Coach's insight with David Blatt part 1 (read part 2 here)
CARACAS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Russia are about to play their first game of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Korea, and coach David Blatt, known for his intensity, is in a relaxed mood.
On the way onto the court he stops for a long chat with FIBA journalist Jeff Taylor, before sitting on the bench for a neck massage.
In a sign of his quality, 10 metres away the Koreans are warming up and a ball has rolled directly behind reserve point guard Tae-Sool Kim, who is backpedalling to shoot a three-pointer.
Blatt sits up - "watch out for the ball" he screams. Kim looks just in time to avoid a potentially serious ankle twist.
Blatt relaxes once again, but once the whistle goes things change.
In the traditional US style he uses only surnames to address his players. Vitaliy Fridzon looses his man defensively and nearly gives up an easy basket.
"Fridzon, wake up!" Blatt screams.
Russia's guard play is shaky, the Korean pressure forcing them to play at a speed they're not comfortable with, while the Europeans are struggling to contain their opponents in transition.
"It's coming out too fast, you've got to slow the ball," he implores to the bench.
The basics are constantly reinforced.
"You've got to catch the ball, put your elbows out and be strong, and you've always got to be aware," he says to his team repeatedly as the Koreans try to pry the ball away from the rebounder.
"If you're just going for rebounds that's a negative, you've got to box out first," he said after a Korean offensive board.
After quarter time the intensity lifts noticeably. Blatt is happy and aggressively urges his team to do more of the same.
Evgeny Voronov makes an unselfish extra pass for an easy basket as the margin starts to grow. Korea calls timeout and Blatt sprints onto the court to congratulate him enthusiastically.
After the timeout things slip a little. Sergey Monya makes a sloppy pass in transition and the next possession is disorganised.
"Sets, sets, sets," Blatt yells at Alexey Shved the next time down the floor.
He calls a play and passes to Andrey Kirilenko, who deviates when he sees an opening, drawing a foul on his drive to the basket.
Blatt doesn't seem to mind, after all he described Kirilenko as a wild horse who should be let roam free.
The intensity drops as the second quarter wears on though, the Russians giving up 11 offensive rebounds and 16 turnovers in the half under the Korean pressure. Blatt looks worried going into the locker room.
To be continued