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[ESPN] Gladwell-Simmons Discussion - Full Court Press

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Lugz504, May 13, 2009.

  1. Lugz504

    Lugz504 Member

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    While I don't want to be the guy that just posts Bill Simmons stuff, today he is having a long written point - counterpoint with Malcome Gladwell who wrote the book Outliers. The topic of running the full court press came up, and their thoughts on this are very interesting. Check it out and tell me how you think this would have helped against the Lakers. It's really long, but I'll post a decent chunk of it. The rest can be found here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/090513/part2

    Gladwell:
    You're right. I am a bit obsessed with the full-court press at the moment. I just did a story for The New Yorker about how underdogs beat favorites, which had a lot about basketball in it. For the story, I went down to Louisville and had a long chat with Rick Pitino. He argued that the press is the best chance an underdog has of being competitive with stronger teams, and I think his record proves the case. That Providence team he took to the Final Four in 1984 has to have been just about the least talented team EVER to reach that level. (One of the forwards on that team was Dave Kipfer, who grew up just down the road from me, in the southwestern Ontario Mennonite country. He was considered slow for our high school league.) Then, of course, Pitino takes one of his first Louisville teams to the Final Four in 2006 and this season's team to the Elite Eight, and no one's going to argue that either of those teams were filled with future Hall of Famers. Given that, then, why do so few underdog teams use the press? Pitino's explanation is that it's because most coaches simply can't convince their players to work that hard. What do you think of that argument?

    There are two other things here that fascinate me. After my piece ran in The New Yorker, one of the most common responses I got was people saying, well, the reason more people don't use the press is that it can be beaten with a well-coached team and a good point guard. That is (A) absolutely true and (B) beside the point. The press doesn't guarantee victory. It simply represents the underdog's best chance of victory. It raises their odds from zero to maybe 50-50. I think, in fact, that you can argue that a pressing team is always going to have real difficulty against a truly elite team. But so what? Everyone, regardless of how they play, is going to have real difficulty against truly elite teams. It's not a strategy for being the best. It's a strategy for being better. I never thought Louisville -- or, for that matter, Missouri -- had a realistic shot at winning it all in the NCAAs this year. But if neither of those teams pressed, they wouldn't have been there in the first place. I wonder if there isn't something particularly American in the preference for "best" over "better" strategies. I might be pushing things here. But both the U.S. health-care system and the U.S. educational system are exclusively "best" strategies: They excel at furthering the opportunities of those at the very top end. But they aren't nearly as interested in moving people from the middle of the pack to somewhere nearer the front.

    The other, related question is whether you can ever truly run the press with elite players. Pitino did it once, with that stacked 1996 Kentucky team. But I think even he realizes that was a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Think about it: He got Antoine Walker to play defense for 94 feet. And John Wooden used the press a lot with some of his great teams at UCLA. But he was John Wooden, and that was another era. Realistically, could you convince a couple of McDonald's All-Americans, who have been coddled and indulged their whole lives, to play that way today? When we were talking, Pitino called over Samardo Samuels, who is, of course, Jamaican -- his point being that this was his ideal kind of player, someone who substituted for a lack of experience with a lot of hunger. There is something weird, isn't there -- and also strangely beautiful -- about a coach who deliberately seeks out players who aren't the most talented? I know you have very, um, complicated feelings about Pitino. I love the man.

    The biggest question, though, is whether there is any way to apply the press at the pro level. Thoughts?




    SIMMONS

    You're preaching to the floor-burn choir. I watched the press succeed (to a decent degree) during Pitino's first season in Boston, and attended most of those home games. Of course, Coach P undermined his own cause by panic-trading rookie Chauncey Billups after 50 games to acquire Kenny Anderson, an all-offense guard who was making $10 million a season and had no interest in sprinting for 40-plus minutes, especially when he hadn't yet sweated out all the Courvoisier from the night before. Still, three things happened during that 50-game stretch to make me believe presses could work at the professional level.



    1. That 1997-98 Celtics team overachieved. Pitino made so many preseason moves that they started with just three incumbents (Antoine Walker, Dee Brown and Dana Barros) and played 19 different guys in all, but they still finished 36-46 with a group of rookies and castoffs, as well as Antoine shooting 42 percent, making 292 turnovers and offending approximately 572 officials as their crunch-time guy. Before the Billups trade, they had one really nice pressing unit: two athletic rookies (Billups and Ron Mercer), young Bruce Bowen, Walter McCarty (the best cog in the history of Pitino's press, as the coach told you) and either Travis Knight or Andrew DeClercq (two agile, coachable and extremely pale big men). This group wreaked havoc a few times. I remember attending one November home game during which they dismantled the Nuggets with it. Just for kicks, I looked it up on basketball-reference.com. The Celtics won 96-86. They forced 29 turnovers. They had a whopping 16 steals. Denver's point guard (a young Bobby Jackson) committed eight turnovers. Seven Celtics finished with two-plus steals. If Pitino had just kept that nucleus -- Walker, Billups, Mercer, Barros, Brown, McCarty, Bowen, Knight and DeClercq -- been patient and allowed his young guys to take their lumps, we would have had something (and remember, Pierce was coming in the '98 draft). So frustrating. Pitino took the concept of "own worst enemy" to new heights.




