The Fundamentals

» November 25, 2008 9:00 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Charley Rosen of  “Dwyane Wade is the team’s most important player, its inspirational leader at both ends of the court. There’s no question that D-Wade has made a complete comeback from his various ailments and has regained his status as one of the league’s elite players. But Ron Artest’s relentless defense gave Wade fits. Wade could get past Artest and blast his way hoopwards only when he had a running start — as he did on a few fast breaks, early offense sequences and full-speed-ahead handoffs. Mostly, however, Wade was compelled to shoot jumpers — making only four of 13 — and this continues to be a serious flaw in his game. Wade’s frustration was demonstrated by his repeatedly trying to force his dribble to the basket — hence his five turnovers.”

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:  “When Anthony caught the ball on the block, or just off the block, he immediately turned to face the defender. It gave him clear vision of any impending double-teams and the ability to make a crisper play than he could with his back to the basket. The Nuggets sent cutters through the lane, and he hit them for layups and dunks. Other times, his face-up slowed or stopped the double-team, allowing him to get a clearer look at a shot. Details like this are what coach George Karl, Anthony and the team are addressing to help their best scorer lift himself from an early-season shooting slump. His per-game average of 19.8 points is a single-season low since coming to the NBA in 2003, nearly five points lower than his career average entering the season of 24.4. Additionally, Anthony is shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field, 10 percent lower than he shot last season and 7 percent lower than his career average of 46 percent.”

Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post:  “It wasn’t the losing that got Eddie Jordan fired. It was the languor of the Washington Wizards’ 1-10 record, the telltale apathy with which they played, that forced him out. The Wizards didn’t come to the defense of their coach on the court, unsurprising given the weak defense they consistently played under him these last few seasons. It became a nightly ritual for Jordan: He had to pray for the Wizards to score 110 points, because it was their only chance to win — to score so much it covered up their fractional effort on defense. For five-plus seasons under Jordan the Wizards — despite four playoff appearances — were blithely unconcerned with stopping the other team, and that chronic lack of commitment was the undoing of a terrifically nice man and promising young coach. Jordan was never able to get the Wizards to play both ends of the floor. That was his real failing.”

Bullets Forever:  “It was Eddie Jordan’s system that turned our offense into one of the league’s best over the past few years.  Throughout his tenure, Eddie Jordan was dealt a team that lacked a prototypical pass-first point guard and a strong post-up big man.  He was given a team with three extremely talented perimeter scorers (first Hughes, then Butler) that lacked several seemingly  essential tools for their respective positions.  Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes were seen as shoot-first gunners that were combo guards.  Antawn Jamison was seen as a soft tweenter.  Caron Butler had been traded twice because his team could not find a position for him.  And yet, Eddie created an offensive system designed to make the most of those players’ talents, rather than putting square pegs in round holes.  He put them in a position to succeed, which will be essential for the next coach of this club.  And for that, he deserves a ton of credit.”

Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “The Mavs are approaching .500, thanks to a four-game win streak — following the longest skid (five games) since 2000 — that has done wonders for their confidence. ‘You have to learn from the bad experiences and move on,’ said Dirk Nowitzki, who lashed out at his team’s effort after losing to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 9. ‘I don’t think we were far off in that losing streak. We just had to change some things and keep working. We knew we were a good enough team where we could win some games. Hopefully, we can ride this a little longer.’ The schedule should help out. After a Thanksgiving trip to face the Lakers on Friday and Sacramento on Saturday, the Mavs play seven straight at home to start December. That stretch includes the Clippers, Bobcats, Hawks and Thunder. It also features the Suns, Spurs and the Chauncey Billups-led Nuggets.”

Steve Weinman of CelticsBlog:  “The rationalizations that I’ve heard around don’t seem to add a whole lot of credence to Perk’s on-floor behavior.  He plays a physical game, sure, but there is plenty of contact on the interior in this league that goes by without incident.  It’s the inability to walk away after the fact that gets guys in trouble, and Perk not walking away does the Celtics little good.  Getting the job done by bruising and banging on the floor sends a message to opponents that they need to be ready to play when they walk in against the Celtics.  Yapping afterwards only raises red flags for the officials. The idea that he is an emotional player doesn’t cut it as a viable excuse either. The league allows all manner of yelling and screaming on the court by its players.  Doing so demonstratively in the face of an opposing player or a referee is the equivalent of filing a request for a technical.  Playing hard is great, but it needs to be coupled with playing smart, and a big part of that is harnessing emotion into a form in which it helps a player rather than risks extra points against his team or his removal from the court.”

