Archive for Detroit Pistons

BROOKLYN’S IN THE HOUSE

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by hoopscoach

The year was 1970, I was six-years-old living in Brooklyn, New York. It was the first time I fell in love; in love with the New York Knickerbockers.

That was forty-two years ago. It was also the year the Knicks won their first of two NBA championships.

How can a young boy growing up in the schoolyards of Brooklyn not be affected by the way the Knicks played the game?

“The New York Knicks in 1970 had a team that a college coach could take his team to see and say, ‘now there’s the way the game is supposed to be played,” said the late Pete Newell.

Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Phil Jackson and Dave Debusschere were together for both titles and all likable guys.  The Knicks hit the open man, defended well and played the right way. Red Holzman was the head coach who made it all happen. Red’s assistant coach was Danny Whelan, he was their team trainer.

In 1973 the Knicks had a starting five that all came from non-high major colleges: Frazier (Southern Illinois), Earl Monroe (Winston-Salem), Bradley (Princeton), Debusschere (U of Detroit), Reed (Grambling). I’m not sure you will ever see that again.

The Knicks were a team dedicated to one common purpose: Winning a championship!

It’s now 2012 and there’s a new kid on the block. The Brooklyn Nets will begin play this season on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Some of my friends, who USED to be Knicks fans have switched over and will begin to root for the Nets and they have asked me to join them. It must be noted that some have said to stick it out and be loyal.

I have a tough decision to make, I know.  Do I hang with the Knicks or change my allegiance and go with the Nets?

As a kid I watched the Knicks on television and listened to the games on the radio. Marv Albert doing the play-by-play alongside Cal Ramsey who handled the analysis. I can’t forget the night while watching the Knicks play in Phoenix where Suns guard Ron Lee crashed into the press table after diving after a loose ball and spilled soda all over Cal’s new sport jacket.

The Nets of the 70′s were a fun team to watch. The ABA had the red, white and blue ball and the three-point shot. They had the dunk contest and some really cool team nicknames. The Nets had Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, Brian Taylor, ‘Supa’ John Willamson and the ‘Whopper’, Billy Paultz. They were coached by one of my favorites of all-time, Kevin Loughery. His favorite play was ‘LA 23′. In 1976, the Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets in the final championship before the merger.

On Christmas night in 1976 I attended my first Knicks home game; I was 12.  My older brother and I sat in the red seats just a few feet from the court. It was Erving’s first season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after coming over from the Nets. Philadelphia, behind Brooklyn native Lloyd Free led the Sixers with 30 points leading them to the 105-104 win. I rode the ‘A’ and ‘F’ trains back to Brooklyn heartbroken.

Brooklyn has always been a great place for basketball. Back in the day the schoolyards were filled with outstanding players.  You could find a good run almost anywhere. High school basketball both the CHSAA and PSAL in Brooklyn was king. Outdoor summer league action was also very popular.

In 1978 the Knicks drafted Micheal Ray Richardson, an unknown, but very talented point guard from the University of Montana.  ‘Sugar’ quickly became my favorite player. I loved the way he defended and shared the ball. In the schoolyard I would emulate his game; including the “over-the-head” finger roll on a lay-up.

In 1982, after four seasons that saw the Knicks make the playoffs just once (losing to the Bulls 2-0) Sugar was gone; traded to Golden State. I was bitter for a short time but something positive came out of the trade; New York received Brooklyn native Bernard King.

Hubie Brown was the new Knicks head coach. The energetic, hard-working, passionate coach got the Knicks to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in his first season. Scraping up money to attend as many home games as possible was the norm for me. Reading about my team every single morning in the New York Post, New York Daily News and the New York Newsday; I became an expert. I also came around to embrace Hubie and even memorized his legendary “POWER RIGHT” call on offense.

Scrounging up loose change to buy Basketball Digest each month kept me up on not only the Knicks but the entire league. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Pete Vecsey of the Post providing the best coverage around the league.

As a teen, my love for the game was growing. I began to feel like an expert by taking notice of other players and teams. I became a huge NBA fan, I was so into it that I could tell you where every player attended college.

My life-long friend Glenn and I went to the Garden on Christmas night in 1984. MSG was sold out. “This place is electric,” he said as we watched both teams warm-up.  King dropped 60 on the Nets. Little do people realize the Nets won the game and Michael Ray, playing for the Nets scored 36 points, including 24 in the second half.

