NBA Christmas Day on ABC and ESPN Media Call Transcript

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NBA Christmas Day on ABC and ESPN Media Call Transcript

Earlier today, ABC and ESPN NBA analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Hubie Brown discussed key NBA on Christmas Day storylines on a conference call with members of the media. Brown will join Mike Breen and Lisa Salters to provide commentary for the first game of ABC’s Christmas Day doubleheader — Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks – at 2:30 p.m. ET. Van Gundy will provide analysis alongside Mike Tirico and Heather Cox for ABC’s second Christmas Day game – the Miami Heat at the Los Angeles Lakers – at 5 p.m. NBA Countdown precedes the doubleheader at 2 p.m. on ABC.

ESPN’s NBA Christmas Day action will tip off at 12 p.m. when the Brooklyn Nets host the Chicago Bulls. ESPN will also televise a prime-time doubleheader with the San Antonio Spurs hosting the Houston Rockets at 8 p.m., followed by the Golden State Warriors hosting the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m.

Here is the replay of today’s conference call.

Q. I have a question about Atlantic Division, more specifically the Celtics, in terms of the direction. Obviously they’re doing better than expected, not great, 12‑15, but how do you play this thing out in terms of when Rondo comes back and the push for the playoffs?  Do you let the guys play?  Also wanted to get your impression of Brad Stevens through his first 27 games in terms of coming from the college ranks?

HUBIE BROWN:  Well, as you step back from it all, I really like what they’re doing by playing the younger players on their starting unit.  I thought having the older guys in the exhibition held them back a little bit starting out.  I like what you have with Green, Sullinger, and then Bass up front, and also with your second unit.  Now that Olynyk is back, I think that solidifies five very young, talented guys that you have at 4 and 5.

Then the development of Crawford at the point guard position is a major bonus where he’s getting close to six assists a game.  Also, when Rondo comes back you’ll be able to have a good, solid, three‑man rotation there if everybody stays in tact with Bradley off the ball and with Crawford and Rondo.

So I would say that they’re doing a very good job.  They have some excellent wins on the road at Miami and at Atlanta.  So I think you have to be encouraged with what you’re seeing now.  At home they’re starting to play the tougher teams that they have to beat in close games.

JEFF VAN GUNDY:  For me, I didn’t think they had, with Rondo, out a chance of being this competitive right off the bat.  But like Hubie said, they’ve gotten some excellent play.  I think Brad Stevens is just an outstanding basketball coach with a great demeanor.  I think he’s assembled such a quality staff that they’re tremendously coached right off the bat.  And I think that’s been a huge help in the development and patience of their younger players.

Q. What was your take on the Mike Woodson failure to call that timeout?  Is there any blame on the players in that situation or what did you make of what transpired and how much heat Mike has taken for it? 

BROWN:  Well, the first thing is, you have to know what was covered in the huddle.  In the huddle, if it was covered that you still had the timeouts available and the fouls to give and you were doing those things, then it comes down to the player.  Now if the player, then with his 6.5 seconds to go, ignores what was discussed in the huddle, well, then you get what you received in that situation with the long shot, and a few dribbles over half court.

But you and I have no idea what was covered in that huddle, so consequently who are we to blame anyone other than the fact that it happened.

VAN GUNDY:  What Coach is talking about, these are things that you have discussed and practiced from the time you started training camp – all these late‑game situations.  I don’t think there is a right way or a wrong way either to call it or not to call it. But there should be and I’m sure there is a philosophy about how you want to handle those situations.

But certainly if you’re going to play off the make and not take a timeout, Carmelo Anthony has to catch it a little higher up the court and he has to push the ball up the court with a lot more urgency.  The thing that really irritated me was even if somebody had the opinion that it was a mistake, to then go from it being a mistake to “a fireable offense” is ludicrous.  You don’t cut a player or trade a player because they make a mistake under pressure in an NBA game; nor should there be an overreaction if there was a coaching mistake made.

I think right now everybody has their sights set on what Mike Woodson needs to do better, but what really needs to happen is they need to get their roster intact.  When they’re healthy, they need to play a lot better.

