2014 NBA Finals - Practice Day And Media Availability

Off day wrap up from San Antonio: Tim Duncan wants to be a point guard

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SAN ANTONIO — Emptying out my notebook like people are emptying out kegs at River Walk bars….

• Tim Duncan has joked before he wants to be a point guard, and he was asked again by a reporter on Saturday if Gregg Popovich should let him.

“I’ve been arguing that point for years now and I’m going to get your name and card, and I’ll get you in a room with him,” Duncan joked.

Popovich played along.

“You see him bring it up once in a while.  He brings it up with three more dribbles than he needs to, he should throw it ahead to anybody in the same color uniform.  But he’ll get three more dribbles in, just to practice in case I do it, which I’m really going to do.”

Tony Parker does not exactly worry about his job security, and probably doesn’t have to after Duncan’s five turnovers in Game 1.

“Are we still talking about that?  I can’t believe they brought it up in the NBA Finals (laughter),” Parker joked. “It’s been a joke that Timmy thinks he’s a great quarterback, that he can be a good passer.  I disagree with that.  I want to keep my spot.”

• Popovich was asked about the three-point shot and how it has changed the game, and as you can expect with Pop he was honest and blunt:

“I hate it. To me it’s not basketball but you gotta use it. If you don’t use it, you’re in big trouble. But you sort of feel like it’s cheating. You know, like two points, that’s what you get when you make a basket. Now you get three, so you gotta deal with it. I don’t think I don’t think there’s anybody who is not dealing with it.”

• There’s been a lot of talk online and on sports talk radio about LeBron James’ comment to ESPN Friday that he’s the easiest target in sports. You can debate amongst yourselves whether that is true or not, but Shane Battier had interesting thoughts about what’s different about LeBron James’ celebrity.

“He is the first (basketball) mega-star of the twitter generation. So the world was introduced to LeBron when he was in high school as a 14-year-old, there isn’t a fact or a wrinkle or a blemish about him that the general populace doesn’t know about already. Everybody feels they know him and so everyone feels they can critique him because they’ve known him for so long. That’s not something Jordan ever had to go through, or Bird or Magic. I blame it on the information age, and it’s a sign of the times….

“LeBron is complicit in it. You accept everything that goes along with being King James, then you are complicit. Blood is on his hands, too. But he understands that and he deals with it.”

• If you’re still trying to make a conspiracy theory out of the air conditioning situation in Game 1 — and if so you need to take the tin foil hat off and seek help — I will throw you tis bone.

• We’ve written at PBT a couple of times about Boris Diaw has been a game-changer for the Spurs in this series. Here is what Chris Bosh said about the problems Diaw presents:

“He’s a crafty player, man, he’s difficult. You never know what he’s going to do. You don’t know if he’s going to shoot it, you don’t know if he is going to drive it, pass it, shoot it again, you don’t know what he’s going to do. I think his ability to do everything in that point forward position makes it difficult. He’s another one of those guys, we’re really going to have to lock in on him, and really do a number on him individually to slow him down. Because when he’s driving and kicking to guys and getting you confused, then you don’t rotate, now he’s hitting threes — he’s one of those players that confuses the hell out of you.”

• Eric Spoelstra also addressed the Boris Diaw problem.

“He’s multi dimensional, puts the ball on the floor, great vision,” the Heat coach said. “You could see with the passes that he made the other night. So we have to do what we do, but do it better, do it with a little bit more thought tendencies, and so forth.”

• Shane Battier talked about how the scouting reports he gets on players he will guard: “I get basic splits — right/left, drives, dribble jumpers vs. spot jumpers, left shoulder vs. right shoulder in the post, basic tendencies.”

So how is that different from what he got when he first entered the league?

“When I first started scouting reports consisted of ‘ya, that guy likes to go left’ and that’s it. ‘Great driver’ and it was like come on, give me a little bit more than that. Now you can tell how good a guy is driving vs. shooting, how good a guy is going left vs. going right, how often he goes left vs. right. You understand what a guy is and what he’s not.”

• Battier was asked to give something off a scouting report of a current player (not in the Finals) and chose Carmelo Anthony.

“You make Carmelo Anthony go right. When he’s on the left block make him go right. He does not want to go right. His percentages go down, his foul drawing goes down, if he goes left it is not good for the defender.”

• Spoelstra gave a shout out to Greg Oden:

“Greg Oden is one of the biggest success stories in this league, and unfortunately people are only judging him by the fact of how many minutes he plays. Two years ago people were saying he would never play the game again and he’s available every night.”

Spoelstra is right. Where most guys would have quit and lived comfortably the rest of their lives off their first contract. He worked hard to get back, to get on the Heat. Maybe he wasn’t everything Miami hoped, but that Oden is here, in the Finals, is a massive accomplishment.

Brandon Ingram with the steal, slam (VIDEO)

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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)
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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)
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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

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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.