TrueHoop: Samuel Dalembert

Killer lineup: The Rockets' grenade

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
10:10
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Houston Rockets
Goran Dragic | Courtney Lee | Chandler Parsons | Luis Scola | Samuel Dalembert
Minutes Played: 157
Offensive Rating: 112.6 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 96.4 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
Very well, thank you.

The biggest challenge is finding court time together now that Kyle Lowry has returned to action after suffering a bacterial infection. Now that Lowry is back, this unit hasn't seen any time together over the past couple of games, even though it's largely responsible for Houston's success during Lowry's prolonged absence.

It's important to offer a disclaimer on Lowry. He's a unique talent at the point, an incredibly efficient fireplug who has led the Rockets in adjusted plus-minus over the past two seasons. His presence at the top of the floor has often saved the Rockets' defense from calamity, and the success of any lineup sans Lowry should in no way be regarded as a denigration of his skills.

Goran Dragic is a different sort, a whirling dervish of a point guard whose hunger to pressure the defense is perfectly suited to the Rockets' offensive imperatives.

Dragic is always on the attack, and most of the action in the half court plays off his dribble penetration. Here's where Dragic is so dangerous: Trap him and he's likely to create a 4-on-3 game. And once he gets free off the dribble, he'll instantly identify where the help is coming from. Houston invites or, at the very least, tempts the defenses with high screens from Dalembert. This drags Dalembert's defender up top, usually in the right slot. If, rather than blitzing, teams feel compelled to fight over these screens, Dragic's quickness can leave defenders trailing him, biting his ankles as he zips through the lane.

Once Dragic finds daylight, teams often help off Dalembert, but if that big defender steps up, Dragic will guide Dalembert to the rim with a bounce pass for the easy flush. If the defense leaves Chandler Parsons open, he will lift to a spot on the perimeter, where Dragic will find him with a kickout for an open shot. Parsons isn't a knockdown shooter, at least not yet, but give him a wide open look from beyond the arc, and the Rockets can live with that.

In addition, much of the secondary action off Dragic's initial attack is designed to get Luis Scola open along the baseline for a midrange jumper, often via a two-man game with Courtney Lee, an underrated shooter and creator who doesn't make a lot of mistakes and can do a little bit of everything. Scola will also see his fair share of entry passes off the mid-post right from the outset.

Don't you dare help off Scola along the baseline! Dragic will find him, even in traffic. Much of the offense is focused on setting Scola up just off the right block and putting the defense in a position where it has to make an impossible choice. Dragic will drive right, forcing Scola's man to slide over to collapse on a driving Dragic. When that happens, Scola is left open for an uncontested baseline jumper on the right side, a shot Scola has nearly perfected.

And that's the thing about playing with a speed demon who has a tight handle. You can be an obscure second-rounder, or unathletic, or a not terribly skilled center. In many ways, Scola is the closest thing this lineup has to a complete player. As long as you can read the action and move to a spot on the floor where you know you can do some damage, the offense will profit, because Dragic will make the defense pay.

How it works defensively
Comme ci, comme ša.

Houston runs more of an ad-hoc defense than a systematic one, and for the personnel in this unit, that's not a terrible thing. Coverages on pick-and-rolls, whether they occur up top, at an angle or on the side, tend to be situational. This unit will gamble as a group (e.g., aggressively double bigs from the top side). They trap most side pick-and-rolls, knowing they can entrust Dalembert to provide a strong last line of resistance at the rim if the defenders get split.

Dragic isn't big, but he seems to take high picks personally and will try to fight mightily over every last one. This is a good thing, because Scola needs time to get back into a play, and can afford to wait around all night for his guard to bust through a screen. This defensive unit isn't always ferocious at the point of attack on high ball-screens, but the three guys behind the action know where to be when action is initiated. Each is smart and aware. The wings know when to collapse and when to protect the perimeter and let Dalembert do his thing. As a side note, did you know Dalembert occasionally likes to eat goat before a game when he needs a little boost? Says it gives him strength.

