The Fundamentals

» February 4, 2009 10:36 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:  “Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy knows better than anyone that championships can be won even without spectacular point-guard play. Look no further than the first and last NBA championship team from this state — the 2005-06 Miami Heat. Van Gundy coached that Heat team (until he stepped down early in the season) and it won the title with Shaq and Dwyane Wade as the stars and Jason Williams playing point guard on the downside of his career. And does anybody even remember who the point guards were during the greatest dynasty of our era — the Jordan Bulls? B.J. Armstrong? Ron Harper? John Paxson? The Magic still have two all-stars on their roster in Dwight and Rashard Lewis and a third starter in Hedo Turkoglu who is a borderline all-star. If you have other stars on your team, you can contend without a superior point guard. And if you’re truly a great team with one of the game’s most dynamic superstars, you should be able to endure the loss of one of your other key components.”

Jason Friedman of  “It’s the sort of bad news every team hopes to avoid, but is inevitable over the course of the long NBA season. It’s also something with which Rockets’ fans are all too familiar. Talk to players and coaches about the subject and the first thing out of their mouth is that they never wish injury upon anyone – it’s always better, and more satisfying, to beat the opposition with both sides at full strength. But given the roller coaster ride the Rockets have been on this season with regard to the various mishaps and maladies which have befallen them, one thing is for sure: They’re not feeling any sympathy toward their competition, either. ‘No, definitely not,’ says Shane Battier. ‘Because even though injuries are never a good thing, they can also be a galvanizing force for teams, too. We were a perfect example of that last year. Yao went down, but it brought us together and we took our game to another level.’”

David Moore of The Dallas Morning News:  “The players didn’t like what they saw any more than the coaching staff or fans. Tension was high. This was no time for all sides to hug it out. It called for action. Rick Carlisle began by adding Darrell Armstrong to his coaching staff. Armstrong, as a player, helped light an emotional fire under this team during its rise to the Finals. Carlisle met with Jason Kidd and told him to call the plays on offense. He then met with the entire team and challenged them in a way he hadn’t done all season. ‘Coach put it on us,’ guard Jason Terry said. ‘He said this is your team. I’m letting you have it. If you guys want to piss it off and not play hard and lose the rest of these games, go ahead.’ Carlisle understands leadership doesn’t mean you do everything yourself. Why use a closed fist when an open hand is needed?”

Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune:  “It’s curious that a Jerry Sloan-coached-and-constructed team would suffer this way on defense. The Jazz are much better offensively than defensively, and one look at the roster reveals a bunch of players who aren’t exactly known for rugged D. Mehmet Okur? Boozer? Kosta Koufos? Kyrylo Fesenko? Kyle Korver? C.J. Miles? From whom are the stops going to come, particularly in the low blocks and out at the three-point arc, and against the West’s best teams, such as the Lakers and Spurs? Where are the defenders, inside and out? Deron Williams is decent, although he sometimes struggles against quicker point guards. Kirilenko is an asset, unless he’s trying to stop Kobe. Paul Millsap is better than Boozer. Ronnie Brewer makes good plays, and also gets burned. Matt Harpring has already used up a lot of himself. The interior defense needs special attention. But it does not get it. For whatever reason, the Jazz have not made a move to bolster their deficiency, Instead, they have stayed pat with a talented-but-injured team, waiting, apparently, to see how it all plays out. Kevin O’Connor frequently makes reference to the difficulty in finding strong interior defenders, and, then, nothing changes.”

Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post:  “Who is the best small forward in the Western Conference? In the mind of Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, there is no doubt. ‘I’m the only one out here in the West,’ Anthony said Tuesday. ‘Can you name one better?’ After falling out of favor with the voting public while injured and being snubbed by coaches who filled out the roster for the NBA All-Star Game, Anthony now has the chance to show how wrong everybody could be. Despite an impressive 32-16 record, the Nuggets have yet to take control of their division or put conference rivals on notice that at least one playoff series will open in Denver. And now the team embarks on a telling eight-game road trip. This is the stretch of the season that will establish how seriously we should regard the Nuggets as contenders.”

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “The Cavs’ (39-9) top two big men were on the bench with foul trouble and Toronto’s twin towers of Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal were actually living up to the hype for a change and ripping the Cavs inside. That is when James did his best work, even if some of it was easy to miss. It wasn’t hard to miss his incredible blocked shot on Olympic teammate and friend Bosh. A high-flying, arms-fully-extended swipe as Bosh looked like he was ready to silence the building with a jam. Just exactly what James was doing down there in a trenches was another story. With Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao on the bench with five fouls each and Bosh (29 points) and O’Neal (20) taking advantage, coach Mike Brown went with James as the defensive center to battle O’Neal. The same James that on Sunday was guarding the Detroit Pistons’ point guards. James proceeded to shut down O’Neal.”

