It has been an interesting series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat. Both teams have ratcheted up the physicality and the list of injured is growing on both sides. I know Kenny Smith on TNT keeps talking about how he hates the Hawks half-court offense, he calls it dribble-dribble, dribble-dribble... But I actually think it works well for the mix of speed and athleticism that the Hawks have.

But what I wanted to talk about was this one play at the end of the 3rd quarter. The game was already well in hand with the Hawks up by 15 or so, but I think it illustrates an important point for all coaches to consider. If you like to play fast, you teach your players to close out shooters and run out on the break. That's what the Heat do here, but it backfires on them on and Flip Murray of the Hawks gets the offensive rebound and goes to the hoop and picks up the foul and makes 2 FTs,

I guess what I'm trying to say is not so much that teaching the run out is a bad strategy or tactic. But that as a coach, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis. How many more points can we score with the run out versus how many points we give up by allowing more offensive rebounds against. Much also depends on the talent of your players. Against a much bigger team you may give up more offensive rebounds anyways, so running out may make sense. Or even with a run out, how many points can you expect to score if you have a slow team.

Obviously, in this scenario at the end of the quarter, it would've been ideal to say always block out first. It requires a player with a high basketball IQ to recognize that in an end of quarter/game scenario, the better option is to block out and rebound down. But as coaches we often teach players not to over-think and just do, so Cook was just doing as opposed to thinking.


Its perhaps presumptuous to say that had the Heat secured the rebound, gone the other way and scored, maybe they would have won the game. But still, one cannot underestimate the psychological impact of closing to within 11 or 10 points.

As for the series overall, the Heat have still been too inconsistent shooting from the outside to win this series. Kudos to Hawks head coach Mike Woodson for sticking with the defensive strategy of forcing the Heat to beat them with outside shooting. With the exception of Game 2, the Heat have really struggled to find any kind of shooting rhythm, and as the series has gotten more physical, the harder it has even become. The problem for the Hawks though, is that this strategy will only work with the Heat, the Cavs are too good of a shooting team for it to work against the Cavs.

For more rebounding information, check out Jim Calhoun's brand new DVD on Rebounding and Basketball Wisdom. Coach Calhoun is the long time head coach of the UConn Huskies who made it to this season's Final Four in Detroit. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

The Celtics vs Bulls series has definitely been the most entertaining to watch, yet as a coach its been interesting to dissect some of the good plays, and the bad ones as well. Of course, last night's game was controversial mainly due to how it ended, was the Rondo foul on Miller flagrant or not? As a coach though, the more relevant and important question was how did he get so open (a missed defensive assignment) in the first place?

In my opinion, the turning point of the game was in the fourth quarter when the Bulls had an 11 point lead heading into the stretch run with 6 minutes or so to go in the game. A turnover, a bad shot, a defensive lapse, and a Ray Allen 3-pointer gave the Celtics momentum and allowed them to claw back into the game. Here is that 1-minute sequence,

The turnover from Derrick Rose leading to a Rondo layup seems obvious, but I wanted to point out why as coaches we should think twice about starting drives from the top of the key, as opposed to the wing. If you turn the ball over on a drive from the top of the key, it allows the offense to get a jump on primary break with your only safety being the 5 man,

If it is an end of quarter or end of game play, and you want to go 1-4 low, that works because it is the last possession play. But I think during the game, it leaves you vulnerable for the easy run out.

On the Ray Allen 3-pointer, it was just a bad defensive sequence. Ray Allen is able to turn the corner on the attempted hedge on the ball screen, kicks it back out to Rondo, then nobody picks up Allen as he clears out to the corner,


Basketball is a game of runs and as a coach, you have to recognize when one of those runs is happening either in your favor or against you. The Bulls probably go ahead and win the game if they hunkered down and concentrated a little harder in this key moment of the game. If they had held that 11 point lead for 1 or 2 more possessions, the game would've probably been out of reach for the Celtics.

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I caught the first half of the game between the Denver Nuggets and the New Orleans Hornets last night and the entire game -- entire series for that matter -- was summed up in one word -- toughness. The Nuggets have it, the Hornets are running away from it, and that is the fundamental difference between the two teams, it is the Nuggets that will have the last word when the series is over and done with.

As a player (and a not very good one), the worst insult I could ever receive was that I wasn't tough enough. Opponents, teammates, and coaches could all make fun of my shrimpy stature or lack of vertical, but nothing got me riled up more than if someone accused me of being soft. That attitude has translated into my coaching style. I don't care if people say our players lack height and size, can't shoot, can't run, etc... but I never want to hear that our players play soft, can't handle the physicality, or whine too much. The worst part of having a soft attitude is the fatalist mentality it engenders. Coaches, players all become excuse makers. Soft teams always find someone else to blame for their lack of toughness -- its the refs fault for not blowing the whistle, or the cliched "dirty play" usage. Teams that play tough always have the psychological advantage, which is why toughness -- physical and mental -- is so important in all sports.

Consider the following quotes. Here is one from Hornets head coach Byron Scott complaining about Nuggets guard Dahnte Jones physical defense on Hornets guard Chris Paul after the Game 1 loss:

I can appreciate anybody that plays hard, but when you get to the point where you're being a little dirty, that's the thing that kind of aggravates me. Being that I played in this league, I know how tough that is. But when you get to the point where you're being a little dirty then I don't appreciate that -- and I don't respect it.
In a different interview also after Game 1, Scott contradicts himself when he explains how the current NBA isn't nearly as physical as when he played (which I agree with) and that they should go back to that physicality:
This is still pitty-pat basketball to me. This is not physical and aggressive basketball the way it was in the '80s and '90s. This is so watered down compared to then that it's unbelievable. I wish they would go back to some of those rules from the '90s. It would separate the men from the boys.
Now this is a quote from Nuggets head coach George Karl after Game 2 responding to a question on the difference between physicality and "dirty play":
Usually winning and losing. The winning team thinks you're physical and the losing team thinks you're dirty. Playoff series can get intense and it might already be to the point that they don't like us and we don't like them. And that's the way it should be.
And another quote from Karl, also after Game 2 talking about how he expected the Hornets to respond to the physical play:
They’re going to be very angry and very physical. The game got a little more chippy tonight. It seemed like they were trying to tease us into mistakes and I’m sure it’s going to continue on the road. Coach (Byron) Scott is obviously upset with the physicality of the game and we’ll see where it goes.

