ESPN NBA analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay joined ESPN’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals media call on Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics pertaining to the Miami Heat-Boston Celtics series.
Here is the transcript:
Q Jeff, you have a lot of solutions on how to fix things around the NBA. Is the Lottery okay? if Charlotte doesn’t get the No. 1 pick, is that all right? Or do they have to find a way to make sure that teams who need the help as bad as they do get more of it?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Not only do I think it’s all right, I don’t think they should be given any extra odds to get the pick for being bad. To get bad in this league is easy. To get good is hard. And I think consistently to reward teams that are bad with higher picks is not right.
I think what it’s doing right now in the regular season is you’re watching teams now tank, which is another way of saying not they’re trying their hardest to win as organizations for whole seasons. And it’s unfair to the fan bases.
So there has to be something done to incentivize these teams to try their best. And one of the ways is to remove the odds of getting the topic or top four pick and level it off.
And I think even the teams that don’t have home court in the playoffs, seeds 5 through 8, should be involved in the Lottery as well. Because why should they be penalized for winning with no chance of helping themselves out of what’s usually in those seeds, is they’re stuck in a batch of pretty good but not great teams.
JACK RAMSAY: Yeah, I agree with Jeff in that you don’t want to see teams tank games. But the draft is to help the lesser teams get better.
And if the league can come up with some way of demanding that teams play as well as they can and then whoever is the worst team, I’d like to see the worst team have the best chance of adding quality to its roster. But Jeff is right on about teams wanting to help themselves be the worst record team. I think that’s the issue that has to be cleaned up somehow.
Q Jeff, I wanted to know what you thought about the Celtics after this year. They have a lot of money to spend with salaries coming off the books. But there is no real marketable free agent out there after Deron Williams, who obviously wouldn’t come to Boston likely. And you have Rondo. Is it inconceivable to bring back Garnett and potentially Allen and go at it again, or do you think they should blow this thing up for the sake of blowing it up?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: You made reference to that cliché that you hear often, “blowing it up.” For what purpose? If it’s for the purpose of getting better, either immediately or down the line, then that’s great.
But some people just say, you know, they never consider that change can be bad for a team. And radical change at that. Listen, to me if you don’t have anybody in free agency that you can target, bringing back Garnett back for big money makes complete sense and then go at it again next year to see where you’re at.
Boston, people forget, right before they assembled this championship roster with the drafting of Rondo, trade for Garnett, the trade for Ray Allen, they were a team that lost 18 in a row and they did it with some young pieces that are okay. Al Jefferson, right? Guys of that ilk.
JACK RAMSAY: I think they need to improve their bench more than they need to improve their starters. Putting Ray Allen aside, because Ray is injured and it’s painful to watch him make the effort that he does and come up relatively empty. But I agree with Jeff, Paul Pierce and KG certainly have some games left in them. And Rondo is a key player right now with a lot of years ahead of him.
But that’s a very thin bench. Reminds me of the Lakers who have a similar bench. And they could improve their bench without, as you say, blowing the team up.
Q Jeff, I’d like to ask you a little bit about the transition you’ve made from coaching into the broadcasting side of things. Was that something that was always in the back of your mind and how do you describe your broadcasting style? It seems like you certainly don’t mind adding a bit of fun to the broadcast while taking things as seriously as they need to be when the time comes?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I had never thought about broadcasting, because I hadn’t planned on being fired. So I guess getting fired always sort of opens up your options to what you want to do.
As far as style, I don’t really have a style. Or at least not planned, other than probably annoying to some. But I just think like ‑‑ I try to say what I see. And I try to be as forthcoming as possible.
Q Jeff, what kind of broadcaster do you think your brother would be if that were a road he decided to go down?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Well, Stan as you know having dealt with him is extremely smart, intelligent, insightful and does everything with a tremendous amount of candor.
