The JungleMarch 22, 2019


The book on guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo is evolving.

When the Milwaukee Bucks faced the Utah Jazz‘s elite defense earlier this month, head coach Quin Snyder’s plan was to give Antetokounmpo a sizeable cushion on the perimeter to prevent him from driving. As soon as he elected to shoot, though, his defender would close out hard to contest rather than daring him to launch. When Antetokounmpo splashed in a 3 to quiet the Vivint Smart Home Arena crowd, one scout leaned back in his chair and put his hands on the back of his head.

“When he can shoot that consistently,” the scout said, “he will be unguardable.”

At 24, Antetokounmpo has already been the league’s Most Improved Player and an All-Star captain, and he is currently a strong MVP candidate. Incredibly, he’s become one of the most popular and dominant NBA players during the golden age of the 3-pointer without a reliable outside shot. His progress as a shooter this season, with coach Mike Budenholzer‘s careful guidance and endless encouragement, suggests that Antetokounmpo’s basketball takeover is just getting started.

“He has the 100 percent green light to shoot,” Budenholzer said.

Entering March, Antetokounmpo had improved his 3-point percentage each month this season, reaching 40 percent in February. He’s also made noticeable progress on pull-up 3-pointers, a key weapon for a lead ball handler. In 2018, Antetokounmpo shot just 5.6 percent on pull-up 3s, which ranked last of the 76 players who attempted at least 15 such shots. Since Jan. 1, he is shooting 36.8 percent (7-of-19) on pull-up 3s. He still can’t be described as a good 3-point shooter, but a player with so many other skills needs only to be a confident and competent one.

“I am really confident the ball is going in,” Antetokounmpo said recently. “Obviously, it looks good when the ball goes in. You feel a lot better about yourself. At the end of the day, I have been working on it.

“As I’ve said in the past, my teammates, the coaching staff want me to shoot the ball. I want to keep shooting the ball.”

Though Antetokounmpo has been making adjustments to his shot since his rookie season, his focus on 3-point shooting was heightened during the summer of 2018. The Bucks underwent a coaching change, and with that, a philosophical change on how Antetokounmpo should be used offensively.

Former Bucks coach Jason Kidd was much more careful in his treatment of Antetokounmpo’s shooting, especially early in Antetokounmpo’s career. During his second season, just 6 percent of his shots were 3-pointers. This year, that number is up to 15 percent.

That increase is no accident: Budenholzer has reiterated that no matter how many times Antetokounmpo’s 3-point attempts ricochet off the backboard or fall short of the net altogether, he should keep shooting from distance. And it’s not just Antetokounmpo. Budenholzer has transformed the Bucks, who were 27th in 3-pointers made per game last season and are second this season.

“You go into any game and figure out what sword you’re going to die on,” Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown said Sunday, before Antetokounmpo exploded for a career-high 52 points and connected on three of a career-high eight 3-point attempts. “You have to pick your tolerance level. There are times when you’re trying to absorb his drives where you’re not going to be able to get outside to guard the 3-point shot.

“You pick your poison.”

Budenholzer’s philosophical approach to Antetokounmpo’s shooting stems from his belief in the power of spacing. Bucks assistant and shooting coach Ben Sullivan recently diagrammed the vision on a whiteboard: Antetekounmpo, with four shooters around him, drawing enough attention away from the paint when he approaches the perimeter to create wide open cutting and driving lanes for his teammates.

“This now unlocks space for his teammates,” Sullivan said. “It makes the whole team harder to guard when he doesn’t have the ball. Before he took the job, Bud analyzed the team — the strengths and weaknesses of everyone — and he’s like, ‘Giannis is one of the best players in the league. How do we help Giannis be even better?’

“We need to give Giannis space and we have been trying to execute that vision ever since. We just keep trying to tweak it and make it better and different and harder to guard.”

Together, Sullivan and Antetokounmpo have spent hours in the gym nipping and tucking Antetokounmpo’s shot. The Bucks call their personalized exercises “vitamins” because they “take them daily.” Antetokounmpo’s vitamins include a heavy dosage of shooting.

Though Antetokounmpo is routine-oriented, Sullivan will mix in various creative exercises to break up the monotony of standing at the top of the key and putting up shot after shot. Sometimes, Sullivan will roll an office chair out onto the court for Antetokounmpo to sit on while shooting. Other times, Sullivan will instruct his pupil to shoot into the eyes of the Bucks logo mounted on the wall 20 feet above the ground.

“He is already one of the top players in the NBA,” Sullivan said. “Working on shooting and improving on shooting is only going to help further enhance that. What’s the narrative you hear? ‘If Giannis could shoot, he would be unstoppable. Unguardable.’ He is already unguardable. If he could shoot, he would be even more unguardable.”

Antetokounmpo still has real work to do to become a consistent outside threat. Though he is launching more 3s than he has in his entire career, he is still shooting just 25 percent this season on a relatively small number of attempts. But Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are less focused on the black-and-white efficiency number than his long-term growth in comfort and confidence.

“Hopefully, when we get in the playoffs and when it matters the most, I will be able to knock some shots down,” Antetokounmpo said.

Developing consistency from distance in time for the playoffs may be an overly ambitious goal for Antetokounmpo, who is the league’s most dominant presence in the paint. Opponents would rather test his shooting range with the season on the line than see him drive the lane.

But when that 3-point shot becomes a reliable weapon, the old manual on how to guard Antetokounmpo will be outdated, no longer useful for defenses trying to guard the unguardable.

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The JungleMarch 22, 2019


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The JungleMarch 22, 2019


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Wofford guard Fletcher Magee set the NCAA Division I career 3-point record in Thursday night’s 84-68 win against Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA tournament, bypassing the mark once held by Travis Bader.

Magee needed three 3-pointers against the Pirates to set the record. He got his third on the first possession of the second half to give him 505 for his career. Bader had set the mark with 504 in 2014 at Oakland.

As soon as Magee lifted to take the shot, the large Wofford contingent stood with arms raised and gave him a standing ovation.

Magee finished the night with 7 3-pointers made on 12 attempts, giving him 509 for his career.

The senior from Orlando, Florida, is No. 1 in the nation in 3-point field goals per game, averaging 4.58 entering Thursday.

During Wednesday’s pregame news conference, coach Mike Young called Magee “the hardest worker I’ve ever been around.”

“I don’t know that any of us know coming in that he’s going to score 500 3s and 2,500 points,” Young said. “If I had a nickel for every time I had a high school coach tell me kids will be the hardest worker you’ve ever had, I’d have some money, and I respectfully internally thought to myself, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard that again; here we go.’ He is the hardest worker I’ve ever been around.”

Magee said Wednesday he would have family and friends in Jacksonville, a two-hour drive from where he grew up. Asked why he has been so successful shooting 3s at Wofford, Magee said, “A lot of that is the system that we have, guards coming off screens a lot, my teammates looking for me a lot. I think those are two of the main things, and then obviously you have to work on your game and get in the gym and shoot as much as you can. So I think the combination of shooting in the gym and getting your confidence in your shot and then having coaches run plays for you in the offense and having your teammates, good passers, good screeners get you the ball, I think that combination has allowed for a lot of success.”

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The JungleMarch 21, 2019


Bianca Andreescu saved a match point as she produced an astonishing comeback to beat Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round of the Miami Open.

Andreescu made history by becoming the first wildcard to win the Indian Wells Open on Sunday and those exploits appeared to have caught up with her in Florida.

Begu led 5-1 in the second set after winning the first, but the 18-year-old Canadian won five games in a row before bossing a tie-break and going on to secure a stunning 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 victory.

Andreescu came from a set down to beat the Romanian at Indian Wells and demonstrated great character to rally from the brink of defeat and set up an encounter with Sofia Kenin — the last player to beat the teenager in Acapulco.

