TrueHoop: Clyde Drexler

The book on Rick Adelman

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
7:40
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
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.

2012 Team USA: Better than Dream Team?

July, 12, 2012
7/12/12
12:59
AM ET
By Ryan Feldman & Gregg Found, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
US PresswireWould the current U.S. Olympic team have a chance against the Dream Team?
Kobe Bryant believes the 2012 U.S. Olympic team would beat the 1992 Olympic team. Is he correct?

According to AccuScore, which ran 10,000 computer simulations, the 1992 team would win 53.1 percent of the time and by an average margin of one point per game.

No one will ever know the true answer, but let's take a look at the Next Level analytical facts about the rosters at each point of their careers to help make the case either way.

REBOUNDING AND DEFENSE

Much has been made about the current team’s weak frontcourt. The 1992 team had four players who grabbed at least 15 percent of available rebounds in 1991-92 (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson). The current team has three players at that rebound rate last season (Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love).

The 1992 team had two players (Ewing, Robinson) who blocked at least 5 percent of the shot attempts they faced in 1991-92. No 2012 player had a block percentage higher than 3.4 last season (Chandler).

SHOOTING

Four current members had a true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws) of at least 60 last season (Chandler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James). Chandler (70.8 in 2011-12) led the NBA each of the past two seasons. Only one of the 1992 members had a 60 true shooting percentage (Barkley), although three others fell just short of that threshold in 1991-92 (Malone, Robinson, John Stockton).

PASSING

Five Dream Team members assisted on at least 25 percent of their teammates’ field goals in 1991-92 (Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Stockton), plus Magic Johnson had a 49.3 assist percentage in his most recent NBA season (1990-91). LeBron, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams had a 25 assist percentage or better last season, but none were as high as Stockton (53.7), who was in the midst of leading the league in assist percentage for 10 straight seasons.

AGE, EXPERIENCE AND CHAMPIONSHIPS

The 1992 team was about 2½ years older on average (28.8-26.2). Other than Bird and Magic, every Dream Team member was 30 years old or younger. Every member of the current team is 29 or younger, other than Kobe, who is 33.

But the NBA experience level is about the same. The 1992 team had, on average, 7.3 years of experience per player. This year’s team has 7.1.

As far as NBA titles, give the edge to the 1992 team. Its players had a combined 12 championships as they entered the Olympics -- five by Magic, three by Bird and two each from Jordan and Pippen.

The 2012 version has seven championships among them, carried by Kobe’s five. LeBron and Chandler each have one. The current team has members of each of the past four NBA champions, while the 1992 team had members of the then-past two champions.

PLAYER VALUE/EFFICIENCY

Using average win shares per 48 minutes in their previous NBA seasons, (including Magic’s 1990-91 season and not including Christian Laettner), the 1992 squad’s average is higher by 9 percent (.215-.198). Prefer player efficiency rating to win shares? The Dream Team’s PER was 3 percent higher (23.8-23.0).

IN THEIR PRIME?

Other than Laettner, all 11 Dream Team members are Hall of Famers. And only two could be considered in the twilight of their careers. Bird had just finished his last NBA season, while Magic had retired the previous year, although he made a brief comeback in 1995-96. As for this edition, one could make the case that all but the 33-year-old Kobe on the roster could appear on another Olympic team again.

The 2012 team gets under way with an exhibition game Thursday against the Dominican Republic on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Only time will tell whether this team is the modern-day Dream Team.

Heat spoil Rondo's record-breaking night

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
12:29
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
The Miami Heat overcame a Herculean effort by Rajon Rondo to beat the Boston Celtics in overtime and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Rajon Rondo
Rondo
Rondo played all 53 minutes, scoring a career-high 44 points while grabbing 8 rebounds and adding 10 assists.

The Elias Sports Bureau reports that he became the first player in NBA history to reach each of those thresholds in a playoff game. Five other players had recorded 40-10-8 games: Tracy McGrady, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson (twice).

He was also the first Celtics player with at least 40 points and 10 assists in a playoff game.

Rondo had never played every minute of an NBA game in his career. He is the first player to do so in this year’s playoffs. Dwight Howard played every minute in a playoff game twice last year.

Before Game 2, Rondo had never made more than six shots in a game from 15-plus feet from the basket. On Wednesday, he was actually better from long range than close to the basket.

