The Fundamentals

» January 17, 2009 2:33 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail:  “When Nash led St. Michaels University School to the B.C. title in 1992, Triano had a newspaper photo blown up into a poster and delivered to Nash’s house in Victoria. He even watched Nash display his considerable soccer skills. ‘I was recruiting him and wanted to show that I had interest in him as a person and show support for him overall, not just in basketball,’ Triano said. But now came the moment of truth. A little-known NCAA Division I school in the San Francisco area, Santa Clara, got alerted to the shifty white point guard from Canada and prepared to offer him a full scholarship. With time to kill waiting for the ferry, Nash decided to ask for some advice. ‘I asked Jay what he would do in my situation,’ Nash recalled. Triano didn’t hesitate. ‘I told him he should go play in the NCAA and see what happens,’ Triano said. ‘It was an easy call. You think about the kid first, and you don’t want them to have any regrets.’”

Jerome Soloman of the Houston Chronicle:  “In town to take on the Rockets tonight, Wade said he understands what McGrady is going through. ‘It’s very frustrating,’ he said. ‘It’s very hard, first of all, to rehab two different injuries at once like that, and get your body ready for an NBA season and what you have to put your body through.Especially when you have the talent of a guy like Tracy, who knows his talents, who even though he’s hurt can still come out some games and score 20-something (points).’ Wade, who had surgery on a dislocated shoulder and left knee (tendinitis) in May 2007, said those good nights are misleading. ‘He’ll then have maybe a quarter, maybe a half, when he doesn’t have that strength in his knee,’ Wade said. ‘Mentally it’s very tough.’ Like Wade, McGrady, who had surgery in May on a torn labrum in his left shoulder and to remove loose bodies from his left knee, was given a six-month timetable for rehabilitation of the knee. Like Wade, McGrady has admitted the mental wear of not knowing when or if the knee would respond has taken its toll.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “They pulled off unexpected victories over Toronto and Cleveland this week and have another chance to impress when San Antonio visits the United Center tonight. It can be easy to take Hinrich for granted because he’s the type of player who does a number of things well but rarely builds eye-popping stat lines. But with the veteran guard back on the floor, the Bulls have seen increased enthusiasm, ball movement and defensive pressure. They set a season high with 33 assists in Wednesday’s victory at Toronto. A night later, they limited Cleveland to 1 point over a five-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter and overtime. With the Bulls sharing the ball so well, it’s probably no coincidence that forward Luol Deng produced a combined 38 points and 22 rebounds in those wins. Derrick Rose raved about the help Hinrich has given him.”

Jason Quick of The Oregonian:  “After being named the Las Vegas summer league Most Valuable Player, he couldn’t even sniff the court for the first two months of the Blazers’ season, lost amid experienced players like Brandon Roy, Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez. And just for a little salt-in-the-wound effect, the players he performed so well against in college and AAU games — fellow rookies O.J. Mayo in Memphis, Derrick Rose in Chicago and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City — were putting up big statistics and getting all the playing time they wanted. ‘That messed with my mind, too,’ Bayless said. ‘Not playing? I didn’t know how to handle it.’ So while Portland was abuzz and popping with a feel-good team of young stars, Bayless on a daily basis felt like screaming. But he said he didn’t want to gripe or sulk or even show his frustration.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post:  “Curry’s window of opportunity to get back in the mix may close soon because he reinjured his knees after his season debut. The Garden is very sensitive to off-the-court issues – particularly after the Anucha Browne-Sanders sexual harassment trial – so a recent sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Curry by his male driver can’t bode well for the center. Curry hasn’t practiced in eight day, since developing swelling in his left knee. Curry already did not seem to be in game shape, even after more than a week of practicing. The Knicks were a minus-9 when Curry was briefly on the court. ‘Every time he seems to take a step forward, his knees start to flare up and he can’t go until it’s not hurting him,’ D’Antoni said. ‘It’s setting him back. He’s got to get a steady diet – that’s the wrong choice of words – a steady regimen.’”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “The education of Andrew Bynum continues on many fronts near the midpoint of his fourth NBA season. For Lakers special assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it’s a chance to emphasize the importance of the big picture. When they go over game video, often at Bynum’s home, the league’s all-time leading scorer details the significance of the other nine players on the court besides Bynum. ‘I try and show him what’s happening because a lot of times during the game, he can’t see the whole picture,’ Abdul-Jabbar said. ‘If I get together with him, I can show him what’s happening, what’s causing these things to happen.’”

Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press:  “Final all-star auditions are at hand for Timberwolves center Al Jefferson, whose profile figures to have risen with his team’s fortunes in 2009. Houston big man Yao Ming is 700,000 votes ahead of the Phoenix Suns’ Shaquille O’Neal in fan balloting to start for the Western Conference at the Feb. 15 All-Star Game in Phoenix. Yet the field is wide open for reserve centers. Head coaches choose two guards, two forwards, one center and two players regardless of position from their respective conference. Jefferson entered Friday night’s game leading all NBA centers in scoring (22.2 points a game) and ranked 11th overall in rebounding (10.4). Wolves coach Kevin McHale, who votes in the process for the first time, said he does not plan to lobby his colleagues for Jefferson to make his first all-star team. ‘They’re going to get there on their own merits,’ McHale said.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “If there was a reason for Carter’s athleticism to ‘come back,’ it probably had to do with his needing ankle surgery last summer. Second, the notion that the Nets star was ‘done’ at age 31 doesn’t exactly fit the 21-6-5 portfolio he carried a year ago — disappointing as that season was — considering it matched that of All-Stars from Atlanta (Joe Johnson) to Portland (Brandon Roy). And third, does ‘pretty good year’ fit the general perception of Carter’s play this season? ‘Oh, I don’t think that’s the perception at all,’ Nets president Rod Thorn said Friday. ‘Maybe Vince isn’t as athletic as he was five years ago, but who is? He’s been terrific. And those guys on TV will say anything. You ever hear (Webber) on that show with Gary Payton?’”

Clips Nation:  “Of all qualified NBA players (those on pace to make 300 field goals this season), Baron Davis is dead last in field goal percentage.  Of course, Baron takes a lot of threes, so that’s going to affect his shooting percentage, right?  So what about effective field goal percentage, taking threes into account?  Dead last.  (As it happens, his three point shooting is not elevating his eFG much, because he’s 113th in the league out of 118 qualified players in three point shooting.)  Still, there are other ways to score, like free throws.  What about points per shot, taking into account free throws made?  Dead.  Last. Now Baron has never been a high percentage shooter.  We knew that going in.  And so we will overlook a relatively low shooting percentage.  But he is, by any reasonable standard, the worst shooter in the NBA this season. The worst one!  And this is the face of the franchise, the highest paid player on the team, the marquee free agent and point guard we never thought we’d get, the guy that was going to change everything.”

48 Minutes of Hell:  The Small Ball Spurs

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:  “Defense has been the theme during the Thunder’s 4-4 mark in January. Oklahoma City is allowing opponents to shoot just 44.2 percent in the past seven games and has allowed 100 points or more only twice over that span. ‘We still have some work to do on the defensive end,’ said Jeff Green. ‘We’re giving up a lot of easy layups, and that’s stuff we can control. But tonight was a key example of how we should play every night.’ The Thunder out-rebounded the Pistons 52-35, impressively contesting shots and closing out positions by limiting Detroit to five offensive rebounds. The Thunder held Detroit to just eight free throw attempts.”