Even though this quintet doesn't have any overwhelming strengths as a unit (aside from Dalembert's shot-blocking), it performs almost every defensive task as a marginally above-average level relative to the rest of the league. They protect the glass and avoid fouling. Opponents shoot well, but not exceptionally. Most shots are contested because the rotations are prompt and this group makes a point to chase shooters off the arc.

Parsons has a lot of versatility as an isolation defender, and any 6-foot-9 forward who can match up against perimeter scorers comes in extremely handy. He uses his lateral movements to wall off the paint against even the most lethal wings in the league, and concerns himself with guarding the space in front of his man as he does bodying up. His height affords him the luxury of rarely falling for a ball fake and, off the ball, he'll lock onto his assignment. The Rockets will often cross-match Parsons and Lee, if the opponent's 2-guard is the most dynamic threat on the floor. This will occasionally leave Lee vulnerable to bigger guys who are hungry to post him up.

In many respects, the defense operates under the same general premise of the offense. Apart from Dalembert, everyone knows his role, which isn't all that explicit. That role is simply to not make mistakes and to be mindful of where the defense might be exposed. If you can't address it one-on-one, make sure you know where Dalembert is stationed.

It doesn't matter if it bends, just so long as it doesn't break.

Knicks win battle of Big 3s

February, 28, 2011
2/28/11
6:39
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
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The new-look New York Knicks made a statement Sunday night as they rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat the Miami Heat, proving that their "Big 3" should not be overlooked.

Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire have been receiving most of the attention lately, but it was Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, who was instrumental in turning down the Heat in Miami.

Billups entered the fourth quarter with 8:55 remaining in the game and the Knicks down by five points. In that span Billups went 3-for-5 with 7 points, and as an on-ball defender held his opponent to 0-for-3 and a turnover. He also had two steals in that span, including one on a Chris Bosh pass with 47 seconds left that lead to two free throws by Shawne Williams. Billups finished the game with 16 points and has made a three-point field goal in 19 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak.

Anthony finished with a game-high 29 points and 9 rebounds. Eleven of Anthony’s 29 points came on isolation plays. He trails only Kobe Bryant for the most points off isolation plays this season.

Carmelo Anthony
Anthony
This was Anthony’s third straight 25-point game, and the Elias Sports Bureau tells us that only five other players in NBA history have scored at least 25 points in each of their first three or more games for one team: Wilt Chamberlain, for the Philadelphia Warriors (1959, first 10 games); Walt Bellamy, for the Chicago Packers (1961); Dan Issel for the Denver Nuggets (1976); Dominique Wilkins for the Los Angeles Clippers (1994, first four games); and Glenn Robinson for the Atlanta Hawks (2002).

While Anthony’s offense certainly kept the Knicks in the game, it was his defensive presence that may have put the game away. Anthony was asked to guard LeBron James in the fourth quarter, and the defensive switch paid off for the Knicks. James was 1-for-4 when Anthony was the on-ball defender during the final five minutes of the game, including on Miami’s final two field goal attempts.

Anthony wasn’t the only Knick to lock down on defense. New York held Miami under 40 percent shooting in the half court over the final three quarters. For some perspective, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks shot a combined 46 percent in the half court during the Knicks previous two games.

Perhaps the clinching moment of the game was Stoudemire’s block on James' driving lay-up with seven seconds to play.

The Elias Sports Bureau says it was only the third time in James’ career that he had a shot blocked in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter (or overtime) with his team trying to erase a deficit or three points or less. The others came in a span of 12 days in April 2008, on blocks by Joakim Noah and Samuel Dalembert.

Despite his team falling short, James scored 27 points, including nine in transition on 4-5 shooting. James’ nine transition points, combined with two from Dwyane Wade, knots the two for the NBA lead. Speaking of Wade, he finished with just 12 points and five turnovers. Overall, Miami's "Big 3" combined for 13 of the team’s 20 turnovers.

The loss snaps the Heat's 7-game home win streak and drops the team to 5-11 in games decided by five points or fewer.