Begu broke in the opening game of a match that could not be played on Wednesday due to rain and although tournament debutant Andreescu got back on serve, she was broken again immediately to go 3-2 down.

Andreescu made too many unforced errors and looked heavy-legged on Butch Buchholz Court, the composed Begu wrapping up the opening set and breaking three times to go 5-1 up in the second.

The heavy-hitting world number 24 — playing with strapping on her right arm — roared back as Begu faltered with the second round within touching distance, a match point coming and going as the nerves jangled.

Andreescu was like a different player, breaking with a scorching forehand winner to make it 5-3 and again to level, then dominating the breaker with an aggressive approach.

Begu looked to be haunted by losing control of the match and Andreescu capitalized, breaking to love in the first game of the decider with a spring in her step and again to lead 5-2 as she pulled off a magnificent rally.

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The JungleMarch 21, 2019


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The JungleMarch 21, 2019


Phoenix Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. will undergo a minor procedure on his left thumb and miss the rest of the season, league sources told ESPN.

Oubre is expected to make a full recovery in four to six weeks, sources said.

Oubre, 23, will enter into restricted free agency this summer off the best stretch of his career, as he has averaged 20 points and 5.7 rebounds since his insertion into the starting lineup after the All-Star break. Oubre joined the Suns in December in a trade from the Washington Wizards.

Oubre is averaging a career-best 15.2 points a game this season. He is expected to be a priority for the Suns to retain in free agency this summer. They’ll have the right to match an offer sheet elsewhere for him.

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The JungleMarch 21, 2019


If asked how baseball has changed most over the past three decades, the answer could be the precipitous decline of the complete game. Lots of things change in scale, in frequency, in importance. But perhaps no baseball feat has traversed from routine to nearly extinct to quite this degree. In your lifetime, you might very well see the last complete game.

Just 30 years ago, there were 622 complete games, roughly four every day. There were 42 all of last year, despite there being four more teams in the league (and thus 648 more pitcher starts). This decline, which is certainly not a total revelation, steepened over the three years prior, from 104 (already an all-time low) in 2015 to 83 in 2016 to 59 in 2017. Roughly speaking, that’s 20 to 30 percent of complete games disappearing every year, long after the achievement had seemingly already become an anachronism.

(The blue line shows complete games by year since 1988. The red line shows how many complete games per 4,860 games played — a full season these days — to control for strike-shortened seasons and expansion.)

So, if one were to extrapolate the past three years the simplest way possible, we’d say there will be around 32 complete games this year, 24 or so in 2020, in the teens by 2021 and in single digits by 2023. By 2028, there will be two complete games a year, fewer (paradox alert!) than there are complete-game no-hitters. Within 10 years of that, there will be a complete game about every decade, and by 2047 there will be a complete game per century. So, to answer one question, you — you, specifically — will see your final complete game sometime in the mid-2040s.

We mostly jest, of course. Simple extrapolations are too simple. Not all complete games are threatened equally, and not all complete games are threatened by the same forces. So to really get into this, we need to know which complete games are gone, and where they went.

It helps, perhaps, to think about this decline as it relates to two players. In and around 1988, Roger Clemens was probably the game’s best pitcher, winner of the previous two Cy Young Awards and a contender for it in ’88. He threw 14 complete games that year. In and around 2018, Max Scherzer was probably the game’s best pitcher, winner of the previous two Cy Young Awards and a contender for it in ’18. He threw two complete games, same as he threw in 2017. Each pitcher was his era’s horse — Scherzer led the National League in complete games last year and in 2017 — but the expectations had all changed. So where did all but 42 of those 622 complete games go? Where did all but two of those 14 go?