Rondo was 10-for-12 from the field when he was at least 15 feet from the basket but just 4-for-9 from inside 5 feet. The rest of the Celtics struggled from long range, hitting just 14-of-36 shots.

At halftime, Rondo had outperformed the combination of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Rondo had 22 points, four rebounds and seven assists in the first 24 minutes; James and Wade had combined for 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists at that point.

The Celtics led by as many as 15 points late in the second quarter. But the third quarter has been the key for the Heat in the playoffs.

Miami outscored Boston 35-22 in the third quarter of Game 2. In the playoffs, the Heat have outscored their opponents by 87 points in their 10 wins. In three playoff losses, they’ve been outscored by 37.

After shooting 85 percent from inside 5 feet in Game 1, the Heat struggled from that range early in Game 2, going just 5-for-13 in the first half. They turned it around after halftime, shooting 7-for-10 in the second half and 4-for-5 in overtime.

James turned in another 30-point, 10-rebound game. It was his sixth in the playoffs since joining the Heat, moving past Wade for the franchise record. Since he first made the playoffs in 2006, James has more 30-10 games in the playoffs than any other player.

Wade finished with 23 points after scoring only two in the first half. From our friends at Elias, he is the first player to score at least 20 points in 12 straight playoff games against the Celtics since Jerry West did so in 18 straight games from 1966 to 1969.

Wednesday Bullets

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
12:03
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Wade, Stoudemire have Super Sundays

February, 6, 2011
2/06/11
5:20
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive
Dwyane Wade
Wade
Entering Sunday, the Miami Heat ranked second in the NBA with 0.93 points per isolation play. Dwyane Wade continued that trend en route to his game-high 28 points as the Heat won their sixth straight game, 97-79 over the Los Angeles Clippers. Wade led all scorers with 28 points, 14 of which came on isolation plays.

Eddie House once again had a solid fourth quarter for the Heat, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the final period -- including three shots from behind the arc. House is now 18-for-27 from the field in the fourth quarter over the last six games.

The Clippers won the first meeting this season on January 12. Blake Griffin had 24 points and 14 rebounds in that one.

Griffin had a solid game again Sunday with 21 points but struggled to score when Chris Bosh matched up with him. The rookie was 0-5 from the field with Bosh defending him while he was 7-12 vs everyone else.

The Clippers have lost six straight road games and have nine more remaining on their NBA-season-high 11-game road trip. If the Clips can take anything away from their Super Bowl Sunday effort, it was that they held LeBron James to 12 points -- his lowest total in over a year (12 points in win vs Timberwolves on Jan. 27, 2010). James is now averaging 23.1 points in 16 career games vs the Clippers, his worst average vs any opponent.

Amar'e Stoudemire
Stoudemire
AMAR’E STEALS SUPER BOWL THUNDER
New York City may be salivating over the thought of acquiring Carmelo Anthony, but Amar'e Stoudemire is playing the role of lead dog on the New York Knicks quite well in the meantime.

He had 41 points, his second 40-point game of the season as the Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 117-103. It was the 17th career 40-point game for Stoudemire and he did so while making 17 of his 21 shots from the field. At 81.0 pct, it's the highest field goal percentage in a 40-point game in the NBA this season.

The only player with more points in an NBA contest on Super Bowl Sunday over the last 20 seasons is Clyde Drexler, who did so in 1989.

"The Glide" dropped 48 points against the Knicks in a losing effort just hours before Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to a comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

To a grieving acquaintance

December, 7, 2009
12/07/09
2:07
PM ET
Prior to the season, Henry Abbott and Jason Friedman made a friendly wager. Portland and Houston had three games scheduled over the first six weeks of the season. Whoever's team lost the "three-game series" had to write glowingly about the other's team.

By virtue of Portland's 90-89 win over Houston Saturday night, Jason lost the bet.

Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers lost something more significant in Saturday night's game -- Greg Oden to a season-ending injury.

As a writer who covers the Houston Rockets, Jason Friedman is has a great deal of empathy for Trail Blazers fans, and is well-versed in the coping mechanisms required of those who lose their favorite players to injury:

What do you say to a grieving acquaintance?

