City Sports Report

It’s A Crying Shame by Marc “Razz” Rabury

 The Big Three need some old-fashioned-coaching when it comes to half court sets.

The Big Three need some old-fashioned-coaching when it comes to half court sets.

It is bad enough that the greatest team ever assembled is showing signs of weakness by sobbing in their locker room after another humiliating loss, but the real tragedy here is that they are wasting the talents they have stockpiled.

I learned how to play this great game, the right way, by watching the Knicks of the early seventies.  Now there are very few teams in the annals of hardwood history that had more stars on their lineup than the one that Red Holtzman had to mold into a cohesive unit. Remember, all the experts were saying that Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe could not co-exist on the court at the same time.  They only went on to form one of the greatest backcourt the game has ever seen. The Captain, Willis Reed, did more than limp his way into New York Folklore.  Both forwards, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere could have taken over a game at anytime.

Then you had the bench that consisted of Jerry Lucas, Henry Bibby, Dean Meminger, Dick Barnett and some guy named Phil Jackson.  If this wasn’t the most talented team ever assembled, they definitely were the smartest.  Barnett went on to earn a PhD, Jerry Lucas possessed an IQ comparable to Einstein.  The Rhodes Scholar, Bradley, went on to become a Senator.  And Reed, Frazier and Monroe all had a great basketball IQ and were among the most respected players of their era.

But the thing that separated this squad from some of the other talent-laden units in NBA history is that to a man they sacrificed their own individual games for the betterment of the team.  Every member of the starting five could have averaged at least 20 points per game.  Most of the bench would have been starters on any team in the League with the exception of the Celtics or Lakers.

So when I see the Big Three struggling, I have to laugh. It is not that they cannot work together.  Their main problem is that they have not checked their egos at the door and they are not being coached right.  When they started winning after their slow start, they did it on the heels of their defense, causing turnovers and then getting on the wings where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are virtually impossible to stop.  But that was against the “Sisters of the Poor”, the weaker teams in the League.  Now that they are facing stiffer competition they look lost.

I know that the Miami Heats head coach, Erik Spoelstra, is one of the more respected young coaches in the League, but he is going to have to be a little more creative when it comes to drawing up half court sets.  Did you see the plays that they ran in the final seconds of the Knicks and Bulls games?  They were glorified clear outs for LeBron. The other four guys just stood there and basically watched King James barrel his way through three or four defenders.  And in both cases, once James made his way into the lane, Wade was wide open. I know Red Aurebach and Red Holtzman must be rolling over in their respective graves watching from their luxury boxes in the sky.

You mean to tell me that Spoelstra cannot put the ball in the hands of newly acquired Mike Bibby, yes Henry’s son, with Wade on the wing and James on the opposite block down?   Then have the other two players set a screen for James and Wade, putting both men in motion flashing to the ball.  This will create multiple switches and either one will definitely pop free, allowing them then to use their individual superior talents to get an easier shot. And if one of those guys setting the pick is Chris Bosh, then he becomes a viable “third” option.  Just because Wade and James have the ability to break down two or three players, does not mean that should become a designed play.

Basketball is such a simple game.  We have made it complicated with all of these isolation plays and always looking for mismatches.  When I was 14 years old at Five Star Basketball Camp, Rick Pitino told a group of us that it is hard for defenses to keep up with sharp ball movement and, if the offensive players move without the ball, then the defense should be at the offense’s mercy.  That is what Holtzman preached back in the day and it should still hold true today. It would be in Spolestra’s best interest to look at some of the Knicks’ film sessions of the early seventies and implement some of Red’s plays.  He might want to also consider installing the “Triangle Offense.” Think about it, the crew that he has assembled is similar to the Bulls first trifecta. He has to do something different or he might end up with a fate similar to Stan Van Gundy in Miami.

They have the Big Three and some decent role players. But that crew has to check their ego’s at the door and accept some old-fashioned coaching.  If they go into the playoffs with that half court offense, it would be a crying shame!

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