5.22.2008

Ramifications are Regrets With Good PR

Given that I am now officially rooting for a Detroit-San Antonio finals, I choose to focus on the fact that draft season has officially started rather than the fact that Mike Brown's offense and the non-joke "You look like you should be floatin' on top of a parade" have made me dead inside. (Randomly: If you take the relevance of Woody Allen, the man, from Bananas to pre-Annie Hall and the relevance of Woody Allen's film's from the early-to-mid nineties, and factor in the obvious cultural divide, I think you have Tyler Perry. And Tyler Perry being more relevant than Spike Lee during the NBA Playoffs has to be the ultimate coup, right?)

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Beasley/Rose is a great #1 debate, partly because Beasley is more established coming out of K-State while Rose is a question mark after running the point for a near-championship squad, that Beasley is a better player both now and down the road but Rose seems destined to play on better teams than Beasley in both cases, because of the constructive qualities of their respective talents. And before this draft is said and done, I'm pretty soon B-Easy is going to file a lawsuit against Derrick Coleman.

Now, I do not argue any of these specific points, but the general notion of him is, I believe, still a little off-center. Derrick Rose, the wisdom goes, is more than a set of hops, crossovers, and flat-footed jumpers, for HE IS A POINT GUARD. All the reports on him out of high school were that he was, indeed, a true point guard, and as he neither proved or disproved those notions in Memphis' offense, he is now pregnant with the possibility of being a psychotic hybrid of Jason Kidd and Devin Harris.

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The one comparison I haven't heard for Rose amid the sea of Kidd, Harris, and young Steve Francis is the player he's most similar to, the best point guard still playing in these playoffs, last year's finals MVP, and the guy who absolutely cut the Lakers to shreds in the 1st half of tonight's game. (I know I'm breaking the unwritten rule of acting like every win in the playoffs was a direct result of the victorious' team's grand plan-last year, we were one miracle jumper short of hearing about how the Pistons had successfully kept LeBron James from getting his teammates involved down the stretch. Tony Parker was absolutely running amok in that first half, and it was awesome, so we're just going to pretend the second half never happened for the purposes of this post.) Parker operates the Spurs' offense within the happy medium of Duncan's consistent bland solidarity and Ginobili's sporadic dominance, and has won 3 championship rings, but is still denied the distinction of being a POINT GUARD, and thus exist as a suitable archetype for Derrick Rose.

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In the past, the point guard position has been one of deception, both at the micro level, with a game built upon crossover dribbles and look-away passes, and at a macro level-somehow, the smallest player on the floor, the one furthest away from the basket and thus the highest difficulty of making a basket, must convince the defense that he is more dangerous than the behemoths who surround him and then quickly capitalize upon their mark's foolish dalliance with a deftly placed pass.

The brief and glorious age of the Iversonian scoring point was also built on games that depended on shifting the reality of the court to something more favorable to their talents, shifting the conventional straight angles of pick-and-roll drives and post-and-clear games for staunchly geometry-defying and improvisational crossover games of cat-and-mouse on the perimeter meant to give the defense the notion that Steve Francis was seriously about to drive straight into three defenders so that he could pull a quick fake back and pop a mid-range jumper.

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But here's the thing-point guards no longer need subtlety in order to maintain a deadly arsenal. The best ones are the most dangerous scorers on the floor in conventional reality, and no longer need to use their talents to create an alternate reality in which the defense believes this to be true.

Nash and Paul, the two leading assist men in the league, show the bridging in the gap between the past and the future of the position. Nash is probably the weakest guy on the floor most nights, and would probably finish near last in a dead footrace with his man on a given night, but he makes offenses go through his ability to slip passes to Amare on pick-and-rolls and his ability to draw defenses to places they shouldn't possibly be and consequently chastise them-somehow Paul, on the other hand, operates not by fooling defenses but by putting the fear of god into them-if Chris Paul is getting set to drive the lane, emergency precautions must be taken, because he's either going to blow right by the 2nd defender or put a teardrop on his forehead. David West, Tyson Chandler, and Peja aren't left wide-open because of a defense that has been hoodwinked, but a defense left without a better option-with the exception of the Chandler lob, the "easy" 18-footers that David West and threes that Peja Stojakovic enjoy are given by a defense that is willing to accept them instead of letting CP3 take their lane.