Q. One more question for Jeff not related to the Knicks.  What do you foresee in your future as a coach – maybe next year or the year after?  What is your goal with the head coaching situation for you to get back into it? 

VAN GUNDY:  You know, I don’t really think like that.  I just think about what I’m doing today.  I had three breakfast tacos, I’m going to the Rice game at 11:30 and I’m doing a Christmas game.  I don’t think too far ahead.  There are some aspects of coaching I miss.  The competition, the camaraderie with the coaching staff, but I enjoy what I do very much right now.

Q. The Lakers are often a choice to play on Christmas Day, but in their current state not many are expecting them to even make the playoffs.  Is there any benefit for the Lakers to have this kind of national exposure or is it better for them to stay under the radar as much as possible? 

BROWN:  Well, if it’s on the schedule, they’re going to show up.  But any time a team plays on the Christmas schedule, teams have an opportunity to display their talent – whoever is suiting up for you.  It just seems that teams play, even though they might not be playing to a high, one‑loss record, they will play to their maximum potential because of the audience that is expected to watch the games on Christmas.

Now right now, you’re hoping that by game time maybe that Farmar would be back to help you out with the injury situation.

Unfortunately, with Nash and with Blake also out, it makes it difficult for the chemistry in regards to Kobe Bryant playing the point guard position, and then also your starting players who should be back‑up players.  You’d like to see that your team would be healthy – unfortunately, it’s not.  But the guys that will show up will play and they’ll play to their maximum potential, and that’s what you’re looking at.

Also, with the competition being Miami, LeBron James and Wade and company, well, naturally that adds to the flavor of the game.

VAN GUNDY:  I would just add that I think the Lakers have really maxed out their win total based on the talent at hand and their injury situation.  It’s devastating when you don’t have any of your top three point guards.  I thought Farmar and Blake were playing very good basketball before their injuries.  It’s really a heavy burden coming back from such a major injury.  But the Lakers play with such great offensive energy.  They shoot the three, which if you’re rolling with the three, you can stay in the game with anybody.  That is what you have to try to exploit with Miami against their aggressive pick‑and‑roll coverage. Space the floor, move the ball and try to knock in some threes.

Like Coach said, I expect them to come out and play really hard and well.  Whether it’s good enough, that remains to be seen.  Miami would have to not play as well for the Lakers to beat them.

Q. Just wanted to get both of your thoughts on the job that Terry Stotts has done in Portland.  Things obviously didn’t go his way in Atlanta and Milwaukee.  But wondering if this is exhibit A for a coach – really kind of being able to realize his potential when he’s getting in a spot with the players that fit what he’s trying to do and with a great support structure that he seems to have with Neil Olshey in the front office?

BROWN:  Well, in my opinion, Terry Stotts is doing a magnificent job.  Not only because they’re 22‑5, but because they’re 12‑3 on the road.  Now that takes a lot.  That has to be a combination of coaching staff, game plans, total preparation and then your offense and defense with the players getting the total chemistry that has to be done.

Now we really like – I like – their front line with the addition of Lopez because it has made Aldridge’s job a little easier, And right now he’s one of four guys that are doing 20‑plus points and 10‑plus rebounds.  Last year we had zero guys do that.  This year we have four.  So off and running, Aldridge is doing a good job.

Their starting unit, I think Lillard is really developing into an outstanding player.  Not only are the assists there, but he can break you down with the shot clock down — that is so important — and get a high percentage shot.  He’s also shooting the three‑ball well.  Then, with the second unit by picking up Mo Williams, I think that’s kind of helped that group of players play with a lot more consistency.  I like the bench now and the starting unit.  But give the coaching staff a lot of credit because the style of play is perfect for the type of talent that you have and then give them a major bonus because of their road record up until today.

VAN GUNDY:  I would agree.  First of all, I thought Terry Stotts, both in Atlanta and in Milwaukee, did a great job.  He just didn’t have winning NBA talent.  Oftentimes, when you get your first jobs in this league, you don’t have talented-enough teams that can consistently win.  Last year, I thought they played very well.  You look at the end of their season where, I think, they lost 13 or 14 straight basically because they were trying to get into the lottery or they were trying to get as many ping‑pong balls as they could.  Once it was established that they weren’t going to win or make the playoffs.  I think their record was deceiving.  I love two things about their starting unit.  I love their offensive chemistry that they play with.  They play with great rhythm and flow.  I think Terry has done a masterful job with their offense.

