Ron Adams is the legendary assistant coach whom Steve Kerr brought with him when he began with the Warriors. I’ve always enjoyed his scholarly and thoughtful discussions of basketball. I have a few exclusive chats with him which never made it out to the world, until now.
The series of exclusive, unreleased Ron Adams chats so far:
#1. On Stephen Curry‘s defense
#2. Draymond Green figures out Houston
#3. How players and coaches handle pressure
#4. Kerr’s speeches, Defensive Communication
#5. Coaching influences, shutting down my question
#6. Houston’s 27 missed threes (group discussion)
#7. Appreciating Steph, Klay, KD, Andre (group discussion)
This chat came just hours after Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets, one of the best playoff series of all time, and before Game 1 of the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
In Game 1 of the WCF, the Rockets had an extreme game plan of trying every single play to isolate James Harden against Stephen Curry, who was recovering from injury.
The Warriors in fact won Game 1 and Houston went away from this strategy, but this triggered a huge debate over Stephen Curry’s defense.
This debate was made harder by the fact that defensive statistics are inaccurate and don’t capture game plan.
During the series, Duby and I took a deep dive into Steph’s defense with a careful review of the video:
First, when the game was still in doubt, Curry was excellent. His final numbers being “fine” are the result of his play later on in the game dragging his metrics down. Maybe this is cherry-picking, but I prefer to think of it as selective analysis. Secondly, there are some hilarious unintended consequences of Nick Young being on the floor. One of those is that tidbit about the Rockets not attacking Steph as much. In exposing a weaker defender, the Warriors may be inadvertently protecting Curry. Sun Tzu would be proud.
First, when the game was still in doubt, Curry was excellent. His final numbers being “fine” are the result of his play later on in the game dragging his metrics down. Maybe this is cherry-picking, but I prefer to think of it as selective analysis.
Secondly, there are some hilarious unintended consequences of Nick Young being on the floor. One of those is that tidbit about the Rockets not attacking Steph as much. In exposing a weaker defender, the Warriors may be inadvertently protecting Curry. Sun Tzu would be proud.
Naturally, I wanted to hear the assessment of Steph’s perfectionist defensive coach, Ron Adams.
Eric Apricot: Speaking of Stephen Curry's defense, he got isolated a lot last series [vs HOU]. People have been criticizing his defense. Do you think there are aspects of his defense that people don't appreciate?
Ron Adams: After the flurry of, should I say, criticism after the first game of the Houston series, I thought Steph played really good defense! There are people on the other team that...
(Adams shrugs cryptically, implying a Houston Rocket did not play good D… I wonder if that player’s name rhymes with “pardon”).
But when you look at the numbers, you can get any stat on anything. How many times I directly was scored on, for example. His numbers were not that bad!
And I think people tend to forget... in the Houston series, who was our second leading rebounder for the series?
Eric Apricot: Was it Steph?
Ron Adams: STEPH! Third overall in the playoffs.
So he's doing a lot out there. He's one rebound away from a triple double with 9 rebounds in that championship game we had. So there are a lot of things he is doing.
As coach, my area of concern is not his one-on-one defense. That's more of a fan thing, that's more of a fantasy league thing. I'm more concerned with some other things that we want him to do within our scheme.
So it's not, I think that was overblown, you could analyze the game statistically and circle some other guy, you know…
(Ron Adams chuckles cryptically, see above possible reference to a player rhyming with “garden”)
But he's tougher than a lot of people think, and when he's focused, which in the playoffs he generally almost always is, his defense is more than acceptable.
Here is a video about Steph’s near triple-double that Ron Adams mentioned above. It pushed GSW past HOU in the thrilling 2018 WCF Game 7.
Well, you are all welcome to discuss whatever you want. But here’s a topic. GSW’s current players who can play the 5 are:
Is that enough for GSW in 2020-21, or should they be drafting/signing a starting big?
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Great post and comments. Right now I think the two players on the roster closest to being able to slow/contain true bigs are Looney and Chriss. I like Dray and Spell in the small ball 5 lineups, but while Pasch can play 5, I think the team is better served having him size and speed up against the 3/4's in the league. Smiley needs weight. For sure WCS would have been included w/Loon and Chriss above had he stuck, but writing on the wall for me was his hands/vision, how he could not always hang on to the ball sometimes even when he had a perfect pass. I digress, and props to WCS on his service in the Bay. I have no doubt the GSW brass will have some plan to address this for the upcoming season.
I think people remember Curry's first couple of years when he wasn't a good defender and didn't have good defenders around him, and simply refuse to notice that he has gotten much better as has the supporting cast. Given the limitations of his size, he has in fact been a very good defender over the championship years and he certainly hasn't been intimidated when switched on to bigger guys like Harden and LeBron.
This year, that group has really struggled against a bunch of really big bigs, with the Lakers being probably the worst example because on top of having two very strong true 5's in Javale and Dwight Howard, someone kind of bulky like Spellman can't swap up because AD and LeBron are so big as well.
Not to mention, back when KD was on OKC, it seemed like a recurring problem that the Warriors kind of struggled against really big, athletic bigs, especially when Bogut was injured.
It seems like some combination of Paschall and Spellman (and Draymond in some important cases) might be able to "bang and bump" with bigger guys on defense enough to get by. To an extent, the Warriors of yesteryear reduced their offensive rebounding problems by... just not missing that many shots. That might be viable again with Steph and Klay back, most nights, but it sounds stressful.
But I bet Steve Kerr would much rather have a Zaza-alike who can sub in for specific matchups.
RIP Kobe Bryant
I feel like this group would do fine except against the 10-15 skilled "true centers" in the league: Embiid, Gobert, Valanciunas, Adams, etc. In the past having someone like Zaza or Bogut who can eat up regular season minutes without getting run over or taking a physical beating like Dray playing the 5 is important. Don't think this big has to be a world beater and honestly could see them playing only 5-10 mpg in the playoffs, maybe 0 against some teams, but I still think it's an important factor in making it to the playoffs healthy.
They should get a big in the second round. Possibly trade back into the end of the 1st if they can get their guy there. I am a huge fan of Xavier Tillman, Steven Enoch, Austin Wiley, Diakite from UVA, and a couple other guys all of whom can switch out and defend in space pretty well, while being able to handle a bit, pass, finish, and some with a bit of shooting range. Can't rely on Smiley in the playoffs, and Looney's health has to be a major concern. Spellman and Chriss I trust, but they need at least 1 more either in the draft or a FA
My big concern with the 5s is that there are no real bangers in that group. If Alen put on some weight, I think he has the attitude/drive to be that type of inside presence.
Add this to the trove of evidence that Steph is an underrated defender: https://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2019/4/29/18521828/nba-2019-playoffs-golden-state-warriors-game-1-houston-rockets-steph-curry-defense-video-breakdown
If Looney ever gets healthy it might actually be a survivable rotation. Not sexy but servicable. Thx for the Adams gems. Love it.
If we cant get a star big via a trade involving D'Lo we are likely stuck with the cheap lotto pick draft. I like what I saw in Azubuki, 270 and almost 7'. His timing is already really really good but he is of course still very raw. Once he learns to rein in his youthful mistakes like not being able to stop for position and slamming into defenders and extending his arm out on D he is going to be a monster in the paint.
They need an actually big body to play the Embids, Adams and similar types.