The NBA playoffs got off to a good start today, with a competitive Nets-Raptors game followed by a thrilling Clippers-Warriors battle. The former reminded everyone why Paul Pierce is still a quality NBA player, and the latter was an intense battle between two rivals, albeit both playing below their potential. Blake Griffin only got 19 minutes due to foul trouble, which the Clippers have to be praying won’t happen in the rest of the series. Otherwise, they could be in for an early exit, and after jumping through hoop after hoop to get Doc Rivers last summer, another first-round exit would be a major disappointment.
If you haven’t already seen it, check out what happened when the shot clocks lost power in Toronto:
Turn the sound on and note the PA announcer saying “horn” because there was no actual horn. This happened in a playoff game.
Electronic embarrassments aside, the city of Toronto showed up to support the Raps in their first playoff series in years. Good show by my fellow Canadians in keeping the game strong north of the border.
Now let’s get to the latest from around the NBA:
HOW DWANE CASEY TURNED AROUND THE RAPTORS’ D
Casey has kind of flown under the radar with Jeff Hornacek coming so close to getting the Suns to the playoffs, and Gregg Popovich winning the West again with a Spurs team that’s another year older, but getting the Raptors to the 3-seed, even in the East, speaks for itself. Rachel Brady of the Globe and Mail writes about how he did it:
When he took over the Raptors in the 2011-12 season, he was inheriting the NBA’s worst defence. He could see some talent on film, but knew good defensive principles weren’t in place. Casey knew changing the focus from offensive to decidedly defensive would be a grind.
“We didn’t have a LeBron or a Kobe or a [Michael] Jordan,” he said, adjusting the Raptors cap he says he wears daily as a sign of consistency to his players. “Our guys were young and I knew it would take time and hard work to become a playoff team. We weren’t going to out-run or out-score anybody. I knew it would take a couple of years and I wanted to find something that signified how hard and monotonous it would be for us.”
The story is legend now: Casey asked that a 1,300-pound boulder be placed inside the locker-room entrance to teach them about the “Pound the Rock” motto, used by many teams. It’s based on a piece of writing by Jacob Riis about New York’s poor in the 1800s. It features a stonecutter, who hammers away at a rock 100 times without a crack. But on the 101st blow, it splits in two, not as a result of that one strike, but of all that came before it.
“The concept had a great point to it, and it was understood by us,” said DeMar DeRozan, who has been a Raptor since 2009. “A lot has changed since then, and it’s very evident. The whole culture has changed for the better … It just takes the right chemistry, the right group of guys doing what it takes to win. You don’t need superstars and this, that and the other – whatever people say you need. We’re proof of that.”
D’ANTONI: ‘BASKETBALL HAS CHANGED,’ ANALYSTS NEED TO ADJUST
As far as public opinion, the Lakers coach pointed at television analysts as part of the issue.
“I do think that the game is changing and has changed,” said D’Antoni. “Some of the hard part of coaching is to be able to drag people over to the next side. People are comfortable doing business a certain way. When that business kind of shifts, to get people to change is not easy.”
“The problem is most people commenting on it, played a different way. And now you’re shaping opinion a different way,” he continued. “As soon as they embrace it a little bit more, I think they’re better off. But basketball has changed. It’s not the same basketball that your father played. It’s just not it. Teams that adapt to it quicker are going to be more successful.”
How exactly has the game changed?
“I do think the league is going to a more open style, and a faster style,” continued D’Antoni. “That doesn’t mean there’s no place for a post-up player, there’s no place for a mid-range game. There is a place, but it’s just not what is dominant today.”
“The league now is dominated by point-guard play, three-point shots and smart players,” said D’Antoni. “Unless the NBA changes the rules again, like the three-point line and no hand checking, then basketball is going a certain way.”
WHAT’S LIFE LIKE FOR AN INTERIM COACH?
David Mayo of MLive.com gives us a glimpse inside what it was like for David Loyer after Maurice Cheeks was fired:
One of Loyer’s bigger challenges internally was keeping point guard Brandon Jennings engaged after Cheeks was fired.Jennings regarded Cheeks as a father figure and as he failed to adapt after the change, Loyer found himself turning more to backup Will Bynum, one of several Pistons who later ended the season injured.Loyer said he ultimately went to Jennings to encourage the guard to rediscover joy in the game. He said he appreciated how Jennings responded.“Any time you have a coaching change, any time you have a management change, it’s going to affect different guys in different ways,” Loyer said. ”It’s your job as a coach to kind of figure out who it’s affecting, either adversely, or whether it’s someone you need to help a little bit to get back on path.“There are some guys who are affected by both things (the Cheeks firing and, earlier this week, the reassignment of former team president Joe Dumars), so you try to get them back on path. I thought Brandon, the path he has taken is a winning-type path, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him.”
Adrian Dantley didn’t watch Thursday night’s “Bad Boys” 30 for 30 documentary on ESPN.
In fact, he didn’t even want to be a part of it.
“But the NBA kept begging me to be on there, so I did the interview,” Dantley told Matt Dery on Detroit Sports 105.1 FM today. “But I did not watch the 30 for 30 and I will not watch it. My wife tried to get me to watch it, but I didn’t watch it.”
The documentary chronicled the entire Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” era, including the rift between Dantley and point guard Isiah Thomas and the eventual trade during the 1988-89 season that sent Dantley to the Dallas Mavericks for Mark Aguirre.
The Pistons went on to win their first NBA championship that season, then repeated the feat in 1990, and the rest was history – or was it?
“That was 25 years ago, yet you sound today just as angry as you were 25 years ago,” Dery told Dantley. “Is that accurate?”
“Well yeah; I mean, It’s not that I’m angry, it’s just that there’s no need for me to get involved with that,” Dantley responded. “Yes, I guess you could say that I’m just the way as I was 24 or 26 years ago.”
Later in the radio interview, Dery jokingly asked Dantley if he thought Thomas should be the next Pistons president and general manager after former “Bad Boys” teammate Joe Dumars stepped down as president of basketball operations earlier this week.
“Con man,” he replied. “He has a way of tricking people, and he tricked a lot of people.”
DENG SAYS IRVING AND WAITERS CAN COEXIST
Cavaliers forward Luol Deng keeps reading about how much Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters don’t care for each other.Some believe one of the talented guards must go. They can’t co-exist.Some contend they are almost mortal enemies.However, Deng saw no evidence of that behind closed doors in the locker room, players’ lounge or workout facility.“It’s a distraction,” he said. “I mean all this stuff that I hear, but when we’re in the locker room with these guys every day, they love each other. I can’t say one word or one incident, and when we get on the court, we never think twice about it.”Deng, traded to the Cavs on Jan. 7, believes if the two players reach their vast potential, it could pay off in a major way.“They have to be willing to work together, watch tape together, watch tape with the coach,” he said. “They’ve shown they can play together. There’s times where they’ve looked great. They’re human, but in terms of can they play together? Yeah. I’ve played in this league for 10 years and I know they can.”
Dan Malone is currently in graduation limbo after finishing his journalism degree at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent last summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.