I think he has many options. If he wants to coach, I think he can certainly, with the record he’s amassed; he’ll have multiple opportunities to do that. If he wants to do something outside of basketball, unlike a lot of us, he’s smart enough to do something outside of basketball. And if he wants to broadcast I think he’ll be great at that. I think he’s one of those guys who can do a lot of things and do them well.
Q What was the toughest transition to the broadcast booth for you?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I think there’s a couple of the first is there’s no competition. Certainly you don’t have to deal with the misery of losing, but there’s no great high that a road win in the Playoffs can ever give you. Second, you’re not in day‑to‑day touch with a group.
The camaraderie can’t be replaced. I always try to say it’s the three Cs that you miss: The competition, the camaraderie, and the charters. And I’m not sure the charters don’t go first. But I think past that, the hardest adjustment is I never realized how sensitive players were. You might say 99 percent good things, and if you say one thing that you would like to see have been done differently, they get quite angry ‑‑ I was doing a game in the Playoffs where a player made a basket and he jogged down court, he didn’t look directly at me, but I knew he was looking towards me, and screamed something out I couldn’t share with you for print.
But I was amazed, I was like, wow, you know, I’ve been ‑‑ like I say what I see, but some of it I didn’t like in a particular game and I said that. And I didn’t realize how sensitive guys were.
Q Just wondering, your observations on what the Heat have, how they’ve evolved, if that’s even the right word, since Bosh went down, but also since they were down 2‑1 Pacers how has this team changed and succeeded with Wade and LeBron being that more of the offense since Josh went down?
JACK RAMSAY: I don’t see a huge difference. There’s no question that Chris Bosh is a quality player and very helpful to that team. But The Heat strength is primarily its defense. And that has been maintained. Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony are certainly not Chris Bosh. But the game plan at the defensive end has not changed and The Heat is getting big margin out of their team defense.
They take teams right out of it. Last night’s game, I think, was kind of typical. They keep the Celtics under 40 percent. They score 79. They get walloped on the board 48 to 33, does Boston, and they focus on key guys.
Paul Pierce, 5 for 18, that’s no mistake. He’s having a hard time just catching the ball. Rajon Rondo teams target to keep him from creating in the basket area, and they’re doing a good job. Philly did a good job against both of those guys, which is why it got to be a seven‑game series. But The Heat will be tough until Chris Bosh gets back because of their defense and the fact that Wade and James really upgrade their offensive games.
And everybody else chips in. And last night’s game, they got a big boost from Mike Miller off the bench, knocking down 3s. Battier knocked down a couple of 3s. Battier was very good last night, not always, but very good. Ten points, ten rebounds, and a couple of 3s, and his usual sticky defense.
But they’re a very good defensive team, and that’s not going to change whether it includes Chris Bosh or not.
Q Jeff, do you have the same interpretation there, or has anything changed in the way they play on the offensive end as well?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Well, again, you know what I think is interesting to me is everybody was lamenting Bosh’s absence in Game 2, that’s why they lost. Game 3 at Indiana, that’s why they lost. Game four they’re down nine at half and Wade is in a struggle still at 1 for 8.
And everybody is talking about Bosh, Bosh, Bosh. Now it’s come full circle where now some people are saying oh now they’re better without Bosh because James and Wade are getting more opportunities to attack.
And so what you learn very quickly in coaching is: Everybody’s perception is based on the results. A week ago when they were in a struggle, it was that they didn’t have enough to win without Bosh. Now it’s gone full circle that they’re better without Bosh. The answer lies as Jack said in between. They’re always going to be a great defensive team. And what I think was Miami’s finest hour so far in these Playoffs were down 2‑1, down nine at half, Wade in a struggle. LeBron James put together a first half in Indiana in Game 4 that kept them within striking distance and then Wade played tremendous from there on out as did James.
They held together when they could have broken apart. I give a lot of credit to Erik Spoelstra for that. He held the rope. There was no give‑in by their team, and from that point on they played just outstanding basketball.
Q Can you imagine any scenario where you would work with your brother in a broadcast situation and what that would be like?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I think, certainly, if he wanted to get into broadcasting like he said, I think he would be great at it. I have no idea what he’s interested in doing. I think the most important thing having been fired myself before it’s painful.