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:  “There are compelling reasons why the Stuckey-Iverson-Hamilton-Prince lineup deserves a full and fair chance to prove its mettle. It’s clear to everyone – much more clear than the big-small debate – that the Pistons are a better team with Stuckey on the floor. So then it really comes down to which one of those three other perimter players you’re going to remove from the starting lineup. Since it could hardly be argued that taking Prince out of the lineup would augur well for the Pistons’ defense, the debate has centered on Hamilton and Iverson. And all I’ve maintained is this: If those two guys aren’t giving the Pistons the things that have made them All-Stars – a dead-solid Hall of Fame lock in Iverson’s case – then they have no realistic shot at competing for an NBA title. And the surest way for them to give the Pistons what they’ve got is to keep them in the starting lineup – in the roles with which they’re comfortable.”

John Schuhmann of NBA.com:  “The last three wins have come against the Hawks (in Atlanta), Blazers and Spurs, by an average of 19.3 points. And the streak was preceded by a two-point loss in San Antonio. The Sixers’ turnaround has come from their offense. Under Maurice Cheeks, Philly scored 103.0 points per 100 possessions, which put it near the bottom of the league. Under interim coach Tony DiLeo, the offensive efficiency is up to 112.8. And in the last seven games, it’s 121.1. Philly is running more, averaging 22.9 fast-break points over the last seven games and putting up a season-high 30 on the Spurs Friday, but they’re also more efficient with their half-court offense. DiLeo has given his players the green light at the 3-point line, and they’ve responded, hitting seven treys per game at a 50-percent clip during the winning streak. But they haven’t gone three-happy. They know their strength is speed and athleticism, and they’re being more aggressive in attacking the hoop and running the floor.”

Sactown Royalty:  “This is a subject more complicated than can be explained in a game recap, but it’s the biggest problem for the Kings defense: Sacramento does not make opponents take many long twos. So many opponent FGAs come from near the rim or from three. Long twos are the least efficient shot in the game: fewer fouls are drawn than with close shots and the make percentage will be less on average, and there’s no 50% bonus you get from threes. There’s a huge inverse relationship between opponent long 2PAs per ppponent FGAs and opponent shooting. Teams who force their opponents to shoot long twos tend have better defenses. How do you force those shots? You cover the three-point line, for one. And you cover for your friends in the paint.”

Raptors Republic:  “Alarm bells should be going off in Colangelo’s head after seen the Raptors’ effort and focus over the last two games. This is a do-or-die stretch for the team, if we fall a couple more games under .500 the season is over, and if we pull off a string of wins the season could be salvaged. In these crucial times the team is struggling to find the motivation to pull themselves together and put forth an honest 48-minute effort. With the result we’re down early and playing from behind the entire game and when we finally make the obligatory run, there’s not enough left in the tank to finish off anything. This team hasn’t shown the commitment, passion, effort, mental strength or desire to win anything. Talking the talk in post-practice scrums and acknowledging your mistakes in post-game interviews is getting old, at some point they’ll have to put their words into action and it hurts me to acknowledge that it’s just not going to happen.”

Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “The Mavs have given up an average of 108.3 points during the four-game skid with three opponents shooting at least 49.4 percent from the floor. Take away Phoenix’s 128 points and they’ve still given up an average of 101.7 during the losing streak, too many for a team dependent on two scorers — Nowitzki and Jason Terry — with Josh Howard out of the lineup because of a sprained left wrist. Howard is not expected to play tonight. ‘Obviously the opponents know that Jet and myself need big games for us to win. They’re coming for us,’ Nowitzki said. ‘They’re usually trapping Jet off the pick-and-roll and they’re trapping me when I post up and just trying to make me swing it to the weak side. ‘It still comes down to making some shots, making some plays, show-and-go, getting to the basket and finishing. But defensively, we’ve got to be solid. We can’t give up 110, 105 right now and expect to win.’”

Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News:  “Best Nuggets NBA team ever? Hmm. Check back in late spring. From those in the know, that’s the thinking regarding the Nuggets this season. But one thing is for sure: The bar isn’t too high. In Denver’s 33-year NBA history, the best record has been 54-28, in 1987-88. These Nuggets (27-13) are on pace to finish 55-27. With a win against Orlando tonight, the Nuggets would tie the 1977-78 team’s 28-13 record for the second- best midseason mark in the franchise’s NBA history, one game behind 1976-77’s 29-12.”

