I began watching Bob Weissâ€™ practices differently about 6 weeks ago.
At that point the season was not the shambles it appears to be today. While they had not played to expectations there was reason to believe that some of their opponents (The LA Clippers and Washington Wizards) may have been tougher than originally expected and that the team may just need some fine tuning as it went into a prolonged home stand that offered the potential to take a solid division lead.
On this particular day the wait to enter the practice floor was delayed and I stood with a media member discussing the state of the team. Having very little experience or perspective for what I saw at practice I was trying hard to reconcile the play on the floor with the message put out by the coaching staff.
The staff consistently emphasized defense in their conversations with the media. When interviewed the players confirmed that this yearâ€™s coaching had focused on defense much more than any years past. In addition Weiss talked a great game about getting back to the basics, focusing on fundamentals, and taking care of the ball.
None of it happened. The team as you know has been one of the worst defensive teams not only in the league, but in league history. They display a lack of intensity and a lack of basic skills that is so consistent you have no choice but to look in the direction of the coaching staff.
Here is what this particular media member, who has covered several teams in several cities had to say:
â€œI donâ€™t think heâ€™s coaching them at allâ€¦â€
The person in question pointed to a play during scrimmage the day earlier in which Power Forward Nick Collison entered a pass in low to Rashard Lewis. On this particular play the ball made it into Lewis but the pass was clearly sloppily thrown with little pretense at hustle or fundamentals. The game went on and the play was one of many for the day, forgotten like the rest.
I was advised that most coaches, including last years Head Coach Nate McMillan would have stopped play and made some type of effort to point out that below par effort and execution were not to be tolerated. Even during a routine scrimmage you could not allow bad habits to enter into your game. Furthermore my friend argued that he saw very little teaching going on. Weiss was a fan of the not breaking up the flow of the game. While McMillan often went overboard interrupting practice with prolonged rants Weiss was clearly not willing to stop the action and coach his players.
While we were not privy to the majority of closed practice it was clear during scrimmages that Weiss overlooked and tolerated sloppiness at very high levels. The bad pass I refer to was not an aberration, and scrimmages seemed to grow sloppier on a daily basis. At no point did the coaching staff interrupt the team and let them know that their play was unacceptable.
As a rookie journalist I have difficulty applying perspective to my job. I have not seen other coaches in action or been able to compare him to other teams. I make an assumption that on the NBA level things are all being done well but that is not always so. In the case of Weiss it saddens me to say that people with more perspective than I felt that he had done poorly from the start.