Blog: Bill Russell
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Bill Russell was the cornerstone of the Boston Celtics' dynasty of the 1960s, an uncanny shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 12-time All-Star, the angular center amassed 21,620 career rebounds, an average of 22.5 per game, and led the league in rebounding four times. He had 51 boards in one game, 49 in two others, and a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds. His many individual accolades were well deserved, but they were only products of Russell's philosophy of team play.
Read Russell's complete bio

NBA Finals Are Here
Posted by Bill Russell on June 13, 2007, 4:45 p.m. ET

Thoughts on Game 3
When you open up at home, there is an adrenaline rush and you have belief in yourself and you say weíre just going to play our game. So you are playing on emotion and adrenaline. I knew there was going to be a problem when at the end of the first quarter the Cavs were tied with the Spurs. By then, the adrenaline is wearing off and now you just have to play ball. Now the Cavs are a good team, a real good team, but one of the things that San Antonio did was keep its cool and execute. Neither team was shooting well, but when both teams are shooting poorly, the teams have to revert back to execution. To San Antonio, it didnít make a difference what the score was, they played the same. They had control of the score basically.

The Mindset of Having to Play From Behind
I thought LeBron played quite well under the conditions. It didnít look good, but the one thing he was doing was playing hard. He, along with the rest of his teammates, realized that if they won it was going to be a really close game. So they played for that, but every time they assessed the situation, San Antonio pulled ahead and now youíre playing catch-up. Well, playing catch-up or coming from behind is a huge energy drain. When you catch up, you say, whew, weíre better now. Then they go out and score the next two or three and that kind of takes a little wind out of your sail. Itís not really obvious, but itís there.

LeBronís Supporting Cast
I donít think LeBron looks at it as for the team to succeed he really needs to be on in addition to the rest of the team giving consistent production. Guys in that spot, they want to play well every night. They have to go out there and play hard and see what part of their game is working the best. He has to execute the coachís game plan. So he has to go out and do certain things, and he did them. They missed a lot of shots, a lot of open shots, but I thought LeBron did a number of things quite well. He is the engine for the offense to get it started. He knows that one man canít do it all and they all know that, so he has got to get those other guysí involved from the beginning. There is no time to warm up because San Antonio is too good. LeBron was doing his job given the fact that they were in the game most of the time even though San Antonio had control of it.

I think it would be easier for LeBron if the other guard brought the ball up and then gave it to him so that he could start from half court. That might be easier on him.

What Can Mike Brown Say to the Cavs Being Down 0-3
You can remind them during the regular season that you beat the Spurs two straight. What did you do then that was good to win the games? Letís see if we can get back to that. We know that we can beat this team because we did it twice. Now, letís not dwell on what we did wrong, that we didnít shoot well or we made too many turnovers, that is there and everybody knows about it.

Meeting Greg Oden
Before the game, I had a chance to talk to him for the first time. I had actually met him before when I was at the Final Four in Atlanta. He is a kid and that is delightful. Everyone says that when he is drafted that he is going to be a franchise player and that he is going to lead his team to the promised land and all that stuff, but he is a kid. In fact, he is an extraordinarily nice young man, intelligent and knows how to say the right thing considering all the publicity around him for the last couple of years. In fact I heard about him three years ago from a guy I know in Toledo.

Basically you have this thing that has been put on you telling you that you are going to be great and sometimes kids get caught up in that. That can be good or that can be bad. I talked to him for probably close to half an hour and if he gets into a good coaching situation, he can be really good.

Oden as the Next Russell? Ö.When Players Are Compared To Me
Most of the people that use my name in comparisons with other players never saw me play in the first place or if they did see me play, it was at the end of my career. When I look at a guy and watch him play, I see what his assets are and what his liabilities are, but I donít compare players to other players. First of all in speaking about Greg, this is an 19-year old kid and the guys they are comparing him to were seasoned veterans. So you canít project how the guy is going to grow. I always look at the guy as one of a kind.