1. The Ones Lost to Safety
In 2018, only one pitcher was allowed to throw as many as 130 pitches in a start — Sean Newcomb, who was chasing a no-hitter. (After allowing a hit with two out in the ninth, he was immediately pulled.) Only two more pitchers were allowed to throw more than 125 pitches: Tyson Ross (no-hitter pursuit) and Trevor Bauer (self-professed pitch-count skeptic/durability unicorn). The most pitches anybody else threw was 122 (Justin Verlander, along with Bauer again). We can surmise, then, that in 2018, most managers had an unofficial hard cap of 122 pitches, barring no-hitter pursuits, which are no longer at all automatic, either.

That’s one way of deducing how many pitches a pitcher gets in his quest for completion. Another, more universal one would be to look at the 95th-percentile pitch count for starters in a season, which would give us a pretty good idea of where almost all managers would set the ceiling on almost all pitchers in almost all circumstances. The 95th-percentile pitch count last year was 109. For most pitchers, 109 is the soft cap, with maybe one more batter allowed under some circumstances.

Both “limits” — 122 pitches and 109 pitches — are not only way down from 1988 limits, but are continuing to drop every year. As to the hard cap, in 1988, at least 18 pitchers threw at least 150 pitches in a start, and even five years ago, 17 pitchers topped 125. As to the soft cap, here are the 95th-percentile pitch counts in each of the past five years, as well as in a few years further back:

  • 1988: 131

  • 1990: 127

  • 2000: 124

  • 2010: 117

  • 2014: 114

  • 2015: 112

  • 2016: 112

  • 2017: 111

  • 2018: 109

That 122-pitch hard cap eliminates at least 206 of the 612 complete games that were thrown in 1988. (There were 19 starts with incomplete pitch information.) It eliminates nine of Clemens’ complete games. These disappeared complete games have nothing to do with in-game strategies, third-time-through-the-order penalties, bullpenning or openers. They’re just now broadly seen as unsafe, and good riddance.

2. The Ones Lost to Modern Offense
An additional 194 complete games in 1988 took at least 110 pitches, but 122 or fewer. These would be our 95th-percentile pitch counts, strenuous but still within the limits of modern pitcher usage — especially for a pitcher like Clemens (then) or Scherzer (now).

But it’s not that easy. In 1988, the average plate appearance lasted 3.58 pitches. In 2018, it lasted 3.90 pitches. There were also 33 percent more outs made on the bases — caught stealing, pickoffs or runners thrown out trying to advance — and slightly more double plays in 1988, so even with the same OBP in both seasons the modern pitchers have to face more batters to get the same number of outs. Bottom line: It takes an average of 13 more pitches to get 27 outs now than it did 30 years ago, which means the seemingly attainable 110-pitch start in 1988 would demand an out-of-range 123 pitches today. That means the 194 complete games between 110 and 122 pitches in 1988 join the other 206 in the category of Flat-Out Unsafe range, including two of Clemens’. Unsafe, good riddance.

3. The Ones Lost to Strategy
There were 162 complete games in 1988 that took at least 97 pitches but not more than 109, which — adjusted for the 13 extra pitches required to get outs today — we can now adjust up to 110/122, the 95th percentile of pitch counts last year. These 162 represent our pool of complete games that are narrowly within modern standards, but only if everything works just right.

But there were only 15 complete games in this pitch range last year, which is one way of saying everything rarely works just right. A few examples of potential complete games interrupted:

  • On Sept. 4, the Yankees’ J.A. Happ threw six innings in 70 pitches, having allowed only two baserunners and only one run. But after a leadoff single in the seventh, he was quickly replaced by David Robertson, who was replaced by Zack Britton, who was replaced by Dellin Betances — all of them former All-Stars, all of them closers, all of them with ERAs in the 2s for New York. There were 110 relievers last year — nearly four per bullpen — who had ERAs at least 20 percent better than league average, more than double what there were in 1988. Almost every team’s bullpen is deep.

