You know I took Zach out of the game in Philly, because for three possessions in a row he couldn’t get the ball. Now, he was the point guard, right? But he just walked out there. What about setting your man up? What about taking two hard steps away, then stepping into your guy, holding off, then [claps his hands] burst! You would think that’s just natural. But who coached him? I don’t know his high school coach. I don’t know his AAU coach. I know who his college coach was, but he didn’t start or play but 18 minutes a game in college.
People think that learning is easy. But if it is not a habit — OK, you watch Kyrie Irving. Every time he goes to get the ball, he steps into his guy and then breaks off — every time. That’s all he knows. It is a habit. I learned it when I started going to basketball camp. But back then, that was professional coaches at those camps, high school and college coaches teaching us. It wasn’t some guy that owned a car wash and had some money and decided he was going to start an AAU team and he was gonna be the coach because he read a book or he watched basketball, and thinking he can coach. No, I had professional coaches.
So, we’re trying to teach him and others about spacing; about timing; when to cut; finishing your cutMinnPost: Shot selection.
SM: Shot selection. Passing. Did you see that pass last night? [Denver] switched Jameer Nelson on to G [Gorgui Dieng]. Zach was at the top of the key. What pass do you throw, with Jameer Nelson at 5-9 [listed at 6-
and Gorgui at 6-11? He threw him a bounce pass. Not only a bounce pass, but he tried to throw [Mitchell leans to the side and flicks his outstretched right wrist as if putting English on the ball] a pass as though it is going to spin back to G miraculously. And I’m sitting there thinking, this is an NBA player. This is the 13th pick in the draft. And Gorgui has a 5-9 guard on him who is 34 years old [as of Feb. 9]. And our second-year point guard tries to throw him a bounce pass, instead of just throw it up there toward the basket.
Now people will say, “He should know that.” Well, we can’t take for granted that he does, because he showed last night that he don’t. So we have to teach everything. If we forget one thing, it bites us in the ***. If we forget telling our guy not to walk up but to step in and now break and get open, then we don’t get open.
We have to teach them how to set a proper screen at the right angle. We put in something today and the difference is the angle of the screen. [He stands up to demonstrate, showing that the Wolves were setting screens in a manner that compelled opponents easy access to the player with the ball.] I’m saying, “Now why would you set a screen that way when we want are trying to get [the opponent] to go the other way?” And they looked at me, so I said, “OK, let me show you how to set the screen.”
These are things that veteran teams just take for granted. We have to teach all of that. So, OK, people think, “Well you told them.” But how long does it take to break bad habits, habits that you have had ever since you started playing basketball? You can’t just do it by telling them once. If no one has ever taught you how to set a proper screen, I have got to show you Monday, I have got to show you Tuesday, I got to show you Wednesday, on tape Thursday, on tape Friday — until it becomes second nature.
So how long does it take? For every guy it is different. The great ones, like KG — [snaps fingers]. Man, KG just picked it up. Other guys, it takes a while. But that is the difference between winning and losing. That is the difference between you being able to get down here [motions at spot on floor] with your first dribble instead of your third dribble. It makes all the difference.MinnPost: Time wasted.
SM: Not just avoiding time wasted, but creating gaps and seams.