Saturday, November 17, 2012

Self: Jayhawks’ defense not on point

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson comes away with the ball from Chattanooga guard Casey Jones during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson comes away with the ball from Chattanooga guard Casey Jones during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Elijah Johnson hit four important three-pointers and Naadir Tharpe one in helping Kansas University’s basketball team shake upset-minded Chattanooga on Thursday night in Allen Fieldhouse.

The two point guards, who accounted for 16 second-half points in KU’s 69-55 come-from-behind victory over the Mocs, also combined for nine assists against four turnovers. Tharpe led the way with five assists to no turnovers the first half; Johnson had four assists, one turnover the final half after a zero-assist, three-bobble effort the first 20 minutes.

Their offensive performance — which included 7-of-10 shooting from Johnson — helped awaken the Jayhawks, who trailed by 12 points early in the second half.

Their work on defense, however was not up to coach Bill Self’s standards.

“Elijah and Naadir have got to guard,” Self said. “We are decent defensively at the 2 (shooting guard), 3 (small forward) and 5 (center). We’ve got to get our 1 (point guard) and 4 (power forward) to be able to guard as well.”

Self, whose Jayhawks were burned by the 18-point, first-half performance of 6-foot point guard Farad Cobb, thinks he’s found a solution regarding on-the-ball point guard defense. He’ll let 6-foot-6 Travis Releford take over following his shutdown effort on Cobb during the second half.

“We’re better off with Travis on the ball,” Self said.

Overall he was pleased with the defense the final 20 minutes — ‘D’ that held the Mocs to 19 points off 6-of-25 shooting (24 percent).

“We fouled three times the first half (and trailed, 36-28 at break). How many teams are energetic and into it if you foul (just) three times?” Self asked. “Our (past) teams were in the bonus by the 10-minute mark because we foul stupid but we are also getting after it. We fouled 13 times the second half and were great defensively. The first half we had three fouls and no pressure at all. You’ve got to get in people’s comfort zone. The first half we didn’t do it at all.”

KU’s offense was miserable the first half as the Jayhawks hit 11 of 29 shots (37.9 percent), including three of 12 from three. KU hit 44.1 percent overall, including seven of 23 from three. Johnson went 5-of-5 the second half, 3-of-3 from three, scoring 13 points with four assists against one turnover.

“The thing about Elijah, he’ll bring it up the floor and pitch ahead to Ben instead of attacking himself,” Self said. “We don’t have a secondary handler. We’re negating numbers or our chance to get in the paint and make a play because Ben (McLemore) and Travis (Releford) aren’t great at that yet. With Naadir in there it can take some of the pressure off him. Naadir did OK (despite 1-of-6 shooting). He made a big shot in our run, may have given us our first lead (actually stretched it to 49-43).”

KU will next meet Washington State at 9 p.m., Monday, in Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.


HawkKlaw 1 year, 4 months ago

Self is not really saying anything new here. We all know that Naadir and Elijah need work on defense. We all know that we looked better with Travis guarding the point last game.

The fact that Self hasn't yet gone with Rio or AW3 over Naadir speaks volumes about their development so far. In Bill Self's eyes they clearly are not ready yet. Both will eventually play big minutes and contribute a lot at KU, but right now they're just unproven freshmen.

I think this is bad news for Naadir going forward though. Even though he's getting the lion's share of the backup PG minutes this year, if he gets benched this season due to his lack of defensive effectiveness, he might be looking to play ball elsewhere next year. Look at it this way: Next season the competition at PG is going to be even more fierce than it is this year with Rio, Selden, Frankamp and Mason all coming in and looking to get minutes at the PG spot. Rio is already a better defender than Naadir and next year Rio will be even more developed as an offensive player (and he's already a legitimate scoring threat). I think Rio could hurdle Naadir and become the starter next season, with Selden and Mason eating up a lot of the backup PG minutes.

Don't get me wrong: I want Naadir to stay at KU and I hate to speculate on him transferring, but I think he needs to really up the defensive integrity if he expects to see the court after this season. Our rotation next year could very well be:

1 - Rio (or Selden or Mason)

2 - AW3 (or Frankamp or Selden)

3 - Selden (or Greene)

That makes a 6 guard rotation right there. The only downside to that rotation is that we wouldn't have a lot of experience, but as we saw last year with UK, sometimes young talent trumps old experience. We shall see.