  • On Sept. 26, Jhoulys Chacin was pulled after throwing just 60 pitches in five innings. He had a 2-1 lead, but the top of the order was coming up, and teams are increasingly skittish about letting their pitchers face batters, and particularly heart-of-the-order batters, a third time. (Offensive numbers spike the third time hitters see a pitcher, from either pitcher fatigue or hitter familiarity.) The Brewers pulled their starting pitcher after exactly 18, 19 or 20 batters 38 times, the most in baseball and the second-most in history. (The 2012 Rockies, who were running a four-man-rotation experiment, had 43.) Chacin had nine such games, the second-most in history (behind one of those Rockies.) There were almost 600 such starts across baseball last year, 100 more than in any other season and more than twice as many as there were just eight years earlier.

  • On April 15, Verlander completed eight innings in 100 pitches. He had 11 strikeouts and hadn’t allowed a hit since the third inning. But the playoff format isn’t the same as it was in 1988 — more teams make it, and the eventual champion might need to win as many as four playoff rounds instead of two. That meant the front-running Astros could be (a) much more certain than a 1988 team that they’d need Verlander to pitch in October and (b) more worried about the extra workload in October, which could add 30 or 40 innings to his season. (Verlander had, in fact, thrown an extra 37 innings in the previous postseason.) It made more sense to save his arm than wring it dry.

  • And on June 5, Scherzer had thrown only 99 pitches through eight innings, with 13 strikeouts, no walks and a 4-2 lead. But running a regimented bullpen means keeping pitchers on something of a schedule, neither over- nor underworked. Closer Sean Doolittle hadn’t appeared in the previous couple of games, and if he hadn’t pitched that day — and with a Nationals travel day coming up — he risked going almost a week between outings. In 1988, there’s a pretty good chance Clemens would have just stayed in, but in this case, out ran Doolittle, and Scherzer’s pitching line ended at 8.

Now, as we said, there were 15 complete games in this high-pitch-count range last year, so 15 times when everything worked out right. But for the most part, the league’s 42 complete games in 2018 came on especially low pitch counts, including five eight-inning complete games (where the visiting starter lost and didn’t have to pitch the bottom of the ninth), one rain-shortened shutout (which is how Trevor Williams led the NL in complete-game shutouts despite never throwing a pitch after the seventh inning) and Rick Porcello‘s 82-pitch novella.

There were 41 complete games from 1988 that took 96 or fewer pitches, which we’re considering the equivalent of 109 or fewer pitches in 2018. Now, knock that 41 number down a little bit to allow for bullpenning, the 5 percent of games when a team sent a reliever out to start the game, making a complete game totally unthinkable. And knock it down a little more for the extra caution teams use with young pitchers, since complete-game rates for under-25 starters (three last year, two the year before) really, truly are nearing zero. You’re left with about as many low-pitch complete games in 1988 as there were in 2018. And the decline is, more or less, all accounted for.

So, Then, Looking Forward
We found three primary factors for this near-extinction: a low cap for pitch counts, longer at-bats, and strategic developments, which broadly prefer relievers to starters. The low cap continues to get lower, by roughly a pitch per year, and in fact dropped by two pitches last year. The longer at-bats continue to get longer, by about one hundredth of a pitch each year, and in fact over the past three years have gone up by about double that rate.

More important, the preference for relievers was perhaps the dominant strategic story of last season, from the Rays’ regular use of the opener to the A’s bullpenning in the wild-card game to the Brewers Josh Hader-ing their way into the playoffs.

Nine teams didn’t have a complete game last year, from small markets (Tampa Bay) to large (Los Angeles Dodgers), such that it’s almost impossible to expect anybody in those rotations to complete a game. The two Cy Young winners combined for one, such that it’s hard to imagine any pitcher at this point racking up more than a couple.

So, since this is a predictions piece, we’ll say there will be … 32, like the simple extrapolation said. A little more than half will be thrown in the American League, perhaps one will be thrown by a pitcher under 25, none by those teams that have gone most heavily into bullpenning or 18-batter starts, none by the teams with the best and deepest bullpens. Two by Scherzer.