We were in the car ride together on the way to the game, I asked how old are you? He said 19. I said you donít look a day over 18 and a half. And he says everybody tells him he looks like he is 40. When I meet big guys with notoriety, I donít look at them as a commodity, I look at them as a person.

The refreshing thing about him to me is that he is a kid. All this other stuff can be overwhelming, but I think he is keeping everything under control very well.

Catching Up With My Friend Jim Brown at Game 3
I donít know how we first met, but he is one of the top four best friends I have ever had in my whole life, along with my father who recently passed away, my daughter and my wife, Marilyn.

Jim and I are really, really, really close. Being with him is just like being with family. I am not impartial about him. In fact I knew that he was going to be coming in and we were going to get together before the game because I talked to him the other day. Weíve been friends since he was in college. So we go back a long time.

Jim Brown -- The Basketball Player
When he was in college, he was a forward on the Syracuse basketball team. When we won the Holiday Festival, Syracuse was in the tournament. We didnít play each other, but they were in the tournament. He was a pretty good college player. Because of his reputation in football, though, he was always underestimated. The attitude was, ďHeís pretty good for a football player.Ē You know how that goes.

Cavs, Spurs Set for NBA Finals
Posted by Bill Russell on June 5, 2007, 8:45 a.m. ET

Put LeBronís 48-Point Game on Short List of All-Time Great Playoff Performances
I thought LeBronís Game 5 performance was absolutely fantastic, but to me his Game 6 performance was almost as outstanding as when he got the 48. What he did in Game 6 was come up and invite the double team. You have to be really good to do that. To take something the Pistons designed to stop you and use it to your advantage.

I can think of about four or five playoff games similar to LeBronís 48-point game, going back to í58 when I got hurt in the playoffs and we lost to the Hawks in the NBA Finals. In the last game, Bob Pettit had 50 points and scored 19 of their last 21 points. Remember, Bob Pettit was one of the few guys that averaged over 20 points and 20 rebounds. That was a great Finals performance.

I have to include Michael Jordanís 63-point game against the Celtics in í86 and of course Magicís 42-point performance as a rookie in the 1980 NBA Finals. In fact I predicted that one (read one of my previous blog entries for the full story) because I thought that Magic was going to be able to play basically unguarded. Nobody could guard him. He made it impossible to double team him because he was too fast and too good of a passer. He would pass before they double teamed.

My former teammate Sam Jones also had a great game similar to LeBron James. It was in the Eastern Division Finals in 1963. We had a seven-game series with Cincinnati. They won the first game in Boston. We went down to Cincinnati for the second game and beat them. Then they came back to Boston and beat us again. Now they were up 2-1 in the series. We won the next two games but they took Game 6 to force a seventh game. In Game 7, Sam Jones went out and got us 47 to beat the Royals 142-131.

I also want to throw one of my games in there from the í62 NBA Finals. We went to overtime and won by three points, defeating the Lakers 110-107. I had 30 points, 40 rebounds and seven assists, which I donít think is that bad. You know what reminded me of that? When LeBron had that great, great game in Game 5 and he said how tired he was. After that game that I had, it was a month before I could walk straight. I was so tired. I donít know if youíve ever been that tired where you feel like your bones are aching, but when he said he was really tired, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

It must be noted, out of the historic playoff performances that I just listed, Magic and LeBron are the youngest at 20 and 22 years old.

I have been so, so fortunate in that I was able to see all these games, sometimes from up close and personal, sometimes in person and two of the games I saw on television. I was in the building for Samís game, for Pettitís game, and of course for my game.

The Finals: Cavs-Spurs & the Value of Finals Experience
Experience in the playoffs is overemphasized. The only experience that really counts is the experience youíve had against the team that youíre going to be playing. By the time you get to The Finals, youíve gotten through three series. Youíre an experienced playoff player. To say that one team has more experience, that is overrated.

