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Tom Penn's Black Eye Will Haunt You

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This post is an epic fail because I didn't snap a picture of Mr. Penn's black eye but needless to say if television cameras pan to him during the Jazz or Rockets games, you will have exactly zero trouble seeing what I'm talking about.  

With respect to Mr. Penn's privacy, I will only say that he lost a brawl with a kitchen appliance.  Thankfully, he will regain full function of his left eye, however he is sporting a shiner that was scarier than 3/4 of the Halloween costumes I saw at the Rose Garden. 

How to describe it?  It's difficult. How about this... if you wanted to replicate his black eye, you would simply follow these steps.

  • Take a saucer used for tea and place it over your left eye.
  • Use magic marker to draw a circle around the saucer.  The circle should extend to your nose and across most of the left side of your face.
  • Remove the saucer and take a can of black spray paint.  Spray the entirety of the inside of the circle with the spray paint.
  • Optional: if you have a purple marker, feel free to spice up the circle by dabbing some purple in there.
Mr. Penn was all smiles about it but clearly it had been a harrowing experience.  He was back to watch practice for the first time in awhile.  KP was there too (he was there yesterday as well) as was GO (who was watching practice, wearing sandles... NO BOOT).

The rest of Tuesday's practice was not nearly as exciting as Mr. Penn's travails. But here's the latest for you.

Batum

It's official (as you might have already heard), Nic will start tomorrow!  Nate said this again after practice.  Nate is looking for Nic to provide "defensive intensity," "focus" and "some of that dirty work."  He wants Batum to continue to guard his man and provide solid weakside help, which Nate believes Nic has been successful doing. On offense, Nate is simply looking for, "If [Nic's] open, shoot the ball." 

Blake

Near the end of practice, Blake airballed a pull up jumper, swore loudly while Bayless raced the other way, couldn't get back in time to stop a Bayless dunk, and then punched the ball perhaps 30 feet in the air in frustration.  Fun times.

Travis

Nate said that Travis will be at 3 but may slide to play a little 4.

Brandon

Nate and JQ got in an extended talk about Brandon handling the double teams.  I'm sure JQ will have a nice write up about that shortly.  One focal point that Coach mentioned was that Brandon needs to "draw the double teams away from the paint" and that the entire team needs to look for Joel because they can't play 4 on 5.

Nate on Utah

He was locked in on making sure the team was ready for the physical play and ready to "play in the paint."  He said the team needed to come out extremely aggressive to "make the officials call it both ways."  If that takes "grabbing and holding" on defense early in the game, so be it.  Also, Nate focused on limiting "second and third opportunities."

Bayless

Rexy updates...

Within 30 seconds of entering the gym, Bayless had bowled over Blake on one play and then Shavlik on the next.  Both guys hit the floor pretty hard. No fouls were called (it was a drill)... After practice Bayless was working on some one on one moves with an assistant.  He missed a jumper and let out an expletive.

Monty

Did you read Freeman's nice piece on Monty in the paper?  After practice, Monty sought out JF to say thanks and to offer a handshake.  That's Monty for you.

Nate on the Point Guards

I talked with Coach briefly about how things are progressing at the 1.  One thing I have noticed about Nate is that he is always very careful to back his point guards. This was most obvious with Jack last year but noticeable already this year as well.  Generally Nate backs all of his players, but I sense that he is even more careful to do so with point guards.

I asked simply, "How would you assess the point guard play after 3 games?" and Nate gave me a look like he was kind of surprised I was asking that.  He said, all things considered, it was pretty solid.  Nate had talked earlier about how Brandon faced very tough matchups in the first 3 games and I asked whether he thought Blake had it even tougher than Brandon.  Nate agreed that Blake probably had it as bad or worse than Brandon, facing Fischer, Parker and Nash -- and, importantly, 3 well-oiled offensive systems.

Areas for the point guards to work on are "controlling the ball" and "working on establishing the role of the point guard in the offense."  It's a little bit unclear to me what he means by the second point. Does he want a more proactive point guard that doesn't just turn things over to Brandon?  Does he simply want better ball movement, something that a point guard can help develop?  Something else? It wasn't clear.

Nate said that it's still "very early" and, with new faces on the roster, they still need "to learn about each other." Roster turnover is arguably trickiest for the point guard to deal with.  He needs to catalogue his teammates' tendencies, where they like the ball, when they like the ball, where they will float to, how they will run through picks. In my opinion, Blake has not looked good, at all, but perhaps roster turnover provides an explanation.  

I asked Nate about how the backup spot is evolving.  He backed Sergio.  I asked him how fans should read Sergio's variable playing time.  Nate went back to the idea that it's early and he's taking a look at different groups of players.  I asked him about what the ideal role for a backup point guard will be this season, when we face off against playoff teams down the stretch and Martell is back healthy.  Nate said pretty flatly "10 minutes" and that his priorities are continuity/consistency in the starting lineup, plenty of minutes for Rudy, and plenty of minutes for Travis.  Bad news for Bayless.  Not great news for Sergio.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)