Then, secondly, I love the role acceptance that their starting unit plays with.  Everybody knows the ball is going to go to Aldridge, Willard in pick‑and‑rolls; Lopez does his job of screening and rebounding.  Then the two wing players play both ends of the floor.

I’m a huge fan of Wes Matthews.  I think he is so underrated and undervalued around the league.  But I think he’s had a huge impact on the tenacity of their team and the versatility of their team offensively.

Q. When you look at the Lakers situation, how would you weigh the positives of them securing Kobe Bryant with a two‑year extension and showing the appreciation of what he’s done over the years, versus the negative that his extension allows them to get one more max level free agent the next two years instead of two? 

BROWN:  Well, first of all, as an outsider, I’m not working with their cap, and I’m not a member of their management.  I’m just happy that Kobe Bryant accepted the extension.  It will now depend upon what they’re going to do with Gasol, and where they’re going to end up in the season if they’re out of the playoffs and in the lottery. Because then I think, and I’m not privy to exactly the money that will be available, but I do believe you can keep Gasol.

I do believe that you could get one extra player.  If you didn’t make the playoffs and you got in the lottery and got lucky, you could pick up another player.

Now we know there are other manipulations and trades that you can possibly get due to the fact that you are playing so many young players and you’re developing value there for a combination that could possibly bring you something else.  So you never discount what can happen here in the development of young players because of the fact that so many of them are getting major minutes for you right now.

The major problem is that you don’t have enough size – once you go size with talent – once you go beyond Gasol and Hill right now.  Then you have to hope, like Jeff brought out, the fact that Blake and Farmar were playing so well, and then also the Nash situation.  Does Nash at the end of the year also go into amnesty and then you pick up the money?  Well, that we don’t know because we do not know what Nash’s situation is.

VAN GUNDY:  Yeah, and to me, one thing I’ve learned is that the Lakers have a history and Mitch Kupchak has a history of making tremendous moves to reenergize their team and bolster their talent.  When O’Neal left and Kobe Bryant was in his prime, they were stuck for a bit of time at that 42‑win type team, and then they made the incredible trade for Pau Gasol.  So I never discount the Lakers ability when they are in need of injecting more talent into their roster, because they have a history of making the right moves.  It will be interesting to see what their next move is.

Q. Under the current CBA, how realistic is it for teams in the future to adopt what Miami did having the so‑called big three on their roster? 

VAN GUNDY:  Well, I think they can have a big three, it’s just how many owners are willing to go into luxury tax and pay the penalties?  The profit margins of these owners in the bigger markets are that they make a ton of profit.  How many of them are willing to reinvest in their teams?  That is the question.  The Lakers, again, have always proven that they’ll pay for elite-level talent.

BROWN:  It always comes back to how much money do you have, not only with the sales of your tickets but your television revenue and whether or not you want to go over the cap, because now with the new formula of the cap moving by the percentage of the dollar going up each year it justifies being a little bit conservative because it can get out of hand quickly.  So that’s a management decision.  The ownership has got to come back and say we owe the people of Los Angeles, because of our television deal and our past history, that we are going to go above the cap.  Then when you go above the cap it quickly multiplies now with the new formula.

Q. Jeff, ever since you got into broadcasting, when a coaching job comes up, your name gets put out there in the media.  The last time the Bulls played the Knicks in The Garden, there was speculation you were going to do the game.  You didn’t do it because you didn’t want to be a distraction.  Can you just clear that up?

VAN GUNDY:  Well, nothing.  That sort of got ramped up a little too much.  I think it was maybe 10 to 12 days before – I’m not sure about the exact timing – I got switched off the game.  I don’t think there was any specific reason.  I’ve had two or three games changed this year on my schedule.  So I didn’t give it much thought.  But I was happy when I saw the game before or maybe it was two games before when my name was brought out.  I was glad the change was made because I really didn’t think it was ‑‑ I’ve coached in that market, as has Coach Brown, and people start talking about your job, and I’ve been hung on the back page of the New York Post, with the Van Gone back page and Back Up the Van and all that stuff, so I know how painful that stuff can be for a coach going through the speculation.

