Tag Archives: basketball

Heat coach tells reporters team was crying after loss

7 Mar

Sunday’s 86 – 87 loss to the Chicago Bulls was a tough one for the Miami Heat. So tough, in fact, that they had a good cry over it, according to Heat coach Eric Spoelstra.

“There are a couple of guys crying in the locker room right now,” Spoelstra said in his post-game press conference.

Dwyane Wade / Photo courtesy of Keith Allison

On Sunday – their fourth straight loss – the Heat blew a nine-point lead against the Bulls, with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both missing game-winning shots in the final seconds of the game.

On Friday, they suffered their biggest loss of the season against the San Antonio Spurs (losing 95-125), and on Thursday, they squandered a 24-point lead in a loss to Orlando.

Miami now has a combined record of 0-6 against the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls – the two teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. They are 5-5 against the three teams below them.

Miami’s last significant win happened over a month ago, and the team still hasn’t figured out a way to share the ball, win close games (2-8 in games decided by three points or less), maintain leads, or even beat good teams (15-17 against teams with winning records) .

Perhaps Spoelstra wanted to show how much his team cares about winning. But he’s actually given people another reason to question the Heat’s mental toughness, and probably angered some players.

Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra may have said too much when he told reporters that players were crying in the locker room / Keith Allison

Since the “Big Three” of Wade, LeBron, and Chris Bosh joined forces this summer, there’s been speculation that Heat GM Pat Riley would replace coach Spoelstra (like he did with Stan Van Gundy in 2005-06), as Riley (and his five championship rings) would instantly be respected by the team.

Earlier in the season, Wade was criticized for saying that Spoelstra wasn’t “his guy.” James was also criticized for bumping shoulders with the coach during a timeout that may or may not have been intentional. It’s unlikely that spilling the beans on a team sob-fest will increase Coach Spo’s popularity in the locker room.

So far, he has done nothing to stop people from talking about a possible coaching change, and if he can’t get the team to play well come playoff time, Spoelstra may find himself taking his talents to the unemployment line.

NOTE: Stats as of March 7.


Does Carmelo make the Knicks a contender?

25 Feb

On Tuesday, Carmelo Anthony finally got his wish, being sent to the Knicks // Keith Allison

On Tuesday, Carmelo Anthony (along with Chauncey Billups and three others) became a member of the New York Knickerbockers. Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni says the team is closer to competing for an NBA title with the addition of Anthony. But are they really?

Anthony was the league’s sixth-ranked scorer (25.2 PPG), for the league’s top-ranked offense (107.8 PPG) in Denver. He now joins Amar’e Stoudemire (ranked third with 26.0 PPG) and the second-ranked offense (106.4 PPG) in the NBA. Anthony fits in perfectly.

And that’s the problem.

Teams coached by Mike D’Antoni have always ran a fast-paced offense. Coincidentally, they also have always had a last-place defense (or close to it). D’Antoni had the best season of his career in ‘04-‘05, when he led the Phoenix Suns to a 62-20 record, eventually losing to the San Antonio Spurs 4-1 in the Western Conference finals. While the Suns had the number one offense (110.4 PPG), they also had the worst-ranked defense in the league (allowing 103.3 PPG).  With D’Antoni in his third year as head coach, the Knicks are on pace to have the NBA’s third-worst defense (currently allowing 105.8 PPG) for the third straight season.

Whoever said “the best defense is a good offense”, clearly never played basketball. Or at least playoff basketball. Of the last 20 NBA championship teams, half of them featured a defense ranked in the top three. 16 of them were in the top-10. Only one (the 2000-‘01 Lakers) finished worse than 15th.

The Knicks currently have the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference. This shouldn’t impress anyone. The Knicks are only a few games above .500 (at 29-26), and every team behind them has a losing record. The Knicks’ record against winning teams is only 9-17.

While it’s better to have two star players than one, the Knicks’ new roster doesn’t say “championship” at all. The five teams ahead of the Knicks – the Celtics, Heat, Bulls, Magic and Hawks – all have superior line-ups – especially at the guard positions, and play better defense. The Knicks lost three starters in Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and Danilo Gallinari, so the drop-off after Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups is huge. While the team has improved in terms of skill, they are no closer to challenging in the playoffs than they were before. They’re still at least a year (or another big free-agent signing) away from even having a shot at their division, let alone an NBA title.

NOTE: statistics are as of Feb. 24, 2011.

No ‘Melo, no problem – Nets get D-Will

24 Feb

Another day, another blockbuster trade in the NBA.

A day after Carmelo Anthony was dealt to the New York Knicks, Utah Jazz PG Deron Williams is headed to the New Jersey Nets.

It was known for well over a year that ‘Melo wanted to leave Denver for the Knicks, so his trade to New York is a little anticlimactic. It wasn’t a question of if he would be traded, it was simply when and for whom.

But the Williams trade is a shocker. Just two weeks ago, it appeared that Jazz’ management was committed to building the franchise around Williams, after legendary coach Jerry Sloan strangely and suddenly resigned the day after a dispute with Williams. It was logical for the team to choose its 26-year-old superstar over the Hall-of-Fame coach, who at 68, was near the end of his career.

The New Jersey Nets were deemed “the losers” of the Carmelo trade, after offering much more than the Knicks, and still not landing him after he refused to sign an extension with the Nets.

This was just another rejection, after the allure of playing for (Nets co-owners) Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z – or being the centrepiece of a team soon moving to Brooklyn – wasn’t enough to convince LeBron James, or any other big name free-agent, to sign with New Jersey last summer.

But now Deron Williams is a Net.

