The Fundamentals

» January 23, 2009 11:01 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Bethlehem Shoals of the Sporting News:  “Fans couldn’t care less about stats, or records, or really anything that players have done this season; they vote based on a combination of exposure, hometown loyalty and past track record. This flawed process, which gets beaten to death every year, puts all the more onus on the coaches’ selection of the reserves. And that’s where the ‘good stats, bad team’ monolith can exert an influence when the situation really calls for case-by-cast examination. Case in point: Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Kevin Durant and Al Jefferson. All are young players on the ascent, stars in the making, who on paper are having All-Star-worthy seasons. All also happen to play for teams below .500, albeit some of them more disastrous than others. Standard basketball thinking holds that, if Indiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma City and Minnesota have serious problems winning, these players’ shine and shimmer might as well be a mirage. Even if we’re willing to accept that Granger, Harris, Durant and Jefferson as the focal points of their respective teams, we have to dock their value because their presence isn’t leading directly to victory.”

Don Seeholzer of the Pioneer Press:  “The Wolves on Wednesday sent an overnight package to each of the other 14 Western Conference coaches who will vote on reserves for the game. Included in ‘Big Al’s Road Trip” is a foldout map featuring some of his notable performances and a head-to-head comparison with four Western Conference centers: Houston’s Yao Ming, Phoenix’s Shaquille O’Neal, Golden State’s Andris Biedrins and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Andrew Bynum. Last but not least, each coach received a GPS device with a highlight video of Jefferson, who said he’s grateful for the help. ‘It means a lot,’ he said. ‘Hopefully, it will convince these coaches to get me in.’ Jefferson has made a strong case for himself on the court, leading the Wolves in scoring (22.2 points) and rebounding (10.6) heading into tonight’s game against New Orleans at Target Center. That the team is winning, with a 7-2 record this month, doesn’t hurt, either.”

Canis Hoopus:  “Kevin Love does more to help his team by way of favorably ended/extended possessions than O.J. Mayo does for his and it’s really not even close. I’ll ask it again: What is the single most important thing a basketball player can do at any single point in any given basketball game? How do these two players favorably end possessions?  How do they avoid unfavorably ending possessions.  How do these favorables and unfavorables play within the context of how their teams play? O.J. Mayo is a fairly decent rookie scorer.  He has a superior eFG than Love and he scores nearly 20 ppg for the Griz.  Put into the 100 possession mix, he accounts for roughly 10-20 shooting.  Beyond that, his success compared to Love is largely a measure of the number of minutes and possessions he accounts for on his particular team.”

Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer:  “Since West was hurt four games ago during a loss at Chicago, James is shooting only 40 percent from the field. In those games, the Cavs are 2-2. James is taking 34 percent of the team’s shots, compared to 25 percent for the season. He’s hauling an enormous load in those last four games, averaging 29.4 points, 10 rebounds and 8.8 assists. But he can’t keep taking 30 of his team’s 78 shots as he did Wednesday night. Or averaging 43 minutes, as he has in the last four games. When West teamed up with Williams, both have ball-handling and point guard skills. James trusted them to set up the offense, and they also could make open shots. That’s why James was shooting a career-high 50 percent this season when both guards are healthy, and doing it in a career-low 37 minutes a game.”

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:  “In the star-driven, points-obsessed NBA culture, Diaw is an anomaly: The Bobcats’ Larry Brown has to coax him to shoot more, just as all his coaches did. Averaging 13.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists, Diaw will give up his own 50-percent shot opportunity to search out a teammate’s 70-percent opportunity. He’s daring and strong enough to pass one-handed 20 feet through traffic for a teammate’s layup. And tonight he gets to show off what the Suns gave away when Phoenix makes its one visit to Time Warner Cable Arena. Since Diaw and teammates Raja Bell and Sean Singletary arrived via trade last month, the Bobcats are 10-9, a huge improvement on the team’s 7-16 start. Call that the Diaw Effect: A process that started in Senegal and France’s wine country, wound through a Paris sports academy, then detoured through Atlanta and Phoenix on the way to Charlotte. They say in Diaw’s native Bordeaux that the wine’s no good unless the vines are good. In that way, Diaw has great roots.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “This is the time of year when rookies come face to face with the grind of a more intense schedule and the greater physical demands of the NBA. By now, first-year players have experienced more than the equivalent of a full college basketball season. Mental and physical fatigue can become a factor with inconsistent performances, and Grizzlies rookies Mayo, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur acknowledge being affected by the ‘wall’ at different times. ‘It’s true that it’s much tougher to play this schedule,’ Gasol said. ‘As a rookie you hit a lot of walls. You’re still trying to figure everything out when you’re not winning many games. If you win more, you probably don’t feel it at all.’ In Gasol’s case, the NBA adjustment isn’t so much about the number of games played. His European professional experience called for as many as 70 in nine months. Gasol, though, would hardly ever play more than twice a week.”

