The Fundamentals

» February 24, 2009 10:57 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Blazer’s Edge:  “Although Kevin Pritchard stated last Thursday that ‘if the economics get worse, that might be better for us’ due to Allen’s wealth, one can’t help but wonder, given the recent series of hard knock news for Paul Allen, if that is really the case.  On Courtside tonight, Pritchard admitted that ‘We still have to run [the Blazers] as a business because I want this team to be here for 50 years… I feel a responsibility to that.’ And on Thursday Penn acknowledged, ‘the overall financial crunch, the recession, could affect business, all businesses, including ours.  [The recession] could affect player transactions’ around the league. Has it already affected player transactions here in Portland? Don’t be too quick to dismiss the Blazers’ non-trade of Raef LaFrentz’s Expiring Contract as a basketball decision determined primarily by locker room cohesion and on-court productivity.  And don’t underestimate the financial importance to the team of avoiding the luxury tax.  And whatever you do, do not sell short the financial implications of Darius Miles’s salary being added back to the team’s books.  You can see why an email or two might have been sent if it meant potentially saving millions of dollars and/or increasing the team’s financial flexibility in an economic environment that has possibly caused a 10 figure hit to Allen’s net worth.”

Hardwood Paroxysm:  “LeBron’s the best player in the league. Everyone outside of LA and a brief timeout website would concur with this. But he hasn’t played like it. Whereas Bryant has integrated all parts of his game, passing, playmaking, defense, and surged forward with key shot after key shot (see: games against Boston, New Orleans) that simply defy the imagination, LeBron has somehow become a much bigger version of the Bryant no one likes to see. He’s focusing on scoring, and trying to prove that he can shoot the perimeter shots and make pull-up jumpers. Watching him force it is maddening, particularly when he’s not forcing it in the lane. For reasons I have yet to comprehend, the Cavs have abandoned the tactic of putting him in the block and letting him, you know, BE ATHLETICALLY BETTER THAN ANYONE, EVER. Instead we’re back to him trying to manage the offense from the perimeter, find holes where there are none, and instead of Mo Williams filling in the negative zones and turning them into positives, it feels like Williams is jealous and trying to prove to LeBron he can hit shots too, as if to steal some light from the King. This is why West is so important, he understands the importance of LeBron in a way no one on that team really gets. They know it in their head, but they don’t understand it. But even as LeBron is racking up assists and rebounds, his focus has changed.”

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:  “Martin, 24, is the Bobcats’ current version of Matt Carroll – a developmental-league call-up playing so well, he’s getting more minutes than veterans with big contracts. Sean May gets deactivated. Nazr Mohammed sits by coach’s decision. And Martin has played in each of the past 10 games, averaging 5.1 points, 13 minutes and 40 percent shooting from 3-point range. That’s not to say Martin – a 6-foot-7 shooting guard-small forward – is taking minutes from big men May and Mohammed. But the contrast is telling; this guy who wasn’t drafted, who was frequently injured in college, who initially had to go to Turkey to find a gig in basketball, is safely in the rotation. Maybe it’s because of the shoes, or at least the graffiti he adds to them with a black Magic Marker. Covering the in-step and out-step of each sneaker, he scrawls the words, Faith, Grace, Mercy and Focus. Then he adds a 20 to the toe-cap of one sneaker (his birthday is Nov.20) and an 11 to the other toe-cap (wife Shallanie was born Nov.11).”

Ethan J. Skolnick of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:  “He thought a short stop in Toronto might rejuvenate him, but welcomed the trade to the Heat after the Raptors’ system failed to fit. He hopes, in his remaining NBA years, to prove that any negative post-brawl perception is equally ill-fitting. He hasn’t stopped his community work, still donating $30,000 for South Carolina kids to go on a Christmas shopping spree, and starting a similar program in Toronto. He hasn’t forgotten his mentor, high school coach George Glymph, who joined the Blazer and Pacer coaching staffs to aid his transitions and who still speaks to him twice a week. ‘He probably thinks I’m too hard on him,’ says Glymph, a Knicks consultant. They were in Las Vegas at summer league three years ago, and O’Neal asked Glymph’s wife if her husband had bought her a house. Glymph reminded the player they weren’t in the same tax bracket. The Glymphs returned to South Carolina. Three days later, they found a check in the mailbox. ‘That’s the Jermaine O’Neal you don’t know,’ Glymph says, speaking from his new house.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “If there’s any consolation for the Spurs, it’s that they have been here before. Ginobili was sidelined for the first 12 games of the season after offseason surgery to repair a ligament issue in his left ankle. The Spurs won half of those games, an impressive feat given Parker missed seven of them dealing with an ankle injury of his own. Now, in February, the Spurs find themselves flashing back to October. Welcome to Life Without Manu, Part 2. It is not the life they would have chosen, if offered a choice. ‘We know when the playoffs come, we need our horse back,’ said guard Roger Mason Jr., the prime beneficiary of Ginobili’s dalliances with the training room. ‘Nobody wants injuries to happen. We just have to turn it into a positive.’ It’s a good thing Ginobili isn’t a horse. Otherwise, there would be a more dire fate awaiting him than the injured list.”