Now, if you are a player for the Hornets and the Nuggets, how do you think you would respond given the different attitudes of your coaches? If you are a Hornet, you are probably thinking its OK to whine to the refs about rough play. If you are a Nugget, you are prepared to step up and maintain that psychological advantage.

For more ideas to incorporate toughness into your practices, check out Phil Martelli's DVD on Building Toughness in Practices. Coach Martelli is the head coach of St. Joseph's University. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

I watched a couple of halves of the Cleveland Cavaliers versus Detroit Pistons series. While on the one hand, certainly Lebron James and the Cavs looked invincible -- to me, I felt that the Pistons really just didn't play good enough defense. They had the right idea to double-team Lebron James, but they just didn't commit themselves enough to the double-teams and proper rotations. If you don't commit yourselves completely to a defensive strategy, it doesn't stand a chance to succeed.

I took a few sequences from last night's game in the second half. The double-teams come but they're just too soft and non-committal. Another major problem was double-teaming some of the other Cavs players, rotating off of Lebron James. Take a look,

In trying to trap Lebron James on the pick and roll, the weakside must rotate to take away the roll. Anderson Varejao sets the screen, the Pistons choose to double-team Lebron, Varejao rolls to the basket.

You can see the 2 pistons defenders trapping, and the 2 down low. Now, you don't want the corner defender to rotate down because that would leave a wide open 3-pointer. So Antonio McDyess is the one that is supposed to rotate down, he's just too slow to do that.


At the moment, the Cavs certainly look like the team to beat throughout this playoffs, as they've improved their lineup especially with better outside shooting. In other words, the packline defense against the Cavs won't work anymore. But I'm looking forward to seeing what a good defensive team can do against the Cavs. If/when the Lakers face the Cavs, they have the kind of team that can double and rotate quick enough.

As for the Pistons, it is somewhat surprising how far they have fallen, especially considering their dominance defensively the past few years. While defense wasn't the only reason why they lost this series, it certainly was a major contributing factor, then again, we'll see if any team will be able to stop the Cavs as they go through these playoffs.

For more info on trapping defenses, take a look at Roy Williams's DVD on his Scramble Defense. Coach Williams is the head coach of the 2009 National Champion UNC Tar Heels. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

The last day or so, I've heard a lot of talk on TV and the radio about whether or not certain star players need to score a certain amount of points in order for the team to win. In Houston, they're wondering whether it is a bad thing that Yao Ming only went 2-for-7, yet the Rockets still won. In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki goes 4-for-9 and 12 points, the Mavs win, and people are wondering what's wrong with Dirk.

From a coaches perspective, it never really concerns me who gets the points, but rather what is important is whether we are executing properly as a team on offense; whether players are in the right position to make the correct decisions and reads. If Yao is being double-teamed, it makes sense to pass out and find the open teammate. If Przybilla is being physical and full-fronting with backside support, it makes sense to reverse the ball to the weakside. If Josh Howard against Michael Finley is a better 1v1 matchup, then by all means go to it.

Obviously there is no such thing as an equal opportunity offense, the more skilled and talented players will naturally end up taking the majority of shots. And of course, you want to be the aggressor on offense. But to a certain extent, good offense will be dictated based on what the defense gives you. For example, if the other team is playing a packline defense, it doesn't really make sense to keep pounding the ball into the paint. Similarly, if a team is over-playing all the passing lanes, it just makes common sense to go backdoor.

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After an impressive Game 1 start, the Dallas Mavs relapsed into defensive ineptitude and allowed Spurs point guard Tony Parker to torch them for 38 points and a blowout win in San Antonio. Erick Dampier came out the day after and proclaimed through the media that he was going to put Parker on the ground. Though it wasn't the wisest thing to say publicly, in my opinion the message was directed at his own teammates -- we need to step up and take responsibility.

Last night, the Mavs did just that. As good as their offense is, everyone knows that playoff basketball is about defense. And the road will only get tougher, if the Mavs cannot stop Tony Parker, what chance do they have against Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, or Lebron James? In order to stop the great players, it required a total team effort and smart defensive play, and I felt collectively the Mavs did that in stopping Parker. Here are few defensive highlights from the first half before Popovich pulled all his starters,

I felt that starting JJ Barea was the right move by Carlisle. He has the speed to stay with Parker as see in the one sequence. But the Mavs also had great help defense all-around from Dampier, Howard, JET, Kidd, and Dirk. I wanted to highlight this one play because I think it's just a smart defensive play. On the rotation, J Kidd is left to closeout on Parker. Instead of leaving his feet and flying at him, Kidd knows that Parker isn't really a 3-point threat. So he chops his feet and stays down, forces Parker to put the ball on the floor to beat him. Then he makes another great play by anticipating the spin move by Parker and keeping him in front, forcing Parker to travel,


I'm still sticking with my pre-playoff prediction that the Mavs will go on to win this series. How well they do beyond, against the Nuggets/Hornets, Jazz/Lakers, Blazers/Rockets, really depends on how well they play defensively. The Mavs have all the offensive abilities to score against even the best of defensive teams, but they need consistent defensive performances to win the Championship. Can they do it? Certainly possible, but it all depends on whether the whole team (players and coaches) can commit to it.

For a brand new video on defense, check out Seth Greenberg's DVD on closing out and Defense in Special Situations. Coach Greenberg is the head coach at Virginia Tech. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

In playing against the Philadelphia 76ers, it's all about transition defense. They play a very uptempo, fast-breaking style, with their athletic guards in Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller. The Orlando Magic are the better team, but if they allow the 76ers to get into the open court and make plays which happened in the 4th quarter of Game 1, bad things happen.

