Season Review with Daniel Rouse: Pt 2

If you missed part 1, you can read it here

PF: Harsh Daniel. Harsh. He was an all-star after all (and yes I'm aware 75% of the league's starting point guards played in the game). I'll stand by the fact it was a good signing based on potential and his resume to that point but yes, he was underwhelming this season. I do think Clarke clearly made the call on who he wanted bringing the ball up and running the offense. Clarke thought it would be better to have our second best ballhandler creating shots for our worst shooter, as opposed to having Cadee feed Gibson, who was almost automatic from the free throw area. Cadee's jumper isn't pretty but he can get to the basket and does have a nice array of teardrops, floaters etc.

Daly is a better defender and is far more "locked in". He doesn't make bad errors outside shot selection. I wanna see the local kid make good as much as anyone else but if you're gonna raise Cadee's awful shooting numbers, you can't overlook Tommy's

36% FG
30% 3PT
64% FT

His "Per 40" numbers though are pretty much the same as Cadee's. It will be interesting to see if Adelaide tries to resign him and if he gets other offers outside Adelaide. He'd be a great backup to one of the league's elite point guards.

That covers off two of our point guards, let's now discuss the retiring Nathan Crosswell. How did he see his performance this season?

DR: I would be very surprised if Tommy is not offered a contract somewhere in the league next season.

Crossy was an interesting one. He was good for us defensively, he was inconsistent on offense (wavering between liability and barely adequate). There were points in the season when it was almost embarrassing watching us play 4 on 5 on offense because teams don't guard him and he wouldn't shoot. As the season went on, he realised he had to at least attempt a couple of shots to justify his spot on the court.

His leadership will be missed, but it is definitely time to go in a different direction. Maybe only having 2 PG's on the roster next season is a good start. Having them both be threats to score would just be an added luxury.

What is your take of the Crosswell era?
PF: He was a big help in year 1. Year 2? ......Not so much. His outside shooting was exposed as teams only played him for the drive. He had some key moments defensively, especially bugging the smaller guards like Corin Henry. His +/- numbers showed that he did help occasionally bring the team back from bad deficits and was better at helping the team "settle".  Offensively though it was a year to forget.
Speaking of people with years to forget offensively, let's switch to Scott "The Microwave" Christopherson.
His time in Adelaide was doomed from Day 1 when he had to replace CJ Massingale, a player who had been treated harshly. Christopherson was coming here as a kid who was basically fresh out of college and had been struggling in the Belarus league. There was no reason to think Christopherson would fare better than CJ, except that he was allegedly better at creating of the dribble. That proved to be laughable.
Christopherson struggled early and soon his team mates had clearly lost all faith in him. He was regularly frozen out of the offense and when he did have the ball, he was clearly instructed to attack, which was not his game. Not all his fault but the numbers don't lie (2.9pts, 28% FG, 29% 3PT, 1.1 to against 0.3 ast).
In 20 years time, what will you say when Daniel Jnr asks "Daddy, who was Scott Christopherson"?  

DR: First, I'd be impressed he even knew who Scott Christopherson was. Second, I would say he was the ultimate Marty Clarke player. Christo's tenure with Adelaide was the perfect microcosm of the Marty era.

Mismanaged, out of his depth and a complete disappointment. I liked CJ. He brought something no one else on the roster did. Unfortunately, Marty was not a great judge of talent. Is that Christo's fault though? A shooter who won't shoot is not a great asset to a roster. His teammates clearly were rooting for him to succeed, but I'm not sure that's much of a legacy.

