TrueHoop: Chris Webber

The book on Rick Adelman

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
7:40
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Rick Adelman
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesRick Adelman: The quiet innovator

Name: Rick Adelman

Birthdate: June 16, 1946

Is he an emotional leader or a tactician?
A tactician whose schemes have influenced coaches at every level of competitive basketball. When Adelman wants to motivate a player or address a potential conflict, he’s far more likely to sidle up next to the guy at a shootaround or at practice for a quick conversation than make a fuss. Adelman is not a consoler, pep squad leader or speechmaker. His dominant message? Practice is tomorrow at 11. For players who prefer more communication or need hand-holding, this can be difficult, but Adelman has a knack for maintaining harmony.

Is he intense or a go-along-get-along type?
He has the unique ability to manage diverse personalities with his even temperament. Clyde Drexler clashed with an intense Mike Schuler during his early years in Portland, but when Adelman took over, Drexler was on the same page as his new coach from the outset. Adelman errs on the side of less practice, not more, and is constantly mindful of whether his players are in a good place, and that basketball isn’t becoming a chore to them. He isn’t inclined to develop deep relationships with players, but they’re confident he won’t play favorites and won’t call them out in a group setting. Adelman is a quiet teacher, a stoic and somewhat of an introvert, which is a rarity in this profession. On the road, he’s more likely to spend a night in than go out to a dinner where basketball might be the leading topic of conversation. He requires time to recharge.

Does he rely on systems, or does he coach ad hoc to his personnel?
Although his schemes offer a fair amount of flexibility, Adelman certainly falls on the system end of the spectrum. He wants the game played a certain way, something expressed in his corner sets that have been replicated a million times over in the league. A few NBA teams actually refer to these play calls as “SAC” (as in Sacramento), where Adelman refined his offensive approach. While the principles of Adelman’s offense remain the same -- all five players engaged, move the ball quickly, remain aggressive as you read and react -- he will adjust and modify the primary options to accommodate different skill sets. The best example would be Yao Ming, who needed to be fed the ball in places on the floor that, in most circumstances, Adelman would prefer vacant.

Does he share decision-making with star players, or is he The Decider?
Adelman believes that a player who buys into the program is entitled to a piece of the enterprise. He doesn’t preside over a dictatorship, but most of all, he pre-empts any conflict by making decisions his players can get behind. His system also entrusts players to make decisions and unleash their creativity.


Does he prefer the explosive scorer or the lockdown defender?
He has an affection for high-IQ scorers -- Peja Stojakovic, Kevin Martin, Mike Bibby, even Von Wafer. Under Adelman in Houston, Aaron Brooks got the bulk of the minutes over Kyle Lowry at the point until Brooks went down with an ankle injury in Adelman’s final season with the organization.

Does he prefer a set rotation, or is he more likely to use his personnel situationally?
A set rotation works best for Adelman, who wants to avoid making waves that might divert the focus of the team away from what’s happening on the court. When Adelman assigns someone to the starting lineup, he’ll exercise patience with that player.

Will he trust young players in big spots, or is he more inclined to use his veterans?
Young players, especially those who can score, get plenty of opportunities under Adelman. He took immediately to Cliff Robinson in Portland when the Trail Blazers were among the elite. Rookie Jason Williams led the Kings in minutes during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. Houston was largely a veteran outfit during Adelman’s tenure. Minnesota has been a MASH unit -- any healthy body will do.

Are there any unique strategies that he particularly likes?
Adelman isn’t looking for one specific shot in a possession. He imagines a range of positive outcomes and has created a framework for achieving one of those objectives, which we know generally as the corner offense.

The corner isn’t so much a system of play calls as it is a systematic way to promote ball and player movement through smart reads. Multiple players are involved in just about every possession, which keeps offenses humming and players happy.

At its most basic, a corner set will feature three players on the strong side -- at the wing, corner and a big man at the elbow who has the instincts and skills to facilitate offense on the fly, players such as Chris Webber, Vlade Divac or Brad Miller. Offensive players size up the defense, then choose an action that best exploits what the defense surrenders.

