ESPN NBA Playoffs Conference Call Transcript
Earlier today, ESPN NBA analyst Hubie Brown discussed the start of the NBA Conference Semifinals on a conference call with members of the media. The NBA Playoffs continue on ESPN on Friday, May 10, when the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat visit the Chicago Bulls at 8 p.m. ET and the San Antonio Spurs visit the Golden State Warriors at 10:30 p.m. Additionally, the defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, May 11, at 5 p.m. on ESPN. ABC’s weekend schedule includes the New York Knicks visiting the Indiana Pacers on Saturday at 8 p.m. and the Spurs facing the Warriors on Sunday, May 14 at 3:30 p.m.
Here is the replay of today’s conference call.
Q. More of a broadcasting question. So much of your style, talking to people who listen to you or people around the league, they describe you as much as a teacher as they do a broadcaster. So I wonder which NBA broadcasters today, when you are watching games that you are not doing, do you find yourself learning from?
HUBIE BROWN: Well, I think you always keep an open mind. It’s like anything else, if you are an individual that does a lot of basketball clinics for coaches at every level, you try to lay out what is going to happen, and then whatever you’re going to teach, and you just try to keep everyone with an open mind and try to show them what is going on. The majority of people who watch the game can only watch the ball and maybe four people on one side of the floor; or, whether there are six people on that side of the floor.
And then what you try to do is show them the complete picture on the replays and what you are talking about. When we do the telecasts, we just try to talk to them exactly like you would be talking to your team at every type of a huddle, etc.
Now, to me, I think everyone has a different style. Everyone has their own style of how they call a game. So for me, there are a lot of fellows that I enjoy listening to and I just think that everyone is always ‑‑ I like it when I see that guys understand what is going on away from the ball, because the majority of the good offenses and defenses, it’s not also just what’s happening with the ball; it’s what’s happening on the opposite side of the floor, and then what is being created. Even if they didn’t get to it during the initial play; it’s what you are looking for as the game is progressing. Because even if it’s not working now, it could possibly be working as we get into the second half.
Q. Is there one or two people you want to name specifically who you think do that?
BROWN: Well, I think there are a lot of guys who do that and that’s why I just said that I do believe that it is a style of how a guy presents a game.
And that’s all I’d really like to get into right now without naming one or two guys and not mentioning other people that I really enjoy listening to. I don’t think that’s a good thing for me to say right now publicly.
Q. I know one of the studio guys, Bill Simmons, said that he thought the matchup on Sunday favored the Grizzlies; do you agree with that? And can you talk about the development of Reggie Jackson as Russell’s replacement.
BROWN: First of all, I think that anybody who is going to take Memphis was probably doing so at the beginning of the playoffs, even with Westbrook. We know that this was a good matchup for Memphis. Memphis plays Oklahoma City well and they have proven that over the years with this present group of guys and the coaching staff. So you knew this was going to be a tough series.
Plus, you enter into the fact that Memphis has the third‑best road record. Now, we know Oklahoma has the second‑best road record. So Memphis can win on the road, and they proved that in that game on Sunday – that they could stay within the game, and keep the game close, while missing nine foul shots, which was a major factor in the game.
Plus, in the fourth quarter, unfortunately for them, on the play by Fisher, when Conley blew by Fisher and Fisher got the deflection from the rear that, could have been a potential layup because Conley was in and it was going to be a two‑on‑one. Now, that was a big play because then Durant makes the shot at the other end.
Then when you have the play with Gasol and he gets caught with the ball, he couldn’t dump it into Randolph down inside, so he decided to go for the dribble hand off. That was not there, and when he threw back to Conley, Sefolosha’s defensive play is one of the best of the game. That was uncanny that he was in that area to cause the deflection and then the loose ball and then you get possession again.
So I just think it’s a great series. It’s a total toss‑up because both teams will win on the road, and then Durant, he has to stay at the top of his game. Now, we know that what he did on Sunday was absolutely magnificent. And you got, once again, Martin, Collison and Fisher giving you nice, solid production, 35‑28 off the bench, just like you did in Game 6 when you beat Houston. They came in and gave you 40‑some‑odd points.
So when you’re talking about Reggie Jackson now, if he’s going to play 30 to 35 minutes, he was consistent in that series with Houston. I think he has great confidence now. He feels that he can score off the dribble in the paint because he’s acrobatic and shoots a high percentage in the paint.