And you have to go through the process of grieving the job loss and not rushing into something.
And you just take your time. And he’ll have so many opportunities. He’ll pick the one that best serves he and his family. So if he would like to broadcast, like I said, I think he would be terrific. And working with him would be fun because I don’t get to see him that much because he’s always busy with his job and we don’t live in the same city.
And he would probably verbally assault me like he has for my whole life if we ever did it together.
JACK RAMSAY: But I regard Stan as one of the top coaches in the league. He’s done a magnificent job at Orlando. Has not received the credit that he should have. That’s another team without a great roster.
And Stan has put together winning seasons every season he’s been there. And if he wants to coach, he’s going to have an opportunity next year.
Q Jeff, you had some pointed comments about the Magic and an interview with Steven A. Smith, having gone through it, knowing your brother’s going through it, did that impact your comments in any way? Is that something you would have said about any coach getting fired?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Well, I think I’m a very ‑‑ I’ll cut to the chase and then backtrack. Sure it had an impact. He’s my brother. Do I feel strongly, I know the situation better vetting it? I know in the three years before Stan came to Orlando, Dwight Howard had never had a winning record. And he had never won a playoff game, and he had never been the defensive player of the year, he had never been an all‑NBA player. So I know all those things.
And so when he was fired, listen, teams have the right to change coaches. Dr. Jack has been through it. Every coach has been through it except for the very few lucky ones.
But there’s a manner in which you go about changing that shows you have a dignity and an integrity about you. And so a couple ‑‑ their callous disregard for what Stan helped them do, winning more playoff series in his five years than they have had in the entire time that they’ve been a franchise, add into that he’s my brother, sure, it impacted my comments.
But I didn’t overreact. In fact, if anything, I underreacted. Because when you see leadership by appeasement or appeasement as a leadership strategy, I think it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong for the individual player. I think it’s wrong for the team and the franchise and that’s what I said in many different ways.
Q A lot of people think that LeBron James has gone through more scrutiny from the media and fans than maybe any other athlete in history because of the 24/7 media cycle. From your perspective, what do you think of that?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Frankly, I’ve always been impressed with James, because to me he’s totally stayed out of, with all the scrutiny, he’s really stayed out of any trouble. There’s no trouble between him and his teammates, him and the law, him and anything.
The two things that people point to are his, the way he’s announced where he was going in free agency, which he has come back and said, hey, I should have done it different. And then the way Miami held their celebration where he probably got overly enthused and predicted multiple championships, which he wasn’t really in charge of.
That puts that up by the Miami Heat. So, honestly, I think the guy has done miraculously well. No college. No father figure as he’s growing up. People talk about the AAU culture. He was a product of that, but he’s come through ‑‑ I think this guy has done everything ‑‑ I just think he’s withstood it all very, very well.
Now, would he have liked to play some games differently, maybe last year in the Finals, yeah, tell me any athlete or coaches that don’t have regrets over certain how they played or certain moves in a game, but as far as his standard of behavior, I absolutely applaud how he’s conducted himself.
I don’t know many young people that could come into this league at 18 and withstand all that scrutiny and do it in such a class manner.
JACK RAMSAY: And he’s the leader of this team. I admire the way when Dwyane Wade was struggling, LeBron personally brought him back into it, looked for him, got him the ball where he could score. Got him layups.
That’s always a great way for a player that’s struggling with his offense to get the offense going. He’s a leader on defense. He, in my opinion, was the defensive player of the year. He’s the motor behind that very good Heat defense.
His weak side defense is incredible, the way he can help from the weak side, come in and stop a lob pass over the top to the opposing team’s center and then get back out and cover the corner where his guy’s waiting to shoot a 3. He’s been marvelous.
Q Jeff, do you believe the Bobcats last season, and I’m curious what you think of Anthony Davis as a pro?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I don’t think the team and the coaching staff did. I think the organization did by not getting as good a roster as they possibly could have for their fans.