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Nash's passes are his acts of aggression, while Paul's passes are gifts of a defense begging for mercy, as evidenced by the fact that Nash throws a respectable 4 assists for every bad pass while Paul throws a filthy 10 assists for every bad pass. Obviously, both Nash and CP3 are special offensive players, and Paul is capable of creating passes and Nash is extremely capable of scoring for himself, but their games are based on fundamentally different principles. We've never really seen guys with Paul's combination of speed, the ability to put the ball in the hole, and decision-making; even Isiah never came remotely close to shooting the percentages CP3 shot this season.

We're seeing point guards who are dangerous in their own right replace those who create danger right in front of our eyes-witness Deron Williams realizing that him barreling through the lane or popping a three when they went under the screen was far more dangerous than Carlos Boozer trying to figure out how tough of a shot he could create from 6 feet out, Mehmet Okur trying to prove himself as the Turkish Rasheed Wallace, or Andrei Kirilenko trying to figure out his shooting range in preparation for the Olympics. (Quick note: There's "Hey, he's the next so-and-so!" and then there's Karl Malone and Carlos Boozer. Height, Position, Complexion, Draft Snubbing, mid-range catch-and-shoot game, vague unlikeability, and now propensity for imploding in the playoffs. If you could be described as a "little Mexican girl," stay away from Carlos Boozer. You do not want to discover the depths of this rabbit hole.)

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Also, look at Rajon Rondo saying I AM A STARTING POINT GUARD ON A 66-WIN TEAM AND SHALL BE RESPECTED AS SUCH in game 5 of the Cavs series before being told to go back to his corner for the rest of the series. Witness guys who have speed and passing ability, as well as passable outside shots, like Sebastian Telfair, Sergio Rodriguez, Luke Ridnour, Steve Blake, Carlos Arroyo, and Raymond Felton experience pine because they can't finish inside like Parker, Paul, Williams, Nash, or Calderon.

Look, I love true point guards who handle with aplomb, throw gorgeous dimes to cutters who didn't even know they were open, and weave fearlessly through much larger men. Hell, I watch Brandon Jennings' YouTube video like 8 times a day and dream of a team attuned to the game their leader tells them is happening rather than one determined by the rote guidelines of reality. Great point guards are like great pitchers, creating their own reality through their skills in order to equalize their disadvantage against all those they face.

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But whatever the impetus was for the little-man-finishing explosion (it could just be a rare confluence of special players, or the fact that everyone's so much more athletic now than even 10 years ago that the short guys are much closer to the rim than they were before, but put me down for the new rules on this one-in 2004-2005, LeBron broke out, Dwayne Wade absolutely exploded, and Allen Iverson's TS% went up by 5 percent. Oh, and Tony Parker's FG% went from 44.7% to 48.2%.) In any case, these new dangerous point guards have thrown the gauntlet to all others that the domain of the huge can be not only competed in, but conquered by those who are small and fast, and that deception is no longer necessary in order to achieve dominance.

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Derrick Rose can absolutely shoulder a team from the point guard position and lead all to the promised land. But to do so, he will do so by being what those who he should supposedly aspire to follow could only effectively masquerade as-the most dangerous scorer on the floor. HOLY CRAP ROSE WADE WRIGHT MARION PHI SLAMMA JAMMA HATH RETURNED.

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27 Comments:

At 5/22/2008 1:07 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/22/2008 1:23 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/22/2008 1:50 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

But Rose is big. Isn't that why everyone is so high on him?

And when did Bassy develop a passable jumper?

To me this is just a rearrangement of roles. It used to be the point guard brought the ball up and distribute from up high, and it was the job of the 2 and 3 men to slash and get to the lane. The point guard's job was often to be a deadly shooter. You had guys like Mark Price out there, who could probably still outshoot every point in the league today, except for Nash.

Now it's inverted. Guys like Peja and Rashard spot up while point guards aren't really expected to be deadeyes anymore. It's not only the hand check rules, but the ability to overload on one man defensively.

I think the main question is, is this a revolution, evolution, or just a part of a cycle?

 
At 5/22/2008 2:01 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

Big men are slow.

 
At 5/22/2008 3:20 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Rose is Baron Davis before his freshman ACL tear, except Rose has a better feel for the position at this point in his career.

