Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Charley Rosen behind the scenes

Charley Rosen is on my sidebar. He earned it, even though he is prejudiced against the Dallas Mavericks.

I think the Mavs heart is beating stronger, and growing stronger. In my judgment, in a potential playoff series against the Spurs, the Mavs would deserve to be slight favorites. That's pretty good. Even though the Mavs still do exasperate, that's pretty good.

It's hard to imagine, but the Mavs are still young, and are still learning how to play. Nowitski has explained he is just now getting comfortable with some of the angles in the post*, and also with some of the passing out of the double teams which occur there.

My speculation: some of Rosen's dislike of the Mavs is based on his long-time friendship with Phil Jackson:

Phil flashed me one of his characteristic wry grins and said this: "It's been a long day, Charley, so let's make the best of it. There's a ball up on the stage, and if we clear the last few rows, we'll have enough room to play one-on-one."

So we played, shirtless and sweating, fouling each other and laughing out loud, hitting miraculous shots, missing easy ones, and never keeping score. We played until our fellow participants began to reenter the gym. Then we pulled up our shirts, grabbed our blank notebooks, and made a quick exit stage left, leaving the ball for dead on the foul line.
Phil Jackson disdains most of the NBA which is not named "Phil Jackson." Yet, Jackson especially detests Mark Cuban - and, by extension, all things Dallas Mavericks. Cuban knows how to get under Phil Jackson's skin. Of all Mark Cuban's NBA accomplishments, his pinpoint jabs at Phil Jackson's ego are my favorites.

Thus, Charley Rosen - when he derides the Mavericks overmuch - likely is only standing up for a friend.

I started this entire post b/c Rosen wrote that Mavs guard Eddie Jones should retire

Eddie Jones is another oldster (36) whose game has become a shabby imitation of his former brilliance. Time to hang 'em up, EJ.
"Time to hang 'em up"? Horse manure! This is an instance of Rosen's prejudice clouding his judgement.

Whether or not Jones is a "shabby imitation" of his former self, it's undeniable Jones is a big help to the Dallas Mavericks. There's nothing shabby about playing 18-20 minutes/game for a contender. Jones brings exactly what the Mavs need: physical defense, guile and wisdom, passing and ball handling, 3-point shooting ability(8th all time in made 3-point shots), locker room leadership, playoff savvy. Jones is exactly, exactly what the Mavs need. He's a big asset. Retire? My Aunt June. If Jones retires, the Mavericks are a worse team. I hope Eddie Jones stays in Dallas another three seasons.

Conspiracy theory: Could Rosen's assertion be a ploy by Phil Jackson to get under Mark Cuban's skin? It's possible. Referees are basketball fans, and they are human. If a meme starts that Eddie Jones can no longer hack it, a human ref's eyes will see what a human ref's eyes expect to see, and the refs will be even more tempted to call Eddie for a block against a driving Kobe. Also, consider 1) humans naturally avoid criticism when possible, and 2) how can a ref be criticized for calling a block against a guy who has lost a step, and is now "a shabby imitation of his former self"?

It might all be true:

  • Eddie Jones might be an imitation of his former self (though "shabby" is harsh)

  • Eddie Jones might be a big asset to the Dallas Mavericks (I think so)

  • Charley Rosen might be jabbing at Mark Cuban on Phil Jackson's behalf (unconsciously and shabbily)

  • Refs - regardless of what is actually occurring - might see what they expect to see when Eddie Jones is guarding Kobe

Technical note:
Just as Dirk is an unconventional PF, and needs a rugged SF to compliment him; Devin Harris and Jason Terry are unconventional PGs. They don't handle or move the ball as well as conventional point guards. To compliment their strengths, Harris and Terry need SGs who handle well, who move the ball well, and who know exactly where the ball ought to be going. Eddie Jones gives Devin Harris, especially, the on-court partner he needs. Jones makes the Mavericks offense better. Jones' skills are more important to the Mavs offense than they would be to the Suns offense, or to the Nets offense.

Having Eddie Jones on the court calms Avery a little bit. That's a good thing.

Why do veterans calm coaches?

Consider Jan 12: Stackhouse hit a three point shot, at the buzzer, to defeat the Clippers in LA.

The scene: Under 5 seconds remain, Mavs down by two. Dirk, 18 feet from basket on right wing, dribbles towards right baseline/corner, then spins in preparation for launching 18 foot fallaway jump shot. Terry has followed Dirk, and is on three point line between right wing and center/top of three point arc. Stackhouse is on left side of three point arc, mirroring Terry's position on right. Eddie Jones in left corner. Brandon Bass low on left post (Brandon Bass is in the game in the crucial moment! Way to go, Brandon!).

The action:

1. Terry's man leaves to double Dirk.
2. Simultaneous with Terry's man leaving him, Stackhouse' man runs to cover Terry, and Eddie Jones immediately runs down baseline, eventually going past basket, then spinning back into rebound position.

Jones movement, which happens when Terry's man leaves Terry, and before Dirk gets double-teamed, and before Dirk passes, is the key to the sequence. It means Eddie Jones' man cannot cover Stackhouse. Eddie Jones' man must follow Eddie Jones down the baseline. Brandon Bass' man must come from the low left post to the three point arc to contest Stackhouse' shot. Brandon Bass' man, predictably, cannot get there. Dirk passes to Terry. Terry immediately shoots pass to Stackhouse. Stackhouse hits uncontested pressure shot for victory. Everybody runs off floor hugging.

Few fans notice Eddie Jones' veteran savvy and perfect timing helped make the play. I didn't notice it. I only saw it on a video chalk talk before the Mavs following game, on Jan 14. If the Mavs didn't have Jones, and Maurice Ager had instead been standing in the left corner, the Clippers might have won.

Last note - Dallas Morning News:

The Mavericks have been remarkably better defensively when Jones has played than when he hasn't.

Jones has quick hands and has a way of staying in front of his man, even at his advanced NBA age (36). Howard said Jones helps the Mavericks communicate on defense and "come out of our shell."

So when Jones puts in his 20 minutes, mostly at the start of the game and the start of the second half, he can help set a defensive tone.

"The coach has definitely put me in a great situation," Jones said. "It's perfect. The way he's doing it, I can be successful and the team can be successful."

*I originally wrote: "low post". However - though Dirk sets up in the post more often - it would be a lie to say he sets up in the "low post." Dirk could still use some banging lessons. Charles Oakley would've driven a posting Dirk straight into the sideline seats.

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