The inherent lack of intimacy often makes consolation a pipedream. Their pain is not your own. Any words of support or encouragement are destined to come across as hollow and trite, received as if they were nothing more than mere platitudes borne of obligation. Sometimes it’s better to simply let silence rule the day; to nod your head as a token of respect and understanding while allowing the aggrieved whatever time and space they require.

I know all of this. I get it.

And yet…

To stand off to the side and say nothing in this instance simply isn’t an option. I was at the Rose Garden Saturday night. I bore witness to the black hole which momentarily devoured every hint of color, joy and hope within the arena at the 7:45 mark of the first quarter until all that remained was the sickening sound of 21,000 distressed souls hoping their eyes had somehow deceived them. You know the rest.

In Houston, of course, we are all too familiar with that sound and the empty feeling which ultimately takes its place. We’ve heard the ludicrous chatter of curses and been filled with the fear which accompanies the label “injury prone.” It’s the price we pay for being human, I suppose. Our uncertain futures lead some to fill in the blanks with nightmares and phantoms of the worst kind. Given enough room to operate, those bogeys will happily shatter your confidence and destroy every last vestige of positive thought.

But there is another option. It is the one I come to pass along to my Portland “acquaintances” today. It is, quite simply, hope.

I know, I know. You don’t want to hear it. It’ still too early, the wound too fresh. That’s fine. I’ve been there. So, too, has Yao Ming. I’ve seen him down, despondent and depressed after his body betrayed him once more. But I’ve also witnessed how he responds to that betrayal with a quiet, steely resolve to return better than ever before. He understands that we are all faced with only two options in life: to give up or to press forward with the hope that each day will be better than the last. And he chooses the latter because he knows the first choice isn’t actually an option at all.

I recall seeing Yao right before the season began, as he was going through his workout routine at Toyota Center with personal trainer Anthony Falsone. Yao used crutches to go from station to station, while dragging along a boot that seemingly came from the Darth Vader collection on his surgically repaired left foot. He’d been going through this routine for more than a month by this point, knowing full well that many more months of monotonous rehab remained. And yet, his countenance reflected no sign of exasperation with that fact; he was upbeat, positive and quick to crack jokes. This part of the process was simply what had to be done in order to get back to the game and the team he loves. Therefore, he would do it.

Yao spoke that day of the grief which accompanied his initial realization that he would miss the entire 2009-10 season. He mentioned the mourning process that included a week spent mostly in disturbed silence. But then he told of his resolution and commitment to the rehab process. The moment for looking back was over. It was now time for work, for diligence and for hope. His goal stood far off in the distance but he knew that each day brought him one step closer and, therefore, each day would be better than the last.

I don’t know Greg Oden. But upon recalling that conversation with Yao, I suspect I have at least an inkling of what’s going through his mind right now. I’ve no doubt that he’s currently mourning in his own way. But just as certainly, I absolutely believe he will soon, if he hasn’t already, steel himself for the journey to come while dispatching the past in the process. Like Yao, Oden has, unfortunately, been through this before. And, like Yao, Greg will find solace by steadying his gaze on a future still rife with possibilities and potential. He’s only 21 years old, after all. He’ll be back.

In fact, Oden and Yao now figure to make their return at the exact same time: training camp 2010. It stands as yet another tie which inexorably binds our two great cities, Portland and Houston, together. The link began 26 years ago when the Blazers selected a ridiculously talented human pogo stick of a guard from the University of Houston named Clyde Drexler. One year later Portland and Houston were the principal figures in an even bigger draft coup: a coin flip for the rights to the No. 1 pick and an opportunity to select yet another U. of H. stud, Akeem Olajuwon. Since then, Drexler returned to Houston, the Blazers drafted Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez – both of whom were hotly desired by Houston – the Rockets made former Portland coach Rick Adelman their bench boss and the two teams recently met in the first round of last year’s playoffs. So maybe we’re more than mere acquaintances after all.

Point being, we are now bound together by a common hope: that our two talented and beloved big men can come back to fill the void their absence has left behind; that we can watch them go head-to-head once more, unburdened by the pain of the past and instead enjoying the sight of two of the game’s premiere big men battling each other at the height of their powers.

Their cities deserve such a sight. So, too, do their teams. But more than anyone, this Promethean pair deserves it. Thus, it is for them, and for all of us, that I hold out hope. I know they won’t give up. Neither, then, will I.

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