David Mamet has some advice for the Cavaliers

March 25th, 2010 by John Krolik

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(Editor’s note: you may want to read this before the post to get some context. Also, the opinions of Fake David Mamet do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cavs: The Blog. I tried as hard as I could to have most of what FDM says be legitimate, but in some places I had to bend to have the template make sense. To be safe, just assume the parts you agree with are analysis and the parts you don’t are satire.)

Enter Scene: San Antonio. The CLEVELAND CAVALIERS are playing a road game against the SAN ANTONIO SPURS. After an early Spurs run, the Cavaliers trail by a score of 9-15. Coach MIKE BROWN addresses his team:

Mike Brown: Okay, I think we need to show more energy on the defensive end. We’re not getting stops, and that’s keeping us from getting our offense going on the other end. We need to contest them out on the perimeter. When they give the ball to Duncan down on the block, I want us to react by…

(Enter acclaimed playwright and director DAVID MAMET, smoking a cigarette and riding a horse. Mamet de-mounts, inserts himself into the huddle, and begins to speak.)

David Mamet:

TO THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS:

GREETINGS.

AS WE ATTEMPT TO WIN THE FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE HISTORY OF THIS FRANCHISE, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

Mike Brown: Excuse me, who exactly are you and what is going on?

David Mamet:

LET ME HAVE YOUR ATTENTION FOR A MOMENT! SO YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT WHAT. SOME ROTATION YOU MISSED, SOME LAYUP YOU DIDN’T CONTEST, SOME SLOPPY TURNOVER THAT LED TO A FAST-BREAK OPPORTUNITY AND SO FORTH. LET’S TALK ABOUT SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

(To Brown) PUT THAT SPIT CUP DOWN.

SPIT CUPS ARE FOR CLOSERS ONLY. DO YOU THINK THAT I’M SCREWING WITH YOU? I AM NOT SCREWING WITH YOU. I’M HERE FROM DOWNTOWN. I’M AN ACCLAIMED PLAYWRIGHT. AND I’M HERE ON A MISSION OF MERCY. YOUR NAME’S BROWN?

Mike Brown: Yeah.

David Mamet:

YOU CALL YOURSELF AN NBA COACH?

Anthony Parker: I don’t have to listen to this.

David Mamet:

YOU CERTAINLY DON’T.

BECAUSE I’M ADDING A LITTLE SOMETHING TO THIS YEAR’S NBA PLAYOFFS. AS YOU ALL KNOW, FIRST PRIZE IS AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP. SECOND PRIZE IS A FINALS APPEARANCE AND ANOTHER 12 MONTHS OF HEARING HOW YOU CAN’T GET IT DONE WHEN IT REALLY COUNTS. THIRD PRIZE IS LEBRON LEAVES.

YOU GET THE PICTURE? ARE YOU LAUGHING NOW? YOU’VE GOT THE PLAYERS. DAN GILBERT PAID GOOD MONEY FOR THEM. USE THEM TO WIN GAMES!

(In the background, assistant coach MIKE MALONE talks with head trainer MAX BENTON)

Malone: Is that true? If we don’t make the finals LeBron leaves?

Benton: Well, he’s talked about wanting to play in New York or Brooklyn.

Malone: What do you mean, has he actually been talking about it, or has he just…

Benton: No, he’s just…

Malone: He’s just “talking” about it.

Benton: He’s just speaking about it. As an idea.

Malone: Yes.

Benton: He’s not actually talking about it.

Malone: No.

Benton: Talking about it as a…

Malone: No.

Benton: As a free agency destination.

(Return to MAMET addressing the team)

Anthony Parker: What’s your name?

Mamet:

GET BACK ON DEFENSE, THAT’S MY NAME! YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE YOU DROVE AN 80,000 DOLLAR BMW TO GET HERE TONIGHT. I DROVE A HORSE. THAT’S MY NAME.

YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR NAME IS? “SPOT-UP SHOOTER.” AND YOU CAN’T PLAY IN A MAN’S GAME. AND YOU GO HOME AND TELL YOUR WIFE YOUR TROUBLES. BECAUSE ONLY ONE THING COUNTS IN THIS GAME! PUT THE BALL IN THE NET THAT IS WOVEN!