AsadZ 1 year, 4 months ago

Bate, This was a very well written piece on Preventive Defense. I enjoyed it a lot. Good stuff.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Personally, I am having a hard time trying to figure out why it is so hard to guard your man? Also, not too worried about Ellis. He is driven and competetive to almost MJ-like levels, thus his problems are only to do with familiarity with what the coaches demand at KU, and repetition enough times to get it right. I do want to see Rio play more.


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Jack Wilson 1 year, 4 months ago

Good video of Self -- highlights:

  1. Wants to play faster. Only guy that is playing as fast as needed is McLemore.

  2. Doesn't know who he will start at 4; says needs more scoring there; Traylor better as a guy off the bench. Withey is never going to be a guy you throw the ball into to get scoring.

  3. Tharpe is not giving effort on defense; his guy scored 9 straight points on him; in a pretty serious tone says that if it does not change soon, they "will have to go in a different direction."

  4. Says he thinks it's a "great class because there are two guys at their position that are about as good as anyone in the country" -- Mason and Embiid. Says that everyone talks about the other three.

  5. Does not believe the recruiting class is done. Says it is "incomplete", that they want to get "another guy or two." A big and a wing.


kennethst 1 year, 4 months ago

I ain't too worried about them......Lets see how they look in Feb/March with a lot more experience.


William Blake 1 year, 4 months ago

So it turns out that we are having a tougher adjustment losing TT over losing TRob.

EJ and Naadir are quality players, but don't have the same ability (or desire) to drive it to the hole.

Without a PG threatening to drive, we will have a hard time finding our way to the top this year. The threat will have to come from BMac at swing, but hard to trade out the effectiveness as from the PG position (where the ball is possessed most).

Maybe we need to put EJ back at the 2 spot... TRele at 3... and BMac at PG! Do that and in two years BMac may nail down the #1 draft spot in the NBA.

Imagine how much better our defense would be. Big time size and pressure at point! I sort of recall us trying that to come back for a national championship win (B. Rush at point).

Imagine how much better our offense could be. It would surely raise our 3-pt % because defenses would have to sag at the threat of BMac penetrating to the basket.


mikehawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Naadir seems to be a continuous liaibility on defense. If he can close that gap some in his D-game, he can fend Rio Adams off. But right now, I think it is a matter of time before Rio gets past him. I think his shooting ability is getting him the minutes right now. Perry seems a bit confused at this point. He spent four years in a high school comfort zone and he is having to learn a lot of new stuff against much, much tougher competition, and he appears to be thinking a lot. Not unusual for any freshman. B-Mac appeared like the light suddenly started to flicker on and you could see the confidence begin to flow. Right now, and into the forseeble future, this team needs all of HCBS's honorary doctorate of psychology degree skills focused not only on the team, but lasered on quite a few individual players. Some key egos (Perry Ellis for one) appear somewhat fragile right now.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 6

Jeff Withey often has a rather modest point and rebound total. He often struggles to stay on a spot. His rebounding is just adequate. He guards the post pretty well. But every time he alters/blocks the shot of a teammate's offender that has broken through, he is exploding out of his position and exhibiting preventative help defense. Stats can track his blocks, so we are giddy about them. But they don't show the alterations. And they don't show the times that Jeff, skinny though he may be, adjusts his positioning just enough to dissuade a teammate's offender from thinking he sees an open alley to the basket.

Think about Jeff. If he gets 6 blocks, 6 alterations, and dissuades may be ten perimeter drives, and dissuades the opposing 4's man from spinning to the basket 3 times, all while guarding the post, his contribution to KU's defense and in turn its offense is just HUGE! And almost all of that is coming from being a force beyond his position.

Distilled, Self isn't satisfied with Perry's contribution beyond his position. I wonder sometimes, if it might be a more positive and constructive way for Self to talk about Perry's (and other players' limitations this way) than to harp on this vague notion of aggressiveness. Its a spatial concept more than an emotional one. Your position is "here." You're degree of explosiveness refers to how far beyond "here," and how often beyond "here," you make an impact.