Against a good fast-break team like the 76ers, you need to do 2 things defensively. First, is to take care of the ball on offense and take good shots. Second, your players have to get back on defense and be aware of where the ball is and where it is going to go. In the following sequences, the Magic make some mistakes offensively with some turnovers and bad shots, but I give them credit for making good plays in transition defense to make up for sloppy offense,

Right after Magic guard Courtney Lee makes a bad pass on the fast break -- jumping in the air trying to pass to a forward with his back turned -- Lee hustles back on defense and intercepts a baseball pass by 76ers Reggie Evans. Most fast-breaking teams are coached to outlet the ball as fast as possible, this often leads to players heaving one downcourt without really looking. They gamble because often times the defense is slow to react. Not this time,

In this sequence, 76ers guard Andre Iguodala is flying towards the basket with his head down. Magic defender Michael Pietrus steps up and takes one in the chest and gets the charge call on Iguodala,

Teams that play fast in transition often play out of control. That is the way they are coached, they play fast and sometimes border on reckless. Defensively, you want to take advantage of the offense's propensity to gamble and play overly aggressive.


This series is all about tempo. If the Magic can force the 76ers to play a halfcourt possession style game, the 76ers have no chance, they have nobody to matchup against Dwight Howard, even when they double. However, if the Magic take bad shots and turn the ball over, they allow the 76ers to get into their offense.

For more video info on transition defense, take a look at Kelvin Sampson's DVD on defensive transition drills. Coach Sampson is an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

What is most fulfilling as a coach is to see that your players have matured, that they get the big picture, and that they can take control themselves. In watching Kobe Bryant throughout his career, he's had times of immaturity, he's made mistakes, but I think he's in a place now where as a coach you want all your players to be at. He's become a true leader. He's demanding of his teammates, but provides constructive criticism instead of embarrassing them. He understands that his ability to affect the game goes beyond just scoring. If I were to venture a guess, I would say that Kobe Bryant is a future head coach, he's much more cerebral about the game than most.

We all know Kobe is a prolific scorer. Here a few sequences of his playmaking at work, finding teammates and making the extra pass for the open shot,

A Spike Lee special to ESPN which will air in full on Saturday May 16, some mic'd up sequences of Kobe behind the scenes "doin' work". This first one is Kobe on the bench,

This second one is Kobe the director,


The Lakers are clearly playing at such a high level at the moment, offensively and defensively. Certainly, nobody in the West appears to have what it takes to take them on. At this point, the build-up is for a Lakers-Cavs finals which would probably be the highest-rated, most anticipated finals even more so than last season.

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Just an incredible finish between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls tonight. If the Bulls lose this series, they'll look at this game and wonder "what if" they had won this game, a game they should have won. The Celtics will look back at Game 1 and wonder "what if" Paul Pierce made that free-throw.

Ray Allen had to have a big game, and indeed he did, including scoring the game winner. I thought the Bulls actually did a decent job defending the last play, switching all screens. The play itself was good as well, a screen the screener with Ray Allen coming to meet the ball. Check out the final 12 thrilling seconds,

Just wanted to emphasize from a coaching perspective to always be aware of the timeout and substitution situation. In both Games 1 and 2, the Bulls ran out of timeouts at the end of regulation. You would think that one of Vinny Del Negro's assistant coaches's job is to keep track of timeouts (yes, veteran Del Harris is one of the assistants). Now, one could argue that it wouldn't have made a difference either way, but in my opinion, at the NBA level it is unconscionable to have overlooked such an important detail. And for it to happen twice in a row, that's almost negligent. I can understand if you coach high school, where you don't get all the stoppages and TV timeouts they do in the NBA.

Second point, but perhaps less significant was the issue over substitutions. Just prior to the inbounds, the Bulls wanted to get Ben Gordon in the game for defensive purposes after seeing the Celtics players on the floor. Good idea, bad execution. Again, someone should have prepared for it during the timeout for Gordon to be ready to sub in just in case. Instead, Del Negro was scrambling to try to find Gordon, then check in, but the refs denied the substitution -- too late. One could argue that it wouldn't have made a difference (and certainly with the way Ray Allen was shooting, nobody would've stopped that shot from going in), but still the point remains that as a coach, you have to be organized and prepared for anything, assume nothing.


The Bulls still fly back home feeling that they've gained the home court advantage going 1-1 in Boston. The Celtics did need the win more than the Bulls did tonight. It's tough to read how the rest of the series will play out, but my guess is that it goes 7. Too many inconsistencies on both sides for any team to pull away in my opinion. Should make for a great fan experience in any case.

If you're looking for more buzzer beating plays for your season coming up, take a look at Jay Wright's brand new DVD on Late Game Sets. Coach Wright is the head coach at Villanova. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

With the exception of the 76ers thriller over the Magic, most of the games today were duds. I happened to catch the Heat vs Hawks game which was a dud. I've watched both the Heat and the Hawks a few times during the regular season but I never got in-depth into either team. But after watching this game and looking back at the regular season stats and the past 30 game history log.

The Hawks devised their gameplan around 2 things. Double team Dwyane Wade on the catch to get the ball out of his hands and let his teammates try to make plays instead. And go under all ball-screens, to prevent penetration first and close out second. Take a look at these three sequences which show both strategies,

The decision to double-team Wade and force the ball out of his hands was an easy one,

As for the strategy to go under on all screens, consider that the Miami Heat were 9th worst in the NBA during the regular season with a 3-point FG% of 35.7% on an 8th highest 19.9 attempts, it's easy in hindsight why the Hawks made this their strategy.


Credit to the head coach Mike Woodson and the Atlanta Hawks for coming up with a great defensive gameplan. Good enough to limit the Heat to just a paltry 64 points total. To be sure, the Heat won't continue to shoot 17% (4-for-23) from 3-point line, and they will find a way to get Wade past those double teams. But if the Heat cannot show they can consistently hit that outside shot, the Hawks will continue to go under, stop penetration and make it extremely difficult for the Heat to gain points in the paint. This all puts extreme pressure on the Heat defense (especially transition defense against the Hawks potent early offense); trying to keep games under 90 points. A tough task indeed.

For more info on double-teaming and trapping defenses, take a look at Bob Kloppenburg's DVD on the SOS Defense. Coach Kloppenburg is a former longtime assistant coach in the NBA. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

What a thrilling game from start to finish between the Celtics and the Bulls, at least from a fan standpoint, end to end action, last second shots, and overtime. From a coaching standpoint, we see a lot of mistakes, taking ill-advised shots, poor defensive execution, bad fouls, and lack of ball movement to name just a few. However, both point guards played great, Rondo carried the Celtics and D. Rose simply couldn't be stopped.

