Earlier today, ESPN NBA analysts Jalen Rose (NBA Countdown) and P.J. Carlesimo (SportsCenter, NBA Tonight) discussed the 2015 NBA Playoffs first round on a media conference call. Rose will join the rest of the NBA Countdown crew on Sunday, April 26 at 12 p.m. ET to preview the Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs game. Carlesimo will be the game analyst for Saturday’s Memphis Grizzlies-Portland Trail Blazers telecast on ESPN at 10:30 p.m.
For more details on ABC and ESPN’s multiplatform NBA Playoffs schedule, visit ESPNMediaZone.com.
Here is the replay of today’s conference call.
Q. Do you think there’s any chance the Bucks can get back in this Bulls series, and if you’re Jason Kidd, what would you try?
P.J. CARLESIMO: Yeah, I think it’s just too early to say. I know they only won one. They won one of the four games in the regular season, but probably the tenor of most of my answers today are going to be, ‘It’s awfully early.’ All our jobs are to comment, but what have we had? Of the eight series, only two of them have played even a second game. So you’ve got teams that have not played at home yet. You have a number of teams in the Playoffs with decidedly different home and road records, both ways, not just the obvious like where the team has been the visitor in the beginning has a pretty poor road record. But some of them have really good home records and some of the teams that are even hosting there’s a marked difference between their home and away.
The Bucks biggest problem is scoring points. That’s everybody’s problem when you play the Bulls. The Bulls are so much better offensively this year, but they’re still very good defensively, and as good as the Bucks are defensively, they’re not going to win scoring 86 or 87 points a game. I just think the combination of being at home is that Game 3 is going to be enormous, and somehow Jason has got to get a little more offense out of his squad, which is not easy to do against the Bulls.
JALEN ROSE: And there’s a reason why Ben chose me to be on the call with a highest team champion and a terrific coach like PJ because we’re going to balance each other out terrific. For me, the Milwaukee Bucks making the Playoffs, especially after trading Brandon Knight, who was their leading scorer and assist guy, and basically getting a first-round pick from the Clippers to take Jared Dudley, who’s been a knock‑down three‑point shooter for them, they all know 94 percent of the time when you get down 0‑2 in a best‑of‑seven you normally lose the series. So for me, it’s can Milwaukee win one game.
I think from what I saw in Jimmy Butler and Noah’s 19 rebounds, I went from thinking the Bucks could win a game with Khris Middleton shooting and Antetokounmpo being able to get to the basket, but they’re keeping his perimeter oriented. I now think the Bulls will sweep the Milwaukee Bucks.
Q. P.J., if you’re Jason Kidd, you’re trying for offense. Any ideas of what he could try?
CARLESIMO: Well, I mean, you always like to get the easy things, but you know, in Game 1 they shot 4 for 16 from three. In Game 2, they shot 4 for 17. You know, I mean, the so‑called easy points, if you can get some points off turnovers, I think that would be their best method. They got a bunch of those. They turned the balls over 19 times in the first game and 15 in the second. Calling them easy points is probably a misnomer, but some points off turnovers, getting to the free‑throw line, getting offensive rebounds, and I’d put ‑‑ I’d kind of tack threes on there because threes can make up for other deficiencies, but when you look at what’s happened so far, the points off turnovers, I think they’ve done an adequate job. They have not done a great job. They were much better in Game 1 on those offensive rebounds.
Three‑point shooting would be enormous, but you know, it’s hard to change what you are at this stage. They’ve been so good shooting the ball all year, but again, they’re playing a team that’s exceptional. That to me is almost one of the big numbers to look at. Milwaukee, one of the better three‑point shooting percentage teams in the league, but the Bulls are one of the best defensive three‑point shooting teams in the league. It just really is difficult to score against Chicago, so I mean, it’s easy for me to sit here and say, Jason has got to get his team to make some more threes and get some more offensive rebounds and blah‑blah‑blah, but it’s not an accident the way the Bulls play.
But I am putting more stock in the home court, particularly for a young team, an inexperienced playoff team. They may get a lift from that, and if they can continue to turn the Bulls over, that can be a big thing for them.