Then, I also feel that he can get to the line and make the foul shots for you. Now, he’s not going to be leading you in creativity, because the way that the team is built right now on what you’re running, Durant will probably continue to lead in assists because he had six a game the other day, and he has the ball so many times.
Everyone is liking what Reggie Jackson is doing. He’s doing exactly what the coaching staff wants, and he’s a good, solid defender along with it. But he can get you to double figures, because let’s face it, you back up, how many double‑figure guys did you have on Sunday? Only three. You had Durant and Martin and you needed that third guy, and he gave you 12.
Q. You look at last night from a new perspective, is that a function of being off eight days, or did something happen last night that made you think that the Bulls can win this series?
BROWN: I think when you step back from the game, you have to say that you did not get your best physical effort at both ends of the floor from your team that you are accustomed to watching since you ran off that 40‑2 record.
But when you break the game down and you look at the game, if you’re going to take 24 threes, against this type of defense, and against Chicago’s excellent defensive rebounding, you can’t go seven for 24. And then, you’ve got to go on the foul line and make your foul shots. Now, they control the tempo of the game because of shooting a solid percentage, going to the line, and shooting 24 out of 29, meaning Chicago.
So you continue to take the ball out of the basket. Consequently, no fast breaking, or limited fast breaking, and you are not getting the extra point that you are accustomed to because you are such a great three‑point shooting team.
Q. There are some teams in the league that are looking for head coaches at the moment, Milwaukee being among them. If you were in charge of hiring a coach for one of the teams that has an opening, what would you be looking for in a coach?
BROWN: Well, it has to depend upon the type of talent that we are still going to keep under contract; then, the type of talent that we are going to keep and try to re‑sign.
Now, when I look at that, that’s going to dictate to me what type of coach that you are looking for. Naturally, everyone wants a guy coming with a great resumé or the potential of a resumé coming from a good program.
Now, when that happens, the players who are there have got to match the style of play that the guy is going to coach. Too many times, coaches are picked to come to a team and it’s the worst style of play for the current players that are there under contract. Especially the main three guys – the main three guys – can they get the type of shots that they are accustomed to in the areas that they shoot a high percentage? And also, the style of play that they want to play?
So when you look at it, you want the resumé, you want the potential if the guy doesn’t have a resumé, if you’re taking an assistant, but the style of play that they are going to bring at both ends of the floor is critical because of my talent base.
Because if you bring in the opposite, you’re just wasting time because unfortunately it’s not going to work, and we have seen this time and time again with a lot of teams. Because we know, we turn over here, like eight or nine coaches almost every year now, and so when that happens, I think management has got to look at this now and say, does the glove fit, and that’s the most important thing in my opinion.
Q. John Hammond said that in this day and age, you need a coach who can show players that he cares about them and then coach the heck out of them. He said at another point in the press conference that guys are different today ‑‑ to walk in and throw down the hammer, it seems like a different day and age; guys are searching for communication and at the end of the day, there still has to be discipline and you still have to coach them. Are players different today than when you were coaching?
BROWN: They are only different if you allow it to be different. When you bring a team together, the coach is in charge. The coach is in charge and then the players understand because of the discipline and because of the type of play that you’re going to have, offensively and defensively, and you are going to be accountable. That will dictate your minutes. Now, when you step back and you say that we are only going to ‑‑ we are going to allow the players who make this amount of money, or we expect this much out of them; if you dictate what you’re doing, you’re in a lot of trouble.
To me, I learned this a long time ago, and that is: Your two best players have got to be winning players. We are not talking about anything outside the lines now. We are talking about winning players who have the team and winning as their No. 1 objective. Then they have chemistry. In the chemistry, they understand that it’s a five‑man game when they are on the floor, and they become unselfish, and they play within the structure.
And then, when we lose the basketball, we are a five‑man group at the other end of the floor.
Now, when you get that, it is instilled by the coaching staff who are not going to step back and allow people who are less than 100 percent workers, less than 100 percent buying into what you are doing, run the show. This is coaching. Coaching has never changed. The people who get the most out of the people going back in the basketball world, whether it’s NBA, college, high school and that – they come in prepared on a daily basis. They have their 3 X 5 cards for their practices totally structured. Their video sessions are perfectly put together in their teaching schemes.