While Sugar was a member of the Nets, I loved watching them play too. I would catch a bus at Port Authority and make the short trip over to the Meadowlands. At first there was no stop for the arena, I was left off at the racetrack and had to walk through the grass and the mud to get to the game.

One night I missed the bus back to the city and Darryl Dawkins gave me a lift.

The highlight of 1984 came when the Nets upset the defending champs Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the Eastern conference play-offs. Before the series Erving announced, “You might as well mail in the stats.”  OK Doc, whatever! That’s why we play the games.

The Nets won the series (3-2) and beat the Sixers in the fifth and deciding game on the road at the Spectrum. The place was stunned; as well as the rest of the league.

After Knicks home games we would wait outside the Garden for the players to get autographs and try to get their sneakers. One night we walked with Hubie from the Garden to the parking lot across the street where he kept his car. Hubie had a stat sheet in one hand, a can of diet soda in the other, a black leather bag over his shoulder. He talked to us like we were his coaching staff.

One season I attended 39 of the 41 home games at the Garden. You could use your high school student I.D. card to get half off of a ticket. We bought a ticket for $8, sat in the blue seats but snuck down after each quarter. By the fourth quarter we were sitting behind the Knicks bench. Being a die-hard hoops fan cost me my first girlfriend too. I put the Knicks ahead of a wonderful girl. Big mistake.

During the 80′s, (one the best decades of pro basketball) the NBA scheduled pre-season doubleheader exhibition games at the Garden; 6PM and 8PM. It was there, in 1986 that I first caught a glimpse of a future Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman. The ‘Worm’ minus the tattoo’s and body piercings was a rookie with the Detroit Pistons in the six o’clock game. There were about 400 people in the stands.

This year’s Knicks squad has gone back to an “experience” philosophy with guys like Jason Kidd (39), Kurt Thomas (39), Rasheed Wallace (38), Pablo Prigioni (35) and Marcus Camby (38).

I lived through Pat Riley, who came on board in 1991. Riley brought a different brand of basketball than the one he used in LA. Instead of the fast-breaking, up-tempo style, Riley came in with the “tough-guy” approach. The Knicks had guys like Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel, Anthony Mason and Greg Anthony to provide the muscle. They battled every night.

Riley coached the Knicks for four seasons reaching the finals in 1994.  Assistant coach Jeff Van Gundy took over after Riley left.  JVG is a grinder, one of the hardest working guys in the profession. Five years later the Knicks made it to the finals against the San Antonio Spurs (the strike season). New York’s regular season record was 27-23. But they came up short in the finals four games to one.

Things have not been the same since.

Lenny Wilkins, Don Nelson, Herb Williams, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas all tried to bring the glory days back to the Garden. Since Holzman stepped down in 1982, the Knicks have had 16 head coaches.

The Nets made it to the NBA finals twice (2002 and 2003) only to find themselves on the losing end. It’s been five years since they have tasted the play-offs.

Mike D’Antoni arrived in New York in 2008. His uptempo style called “.07 seconds or less” in Phoenix was met with mixed emotions in the Big Apple. Some said that style was only good for the regular season and would not work in the playoffs. D’Antoni was gone after three and half years, making the playoffs just once.

D’Antoni gave Jeremy Lin a chance last SEASON. Lin brought excitement to the Garden. The Harvard graduate who was cut by three teams, played in the D-League and was sitting at the end of the Knicks bench when D’Antoni called his number. In 35 games, Lin scored 14 points per game and dished out 6.2 assists per game. Lin wound up getting hurt and missed the last part of the season, including the playoffs. No offense to Carmelo Anthony, but Lin was by far the most popular Knicks player.

This past summer the Houston Rockets (a team that cut him last year) signed him; the Knicks refused to match the offer. Fans were ticked off, including me. When I think back to the Knicks of the early 70′s, Lin is the one player who would fit in rather nicely with them.

The past twelve years the Knicks have been difficult to watch. They have not won a playoff series during this stretch. From 2001 to 2010 they managed to make the post-season just once! This is NEW YORK CITY…THE MECCA OF BASKETBALL!

A few months ago Phil Jackson was interviewed on HBO’s, Real Sports. The former Net and Knickerbocker said of the Knicks “the pieces do not fit.”

