Coach's Corner: Getting ready for Nike

The regular season is not too far away. The Wildcats play their second and final exhibition game on Thursday and still have a lot of work to do. Lute Olson seems pleased for the most part, and took some time to talk about his club.


Last time out you seemed to have an athletic advantage over your opponent. Will that be the case on Thursday?
Lute Olson:
"I thought defensively we played hard and did some very good things.  It was a situation where we weren't playing against the experienced-type players we'll face against Nike.  It shocked us that that team (Sydney Comets) went up there and beat Utah.

"I think it was a case that they (Sydney Comets) just didn't realize how quick we were up and down the court.  Then they were missing shots which allowed us to start the break.  There isn't much you can do to stop the break when you miss shots."

Are you happy with the pace of your team to date?
Olson:
"What we are trying to do with this year's team, because of the quickness, is that we want a higher percentage of our attempts to come off a fast break or what we call early offense - presets and those types of things.  I was pleased when they went to a zone in the second half that we shot the ball really well and moved the ball.

"For the first time out, we played better defensively than I expected.  As I said, we haven't really had good competition in the practice situation when we put the top group together.  We had only had the top seven guys together on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday before playing on Wednesday (Nov. 12).  But I thought they played well together.  They moved the ball and moved the ball very unselfishly."

How has the '4&1', that is the line-up with four perimeter players around Channing Frye continued to develop?
Olson:
"When we have Hassan (Adams) in the four spot, we give him a lot more freedom to move around the court.  But if we start in set situations, he's pretty effective in that because he's shooting the 17-footer very well right now.
We'll give up something on the defensive end to a bigger guy.  Andre (Iguodala) has been one of our most consistent rebounders.  He is so long and quick to the ball.  I think we'll do fine against bigger guys, but until we play someone like that we won't know for sure.

On Kirk Walters' progress.
Olson:
"Kirk gets better every day.  We're pleased with him.  The only thing we can't do is get weight on him quickly enough.  His confidence is improving.  The guys have been great that way.  They really give him praise when he's making tough plays in practice.  You can see the confidence level going up.  He has a nice shooting touch.  He uses both hands well and has good footwork.  The biggest problem is that he gets moved around more than he should."

Does Mustafa (Shakur) continue to develop?  Will he be a factor right away?
Olson:
"Oh yes, he'll be a factor right away.  The way we play, we need some numbers out there.  You can't play at that pace and have the same guys out there all of the time.  Right now, we look at the guard spots - there are three guys who will be sharing the time in the three spots.  Hassan can play inside and out, so that means we can use him along with Andre at the three spot. Isaiah (Fox) can play both four and five, and the inside positions with the big guys are really interchangeable."

On Andre Iguodala:
Olson:
"If he shoots it like he shot it in our first exhibition, I think he'll be one of the best 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 players in the country.  It's unusual to have a guy that size who sees the court as well as he does.  He handles the ball well.  He does need to cut down on his turnovers by trying not to make great passes too often.  We had a 20-minute scrimmage the other day and he had 15 rebounds in 20 minutes.

"He's an outstanding rebounder.  He's been shooting the ball very well.  He passes the ball.  He's very unselfish.  He's a bright kid.  He has a lot of things working for him.  For him not to have been mentioned on many of the preseason teams is, I think, a serious mistake on somebody's part, based on what I'm seeing in a practice situation."

On Chris Rodgers.
Olson:
"Chris will be one of our key players, whether he's in the starting lineup or being our version of Jason Terry.  At the time that Jason played, I said that I'm more concerned by who finishes rather than who starts. Chris just needs to be a more effective rebounder.  He could be - he's athletic and should be a much better rebounder - but when you are changing from a point guard to a two and three, it's tough to be a rebounder if you are having to think when the shot goes up whether you should rebound or help with the defensive balance.  He needs to be more effective on the defensive boards as well.  Without question, our best rebounding guard in Mustafa Shakur.

Notes:

Olson began the press conference by announcing his partnership with the National Beer Wholesalers Association and several local bottlers to produce a public service announcement on safe alcohol consumption.

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