Q. P.J., what are your observations of the New Orleans Pelicans, the upstart Pelicans, and have they given you an indication they can tie this series playing at home?
CARLESIMO: I don’t know about tying it, but I think a lot better. I happened to have had the Pelicans. I had them the last game of the regular season against San Antonio, and I had Game 1, whatever day it was, Saturday or Sunday, in Oakland. I think the one thing, and I’m sure so much has been written, other people have probably said it, I just haven’t seen it as much, but this is one of the series that I alluded to in the beginning. You’ve got a team with the best home record in the league against a team with the poorest road playoff record in the league. Washington and New Orleans have the worst road records. So if anything my convoluted logic, I was encouraged by the way New Orleans played to be honest with you. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they got smoked both games in Oakland. Based on the regular season, it was hard to evaluate because key guys missed games, but New Orleans candidly has not been a good road team, and Golden State is the best home team in the league. So I think going back to Smoothie will be enormous for New Orleans. Not as enormous as health. If Tyreke and Holiday play ‑‑ not just play but play and are okay to play, are capable of getting something done, I think that would be significant. But I’m anxious to watch them at home because I think with a healthy Drew and a healthy Tyreke and playing at home, that team is just markedly better at home.
They just beat Golden State, whatever it was, 10 days ago, 12 days ago, I don’t know, at home. Yes, the Playoffs are a different animal, but I’ve been encouraged by a lot of the minutes that New Orleans played in Oakland.
Q. How much has the bench been the difference in these two games, and are the Pelicans missing Ryan Anderson? How much are they missing him?
CARLESIMO: Well, they’re missing him, but again, it’s a strange number, and I don’t understand it. I happen to be a Ryan Anderson fan. His numbers mirror exactly what I’m talking about. He’s played so much better and shot the ball so much better in New Orleans than he has on the road, not just in Oakland but in general. So I think, yeah, that’s a big factor. But New Orleans almost doubled him in bench points in the first game. I think it was 25‑12 in New Orleans’ favor in the first game, and Golden State got them in the second game, but I chalk part of that off to Drew not being there. Even the first ‑‑ the numbers in the first game were a little skewed because if I recall correctly, Tyreke didn’t play second half. So when you look at the box score, it looks like the bench scored more than they did, and somebody had to start in Tyreke’s place in the second half.
But yeah, again, if Ryan shoots the ball the way he normally shoots it, and if the other two guys are healthy, I think ‑‑ I’m not going to say anybody is going to beat Golden State back‑to‑back, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t get a game in New Orleans. I think they played very well in that building.
ROSE: Playing at home, I’m with Coach. You put Anthony Davis at the 5, you get more shooting from Anderson, the help with their backcourt, in both of these road games, you lose Evans during the first game, you lose Drew the entire second game. Normally your role players play better at home. Anthony Davis is going to slow down a little bit on his post moves, take advantage of his size a little bit better when he’s guarded by Draymond and use his speed better when he’s being guarded by Bogut. I do anticipate that New Orleans is going to win one game. That would be the only game in my opinion they win in this series, Game 3.
CARLESIMO: Again, I don’t think Monty looks at Asik like a huge offensive production guy, but if he’s going to play ‑‑ he’s playing maybe a little bit less than he played in the regular season, and he is rebounding, but he’s got to give them some offense. What did he get in the regular season, 7, 8 points a game? I think they need a little offense from him, also. It may not be a good match‑up, but if he’s on the floor getting rebounds, if I recall correctly, he’s like the top 10 or 11 offensive rebounder in the league. So maybe he can come up with a couple more of those and get a little bit more offense for them.
Q. Pelicans have probably played about as well as they can for two games. What do you do as a coach to put it in their heads, “Hey, you can beat this bunch,” rather than maybe having the thought that they’re just not quite good enough this year? And Jalen, if you’re a player, does it take something from your coaches talking to you in this situation? Do you take it upon yourself or amongst each other? How does that work?
