As UCLA prepares to travel up north to take on the northern California teams, Steve Alford addressed the media and really didn't have anything new to add. In all fairness to him, I can't believe I just said that, the press was addressing real issues, but asking them in such a way as to skirt those real issues.
Here are some of the notes from the presser:
On the road again: Why are the Bruins so bad on the road? Alford actually said that having freshman on the team is no longer an excuse, by this time they are no longer freshman, so that is not the problem. The team seems to press on the road and rely on themselves instead of each other. He is hopeful that they have begun to develop more trust and confidence in each other and that this will continue on the road. At home, the team moves the ball. Away it gets stuck. He didn't really have a reason for that, but maybe the personnel question that comes later might have been a way to address this issue.
Bryce on the bench: Are the Bruins a better team with Bryce on the bench? Well for once, Alford said they were. But only this once. Around the 1:38 minute mark he is asked about taking Bryce out of the game. Mr. Alford: "I think they did a great job and it's really the first time that's happened. Bryce has been extremely consistent, valuing the ball, taking care of the ball." I don't know if by the first time Alford means the first time he's benched Bryce or it's the first time they've played well without him. I leave that to you to decide. He did however get to see what Noah was capable of and how Hamilton is progressing. As Chrissor and DC both discussed, Noah Allen handled the ball well and Isaac Hamilton's defense has really stepped up as is his offense. Fortunately for Bryce, seeing his teammates succeed takes the pressure off of him and frees him up (oops frees everyone up). It is important for Bryce to see that his teammates can succeed, enabling him to trust them and allowing Bryce to play in his more natural position coming off screens and shooting the ball. It is amazing how so much seems to center around Bryce.
Confidence and Trust: Alford spends a lot of time talking about confidence and how this is something you don't find by focusing on yourself. Rather it comes from focusing on how to help your teammates. Touche (accent aigu on the e). Trust amongst players takes a long time to develop but he sees it is starting to happen. (A nice follow up might have probed the possibilities of things a coach could avoid doing or could do more to help improve the trust amongst players?) Alford also afforded us an insight into his golf game, noting that unlike basketball, golf is all about oneself, the individual is the one affected. Decisions in basketball affect other players, the whole team. Truth.
Attendance is Down: Is Alford asked why attendance is down at Pauley? No. Instead he is let off the hook, being asked instead why attendance is down throughout the conference. Really? Was that question planted by Dan? There were the usual answers, there is so much to do in L.A., games are on TV, but the reporter really let Alford off the hook on this one. How about, do you think attendance is down at Pauley because the basketball team has played so poorly or because people have issues with your being the coach? Alford does say that as they win more, attendance will rise and he finishes off stating that UCLA is playing really good basketball and is exciting to watch.
Here is the video care of the Orange County Register:
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Norman Powell has been in beast mode lately and as DC pointed out, his leadership on and off the court have really sparked this Bruin team. He too spoke with the press today and I found his answers really honest, open, and refreshing.
Norman the Motivator: Norman agreed that his talking to the team in the locker room after the Oregon game did help to motivate the team the following week. The team came out more energized, were talking more on defense, and the bench was more supportive. Powell also compares this year's play to last year's noting that last year the ball moved more. He says this team improved this last week but they need to continue to keep the ball moving. Norman recognizes that the team needs him to be more aggressive and attack the rim more, setting his teammates up. He says he puts no emphasis on shooting the three, he is just trying to shoot good shots and get to the open spot. (No, he is not doing it for the NBA.) Norman also discusses how the great teams are really picking up their defensive play and UCLA needs to do that like they did in the last two games.
Does attendance affect the players? Norman says that it doesn't affect them. He does mention how full and exciting it was in his freshman year and he really appreciates the fans that are coming to the games, especially in the tough times they've had.
Thanks to the OC Register you may watch and listen to Norman here:
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The Bruins will take on Stanford in Palo Alto on Thursday, 6 pm (ESPN2) and Berkeley, Saturday at 5 pm (Pac-12 Network).