Chris McCosky of The Detroit News:  “They knew they were going to have to alter their defense to protect his deficiencies. They knew they were going to have to make a hard decision with Richard Hamilton, having him come off the bench, because they knew they had to have a point guard on the floor (Rodney Stuckey). What they couldn’t have known was that it just wouldn’t work. And it doesn’t work, as the present six-game losing streak and the freefall back to .500 (27-27) attests. Even when Iverson plays his best, like he did against San Antonio, the rest of the players on the floor with him become statues. They stand around and watch Iverson skittering all over the floor, probing for a shot. They’ve never had to play that way. They aren’t very good at it and they don’t like it. So down the stretch, the Spurs, like all good teams will do, forced the ball out of his hands and no other Piston could make a winning play. It’s worse on defense. The Pistons built their foundation on trust and accountability at the defensive end. They have run a lot of good players out of here (Maurice Evans and Jarvis Hayes to name two) because of their inability to hold their own defensively. So here comes Iverson, who because of his offensive production has never been held accountable defensively.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “He is, I’m sure, seeking only a solution to the left knee pain that kept returning to him this season, hoping simply to play and work harder and longer and better than he did this past season. The Rockets team physician, Tom Clanton, said he has spent many hours talking to McGrady about cartilage replacement, its risks and prognosis. And every NBA player has heard the stories ranging from Terrell Brandon and Allan Houston to Amar’e Stoudemire and Antonio McDyess. It just feels as if McGrady is hoping to find a miracle. ‘My personal focus now,’ he wrote on his website, ‘is to look forward and dedicate myself 100 percent to returning to the court and returning to be the player I was and know that I still am.’ He has reason to be optimistic. The lesion is on a non weight-bearing bone and is about a half-centimeter in size, requiring less cartilage replacement. For now, the recovery time is estimated at six to 12 months, with a more specific estimate expected when they get to peek inside.”

Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star:  “More at home in a half-court offence, if Bosh doesn’t buy into the transition and return to his first-half numbers, could the clock be counting down to his free agency after the 2010 season? It would seem that pushing the ball up the floor, looking for fast-break points as the first option does not feed into Bosh’s strengths. Coach Jay Triano disagrees with that easy perception of his star’s future. ‘I’ve talked to him a little bit more,’ Triano admitted. ‘It’s been hard with him because he’s been (injured). I told (Chris), `Run and play as hard as you can for as long as you can and I’ll get a sub. But don’t try and pace yourself to go 40 minutes because otherwise we’ll be plodding. I thought what he did in New York and was much better on Sunday … shorter minutes in shorter spurts. We keep asking him `How’s your leg?’ He says, `My leg is fine. My lungs are burning.’ He’ll get used to it.’ Triano believes that in a short time Bosh could learn to take advantage of the new up-tempo style and get back to the numbers he had been posting before being hobbled by injury.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “Paul Silas, the hard-working, hard-headed, trench warfare genius of the 1960s and 1970s, once defined the game’s most grueling job like this: Rebounding is effort, he said. If only it were that simple — both the maxim and the exercise. The Nets aren’t in tune with the concept, which is why they’ve been routinely embarrassed in the past two weeks, and you can reduce it to simple arithmetic: Opponents have outrebounded them by a 46-36 average landslide during the five-game losing streak, so the Philadelphia 76ers were not exactly a welcome visitor Monday night, given that they are the league’s second-best offensive-rebounding team. And while there were no easy answers, as Silas might suggest, a better effort would be a good start.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “Their ventures away from Staples Center in the years after the Shaquille O’Neal trade were typically lose-lose propositions — lose sleep in an unfamiliar hotel and then lose the game. They were 12-29 on the road in 2004-05, 18-23 the next season and 17-24 in 2006-07 before starting to turn the corner last season with a 27-14 mark. This season changes everything, though. The Lakers are a league-best 20-6 on the road and within reach of the team-record 33-8 in 1971-72, a mark that actually breaks down to 31-7 on the road and 2-1 in neutral-site games. The Lakers have already logged impressive victories at Boston and Cleveland, not to mention two wins in New Orleans. They’re not celebrating their road prowess yet, especially after squeaking by Minnesota on Sunday, 111-108. But there’s a difference when they walk into opposing arenas, something that hasn’t been felt since they were winning championships earlier this decade.”