Because what I have learned, when you have winning teams, everyone wants their potential reached. They want to be taught. They want to be able to add new moves offensively every single year. They do not want to come in and think that they have reached their fullest potential. They want to be taught, and that comes by accountability; everybody else buying in.
Q. Regarding the Knicks, was what we saw two days ago an anomaly, a bad shooting day or are there changes that Coach Woodson needs to make tonight?
BROWN: First thing, when you look at Indiana, this is a difficult matchup for the Knicks because of the physical size and the physical play.
Indiana now comes in, they want a game where they can bang you around physically and then they want to have ‑‑ which they came out of it, five guys in double figures. They want to play Anthony the other night, put George on Anthony at 6‑10, and then, you know, disrupt the shooting. They feel that they can guard Anthony in a one‑on‑one and that they can guard Smith in a one‑on‑one.
Now, in Game 1, you can’t shoot 14‑for‑43, your two best shooters shooting less than 33 percent, and then get hammered on the board. You don’t want to lose the game on the boards and then they did the best thing that you can do to the Knicks. They reduced your three‑point production. They not only took your two best scorers out of the game but they took away your extra point with the three ball.
And when you think about it, the Knicks average 28, 29, three‑point attempts in a game and they led the league in makes. Well, that was reduced to 19 attempts. When we reduce you down to that figure and you only make seven, you’re losing all of the extra points. Now, step back for a minute, not only did they do a good job on the big scorers but how about Chris and Jason Kidd did not score a basket. These are two of your best three‑point guys. We know that Novak is out but still these two guys are critical, also.
And to me, I’ve got to give Indiana a lot of credit. They came in and played their game, shot a decent enough percentage, shot a pretty good job on the foul line. They were 20‑out‑of 26. So they dictated the tempo.
Q. Taking that into account and putting your coach’s hat on, what do you expect the Knicks to do tonight to counter balance a lot of what you’ve just said?
BROWN: Well I think that you have to look back over the last four games, and we all know that Carmelo is struggling.
But if he continues to take so many outside shots ‑‑ and he’s scoring points except for one thing, the volume is bad, the amount of shots. So they are not catching him on the move. Everything with him is a one‑on‑one situation, and if they have a guy who can play him off the dribble, and give pressure – which they do in George – if they get George in foul trouble, it’s a different story.
But the key is that once you get by him, they have a shot‑blocker. Now can Hibbert continue to get five shot blocks throughout the series ‑‑ he had a great game.
Now, where’s the movement? Where is the movement for your two best guys? Where is the movement where you are getting them on the move on the catch where now they cannot be double‑teamed? So with the Knicks, in my opinion, it can’t be all one‑on‑one, and it can’t be the three ball, because you can see Indiana has really zeroed in and you’ve got to get more movement in what you’re trying to do.
Q. A question about the Celtics, do you think they should keep Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, or maybe combine them with Jeff Green, Rondo coming back, maybe Jared Sullinger coming back, or do they need to let them go and start over, free up money to sign other guys?
BROWN: It depends upon what the doctors are going to tell you, and also the trainer and the coaching staff, of their evaluation of the people that you just mentioned.
How much do they feel they have left, and what about the injuries that you have either made public or have kept quiet about, and do these players, can they come back and give you the necessary numbers that you are looking for because of the dollars invested and then also because of the minutes that they are going to demand as players?
Then you also have to figure in there, the Rondo factor. It was ‑‑ we are really winning without Rondo, and then all of a sudden Rondo’s contribution was kind of forgotten of what he had contributed over the last four or five years, or the last four years.
And to me, you have to look at this and say, let’s put Rondo back into the equation and then where are we going in our backcourt, because it was proven that Bradley and Lee could not create for you, and it forced Paul Pierce to become your key distributor and your key creator.
So what else do you need here? You need ‑‑ to me, I don’t think that we’re talking anything out of school here. I mean, Danny Ainge and his staff have done an excellent job in making the major trade that had to be made to get you into the position to challenge for the Championships and then to play at a high level.
But once age comes in, and then injuries come in, that cannot be totally rectified for the future. These are decisions that your medical people and then your management have got to decide. That’s the pressure of being in those positions. Can these guys, if you want to keep them, give you all NBA numbers like you are accustomed for them giving you for the amount of money that’s invested?
