TrueHoop: Ron Harper

Wednesday Bullets

August, 8, 2012
Mason By Beckley Mason
  • Chris Palmer breaks down why Carmelo Anthony (and not Kobe Bryant) has been so good in the Olympics (Insider): "Saying Kobe Bryant is a brilliant scorer isn't news. But in the fast-paced FIBA game, he takes eons to get his shot off. Many of Bryant's shots come on isolations in which the floor is lopsided with four players standing on the opposite side. If Bryant's initial move doesn't work, the U.S. is looking at a wasted possession. The approach works for the Lakers' offense, but not on Team USA with its awesome firepower and emphasis on teamwork. Anthony, on the other hand, has been far more direct and decisive with the ball than Bryant. With a clearly defined scorer's role, Anthony has done an excellent job of picking his spots and letting others create for him. He's getting clean looks off kickouts and ball reversals and racking up huge numbers by simply hitting open shots without so much as a dribble."
  • The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding sympathizes with Andrew Bynum, who has good reason to question the Lakers' commitment to him: "Put yourself in his size 18s, and remember trudging out there with the new knee brace in winning the Lakers’ 2009 championship against Howard and fighting through a surgery-requiring knee injury in winning the Lakers’ 2010 championship over Boston. Imagine reveling in your breakthrough season and then feeling unwanted despite your 30 rebounds in San Antonio in the Lakers’ best regular-season victory and unappreciated despite your 10-block triple-double against Denver in the Lakers’ best playoff victory. It’s not hard to feel the frown begin and the head start to shake."
  • One Clipper fan is feeling the love from childhood hero Ron Harper.
  • He hasn't received a ton of recognition, but Chris Paul has been vital on both sides of the ball for Team USA. Though he's mostly posted understated stat lines, his two-way play has been excellent. The Americans' half-court offense has looked sharpest when Paul is pulling the strings in high pick-and-rolls, and his ball pressure has disrupted opposing offenses and allowed his rangy teammates to get in the passing lanes. Paul is a control freak, so it's probably not easy for him to relinquish his role as the primary creator, but it speaks to his basketball smarts that he knows when to float to the wing and hit a 3, and when to take control of the offense.
  • France's Nicolas Batum winds up and blasts Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin with a closed fist. After the game, Batum told Adrian Wojnarowski, "I wanted to give him a good reason to flop." That's not exactly what HoopIdea had in mind when we asked for recommendations on how to prevent flopping.
  • Who will root for the Brooklyn Nets? Professor and author Michael Shapiro, for one: "'The greatest gift for the Brooklyn Nets is the fact that James Dolan owns the Knicks,' Shapiro said. 'I don’t live in Brooklyn anymore. I live in Manhattan. But I really want to root for the Nets. After (Dolan) let Lin go, I called my son and he said to me, ‘Fine. Brooklyn. I get it dad.'"
  • The Pistons acknowledge likelihood that their jerseys will soon carry ads.
  • On CelticsBlog, Jeff Green talks with Josh Zavadil about his long recovery from heart surgery: "'The surgery itself was probably the hardest thing I've ever been through in my life. I had to start from, basically, double scratch. Walking was an issue -- just being able to have the stamina was a problem. Everything just kind of shuts down. The nervous system breaks down, and it's kinda like a jump-start. You have to get it going, and it was just difficult. You take for granted all of the little things -- whether it's just an easy crunch or ab exercise, or moving to the left or moving to the right. I couldn't lay on my stomach for the first two-and-a-half months. I couldn't lay on my side. The first couple of weeks I couldn't drive. I couldn't do a lot of things, but it helps you appreciate the little things.'"
  • An ambivalent reaction to Trail Blazers' decision to hire Dallas assistant Terry Stotts as head coach.
  • Luol Deng says he doesn't expect to have surgery on the injured ligaments in his left, in part because he felt so good during the Olympics.
  • As a kid in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, Kevin Durant would sprint up this hill as part of his self-motivated training regiment.

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Something curious happened as we made the rounds in Phoenix, asking current and former players about the guy they'd least like to see defending them in a life-or-death possession.   Three different retired NBA guards responded with the same answer: Alvin Robertson. 

In his time, Robertson was regarded as the peskiest on-ball defender in the league.  He led the league in steals three times, and averaged 3.7 steals/game in his second season -- 2.7 over his ten-year career.  Stats aside, Robertson was known as a defensive hound who took it as a personal affront if you beat him off the dribble.  A troika of former guards explains:

Gary Payton
Alvin Robertson would make your life miserable. He was a hawkish defensive player. He's who I modeled my defense after. I was looking at the NBA through him. He's one of those guys who'll stay with you for 94 feet.  If he was in front of me and it was my last day on earth, I wouldn't want him there.  How do I beat him? I would just do what I did in the later part of my career.  I started turning my back to him and go down, so he wouldn't get a beat on me or take the ball from me.  I'd back him down real slow.