Samuel Dalembert, back from Haiti with a heavy heart

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
11:46
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Samuel Dalembert arrives minutes before tip-off.

The game between the Sixers and the Blazers started at 7 p.m.

"I'd say he was running in here at about 6:40," says Sixers P.R. man Michael Preston.

Samuel Dalembert, starting center and -- post-earthquake -- Haiti's celebrity spokesperson, advocate and benefactor, was screaming back into town after a harried visit to his distressed home country.

The Sixers lost to the Timberwolves in overtime late Monday night. After the game, Dalembert left the team and made his way to Port-au-Prince with Project Medishare. It was a struggle to get back to Philadelphia in time for tonight's game, but that was nothing compared to the challenges he found in Haiti.

He cries talking about what he found there. For instance children without parents, wandering in desperation.

"I'm doing my best," he says. "I'll take another trip with UNICEF. So we can try to get all those children out there ... you know, we have parents who have been trying to adopt for two or three years."

At this point, tears are streaming down Dalembert's face. "You know and ... that's frustrating me ... you're asking people to help. And kids have parents over there who want to adopt them. I've got a hundred parents, and you have a bunch of guys sitting down with the freaking papers. All it takes is one hour to go over everything, you know what I'm saying?

"I saw somebody's leg amputated in front of me. Surgeries performed on a kitchen table ... I'm talking about a folding kitchen table ... I have some disturbing pictures. And it hurts. ... There was no surgery room ... You heard him screaming. ... Not enough alcohol. Things we take for granted, you know. They try to make one bottle of alcohol last.

"Problems just keep occurring. There's no machinery to move things around. It's taking a long time to locate the people. I know everybody is doing their best. ... It's crazy over there.

"One thing really touched my heart the most is all the children. A lot of homeless children."

Dalembert says he and Medishare are in the process of negotiating to get tents for "a ton" of people in Haiti.

"I had a meeting with the president," he says. "Myself and Alonzo Mourning. We were talking to see what's going on. The situation is so critical. They try to really ... I know everybody is trying to do their best. But the fact that you have planes that want to land, but are not able to land because the traffic ... things are not prioritized right now. It's too much to ask, but I will ask for all organizations out there to get together, and work together, to make this thing happen. I'll do my best here. The only thing I can do is try to raise as much money as possible, going to the right place."

Dalembert arrived in Florida early this morning, and had finally laid down in bed for the first time in ages. Three hours later, his phone started ringing like crazy -- it was his father, still in Haiti, saying there had been another earthquake -- an aftershock.

He can't remember the last time he slept well. He was asked how he can keep playing NBA basketball (he finished this game with 10 points and 15 rebounds).

"I know we are struggling. I wanted to go out there and contribute. I don't know. I've been tired man. Just dead. I don't know what's keeping me up. Just the urge to try to help. It's the urge to try to reach out to those people there. I know I'm not going to save the whole country. I know that. But I know I can save a lot of life. Making it just a little bit better.

"Maybe not having a house or a roof over your head, just the fact that you have that tent. A family of eight would be able to stay in that tent and feel good that we have something over our head and somebody looking out for us. That's why I try to go out there and do the best I can.

"I know God is watching over us. I know he's really going to get us through this.

"Sleep is ... shoo ... I keep drinking energy drinks, man. I look like a ghost, man. I can't believe it. It's mind-blowing. I'm talking to different organizations about OK, we've got this, we'll try to get this out there, we're trying to donate planes.

"And I'm going to do something in Philly. I will have a plane come in here, in Philly, and collect stuff next week ... and I will have the plane take the stuff over there. Also I will let people know that if doctors want to give their time, that plane can go over there bringing doctors over there. Hopefully we'll make huge progress. Hopefully we'll save more lives."

As for the people he met in Haiti, Dalembert says: "I salute all of them. ... All I see is they're still trying to find all the bodies. You still see people holding strong. They're still finding bodies after the first earthquake and people are still holding strong, man. That tells you a lot about us, man. We're out there holding strong.

