The Fundamentals

» January 27, 2009 10:33 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “The list of players who have set career highs in scoring against the Bulls this season is long and features a mix of both young stars and run-of-the mill big men. Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey lit up the Bulls for 40 points. Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani (31), Charlotte rookie D.J. Augustin (29), Atlanta’s Al Horford (27), Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao (26) and Boston’s Kendrick Perkins (25) have all rung up career highs that still stood as of Monday morning. The players who have set season highs against the Bulls is an even longer list and contains familiar names: LeBron James (twice), Joe Johnson, Vince Carter, Jefferson, Pau Gasol, Travis Outlaw, Stephen Jackson, Mike Bibby and Rudy Gay. Even ex-Bulls center Ben Wallace piled up a season-high 13 points against his former team on Jan. 2. Wallace has one other double-digit scoring game this year (11 against Denver).”

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:  “Despite the multi-year contract, Jackson has the leeway to end things if he deems the physical grind more than he cares to handle. He is 63, and looks younger than his age after shaving his beard. But he had an angioplasty in 2003 to clear a blocked artery, and makes no secret of the fact he does not enjoy the travel required in the NBA. You wonder what Jackson would do if he retired, but he claims to have had a lot of fun in the year between his stints with the Bulls and Lakers. It’s the roster built by Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak that really provides the lure that will keep him coming back for more. Aside from its abundant talent, it includes players that require the sort of manipulating Jackson seems to find the most interesting part of his job.”

A. Sherrod Blakely of  “Teams used to treat the Detroit Pistons like NBA royalty, praising them for their hard work and tough defense. These days, the Pistons (24-19) seem defenseless, as one team after another works them over. Detroit is no longer among the Eastern Conference’s elite. Today, the Pistons are just another middle-of-the-pack club trying to move up in the world. ‘We been kicking (bleep) so many years, home and away, I guess they feel it’s time for some get-back,’ Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace said Sunday after losing to Houston 108-105. The Pistons, losers in seven of their past nine games, have been more than accommodating. Their defense used to lock teams up at will. Now, they play defense on a whim. The offense has as much flow as a clogged sink, evident by their ranking among the NBA’s worst scoring teams this season. And when you throw in that they have yet to play with the kind of consistent fight a veteran, playoff-tested team should have, it adds up to a once-proud franchise that now has little to boast about.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “The Rockets improvement began when Adelman trimmed his rotation to only those ready to practice and play every day and they put them to work on an offense they could run. He hasn’t had a chance to do that in this latest version of the Rockets, and likely will not have that chance. The Rockets don’t practice today and likely get Yao back on Wednesday. The turnaround, however, also began when the Rockets reacted to the ugly losses in that road trip to begin the month and became determined that if nothing else, they would play with energy and play together. They saw what they had done wrong and vowed to not let it happen again. Now they have another set of lessons. With or without Yao, they saw themselves at a different variety of their worst. ‘We’re not playing team ball,’ Rafer Alston said. ‘We were very selfish tonight. They were able to capitalize off of our selfishness. We have to decide if we’re going to play one-on-one or we’re going to pass the ball to each other and play team ball.”

David Friedman for  “Although the Cavs have not lost much ground in the standings, they clearly did not play at the same level without Ilgauskas, not just because 19-3 is obviously a better record than 10-4 but also because when Ilgauskas was in the fold the Cavs were posting an astonishing point differential of better than 13 per game, which would have shattered the NBA record in that category (12.3 ppg, set by the 1971-72 Lakers). Now their point differential has dropped to 10.7 ppg overall (including 7.5 ppg in the past 11 games); that is still tremendous and still the best in the league this season but the drastic decline reflects that the Cavs have not only been losing more frequently but also that they have squeaked out some close decisions, including three wins out West by six points or less. The two main players who picked up the slack for Ilgauskas were LeBron James and Anderson Varejao. James has reached double figures in rebounding five times in the past 11 games after doing so only twice in the first 31 games of the season. He has shifted to power forward and even center at times when the Cavs used a small lineup and he has narrowly passed Ilgauskas, Varejao and Ben Wallace to take over the team lead in rebounding for the season (7.4 rpg).”

