I had a few takeaways from Wednesday's practice.
The first was that the three post players had a good day. They seemed a step slow and were certainly behind the guards and wings last week, but today they picked up their game. They played faster, were tougher, and were more in sync overall. RaShid Gaston stood out in particular. He would have earned my Dante Jackson Practice Player of the Day award if I gave something like that out.
Gaston's play wasn't my only takeaway relating to him. I also saw him taking on a more clear leadership role. He's not afraid to speak up and talk to his teammates, but he also does a good job of encouraging them and staying positive. As an example, during a specific live drill where the defense had to melt 45 seconds off the clock without letting the offense score or draw a foul regardless of how many possessions it takes, Gaston's team was struggling to get stops. He didn't wait for the third or fourth time to where Chris Mack would stop practice and scream at his unit, telling them it was unacceptable. He pulled his guys together and told them emphatically that they had to get the stop right now. In addition, he was the most vocal player on the court the next few plays, particularly encouraging Quentin Goodin who was having a difficult time against Edmond Sumner.
Speaking of Sumner, he and Trevon Bluiett were great today. They are always the best players on the court, which means they typically do pretty well. But, today, they were really, really good. It was also fun to see them go at it competitively and push each other. In the above-mentioned drill where Gaston was showing his leadership, Bluiett and Sumner were on separate teams. They took turns talking trash while making big plays for their respective squads. It was the most I've ever heard Sumner talk period.
I watched the guards/wings during skill work today. They were doing their standard spacing and shooting drills. Malcolm Bernard really stood out during this segment. He was matching Bluiett shot-for-shot. Kaiser Gates wasn't far behind those two.
I'm to the point with Bernard where I feel fairly confident in saying he's a guy you want to shoot if he gets an open 3-point look. He has good rotation, his form is consistent, and he's shot the ball pretty darn well during these first several days of practice.
Four-on-Four Fullcourt Baseline Touch (Working on transition defense):
- O'Mara made a strong and patient drop-step move to finish against Jones
- Macura hit a three from the left wing off a drive-and-kick from Sumner
- Goodin made an excellent assist to O'Mara for an easy two when he caught Jones recovering a little too slow
Four-on-Four Halfcourt (Defense has to take the shot clock down from 45 to 0. Clock restarts every time the offense scores or draws a foul):
- Gates hit a three from the right wing off a kick-out from Sumner
- Sumner blew by Goodin going left towards the baseline and exploded for a NASTY one-handed slam.
- Stainbrook hit a right-corner three off a drive-and-kick from Sumner
- Stainbrook hit a left-corner three off an assist from Sumner
- Jones finished with his left hand against Gaston after Sumner found him on a slip to the rim
- Gaston blocked Jones in the post and then blocked Sumner from help side on the final two possessions for his team, finally getting the shot clock down to zero.
- O'Mara crashed the glass from the weak side for a tip-in
- Bernard hit a three from high on the right wing at the buzzer off an assist from Bluiett to reset the clock for his team
- Bluiett hit a step-back three in the left corner
- Bluiett hit a pull-up three just right of center over the top of Sumner
- Gaston had Gates guarding him on a switch so he sealed him and finished with an and-one