I was glad, whether it was coincidental or not by whoever makes the schedule for ESPN, that 10 or 12 days before I got switched off that game.  It’s not unusual for that to happen, but I was thankful for it when I saw the circumstances.

Q. You guys have been doing this for a long time.  I was wondering if you’d like to see the NBA have more flexibility in their national TV schedule?  You get a team that’s going to be on a lot and they don’t pan out that well.  Would you like to see that be able to be switched on a little bit of a shorter notice? 

BROWN:  Well, we do that.  But I know you’re looking and saying, well, it happens in March and in April as we are making a push for the different slots in the playoffs.  There is no doubt about that.  I guess we have the liberty to do that.  But I do not know what the rules are with the league and with television of how many times we can do that.

I don’t know if they’d ever change Christmas, because Christmas is advertised right from the beginning and the tickets are sold because of who is playing and it’s so close to the beginning of the year.  I don’t know if that could be rectified.

VAN GUNDY:  Yeah, I think there are some limitations on how many times a certain team can be shown.  But certainly like football has the ability to flex out of games, it would be great to have that ability.  I think certainly it should be looked at to make it more flexible for ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV.

But like Hubie said, Christmas is tough because every game is televised.  Those things are done way ahead of time.  You just hope for the best match‑ups.  Unfortunately, the Derrick Rose injury puts Chicago in a tough spot. Brooklyn and New York have not played particularly well, so there are some.  But I still think people will watch.  It’s Christmas Day, and people still care deeply about the Bulls and about the Knicks, even though they haven’t played particularly well of late.

Q. Have the Clippers made a national impact or inroads?  Will they ever have the impact in L.A. and Southern California that the Lakers do? 

BROWN:  I think when you look at what they’re doing right now, they have the fourth best record in the West.  Also, they’re one of three teams in the West that have played 15 road games already.  So if you wanted them to be better right now, you have to look at the fact that they played 15 road games so they have an opportunity to make up a plus three at home.

So as far as when you say you’re all-NBA performers in Griffin and in Paul, you get that notoriety.  Then now that you have Doc Rivers, you get the coaching notoriety.  Then it’s going to come down to where you position yourself at playoff time.  Can you get home court advantage?  And can you disrupt and get to the Western Conference Finals and hopefully into the Finals?

Naturally, when you say the Los Angeles Lakers, people just want to talk about how many championships have been won, how many Hall of Fame players are there, and the banners in the building.  So that is tradition.  Right now you’re on the wave where you’re making headway, and I would say that the only thing that you have to do, you have to wait.  It’s time.

Can they continue to perform at a high level, get home court advantage, and then do damage in the playoffs?  Up until now they’ve not been able to move to get close to that Western Conference Final.  Until you do that, you’re not going to eliminate the mystique of the Los Angeles Lakers.

But, look, I give them a ton of credit because they sell out the building now.  Because we forget, it wasn’t so long ago that the building was never sold out.  Now the consistency is there.  The fan base is there.  All right.  The television ratings are up.  So let’s see them now progress with wins, and then also at playoff time.

VAN GUNDY:  I love the Clippers crowd.  I love doing Clippers games.  I think the enthusiasm, because the winning is still new with the Clippers, there is just a different vibe.

The Western Conference is tough. You can have a great team and lose in the first round this year.  Think about it, the Top 5 seeds, if it stays the same, the Clippers will play Houston in the first round.  Some excellent basketball team would lose in the first round of the playoffs.

I think the Clippers have a chance to really do damage in the playoffs. I love DeAndre Jordan playing more minutes and playing effectively.  I think he should be one of the dominant defensive centers and rebounding centers in the league.  They need to get healthy. They need to see what they think they need to add to.  And I think Doc Rivers being in charge of both the team and personnel, you’re going to see a very tight‑knit organization going forward.  They’ve got a great chance with the building blocks of Paul and Griffin to continue to improve and evolve into a championship-caliber team.

