With the Conference Finals now in full swing, and the Spurs exhibiting dominance that we haven’t seen since the days of Shaq and Kobe, Dime had a chance to catch up with TNT broadcasters Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr in a recent conference call to discuss all things basketball, including why James Harden is so good, why the Spurs are so good and why the age rule is so hard to get a handle on. Here’s what they had to say:
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On what it’s like for a shooter like Ray Allen to play with a hurt ankle:
Reggie Miller: I think it’s mobility. I think Philadelphia figured out something, continuing to go at his mobility â€“ where it should be versus where it used to be. So I think that’s the hardest thing, his movement on the defensive end.
Steve Kerr: I would just add that routine is so important as a shooter. I know Reggie had a very regimented routine before every game, and I did the same thing. I heard Ray Allen is probably as organized as anybody in terms of his approach to the game. When you’re injured and you can’t put in all that work that you’re used to, I think it affects your rhythm and it affects your mind a little bit. If you miss a few shots, it can kind of get into your head a little bit.
On James Harden’s growth over the last year:
RM: I think people really underestimate the size of James Harden. He runs about 6-4, 6-5. I was telling a couple guys on the crew he reminds me, when gets on the high pick and roll, once he gets past the center and gets into the lane, he exposes the ball a lot like how Detlef Schrempf used to do it. He’s so strong with holding the ball out, it entices you to swing down thinking you’re able to strip him, but he’s just carrying you up to the rim and getting those and ones.
SK: He’s really their best passer by far, and that’s why he’s such a nice complement to Westbrook and Durant. You know those guys first and foremost are really thinking about scoring, and they’re really good at it…even though he’s coming off the bench, I think you can make the argument that, as soon as Wade and Kobe kind of move on in a few years, Harden’s probably the best two-guard in the league.
On Steve Kerr’s view of Greg Popovich and R.C. Buford keeping the team competitive over the years, from the perspective of a former Spur:
SK: Yeah it’s pretty amazing, very few coaches are able to adapt and change from what they once were, particularly when they were very successful at it. Tex Winter, my old coach in Chicago, used to say “you coach what you know.” I think that’s true for most coaches. With Pop though, it’s like he’s ahead of the curve and he’s seeing the league evolve, and so he’s evolving with it. The great thing about the Spurs is they still have the defensive foundation that they’ve built over the years, and so they’re able to shut teams down for four or five minute stretches. But offensively, this is their best team by far. They’re explosive, they shoot the lights out, they move the ball better than anybody in the league.
RM: I think as long as you have Ginobili, Parker and Duncan, those pieces will always remain the same and you can interchange a lot of the other parts. I agree with Steve â€“ what Pop has done, with evolving, the rule changes, the league wants more fast play with no hand checking, he’s a risk taker. To go into the season and say, “I’m going to rest my guys. I don’t care about the league, or what our record is at the time or how many wins in a row we have, I’m going to rest my guys because I’m looking at the bigger picture.” It’s great.
On the success of Popovich and his avoidance of the spotlight:
SK: Well I think he likes it that way, first of all. He’s gotten the Coach of the Year award twice and both times he raced out to the floor, grabbed the trophy, threw it to somebody else, put his head down and walked back to the huddle to coach the game. He doesn’t want the accolades. Most of that is just the fact that San Antonio is a small market, and there’s never a whole lot of drama. Tim Duncan doesn’t give you much in terms of anything to write about. David Robinson, even though he was very outgoing, there was never any drama. So, they’re a machine, and that’s just the way Pop likes it. I think he enjoys not being in the spotlight all the time.
On the age requirement to enter the NBA:
RM: I’m torn on this. We see tennis players start when they’re 17 or 18, and golf prodigies start early. I know this: I was fortunate, and I wanted to stay all four years at UCLA because I was having a good time. You learn so much, people and life skills, while you’re in college. Now having said that, that shouldn’t deter someone to have an opportunity to make a living and help support your family if you have the skill set to do that. If any of these guys were geniuses that could work for Apple, or Facebook or whatever at 17 or 18, you couldn’t tell me people wouldn’t hire those people for a certain amount of money. If you’re a famous cellist, you can make music or an album. On that standpoint, I think people should have an opportunity to make a living.
Now, broadcasting and watching the NBA, a lot of these guys aren’t ready from a mental standpoint â€“ basketball or development skills, or even off the court related issues. So that’s why I think two or three years would be great. I kind of like if it were like baseball. If you sign a minor league contract or if you’re drafted and you decide to go to college, then you have to go to college for three years. If not, you have the opportunity to go play. I’m sure that David Stern and the rest of the Players’ Association will wrangle about to finish out the bargaining agreement.
My personal standpoint is, if you’re good enough to play, and that’s what you want to do, you should have the right to do that. But I understand where people are coming from a basketball standpoint. I would say 80 percent of these guys aren’t ready to become men.
On the Duncan-Popovich relationship:
SK: Pop is great because he is constantly saying publicly that none of this would work without Tim, and Tim’s allowance of Pop coaching the game. And Pop’s right â€“ it’s great that he communicates that â€“ so there’s a tremendous amount of trust involved. But I think in terms of personality, they blend very well. Tim is very mild-mannered, mellow. He’s competitive, but not overbearing with his presence and personality. So Pop provides that presence and leadership for the team, and I think Tim embraces that. But just the fact that he’s a genuinely good person who cares about his players, who cares about their families.
Both Tim [Duncan] and David [Robinson], Pop would just light into those guys if they weren’t competing. I remember one post game where Pop was coming out of his shoes just lighting into those guys. So the reason the whole thing worked was because they accepted it, and that’s a tough thing to find these days – that maturity level of the stars. One of the points that I was making with that [Grantland] article I wrote, even the stars these days who came straight out of high school, their ability to allow for coaching and to be coached has been compromised. It really goes back to Tim and David early for allowing Pop to coach them, which obviously sets the tone for the rest of the organization.
What do you think?
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