Dime Q&A: Chris Webber & Steve Smith Discuss The NBA’s 3 Best Closers

By: 05.01.12

Steve Smith

There’s been so much scrutiny yet again this season with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and the roles they have on the court. Now that the playoffs are around the corner, I wanted to know your take on how do you see that playing out? What those guys may need to do in terms of sharing the ball and being successful?
CW: “Well, last year I don’t think anybody was harder on Westbrook than I was. I thought that he needed to add more of a team element to his game. But this year what I just realized is that he’s a two-guard that is so good and smart enough that he can adjust to the one; and I think all they have to do is play their game. The game against the Lakers the other night is, as a player, you have to laugh at games like that because they missed every shot. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet they would miss that many of those same shots the next time. So I actually would play the way that they got here with that type of aggression and passion. And if they don’t score, who else is going to do it? They have three scorers, that’s it on the team, with Harden as their best playmaker. So I would let the game come to them. And once they do that, I think they’ll be ok.”

SS: “We all look at Russell Westbrook and want him to turn the corner. He’s always played two-guard his entire career. But I think also that the media put a lot of pressure on him and Kevin Durant. Because when you’re the best player, you still got to find ways to get the rest of the guys easier buckets. So with Westbrook at the one as the point guard, but also Kevin Durant, I think that’s the next step for both of them. No matter what the issue is, when you’re that good you’ve got to find ways to get Perkins five or six easy buckets, Ibaka some easy buckets. Other than that, you can’t really change their stripes right now. You’ve gotta get better and better. We wish he had that vision and play a little more as a point guard. But right now I think he’s a two-guard that’s playing the one position.”

How does this Heat team going into the postseason compare to last year?
CW: “Well, the one thing that I like about them as oppose to last year is they aren’t apologizing every second for being good. They don’t care about what everybody is saying. So I love the fact that we’re not hearing about how close they are and how they care for each other. Those are the type of things that a team does since middle school. So them being quiet and their resolve make for a good team. I think their chances are as good as any. I think there isn’t a difference from last year to this year from disbelief and heartache. They’re still, to me, the most athletic, fastest team. So to me they have been better by experience, so that should show this year.”

SS: “I totally agree. You look at somebody like them and like their additions and the young guys. The only problem that I have for them is when they get set on their lineup. Some of their additions, and some of their young guys who are key guys: Mike Miller, James Jones and Shane Battier. Love all those guys. But when you look at it, they are all small forwards. So LeBron James will have to play 40-45 minutes upfront where they can get those guys more playing time or will have to go big at the backcourt, with all of those guys taking time at the three. That’ll up to Erik Spoelstra to figure out. But other than that, I think this team has the capability. I would like to see them play a little more where they take advantage of their size and speed. And also as we’ve seen the other day, with Wade and Bosh out, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers shows up. When they played, he has to be involved with or without the basketball for them to have any chance on winning a championship.”

Is there any way the Heat don’t make the Eastern Conference Finals at least?
SS: “It’s very possible. Obviously they are the most talented [over] Chicago, New York, Indiana, Boston and the rest of the Eastern Conference teams. I think they have some holes of who will play upfront for them, whether that’s Joel Anthony and Turiaf or Udonis Haslem or Bosh play the five. I think that’s an area where teams can take advantage of them.”

CW: “I agree with Steve. I think, especially when you look at playoff games, it is about matchups and coaching adjustments. I think coaches matter more due to the adjustments. You never know what a coach like Woodson can do defensively. So definitely, there’s a fair chance that nobody is playing the same style as last year. So they can be beaten.”

Who do you think are the three best closers in the NBA Playoffs?

Follow Freddy on Twitter at @RealFreddyMack.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.

Around The Web