Three Takeaways from Week 7
By John Krolik, @krolikjohn August 1, 2022
1 – The Ballad of Nancy and Nick
Two of the many things I love about covering the BIG3: season-long narratives, and any time Power Coach Nancy Lieberman is Mic’d up.
To be very clear, I’ve talked to Coach Lieberman a fair amount. When she’s not on the court, she’s the most eleemosynary human being you’ll find on this planet. However, when she is on the court, it’s not hard to see why she earned the nickname “Fire” at Rucker Park growing up. When she was a member of the 1981 Lakers Summer League team, she apparently attempted to start two fistfights.
She keeps her hands at her sides when coaching, but she has a lot of basketball knowledge to impart to her players, and a limited amount of time in which to do so. This means her sideline manner can often be somewhat blunt, although she’s never harsh on a player for the purpose of being harsh.
For an example of what I’m talking about, here’s her in the huddle telling TJ Cline, her power forward and son, to “shut up” before dropping her clipboard to the ground to have a pointed discussion with Nikoloz Tskitishvili, the latter of whom we’ll be focusing on now.
Coach Lieberman was busy this off-season. In the draft, she got Glen Rice Jr., who leads the team in scoring this season, and the aforementioned TJ Cline, whose passing, off-ball movement, and general ability to be a Swiss Army knife have been a huge part of Power’s success. She also added Tskitishvili, whom she calls “Nick,” a former #5 overall NBA Draft pick, and gave him one of her Co-Captain spots.
Nick was, like so many European big men who could make the three in the early 2000s, supposed to be the next Dirk, but things didn’t quite work out for him, and his NBA career was fairly disappointing.
Coach Lieberman clearly saw something in Nick. However, it did take her a little while for her to get Nick on her frequency. He scored 3 points in Week 1, 0 points in Week 2, 0 points in Week 3, and 0 points in Week 4.
Here’s a clip from Week 1. Coach Lieberman draws up a play, Nick has trouble understanding what his responsibilities are on said play, and Coach Lieberman, somewhat exasperated but ever-patient, says “Jesus. Nick. C’mon, baby, you’ve got one thing to do.”
In Week 4, Nick got a mismatch in the post against Brandon Rush, and instead of taking it into the smaller man’s body threw up a sweeping hook, which missed.
During the next stoppage in play, Coach Lieberman let Nick know in no uncertain terms that she wanted to see him play with more force: “Nick, come here. Nick, you’ve gotta start playing strong. You can’t just throw that s**t up there. Take a power dribble and go up.” (Warning: clip contains NSFW language, as Coach Lieberman was unable to bleep herself in real time.)
Now, if this was just a fun story about Nancy Lieberman’s comical disappointment with a talented but somewhat lost big man, that would be one thing. What makes this great is that Coach Lieberman got through to the big man. In Week 5, Nick put up eight points. In Week 6, his 11 points were a major reason Power got the victory over the Aliens. In Power’s Week 7 win against Tri State, Nick was flat-out nasty. Here’s Nick passing up an open three, taking the ball into former BIG3 Defensive Player of the Year Larry Sanders’ chest, and getting an and-1. Here’s Nick shoving DaJuan Summers under the basket in a Bring the Fire challenge before hitting him with a nice up-and-under move for a layup.
It would seem there are two good rules of thumb to follow if you happen to be seven feet tall. The first is to leverage the fact you’re bigger than anyone else to your advantage whenever possible. The second would be that if you have a coach like Nancy Lieberman, listen to what she tells you.
2 – Live By The 3…
It doesn’t take Alan Turing to crack the code on why Tri State’s fortunes took a hard turn for the worse at mid-season. In their first three games with Team Captain Jason Richardson in the lineup, they went 3-0 and made 23 of the 47 threes they took, which is a 48.9% conversion percentage.
They went on to lose the next three games of the season. In those games, they went a combined 11-45 from three-point range, which means they made 24.4% of their three-point tries.
After their loss to Power in Week 7, Tri State’s postseason hopes hang by the slimmest of threads, and relying on the three-ball might not be the most sustainable strategy for them going forward.
3 – The End of Year 1 of Beasley-Ball
Like Tri State, 3’s Company had an up-and-down season (3’s Company’s season is officially over), and their successes and failures can be easily traced. Michael Beasley was quite possibly the most hyped rookie in BIG3 history, and we got the full Beasley experience this season.
Beasley started the season with a bang. In his first half of FIREBALL3, Beasley had 19 points, with two shots coming from the paint, two coming from midrange, one coming from three, and two coming from the four-point circles. He slowed down in the second half, scoring just seven points, but 3’s Company was able to come away with the win.
After that game, the 3’s Company gameplan turned into “throw the ball to Beasley and hope something good happens.” Good things did not happen.
Beasley went a combined 13-44 (29.5%) over the next three games, all of which 3’s Company lost.
Then, in Week 5, a miracle happened. 3’s Company started moving the ball like Coach Michael Cooper’s Showtime Lakers, and Beasley was the main culprit, finishing the game with a team-high six assists as 3’s Company blew out the Ghost Ballers 50-36 while shooting 23-34 from the field.
They continued to look dominant in Week 6 against the Barbosa-less Ball Hogs, going into halftime with a 25-6 lead. However, they took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half, which is never a good idea in a league that has no game clock. The Ball Hogs actually managed to tie the game at 47 before Mario Chalmers hit the game-winning 3, which kept 3’s Company’s season alive. Beasley nearly had a triple-double, finishing the game with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. For context, Beasley had five total assists through the first four weeks of the season.
In Week 7, things came full-circle for Beasley and 3’s Company. Beasley was a house of fire in the first half, scoring 21 of 3’s Company’s 26 first-half points on 7-13 shooting from the field and 5-9 shooting from three-point range.
Unfortunately for 3’s Company, Week 7, like Week 1, was a tale of two halves for Beasley. He scored just four points in the second half, and Charles Oakley’s team was able to snag a 50-48 win to end Beasley’s first year in the BIG3.
Beasley is clearly as talented as advertised, but it became very clear this season that he’s much more effective as a part of a system than a system unto himself. When he can draw defenders to him and sling it to an open teammate or get the ball with space to work with, 3’s Company is as dangerous as any team in the league.
When Beasley is asked to do everything himself, the team’s offense stagnates and they make the game much tougher on themselves.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens next season, as his coach and teammates should have a much better idea of how to properly put Beasley in positions to succeed.