I actually thought their team, when I watched them play, I thought they played hard. I thought Paul got them to play as hard as they could. But you can make the case that they don’t have at any position a top 15 player at their position. So they’re not the top half of starters at any place on their roster, which is a tough place to be.
And that’s why a guy like Anthony Davis, if they do draft him, he’s going to be expected to turn it around. But there’s no quick fixes. They have a I think a very poor roster by design. I think they’re trying to do what most people ‑‑ most people in the office would agree with how they’re doing it.
Get bad to try to get good. People have done it before. San Antonio Spurs. I think it was 18 wins when David Robinson was hurt. They got Tim Duncan, and for 15 years they’ve been just phenomenal.
So what they’re doing, I think, goes to what most people in the NBA would do. But it’s by design.
Q When you look at Ray Allen last night, 1 for 7 from the field, 3 for 7 from the free‑throw line, when you see his struggles and sort of the trend that’s been happening with him, do you think that’s become more mental or physical, especially when you look at the free throws?
JACK RAMSAY: It’s physical and it has become mental. But Ray Allen just can’t get open like he once does, and when he does get open, he can’t shoot the ball because he’s not getting into position to shoot it. He has lost his quickness, his lift on his shot. Both of those very important qualities in a player like Ray who does his best work moving without the ball and coming off screens, getting opened to shoot his shot.
He can’t shoot the ball like he once did, and his free throws, I would agree, I think that’s all mental now.
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I think like Jack, I would concur. But I would just add I think it’s just a shame because he’s the consummate professional who sets quite an example for how you’re supposed to go about preparing to play well and he’s continued his diligent preparation.
But coupled with playoff defense being more targeting what guys do and his lack of health right now made it very difficult for him to shoot the ball. Now, I thought he made some good plays off the pass last night. I actually thought he defended Wade well in the first half.
But just for the Celtics to score enough, he’s going to have to shoot the ball better for them to win.
JACK RAMSAY: He’s the consummate pro. He was in the beginning of the second half he was the first guy out of the locker room and on to the floor, went to the free‑throw line, shot maybe 15 free throws and went to the baseline and shot some shots. Now, he was able to make them.
I watched them shoot. He made a high percentage of shots from the line and along the baseline. But that’s not what happened during the game except from the free‑throw line. Free‑throw line is always the same.
And as I said earlier, I think he’s lost a bit of confidence there.
Q Jeff, Sports Illustrated asked 124 NBA players to choose their favorite announcer. You ranked at No. 2. Do you consider that an honor, or do you wish you got the No. 1 from Charles Barkley?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Listen, I’m just happy to have a job. I don’t know about all that. I’m just happy to have a job. And I don’t really get into what people say, if they like you or dislike you. Just like in coaching, you just do the best you can and you live with the results.
JACK RAMSAY: I think that’s what makes you good, Jeff. You do it as you see it, and let the chips fall where they may. I think your straightforward commentary is very good for the game.
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Thank you, Coach.
Q It’s a question about a team I cover here in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Clippers, if that’s okay. I know we’re talking about the NBA, the Eastern Conference Finals, but I wanted to get both takes on what the future looks like for the Clippers and how they did this season, and do you think that Del Negro will be back next year as the head coach?
JACK RAMSAY: I think Vinny Del Negro has done a good job. He’s done a very good job at Chicago and a very good job with the Clippers. So why not? Why would you not keep him? I think there’s always that question when a team loses, when, first of all, it doesn’t make the playoffs. Everybody assumes the coach is gone.
Whereas the coach may have done a very good job in getting the maximum from that team, and then when it ultimately loses in the playoffs and everybody but one coach is going to lose in the playoffs, the same thing happens. Should we retain the coach or should we go after somebody better, who is to determine that?
So I think Vinny has done a very good job on that. I like the team, I think they will get better. Chris Paul will certainly, not to the extent of Ray Allen’s of course, but he was under 100 percent by far in the playoffs. And for most of the season. Chris Paul is an incredible player. Not only does he create offense, but he’s one of the best point guard defenders in the game. People don’t realize that.
