Keeping Up with the Joneses: Part 7 - The First Weeks of February

February 4 

Non-conference game vs Juarez @ Jones
Jones 61, Juarez 41
Leading scorers:  Adrien 10, Bryson 9
Record 16-5

This game seemed like a snowstorm hangover game. Twenty-two inches of snow fell since February 1 and everyone looked tired and listless. There was no passion for playing from either team. We were the better team physically and record wise but we played sloppy and looked like we were bored with the competition.

There was lots of turnovers after we started  the game on an 8-0 start. Juarez got many offensive rebounds due our lack of effort and poor positioning by whatever lineup we had in, because Coach G substituted frequently five minutes into the game. That was the main positive; everyone played, deserved or not. Coach G is a fair man and plays some guys despite the fact that they don't practice hard and are not supportive of teammates in practice and games. He's a better man than me. 

No game till next Monday, when we have our makeup conference game with Richards. The game doesn't mean anything except trying to play to excel, because we already clinched the conference championship. Hopefully our practices the next two days are intense, and there will be no excuses. No snow in the forecast!

February 5 

Off Day

Watching the Chicago Bulls is getting progressively tougher and it's all because of Derrick Rose. It seems that he wants to prove to imagined doubters that he is a three-point shooter and that he can last a season. It is a fact that he is not meshing with his teammates offensively, has been worthless and helps no one off the ball, does not play to his offensive strengths, plays poor on the ball and screen roll defense, does not box out his man on rebounds and has forgotten how to pass and dribble efficiently. Whoever is giving him advice, and somebody is, better suggest that Derrick to listen to the professionals, which starts with following the plans of the head coach. This version of Derrick Rose is a loser.

 February 6   

It's always encouraging and gratifying when kids stay in the gym and work on their game after a tough practice. When urban kids get the chance to use gyms they take advantage. Most of the team worked on individual moves, played one-on-one, shot free throws, and some asked me for help, which was awesome. This is why we coach.

 February 9 

Conference game vs Richards at Jones
Jones 59, Richards 36
Leading scorer, Adrien 17
Record 17-5, 8-2 in the Blue Central. Blue Central Champion

This was the makeup game of the conference opener. Richards went to another gym on the day we supposed to play and Manley showed instead. Our guys took care of business today. We played with energy and intensity on defense and we rebounded well, rarely allowing second shots. Ellington has 10 blocked shots and 6 assists and Adrien dominated floor play and along with Ellington got us into the right offensive sets. Adrien hit 3 three pointers, too which stretched Richards' defense and allowed some passing and driving lanes for layups.

Aside from a couple of missed layups Will played well and made their only scorer work hard for his points. Vic gave us a spark off the bench with good passes, several layups off the dribble, and a three pointer. It's great to see the guys that care be rewarded for their hard work and team play with a conference championship.

And we get more good news because Chidi will be back, though not at full speed. But he brings so much intensity and energy to our team that any participation will benefit us. It will also benefit him because he's been driving us crazy on the bench! Just kidding, but he really wants to be out on the court and he feels like he lets the team down when he's not there, though he couldn't help it because he got hurt. But we love kids who love the team. I wish there were more like him.

February 11   

Non-conference game at Schurz
Jones 53, Schurz 39
Leading scorers Ellington 14, Will 13
Record 18-5

Nice win, but we got off to a terrible start. We have developed a bad habit of playing timid away from home and that's the way today's game began. We passed the ball tentatively and Schurz got several turnovers. The only reason we were down just 13-7 after the first quarter was because they missed a lot of easy shots and we were limiting their second shots.

Coach switched to a 1-3-1 defense in the second quarter and they started turning the ball over and we started getting some easy shots off steals. It was 18-17 at the half and we went on a big run in the third to put the game away. Schurz never figured out how to attack the 1-3-1, and we got a lot of layups off of their questionable shot selection and decision making.

Individually, Ellington controlled the game with his ball handling, passing, rebounding, and drives to the basket. He willed his team to win after that tough start. Will played aggressively after a weak start, and Justin had seven points and an assist in an active third quarter. Devin battled on the boards and played tough on defense. And the bench showed great spirit, almost like they were enjoying themselves. A practice tomorrow before we play a private school in a shootout in a rare Sunday game.

February 14   

No practice today so I had time to reflect on occurrences of the past week.  First, the passing of Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina basketball coach. Since I am from the Midwest I didn't get to see a lot of North Carolina games when I became a fan because television coverage was not as comprehensive without cable. When I did see them it was usually in the NCAA playoffs or the ACC tournament and what I remembered was the dreaded Four Corners offense which made watching them a supreme bore.

One of Smith's great teams featuring Phil Ford, lost the NCAA title game in 1977 to a not as talented Marquette team because Marquette figured out how to defend the 4 corners by as quoting Al McGuire, the equally legendary Marquette coach, "when you cut off the head, the body dies." In other words, they defended Ford, the point guard, who was the key to that offense, and forced less talented ball handlers to make decisions, which led to turnovers and a Marquette win in McGuire's final game.

The NCAA then instituted a shot clock because so many teams adopted the Four Corners and the college game was losing fans. I guess we can thank Smith for the popularity of today's college game. Smith's legacy really is that of an innovator on offense and defense, superb teaching of team play (the joke is that he was the only person to hold Michael Jordan to below 20 points a game), a mentor to his players, and maybe his most important contribution, standing up to segregationists and racists in the South by recruiting and enrolling black players at UNC despite great resistance. As despicable as Adolph Rupp was at Kentucky by rejecting black players, that's what a humanist hero Dean Smith was and is.

Derrick Rose had a great game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday with 30 points, seven assists, and only two turnovers. The question is can he do this consistently and does he have faith in his repaired knees? The answer lies back to his high school days. Rose by all accounts was and is a great teammate and involves all his teammates in the team's offense, to a fault. At times he does nothing away from the ball and defers to less talented teammates when he should be dominating play. Only when he feels a challenge or is challenged does he seem to want to play at his best.

In high school his team played Oak Hill in a nationally televised game , a national power with several Division 1 players, and Rose was motivated, dunking, slashing to the basket, blocking shots getting steals and assisting his teammates for easy layups. And he led his team to 2 state championships, and did what it took to win games, whether it was scoring, assisting or defending. He hasn't changed much since being in the NBA, especially after his injuries. He defers too much to teammates when he is needed to take over a game. The disturbing trend of his game though is that he only defends and moves off the ball when he feels like it, doesn't box out his man and breaks off the half court offense by indiscriminately shooting 3's to prove to every doubter that he can. The three-point shot is the weakest part of his offense because of his forward body lean on long jump shots. Maybe, after the game against the Cavaliers, he will understand what's necessary for him to play well in order for his team to win every game. And trust his knees and his talent. And trust himself and not his handlers which is the toughest hurdle to overcome.