David Moore of The Dallas Morning News:  “‘To move up, you’re going to have to win some tough road games,’ Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ‘It’s as simple as that. The other competition in the West has teams that are capable of doing it.’ One reason the Mavericks languish around the No. 6 seed as they enter this week is because of their troubles on the road in the Western Conference. Nine teams are jockeying for eight playoff spots. The Mavericks are 3-7 on the road against those other eight teams. The Mavericks haven’t picked up a win against one of those teams since they beat Portland on Christmas night. The trend extends even further. The Mavericks are 4-13 on the road against the best in the West since Jason Kidd’s arrival last February.”

Tom Ziller of FanHouse:  “Our protagonists, the Jazz: the triplicate of Boozer, Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur have been available for 101 of 165 player-games through Sunday, or 61%. Replace Memo with Millsap (which is revisionist, but whatever) and the figure moves only slightly toward the positive. Replacing Okur with Andrei Kirilenko (still revisionist, still “whatever”) bumps this figure down. Ronnie Brewer has been the only rotation player healthy the entire season. None of the top four or five weapons have maintained health this campaign. All Jazz players are currently healthy. Last week saw the first practice of the entire season in which all 15 players on the roster were available to participate. Monday night (Boozer’s return) marked the first game this season in which the projected preseason starting five shared the court. The Spurs, Hornets and Nuggets might have a head start in the ledger. But Utah stands the best opportunity of making up ground.”

Liberty Ballers:  Sixers lose in final seconds… for the 8th time this season!

Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune:  “He had spent his college athletic career at the University of Puget Sound, leaping over metal barriers and water pits as a steeplechase champion. So why would Hornets President Hugh Weber flinch at the idea of leaving a job as a vice president of a company in the food service industry with $2 billion in sales to work for his brother-in-law’s NBA basketball team? When, the personification of a quiet, publicity-shy front office executive, smiles. ‘I did have a concern about working for the family, ‘ he said. ‘You can’t turn it off. If you go on a vacation, it’s always on. But it’s worked out really, really well. We just have a mutual trust in one another.’ There was another issue. The team, in Oklahoma City at the time, already had someone in charge of the operation, and Weber didn’t want to be viewed as someone brought in to be a future replacement. ‘When the opportunity presented itself, when George (Shinn) came to me and said, ‘I’d like you to think about coming to work for the Hornets, ‘ I said there’s two conditions: you have a president now, and you’ve empowered him to do his job, ‘ Weber said. ‘If he thinks I can help what he’s doing, OK.’ The second was, ‘Don’t hire me if you can’t fire me.’”

Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:  “Although the NBA has fallen silent in Seattle, a fans’ lawsuit seeking more than $7 million in damages from the owners of the former Sonics franchise continues to resonate in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Richard Jones. The Seattle-based federal judge dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by three former season-ticket holders against Clay Bennett’s ownership group Monday, but left alive a breach of contract claim that now appears headed to a jury trial. Jones issued a 31-page order outlining his rulings on nine pending motions in the class-action suit, with a mixed bag for both sides. But the bottom line for the fans — Robert Brotherson, Patrick Sheehy and Carolyn Bechtel — is that Jones left open the door for a jury to decide whether all 1,200 or so individuals and businesses who renewed their season tickets for the Sonics’ final season in KeyArena are entitled to damages because the Professional Basketball Club didn’t allow them the opportunity to renew their tickets at the same guaranteed price for the following two years.”

Neil Paine of  “Wilt may have been ridiculously dominant, but what would you expect from a 7′1″/275 athletic freak in a league where the average player was 6′5″ and 65% of the players were white? So I also believed that Wilt dominated competition that was far weaker than what he’d see today, and the fact that a 6′9″ center was able to (some would say greatly) reduce his effectiveness was another clue that he wouldn’t put up Jordanesque numbers (much less Wilt-esque ones) in the 90s. But that was all conjecture, as it turns out, nothing more, nothing less. What’s fact, however, is something that never occurred to me until I discovered APBRmetrics much later. Bear with me for a moment while I explain: Okay, so you’ve all seen Wilt and Oscar’s numbers from 1962… but have you ever sat down and looked at the league averages that year? In ‘62, the average team took 107.7 shots per game. By comparison, this year the average team takes 80.2 FGA/G. If we use a regression to estimate turnovers & offensive rebounds, the league pace factor for 1962 was 125.5 possessions/48 minutes, whereas this year it’s 91.7. Oscar’s Royals averaged 124.7 poss/48, while Wilt’s Warriors put up a staggering 129.7 (the highest mark in the league). On the other hand, the 2009 Cavs are averaging a mere 89.2 poss/48. It turns out that the simplest explanation for the crazy statistical feats of 1961-62 (and the early sixties in general) is just that the league was playing at a much faster tempo in those days, with more possessions affording players more opportunities to amass gaudy counting statistics.”

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