ROSE: When you’re a player in this situation, you don’t have to create fake hype because we know we have Anthony Davis, and whatever list you’re making, he’s going to be one of your top players in the game. We know we just beat Golden State, and as a matter of fact we beat the defending world champions on our floor and knocked out the opportunity for them to go to 2nd to 6th in a game that they sorely needed. I just think going back home, your role players’ percentages go up, their confidence, as well. You get more benefit of the whistle, and Anthony Davis who was slow in particular in the second half, in the fourth quarter, in Game 2, is going to be a match‑up nightmare for Golden State, and he’s going to will them to Game 3.
CARLESIMO: Yeah, I like what Jalen is saying. I think if anything I’d have been more concerned with the confidence level going into Oakland. Honestly, I was impressed with what the Pelicans did in the two games. They didn’t, to me ‑‑ Golden State didn’t come close to dominating as might have been expected by a lot of us going in. They had two ‑‑ they had two exceptional defensive quarters last night. Was it a 16‑ and a 17‑point quarter against Golden? That’s got to be two of the slowest quarters Golden has had all year. They came from behind. The injuries that Jalen and I both talked about already, I mean, I think they can have legitimate confidence coming home.
Now, Golden State can certainly play better, but I don’t think Monty has to do any kind of convincing. They were down 25 in the first game and came back, and they’re right there in the fourth quarter last night. I’ve got to think the team coming back from Oakland is significantly more confident than they may have even gone in. They’re coming back to a building and an environment that they’ve thrived in all year, and as Jalen said, they just beat them a couple weeks ‑‑ they just beat them and San Antonio recently. I think they’ve got a lot of reason to be confident. Now, having said that, Golden State is the best team in the league, but I like New Orleans’ mindset going into these Games 3 and 4.
ROSE: And coming out of Games 1 and 2, no player epitomizes the confidence that I think the Pelicans have going back home more than Quincy Pondexter, who’s playing really well.
Q. I talked to Brad Stevens for a little bit yesterday, P.J., and I just wanted to get your impression of his first two seasons in the NBA, what he was able to do with the Celtics team, and what you see in him as a coach, especially under the guise of you were also a coach who had success in college and then translated it into NBA success.
CARLESIMO: Let me preface it by saying I happened to do 15 of the Celtic games last year. I did a bunch of their road games for Tommy when he was coaching last year, so in addition to just watching from the outside, I actually did 15 Celtic games last year.
I think I’ve gotten to know Brad very well, extremely impressed with his demeanor. He’s had two, I think, very challenging years. When I came in, I had really good players in Portland. I mean, I inherited Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter and Buck Williams and the late Jerome Kersey. So I had a totally different transition into the league than Brad had. He had young guys, patched‑together rosters, and I thought he’s handled it extremely well. They played much better last year than you would have any right to expect. They got better as the year went on. They stayed together, and they were always competitive.
You could say a lot of the same this year, and again, trades, changes, putting new guys in, key rotation players all of a sudden are playing a big factor, injuries, as has been the story with everybody this year. He’s been great. He’s very even keel. I think he came in thinking, knowing he knew a lot about basketball but knowing also he had a learning curve in terms of learning the league, learning its players, learning the nuances. It’s still basketball, but he was very, very eyes open, drank it all in. I think he gets better every week.
I can’t be more impressed with the job that he’s done, I think, in an extremely challenging situation, and I think a big accomplishment to make the Playoffs this year for Brad and for the Celtics.
ROSE: If you want I could take a player’s perspective and just talk about how gaining confidence for young players does mean something. Like as I watched this year’s Playoffs, I think back to a Philadelphia team a couple of years ago that had Thad Young, Spencer Hawes, Jrue Holiday. There’s one more ‑‑ Lou Williams. All of these guys were playing on the Philadelphia team that was in the Playoffs the last time Derrick Rose was actually healthy enough to play in the Playoffs, and instead of that team growing on the experience, you know, the whole creative tanking, so to speak, has happened over the last couple of years.
Boston played hard the entire year last year, so players like Olynyk, Evan Turner got quality minutes, got confidence, Bass continued to play NBA professional, so now those guys become a core group of guys you can take into camp and already what understand what Brad wants to get accomplished. And yes, they’re playing in the East where nine teams were below .500, but nobody could say that for whatever reason, Miami had to deal with the Bosh and Nick Roberts and other injury issues, the Pacers had to deal with Paul George being out until late, and then the Lance Stephenson signing wasn’t what the Hornets thought it was going to be. Nobody could have anticipated that Boston would make the Playoffs in front of all three of those teams.