"I know that deep inside, we need more. The [hospital] I was looking at -- you can't even fit another person. You're walking on top of people, saying excuse me. ... Flying mosquitoes. A couple of people came to me and said 'please, I haven't drunk water in X amount of days. I had to go in my bag and give them a little bottle of water and they said 'thank you so much, thank you so much.'"

Samuel Dalembert, trying to reach friends in Haiti

January, 13, 2010
1/13/10
1:35
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
The Sixers center, who grew up in Haiti, sounds sad, tired and frustrated in trying to reach friends and family after Haiti's terrible earthquake.

He says he has been able to reach his father, but others are left unaccounted for.

"I can only imagine what people there are going through," he says. "Keep us in your prayers. ... All I can do is watch on the TV ... It's really killing me right now. ... It's unthinkable. Imagine all the people just inside, and the building just collapses."
video
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Andre Miller's departure from Philadelphia left a vacuum at the point guard for the Sixers. The team selected UCLA point-leaning-combo guard Jrue Holiday with its first round draft pick, and has now named 22-year-old, fifth-year guard Louis Williams as the presumptive starter at the point for the 2009-10 season.

Louis Williams

Williams isn't a natural point guard, though there are some promising numbers in his portfolio:
The best news of all for Williams' prospects as the Sixers point guard won't be found on a stat sheet, but with the man pacing the sidelines -- new head coach Eddie Jordan.

Jordan is a devotee to the Princeton offense, or at least its NBA variation. Players and the ball are in perpetual motion in the halfcourt, which means the system is less reliant on a traditional point guard.

Here's Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski explaining the dynamic to NBA.com's Matt Winkeljohn, alluding to his days in New Jersey where Jordan served as an assistant, as well as Jordan's head coaching tenure in Washington:
It may help that coach Jordan is not counting on having a John Stockton-esqe point guard...

"Eddie has shown in Washington that without the prototypical point guard he has made it work with Gilbert Arenas so there's a lot less pressure on the point in a two-guard system than the one point guard-system," Stefanski said.

"The theory is the guy who has the less pressure on him will bring it up. When we were in New Jersey, Kerry Kittles often initiated the offense even when we had Jason Kidd [at point]."

Philadelphia hasn't exactly had a banner offseason, and will be fortunate to contend for much more than a 4 seed in the increasingly competitive Eastern conference. But from a basketball perspective, it should be fascinating to watch Eddie Jordan employ his system with the likes of Andre Iguodala, Thad Young, Williams, Elton Brand, Jason Kapono, and the decidedly un-Princeton-ish center, Samuel Dalembert.

This isn't your prototypical Princeton roster, but Iguodala and Young in particular have the potential to run opponents ragged off the ball and beat defenders to the rim in that motion offense.

Could it work?

Maybe.

In theory, the system should thaw an offense that was especially prone to rigor mortis in the halfcourt.

If nothing else, Sixers fans should be grateful for that.
Sadly, the Celtics-Bulls series will end on Saturday night, while the Magic-Philly series was finally put out of its misery. Sleeper classic for Round Two? Try the Nuggets and Mavs.

Joakim NoahMatt McHale of By the Horns: "Think about it. And I mean think about it really hard. I can say with something like 100 percent certainty that you can't remember a closer, more competitive playoff series. In fact, by all objective measures, there hasn't been one. It now has featured a mind-scrambling SEVEN overtime sessions. And yes, that's easily a NBA playoff record. (Celtics-Hawks and Celtics-Nationals are second with four each…and they took place in 1957 and 1953, respectively.) In fact, it's more than any team in NBA history has ever played in an entire postseason. I'm going to have to track down the official numbers later, but there have been more than 100 lead changes and over 60 ties through six games, and I'm pretty sure that has to be a record too. Again, I'll try to research the final word on those stats. But man oh man oh man, this matchup has been nothing short of legen - WAIT FOR IT - dary! Let's just say that if NASA suddenly revealed that it's sending a space shuttle to Mars using a new kind of super-fuel made up entirely of the awesomeness produced by this series, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. And Game 7 is on the way."