What I wanted to talk about chiefly was how the Celtics good offense through Rajon Rondo paradoxically led to poor transition defense. Viewed in this way, the Celtics best offensive option with Rondo penetrating was their own worst enemy on defense. Because Rose could take advantage of not having anyone in front of him in the open court that is quick enough to slow him down. I counted at least 5 or 6 situations where Rondo scored off the dribble, only to watch Rose go the other way for an early offense layup, or pass to an open corner 3-pointer, or fouled. Pay attention to 20 seconds into this highlight recap of the game,

The Celtics use a high screen and roll in order to get Rondo an open lane towards the basket. He uses his quickness to get by the defenders and gets all the way to the rim,

Right after Rondo scores, note how deep he is, basically into the scrum of camera guys and the back row. Notice where Derrick Rose is, ready to receive the inbounds pass. Rose already has a 2 second head start,

Obviously Rondo doesn't have a chance to catch up with a speeding Rose in the open court. You can see him trying to tell his teammates to pick up. Eddie House actually does try to pick up, but Rose is too quick and goes for the open layup,


So, how do you solve this paradox? If Rondo doesn't penetrate, the Celtics almost certainly would've lost this game by double-digits. If Rondo does penetrate, Rose will just run it back the other way for 2 as the Celtics do not have anyone other than Rondo that can match Rose's speed on defense. It's an interesting puzzle to be sure and I'm not sure how they solve it. Certainly if Ray Allen improves that would help tremendously, as I'm not convinced Paul Pierce ISO plays are much better at this point.

For more on transition defense, take a look at Chris Lowery's DVD on Transition Defense into Halfcourt M2M. Coach Lowery is the brains behind the Southern Illinois tenacious defense. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Of all the first-round playoff matchups, the one upset that probably won't surprise many people is the Dallas Mavericks over the third-seeded San Antonio Spurs. But not all of it is the aging, ailing Spurs. The Mavs have finally started to gel in the past few weeks under Rick Carlisle's first year. From doing a little research, there appears to have been a major turning point around February.

Some coaches are laid back, some are possessive and controlling, Rick Carlisle falls under the latter. After 2-3 months of mediocrity (offensively and defensively), Carlisle decided to bring in Darrell Armstrong as an assistant in February. Armstrong related well with the players as a former teammate and was able to communicate the message clearer. Which ultimately led Carlisle to release some of the play-calling duties over to Jason Kidd. While the defense has still be inconsistent, the changes on offense have been remarkable.

I watched most of the game last night between the Mavs and the Rockets live with some friends yesterday and took these clips from recordings. The 2 sequences in my opinion signify the offensive accomodation between Carlisle calling Nowitzki isolation plays and allowing Kidd to improvise on the fly in a Spread set,

I think this negotiated balance -- albeit fragile -- allows Carlisle to maintain some level of control while giving Kidd the ultimate say on the court. With a team full of veterans, it would appear that this is the best way forward. Consistent to either their ISO and spread offense is spacing as shown below with Dirk on the ISO and Terry on the dribble drive,


With the added benefit of not having to travel a far distance, and knowing the Spurs intimately (this goes both ways though), I think one could make the argument that it would be an upset if the Spurs won this series. If the Mavs do indeed go on to beat the Spurs, they could pose some problems for Denver or LA, but much of it will depend on how consistent they are on defense.

For more on spread offense principles, take a look at Keno Davis' DVD on his Spread Dribble Drive. Coach Davis was the 2008 AP coach of the year and head coach of Providence. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Can't you tell it's playoff season for the NBA? Ray Allen gets suspended by popping Anderson Verajao in the crotch. I took in the Lakers vs Jazz game last night and both teams turned up the intensity, upped the physicality, all in an attempt to gain a mental edge on what potentially could be a first round matchup. It's why regular season NBA is so different from the NBA Playoffs.

Both teams started out pretty tame, but as the game progressed, both teams ratcheted up their pent up intensity. Finally, Deron Williams had had enough and shoved Andrew Bynum while setting a pick, Pao Gasol retaliates with a forearm shiver on the cutter, and finally, Odom wraps up Carlos Boozer out of the double team,

As a coach, usually you want your players to avoid fouling. And certainly you don't want your players to foul unnecessarily. But in certain situations, fouls can be a good thing. Sometimes, teams want to intimidate you and if your team doesn't stand it's ground, you let the opponent gain a psychological advantage. Once that happens, your team never plays quite the same afterwards. I think both teams here, the Lakers and the Jazz wanted to gain that mental edge, the Jazz attempted an unconscionable 45 free-throws, yet the Lakers won the game 125-112. I think the Lakers won both battles on this night.

In the NBA Playoffs with it's 7-game series, it's all about the psychological advantage. When the Spurs bullied the Suns the past couple of years, it got into their heads and the Suns simply didn't have the inner toughness to matchup. In the finals last year, the Celtics were the aggressor, and the Lakers didn't and couldn't match their intensity. The Mavs went soft against the Heat in game 3 of their finals matchup, faltered, and they've never quite recovered since.


So which team is the toughest heading into this year's playoffs? It's tough to say, because in most cases, because it is the events in-game and how players react to them which largely determine the outcomes. Having said that, certainly the Lakers appear to have "toughened" up. The Cavs sent a message against the Celtics the other night with their beat down both on the scoreboard and psychologically.

For more ideas to incorporate toughness into your practices, check out Phil Martelli's DVD on Building Toughness in Practices. Coach Martelli is the head coach of St. Joseph's University. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

It's been a disappointing year for Raptors fans. Sam Mitchell was fired mid-season (one of many coaching casualties), the Jermaine O'Neal experiment failed miserably, Jose Calderon couldn't stay healthy, and rumors kept swirling that Chris Bosh wanted out. If there has been a silver lining, it is the way they have finished out the season. You never know what will happen, but I read on Yahoo!Sports that the recent revival is primarily the reason why Colangelo will stay with Jay Triano for next year (and not move on Ettore Messina like everyone originally thought).