Q. Jalen, do you still believe the Bulls are the favorite to win the Eastern Conference? I know you said that in October and again in mid‑season. And two, have you spoken with Christian Laettner since the comments he made about the Fab Five documentary?
ROSE: I’ll do the second question first. Me and Christian are brothers through the National Basketball Retired Players Association, and coincidentally we had an appearance together during the Final Four and we literally laughed that people think what they saw in the Fab Five documentary, then what they saw in the Duke documentaries, because they did one with ACL and then now they did one with ESPN. But either way, that just shows how, I guess, good those documentaries are because people still think that we have any animosity or hostilities towards each other. We’re old and washed up; we don’t care about that stuff. They kicked our butt. I know it. I just owned it. That’s all.
So there are zero hard feelings towards him or Coach K. I talked to Grant and Christian. They wanted me to participate in the doc so I did, so I was happy to be able to do so.
As it relates to the Bulls, I’m glad you’re making me own my pick. That’s one thing I like about this job. I did pick the Bulls. I am owning that pick, and I’m going to look in the colored area of the floor. If Rose is healthy, and I don’t mean MVP level healthy like he was a couple years ago, I mean like a combination of Games 1 and 2. Jimmy Butler is their current resident All‑Star, and he played really well last game. Pau Gasol is their other current resident All‑Star. He’s going to give them points and rebounds. Noah was all NBA last year. He had 19 boards. I’m going to have to see how LeBron, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love and Mozgov deal with the multiple 4s and 5s for the Bulls. That’s still a question for me, and if you’re a Chicago fan, you hope your team can take advantage of.
Q. Doc Rivers had some interesting comments, and this question could be for both of you. Doc Rivers had some interesting comments regarding the playoff format just right before the Playoffs had gotten started. Do you like the current playoff format or would you like to see it changed, and if so, how would you change it?
CARLESIMO: I don’t like the division winner being seeded 4. I like the division ‑‑ if we’re going to have divisions, I like the division winner being in the Playoffs, but wherever their record puts them, that’s where they should be. I’m not ready to go with the best six team yet because I’m still bothered by the difference in the schedules. You know, whatever conference you’re in, playing 52 games in your own conference and 30 in the opposite one, and not just necessarily this year. This year is kind of an aberration because you’ve got more good teams in the better conference, so like to argue for it, I’d be more concerned with what should happen more often when you’ve got a better record in the weaker conference, and you’ve got a team with a better record in the weaker conference possibly getting in over a team on the other side who’s penalized because of the difficulty in the conference.
I haven’t sorted that out in my head yet. Definitely division winner in, but definitely in wherever he’s ‑‑ if he’s eighth or he would still beat out a ninth or a tenth with a better record, I think, as unlikely as that is, but I think the division winner should be wherever his win‑loss record is, and you wouldn’t get San Antonio playing Los Angeles in the first round.
ROSE: A couple of things for me. I’m with Coach about the division winner, that it’s basically irrelevant to everyone except the team and the local fan base. Some teams, and I think the Spurs are one of those teams, don’t hang division banners, while there are other teams in the league that do. That shows how much it’s irrelevant as the league is concerned.
I disagree with Coach about the open seeding. I understand the 50‑32 split, but for me that at least allows us to keep the integrity of the east and the Western Conference but allowing them to play their 50 and 32 schedules, but either way, I definitely think we should find a way to get the best teams in the Playoffs. No .500 teams in particular should be in the Playoffs. That’s just all bad.
A couple other things I guess come to mind since you’re allowing me to get on a soapbox. I don’t like music during plays. I don’t want to be taking out the ball and hear Drake with three seconds to go in the game. I want to hear that before the game or after the game. Like how do you expect guys to concentrate?
CARLESIMO: Didn’t we change that rule? I thought in the old days you weren’t allowed to do stuff when the game was on, or am I not remembering correctly?
ROSE: Well, Coach, it used to be chants like “defense” or something like that. Now you’re taking out the ball, and you’re hearing the same music you hear in the club, and I’m like, how do you expect everybody to concentrate? I’m not a fan of that at all.
