Episode 2.6: Patrick Fenelon: “There’s Nothing Wrong With (the Timberwolves’) Offense Right Now”

November 12, 2016

The 2-5 Minnesota Timberwolves may be on the cusp of something very promising, but they’re awfully young. Under new head coach and president Tom Thibodeau, that inexperience has likely already contributed to three losses by a combined 10 points. Close losses notwithstanding, the offense, led by Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns, all 21 years old or younger, has been electric, as has the 3-point shooting in particular. Timberwolves expert Patrick Fenelon was gracious enough to join the show to discuss these three phenoms, the prospect of Minnesota improving its team defense, rookie point guard Kris Dunn’s strengths and weaknesses, and a whole lot more. Get teased with some excerpts below:    

2:53 - 3:21: Fenelon begins by explaining what has been causing the Timberwolves to blow leads in the third quarter of games: "You wonder if it's just a weird quirk of youth thinking that they can just sit back and play prevent defense. It's just a layup line really is what happens in that third quarter. If you look at shot charts, you'll see that one guy is coming in there and getting layups over and over again. They just stop playing defense. And then turnovers happen."

5:46 - 6:22: Kris Dunn has captured Fenelon's attention as a defensive force, but our guest acknowledges where the rookie must improve: "I've been really impressed with [Dunn] defensively. He's held his own right away. He just doesn't know exactly what to do on the offensive end...It's a really steep learning curve for point guards. When Dunn is on the court, their offense is [heavily] based on trying to be scrappy on defense, get a turnover and run the other way. Their pace is a lot faster with Dunn out there."
9:08 - 9:28: Fenelon also gushes over Zach LaVine, comparing him to arguably the best shooter in the league and placing him firmly in contention for NBA's Most Improved Player award: "He just needs to be not a huge liability on defense, because he's just such a flamethrower on offense. He's not going to shoot 50 percent from 3 for the year, but it'll be Klay Thompson-level. He's that good of a shooter. He was hitting them at about that clip for the whole second half of last year."
11:30 - 12:29: Lest we forget Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, our guest clarifies who is now and will always be the leader of the Timberwolves: "In terms of his mentality and charisma on a roster and in a locker room and being outspoken, he's always going to be secondary to Towns. Towns might be President of the United States for god's sake...Wiggins is by nature very shy... Wiggins is not a playmaker at this point. He's really, at this point, just a scorer and a solid individual defender. And he's getting better as a team defender."
18:31 - 19:23: But with all these freak athletes, why aren't the Timberwolves better on defense? And how is new coach Tom Thibodeau ensuring progress in this crucial area? Tell us, Patrick: "They have the talent to actually be a good defensive team. They're just young and inexperienced and weren't coached within a decent structure...What you can tell with Thibodeau is that he's got a long leash and there's definitely a system in place. He's supposedly such a good teacher and will stop a practice if you're out of position and break down where you have to be."
21:22 - 21:49Fenelon cautions that reaching the playoffs this season is not necessarily the most important goal: "You can get frustrated when you have expectations. This team hasn't made the playoffs for 12 years, so I really want wins. And I have to calm myself down and (remember) that this is a process. If a championship is the eventual goal with the core, you have to focus on the long term of everything and not just getting to the playoffs by any means this year."
Music: "Who Likes to Party" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 2.5: Jake Fischer: 76ers’ Joel Embiid Is the “Pillar This Team Needed”

November 4, 2016

Four games into the season, the Philadelphia 76ers are again winless, and the franchise hasn’t won a pre-December regular-season game since the 2013-14 season. This time, however, Sixers fans are enjoying the process marveling at Joel "The Process" Embiid rather than commiserating about tanking. Jake Fischer of  SB Nation's Liberty Ballers and SI.com joins the show and raves about Embiid's impressive debut and transformative potential. Along with 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons, whose highly anticipated debut will have to wait, last season's NBA All-Rookie First Team member Jahlil Okafor and rookie Dario Saric, Embiid's emergence brings optimism back to Philadelphia basketball. Fischer also examines the Sixers' glut of similar bigs and identifies the likely odd man out. Not since Iverson and Iguodala respectively crossed over opponents and soared through the sky has there been so much unbridled joy and passion around this fan base. Peep the excerpts below:

1:59-2:23 Fischer starts out describing the aforementioned new aura of positivity around the 76ers faithful“It’s a complete 180 from the last couple years. There’s still the good-hearted humor of ‘Oh, I wonder which new way we’ll find out this team can lose a game tonight,’ but at the same time there’s an optimism now I think that fans truly have thought, at least in these first four games, that the team has a shot at winning every night just because Embiid’s out on the floor.”    

