A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Red Auerbach

33pt Thursday: Was “Feel for the Game” the secret to the Red Auerbach era Celtics and Greg Popovich era San Antonio Spurs legendary drafting?

leave a comment »

Tony Parker and Greg Popovich

Tony Parker and Greg Popovich (Photo credit: Tiago Hammil)

I believe feel for the game is ultimately under-represented in NBA personnel decisions, particularly in the draft. However that does not mean nobody has ever considered the subject. When I look at two incredibly eras for franchises, feel for the game stands out consistently in draft picks/decisions – and that’s Red Auerbach’s Celtics and Greg Popovich’s Spurs.

Now, this could be simply a matter of the Celtics and Spurs being fantastic at finding great players and it just so happening that most great players excel in feel for the game, therefore their successful acquisition correlating with feel for the game friendly players rather than being a cause of it. But for fun, let’s look at the histories of some of their picks:

Auerbach joined the Celtics in 1950. Bob Cousy was actually passed on by the Celtics, but ended up with them anyways after his team the Chicago Stags folded. Cousy was the Celtics’ first player with supreme feel for the game, the first truly great offensive mind in the game at the guard position. Bill Sharman, a draft pick soon after was another with a strong feel for the game offensively.

In 1956 the Celtics made arguably the biggest history changing NBA trade ever, trading for the rights to Bill Russell for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan. Bill Russell of course is in the conversation for greatest feel for the game of all time. His awareness of the court makes him the greatest defensive genius in NBA history, while his elite passing game for a big proved his awareness offensively. Read the rest of this entry »

2010-11 NBA Predictions: Executive of the Year

leave a comment »

Uh, well, Pat Riley.

Obviously, I’m not going out on much of a limb here.  Hard to even imagine what would make him not win since even if the team has some struggles, everyone knows that every other GM in the league was jealous of Riley did this summer.  I think the more interesting thing to ponder is the effect that Miami Thrice will have on Riley’s legacy.  If this team goes on to win multiple championships, then I think Riles will have a strong case for having the greatest non-playing career in NBA history…other than Red Auerbach’s career of course.

The obvious debate will be between Riles and Phil Jackson.  As it stands, I think most would agree Jackson has the edge.  11 rings will do that for a fellow.  Let’s face it though, Jackson’s really only down one thing really, really well – and he’s been able to do it 11 times because of the players he’s been able to work with.  I’m sure some will object to that statement, citing that Jackson’s had to make a variety of adjustments to the triangle, and his ability to placate raging egos is second to none, and they’ve got a fair point – but compare what he’s done to the versatility Riles has shown:

  1. Coach of the Showtime Lakers.  I realize he didn’t start Showtime, but in some ways that makes it all the more impressive.  Where the previous coach had failed to satisfy the demanding star Magic Johnson, Riley succeed, and did so not as a lenient player’s coach but as a demander taskmaster, despite never having been a head coach before.
  2. Coach of the hardnosed Knicks.  He goes from the finesse razzle dazzle of LA, and immediately converts the Knicks to the pinnacle of thugball, creating some of the most effective defenses in NBA history, proving he can not only architect, but architect in a direction not influenced by his previous tenure.
  3. Coach & GM for the Heat.  He’s been the mastermind here for 15 years, and we’ve now seen him:
    1. Move the team from 32 to 62 wins within two years of him starting as coach.
    2. Maintain a strong record in ’00-01 despite the lost of his star Alonzo Mourning.
    3. Rebuild the team based on the young talent of Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Dwyane Wade.  Wade of course being the crown jewel, and one of the smartest draft choices of all time.
    4. Take advantage of the Lakers turmoil to bring Shaquille O’Neal in and help the Heat claim their first title.
    5. Manage to find a sucker to take Shaq away before he started hurting the club too much.
    6. And now the acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh.  The majority of GMs in the league were scheming for years to acquire one of these guys, and Riley manages to acquire both, with the help of his old draft pick Wade.

It’s a breathtaking career, and if it gets capped by a dynasty, only that old curmudgeon with the cigar can claim to have done something similar.

Written by Matt Johnson

October 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm