With the second day of training camp comes improvement on the practice court, as head coach Stan Van Gundy noted after the morning session was over, but also experimentation as well, with Vince Carter seeing some time at point guard.
I was able to speak with Van Gundy and Carter amongst the media and gather their insight on a variety of topics, including some of the happenings that occurred in practice:
Stan Van Gundy:
Did you work on the same things that you worked on in yesterday's practice?
Yeah, yeah, we're scrimmaging virtually all of our practice time, other than ... we've done some things, running through some of our offense. All of our actual practice time is being spent on the defensive end of the court and the offense will just have to come, but until we can get our defense together, again tonight, we'll come back and everything will be on our defense but I thought our organization offensively and everything else was a lot better today.
Is J.J. Redick feeling better, because I know he was nicked up yesterday?
He practiced the whole time. I still think he's a little stiff but he went the whole scrimmage so yeah, he was very, very good.
How's Vince Carter looking, specifically on the defensive end?
Oh, he did not play well defensively today. As a matter of fact, we'll talk about that and show him some clips tomorrow. He's capable of playing a lot better than he was today.
In terms of Mickael Pietrus, is [his improvement on defense from last year to this year] a familiarity of the defensive scheme?
Yeah, you can ask him but I think so. He's a lot more comfortable. He knows what he's doing. He was through nine months of it last year, drilling it, repeating it every day until ... and that's what it takes, it's just a lot of repetition, repetition until it's second nature and I think it's helped him a lot and he seems much more comfortable.
How about Jameer Nelson? I know that his shooting percentages were extraordinary, in terms of efficiency. Do you think he's capable of shooting that well again this year?
Well, he's certainly capable of it. He's done it over a long period of time last year, it wasn't like a 10 game stretch so there's no question that he's capable of it. I don't know if anybody is going to shoot at the percentages he did over 82 games, that would be very difficult to do. He was the best shooting guard in the entire league, when you factor in the threes, but he's going to shoot it very well, I know that so ... and I think he's capable of being, if not the top guy shooting the ball, certainly one of them. He can finish going to the basket, he shoots it off the dribble, and he can shoot the three so he pretty well has it all covered.
J-Will has won a title. What has he brought to the team, in terms of experience?
Well, I think now, what we've really seen in the first two days is he's making great plays in transition. I mean, in the open floor, if you get open, he will get you the ball and I think that's the main thing we've seen early on.
More after the jump.
I know that you've stated that you're close to Dwight and Jameer. Has that made your transition a little bit easier, fitting in with the team?
Just understanding what coach [Stan Van Gundy] wants, what he expects, kind of before it happens. I kind of, I hate being in the dark as far as not knowing so I ask a lot of questions. I've never been a person who's been afraid to ask questions, nine times out of ten it helps everybody so everybody has been great. Rashard and I came out the same year so when we're around, we'll sit and talk so it's good. It's been pretty easy, in terms of the transition.
How vocal have you been on the court, so far, during the practices?
That's just how I am. The first day for me was more so just kind of learning the few plays that's been given to us and I like to perfect them and kind of know, not only what I'm supposed to do, but I'm playing a few positions anyway so it's just learning that, but as we're doing so, just be as vocal as possible, helping everybody else. That's just been my nature for a long time. I kind of like to run my mouth on the court and so I think it kind of helps, someone like Ryan [Anderson], somebody who's in his adjustment period, trying to learn everything. There's a lot thrown at us but I've tried to take the time to really learn what's going on and learn all the positions to help out everybody. Not that I know them all right now, but I can sure talk to you like I think I do.
Has Stan been moving you around between the two and the three?
I've played the one, two, and three.
One, two, and three?
Yeah, I played a little one today.
How's that been going so far?
It was alright. I'll tell you, last year in [New] Jersey, it's when Keyon Dooling went down, so I feel comfortable doing it and it's running the team, there again I get the run my mouth a little bit more and kind of dictate what's going on, it's fun. They can trust me out there.
Has Van Gundy been putting you in pick & roll situations at the one?
A little bit of everything. I'm talking about running pick & rolls, getting guys to the ball where they need it. That's just something that he's mentioned to me during the summer, that he's going to put me in that position and I get the opportunity today.
Odds and Ends:
Linton Johnson hung around after the morning session was over, and I saw him getting some extra shots in so he's definitely putting in the work in trying to make the roster for the Orlando Magic, even if it's unlikely that he'll make the team.
Additionally, I spoke with a source associated with the team's plans and this individual indicated to me that head coach Stan Van Gundy is completely undecided as to whether or not he wants to continue to play an unconventional lineup with Rashard Lewis starting at power forward, or if he'll opt for a more conventional lineup with Brandon Bass starting at power forward. In fact, all four guys competing for a starting spot (Anderson, Barnes, Bass, Pietrus) are all equally in play, at this point in time. If Brandon were to theoretically start at the four, the concern would be how would the team adjust playing the three-out/two-in set.
Specifically, it is the thought of sacrificing spacing by playing Bass as a starter - it just wouldn't be the same, given that Brandon doesn't have the range that Rashard has even though he shot the ball more efficiently than Tony Battie did in that role, last year. So, what the pre-season means for the squad is that Van Gundy will take a hard look at which lineup he likes best. No matter what, the four starters are Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard, but the fifth guy is up in the air, as well as Lewis' position on the floor. That will be the main storyline to take away as Stan eventually comes to a decision once the regular season begins.