Formal game plans have been drawn up. Film has been broken down and shown to the teams. Xs and Os will be on the greaseboards in the locker rooms. The coaches will go through the motions because they are creatures of routine and structure.
But by Game 7 of the NBA finals, it is no longer about the game plan, nothing has really changed there for about three games. It’s about execution. It’s about the ability to adjust and adapt when Plan A is taken away. It’s about getting the 50/50 balls.
The Lakers know what they have to do to win. The Celtics know what they have to do to win. And they are a lot of the same things.
Control the paint. The most overused statistic for this series has been “the team that wins the rebounding battle has won the game.” It’s true, but that is a result of other actions, a symptom of the real cause. The team that has been able to enforce its will defensively in the paint has won the games. The team that kept the other team shooting jump shots. The team that took away the easy baskets driving to the rim. Doing those things leads to missed shots, which will mean more rebounds for a defensive team working hard inside. That is how you win.
Get transition baskets. Both teams stymie each other fairly well in the half court, easy baskets are hard to come by. However each game one team has forced more missed shots and created more turnovers, then used those to get out and run. The team that can get easy buckets in transition will win the game. Look for Rajon Rondo, who did not get run a lot in Game 6, to really look to push the pace.
Make the other team’s stars work. Ray Allen has taken over a half this series. Kobe Bryant has taken over a quarter. Paul Pierce and Pau Gasol have had good games. Any one of those guys is capable of winning one game all by themselves on the right night. If teams can defend and force one of the other guys on the team to beat you, not the guys who do it every night.
Doing all those things comes down to the basics. Execution of the game plan. Boxing out. Not losing track of your man on defense. Being smart but aggressive. Wanting that loose ball more than the other guy.
This game — this championship — is going to turn on those things, what sometimes get called the little things. One little thing, maybe.
And it won’t have anything to do with what play was drawn on the greaseboard before the game.
The Clippers have (an ideally healthier) Patrick Beverley at point guard. Lou Williams and Austin Rivers are comfortable as lead ball-handlers. With the No. 12 or 13 pick, L.A. could add another point guard – Trae Young, Collin Sexton or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Where does that leave Milos Teodosic, a 31-year-old who’s coming off a rookie season in which he missed 37 games while dealing with a foot injury?
O. Cauchi of Sportando:
The Los Angeles Clippers, in fact, are not planning to keep the Serbian point guard for the next season, a league source told Sportando.
his health is one of the main concerns behind Clippers’ decision, a source told Sportando. The team would love to add a younger player in that position and fear that Teodosic’s foot issue won’t be fixed easily, sources told Sportando.
Teodosic holds a $6.3 million player option for next season, but just $2.1 million is guaranteed until July 15. He ought to opt in and collect his $2.1 million before moving on. And if he opts in, maybe the Clippers strike out in free agency, don’t need the additional cap flexibility and keep him.
If they go through with waiving him, Teodosic could land with another NBA team or return to Europe. His foot issues could determine whether another NBA team wants him.
Teodosic is a wonderfully creative passer and good shooter. He’s also a woeful defender, and foot problems would only set him back further.
Chris Paul built himself into the NBA’s greatest point guard since Magic Johnson (until Stephen Curry came around). Paul mastered the game, offensively and defensively. He led two franchises, New Orleans and the Clippers, taking huge burdens for each.
Then, he engineered a trade to the Rockets to become James Harden‘s sidekick. Paul learned to excel at that, too.
Now comes phase two in Houston. The Rockets must pay him, and it sounds as if they will. And Paul will recruit his friend LeBron James to join him.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Chris is going to return there. And listen, right now, Chris Paul’s focus isn’t so much on his own free agency. He’s trying to recruit LeBron James to Houston, and somebody close to him said to me he is as focused on recruiting LeBron as anything he’s done in this league. He wants to find a way.
The Rockets were on the cusp of beating the Warriors. LeBron could put Houston over the top and get Paul an elusive championship. I certainly understand Paul’s hunger to make it happen. He’ll probably never get a better opportunity to win a title than this.
Could the Rockets get LeBron? Carmelo Anthony, before getting traded to the Thunder, told friends of a desire to team up with Paul and eventually LeBron in Houston. LeBron once said he’d take a pay cut to play with Paul, Anthony and Dwyane Wade – not that LeBron must to play with just Paul in Houston. The Cavaliers, Rockets and LeBron could execute an opt-in-and-trade that sends LeBron to Houston, similar to how Paul got there last summer.
But it seems Paul is fighting an uphill battle. LeBron reportedly said he doesn’t like Houston as a city, and lifestyle matters.
Not that the intensely competitive Paul will just give up.
The Suns will almost certainly take DeAndre Ayton No. 1 overall in Thursday’s NBA draft.
The mystery begins with the Kings at No. 2.
They’ve been linked to Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr. and now, most strongly, Marvin Bagley.
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:
I wouldn’t like that pick. Bagley is a high-end prospect, but I’d take Doncic (and prefer a few others to Bagley).
Bagley is a phenomenal finisher and rebounder due to his athleticism and exertion. He runs the floor hard and is quick off his feet, repeatedly.
But he is a huge liability as a rim protector, making him a tough fit as a defensive center. His just lacks the awareness, length and strength to defend the paint well. He can improve his awareness and maybe his strength to acceptable levels, but there is such a long way to go.
I also don’t trust his jump shot or defensive awareness on the perimeter enough for him to play power forward offensively or defensively.
Of all the top prospects, Bagley might be the trickiest to build around. And the Kings don’t have the greatest track record of roster building, even in the rare times they get a lottery pick right.
The Washington Wizards had the fourth highest payroll in the NBA last season — a lot to pay for the No. 8 seed and an unceremonious first-round playoff exit.
One way or another expect changes to the Wizards’ roster going into next season. Big names could be on the move. Even before that, the Wizards have signaled they will trade the No. 15 pick in Thursday’s draft if teams will take on one of the Wizards’ oversized expiring contracts, reports our old friend Ben Standig working for thesportscapitol.com.
The Wizards are open to trading down from the 15th overall pick in Thursday’s draft if another team takes on one of Washington’s expiring contracts. That’s the message relayed from the Wizards to other NBA teams, a league source tells The Sports Capitol.
The Wizards have five players with expiring contracts, including starters Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Gortat’s $13.56 million salary for the 2018-19 season dwarfs the other expiring deals. The hefty figure counts among the reasons why the 34-year-old center is considered a likely trade piece.
This plan is unlikely to work unless the team in question actually wanted one of those players anyway. It is worth the shot.
That said, expect a lot of trades and movement on draft night — that is the buzz around the league. After DeAndre Ayton going No. 1 there is not really a consensus, and some teams have fallen in love with players and are willing to trade up and get them. Teams starting with Sacramento at No. 2 are fielding serious offers for their picks, and a few may jump at them.
The problem is the guys teams love will be off the board by No. 15, which means the Wizards may be making a pick. Which is not a bad thing, they have traded their picks away for years and they could use the injection of youth. Still, they will look to trade this pick too if it helps lessen the burden on their payroll.