5:52-6:31 “One of the biggest criticisms of Sam Hinkie’s rebuild was that he was just plugging away with assets and roster turnover and hiding behind a calculator and it was not basketball-related and it was just faux analytics. But the fact that this team now has a personable face who can stand in front of reporters or fans at the Beach Bash in August and actually be a walking, talking, breathing product of this scheme, and you compound that with the fact that he’s absurdly talented. It’s the pillar this team needed to pivot toward true contention, let alone respectability.”

7:30-8:37: But apparently all is not is well in the City of Brotherly Love according to our guest, who does not envision Nerlens Noel remaining a 76er for long: “I honestly don’t expect him to ever play a game for the Sixers again…I don’t know what flipped the switch, but some time in August him and his agents decided that he needed to get out of there. I think that’s gonna be the ultimate conclusion as much as I think that he’s a more valuable piece next to Joel Embiid, and just he’s a better basketball player than Jahlil Okafor in general.”   

18:23-18:47: Fischer points to the evident shift toward finally accruing some wins this season compared to the previous brand of old-fashioned tanking: “They literally entered that year [2015-16] without a point guard, so that was by design. Brett Brown and his players, like you said, were always going to try to win, but Sam Hinkie strategically built the roster in a way that it was virtually impossible to win every single night. That’s not the case anymore. And that’s not an indictment of Hinkie at all. I personally think it was an ingenious strategy.”

23:00-23:27: Given this enhanced on-court product, he sees a prime opportunity for coach Brett Brown to showcase his ability to game plan in more competitive situations: “I think he has the tools to grow into possibly one of the best coaches in the league. He certainly is a leader of men. You see it in the way he talks and his charisma and the way players play for him defensively. He’s got that quality about him, but so did Scott Brooks and Mark Jackson and other guys, and they just didn’t have the acumen to get it done. So when it comes to those late-game situations…I really am paying attention to that.”     

Music: "Who Likes to Party" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 2.4: Mason Ginsberg: Pelicans “Really Need That Secondary High-Usage Player” Alongside Anthony Davis

November 1, 2016

As expected, three games into the 2016-17 season, Anthony Davis is putting up monster averages of 37.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.7 steals per game, including an almost unfathomable performance in the season opener where he racked up 50 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 5 steals against the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, for all his effort, the Pelicans still have no wins to show for it. Mason Ginsberg of ESPN Truehoop's Bourbon Street Shots takes us through what the Pelicans need to do over the course of this season to turn that around. Additionally, he expounds on the disappointment of last year's injury-filled season, the many roster moves made in the offseason and need for a sense of urgency around the team.

5:12-5:26 on how Quincy Pondexter's injury last season affected the team and his uncertain timetable to return this season:

"Quincy [Pondexter] was their only plus defender who could really stretch the floor and [needed to be] defended from the 3-point line and missing him was just huge. Again, it’d be really helpful to get him back, but no real certainty on when that’s going to happen."

10:13-11:05 On his feelings about Anthony Davis's still developing game and the myriad of injuries he has suffered over his career:

"He's only 23 years old still. He’s developing into more of a stronger figure. That’s going to help him play more minutes at the 5, which he vocally did not want to do at the start of his career… I think now he’s realizing where the NBA game is going; he’s been playing more and more 5 every year. I’m optimistic about AD from an injury perspective. There’s been nothing that really sticks out as a major red flag… All things considered, I’d rather have him have a bunch of random injuries than keep injuring the same thing over and over again"

15:23-15:46 Setting expectations for Buddy Hield's rookie season:

"Watching him play, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s almost ironic because it seems as much a confidence issue than anything. He’s timid, he’s not playing with the same kind of confidence that you saw at Oklahoma or even sometimes in the preseason. I think he’s going to be fine, again, small sample size, but he’s also a rookie. He’s going to struggle on defense. He’s going to turn the ball over. He’s going to help space the floor for the Pelicans, but he’s also going to hurt them too."

18:00-18:42 On the many offseason acquisitions for the Pelicans:

"The additions they’ve had this offseason are to really shore up that defense and give Darren Ermon, who they brought in basically as their defensive coordinator, some tools to work with. The number of times last season I saw him just throw his hands up in the air in disgust on the sideline was too many to count. It was rough. Now they have guys who can defend multiple positions, who can switch on screens a little more."