How To Approach The Finals
You have to ask yourself, What do we have to do to beat this team? I think it is a terrible mistake to make adjustments if the team youíre playing against doesnít make you make those adjustments. For example, when Dallas played the Warriors, they changed their starting lineup before even playing Game 1. It doesnít make sense. The adjustments you make have to be adjustments that your team can make. If the coach says, We have to do a better job on the boards, well maybe they canít do a better job on the boards. You canít make adjustments based on philosophy. You have to make the adjustments that you can physically make. The only mindset you have to have is that the team youíre playing is the best team youíve played this season. They wouldnít be there if they werenít good. I donít care about the regular season. Right now, this team, in order to get there, is playing good. So you have to expect theyíll play hard when they throw the ball up. The team that wins is the team that is the most aggressive. By aggressive I mean accomplishing your agenda, set the pace of the game, and determine how the game is going to be played as much as possible. Think about when youíre playing your best. Are you a half court team or an open court team? Determine that and then impose it on the other team.

As A Team, You Play The Way You Play
People like to point out all kinds of reasons for why teams lose. Some will say, well, they missed too many free throws. That is overblown. You play the way you play. If youíre a bad free throw shooting team and still win, then you can win with missed free throws. Nobody is going to play a perfect game. There are going to be things that you donít do well, so youíve got to win in spite of those. Like on the boards, you can get outrebounded and still win because itís only one part of the game. I am interested to see how both teams make up for the things they donít do well.

What To Look For In Game 1
I think that both teams will go against one another with confidence, and justifiably so. Both teams have good, hard team play. That should make it very competitive. People keep saying that Cleveland won the two times they played in the regular season. That doesnít mean anything. This is a different San Antonio team than they played in the regular season. After the All-Star Game, San Antonio had the best record in the league. You have to consider that when the Cavs played them, was it early or late in the season? What did the lineup look like? All kinds of things.

LeBron vs. Duncan - Incomparable
They are completely different players. When you see Tim Duncan play, he basically plays as a center even though he is listed as a forward. Most of his activities are in the low post, although he can go out and shoot the bank shot. A lot of Timís work is done without the ball. LeBron has much more at his disposal than Tim does. When you are comparing them Ė though you really canít Ė that needs to be taken into consideration. LeBron has the ball in his hands much more than Duncan. Even when theyíre both playing well, you canít say he had more points, or he did this or that because itís an unfair comparison. For example, most of Tim Duncanís passes are from the low post. Most of LeBronís passes are from the guard position, either point or shooting guard, because he is a combination of both. They see the floor from a different angle, but they both have to see the floor as it is. So to compare them is incomparable.

The key guys for the Spurs and Pistons are of course Duncan and LeBron. Their presence, and their presence alone, opens up things for other guys. Now the question is how many of their teammates are going to be able to take advantage of that? That will determine who wins, because these guys Ė Duncan and LeBron Ė are going to play well no matter what. You have to understand that everybody tightens up a little bit, if nothing more than because theyíre playing in The Finals. Measure Duncan and LeBron according to how they play, not according to some artificial standard. How well do they play according to their standards? A good example for me came in the last game of both series. If you didnít see the game, their stats didnít overwhelm, but they both played great basketball. They were doing what they do best for their team.

Cleveland Knows How To Party
I thought it was a really healthy atmosphere in Cleveland for Game 6 against the Pistons. I was there presenting the Cavs with the Eastern Conference trophy. The crowd and the players loved it. I think youíll find in San Antonio itís a little more quiet. Not that the fans arenít as enthusiastic, but they have different expectations. I also liked how the fans in every playoff city throughout the playoffs received t-shirts with the team colors and how the fans were having fun.

When Watching a Game, What I Watch Is ...
The fan atmosphere is great, but I concentrate more on the game to watch the players try to do what theyíre supposed to do to win. I probably watch more off the ball than most people because when I played, most of my best work was without the ball. That makes me kind of biased when watching the game.

