The mistake the Raptors made that night was not leaking more plays. If they had, they might have won...
The Denver Nuggets come limping into KeyArena tonight, needing some help. Some small advantage that has eluded them in their disappointing early-season start.
Beleaguered coach Jeff Bzedlik comes here looking for a boost. Voshon Lenard is out for the season. Starters Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby aren’t expected to play. His hold on his job is tenuous. He needs an edge.
Here’s a suggestion:
Before you run them, give the Sonics your plays. Tell your point guards, Andre Miller and Earl Boykins, to dribble past the Sonics bench and tell the players and coaches what you’re running.
Take this tip. Tip your hand.
If you believe the buzz, it worked in Toronto on Nov. 19 when, coming out of a timeout facing a seven-point Sonics lead and with 29 seconds left, unhappy Raptor Vince Carter allegedly leaked to the Sonics the play his team was about to run.
As the story goes, Carter wanted to punish the franchise that subsequently traded him to New Jersey and thought the heads-up to the Sonics would give them a leg up on defense.
And in that game, on that play, the Raptors exposed a subtle Sonics weakness. If their opponent tells them what’s coming, the Sonics can’t stop it. The mistake the Raptors made that night was not leaking more plays. If they had, they might have won.
It should be obvious — the way to beat the Sonics is to let them know what’s coming. Just give a little wink from the point guard to Seattle coach Nate McMillan, letting him know that the pick-and-roll is on its way.
Or give a shout-out from the shooting guard to his defender: “Yo, we’re posting up the big man.”
It worked for one play in Toronto. It might be the Sonics’ secret Achilles. The play’s the thing. Let them know what’s coming.
For instance, here are some Nuggets plays that, if Bzedlik is smart, he will be calling loud enough tonight for the Sonics to hear.
“Floppy Up.” This is a Pat Riley play that Bzedlik, a former Miami Heat assistant, brought with him. It’s a power set where the two guards cross along the baseline, leaving the two big men posting up on the low blocks.
“Rip.” This play flows out of transition. The Nuggets push the ball up the floor and Anthony, or his replacement, backscreens for Kenyon Martin, who pins down his defender on the side away from the ball.
“Three Down.” Every team has this play. The first time the Sonics hear it called, they’ll know what’s coming.
See, that’s how silly Cartergate is.
In truth, Carter could have brought a chalkboard onto the floor and diagrammed the play for the Sonics and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
Every team in the league knows every other team’s sets. There basically are four plays in the NBA: the pick-and-roll, post up, isolation and pin down.
Teams might have different names for them, but trust me, when the point guard dribbles up the floor with his clenched fist in the air, everybody in the game, both offense and defense, knows the play call.
There is very little new under the NBA’s sun.
If Carter ratted out coach Sam Mitchell’s call, it was about as harmful as telling the Sonics before the game what color uniforms the Raptors were wearing. This was just a new form of Vin-sanity.
Basketball is different from baseball. It isn’t like “Bull Durham,” in which angry catcher Crash Davis tells the hitter what pitch Nuke LaLoosh is about to throw.
If Mariners catcher Dan Wilson leaked to Manny Ramirez that Joel Pineiro was about to throw a changeup, that would be scandalous.
What Carter is alleged to have done is just pointless.
NBA teams don’t have secrets. There isn’t a basketball equivalent of the fake punt, or the flea-flicker. There isn’t anything in the Harlem Globetrotters’ trick bag that would work in the NBA.
Winning teams execute better. They have better post-up players. They run the pick-and-roll more fluidly. They shoot the ball better. They rebound better. And they play harder.
There are no 100-page playbooks. No hidden-ball tricks.
The trickery in the NBA isn’t in books. It’s all on the players. It’s the individual choreography that makes the game, at its best, so wondrous — the no-look pass, the crossover dribble, the head fake, the up-and-under move.
But Denver is struggling. It has lost three in a row. It’s hurting and it needs a lift.
So why not be like Vince? Let Seattle into your huddles. Let the Sonics know the play calls.
For the first 23 games of this season, they’ve done very little wrong. But the Sonics are 0 for 1 at stopping the obvious.
Take this tip. Exploit that weakness. What do you have to lose?
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.