Perry seems to have plenty of intensity and emotion. Plenty of want to. Plenty of focus, too. He seems to be underestimating his potential range of impact. Telling him to be more aggressive is non-spatial and non-directional in denotation. Jamari isn't really guarding "here" any better than Perry right now, maybe even not quite as good. But Perry is exploding beyond "here" on a frequent basis.

Likewise, Kevin Young only guards "here" adequately, sometimes inadequately. But danged if he doesn't frequently explode beyond "here."

Perry Ellis, you are The Designer. You are a powerful mind in an athletic body. You have done a great job designing "here." Now design "there." It doesn't necessarily take more emotion and aggressiveness. It takes a vision and some design. This is something you are good at. Do it.

Rock Chalk!


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 5

Why could the team play with Conner Teahan on one wing last season for 20mpg, even shooting only 36-38% as the trey gun. First, Conner worked his butt off to become an adequate on-ball defender, who could help some. But the real reason was that Tyshawn turned into the greatest preventative help defender I have ever seen in college basketball. Tyshawn, from the point, could and literally often did, pre-empt defensive break downs a third to half the court on both wings. Really, the greatness of what Tyshawn did last season defensively was over shadowed by the spectacle of what Thomas did, and by Tyshawn's own paint touching virtuosity. Tyshawn was pretty much like having a 6th defender on the floor, because he could cover so many teammates mistakes on defense.

Track forward to the present.

EJ was slated to be this same kind of awesome preventative help defender at point guard this season. But the knee has prevented it. So: Self, after waiting and hoping for the knee to heel, has decided that Travis has to take over Tyshawn's role of guarding the PG, so that he also cover the breakdowns on both wings.

And this year's team, so long as EJ is defensively challenged, HAS to have that super man on point defense, because EJ needs some help due to the knee, and Ben needs help because of mistakes as a first year player. And when Naadir comes in, well, Naadir, has improved a lot, but his short legs haven't gotten any longer, and so he's got to have someone watching out for him constantly.

Exploding outside one's space is also a big part of being an effective big man in Self's eyes, also.

A big has to guard his position. Its ante. You can't play if you can't guard and rebound your position.

But the guys who begin to steal more minutes, even if their line scores don't necessarily sparkle, are the guys that can explode out of their positions, and use athleticism to stop breakdowns.

Darnell Jackson couldn't figure out how to do it for the longest time and still guard his position. But when he did, he became a rotation player. Recall how often he chest thumped that last season. The chest thumping created some energy, but that's not why he became a major rotation player. It was that he exploded beyond of his position and did something worth chest thumping about.

Thomas Robinson seemingly exploded out of his position almost at will during certain stretches of games last season.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 4

Exceptional preventative defense is probably worth 10-15 points a game on the defensive end alone, when you add up the number of breakdowns there are a game, and probably those 10, which if not stopped, would probably result in 5 made baskets for the opponent, with some being 3 point plays that would also get your bigs fouled up, which would ripple through your offensive and defensive performances.

This is why a preventative help defender doesn't need to score a flipping point beyond an open look, or an occassional lob. He's already outscoring most of the "scorers" simply by what he prevents from happening on the defensive end. Add in then that each score he stops, turns into a scoring opportunity, and you've literally got a gold mine on your roster that the stats don't even mention.

Preventative help defense is what makes Self's defensive teams so different from other "good" defensive teams. Most good defensive teams are just good on ball defenders that keep their spacing off ball right so that they will be in position to be on ball when the ball rotates around.

Coach K and Bill Self, and a few others, are savants about preventative help defense. This is why on both their teams there are guys that start that don't always pass the eye test and don't always score a lot. Knight's teams also always were exceptional at this.

