Bernucca: With fundamentals, Spurs making NBA look like AAU

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We are all familiar with the Spurs and their uncanny efficiency. Are you familiar with AAU basketball? benched spurs

I have coached it at the high school level for the last three years. And one thing I have learned is that with just four hours of weekly practice time followed by four games every weekend, if you don’t have definitive, well-drilled schemes on both offense and defense, you have no chance to compete.

However, if you have a group that is committed to a specific style of play on both ends of the floor, you can consistently compete with, and even beat teams that are bigger, stronger, quicker and more talented than yours.

Gregg Popovich has the San Antonio Spurs committed to a system. At its roots, that system is grounded in the fundamentals that are preached – and often ignored – at every level of basketball, from AAU to NBA. On defense, pressure the ballhandler to make things difficult. Commit to playing defense as individuals and as a team. Box out and don’t allow second shots.

On offense, get the ball quickly upcourt and look for early offense. In the halfcourt, set solid picks and make hard cuts. Trust your scheme and your teammates. Give up a good shot to get a great shot.

These are the basics of the game. And right now, with these basics as their foundation, Popovich and the Spurs are making the NBA look like an AAU tournament.

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SH Blog: Deron Williams still plans to play in opener

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Andrew WigginsThe season is a little over a week from starting, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the draft, at least if you’re a Sixers fan. Or a Canadian who can’t wait for the dominance that Andrew Wiggins will surely bring on the international scene.

Wiggins, of course, is #1 on our first (very early) mock draft. The real fun comes with #2, or maybe #3. Suns, Kings, Celtics fans: get to know these names. It’s never too early.

Now let’s get to the latest from the NBA:

  • Deron Williams practicing free throws. Photo courtesy of Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto)Deron Williams injury update from Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: “One month after the Nets first announced Deron Williams had suffered a sprained right ankle, it still remains unclear when the star point guard will return to the floor. Williams has increased his workload during practice each of the past two days, according to coach Jason Kidd, and Paul Pierce went as far as to say the team “had a chance to see [Williams] get his feet wet a little” during the two practices, which could be taken as a positive sign in his recovery. But when Kidd was asked Saturday if Williams could play in either of the team’s final two preseason games — Wednesday in Boston or Friday in Miami — Kidd declined to say.”
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  • aingeGary Washburn of the Boston Globe seems pretty positive on the Celtics: “The Celtics do not have a legitimate point guard with NBA experience, meaning they will have to rely on rookie Phil Pressey and third-year player Avery Bradley early in the season. There is no legitimate center, and a logjam at power forward. Strangely enough, however, the Celtics could compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference given teams such as Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto are improved but not proven. “I honestly don’t know what my expectations are until I see this team play together,” said Ainge. “We have a brand new coaching staff that’s never worked together. I’m excited about it. I expect those guys to play hard every game and we’ll figure it out as the year goes on. Our minute distribution is going to be a challenge for Coach Stevens. We have logjams at certain positions. But this is a time of year where there’s not a lot of deals made to fix that. We tried to make the roster more balanced, but we like each of the players. There’s not enough minutes to go around to keep everybody fed.” “
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  • With Derrick Favors getting his extension, talk naturally turned to whether Gordon Hayward would get one from the Jazz. Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake City Tribune has the latest on that: “The Jazz front office continues to have talks with fourth-year forward Gordon Hayward about a possible contract extension. But even after the team announced Saturday it had agreed to a multi-year deal with forward Derrick Favors, worth a reported $49 million over four seasons, Hayward said he is not concerned about getting a deal done. “Not at all,” he said. “Extremely happy for him. It’s great for the organization, for [Favors]. Couldn’t be happier for him. I’m just playing basketball. I don’t worry about that.” “

2013 NBA Draft: Top Point Guards

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Over the last few years, the point guard crop in the NBA Draft has been weak. While budding superstars like Kyrie Irving and Damien Lillard have been lottery picks, most teams have opted to pursue other needs and prospects rather than select their floor general. While general managers league-wide prefer bigs over point guards when it comes to drafting philosophy, it’s undeniable that the NBA is a point guard driven league now.

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Kentucky-Duke preview, and NCAA stud watch update

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In an extremely loaded four-team preseason tournament, the Legends Classic in Atlanta tonight will place No. 7 Kansas against No. 14 Michigan State on one side of the bracket while the defending national champion No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats will face the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils.

Although Kentucky escaped its matchup with the Maryland Terrapins on Friday at the Barclays Center, it’s clear that this Kentucky team is a work in progress and will try to find itself as the season progresses.

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