Blake Griffin is going to continue to get better. And the other spots should improve and get better. They need help off the bench. But I think they will get it.
This is a tough team. This is a tough team in the making.
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I would echo Jack’s statement. I thought Vinny Del Negro did a great job. I thought their team with really just one addition in Chris Paul, and then secondary acquisitions in like the Kenyon Martin, Nick Young and Reggie Evans, gave the Clippers a chance. I thought their Game 7 win at Memphis was a terrific win for their organization.
They got swept obviously by the Spurs, and that’s never an easy way to go out. But I think it’s all going to be about sustaining their success. Can they keep Chris Paul? And if they can, they’re going to be good. If they can’t, they’ll take another downturn, and I think that’s exactly what it comes down to.
Q I know it was addressed a little bit last night during the game, Boston gets called for five technicals, a couple of them borderline, Doc Rivers saying at least he should have got more for his money. But what do you say about those technicals yesterday and how do you see that impacting this series moving forward?
JACK RAMSAY: I don’t think it has any bearing on future games. I think that was very unusual. Kevin Garnett, I don’t know what he said that got him a technical. But as he tried to explain, he talks all the time. And a lot of it is not for your living room. And I think Danny Crawford thought that the comments were directed at him, and they weren’t. It’s just KG with his usual in‑game dialogue or monologue, more to the point.
JEFF VAN GUNDY: And for me, Danny Crawford, I’ve always found, when he worked, when I was coaching, has got a great demeanor. Very rarely overreacts. And I think the technical foul on Ray Allen he’ll look at and say I missed the call. And then I blew the technical, because Ray Allen gave a momentary show of emotion, but that was it. It wasn’t overly demonstrative, and it certainly wasn’t directed at Danny, and Ray has a history of comportment that is outstanding.
So I think when he looks at that one, I thought the Doc Rivers technical was ‑‑ there’s no defense of it, to say come on Eddy and get a technical foul, to me the officials and a lot of them are really good about it. Some need improvement on their ability to understand the intensity and the emotion of these games.
And certainly officials aren’t competing. So sometimes they can lose sight of the fact that this is hard‑fought competition. Some of these guys like Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and Pierce, LeBron James, Wade, I mean, this was how they’re going to be judged.
And as are the coaches. And for them to be quick with the technical instead of a technical of it’s the last course of action ‑‑ I was thinking to myself during the game, if they had a son or daughter playing or coaching in the game, would they have wanted their kids or if their son was Doc Rivers coaching, would they have given their kid a technical foul for just that amount or how would they have felt.
I think a certain level of empathy from the officials goes a long way for these coaches and players who are in this hotly contested environment.
JACK RAMSAY: And officials ‑‑ in the past, officials would be a little more tolerant of comments from the coach and players during the playoffs. They went off a little quickly in last night’s game but I don’t think it had any bearing on the outcome.
Q I know you mentioned your brother Stan. What do you see happening in the coaching landscape next year? Jerry Sloan coming back? Mike D’Antoni?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: There’s a lot of great coaches that don’t have jobs. Mike Fratello. You can go on. There’s a lot of very, very accomplished coaches out there. And certainly anybody who has an opening will consider all those people, plus the quality bunch of assistants. There’s a lot of great coaches. And I’ll tell you what makes, gives you the best chance, is to make sure you get a Hall of Famer.
You have a Hall of Famer on your roster and you can start forge a long‑term relationship with that guy with enough support as far as player‑wise, you can be a really good coach in our league.
Without a great player, though, very, very difficult to sustain success.
JACK RAMSAY: I would say for the coaches out there don’t take a job just because it’s a job. Adopt the Phil Jackson attitude to a certain extent. Phil would not take a job unless he thought the team could win a championship.
Now, coaches ‑‑ all coaches can’t have that high a criterion. But you want to have ‑‑ you want to take a job where you have a chance to win. And Jerry Sloan interviewing for the Charlotte job makes no sense to me.
