Morning shootaround — Sept. 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Nowitzki doesn’t let up in offseason | Bowen blames McHale for Harden’s defensive woes | Grousbeck questions Rondo’s coachability

No. 1: Nowitzki works to speed up shot release in offseason — This summer, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki made sure he’d be with the team for the rest of his career by signing a three-year, $25 million extension. That big payday might lead some players to take an offseason, but not Nowitzki. As ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports, Nowitzki has been busy over the summer, working with longtime coach/shot doctor Holger Geschwindner to improve the release of his shot:

“I don’t think, to the naked eye, you would see it,” Nowitzki told ESPN.com. “I don’t know if the [average] fan will see the difference. But I’m always trying to get better, and this is just a little tool for me to shoot a little quicker. We’ll see how it works during the season.”

Geschwindner has often referred to what he calls Nowitzki’s “toolbox” and the idea of adding one new specialty every offseason.

“We worked on a quicker release,” Geschwindner said, citing Golden State’s Steph Curry as the standard-setter for getting shots off rapid-fire and insisting that Nowitzki also can become adept at getting the ball to the release point faster “if he sticks with it.”

Said Nowitzki: “Even now, I’m 36, but I don’t see myself as a complete basketball player. It’s always about getting better and adding stuff in the summer. That’s something I wanted to look at and see how it goes, so I’ll try it.

“What else can I do at 36 when the feet slow down a little bit? Try to be even quicker with the shot, because once you get older, you don’t jump as high and the first step is slower. Shooting quicker should help my game for the back end of my career. And if it doesn’t work [out well], I’ll just go back to the old way.”

In addition to his work with Geschwindner, the Mavericks also sent the team’s athletic performance director, Jeremy Holsopple, to Germany in the offseason to work with Nowitzki, too. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News has more:

Holsopple also spent considerable time working in tandem with Nowitzki’s mentor, Holger Geschwindner, to fine-tune Dirk’s preparations for training camp, with starts Sept. 30.


“We spent an hour, hour-and-a-half each day lifting weights, sprinting, agility, different things that he needs to do to continue (playing) for so long,” Holsopple said. “He’s on a program and texts me, or we talk, almost every day, but it’s not the same as being pushed by someone. So that’s why I was over there, for the physical training.”

But what about Geschwindner? He does he feel about having some else help train a superstar who Geschwindner began mentoring 20 years ago, when Dirk was 16? After all, Holsopple is a disciple of high-tech sports science while Geschwindner, 69, is well-known for tutoring Nowitzki with many old-school — and some unorthodox — methods.

“It’s really kind of a creative process with Holger because he’s a very unique guy,” Holsopple said. “Holger and I work together in terms of the things he (Geschwindner) thinks needs to be done, as well as what we (the Mavericks) think needs to be done.

“And then we watch Dirk shoot, look at some of the shortcomings and what’s limiting him. And then we devise exercises that might address that.”

Such as?

“Even simple things like the tiny, small degree of the torso remaining (upright) on free-throws and any shot,” Holsopple said. “Then we devise an exercise to kind of stretch him out, so he can always be upright, effortlessly.”

Anyone who has witnessed a few minutes of Geschwindner working with Nowitzki — having him do leap-frogs, shooting lefthanded free-throws, etc. — might be surprised to learn how eagerly Geschwindner actually embraces new training ideas.

“There isn’t a conversation you have with Holger without him pulling out a notebook and writing all these geometric physics,” Holsopple said. “Really, it’s physics with him. He is very, very into it.

“And for the most part, it works out great for me. Because generally speaking, (Geschwindner) is really good with all these things. He has a lot of unique ideas. Some would say they’re a little out there, but they seem to work.”


VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki talks about his longtime relationship with Holger Geschwindner

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No. 2: Bowen blames McHale for Harden’s defensive lapses— Houston Rockets standout James Harden has become an All-Star since being traded there by the Oklahoma City Thunder two seasons ago. Harden’s offensive talents are undeniable, but he’s taken a lot of flak — and most times, deservedly so — in Internet circles for his failings on defense. In a wide-ranging chat with Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News, former Spurs star and defensive standout Bruce Bowen knows who to blame for Harden’s woes:

See, I don’t cringe, because I remember him in OKC. In fairness to James, yes, (his defense) has been terrible, but what are the principles in Houston? I’m very disappointed in their team concept. That’s what I don’t see. So, if there are no rules and regulations, how do you hold anyone accountable? Speaking to James about this, he’ll say it – “I know I have to do a better job.” But without any direction, without a coach saying, hey, we’re going to send this player baseline because that will be our best bet, it’s really tough. Defense is something you have to practice very day, especially rotations. We went over our rotations every day in all my eight years in San Antonio. You would think me, Tim, Tony and Manu all knew what we were supposed to do. But others don’t. They have to become as familiar as we were. That’s why I go back to principles. Go back to OKC and they’re playing the Lakers, he guarded Kobe pretty well. That’s why I say, what’s going on (in Houston) is about something else.

Looking back, how did you deal with peers like Ray Allen labeling you a dirty player? 

I don’t think it was very fair. You work so hard to get to a certain point in a sport you love, it’s almost like they’re discrediting that, all the time it took for you to get there. It would be the equivalent of getting into a good school and somebody crediting it to having a family member on the school board. That’s what it felt like. To me, it was the utter disrespect of someone working hard at something and getting better and finally arriving at a place they wanted to be. But then, I realized that’s how they felt. I can’t tell somebody else that they don’t feel a certain way. Everyone has an opinion, even if it’s something I don’t agree with. I accept that.

Being on this side of the ball, I don’t call anyone dirty because I know how that felt. If I see something I think is intentional, I’ll say that. There have been certain situations, like World Peace elbowing James Harden, I thought that was intentional. But (Dwyane Wade), one time he kicked a guy, and I can’t say that’s intentional. I’ve been in situations like that. You don’t go out and say, “I’m going to kick you, or step under a guy so he’ll land on my feet.” Those are a lot of things I got involved in. There are certain things I’ve admitted to. I was wrong when I kicked Ray, and I admitted that. But there are a lot of things that were just basketball plays and it was just unfortunate someone got hurt or a foul call was made. I never went out on the floor with the intention of hurting someone or take a guy out. That wasn’t in my nature. But I know there are a lot of people who felt that way. I just look at it this way – I know and God knows, and that’s all I can go for.

There was one game where I didn’t play well. Pop could tell. I had had a phone call from (then-NBA executive) Stu Jackson, around the time Isiah Thomas was coaching and he said if he was still playing he’d go after me. So we happened to be playing Charlotte and Adam Morrison, I was giving him like a three-foot cushion. It wasn’t me. When Pop found out that Stu Jackson called me, he hit the roof. He said, “Just play.” So from that point on, I did.

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No. 3: Celtics owner questions Rondo’s coachability — Over the last two seasons, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has appeared in 68 of a possible 164 regular season games, with most of that time missed due to him recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the 2012-13 season. Rondo is expected to be healthy for 2014-15 and as the Celtics gear up for the start of training camp, the owner of the team, Wyc Grousbeck had some puzzling-yet-supportive things to say about his star player in an interview with a Boston-area TV station:

Celtics CEO, governor, and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck was a guest on WBZ-TV’s “Sports Final Overtime” Sunday evening to discuss some of his charitable endeavors and, naturally, preview the upcoming basketball season.

With his team working diligently to get back to their recent days of championship contention after an offseason that lacked those promised fireworks, Grousbeck had some interesting things to say when discussing C’s captain and impending free agent Rajon Rondo.

“He’s super stubborn,” revealed Grousbeck, adding Rondo is a good, generous kid who loves being in Boston. “I don’t know how coachable he really is.

“I know if you ask [former, long-time head coach] Doc [Rivers], ‘Was he the most coachable guy, or in the top half, 50 percent,’ he’d say, ‘No, he’s in the bottom 50 percent of being coachable.’ It’s hard with him,” Grousbeck continued.

