The Fundamentals

» November 20, 2008 8:59 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

John Krolik for SLAM:  “LeBron still starts games at the three and spends a good deal of time out on the perimeter working off screens 30 feet from the basket and will keep the defense honest with deep jumpers every now and again, but the dynamic backcourt play has allowed LeBron to weave elements into his game that we previously only saw on Team USA–playing the high post and driving from the elbow, posting up deep, sealing off and getting easy buckets, getting more fast-  break looks and quick post-ups early in the shot clock before the defense can load up, weak-side and back-door cuts often finished with Alley-Oops, and 1-3 pick-and-rolls with Mo Williams that have been effective both ways. He’s been off-the-charts effective when put at the four, where he spends about half as much time as he does at the three–his per-48 minute stats at the four-spot are (this is not a typo) 50/11/9 on 60 percent shooting, for a PER of an even 50.”

Note: If anyone can find a blog or article that suggested LeBron should play the four before I did, I’ll pull a Charles Barkley and “walk from here to Oakland.”

Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News:  “The Nuggets two weeks ago got rid of the guy with the third-highest scoring average in NBA history. So make way for Carmelo Anthony to start regularly putting up 30 points a night, right? Hardly. Anthony’s scoring average hasn’t soared since the Nuggets dispatched Allen Iverson on Nov. 3 in a trade that got them Chauncey Billups. And Anthony doesn’t mind that at all. The sixth-year forward is averaging 20.6 points, on pace to be a career low. His shooting percentage of 39.5 is also in line to be a career low, but one figures that number, hurt by a few rugged shooting outings, soon will rise. But if Anthony’s scoring average doesn’t increase, that’s fine with him. ‘I don’t have to try to score 30 and 25 points,” he said. ‘We’re still winning basketball games. That’s the thing that’s making me excited.’”

John Schuhmann of  “Yes, they’re 10-2. And yes, their defense is still stifling, allowing just 98.6 points per 100 possessions (second in the league behind the Lakers). But Boston is not as dominant as it was last season, and the reason is their offense. The Celtics are scoring just 104.0 points per 100 possessions through their 12 games, which is 25th in the league. Last season, they ranked 10th with an offensive rating of 111.8. So, they’re down almost eight points per 100 possessions, which in the long run will make a difference in the win column. The Celtics have shown they’re hungry for another title, playing some playoff-style games this early in the season. But the similarities to the playoffs don’t end with the intensity. Boston’s inability to score also reminds us of the Conference Semifinal series with Cleveland, when two games were won by a team that scored in the 70s.”

Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports:  “Even before Parker sprained his left ankle, the Spurs had slipped defensively, plummeting to the bottom of the league in most major categories. Popovich worried that his well-worn pound-the-rock message had gone stale. But the more he and his staff looked at the film, the more they realized that it was the coaches who had changed rather than the effort of their players. Over the summer, the staff had implemented a few wrinkles to the team’s system, which included varying how they defended the pick-and-roll. ‘Creative, intelligent coaching moves,’ Popovich said with his trademark sarcasm, ‘that turned out to be dog doo-doo.’ The Spurs have won over the years because they do the ordinary doo-doo extraordinarily, and after a loss to the Miami Heat dropped the record to 1-4, Popovich returned to stressing the tenants of the team’s defense: Keep ball-handlers out of the middle of the lane; funnel them baseline into the arms of their shot-blockers; and don’t give up open 3-pointers from the corners.”

48 Minutes of Hell:  “Over the past 6 games the Spurs are holding opponents to 83 points, going 4-2. This is a marked difference to the 105 per game they allowed over their 1-4 start. That’s a huge swing, and all in the right direction. The Spurs are still a defensive work in progress, but they’re on the right track. Still, there is much work to be done. Through 11 games, the Spurs are getting abused on the boards. They lost this battle to the Nuggets by a deficit of 4, a number on par with the season. This is a problem Pop must fix if the Spurs are to climb back into contention. The most worrisome aspect of this trend is the poor glass work of Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas. Both players have been dreadful thus far. In last night’s game, for example, this terrible twosome accounted for 4 rebounds in 26 minutes. In other words, this might be personnel problem.”

Marty Burns of  “Though Granger’s playing skills are impressive, he is not yet the kind of complete All-Star type who normally gets tabbed as the face of a franchise. He still needs to work on his ball-handling and passing. For the most part, Granger looks to be more like a solid No. 2 guy on a championship contender, rather than a superstar. For this Pacers club, however, Granger might be the perfect man for the job. Indiana ranked last in the NBA in attendance in 2007-08 as fans finally decided they had seen enough after recent seasons marred by the brawl in Detroit and a subsequent series of off-court incidents involving players. Pacers president Larry Bird admitted after last season that one of his main goals going forward would be to clean up the image of the team. Respectful and well-mannered, Granger has never had a whiff of trouble since arriving in Indiana.”

