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May 23, 2006

Flip Saunders


Q. A lot of people talk about Pat Riley being a Hall of Fame coach and everything like that. How important is a head coach in the playoffs? What do you think is the most important role the head coach plays in the playoffs?
FLIP SAUNDERS: The most important is to get your players to play at a level they're used to playing at. What they did during the regular season, a comfort level, where they can maintain their aggressiveness, and they're basically in a situation where they can keep aggressive both at the defensive end and the offensive end, and they have a comfort level. I think that's the job of a coach, to put the players in a situation where they can have success.
Q. You talk about your experience with Minnesota on this level, and do you take anything from that?
FLIP SAUNDERS: Well, one, it's very similar in that we had -- our Game 7 was a very emotional game against Sacramento, and we came back with a day's rest and had to play the Lakers. The difference is we were playing a night game, it wasn't an afternoon in Game 7. We had a short turnaround again. But I think every series is different, and I think especially when you have different players, different teams, different coaches, now you have two teams -- our team is relatively the same player-wise with the addition of some. Miami has made some changes, but the two main people are still there. I think what happens is as the series progresses and each team wins games. That's when the series really heats up and takes form. I think it's one of those things where you go into the series knowing what you're trying to do, both defensively and offensively, and you try to establish that. One team is going to try to grab the momentum as quick as they can.
Q. I've talked to several players about the playoffs and the intensity that it brings over the regular season. I wanted to ask you, from your experiences, what's the difference between a playoff player and a regular season player, and what type of mentality does it take to step your game up in this situation as opposed to the regular season?
FLIP SAUNDERS: Well, players that have success in the playoffs are really players that have no fear, and they're not afraid of failure. I think many times players that struggle in the playoffs, and there's a lot of good players that have played in this league that just have not been very good playoff players is because maybe they don't play with enough reckless abandon. I think when you have players that are not afraid to fail, players that are going to go out and they know what their strengths are and they're going to play to their strengths and stay away from weaknesses, that's when they're going to have success.
Q. Coach Riley was just in here and said he would hate to do it, he's really only done it once in his career, but if need be, he would hack Ben. Would you do it in a certain circumstance, hack Shaq?
FLIP SAUNDERS: It could be a long game (laughter). I think everyone in that situation has been asked many times as far as to me when people have gone, do I resent that, and I say, hey, that's the way the game is. Your job as a coach is to try to go into a situation and try to win within the rules, and right now, if you foul somebody that's one of the rules, depending on when you do it and what the outcome is, sometimes you don't want to deplete your roster from the standpoint of having your main guys get in as far as foul trouble. A lot you have to wait on kind of what the tempo of the game is and the timing of the game. There's no question if it comes down to it that we would do the same if we had to.
Q. How close is Rasheed right now to 100 percent?
FLIP SAUNDERS: At this point no one is going to be 100 percent. I think that he's not going to be where he was prior to the playoffs starting. When you have an ankle injury like that and you're in a situation that you're going to be playing every other day, he's not going to be where he was, and I think that as -- as Rip is not going to be where he was. I think we pretty much know that in the playoffs and in the regular season, even when you have an injury during the regular season. The number of games that you play and the rest and the travel, you just don't have the ability to recuperate to get to 100 percent. I think right now he's probably about 75, 80, and you hope to keep him at that pace and hope to get in a situation where he doesn't get hurt anymore.
Q. Talk about the potential use of some big guys not having really seen these playoffs?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I think both Dale and Cato, those guys have to be prepared along with Dyess, Ben and Sheed, along with Shaq. Shaq has the ability to score a lot inside, but he also has the ability to miss free throws. As Pat talked about Ben's situation, the difference is Ben doesn't touch the ball as much as Shaq, so there could be a situation where you're not going to get easy buckets. In the playoffs, that's one of the main things, you can't give up easy points.
Q. In the past Elden Campbell had been with these guys for years but is there a concern because they're two players that haven't really been with this group that long?
FLIP SAUNDERS: No, Dale has played 130 playoff games. He's played in maybe more than anyone on our team. He's been through this a lot, been through situations, guarded different people. So no, I think when he came here, he came here with the idea to win a championship, and one of -- he knew that also the reason we got him was to get more size, more big people, to be able to go against Miami's big people and other big people down the road.
Q. Two guys have gone in the last five games to averaging 79 points per game. It was 99 points per game in 97 playoffs. You're down almost a fifth of your score over the last five games. Is that of concern or is that the way Cleveland played the game?
FLIP SAUNDERS: I think it's a combination. I think the concern of why our scoring was down had a lot to do also with having a lot of turnovers, not getting a lot of quality possessions, poor free throw shooting. When you shoot 50 percent from the line in some games you're eating up lots of your points and putting more pressure on your defense. On the other hand, our defense has been way down over those last five games. When you're giving up and defending how we have been defending, it's going to change the tempo of the game, and I've always said that the one positive about this team is the ability to play both ways.
Cleveland didn't try to force tempo too much. They started getting up and down the floor, started getting it in LeBron's hands, which slowed the game down some. If we have to run, we don't mind running, but we don't mind going into the trenches and getting into a grinding game, either.

End of FastScripts...

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