Casey Holdahl of Trail  “The Trail Blazers’ ability to take care of the ball is the other major reason for their better than expected record. Portland ranks 1st in fewest turnovers, averaging just 12.4 a game. That only tells half of the story though. A team that plays at a slow pace like the Trail Blazers is bound to have fewer turnovers (fewer possessions = fewer turnovers), but the fact that Portland is also 2nd in assist-to-turnover ratio proves almost categorically that the Blazers are, in fact, careful with the ball. Being 2nd in the league in opponent steals buttresses that claim.”

Kevin Eastman Basketball:  “Had an interesting situation the other night before our game at Minnesota. As often happens, the main floor of the arena was being used for a youth basketball game prior to our game. Ray Allen always shoots three hours before every game — like clockwork. Since the main floor wasn’t available for another hour, we had to find an alternative. We found out there was another court in the arena, so we headed down there. So as we’re walking into that small gym we hear a ball already bouncing — it’s Mike Miller already into his shooting workout. Two of the best shooters in the game today, three hours before the game, making sure that they continue to work and prepare for the game! There is no magic formula that makes them two of the best shooters in the league. They work at it all the time. There they were, at opposite ends of the court working on their game shots — game shots from game spots, and each repetition at game speed.”

Brandon Jennings:  “So we had the game on Sunday against Scavolini Spar Pesaro…and we lost 106-93. It was pretty ugly. At one point I think we were down by 30pts. But my teammates never gave up. Allen Ray and Andre Hutson played really hard trying to keep us in the game. Hutson had 18pts, A Ray had 20pts. I only played 8mins in the game…5pts, 1asst. Not bad for 8mins, I guess…but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about not getting much PT. No matter how much time I get on the floor in games, nothing is going to stop me from working hard every day, like staying after practice to shoot, getting to practice 30mins before to hit the weights, etc. I want to be the best I can be on the floor for my team, and I want to show my team I care so I will always be prepared. I’m never going to stop working, this has always been a big part of who I am. I take a lot of pride in knowing that I work as hard as I do.”

The Painted Area:  Highlights some of Shaquille O’Neal’s best ‘tweets’

Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail:  “The benefits of attacking Calderon, or simply making him work harder by picking him up the length of the court also expose the Raptors’ lack of quality depth behind him. Mitchell has been diplomatic when he suggests that patience is required as backups Will Solomon and Roko Ukic learn the ropes in their first seasons playing point guard in the NBA. Opposing scouts are less so. ‘Neither of those guys have shown they deserve to be in the NBA,’ said one NBA scout, who has seen the Raptors on a couple of occasions this season and asked not to be named. ‘Certainly not on a good team. At best they should be your fifth guard and inactive most nights. If I was Sam I’d be playing Calderon 40 minutes a game.’ As it is, Calderon is averaging a career-high 37 minutes a game. He is second in the NBA with 9.4 assists a game.”

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star:  “The Pacers were 10th in the league in field goal percentage defense last season. Being 29th (38.6 percent) in the league in 3-point field goal defense was a significant problem. When the Pacers would get stops on the perimeter, they would allow layups. And when they were able to cutoff dribble penetration, they would fail to contest 3s. The two were rarely done together on a consistent basis, which caused coach Jim O’Brien to tweak his defensive system in the offseason. The biggest change O’Brien implemented is a new strategy for defending pick-and-rolls. The Pacers used to push the ball handler toward the middle of the court. Now, the goal is to shorten their defensive rotations by forcing opponents to the baseline.”

Don Seeholzer of the Pioneer Press:  “After 11 games of experimenting with starters, rotations and minutes, the Timberwolves finally hit on a winning formula Sunday by going back to one of sport’s most basic tenets: the KISS principle. Or, in their case, KISR for ‘Keep It Simple, Randy.’ That’s Randy Foye, the Wolves’ starting point guard, who credited a pared-down playbook for the season-high 23 points and career-high 14 assists he had in a stunning 106-80 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Auburn Hills, Mich. ‘Everything was simplified tonight,’ Foye said after the game. ‘Coach brought me to the side a couple of times and told me to just go.’ Coach Randy Wittman said Monday it wasn’t a case of going back to basics as much as cutting down the play calling and running fewer set plays. He also said the simplified approach was made across the board, for all the players, although Foye was the most obvious beneficiary.”

Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News:  “The Spurs would have preferred Ginobili not play for Argentina, because they could have monitored the ankle and perhaps made a medical decision earlier in the summer. If the ankle wasn’t responding — and it wasn’t — surgery could have been in July. Ginobili would have been back at least a month earlier. But that brings up the final blessing in disguise, the one that was on display in Memphis. After all, if Ginobili had returned a month ago, would Mason be making people forget about Maggette? Would a rookie, George Hill, already be playing as if he belonged? Would Gregg Popovich be looking at the best backcourt, in terms of both talent and depth, that he’s ever had?”

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:  “It’s been 17 days since the Trail Blazers’ happy-go-lucky season was momentarily sidetracked by Sergio Rodriguez’s Spanish agent, Jose Ortiz, who complained to a Spanish newspaper about Rodriguez’s playing time and role. And during these 17 days, a noticeable transformation has materialized involving the Blazers’ backup point guard: His playing time — and production — have dramatically increased. In the five games before Ortiz sparked the controversy, Rodriguez had been playing an average of 9:20. In the nine games since, he’s averaging nearly 18minutes per game. The increase is not only nearly double this season, but it’s also significantly more than last season, when he averaged just 8.7minutes per game. Rodriguez played 17 or more minutes in a game only twice last season. But since his Spanish agent’s public plea — and subsequent one-on-one sit-down with Blazers coach Nate McMillan to clear the air — Rodriguez has played 17 or more minutes five times. He’s played more than 20minutes three times, twice more than all of last season.”

Brett Edwards of NBA FanHouse:  “There’s a very simple reason that attendance has declined in the NBA, and it has nothing to do with the sport’s fans losing interest. It’s because the NBA is available on a wide variety of television networks that people have actually heard of and have access to. The NBA is on ESPN Wednesdays and Fridays, TNT on Thursdays, and on ABC every Sunday beginning in January. Oh, and the late stages of the playoffs and Finals are also nationally televised on ABC. The NHL? They have that big network contract with … Versus, which can be found on channel five-hundred-and-something on your local cable or satellite provider. Maybe. A little deeper look into the television thing shows that when the NBA is on, people definitely are watching. The 2008 Finals regularly allowed ABC to “win the night” in the ratings, with Game 3 registering a rating of 9.2. What happens when the NHL does get a shot to be televised on a major network? Not much.”

Wages of Wins:  “One should note that one player is left off the list.  Maurice Williams – Cleveland’s major offseason acquisition — has really not made much difference.   His current WP48 of 0.071 is below average, and not much different from what the Cavaliers were getting from guard Devin Brown last season [WP48 of 0.080 in 2007-08]. M. Williams is not the only Cavalier player to decline.  Daniel Gibson is also offering less. The declines of M. Williams and Gibson, though, are offset by improvements in the play of Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak, and LeBron James.  Pavlovic and Szczerbiak have gone from very, very bad to just bad.  LeBron, though, has gone from amazing to… well, something beyond amazing.  Last year LeBron’s WP48 was a career high.  This year, despite a small decline in shooting efficiency, LeBron is offering even more.  After thirteen games – primarily due to an improvement in rebounding — his WP48 stands at 0.378.”

Anthony Macri of Basketball Prospectus:  “Do LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers truly have a chance to win it all with their team as presently constituted? Or, more to the point, is James good enough to put this team on his back and carry them to a championship? The Cavaliers receive nearly one third of their points per game from LeBron. However, if we take the group as a whole, they are not all that dissimilar from the rest of the league’s title contenders. In fact, the two top contenders have a lot in common with the Cavs. The Los Angeles Lakers have eight players averaging six points or more and four players in double figures for scoring. The Boston Celtics, likewise, have eight players averaging six or more points, with three of them scoring in double figures each night. The Cavaliers have seven players scoring at least six points per game, with four in double figures. In terms of point differential so far this year, Cleveland ranks second in the league, behind only Los Angeles, and ahead of Boston (and 27 other teams).”

Dave McMenamin of  “Brown thinks that this Lakers team with a clean shaven Zen Master and No. 24 running the show can match the feat accomplished 12 years ago by the bearded coach and No. 23. ‘Of course Phil [Jackson] is down there, but they are a little more talented than we were when I played for the Bulls,’ Brown said. ‘At the same time, the NBA is getting some parity. There are a lot of teams out there that are good … hopefully if they stay injury free, maybe they can get there. But 70 games to win in the NBA is a lot of games now because so many teams are good at home. Some teams are getting good now, the East is catching up with the West and the West is going to be strong for some years to come. It’s a long season, anything can happen.’”

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Never loose a bet again Says:

    I could not have written anything better myself.

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