Linkin' Center: Mozgov's Mind, Landry Fields' Greatness & LeBron's Illiteracy

Knicks’ center Timofey Mozgov apparently blogs, and via a translation we can see that he’s kept an amazingly positive attitude despite barely playing, all while spending extra time working on his game.  In other words, he’s the Anti-Darko.  It’s well worth a read in full because he talks about a lot of other things too, but here are some intriguing highlights:

After the Cleveland game where I got another DNP – Coach’s decision, I have read – yet another time – that Mozgov is losing is losing the trust of the coach.

I’ll say this: on my part there’s no panic!

First of all, I’ll repeat myself: coach has talked several times about the different rotation schemes. Second, we have talked with him about it, even though briefly. He promised to get me back on the court, and I have no reason not to trust him. Third, I think right now he’s just found the game he was looking for and that got us rolling.

This tempo and playing style have helped us win eight straight games.

Sure, it’s possible he’s just spouting the company line, but this is what really gives me hope:

I have read this in comments under my posts: “…and this is why he should do everything in such a way that later he could turn back and say, “Yes, I did everything I could. I’m not ashamed…”  I say hi to the author! I’ve read it. And I reply: I’m not ashamed! Tomorrow, in addition to the main practice, I will have my usual individual practices with three Knicks specialists who have particular specialties.

I think the fact that the club spends so much power and resources on me, it gives me yet another reason to be optimistic. If D’Antoni got disappointed in me, I wouldn’t have such a luxurious opportunity to get better during individual practices.

Not only is having additional practices with three different coaches, but he properly thinks of it as a gift.  If only Eddy Curry had that mentality too…

Finally, perhaps even more impressive, is that he’s kept things in perspective, remembering how little was initially expected of him rather than focusing on the ensuing hoopla that got everyone thinking maybe he was able to produce more:

When I was just leaving for the NBA I thought I would only play for five or seven minutes. But remember my first month – I was starting my American career in a starting lineup! (By the way, at the time we were playing in a more traditional manner, which once again illustrates the player rotation). So it’s not surprising that right now even ten minutes look like it’s not enough.

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Usually in Before-And-After segments we see people losing weight or, sadly these days on talk/reality TV shows, having plastic surgery.  This, however, is a verbal Before-And-After, that compares DraftExpress’ initial low view of Landry Fields (as everyone in the world except his Momma did) with the amazing, surprising things he’s done on the Knicks.  It’s also interesting in that it shows how those college skills/weaknesses haven’t necessarily changed, but the different setting has made it easier to showcase those abilities.

Part Two: Perimeter Shooting

Then:

“Though Fields has proven to be a high caliber scorer, he is still not a finished product offensively, especially with the polish he shows from the perimeter. When he isn’t able to get close enough to the rim to utilize his floater, he struggles mightily with his pull-up jump shot, displaying a lack of fluidity in his form and a low release point. In contrast, Fields is a passable shooter from a standstill, displaying solid range and the ability to make shots with a hand in his face, a nice tool for him on the occasions that he faces up in the post.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers, December 31, 2009

Now:

Possibly the most important area of his game in terms of how he’s managed to succeed so quickly, Fields’ catch-and-shoot ability from NBA three-point range has been a major part of why his own (and the Knicks’) offense have managed to be so successful this season.

The interesting thing about his shooting is despite the NBA three-point line being a few feet deeper than the college three-point line and despite going up against much tougher defenders every night, Fields’ 38.7% shooting from three is a higher number than any of his four years in college. As a college senior for example he shot just 33.7% from beyond the arc. He’s also making more 3-pointers per game than he did in any of his four years at Stanford, which is something you rarely see.

With this, of course, it’s important to look a little deeper, as once again the importance of role has a large impact on how his numbers have improved. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Fields is actually scoring an identical 1.15 points per shot on catch-and-shoot opportunities in the pros as he did in college. The difference in his overall numbers is actually coming as a result of the type of shots he’s taking, with him now taking a significantly higher percentage of shots spotting up as compared to off the dribble.

