Former Georgetown Hoya Hollis Thompson was all of two-years old when Sam Cassell made his NBA debut with the Houston Rockets in November of 1993.
So, with Cassell serving as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards, who have been putting 2012 NBA Draft hopefuls through workouts, including Thompson last Thursday, we are given a chance to crunch the age numbers as the two faced-off in a drill on the Verizon Center practice court.
Cassell will turn 43-years old this November, and Thompson turned 21 this past April; the difference between them — 21 years, 4 months and 16 days — is currently greater than Thompson’s age.
The drill was defensive in nature. Participating players were required to rotate properly on help defense as the ball was passed around. The final component involved the main defender rotating from helping in the paint to closing out on a wing player in the corner (Cassell) using proper technique.
From there, Cassell had free reign to relish the opportunity of scoring on a kid at least 50-percent less in age. And this wasn’t the first time Cassell has dueled with kids — previous battles have come against the likes of John Wall, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, and Andray Blatche — and it likely won’t be the last.
At the conclusion of an afternoon session on day five of training camp, Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell cracked smiles while rebounding for John Wall, Jordan Crawford and Shelvin Mack as they performed a shooting drill. Cassell is about to begin his third season on the bench for the Wizards. Forever known for his personality, he doled out positive instruction to the young guards, sharing stories with Wall about a certain game in his playing career where he “killed it” and got the win. Cassell also proclaimed Crawford as the funniest dude he knew, the camaraderie among the trio being rather overt.
The three-time world champion with 15 NBA seasons under his belt is essential to the development of both guards. He’s constantly teaching the young Wizards moves and positioning. Even though Flip Saunders had this to say after practice,:
“Sam does a good job because he has good knowledge as far as played the position. One thing that’s a little bit different is that Sam played a lot different than these guys. And sometimes you have to talk to Sam because the things he wants them to do, as far as shoot mid-range shots and those type of things, that’s not what their game is. Sam’s speed has definitely never been close to those guys. So that’s one thing we gotta watch out a little bit. But he’s got a good knowledge of what to look for.”
Either way, certainly the athletic can learn something from the tactics of the non-athletic. Cassell has also enjoyed past friendly battles of one-on-one with the likes of John Wall, Nick Young and JaVale McGee. Something left in the tank is sometimes best spent on education.
It’s a bit of a reunion Saturday here at the Verizon Center with Mo Evans, Jordan Crawford, Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong facing their respective former teams. But there is another type of reunion going on too, one from the 1993 NBA Draft — between Sam Cassell, who went 24th in the first round that year and is now an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards, and Nick Van Exel, a second rounder in ’93 (37th overall), who is now a player development instructor with the Atlanta Hawks.
Between the two, there is 212 games of playoff experience (136 for Cassell and 76 for Van Exel), and over 28,000 regular season points scored (15,635 for Cassell and 12,658 for Van Exel). However, according to the Basketball-Reference.com database, in 31 regular season head-to-head match-ups, Van Exel holds a 17-14 advantage. That’s a lot of classic games between two excellent guards. Let’s go to the YouTube archive…
From FreeDarko’s Undisputed Guide To Pro Basketball History:
“Madison Square Garden, the game’s most hallowed arena, is the Mecca of Basketball. But this nickname had little to do with devotion to the sport; it was borrowed from the Shriners’ Mecca Temple, a venue that hosted boxing and wrestling matches in the ’20s and ’30s.”
So, what happens when some of the Wizards’ big men go through their pre-game warm-up routine while some of the Knicks City Dancers do the same, on the same court? Or when Andray Blatche keeps loose with a game of one-on-one with Sam Cassell?
From entertainment to education, there are a lot of benefits to having Sam Cassell on an NBA coaching staff, not to mention that he has relevancy to today’s youthful players — as in, they’ve probably seen some of his games on television, in color. Hence, Cassell can still conduct live demonstrations of his knowledge.
We’ve seen ‘Sam I Am’ go against the likes of Nick Young and JaVale McGee in post-practice battles. On Monday, Cassell and John Wall took to each other in the low post. The Washington Post’s Michael Lee has the words describing the scene on the Wizards Insider. You’ll find video below …
I’ve taken a bunch of pictures while at summer league. The more the merrier is what I say. And I’ll have more to come soon, but the one below is my favorite so far. It was taken just after the Wizards played their second game against the Clippers. The photo is a little blurry because it was taken with more motion (from me and the subjects) than I’d planned for, but I think it turned out just fine. Notice the serious looks on the faces of Flip Saunders on the left and Sam Cassell to the barely right, as if “it’s just summer league.” And then notice how John Wall is just enjoying life.