Quality Basketball
Posted by Bill Russell on May 29, 2007, 5:45 p.m. ET

If You Like Good Basketball, You Should Like the Spurs
If you want to see a good team play, you watch the Spurs. People who complain otherwise are just trying to find something negative to talk about. How is it that a team is winning, but you donít like the way theyíre winning? To me that seems kind of dumb.

Neither the Lakers with Magic nor the Bulls with Michael looked the same. Anybody who doesnít like watching Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Ginobili play might want to seek help. They might need a therapist.

Tim Duncan Boring? Definitely Not
The same goes for those people that say Tim Duncan is boring to watch. Just look at how many championships Tim Duncan has won. That should tell you something. If he wins four or five championships, to say that he is boring is like comparing Da Vinci and Picasso. They were both geniuses with two different styles.

When Tim Duncan was a rookie, I said he was the most efficient player in the league at the time. In watching him play, he has the least wasted motion and emotion. He is terribly, terribly efficient. Everything he does had a purpose. I love watching him.

Donít Only Judge A Player By His Numbers
If you go by conventional methods Ė points, rebounds and assists Ė Tim Duncanís numbers never reflect the way he plays. He is one of the few guys that the way he plays, the other team has to pay for that. The other team is penalized by the way he plays with or without the ball. Iíve said before one of the most important skills is being a good passer. However, a good pass, doesnít always result in an assist. Some people say, 'Well the guy made a pass that resulted in a layup, so thatís a good pass.'

But a good pass is a pass to make plays, not a pass to get rid of the ball. Duncan makes good passes to make plays. Not all of them necessarily go to making an assist. Many times his initial pass sets up the motion that the Spurs want for their offense. Usually he determines the pace of their game by his passing. If you notice, you see less one-on-one when he is playing. That is one of the good things about that team. With different guys on the floor, they play different. They donít try to have the guy who checked in play like the guy that he substituted for.

Let The Duncan Historical Comparisons Wait For Retirement
Where does Tim Duncan rank among the best big men of all-time? I canít say since I never look at a guy historically while he is playing because you donít know what he is going to do in his remaining years. His body of work is not yet complete. Remember they were questioning Steve Nash winning the MVP because he hadnít won a championship? Looking at it now, you can say that was not only incorrect, but unintelligent.

For me, I watched George Mikan play as a high school kid. I felt privileged to watch these great guys play. Every one of them is unique and none of them plays like anyone else. Instead of trying to figure out how good they are, I think you should just enjoy watching them play. Wilt and I played center completely different. Oscar, Magic and Michael Jordan played guard completely different. Larry and Elgin Baylor and Bob Pettit played forward completely different.

How Can Anyone Criticize LeBron?
I got really annoyed last week with guys talking about LeBron James and how he played during the last quarter of Game 1 versus the Pistons and his decision to pass to Donyell Marshall. That was the perfect play. A guy at that level, he is making decisions before the play.

All of these ďcriticsĒ are making decisions after the play. And LeBron James is only 22 years old. If guys are going to criticize him at 22, I donít know what to think about people like that. Didnít Michael pass to a guy named Paxson? Also to a guy named Kerr? Now those guys made the shots, but werenít they the same circumstances?

One of the things we like to do now as a society, whether itís in business, politics, sports, or religion, is that everyone that has a high profile, we have to point out a barrage of things that are wrong with them. The way LeBron James is playing, I just love watching him and I appreciate how skillful he is. I felt like calling him and telling him that he has to establish his own criteria and donít let any of these people determine what his goals are or how he should get there.