I have been with the Knicks for a long time. I have a chance to switch teams.

Athletes file for free-agency and leave their team, right? Why can’t fans switch teams?

Here’s the deal; I’m a basketball guy, not a fanatic that dresses up in a jersey, attends games and screams like crazy. I don’t call into sports talk radio shows and place blame on the coach for the team’s loss.  I coach high school basketball and enjoy players that play the right way. I don’t live and die with the Knicks results anymore. I think it’s great that Brooklyn has a team to call their own. It’s also fantastic that New York City now has two NBA teams.

I welcome the Nets to Brooklyn with open arms and will still keep a close eye on the Knicks.

From this day on… I will root for both teams!

Yes, you read that right.  I will cheer for both New York basketball teams. (On nights they play each other, I will sit back, relax and enjoy the game.)

So good luck to both the Nets and Knicks. I hope to see you both in the Eastern conference finals someday.

-Coach Steve Finamore

HOOPS135@HOTMAIL.COM

TWITTER: @CoachFinamore

OPEN LETTER TO LEBRON JAMES

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by hoopscoach

“There’s nothing worse in life than wasted talent.”

Robert DeNiro to his young son, Calogero in the film, ‘A Bronx Tale’

LeBron,

It’s been a while since we last spoke so I figured I’d hit you up. Hopefully you had a good night’s sleep last night.

I hope your stay these past few days in Dallas has been a good one; I’ve never been to Dallas so I don’t know what one does when they visit.  I do hope that you have spent some time in the gym, no make that, I hope you spent some extra time in the gym getting up some shots and lifting weights in the hotel gym.

Tonight is Game 5 of the NBA championship. The series is tied at 2 games. Everyone will be watching, “All Eyes on Me” as they like to say.  It’s your last night in Dallas; the fans here, well I’m sure they are not very impressed with your performance, mainly your play in crunch time. The gang will all be in the house. Adrian Wojnarowski, Rachel NicholsGreg Doyel, Jason WhitlockMike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, Magic, JB and his brother Brent, Michael Wilbon, and Stu. Let’s not forget Jalen Rose, Tim Legler, Rick Kamla, Kevin McHale, Chris Mullin, Chris Weber, Steve Smith, Dennis Scott and Hannah Storm.  They will be watching your every move and ready with their comments.

Over the years I have been a fan of the way you play the game; I defend you when people criticize you. When you have a bad game, they all come out of the woodwork to go after you. They say you lack a low post move, they say you need a cross-over dribble, one guy even said you need an inside-out move. I laughed at that one.

They are all the haters… who cares what those people have to say, you’re the best player in the NBA.

Tonight you have a chance to put all your critics to sleep, for a couple of days anyway.  Actually I take that back, that’s impossible because no matter what you do tonight, they will find something you did wrong.

In the game of life we have self-help gurus that preach we shouldn’t worry about what other people think of us; who really cares, right?

But LeBron you owe it to your fans in Miami and to all your followers on Twitter around the Internet to come out tonight swinging, oops, I mean Ballin’…for a full 48 minutes!

You owe it to people like me who enjoy watching you play. You owe it to the families who spend a lot of money on your shoes and the kids who ask for a LeBron James jersey for Christmas. By the way, so much for that Q score/rating a few months ago right? They said you dropped on the popular chart. But you still have the #1 selling jersey in the league. LOL.

The minute you board the team bus at the hotel this afternoon until the final buzzer, you need to be ready to go. Your mind has to be right. What many players fail to realize is the game of basketball is more mental than physical, a lot more.

Better yet, if there are two buses departing for American Airlines Center, I challenge you to catch a cab with assistant coach Keith Askins before the first bus departs and be the first to arrive to the arena. Get dressed and head out to the court to get up some shots; take shots you will take in the game. Work on your drive to the basket. Take a few passes in the post, work on a drop step, or go middle with the shuffle dribble. This way we can hear Van Gundy mention on air during the telecast that you were the first one to the gym; Larry Bird and Ray Allen both fall into that category.

I really don’t care what the stats say the past few games, to me that doesn’t matter. I have watched you your entire NBA career, I know you can play; we all know you can play.