John Krolik of SLAM:  Kobe’s Chinese Press Junket

Janis Carr of the Orange County Register:  “Collins said Bryant’s commitment to his physical well-being is the reason at age 30, he can average 27.2 points in 36.2 minutes a game. ‘He’s been durable,’ Collins said. ‘I mean, given the number of games and playoff games he has played in his career, he’s incredible.’ Collins compared Bryant’s work ethic and desire to Michael Jordan, whom he coached with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. He said Jordan had an ‘encyclopedia-like mind’ and studied his opponents. ‘Kobe has the same kind of mind,’ Collins said. ‘That’s why he’s one of the great players. It’s not just his physical attributes, but his mind as well. He’s a defensive guy and a big-time scorer. He sees both ends of the court.’ James, he said, has switched his focus from being a scorer to more of a passer and defender and that has put him in the same class as a Bryant or Jordan.”

Tom Ziller of FanHouse:  “LeBron — who just turned 24 — has already had two full seasons statistically better than the peak of Kobe (who is now age 30). This season for LeBron looks to break MJ’s high standard — and Kobe’s peak is a mile back. The realist’s premonitions of LeBron’s reign over Kobe date back to ‘06, when a 21-year-old ‘Bron matched Kobe’s season shot for shot, box score for box score, win for win. Last season, LeBron officially broke away from Bryant. The comparison was not close last year. This season, the gulf is much, much larger. And Kenny Smith is still arguing that Kobe’s the best player in the world. It’s absolutely hilarious. I’m not sure what LeBron needs to do in order to prove his mettle — I imagine Kobephiles will point to his rings, but no one’s arguing Kobe circa 2002 is the G.O.A.T. — and I’m positive he doesn’t care what Smith or I or you say. But for the good of the world, for the good of the children … can we please take our heads out of [the sand] and admit reality?”

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “Let me introduce you to Otis Carter, the father of LeBron’s business partner Maverick Carter. LeBron calls him an uncle. I personally have known Otis for about 12 years and everybody around The Q knows him. These days he drives LeBron around and chats people up. He is really known for talking trash to players from his courtside seats. When LeBron was a rookie he was running smack at Paul Pierce and it got Pierce mad and he scored 40 on the Cavs, staring over at Otis after about every basket. A few years ago he got thrown out of a game by an official here in Cleveland. Then there was the night in L.A. when he got seats next to Denzel Washington and talked his ear off the whole game. Well, put another one in the Otis file tonight, he helped get Chris Paul tossed from the game.”

Ivan Carter of the Washington Post:  “For the most part, young players in the NBA are focused first on earning playing time and becoming starters, second on earning their first big contract and then only gradually come to understand the importance of playing for a winning team. So far this season, a youthful group that includes rookie JaVale McGee, second-year players Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Oleksiy Pecherov and Javaris Crittenton, and fourth-year player Andray Blatche have experienced a lot of losing. ‘The transfer from not playing to playing is the easy part,’ Tapscott said. ‘Every guy wants more minutes. Now all of a sudden you get more minutes and the real key is: Which switch flips? Every guy in the NBA has been a star somewhere else and the first thought is, ‘Great, I’m in and now I can get my numbers, which leads to getting paid.’”

Kurt Streeter of the Los Angeles Times:  “Today, instead of a high-powered job wooing college coaches and future superstars, Vaccaro toils in relative obscurity. With little fanfare, he rails at what he considers to be great injustice. ‘Completely and totally un-American; add to that, anti-free market,’ he says of the NBA age limit. ‘Absurdly arrogant . . . a cabal . . . racist’ are just some of his terms for the powers that rule big-time college sport. To press his point, he has taken to the college-lecture circuit, eagerly making his case at places such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Penn and the University of Maryland, where he has been extremely well-received, according to Wharton School of Business professor Ken Shropshire.”


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