On the Spurs and Tim Duncan
Posted by Bill Russell on May 21, 2007, 1:45 p.m. ET

Iíll Say It Again, Itís All About Passing

What the Spurs demonstrated during the first half versus Utah in Game 1 was something I have been saying for a long time: The key skill in todayís basketball is passing the ball. That is even more important than being a good shooter offensively because it gets better shots for your teammates. The first half, the Spurs shot close to 65 percent and a lot of that was because of the excellent passes they made throughout the lineup as a team. Steve Nash is a great passer, probably the best passer of the last decade since Magic, but the Suns donít have a whole team of good passers like the Spurs do.

During a game, if you play good, hard defense, it makes you tired. Defense is hard work. So if you go down the other end and have to work just as hard offensively, youíre not as good. But if youíre a good passing team, you donít have to work as hard to get shots. You donít have to break somebody down every time. It doesnít take any energy. What you have to understand is that energy and energy flows are an extraordinary part of the game. A good passing team doesnít use a lot of energy. You can turn around and use that same energy on the defensive end. Thatís not saying that Utah wasnít a good defensive team, because they are, but just as in baseball where good pitching will nullify good hitting, good passing will circumvent good defense.

Tim Duncan: One Of The Best Without the Ball

Tim Duncan is a really, really good player, and one of the main reasons why is that he can be effective without having the ball all the time. I would say that of all the high-profile players, he does the best job without the ball. Itís easy if you have the ball and youíre making three pointers over by the popcorn stand, but heís very effective and causes problems on both ends of the court without the ball. When youíre playing San Antonio, you donít get a whole lot of uncontested layups and heís a big part of that. Duncan also sets great picks, and not just for the pick and roll. He sets picks to make the offense operate, not necessarily to get himself a shot.

The Spurs Just Know How to Play

In the last round against Golden State, Utah had to play a certain style because of the Warriors use of ďsmall ball.Ē But the Spurs donít play small ball, so the Jazz canít think that they can play the same way. They have to play hard, but they have to alter their tactics. That is why some teams can play under any condition, because they can make the adjustments. Basically what it comes down to is that the Spurs know how to play. Everybody can play, but not everybody knows how to play Ė how to put an emphasis on certain things that are part of their game, not something they added on for the playoffs. The Spurs have some players that can play inside and out, they have some players that can shoot the long shot, and then the same player can break down the defense and go to the hoop one-on-one. You canít just say, if we stop this, we stop them, because their talent is spread out all over the floor. And they have a couple of defensive stoppers. When I was playing, we had a guy named Satch Sanders who was a defensive specialist. He might guard a guy and the guy might get 50, but in getting that 50, he is that teamís whole offense. He is the only one shooting and heís having to work so hard to get it done, that when he doesnít have the ball, all heíll do is stand around.

Basketball Is a Team Game

I see these guys on TV talking about what LeBron has to do for the Cavs to beat the Pistons, but that is missing the point of what the Cavaliers have to do. Everybody will say it is a team game and no man can do the whole thing by himself, and then they turn around and talk about one man having to do it by himself. It doesnít make sense. How will Cleveland as a team come together against Detroit? That will be the determining factor.

On the Warriors and Advice for Amare
Posted by Bill Russell on May 14, 2007, 2:45 p.m. ET

What The Warriors Need To Do

Now down 3-1 to Utah, the Warriors are in a bit of trouble, but like I said last time, when you are in distress, you donít try to figure out what went wrong, you sit down and figure out what you do when you are playing at your best and then go out and try to do that. Who youíre playing is irrelevant. What you have to try to do is take control of the next game, similar to what we did in í68 when we were down 3-1 to the defending NBA champions Philadelphia 76ers, the same team that had won a record 67 regular-season games the season before. We ended up winning the next three games of the series, two of them on the road in Philadelphia. As the player-coach of that team, I made sure the guys focused on the next game in front of them, that was it. I didn't have any doubts that we could come back and win that series.