22:25-22:58 On the future role for Tyreke Evans:

"It just really seems like all of the Pelicans moves this offseason were made with the thought of Tyreke not really being a factor for the Pelicans this year. I don’t think Tyreke is going to play in the starting line-up, I just don’t see it. I think if he comes back, it’s going to be as a sixth-man type role off the bench. I just don’t think he fits with Gentry’s style at least with the starters. And then him and Lance Stephenson are very redundant players, so I’m not sure how you could use both of those guys."
25:23-26:03"It seems like people keep talking about and piling on that AD has no help and that the roster is pretty much just a dumpster fire around him. I just don’t see it that way. Like I said, it’s not great, but they’ve got a lot of players who I think are versatile and can do different things. It’s just they’re in a tough spot without that secondary guy like a Jrue Holiday around them. I think it’s important to keep an eye on the Pelicans throughout the year and see how things change. If things don’t change and it’s still a mess, you’re going to see some major, major changes at the top."

Music: "Who Likes to Party" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 2.3: Josh Baumgard: Heat’s Justise Winslow “Is the Key to the Whole Season”

October 25, 2016

In the first team-focused interview of the season, Slice Miami’Josh Baumgard makes On the NBA Beat history by becoming the first guest to appear three times, and the third time was certainly a charm (as were the first two). In this Miami Heat-themed episode, he gushes about the monstrous numbers Hassan Whiteside has the potential to post as the focal point of Miami’s offense. Baumgard also waxes nostalgic and practical about the ramifications of Dwyane Wade’s departure after 13 seasons as the franchise cornerstone. Plus, along with a range of other timely topics, he explains how Miami’s already stout defense can be even stronger this upcoming season. Scan some scorching excerpts below: 

2:58-3:10 As the episode title suggests, second-year wing Justise Winslow will make or break Miami’s season, according to Baumgard: “I think he’s the key to the whole season. I think he’s the difference between whether they’re gonna be a 35-win team or a 45-win team. You’ve got to see some offensive improvement out of him, and I think with the increased role he’s ready for it.”

5:50-6:22 “That’s gonna be huge, because if he can develop a consistent jump shot, the defense is gonna play closer to him; that’s gonna open up driving lanes. And as we saw in the preseason, he’s a pretty good ball handler and he’s a very underrated passer. I think he can find guys in the corner for those open 3s, so, again, I think it goes back to Winslow. If he’s able to create some offense behind Goran Dragic, it’s gonna ease the burden on them scoring, because they’re likely not gonna be a great offensive team, but if they’re at least better than average, I think that bodes really well for their playoff chances.”   

10:26-10:55 While our guest is quite enthusiastic about Hassan Whiteside’s individual projections, he expresses concern over the team’s lack of front-court depth: “Outside of that [Hassan Whiteside and backup center Willie Reed], it’s really, really thin. Josh McRoberts, he can’t be depended on to go home and take a shower and come back healthy the next day…you have Udonis Haslem who’s approaching like 50 years old, so they’re really thin at the 5 spot. So if anything happens to Whiteside or Reed, we’re gonna see Justise Winslow playing some 1 through 5 just like he did in the playoffs.”  

17:08-17:58 Dwyane Wade’s impact on the Heat over the past 13 years was tremendous, admits Baumgard, but he also contends that Wade’s output no longer equated to what he would have been financially owed going forward: “Wade had a great playoff run, and he had a sensational series against Charlotte; if he didn’t have that series, they lose. But when you’re looking overall at what he brings at this stage of his career, I’m not sure he would have been the best fit for the Heat. I think you’re better off paying Dion Waiters $3 million than paying Wade 20+. If you look at last year’s numbers, Miami’s defense allowed eight points per 100 possessions more with Wade on the court, and then you consider the fact that he’s gonna hog the ball, put in a high usage and take it away from Dragic and Whiteside and some of these more consistent, efficient players, and a case could be made that they’re going to be better over the long haul without Wade. Now that might just be the homer in me, it might be the bitter fan coming out, saying he left us. But the numbers don’t lie when you look at it, and Dwyane Wade is not the player he was five, 10 years ago.”

20:37-21:03 He sees free-agent acquisition Dion Waiters as something of a wild card who can be highly effective if he comes in with a balanced mental approach: “Waiters, in certain spots of the preseason, when he’s not trying to do too much, when he’s not trying to be a scorer first and he’s actually trying to facilitate and pass for others, he’s somewhat effective. He can get in the paint, he’s athletic, he appears to have pretty decent passing vision. But I know he has the goods, the physical [tools] to do it. I think, with him, it’s more about the mental, and those kind of players always scare the crap out of me.” 