The Painted Area:  “If you want your team to make the Finals, you must hope for a positive rebound margin for the regular season. And if you want to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy, at least a +1 rebound per game margin is pretty much required. Don’t have to be the best rebounding team to win the title, just can’t be a subpar board team. The D’Antoni-era Suns were criticized for not being able to protect the rim (and rightfully so), but their poor rebounding might have been just as crucial to their inability to get out of the West. So fans of Orlando, San Antonio, Denver, Detroit, & New Orleans have to feel a little uneasy because these teams’ all have rebound margins hovering around the 0 rpg margin mark. While contenders like the Celtics, Lakers, Cavs, and Rockets are strong boarding clubs all above the key +1 rpg threshold as of Jan. 25.”

Julian Garcia of the Daily News:  “It was about a year ago that two of the best players in the history of the NBA said Vince Carter’s best days were behind him. Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley cited Carter’s ‘shot’ knees as the reason why Carter was no longer the athletic freak who dominated the game with electrifying dunks and acrobatic shots. We’ll, today is Carter’s 32nd birthday and it seems like he’s still pretty darn good, no? In fact, a case could be made that he’s even better than he was when he was younger. Not a better athlete, but an all-around better player. Going into tonight’s game in Oklahoma City, Carter is averaging 21.5 points, five rebounds and 4.7 assists. Do those look like the numbers of an over-the-hill player to you? ‘Vince is unbelievable,’ said Lawrence Frank. ‘Vince is a complete basketball player. But he has been. He’s just very, very efficient. He can still do all the athletic plays.’ The one area where Carter has slowed down is dunking.”

Truth About It:  Shaq and Caron Butler Create Impromptu Kiss Cam Moment

Mike Wise of the Washington Post:  “Having known O’Neal for 15 years (full disclosure: I collaborated with him on his 2001 autobiography), I always enjoyed the irony of his middle name., Rashaun, which in Islam translates to ‘Little Warrior.’ Big Shaq, the Little Warrior. I remember asking his mother if she would have given her son that middle name if she knew he would grow into such a gargantuan man. ‘I knew I made a mistake when the train conductor wouldn’t believe his age and tried to make me pay more money,’ Lucille O’Neal said. ‘Shaquille was so big, I used to have to take his birth certificate everywhere. I think I put in his pocket at Halloween because none of the neighbors believed a boy that large was 10 years old.’”

Janny Hu of the San Francisco Chronicle:  “Maggette has come off the bench for the past five games and seven of 10 since returning from his monthlong injury layoff, and the 10th-year forward is thriving with his health and happiness in check. His numbers have increased across the board despite fewer minutes, and with a proven scorer now in reserve, Golden State’s offense – still in adjustment mode with the return of Monta Ellis – has taken on a more balanced feel. ‘Some people have got to make sacrifices,’ said Maggette, who is averaging 22.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 30 minutes as a reserve. ‘I can still score and do whatever I do coming off the bench. It’s not a big deal. We can ease the pain of people arguing and somebody’s got to be the big man and that’s fine.’”

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:  “The 6-foot-11 Nene has slimmed down to 248 pounds with 6.8 percent body fat. That’s down 16 pounds from the start of training camp. But the new, lean Nene is by design. A program put together using the expertise of Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess has helped Nene produce the best basketball of his career. ‘We had a specific goal that we wanted him to play at 250,’ Hess said. ‘So he’s progressively gotten leaner up to now. He’s exactly where we want him to be. If you go back to September, we mapped out a program from September to January of exactly how we were going to get it down. And he pretty much stuck to it to get exactly where he’s at.’ Though the goal was to get to the desired weight by January, Nene hit the mark by December. He is visibly thinner from the start of the season, and his ability to run the court for longer stretches during games has been the payoff. His quickness gives bigger opponents problems, yet he’s still strong enough to overpower smaller defenders.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “One of Griz coach Lionel Hollins’ first acts as Marc Iavaroni’s successor was to pull aside Conley before practice for a short and snappy sidebar. ‘He told me how much freedom I’ll have and what he’s expecting,’ Conley said, smiling. ‘He wants me to put the jets on and push the ball.’ Conley kept smiling. He couldn’t stop, actually. Hollins has said that the team’s style change may not be totally evident tonight when the Denver Nuggets visit FedExForum with designs on spoiling his debut. But Hollins made clear his short-term plans involve the Grizzlies’ second-year point guard. Hollins, a former all-star guard, intends to push Conley and see if the 21-year-old can produce. That means Conley will direct the show with the responsibility of calling sets and making plays without looking over his shoulder.”

