This concludes our look at the sets and actions integral to each NBA playoff team's success. Read about the Knicks, Celtics, Heat, and Bucks here; read about the Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors here.
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams and the UCLA cut
Brook Lopez has emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the block this season, but it’s still Williams who makes this team go. Thanks to improved health, the Nets star guard has been on a tear lately and has transformed the Nets from first-round fodder to an intriguing wild card in the Eastern Conference playoffs. To slow Williams down in the coming weeks, opponents will have to defend an action dating all the way back to the days of John Wooden — the UCLA cut.
The UCLA cut is a simple, straightforward movement that involves the ball handler throwing an entry pass to the wing before making a vertical cut off a big man waiting at the elbow. Though it seems relatively simple, this can be incredibly tough to defend on the NBA level because of the sheer talent of a player like Williams. The Brooklyn guard is adept at taking advantage of any defender who doesn’t display solid technique while navigating the screen.
When David Stern’s magnanimous grin flashed across an LED jumbotron in metro Manila Monday afternoon to announce that “the NBA will play its first preseason game in the Philippines this October,” a pulse of enthusiasm shot through Filipino communities from Mandaluyong City to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Daly City, California. Basketball has been the most popular team sport in the Philippines for generations, and it’s one of a handful of nations, alongside Lithuania and a few others, where the game is part of the bedrock of local culture. Yet even though the Philippines is a place where commuters regularly ride in multicabs and jeepneys decorated with NBA team logos and Jerry West’s iconic silhouette, the league has never brought its product there. For many Filipinos, the news that the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers will play a preseason game October 10 at Metro Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena was a proud moment. Finally, the NBA — the league that served as a model for the Philippines’ 38-year-old PBA — will recognize Filipinos’ love for the game. For the first time since eight players from the 1979 Washington Bullets visited Manila to play a PBA all-star selection (and Dave Corzine almost got into a fistfight with a local legend, 6-foot-1 shooting guard Atoy “the Fortune Cookie” Co), real NBA teams would be playing on Philippine soil.
With respect to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and every other place in America that considers itself a “basketball city,” nowhere does the game matter as much as it does in Indiana. Spend a single January day in the state and it won’t take long to realize that watching or playing basketball is the pastime of choice for a majority of Hoosiers, even more so than auto racing, drinking heavily, complaining about the weather, or wondering why they still live in Indiana. This is why 13 of the 14 largest high school gyms in the country are in Indiana. This is why some of the state’s biggest heroes are Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Bob Knight, and Josh McRoberts’s knee-high socks. This is why the best sports movie ever made is entitled Hoosiers and not New Yorkers or Whatever the Hell People From Illinois Call Themselves. Simply put, Hoosiers spend so much time obsessing over basketball because the only entertainment alternatives in a state full of corn are to tip over cows or run a meth lab.