Against teams with great preventative help defense that anticipates breakdowns, rather than just reacting late to them, an impact offender is always guarded not only by his defender, and the bigs backing up his defender, but by a guy who shows up out of no-where to create just enough help to turn him back into his own defender. Often the great preventative help defenders come a third, or half way, cross court to do it. Other times they do it by mucking up the opposing teams attempts to screen by creating space for the team mate to get past the screen. The subtleties are endless and uncounted by statisticians. But I can guaran-damn-ty that Self loves it as much open look three, because it stops scoring and gets him another open look three.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 3

Tyshawn Taylor could do things with the ball and off the lob that Brady could never do. But Brady and Tyshawn shared defensive abilities that made them explosive impact players in Self's eyes. Both players guard guarded their positions like nobody's business, but that's just ante to Self. What distinguished them in his eyes was IMHO that they could and regularly did explode out of their positions to cover breakdowns sometimes half a court away. Brady had an uncanny ability to anticipate when his teammates were going to crack and be their to stop the cost of the break down. At first Tyshawn simulated that ability with raw speed. Tyshawn was way faster on turn and burn defense on a blow by than Brady, as anyone with eyes could see. Ty was stronger, too. But Brady had the 6th sense of anticipation to cut off the break down almost before it occurred. Tyshawn became a great defender, not just a fast defender, his junior season when he finally learned to do what Brady came out of the womb with the instinct to do. Anticipate the breakdown AS IT HAPPENED, sometimes even BEFORE it happened, not after.

Travis is another guy who guards his position like nobody's business, but increasingly excels at preventative help. And he is bigger and stronger than either Tyshawn, or Brady. If Self makes Travis the point defender, and EJ still has enough of his awesome athletic ability left to compensate for his knee as a wing defender, this team could soon become incredibly tough defensively. Ben Mac will be a solid wing defender by January, early February at the latest.

There is no stat for preventative help, but there should be. Self sees it. He senses it like a bomb dog sniffing for explosives in luggage. If a player's got it, Self immediately starts fitting it into the puzzle. And because Self is a defense first coach, guys that can do this preventative help get the nod, unless the team cannot get points out of other positions and so have to go with a scorer first at the position that Brady, or Travis play.

Remember Josh Selby? Frankly, he was just an adequate on ball defender, but the guy was just so physically explosive, and had great anticipation, that Self understood immediately, that not only could Selby give him great offense, but also Selby could explode beyond his position on defense (were he healthy).

Rush was probably the ultimate preventative help defender. Rush could almost play outside his own defensive space continually. Rush could prevent breakdowns outside and inside. No one has been able to do that since. No one. We've found guys that can shoot the rock as well as Chalmers and we've found guys that can on ball defend as well as Chalmers (though probably not both). But no one has been able guard on ball the 1, 2, 3, and 4 positions, plus give preventative help at 1, 2, 4, and even 5 anywhere close to what Rush did routinely. This is why Rush's jersey should be the next up in the field house IMHO.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 2

Self wants desperately to go with 4 outside for reasons neither you nor I fully grasp, or agree with. We both think he needs 5 guys outside to keep from burning his first three out and to mask Naadir, when Naadir's defensive limitations make him an unwise choice even for short stints.

I said after the loss to Shaka's XTReme conditioned VCU two seasons ago that Self was going to pursue XTReme Conditioning as part of his manly man ethos. Last year, he pursued it by playing 7 guys huge minutes all season. And it turned that team into a very hard boiled, tough, bunch that learned to sand bag and play smart almost every minute of every game. Self seems to want to do that again, but have just a bit more depth to fall back on, if players aren't giving him the intensity he wants.

Self labels the 1 and 4 as his problem defensive positions.

This leads us to Perry. I keep watching Perry and thinking Perry plays pretty well for a freshman, better than say Marcus Morris looked this early as a freshman. But I suspect I am confusing looking smooth and scoring effectively with being able to do what Marcus did, regardless of how unsmoothly. Marcus got rebounds, and he guarded hell out of his position, almost from the beginning. He couldn't score much, but that was probably because Self didn't ask him to. Marcus by 2/3s of the season had become an accomplished garbage man 4, who trash talked, shoved well, and seemed to grasp how to make Cole better.

Perry appears to be playing the position still a bit too much according to his historical way of playing very controlled ball, kind of too much in his inner world. I think this is what Self is struggling to alter in the way he plays. Self needs to find a way for Perry to both be the polished, controlled fundamentally sound player that he is, but also teach him how to explode beyond his position, especially defensively.