Michael Wallace of the Miami Herald:  “Wade said Tuesday that he remains committed to the Heat for now and could see himself spending the rest of his career in Miami. But Wade also said he would explore all of his options should he elect to opt out of his contract and become a free agent in 2010, the same summer several of the NBA’s top players have options. James, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward, is expected to be the most sought-after free agent in 2010 as part of a class that also includes Wade, Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire. ‘Is it a possibility me and LeBron will play together? It’s always a possibility,’ Wade said after the Heat’s practice Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. `We’re both free agents. Is it a possibility I’m going to New York? That’s not a possibility in my mind.’”

Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register:  “He hates the Celtics. You know Vujacic does, but Ariza really does and always has. He even hates the Red Sox and the Patriots. Ariza, 23, and Pierce, 31, are both Inglewood cats who grew up near The Forum and loving the Lakers, and whereas Pierce has made a nice life for himself in Boston, Ariza would rather break his foot all the way through than ever be a Celtic. Obviously because the injured-again Bynum is now holding a question mark in his hand – that’s actually what the new-fangled crutch he’s carrying looks like – the primary way the Lakers are better now than last time in Boston is Ariza. Now, don’t misunderstand: Bynum was so amped up to step on the parquet floor Thursday night that after he had 27 and 15 in Minnesota to open this trip, he smiled and said: ‘It would’ve been nice to do it in Boston and have two (off) days after to think about it.’ But Ariza really has a thing for Boston.”

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle:  “The Rockets are deep. Assistant coach Elston Turner refers to the chess pieces Adelman has at his disposal. Adelman can play big or small, fast or slow. It’s impossible to know how good the Rockets can be, but they have lots of ways to mix and match styles and personnel. What they’ve been unable to do is get all the stars on the floor together often. That might be why Tuesday’s victory was significant. In a season when Adelman has been forced to change his lineup and rotation seemingly every other night, Scola has been amazingly consistent, doing the same things, performing with heart, giving the Rockets the ingredient all good teams must have. ‘He has been our MVP of the first half,’ Shane Battier said. ‘No ifs, ands or buts about it. He’s just so solid. I’d heard about him before he came here, that he was one of the best power forwards in the world. I’ve seen it.’”

Matt Barnes for  “Tomorrow I am going back to Golden State for the first time since I signed with Phoenix. I’m excited because I had a lot of fun playing there, I’m originally from around that area and I’m going to have a lot of friends and family at the game. This is the place in the NBA that I look forward to playing at the most. When I was there, we had a great family atmosphere with great teammates, a great coach and just a really good organization. It is also special for me to go back because Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis are two of my best friends in the league. They say that your team is you family and that was the team that I was with when my mom died. The whole organization drove to Sacramento for the funeral and really gave me a lot of support when I was down and out. Baron (Davis), Steve, Monta, Al Harrington and Jason Richardson are really my family as far as basketball goes. The closest relationship I’ve ever had with a coach in the NBA was with Warriors Head Coach Don Nelson. You know, we were kind of like a father and son.”

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:  “There’s still a chance Commissioner David Stern will name Jefferson to the team as an injury replacement. New Orleans guard Chris Paul might miss the Feb. 15 game because of a strained groin, but Stern probably would pick another point guard (Utah’s Deron Williams?) to replace him. ‘Al has been working on his point-guard skills,’ Wolves coach Kevin McHale said. ‘You never know. Odd stuff happens.’ Jefferson already has made plans to head home to Mississippi for the break. ‘I don’t want to get in like that,’ said Jefferson, who was held to two first-half points and finished with a 12-point, 15-rebound night Tuesday at Indiana. ‘If I have to, I will be proud just to be in, but it’s not the same.’”

Charley Rosen of   “Although I’ve seen him play in person dozens of times, and observed his conduct in various dressing rooms, I’ve never met A.I. and therefore hold no personal animus against him. Actually, I try to divorce a player’s personal quirks from my evaluations of his on-court deeds — except when one illustrates the other. Just think of what a transcendent genius Picasso was despite his being such a universally despised jackass. Not that Iverson is a bad guy. Far from it. I greatly admire his courage as well as his extraordinary point-making abilities. What I do object to is the fact that he still doesn’t know how to play effectively without the ball in his hands. Which means that his presence in the game is ultimately detrimental to his team-of-the-moment during that 80-90 percent of the time when someone else had possession of the rock.”