Let's move on to a far more enjoyable player, Mitch Creek, the future of the 36ers. Which direction does his career go in the return from this Achilles injury?
PF: First things first, he's got a player option but I'll be stunned if he's not back. So let's assume he is. He should be fully fit for Rd 1, which ensures no time is wasted in getting his career back to where it should be.
About half way through his second year, it was clear to every 36ers fan that Creek should be eating into some of Weigh's minutes plus getting some time at the 2 with Chris Warren. For whatever reason (most likely my theory that Weigh was a part-time terrorist and that if he didn't play at least 30 minutes a night he'd rigged a bomb that would blow up Adelaide Arena), Clarke didn't see this and continued to give Creek spotty minutes, even though his per 40 numbers were far superior to Weigh's. Remember, this was 2011-2012 Weigh, who routinely got lost on defense and put up some shots that even Chris Goulding would shake his head at.
Fast forward to 2012-2013 and Creek was again getting spotty and unpredictable court time, regularly getting benched either over a bad miss or because Weigh had been on the bench for over 90 seconds. Creek had again had stretches of outstanding D and creating transition baskets and was the one player on the roster who could get the crowd into the game by a dunk, steal or by diving for a loose ball. Clarke was again missing things that were obvious to us and even backed up by stats ie he had the best +/- for the team and featured in 5 of our best 8 performing lineups.
It appeared Clarke, now in his 3rd year, realised by accident Creek's value when he dumped CJ Massingale. Due to a shortened roster, Clarke was forced to pump some minutes into Creek. Mitch responded by averaging 12 points and 5 boards in the next 2 games (after that game where he'd played all of 2:31 versus Sydney). Then is his best game of the year, the Achilles went. I wrote after the game I'd be furious if Clarke ever referenced the Creek injury in the same sentence as "one of our big problems this year was...." as Creek had not been getting the minutes that would indicate he was a key part of the team's success.
I'm hoping the next coach either plays him at the 2 with Cadee or an import point guard or at the 3 as part of a Cadee/Import/Creek/Petrie/Johnson lineup. I think he'd thrive with someone who'll run with him and create some plays. If he's a sixth man he should be a Delon-type sixth man (ie plays 25 minutes a game and or starts a lot).
What do you think Creek's ceiling in and where do you see him fitting in next year's roster?
DR: I'm not going to lie. I'm an unabashed Mitch Creek fan. I firmly believe that he is the future of the Adelaide 36ers (or whatever team he lands on in his prime).  The kid is an athletic beast. He is an excellent defender, fears no-one, has a huge competitive fire and is a great team-mate. All this and he's only 20! Yes, his jump shot is a bit shaky, but there is a guy in this town that may be of some assistance in helping improve that. I think he has a jersey hung from the rafters at the Arena.
I have spent countless games over the last 2 seasons literally screaming at Marty to get Mitch into the game, to play him more, to let him off the leash. Watching him waste away on the bench while other players are out there burning possessions and going through the motions was horrible. Then, to look over at the bench and see him standing up, cheering on all of the guys on the court, encouraging them, riding every play with them.... that is the sign of a guy you want on your team.

His jump shot looked better this season than previous years. He moves well off the ball (if we could create or even run a play to get him a backdoor lob routinely, that would be a great way to ensure crowds come through the door).

He was our second best defender all year (Gibbo was arguably the best defender in the league, so no shame there) and his ball handling is far less shaky - unlike Steve Weigh who can't dribble without watching the ball.

I think we need to look at Mitch as our 3 man. The way the league is going, we won't often go up against any players much bigger than him and it allows us to have a 2-Guard who is a bit better handling the ball and a bit better with his jump shot. I'd like to see him at the 3 next to a larger 2 guard who can cross match on D with Mitch if necessary. 

Any new coach must have playing Mitch and developing him as much as possible as a high priority. He is the future. He really could be a Sam MacKinnon type in this league (a little smaller, little faster, better jumper, slightly worse rebounder). That is what I think his ceiling is and I can't wait to see it. 

Oh, and if he opts out and the Sixers lose out on this kid? Sixers fans should seriously consider burning the Arena to the ground. (Also acceptable if the Sixers bring Marty back to Coach again)
PF: All fair points and the club should really do everything in it's power to ensure he's given minutes this year.
Another player who has made a good case for more minutes is forward Anthony Petrie. "Peach" became a fan favourite in his very first game after getting into it with Tiger Chris Goulding. He'd shown in his 36er debut he played with some spunk, would give us some nice scoring punch off the bench and give us flexibility if Schensch or DJ were struggling.
Then he got injured.
Petrie seemed to start having serious problems with his back around the start of December and the pain plus the losses turned him into an angry young man. He struggled mightily over December-January but finished the year strong, averaging 17.3 points and 5.8 boards over the last six games.
The next coach will have to decide whether to stick with the Twin Towers as starters or elevate Petrie and move one of the bigs to a bench role. Offensively, Petrie is in the upper echelon of the league's forwards. Defensively? .....Not so much. 
Peach had a "-103"  +/- (or the team was outscored by 0.15 points every minute on average he was on the floor), worse than DJ and Schensch. He averaged only 3.5 defensive rebounds and 0.4 blocks. The numbers tell us the best two bigs paired with Cadee/Gibson/Weigh were Johnson & Schenscher, then Petrie & Schenscher, then Petrie and Johnson. All those lineups were outscored though, showing the need for the team to prioritise getting an excellent defender at the "3".
Is the team best served with Petrie starting or providing some scoring off the bench?
DR: I think it was the combination of the back problems and the frustrations of losing that made him angry. Peach is a fiery guy, he doesn't hide his emotions well and he was an angry man post Christmas. Angry with himself, his teammates, even Marty (I thought the last one was justified).
I like the idea of starting Peach and Luke together. But, I don't see them bringing DJ off the bench, which means Peach will probably be in the same role next season. To be honest, with those rebounding numbers, he probably shouldn't start.

I don't know how much was the back, but his defence and rebounding need to improve for next season. We have to be able to take care of the defensive glass in particular. He has the strength, size and love of the physicality to do it.

