A short practice today for the team, coming off a game last night and with a trip to Texas for tomorrow's San Antonio game looming.
I got to talk about the game with CMDsr some after practice. He saw a lot of the same things we saw.
The players dug deep and battled back in the second half - of a pre-season game - and the coach thinks that means something. The game doesn't count in the standings. It's incredibly easy to take the second half off and move on. But they refused to do that.
I asked him if he thought players were taking on personal challenges after halftime - there's plenty of circumstantial evidence for it, when you see the difference in the Baron-Monta matchup or the Biedrins-Kaman matchup across the two halves. He said that they were stressing individual defense more this season (something Milph mentioned during the broadcast last night) and that he thought that was part of it. (I specifically talked about Biedrins' four offensive boards in the first half and the coach sort of rolled his eyes and said "Oh, we watched those at half time, believe me.") The team also adjusted some of their schemes, trapped a little harder, etc. But a big part of it was guys just taking the responsibility to shut people down.
We talked about the halftime lineup change, inserting Rasual Butler for Al Thornton, and I asked him who he would start in San Antonio. He was non-committal, saying he hadn't decided yet. Here's the thing you need to remember about this process. It's still pre-season, and at some point coach is going to start giving guys nights off. For instance, when Bassy is back, Baron will definitely take a game off, or play limited minutes in a couple others. So even if Butler gets inserted into the starting lineup in a pre-season game, you may not want to read too much into it right away.
The coach freely cops to his tendency, lamented by many Citizens, of matching up to his opponent. He referenced his deep team in Portland, and said that he didn't necessarily have a set starting lineup there. In other words, don't be surprised if Thornton starts 35 games and Butler starts 47 or some such (ignoring injuries of course). I didn't get into the debate about whether it's wise to matchup to the opponent rather than making them matchup to you - perhaps when I know him better.
We talked about Kaman's solid play so far, and how he just seems to be making good, quick decisions. Basically, if Chris makes the simple, obvious read, good things happen. I was reminded of Voltaire's quote - "the perfect is the enemy of the good". So many times in sports, athletes want to make the spectacular play when the simple play might be just as effective. Just take the 15 footer or pass it to the open guy - don't try the reverse pivot spin move. so far this pre-season, Chris has been making the simple plays.
A couple quick sidenotes from the Coach. Lisa Dillman (not me) brought up the subject of nicknames, remarking on how Blake really doesn't have one yet (no one mentioned Blake Superior), and she asked if he ever had a nickanme. Are you ready? "Chicken Man". When he was in Houston, the Rockets had a promotion with a local restaurant where the fans got free fired chicken if the team scored 135 points (ah, the 80s - I miss 'em). The first night of the promotion, Dunleavy scored the bucket that put them over 135. The Rockets scored 135 five times over the course of the season, and each time it was Dunleavy who scored the Magic 135th point. And in Houston, he came to be known as Chicken Man.
Near the end of the conversation, we started talking about Anthony Morrow. I asked him how a guy who shot like that could go undrafted, and he wondered the same thing. Apparently, Morrow's stock was so low in May 2008 that he had trouble getting workouts. As it happens, Morrow's agent contacted the Clippers near the draft in 2008, when they were bringing Bayless in for another look. MDsr said sure, he'd take a look at him - but at the last minute Morrow was unable to make it to the workout.