O. INTO THE MYSTIC (154)

In the mid 1960’S I was a small college assistant basketball coach. I suggested to my veteran head coach that a lot of teams were playing a “match up zone”. His reply was,”…Clair Bee wrote the book on basketball. Nothing has changed.” Only later while watching our film did I realize, “He is only filming the offensive end!”
As a fan watching today there is a lot of coach Bee’s weave and cut in modern basketball. Lot of defense too.
The obvious paradigm for all basketball people in the 50’s, 6o’s, and 70’s was the Boston Celtics. Auerbach-the coach. Russell-defense,rebounding, team. Cousy- ball handling. Sharman-free throw shooting. Sam Jones-clutch shooting. Frank Ramsey and Havlicek–the value of the sixth man.
In 1954 the Atlantic Coast Conference was formed. I was 14. Why were the coaches going north for players? It didn’t take long to realize these guys played harder, played defense, and played a full court press that we didn’t, nor did we know how to handle a lot of pressure.
Here are some more awakenings:
1957–We could be as good as anybody (1957 Tar Heels). Plus Lennie could shoot.
We could learn how to handle the ball. The first basketball summer camp was at Campbell College and Petey Maravich was our magician. Made a widespread film of him and his practice drills.
Boom! Then the BIG one: Integration. At the Carolinas Conference level our”first” was Henry Logan. Henry was our “Michael before Michael”. The game has never been the same.
I saw an interview of Isaiah Thomas when the question was asked about the great year he was having and was he the league MVP? Reply? Yeah, but have you seen what Michael be doing out there?
When all kinds of youngsters began playing with their tongues hanging out, a la Jordan, Michael explained it was a “mannerism” he simply adopted from his father, as he watched his dad work on his car.
My guess is we are about to see a whole lot of kids playing basketball while chewing a mouthpiece.
Whether anyone soon will be able to shoot from bleachers, sometimes without seeming to look, I don’t know. But Stephen is the new, new thing. And they will try. Buddy Hield of Oklahoma is the first to show a similar technique and ability. Up to this point, Curry is the best shooter I have ever seen.
There is a lot more, and to be fair, some of it is old-time fundamental stuff. While a great player can have a “man on horseback” effect on a team, this is not the case with Stephen and the Warriors. Maybe his greatest contribution has been the offseason work that developed the left hand skills (dribbling and passing and catching) that enables his teammates so often. Young players should never neglect passing and catching skills. Pros are great at these skills. Strategy also related that is time-honored: 1. pick and roll. Double teammed? Hit the open man. Curry is a master at this. Can he see better than most? Surely. At an almost “mystical” level. The Warriors as a team are similarly masterful at catching his assists. And they DO BLOCK OUT.
I wrote a tennis article yesterday about how today’s greats (Djokavic and Murray) have realized the value of dropshots. And are using them as Jack Kramer advised (“the fundamental strategy of tennis singles is to find out what your opponent can’t do or doesn’t like to do, and make them do that!”) Nobody likes being made looking silly trying to run down a great drop shot. And, as of now, not many can. They better learn. It’s is only getting more useful.
Maybe this is Curry’s greatest value. It seems obvious that in the final game of 2015 the Cavaliers threw up their hands in frustration. Didn’t the same thing happen to Oklahoma in the seventh game this year? And to the 2016 Cavaliers in the first two games? How does this guy leave teams and players this good (and they ARE very good), standing around in the fourth quarter with a look of puzzlement and blame shifting on their stunned faces? Is it mystical, or fundamental basketball?
Me thinks it is some of both.

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