The guys Self ultimately plays a lot are guys that don't just fill the spot well, but also project out of that spot in major ways. Some of these ways are spectacular, like Thomas, or now Jamari, exploding out of their basic roles into thundering dunks and glass rattling blocks on fast breaks or drives to the glass. These are not show off plays, though they make highlight feeds. They are come out of no where to make a play kind of plays. But not all exploding out of one's position is spectacular. Some of these kinds of explosive plays go unnoticed to the ordinary fan, but are very spectacular to those that really understand basketball players impact powers, and how those impact powers are measured not only by how well they fill the basic space of their position (i.e., their protection, passing and open look shooting on offense, plus their defensive positioning on and off ball), but also on their ability to explode beyond those roles and do something that steals a possession, or stops a rally, or remedies a break down with an impact play on either end.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

"On Rotations, Exploding Beyond Your Position, and Preventative Help Defense"

Ict and HEM are probably right about most of the rotation being locked in, but I suspect the rotation may still be subject to at least some amending, as remaining recruiting possibilities marginalize (you don't invest minutes in guys you expect to run), recoveries from injury continue, or plateau (Self is now admitting that EJ is too limited defensively to guard PGs), player development falls short of expectations, other players develop farther, and future injuries occur.

Self is restringing this bow subtlely, almost without anyone noticing. Game by game he is shifting where the points are supposed to come from, not in large increments, but in significant ones nonetheless. And the redistribution is not occruing just because of the opponent, but because of emerging recognition of unexpected player limitations.

He is trying to find some way to stick with the original vision:

1 EJ 2 Ben 3 Travis 4 Perry 5 Jeff

These are his best players and so he has to find a way keep them on the floor for lots of minutes, while also becoming greater than the sum of their parts, i.e., playing in an optimal scheme.

Since EJ has not recovered well enough to guard the PG regularly, or to touch the paint as often as they need (at least so far), Self has really been coaching behind the eight ball.

Going with four outside, requires the first three to be fully functioning defenders in order that there are always two great defenders on the floor while the fourth, Naadir, rotates in and needs lots of help on D.

He now has Naadir comfortable enough to give him 10-15 in back up at the 1. Though he didn't say it, I actually though Naadir played adequately on defense against MSU, not great, but good enough to mask with help.

Naadir was vital to develop first, so that if Rio and AW3 either didn't develop into 5-10 minute guys by January, or had to be marginalized, as part of accepting other commitments, Naadir could be used not only for 5 minute bench blows each half for EJ, but also for on court rest for EJ by sliding EJ to the 2 to and so also getting Ben, or Travis a 5 minute bench blow. This way, you only have to ask one of your three starters to play 38 minutes once every three games, or so. Two out of three games they get to play 30; that's doable against most competition. Not too many teams will be able to bring 6-7 perimeter players the way MSU did, but there will be some, and those will be games when he may have to sand bag, as he did against MSU.


akgjenkintown 1 year, 4 months ago

Self teams traditionally win by playing great defense and scoring inside as their first option. This team appears to be in love with the jump shoot and the 3 and don't look that accurate. Until Withey and Ellis/Taylor/Peters (hopefully), figure out how to play the high-low efficiently the team will be struggle and lose games everyone has come to expect to win. Jump shooting teams will have more games when the shooting goes south as compared to teams that constantly attack the rim. This could be one of the worst teams for Self if they don't do a better job of penetrating, drawing fouls, and getting the easy shot.


Woody Cragg 1 year, 4 months ago

And yes Keithmile, I agree a number of losses could be in this squad's future.