In his senior year, Fields took 73 catch-and-shoot jumpers compared to 67 off the dribble, whereas in the pros he’s taken 65 catch-and-shoot compared to just 12 off the dribble. With him scoring an abysmal 0.5 points per shot with off the dribble jumpers, this has been a major boon to his overall efficiency.

As you can see it’s interesting in-depth stuff and well worth your while to check it out.

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Lastly, let’s dip into the LeBron Contraction-gate from this past week.  First, for those who don’t know, earlier this season, NBA Commissioner David Stern, playing hardball due to the upcoming contract renegotiations between management and players, made a comment about how the league has been so unprofitable this past year that they may have to even consider contraction.  Of course the player’s union is extremely against that because it’d take away 15 jobs for each team axed.  Not to mention how local fans wouldn’t be too thrilled to see their team get taken away (for proof see: Supersonics, Seattle).  No one actually believes they’d do it, but now it’s another chit that can be thrown on the bargaining table so that the owners/Stern can kindly “concede” on that point if the players will give up something else.  It’s sorta like quickly throwing on a second shirt because you know you’re about to play strip poker.

So this is a very sensitive subject with a likely lockout looming.  Particularly after the league bought a franchise for the first time ever (the New Orleans Hornets) they know could just suck up the loss of money and eliminate the Hornets rather than having to convince some owner to simply allow their $300-$500 million business venture to disappear.  However, I believe LeBron James lives in such a bubble that he genuinely might not have known this was an issue.  Even though it’s in his own world and could have a huge bearing on him directly.  Which is why I think he genuinely had no idea he was stepping into a minefield when he said:

“Imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the [league],” James said Thursday. “Looking at some of the teams that aren’t that great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren’t that good right now and you add him to a team that could be really good. Not saying let’s take New Jersey and let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league.”

It’s ironic that he said he wasn’t stupid, because when it caused an uproar, he tried to escape the mess by pleading that he had a poor vocabulary:

“That’s crazy, because I had no idea what the word ‘contraction’ meant before I saw it on the Internet,” James said after the Miami Heat‘s practice Monday. “I never even mentioned that. That word never even came out of my mouth. I was just saying how the league was back in the ’80s and how it could be good again. I never said, ‘Let’s take some of the teams out.’ “

First, what kind of retraction/apology is that because who cares if he knew what the word meant since, as he pointed out, he didn’t actually use it?  The key is that of course he just supported the idea of it.  How else can you interpret, “Not saying let’s take New Jersey and let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league.”  Isn’t that sorta like saying, “I’m not into violence, but none of us are stupid, we know it’d be great to watch some guy get clobbered in a back alley.”

My other two key points have to do with the rest of his original comments:

“Hopefully the league can figure out one way where it can go back to the ’80s where you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three or four Hall of Famers on the same team,” James said. “The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is [now].”

So the second point is that, and I’m surprised people haven’t mentioned this, only a few teams had three or four All-Stars in the ’80s, but other teams sucked hard.  Sorta like how the Celtics have four All-Stars, the Spurs have three (Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan), the Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, with Ron Artest & Andrew Bynum having been near-All-Stars at other points in their careers), the Magic (Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, even Jameer Nelson one year), the Mavericks (Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, plus at one point Shawn Marion and Caron Butler).

Anyway, the point is not that today’s All-Stars are as good as in the past (although many pundits have pointed out that the overall quality of player in terms of athleticism and skills is far higher these days).  The point is that there were sucky teams back then too, with their own languishing stars.  The only difference was that due to less restrictive salary cap/trade rules, it was far easier for the rich to get richer.

My third and final point, is the odd thing is that it seems like this all started in a misguided attempt to justify what he did (joining a Supernova All-Star in Dwayne Wade plus another All-Star in Chris Bosh).  In fact, if you read/hear many of his comments this season, they’re all about trying to convince the world he made the right decision by creating a Superteam and why people should forgive him.  I think what he was trying to get across is not that there should be less teams, but that wouldn’t it be great if every star with mediocre teammates could leave and play with other stars?  Kinda, sorta, exactly like he did.

Thus, ironically, in an attempt to get people to forgive a previous “mistake,” he unwittingly created a whole new one.

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Tags: Kevin Love Landry Fields LeBron James Miami Heat Mike D'Antoni Timofey Mozgov

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