Q. I wanted to ask how you think Doc Rivers has done so far as their coach, and what he brings to their situation? 

BROWN:  Well, he brings respect.  When a coach walks in the room, the respect factor has to be there.  It’s the image.  He brings a resume.  He brings a resume of current winning, also a championship.  He’s going to make the players totally accountable.  Then when that happens, they understand on a nightly basis that they’re going to have to give their best effort or their time is going to be taken away from them.

So I like what they’ve done.  Jeff made an excellent point with Jordan.  I’m happy to see that he’s getting the major minutes now in that fourth quarter for his confidence because the stats that he was putting up in the limited amount of time were pretty eye-opening.  The defensive opportunity for him is there to make a heavy contribution.

But, Doc Rivers is going to give you a style of play.  He’s excellent after timeouts – coming out of timeouts with either defensive or offensive sets that give you good looks at the basket.  He’s going to force a defensive effort from you as a team.  I think you’re already seeing that.

The major thing for them is, as a team, their key guys have got to stay healthy.  Then also Doc has got to get the second unit to give them somewhat the same type of production that they had a year ago where their bench was one of the best in the league.

Now once they develop that, the total program will be set, but it’s still only December.  You’re only into the season two months, and you have to give the coaching staff a year or so to get this all in place and for everyone to accept the roles.

VAN GUNDY:  I want to second that.  I think Vinny Del Negro did a great job in building that team up to where they played – they had a great, great year last year, a 17‑game winning streak.  I mean, they just had a great year.  Unfortunately, they met another very good team because it’s the Western Conference in the first round and lost to Memphis in a hard‑fought series.

Now Doc comes in and they made a major trade with Bledsoe going to Phoenix, and J.J. Redick, and Dudley coming into the Clippers.  Redick was off to a good start, gets hurt, so now they’re trying to figure out who is going to be that starting two‑guard, so Crawford is now starting.  As Hubie said, that’s weakened their bench.  Now Matt Barnes is out as well.

They’ve had some injury situations, a very difficult schedule.  But I think they’re playing very well.  Is it perfect?  No.  Are they an outstanding team?  Yes, they are.  They have a great coach.  There is going to be no in‑fighting in that organization, because he’s in charge from top to bottom.  He’s a tremendous leader.  And Hubie accentuated his great strengths in leadership and after timeouts – things that are very, very true.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your background with Steve Clifford.  Cliff mentioned to me one thing he got from you and Stan and Tibbs is to go slow in installation.  The first seven weeks they played fairly vanilla defense, but they executed it very well, and he’s starting to do things a little more exotic now.  From your experience, when can you start branching out and doing things that are a little more daring with a young team?  The other question I had for you is as odd as the circumstances are in the Eastern Conference, with a young team like this, what kind of long‑term value would there be in the Bobcats making the playoffs? 

VAN GUNDY:  First of all, I couldn’t be happier for Steve Clifford.  He’s everything you want in a coach and in a person.  You’re not going to meet a finer person.

I think how much you give to your team, and I think Coach Brown would agree, depends on their basketball IQ and their readiness.  You’ve got to try to keep things as simple as you can without being too simple.  You have to have defensive plans for the best players in this league that can’t be guarded with just one guy.

You can’t try to do so many things that there’s confusion.  The more players are thinking, the slower their feet get.  I watch most every Bobcat game.  What I see is a tremendously committed team who just doesn’t have as much offensive weaponry to be a big‑time winner yet.

But their effort defensively, their attention to detail, their defensive discipline, their offensive execution up until they take the shot – because they’re not a good range shooting team – I think they’ve improved light years.  I think it’s very important to those teams to win, to get into the playoffs.  To feel the difference between regular season and playoffs and to get some of their belief back.  Because a lot of those guys have been beaten down with all the losing.

Just because you get a lottery pick doesn’t mean you’re going to get a star.  They’ve had high picks beyond Biyombo, Gilchrist, Walker, Zeller.  There are no guarantees when you get those picks that they’re going to be stars.  So I think it’s important that they win.  I love Kemba Walker’s competitive spirit.  Like the play they ran after the timeout last night after missing four straight free throws, to get a great look at the basket when you only have one second on the game clock and then Walker knocked it in. I think they should be focused on winning and making the playoffs.

