You've heard me drone on and on this season about the value of quality shot selection, exercising patience, and making sure each shot launched is done with purpose. So what's one more day of revisiting the topic, right? But I always think there's added value to a basketball opinion when the perspective of someone who actually plays the game for a living is included.
With that, I present Derek Fisher.
After yesterday's practice, Fisher engaged in a discussion with 710 ESPN's own John Ireland, who brought up the 31 treys bombed during yesterday's 101-96 loss to the Thunder. Ireland noted how these outside shots were being readily offered by OKC's defender and labeled the overwhelming majority of them good shots. Despite a tongue-in-cheek debate over the exact number qualifying as "good" (25? 22?), Fish still contended without hesitation the Lakers chucked too often from downtown. As is often the case with this particular shot, context matters.
"I don't think you have a problem when anybody who's capable of shooting threes shooting threes when it comes off offensive execution. If it just comes off of a guy has the ball, and he just shoots it. There wasn't any real design. There wasn't any movement. It doesn't allow Andrew (Bynum) or Pau (Gasol) or Lamar (Odom) to get to the offensive board. Those are the ones you have to stay away from."
Particularly when, as Fish noted, this team runs out misses so well and becomes deadly in transition. So many factors come into play, because the other factors aren't place, whether you're talking about preceding execution, where bodies are placed around the court, mindfulness of the overall pace, etc. It's about more than just the look being, technically speaking, "open." If everything's not up to snuff, you probably need to pass up the shot unless absolutely necessary, no matter how much space given.
It's hard to remember this in the heat of competition, but that still doesn't excuse not remembering. Particularly when the results can be so costly.
I asked Fisher if the three-pointer can become addictive. Yep, especially when it's a shot well within your range and previously drained on countless occasions. "You're shooting the shot you can make, you're open, why not?" was his description of the mindset. But as he quickly noted, it's necessary to have the discipline to see the situation as bigger than one possession, mirroring the conversation we had about why you sometimes shine a fast break opportunity and pull the ball back.
A singular chance is sacrificed in mindfulness of the overall game plan. In this case, slowing the tempo.
Need another reason it's beneficial to keep moving the ball and probing for the best possible shot? The longer you spend executing the offense, the more OKC is forced to simply work on defense. The less time is used, you're likely not forcing the defense to work hard enough, making a missed shot (or even a make) additionally problematic.
"Even if you don't score, it's 18, 19, 20 seconds they've had to play defense," explained Fisher. "Now they're having to run from a stop, as opposed to just going up and down. When they made their run towards the end of the third quarter, that's what happened. They never really had to stop and play defense."
When I noted how it appears hard for 13-year veterans like Fisher and Kobe to remember this principle (much less everyone else) the team leader didn't try to let himself off the hook. As he noted, the onus to make something happen, even though it's not really the right play at the right moment, can consume a player. Plus, when so many on the roster are willing to both take a big shot and live with the consequences, matters can get taken into hand prematurely, albeit with the best intentions.
"Sometimes that's where our talent is a gift and a curse," noted Fisher.
You won't get an argument from Pau over my contention that patience (or a lack thereof) is preventing the ball from getting inside and better shots from being discovered. His frustration is pretty evident while talking with us. My apologies for the feedback during some of the clip. I think my mp3 player and the camera were too close, creating an ungodly din.
Fisher also talked about Kevin Durant's defense against Kobe. While he conceded the good job from the scoring champ, like Durant himself, Fish downplayed the achievement to a degree. In his mind, Durant's length offers an inherent advantage beyond whatever defensive prowess on display.
In addition, some interesting points about how the defender on the ball is often the least important factor in the overall defense of a sequence.
Ron Artest didn't really notice the Durantuala's hold on Kobe. Or the OKC crowd noise. Or much of anything, it would appear. Great focus or total obliviousness, depending on who you ask.