Though still inconsistent, from what I've watched in the past couple of games, the Raptors have tried to play better defense. Their deficiencies still remain with the inability for the guards to stop penetration 1v1. But I liked what they did here tonight against the Wizards, Chris Bosh with the hard-hedge and the other 3 help defenders essentially zoned up to stop the roll or penetration,

I like the hard-hedge in most PNR situations because it does a good job defending against all the options especially when executed properly. The problem of course, is that it is not always executed properly, because it requires great team communication, and relies on a dynamic forward who can hedge and recover in time. Bosh is that kind of forward, and his teammates step up and come up with a couple of steals.


With all the turmoil of this season behind them, a fresh summer and training camp, hopefully the Raptors can pick up from where they left off in October. I think depth, especially at the point guard position is a major deficiency Colangelo has to address, either through the draft, free-agents, or trades. And then there is the big issue of CB4, I'm not 100% convinced that CB4 wants to stay, so that will obviously also need to be addressed.

To learn more about different defensive schemes against the PNR, check out Kermit Davis's DVD on Defending Ball-screens, PNR, and Half Court Trapping. Coach Davis is currently the head coach at Middle Tennessee State University. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

It's getting close to the end of the regular season in the NBA and for 16 well-deserved teams, the real season begins. The rest are left to ponder what never was and what changes need to be made in the future. I watched the playoff-bound Miami Heat against the lottery-bound New York Knicks tonight and you could tell just by looking at how the teams played on defense which team was going to the playoffs and who was not,

On the Ball, Crowd their Space:

I just want to focus on defense on the ball. If you don't close out properly on defense, bad things happen. In this first sequence, Crawford of the Knicks just lets Daequan Cook of the Heat shoot the open 3-pointer right in his face. He doesn't even move on the pump fake,

In this second sequence, Beasley gets the ball at the top of the key, despite Harrington giving him all this space, he still gets to the rim with ease and the help defense is nowhere to be found, and there was a defensive foul to boot,

I'm not sure what the vibe is in NYC, but I have to say, that my own personal opinion is that Mike D'Antoni's 7 seconds or less is not a good fit. When I think of the Knicks, of NYC, I think of tough, dog-eat-dog, no holds barred attitude. I think of New York Giants tough defense. I think of Mariano Rivera tough. I think of Charles Oakley, Patrick Ewing, Bill Bradley and Willis Reed tough. I think of the rough and tumble playgrounds of Rucker Park, the quintessential "New York City" point guards with the likes of Mark Jackson, Kenny Anderson, Rod Strickland, and yes, even Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair.

My point is, this style of play doesn't fit the character of NYC. This city is one that has educated basketball fans. They don't need to be "entertained" with a high-flying high-scoring gimmicky-offense, yes, I said "gimmick". This isn't Phoenix after all, MSG knows what a winner looks like and this ain't it.


Much is made about when Lebron James makes his move to NYC. If and when that happens, 7 seconds or less isn't the style of play that suits Lebron James's skills either. Could he adapt to it? Sure, but why would he? Shouldn't the system adapt to him? To be sure, the Knicks have improved over their dismal record last year, but 30-51 is still nothing to be happy about. Defensively, the Knicks have worsened both in FG% and points allowed, ranking in the bottom 3 in each this season.

For more great video info on defensive close outs, check out Seth Greenberg's DVD on Closing Out and Defending Special Situations. Coach Greenberg is the head coach at Virginia Tech. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Just this past week as this year's inductees were announced for the Basketball Hall of Fame, most of us coaches eagerly waited for Bobby Hurley Sr.'s name to come up only to be disappointed yet again. To be sure, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, and C. Vivian Stringer are each deserving of the honor. But one has to wonder if Coach Hurley will ever get his shot, and what kind of message this sends about amateur basketball.

Most coaches know who Coach Hurley is -- the long-time head coach of the St. Anthony Friars of Jersey City with 950-plus wins, 24 state championships and a career 90% winning percentage, the subject of a New York Times Bestselling book "Miracle of St. Anthony," and father of famous Duke player Bobby Hurley Jr. Steve Politi of the New Jersey Star-Ledger has the story. His argument is that the Hall of Fame is biased against high school. Of the 81 coaches inducted, only two high school coaches have ever made it, Morgan Wooten and Bertha Teague.

At a time when the game of basketball is facing a crisis of legitimacy at the grassroots level in the United States, it seems extremely short-sighted to have once again overlooked what Coach Hurley, and the thousands of high school coaches and teachers have contributed and continue to contribute to the game.

In his Final Four press conference Roy Williams said, "Bob Hurley is a Hall of Famer -- period. It's going to happen. It's just a matter of when." I certainly hope so. Enjoy the Easter Weekend y'all...

About a month ago, I thought it was going to be an interesting battle for the final few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. At the time I thought Milwaukee and Chicago would go down to the wire, I was right about Chicago, not so much about Milwaukee. John Paxson is looking pretty good right now going with Vinny Del Negro, especially with where Scott Skiles and the Bucks are.

Anyways, I wanted to focus on who I think should be the Rookie of the Year this season, Derrick Rose of the Bulls. In my opinion, Rose is a better version of a Tony Parker. What I really like is his ability to change to tempo of the game, all on his own. He plays fast, but under control. He's a 1 man fast break, much like the way TP is. Take a look at Rose in these plays from the Bulls big win over the 76ers last night,

Just love guys like Rose and Parker. When you have a player with speed like that, they can dictate the tempo of the game, all on their own. Similar to Parker, the biggest weakness of Rose right now is his jumpshot -- Parker had to work on his until it became a part of his game, Rose needs to do the same. So far, Rose has lived up to the hype of being the number one pick overall, something that has been hit or miss based on past history.

If you look at his stats, 16.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.9 rpg, Rose is definitely up there with the other top ROY candidates in Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo. But Rose has a much bigger role with the Bulls as their primary PG, and he is one of the major reasons why the Bulls are headed to the playoffs. You look at his current assist-to-turnover ratio, 2.47, compared to Parker, 2.65, and Jason Kidd, 3.8. I think Rose is on his way to becoming a top 5 point guard within the next 5 years.


