Ask the Czar: Blogger Q&A

I took a timeout this week to answer questions from some of the nation’s top basketball bloggers. Here is a transcript of that session.

John from

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty ImagesHow difficult is it for a coach to mix an up-and-coming young star like Rajon Rando into a group of established veterans like the Celtics Big 3 and keep everyone happy?

I’m not sure if it’s more difficult for the coach or if its’ more difficult for the players who have to accept that player in. Its makes it much easier for the coach if the veteran guys are accepting or, I think it’s a two way street- not only do they have to be willing to trust, or accept, the new player, the young player, but at the same time he has to be willing to understand who’s he’s playing with. That‘s the coaches job, to go sit down and say to him, “Here’s what you have: You have a Hall of Famer here, you have another Hall of Famer here, you have the leading three point shooter in history.”

You have to lay it out for him so that he understands whom he’s dealing with. And then you hope you have a mature young man, that’s stepping into that spot.  Obviously his talents take a lot of that. If he can play and the veterans know he can play, they’ll be much more accepting of him. They want to win, veteran guys, that’s what they want: somebody on the floor that can get it done for them, they’re all part of it together.

Ryan from


Why do you think Vince Carter has yet to break out with a big game?

Well without me being on the series and seeing every game in totality, it’s hard for me to really answer that because different match-ups dictate we go to different people sometimes in the game. The one thing about Vince Carter, he’s always capable of having 40-point game. So you know that you have this weapon- we may not have broken out yet- but on any given day or night or game, Vince is capable of doing that.

We’ve seen him do it during the season: There was a month, a terrible month of Vince not being able to make a shot. He said “I will play better.” He did – he came out exploded one game, he had like 39 or whatever. That’s what you get with Vince, the capability of having one of those kinds of games at any time.

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Cody from


Assuming that every great player to ever compete in the NBA was part of the same draft class, which one player in the NBA would you pick with the first overall draft pick to build your team around?

Well I can’t. I can’t do that. But, I think your decision comes down to a great, great big man or a great guard. One of those two because if you can’t have a great big man, you have to have a great guard that controls the ball, to lead a team.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesRyan from


With Oklahoma rising and Portland succeeding despite injuries and the perennial playoff teams continuing to evolve, is it possible for the Lakers to continue to dominate the Western Conference or will we see a new team assume that role?

I think they’ll be another team stepping up. The Lakers certainly aren’t what you would call an ancient team. Their key parts are certainly in their prime. However I think there are a lot of teams with the pieces in place that will make them move eventually. Then we’ll get to the point where Kobe decides that enough is enough and he steps down. What will that Lakers team be without him? So, yeah it would not surprise me in the next year or two years that the next team will step up in the Western Conference, whoever that might be, and become a dominant team.

Boozer & Williams_Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty ImagesLee from

What’s your take on the Jazz-Nuggets series? Are you surprised that Utah has a 3-1 lead?

I’m surprised because they are playing with two key guys out of their line-up.  Okur who plays great defense and can make big shots is also a rebounder and a facilitator. They run a lot of their offense through him so that’s a huge loss. And then even before that they lost Kirilenko. You’re talking about a transition offense, a great defender, a guy who can score points and block shots. He’s another key piece.  So to lose those two pieces and then to turn around play the way they’re playing is an incredible accomplishment.

I think it shows you the greatness of Deron Williams and it probably has helped the stock of Carlos Boozer.

Adam from


To your best knowledge, are NBA coaches embracing the many new statistical measures of player performance?

I think the majority of coaches – I can’t say everyone because I don’t know that as a fact –but I think the majority of the coaches seek as much knowledge as they can get their hands on. Anything that can help them dissect the game, analyze performances, help them make good decisions: I think they’d be stupid not to want it. But then again you’re going to find somebody who doesn’t really care or they don’t find it relevant. I don’t know what the percentages are of the 30 plus coaches in the NBA that utilize all this new stuff or don’t utilize it.

Then you divide that into two categories also; there are guys that coach the players and guys that select the players and on some teams they are not one in the same.

Evan from


How can Dwight Howard avoid picking up so many fouls? From a coaching standpoint, how do you handle a player like Howard who struggles to stay on the floor at times?

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images_29April10I’m sure that whatever could have been done or can be done, is being done because of Stan Van Gundy being the outstanding coach that he is. It’s not like he’s playing for somebody that doesn’t pay attention to these things. Stan is a stickler and into detail. And, he’s got a guy in Patrick Ewing alongside of him who’s an assistant coach that has been in the trenches himself and understands this stuff. There was a time where Patrick was going through the same things and picking up too many fouls.

He’s got to look at it and understand, and deal with the psychological approach as far as referees – what are they looking at? What are teams trying to do to him? Dwight is a bright person and he’s got to make some adjustments to whatever he’s doing that is putting these extra fouls on him. He’s got to make some adjustments to avoid picking up those fouls because he’s not on the court the number of minutes that he would like to be on, and he’s not on the court the number of minutes that the Magic need him on the floor to be the dominant player that he is.

Around the League

Down 3-1 to the Jazz in the first round, no doubt the Nuggets have missed Coach Karl’s leadership during this series. I had a chance to sit down and talk with George last season about his career, his relationships with his players and the biggest keys for his team to be successful in the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets need a win at home tonight in order to extend the series. Tune in for live coverage at 10:30 PM ET on TNT.

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Around the League

The Utah Jazz have had a great run so far in the playoffs and are only one win away from closing out the series after sweeping the Nuggets in three straight. In September Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan was inducted into the Basketball Hall for Fame along with Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton and C. Vivian Stringer. Now in his 22nd season with Utah, Coach Sloan has accrued more than 1,000 victories during his illustrious career. Prior to his induction I had a chance to talk to the NBA TV crew about his coaching style and influences.

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Czar’s Playoff Preview: Mike Joins the Hang Time Podcast

I had a chance to chat with NBA columnists Sekou Smith and Vince Thomas about two top teams facing possible elimination in the first round of the playoffs – the Mavericks and the Nuggets. Click here to check out our discussion in Episode 6 of the Hang Time Podcast.

The Mavericks and Spurs brought back old-school playoff basketball in Sunday’s incredible matchup. After a high-charged contest played with rugged intensity from start to finish, the Spurs came out on top to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. It’s unfortunate that these two teams had to meet in the first round. Both are better than some others that will slip past lesser adversaries and move on to the second round. The Mavs will look for a lift from their hometown crowd and fight like mad to stay alive in Game 5 tonight at 9:30 PM ET.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Nuggets find themselves in the same predicament and must win or go home when they face the Jazz in Game 5 tomorrow night. It will be a terrible upset if the Jazz, who are without starters Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko, take the first round 4-1. The Nuggets were considered real contenders this season – some people even felt they might wind up beating the Lakers if they were to meet in the playoffs. Now with the series on the line, their season could come to an abrupt end all too soon unless they can get back the game-winning confidence that gave them the early first-round edge with a decisive victory in Game 1.

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Dick Stockton and I will have the call along with Marc Fein on the sidelines: Utah @ Denver Wednesday 4/28 at 10:30 PM ET on TNT.

Czar’s Playoff Preview: Blazers at Suns Game 5

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