 
At 5/22/2008 4:43 PM, Blogger Eric said...

also guys like rose/nash/parker/paul make the other players on you roster valuable or more valuable. guys like B.Barry/Q.Rich (w/suns), Peja these guys are become potential 15-20 point a night guys on a team with a point who can get into the lane and shift the reality for the D. Beasley isn't exciting for that very reason. The team at the top doesn't need a savior. The bulls need someone to give this roster an identity and some meaning. B only further complicates the equation.

 
At 5/22/2008 5:54 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Maybe it's just me, but I found the picture:text ratio a little high on this one.

Otherwise, isn't the shift you're talking about because of the handcheck rules?

And did you say Malone and Boozer had the same SKIN complexion? Boozer is definitely a few shades lighter. The sun don't shine in Alaska like it does in Louisiana. Also, his mom is really light-skinned, I think.

 
At 5/22/2008 7:59 PM, Blogger 800# said...

Yeah... pretty sure that Boozer's multi-ethnic. Malone may be a hick, but he's black.
Also, Boozer has averaged 16 ppg, not 25.

 
At 5/22/2008 8:25 PM, Blogger americanmidwestsamurai said...

I mostly disagree with the chronological prescription of past and present in the dichotomy you set up between Nash and Paul.

While you accurately asses the differences between the two, I think you've overlooked Nash as an aberration in exactly HOW he uses deception.

Only in his lack of homo-superior (to quote one of the horribly animated Saturday morning cartoons ever) athleticism is he the same point guard as Stockton, or Magic. In fact, both Magic and Stockton apply the principle of REACTIVE measures (just as Paul does) to create opportunities for their teammates.

Yes, there is a fundamental difference in Paul's (or Parker, or Williams) ability to translate threat into reality--but I don't think that's relevant to the eventual outcome on the floor.

What Nash exercises, is an all together different formula. Predicated on attacking defenses, and forcing them to present the opportunity.

Essentially, Nash creates passing lanes while Paul discovers them.

Paul is a classic American point guard, simply more refined and or more athletically gifted than great point guards of the past. Nash is a historical anomaly, who engages defenses like Gretzky did in Edmonton and LA. He is only a representation of SOME point guards of the past who's threat was less based on a scorers instinct.

But we've seen Oscar Robertson, Anfernee Hardaway, Baron Davis and Isiah Thomas. Such is my take at least.

 
At 5/22/2008 8:42 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

I also remember when scoring point guards were all the rage...the league sucked, and not one of them ever won anything. Since this is a site that claims that a true expression of style will result in winning, that is important. (I suppose Iverson's MVP year is a bit of an exception, but that is okay because Iverson is a Hall of Fame player.)

 
At 5/22/2008 9:16 PM, Blogger Martin said...

@sb, I believe AI's MVP year came about AFTER Larry Brown finally relented and slightly altered his "right way" principles by moving AI to the 2-guard position. It became a team of 4 "right way" players and one transcendent scorer. Almost like the pistons, but with lesser talents. AI's success at the point guard position seems to only be realized during all-star games. But of all the players past and present, AI is the only player I can think of with the athletic ability and talent to replicate the current incarnation of CP3's game. But something about AI's aura or style of play makes his team-mates worse off. Even on the current Nuggets with AI going out of his way to defer to Carmelo, AI still somehow ends up leading the team in scoring and usurping the leadership role on the team. AI can easily still average 30 game but seems to be making a futile attempt at getting Carmelo to do that. AI may be the anti-point guard, in that he makes his team-mates worse, despite cutting down on his fg attempts and making really good passes.

 
At 5/22/2008 9:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Essentially, Nash creates passing lanes while Paul discovers them.

Maybe I just don't get what you're talking about, but I have to disagree on this. To me, Paul doesn't just draw the defense and the find someone to throw the ball too. He's often making his move to get a particular part of the floor to open up.

SB, Iverson is the other total extreme. He just pitches to the ball to whomever is open when the defense collapses on him. That's probably why he's not really a point guard, something he himself knows.

 
At 5/22/2008 9:18 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Also, to me Iverson's most truly PG-ish moment came when he first got to Denver, and Melo was out. A lot of quick dishes to Reggie Evans, Najera, and Nene, garbagemen who didn't know any better.