I witnessed game 5 of the 2007 playoffs against the Detroit Pistons when you scored 48 points. You scored 25 straight at one point late in the game; 29 of your team’s last 30! Most important, your team won in double-overtime. How soon they forget.

In May of 2010, I drove four hours to Cleveland to watch game 5 of the first round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.  I was in the house along with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, you know him well, he loves to write about you. Rachel Nichols of the Mothership was also in attendance that night, I’m sure you know her too, she seems to be ESPN’s beat reporter for you.  The three of us watched you lose that game 120-88.

Fans and media say you gave up, your fans boo’d you off the court. I drove home that night saying to myself, ‘wow the Cavaliers stink’. The next game you came out and hung a triple double (27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists) on the Celtics despite losing the game and the series 4-2.

Basketball followers ripped you.

A couple of months later you decided to change your work address. You went from Cleveland to Miami. You let a lot of people down from your home State of Ohio. They were burning your jersey in the streets.

In the game of basketball everyone looks at how many points a player scores to determine their success; I don’t. Like some hoop purists, I look at rebounds, assists, free-throws attempted, deflections, turnovers and most of all, how much energy a guy plays with!

I look at passion, toughness and communication.

Is the player talking on defense, helping teammates, closing out on shooters.

I look for guys getting stops on defense; stopping the ball on the break, pressuring the dribbler/passer, denying their man the ball on the wing. I love to see guys draw charges, box out and dive on the floor for loose balls. I also look for players showing courage, taking and making big shots, whether it’s the beginning of the game or the closing seconds.

If you display these traits, you have played your heart out; the fans and media will adore you.

Can’t criticize that.

LeBron, you mentioned the other day, “I think it’s that time that I try to get myself going individually.”

Yeah, I’d say so too. But superstars don’t wait until game 5 of a best of seven championship series.

I heard what Scottie Pippen said about you and Michael Jordan last week, I didn’t agree with him but as always, we like to find the next Jordan.  Bron, no one will ever be Jordan, it’s impossible.

Just be you, forget wanting to be the greatest player of all-time; or as Mark Jackson would say, ‘Do you’.

Anyone who has ever picked up a ball, laced up their sneakers and played the game knows two people can’t score at once. I’d like to see you crash the offensive boards when a teammate shoots. I’d like to see you cut to the basket, set a ball screen or even screen away to get a teammate open. How about going into the post and posting up on the block?

I once heard Jon Stewart describe the great Bruce Springsteen’s performance while on stage: “Bruce empty’s his tank.”

If you don’t know what that means, hit me back.

By the way before I forget, the thing that separates Jordan from everyone else, killer instinct. His willingness to do anything possible to win. Michael would rip your heart out.  In case you didn’t realize this, in 6 NBA championships that MJ played in, he won them all, 6 for 6.  Most impressive?  He was named MVP in all 6 series’.

In closing, I found this quote from you on your performance after that unbelievable Pistons playoff game just a few years ago, “Why should I be surprised? I was making a lot of great moves. They are definitely a great defensive team, but I was determined to attack.”

LBJ, I am surprised that your play in this series has gone south. I hope you are determined to be on the attack tonight. It’s the finals, the chance that many players don’t get.

My guy Danny Wetzel, a fantastic writer typed a great article on you today at Yahoo.com, click here and you can read it for yourself. A line in the piece jumped out at me,

This is no longer about promise or potential. This is the time to stand and deliver.

Good luck Bron, we’ll all be watching.

Respectfully,

Coach Finamore

hoops135@hotmail.com

Follow me on Twitter: @CoachFinamore

DAY 67: THE JUICE

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , on November 3, 2010 by hoopscoach

Last night I watched the Celtics beat up on the Pistons.  One big reason, they seemed to have more energy.

Day 67 – Bring the Juice

After the game Pistons head coach John Kuester said, “every day we write on the practice plan, ‘bring the juice’, I bring the juice every day”.

Do you as a player come to every workout juiced up?

Are you giving all you have on the defensive end? Are you training hard?

Bring the juice, each and every day you step on the floor.

“I feel a lot less talented than a lot of the guys I play against and I know that most of them are a lot taller.  To be effective, I’ve got to use my speed all the time – I’ve got to out-hustle them.”

-Dave Cowens

-Coach Finamore

Hoops135@hotmail.com

Follow me on Twitter: @CoachFinamore

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