TALKING CLIPS WITH HUBIE BROWN, ESPN/ABC
Prior to the Clippers’ matchup with the Lakers former NBA head coach, longtime analyst and Hall of Famer Hubie Brown sat down with Eric Patten from Clippers.com. Brown, who coached 13 seasons in three decades with the Hawks, Knicks and Grizzlies, talked about Blake Griffin, dealing with injuries, how matchups can dictate the Playoffs and much more.
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
Eric Patten: You saw Blake Griffin’s first game in this arena, with Mike Tirico broadcasting that October 27th game his rookie season. When you think back to that game and you see what Blake’s evolved to now, what strikes you, or what comes to mind?
Hubie Brown: “Well, it comes back to maturity. Number two, understanding the professional game. It’s always a culture shock when you are an outstanding athlete because not only can he run and jump, but he handles the ball as well as some backcourt guys in the open floor. So now, it comes down to the matchups. He’s never had to play players of this quality back-to-back, night in and night out, and then worry about foul trouble. So, from that period of time, then you also step back and say, ‘What about offense?’ Well offensively, he’s grown. He has more moves with his back to the basket; a better confidence factor facing, out to 18 or 20 feet, and what I like now, is he’s finally getting to the foul line. That’s major, because that now will get his average… it will continue to go. So, if you’re having a bad shooting night and you get to the line, and you get fouled, and you make your foul shots, at least you’re shooting 70 percent now. So, that has been a terrific improvement.”
EP: One of the things Doc [Rivers] has said recently, in general about injuries, whether it was J.J. Redick or Chris Paul, he doesn’t like to bring that up to his team. He doesn’t like to say, ‘Chris is going to be back in five weeks.’ He doesn’t even bring their name up. He said he did that with [Rajon] Rondo last year, also. When you were coaching, how did you handle injuries with your team, and how did you address that with the guys that were healthy?
HB: “Well, we played ten guys a quarter. So, our guys know how many minutes they’re going to play every night. It was a different theory, but that’s because we basically had a lot of young teams, and we wanted to maximize their energy level, and then, we changed defenses four times: field goals, foul shots, ball out of bounds, and then makes and misses. So, when a person would get injured, we’d say, the guy on that second unit takes your time, and then the guy on 11th or 12th back then, in the old days, now it’s 15…
“Whoever’s in that third group steps into the other guy’s minutes. So, you always have to be ready. So now, the player knows that he’s going to get guaranteed minutes, and he’s not looking over his shoulder if he took a bad shot, if he made a couple of bad fouls and such. We always say that it doesn’t matter who’s not here. Our thing is, it’s your time to step up, earn your minutes, and earn your paycheck. And then, be accountable to the other four guys on the floor, to know your job. Now that sounds easy, but [is] extremely difficult when the game is going at the speed that this game goes at. But, we honestly felt that we wanted the players all to be comfortable, and more important, know that once you’re in, you’re going to get minutes.”
EP: So, with Chris Paul out now for a substantial amount of time for the Clippers, how can they get by, as far as just sliding Darren Collison into the Chris Paul minutes, and going from there; what do they need to do as a group to survive this stretch without him?
HB: “Well, you have to have confidence in Collison, because he’ll get better by each game that he plays. We’re still not up to 40 games yet, but we’re close. What you’re saying here is, ‘We’re not up to the All-Star Game. Give him a chance to, now that he’s with the other unit, meaning the first unit, that he gets to play with them and learns their tendencies out of the different offensive calls.’ We all know that he plays with a big heart, and he’s a very tough kid, and he’s an excellent professional. His quickness in the open floor gives you a plus advantage over Chris Paul.
“Now, the half-court game is a little different. But, he gives you and presents different problems for the opposition. The key is who steps in and takes his minutes with the second unit. But once Paul comes back, and Redick will play tonight, we know, then [Jamal] Crawford and Collison can step back to the second unit, because that was, the major plus, I thought, for your team last year; and will be for this team once everyone locks into their new jobs.”
EP: When you think about the teams that the Clippers may face going forward, who presents probably the biggest matchup issues?
HB: “See, only coaches know that. And it’s funny, I’ve been in this league since 1973, and every team, no matter how good they are, have an Achilles Heel with one team in their conference. And it makes no reasoning, because talent wise, you are so superior. But matchups, style of play, [if] you get good calls, all of these things happen so that it changes what you think is a ‘gimme.’ It’s not a gimme. And we see that every year at playoff time, with a great team with a great plus record and you say, ‘They’re going to go right to the Eastern or Western Conference Finals.’ No. Are they going to meet up with somebody?
“I’ll give you a good example. The two years that Houston won the championship, they were 0-10 against Seattle. What happens? Seattle gets beat in that first year by Denver, with [Dikembe] Mutombo and those guys; and then the next year by the Los Angeles Lakers. And everybody says, ‘How can that happen?’ Well, Houston was happy on the other side, because they then plowed right on through. You just say those things happen, and people don’t understand that because it looks lopsided. And, we’re seeing that right now in the NFL playoffs right now.”
EP: Well, another one is probably Golden State as the eight seed against Dallas. If it was any other team that Golden State plays they may not be the eight that advances past the one, but they matched up so well with Dallas.
HB: And it was, and I was happy that they did that. Mainly because, of the fact that, as you know, in the last three games in the season, Dallas, what did they do at the time? They didn’t play all of their guys, and then everybody got in an uproar. And then, they didn’t play the one night, so that Golden State beat them. And the next night, they played everyone at Seattle, and they won that game. Sure, except for one thing; Golden State got in, and they’re the ones that knocked them [Dallas] out. So if you said, ‘Hey, you know what, I’m happy about that.” I was happy about that, because you hate to see that in professional sports.”
EP: The last thing: we obviously know that Doc Rivers has a championship pedigree; Chris Paul, for everything about him is a winner and a competitor. What else about the Clippers makes them a potential championship team?
HB: “Well, you have to look at it and say, ‘Can you take care of the defensive boards?’ Right now, that’s still questionable because you’re getting hurt in second chance points. The other thing is, ‘If we take away your fast break game, now can you execute your half court with a day off in between games, where the other team does not have to worry about fatigue, they can concentrate on their calls, and then change their defenses from game to game on certain sets that they have a day and a half to prepare here now?’ And then, can your half-court offense get you to the foul line; get fouls on the other team’s front line so they don’t play major minutes?
“Then, can you execute and hold them to one shot so you don’t get hurt on second chance points? All of that goes into the playoff time, because now you say, ‘Well, we were 3-1, or 4-0 with that team during the year.’ Except for one thing… Tim Duncan only played 28 minutes, [Manu] Ginobli played 29, and [Tony] Parker played 30. Now, they are playing 38, 39, and 40 minutes. So, that also changes. That’s why you throw out what teams did during the season, because now, the best players are going to be playing 38-42 minutes, and maybe even more if they can stay out of foul trouble.”
Note: Interview transcribed by Brandon Ehrlich.