The Bulls are likely to face the Cavs or the Celtics in the first round. I think either team is going to be a tough matchup for the Bulls, but the Bulls are definitely a team to watch out for in the future.

For more early offense and fast break video info, check out Tom Izzo's DVD on the Numbered Fast Break. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches. Have a great Easter Weekend!!!

A lot of talk about the Spurs and their playoff hopes now that Manu Ginobili is gone for the year. I took in their game last night against the Portland Trailblazers, who look poised to make some noise themselves in the upcoming playoffs. One of the players I really looked at closely was 2nd year (really a rookie) player Greg Oden. A lot has been made about his injury troubles, but I wanted to see how he's adjusting to the NBA game.

I haven't watched that many Blazers games, so as a disclaimer, my opinions here are based on the limited games I've watched. But from what I've seen, I think Oden has struggled with the finer aspects of the pick and roll both offensively and defensively. Specifically, his footwork needs a lot more work. Here are a few sequences I picked out from the first half,

On Offense:

I think in this play Brandon Roy shares some blame, but certainly Oden is slow to roll to the basket, turned the wrong way, and isn't watching for the ball,

On Defense:

Again, just slow on footwork. Instead of a hard hedge, he waits behind the screen, when the dribbler comes off the screen, Oden is caught flat footed and jumps in the air to compensate. Tony Parker is too smart and allows Oden to fall on him for the foul at the end of the quarter,

I included the last sequence because I think that Oden has the potential to be a great PNR player. Most of that play was due to Roy, but when Oden is a little more active with his feet, good things happen.


It's a work in progress. I don't think it is that surprising that he's been slower to develop the PNR skills, because he's never had that role before, and his body type isn't naturally as suited for it, then say an Amare Stoudamire. But I think with more individual skill, he will learn it. If you look at say Dwight Howard, he came into the league as a rebounding dunker, but has learned to play within a PNR game. Oden has to do the same.

To learn more about the PNR for your big men, and how to defend it, take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll and how to defend it. Van Gundy is a master of the PNR having coached some of the best guard-forward tandems in the NBA. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.

With the NCAA Championship over, I'm really starting to get into NBA Playoffs mode. Caught the second half of an intense game between the New Orleans Hornets and the Miami Heat. Playing in different conferences, but the game really had the feel of a playoff game. Hornets head coach Byron Scott publicly called out his team, saying that Chris Paul and David West aren't good enough to carry the team, others needed to do more. The Heat have had problems closing out close games recently in the losses to the Magic and the Mavs.

With the stage set, the finish was bound to be a good one. The Hornets led for most of the first half, but a third and fourth quarter surge by the Heat led by both Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley helped them get a narrow lead into the final minute. So the situation is, Heat up 78-76, 0:10 seconds left, Wade to the line shooting 2 free throws. He misses the frontend, makes the backend, score is 79-76, 0:10 seconds left, Hornets have no TOs left, take a look,

Now, there are two clearly demarcated schools of thought in this kind of a situation. Those who think that 10 seconds or less, 3-point lead -- foul, and prevent the offense the chance to shoot the 3-pointer to tie. The other side of the debate says it better to take the chance and just play solid defense.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I clearly belong to the former school of thought -- foul the other team, especially with the clock under 5 seconds, make them hit free throws, then they try to foul, you make free throws, under 5 seconds (actually more like 3 seconds after all the fouling), it is extremely hard to come down the court and hit a 3-pointer (or even a 2-pointer for that matter should you miss your FTs and they hit theirs). In the segment above, the Heat had the opportunity to foul Chris Paul with 4 seconds left here,

Rasual Butler ends up with the ball on a broken play and hits the game-tying 3-pointer as the buzzer sounds. The Hornets rode the momentum into the overtime and went on to beat the Heat in Miami.


As for the two teams chances in the playoffs. I agree with Coach Scott, the Hornets won't go far if other players don't step up, but I think he could have approached the situation a little more tactfully. By coming out so publicly, I think he added more tension. It could be that he's tried to address it privately, but that his players weren't responding, so he felt this would motivate them, but I just think that by bringing it out in the public, it just adds more scrutiny which can serve to divide rather than unite.

As for the Heat, clearly there is some concern about their execution in crunch time, which cannot be easily brushed aside. I think part of it is inexperience in 1st year coach Erik Spoelstra, but there are enough veterans like Wade and O'Neal who have played in big games before.

For more great winning strategies from a truly great basketball mind, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on Playbook for Success. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and other basketball topics.

Well, not exactly a thriller of a game, especially when compared to last year's championship game. I do wonder if the outcome would've been different if Michigan State would have played the first half the way they played in the second half. As I mentioned on Sunday, the key for MSU was to get an early lead or to stay within single digits early. MSU simply doesn't excel in the style of play to mount a big comeback.

What really allowed UNC to build that early lead were the turnovers they forced (and some unforced by MSU). Ty Lawson himself was credited with an NCAA Championship game record 8 steals, of MSU's 21 total turnovers. I took a clip of this one steal because it shows good fundamentals without over-committing. Lawson chases his check through a triple screen and gets a hand in the passing lane, Wayne Ellington finishes the play with a dunk,

Depending on how your defense is setup or time-score situations, you may want to chase all shooters off screens, or go over the top, or switch. In most ordinary M2M cases, I think you want to chase because you won't be left vulnerable off of a bad switch or a misdirection play by the offense. Here, Lawson just performs his normal defensive responsibility, but in doing so, he is rewarded with the steal,


I was a little surprised that Wayne Ellington was selected as the player of the game, later changed to Tyler Hansbrough. I really felt Ty Lawson was the difference maker, especially on defense with his 8 steals. But, I don't think that it really makes a difference, nobody really pays much attention to the player of the game. As for MSU, they return almost everyone so they'll have more chances to make it. Congrats to UNC though, there were the injuries, questions about their defense, but they definitely rose up to the challenge.

For more on UNC, Coach Roy Williams, and their defense, check out Roy Williams's DVD on his Scramble Defense. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

'Twas the night before the Championship, when all through the gym,
Not a creature was stirring, and the lights were still dim.
The jerseys were hung on the lockers with great care,
In anticipation for the players to change into them there;

The fans were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of alley-oops danced in their heads.
And I, just a humble young fan with no fortune or fame,
Had just cleared my day to cherish the big game.