And the other thing people have been talking about is make your free throws. Let’s not change the rules of basketball for 12 guys to shoot 65 percent or below. Make your free throws.
CARLESIMO: Amen on that.
Q. It’s about the San Antonio Spurs. I know right now being down one game here in the first of the seven game series with the Clippers, but is this the year now where we’re starting to see ‑‑ it’s only one game, but is this the year where we’re starting to see a little bit different Spurs team, or is just one game one game?
CARLESIMO: I think one game is one game. They won 55 games. They dealt with injuries, as a lot of teams did during the year. They’re still pretty good, and if I remember correctly, and there’s a good chance I don’t, when I was an assistant there, I think we lost our first game of the Playoffs in ’03, ’05 and ’07 and won the championship in all three. It’s awful early. That’s a tough series for them to win, I agree, but it’s awful early to kick any dirt on them.
ROSE: And I’ve been in the predictions business, good, bad or indifferent. I picked the Mavs to win this series. They’re trailing. I picked the Raptors to win their series. They’re trailing. I picked the Bulls to beat the Cavs. They haven’t played yet. I don’t know how I got there. And I picked the Clippers to beat the Spurs. In order for my prediction to come true, I guess I want them to win Game 2.
But the reason why I did is I felt at the point guard spot, power forward and center, productivity‑wise, the Clippers had the most dominant player at each position, and so I just felt like that was going to be a lot for the Spurs to overcome, especially coming from a team that had an opportunity to finish second and ended up falling to sixth on the last day, especially with two of the hottest teams, Clippers winning I guess 14 of 15 as the season ended and the Spurs 14 of 16.
Q. I know there’s been some reports about LaMarcus Aldridge now and whether or not if the Blazers win if he’d return. Are you buying into any of that or do you think LMA is pretty good to go in Portland no matter what happens?
CARLESIMO: I mean, I’ll tackle it. I have zero insight. I’m going up there on Saturday. LA’s experience in Portland has been, I think, pretty impressive, and I think unfortunately that injury just sidetracked him. I think you could make a case that they were right on schedule to be right where they wanted to be. But I have no idea what’s in LA’s mind, but I think Portland has been good for him, and he obviously has been excellent for Portland.
ROSE: I think LaMarcus’ free agency, along with Marc Gasol, and it’s going to play out with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and also Kawhi Leonard, there’s going to be a great summary about picking a team that not only ‑‑ you’re going to get the dollars, and it’s overrated talking about going to a large market to get your face seen. I see Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant on every commercial. It’s going to show me how much all of those guys value winning because just because you go sign with a team, for example, the Lakers or Knicks, they’re a long way away from where I mentioned each one of those guys’ teams are currently placed, and also the decision makers in all of those situations have shown me they can build a winner. Wesley Matthews is one of the best two‑way players in the entire game. They lost him this year. That’s a major loss.
You also have a management that’s savvy enough to pick up Arron Afflalo. Well, you lose him, also. If I’m LaMarcus, I’m thinking about staying with the team that got me Damian Lillard in the lottery. Plus as a player, if I want to be selfish, why not get the extra year of 30 million as opposed to what Carmelo did where he knew that he was going into an unknown but yet he still needed to get that final year of his contract, that fifth year.
Q. In terms of there’s a lot of talk about the “it” factor in the league this year. Jalen, I heard you talk about you kind of believe in what the Clippers were doing this year. PJ, I was wondering if you feel the same, that the Clippers are a legitimate title contender that can go all the way.
CARLESIMO: There’s no question in my mind. I’ll preface it by saying I think Golden State clearly deserves to be the favorite, but it’s the most open Playoffs we’ve had, particularly in the West. Somebody has got to win three series in the West, and LA has just as good a chance as anybody else, I agree with what Jalen said. Selfishly probably I still ‑‑ they’ve got their hands full right now. If Tony Parker is healthy, I think that will still be a great series. But I don’t think there’s any question that this could be the year that LA goes deep in the Playoffs. I mean, that’s been the knock, and I don’t see any reason why that can’t happen this year.
