Guess the basketball season starts on Thursday night when UCLA takes on Westmont College at Pauley (7:30 pm PST on "BruinTV" which I guess is some kind of pain online streaming service). Westmont is an NAIA school. Last year the Bruins started the exhibition season against another NAIA program - Concordia - when they needed a pathetic buzzer beater from MAH to win the game (setting an ominous tone for rest of the season).
Not sure how much we can really make out of Thursday night's game (we will put up an open thread for it). It is going to be interesting to see who Howland starts at PG though. Right now he is not naming his starting PG. During this week's press conference when he was asked about it he noted that we are going to "find out" on Thursday. He didn't answer the question whether the time split between Jerime Anderson and Lazeric Jones will be 50-50. WATCH (thanks Jon for the video):
Howland also said our "defense is lot to be desired." Apparently in this week's practice apparently the guys shot 64% against each other. Interestingly Ben Howland singled out Tyler Lamb later during the press conference for doing a "very good job" defensively (who needs to work on his "jump shots").
He mentioned that Zeke Jones is "further ahead" than any high school freshman pg. He also praised him for being "tough" and not turning the ball over. Zeke apparently needs to work on ball screens and making better decisions in terms of generating the offense. Watch the video to form your own impression. Other tidbits from Gold include:
* I asked several players if the new transition offense was just a wrinkle Howland is trying to incorporate, or if the identity is changing to more of a fast-paced game, and the consensus was that this is a new identity. I'll believe it when I see it.
* Josh Smith did say, however, that at one point during a recent practice, Howland said, "You can't take the ball out of the basket fast enough." That's surprising.
Also from the OC Register on the chatter re. UCLA playing "fast":
"We've all wanted to play (fast)," Honeycutt said. "A lot of people have criticized that we're too slow. I doubt they'll say that we're too slow (now). If anything they'll say we're too fast."
Honestly, I find all the chatter about speeding up our offensive pace a little amusing. It is definitely helpful in terms of pushing a narrative through the tradmed (populated by morons who never understood or appreciated the fact that Howland has always prodded his guys to PUSH THE TEMPO TRIGGERED BY DEFENSE). However, I sure hope the regular members of this community, who have been here since the very first days of Ben Ball infatuation - starting in 05-06 (before Gonzaga bandwagon took effect) - appreciate the fact that Ben Ball has always been about getting fast breaks from defensive stops.
We got fast break points when we had back-courts of JF, AA, DC, and RW - that started with our defense. Guys like AA, DC and RW triggered plenty of fast break points and pushed the tempo through their commitment of defense. That didn't transfer over to the guys like Jerime Anderson and Jrue Holiday, who were more enamored with having a good time in Westwood and fast-tracking to bling bling than building on the tradition built by previous Ben Ball warriors.
Perhaps Malcolm Lee can bring back that kind of defensive leadership again as the captain of this team and reignite the old days of Ben Ball of pushing the tempo triggered by defense, but we will have to see. Similarly we will have to wait and see to find out exactly what Lazeric Jones brings to the table or whether Jerime Anderson is committed to salvaging his career (just like DT, CB and RH did during their closing years at UCLA).
But for now, I have to roll my eyes when I read about the "excitement" around our fast paced offense. It's silly. Let the tradmed guys fall for that. As for rest of us, who really want to follow this team, we need to zero in on our defense, rebounding and fundamentals. If the Bruins don't improve and take a step forward in those categories this upcoming season, none of the happy talk about fast paced offense during this off-season is going to matter.
For the Bruins to get back to the tournament (not back into it like a pathetic bubble team) it will have to start with defensive execution and being fundamentally sound in Howland's half court offense. It would entail fully committing to rebounding and playing Howland's intense brand of physical basketball. Hope guys like Lee, Honeycutt, and Anderson understand and appreciate the need for re-establishing that glorious culture of Ben Ball before getting all wrapped up in silly chatter of pace and tempo.