Boston CelticsZach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "I am beginning to feel about this series like a drug addict must feel when he's ready to enter serious rehab. It started out as innocent fun, we experienced some unthinkable highs, but now I'm coming down and I'm ready for it to be over. My friends and loved ones would like to see me at some point. For god's sake, the Houston-Portland game was in the third quarter by the time this game ended. I have to start blocking out four hours just to watch these games. Everyone says you should step back and appreciate history while it's happening. That worked through Game 5. I am no longer appreciating history. I just want the series to be over. And it was over. It felt over. I am still not sure what happened. I know it involved Brad Miller, and that Tony Allen was taking pressure shots for some reason. I may have dreamt that last part."

Orlando MagicZach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "Without the suspended Dwight Howard and the injured Courtney Lee, Marcin Gortat (11 points, 15 rebounds) and JJ Redick (15 points, 5-of-7 from deep) played beautifully and almost made Orlando forget about their franchise center and superb rookie. Gortat was the best big man on the floor, a significant step above [Sam] Dalembert, Theo Ratliff and Reggie Evans. Gortat played his role perfectly -- he consistently brought in rebounds, he kept the Sixers from scoring in the paint, and he put in several dunks and easy lay-ups. And Redick's solid fundamentals and sweet stroke were on display, including a 30-footer in the first quarter when the shot clock was winding down. He looked a lot more like Duke JJ than Magic JJ ... Overall, this game gives a decent look into the mind of human beings. It's a lot easier to perform without the pressure of expectations, and it's a lot more difficult to succeed when a lot is expected out of you. The Magic weren't worried that they should be winning, they were just playing. Having fun, running, shooting 3s -- that's when the Magic are at their best."

THE FINAL WORD
Roundball Mining Company: Stellar breakdown of the upcoming Nuggets-Mavericks series.
Hardwood Paroxysm: Atmosphere? Hustle? Upsets? College ball has nothing on BOS-CHI! 
Forum Blue & Gold: How Andrew Bynum is like "Cedric Ceballos on a Jet Ski."


(Photos by Nathaniel S. Butler, Jonathan Daniel, Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Less than three minutes into the Sixers vs. Magic Game 5, Dwight Howard swung a hard right elbow that connected to the back of Sixer center Samuel Dalembert's head. (It was a solid shot. Dalembert put his hands to his head after the play, apparently to try to stop the ringing.)

Howard was called for a technical, but, in apparent defiance of the NBA rulebook, was not ejected.

A photograph could change the entire story. (Anybody else notice that the NBAE-supplied photos available through Getty Images never seem to capture controversial moments like this?) If somebody has captured the moment of impact, it will be tough for the League not to take some kind of action.

But what is the correct action when it certainly appears that Howard -- who essentially won the game for Orlando with 24 points and 24 rebounds -- ought to have watched almost all of this game from his locker?

This is what the rulebook says (my bold):

k. A technical foul, unsportsmanlike act or flagrant foul must be called for a participant to be ejected. A player, coach or trainer may be ejected for:
(1) An elbow foul which makes contact shoulder level or below
(2) Any unsportsmanlike conduct where a technical foul is assessed
(3) A flagrant foul where unnecessary and/or excessive contact occurs
EXCEPTION: Rule 12A--Section V--l(5)
l. A player, coach or trainer must be ejected for:
(1) A punching foul
(2) A fighting foul
(3) An elbow foul which makes contact above shoulder level

I'll be honest. I empathize with the urge to want to keep players on the floor. And in this isolated case, you could argue this was dealt with well enough -- it's not like the situation escalated out of control in the aftermath.

But what's with ignoring the rulebook? If the bigger priority is to give the referees discretion to handle these things as they see fit, then let's put it in writing that the referees have that discretion, rather than so clearly enumerating punishments and then ignoring them.

On today's Shootaround -- the NBA and the Open-Ended Question: Is the Association entering a new Golden Age? Is Paul Pierce "the greatest Celtic of the post-Bird era"? Is LeBron the league's best defender?  Show your work.  