And the trajectory beyond that? Well, if Major League Baseball were to expand by six franchises, then bullpens would be diluted, and even tiring starting pitchers might once again become preferable to the fourth-best reliever. Until then, though, most teams will be trying to find ways to use their relievers more, not less. We were just joking with our simple extrapolation. It also might be just about right.

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The JungleMarch 21, 2019


The assignment was simple. The coaches speaking to Sporting News would be granted full anonymity, so they could say anything they wanted about how a team in the 2019 NCAA Tournament should deal with Zion Williamson. Some of them are conference rivals, so even if they won’t face Zion again, they still must contend with Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke program one or more times each season. It was important the Blue Devils never would know who was giving away the secret ingredients.

This didn’t quite go as planned, though. Because all the coaches still spoke with reverence about Zion.

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There wasn’t a whole lot of: He can’t do this. He can’t do that. You can make him irrelevant if you put him in this situation. There was a whole lot of what best can be summarized as: Wow.

Unless and until Duke is eliminated from March Madness, this tournament will be defined by Williamson’s presence. He averaged 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, and the Blue Devils went 24-2 when he played a full game. Every team he encounters in this event, whether it is their first-round opponent or perhaps Michigan State in the Elite Eight, will have to have a plan for dealing with him.

Although the coaches we contacted ended up flattering him more so than critiquing him, they did offer insight about what might be the game plan in trying to cope with Williamson and the rest of the Blue Devils.


High-major assistant coach No. 1

One of the things he kills you with is his second effort. If he misses a shot, he’s so quick off the floor. He goes and gets it, and he gets a 3-point play. Not only is he good defensively, blocking shots and making steals, they convert them. The biggest thing about Zion is his hustle plays are unbelievable. They’re backbreakers. You don’t typically expect that from a star-level player.

All young players get a little anxious, so I think you have to crowd him. Because he’ll run you over a little bit. You’ve got to run guys at him. You’ve got to make him be a passer. They’ve got a couple guys out there that don’t really make plays. I would make him throw it to them and make those guys beat you that night.

He will probably get in foul trouble more on offense than defense — if you can get guys to stand in and take a charge. He’s a big dude, now. Believe me, we had guys bailing out in our game. He gets a little wild. You can get him to do those types of things, but somebody has to be willing to do it.

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ACC assistant coach No. 1

He’s a handful. People get really wowed by his athleticism, but he knows how to play. His IQ is realy high, and he plays really hard — which a lot of young guys don’t do.

When you try to stop him from scoring, he can pass. And the rebound: You literally need two guys on him at all times, and you still might not get the ball.

When he catches the ball, he needs to see six eyes. You want to try to force him to get the ball as far from the basket, which is hard because they make a concerted effort to get it to him close. Your biggest concern is him scoring and him getting your guys in foul trouble.

When he’s on defense, pull him away from the basket, because he’s a really good rim protector for his size. You’ve got to know where he’s at when you’re driving and he’s around the basket. And the plays that he makes, even if it’s just one or two blocks they’re so impactful and he gives so much energy to his team and to the crowd.

One block is equivalent to like five.

MORE: Scouting Zion Williamson, Duke’s dunking, dominant phenom

ACC assistant coach No. 2

He’s such a remarkable athlete, but he has what people don’t give him credit for: an unbelievable IQ. The value of that guy cannot be filled by anyone or anybody. He impacts the game not in the box score.

When things go bad for them, he covers up so much ground from others’ mistakes. He allows his teammates to be out of position. You see that with his ability to block shots.

He knows who he is as a player, first and foremost. He’s not doing things he can’t do. He’s not allowing what the media thinks about his game to stop him from dominating. The other part of it is his ability to stay out of foul trouble, to get the rebound knowing that two guys are going to block him out and he still has a knack for where the ball is going.

Also, he knows spacing, because he’s not crowding his teammates. He’s giving RJ Barrett enough space to operate. And he’s very unselfish. He’s not running to the ball like a 5-year-old soccer player.

