Kevin McHale teaches, talks post play at adidas Eurocamp

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Kevin McHale was the guest speaker at adidas Eurocamp on Monday, and spent his 45-minute session with the players giving a teaching clinic on low-post play. The video clip above shows the opening five minutes or so of his lecture, where he talked about the need to fight for position to get the ball down low, and having a plan with what you want to do with the ball once you get it.

McHale said that as a player his goal was always to try to get to the middle of the paint, right above the restricted area, where he knew he could convert a jump hook over his defender at an extremely high percentage. He chastised players for not fighting hard enough to get that low-block position, and pointed out that if you receive a pass with your back to the basket 18 feet from the paint, it’s not a post-up situation — it’s a wing isolation.

McHale’s signature move as a player was the up-and-under after getting the ball in position on the low block. He said he’s constantly asked why players in today’s game don’t try to emulate it, and the answer, he said, was a simple one: Defenders don’t respect the offensive skills of the post-up player, so they never bite on the pump fake, which makes the move obsolete.

After the session was over, McHale lamented the lack of good low-post play in the NBA, while pointing out the decline has been a steady one that might be reaching an all-time high.

“It’s really odd,” McHale said, when asked why there’s such a dearth of low-post players. “I don’t know why because it’s such a valuable element of the game. I just think big guys now, there’s an infatuation with the three-point line, and like I said — you’re going to get better at what you practice. You’re going to get better at what you work at, and they all work at their perimeter games, so they’re all better at that.”

McHale implored the young players during his lecture to practice short jump hooks and shots over each shoulder on the low block, hundreds at a time, until they became automatic. He also said that the lack of development in that area is part of what’s led the NBA game away from it in recent years.

“It’s been a weird dynamic that I’ve seen over the last 20, 25 years, and it’s really kind of hitting an apex right now,” he said. “You watch the NBA, and no one’s even dropping it into the post anymore. It’s all about perimeter stuff. I’m telling you, that post right there — you don’t have to have a million moves, but if you can just get a basic couple of moves down there, you can really affect the game.”

McHale also believes that post play won’t return in force to the NBA until the players capable of playing down low make a conscious effort to develop that skill set at an early age.

“I think it’s more incumbent on the players,” he said. “It doesn’t appear to me to be a priority when you’re a 16-, 17-year-old kid. Everybody says ‘I want to shoot the three, I want to be a spread four.’ You very seldom hear guys say ‘I want to be a power post offensive guy.’ It’s hard to really say why. I can just tell you that it’s very noticeable when you watch the NBA game right now.”

The question came up of how important it was for a big man to be able to learn to pass out of a double-team in the post — a skill Lakers center Andrew Bynum has struggled to develop as he’s started to face that extra defender inside. McHale said that’ll come, but smiled when the question was asked, because it’s really the very last step to come in a competent post player’s game.

“First of all, there’s like three prongs in that thing,” he said. “One, you’ve got to get good down in the low post. Two, you’ve got to get good enough to beat your man steady. Three, they double-team you — that’s the third prong, and then you’ve got to pass out, OK?

“You learn pretty quickly, because in the NBA especially, when you start getting double-teamed a lot and when teams have success, they’ll do it every single night. Bynum a year from now will be a very good post passer. He’ll know where to go, he’ll be relaxed, he’ll read it, and pass it out. Then you’ve got murder on your hands because the guy can score down there and he can pass out. And any time two (players) guard one in our league, three have got to guard four. And three cannot guard four in the NBA, the players are too good.”

It’s no surprise McHale is passionate about skilled post play; he had a Hall of Fame career in the NBA after working so hard to develop his own. His teaching on the topic was straightforward, easy to understand, and on-point. Whether or not the young players will choose to listen remains to be seen, but McHale remains committed as ever to his principles.

“The game is won and lost in the paint,” he said.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.