I think that’s why they’re going to make the playoffs because they want ‑‑ I think they want to – where a lot of other teams in the Eastern Conference are just as content on days they lose as the days they win.

Q. In the long run, with a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, what do you garner going forward from having experienced the playoffs? 

VAN GUNDY:  Well, I think you see organizationally and player‑wise what you really have and what you really need, because the differences between teams that are lottery teams and teams that make the playoffs, there are stark differences.  But the real differences become between the playoff qualifiers and the royal championship caliber type teams.  And you see firsthand what you need to get to where you want to go.

I think there is great, great value in winning and building a winning culture, particularly after you’ve been beaten down for so many years of losing.

Also, to try to get the fan base back.  When they were the Hornets, back when they came in, I mean, that fan base was rabid, even with all the losing.  They were there every night and they loved their Hornets.  Something has happened.  Many nights you look out and there is no one there.  It is a very empty place.

But when they were playing the Lakers, the building was alive because it was a great product that night.  The game was competitive, and it was hard‑fought.  So you’ve got to win to try to bring your fan base back too and get some sort of home-court advantage.

Q. When you talk to a lot of “old school coaches” there is some uncomfortability with the move towards analytics.  Wondered what your view was on how those two aspects can sort of get along? 

BROWN:  I think everything keeps coming down to the fact that you’re dealing with five people on a string out on the floor.  It’s not like baseball where the analytics – you can go and take all that analysis and go down to balls and strikes, pitchers, all that kind of stuff ‑‑ but in basketball, it’s an individual, right, and the guy is not in a chemistry‑type of movement on every single possession.  So all of us that have been in the coaching profession a long period of time, we have used statistics.  It depends upon how the coaching staff took – and how far they were taking – all types of statistics.

Now you never want to say this is all new because it’s not all new.  It’s just people taking things to a different level.  Can that now relate every night to the five‑guys who are dealing with the chemistry out on the floor?  In my opinion, I like to think that what a lot of coaches have been using in the past that relied on statistics from shooting percentages and then breaking down shots per quarter and also by plays, what you were doing statistically by plays and then also your three best players getting X‑amount of shots on each unit, your first unit and second unit.  You know, there were all kinds of assists being used.  It isn’t like all of this is something new to the game.

VAN GUNDY:  I worked for a year with and for basically the Godfather of NBA analytics in Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets.  I liked his approach in that he didn’t think all of the answers were in the numbers.  He realized, I think, that there was some art to the job of coaching and it wasn’t just a number-based approach.  But I found the numbers that he presented to make you really self‑evaluate.

Let’s say they brought up a scenario, and the numbers said you should obviously do something, and your philosophy was something else. It made you sit there and analyze why you believed what you believed.  I think that’s good.  Now whether you changed your philosophy or not, that’s really secondary.  But it did make you think.

I think the one danger is when management people feel they know more about coaching than coaches who have done this for a long time.  There is a difference between helpful suggestions and overbearing pushing of an agenda.

I think in some organizations like the Rockets, they find the right balance.  In other organizations, I think they’ve made very silly moves based on a coach having a strong personality and a strong set of beliefs.  So it truly comes down to having a respect for knowing what you don’t know, and coaches being open to some numbers, but management also being open to that.  There is more to coaching and more to getting guys to maximize their potential than just giving them a spreadsheet of numbers.

Q. With the rate of successful and talented coaches that have struggled in the NBA game, could you both touch on the early success, and I know it’s early, of Brad Stevens in Boston? 

BROWN:  Well, one thing is that Brad Stevens, Jeff brought it up earlier, he has an excellent presence.  He has a terrific personality for being a teacher and a leader.  Then he has surrounded himself with a nice, solid coaching staff where everyone is on the same page.  Then, anytime that you’re in coaching, you have to understand the difference in high school and in college – you always get all the credit for the wins as the coach.  The players have lost every game at that level.  When you come to the NBA, professional sports, the players win every game, and you, the coaching staff, lose every game.  You have to understand that.  If you don’t understand that, you’re going to have a difficult time.