Andrew Perna of RealGM:  “The contention is that Granger is carrying a poor team, but the Pacers are an above-average offensive club. Indiana averages 104.1 points per game, fourth in the league. Danny takes an average of 19.4 shots per contest. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Bryant, who all sit above Granger in scoring, take more shots per game than the Indiana forward. Even Dirk Nowitzki, who is fifth in scoring with 25.8 points, average more shot attempts than Granger. If Granger was just a scoring machine on a poor team, wouldn’t he be chucking shots at an Antoine Walker-like pace? He hasn’t just been a scorer in 2008-09 either, he’s also posting 5.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists (career-high), 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. According to RealGM executive editor Chris Reina’s Floor Impact Counter (FIC) statistic, Granger is the 22nd-rated player in the entire NBA. LeBron James is the only pure small forward in the league rated higher.”

Travis Heath of HOOPSWORLD:  “Millsap was a second round pick, he will be an unrestricted free agent meaning Utah will not have the right to match incoming offers.  Add to that fact Boozer has said he will opt out this summer and Okur has the ability to do the same thing, and it’s obvious this will be a huge summer for the Jazz organization. ‘I try not to think about it,’ Millsap said of his upcoming free agency.  ‘There’s still a long season left.  Things happen.  I’ve had a few injuries myself.  It’s been difficult to try and get over those, and you just never know what could happen.’ While Millsap tries not to think about it, he acknowledged he will likely be due a huge raise this summer.  As a result, common perception has been that Utah will have to choose between either Boozer or Okur. But might there be a way Utah could keep both moving forward? ‘Umm… I don’t know how the money thing works,’  Millsap said with a chuckle.  ‘I’m not really looking into that.  Me and Carlos would love to play with each other again.  All three of us — including (Okur) — make a good team.  Me playing behind Boozer, I don’t have a problem with it.’”

Ryan Jones for SLAM:  “The one thing I’ll cop to is giving European basketball teams (or this one, at least) too much credit for being able to CTC on time. I knew the rep of Euro teams frustrating their players with late (or non-existent) payments, but I guess I was convinced by the fact that this deal got so much publicity—not to mention the benefit of Sonny Vaccaro’s involvement—that the folks at Lottomatica Virtus Roma would’ve stepped up. Apparently they haven’t, which seems awfully short-sighted for them as a club, and for European hoops in general. If they were handling things better, it might’ve made Europe a much more attractive destination for the kids in the Class of ‘09 and beyond who will, and still might, consider following Brandon’s lead.”

Garry D. Howard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  “‘It was just a freak accident – just going up for a layup and being aggressive and landing on Luke Ridnour’s foot,’ Redd told the Journal Sentinel’s Charles Gardner on Monday morning. ‘I felt my knee twist and I didn’t know it was that severe. I got up and just hobbled off. ‘I knew it was something different.’ He may not know it now, but that something different will be the way he plays the game of basketball – which forever will be changed; just ask Ron Harper – along with the fast-fading prospect that the Bucks will remain in the city of Milwaukee and the Bradley Center, an NBA arena that has long been past its prime. Since signing Glenn ‘Big Dog’ Robinson to a $68.1 million contract back in 1994, Sen. Kohl has spent more than a half-billion dollars – that’s right, more than $500,000,000 – on player contracts in an attempt to keep the team viable in this small market.”