Team USAM. Haubs of The Painted Area: "This has been one of the most incredible seasons for individual performances in NBA history. All of the top 5 guys on the list have been truly outstanding, truly MVP-worthy. LeBron had a season for all time. D-Wade turned in one of the best-ever sustained stretches of all-around play after the All-Star break, and never had a chance for the MVP. CP3 had one of the best statistical seasons for a point guard ever, yet he's 3rd for me, and will probably finish 5th in the balloting. Kobe was the leader of a 65-17 team and once again the top clutch scorer in the league. Howard was the only star on an improbable 58-win team, and the likely Defensive Player of the Year as the anchor of the league's no. 1 defense ... Throw in Brandon Roy and his merry band of under-25s in Portland, and 20-year-old Kevin Durant, and the 2010s are shaping up to be one of the great golden ages of basketball history."

Paul PierceZach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "If, in a week or so, Orlando is struggling against a quick and hungry Bulls team that takes care of its home court, while the Celtics are handling a banged-up Sixers team in the first round, remember this game. Remember when Philly torched a lazy Celtics defense for an 11-0 first half run (a run created off Celtic misses, not turnovers, and this is important). Remember when Sam Dalembert closed the first half scoring by getting so far behind the Celtics defense for an alley-oop he looked like a wide receiver sprung open on a flea-flicker. But remember most of all when the greatest Celtic of the post-Bird era told the team, with his harsh words in the huddle and his 12-of-16 shooting on the court, that their performance in the first half was unacceptable. That it was unbecoming of a championship team. Paul Pierce carried the team to this win..."

LeBron JamesJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "I've become so used to arguing passionately that LeBron was the best player in the league this time of year I have leftover righteous anger now that LeBron has had a good enough year to just power right through all the circular logic and political crap that has kept him from winning the award before. So I'm going to use my righteous anger to make the case that LeBron deserves very, very serious consideration for the defensive player of the year award like no player since Duncan took home the award."

THE FINAL WORD
48 Minutes of Hell: What happened to George Hill
Orlando Magic Daily: Who's the Magic's enforcer? The guy in the rumpled suit.
Roundball Mining Company: Who would the Nuggets rather see in Round One -- Dallas or New Orleans?

(Photos by Kevork Djansezian, Jesse D. Garrabrant, Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Samuel Dalembert's Perspective

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
11:41
AM ET
Peter Proko of Philadelphia Style magazine shared lunch with Samuel Dalembert and came away with some insight into a thoughtful and misunderstood player:

Today, he recalls his childhood spent in Haiti with vivid detail and a mix of wistfulness and respect for those still enduring the island nation's poverty. "You talk about a third-world country ... that's a third-world country," Dalembert asserts. "You pray to God that it doesn't rain so water doesn't come in, or you got friends who are sleeping on dirt [because] there's no bed. You go here to the ghetto, and you go 'Wow, that's tough.' To us that's luxury because at least you have a roof over your head, a TV you can watch. You would want to live in a ghetto here compared to the poverty in Haiti."

Growing up in that environment taught Dalembert perspective and to value relationships over possessions. He shows up for this interview wearing a V-neck undershirt and gym shorts-not an ounce of fl ash in sight, no baller attitude or pretense evident-and talks with earnest compassion about his childhood experiences and how they led him to become involved in several foundations both here and in Haiti.

"I'm weird in a way [to my teammates]. I don't do the typical things that everybody does. I don't have 10 cars. ... [But] I always tell guys, 'I'm not going to judge you. If that's what makes you happy, makes you feel like a man, do it. But do it because you love it.'

"Whenever I spend money, I always picture how I grew up and how much more of a difference that money would make in someone else's life. Right now I am supporting so many people that at the end of the day I have to make a smart investment so when I am done playing I can still support them. That's my different mentality."

A couple of other notes from the story: Dalembert one day wants to restore cars, and fly airplanes. He can also tell how fresh a fish is by examining its eyes.

(Via Sixers Shots)

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