A few late notes on Florida Eve…
– The note that I found most curious Friday was Calipari’s assertion that as of this moment, he wouldn’t advise anyof the Kentucky players to enter the NBA Draft. Calipari tempered the statement by saying that decision was still a ways off, making it seem more like a passing comment than anything. What we’ve learned, however, is that Calipari doesn’t just say things to say them. There’s a reason for everything he says to the media. The statement about his players not being ready for the draft had the feel of a last ditch effort of finding what would motivate them to come together as a team. He’s tried positive reinforcement. He’s talked about the upside. He’s criticized them. Challenged them to get better individually and collectively. None of it has seemed to help them take the next step in playing as a team. Maybe this will. I don’t know if the possibility of going pro is lingering in their minds and, to be completely honest, I would probably think it’s not, but the statements from Cal would make you presume that he at least wonders if it is there enough to be a motivating factor. Last year’s team was led by two guys who could play relaxed every night and still know that a top-5 spot was waiting on them at the end of the year. The freshmen on this team don’t have that luxury. If that’s the case, it doesn’t make them selfish. It just might explain why they haven’t found cohesion.
– One of the themes of this week’s practices appears to be Calipari’s insistance that the team “play harder than your opponent”. He talked about it in his meeting with the media and Matt noted earlier that he was preaching it during practice. All season long, Cal has told anyone who would listen that he’s challenging the players to give more each game and find a way to blow away the expectations that people have for them. To this point, they still haven’t quite gotten there yet. Saturday is going to be a test as the Gators bring a team that is heavy in talent, but also beat them in Gainesville by making the effort plays at the end. They will attack for offensive rebounds and try to tip passes and dive for loose balls. If Kentucky wants to win, it’s going to take an efficient game and that type of extra effort in out-working a team that has shown that they come ready to play hard for 40 minutes (or more).
– In the portion of the media meeting involving the players, Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins both spoke of being angry with the loss at Arkansas and with how the team is playing. Knight said that the team isn’t feeling pressure, but they know they have to play harder. He also spoke of the team watching film and seeing guys not playing aggressively or with confidence and said that it’s not the team they want to be. He sounded like a player who was ready to challenge his teammates in the game to raise their play and that’s something that is needed very badly on the court. He said all the right things about remaining confident in his shot and taking open looks at the end of the game. He needs that to rub off on his teammates Saturday.
– The home-road dichotomy continues to be an interesting twist to the season and it will continue against the Gators. The Cats open as eight point favorites against the SEC East leaders, who beat them by two in Gainesville. It’s obviously a testament to how well they’ve played in Rupp and if they were to walk away with a win – especially at that margin – it could go a long way in getting things going in the right direction.
– On a completely different note, Randall Cobb measured at 5’10 1/2 and 191 pounds at the NFL Draft Combine, which was seen as a victory of sorts. There were some concerns that Cobb would measure smaller, but those measurements seemed to be a pleasant surprise. He will participate in all of the drills this weekend and look to improve on a 40 time that was measured at 4.55 in the spring. He will also be honored Saturday by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta as the Southeast Special Teams Player of the Year, though he won’t be in attendance to receive the award.
– The drama continues with the Detroit Pistons as Marc Stein reports that the veteran players tried to orchestrate a boycott of the team’s shootaround after they were not traded and coach John Kuester was not fired. Among the group of players, who were all benched Friday night, was Tayshaun Prince, who has quarrelled with the coach all season. Stein reported that the players had organized a boycott before the All-Star break but were told the coach would be fired and they called it off. After he remained in place, they set it up again. Not a good situation.
That’s it for now. Make sure you join us for the KSR Live Blog at 3:30 and follow Matt’s CBS account (@MattJonesCBS) for behind-the-scenes tidbits all day. Today could be the start of a very good thing. See you in a few…