This, of course, isn’t the first time we’ve heard the high-maintenance, smarter-than-you Rondo can be difficult to manage on the sidelines or in practices.

Grousbeck was asked by anchor Dan Roche about the captain’s future, and the owner said he’d “absolutely” like Rondo to remain for the long-term.

Pressed as to why, “It’s intangible,” Grousbeck said of the man he called a great Celtic. “You just watch him. He played through sort of a broken elbow, a ripped knee. He’s a gamer, he’s a competitor, and he’s got world-class talent.”

Rondo’s leadership skills are constantly a discussion of contention, but there’s no disputing his talent. When healthy – as he hopes to be in his first full-season since ACL surgery – the on-court visionary has the potential to be a walking triple-double and a player who can alter the complexion of a playoff series in his team’s favor. In a league filled with shoot-first point guards, Rondo is one of few who regularly looks to distribute. Paired with the right offensive talent, his team could be deadly.

Even so, it’s rare to hear such comments from the ownership level, particularly when Ainge, current coach Brad Stevens, and Rivers have made efforts in the past to change the narrative.

Ultimately, this story line is nothing new for Celtics fans. They simply want to know whether Rondo will be on the team, who will trade places with him if he isn’t, and how good he can be if he is.

“The real basketball pros, you know, the guys that really run the basketball side out there, think he looks fantastic,” Grousbeck said of his now-healthy face of the franchise.

“I think we’re going to have a big year out of Rajon; that’s my personal belief,” he continued. “I’m a big fan, as he knows, as everybody knows, and the contract thing will play out. We never talk about that stuff before it’s time. We’re glad he’s here. He’s got a ring. He was a starting point guard on a championship team and, ‘nough said.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Warriors star Steph Curry is happy with the offseason upgrades the team made to the roster … ICYMI, former No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic is taking up a new career in kickboxingDavid Stockton, the son of Utah Jazz legend John Stockton, has earned a workout with his dad’s old team … Nets guard Jarrett Jack and Rockets big man Dwight Howard participated in rapper Ludacris‘ charity game in Atlanta … Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova says he’s 100 percent healthy for this season … Journeyman swingman Dahntay Jones has signed with the Utah Jazz … A great look back at Chauncey Billups‘ rise to stardom in Detroit … Remembering the quiet legacy of defensive big man Caldwell Jones

26 Comments

  1. GreenPeople says:

    I think the main reason they promoted him to team captain was the hopes he would grow up a little and be a great leader that he was meant to be. He’s played all his ball in Boston with slow aging all star talent around him to be successful. I’m anxiously awaiting to see if the fast young core nucleus that remains around him can put the ball in the hole and elevate his stat line. On the defensive end, he knows the routines and should be able to direct traffic for switches in the back court. It’s up to the young players to be a much better defensive team since they are undersized at most positions.

  2. Connor says:

    These non-Celtics fans and non-Celtics GM’s had Rondo traded two years ago. But Rondo will stay a Celtic like he always has. Every other team in the league wants him, that speaks volumes. When healthy,Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA.

  3. Bowen: rebounding under the basket and pushing the player in the back who has better position, is often times an unconscious movement, but extending one’s feet beneath a jump shooter is a conscious effort and a dirty play intending to injure.

  4. NBAfan says:

    Great move by the owner…either gear the fans for Rondo leaving, or dissuade other teams from picking him up so they keep him. Win-win move from the owner. No need to read into it too much.

  5. jdub455 says:

    rondo can play in the CBA… lol… bowen is a dirty player cause he likes to trip players who gets by him…

  6. cedricmaxwell says:

    Rajon Rondo is on the next Green Line trolley outta the Fleet Center. Last stop, Sacramento Kings. lol

  7. Max says:

    Rondo has been getting a worse attitude each year. Could he fit with Charlotte? Or maybe the Kings? Too full of himself!~~

  8. Got your answer! says:

    Send him to the Lakers for Jeremy Lin in exchange. Rondo’s attitude; Kobe’s, can coexist and work well!

