This interview was first published by in March 2020.

Ross Kreines artfully analyzes the game one tweet at a time

By Ed Odeven

Ross Kreines dishes out keen insights about the game via Twitter.

Indeed, it’s an acquired skill.

Scroll down his Twitter feed for an illuminating summary of how/why players and teams succeed.

From players with surnames from A to Z, Kreines dutifully provides educated opinions on their strengths, while preaching positivity along the way.

In this era of instant information and short-attention spans, Kreines has carved out a niche. Give him his props.

Twitter is his landscape, which he uses to break down the game with intelligent, enthusiasm and expertise.

Developing a following

Kreines has developed a following as a respected, astute observer of the game at the highest levels. His name isn’t tossed out there next to many of the high-profile analysts, but it’s clear he knows the game. His viewpoints illuminate what statistics tell us. And he provides a broader view.

In short, Kreines sees the intricacies of individual and team tendencies. He notices what players do on both sides of the ball and how they impact the game.

How did Kreines develop these skills? How did he became an authoritative observer?

Without hesitation, Kreines, who is in his mid-40s, credits his high school mentor, Fred Grasso (more on that below).

Rapport with a legend

Pro basketball savant Peter Vecsey, whose Hoop Du Jour column was required reading for decades for anyone interested in knowing what was really happening in the NBA, developed a friendship with Kreines in the early years of the 21st century.

It began with an email, both men recalled in the years that followed.

Forming a friendship

It was in 2003, Vecsey noted in one of his Patreon columns in December 2017.

“I had written a column about Alonzo Mourning’s kidney transplant and it understandably touched him,” Vecsey wrote.

Eventually, Ross Kreines’ name began to appear in a few of Vecsey’s New York Post columns along with his astute observations of the game.

For example, from a February 2011 column, Vecsey included Kreines’ insights for a section about the Celtics after Kendrick Perkins was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“You don’t suppose the Celtics (or Magic or Knicks; they need him now more than ever) will take a shot on Eddy Curry once the T’Wolves waive him?” wonders column contributor Ross Kreines. “If anyone can motivate him it’s K.G.”

From an NBA first-round playoff preview in April 2012, Kreines’ comments were included in looking ahead to the Heat-Knicks matchup. “The Heat cannot settle for long jumpers,” advocates Kreines. “They should be in attack mode and let Chris Bosh catch the ball elbow-extended as he can take most bigs off the dribble. This will give them more spacing. Additionally, Erik Spoelstra needs to play LBJ more at the four.”

Overcoming huge obstacles

Ross Kreines’ Twitter intro (@rosskre) gives a glimpse into the huge obstacles he’s overcome in life: “Played bball, until a car accident broke my neck C6-C7. Dr’s said I would not move from neck down, proved them wrong. Now breaking down the game at a high level.”

He had been named the Jericho High (New York) School boys varsity team captain for the 1990-91 season before the life-changing automobile accident in October 1990. He was coming off a junior season with a respectable scoring average of about 16 points per game. Indeed, a future as a college player was far from a preposterous idea.

Vecsey’s aforementioned Patreon piece dug deeper into Kreines’ story.

A living miracle

Indeed, the odds were against him.

“I had to wait four days until I underwent surgery, so they screwed my head to the wall-halo,” Kreines told Vecsey. “Doctors told my mom I would never move from the neck down.

“Ross refused to accept it,” Vecsey wrote. “Neither did his mother Sandi, his most powerful ally and staunchest supporter.

“Coach Grasso was another vital backstop. His belief Ross would one day walk never wavered.

“ ‘When he saw me in the hospital, I told him I would move, he believed me,’ Kreines was quoted as saying. ‘So many others quit on me but not coach Grasso (or his two sons) Jared or Matthew.’ ”

Added Kreines: “Coach Grasso taught me about loyalty. He gave me hope in darkness.”

Becoming a motivational speaker

Eventually, Kreines used his life experiences as a springboard to help others. He became a motivational speaker, visiting hospitals in New York.

In a Long Island Business News article from February 2003, the publication reported the following:

“Kreines also connects one-on-one with patients at hospitals where he gives motivational speeches. ‘People are familiar with my story and get my number. I tell them not to give up and continue to exercise. After what I’ve been through, if I can’t get people into the gym, no one can.’ ”

Analysis from Ross Kreines

Exhibit A on March 10 regarding Toronto Raptors macho forward Pascal Siakam: “(He) continues to do a great job using his length/athleticism on both ends of the floor to go along with his ability to stretch the floor, take his man off the dribble, find the open man, rebound and operate with his back to the basket. He can also guard multiple positions.”

Exhibit B on March 6 about one of the Los Angeles Clippers’ unsung heroes: “When Montrezl Harrell: steps on the court, he leaves nothing in the tank with his big time motor, toughness, effort and the will to not get outworked. He also is active on the glass, sets hard screens, runs the floor hard and makes all the extra effort plays. Skills you can’t teach.”

