Learn to Fly

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 3, 2010 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Whether wide-eyed, confident, or completely brash, all rookies share in their need to learn. Each first-year player earns a ticket into the big leagues by way of their physical skills, but from there, no rook is excused from the pursuit of basketball betterment. Needless to say, it’s a gradual process of refinement, familiarity, and growth, and each player moves at their own pace.

That said, don’t mistake player development for a solo endeavor. Even though nothing (and no one) can force a given player to put in quality time on the practice court or in the film room, professional athletes are blessed with coaches, trainers, and the most sacred of all, mentors.

The relationship between mentor and protégé is often assumed. Because Jason Kidd is experienced, Rodrigue Beaubois is not, and the two happen to play similar positions, Kidd must be his mentor. Kidd must take him aside to teach him the tricks of the trade, to coach him up on reads, to impart invaluable wisdom on how to succeed as a creator in the NBA. That could very well be the case, but the fact that we assume it to be is a bit problematic. Additionally, the fact that we treat these mentor-protégé relationships with any congruency whatsoever is pretty ridiculous. Just as each player has his own path, he too has his own choice in mentor.

It has nothing to do with position. As Kevin Martin mentioned in an interview with Kevin Arnovitz last week for TrueHoop, Brad Miller, a completely dissimilar player in nearly every regard, had a notable impact on the young Martin:

“With Brad and me, it was always on the court. And I also got a chance to watch him and Peja [Stojakovic] play a lot my first year because I didn’t really play too much. He and Peja had a great connection. I knew I was a lot quicker and had a lot more agility than Peja. So at the beginning, I would always do everything so fast. I’d be too fast before the cut, during the cut, after the cut. Brad would say, “Slow down! You’re faster than everybody out here, but you have to read it!” He showed me the ins and outs of making those cuts and reads — when to come around. Like when a guy plays under you, come around and take the jumper. And when a guy is playing you tight, you just go back door. Brad taught me how to play.”

Jump to San Antonio, where George Hill credits Spurs’ assistant Chad Forcier for his development, even with an All-Star point guard in his midst. Ask Kevin Garnett who helped to shape him as a player and person, and he’ll answer with Sam Mitchell, Terry Porter, and Malik Sealy. Turn to Dirk Nowitzki’s career, and the clearest formative influences are Holger Geschwindner, Don Nelson, and Steve Nash. The relationship needs a unique fit to function properly, and though a positional senior might have a lot to offer from a technical standpoint, that doesn’t always make it a natural pairing.

But sometimes it all works out. Sometimes a grouping is just too obvious to not work, and Mavs fans should hope that to be the case with Jason Terry and Dominique Jones.

Jones is putting in some pre-camp work with Terry and Rick Carlisle, with a specific emphasis on getting into game shape and refining Jones’ shot. Carlisle and his staff have the development of players like Jones in their collective job description, but for JET to work with Dominique is a little something extra. It’s a neat match. Terry and Jones may approach the game in completely different ways, but that’s part of what makes JET an excellent mentor candidate. Terry can help to work on Jones’ weaknesses as a player. He can teach Jones how to create space for himself against taller opponents. He can teach Jones the value of jumper repetition. He can teach Jones how to navigate the rough waters that all “combo guards” are forced to sail.

Maybe nothing ever comes out of this, and Jones’ current work is classified as a nice, one-time clinic with a Mavs vet. Still, these workouts have the potential to create a fairly interesting relationship between a rookie with a lot to learn and a successful player with plenty to teach.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by admin on April 19, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • With 36 points on  12-14 shooting (12-12 FT), Dirk Nowitzki enters very select company for scoring efficiency in a playoff game.
  • Gil LeBreton of the Star-Telegram on Popovich’s defensive strategy: “To all who wondered what would happen if, for whatever silly reason, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich chose to defend Dirk Nowitzki one on one, the answer came with near-perfect resonance… “Well, you know, they had scorers last year too.” Popovich explained later. “You pick your poison…” Popovich rolled the dice and it came out 36. Wrong poison.”
  • Spurs guard George Hill was benched after 18 scoreless minutes but claims his ankle feels fine.
  • Popovich calls out his supporting cast: “We’ve got to have a few more people step up and play worth a damn, I thought we had a lot of guys that played like dogs.”
  • Jason Terry plans on losing the protective face mask for good. With just 5 points on 2-9 shooting though, maybe he should put it back on.
  • Mentor Holger Geschwindner on Dirk’s brilliant performance (via Jeff Caplan): “He missed a shot, we’re working on it.”
  • Caron Butler talks playoffs on his blog The Real Juice: “Here I am in the playoffs, I’m two years removed from my last postseason appearance and it feels great to be making another appearance… I’m here in Dallas with an actual title contender… and we are on the road to a championship. First victim… San Antonio.”
  • Jason Kidd expects Tony Parker to start in Game 2.

Supplementary bullets from Mahoney:

Where Did You Dig Up That Old Fossil?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2010 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

In terms of the Dallas Mavericks folklore, there are few figures of greater intrigue than Holger Geschwindner. We know that he’s a mentor and close friend to Dirk Nowitzki, and depending on exactly how familiar you are with Dirk’s basketball origin story, you may know a bit more than that. Geschwindner essentially manufactured Nowitzki’s NBA career by teaching him skills, showcasing his talents, and putting him in situations to showcase his abilities (like the now famous Nike Hoop Summit that Dirk obliterated, with 33 points, 14 rebounds, and a win over the American prospects). But aside from those legends, what do we really know about Holger Geschwindner, the man more responsible for bringing Dirk to the NBA than anyone aside from Nowitzki himself?

Well, after you read this interview with him by SLAM’s Nima Zarrabi, you’ll know quite a bit. Not just about how he built the path for Nowitzki’s stardom, but also plenty about Geschwindner. Most of the Dirk narrative is well-documented, but to learn a bit about the man behind The Man is a pretty unique thing. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Geschwindner is every bit the old wizard I hoped he’d be:

SLAM: What did you love about the game?
HG: What attracted me the most was that the sport was theoretically constructed. There was an idea. It’s not like soccer where the ball is rolling out and everybody is trying to kick it. It’s a sport that goes in three dimensions. Most of the other sports had a pretty natural basis. If something’s rolling on the floor, you kick it. But hanging up a big construction 10 feet above the ground and to try and shoot a ball, it was strange. It was a challenge.

SLAM: The sport challenged your mind?
HG: Yes. I like music a lot and when I looked into the basketball rules it made sense. You only get two steps with the ball—there are limitations. High art has strict limitations or strict rules. Take dances for instance, like the waltz. Basketball was attractive to me. It’s the No. 1 sport for me. I love the game.