At SI.com, Ian Thomsen debunks a few myths about the NBA, along with a few tidbits that should be of interest to Bruin fans.
I've said earlier that the whole "There is no defense in the NBA" meme is way overblown. Well Thomsen agrees, and he adds this:
"They don't play defense in the NBA.'' Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "That's one you always hear, and then the [college] players get up here and realize they didn't play defense there [in college].''
If I may paraphrase, Rivers is saying that the defense is far more sophisticated and demanding in the NBA. I asked Heat rookie point guard Mario Chalmers, MVP of last year's Final Four, how many defensive schemes he learned in college. "We had four or five defenses at Kansas,'' he said in Boston this week.
How many defenses are schemed by the Heat? "I don't know,'' said Chalmers, who called across the locker room to Miami assistant coach Ron Rothstein. "Coach, how many defenses do we run?''
Rothstein wasn't quite sure how to answer. "We defend for the pick-and-roll,'' he said, "for isolation, for the catch-and-shoot, for the single screen, for the double screen, for the side pick-and-roll ...'' He went on and on.
"You're talking about more than a dozen defenses,'' Chalmers said.
Said Rothstein: "The NBA is about defensive situations. You have a way you operate, and then you go from there. Depending on the team you're playing, you make changes.''
Here's the thing. Defense isn't spotlighted, and it is surely less likely to land you a big contract as offensive brilliance. But you have to play it, and play at an adequate level to hang with the quickness and strength of NBA players. It is worth noting for the recruits out there that Coach Ben Howland is widely regarded as one of the best defensive coaches in the country. It's about fundamentals, and that's a head start on the rest of the rookies when you have to learn the intricacies of the dozen or so defensive schemes mentioned above, which translates into more playing time - more time to showcase your skills. Trust in Ben Howland guys, he knows how to get you to the next level.
Also of note:
"NBA players don't care.'' It's true that many of them are selfish at the expense of the team. But you'll find this to be true in the NCAA as well.
In another sense, NBA players have never cared more about their careers. Because there is so much money at stake, they train year-round and practice more often than players of previous generations.
I can tell you that it drives college coaches crazy when their players leave the program to undertake a 24/7 workout and diet regimen in preparation for the NBA draft. Kevin Love transformed his body after last year's NCAA tournament to improve his stock for NBA talent evaluators. Don't you think UCLA coach Ben Howland would have appreciated that commitment on behalf of the college program?
I do think this is a little unfair to Kevin, as you can ask any college student how easy it is to get into that kind of shape while trying to handle the class load (and subsequently stay academically eligible). It is nice to get the recognition of our program though.
And last but not least, some people may find this to be the most important blurb of all under "2 Collegians with Something to Prove":
Jrue Holiday, freshman guard, UCLA. "From what I know, his plan was to be one and done -- one year in college and then into the draft. But he has regressed this year to the point you say, 'This is not the guy I know.' He just hasn't made shots and now it's in his head. You know a guy has lost all confidence when they pass him the ball because he's open from 17 feet, but he doesn't shoot it -- he takes one dribble to take a 16-footer that's contested because he thinks the closer he gets the easier the shot will be.
"I have him rated [as a draft pick] in the 20s, where earlier this year I had him going nine to 14."
(Holiday had 13 points and six assists and made 5-of-12 from the field in the Bruins' 65-64 victory against VCU in the first round Thursday night.)
I'd argue this isn't the best assessment of his abilities, but these are the words of an NBA scout, so who am I to say otherwise really. I think it's certain he'll enter the draft so that he can go and do the workouts and get the feedback. What is uncertain is whether he'll pull his name out after the fact. I personally think he can do a lot better than the 20s. I think a year at PG running the show for a high profile program like UCLA where he can play his projected position would be a fantastic plan if he doesn't get the answers he wants to hear from the scouts.