When out of the tunnel, there arose such a clatter,
I sprung to the stands to see what was the matter.
Away to an upperdeck section I flew,
And hunkered down low in my seat for a view.

The lights flickering on, one-by-one, for the show,
Gave the luster of game time on objects below.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But the players and coaches all full of good cheer.

With two stately old coaches with a Final Four swagger,
That moment I knew that this final game mattered;
More rapid than eagles, the players they came,
They lined them all up and called each by name:

"On Kalin and on Danny, On Tyler and on Goran!
On Raymar, on Wayne, on Ty and on Draymond!
To the top of the world, to the top of the key,
Now pass away, dribble, and dunk one for me!"

So to the jump circle, the coursers they flew,
The zebras, the players, Coach Izzo and Coach Williams too;
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the floor,
Their sneakers a screeching and digging for more;

As all here before in the NBA they will fly,
When they meet in the lane and then mount to the sky,
So over the basket the athletes they flew,
With a 360-slam and a "Tomahawk" too!

And then with a wink to his captains so subtle,
The coaches sent their signals to gather and huddle.
I squinted to see and I harkened the sound,
When the coaches entered into their huddles with a bound.

Their eyes, how they twinkled when talking of plays,
Their words were as golden as morning's first rays.
Their droll little mouth betrayed a sly smile,
If not for the years, then as sure for the miles.

They spoke not a word, but for three hours they ran.
They worked "pressure zone," and they worked "man-to-man."
And all the while the coaches kept coaching,
From seats on the sideline, but never approaching.

"No practice tomorrow!" coach said with a grin.
"But the next season be ready to practice to WIN!"
Then astride from the court, the coach gave a cheer:
"Merry Christmas to all, and another Championship Next Year!"

Credit for the lyrics goes to Rick Farrow, Randy B. Young and Matthew Monroe.

Throughout the regular season, UNC's defense got a bad rap, and rightfully so as they were at times inconsistent and lacking in effort. Throughout the NCAA Tournament, UNC's defense has been the reason why they've blitzkrieged through all the rounds so far and will play for the national championship tomorrow.

Last night, they once again did a great job against a hot Villanova team. They really focused in on stopping penetration and forcing the Wildcats to beat them over the top. Villanova struggled to shoot from the outside and therefore could never really get close enough. The added bonus being that their defense led to offensive transition baskets. I've highlighted a few key plays in the second half as the Wildcats were trying to close in, the Tar Heels got some big defensive plays which led to their primary and secondary break offense, and ultimately ran away with the game,

UNC did switch a couple of times in the second half to zone to protect Hansbrough and his 3 fouls, but for the most part they were M2M. What was really the key was that they stopped penetration through great help defense,

Part of the problem was Villanova taking bad shots and not being patient. But once again, I believe that those quick shots were more a product of playing from behind and UNC's tough interior defense than just bad offense. Because UNC was only allowing Villanova to take 3-pointers, and because Villanova was playing from behind, they didn't have the luxury of going side-to-side against UNC, they had to play hurry up and shoot 3-pointers.

Now, if Villanova got lucky and hit some of those open 3-pointers, that could've changed the whole complexion of the game. Then all of a sudden, UNC could not help as much on penetration and Villanova could spread out the defense. But all that is a moot point, because Villanova didn't hit the outside shots.


If there is one team that can beat UNC, it conveniently is Michigan State. Because MSU is a patient half-court team, they can and prefer to use the whole shot clock, which can wear down UNC's defense. The key to the game will be who gets the early lead. If UNC gets an early lead, then MSU will have problems catching up by playing a patient style. If MSU stays with or leads early, than they can continue to grind in the halfcourt and then it comes down to who can make the clutch plays.

If you are a big UNC or Coach Roy Williams fan, then check out Roy Williams's DVD on Man Defense Practice Drills. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

From yesterday's game between the Orlando Magic against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I caught this clip just because I think tempo and pace is extremely important in your preparation for a game. The Cavs were playing their second straight road game and so naturally they were tired. The Magic were slightly rested and playing at home. Therefore, the Magic would run away with this game if they stepped on the gas at every opportunity possible, which is what they did, and they went on to win the game. In this ESPN Wired segment, Coach Stan Van Gundy is reminding his players to keep pushing, not to allow their defense to setup, and to move the ball,

The Magic are a fast team, but they are far from Phoenix Suns or Golden State Warriors fast. Still, knowing when to turn it up and when to turn it down is an important part of preparing for each every game. I remember one coaching year when our athletically superior team played against a mediocre team, but somehow the score was always close and we even lost one game. The other team would slow the game down, use the entire shot clock and played a soft 2-3 zone. Later in the year during the playoffs we played the same team and this time we dictated the tempo, we pushed on every rebound, turnover, and made basket, and we won in a rout. However, later in the same playoffs, we faced another team that was much quicker and even more athletic than we were. We tried running with them but ended up losing by 20. Moral of the story, know when to turn it up or turn it down.


The Final Four is tonight, but I'm also really looking forward to the NBA Playoffs. The East is definitely where the big action will be this year. The Magic and the Cavs appear poised to meet in the Eastern Conference finals (although Boston, Miami, and Atlanta will have something to say about that). Based on how they look today, I still say Cavs in 7, but it's going to be really close.

Looking for ways to increase tempo and get to 100 points? Take a look at The Century Scoring System a DVD from Doug Porter on ways to increase possessions and get high-percentage shots. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Watched the first half of the second game in the TNT double-header last night between the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. Both teams are playoff teams and could very well face each other in the first round. It's remarkable how much one player (Chauncey Billups) can make, but even more incredible has been how the Nuggets have transformed from 7 seconds or less the past 2 years to defensive stalwarts. Coaches that have longevity are those that are able to constantly adapt to the talent they have.

