player were motivated, then the
    Raptors would be better. The trick is not to motivate the players on
    your team. The trick is to have players you don’t actually need to
    motivate.”

    I’d love to pick this article apart – just no time these days… I will make just one comment regarding this paragraph:

    look at three players from these playoffs: Jack, Belinelli, Bayless. All three perform better than in their days with the Raps. Still think there is nothing to do with motivating? Or coaching? Look at the Bulls roster and tell me how they beat the Heat on the road in the first game? Don’t bring up the second game and the more than likely outcome of this series… just look at this one game alone for the sake of this argument. As for the comment of Butler versus DD – I’d be very curious to see what DD can do on this Bulls roster in this Thibs system versus Butler on the Raps roster under Casey. Just gonna leave you with that. Oh, and Mark Jackson is fcucking awesome! He’s got the guts to remain with one time out with more that 6 min to go under Spurs come back similar to game one… he’s for real, and his players love him!

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Neither Jack nor Bayless have ever had motivational issues. In fact, I don’t think either player’s tenure with the Raptors would be considered all that disappointing, quite frankly. Their biggest problem was both still felt they should be starting PGs in the league. I think a lack of defined role could definitely be pointed to as an issue.

      As for Belinelli, I’ve already gone on record saying I would have preferred the Raptors keep him.

      I’m not sure why you say I don’t think coaching doesn’t make a difference. I was speaking specifically about motivating players and the fact that the Spurs don’t get players that need to be motivated. They get self-motivating players so the coach can focus on the things that win games.

      • vino

        “Their biggest problem was both still felt they should be starting PGs
        in the league. I think a lack of defined role could definitely be
        pointed to as an issue.”

        1. regarding the first sentence – yes, and rightfully so! why the hell not?! If you were Jack or Bayless wouldn’t you feel you should start over Calderon??

        2. second sentence – yes, but defined role is only part of it… the system as a whole and coaching in every aspect if the big picture.

        it not about the Raps keeping Belinelli (or Jack/Bayless for that matter)… as I am sure they’d perform exactly as the did with us (not progress/develop further); it’s about building a system where the sum of the parts is bigger than individual talent level of its players

        • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

          One of the most underrated elements to a successful NBA career is understanding your role. Neither Jack or Bayless were better PGs than Calderon and both are more valuable as guards off the bench that can come in and play the 1 or 2.

          As for a system, I think it’s an incredibly important part of a successful franchise. I think you need the right people (coaching staff and management) in place first, though.

          • vino

            I think you’re missing the point. I did not propose that either one of the two were better; and I agreed with the notion that a defined role is important. I simply pointed out that both players, as many other borderline starters on other teams, desire to become better and in doing so sometimes over-value themselves – nothing’s wrong with that. It’s the coach/system task at that point to bring the best out of those border line starters – as we see with the Bulls, the Grizz and the Warriors.

            • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

              Players tend to help the team more when they play their role, instead of striving to be more. Otherwise, it seems we agree.

  • ItsAboutFun

    “Note: This column was written before any of the first round games had been played.”

    I assume you meant to say “second round”, as you speak of the first round play quite a bit.

    Otherwise, hahaa, this article may have been more aptly titled “How I can use the playoffs (so far) to re-hash cheap shots at the Raptors”.

    I’m not clear on how anything about this year’s playoffs can teach anybody new “lessons” about the Raps, but what the heck is new about “lessons” learned regarding:

    “THE SPURS ARE BUILT FOR THE PLAYOFFS”

    These playoffs are a such a revelation? Really? This wasn’t learned over the previous 15 years of TD and supporting cast?

    “THE NUGGETS WERE NOT BUILT FOR THE PLAYOFFS”

    It took the playoffs to understand this? Really?

    “ANDREW BOGUT IS MORE VALUABLE THAN DAVID LEE”

    This is a revelation too? Really?

