Nov. 19, 2002
Luke (Walton) practiced pretty-much full speed on Saturday. He got winded, obviously, because of being out for a while, but it was great that he was able to get back on Saturday. He got a good strenuous workout and I would think that should have him ready to go this week.
The target date for Salim (Stoudamire) is Thursday (Nov. 21). We'd like to use him some on Saturday, but we'll just have to see how that goes. He's been working very, very hard on his conditioning and treatments with Justin (Kokoskie, the team trainer). He's done everything he can do, we just need to make sure that he's full ready to go so something doesn't happen like last time, where he tweaked it and it cost him an extra couple of weeks as a result.
The scrimmage on Saturday went pretty well. It was very competitive. We had Jason (Gardner) and Luke (Walton) on opposite teams, and when that happens it usually is very competitive. I thought Channing Frye had a very good workout. Luke and Andre (Iguodala) are going to benefit from going against one another in practice because of Andre's length and quickness and Luke's experience. It helps Andre in the are he needs it and it challenges Luke because of Andre's defensive ability.
I also thought that Hassan (Adams) looked much fresher than what he's looked in the last couple of weeks. That was good to see. Rick Anderson continues to play very well.
Thoughts on Team Nike, the next exhibition opponent:
Glen Sergent is someone that everyone is familiar with who's watched us through the years. They have some size and they always have shooters. One familiar name would be Casey Frank from Northern Arizona. (James) Felton has played very well for them. They have good all-around balance. The thing they do very well is get the ball down court quickly. I'm sure that will be a challenge to us with our pressure. What they've normally done in the past is send a shooter down court, so once they break the press, they'll fire away from three-point range. If you notice in their colse game with Michigan (81-77 loss on Nov. 15), Dave Ferguson was 6-of-7 from three-point range. I would expect that they'll try to do and create problems for us.
Will you spend most of the game working on lineup combinations?
It will good to have Luke back so that we've got another veteran out there. Luke communicates so well. He's generally much more vocal than the other seniors are, and I think it makes it so much better to have a third guy talking, especially on the defensive end. I thought that was lacking on Tuesday. We also expect to see a little bit of zone out of that team (Team Nike). Luke becomes really important to us in terms of his ability to find openings and the gaps in the zone.
What we're looking for is to see how different combinations go. We've had the guys mixed up pretty well. We've had the top three or four guys rotated on different teams to help the younger guys make progress. Today and tomorrow, we'll try to get the veterans together more and, hopefully, get better coordination among the guys who will be on the court together to begin with.
Have you begun preparations for Western Kentucky?
We won't do anything on them until Thursday. We still have a lot of our own things we need to work on, so we'll have two days of preparation for Western Kentucky. Right now, I'm more concerned about what we do than what somebody else does.
Comment on the play of Rick Anderson:
I think he's been hearing things all fall about how good the freshmen are and whether the veterans will be able to hold their spots. If anything, it's just motivated him to go even that much harder. He's been one of our most consistent guys on the boards and he's always shot the ball well. The two areas that I've noticed the biggest difference is defensively and he's been a constant factor on the boards. He's really working hard at moving his feet more and quicker. Everything from the opening drills to the end of practice has been better. He knows that defense will hold his future because there is no question about his offensive ability. He is passing the ball extremely well. He has great touch on his passes. He throws the ball away from the defense. Ricky has been as impressive as anyone right from the start.
How ready is this team to play a game that really matters:
We'll find that out by the end of the week. If people are not familiar with Western Kentucky, they should be. The fact that they've been rated pretty highly in the polls points out how effective that team is. They played some really good teams on the road a year ago, so coming into a hostile environment is something that they are accustomed to.
Are the Hilltoppers a much different team without Chris Marcus?
He brings a different thing to the floor, but I think they were 18-2 last season without him. (Assistant coach) Rodney Tention has the scout on them and he said that they are more difficult to defend without him because of the flexibility and because guys can step out and create problems out on the court.
Has the preseason competition been enjoyable?
It's enjoyable because it's a closely-knit group and they really go at one another, as you could see on Saturday when one team lost on a tip-in at the buzzer. The most difficult thing on our end has been installing a different defensive philosophy. We've spent a lot of time working on our full-court. With the young guys, it may have been better if we could have taken more time on the half court, but we feel that we need to be committed to this style of play. We're still not as good defensively on the half court as we need to be, but I think this last week has been beneficial to us.
What's the purpose of the full-court press?
To pick the pace of the game up...to get more possessions. You are obviously looking for opportunities. We've always been a team that has relied on our defense to initiate a lot of our offense. We feel it should be even more so with this.
The game is a game of percentages. Whether we get a good percentage shot fairly early in the possession or we have to wait until later, the key is to get a good look. If we get a good look early on, I have no problem with that. The more we can force somebody to get up and down the court, the more our depth will come into play.