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.

Markieff Morris calls Paul Millsap a “crybaby,” Millsap responds “It definitely got personal now”

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The Atlanta Hawks owned the Washington Wizards from the opening tip Saturday, making it a 2-1 series with an easy win.

It’s a series now — and that includes trash talk.

Paul Millsap had 29 points, pulled down 14 boards, got to the line 11 times, and led the Hawks to the win. He got the calls he wanted this game, but Washington’s Markieff Morris was not exactly down with high praise for Millsap.

The key line here: “”He just did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. Get all the calls and you a crybaby.”

Millsap was asked about that comment in his postgame presser — and the best part may be Dennis Schroeder’s reaction.

“It definitely got personal now, yes. I mean, I don’t care. So what? He can take his loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”

These two have already had a beef this series.

Game 4 in this series just got a lot more interesting.

Marc Gasol game-winner tops Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance, evens Spurs/Grizzlies series 2-2

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Best. Game. Of. The. Playoffs.

So far at least.

Kawhi Leonard scored 16 consecutive points for the Spurs down the stretch of regulation to force overtime, then in OT hit a corner three with 7.2 seconds left to tie the game at 108-108. Leonard finished the game with a career playoff high of 43 points.

It wasn’t enough. Because in those final seconds Marc Gasol did this.

The 110-108 Memphis win ties the series at 2-2 as it heads back to San Antonio for Game 5. I might not want to sit next to Gregg Popovich on the flight home.

While Gasol hit the big shot, he never gets the chance if Mike Conley isn’t every kind of amazing through the clutch parts of this game. Conley finished with 35 points, and that includes a floater in the lane that forced OT (although Leonard got a pretty good look to end it in regulation and just missed). I’m surprised the Spurs switched on the pseudo pick on this play.

The Spurs struggled to get stops down the stretch, mostly because they had David Lee and Tony Parker both on the floor and Memphis did a good job getting switches onto those defenders. Spurs starting center and best defensive big Dewayne Dedmon missed the game due to an illness, and that ended up mattering.

Hawks take control early, romp past Wizards 116-98

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ATLANTA (AP) — Paul Millsap scored 29 points, Dennis Schroder had 27 and the Atlanta Hawks delivered an early knockout blow against Washington, cruising to a 116-98 victory Saturday that sliced the Wizards’ lead to 2-1 in the opening-round playoff series.

After two tight losses in Washington exposed some bad blood between the teams, Atlanta returned home and built a 25-point lead by late in the first quarter.

The Hawks were never seriously challenged by the Wizards, who were essentially a one-man team. John Wall kept up his dazzling play in the series, scoring 29 points, but the point guard got no help from his teammates.

The other Washington starters combined to score 30 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

Millsap also had 14 rebounds, while rookie Taurean Prince chipped in with 16 points.

Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.

The Hawks came out intent on moving the ball, getting open looks and cutting down on the turnovers that plagued them in the first two contests.

Talk about following the game plan.

Atlanta pushed out to a double-digit lead before the game was 3 minutes old and stretched the margin to 38-13 with just under a minute to go in the opening quarter on Schroder’s 3-pointer.

Wall did everything he could to spark the Wizards. He posed along the baseline after a thunderous dunk, which might have had more effect if the Wizards weren’t losing by 23 at the time. He also darted through the lane against a collapsing defense to bank in an improbable shot, drawing gasps from the Atlanta crowd.

Wall made all but one shot and scored 21 points in the first half, but the Wizards trailed 64-46 heading to the locker room. The other four Washington starters had just 18 points.

Beal, in particular, had a miserable night after averaging 26.5 points in the first two games. He was held to 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting, missing all six of his attempts beyond the arc.

TIP INS

Wizards: Wall is averaging 31 points per game in the series. … F Otto Porter Jr. left in the third quarter with a strained neck and didn’t return. … After a video review, Jason Smith was called for a flagrant foul against Millsap late in the third quarter.

Hawks: C Dwight Howard remains a non-factor in Atlanta’s offense. He scored five points and took just four shots, giving him a mere 15 attempts over the first three games. He did have 11 rebounds. … Schroder had some issues at the free-throw line, making only half of his eight attempts. Millsap did, too, going 5 of 9. … Atlanta had a double-digit lead for the final 44:24 of the game. … Prince picked up a technical foul for taunting the Wizards after an alley-oop dunk in the closing minutes. … The Hawks had just 11 turnovers.

 

Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic to play, start vs. Golden State in Game 3

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In 20 games after the Trail Blazers traded for him, Jusuf Nurkic averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Portland was 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and went 14-6, a surge that helped get them into the playoffs. Then a leg fracture had him sidelined for the end of the season and the start of the playoffs.

Until Saturday.

He will play limited minutes, but the Blazers will take it.

Portland is down 0-2 to the Warriors but are coming home to take on a Golden State team that will be without Kevin Durant again (strained calf) and coach Steve Kerr (illness).

Nurkic gives Portland some hope, he certainly helps their defense. We’ll see if that’s enough.