Travis Heath of HOOPSWORLD:  “It’s easy to forget just how difficult things were for Parker early in his career.  In addition to having to learn how to quarterback a NBA team, superstar Tim Duncan rarely talked to Parker.  Heck, Parker at times felt lucky if Duncan even acknowledged his presence.  As if having your star player not talking to you wasn’t tough enough, Parker’s head coach also road him relentlessly. When your friendly neighborhood columnist asked Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich if that was a fair characterization of his early years coaching Parker, Popovich replied with a smile: ‘I would say that’s fairly accurate. He gets credit for living through it, for sure,’ Popovich said half jokingly.  ‘But it was the only way to find out if he was going to have the chutzpah to be a hell of a player in the league.’ Popovich learned some important things about Parker very early on in the process, too. ‘If a coach gives you the ball immediately when you’re 19, I better find out quickly whether I’m making the right choice or not,’ Popovich explained.  ‘I thought to be on him constantly to see if he could handle it and to see if he really wanted to improve or if he was going to find excuses and say, ‘Gee coach, don’t be so hard on me’ or if he’ll say, ‘Hit me with everything you’ve got.’”

Shari Roan and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:  “Bynum will not walk away from back-to-back knee injuries completely unscathed, however. His kneecap injury suggests that he is a bit loose-jointed. And both knees probably will be sensitive to contact injuries in the future, DiNubile said. The medial collateral ligament, or MCL, is one of four ligaments that stabilize the knee during movement. It runs along the inside of the joint and keeps it from bending in. The ligament is typically injured if the knee jerks inward with the foot bent outward. Collisions are most often the cause. ‘This injury is like a clipping injury in football,’ DiNubile said. ‘You’re hit on the outside and the knee buckles inward. That can happen to anyone. But it’s more likely to happen to someone who is loose-jointed.’ MCL injuries are diagnosed in severity as grade one, two or three. The Lakers declined to identify the grade associated with Bynum’s injury. However, the length of his expected rehabilitation suggests a grade-three injury, the most severe type, which is a complete tear of the ligament, DiNubile said.”

Stephen A. Smith:  “Ya know, fans are absolutely amazing. It’s day two of all this bantering about my report that Chris Bosh wants out of Toronto and you’d think I reported the All-Star forward committing a crime. For the last time, I’ll repeat what I reported: Bosh wants out of Toronto. He’s not about to admit it because he’s still in Toronto and doesn’t want to bring unnecessary stress to his life. His agent, Henry Thomas, knows this to be true. So does Bryan Colangelo, despite his public denials. And I have absolutely no problem with them because — guess what, people? — they’re doing exactly what they’re suppose to do. If Bosh were to publicly express his desire to leave town, how exactly will that ingratiate him with the Raptors’ fans he’ll have to play in front of until he’s traded? And how exactly would it benefit Colangelo if Bosh’ desire to leave was verbalized by Bosh or anyone from the Raptors’ organization? At the very least it would make life difficult for Colangelo, who no doubt is always working the phones diligently to try and improve his team. The same could be said for Thomas, who’s job it is to facilitate best-scenario situations for his client. So to all those people who’ve summarily dismissed my report, knock yourself out. Keep wasting your time and energy.” [HT: RealGM]

Howard Beck of The New York Times:  “It has been almost 13 years since Shaquille O’Neal jilted the Orlando Magic and altered the N.B.A. landscape by signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a modern anomaly, not a precedent. Few superstars have made free-agent moves since then. It is not an accident. ‘It’s built right into the system,’ said Lon Babby, an agent whose client list includes Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Ray Allen. ‘They don’t want guys to leave.’ By ‘they,’ Babby means N.B.A. officials, whose quest for parity and cost control has created a market that rewards superstars for staying put and punishes them for leaving. Under the N.B.A.’s collective bargaining agreement, a player who stays with his team can sign a six-year contract with 10.5 percent raises. If he leaves, he is limited to five years and 8 percent raises.”

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Tsunami Says:

    The problem with guys like SAS is the authority with which they report these things.

    The NBA, and professional sports in general, is not a science. And regardless of what his inside “sources” say, there are no guarantees in this game.

    Each year, everyone has the draft figured out, the trade deadline figured out, player’s moods figured out – and then it doesn’t happen – and they just keep on reporting the same way. Some of these guys make the most ridiculous predictions, and when they are dead wrong, it seems to only embolden them.

    I mean, Steven A says that it’s not the first and wont be the last time people ACCUSE him of being wrong – how about JUST BEING WRONG!?

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