Music: "Who Likes to Party?" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 2.2: Previewing the 2016-17 NBA Season With James Herbert

October 19, 2016

On this episode, James Herbert, NBA Writer at CBSSports.com, joined us to run through the most compelling storylines for the fast approaching 2016-17 NBA season. After an offseason filled with player movement and coaching changes, James helps us navigate the new landscape of the NBA, including which teams he thinks improved their chances and which he has lower expectations for. He also opines on possible breakout players, gives his season award predictions and offers his thoughts on the increasing social activism among NBA players and in professional sports in general.

1:40-4:38 Herbert is very high on the Utah Jazz’s prospects for the season. Here’s a taste:

“I just think they’re gonna be a monster this year. I think a lot of people really expected them to be that breakout team last year -- some thought it would even happen the year before, they’d make it to the playoffs -- but I think this is really the year that it’s going to happen. They should have been a playoff team last year. They just barely missed out, and that was when they didn’t really have a point guard for the whole season...so I’m a bit more bullish on them than I think even most NBA hipsters are…I think they’re seen as this big team, this enormous team that plays power basketball because of [Derrick] Favors and [Rudy] Gobert, but they can put Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw there as their frontcourt with their bench unit, and they can match up with small teams too. I think it’s really about versatility in the modern NBA, not just going small, and the Jazz have the pieces to play pretty much any way.”

11:03-11:50 Like many analysts, Herbert sees a significant drop-off after the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Here’s what he had to say concerning the near-inevitability of another Cavs-Warriors Finals:

“I know that’s kind of a bummer. I know most people going into a season would like to think that there’s some sort of chance that we don’t already know who’s going to meet in the Finals. But to me, I’m just like, ‘Alright, the Finals are gonna be awesome.’ I want to see these two super-teams go at it again for the third straight time when now the Warriors have what looks like the best roster I’ve ever seen constructed in my whole life.”

13:30-13:40 Good news, Houston. Our guest believes the Rockets will show considerable improvement this 2016-17 campaign

“Watching them in the preseason, the way that they’re spreading the floor, the way that they’re pushing the pace, the way that they’re empowering James Harden. I think he’s become a popular MVP pick going into the season for a reason. He’s just got the perfect setup for him to have a huge year. And I think just based on the talent they have on the roster there’s no way they should have been as bad as they were last year, so I think they were naturally going to rebound anyway. And now you put Harden in a [coach Mike] D’Antoni offense and you add Ryan Anderson there to stretch the floor. Yeah, this might still be a bad defensive team, but I think they’ll for sure be one of the best offensive teams in the NBA.”

18:45-19:38: Regarding the Atlanta Hawks, Herbert can envision many scenarios in the wide-open Eastern Conference:

“So I think you look at the Hawks, and you can make an argument, ‘This is the fourth-best team in the East,’ and then you can also go, ‘Well, what if it just doesn’t work, and they lack chemistry like Dwight’s team in Houston did last year? Maybe they have to go a totally different direction. Maybe they have to consider trading Millsap.’ Who really knows? Atlanta’s the No. 1 team like that, but I think what I said about them applies in general terms to most of the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Outside of those top three teams, you kind of don’t know what you’re gonna get.”

22:54-23:22 Minnesota’s Zach LaVine is on track for continued improvement, he argues:

“At a certain point of the year, [Timberwolves coach] Sam Mitchell said, ‘OK, you can start shooting 3s now,’ whereas he seemed to hate even the concept of playing that way at the start of the year. And LaVine became this incredibly efficient 3-point shooter, a guy that could go and get 20 every night, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t do that this year, and I think if Thibodeau is able to make him even an average defender, that would be an enormous improvement on that end of the court from what we’ve seen in years past.”

31:26-31:45 Herbert went with Joel Embiid as his projected Rookie of the Year. He explains why:

“I just think he [Embiid] is from what I’ve seen in preseason and even just from what we all saw when he was in college and how people projected him…I think with Simmons missing the majority of the season or maybe more than that, to me, Embiid should be the favorite. I think he’s so much more talented than the rest of the crowd.”