    “YOUTH IS NICE, BUT VETERANS WIN”

    Okay, now it’s getting to the feel of a Leo talking down to the uninitiated who just began watching the game.

    Based on what I saw in the Christianity discussion, I know you’ve a higher intellect than this, and are capable of much better, imo, but your entire bent toward basketball seems to be dissing the team you claim to be a fan of, and using whatever path leads that way.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Apparently you missed the part where I said that these were the lessons I learned, or had confirmed. Yes, many of the things you mentioned were simply confirmed.

      And, yes, I did mean to say second round. I will change that. Thanks.

  • morgan c

    Haha, wonder what this guy thinks about SA / GS series now. Warriors should be up 2-0, and it’s plainly obvious that they will win at least one at home. I love the Spurs too, but recent history suggests they are a great regular season team, that gets foiled in playoffs (Grizz, Thunder, Warriors maybe??). Tim overrates them. Other than that, great article.

  • Hakeems ghost

    Sorry to post this in here again, but it’s a topic i find nteresting. As we look at the rosters of the teams in the playoffs- a lace we’d all like to be, isn’t it kind of bizarre all the players that were here, we didnt want and are now playing quality minutes elsewhere- kind of interesting.

    Another poster made a comment that sometimes players take time to get it, but isn’t the mark of a quality franchise the ability to shape those players so that they ‘get it’ when they play there? Back to a question I posted elsewhere: Which players have imporved since being acquired from another team and playing here?
    Other than Amir?

    And finally, through coaches, styles of play (100 shots), and players, the only constant through the years of not just losing, but losing without growth, has been…

    Colangelo.

    And I really liked him in Phoenix.- thoughts?

  • ppellico

    My take away from the playoff so far…is what a ral good caoch can do.
    Now I never, ever expected the Buks t get into the second round. But even now watching them shows me a coach who knows his bench can win games by wringing out every bit of strength.
    Tibs knows to slow the game.
    He knows how to play defense.
    If he doesn’t have the ingredients for the recipe called for…he mixes the stuff he has into a good meal.
    He doesn’t try to make a cake with only the stuff to make bread.
    Now I know most here are not likeing my Casey bashing…but I think he screwed the team this year.
    That is if you agree he was the responsible one and it was not BC calling the team.
    I blame it on the guy wearing the suit on the bench every game.
    I really miss the defense.
    And playing a fast running game with this team simply plays right into the hands of the opposition and is asking for losses.

    • ppellico

      sorry…that is Bulls…not Buks

    • Amigo

      The biggest mistake Casey has done, as you said, was a conceptual one. How can you change from a defence slow pace team to a fast running game style of play. If we look at great choaches styles of play, we notice that they impose theirs to the players with very few exceptions.Casey,basically, broke a toy who gave him some respect in his first year in TO as per a “tough minded coach imposing his will to the players”. “We will play random” “Shoot 3s early” “Running the floor and shoot” “We want faster tempo” that’s Casey in camps interviews and I still remember watching a training camp 5 on 5 and the team was just doing that ! We went 4-19 (3 wins were robbed by ref so 7-16).

      Suddendly he changed his mind and went back to the previous system (Calderon starter,slower tempo) but had already lost PO and players confidence.

      What a mess this coach has made. How many players improved their confidence under Coach Casey during last season ? 1or 2 ? I look at K. Leonard under Popovich and cry for T. Ross under Casey !

      buy a coach with one only system in his mind and stick with it

      • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

        I disagree. The really good coaches alter the system to the players. Riley went from Showtime to a slow-it-down Pistons-style of play because that’s what would be most effective with the roster he got.

        The lucky coaches get to have the roster built around their system, but he has to be a great coach for a franchise to bet on him like that. Utah was like that with Jerry Sloan. The Spurs are like that with Popovich. The Bulls were like that with Phil Jackson.

        It’s my belief that if you find a great coach, you give him a 10 year contract, which gives the signal to the players that it’s his team and his system. Then you acquire players to fit that system.