I thought he had a really good season. He was selected an All Star ahead of two of our starters (Weigh and Cadee were injury replacements) and was a fan favourite because of that passion, emotion and physicality. He was a big asset for us this year and he will be next year. Maybe he can help toughen DJ up a bit? 

Peach was a strong point for us in a disappointing (albeit record-breaking) season. I can't wait to see him back next year healthy.

So, I guess that leaves us with big Pero next up? 

PF: This won't take long. Pero didn't even crack 50 minutes for the year and besides the nice little 6 point cameo against the Breakers, did little to remember. Small sample size but shot 31%, averaging 0.8 points and 0.8 boards. In practice he looks good, in a game he looks somewhere between lost and completely lost. Despite his veteran status, he doesn't have the smarts that Helliwell did. Did average 0.4 blocks, good for equal 3rd on the team. He's a local but did nothing to show he deserves another "final tour" next year. There are a lack of bigs in the league though so he might get a crack at a 10th man spot.

Speaking of locals who don't play much, let's look next at Jan Warbout. Got almost exactly half the minutes Pero did but at this level had no clear "great" skill. Has had success in the second tier competition but I don't think he's shown enough to get another gig next year.

Would you bring back one or both of these guys?
DR: Pero was the one big on the roster who would dive hard on the pick n roll. We saw it in that Breakers game with him and Tommy Daly. Considering he only made the team due to Neil Mottram getting sick, I think he did well. He could have been used a little more after Luke got hurt too. 
I would like to see Mottram get that 4th big spot next year. He's a good rebounder and can deliver a hard foul when it's called for. 

I don't think much of Warbout. He probably isn't an NBL level talent, but we didn't see enough of him to have any idea. Might be time to look for another young big within SA for the development spot.

If Mottram isn't available I would be happy to bring Pero back. He brings something a little different to the other 3 bigs.

All this just leaves us with the coaching. How do you grade the infamous '3 year plan'? 
PF: I was initially excited about Clarke's signing. He'd had some success at the AIS, presented well and came with plenty of praise from basketball guys. All looked good.
The team struggled in year one largely due to it's imports (DeVries,Winder,Shannon,Howard). DeVries started well, then got injured and his play suffered terribly. Winder was a shoot first point guard who was clueless down the stretch. Shannon had his moments and was a steadying hand but got torched regularly on D (mainly on pick and rolls). Howard had potential, highlighted by his 17 point debut, then went a bit shaky, then also got injured. The team was built to rely heavily on it's imports and Ballinger, who had a good year but needed more help. With the promising seasons of Creek and DJ in particular, it seemed fair to think that if we got the imports right we'd see a sharp improvement in "Year 2".
On paper, the roster assembled for year 2 looked good. The team added two new imports in Chris Warren and John Williamson. I was a little concerned about Warren's size and experience but Williamson sounded great by all reports. Then he got injured. The team was forced to start the regular season with just one import while it waited for Diamon Simpson to arrive and have his paperwork sorted. The opening night lineup featured new recruits Nathan Crosswell, Warren, Helliwell and Weigh with the returning Daniel Johnson. It was an ugly loss to Perth  but there was hope that we'd be better once Simpson and Ballinger joined the lineup. Simpson turned out to be a great find but Ballinger struggled. Within weeks, the team's season was destroyed, due largely to injuries to Ballinger and Crosswell. New recruits Warren and Weigh had their moments but also had moments to forget. People were calling for Clarke's head early but I thought he deserved some more time, as written in this article .
It's unclear whether the club kept him on purely because of my article (unliekly)  but the club agreed with the sentiment, allowing Clarke to see out his contract and have one more year. On paper, Clarke had assembled a great team. Out of last year's team were Simpson, Warren, Ballinger, Bartlett, Helliwell, Ng and Herbert. Coming in were Adam Gibson, Jason Cadee, Luke Schenscher, Anthony Petrie, CJ Massingale and Pero Vasiljevic. That's a big upgrade....on paper at least. As we know, it didn't work out so good. Considering the talent, it's hard to believe the players can take all the blame.
What we have learnt from Clarke is that he's not the best at utilising collective talent. That has proven to be especially costly with imports. He runs a system that he sticks with regardless of the players he has at his disposal. I do rate him as a teacher but he falls down badly in the areas of assembling a roster, picking the right game style to utilise the player's talent and then managing that in game. A good coach in this league needs to be able to do all of that. His "3 Year Plan" proved to be a hoax. He had good intentions with what he wanted to do with local talent but in a league that doesn't have a draft and routinely sees it best players flee for better opportunities/money overseas, you pretty much need to build an interchangeable roster and try to "win now". The Breakers had some success with a longer-term plan but this was a little different in that it pushed hard for local kids who were less likely to relocate to Australia.
The club must find a coach who can bring in a dynamite import (or two), get career years out of Cadee, DJ and Creek and work out how to best utilise the huge potential that exists on the roster.
Give us a rundown on your perspective on the Clarke era and who you want the club to bring in to lead the next era?
DR: I thought the Clarke signing was a good move at the time, although I did have reservations about giving an untried guy a 3 yr deal. The hope with Marty was that he would bring in some good young Aussie talent (which he did in DJ and Creek) and help develop them into quality players (I'm not giving him this one, he stagnated Creek and I'm not sure he helped DJ get to where he needed to be).
The import selections were terrible. Winder and De Vries weren't what we needed, Shannon fought hard but had limitations. Ron Howard had to watch his dribble or else he would lose a handle. Chris Warren had his moments, John Williamson unfortunately we will never know what he could have done in the NBL. Diamon Simpson was the best import Marty had and he routinely refused to play him for more than 20-25 mins in a game despite him being the best big man in the country. CJ Massingale just started to show us what he could do but was cut anyway and Chistopherson we've already covered.