    [+] EnlargeJim McIsaac/Getty Images
    Walter McCarty was an ideal cog in the full-court press.2. Once Walker got his big contract (a max extension before the '98-99 season), suddenly he wanted to jog around and jack up bad 3-pointers, and since he was guaranteed $71 million, who was going to talk him out of it? This proved that a press can only work professionally if you are using guys who carry 10s and 20s in their wallets instead of 100s. Which leads me to the following tweak, something that Pitino even mentioned when you spent time with him. …



    With a 12-man roster, you'd only need to train five or six guys to pull off that press. Let's say next season's Bulls trained the following five: Joakim Noah, Ty Thomas, Kirk Hinrich, Lindsey Hunter and Generic Athletic/Hungry Swingman X. They practice and practice until they become a well-oiled pressing machine. For the first five minutes of every second and fourth quarter, they unleash that killer press on their opponents … who, by the way, would be playing backups during that time, making it even more effective. Wouldn't that be an ENORMOUS advantage? Wouldn't that swing a few games? Wouldn't opponents dread playing them? Wouldn't opponents have to waste practice time preparing to break that press? Wouldn't it be even better at home with the Bulls flying around and their fans going bonkers? The key would be not putting "press miles" on your top guys and your wealthiest guys (who would never be totally invested because, again, they're really, really wealthy and don't need this crap). In this scenario, the Bulls wouldn't press with Rose, Deng, Brad Miller, Ben Gordon or even John Salmons if they could help it. Which brings me to my third point. …



    3. You can easily find 10th, 11th and 12th men to make that press work. You know how many athletic swingmen are out there? Oodles. There's always another Dahntay Jones or Josh Powell killing himself in the D-League hoping for a chance. It's just a logical way to use your roster. You could build the press around one scorer (one of your top-five guys) and the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th guys on your team. Like the 2008-09 Clippers. Couldn't they have pressed for 10 minutes a game with Al Thornton, Mike Taylor, DeAndre Jordan, Fred Jones and Mardy Collins? Why the hell not? Oh, wait, I forgot … they have a dunce as a coach.



    The bigger point: NBA teams rarely, if ever, think outside the box, and that's one of at least 50 reasons why I could succeed as a GM. Over the course of an 82-game season, a killer press might swing five or six games. If I ran an NBA team, I would study tapes of those first 50 games the '97-98 Celtics played with Billups. Carefully. They were 21-24 through 45 games with the youngest team in the league during an extremely competitive season. Hmmmmmm.
     
  2. shortfuse3

    shortfuse3 Member

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    interesting read. but as of right now only kyle lowry could probably press and succeed at it. our other guards dont seem to have the defensive prowess or speed, unless you want artest chasing a PG for 94 feet, which is unlikely.
     
  3. Lugz504

    Lugz504 Member

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    Well what I thought was interesting in the actual article was the idea of having a "press squad" where you'd have one player like Lowry, and then your 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th guys. We may not be completely equiped for that now, but I can't help but wonder if there wouldn't be a way to cause some chaos with what we do have at the end of the bench.
     
  4. weslinder

    weslinder Contributing Member

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    I'd think that the Rockets have the personnel to run the press. They could run it with Lowry, Wafer, Chuck, Landry, and either White or Battier. Whether it would work or not is another question altogether.
     
  5. monkeyboy32

    monkeyboy32 Contributing Member

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    wafer? really?? hahah..

    i'd say lowry, shane, landry, white, and dorsey could be a good pressing unit
     
  6. Ridge94-95

    Ridge94-95 Member

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    I was thinking about this even before I read Bill's article.

    Clutch - get Adelman on the horn. Send in the game plan for Game 6. :cool:
     
  7. Easy

    Easy Very Calm
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    The press in pro basketball is like the quarterback option run in pro football. It's meant to be a college tactic. On the pro level, it is only good as a trick play that catches the opponent off guard. You don't do that on a regular basis.

    The press works on the college level. It does not work consistently on the pro level simply because the pro basketball players are too good to be fluttered by the press (unless, of course, if your opposing PG is Luther Head). It demands too much energy on the players on the defensive end you end up depleting the offensive energy.

    The Rockets have shown in Game 4 that they could beat the Lakers playing straight up. So why use a risky tactic when you don't have to? That said, I think it is worth a try if we are not doing well early on. Like in Game 5, we could have used some press in the 2nd quarter.
     