        • ppellico

          well…you are both right. Casey did o what amigo says…he went from his plan better designed for his players to a style incredibly wrong for them. He did this from preseason on. and then did try to fix his error…sort of.
          However…a good coach would as you say design a system around the ingedients he has in the fridge…and not try to make a cake with ingredients for pea soup.
          But jesusHchrist…would YOU give a coach a ten year contract if it were YOUR money?
          Helln no…not me. maybe half that.

          • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

            I think giving a 10 year contract is certainly a big risk, but keep in mind I’m not suggesting giving any old coach a 10 year contract. There are so few coaches in the league that actually make a real difference. When a team finds one, I think it’s in it’s best interest to lock him up for as long as possible. I think too many coaches fail because they don’t have enough power among the players and are too focused on keeping their job rather than building for the long term.

            Take, for example, Tom Thibodeau. To me, he’s the perfect candidate to get a 10 year contract. In his three years as head coach of the Bulls, I think he’s shown to be an impact coach. Tell him and everyone else that this is his team. Risky? Sure. But I think it would payoff big in the end.

  • akashsingh

    Tim W, do you think a raptors lineup consisting of

    lowry
    ross
    Gay
    J. Smith
    Valanciunas

    if valanciunas and ross develop, makes us a contender? I think we could beat golden state.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      I think that team is certainly going to be exciting, but that’s about it. Any team with Rudy Gay and Josh Smith as two of your main guys is never going to be a contender. Both are very inefficient scorers who are renowned for their poor decision making and inconsistent play. You have to ask yourself, is that team any better than the one that featured Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith? I don’t think so. And that team was never a contender.

  • mountio

    I respect the shit out of the Spurs .. but its interesting that you make the comment that they are “built for the playoffs”, when recent evidence would suggest otherwise. Despite being a great regular season team, their last four playoff experiences have included two first round losses, one 2nd round loss and one conference finals. Not bad in the grand scheme of things .. but considering their regular season success, fairly disappointing They have shown that in the playoffs, they have struggled to defend (huge issue), especially athletic teams .. and have suffered from a lack of a true stud go-to guy at the end of games (Duncan used to be this for sure .. and parker/manu seem to only play spot duty in this role).

    I love Pop, think hes the best coach in the league by a margin (Thibideau probably 2nd) – but the fact is the Spurs have been more of an example of regular season consistency and success .. not playoff success.

    Not sure there is a conclusion to be drawn here necessarily (other than maybe that their lack of a true superstar has been their issue lately, relative to LBJ, DW, KD, RK, DN as examples of guys on teams who have had better playoff success ..)

    • Copywryter

      This is true. And even in that one conference finals – when they had crushed the first two rounds and everyone one was talking about how unstoppable they were – a young OKC team just blew them to pieces.

    • http://www.wearingfilm.com/picketfence/ Tim W.

      Reread what I wrote about the Spurs. Last year, I never thought they’d go as far as they did, quite frankly. I don’t think their defense was good enough. Over the previous four or five years, as the Spurs defense got worse, they did worse in the playoffs. I really don’t think that was a coincidence. Of course, you also have to take into consideration injuries. The Spurs have rarely been healthy for the playoffs, lately.

      As for a goto guy, I can only guess you haven’t watched the SPurs much the last couple of years. Parker has been their goto guy for a while, now. And he’s done very well in that role.

  • Reed

    The lineup changes Spolestra applied from game 2 to game 1 vs the Bulls is an indication of how much better hes gotten as a coach, something I haven’t seen from Casey. Casey’s moves are always made due to injuries and his inability to learn from his mistakes imo also doesn’t help the growth of the players as well(Ross, Val, DD).

    PS: How awesome has Barnes been. Wish we had him over Ross. Think in a couple of years Barnes is gonna develop into an allstar.

  • ItsAboutFun

    ….

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