NOW, ONTO WHAT I WAS SAYING EARLIER. AS YOU ATTEMPT TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN *OFFENSE* AND NON-OFFENSE. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN NOW.

EVERYONE IS SCREAMING AT US TO INCLUDE LOTS OF BALANCE AND BALL MOVEMENT. WE ARE TASKED, IT SEEMS, WITH CRAMMING A CRAPLOAD OF DRIBBLING AND PASSING INTO A VERY SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS, THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO INCORPORATE *BALANCE* — AND SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE: THE BALL DOES NOT GO IN THE BASKET BECAUSE OF BALANCE. YOU KNOW IT, I KNOW IT. IT NEVER HAS OR WILL. THE ONLY THING THAT PUTS POINTS ON THE BOARD IS OFFENSE.

QUESTION: WHAT IS OFFENSE? OFFENSE, AGAIN, IS THE ENDEAVOR OF THE PLAYERS WITH THE BALL TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT THEM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC *ACUTE* GOAL.

SO YOU, THE OFFENSIVE PLAYERS, MUST ASK YOURSELVES *OF EVERY POSSESSION* THESE THREE QUESTIONS:

1) ARE YOU DRIVING THE BALL AT THE BASKET?

2) ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A TEAMMATE WHO IS OPEN AT THE BASKET?

3) IS THERE AN OPEN THREE-POINT SHOT AVAILABLE THANKS TO THE THREAT OF A DRIVE AT THE BASKET, OR A WELL-PLACED BACK-SCREEN?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU WHETHER THE POSSESSION WAS EFFECTIVE OR NOT.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE AN INEFFECTIVE OFFENSIVE PLAYER DANGEROUS IF HE GETS THE BALL AFTER A SERIES OF FANCY CUTS AND SCREENS WHICH END UP WITH HIM ON THE PERIMETER.

THIS MEANS ALL THE *LITTLE* OFFENSIVE SETS WHERE TWO PLAYERS SET OFF-BALL SCREENS TO GET THE BALL TO ANTHONY PARKER IN THE TRIPLE-THREAT POSITION 20 FEET AWAY FROM THE BASKET. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL DO IT IN THE THIRD QUARTER) IS LESS THAN USELESS, AND IT’S GOING TO PUT US ALL BACK ON STUDIO SHOWS.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE POSSESSION EFFECTIVE. THIS IS NOT THE JOB OF THE ROLE PLAYERS. (THEIR JOB IS TO PLAY DEFENSE AND MAKE THE OPEN SHOTS YOU CREATE.) IT IS NOT THE HEAD COACH’S JOB. HIS JOB IS TO MAKE THE PLAYBOOK, RUN PRACTICE, AND TELL LISA SALTERS HIS TEAM NEEDS TO GET MORE STOPS. PLAYERS WITH THE BALL IN THEIR HANDS, IT IS *YOUR* JOB.

EVERY POSSESSION MUST BE EFFECTIVE. THAT MEANS: A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD ATTACK WHICH IMPELS THE BALL TO BE TAKEN AT THE BASKET.

ALL THESE POSSESSIONS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE GAME, CONSTITUTE THE *OFFENSE*.

ANY POSSESSION, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT INVOLVE ATTACKING THE BASKET, OR HAVE LEBRON JAMES TOUCH THE BALL, IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY DRAWN UP.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF INCLUDING ALL THAT “BALANCE?”

AND I RESPOND “*FIGURE IT OUT*” ANY DICKHEAD CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “INCLUDE MORE BALANCE AND MOVEMENT” AND “I WANT TO SEE *THAT PLAYER* GET MORE “TOUCHES.”

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE (OR SHE) *WILL* BE OUT OF A JOB. ACTUALLY, THE LATTER STATEMENT IS PROBABLY UNTRUE IN THE WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN SAY “BUT MIKE, WE NEED TO GIVE LEON POWE MORE TOUCHES DOWN LOW TO KEEP THE DEFENSE OFF-BALANCE”

Leon Powe: Hey, I’ve actually been pretty good down low.