  9. Nick says:

    ” In a league filled with shoot-first point guards…” They are not point guards. They are 2 guards with the ball in their hands and the teams who have them rarely win championships unless they run a triangle type of offense or a scheme based on ball movement like the Spurs.

    • Dawn of Da 2nd Bulls Dynasty says:

      Agreed. He should come & be the Bulls’ sixth man whenever his contract expires. Lil’ bro would be the perfect fit. Think about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Jim Parset says:

    Rondo is top tier, he made a big 4 when most thought it was only the big 3. I remember when he would get a triple dbl almost every other game – sick!

  11. ArAb says:

    Trade Rondo for Westbrook. That would help both teams. Rondo is not a scorer and would help make everyone around him better including Durant. Westbrook will get a chance to carry his own team and give Boston the offensive option that they need.

  12. Diego Vazquez says:

    Defensive is how u win championships, James Harden just needs to show more effort on defensive or the Houston Rockets need to realize they need to play a little hard nose old fashioned DEFENSE:-[ No question they could score.

  13. tim watson says:

    rondo attitude is cancerous to his team.

  14. Diego Vazquez says:

    Rajon Rondo is a leader and has proven it. He has heart and plays 100% when healthy. He knows how to win and knows you need a solid team to get a championship. If Boston doesnt have a succesfull season look for Rondo to want else where or look to GM Danny Ainge to makes some moves. Rondo to NY?

    • DFresh says:

      your right on some things. i don’t think he’s a leader. or better yet i don’t think he can lead that team.from the time ray left and then garnett and pierce, they should have tried to build a better team around him. they haven’t. and i think rondo would be a good fit in ny. with him distributing the ball and his great defense they could do great things. him and shumpert in the backcourt they would be a top tier defensive backcourt. and with him running the point he could probably find jr smith much better shots rather than smith taking a bunch of questionable 3s.

  15. Mr. Basketball says:

    LBJ, you are the best. i will wash your jockstraps any day.

  16. TheKush says:

    James harden has defensive lapses because he’s plays with elite shot blockers Ibaka and Howard like Bill Russell change the game with their shot blocking presence. OKC looked horrible against Spurs once Ibaka got injured, The houston Rockets lost to the Portland Trail Blazers because the Trail Blazers namely Lamarcus was making shots and as a whole the Trail Blazers kept exploiting Hardens defensive lapses.

    Yes Mchale is partially to blame but Hardens scoring is a necessity on that team. Parsons and Lin last year clearly couldn’t handle the offensive load and plus Harden had Beverley there as a defensive stopper as well. It’s no excuse on Hardens part but it’s not McHale’s fault because that team was built to basically protect Harden on the defensive end however defense wins championships and I hope Harden wakes up this coming season and starts playing some because there’s a target on his back now.

  17. Rajon Rondo is our main guy!!! Pls be gentle with your words Wyc……..PJax has his eyes on him!

  18. bodjee says:

    Ray is right! Bowen was a dirty player!

    • lbj says:

      Ray, Ray, Ray… Sigh… You won’t win any championships whining about dirty players. You need to join the one true king of basketball, King Lebron.

      Oh wait… He actually did!

      Fwoosh!

  19. TTKIN says:

    Kind of an odd way to speak about a guy you “want on your team”. If that was meant to challenge Rondo, maybe make him improve himself personality-wise, I think there are better ways to go about doing it. This sounds more like an insult than a challenge.

    • boston says:

      i think hes tryn to scare other teams away. so they can make re signing him easy

      • Dawn of Da 2nd Bulls Dynasty says:

        Funny, but I hope not.
        He may not be a coach these days, but if anybody can manage that personality of Rahyon, it’s [mister chen], Phil Jackson or T.T.

        Mr. “Action” Jackson made a career out of coaching “difficult minds”[during his dynasty days]… From Rodman to Artest, Bryant & O’Neil, to B.J. [Armstrong] & Michael [Jordan]… I think Rontao would be a piece of cheesecake, compared to some of these cats!!

        But if I was in his shoes, I’d head to the Chi!!
        It wouldn’t matter if he was starting or coming off the bench, R.R. would be the perfect balance on THIS Bulls team!