The Orlando Sentinel:   “Overall, the Western Conference still gets the nod, but continued shuffling at the top of the East and fast improvement at its bottom might be helping narrow the gap. During his team’s recent trip to Orlando, Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers (right) said that the rest of the country is just finally catching onto a trend he noticed last season during his team’s championship run. ‘Yes, the East is back,’ Rivers said. ‘I said last year that I thought the three or four best teams were in the East. Cleveland, Detroit and Orlando [along] with us; that’s the top four teams last year. No one wanted to hear that because the bottom of the East struggled a little bit. This year, the bottom of the East, you can get beat by any of those teams.’ Rivers even noted Charlotte (aided by new Coach Larry Brown) as ‘one of those teams nobody wants to play.’ The numbers seem to support Rivers’ hypothesis.”

5 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Tsunami Says:

    So Hoff what is the east v west record this year?

    I really find it hard to believe that you can still think the West is a better conference – especially now that Miami is showing it can beat anyone on any night.

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    I’m not sure about the East vs. West record. I don’t know where to locate that figure.

    Yes, I still think the West is head and shoulders above the East.

    Why has Miami shown they can beat anyone on any given night? Because they beat Orlando and Orlando beat LA twice? I don’t think Orlando is as good as advertised.

    There are only six teams in the East playing above .500. There are nine teams in the West with a .500 or better win percentage.

    You can make the argument that their records are inflated due to the bottom five teams in the West, but I’m not convinced that the bottom five teams in the West are that much worse than the bottom five teams in the East.

    The path to the Finals is still infinitely more difficult in the West.

    Let’s use Cleveland as an example.

    Would Cleveland prefer to play Milwaukee or Dallas/Utah in the first round?

    I know that a lot of analysts have Orlando ranked higher than San Antonio and New Orleans. But I’d take the Spurs and Hornets over the Magic in a 7 game series.

  3. LINKAGE | Zoner Sports Says:

    [...] Herald (via Baller Blogger)- Check out the lengthy list of players who have set their career highs in scoring againt the Bulls [...]

  4. Tsunami Says:

    See I’d rather playing Dallas than Milwaukee before the Redd injury, but I guess he’s not coming back.

    Orlando is definitely as good as advertised. How can you think they aren’t??

    Howard is a monster, and when you start doubling teaming him, they light it up from everywhere. They play defense now too.

    Atlanta will be a tough out in the playoffs, as will Miami.

    Dallas and Phoenix are just TERRIBLE teams. New Orleans has been exposed, and Portland is a team that only wins at home. If you are the lakers, your first round opponent might be tougher than the Cavs/Magic/Orlando first round opponent. But there will be a 6 or 7 game series between 2 of those 3 elite teams in the East. LA should roll through everyone.

    It’s really hard for me to think the West is any good when the Cavs are 15-2 against them and a lot of those games we have had 2 starters hurt. I mean, Cavs beat Denver by 20 in Denver, just got done beating Portland, Utah, and New Orleans without Z. I mean, the Cavs offense is at 60% right now and no one in the West except the Lakers can beat them.

    When was the last time Orlando lost to a West team?

    Do you really think the Lakers couldn’t take care of Dallas or Phoenix in a first round series? Utah is dangerous if healthy – which is a big if.

  5. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    The only reason I mentioned Dallas is because they’re in the eighth spot right now. I don’t think the Mavs will make the playoffs.

    I don’t think Orlando is as good as advertised because I don’t believe that Dwight Howard has reached the point where he can beat teams by himself. His offensive repertoire hasn’t expanded to the point that teams have to double team him in order to win. I think a good defensive team like the Celtics or Cavaliers can give him different looks throughout the game, stay home on Orlando’s three-point shooters, and win. Orlando is too dependent upon the long-ball for my tastes.

    Orlando is good defensively, but they aren’t that good.

    I agree with you about Phoenix. But make no mistake, Phoenix would destroy Milwaukee or Philly in a 7-game series. I’d take the Suns over the Heat too.

    LA isn’t going to roll through everyone in the West.

    You said, “It’s really hard for me to think the West is any good when the Cavs are 15-2 against them and a lot of those games we have had 2 starters hurt.”

    How many games did Cleveland win without both West and Z? Both Delonte and Z played in Denver.

    Cleveland beat Houston with Z & Delonte.

    Cleveland’s wins over New Orleans, Portland, and Utah were impressive. But it’s not as if Cleveland has been winning against the West and losing to the East. The Cavs beat the Celtics without Z too.

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