I just like this defensive/offensive sequence from the end of the first quarter. The Jazz are in their ISO and high PNR set for Deron Williams, the Nuggets do a great thing by trapping the ball screen, then zoning up, forcing the 24 second shot clock violation. They go back the other way and hit a big 3-pointer to end the first quarter and close within 2,

Trapping the Ball Screen:

I really like this defensive tactic because it takes the ball out of the offense's best playmaker. You might give up an open look, but I think when you play against a team with a great playmaker, the key is to force the other players to make a play, create their own shot. In fact, even if the Jazz didn't run a high ball screen, I would've doubled Williams anyways to get the ball out of his hands,


I read in an article that the Nuggets claim to not run zone defense. But they run a lot of zone principles. They run a lot of overloads, and hard switches. Whatever they run, it's working because the Nuggets are 4th in opposing percentage defense at 43.9%. If these two teams play each other, it could go 7.

If you're interested in more hybrid type defenses, you might want to look at Bob Kloppenburg's DVD on the SOS Defense. Coach Kloppenburg is a former longtime assistant coach in the NBA. As always, don't forget to check out the the X's and O's of Basketball forum to get all your hoops fill.

From yesterday, Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni sat down with ESPN to do a 13 minute interview. They discussed a number of topics including how it ended with the Suns, the Stephon Marbury saga, 2010 free agents, coaching philosophy, expectations and pressure. The full interview here,

Some points I wanted to dissect a little further:

Basketball is a Simple Game:

By far the most important takeaway. Basketball really is a simple game. It can get complicated when you break it down as most of us coaches do. But really, it's as simple as putting the ball in the net and preventing your opponent from doing the same. I agree with D'Antoni that the beauty of basketball is once the players buy in to what you are trying to teach them, and they figure out for themselves how simple the game is. That is when you know you've done your job as a coach.

Staying Positive, It just Works Better:

I think some coaches will be on either side of the fence on this one. We know that when reduced to the basest human tendencies, people are motivated by carrots and/or sticks. Some believe in carrots (inducements) and some believe in sticks (threats) and some in a combination of both. I don't know which one is right, and it probably changes based on the person. Personally, I'm just a positive guy so I prefer to use carrots, but I'm not naive in believing that sticks are sometimes required as well.

Playing Fast, Playing Defense, Not Mutually Exclusive:

A great point. Most people who play run and gun, 7 seconds or less, come under the misconception that you don't play defense. But I disagree with that notion, I don't think the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. I think you can be a running team, but still emphasize defense. In fact, I would say they are mutually reinforcing. The better defense you play (pressure and rebounding), the more fast break opportunities your team will find.

Too Dogmatic?

I did have a couple of problems with parts of the interview. First was what D'Antoni's dogmatism and persistence on winning an NBA Championship with his 7 seconds or less style. D'Antoni acknowledges the criticism that nobody has ever won playing anything resembling his 7 seconds or less and conceded that slowdown defensive style has overwhelmingly dominated. If nobody has won with 7 seconds or less, and everyone else has won with the opposite, why would anyone go up against such odds just to prove a point? I sense a certain hubris in D'Antoni's thinking that he believes he's just smarter than the rest of us.

Don't Listen to the Media/Internet:

D'Antoni says he doesn't take any advice from or watch/read anything in the media especially on the Internet. He claims to only take advice from his coaching staff and players. But even if he was sincere about his non-contact, there is an epistemological contradiction with such a claim. Because most of his coaching staff and his players are informed by the media and increasingly from the Internet. So in essence, D'Antoni is still being informed by the media and the Internet through his coaching staff and players. I've never been someone who rejects information. Those who can determine the intrinsic value of information are the ones that stay ahead of the curve.

Don't look now, but Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history (OK, short history), and in Larry Brown's first year as head coach. OK, with a record of 34-40 we're not talking the greatest turnaround ever, but I certainly think Brown should be given credit for making them competitive, even if they don't end up making the playoffs (currently 1 game out of 8th spot).

Yesterday's home win over the Lakers (making a season sweep) proves that the Bobcats have improved dramatically. First and foremost, what Brown has brought to the Bobcats has been defensive consistency. The trade to bring Raja Bell gave Brown the kind of scrappy defender that he can depend on night in and night out to defend the opponents' best player, in this case Kobe Bryant. Here are a few great defensive sequences from the first half,

Raja Bell is a big reason for the Bobcats improved defense. But I wanted to highlight a couple of defensive tactics I noticed the Bobcats doing that most other NBA teams don't really do.

Pick up Full Court:

We know that full court presses aren't used much in the NBA because of the athleticism and unnecessary fatigue factor. But I like what the Bobcats do by putting token pressure on the primary ball-handler full-court. It's not really designed to increase turnovers per se (Lakers actually won the turnover battle 16-10), but it accomplishes 2 things:

1. Forces your players to be accountable on defense at all times
2. Dictates tempo

Defending the Inbounds:

You see this more in college, with teams like Tennessee and Gonzaga really putting pressure on the inbounds. But unlike the full court press, I think aggressive pressure on the inbounds is something that translates well to the pro level. Especially in the NBA, where a lot of teams take for granted that the ball will be inbounded,


Just some great quotes from an article at the Winston Salem Journal a couple of weeks ago about Larry Brown:

"We have values that we hope everybody understands about sharing the ball and rebounding. I think not everybody buys into it right away. For some, you demand a lot. And I don't let up."

Just ask Raymond Felton. Because few can see the court like Brown does, point guards often take the brunt of his rants, leading to his famous run-ins with Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury.

"It was tough," Felton said. "He was on top of me. He's still on top of me now. But it was just one of those things where he was drilling me, drilling me, drilling me."

But Brown acknowledged he backed off some when he saw Felton internalize the criticism. Bell believes it shows Brown has mellowed since he last played for him in Philadelphia.

"I used to try to treat (players) 1 and 15 exactly alike because that's the way I was taught with Coach (Dean) Smith and Coach (Frank) McGuire," said Brown, a 5-foot-9 point guard at North Carolina in the early 1960s. "I always thought it was really important for everybody on the team to be treated the same. Now I realize people are different, so I've tried to understand that."

The NBA is a league of stars and currently the Bobcats don't really have any. Nobody has any illusions that this team will beat a Cleveland or a Boston (they play tonight actually) in a 7-game series. But the Bobcats are one or two key free-agent acquisitions away from becoming a top Eastern Conference team.

If you are a Bobcats fan or Coach Brown fan, take a look at Larry Brown's DVD on Secondary Break and Pick and Roll Offense. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.