January 13, 2016
December 23, 2015
November 13, 2015
November 4, 2015
Ric Bucher spent 14 years as a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine and NBA sideline reporter and studio analyst for ESPN. He previously worked for the San Jose Mercury News and the Washington Post. He currently lives in Northern California, where he co-hosts a SiriusXM daily morning show on the Bleacher Report channel (Sirius 93/XM 208) and a solo show on NBA Radio (Sirius 207/XM 86) Monday afternoons.
Good afternoon. I hope you're doing well. My name is Eric Mangum and I am a sports journalism graduate student at Indiana University's sports journalism graduate program at IUPUI in Indianapolis. I am also currently interning with the Indiana Pacers this season. I am a lifelong fan of the NBA and have always appreciated your unbiased coverage of the game at ESPN, Bleacher Report, and TNT/NBATV. I hope to become a beat reporter covering an NBA team in the near future.
I am currently working on a research paper focused on the devaluation of traditional post players in the NBA, and I would love to get your input on this topic. I was wondering if you had the time to do a brief interview. I would be happy to give you a call or just email you the few questions, whatever would be most convenient for you. I would just need to hear back within a week if you are able to do it.
I really appreciate your time and consideration and I look forward to hearing back from you.
It is a great suggestion and with some forethought, I would've pushed hard for us to do it. On the eve of the tournament, my guess is it's too late to arrange for coverage; I will still check to see what we're planning to do and I imagine we will be collating whatever reporting and video is available and putting it on TeamStream. But I will do my best to make sure in the future we're thinking ahead and prepared because I agree that B/R should cover such notable events involving NBA talent.
I just wanna ask will B/r this year cover Eurobasket ? Lot of NBA players will play this year and i think it will be good for basketball overall that big web site like this one cover it. Also it will be sneak peek to new NBA season so we can see guys like Hezonja in action before NBA season finally starts.
Thank you. Respect your work.
Greetings from Croatia.
Ric - I agree with your thoughts on Mark Jackson's old school views, and why Kerr was in an easier position to start HB and convince Iggy to be 6th man. As far as Jackson's views on Curry's defense, I believe this is what Curry himself said, that he thought Jackson didn't have the confidence in his defense. I could be wrong about that - maybe there's a quote out there or maybe it was a TV interview - but that's what I remember hearing from somewhere. So maybe "mediocre" isn't the best single word description, but my point is this: if Jackson truly saw how good Curry is on defense, he surely would have used him as such, at least some of the time. If Curry has to rest a couple more minutes in certain games, then fine, but that is well worth getting all the steals and putting incredible pressure on the other team's PGs, which forces other types of turnovers, not to mention frustrating the other team where it hurts most (think back to James Harden losing the ball in the final seconds of a playoff game and not even getting off a shot). So because Jackson did not likely see how good Curry is, he made the second best choice: to rest Curry some on D so he could play more O. But whether he thought Curry's D was "mediocre" or "only" a "B", the logical inference is he underestimated it.
In Jackson's partial defense (no pun intended) the team did have a weak 2nd unit, and that probably influenced his decision to rest Curry more so he could play huge minutes if needed.
But saving the biggest point for last, yes, we agree that HB was not a centerpiece and did not make the 2nd unit better. But outside of Lebron James, who the heck could? This is my whole point: the 2nd unit irrespective of HB, was dysfunctional and ever-changing. Even when Jackson brought Curry back in, that didn't always right the ship. Anyone expected to lead that unit to success would have to have the following characteristics, just for starters: 1) experience; 2) established leadership; and 3) playmaking skills dribbling, passing, directing. HB had none of those, at least not yet. Even Iggy, who does have those characteristics, did it this year with much better players. It's not clear even he could have been successful with last year's group, but he clearly was the best choice to try, as we both agree.
So, IMO HB didn't get "exposed" in any significant way; he was put in an impossible spot given his age, experience, and still-developing skill set; and he performed predictably. He didn't turn into Lebron overnight, but we knew that. It was Jackson who got "exposed" IMO; not so much for making a "bad" decision, but for not being able to see outside the typical prism of "the best five players start". Remember John Havlicek? Or how about Manu Ginobili? Sometimes your roster doesn't fit the mold, so you have to recognize it and adapt. Not easy and not everyone can do it.
I'm glad we got a guy who can.
Here's the short of it, and every team must make this decision: is Player X worth the concessions or accommodations necessary to make him successful? Does he make everyone else better, or does everyone have to adjust their roles to make him effective? When I suggested HB was exposed last year coming off the bench, it was as a player capable of making everyone better, of being a centerpiece. Mark gave him a chance to be that -- in part because he had such a weak bench he had no choice -- and HB wasn't up to it. Give Jackson Shaun Livingston as the back-up PG rather than last year's revolving door at the position -- which wasn't Mark's doing -- and perhaps it's a completely different story. Personally, I thought Jackson expected too much for HB and should've put Iguodala in that role but Jackson is old school in that he believes starting jobs should be earned not given and Iguodala simply deserved it over Barnes. Should Jackson have moved Iguodala to the bench because HB failed? Maybe, but that would've been a really hard sell to Iguodala and I'm sure Jackson believed that would be sending the wrong message to a developing player: that message being, 'We're going to start you because you struggled in your role off the bench.'
