The Question

You asked questions on twitter, time to answer them

3 Comments

Welcome to the latest installment of our twitter mailbag, where we answer your questions. Any questions.

You have to date a girl that looks exactly like Joakim Noah or Tyronn Lue. Who do you date, and why? (@adonismuir)

I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this. A disturbing amount. Obviously, if faced with this choice, the correct answer is “I’ll become a priest.” Beyond that, if you look at pictures of Noah and Lue, Noah has the potential to be a prettier woman, but he has that little mustache and beard that throw the whole thing off. As for Lue… didn’t work for me on the court, doesn’t work for me as a date.

I needed a woman’s opinion. Not my wife, because explaining this then trying to sleep in the same bed with her was not going to go well. So I turned to Holly McKenzie of The Basketball Jones and other places (you have to follow @stackmack on twitter). Her first answer was it has to be Noah because of the hair. Then she made the best point — have you seen Noah’s sister? The model? Basically, Noah has the genes of a beautiful woman in him.

So Noah. That or the priesthood.

• Which team will be hurt most by the NBA lockout and which team benefits the most from the lockout? (@marvin_is_joe)
• Does a shortened #NBA season help or hurt older teams like my #Celtics? Fewer games, but played more often in a shorter time (@PowerForward44)

I’m combining these questions into one because, well, it’s my column and I can do anything I want. I have the power.

The answer to this question depends on how long the lockout lasts. If training camps are shortened (almost a given) and there are between 60-70 games on a pretty normal schedule, then veteran teams benefit. For the Celtics, Spurs and Mavericks it means less wear and tear on older bodies before the playoffs and they should do well in the regular season because they come in knowing who they are and what they want to do. (The Lakers lose that benefit with the coaching and system change.)

But if the lockout drags on and this is 1999 redux — 50 games crammed into a short schedule with some back-to-back-to-back games scheduled — then those veteran teams suffer from the wear and tear. They don’t have the fresh legs come the playoffs. That benefits good but younger teams — the Thunder, Bulls and Heat come to mind. They have legs that will bounce back from the condensed schedule faster.

How long before JR Swish commits a felony in China and ends up in secret Chinese prison? (@djbrnz)

Not going to happen — he’s going to be so sick from trying to eat what passes for food in China he’s not going to have time to get in trouble. He’s going to be lying in bed with a bucket beside him Googling McDonald’s locations.

By the way, if one guy will get an “under the table” deal to be cut from a Chinese team when the lockout ends, it’s Smith.

are the sixers an Iguodala trade away from being contenders in the East? (@jutmcquaid)

Why all the Iggy hate in Philly, people? It’s not like he’s Santa Claus. If you trade him you lose a quality perimeter scorer and more importantly your best perimeter defender by a mile. Yes, he is overpaid for what he delivers, but he does deliver something and if you trade him you create a new hole to fill. I think you live with him. The Sixers need a true superstar to take the next step forward, but that guy should be paired with Iggy. If the Sixers can run more and get Iguodala more transition opportunities, it will be best for everyone.

Why can’t Sam Presti properly evaluate college big men? #bjmullensproblem (@nick_van_hexel)

I would like to introduce you to the fans of 29 other teams, who would love to trade you Sam Presti’s list of draft picks in the last five years for their team’s. Sure, B.J. Mullens has not worked out (the next two guys picked after Mullens were Rodrigue Beaubois and Taj Gibson) but Presti has built a winner and he made a good trade for Kendrick Perkins (which just was a bad matchup with Dallas). Nobody hits all their picks. Nobody. Cut the guy some slack, would ya.

Who do you believe is the best basketball player in the world? As of right now. (@kaycgee)

I don’t see how you can argue anyone other than Brian Cardinal. It’s not even close.

(Okay, it’s LeBron James. And frankly that’s not up for debate.)

Will Norris Cole be the point guard the Heat need in order to focus on finding a true center? (@GeeYo)

When did finding a center and finding a good point guard become mutually exclusive? I’m confident Pat Riley has the skills to do both at the same time.

The real question is, when was the last time a rookie point guard played a key role on a title team? Magic Johnson? So sure, count on Cole to solve your problems. Point guard is an issue for the Heat but not the biggest one. The Heat need a real center far more than they need another good perimeter player. Miami needs its own Tyson Chandler to dominate the paint on defense and grab rebounds. That is their key to a title.

Shouldn’t Allen Iverson be picked up by the Lakers? (@The_Hawk_13)

So you think the Lakers need to get an old point guard who can’t defend and would take shots away from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? The only way the Lakers want Iverson is if the deal includes a DeLorean with a flux capacitor in the back so they can go grab the 2001 Iverson.

The Lakers need a starting PG, Iverson is a backup right now. At best.

How long before the Grizzlies move to Seattle? (@jbunkis)

Right about when Kurt Cobain buys the team. About the same odds.

Brandon Ingram with the steal, slam (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Very little has gone right for the Lakers of late. They have dropped five in a row. Around Los Angeles, the talk has gone from “this team could make the playoffs” after a 10-10 start to “they need to tank and try to keep the pick” after going 5-21 since. (The Lakers pick this draft is top-three protected, if it’s outside that it goes to the Sixers. The Lakers currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA.)

The Lakers young players look… young. D'Angelo Russell admitted he just started trying to follow a game-day routine, then said Tuesday night he didn’t focus and deserved to be benched down the stretch. Brandon Ingram shows flashes, he’s smart and sees the game, but he’s still physically pushed around.

But those flashes, like the steal and dunk above are fun.

Lakers fans, welcome to the process. This is what rebuilding is like. It’s a roller coaster, you just hope the trajectory generally remains up.

Rumor: Is Cleveland done making moves?

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 13:  Kyle Korver #26 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots over Arron Afflalo #40 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on January 13, 2017 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Getty Images
4 Comments

LeBron James has made it clear he wants the Cavaliers to add a veteran point guard to the mix. Cavs GM David Griffin has talked about wanting to add playmakers to the roster.

The Cavaliers made a savvy move picking up Kyle Korver recently, he brings shooting and some high IQ play to the table. But was that it? Does Cleveland have another trade to pull off?

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is about as connected as they come with the Cavaliers organization and he said on ESPN Cleveland radio not to bet on seeing another move.

Windhorst is right, in terms of players the Cavaliers don’t have much to move — James Jones? Kay Felder — and they don’t have a first-round pick to move until 2021. The buyout market may be something to watch, but a solid playmaker or point guard may be hard to come by.

The only question about the Cavaliers roster is this: How does it match up with Golden State? Barring a major catastrophe, the Cavaliers are coming out of the East, but can they beat the Warriors four out of seven? The MLK Day blowout was not an indicator one way or the other, the Cavs mailed that game in, but there certainly are questions about the potential Finals matchup. One more playmaker would help the Cavs, I just don’t know where he comes from.

Report: Pelicans explored Dwight Howard trade before Hawks pulled him off table

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 07:  Dwight Howard #8 of the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Center on January 7, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Who are the Pelicans? They look like a movie where the writer, director, and studio suits all had very different versions of the film in mind, and the result is a jumbled mess. Think “Suicide Squad.”

There are a lot of questions about the roster and style of this team, but at the heart of all of it is this: Do they play Anthony Davis at the four or the five? They are better with him at the five but keep spending money on bigs to push him to the four.

They considered doing it again in the past month, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN (in an article that brilliantly lays out the quandary in New Orleans).

But they haven’t committed to staying small, and sticking Davis at center. They worry about the physical toll it would take, and fretted after Davis picked up two quick fouls jostling with Dwight Howard two weeks ago. In the days that followed, Atlanta and New Orleans had exploratory talks about possible Howard trades before the Hawks pulled everyone off the market, according to several league sources. It is unclear how interested New Orleans was, and there was not unanimous support within the team for acquiring Howard.

Dwight Howard? He’s played better this season and finally is staying within himself in Atlanta, but why would the Pelicans want him and that contract next to Davis? To be fair, these kinds of conversations happen a lot in the NBA and most don’t go anywhere. Still, this one is perplexing. It’s the opposite of the style they had success with this season. It’s back to the confused push-and-pull within that franchise.

Maybe this goes to having Saints people oversee the basketball side and thinking, like the NFL, you can rebuild on the fly quickly with smart fifth round picks and a couple free agents. The NBA doesn’t work that way (and there aren’t fifth round picks, although the second round serves that purpose). The Pelicans should have tanked in recent years. If the Pelicans brought in Alvin Gentry to run a more Warriors-style offense, then give him the players to do it. Davis is a foundational piece and will be a stud in any system, maybe Holiday can work in that free-flowing, fast-decision style with shooting everywhere, and after that… I don’t know.

Bottom line, if the Pelicans brought in Alvin Gentry to run a more Warriors-style offense, then give him the players to do it. Davis is a foundational piece and will be a stud in any system, maybe Holiday can work in that free-flowing, fast-decision style with shooting everywhere, and after that… I don’t know.

But the indecision and hodgepodge of a roster in New Orleans leaves it in the same place as always, and that is squandering one of the game’s best players.

Video Breakdown: What is Hammer action? An explainer

Leave a comment

Hammer action — sometimes referred to as a Hammer play or a Hammer set — was made ubiquitous in the modern NBA by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds to identify, and it’s got two main principles.

First, the Hammer part of any set is a back screen to setup a cut by a wing player around the arc to the corner (or sometimes on a flare to the wing).

Second, the Hammer always happens away from the ball side of a play. It’s a weak side action, and typically anything happening with the ball on the strong side at the beginning of the play is purposeful distraction.

You can learn all about the Hammer by watching this week’s NBA Glossary video above, or by reading the text version down below.

The Diagram

Here we have a set where the ball is on the right side of the floor, with one post high and one low. The Hammer action happens on the weak side of the court between the shooting guard and the center:

The small forward is going to start the pick and roll with the power forward going to the right side. Meanwhile, the center is going to set the back screen on the left left side of the floor. This is our Hammer action, and the shooting guard will run off that screen to the corner.

Once the play starts and the small forward gets to the baseline, he passes it out to the guard, who shoots the corner three.

Let’s take a look at it in action and how the Spurs mix it into different looking plays.

Here they have the ball at the arc on the right side of the floor. Kawhi Leonard is coming through the paint to receive a pass off the screen.

Meanwhile, Patty Mills is the player that’s going to run off a hammer screen here on the left elbow.

The ball is passed, and with Kawhi dribbling toward the arc, the trap is set, and the Hammer action commences.

The defender turns his head, and Mills runs toward the baseline unimpeded to take the jumper.

In this example, we have the pick and roll to the right side. The hammer action is going to happen between the guard and the post on the weak side.

As the pick and roll is run, the Hammer screen is set.

Notice San Antonio has cleverly positioned Tony Parker at the top of the arc, and when LaMarcus Aldridge pops out, it’s up to Parker’s defender to stunt over to help.

This makes Danny Green’s defender slide over to help cover Parker, basically leaving Green unguarded in the corner.

Aldridge sees this, and passes the ball to Parker for the quick rotation over to Green.

That’s the basics of the Hammer play. It’s nothing super complicated, but it shows you how spacing and exploitation of defensive tendencies can be programmed into an NBA offense.