Q. Jalen, this one is for you, a couple Pacer questions here. I wanted to get your reaction to Larry Bird basically calling out Roy Hibbert, and then number two, they’ve mentioned they want to change the style, push it up tempo. How much do you think they’re finally adapting to the evolution of the league?
ROSE: Well, what ends up happening is you take multiple players in the first round and they become all‑stars and you’re in a small market like Indiana, you continue to build around them, so you get Granger, Hibbert, then you get Paul George, then you get Lance Stephenson, who you obviously lose a free agent. So as a team that’s not going to get the big blank check free agent, you want to continue to develop those players. Roy, his style of play, he’s always been a guy that limbered up and down the floor even when he was at Georgetown, except the difference was he was more of a dominant rebounder, but in particular shot blocker, defensive presence, to where it didn’t necessarily hinder you out on the floor. Where he’s weak, at defending a lot of pick‑and‑rolls, and his offense has really digressed, especially since last year’s All‑Star Game.
Some of the games I saw in the second half of last year, they were the worst games and the worst performances of any player that has made an All‑Star team that same year. So it was really that bad. I was happy, though, for Larry and the Pacers’ organization that they took all of the steps needed to try to put themselves in position to win, even though their best player, Paul George, was out all year. Wes seems to be getting a lot older, so they were going at C.J. Miles, going at a Rodney Stuckey, just doing whatever you can to try to patchwork a team to the point where during the last game of the year they had an opportunity to make the Playoffs. Again, they were forced into the league of taking the most post‑ups, and so when you have Paul George as your best player, it’s only right that you want to play faster. It just makes sense.
Q. Were you surprised how bold Larry was, knowing Larry, how much he did call Roy out?
ROSE: No, what ends up happening is if we’re going to mince words for some of these great guys that have been historic champions. Like when Pat Riley says something, people are always going to feel like it’s a veiled shot at somebody, and maybe it was LeBron. The same goes for Larry Bird. Whether they was taking a shot at a person or player or not, they’ve earned the right to say what they feel, and so when you’re the only guy that’s been the MVP of the league, the executive of the league and the Coach of the Year, you have pretty much a landscape to say what you feel. As somebody that works in the media now, I appreciate getting frank answers.
Q. I have a specific question about a specific play. The long outlet pass that maybe Wes Unseld perfected that Kevin Love does well, LeBron James, can you guys teach that? Is it a skill that’s taught? Do you just have it? Is it something you worked on in practice or did you just let the guy who was very good at it do his thing when necessary?
CARLESIMO: Well, we drilled it more in college than we did ‑‑ than I did in the NBA. The guy who was the ‑‑ we were always trying to stretch out the outlet. I’m sure Jalen heard it himself enough. We were always on our point guards to get up the floor, to lengthen the outlet, but the one you’re talking about, the Wes Unseld, Maurice Lucas, Kevin Love, LeBron, we didn’t ever work on that. Maybe it’s something that needs to be worked on more. But we always wanted a quicker, longer outlet. But the quicker and the longer the outlet pass, and a lot of times that’s on your point guard, to get your point guard deeper down the floor, that ignites a fast break.
ROSE: The toughest thing to do in basketball is to constantly get players to run, whether it’s a dead ball, a made shot, a steal. So to get a player to take the ball out fast is a chore, and so to do a long outlet pass is exactly what Coach said. You have to have a player with that skill set because remember, while it’s an outlet, it’s still a pass. So it has to be somebody that can still execute that play. But you’re constantly trying to force tempo. For point guards or any ball handler to get the ball, you want them to always get it on the run, especially if it’s during the flow of the game.
Q. Can the analogy be made that it takes a quarterback’s touch to throw that one, sort of a deep ball over the secondary?
ROSE: Absolutely. It’s steal a pass.
CARLESIMO: You’d better practice it. It’s a difficult ‑‑ those guys make it look easy. The problem is when you see a Kevin Love or LeBron or the guys that are doing it currently, they’re so good at it, it begs the question ‑‑ your question is a fair question, why don’t more teams do it. If you saw more guys throwing those, you’d know why more teams don’t do it. They’d be all over the place. But maybe that’s on coaches and particularly now player development guys to drill it more. But it’s a very, very difficult pass. It truly is.