NetsDaily Off-Season Report #21

Every Sunday, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories and blogs.

Twill at the Point

Nothing has fascinated us more in recent weeks than the speculation that Terrence Williams’ natural position is not small forward, point forward or shooting guard. At one point or another, Kiki Vandeweghe, Lawrence Frank and most recently, Brook Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts have all praised his work at the point, with Lopez calling his passing "incredible" and CDR saying he believes Twill is best suited at the point.

The Nets, of course, already have three point guards: Devin Harris, NBA All-Star; Rafer Alston, starting point for the Eastern Conference Champs; and Keyon Dooling, coming off a career year that made him a fan favorite. It’s no wonder the Nets and Heat have talked about a trade that would send either Alston or Dooling (both former Heat PG’s) south. We discussed the possibilities in last week’s Off-Season Report.

But it also got us thinking. As a point of reference, what other team has an athletic 6’6", 220-pound point guard? The answer: No one does. Shawn Livingston is 6’7" but rail thin. Marko Jaric is 6’7" and 225, but not athletic. Maybe we missed someone and certainly there are times when Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter or Brandon Roy handle the ball, but not regularly.

What could it mean? It could mean the logjam will be solve by a trade, of course. But it also could mean that Frank’s offense could include a lot more post-ups for a tall, strong, athletic and heady point guard.

Just a thought.

Jiantao and Jianlian

In Maoist China, Chinese Communist officials often had self-criticism sessions, in which party members would stand and criticize their work and themselves. Often, it was not a pretty sight and the party leadership would use it to mask their own shortcomings.

Well, as it turns out, in Yaoist China, the practice of self-criticism, known as "jiantao" continues. Check out this translation of an article in a Chinese sports journal just after Team China’s defeat in the FIBA Asia Cup…courtesy of the bilingual posters on YaoMingMania (our new favorite website):

The CBA officials and the national team had this closed door review meeting yesterday.

In the meeting, the CBA Commissioner Xin Lancheng slammed the national team players for not trying hard. He said even if China hires an expatriate coach, and arranges more overseas training, if the players themselves do not work hard on their game, there is still no future for Chinese basketball. He stressed the importance of the principle of 三从一大, i.e. 从严、从难、从实战出发、大运动量训练 (translated to be Training must be strict; Training must be hard; Training must be geared to needs of actual combat; and Training must be carried out with heavy load.)

Then every national players read out their self-critique about their own performance in the tournament. And most of the self-critique were just garbage: not playing focused; playing with injuries; insufficient rebounding; playing under pressure; playing too nervous; too tight a playing schedule etc. etc. etc.

Then the Team Manager Gong Luming severely criticized Zhu Fangyu, Sun Yue and Du Feng for exchanging jokes/laughing during the award ceremony. He said that only showed 3 things: the players got no sense of honor for being a national team player; the players had no self-esteem; the players did not show respect to the Iranian players while they were recieving their gold medals.

Gong Luming also touched on the rumor that China threw this game away because of some players involved in gambling. He said he heard about that too, but there is no concrete evidence. If evidence found to convict any of the players, these players will be expelled from the national team, and they will not be allowed to play in the CBA league. He added that it was unusual that a few players played well below their standards, and it was abnormal they only scored 2 points in the game.

Then the review meeting ended, and the national team resumed their team practice/scrimmage to prepare for the FIBA 2009 Stankovic Continental Cup tournament.

Head coach Guo Shiqiang did not have a chance to speak during the review meeting. And there was no final resolution of what will become of him, i.e. whether he will be fired or he will continue to lead the national team.

But Gong Luming told the reporters afterward that to shift all the blame onto Guo Shiqiang and take him as the scrapgoat is unfair. He said it is time that the national team should be built around Guo Shiqiang as its core/leader.

Being booed by Nets fans should be a piece of cake. For the record, Yi Jianlian said last week that the stain of the loss will stay with him for 10 years. As they say in the forums, Yikes.

Also, here’s another translation done by the boys at YMM, of a summary of a Chinese website’s article on Yi’s play in a recent scrimmage.

Summary:

He and Brook Lopez each led a team in the team 5 vs 5 scrimmage.

He played at position 5, i.e. as centre in the team scrimmage.

He seemingly was playing with more confidence and aggressive at the position.

His low post skills seemed to have enhanced through his summer training and playing in the Asian Championship.

He dribbled and adjusted and scored a right-handed hook shot over the head of Brook Lopez.

He also had a couple of ferocious dunks during the team scrimmage.

The coaching staff, team mates and reporters (including Fred Kerber of New York Post) were deeply impressed with Ah Lian's new form and conditions.

Remember, Chinese reporters (a whole row of them in the press area cover the Nets) get invited to the same things the Nets beat reporters do.

Thate’s Fate

The Nets haven’t had a designated shooting coach since Bob Thate left a year ago. Thate, a pal of Jason Kidd’s, resurfaced last week in an article contrasting foul-shooting and tennis serves. Kidd swore by Thate but he also was in charge of the Josh Boone and Jason Collins experiments.

In any event, here’s what Thate had to say after watching one of the women‘s matches at the US Open, one marred by poor serves, as reported by the New York Times:

That dark comedy masquerading as a match caught the eye of Bob Thate, a former shooting coach for the Nets. For him, it was like watching the N.B.A. stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard play a game of H-O-R-S-E from the foul line.

It was so awful, it piqued his professional interest. "It’s like I cringe when people are serving second serves on key points," he said. "You can see it in their faces — it’s almost like their mind is freezing up and they just look like they’re not going to win this point."

Thate, a recreational tennis player, suspects he has the answer. He views free-throw shooters and servers as practitioners of essentially the same art — one more positivist than impressionist, its strokes predicated on rhythm and routine.

"There’s a great correlation," he said Monday night from Dallas, where he was summoned by the point guard Jason Kidd to deliver a weeklong free-throw tutorial. "You’re not going up and down the court or side to side, you’re standing at the line and 10,000 people are watching you hit the ball."

The serve and the free throw share key components: foot placement; body balance; weight shift; toss and follow through. Misses happen when players’ minds are willing but their mechanics are weak, or vice versa.

Final Note

So there we were in Barcelona’s Plaza Reial Friday trying to get out of the rain and sip some refreshments when we noticed at the next table, a heavily tatooed man wearing a Vince Carter Nets jersey and a pair of shorts. He was alone, said nothing, but downed one beer after another.

We didn’t approach him, fearing that he was still recovering from the trade, but we understood…completely.

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