In short, read and react.

For instance, a dribble handoff is a popular option within the corner. A wing who can capably read a defense will play out the sequence based on what the defense affords him. If his defender is trying to deny the handoff by hugging him tightly, he can slip back door. If the defender goes under the big man, the wing can stop and pop. If the defender is trailing, then take the ball and penetrate, draw contact or, if help comes from the weak side to collapse, make a pass to a shooter in the corner (Stojakovic and Shane Battier were frequent beneficiaries). Of course, the big man can always fake the handoff and, if his defender bites, turn around and shoot an open jumper. While all this is going on, the weakside big might give his weakside small a down screen. This gives the corner crew another option -- a shooter popping out to the perimeter.

A lot of cool stuff can materialize with the corner, and most playbooks around the league include a couple of “C-sets” with multiple triggers. Ultimately, the collective instincts of the five-man unit drive the offense, and each player on the floor is empowered to do something over the course of the possession to test the defense and keep it guessing. The ball moves and, when run correctly, the offense never starts and rarely finishes with isolation basketball. The corner doesn’t offer the level of structure found in the Triangle or the continuity offense in San Antonio, but it’s easier to pick up and allows players to be a bit more creative -- which can be both an asset and a drawback.

What were his characteristics as a player?
A standout at Loyola Marymount, Adelman was a 6-foot-1 point guard without much of an outside shot and zero speed. But he could defend in the half court, move the ball to the scorers and make a pass on the move. He was chosen by the San Diego Rockets in the seventh round of the 1968 draft, and wore a hockey mask for the first couple of months of his NBA career after breaking his jaw in a preseason game. That Rockets team included Pat Riley. Two years later, Adelman became a charter member of the expansion Portland Trail Blazers team.

Which coaches did he play for?
His first NBA coach was Jack McMahon, regarded as a players’ coach. He also played for Rolland Todd, Stu Inman and Jack McCloskey, all of whom lost a lot of games. Adelman then moved to Chicago, where he played for Dick Motta, before moving on to New Orleans, where he played for the nomadic, fiery, profane Butch van Breda Kolff, then finished his career with the Kings and Phil Johnson.

What is his coaching pedigree?
Adelman got his start at Chemeketa Community College in Oregon, where coaching basketball was just one part of the gig. The position was actually the province of the college’s counseling department and Adelman’s other responsibilities included educating high school kids about the junior college system. Adelman’s big break came in 1983, when he got a phone call from Dr. Jack Ramsay asking him to join the Trail Blazers’ coaching staff. Ramsay’s “turnout” offense, with its continuity, multiple screens, cuts and quick passing, was foundational for Adelman, and Ramsay is very much the spiritual godfather for much of what Adelman has developed as an offensive practitioner. After Ramsay’s departure from Portland, Adelman stayed on under Schuler, then took over the head job when Schuler was let go in February 1989.

If basketball didn't exist, what might he be doing?
A lover of history who appreciates time to contemplate, Adelman would be on the faculty of a junior college in California or Oregon.

Bobcats fighting odds in Lottery

May, 28, 2012
5/28/12
10:19
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Wednesday's NBA Draft Lottery (ESPN, 8 ET) sees the Charlotte Bobcats with the best odds at acquiring the top selection (25.0 percent) after finishing 7-59 on the season. But the worst record hardly secures the top pick, as just last year the Cleveland Cavaliers won the Draft Lottery with only a 2.8 percent chance.

In addition, since the lottery moved to its present format in 1994, the team with (or tied for) the best odds has won just three of the 18 lotteries: Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 (Allen Iverson), Cavaliers in 2003 (LeBron James) and Orlando Magic in 2004 (Dwight Howard). By comparison, the teams with the third and fifth-best odds have won four times.

It is new territory for the Bobcats franchise. Since joining the NBA in 2004, Charlotte has never held the No. 1 overall pick, and the Bobcats highest selection was in 2004 when they picked Emeka Okafor No. 2 overall (the Bobcats originally had the No. 4 pick, but traded with the Los Angeles Clippers).

Ten current franchises have never made the No. 1 overall pick in an NBA draft since 1966 (start of common draft). Along with the Bobcats, the Phoenix Suns (0.6 percent chance) are the only other team in the 2012 lottery.

The Houston Rockets, meanwhile, have a 0.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, the third straight year they have held the worst odds. In addition, this is the fifth time in the last 12 years the Rockets have missed the playoffs despite having a winning record.

Looking ahead, since the start of the lottery in 1985, 13 of the 27 No. 1 overall picks have gone on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, including 2011 No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving. In addition, since 1990, four overall No. 1 picks went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and make the postseason (Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan, Chris Webber and David Robinson).

Wednesday Bullets

July, 13, 2011
7/13/11
1:10
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Positions and systems

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
12:44
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Austin Burton was on hand at Rucker Park in Harlem last weekend for the World Basketball Festival when Kobe Bryant addressed the media:
Kobe said the influence of international players in the NBA has helped create a “hybrid” culture, where players of all sizes possess skills in all areas and can conceiveably play any position on the floor.

“That’s the one difference I’d like to see us kind of shift to,” Kobe said.

This vision of five basketball players, devoid of traditional positional constraints, passing and cutting and posting and shooting and dribbling with equal aplomb, is near. The concept of players assuming a definite position on the floor and sticking to that role is fading away like one of Kobe’s jumpers, as a new age of hyrbids begin to take over the game.

And while the soon-to-be 32-year-old Bryant is among the closest representations to his own ideal (6-6 shooting guard who led his team in assists and has one of the most effective post-up games in the League), he also could have been describing LeBron James (6-8 with point guard skills), Kevin Durant, or a number of other younger stars.

The future of positional conformity has been an active topic of conversation this summer in certain quarters. As Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game writes, it's a discussion that becomes more relevant when a luminary like Bryant weighs in:
A universe where all ballers can play in perfect harmony, stand as equals, and worry not over the endless criticism regarding their positional performance. That’s the endgame of all of this, and the fact that Kobe sees it too is a positive sign. Positions as we know them aren’t quite dead, but when one of the league’s pillars decrees them unworthy from atop his ring-and-trophy-adorned tower, people would be wise to listen.

Bryant is far from infallible, but he’s one of the sport’s more active scholars. He knows where this game has been and where it’s headed, and he has an intimate look into the eye (or rather, an eye) of the storm, to boot. From Pau Gasol to Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown to Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom to Kobe himself, the Lakers have a lot of versatile talent that evades convention. The entire league has a lot of versatile talent that evades convention, and that’s something both you, I, and Kobe can agree on.

Mahoney's last remark speaks to an issue that hasn't been all that present in the salon:

Blurring the definitions and imperatives of basketball positions can be fully realized only if there are systems ready to accommodate that shift.

There's a reason the Lakers have "a lot of versatile talent that evades convention." It's because the team features an offense that de-emphasizes traditional positions in favor of function. In the triangle offense, Derek Fisher -- the nominal point guard -- acts as a spot-up shooter in the confines of the half court (particularly in corner sets) far more often than he does as a distributor. The wings in the triangle are often the trigger men, and the Lakers can maximize Bryant (their shooting guard) in the post without disrupting the sequential flow of the triangle.

The same holds true in Utah, where the Jazz's two and three man actions require every player on the floor to perform every conceivable offensive function. There's nothing new about the flex -- it's been around for decades -- but its bedrock principles demand that every player be able to screen, pass, shoot and cut. By the time the Jazz finish their "power swing" set, at least two perimeter players have set screens, at least one of the big men has cut from one side of the court to the other, and at least three or four different players have made passes off reads.