And then, it always comes down to this: You might want to move people, but somebody has got to want them. And then what are you getting back to add to what you want to keep? What’s coming back? What do you think you can get in free agency, and then what are you going to get in the draft? Does it fit the coaching staff; does it fit the style of play that Doc Rivers and his staff implement?
I think it’s going to be an interesting summer in Boston.
Q. Let’s say they are healthy but at 37 for Garnett and 36 for Pierce, are they simply too old to be relied on as the superstars anymore?
BROWN: Well, no one is too old if they are healthy and they still can give you that amount of minutes. The key now is who is going to back them up at the different positions. Can you come with a quality backup guy while you’re resting them?
Now, San Antonio has done that with Duncan. Duncan only plays 30 minutes during the season, 28 to 30 max. And then, naturally, at playoff time, he’s going to be rested because of the day in between games, so he’s going to give you now, hopefully, 38 to 40 minutes at a high number.
Now, last night we know that he had the flu, the stomach flu and that cut everything down. But that’s the key. Who do you have to back up; that when that person is out, that can fulfill the rebounding, the defense and then the points so that when they come back in that you don’t fall behind. That’s not an easy question, because the guys who fill in have got to be able to step up and get it done.
Q. If they pay Garnett and Pierce the big money, how do you have any money to sign somebody to back you up?
BROWN: That’s why you have a person in your management who is in charge of the cap and basically that’s his job, and he understands the cap and figures everything out. And then they say, this is what we want to do, and it’s going to cost us q amount of dollars over the cap.
And this year, with the cap jumping, because of the new tax dollars, now it’s ownership’s decision whether they want to pay the money that you could be over the cap in the penalty. Now, it’s all nice if all of this can go down and you still can bring them back and you still can get a formidable team at all of the different positions with good backups and stay under the cap.
Now, if you’re going over the cap, will management tolerate paying that kind of money; that’s the big question in a lot of teams that are up there in payroll.
Q. Curious if you were hiring a coach or building a team like Bobcats, would it make any significant difference whether you hired someone who had been an NBA head coach versus a veteran assistant.
BROWN: Depends upon who the assistant is. Now, when Chicago hired Tom, that was an incredible bonus. But Thibodeau had been a major force as an assistant coach running the defenses and the scouts and the video coordinators in the game plans in Boston and in Houston and in New York.
So you were getting an assistant who had been in the league over 20 years who had major responsibilities and then came in with the talent to be able to help the head coach in the teaching process and then the solidification of the defense, and then back it up with the teaching facility as you go on.
So when he got his opportunity, he was totally ready to be the head man with the type of offense that they wanted, and then also, because of his defensive background. That’s what you’re asking.
All assistant coaches are going to be different. They are going to come with different types of backgrounds. The background of the assistant and what they teach best, they have got to be able to sell you when they come for their interviews of their style of play.
And then they are going to have to back it up because when you take over a bad situation, and that coach comes in, it’s no player’s team because the team is a losing team. It’s the coach’s team and it’s the ownership’s team and you represent a city so the coaching staff takes over a bad situation and has got to come in with total discipline and then an offense and defense that will work with the people.
And when times get tough, all of the goals on a weekly basis and in a five‑game set at home and on the road, all of these things have got to have accountability.
So teaching in a bad situation, is not the same as the team taking over a team that is going to be in the playoffs. It’s a different type of structure. You’re looking for a different type of a guy.
Q. Just to follow up on one little thing, do you think that there is much of an advantage having been through the washing machine as a head coach before when you take over a new team the second time around?
BROWN: Taking over the same team the second time around?
Q. You’ve been a head coach in one situation, you’re not there anymore, you get hired by another team; in other words, the second time through the run, I wonder how much of an advantage having done it before is.
BROWN: Well, we ruled on that. Not everybody stays at the same place. Not everybody like in San Antonio where Popovich is like the president, general manager and coach in every ‑‑ you have every single title, okay. Not everybody gets that.
Everyone is going to come from a situation where he either walked away from; or, he was allowed to leave. Now, when that individual ‑‑ now when you look at and you evaluate why he left that position, was it his health, was it his win/loss record. Was it the fact that they were not ‑‑ the team did not reach its potential; did you like the style of play.
You see, because when you coach, you always have to understand, that when you’re at the pro level, you want to win. What the team also wants is for people to come and watch you play so the style of play has to entice the city to come and watch it play. It’s not just about, oh, boy, my guys are going to play hard every night. It’s not only about that. That’s taken for granted because the coaching staff is going to demand that.