Exhibit C on March 1 about a rookie playmaker on the Memphis Grizzlies: “Ja Morant is so tough and explosive off the bounce whether he is creating his own offense or creating for others. He also does a great job forcing his tempo, competes hard on both ends of the floor, makes others around him better along with unreal athleticism.”

Exhibit D on Dec. 7, 2019, about a pair of elite head coaches: “Erik Spoelstra and Brad Stevens put their players in position to compete and win every night with solid adjustments, sets, use of their bench and truly understand how to use their players’ strengths.”

An interview with Ross Kreines

In a series of emails in recent weeks before and after the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Talk Basket interviewed Ross Kreines about his love for basketball, his mentor at Jericho High and how following the game occupies his time.

How did you learn the game? And how do you follow the game nowadays?

I had played the game before being a passenger in a car accident and was able to obtain some scholarship offers. My high school coach Fred Grasso saw the game and taught the game better than anyone. He taught fundamentals at the highest levels and his basketball IQ was off the charts and he would visit me at the hospital every week with his sons and then later at home and on the phone.

When the doctors told me I would never move from the neck down, he was one of the few that believed and stuck with me. He taught me more about the game and he was family to me. I also learned the game even further through going to Bob McKillop, Five Star, Rick Pitino (and others’) camps. I had even learned more about the game through a friendship with Willis Reed after my accident.

I love studying a players’ strengths, weakness, adjustments, activity/effort, the eye test. I also like watching how a player adjusts. If he is struggling with his jumper, is he looking to attack and get to the hoop, create contact to get to the line so he can see the ball go through the net, creating for others? Defending and activity and effort should always be there.

Take a shooter like Duncan Robinson on the Heat. He can flat-out shoot the ball, but what makes him even tougher to defend is his constant movement off the ball, the way he squares quickly, utilizes screens and always knows where his feet are as he rarely shoots long 2s.

What else do you enjoy as an avid viewer of college and pro hoops?

I also love watching some fundamentals — player catching in triple threat using shot fakes, jab steps which all help create space and even make you more of a weapon or watching bigs catch and recognize how their defender is playing them before putting the ball on the floor and using drop steps, baby hooks, up-and-unders, recognizing a double and passing out for a better look along with the Sikma Move.

I do like breaking down NCAA players. As Peter will tell you, we had talked about Jimmy Butler’s talent at Marquette, (Malcolm) Brogdon at Virginia, John Collins at Wake (Forest), Bam (Adebayo) at Kentucky … so many more along with Serge (Ibaka) when he was not getting much run with the Thunder, etc.

I had always wanted to work in a front office. … I had always followed Peter and he let me make small contributions to his unreal column. I am very fortunate to consider him a good friend.

Good timing to showcase players on Twitter

Elfrid Payton and Terence Davis were your Twitter subjects for Feb. 3. Why Payton and Davis on this day?

The reason why I believe I tweeted about Elfrid and Terence that day is as far as Elfrid, he was playing a tremendous floor game that night, believed he picked up a triple-double. He was making others around him better, rebounding, defending, getting in the lane and also making winning plays. Terence impressed me with his ability to come off the bench and change the game.

When I say change the game, he came off the bench and provided instant offense, got you all the 50-50 balls, forced steals, guarded multiple positions, rebounded and believe was the reason for the Raptors coming back and winning that game. In certain players it’s not all about numbers.

More insights from Ross Kreines

When did you start using Twitter for this type of succinct analysis?

I believe I had started using Twitter in 2012 and watch a ton of games, so it’s rapid thoughts at that moment or maybe later.

I do watch a ton of college basketball and especially Bryant (University) as Jared Grasso (son of Fred) who I consider family is doing a great job and will continue to.

Scouting report on Kobe Bryant

Let’s flash back to, say, 2000. What would you have penned in a tweet about Kobe Bryant, if Twitter existed then?

If I was to write a tweet about Kobe. He can flat-out score the ball and beat you in so many different ways along with an unreal skill set, basketball IQ/determination, passion and the will to never quit.

Ross Kreines’ parting thoughts

One keen observer noted that “Ross is always so positive and selfless, so I don’t know if he’d answer truthfully… but I’d want to know how frustrated it must be to regularly recognize college talent underrated or overlooked by pro scouts and GMs. Year after year he sees promise in players the experts miss.”

How do you respond to these statements?

Honestly, very frustrating.

During these uncertain difficult times when almost everything is on hold or canceled, how do you sum up your appreciation for “normal” times when you dissect the game and dish out analysis for people who truly follow basketball?

I always loved and appreciated the game, but after my accident the love was even greater and you could say the same with the game being on hold. The game is so special and really enjoy sharing any thoughts that I may have. I really was lucky that I was coached by Fred Grasso. The way he saw and taught the game was off the charts … and then going to camps like Five Star and Lu-Hi (Long Island Lutheran High School, New York) along with talking with Willis and then Peter just increases your basketball IQ and deepens your love for the game.

I love talking the game, breaking down the game in any aspect. The game brings so much of us together.