Orlando's sets rely on more traditional positional functions, but having a wing that can handle the ball in a screen-and-roll set and Rashard Lewis' long-range game are both crucial to the Magic's offensive success. Rick Adelman's system has traditionally broadened the positional functions of his big men (think Chris Webber). It also requires that every one else work in concert. Once a perimeter player has the ball, Luis Scola's responsibilities are virtually indistinguishable from Shane Battier's -- even if the latter has greater range. Everyone moves and everyone fills.

In short, pro basketball is ripe for a positional revolution -- but like every revolution, those challenging the status quo must be ready to govern once they take control.

Wednesday Mini-Bullets

April, 28, 2010
4/28/10
1:58
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Cocktail Napkin Fun

December, 24, 2008
12/24/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Vegan Fish Tacos -- the blog, not the culinary oxymoron -- features two of my favorite geek pastimes: NBA salary cap sudoku, and subway maps from around the world [side note: If you still haven't found the appropriate holiday gift for the transit dork in your life, I heartily recommend this].

For readers of TrueHoop, the salary cap stuff is probably more interesting, which is why you should check out VFT's "2010 Off-Season Primer." VFT walks you through the three most important issues facing each of the 30 teams:

1. Possibility of getting under the cap- It doesn't matter how nice a city is if the team just does not have the right combination of contracts to make 2010 viable.

2. Desirability as a free agent location- Not all cap space is created equal. While there are Carlos Boozers in the NBA who will sign to play in Salt Lake City, most of the big names will have more preference and more desirable options.

3. Moveable pieces- Some of these are guys like Mike Miller that are a solid combination of contract and skill for a 2010-interested team, and some are more in the vein of immovables (Jerome James). Elements like player quality, contract size, contract length, and age are the major variables, though system and other things can come into play too.

Number Two -- desirability of location -- has always struck me as the most interesting variable.  For years, we've heard that NBA players prefer big stages, warmer climates, and buzzy nightlife. When faced with a decision about whether to stay in Sacramento as a free agent in 2001, Chris Webber had issues with the city because there was nowhere to eat after the game.  He ultimately stayed in Sacramento because the money was there, and the Kings were a model franchise at the time. [A year after Webber left the Kings for Philadelphia, he returned to open his own joint in Sacramento]. 

As VFT points out, Utah is frequently characterized as the NBA's Siberia -- never mind that it's one of the league's consistently successful franchises with a waiting list for season tickets.  As recently as 18 months ago, Boston was mentioned as a less-than-desirable destination for Kevin Garnett, or any African-American athlete.  There's a subtext here, to be sure.  

When considering 'desirability of location,' we might also want to look at the organization itself.  When the Clippers traded Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas (both of whose contracts expire in 2010) for Zach Randolph (whose contract expires in 2011), a debate ensued in Clipper Našiˇn.  Some felt that the Clippers, as a traditionally dysfunctional franchise, would never attract a top-tier free agent in 2010. That being the case, wasn't it smarter for the Clips to give up the fantasy, and instead acquire one of the league's only 20-10 guys for a couple of spare parts? 

Others felt that the Clippers forfeited a golden opportunity to get themselves in prime position for 2010.  The Clips might not attract LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or even Amare Stoudemire, but there's only so much cash to go around. Los Angeles is still Los Angeles, and that might just be enough to entice a Joe Johnson when the music stops and everyone in the robust free agent class is trying to find a chair.  

When July 2010 finally comes around, I suspect the free agency circus will play out like the current MLB carousel: The top players will choose their destinations first. When it's time for the solid second tier to act -- and you can draw that line of demarcation wherever you wish -- they'll go where the money is, whether it's in Salt Lake, Sacramento, Clipperland, or Nome, Alaska. 

 

The Starting Five transcribed a half-time interview that I sped through courtesy of Tivo. This is all Chris Webber, talking about his former team:

No disrespect to Flip (Saunders), but it doesn't matter what Flip says, because they take on the personality of Joe Dumars. Rip (Hamilton), Chauncey (Billups), Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed (Wallace) and (Antonio) McDyess are very mad right now, they probably aren't even talking and they are probably just saying, 'ok we're going to go win this game.