Kerr had the benefit of seeing HB fail as the leader of the bench to know that wouldn't work and prepared from Day One to convince Iguodala to do what Barnes could not. I always believed HB would play better surrounded by better players, but not every team has the luxury of doing what's best for a complementary player -- and make no mistake, that is what HB is. He could be a great one, but those are also the kind of players who are worth a certain price. He's in no way comparable to Klay Thompson, who has proved he can be a centerpiece and that a team can play through him in a multitude of ways offensively. Has nothing to do with personality and being quiet, considering Klay is as, or more, reserved than HB.
As for Jackson "accepting" Steph as a mediocre defender, he did no such thing. What he had was offensive talent nowhere near what Kerr had this year. Klay & Draymond came back as significantly better, more versatile players. Shaun Livingston & Barbosa gave them more firepower and ballhandling off the bench. Jackson needed Steph to do more offensively, so he eased his load defensively, as far as who he had to guard. Kerr didn't need to lean on him offensively nearly as much so he could ask more of him at the other end. (Even so, once Curry had to log heavier minutes and do more offensively, Kerr did much the same as Jackson as far as Steph's assignments.)
Hey Ric - I just discovered this bulletin board, and wanted to comment on something you posted a short while ago regarding Harrison Barnes, in reply to a question about his future with the Warriors. Normally, I find your insights quite sharp, but this is one where I think you missed when you described HB as being "exposed" last year coming off the bench. That's the quick & easy conclusion from poor seasonal statistics, but we're used to seeing you Big Green guys dig deeper.
First off, there's HB's personality: he's a super team-first guy. That's fantastic when part of a functional group of skilled players - he'll happily defer to the better option, or play whatever role benefits the team irrespective of personal glory. However, if inserted into a dysfunctional group, this charactertic becomes a drawback. Remember, Mark Jackson often subbed in the entire 2nd unit at once, which is tough for anyone, particularly a 21-2 year old introvert who is not the PG or center, and is surrounded by older players. Remember how players failed and changed throughout the season, from Toney Douglas to Jordan Crawford to Kent Bazemore and Nemanja Nedovic? HB never had a chance to establish any chemistry or even functionality. He hadn't even established his own game yet, and while Mark Jackson had a lot of positives as a coach, he put HB in a position where failure was more likely than success (Jackson also missed out by accepting Steph as a mediocre defender, and by questioning Bogut's toughness).
Granted, these are only 3 failings, but they are pretty huge, especially easy to see when a maestro like Kerr comes in and fixes all 3, plus knows how to deal with all the personalities.
So, the question regarding HB is: how is he going to fare in the future? Do you think Kerr is going to set him up (unwittingly) like Jackson did? I know you know the answer is no. So, those failings two seasons ago become moot. Even on a 2nd unit at this point, if that unit has guys like Iggy, Livingston, Barbosa, Ezeli, Lee, Speights, HB will find it easy to thrive because those guys have chemistry, and provide many options. Jackson tried to put way too many new guys together at once, made even worse by the fact they weren't very good and their talents didn't particularly complement each other.
HB is just 23, and his upside is just as great as Klay's was when he was 23 (even more IMO). Signing him to a long term deal will be at worst a smart move, and at best a brilliant move. HB is way too versatile to not have great value, even if he doesn't improve from here, which is almost impossible to imagine given his character and determination (quiet, but just like Steph, you can see it over time).
This is a classic case of context making a huge difference, and the old context is done and gone. Mark my words, players like HB don't come along very often, and in Kerr's system, he's a gold mine.
Shane -- I thought Steve Nash addressed any questions about percentages. What I appreciated about the shooters that I spoke with is that they didn't really care all that much about percentages being the difference in deciding who is better or best. Roles, rosters, styles of play all can have an impact on a player's FG percentage, inside or outside the arc. Sometimes you have to be able to simply understand what a great shooter should be able to do and then watch as he does or doesn't do it in a variety of circumstances. Glad you loved the piece; I enjoyed writing it.
Hi Ric- Loved the Is steph curry the greatest shooter ever article. There was some speculation about why Curry's numbers were below Nash's, but I thought there was an explanation that was missed? Looked at basketball reference, and (If I was reading the stats right) a much higher proportion of Curry's attempts are threes. Since threes are scored at a lower percentage then twos, the more threes you take, the harder it is to join the 50-40-90 club, independent of how good a shooter he is. Curry could have been shooting at a better clip for twos, threes and free throws, and still not made 50 40 90 club. Maybe I'm not getting something...
Thanks for the welcome Ric! Great piece on the '04 Lakers!
As for your second question, there are no historic NBA Finals matchups to be had. Blame the salary cap, the general mobility of star players and the decline of the more fabled franchises. Curry vs. LeBron is about as good as it gets for marquee matchups, although I believe a healthy Bulls' squad vs. the Warriors would've produced the most compelling basketball.