He may have done it because of his association with Michael Jordan, I don’t know. But Jerry is too good a coach to take a job at that level.
Q We have seen an emphasis on defense in the past two years, but what do you think of how the game is evolving on offense?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I think the game offensively has evolved into a perimeter pick‑and‑roll game offensively. Teams don’t run a lot of different actions or continuity or the post‑up game is not nearly as emphasized. And so I think the Mike D’Antoni influence in Phoenix with getting into quick‑hitting pick and rolls has become the norm.
I think San Antonio shows you that in how they play the game. So many pick‑and‑rolls for Parker, so many pick‑and‑rolls for Ginobili, and then surround those pick‑and‑roll players with a good roll man to the rim and a lot of shooting to the 3‑point line. It really stretches your defense and makes it a challenge.
JACK RAMSAY: And the ability of your point guard to get into the paint in transition or sometimes just spreading the floor and letting him go to work. I don’t know how many years ago when Cotton Fitzsimmons had Kevin Johnson, he was the first to employ that kind of an offense.
And his offense really was spread the floor like KJ, penetrate and create a play, which he did very well. Westbrook does that very well for OKC. Although he came up a little short in Game 1 against the Spurs.
Q If we compare the game to the ’80s and ’90s, do you like what you see right now or do you think some standard rules need to be changed?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: I think we need a lot of different rule changes. I think coaches construct offenses to take advantage of the strengths of their players. And there just aren’t a lot of post‑up players anymore. The rules make it harder for post‑up players now, with the restrictions on the illegal defenses.
And so the pick‑and‑roll game is hard to defend particularly when you surround it with the shooting that a San Antonio surrounds their pick‑and‑roll players with.
JACK RAMSAY: There is some talk about allowing the international rule where players can go after the ball once it hits the rim.
And either player, offense or defense, could do it.
I would not like to see that in the NBA. I think it’s good to have the rule as it is, and if you touch the ball on or over the rim, if it’s the defender, the goal is good. If it’s the offensive player, it’s basket interference.
Q I know we’re talking Eastern Conference Finals here, but I was hoping I could sneak in a question on a team that I’ve dealt with all year. I have a two‑parter here. First off for both Jeff and Jack, what did you think of the Knicks decision to extend Mike Woodson, and also their decision not to reach out to any other candidates? And the second part is for Jeff. Jeff, Larry Brown said the other day that he thought despite everything that went on with him in New York that James Dolan should be commended because he’s committed to winning. I wanted to know if you have the same opinion on that?
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Well, my dealings with Mr. Dolan when he was the owner were a little bit more maybe infrequent because Dave Checketts was in place, and he was ‑‑ my dealing were with Dave. And Dave’s dealings with Mr. Dolan. I dealt with Mr. Dolan a lot.
But the one thing, when you’re coaching the New York Knicks with Mr. Dolan in charge, there was no doubt he wanted to win, and there was no doubt he would give you the resources to win.
And I had absolutely no problem with ‑‑ he was a very good owner to me. And I applaud his and their decision to bring Mike Woodson back. I think it’s well deserved opportunity for Mike.
I think Mike did a fantastic job in Atlanta. And I think he did a terrific job taking over in New York. And I thought Mike D’Antoni did a very good job as well. He just was dealing with ‑‑ he just had to deal with incredible roster turnover in his time there.
So Mr. Dolan has done ‑‑ he’s an owner that any coach would want to work for as far as him putting the resources in to try to win. Because as a coach all you want to do is have a chance, a chance to win and win big, as Jack said, win championships.
And there’s no doubt that he gives you that opportunity.
JACK RAMSAY: And I agree about Mike Woodson. Mike Woodson did a terrific job taking over a team which is always difficult during the season. The team had, as we all know, a series of injuries. Has had roster changes.
He incorporated that team, brought it together, and improved its team defense markedly. Got a competitive team going. Gave Lin a chance and that paid big dividends. So it was a very well‑deserved rehire, in my opinion.