It is really unfair for us to call LA Times Reporter Zach Hefland "the intern". Unlike say Bill Plaschke , Hefland actually watches the games and has some good observations. His latest story is a kind of one liner on how each of the Bruins players will look next year. It is a very good read and let's highlight a few of his comments, starting with the first issue:
Bryce Alford; PG; 6-3; Sr.; Often clutch, but led the team in shots despite 38.5% shooting. A leader but defense needs improvement.
I think the Intern needs a new nickname, "the Diplomat." This is all understatement, even when it is wrong. Actually Bryce did not lead the team in shots (Isaac Hamilton did) but he did lead the team in missed shots. So Zach is a 100% right to raise a flag about such a poor shooter being allowed to take so many shots.
The Intern becomes the Diplomat with his last three words "defense needs improvement." Three more accurate words "does not defend," "team's worst defender," or "major defensively liability." Bryce's defense is atrocious and Hefland gets it.
An important second point is Hefland does not tow the party line talking about Bryce's great assist to turnover ratio, why? Hefland knows that next year UCLA has a real and elite point guard option. As the diplomatic intern says:
Lonzo Ball; G; 6-5; Fr.; Might be Alford's most decorated recruit ever. Was the Naismith high school player of the year.
Ball has to have the ball in his hands. Ball is not good but amazing. Ball is one of those guys the question is not if he is going to be good but how good is he going to be. There is a reason why Hefland talks about Bryce's clutchness and lack of defense, not his point guard skills.
The final two players I will highlight:
Isaac Hamilton; G; 6-5; Sr.; Arguably UCLA's most improved player. He was third in the Pac-12 Conference in scoring and is a capable defender.
Aaron Holiday; PG; 6-1; So.; The team's steals and three-point percentage leader, Holiday contributed in all facets as a freshman.
Notice that Hefland praised Hamilton's defense and all facets of the game for Holiday. In other words, if Steve Alford believes the problem is defense then Bryce Alford must be benched. UCLA should look like this next year:
PG: Offense: Ball Defense; Holiday
SG: Offense Holiday Defense Hamilton
SF: Offense Hamilton Defense: Ball
Quick comments on this fantasy. Holiday is a good defender who could be great. Holiday was the team's leading three shooter as well. Most importantly Holiday is the only guy who can cover a quick point guard on the opposing team.
Hamilton is a very good shooter but limited as a ball handler (me being diplomatic.) He actually makes sense as a small forward on offense. Steve Alford felt Hamilton struggled against stronger threes on defense. That makes Ball the obvious choice to guard the three.
Of course this is a fantasy because Steve Alford won't cut Bryce's minutes let alone bench him. As the Diplomat says in another article entitled "UCLA's lack of defense, effort and leadership led to a lost season" with a picture of a sitting Bryce :
However, next season will be a critical one. Reaching the status UCLA craves â contending for Final Fours and national championships â requires addressing this season's shortcomings: defense, effort and leadership.
Most likely, Ball will play point guard, with Bryce Alford shifting to shooting guard and Isaac Hamilton, the team's leading scorer, staying at small forward.
That would leave Aaron Holiday, who showed talent and toughness as a freshman, coming off the bench.
Again let's read between the lines on what the Dipolmat says on the problems:
"defense" No other player besides Bryce is criticized by Hefland for his defense.
"effort" Okay Hefland does not say this but part of Bryce's problem is he makes little effort on defense. He does pick a siting Bryce for the picture to accompany the article.
"leadership" Bryce along with Tony Parker is identified as the leader. Hefland praises Norman Powell leadership the year before and is strongly implying that Bryce failed as a leader.
So basically Hefland is diplomatically saying Bryce needs to play less, not be a point guard and gasp maybe be benched in favor of the good in all facets Holiday.
We all know that Bryce is a lock next year to lead UCLA in minutes and play a lot of point, which is why we very undiplomatically say "Fire Steve Alford now!"