Valley of the Suns:  “Amare’s come-from-behind win over Carmelo no question represents a victory for viral marketing. STAT’s Vote4Amare Web site and YouTube videos featuring everyone from George Washington to Barack Obama to Shaq cardboard cutouts extolling his virtues clearly were hits with the voting fans. Plus, we learned that billboards in China result in more votes than Dirk Nowitzki’s popularity in Germany, as Dirk finished a distant sixth behind Bruce Bowen, Ron Artest and Carmelo despite probably being most deserving according to the numbers. Honestly, I think this selection could be the best thing that ever happens to the man known as STAT and the Suns. Now that he’s being recognized as an All-Star starter with the LeBrons, D-Wades and Dwights of the world like he so badly wanted, maybe he’ll be impelled to give the kind of consistent effort those guys do each and every night.”

The Dream Shake:  “I hesitate to use the word ‘cancer’ — but it’s possible that McGrady (without even realizing it) has been hurting his own team for quite some time. I know McGrady wants to play.  I know he wants to win.  Badly.  I don’t think he’s selfish at all.  I do think he’s prone to being moody.  Unfortunately, because he’s the highest-profile player on the team, the other 14 members on the roster are prone to following his lead.  If Tracy mopes… the team mopes.  If Tracy is lethargic, so is everyone else.  Again, it’s not necessarily his fault, per se, but the difference in attitude and energy on the court in McGrady’s absence requires a closer look. Rick Adelman’s offense is based on passing and movement.  It’s also geared towards taking advantage of fast-break opportunities when they are presented.  With McGrady in the lineup… well… how often did anyone see Adelman’s offense put to use?  The same thing happened last year.  The offense never ‘clicked’ until McGrady was out of the lineup last January and he was forced to watch others run the offense to perfection (which not so coincidentally led to the Streak).”

Neil Paine of  McGrady’s Peak

Travis Heath of HOOPSWORLD:  “Kevin Martin told a group of reporters after Tuesday’s embarrassing 118-99 loss in Denver that he was fine physically.  Once the throng of reporters cleared, your friendly neighborhood columnist approached Martin and said: ‘It looks like you’re playing on one leg out there.’ A tired smile appeared on Martin’s face and he asked: ‘Is it really that noticeable?’ My response was to simply nod my head affirmatively. ‘When I decided to come back I just decided to ride this season out,’ Martin expounded.  ‘I’ll worry about it in April.  I don’t know how to look at it.  I just felt like I was ready to go back out there and play again.  I’ll just continue to gut it out.  You’re right, I do feel like I’m playing on one leg right now.’”

Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee:  “The Kings and their still-declining defense gave up 110 points to a team that had scored in triple digits just three times in its previous 21 games and that ranked 26th in scoring (94.6). They allowed the Wizards to shoot 51.8 percent, far better than their norm (44.6 percent), continuing an atrocious two-week period defensively. Over seven games beginning with an overtime loss to Miami on Jan. 9, the Kings have allowed an average of 120.4 points while falling to 29th in opponents’ points per game (107.7) and 28th in opponents’ field-goal percentage (47.79). All of which didn’t help with their place in history. At 10-33, these Kings are on pace to challenge for the worst record in franchise history that is held by the Cincinnati Royals of 1958-59 (19-53 in a 72-game season) and the 1959-60 Royals (19-56 in a 75-game schedule). They are also on pace to become the worst team in the Sacramento era the 1989-90 Kings went 23-59. ‘Losing is not fun,’ swingman John Salmons said. ‘You get criticized every day. People talk bad about you every day. You know that you’re better than (how) you’re out there performing or producing.’ The recent change is the way in which the Kings have lost.”

Adam Lauridsen for the San Jose Mercury News:  “Sometime in February, the Warriors might actually have a team completely healthy and entirely at Don Nelson’s disposal.  When Nelson looks down his bench, he’ll see more firepower than he’s had in a long time.  There’s one thing, however, that he and the Warriors organization have relied upon all season long that will now be missing: excuses. When the Warriors finally work their way up to full strength, I expect them to be a considerably improved team.  Do I expect them to set off on an epic run for the playoffs?  Absolutely not, but they should manage something close to .500 ball for the remainder of the year once Ellis, Biedrins, Jackson, Maggette and Crawford are all healthy.  The lottery implications of a close but no playoffs run are obvious and have been well documented elsewhere.  We’ll have the rest of the season to debate them.  What’s more interesting to me at the moment is what happens if the Warriors don’t find that Ellis’ return suddenly turns around their season.  If the team jumps from being a .300 club to a .400 club, will the casual fans — let alone the die-hards reading this — really feel all that much better?”