Alvin RobertsonBrian Shaw
When I was a rookie and hand-checking was part of the game, I was 180 pounds.  He was strong enough to hold me by my waist. I could be dribbling the ball and trying to make progress to the basket, and he could just control me with one hand.  That's the kind of strength he had. You have to hope that one of your big guys comes over and sets a screen on him so you can get away from him.

Ron Harper
Alvin and I are both from Ohio.  I used to play with him in the summertime.  He's a defensive player that slaps, grabs, and holds.  He's intense all the time.  He was a great defensive player.  Not a good defensive player, but a great defensive player.   He was a great athlete.  You have to use your teammates to run screens.  That was the only way to beat him. 

(Alvin Robertson photo by Jon SooHoo/Getty Images)

Getting Beneath the Surface

February, 14, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

When the press release came across my email, my initial reaction was "Wha?!" Right Guard was teaming up with the Salvation Army to put on a fantasy basketball camp for kids living in shelters. The lede in the press release read, "The Right Guard Fantasy Camp puts the ball in the hands of those that are less fortunate, allowing them to dribble, pass and shoot like the pro." At first blush, I thought the release was a parody -- it certainly wouldn't be the first of the weekend. It's not that a dribble game and a proper defensive stance don't have practical value in the real world, but you figure those things rank behind adequate housing and jobs for their parents.

The event's principals are Lenny Wilkens, Otis Birdsong, and Ron Harper.  They invited 18 kids living in shelters in the Phoenix area to participate in Saturday drill sessions at Grand Canyon University.   Most of the kids live with their families at the Salvation Army-Kaiser Family Shelter.   Right Guard and The Dial Corporation are sponsoring the event.

After the kids have an impromptu shootaround waiting for the event to start, they take to the bleachers and Birdsong greets them.  Birdsong was a pro's pro when he played for the K.C. Kings, then New Jersey.  He finished his career with 12,000+ points, shooting over 50% from the field -- a serious accomplishment for a 6' 3" guard. 

Birdsong is still a pro's pro -- as a pitchman.  After briefly introducing himself to the campers, the first thing he does is thank Right Guard.  He tells the kids, "I use Right Guard, have always used Right Guard.  I used to use the aerosol, but now I use Right Guard Sport.  My wife likes it."  

At this point, I want to understand the larger context of the event.  I'm generally not someone who gets indignant when corporations do charitable work for reasons ranging from altruism to transparent PR.  Corporations are corporations.  They factor every decision through a financial calculus.  If you try to characterize them as evil or good, you'll drive yourself crazy.  Would I be more comfortable if a former NBA star weren't pitching deodorant  to kids who don't have homes? You bet.  Would it be preferable if the Dial Corporation, headquartered in Scottsdale, gave a job to every parent of these kids who needs one, which would afford the families the opportunities to get out of the shelter and back into homes of their own?  Absolutely.  Is it something I'm going to get overly upset about? Nope.

I ask Daniel Valdez, the activities coordinator of the Kaiser Family Center, about the question of priorities.  Valdez deals directly with the kids every day, and one of his primary functions is making sure that their time living in the shelter is as pleasant as possible.  Valdez tells me that he appreciates that jobs and housing rank ahead of ballhandling and rebounding, but he lays out the reality of a family who checks in the facility. 

"When the parents check in, they have two weeks to find a job," says Valdez.  "What I do is keep the kids out of the parents' hair, so they can focus on getting those jobs."  

Valdez sets the scene:  You're a struggling parent.  Whether it's the economic crisis, a health problem, or bad luck, you can't pay the rent, and you're evicted from your place. The first thing you have to do is tell your kid to pack up his stuff, because the family is moving to a shelter.  In many cases, your kid is devastated and upset at the idea of moving into a facility.  You feel like you've failed your kid on every level.  You can't provide him with something as basic as housing.  Now you have to set out to find a job -- a near-impossible task in this economy -- while tending to your kid in what's probably the lowest moment of his childhood.  

I speak to one boy, 13-year-old Franscisco Hernandez, who initially told his mother that he wouldn't check into the shelter.  "I didn't want to leave my friends.  I didn't want to be a new person again." Francisco's mom has a heart condition and was unable to maintain a job because she had been in and out of the hospital.  She knew that the shelter was her only option, but told Valdez that Francisco wouldn't budge.  If she and her son were going to check in, then she needed Valdez to sell Francisco on the idea.  

"These parents are trying to find jobs, which is hard.  They're busy.  They might not have time to teach them everyday things while that's going on," says Valdez.  In that respect, this event is as much for the parents as it is for their kids.  For a single day, they feel like they've given their kids something material.  The morale of the entire community within the shelter is lifted.

When I ask Valdez if he was weirded out by the Right Guard pitch, he shrugged.  He tells me in not so many words that he doesn't have the luxury of cynicism.  The work he has to do to is too hard, but today it's a cinch -- the kids are loving every drill.  To Valdez, Birdsong is an assist guy of the highest order, regardless of whether he's an aerosol or roll-on man.