In this offseason’s NBA GM Survey, 46.7 percent of respondents chose Minnesota guard Kris Dunn compared to 10.0 percent for Embiid, but at least some of the submissions appear to have been received before Ben Simmons’ injury occurred. In fact, 13.3 percent of respondents chose Simmons as their Rookie of the Year, as well as 13.3 percent for Pelicans guard Buddy Hield. For what it’s worth, the Lakers’ Brandon Ingram also received 10.0 percent of the votes.    

Music: "Who Likes to Party?" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 2.1 Welcome Back!

October 18, 2016

In the inaugural episode of Season 2, Aaron and Loren go over last season's podcast highlights while unveiling the names of the first three interview guests of 2016-17.

Music: "Who Likes to Party?" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 37a: Sam Vecenie: Celtics Should’ve “Taken Kris Dunn and Continued to Negotiate With Bulls, 76ers”

June 28, 2016

The knowledgeable and passionate Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports checks in to review the 2016 NBA Draft. He discusses the uniquely unpredictable nature of the picks, No. 1 overall selection Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield's pairing with Anthony Davis in New Orleans, the under-appreciated Malcolm Brogdon and so much more.  

9:28-10:59: “(Drafting and stashing) certainly shook up the first round in a lot of ways. The thing with all these international kids is that none of them really wanted to be stashed outside of a few of them. So, basically, the reason you saw (Guerschon) Yabusele go 16 - he’s willing to be stashed in all likelihood…The factor that all of these teams had multiple picks, and the factor that everyone kind of thinks this draft sucks in terms of domestic prospects made teams going into this uncertain free agency period want to say, ‘OK, we want to keep our rosters as clean as possible and have as few of these guys over here now as possible,’ so I think that that’s where you saw quite a few stashes come into play.”   

11:18-12:56: “I would say that Skal (Labissiere) and (Dejounte) Murray particularly both had pretty volatile draft stocks…Skal was a weird one, where the teams that I think did the most homework on him ended kind of going in different directions…so I think that a lot of the teams in that 10,11, 12, 13 range ended up moving their picks and deciding to go different directions. It’s kind of the way that trades shake up the draft process, because you can only predict so much going into it, and then once you predict it, it might just go off the rails really quickly.    

13:31-13:57 (on the impact of Thon Maker’s age, which is currently in question): “If he’s 23, it throws off his development cycle pretty substantially and throws his performance to this state pretty heavily in question. So, last year, Skal Labissiere and he were at Hoops Summit, and Skal just destroyed him day after day in practice and really just kind of dominated him in a way that would be very concerning if Thon was 22 at that stage.”

16:22-17:42 (on Ben Simmons): “I’m a pretty big fan of his game. He’s No. 1 in a weak draft; I think that that’s fair to say. He’s a really solid, really athletic prospect, who can get to the rim whenever he wants. Obviously, he’s a terrific passer, really good rebounder. One thing I will note is he does have a propensity to pick up some garbage-time stats from time to time, almost like Rondo-ian in terms of chasing stats and doing that, which is a little bit worrisome. It kind of reflects on his defensive game, which is quite substandard at this stage despite him having a ton of potential in the modern NBA, and it kind of reflects on the fact that he hasn’t really improved his game all that much while he was at LSU. I think if you put him on the floor, he’s gonna play hard. He really does want to be great as an NBA player.”    

21:29-21:58 (on the Celtics’ disappointing draft): “I would have just taken Kris Dunn at No. 3 and continued to be able to negotiate with Chicago and with Philadelphia, who clearly both wanted Kris Dunn. I think that you call their bluff, and, if worse comes to worse, you end up with a guy, in Kris Dunn, that is really good at basketball and who I had at No. 3 on my board. Obviously, the Celtics felt differently. And I think that the second critical mistake is taking Guerschon Yabusele at 16, and then, third, they end up moving 31 and 35 with good players still on the board.”

23:03-23:31: “No. 17 is Memphis. You look at what they do: They get Wade Baldwin, who is a really tremendous fit for what they want. They have questions still with what Mike Conley is going to do in free agency. Baldwin fits really well, because Baldwin could be Mike Conley’s replacement if Conley leaves, or he could play next to Conley due to his size – he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-11 wingspan. He can kind of shoot a little bit. There’s a lot that you can really work with there.   

27:46-28:13 (on how Malcolm Brogdon flew under the radar): “He’s just not that explosive vertically. He plays like an old man’s game offensively in a lot of ways, and I don’t think that’s a thing that a lot of teams want. So it’s gonna be a very situational thing for Malcolm. Luckily, he goes to Milwaukee, where I think it’s a tremendous fit, and he’ll figure it out there pretty immediately. And I think he’ll be the kind of role player that Norman Powell was this year for Toronto, where everyone’s like, ‘Wow! How the hell did this guy fall to the second round?’”  