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:  “Speaking moments after center Alonzo Mourning announced his retirement, Riley said Thursday while he appreciates his team’s position in the playoff race, long-term championship aspirations supersede current considerations. ‘The point is that the big picture always trumps the present moment,’ he said. ‘While the present moment is important, I am not going to do something to take away from what I think we can see down the road.’ Riley stressed two goals: Maintaining his team’s salary-cap flexibility for the 2010 offseason, when his own Dwyane Wade and others such as LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire could be free agents; and finding a post-up scoring presence to continue his team’s lineage of Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal. ‘There’s a lot of good things, and I don’t want to mess with that,’ he said of his team’s current state. ‘I will do something that would help the team win now and also help the team in the future.’ It is a future, Riley said, that has to transcend the Heat’s current small-ball approach.”

Roundball Mining Company:  “The Nuggets began the season with a vigor and attention to detail on defense that had been lacking in previous seasons.  For the first month or so of the season they were statistically one of the top defensive teams in the NBA.  They regularly held their opposition to a shooting percentage of below 40% and there were several games you could point to where the Nuggets won with their defense.  It really seemed like something had clicked with the team and they were going to go from a mediocre defensive team to a very good, if not great, one. However, it has been a while since you could say that the Nuggets won a game with their defense. It has been 19 games (December 15, 2008 at Dallas) since they held a team to below 40% shooting after accomplishing that feat nine times in their first 24 games.  Over those 19 games their defensive efficiency is a putrid 112.2. That would place them as one of the bottom five defensive teams in the NBA.  Denver has allowed their opponents to shoot 47.2% over those 19 games.  Once again, that would put them near the bottom of the league. Things look even more bleak when you compare this team to last seasons’ squad which was a team that could not slow down, let alone stop, a quality offensive team when it mattered most.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “Few players would ever admit to not respecting their coaches. The only real proof is on the court. I thought the Bulls played with a lot of spirit at the start of the regular season and seemed energized by the emergence of Rose as a potential star. That spirit seemed to fade in December. Injuries played a part, but so did self-centered play and the frustration of silly mistakes. Have the players bought into Del Negro’s system? Not entirely, I’d say. Del Negro said on the day he was hired that defense would be the top priority and the Bulls rank 24th in points allowed. Then again, the defense is obviously handicapped by having so many young players at the inside positions. It’s no big secret: Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah are capable of playing solid defense, but both of them just don’t get themselves involved in as many plays as they could.”

Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “For an organization that has a hard-earned reputation for doing things on the cheap, replacing Iavaroni with Hollins seems decidedly, oh, what’s the word I’m looking for … Cheap! As in, why pay an extra penny when the franchise is going to lose three out of every four games anyway? Why talk to Avery Johnson or Jeff Van Gundy or any other coach who might cost more than the minimum? A coach like that might ask the team to spend actual money on players, too. There’s no telling what sort of trouble that could cause. Besides, the Grizzlies have embarked on a three-year-plan, remember. Heisley probably wants to wait and hire an experienced coached in three years.”

David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel:  “Its NBA agenda is Kobe and LeBron. Though some nights it’s LeBron and Kobe, with guest appearances by the Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Shaq and Eva Longoria behind the Spurs bench. There’s a good business reason for that. Viewers are attracted to those performers. But the star-making system has constructed a false reality. Howard experienced it Tuesday at the presidential inauguration. People couldn’t help noticing the 6-11guy in the crowd. And you know what he heard as much as anything? ‘How could y’all beat the Lakers?’ It’s the natural question when people are fed huge nightly doses of Phil Jackson. Then a team like Orlando comes along and they are shocked to learn there is basketball life outside L.A., Boston and LeBron. ‘So much stuff is written about how underrated you are,’ Stan Van Gundy said. ‘How can you be underrated when every article written is about how underrated you are?’”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:  “‘At the end of the day, [it's] one win or one loss,’ Van Gundy said ‘We’re not the BCS, where the polls and the power ratings and all of that ridiculous stuff matters. This is a legitimate sport.’ Van Gundy is absolutely right, but, still, it doesn’t seem quite right to call this simply one of 82 games. Not if you were at the arena Thursday night. Not if you saw scalpers trying to get a couple of hundred bucks per seat from fans who braved the cold and showed up hours before the game in search of tickets. Not if you saw Tiger Woods sitting courtside high-fiving Stuff the mascot before tipoff. How do we know it was one of the biggest regular-season games in recent Magic memory? Because Magic founder Pat Williams handed out yet another new book he’s authored — Chicken Soup for the Basketball Soul — to sports writers before the game. This game wasn’t exactly chicken soup; it was more like Boston clam chowder for the Magic soul. The feel and fervor leading up to tipoff was like going back in time to the Shaq years.”

Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban have been waiting all season for a launching point that would propel the Mavericks, if not into the elite group of teams in the league, then at least in the neighborhood. That moment seemed to arrive in Philadelphia on Monday when Dirk Nowitzki hit a stunning last-second shot to give Dallas a dramatic two-point victory over the 76ers. What could have been a key moment in the season quickly turned to disappointment, however, as the Mavericks were no-shows in Milwaukee and suffered a 133-99 loss Wednesday that Nowitzki called ‘embarrassing.’ Could such a loss serve as a wakeup call for their game against the Pistons tonight? Of course it could, but as Nowitzki pointed out, the Mavericks seem to be getting a wakeup call ‘every other game.’”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “There is a 100 percent chance that Popovich will spend much of the next three months preaching fire-and-brimstone defense. Heading into the second half, the Spurs rank 19th in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense, the metric Popovich believes most honestly defines a team’s defensive prowess. Opponents are shooting 45.5 percent against them, giving the Spurs a wide swath of room for improvement — improvement Popovich says is mandatory. ‘We’re not going to outscore anybody,’ Popovich said. ‘We have to out-defend people.’ It was one too many defensive breakdowns that ultimately caused Mt. Popovich to explode last week. After Philadelphia hit 50 percent of its shots and scored 30 fast-break points in a 22-point victory over the Spurs last Friday, Hill finally saw the fire-in-the-hole ballistics from Popovich he had expected in November. Popovich told the assembled media, ‘We suck on ‘D.’‘ Behind closed doors, he told his players much, much worse.”

Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:  “Jerry Sloan has previously mused that playing on back-to-back nights shouldn’t be all that difficult for pros to do. After all, unlike college students, they don’t have to attend lectures by professors, worry about book reports or do anything but concentrate on playing hoops. No school to bother with, in other words. Maybe the Jazz coach should start assigning some homework and longer study hall sessions. The reason: Including Wednesday night’s 108-99 loss in Houston, the Jazz are now 1-8 on the second night of back-to-back games. While algebra quizzes likely aren’t the answer, that statistic is all the more alarming because Utah has 11 more sets of contests on consecutive nights left in their final 38 games.”

X’s & O’s of Basketball:  Lakers Organized Early Offense

Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald:  “‘With everyone’s career, with everything you do, a clock starts,’ he said. “Father Time catches up with everybody.’ Mourning, almost 39, decided to walk away without ‘a limp or a cane.’ He paused a couple times, admitted he was on the verge of tears. He also chuckled, made fun of himself, waxed philosophical, got opinionated, demurred to his wife. He is a fascinating middle-age man. During his years with the Miami Heat, we watched Mourning block shots, flex biceps, foul out, brawl with the Knicks. We watched him come back from a kidney transplant. We watched him mentor Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal to an NBA championship. We watched Zo grow up. Today, Mourning is that rarest of gems: a professional athlete with vision beyond the white lines. He has matured from volcanic NBA center to thoughtful community leader. He was all about winning. Now he is all about giving.”

Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News:  “It was 10 years ago this month commissioner David Stern and union director Billy Hunter met all night in New York and came up with half a season. The Rocky talked to four holdover players from that 50-game campaign. All four – Barry, Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups, Sacramento guard Bobby Jackson and Kings center Brad Miller – believe another lockout is very possible in 2 1/2 years, and players must do what they can to avoid it. The NBA has to decide by Dec. 15, 2010, whether to extend the collective-bargaining agreement through the 2011-12 season. If not extended, it expires June 30, 2011. With the economy in shambles, teams are watching profits fall off faster than Allen Iverson’s game. When they have a chance, NBA owners are expected to want to continue to reel in bloating salaries and try to steer the NBA closer toward a hard salary cap.”

3 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. mr. showtime Says:

    I came to read something by Brandon Hoffman and found snippets from everyone else?!?

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    How are you doin’ Showtime?

    I was busy with some behind the scenes stuff this week.

    Did you see my Orlando Magic column:

    Also, I write RealGM’s Scoop Du Jour daily:

    Thanks for checking in. Miss talking hoops with you.

    Hope all is well.

  3. dusty Says:

    hey i’ve got an idea. how about if you, and mr. showtime get together and shoot some hoops?

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