- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Change was hardest on Denver's Westhead. He had thumbed his nose at the NBA theory that to succeed, a team has to play tough, half-court defense at least some of the time.
Then, on the evening of Jan. 12, West-head, staring into the abyss of an eight-game losing streak and a league-worst record of 6-28, told his players to scrap the press in favor of a tough, half-court, help-out D that hadn't been seen in Denver all season. The Nuggets have adhered to that basic defensive plan since and as of Sunday stood at 14-35, not good but not embarrassing.
But constant full-court pressure is still most definitely in Westhead's playbook. "I saw the full-court pressure not working for reasons," he says. "One, we had a lot of injuries, and two, we just weren't making enough athletic moves to give it a chance to work." And he still sounds vaguely contemptuous of a league that doubted his system from the beginning, a league in which, according to Westhead, "everyone has the same plays, and the same routine, and they all want to get in the same groove."
Westhead denies the change was made at the behest of Nugget general manager Bernie Bicker-staff and says that the concept of full-court, 48-minute defensive pressure combined with frenetic, take-the-first-good-shot-you've-got offense will be back in Denver's training camp next season.
"It was a hard decision," says West-head, "because in my heart I know that I'm right."
Future Hall of Famer Larry Bird and rookie Dee Brown walked into a Boston Celtics shootaround in Seattle last week, and a local camera crew began scrambling to set up. "There he is!" said one of the crew members excitedly, pointing to...Dee Brown.
"It's been different, that's for sure," said Brown. "More autographs, more attention, more everything."
"It" was Brown's victory on Feb. 9 in the NBA's All-Star Slam Dunk Championship, in Charlotte. Brown kept his eyes closed on his final slam, which runner-up Shawn Kemp of Seattle called "the most incredible dunk I've ever seen," but cynics said he had them wide open when he pumped up his Reebok sneakers before each dunk. Brown had signed a three-year endorsement deal with Reebok before the season, and observers wondered what financial rewards Brown reaped as a result of his pumping up.
The answer is, nothing. Yet. Reebok is considering a Brown poster and a TV commercial, both built on his slamming success, but a company source said the rookie received nothing extra for the pump ploy. Brown has said that his idea for the pumping evolved out of conversations with teammates Kevin McHale and Brian Shaw, and not Reebok officials.