The Derek Fisher Factor

What guys like Derek do, they help create a comfort zone for the other players. We saw it in Game 2 when he was able to focus enough to play well and ended up making the big shot in overtime despite the health concerns with his daughter. As a result, Deron Williams doesnít have to feel as responsible to carry the load. I wouldnít call it a choke, but a lot of times guys get overwhelmed by the responsibility. When Fisher was out, Williams might have felt that he had to pick up the slack. He did when he scored 31 points. That is one of the psychological problems of being a good teammate, you have to think about how you help your team win. Williams is one of the key elements to the Jazzí success. Boozer has performed so far as expected, but Williams contribution might be what puts them over the top in this series.

Rebounding: Itís Not All About Height

By averaging 25 points and 14 rebounds against the Warriors thus far, Carlos Boozer, who is 6-9, has been receiving a lot of national attention for his play, particularly for doing what heís done as a perceived ďundersizedĒ frontcourt player. In my opinion, though, once you get past 6-9, it doesnít make any difference what size you are, you can play with anybody. Like I was telling some people last week, when I was in college, with a running jump I could touch the top of the backboard because I was one of the worldís best high jumpers. But most rebounds are taken below the height of the rim. So if I jump up and touch the top of the backboard, there are no rebounds up there. In fact, when I was at my best, if I had to outjump somebody to get a rebound, that was the last line of defense. In other words, I was under duress. I hoped to never let it get to that where I had to outjump a guy. Rebounding is positioning and timing. That is why Bill Laimbeer and Paul Silas were both quite good at rebounding even though neither one could jump very high.

Amare Stoudemireís Spurs Comments

A lot was written recently regarding Amare's comments about the Spurs being a dirty team. Now, I don't know what his reasoning was behind those comments without talking to him but I do know that some guys say things as a personal motivator. When I was playing, I never said anything about the other team, pro or con, because I didnít care what they did. That was Redís philosophy as well. I knew what I was going to do. The only time I would talk about the other team, if at all, was in our locker room to my teammates.

Second Round Roundball
Posted by Bill Russell on May 8, 2007, 10:23 a.m. ET

Playoff Favorites vs. Underdogs

With many people (except me) calling last weekís win by Golden State over Dallas one of the greatest upsets of all-time, I thought we should take a look at the whole favorite vs. underdog dynamic. When you talk about the playoffs, you have to talk about how these two teams match up against each other. Nothing else is relevant. When I was playing, there were a lot of times where people said we were underdogs, but we just couldnít understand what they were talking about. There are people that really donít know that much about the game.

Spreading Some Knowledge

For example, I worked for CBS and when Magic was a rookie in 1980, the Lakers were up 3-2 going to Philadelphia for the sixth game. Kareem had suffered a sprained ankle in Game 5 and couldnít make the trip. So the Lakers are playing the Sixers without Kareem. In the production meeting, Brent Musburger kept saying, ďWeíre going to start pumping the next game no later than the first quarter and if we slip up and forget, then early in the second quarter.Ē And he kept saying it. So I said finally, ďWhy do you keep saying we have to keep pumping the next game?Ē So he says, ďWell, the Lakers wonít be able to compete. Theyíll be 25 points behind at halftime.Ē And I said, ďThe Lakers are going to win this game.Ē He says to me, ďYou donít know what youíre talking about.Ē I replied, ďYes I do know what I am talking about. I am going to do something that I usually dismiss, but this time, I am going to tell you why the Lakers are going to win.Ē

I said, ďDuring the playoffs, there are certain things that determine the winner. One of the things is matchups. If you take Norm Nixon and Michael Cooper against Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney, thatís a wash. The way Jamaal Wilkes has been playing, he and the Doc (Dr. J) will offset each other. Thatís a wash. Jim Chones is a weak link, but he wonít be overshadowed too much by the guy who is guarding him, either Darryl Dawkins or Caldwell Jones. The next guy is totally screwed. He has to try to guard Magic. Magic is big and strong and can guard him, but he is nowhere near the athlete to guard Magic.