For those scoring at home that's 9 imports in which we had 2 guys you couldn't judge and 1 who was a sure winner. Marty may be able to develop talent, but he isn't great at identifying it. This brought about a number of problems in his tenure. Trying to play Ballinger (a guy who had finished top 4 in league MVP twice in the 3 previous seasons) at centre rather than PF and wasting an entire season of his prime. Selecting a roster with 4 point guards in ten 10 roster spots were just two highlights of this era.

I would some up the Marty Clarke era in 4 words. Unaccountable, Arrogant, Over-matched and Record-Breaking

Unaccountable: From the phantom tech fouls from the bench (we all know it was you Radford) to giving minutes to players with no regard to performance (A few benchings for Weigh and DJ early on may have weeded out some of those ingrained bad habits) and even refusing to take responsibility for poor roster selections - 'We don't have a gamebreaker". Accountability is a key part of coaching and Marty did not teach it.

Arrogant: Refusing to change your offence or defence to fit your players. Unwilling to admit that wins matter in a pro league and that close losses are good enough. Not playing Mitch Creek enough. Trying to tell Ballinger he's a centre... the list goes on. Most concerning was the lack of comprehension that when other teams come out after half time having made adjustments that you might have to change your own game plan. Nope, not Marty, his game plan will win out no matter what. This also applies to a Sixers management who treated their fans like idiots through the 2012/13 season. We all new Marty was done, you wouldn't pull the trigger for financial reasons. Don't try and spin it any other way. We're not stupid.

Over-Matched: Routinely out coached in close games. Also in what look like blow outs. Also whenever the Sixers look like they have a game in the bag (unless that game was in Perth, then he looked like Phil Jackson). Offense was unimaginative and didn't take advantage of players' strengths, defence was lacking in system. Out of timeout plays struggled to even get a shot up, let alone a good one. Teams knew there was no deficit too large when it came to playing the 36ers.

Record-Breaking: Twice equalled the Clubs longest losing streak of 8. 3 worst finishes in club history in regards to ladder position. Only coach ever to win a wooden spoon for the Sixers. First team to 'win' back to back spoons since Bankstown at the start of the 80s. Biggest 3/4 time lead given up, biggest 1/2 time lead given up. Lowest scoring quarter in franchise history. The list goes on. Clarke will forever be etched in the Sixers' record books. 

Well, I think that about does it for Marty, what a cathartic exercise that was. I look forward to the next direction the club takes. The only way from the bottom is up. I would like to see someone with a bit of experience get the job (no thanks Mr. Joyce, we'll pass on you) or at the very least have an experienced assistant coach besides a newbie like Mr. Maher. Who do you see with the big gig next season?
PF: Wow, you really needed to let that out didn't you. 
You covered a lot of the issues well. The Perth wins proved to be "fool's gold". Clarke and Radford tried to model the team on Perth, hence how we knew the gameplan so well and managed to execute well against them. The problem was against the other 6 teams, as they played very different. The other issue was that we tried to play a similar system to Perth, except our defense was average-terrible during Clarke's tenure and our offense never had a Lisch or a Knight. 

I'm not sure who will make themselves available but of those I know, I'd be in favour of Joey Wright or Maher and a strong, experienced assistant. I'm hoping the club casts the net wide and pulls a gem from the US or elsewhere. Whoever it is needs to prove he can bring in an elite import or two and convince the panel he can get the best out of DJ, Creek and Cadee. 

A big thanks to Daniel, who replied to my emails at all hours over the Easter break. You can follow him on twitter at @Daniel_Rouse . Hopefully he'll feature again on our blog down the track. We'd love some feedback so please write some comments in the box below. If you enjoyed this article, please give it a link on Facebook or Twitter.



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