Answering your NBA questions
Which current defender does the best job against LeBron? And which past player would give him the most trouble? I would pick Dennis Rodman for his strength, quickness, height advantage and above all the mind games he would play. – Howard Feng, Southern California
Under the current no-hand-checking, no bumping rules, nobody can hope to lock down LeBron one-on-one. Also, given the several high screen/rolls that are presented for LeBron's use, defending him has to involve all five opponents. However, Ron Artest has the power, the size and the competitive spirit to give LeBron more trouble than any other current defender — what Ron-Ron lacks is his lateral quickness of yesteryear.
Artest's best bet would be to slide under all of the proffered S/Rs and let LeBron shoot long jumpers until his arm gets tired. Delivering hard fouls would also be in order. But whatever approach he might take, Artest will never back down.
I agree with you that Rodman would pose a unique challenge for LeBron, and it certainly would be interesting to see how Dennis tried/managed to get under James' skin. Rodman was also slim and slithery enough to get past most screens.
Other matchups I would have paid to see were LeBron being guarded by either Dave DeBusschere or Gus Johnson.
None of these ace defenders would have been intimidated by LBJ, nor would they have been discouraged by any temporary lack of success.
In your opinion, how does Steve Nash compare with Jason Kidd? I was surprised to discover that over the course of their respective careers Kidd has actually shot the ball more than Nash (12 FGA/game vs. 10 FGA/game). No surprise that Kidd has a lower points per game average. – Tony, Scottdale, Ariz.
Discount Nash's initial four seasons when he was basically a part-time player. (Kidd was a starter from Day One of his career.) That would bring Nash's shots-per-game up to 12.2, slightly more than Kidd's 12.0.
In any case, Nash is the far superior offensive player. He surpasses Kidd in field-goal and free-throw shooting, creating his own shots and executing cross-over dribbles going either way. Plus Nash has a quicker shot release and a more efficient left hand.
Nowadays, Kidd can seldom find his way to the rim, but his long-distance dialing is vastly improved.
Who's the better passer? Probably J-Kidd by the smallest of margins.
But give the overall ball-handling advantage to Nash (2.79 turnovers/game to Kidd's 3.08). What makes Nash's numbers in this category truly remarkable is that his ball-time has always greatly exceeded Kidd's.
The respective edges in both quickness and speed also go to Nash. This was true even before Kidd's knee surgery. But J-Kidd's extraordinary strength allows him to post-up smaller, weaker opponents (like Nash), and also to hold his own in the battle of the boards.
On defense, Nash can frequently anticipate the unfolding of a play and either draw charges or come up with steals. Otherwise, Nash is a distinct liability when he doesn't have the ball in his hands.
In every conceivable category, however, Kidd is an incomparably better defender — even though he can no longer contain the league's speedier point guards.
Nash is the choice to run an up-tempo team with the caveat that he desperately needs an accomplished shot blocker roaming the lane to erase his defensive shortcomings. Kidd gets the nod at the helm of a grind-it-out offense.
I read your recent answer to the question of "feeding the big man" and have always noticed that the Cavs do this to start every game. Whether Shaq or Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been the starting center, the Cavs spend the first few minutes pounding the ball down low with considerable effectiveness. The Cavs duplicate this strategy to begin the second half, but despite the mostly successful results, the big men rarely get the ball in the endgame. This seems preposterous to me. Why do the Cavs refuse to "feed the big man" late in games? – Donnie Thomas, Nashport, Ohio
Shaq only receives passes in the clutch when he can quickly catch-and-dunk — as in a successful screen/roll. Otherwise, it's simply too chancy to risk his being deliberately fouled and sent to the foul line. When he bricks a pair of freebies — which he does too often—a valuable late-game possession for the Cavs turns into the equivalent of a turnover. If he makes 1-of-2, a simple deuce gains a point for the opponents — and a made trey becomes a significant advantage.
The big Z has never been renowned for his making clutch plays. Moreover, if he's aggressively doubled on the move, he's liable to mishandle the ball. And, of course, his subpar defense makes him too much of a liability when a game is up for grabs.
I've always felt that on the basis of pure talent alone, Tracy McGrady was the equal (if not better) than Kobe. If T-Mac were playing for the Lakers of 2001-03, would they still have won three titles? And would Orlando have been better with Kobe? – Adam Bugg, Tasmania, Australia
"Pure talent" isn't enough. If a player lacks other non-quantifiable qualites — a razor-sharp competitive nature, the ability to make important plays, physical endurance, mental concentration, unerring and a comprehensive court awareness — then whatever talent he might possess is only good for highlights on the evening news and gargantuan contracts.
For all of his unquestionable talent, McGrady was soft, less than forceful and physically and mentally fragile. There's no way the Lakers could have won back-to-back-to-back championships with T-Mac in place of Kobe.
For sure, Kobe would have improved the fortunes of the Magic over that same stretch but Orlando would still have fallen short in the power department.
As an NBA sports journalist, you are peerless! No one but you has the technical and analytical insight to so expertly dissect the game and its players. I worry, though, that when you are watching a game, you are so consumed with the X's and O's that you don't get a chance to actually enjoy the game. So prove me wrong, Charley, and tell me which players and what aspects of the game you find entertaining, and why? – Mark J. Pellegrino, MD
While I do appreciate your praise, I must admit to being somewhat stunned by your other observation — primarily because there's more than a grain of truth in what you propose. Yes, "working" a game is not always conducive to enjoying it. Especially at this point in the season when I can hardly wait for the playoffs to begin.
That said, for various reasons I do enjoy watching the following players: Louis Amundson, Raja Bell, Kobe Bryant, Wilson Chandler, Jared Dudley, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Manu Ginobili, LeBron James (sometimes, but not always), Carl Landry, Andre Miller, Steve Nash, Joakim Noah, Leon Powe, J. J. Redick, Brandon Roy, Luis Scola, Anderson Varejao, Dwyane Wade, Delonte West, Deron Williams and my current favorite Ersan Illyasova.
Although I must admit that I dig seeing these guys play much more when I'm not covering a game. But I've got no complaints.
I'm thrilled by acrobatic shots, but only if they mean something in the context of a game. Physical, alert defensive rotations are heavenly — the kind that the Celtics played in 2008. I also like seeing two teams really going at each other, whether they might be, say, the Lakers and the Cavs, or the Nets and the T-Wolves.
But I absolutely love the playoffs, especially once the first-round preliminaries are dispensed with. Who will respond to the pressure, and who will not? What adjustments and re-adjustments do each of the coaching staffs make from game-to-game?
My delight in these money games usually transcends my need to diligently track the strategies.
But the game is still The Game — a macho ballet with chest-to-chest and bone-on-bone defense involving the best athletes on the planet. The perfect mix of the physical, the emotional, the spiritual and the cerebral.
If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future column.