ďThis is the sixth game in a row that the Lakers have played this Philadelphia team, but it will be the first time that Philadelphia had played this Laker team. The difference between Magic and Kareem is not the talent, because Kareem is extraordinarily talented. The difference is the way they play the position. With Kareem you always know where to find him. He is always on the blocks. Magic, heíll be all over the place. He will be out serving popcorn and the guy will not be able to keep up with him. Period. So they will have to make massive adjustments and by the time they get fully adjusted, it will be training season for next year. They canít keep up with this team on just foot speed alone.Ē So Brent says, ďWell I donít think that is so.Ē

By the middle of the fourth quarter he says to me, ďYou knew this was going to happen, didnít you?Ē

I said, ďYeah, I told you that.Ē

You Never Know Who Will Step Up

I know probably as much as anybody on the planet about playoff basketball. The only things that arenít predictable are how individual players Ė one through 10, not just one through five or the first three Ė will react to playoff competition. Everybody tightens up a little bit. Sometimes when a guy tightens up, it makes him a better player, but sometimes it makes him a lesser player. This goes through all the guys that get out there on the floor. It might be the ninth or tenth man. Somebody might get hurt or get in foul trouble and they have to play a guy that is normally not part of the rotation. So how will those guys react? One thing I have to emphasize, it is a complete team game. Magic had 42 points Ė I donít know who was trying to guard him that game because you never saw them together Ė and everyone talks about that, but Jamaal Wilkes got 37 and a guy named Brad Holland came off the bench and scored 10 points. Ninety percent of the people that know anything about that game donít even know that he played. So I never engage in picking favorites.

Making Adjustments

What I try to do sometimes when I watch the game is see what kind of adjustments the losing team has to make. But like I told one of the coaches this year about adjustments, you have to make adjustments that your team can make. You canít just say, well we have to do a better job on the boards or we have to do a better job passing the ball. That is null and void unless your team can do those things. When you make adjustments, you have to make adjustments that your team can do.

Tim Duncan Ė The Ultimate Difference Maker

Tim Duncan is probably the key big guy still in the playoffs. His numbers donít reflect his value to those guys. Amare Stoudemire is having a great season and he is a hard worker, but where Stoudemire can be the difference in a close game, Tim Duncan can be the difference in a whole game. The way Duncan plays determines how the game is played in terms of tempo and what types of shots the others guys get. The defense has to double team him and he is an excellent player passing from the low post. That is one of his underappreciated skills. He looks cool, but there is nobody that works any harder than he does or gets beat up as much as he does.

It's All About Execution

All year everyone was talking about Dallas and Phoenix in terms of best record, but that is regular season. San Antonio probably has as good a record as anybody since the All-Star break. Around this time of year you hear the thing of who wants it the most? That is garbage. The team that loses wants it just as much as the team that wins. It is the team that executes the best in playing the way they want to play. It is a tug of war that as much mentally as physically determines how the game is going to be played. What is the pace of the game? The winning team will find its comfort zone for the game. It is a very, very thin line between the two. For example, San Antonio with Parker and Ginobili, they might be able to run with Phoenix, but that would be a mistake because then they are playing the way Phoenix wants to play. If that is the way they want to play, they are really great at that. If they say we are going to let you play the way you want to play and we can change our game and beat you at that, well that doesnít make sense.

On Warriors and Mavericks
Posted by Bill Russell on May 1, 2007, 8:51 a.m. ET

A Different Warriors Team

Leading three games to one, Golden State is probably playing the best they have played all year. Remember, they finished the season winning nine of their final 10 and are a different team than the one that started the season. They came out of their big trade with Indiana, the one that got them Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy, with players that play hard in two different ways. Jackson and Harrington are more physical and theyíre tougher, both physically and mentally, than the guys that the Warriors traded away.

Golden State Ė Upset City?