30:07-30:28 (on Buddy Hield’s future in the NBA): “If he can improve as a ball handler and as a creator of offense, both in terms of his dribbling ability and his passing ability, this kid could be an All-Star, but I’m not quite there on him actually doing that at the next level. I think you’re talking more about just a really solid player in the Kyle Korver-ish, J.J. Redick-ish mold.”   

Music: "Who Likes to Party?" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 36a: Mangiaracina: Thunder “Need Roberson Out There to Stop Klay” in Game 7 vs. Warriors

May 30, 2016

Despite Oklahoma City's Game 6 collapse and squandering of a 3-1 series lead, Welcome to Loud City's Marina Mangiaracina explains why the Thunder stand a legitimate chance of upsetting the mighty Golden State Warriors in a decisive Game 7. Her prescription? Lots of minor adjustments, which include extra shots for Dion Waiters and Serge Ibaka, smarter defensive switching and Andre Roberson logging more court time to help counteract Klay Thompson's explosive scoring. Below are some noteworthy excerpts:

1:59 –2:26: “I think the No. 1 key is getting more shots for Serge Ibaka and Dion Waiters. Waiters had about the same amount of shots (in Game 6) – five or six – that (Andre) Roberson and (Steven) Adams had, and given his offensive abilities, it’s an embarrassment that he’s getting so few opportunities…(Kevin) Durant and (Russell) Westbrook were just taking too many bad shots. When you move the ball around more, it helps out.”

4:06 –4:48: “There was tons of personal adversity for this team in this calendar year of 2016. Mo Cheeks had to go away from the bench due to hip surgery, the wife of Monty Williams was killed in a car accident and Monty Williams had to leave the team, the young brother of Dion Waiters was killed in a violent shooting in Philadelphia, Aubrey McClendon, the 20 percent owner of the team, died in a single-car crash…You could kind of see how they all rallied together and galvanized each other.”

7:47 –9:04: “Billy Donovan just came into this coaching job with the right mindset…He really came in with an open mind and realized that he needed to learn a whole new profession from entirely different people. And his work ethic was amazing – he watched two seasons of Thunder basketball before he even came into the job, literally every single game. He toned down his demeanor – he’s not as intense as he was in college - he’s constantly revealing new plays, and he toned down the complexity of his offense once the players weren’t getting it…As far as using the regular season as a lab, literally every single player that could have possibly contributed got minutes. He toned down the minutes for Westbrook and Durant during the regular season, keeping them fresh for the playoffs. He tried wacky lineups with multiple point guards, centers…He just really has been one of the best success stories of the season as a head coach.”

11:03-11:21: “I think that (foul trouble) is the only reason that (Anthony) Morrow got extended minutes is because Roberson was out of the game. And we really need to keep Roberson out of foul trouble. We really need to keep him in the game as long as we can just to get that defense on Klay (Thompson) because he’s the only defender that has the length and energy to do that.”

13:00-13:35: “He (Waiters) kind of came into his own during the playoffs, because he’s focused primarily on defense, and that really works against the Warriors. He’s a great defender in one-on-one situations, because he’s so low to the ground, he’s so stout, he doesn’t give room and can really get into players physically…I also think that he has a lot of confidence when he shoots. Beyond Durant and Westbrook, I think he’s the best end-of-game shot maker. He has a really high percentage in clutch situations when he’s given space.”

16:49-17:15: “He’s (Draymond Green's) not at his highest level against the Thunder, because KD’s just so long, and whenever Green has to match up against KD, it’s a problem. But Green isn’t matched up against KD a lot, and I think there’s definitely opportunities for him to get open 3-pointers, and if his shot’s on, then that opens up things for him driving to the basket because he’s skilled that way. Adams is a good rim protector, but I think he’ll (Green will) get his in Game 7. I don’t think we’ve had anything figured out against him.”

