October 28, 2012

SportsFilter: The Sunday Huddle:

A place to discuss the sports stories that aren't making news, share links that aren't quite front-page material, and diagram plays on your hand. Remember to count to five Mississippi before commenting in anger.

posted by huddle to general at 06:00 AM - 13 comments

Oklahoma City Thunder trades James Harden to Houston

posted by tommytrump at 11:10 AM on October 28

I like the deal for both teams but I can't believe they traded Harden. I also can't believe the Daryl Morey's crazy offseason mostly worked itself out.

posted by tron7 at 11:41 AM on October 28

Hal didn't ask me to do this, but in an attempt to give the Tigers an eleventh hour fighting chance, and in the interest of injecting some drama and intrigue into the World Series, I figured I would predict that the Giants will win the next four games.

(I admire how the Giants are playing and Lincecum working out of the pen has been wonderful to watch, but I don't want Leyland's only title to be the one he won in Marlins teal).

posted by beaverboard at 01:17 PM on October 28

Kudos to the Browns for downing the Chargers in numbing fashion.

Although it should have happened several times in the past, maybe this is the year that Norv finally gets shown the exit. Charger regime change is a noble cause that will benefit all humanity and after seeing what depths of seasonal mediocrity Turner has been allowed to survive in previous years, it needs all the help it can get.

posted by beaverboard at 05:23 PM on October 28

Speaking of regime changes, the Eagles looked absolutely listless against Vick's former team today. It's Andy Reid's first loss after a bye week, and if this is any indication, the Eagles won't win six of their next nine; a feat now required for Reid to remain employed at the end of the season.

posted by NerfballPro at 06:26 PM on October 28

NBC has won the exclusive rights to the English Premier League starting with the 2013/14 season, beating out FOX and ESPN, current rights-holders; with al-Jazeera's beIN Sport already buying up continental European rights, Fox Soccer Channel is going to look a bit threadbare from next autumn.

posted by etagloh at 08:16 PM on October 28

One of the privileges of being a season ticket holder of a professional team is having the opportunity to attend special team activities. Today I attended a Boston Celtics' "open" practice session. This session was somewhat lighter than would be a normal practice, but it was still 90 minutes of meaningful practice. I've never seen any other NBA team in a practice session of any type, and the only "behind the scenes" looks I've had are edited videos on TV, so I don't know how this compares with other teams, but here are a few things I saw this morning.

There is no time wasted during the practice. The things to be covered are carefully scripted, each coach is given a copy before the practice, so all are working in the same direction. A certain amount of time is allotted to each activity, no more no less, and this minimizes waste. Every activity is conducted at speed. Sets are done at game speed in order to prepare for actual game conditions. Nobody walks through a set. Not only is practice conducted at speed, but also it is run hard. There were some tough picks being set, and more than one body hit the floor.

The first activity was working on offensive and defensive sets unique to the next team to be played. This is the only exception to the run don't walk rule. The first few rotations are done slowly in order to get an idea of spacing, where the picks might be set, what passing lanes might be open, and so on. After the first couple of times through, the pace was quickened to game speed. Once a set had been finished, the same set would be run with variations. This sort of activity will be run in practice before every game without exception. What was unsaid was the extensive advance scouting required to prepare for this.

This was followed by stretching, and the bulk of the practice was spent in running basic Celtics' offensive and defensive sets. Careful attention was paid to fundamentals. As it was explained, the idea is to improve all of the skills of every player. Bigs are put into situations where they will be called on to dribble the ball; guards will be setting picks and boxing out for rebounds. A lot of these will be run several times without a basketball before being run with the ball. One note on coaches is appropriate here. While Boston has a large coaching staff, it was obvious that every player is a coach at the same time. They are constantly talking to each other during the drills, giving each other tips, and giving the coaches feedback, on where to move, where passes should be delivered, how and where to set picks, and more. It's not just the veterans like Garnett and Pierce doing the talking. Even the rookies have something to say, and such is the respect these players and coaches have for each other that every one is listened to.

