Thomas: If society changes, then basketball will change. I really think they're tied together. They were for us. Basketball was life skills. You played the right way because that was the right thing to do. Coaches taught you the right way because they were, in effect, teaching you the game of life.
Dumars: Fundamentals can come back, but we--the NBA--have to lead the way. Pro sports teams influence a lot of people, and if kids really look at the type of teams that win, they are usually teams with great chemistry and great fundamentals and not necessarily ones with the superstar. The Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL. The New England Patriots in the NFL. The Florida Marlins in baseball. And the Pistons were that type of team.
Here's the challenge to this generation of coaches out there working with kids: When you have those one or two players who are better than everyone else, will you be willing to coach them exactly like you coach the rest of the team? The elite kids at the youth level are not being coached the way they should.
All of you know a little something about playing, so do you get involved in instruction? If you do, does your coach mind?
Vandeweghe: I definitely wanted my team to get back to playing the way we did in the '80s--fast-break basketball, lots of movement, a fun game to play, a fun game to watch. That was my philosophy, and I made sure the coaches knew it. It's the reason I brought in Doug Moe [the former Nuggets coach and motion-offense advocate who was rehired as a consultant].
Dumars: I think we have to get involved. The other day I saw one of my guards get hung up on a screen. So after practice I pulled him aside and showed him how to get around it. Now, I would never stop practice. That line has to be kept clear. But I think Larry Brown expects me to talk to the players about basketball.
Thomas: I most definitely get involved. And I'll talk to Lenny [Wilkens] too, if I see something I don't like. But I would never stop practice to do either.
Bird: I definitely talk to the players. Maybe it was easy for me because I was a coach. Last year, for example, I had them put a camera on Ronnie [Artest] the whole game. Then I told him to take the tape home and watch how much he's standing around. "You've got to be moving without the ball, making back cuts, setting picks," I told him. He came back and told me, "Man, I see what you mean. And I thought I really worked hard in that game. I didn't do anything."
McHale: I watch a guy play five NBA games, and I have a real good handle on what he can do in our league. Maybe two games. We have to get involved in the basketball stuff. It's what we're good at. I don't go around stopping practice as a rule, but, yeah, I might do it. Especially if I hear Flip [Saunders] emphasize something, then the players go out and screw it up on the first repetition. That kind of thing drives me nuts.
Bird: One thing I won't do is tell Rick [Carlisle] how to coach this team. I have all the faith in the world in him. Would I like to see us run more? Probably. And I might say to him, "Rick, you should go over to Europe to watch some ball. The game goes so much faster. Not many timeouts. They don't set up, they don't look over for a play call every second." But I wouldn't tell him to run more, and I wouldn't stop practice to say something.