David Mamet:

YES, YOU’VE ACTUALLY BEEN VERY EFFECTIVE DOWN LOW. I JUST WANTED TO MENTION YOUR NAME. I LIKE THE WAY YOU BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF PEOPLE UNDER THE BASKET. I WANT TO CAST YOU AS THE LEAD IN MY NEXT RUN OF “OLEANNA.” I MAY WELL CALL IT “POWELEANNA”. WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN BOSTON ANYMORE?

Leon Powe: I was going to be locked-up long term, but then I got injured and they decided not to keep me. In the end, they ended up giving my minutes to Big Baby Davis.

Ballboy: Don’t call Glen Davis “Baby.”

Leon Powe: What did you say?

Ballboy: You heard me. Don’t call Glen Davis “Baby.” He doesn’t like it.

(Powe snaps and throws the ballboy into a Gatorade cooler.)

Daniel Gibson: I think Leon was about to hit that ballboy with a chair.

DAVID MAMET:

DON’T WORRY ABOUT HIM. HE’LL BE ALRIGHT. MOVING ON.

YES BUT YES BUT YES *BUT* YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND *FIGURE IT OUT*.

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE ESSENTIAL BALANCE BETWEEN KEEPING THE OFFENSE FROM BECOMING TOO PREDICTABLE AND MAKING SURE THAT YOU AREN”T TAKING YOUR OWN BEST WEAPONS AWAY FROM YOURSELF? *THAT* IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE MAN RUNNING THE OFFENSE. AND THE ABILITY TO *DO* SO IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES COACHING THE TEAM WHILE WATCHING TV.

HERE ARE THE SIGNS THAT YOUR POSSESSION IS A CROCK OF CRAP.

IF A CAVALIER TOOK ANYTHING BUT A LAYUP, DUNK, OR WIDE-OPEN THREE WITHOUT LEBRON TOUCHING THE BALL, THE POSSESSION WAS A CROCK OF CRAP.

IF ANTHONY PARKER WAS ASKED TO MAKE A PLAY OFF THE DRIBBLE AGAINST A SET DEFENSE, THE PLAY WAS A CROCK OF CRAP.

IF LEBRON JAMES TOOK A CONTESTED JUMP SHOT AND MADE IT CLEAR THAT HE WAS NOT GOING TO DRIVE BEFORE HE SHOT IT, THE POSSESSION WAS A CROCK OF CRAP.

IF YOU PRETEND THE PLAYERS CAN’T CREATE THEIR OWN SHOT FROM ANYWHERE OUTSIDE OF 5 FEET, YOU HAVE WRITTEN AN EFFECTIVE OFFENSIVE POSSESSION.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF STEP-BACKS, FADEAWAYS, PULL-UP JUMPERS IN TRANSITION, CONTESTED SHOTS OUT OF THE TRIPLE-THREAT POSITION, YOU WILL REALIZE THAT YOU ARE CONSTANTLY PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE DEFENSE AND GETTING MORE LAYUPS, OPEN SHOTS, AND FOULS. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE THE WHISTLE-PENGUINS PUT YOU ON THE LINE. UGLY POINTS ARE BETTER THAN PRETTY BRICKS.

THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT COMES NATURALLY. NEARLY EVERY PLAYER WITH THE BALL IN HIS HANDS IN THE NBA WAS THE BEST PLAYER ON THE FLOOR FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF THEIR LIVES. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELF NOT TO WASTE POSSESSIONS, BUT YOU NEED TO *START*.

I CLOSE WITH ONE THOUGHT: IS THIS PLAY GOING TO FREE SOMEONE UP NEAR THE BASKET OR BEYOND THE ARC? IF IT IS RUN CORRECTLY, IS IT REALLY GOING TO GET YOU A SHOT YOU ARE CONFIDENT YOU WILL MAKE FAR MORE OFTEN THAN YOU MISS? IF NOT, GIVE THE BALL TO LEBRON AND GET OUT OF THE WAY. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, TOO BAD.

(Mamet, whose horse is now gone, grabs a harness dangling from the roof and is pulled out of sight. The Stunned Cavaliers go onto win the game, although they later find out that a washed-up RICHARD JEFFERSON stole their playbook the night before.)

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