I made some observations of individual players during the practice. Leandro Barbosa can play. He was being used mainly as a 2-guard, but there were a number of sets when he was on the court with Jason Terry, and it was difficult to tell who had the point and who was the 2. In any case, Barbosa was not doing a lot of outside shooting, but he was nearly unstoppable when he drove to the basket. The reserve big men behind Kevin Garnett will be able to help. Darko Milicic, Jason Collins, and when he gets over his back problems, Chris Wilcox are competent role players. Jason Terry will be a fan favorite in Boston. He plays with energy, can hit the 3-point shot, and is the "cheerleader" type. Before the scrimmage that concluded the practice, he was on the court organizing the crowd into cheering sections for the green and white teams. I expect him to fill the towel waving, crowd rousing role played recently by Keyon Dooling and Nate Robinson, but he also will play some very good backcourt for Boston. This year's draft looks like a good one for Boston. Jared Sullinger will be a starter or into the game early, depending on the opponent and situation. Fab Melo has a lot to learn, but he listens, works hard, and you don't have to coach 7-feet. That sort of height will play well as long as it is well-coached. Chris Joseph is a good athlete, and with the right seasoning, he will be a contributor in the future.

There was one thing that was not too noticeable to many, but got my attention. During a brief lull in practice, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers were off by themselves. Now Garnett has been in the league for 17 years, but here was Doc Rivers coaching Garnett on fundamental footwork, and Garnett was listening intently. Does anyone wonder why Garnett is a perennial all star?

The last activity was a pair of 3-minute scrimmages. Why 3 minutes? As it was explained, most games are played in spurts of 3 or 4 minutes as time outs and end of quarters interrupt the game, and the idea is to win each short section of the game. If you win most of them, it usually means a game in the win column. The scrimmages were an opportunity to work under game conditions, but also were an opportunity for the players to have a little fun. I spoke earlier of Jason Terry organizing the cheering sections. Paul Pierce was openly working the coaches (acting as referees) to call fouls. Pierce might someday have a future as an analyst, but when begging for fouls, his acting skills are strictly ham. It was all in fun, though. Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came during the last scrimmage. The green team had the ball, down 3 points, with 3.8 seconds left in the game. Doc Rivers used this as an opportunity to simulate an end-of-game situation, called a time out, and began to draw up a play for the green team on his white board. The jumbo screens were on, and the overhead camera was in use. The camera zoomed in on Doc as he drew up the play, and the crowd could clearly see the play. Meanwhile, the white team on defense is standing near their foul line watching the jumbo screens, laughing, pointing, and seeing exactly what everyone else could see. They knew exactly where to be on defense, and the only option available was a contested 2-pointer by Pierce that missed. He begged for the foul, and since it gave another opportunity for situational basketball, was given it. He hit the first, deliberately missed the second, but Darko Milicic and Jason Collins bracketed Kevin Garnett, putting Milicic in perfect position for the rebound.

It was a well-spent 2 hours, and I learned a few things about why the Celtics consistently have a winning record (well, aside from more than a few really good players, that is). Doc Rivers has the reputation as one of the best coaches in the NBA. I can well understand why that is; he understands every position on the floor, knows how to get his lessons across, commands (not demands) respect from his players, and judging from the practice, he is one of the most organized individuals in the game. General Manager Danny Ainge has quietly put together a number of very athletic players who are capable of filling more than one position on the floor. This year's draft will yield dividends this season and in the future. I'm not saying this as a "homer", but I feel that the Celtics will be a little better than many of the pundits have forecast. How far will they go? Ask me in 82 games.

posted by Howard_T at 10:33 PM on October 28

Howard_T, thanks for that. It's so easy to gloss over the sheer workload of pro athletes (and the sheer dedication one must have to be one), it's nice to be reminded.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:14 PM on October 28

So NBC snagged F1 from the Fox owned Speed, and now they've snagged the EPL from Fox too...

Wow, way to give them a kicking!

I live in Canada so it doesn't effect me. Of course all I get is two games on a Saturday and they always show the big four. I mean it's 2-3 months in and I've yet to see my team, Southampton, play. The rest of the games air on Sportsnet World which is $20 a month! Absolute rip off.

posted by Drood at 01:53 AM on October 29

It's about now that Dr John Evans usually informs us of how many days until pitchers and catchers report.

posted by owlhouse at 01:56 AM on October 29

It's about now that Dr John Evans usually informs us of how many days until pitchers and catchers report.

I think Strasburg may have already reported.

posted by beaverboard at 08:59 AM on October 29

I think Strasburg may have already reported.

And the Nats will shut his season down by Thanksgiving.

posted by NerfballPro at 09:28 AM on October 29

Drood, what about games where the Saints play a top four team? I'm pretty sure I saw them against one of the Manchester teams a few weeks ago on FSC.

posted by billsaysthis at 11:54 AM on October 29

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