Tuesdays with the Team: Part 2

In Part 2, Daniel Novinson reports on Tuesday's press conference where Trent Johnson spent some time talking about the Cardinal's game at Cal on Saturday, the strategy of using both Lopez twins on the floor in games, and what goes on when a team has just one game to play during rivalry week in the Pac-10.

Two reasons I'm hoping today's presser will be especially informative: First, we're coming off two straight wins, so the questions will be softer and the team, hopefully, less defensive. Only worry is if we start doing too well, then Trent will have to go into lockdown "we're not really that good" mode. Second, the team's policy is only to talk about the next game, though reporters will try to sneak in a question about the weekend opponent, as the Thursday opponent is usually the undercard. No worries about that this week, and with only one game on the docket, maybe that frees up more time to

Of course, it all depends on the players we get. Fred's the most open and talkative with us, with Law Hill a close second. Guess I now have a selfish reason for those two to do especially well, as we generally get whoever shone the brightest the last week.

Scarfed down some dining hall food on the way to the noon presser. What's up with salad as our hot entrée? Stanford Dining, you better put chicken wings in the salad bar next time, otherwise I'm going to think you're just trying to save money and not cook an actual meal. Okay, my Peter King moment's up, onto the actual presser. It's the usual suspects: Trent, me, my colleague Pat Fitzgerald, Darren Sabedra from The Mercury News and Jake Curtis from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Trent Johnson:

On what Cal does well:

Start with Ryan Anderson. When you look at the stats in conference games, you look at ours, you look at theirs. How is this team 2-4? They're very experienced, very good, one possession here or there, and they'd have one loss, if that. Make no mistake, it starts with Ryan Anderson. He's averaging a double-double. He causes a multitude of problems because he can score inside and out and he finishes, he finishes so well. He gets it on the block and if you don't play good defense, he can put it in the basket. To me he's one of those players. He's a three, four, five. Put him out there and he can flat-out play. I say this every week but it's true: look at the caliber of players in this league.

Of course, Hardin is explosive, rebounds and changes what you have to do offensively in the lane. Christopher is nothing like last year, so much better.

I think they're getting healthy in terms of their guard play. Randle's taking some hits, but he just got back to where he's healthy. Boykin is a handful.

This is a team that shoots extremely well, their assist-to-turnover ratio is impressive. You look at their stats, you look at ours.

Is Anderson underrated:

Not by players or coaches, but maybe when you talk about the national media, when you talk about the NBA [mock drafts], though I don't pay attention to those things. It blows me away. You don't deny the numbers now.

On why the teams have opposite records if they're so similar statistically:

Breaks, breaks. A basket here or there, say what you want, it's just a break here or there and it's a different story. We've got to defend at a high rate and really rebound.

On Arizona State:

I was really encouraged because, as I said last week, I know we hadn't started to play well. We hit rock-bottom first half – and Arizona State had something to do with it. But in the second, I thought we played extremely well in all phases. It was nice to see the guys respond down 10 at home. I couldn't agree with Herb more. He said we were real aggressive defensively and physical. And offensively, we attacked and took shots. In the first half, believe it or not, I thought we were hesitant and had some guys who didn't want to shoot it.

On Brook:

He was being sincere when he was asked if you could do that last year. I don't think he could. He's got to finish more, he's got to get that shooting percentage over 50 percent. I thought this week was the first where he rebounded his position and someone else's. Usually with most big kids, you don't have that explosive quickness to the ball, you have tend to watch the ball come to you. Brook was pursuing the ball to diff areas he was rebounding out of his area. That one of those things in recruiting I always look for. Yeah, he might not be able to rebound it because of lack of foot speed or whatever, but is he looking for the ball, is he following the ball?

On going with a two-Lopez lineup against Cal's bigs:

You'll see a lot of them playing together. I think we have to. Whether our bigs are good enough to compete with theirs, that remains to be seen. They come with an abundance of post players. Look at it on paper, it's a pretty good matchup, quality of players, size and position and all that.

Darren Sabedra wonders if it's his imagination, or if it's a shift in philosophy, but the ball seems to be going to Brook a lot. Us reporters play dumb and phrase things like that when we think it's a sensitive topic and need to ease subjects into opening up about it.

It's not imagined and our philosophy has always been the same. He's getting just as many touches as his brother does when he was playing there. We go into the post just as much with Law. We're throwing it in whether it's on the right or left block. But because he's so talented he's able to come up with positive results and defensively, people have to rotate down. Makes sense to me, doesn't take a rock scientist.

Come on. Robin has taken 117 shots this season. Brook's taken 120, and his brother had a quarter head-start. (Law's at 151.) In conference, Brook's at 80, Robin and Law combine for 83. As Trent says, I think that's about what the distribution should be, so then the question is why pretend it's not so. The two themes of Trent's comments yesterday: downplaying our advantage over Cal, and downplaying Brook's dominance. We'll have to see if our bigs can hold up with theirs? Are you kidding?

On Robin's decrease in minutes:

It's not anything to do with Rob, or Brook. It has to do with the way Taj keeps playing, has to do with Law. You look at it, only guys playing consistently are Mitch and Anthony. With everyone else, 20-23 minutes, Brook a little more. I like where we're at. People are able to play harder for shorter time periods.

Slight exaggeration, but only slight. In-conference, Brook and Law are both at 27 per game, but Mitch and Anthony are the only players over 30 minutes per game, with 33 apiece.

On Landry:

Landry looked like the Landry of old this week. That's going to get him on the floor more and limit Anthony's minutes.

On playing big versus small:

I feel comfortable knowing that we can play small and compete and play big and compete, and for us it's not surprising, I think that was a question that was answered in Italy. We knew going in we were going to have some flexibility. One of the things that's been disappointing in the league is that we've turned it over more and it's been unfortunate. There's a comfort zone there but it's not surprising. We knew going in, Law was going to bounce back between the "3" or "4." The key was who was going to be healthy? Was Fred going to be healthy? Was Brook going to be there?

On whether he's glad there's no Thursday game:

Well me personally, yeah, but the kids want to play. That's a long time for a game. Again, it's our rival, but it's a game and there's an even keel to this group and how I like to approach this thing. It's a game. The kids would like to be playing but I like it from a standpoint they were able to have Sunday off, we went through a light workout Monday, and they have today [Tuesday] off. This is a group you can't give two straight days off because they lose a lot of rhythm. For me, it gives me an opportunity to get out and… [trails off].

Trent's flight back, presumably a from recruiting trip, was delayed and he said he got back just in time for the Tuesday noon presser.

On not giving two days off:

In the past, I've given two days off. It depends on your personnel. Back at Nevada, I could give two or two-and-a-half days because we were so explosive, so we could come back right away. These guys, we've got to stay fine-tuned. Mercy. You guys have seen them, and that's why we have exhibitions and things.

On whether he's concerned with the lag:

The only concern I have is coming out after two days. If I have to be concerned after playing anybody in this league, we've got issues. Cal's got the same days off as we've got.

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