In today’s The Morning After post, I said this about Jason Collins:
Jason Collins: is a very smart basketball player. Part of his intelligence is knowing his limitations, but also recognizing his strengths. Former YES Network announcer and Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson often says that too many coaches focus on what a player can’t do instead of developing what he can. Collins develops what he can do.
Someone asked me to show an example of those smarts, the type of positives Collins can bring to the game that don’t show up in the stat sheet. So here’s the example that inspired that thought.
Watch Collins closely on the play: he does two things perfectly without touching the ball that led to an open shot.
First, Collins sets the initial screen on Williams’s defender, guard Nick Calathes. The screen’s strong enough that Calathes has to fight over the screen, which draws Collins’s defender, center Kosta Koufos, into defensive help. That brings Koufos onto the left side of the play, which ends up making a difference.
Collins rolls to the basket with his arms out, but the Nets are a much bigger threat with the ball in Williams’s hands instead of Collins, so Williams smartly keeps the ball and draws Calathes back towards him:
Williams catches Calathes leaning and drives back towards his right side, getting around Calathes and driving to the basket. This leads to Collins’s second smart move: he performs a fake post-up on Koufos, sneakily pushing him out of the space where he could help defend Williams while still pretending to be an offensive threat.
I can’t stress this enough: this was a screen. Collins was never going to get the ball here. He knew it, Williams knew it, even Koufos probably knew it. But it’s a sneaky, veteran play that big men can take advantage of: even though it looks like he’s posting up in the middle of the floor, all he’s really doing is carving out space for Williams to score in, by setting an perfect, backwards, highly illegal screen.
This is a minor play. It doesn’t have a lot of value, not more than a guy who shoots 40 percent on three-pointers or can dunk on Dwight Howard. Jason Collins can’t do a lot of things, and that’s a reason he only plays sparse minutes. But this is one of the things he can do, and in minor doses, it makes a difference.