In the last five seasons (including this season) Williams has averaged 18.9 points and 10.1 assists per game. Only Chris Paul (19.2 PPG, 10.4 APG) and Steve Nash (16.9 PPG, 10.9 APG) have had as impressive numbers over that time span. Williams is also a big-time playoff performer. In 44 post-season games, Williams has put up 21.1 PPG and 9.6 APG, and each time the Jazz have been eliminated, it’s been by the eventual Western Conference champions.

Unlike Carmelo Anthony, Williams wasn’t going to be a free-agent this offseason, so the fear that he will bolt to another team isn’t there. While he can leave after next season, a new collective bargaining agreement will probably enable the Nets to offer him the best contract, keeping him in New Jersey.

In exchange for Williams, the Nets sent PG Devin Harris, PF Derrick Favors (last year’s third-overall pick), two first-round draft picks and $3 million to Utah. It isn’t always the best idea to trade away first-round picks when you’re rebuilding a team – especially when at least one of them will probably be a lottery pick  – but this deal was a no brainer for the Nets. In the NBA, success is dictated by superstars. Adding a bona fide superstar like Deron Williams can change a bottom-feeder (like the Nets) into a playoff team, or a playoff team into a title-contender (see: Gasol, Pau). The Nets have too many losses to seriously compete for a playoff spot this year, but they are considerably better than they were before the trade.

Last week, reports had the Nets trading Harris, Favors, two other players and four first-round picks to Denver for Carmelo Anthony. The Nets should be happy that ‘Melo wanted to play for the Knicks.

Raptors’ Triano only thinks about coaching

9 Feb

Triano and assistant coach Alvin Williams at practice / Charles Vanegas

Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano talks to the media every single day. But no matter the outcome of the previous game, the most prevalent question is always the same: what does he think about the high possibility of Raptors star Chris Bosh leaving at the end of the season?

“I don’t [think about it],” says Triano, the first Canadian-born coach in the NBA. “I don’t have any control over it. There’s no reason to concern yourself with something you have no control over. I just do what I can to make Chris the best player he can possibly be.”

Chris Bosh addresses the media / Charles Vanegas

So far, Triano, 51, has been accomplishing his goal this season. Bosh has averaged career highs in both points (24.4) and rebounds (11.4), and the Raptors have won seven of their last ten games, and are closing the gap between them and the division-leading Celtics. It’s no surprise given the amount of time Triano puts into his job.

As a student-athlete at Simon Fraser University, he became good friends with Terry Fox. He says he was inspired by Fox’s work ethic and determination.

“[We met] right when he lost his leg. He would come into the training room everyday and talk about how he was going to run across Canada, and people didn’t believe him at first. He started training and put everything together for the run and things just exploded from there. He was a very driven individual and motivated a lot of Canadians, me included.”

Triano is in the office by 9:20 a.m., with a Starbucks coffee in hand. Assistants Micah Nori and Marc Iavaroni are already viewing film on their laptops from yesterday’s 115 – 104 win over Sacramento. Sportscentre is on the big screen, and the coaches discuss Sunday night’s Super Bowl.

“They were asking Jarrett Jack who was going to win – and he says ‘the Argos’. He’s going to become a local favourite real soon,” says Triano.

By now, assistant coaches Alvin Williams, a former Raptor, and Alex English, have both arrived, along with video coordinator Bob Peterson. It’s time for Triano’s staff to watch film together in order to plan this morning’s practice.  English, a former NBA forward and hall-of-fame member, is concerned with the team’s post defence.

“Our bigs aren’t playing strong,” says English.

The other coaches agree.

“We did not screen them well,” says Iavaroni.

“And the screens we did have, we didn’t use well,” says Triano.

Iavaroni points out a situation where forward Andrea Bargnani was caught out of position, allowing a Kings player to score a three-pointer. Despite the win, Triano is unsatisfied with the team’s defensive play from the day before. Iavaroni, former coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, draws up a complicated drill on the whiteboard, and explains it to the rest of the staff. Initially, Triano is concerned that it will mess with the team’s recent success, but signs off on it after further discussion.

Heading to the practice gym, players DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems also share the elevator. Despite being the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and one of the most recognizable Raptors, DeRozan still introduces himself by saying “Hi, I’m DeMar.”

DeMar DeRozan (R) and Amir Johnson at the O'Connor Community Centre / Charles Vanegas

Hedo Turkoglu, one of the team’s nine offseason acquisitions, sits in the players’ lounge, enjoying a pre-practice snack. The team is requiring him to don a mask while playing, to protect a fractured orbital bone under his right eye. He says it’s difficult to play with because he constantly has to readjust it, but understands that it is for the best long-term.

At 11 a.m., the last few stragglers enter the Raptors practice gym. Weems and a trainer are engaged in a competition to see who can hold a handstand the longest. Weems’ lasts about five seconds, while the trainer, in a gymnast-like manner, holds it for at least twice that. After stretching and run-pass drills, Triano splits the team up. Those who played significant minutes in yesterday’s game get to take it easy: they only have to practice shooting. Those with limited playing time have to partake in a three-on-three scrimmage. Reggie Evans, who has not seen the court all season, clearly has something to prove. For 30 minutes, he works hard to prove to his coach that he deserves to play.

Later in the day, Triano, along with general manager Bryan Colangelo, and players DeRozan, Weems, Amir Johnson, Antoine Wright, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack are all in attendance for the unveiling of a newly refurbished basketball court at the O’Connor Community Centre on Victoria Park Avenue.

“This is the sort of thing we do the rest of the week when we’re not on the court,” says Triano.

After every kid has received an autograph from each member of the team, Triano leaves to have dinner with his girlfriend. He then returns to his office to review more game film, in preparation of the Raptors next game against Philadelphia.