Hubie Previews Spurs-Nuggets
Posted Jan 20 2006 12:00PM
Former coach and current ABC analyst previews Sunday's ABC action
Equal parts, student, teacher, coach, broadcaster, scientist, enthusiast, Hubie Brown is synonymous with basketball. This past year, his contributions to the sport were recognized with enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. This weekend, Brown will partner with Mike Breen to call the Spurs-Nuggets matchup on ABC (1 p.m ET). He recently sat down with NBA.com to discuss the matchup, as well as other stuff happening around the league.
Brown: From the start, he’s improved in every category from year to year. He’s averaging 19-plus points right now, but the key factor is he’s shooting over 50 percent. He’s never been able to shoot that consistently. When you’re up at 52, 53 percent, which he’s at, there has to be a reason. And the reason is, is that he gets into the paint, where he’s the number one performer in the league in scoring in the paint. In order to do that, this is a talent, because, first of all, at his size, sure the quickness gets him into the paint, but then, he can score with either hand, and he can make acrobatic conversions while he takes the contact. The key there is the contact, because he does not get discouraged if you put him down. He’s courageous, because we know that on the outside, he’s sporadic at three-point range, but off the dribble, outstanding.
Do you expect the Spurs to really press their foot on the gas during the second half of the season, as they have in recent years?
Brown: Right now, they are a +6.1 in differential. That’s a healthy sign. We also know that they are almost unbeatable at home. That’s how they played in the playoffs last year. They were tough to beat at home. Now, what’s missing? In the first half of the season, they’ve been very inconsistent, and I feel that’s because Manu Ginobili has missed 10 games, and then also, Tim Duncan is less than 100 percent with his foot injury. Now, they have to patiently cut his minutes down. Also, he’s not as quick on the defensive rotations on the baseline. That is a key, because it allows you to get a higher percentage shot, because when Duncan is at 100 percent, those defensive rotations are much better. To me, as an outsider, these two things have slowed this team down. They’re winning their close games, but the problem is I don’t see the explosive fast-breaking. They’re struggling getting easy baskets in the open floor, but that should get better once Ginobili is healthy.
Denver is a team that has been besieged with injuries. Can you talk about how they’re dealing with that and what their outlook is?
Brown: Denver has done an excellent job, because now they are above .500. You cannot lose Nene for the season, then Kenyon Martin for 11 games and then Marcus Camby for 13 or 14 games, when Camby is having a career season. All of a sudden, these three guys that you are rotating at your center and power forward position have not been available, and it has cost you. They have lost a ton of close games. But, they’ve been able to survive, because they’re one of the teams averaging better than 100 points. Carmelo Anthony is a monster right now. Since December, he’s been on a roll and now he’s in the top eight or nine in scoring. That’s number one. Number two, Earl Boykins and Earl Watson are coming off the bench, and they have been incredibly productive individually and as a backcourt.
Speaking of Watson, he’s been seeing time playing alongside Andre Miller and Boykins. Other teams around the league are taking to the idea of playing two small guards together – Chris Paul and Speedy Claxton (Hornets), Jason Terry and Devin Harris (Dallas), T. J. Ford and Maurice Williams (Bucks) etc. What do you make of this trend?
Brown: You can’t play it as much in the halfcourt, because you’re going to get hurt. During the season, you can get away with this, if you play up tempo. It’s questionable whether you can get away with it at playoff time. Style of play will take advantage of two guys like that, because now you have two playmakers in the open floor to make plays for you. If you’re playing halfcourt basketball and going through your frontcourt people, it’s not going to work as well.
You’re obviously very familiar with the Memphis Grizzlies, who are having a very good season. What’s going on in Memphis this year?
Brown: First of all, from the team that one 50 games two years ago, six of the 10 guys that we had in the rotation are gone, but they have been replaced by three excellent guards – Damon Stoudamire, Eddie Jones and Bobby Jackson. Before the injury to Stoudamire, two of those three guys would have big games every night. That’s what got them off to an excellent start. Those three guys can also defend, as well as bring high percentage three-point shooting. Now, once you’ve established that, it allowed Mike Miller to come in and play as a two and a three, and then when they go small, they move Shane Battier to power forward and play Miller at the small forward. Miller has had some big games, and he’s one of the guys up for top sixth man of the year. Also, for the first summer, Pau Gasol did not play for the Spanish National Team. He rested that bad ankle. Now, he is playing his best basketball. He’s added weight and upper body strength, and he’s not starting the year off with a fatigue factor and an injured foot. This is major, because he is playing at a high level.
How good are the Pistons right now?
Brown: First of all, name me a team among the upper echelon teams in the league, where the same five guys start every night. Don’t miss that point. Right now, that’s the first thing: attendance. Those guys are there every night. All of those teams I mentioned to you, in that category with the Pistons, have had injuries to key people. So, they’re injury free. They’re developing a nice four-man bench rotation, with the development of Carlos Delfino, and having signed Maurice Evans. We know (Carlos) Arroyo and (Antonio) McDyess can get it done. So, they’re not only getting their first unit playing to the maximum, their second group is developing. Flip Saunders basketball is a different tempo than what Larry Brown played with them. There’s more movement offensively. There’s more continuity. They’re playing quicker. They are the best team in the league, but we know when you’re at that level, you’re going to win 60-plus. But the question for them is, what are they going to do in the second round, if they play a healthy Miami or Indiana, with a replacement for Ron Artest. Whoever that is, or which two guys that is, they’re going to be able to play.
Of the second tier teams, which one do you think has the chance to maybe get past Detroit and San Antonio?
Brown: Right now, we do not know the unknown of Amare Stoudemire in Phoenix. If he comes back, with what they’re doing, they now become a major player, but nobody knows if he can come back and be that monster we saw in the playoffs last year. They’ve improved defensively, and they’re quick, with the different guys they’ve picked up. When you add Kurt Thomas, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, you’re better defensively. They’ve done a nice job of re-stocking players. Dallas is interesting, because now (Jerry) Stackhouse and (Keith) Van Horn are healthy. Their success once again will hinge on whether (Erick) Dampier and (DeSagana) Diop can play at a higher level at playoff time.
Are there any particular players that have jumped out at you in terms of their improvement this year?
Brown: The number one guy is Elton Brand. He has a chance to do what Shaquille O’Neal has done 12 out of 13 years, and that is be in the top 10 in four categories – points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. Brand is right there. He’s the first guy that comes to mind. Chris Bosh has made a jump. He’s become a 20-10 guy in his third year. He’s playing excellent basketball. And, of course, LeBron James. I mean, the guy is 31, six and six every night. Come on. What he’s doing in his third year is absolutely staggering. He’s the best small forward in the league.