I donít consider what Golden State has done thus far to be an upset because they had defeated Dallas all three times they played in the regular season. Regardless of the fact that Dallas won 67 games this year, one thing you must take note of is that the playoffs are different than the regular season. For the first time, you get to concentrate exclusively on one team over a period of time. When you take a road trip during the season, youíre usually playing multiple games where you have one day or less sometimes to look at the team you are going to play, talk about their tendencies and their strengths and weaknesses, and how to counter and exploit them. You have time between games to make adjustments. What you want to do in the playoffs is do the things that work for you against that particular team and then make the necessary adjustments so that you can do those things.

Whatís Wrong With Dallas

As we found out last year in the playoffs, Dallas is not that good defensively. Every year in every major competition we always focus on the offensive players and make them the favorites. When they donít win, we say itís an upset, but before the game everyone concludes that the best defensive team will win the series. You can change the whole atmosphere of a situation by certain defensive moves, far more than you can change the atmosphere by offensive moves. The Warriors have been able to basically slow down the Mavericks.

The Importance Of Passing

Dallas has to do a better job of getting its big shooter, Dirk Nowitzki, isolated. When the Warriors double and triple team him, guys have to go to specific spots so he doesnít have to worry about where he is going to pass after he gets the ball. He should know that if they double team, this spot is open. A good pass is just as difficult as a good shot. There are two kinds of passes, one pass to get rid of the ball and one pass to make a play. The attitude of passing is to make good passes because if you make good passes, then shots become easier. If you make good passes you distract the defense. The coach should theoretically know his team and know how to help it accomplish what it wants to. In practice, the coach should watch the players passing the ball to certain spots and if they canít do that, then figure out why they canít. Likewise, if the target that they are passing to is not in the proper place, then why isnít he?

Why The Warriors Are Up 3-1

They are just playing hard more than anything. In the playoffs, it doesnít make a difference what it looks like. If you are playing hard, it has an accumulating effect. That way you take the other team out of its game and play the way you want to play. There are some exceptions, but basically you can only do that on defense. Dallas may be playing as hard as it can. I donít think any of the guys are going out there and lying down, thatís not what I mean, but in this situation so far it hasnít been good enough. If Dallas is to survive, they are going to have to make some adjustments that will make their hard play pay off. During the broadcast I heard one of the announcers say that the Mavericks didnít want a particular Warriors player shooting, but every time you look up, heís shooting. You get the impression that most of the guys are offensive players and you donít have very many defensive stoppers. Some of those guys that the Warriors have, they donít have overwhelming offensive reputations. Consequently, to survive, they have to play harder defense. Plus they believe they can win and that is a big help. There are some teams that are psychologically, as a team, bullies. What I mean by that is they play much better at home. Other teams, as long as the floor is 94 feet long and the basket is 10 feet, they say letís go, letís play. They donít care where it is. Dallas may or may not win another game, but I would expect the Warriors to win the series.

A Similar Situation Ė My Own Playoff Experience

In 1968 we were down 3-1 to Philadelphia and had to play them the next three games, with two of them in Philadelphia. We had a rookie named Mal Graham on the team. So we get ready for the next game, and I told him, ďWell, weíre going to beat these guys and this is how weíre going to do it.Ē And I broke it down. My theory was always never to concentrate on what you did wrong, concentrate on what you do right. That is how you want to play, but teams have ebbs and flows. When things werenít going right, weíd always call time out and figure out that we werenít playing the way we wanted to play, but the way they wanted to play. Well, thatís when you have to decide, when youíre playing good, what do you usually do? You emphasize going out there and doing what you do when youíre playing your best. What I did was I individually went over what plays to use to our advantage. Sometimes we would play a whole quarter running the same play. What made me do that? Well if they canít stop it, why would we do the other guys job and stop doing it? Basically I never talked about winning three straight, but I talked about winning the next game. That is the one thing. All we wanted to do was win the next game, which is what I told the guys. You donít lose until you lose. We ended up winning the series in seven games.

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