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Practice Notes: Numero Uno

This was it. The very first day of practice and I was excited, though exhausted throughout. Time limitations prevent a truly detailed article but practice reports are all about tossing together random bits of information for readers to enjoy.

For new SC.com readers keep in mind that media access to practice is limited to the final ½ hour of the day and there is a lot that we don’t see. SC.com tries to be in the building each day to give you the rundown of the little bits and pieces that don’t make the big news outlets. Here goes:

Practice today went nearly 3 ½ hours end to end and the players were beat by the time we got there. A few new details were in place, tributes to Bob Hill’s more regimented approach. A newly taped line on the floor restricted the media from overflowing casually onto the baseline which was basically covered with towels for sweaty players to wipe down with. The towels were interesting to me only in that I never recall seeing a single one last year. This year they had both the towels, and a ball boy with a mop charged with wiping sweat off the floor. I think it was indicative of Bob Hill’s style. There is going to be lots of sweating and lots of intensity.

The vibe was slightly different. Although other reporters there did not notice it quite as much as I did there seemed to be more intensity. The coaches barked their commands a little louder than I remembered, the players cheered and clapped more than I remembered, and there was a sense of some tough love. It may have just been the difference of the first day of training camp compared to the final days of practice last season and it could have been manufactured to prove a point.

Media was available for the very end of scrimmage which Noel Felix led off with a beautiful breakaway jam. Felix was joined on the red team by Mike Wilkes, Denham Brown, Mickael Gelabale, and Mo Sene. They matched up against the green team of Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Chris Wilcox, and Robert Swift. The white team consisted of Earl Watson, Desmond Farmer, Damien Wilkens, Nick Collison, and Johan Petro. We did not get to see much of the game but in the limited portion I saw I was impressed with Felix’ defense on Wilcox and the general intensity and tenor of the game. Guys were pretty fired up.

After the scrimmage the team ran 3 and 4 man weave drills in which they were clearly exhausted. The speed and coordination of Sene stood out as did the dunks of Robert Swift. A media-room rumor was that Ray Allen has told a couple of people that Sene has been the most impressive big man in camp.

Lastly it was extremely interesting to see a 15 minute sermon by ex-NBA official Mike Mathis who was brought in by the team to teach players how fouls are called. Mathis will be with the team this entire week as he was last year. Last season he advises that Bob Weiss wanted him “in the background” advising coaches about officiating trends. This year he is being encouraged to be an active participant in practices, stopping play when he observes players making poor plays. Today he focused on post defense and how fouls are called. It was amazing watching him to describe the angles involved and the indicators referees use to determine whether or not to call a foul. He focused not on what the rules are, but how those rules are usually enforced, how they can be avoided, and how some players in the league work to draw fouls. Specifically the conversation of the day focused on the topic of “re-routing” the offensive player with your forearms.

In the after practice drills Mo Sene, Robert Swift and Johan Petro took turns shooting 10 free throws. I missed out on Petro but Sene has beautiful rotation. He made 7 of 10 with 6 being nothing but net. Swift was 5 of 10 with 2 swishes and a couple bouncing in.

Desmond Farmer gets credit for being the last man on the floor. Despite the intense workout he remained hard at work practicing jumpers when I left, outlasting every other player by a good 20 minutes. Noel Felix was reportedly the first to arrive at just prior to 8am this morning