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Thursday, March 13, 2008

One of the NBA's True Gems: Color Commentator Jim Barnett

Jim Barnett enjoyed a solid NBA career, averaging 11.7 ppg in 11 seasons, including a career-high 18.5 ppg for Portland in 1970-71. He kept playing hoops long after his NBA career ended and he still participates in AAU Master's tournaments. For the past 23 years, Barnett has been the color commentator on local Golden State Warriors' broadcasts and if you have not heard him do a game then you have missed a real treat: he is analytical, he does not get hyper and even though he clearly supports the Warriors he is definitely not a homer.

Barnett made several interesting observations during Golden State's 117-106 victory over Toronto on Wednesday. Early in the game, the 7-0 Rasho Nesterovic caught the ball in the post with the 6-3 Baron Davis guarding him one-on-one. Barnett immediately said, "He shouldn't wait. He should go right up." As he uttered those words, Nesterovic dribbled, Davis timed the move perfectly and as Nesterovic tried to shoot Davis made a sensational block and went coast to coast for a layup to put the Warriors up 16-4. If this were an ESPN telecast, all we would hear is Stephen A. Smith screaming Nesterovic's name derisively. Instead, Barnett calmly explained what happened on the play as only someone who actually understands the game could do: "Nesterovic played into the hands of Baron. When you put it on the floor like that, you give Baron time to react and work his magic. He didn't need to dribble; he should have just gone up and shot the ball over Baron." This just shows how a "mismatch" is only a "mismatch" if you know how to take advantage of it. Nesterovic (or Dirk Nowitzki in last year's playoffs) should not pound the ball and try to get a little closer to the hoop; he is tall enough and has a good enough shooting stroke that if he shoots the ball right after he catches it there is no way that Davis can bother his shot. By trying to gain an "advantage" Nesterovic actually put himself at a disadvantage.

A little later in the game, the Warriors bungled a three on one fast break opportunity. Barnett commented, "A three on one should become a two on one--I've always said that. All you do is split the defender, coming in at a 45 degree angle. If you are going to be a trailer, you better be a late trailer. You should not be involved in the play."

After young Warriors guard C.J. Watson traveled while trying to take one dribble before shooting a pull up jumper, Barnett advised, "It is so important to understand and implement your fundamentals--and the first one ever is to establish a pivot foot and put the majority of your weight on it. Then it won't move."

Warriors' small forward Stephen Jackson shot just 1-6 from the field to start the game, with most of his misses coming on long jumpers, so Golden State Coach Don Nelson ran a play for Jackson to catch the ball in the post. Jackson was fouled and made both free throws. Barnett noted, "They took the ball out of his hands on the perimeter so that he would not launch a three or go one on one...Don Nelson is not upset with him; he's just saying, 'I'm going to make it easier on him' and put him in a position where he has a chance to succeed, not fail, because he had been struggling." That subtle move by Nelson paid dividends later on, because Jackson shot 6-9 from the field the rest of the way and he made several big shots in the second half to help the Warriors hold off the Raptors.

In the second half, 7-0 center-forward Andrea Bargnani caught the ball in the post against Davis and immediately made a turnaround jumper. Davis retrieved the ball after it went through the net and bounced it in frustration before the Warriors inbounded. Revisiting the theme of what a big man who is a face up shooter should do when he catches the ball with Davis guarding him, Barnett said, "He is much better when he doesn't put it on the floor and just turns and shoots."

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:00 PM

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At Wednesday, March 30, 2011 9:15:00 PM, Anonymous pdr said...

Extremely late response, but we've been enjoying Jim Barnett's analysis of basketball for over 25+ years here in the bay area.

It's just amazing to us all that he hasn't become a break out superstar on the national stage. I'd rather listen to his thoughtful descriptions of the game than any of the clowns lined up by the big broadcast companies (ESPN, NBC, et. al.).

 
At Wednesday, March 30, 2011 9:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

PDR:

I wonder if the reason that he has not become a "break out superstar on the national stage" is he simply wants to analyze the game accurately and not digress into talking about a whole lot of nonsense/silliness, something that even some of the better national commentators tend to do at times.

 

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