On October 16th, the Harvard Crimson Men’s basketball team introduced the 2015-1016 team at their annual Crimson Madness event. Held in Lavietes Pavilion, the event included a dunk contest, 3 point shootout, a scrimmage, and a couple fun events for fans who attended the event. Here are several observations I made.
Free Stuff > Basketball
Once again, the material greed of college students reigned supreme against the love of basketball. In order to hype up the event, the athletic department announced that most of those who attended the event would receive free #swag. As I made the trek from Harvard Yard to Lavietes Pavilion, I probably passed about 20-30 students, all having taken free shirts and leaving the event before it had even started. It reminded me of the Harvard v. Brown football game a couple of weeks ago when hundreds of people walked back from the tailgate with free #swag and, not actually having any interest in watching the game, decided to leave before the game had even started. The point of going to these events should be to genuinely support the team (including any friends or classmates) and have a great time cheering with friends. Of course, as a student, I understand a love for free stuff (who doesn’t like free stuff?), but coming to this event and enjoying the exhibition game was more rewarding than the actual free shirt I got. It’s like vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. You don’t just drink syrup (or maybe you do? I won’t judge). The ice cream is the important part, just like the game. Friends, please don’t be free-riders.
Although not all players competed in the scrimmage, there seemed to be an overall lack of attention to detail. Many of the players on both sides forgot to complete little tasks that would have made a tremendous difference.
The point of setting screens is to create openings for teammates and confuse the defense. In the action of screens, there are two main components/responsibilities. First, there is the responsibility of the screen-setter. In order to set a good screen, the feet need to be set and the body should stand straight, while staying wide. Those who set screens for their teammates didn’t set very strong (or effective) ones, especially for movement away from the ball. Second, the player running off the screen has the responsibility to use the screen effectively. If you watch the best off-ball shooters in the NBA (ie. Kyle Korver, Klay Thompson, Wesley Matthews, etc.), you’ll notice that the separation they get derives from the way they run off of screens. Their curls are tight, and they have good acceleration and deceleration around screens. Furthermore, they all make fantastic reads on how the defense reacts to the screens. In the scrimmage, players often failed to capitalize on screens away from the ball to create spacing for open shots. A majority of the three point shots made were contested (although a couple good shots were made when the defensed collapsed in the middle and the ball was redistributed to the perimeter).
Additionally, when teams swing the ball from side to side on the perimeter, they’re usually constantly switching sides to patiently find open looks. However, because of the general ineffectiveness of screens down low, ball movement on the perimeter became meaningless. If you watch movement based offenses in the NBA (ie. Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks pre-Rondo, San Antonio Spurs, etc.), the effectiveness of their ball movement is magnified by well set screens. When players ran off screens during the scrimmage, they ended up getting passes on the wings at least 5 feet away from the 3 point line. That’s very inefficient and ineffective for a couple reasons. First, if you don’t run off screens effectively, opposing defenses can run you out to the three point line. If you can’t let it fly from range at a good shooting percentage, then the defense has done its job of preventing you to score. If the players had run off screens better, then they could have caught the ball within the 3 point line, creating a much bigger threat to the defense. Secondly, if the defenders effectively anticipate the swinging ball movement, and can run around screens, then they have a good chance of stealing the pass to the wing. Having big men as ball handlers at the top of the key magnified this problem, as their lackadaisical passes to the wing were often picked off by the defenders, leading to easy fast break points.
All in all, while the Black and Crimson squads looked to create open looks, their offenses often stagnated. Therefore, they frequently took either contested shot attempts or bad shots late in the shot clock that augmented their inefficiency.
Dear cute kids in the last row of the family section, thanks for being the most underrated aspect of the event. Your dancing skills were better than those of our school’s cheer leading squad.