After the Wizards’ second day of mini-camp, young JaVale McGee messed around a bit with old Sam Cassell for a couple rounds of one-on-one. Let’s check that real quick.
Otherwise, Epic Vale is working hard. And on Friday he was all tuckered out, needing to bend over when initially speaking with the media after the session. He even later Tweeted: “Man … tired ain’t the word … I’m tired as a house.”
Not sure what ‘tired as a house’ means. I imagine that the partied out house of a Miami Heat fan on a celebratory bender is pretty tired right now. Maybe McGee is that tired, except the basketball equivalent.
When speaking about JaVale this afternoon, Flip Saunders twice mentioned that he needs to work on his defensive rebounding. Seems like a pretty big emphasis. Last season, according to 82games.com, the Wizards team defensive rebound percentage was 65% when McGee was on the court. That shot up to 71.6% when he was off the court. So that can’t be good.
Saunders went on to say, “As much from a strength standpoint, going against main type centers, he’s not as strong as some of those guys so he gets pushed around. What happens is he gets in foul trouble so quick and that takes him out of his game. He’s going to have to learn to play at our level and be able to play as far as from the beginning.”
On Thursday, the members of the media were treated to a spirited match of one-on-one between Sam Cassell and Nick Young … well, “spirited” only really reflects one side of the battle, obviously coming from the entertaining Sam I Am.
I didn’t see every possession, but as it’s been reported before, the old man still has it.
The game of one-on-one was of the casual variety that you usually see pro or college basketball players play … mostly jump shots induced by a variety of moves that serve no real purpose of ‘getting to the basket’ productivity.
Young did get his shot to fall a couple times. But for the most part, Cassell was getting the best of the kid with some veteran trickery, craftily adjusting his shot near the basket and using some below the waist leverage to gain an advantage on defense, especially when Young was trying to go up for a shot.
Not only was Cassell talking smack to Young, but he managed to get Brendan Haywood involved as well. At point point after a Young miss, Cassell said something in Haywood’s direction to the effect of “Can’t finish … This is the Wizards … Good first half team, but can’t finish.”
Success of the Wizards is contingent upon the court leadership of Gilbert Arenas. This is not a ground-breaking concept. Despite looking “back” in Dallas, he’s still rusty, and he and the team have a good deal of the development “process” to go.
Nothing could have more exemplified this than the first quarter in Atlanta. As I wrote in the previous game post, Arenas had eight points, one turnover in the game’s first 6:20 and one point, five turnovers in the remainder of the first half. When the offense started to get sloppy, Arenas did not exert control on this situation to calm his team down.
A large part of the problem was that Arenas was breaking a lot of plays to drive to the basket. Yes, it’s true that you want Arenas to be aggressive, in particular because it would wear down Joe Johnson. However, that has to come more in the flow of the offense than it did tonight. Arenas kept calling his own number instead of letting the offense run itself and then dumping the ball to another scorer. The rest of the players were often not prepared for Arenas’ decisions and didn’t get in position to defend in transition.
The strive to achieve more balance is new to Arenas. It’s gonna take some time. All Wizards fans can do is have faith that the experience of Flip Saunders will work to correct these issues and the desire of Arenas to be a better player will make him wholly receptive to the process.
As the dust settles from the “it’s a done deal” to the “it’s official” phase of hiring Flip Saunders as the next coach of the Wizards, I find it hard to form a solid opinion on perhaps the most important aspect of transforming this team from mediocre to championship contender (aside from health of course).
I still subscribe to the thought that players are on the court, playing the games, and thus hold the ultimate responsibility for winning and losing. But a good coach…well, he can be a difference maker.
Not to say I’m apathetic towards the hiring of Saunders. If I had to rank, I suppose he would have been my number one choice, with Mark Jackson being a sleeper pick (he is a minister, and could surely preach on it….plus, his NBA analysis on ABC/ESPN is on point….but he lacks significant coaching experience).
I might have taken Avery Johnson over Jackson…but over Saunders? I’m not so sure…..in fact, I doubt it. So Saunders it is, and I’m okay with that….but not exactly thrilled. Then again, the stink of this season hasn’t been laid to rest, and that certainly has something to do with my mundane attitude.