PREDICTION: The Thunder steal Game 7  

Music: "Who Likes to Party?" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 35a: Andy Liu: Warriors Should “Put Draymond at Center, Speed Everything Up” vs. Thunder

May 18, 2016

The mighty, 73-win, defending champion Golden State Warriors squandered a 13-point halftime lead, as the Oklahoma City Thunder stole Game 1 at Oracle Arena Monday night. While Golden State of Mind's Andy Liu admits the Thunder are playing their strongest basketball at the most ideal time, he believes the Warriors and Stephen Curry will have enough to get through to the Finals. He does, however, express concern over the MVP's health, Golden State's shot selection and which coach is currently doing the better job. Entertaining, informative segments have been transcribed below:

1:46-3:22“They (the Warriors) should probably panic - like a controlled panic obviously. We don’t want (head coach) Steve Kerr to suddenly start making wholesale schematic changes. It’s not like they lost by 30… If Steph was 100 percent healthy, I think that he would’ve bailed them out last night, which would’ve been fine, but moving forward I don’t think he’s gonna get to 100 percent for the rest of the playoffs. So it’s a matter of ‘Can he play at 80, 85 percent and still carry this offense when it counts throughout the rest of the series?’”


4:30-4:49"It’s just a matter of ‘How are they going to do it (start strong) again in Game 2, and then when OKC comes back and hits them, are they gonna lose composure again?’ You would believe that a championship team like this wouldn’t lose composure like that again, but, hey, OKC’s already done this to the Spurs three straight games; that was super-impressive."

7:46-8:22“I’ve covered the team for about 3.5 years now, and that crowd in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals was by far the worst that I’ve heard. That one was bad. That one was regular-season level – like a random November regular-season game against the Orlando Magic. It was that bad. It didn’t get loud until the fourth quarter when the Warriors were making a run, IN the (first) game of a Western Conference Finals.”  


10:45-11:42“I think the Warriors need to go small more. I think whenever the Warriors struggle, whenever they go down in a series, the best cure that they have is just to put Draymond Green at center; speed everything up. Draymond Green is one of those rare, or maybe only, guys that can play 3, 4 and 5 and rebound as well…A lot of that second half was played in the half court, and in the half court OKC out-rebounded them, got to the line with free throws and then were able to lock down Steph Curry off the ball…just because the other team’s going big, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to.”   

16:52-17:45“(Russell Westbrook was) very good with the quick double on the pick and roll. And Steph has a tendency to - he still does after all these years – just throw careless passes out of pick and rolls. When he gets doubled, for some reason, either he just gets flustered or he throws it thinking it’ll work. He tries to throw it through four arms, or he tries to throw it through three people, and he did it like five, six, seven, eight times last night…This isn’t to say that OKC wasn’t playing good defense; they were. They were playing really good defense. But I’ve seen Steph do this a lot. And him cleaning up just means 'be smarter.' That’s basically it. It’s not some magical thing that he has to figure out.”  


21:28-21:43“I do expect a better shooting game from KD (Kevin Durant), do expect a better overall performance, maybe, from Westbrook. But then on the flip side of that, you do expect less turnovers from the Warriors, more focused defense in crunch time and a lot better shooting from Steph Curry.”

23:37-23:50“All in all, the Warriors were a mess on offense last night (Game 1). And they just weren’t moving, weren’t playing, as Steve Kerr says, within the flow of themselves, and it was just a lot of hero-style playmaking.” 


25:06-25:37“They’ve got to put Steph on the ball regardless of whether he’s at 80 percent or 100 percent…The tentativeness, I can’t tell if it’s either him or if it’s just the injury. If they just get him the ball more. Just run a simple pick and roll with Draymond, have Draymond slip that pick and roll, have Steph not turn it over and then just run a 4-on-3. That’s literally the most unstoppable play in the NBA right now.”


28:42-29:07“I think that's (Curry is) what puts the Warriors notches above the Spurs, the Thunder...(It's) his ability to take over games in a way that no other player can. He’s just got to figure out if he’s gonna able to do it in this series, because if that knee’s not gonna allow him to do it, then this might be over. But my gut tells me that his knee is gonna be fine, (that) he’s gonna be able to do just enough to get them past the Thunder.”

PREDICTION: Warriors in six 

Music: "Who Likes to Party?" by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 34a: The Hawks’ Tall Task Against the Cavaliers Featuring Lang Whitaker, Jacob Rosen

May 4, 2016

Although the Hawks put a mighty scare into the Cavaliers after storming all the way back from 18 down, Cleveland ultimately hung on to take the series opener. In a tantalizing rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals, our crack guests lead us through this iteration's nuances. Checking in for the Hawks is Atlanta sports expert and NBA.com writer and podcaster Lang Whitaker. And out of Akron, Ohio, we have Jacob Rosen, who's an MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. Rosen's also a longtime sports analytics writer for Hardwood ParoxysmNylon Calculus and Waiting for Next Year. Excerpts below:

Lang Whitaker (5:07-5:23): “[Kent] Bazemore’s a little bit more dynamic offensively than DeMarre [Carroll] was last year. There’s that saying ‘The best defense is a good offense.’ I think if you make LeBron work a little bit harder on that end, maybe that helps you in the long run as well.”