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:  “The fact that the Knicks are willing to stand up for themselves is an encouraging sign. Having fight as opposed to fighting is actually a good thing. Last November, the Knicks went up to Boston and fell behind by 52 points before losing by 45. The result was beyond humiliating. On Tuesday they trailed the Celtics by 15 with nine minutes remaining and got as close as four before Boston defended and executed like a championship-caliber team. The neophyte Knicks are atrocious defensively, and when their shots aren’t falling they can look as bad as anyone. Plus, they were still dominated in the paint even though Kevin Garnett was serving a one-game suspension. There is plenty of room for improvement, but at least the mentality of the team is changing. The players care about the results and want the rest of the league to take them seriously.”

Randy Kim of NBA FanHouse:  Magic Johnson Talks About Books, Business, Barack and Basketball

Mavs Moneyball:  With an eye-opening statistical breakdown of Jason Kidd’s shot attempts

Alana G:  Are Technical fouls good for Rasheed Wallace? [Via Detroit Bad Boys]

Monte Poole of the Contra Costa Times:  “Maybe he was taking the high road, positioning himself to see if Rowell would sink under the weight of his own growing self-importance. As the team’s GM, though, it would seem Mullin is obligated to comment on matters such as the contract extension for his coach and friend, an extension for a veteran player and team leader or the loss of a trusted aide. Or — and this one is easy — to offer his reaction to seeing sudden sensation Anthony Morrow, who was discovered by Mullin and his scouts, introduce himself to the NBA by scorching every net he sees. So far, nothing. Which is odd for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is Mullin’s ability to transcend his ego. He was a phony when he arrived in the Bay Area in 1985, trying to hide his alcoholism behind a veneer of New York bravado. In the 21 years since dedicating himself to sobriety, Mully has been one of the least pretentious people I’ve come across.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “The cavalry might arrive more quickly than the Spurs at first anticipated. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are recuperating faster than expected from their respective left ankle injuries. Ginobili, who had surgery to repair a ligament impingement in September and has yet to dress for a game, began playing 2-on-2 earlier this week. ‘I think he’s ahead of schedule,’ Popovich said after the team’s shootaround Wednesday morning. ‘He’s been going 2-on-2. We’ve got to get him to 5-on-5 here in the next couple of weeks.’ Popovich declined to attach a firm timetable to Ginobili’s return, but there has been speculation it could come before the end of the month.”

Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  “The Hawks nearly fell to 6-5 Wednesday night. They trailed a lousy Washington team for most of the game and were working without their second- and third-best players. (Despite the shortened bench, Acie Law IV got only nine minutes. What’s up with that?) But they steeled themselves at the end, and at such times it’s easy to say, ‘You know what — a year ago they wouldn’t have won that game.’ Well, you know what? They wouldn’t have. This is no longer an assemblage of young guys learning what the NBA requires. This has become a band of youngish veterans who are either in or are approaching the full flower of their careers. We Atlantans have waited, not always patiently, to see these players grow up, and finally they have.”

Chris Mannix of  “That the Oklahoma City Thunder are bad is not surprising. The franchise formerly known as the Sonics, an NBA-worst 1-10 through Tuesday, is attempting to rebuild through the painstaking process of the draft. The Thunder’s core players and three leading scorers — shooting guard Kevin Durant, 20, small forward Jeff Green, 22, and point guard Russell Westbrook, 20 — are all receiving their NBA educations on the fly. When a team’s leaders and best players are also its most inexperienced, it is expected to struggle. But what the Thunder did not expect to be is a team that, at times, has appeared to be lazy, disinterested defensively and poorly coached. Yet that’s exactly what the Thunder have been.”

Art Garcia of  “Well, barring another team relocating again or expansion. For the time being, eliminating the three-time zone Northwest is a definite plus. ‘If you look at what we have now, you would never ‘divide’ the teams this way,’ one general manager said. Bringing the Eastern Conference into the discussion, another GM in favor of the above proposal suggested a radical restructuring of the playoff format. While keeping the conferences and divisions intact, he supports seeding 1-16 regardless of conference affiliation. In other words, the top 16 teams get in. ‘You shouldn’t punish teams for their geographic position,’ he said, ‘and reward others.’ Another exec also backed the top-16 format, adding that it would allow for truer playoff representation and eventually distribute talent more evenly via the lottery.”

Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News:  “It’s clear Bynum’s impact has been felt mostly at the defensive end. One of the best sites around for statistical analysis is over at In their crunching of individual numbers on Bynum, the Lakers are allowing 13.4 fewer points per 100 possessions with Bynum on the court, compared to when he’s not on the court. But offensively, it’s a different story. The Lakers are scoring 11.4 more points per 100 possessions when Bynum is out of the game, compared to when he’s in the game.”

Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Daily News:  “Memo to Shaquille O’Neal: Don’t even think about it. Stay away. Go on to rip some other organization. Find new bridges to blowtorch. There must be a few teams left you haven’t verbally decimated. A couple of cities you haven’t completely ridiculed. Over here in L.A., we know your act all too well. Let us try to remember you as the dominant center who led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles. We don’t need some fading, semi-sad version of Shaq the player in a couple years, any more than we need the sad man-child who has ironically proved incapable of being the bigger man. The Big Whatever might no longer be a consistent force on the court, but he remains consistently clueless and self-serving off it. Shaq was traded from the Lakers to the Miami Heat in 2004. He could barely make it to LAX before firing off his typical blasts of most everyone in L.A. save John Wooden.”

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