(The Pistons) are really nonchalant and that's why I felt we lost last year (in the Eastern Conference Finals). It sounds crazy, but they could care less. That locker room is crazy, disciplined and unruly. Disciplined because they police themselves, they are all veterans, they know they've got to be in bed, they know they've got to work hard, I'm not talking about on the court. They come from a coach like Larry Brown, they look at him like the epitome of basketball, and they feel they can wait until the last game or the championship and they won't lose. I'm not saying it's right, but that's how it is.

 Via Detroit Bad Boys

Al Harrington reportedly had 50-yard-line seats to that little game called the Super Bowl.

But then the Warriors signed a new guy -- Chris Webber. And Chris Webber needs to learn the team's ways, so they needed more practice. And one of those practices took place on Sunday, meaning Harrington couldn't go to the Super Bowl after all.

Oh, and Webber is also taking Harrington's (intermittent) starting spot.

I'm not sure, exactly, what it is that Chris Webber owes Al Harrington, but it's certainly more than a beer. 

Chris Webber Talks

January, 29, 2008
1/29/08
4:03
PM ET

FSN Bay Area's Matt Steinmetz interviewed the newest Warrior. The whole interview is on the Warriors' official website:

The court of public opinion is offering plenty of pros and cons to this move, one of the cons involving chemistry and how you might affect it? How would you address that?
I think that my career speaks for itself and shows the type of player I am. I have never had a teammate who didn't enjoy playing with me. There are always going to be skeptics, but chemistry will definitely not be an issue.

Another concern would be whether or not you can keep up with the Warriors' running style. Can you?
Now, that's a fair criticism. I'm older, I've had problems with my knee. I'll have to prove that with time. You can always be in shape, though. After a couple of games, we'll be able to tell.

After Chris Webber called the timeout his team didn't have in the NCAA title game, he apparently got a letter from Bill Clinton. A photo of the letter was on FreeDarko yesterday, and FreeDarko commenter Ghost Deini transcribed:

Dear Chris,

I have been thinking of you a lot since I sat glued to the TV during the championship game.

I know that there may be nothing I or anyone else can say to ease the pain and discouragement of what happened.

Still, for whatever it's worth, you, and your team, were terrific. And part of playing for high stakes under great pressure is the constant risk of mental error. I know. I have lost two political races and made countless mistakes over the last twenty years. What matters is the intensity, integrity, and courage you bring to the effort. That is certainly what you h ave done. You can always regret what occurred but don't let it get you down or take away the satisfaction of what you have accomplished.

You have a great future. Hang in there.

Sincerely,

Bill Clinton

Even last summer some players turned down NBA offers to play in Europe. There were whispers that the European leagues were competing with the NBA for the same free agent talent. This summer, more of the same.

Then there were some big-name players this summer, mainly Andrei Kirilenko, musing about playing overseas. (In the case of Kirilenko, it can't happen unless the Jazz want it to, because FIBA nations honor each other's contracts.)

People wondered: is the European league becoming the new ABA? Will it flat out compete for top NBA talent?

We're getting close. ESPN's Chris Sheridan says Chris Webber has a chance to play for a lot of money in Greece.

Two sources familiar with the offer told ESPN.com that Olympiakos was offering a two-year deal that would net Webber between $10 million and $12 million, which would make him the highest-paid American player in Europe.

Webber has said he is leaning toward returning to the Detroit Pistons, although signing Webber prior to training camp, even for the veterans' minimum, would have cap ramifications that the Pistons want to avoid. Webber is said to be comfortable with the idea of waiting at least a month or two for the Pistons' roster issues to work themselves out, which would allow him to join them in midseason as he did in 2005-06.

One other thought, getting way ahead of ourselves: If this kind of stuff starts happening a lot, when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in five years, might the NBA have more leverage with the Players' Association in taming the power of free agency? After all, the NBPA doesn't want to see all these big earners leave the fold either. And if they're never really free agents, they'll never really have the power to leave for Europe. Or, another idea: maybe the union will go international.

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