LW (5:25-5:45): “[Coach Mike] Budenholzer was trying a lot of different things. He had one lineup where Paul Millsap was playing center, where he went really small. I think he has a little more versatility with [Thabo] Sefolosha being healthy. He can go to these lineups where there’s two or three small forwards in there at the same time.”

LW (7:22-8:07): “Mike Budenholzer said after they beat Boston in Round 1 that in Round 2 there was going to be a role for Kris Humphries with the Hawks, and then he didn’t play in Game 1. To me, it seems like that might be a spot where you put in Humphries and ask him to just go after rebounds, just crash the boards time after time and get a body on Tristan Thompson. Humphries averaged double-figure rebounds a couple years ago. That’s something maybe where you say, ‘Look, we need you. This is what you’re here for. Come out and contribute to the team in this way.’ They’ve got to find some answer, other than just letting Cleveland out-rebound them by 10 or 15 rebounds a game.”

LW (11:06-11:34): “[Dennis Schroder’s] aggressive. That’s something he pretty much has every night. With [Jeff] Teague, sometimes that’s what he doesn’t have…When Teague doesn’t play that aggressively, that’s when you bring in Schroder, and the other way around. That’s also why you don’t trade one of those guys during the season. It’s kind of a unique combination, but they really complement each other very well.”

LW (14:24:15:01): “The thing that makes LeBron [James] so good is his passing. Last night, there were five or 10 different plays where they got the ball out of his hands, but LeBron made passes that most players in the NBA can’t make… When you play great defense and you leave this tiny little thing (opening) and that happens, you’ve just got to tip your hat to the guy.”

Jacob Rosen (20:29-20:41): “The encouraging thing for the Cavs is that they can lollygag for a few minutes here and there. They obviously can’t do that against the Western Conference teams, but in the East, it still seems that they have the ability to pull away when they really need to.”

JR (24:55-26:32): “With [Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore] they have the athleticism on the wing that the Cavs can sometimes struggle against, and they were getting open looks. Schroder was just picking them apart with the dribble-drive and Kyrie [Irving] and—other players, it wasn’t just Kyrie— the Cavs were not prepared for it. ..So when they go back to the drawing board, the Cavs just have to strategize a solution where they’re not sagging off those guys, where they’re not letting the Hawks run around them on the offensive end…So when they look at playing these Hawks and they look at playing the Raptors or the Heat next round or one of the top teams out West, it comes down to the granular strategy of ‘How do you stop the most important offensive weapons?’ The Cavs have consistently done that with not letting Kyle Korver take shots against them…but what was missing obviously was a plan and an attack to also keep in mind Schroder’s dribble-drive ability, Bazemore’s athleticism and the open looks that can create. So the Cavs have to find a better solution for that. Perhaps it’s sticking [Matthew] Dellavedova on him, more directly it’s not sagging off those picks, being more attentive of the screen man, of the guy who’s kicking out for the 3. But it’s all correctable things.”

JR (29:47-30:36): “My favorite stat in the first round was how it was the first time in LeBron’s career that he didn’t lead his team in scoring in a playoff series… When Kyrie is attacking as well as he did… this is a very different Cavs team than the one we saw in the regular season or we’ve seen many times over the last two years, because Kyrie just wasn’t healthy last year in the playoffs when LeBron was at his very best. That’s why this Cavs team is so dangerous. When Kyrie is penetrating and distributing and shooting like he can, it’s just very hard to score with them.”

JR (31:54-32:16): “This is everything that fans have wanted to see, and they’re seeing it in prime playoff mode. It’s what players like J.R. Smith and Channing Frye allow you to do on the court, because everybody’s a spacer. The only guy who’s not is Tristan Thompson, who’s eating up the boards anyway. For the Cavs, that’s the fun part of this lineup. That’s the fun part of being in the playoffs with everyone healthy. You’ve got everything clicking.”

JR (33:20-33:36): “When [J.R. Smith]’s on and when he’s motivated and when he’s in a role like he’s been with this team when he’s never forced to do too much…within the context of the team…it’s very exciting and he gets hot too.”


Lang: Cavaliers in six

Jacob: Cavaliers in five

Music: "Who Likes to Party?" by Kevin MacLeod