Wednesday, November 14, 2012

UCLA escapes over UC Irvine, Visiting new Pauley

There are 3 things that I will remember this night for:

First, it was our family's first night at new Pauley Pavilion, which has been spruced up all nice.  Sure it inevitably loses its classic Pauley feel (since classic usually simply means old), but it does actually feel like the new type of modern, glitzy and bright arenas you'd expect to see in the NBA.  Think Staples.  New Pauley has CPK, Subway and Jamba Juice alongside the glass case enclosed reminders of Wooden's accomplishments and a UCLA adidas store - all in the new outer lobby.  Inside, the player benches have been moved directly opposite to the IM field side of Pauley along with the Wooden family section still behind the UCLA bench, while the main student section and TV cameras have swapped to the other side.  The new midcourt logo takes some getting used to.  I much prefer the classic UCLA circle.  The championship banners are now hanging centrally instead of around the perimeter and the updated jumbotron was much needed.

Speaking of the jumbotron, the 2nd thing I'll remember most is my boys getting some Dance Cam time, twice.  And thats why they both got jerseys.  Need to have a camera ready next time.

Thirdly, I'll remember how terrible pretty much every Bruin not named Jordan Adams looked.  The Wear brothers were on fire for about the first 10 minutes of the game but were more off than on for the rest of the night.  Norman Powell seemed to lose all the confidence he built up in the first game and shot 0-7 from the floor.  Of all players, I didn't think he needed to be told to attack the hoop when his shot isn't falling.

Kyle Anderson hurt his hand/wrist in the first half and probably wasn't himself the rest of the game.  At least I hope thats what it is, because he was invisible in the biggest moments of the game until his last minute tip-in.  Larry Drew, who played 43 minutes since we do not have a backup point guard, has a terrible looking jump shot.  But, his driving layup was the game-winner in OT so he'll get a pass for now.

The one who does not get a pass is Josh Smith.  He looks bigger than he was last season.  He looks more out of shape as well.  He had one breakaway opportunity and somehow managed to airball a layup from right in front of the rim.  I literally thought he tore his knee on the takeoff - thats how awkward it looked.  Larry Drew should have stolen the ball from Josh to insure the points.  All you need to know about what Howland thinks of Smith (and Parker) is that when Travis Wear fouled out in OT, Howland opted for a hurt and mostly ineffective Anderson at PF.

So how did we manage to beat an Irvine team who had 4 smart seniors including the best shooter on the floor in Michael Wilder (6-9 from 3s)?  Mr. Jordan Adams.  After a 21 point college debut, he followed up with another 20 in regulation and 6 more in OT.  This freshman, the least heralded and the lowest ranked member of the incoming frosh foursome, was a flawless 16-16 from the free throw line.  10 of those FTs were in the last 13 min of regulation and OT.  So, he was clutch.

I knew he could shoot, but we had no idea what kind of offensive instincts he possesses.  In 2 short games, he's shown an innate ability that a hardworking player like Tyler Lamb probably never will.  (Although I will say that Tyler probably would have done the best job sticking to Wilder to prevent some of those dagger 3s.  It was absolutely aggravating to see our defenders drift away from Wilder to provide help somewhere else.  Howland should have had them faceguard him and deny the ball no matter what.)

Adams actually reminds me of a poor man's James Harden.  He can shoot, he can find his way to the rim, but doesn't possess the greatest leaping ability.

So our best lineup currently is: Drew, Adams, Anderson, David and Travis.  Until the return of Shabazz, who was seemingly unfairly ruled ineligible by the NCAA, this is what we've got to work with.  Powell, off the strength of his game 1 performance, also seems to have surpassed Lamb on Howland's depth chart.

Speaking of Howland, it seems that his maniacal devotion to defense may have waned.  The emphasis seems to be on pushing the ball offensively instead of spending the preseason concentrating on tough man to man defense.  Is this because Howland has forced himself to change his ways to bring in recruits and keep his job, thus selling his basketball soul?  Or is it because we're adding 4 new players to our rotation in addition to the already defensively challenged Wear brothers and Smith and we just need time?  We'll find out.

But we know that right now, we are certainly not a top 20 team.

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