 
At 5/22/2008 10:07 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Shoals, do you realize that you're basically characterizing AI as some kind of Super Tony Parker? Can't he be more?

Maybe I'm a rank sentimentalist trying to make all the answers social answers, but I always saw it as a trust issue with AI. To me, it just seemed like he figured his shot was the best one available most of the time. Then you put him on the olympic team, and he's happy to defer.

I imagine him seeing all the points on the floor as places where I could go, which is different than other players. Other point guards see openings and barriers, but AI just sees an expanse of floor. It's almost like he's not conditioned to move the defenders because they mean less to him, like the bad guy from Jumper, but with the Beastmaster's panther eyes.

 
At 5/22/2008 10:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I imagine him seeing all the points on the floor as places where I could go, which is different than other players.

Yeah, that's definitely true of Iverson, which is why he's not Parker. But the distributing part of his game is just kind of tacked onto that. What I was saying about those first few games in Denver is that, because there were limited, quick, eager bigs ready and available, passing it to them became part of the way he saw getting from point A to point B. At any given team, he could toss it inside to them instead of go on. That contrasts sharply with waiting until things have turned into total chaos on the floor, and whomever gets the ball might not even be expecting AI to give the ball up.

 
At 5/22/2008 10:37 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

You know Shoals, I think that what you're saying is that Iverson is more reactive than a traditional point guard. A traditional point guard attacks with the specific goal of getting defenders into a certain space, so that he can set up a shot. Whereas Iver Anderson continually reacts to the movements of the defender, which would normally be suicide because this means that he's letting the defender dictate his actions and movement. But Iverson's reactions/reflexes are on such a different level than most other players that, even since he's essentially "taking what the defense gives him," he's still able to get wherever the fuck he wants. But since he isn't necessarily enacting a plan, or even following a decision tree (which is how I've always thought Nash's game is structured), his teammates can rarely capitalize.

 
At 5/22/2008 10:44 PM, Blogger americanmidwestsamurai said...

I think I might be able to clarify here.

In the macro, Paul is linear. Brilliant but linear (Mozart). When you say he moves to certain areas to open up certain sides of the floor, he's creating floor spacing and rhythm. It's an exaggeration to say he makes the expected play, or the expected movement...maybe one way to put it is that he lets the game come to himself. He is exactly where he should be on every play at every moment. A coaches dream--you could say he's a point guard version of Tim Duncan.

Where Paul dazzles, and becomes more of an exciting proposition is his micro game. The speed of his crossover, the footwork, the spin moves, the amazingly on target, on time passes. He executes the fundamentals beautifully, and this combination is (maybe) like none that we've seen before.

In contrast, Nash's micro game is craftier than it is dazzling. What makes Nash so brilliant is his illogical, soccer-like macro movement around the floor. He defies conventional wisdom by doing things like running at another man's defender, slicing through the defense and probing side to side like a soccer player waiting for a cutter thru the middle of the floor. An untrained eye might think there's wasted movement and inefficiency to what Nash does at a macro level.

Anyways, that's the best I can do.

 
At 5/22/2008 10:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

That makes sense to me. Nash is still (re)organizing space on a micro level, Paul is working within the template he's decided on.

Though worth noting here Skeets's deft observation, after two games of the season, that in 2007-08 Paul learned to keep his dribble going constantly a la Nash.

 
At 5/22/2008 10:57 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

So is it personnel, or just style of play. Perhaps the fast breaking is what unlocks his point-ness.

Which brings another interesting concept, namely that we're all talking about how point guards manipulate players in the halfcourt, and we don't have much to say about getting out on the break. It used to be that the mark of an elite point was creating numbers advantages on the run, then pulling some sleight of hand at the last second. Magic, Stock, and Zeke all did this (and Bird and Chris Mullin, too, in a strange way). Then you had about eight years where guys like Mark Jackson and Rod Strickland would bump the ball up the court ass-first, and people forgot what wizardry was.

That's why I feel bad for JKidd. Can you imagine if he came out of college right now? Or if Paul Westhead were coaching Iverson in his prime?