But what you have to have is a style of play that the people enjoy coming to watch as they watch the old team develop from week‑to‑week as they go through the season. And then you’re selling the package. The coach has got to be able to bring that whether he’s coming as an assistant or whether he’s coming as a coach who has been in one job or two or three jobs; it doesn’t make a difference, if you pick them, you pick them for a reason.
Q. The Warriors are a franchise that have been mired in losing for the last two decades and they really seemed to change that losing culture under new ownership and a new regime ‑‑ and you were part of a similar turnaround in Memphis several years ago. So for a team like the Sacramento Kings that will be having new ownership come in one way or another, what do you feel are the keys to successfully changing the culture of a losing franchise?
BROWN: Well, it’s going to change by the coaching staff. It’s going to ‑‑ look, they have a lot of pieces there in Sacramento. You have a lot of talent and you also have a lot of depth of quite a few young players.
Now it comes down to whether or not the coaching staff is going to be able to take this theme to a whole new level mainly because the West is so difficult. The West is so difficult to take over a bad situation and improve it quickly. Now, you can’t come in here and say in professional sports today, I need four or five years to turn this program around.
Well, no one is going to wait four or five years. You have got to be able to come in here and say, look at this talent and then hope that you get a free agent or two and make a good draft pick because of where you’re going to be picking because of the bad record.
And when that happens, you’re going to add, hopefully, two or three new pieces to what you have and then when the coaching staff comes in, and they work these people and they see that the people do not fit.
Then it comes down to: will management look at their mistakes of the type of player that they drafted for the past staff; these players do not fit for the new staff. Will they look to package where they can and stay within the cap rules and trade people, even though they were high picks or people with big reputations, if you are going to move on?
See, that always happens when you take over bad teams. Some guys who might be cherished by upper management or ownership or people in the city have got to get off the train, because style of play, attitude, work habits, off‑court problems, these things prevent them from reaching their potential for the style that you’re bringing in.
And what you are trying to do with that style, all right, is once again, we have been talking about this on a number of questions here today, is the accountability factor, and the ones that cannot be accountable for what you’re bringing in here now, and what you’re going to run and whether you’re going to do changing defenses, whether you’re going to run a lot of sets and go back to continuity basketball, well, sometimes some players can’t do that and they have to get off the train because of their basketball IQ, not academic; their athletic basketball IQ does not fit what this present coaching staff is going to run. It’s not an easy thing to do. You just have to get lucky that you can pick the right staff to come in and do that.
Q. Give your thoughts on what’s happening over in Chicago regarding Derrick Rose, if as a coach there’s a way that you can encourage a player to play or a situation where you need to be as hands off as possible and let him make a decision.
BROWN: Because way back in the 70s, into the 80s, there were great lessons learned by coaches who tried to force great players to play. Everyone should have learned by that, because what happens is, a coach today and Tom Thibodeau is doing ‑‑ he’s coaching 100 percent correctly in how he is handling the Derrick Rose situation. Then it’s up to the doctors and then it’s up to the trainers and then it’s up to the workout guy. If all of them say that the player is ready to go, 100 percent, the next step is practice. Then the player practices.
At no time does the coach enter into this. And then, on a daily basis, when you work and you go to the player and you say, are you ready, and the player says, no, I am not; you move on. And that’s what I like to see, because Thibodeau has never used this as an excuse the entire season. He says: Next man up.
Isn’t it interesting how in Chicago, they honestly thought they were going to have Rose and Hamilton and the backcourt; and then they thought it was going to be Hinrich and Hamilton. Now all of a sudden they are in the second round of the playoffs and it’s Robinson and Belinelli, who basically are third people. And it’s because: Next man up.
And it’s interesting how when you have an excellent coaching staff and a terrific way of coaching offense and defense, but this is one of the best coaching staffs in the league. They never use injuries as an excuse.
And during the course of the year it’s been beautiful to watch for other coaches at all levels of play of how you should handle situations like this, because you never want to allow yourself or your doctors or anyone else to force a player to play and then the player becomes seriously injured and then the team, meaning ownership, the doctors, the trainers, the workout guys, and the coaches will force the player to play; you’re open to incredible lawsuit; never mind, they will collect the money if they have a long‑term deal. It comes down to: the player has to tell you when he’s ready and when he’s ready play him.