Ben Howland kicked off a press conference yesterday talking about Kareem coming by and addressing the players. He also said the following in the press conference:
If you are a point guard and you have to deal with a Larry Drew or a Darren Collision which is a similar type of athlete, it is really hard to deal with them much less to run your team. It takes a lot of energy and work. . . . It is getting Larry to play with that type of effort and it is hard. He is great shape, he just has to do it. . . . He is so quick, so fast, so strong, other than Darren he would be the quickest fastest guy we have had, maybe Russell."
Part of me understands that he is trying to get Larry Drew II inspired and to work hard for 40 minutes, especially on D. If this was 2009 I am not sure I would agree but I would probably give him the benefit of the doubt.
But this is 2012 and we have not had an NBA level point guard since Darren Collision(DC) left. Larry Drew II does not compare to DC in any way shape or form. That may be part of the problem. Howland is a decent teacher in that he is trying to get Larry Drew II to play defense consistently at a higher level. It is Larry Drew II's ticket to playing pro in Belgium or something.
But Howland is deluding himself if he thinks any opposing team is worried about Larry Drew II on offense and if he is expecting Larry Drew II to play at the level of DC, Russell Westbrook, or Jordan Farmar. And that is the rub. After shooting 32% from three his freshman year DC shot 45, 53, and 39% from three. In other words, you could not leave DC open. After his freshman he also shot over a 100 free throws every season at a 81, 87, and 89 percent clip.
Contrast this with Larry Drew II. Larry has only shot 7 free throws this year in 10 games. Larry is shooting 23% from three and has shot 20%, 35%, and 23% from three for his career.
If I am Long Beach State or any opponent of UCLA in the game plan I draw up I would say we want Larry Drew II to shoot, especially outside. I would dare him to do so. Further unlike DC or JF, if I am an opponent, I want the ball in Larry's hand as the clock runs down not in Jordan Adams or Shabazz Muhammad's hands.
Also, Howland is again trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. Larry Drew II is not a DC, should not try to be one. DC was great point guard at the top of the key because he was a triple threat to pass, drive or shoot. Drew can't shoot like DC off a screen, not many can.
Of course Drew is better suited to do this than Kyle Anderson. If DC is the model, then Larry Drew II is closer (although still a mile away) then Kyle. This is part of the reason Kyle Anderson is not point guard for UCLA under Howland. Howland wants his point guards to play like JF or DC. Jerime Anderson and Zeek Jones could not do this either. It is part of the reason the last three years were tough.
Instead of trying to make Larry Drew II into a poor imitation of DC or JF, he should have changed the offense to take advantage of Kyle Anderson as a point guard. Anderson is a bad outside shooter but a 6'9" point guard is legitimately a tough match up for any team. Anderson dishing to Shabazz, Jordan, and Norman Powell would be frightening to play against. But if Kyle Anderson is in the same offense as DC or JF, okay, I admit Larry Drew II is better. But that is guaranteeing mediocrity at the point.
Let me close with an analogy. If Howland was Wooden in 1965, coming off championships with a team playing a pressing style of basketball based on "little" quick players, he would not have changed for Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the greatest big man in college history. He would have tried to make Kareem into Keith Ericson. Wooden was so successful because he scrapped his whole style of play to take advantage of KAJ unique and incredible talents.
And that is the problem. A UCLA coach will get great and unique talents. They need to adept to fully take advantage of them.