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Feeling Good: Ben Ball News & Notes

We will start our Monday with a heavy dose of Kevin Love. Things are looking good for our Ben Ball warriors after the Bay Area trip, in which for the first time this season our team played seamlessly with Love.’s Tracy Pierson (BRO) made the following observations on Fox Sports about our warriors being in sync:

So far this season, the team hadn't played completely seamlessly with Love. There have been flashes, but it's almost like they've been taking baby steps.

This game was a big step.

The ball went down low to Love consistently. The rest of the team got Love singled up on the block and threw him nice entry passes. Love posted up well against a future NBA player most of the time, caught the ball, stayed in control, waited for space and avoided the double team. He showed more of his post abilities we knew he had in this game than he had in just about all of the 14 previous games this season. In the first half, he sealed, scored off jump hooks and turnarounds, even a three-pointer, and passed out of the block to cutters with precision. He blocked out and rebounded, and played very good defense. In fact, his post defense against Devon Hardin was perhaps better than Lorenzo Mata-Real's, which is a first for Love.

And the rest of the team played well away from and with Love. They played well off him, moving well away from the ball when he had it, and found good, open looks and lanes.

UCLA's offense, now, isn't primarily about swinging the ball around the perimeter and setting multiple screens to get its perimeter shooters open. In this game, it was about swinging the ball around to be ready when Love tried to post-up on either block.

You could see these Bruins starting to realize that the team's offense needs to go inside-outside for it to operate at its optimum, and they look like they feel far more comfortable doing it. UCLA's offense in recent years has never been multi-dimensional and, many times, was disjointed. This was the first you could see UCLA actually getting in a true offensive rhythm.
The question for our team now is whether they are going to be able to stay in that rhythm for the rest of the season. Love is doing his part and, per Diane Pucin, he has been putting in some extra work in practice:
Love, who had 34 points and 21 rebounds on the trip while playing against Stanford's 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez and California's 6-11 DeVon Hardin and 6-10 Ryan Anderson, said he and assistant coach Donny Daniels had done extra work in practice on the shot.

"I had used it this season," Love said, "but I didn't necessarily get the same elevation on it that I'd need. Against the Pac-10 with a lot of big guys in there, I needed to shoot it higher. People say I can't score over bigger defenders. I did that this weekend. I've got to keep doing it."

Daniels said he and Coach Ben Howland talked to Love about developing the hook shot. The message, Daniels said, was simple: "We told him to trust his skill level. He knows how high that level is."
More from Pucin on how Love has been an eager student working to get better:
Daniels said the fun of working with Love was that the freshman comes with built-to-last fundamentals. "It's an absolute joy," Daniels said, "because he wants to get better."

As far as improving Love's hook, Daniels said, "We needed him to get deeper post catches and then work on the nuances of setting himself up. We also wanted him not spinning the ball when he shoots it. That helps him get height on the shot."

Also, Daniels said, against Stanford and Cal, Love began to jump higher with the shot. "He was extending his arm," Daniels said. "He wasn't flipping the ball, he was truly shooting it."
Besides all the serious work at practice, Love and his team-mates have also been having a little fun. From the OC Register:
At the end of UCLA practices on the road they fire at will from half court, a little fun after finishing with their work.

On Friday, Love stepped up and nailed the first shot he took, then moved back and made one from the opposite end of the court.

"From our end, from the end line, down there at the end of the bench, out of bounds, he swished one on a two-handed chest pass all the way to the other basket," Howland said. "I have never seen that in my life. In fact, you know that LeBron James ad? But this was real. That was incredible.

''I was feeling good about him after watching that."
Well, we are all feeling good heading into the Washington games this week. But, as mentioned before, all the good vibes/vibes from this past road trip could be swept away with a bad performance against any of the talented Washington schools this coming week.

One thing I should mention before ending this roundup is so much for all the talk of poor scheduling by Coach Howland. If anything, one can argue that the scheduling Howland set up this season, in which he had our boys take on teams featuring slow, methodical half court offenses, and zone defenses along with difficult games against teams like Michigan State, Michigan and of course Texas, had them well prepared going into their first road trip. Now let’s hope the Ben Ball warriors can maintain the level of intensity they showed against Stanford and Cal this coming week and rest of the season.