Woody Cragg 1 year, 4 months ago

Personally I would really like to see what White & Rio are capable of vs these mid majors, that's the time do do it. However HCBS is not a game experrimentour (dig that JB} per say, but rewards the practice hounds we cannot see. I do believe we have the pieces at the 2, 3' & 5' but the 1 & 4 we are thin to say the least. If I've a gripe at all about recruiting, it's mainly about the PG spot. When Tharpe picked up the dribble at mid court & on the sideline & used the 4th TO, I though Self w & Norm both were coming off their hinges. That's a move you see grade school kids make-just brain dead. If not for his lack of judgement, he could be a great facilitator with EJ at the 2 spot where he is more comfortable. But all these what if's & try that's boil down to, why can't we just get more elite point guards to Kansas? More Russ Robs to go with the Ellis's & OAD Bmacs. Are we friggin spoiled or what?! Great rap guys, keep up the good work.


KEITHMILES05 1 year, 4 months ago

Our post scoring is horrendous and Ellis is the one who must step up. Nobody else can create. We've played easy teams other than MSU and it only gets more difficult. This needs to occur quickly or this team is going to loose a number of games. Our outside shooting will not work all that often. Just look at the sorry numbers.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

• Travis guarding point works against low majors, but how are EJ and Naadir going to guard a 6-6 225 lb. 3 from a major? EJ might hang in, but it's out of the question for Naadir.

• Rio, keep doing what u r doing. U will get a shot, because of your defense.

• AW3, with Roberson and Gordon no longer possibilities needing rides, might come out of limbo, if he guards and stays healthy. Why? Because AW3 could guard a 6-6 225 lb 3 for short stints as a backup.

• So now we know Perry's deficiency is defense, from Self's POV. Should have guessed that. Aggressiveness refers to not getting after it on defense. Recall Thomas and the Twins delivering forearm smashes and cheap shot lites. Perry's done none of that yet. Could be we are seeing a war of wills playing out on the level of ethics. REHawk once suggested Self might find Perry a very strong willed person maybe not responsive to the toughening box.

• Jamari has proven a pleasant surprise. He is much more effective than Thomas was his first season, but he should be because he had a practice year Thomas did not get. But Jamari is a solid 10-20 minute backup this season, not a starter. Next season he could be very tough to beat out, if he adds some offense and boarding. I see why Self is playing him. He is a strong personality, active physically, and makes some impact plays, but he is not a scorer yet, has lapses on defenses in part due to being too short for a 4. He could be a really interesting muscle 3 like the guy on MSU that swang 3 and 4. But Self seems to prefer combo guards at 3, rather than 3/4 swings.

• Self needs a fifth perimeter guy and rebounding out of the perimeter. If Anrio and AW3 are not up to the challenge, it may be time to consider a 3/4 swing at the 3. Perry, Kevin, or Jamari might be given a shot. Even Justin, because he is athletic and not being used much otherwise. The less scoring expected out of the three (and presently Self seems to be expecting little from Trav, the more the team could afford to go big at the 3 and give some fouls in exchange for shot blocking and teens for 5-10 minutes each game. And use a big 3 to set some ball screens for EJ and Ben, forget the weave, and leave the 4 and 5 inside to board. The The first four perimeter players need a fifth one way or another.


BainDread 1 year, 4 months ago

I apologize for being totally off subject, but I just spent the last two evenings in USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion (a.k.a. the Slim Gym) watching the Tulsa Golden Hurricane play Northern Kentucky and USD. For all SoCal Manning fans, Tulsa has one more game in the Pavilion Saturday evening vs.CSUN. I was impressed with the way Head Coach Danny Manning has his team playing with a lot of energy and discipline. It was fun to see him in action as a head coach. He's pretty low-key on the sideline, but did get Tee'd up once Thursday night.


Kye Clark 1 year, 5 months ago

I was actually disappointed that Adams didn't see more extended minutes. I thought he came in and did a nice job, drove the paint and made a nice scoop shot at the rim (in the first half when we were desperate for something to work), and defended with his usual tenacity. Tharpe on the other hand struggled shooting, defending, and routinely picked up his dribble once he crossed half-court and allowed himself to get trapped. At this point it seems like a lost cause, sad that after only 3 games and limited auditions in exhibition games Self has seemingly locked into his rotation.

(note: no I am not in practice and don't see everything Self sees. Yes I know that at least in part players who perform in practice are the ones who see minutes in games. No I don't know more than Coach Self. There, all you "how dare you question/have-an-opinion-different-than Coach Self!" crowd can just save it)


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