Even though it's getting back to speed, there's still something scientific about the best defenses in today's game. Science can be dazzling in it's own way, but when rigor is applied in this way to hoops, it threatens to consume itself while it simultaneously thinks it's advancing. Kind of a neat conflict.

Lastly: in searching for something FD about tonights Celts-Pistons, I thought the Big Baby/Rodney Stuckey jump ball was pretty rad.

 
At 5/22/2008 11:01 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Clarifying: Perhaps the fast breaking is what unlocks AI's point-ness (re: refusal to give up the ball/years of half-court prison).

 
At 5/22/2008 11:09 PM, Blogger T. said...

midwest samuari has the best and clearest thoughts I've seen about Nash and Paul lately. A couple of things to add, which are tangental:

One time during the 80s my dad got really close seats for a Laker game - just 2 rows off the floor, and what I saw then didn't make sense until later. The Showtime Lakers ran a "voice-activated" offense- Magic would literally tell everyone where to be "Cap - go low, B, run baseline, Coop - set-up over there" and then he'd drive into the lane, fake a pass to one, and find B cutting backdoor for a layup through 3 defenders while looking at coop on the wing.

I thought that was the norm, until I got to see over 200 NBA games close up in the recent few years - and NOBODY ran an offense like Magic- people run plays, or motion. Magic was like a tv or movie director setting his actors on their spots before calling action.

The second point is something that KG told me about AI and why he is so difficult to stop in the paint - he said that most small players when they penetrate, as soon as they see big men, they start jumping for their jump shot or their layup. AI waits until he's all the way next to the big man before he jumps - making him less predictable. When I watch CP3, I think he delays his decision making until he's near the defender as well.

 
At 5/22/2008 11:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Essentially, Nash creates passing lanes while Paul discovers them.

Now makes perfect sense to me after your further explanation.

 
At 5/22/2008 11:24 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

T: Awesome anecdote. Was Westhead the coach at the time? I wonder whether that thing was born from him, or Magic, or a combination. I've always been a big fan of Paul Westhead, and this story confirms my belief that people think he sucks because there's only ever been one player who could understand his stuff and run it at full force.

If you've ever heard or read anything by him, his whole point was not to just run and hoist up shots, he actually had the players running patterns as soon as the ball was coming off the rim. Everyone had to fill a certain role on the break, which changed depending on who got the rebound. Certain guys would run to draw defenders out of spaces, and the point guard would be counted on to force the hand of the remaining defenders. It truly is unlike anything today.

 
At 5/23/2008 12:21 AM, Blogger T. said...

salt_bagel - that was the 1987 Lakers - I still remember the opponent - it was the Bricowski/Alvin Robertson Spurs. Kurt Rambis ended up having 15 points in 1 quarter - it was the first round of the playoffs.

 
At 5/23/2008 10:13 AM, Blogger morgenstern said...

I'd like to point out that the thing about soccer culture is not just that crap about assists being tracked differently and hokey passes regarded, actually there's no such thing.

What's different is that, due to the nature of the sport, great passes in soccer are often made in the open field ahead of a cutting player rather than hitting him square while he's open.

And that's what makes nash special as a passer, he gives away the ball early and pushes his teammates with it, like in the high pick and roll, he gives it back early so that amare can get his running start and dunk over whoever is in the lane.

 
At 5/26/2008 8:45 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

'm really late chiming in on this one, but just a few AI thoughts ...

The observation of AI as simply ignoring the other team and considering every position on the floor as available to him seems apt. Although slowing a little now, he was always able to go wherever he wanted. That created chaos on which his team should have been able to capitalize. But it also seemed like he was always moving too fast even for them. They were never in position or never quite ready to get a pass when it came. And the passes came a lot. AI has shot a lot, but he's also always passed. I've just never seen another "point" whose passes were as frequently fumbled. He's probably always needed to slow down a little, because it was unreasonable to expect his teammates to go faster.

I've also noticed that some of his best "point" play has been in the ASG, especially when T-Mac was playing the 2. I don't know whether AI relaxed enough to slow down, or if being surrounded by other elite players meant that he finally had a crew that could see things develop as quickly as he was able to force them to develop.

Things in Denver just haven't been as good as I expected them to be. Somehow I think Doug Moe would do a better job with this team than Karl has.

 
At 4/13/2009 2:48 AM, Blogger 平平 said...

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