NBA MOCK DRAFT 2.0: Zion Williamson, Duke trio nearly sweep top three picks

You know he’s getting offensive rebounds. You can’t control where the ball is going. But there’s one guy who knows where it’s going to be. He has that Dennis Rodman approach to rebounding. If he puts his mind to it, he can be a guy who rebounds the ball like Rodman. If rebounding was treated like those dunks that he does, he’d go out and average 23 rebounds a game. The dude is a force, and there’s not a center or PG who can defend him.

A charge isn’t going to stop that dude. If you meshed Larry Johnson, Dennis Rodman, guys like that, into one player, you have Zion Williamson. It’s a unique talent, because the last person to make an impact like that was LeBron James.

He gives them confidence to take shots. He’s been great for Cam Reddish, and that’s probably one of the reasons Cam struggled when he was hurt. Zion gave him a chance to go out and take chances; he’s not as much of a risk-taker as RJ is.

ACC assistant coach No. 3

Zion is a better ballhandler than he’s given credit for. He’s a better passer.

The thing you have to try to do is shrink the court. You have to try to make sure when Zion has the ball there are jerseys around him. Build a wall around him. You know RJ can shoot it, Cam can shoot it. The other guys have struggled.

If you give him any space, he’s too fast. He’s going to get there. And once he feels the contact, it springs him forward. Most guys if you hit them, they lose balance. He’s so powerful, you really have to clobber him. Which most guys don’t. They just get the hell out of the way.

Duke’s Zion Williamson is something basketball has never seen

High-major head coach No. 1

He is so quick off the floor, and he’s so powerful. There are times when we played them, and he just went through our guys’ chin and chest. Our guys were right there to block his shot, but his power and explosiveness is just amazing.

I would tell you that with them, to play them, people say back off and let him shoot threes. That’s not the way to do it because he knows how to take up the space and get closer to the basket. What you’ve got to do, you’ve got to guard him and guard RJ Barrett, and everybody else you’ve got to shrink the floor.

They are not a great 3-point shooting team. Jack White has had issues, Reddish is inconsistent.

The more Zion can play on the perimeter, the better you’re going to be. You can’t ever let him get in transition. The less they’re in transition, that’s important, because now you’ve got to keep the floor shrunk. The more it’s tighter and compacted — that’s why Duke has struggled against VT, because they do such a good job of keeping the floor compact. There’s not a lot of room to drive. If Duke’s not shooting great from 3, they’re very beatable. You can’t let them beat you from 3-point range.

There is no gameplan if they make a bunch of 3s. It’s impossible to beat them.

BRACKET TIPS: KenPom | Play the odds | Idiot’s guide

High-major assistant coach No. 2

No one man can defend him. You have to force him to shoot. Now, he’ll make you pay, but you’d much rather do that than have him shoot 70 percent from 15 feet and in.

What you have to try to do is have somebody who can space the floor and also put it on the floor.

He’s a good defender. He’s a good help-side defender. He can block shots. But you have to try to move him as much as possible. If you have an offensive player that can play inside out, space him out, run him off staggers, that can keep him occupied. If you allow him to play centerfield and be a linebacker, he’s going to make the right play 100 percent of the time.

Now that’s easier said than done, because they have a point guard in Tre Jones who can pick up 94 feet and make it hard to get an offense started.

The real basketball minds can see that he can see stuff two plays away, to be able to come offer help side and make that steal, to be able to hit a gap and make the right play, to hit the guy in the corner.

He likes to play. You can tell. He finds joy in it. He likes to work and wants to get better.

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The JungleMarch 21, 2019


Price: $159.99
(as of Mar 21,2019 07:18:57 UTC – Details)


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The JungleMarch 21, 2019


PHILADELPHIA — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart was ejected less than a minute into the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against Philadelphia for a two-handed shove into the back of 76ers star Joel Embiid.

“Obviously I was frustrated, because it was a cheap shot,” Embiid said afterward. “I didn’t see it coming. It caught me off-guard.

“But, I mean, I really don’t want to talk about it. I don’t care.”

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