Now he and his staff have a team right now that is not tremendously talented, but they play hard every night.  They play to their potential on most nights.  They are doing an excellent job.  When you look at them leading ‑‑ you say well, they don’t have a winning record right now, but they are moving towards that, and they have come up with some great wins as of late.

I’ve done two games up there, and the people appreciate the effort that the team is putting out there, and they have experimented with their starting and back‑up players.  Then when Rondo comes back, another adjustment will be made, and then hopefully because it’s wide open for positions 3 through 8 in the playoffs, that they can maintain this improvement from week to week.  This is a very young team up there, and a very young coaching staff.  So they’re learning from game to game, week to week, and month to month.

I expect them to make a really solid move once we get into February in the All‑Star Game from here to the end of the year, because I just feel that they are in the same boat.  Everybody is on the same bus, on the same train because that coaching staff has a good rapport with their players.

VAN GUNDY:  Yeah, and for me, I’ve always rejected the notion that college coaches can’t make the transition.  The single biggest factor usually is that they take over a bad team.  So Cotton Fitzsimmons came from college.  John MacLeod, came from college.  These guys were incredible winners in college.  Everyone talks about Rick Pitino couldn’t make the adjustment.  Hello, did anyone watch his New York Knicks teams win the Atlantic division and bring the three‑point shot into the weapon it was?

So this idea that college coaches are overmatched, I think it’s more a fact of what team you take over; how much your organization is supporting you.  You see, what Brad was able to do was, and what Danny Ainge did was he picked Brad.  Not only did he pick him, he didn’t hedge his bets and say, okay, yeah, we want you because we think you’re great.  But we’re going to give you a contract of two years and an option.  So the first time it gets rough here, we’ll have the ability to cut bait and move on to somebody else we can blame.

No, he went all‑in on Brad and give ownership great credit for giving him the six‑year deal that let everybody in the organization and the players know this is our coach.  If there is a problem, you will be going, not him.  We’re all in behind Brad Stevens.  Then you couple that support with Brad’s basketball acumen, his personality, his staff selection and the players doing a great job of giving maximum effort.  You’ve had a very, very successful run so far.

Q. With your wealth of knowledge in the NBA over three decades, can you just touch on the evolution of the game?  What’s been enhanced during your time?  What you missed the most?  I’m really interested in hearing your insight. 

BROWN:  Well, I think that at one time the game was played at rim level.  But today we are playing at the top of the box which is 11‑feet off the floor.  So everything now is incredible athleticism – the speed, size, and quickness of the player –that when the good teams play, they shorten the width of the court and also the half court situation from sideline to sideline, baseline to half court, because the defenses are so quick and they can trap and rotate and move and cover a great deal of ground.

When people say that shooting today is not as great as it was, they should go back and look at the top 50 guys, who ever played the game, and look at the shooting percentages of the perimeter people, meaning small forwards and the guard situation.  Look at the shooting percentages back then of people that they thought were great shooters, and then compare them with the great shooters of today. It’s no contest.

The great shooters of today shoot a much higher percentage.  Naturally, the three ball didn’t come in until the mid‑80s, but before that, the shooting percentages, the foul shooting, et cetera.  A lot of that has changed tremendously for the good because of the athlete.

But also what we miss is the continuity.  If you coached in the ’70s, and ’80s, you missed the continuity of plays.  You missed the different types of sets, the different types of sets that teams would use and then offer those sets different options to counter what the defenses are doing.  Because when people say what do you think of today’s basketball, I just say to them, take the pick‑and‑roll, pick‑and‑pop out of today’s basketball, what are we seeing?  I think you would say, well, we’re not seeing the same amount of plays, and so forth.  That is something that I miss.  I miss the beauty of the ball movement, the balancing and spacing of the half court, the distribution of shots for three key players.  Then I liked the fact of getting to the foul line was primary, getting into the painted area was primary, and also high percentage shots for your great players.

Sometimes we don’t see that night‑in and night‑out because of the lack of the continuity of plays.

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