  8. Pest_Ctrl

    Pest_Ctrl Member

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    I think the point in the article is that you use your end of bench guys to run the press, so that you don't waste your main guys' energy. Generally speaking guys 9 through 12 on a NBA team are just bench warmers and seldom see minutes, which is probably because they suck. But if you have the right type of guys and they are properly coached, it is possible they can press the other team's 4 through 8 for five or so solid minutes, and if that succeeds it would be a great advantage for your team. If they failed, as long as they did not fail miserably against the other team's bench, you just gave your main guys a few minutes extra rest.

    I think this is a valid strategy, although it is irrelevant to the current series. It probably needs a whole lot of coaching to pull this off.
     
  9. JayZ750

    JayZ750 Contributing Member

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    I think the counter to that is that short of a few easy buckets of press turnovers, the squad you put on the floor wouldn't be able to score, which is half the battle.

    I think Simmons Bulls squad could have moderate success, but even then, I think it is more dependent on what type of team the opponent is and how they score, then how good they are in general.

    Even understanding that the original argument is that the press won't make you win, but might give you a better chance if you know you're undermatched, I'd argue the opposite depending on opponent.

    Playing a Lakers or Nuggets, or a recent Suns or Warriors squad, the best way to win, imo, is actually the complete opposite of the press. The press, by it's nature, speeds up the game. Even when run perfectly, as noted, good teams still beat it. To beat the Lakers, you have to keep them under 100 points. Pressing may result in more offense for your squad, but when it plays into a style the other team is dominant at, it makes no sense.

    So, here's where I think pressing could work:

    1. When you have the personnel to do it in such a way that you don't suffer too much on the offensive end. 5 Chuck Hayes might be able to run a solid press, but if you DO have the personnel to run a strong press, then theoretically you have the personnel to run a very strong half-court defense, and, as noted, you're better off doing that with 5 Chuck Hayes, keeping the score down, and hoping for some "found money" offense, then having decent success with a press, but still increasing the speed of the game in a situation where, no matter how successful the press, your 5 Chuck Hayes just can't score enough to keep up.

    2. When the other team is more of the slow it down, grind it out type philosophy. Rockets used to get pressed more than most...because you want to entice us to speed up the pace of the game. Not only does it get the Rockets of their rhythm offensively and defensively, your guards (and forwards and centers to some extent) aren't used to handling the ball in quick up and down play, so the press should have more success. With Brooks and Lowry, you've seen a lot less press against us.

    3. Change of pace. Last night's Rockets game, you could argue, try anything. Half court defense wasn't working. Half court offense wasn't working. Lakers were scoring at will anyway.
     
  10. Blake

    Blake Contributing Member

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    Bill Simmon's analysis of the Rockets drafting Yao:

    Sports Guy on Yao after 2002 draft

    One more thing: Years from now, we will remember "Yao Ming over Jay Williams" the same way we remember "Bowie over Jordan," "Traylor for Nowitzki," "Carroll for McHale and Parish," "Aguirre over Thomas" and every other great draft day blunder in NBA history. I'm not just predicting it, I'm guaranteeing it. Think about it. At best, Ming develops into a bigger, more athletic Rik Smits. Fine. But then you throw in Yao's adjustment problems (going from China to the United States -- yikes), his laid-back demeanor (what happens when NBA players start pushing him around, elbowing him and intimidating him?), his inability to play in the low post, and the way he'll struggle fitting in with his teammates, as well as lofty expectations, inevitable problems adjusting to a higher level of competition, the fact that NBA players will go out of their way to dunk on him (just like they did with Shawn Bradley -- and they ruined his confidence, too), the isolation of playing here, the meddling Chinese government ... I mean, did Smits have to deal with any of those things? Can't you picture Shaq rubbing his hands together and saying, "I'm going to dunk on that Chinese guy as much as humanly possible next season"? This is a disaster waiting to happen. Repeat: This is a disaster waiting to happen. I feel very strongly about this. Just wanted to get that heard before the jury.
     
  11. daoshi

    daoshi Contributing Member

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    The full court press will never work at the pro level CONSISTENTLY. One of the major reason is the schedule the teams have, the traveling, the back to back games, players will wear out easily, and get injured more frequently. Plus, even the 11th, 12th players in the team, they still make a lot of money, compare to average people, they won't take that from any coach night-in and night-out.

    Look at Pat Riley, who was famous for running tough practices, demanding a lot from his players all the time, but he ran out of welcome in New York, then Miami.
     
  12. Lugz504

    Lugz504 Member

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    That's fine, Simmons isn't right about everything. I mean this year he has compared Yao to Muresan and Perkins to Robert Parish, so I don't always agree with him, but I do value Malcolm Gladwell's opinion and thought this tactic seemed like an interesting use for players that typically just cheerlead.
     
  13. ElDobleK

    ElDobleK Literally Zan Tabak

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    For anyone who hasn't read Gladwell, I highly recommend.

    The Tipping Point and Blink are fantastic.
     

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