The Fundamentals

» April 10, 2009 10:43 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Tim Buckley of the Deseret News:  “The 47-31 Jazz’s road woes this season have been about as well-chronicled as can be. But, to review: With just four regular-season games still to be played — two away from home, including tonight’s visit with postseason-bound San Antonio — they’re 15-24 when not playing at EnergySolutions Arena. That means this is a fourth straight season in which the Jazz, who are 32-7 at home this season, have lost anywhere from 15 to 20 on the road. They’re also 1-10 against the other seven playoff-qualified NBA Western Conference clubs, with the possibility for finishing 1-12 — Utah closes its season Tuesday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles, after a pair at home against Golden State on Saturday night and the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night — quite realistic.”

Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal:  “Thanks to the league’s protracted playoff schedule where off-days are plentiful, Utah’s playoff opponents may get more than they bargained for. Most NBA teams do worse without at least a day’s rest, winning just 44% of those games. But the Jazz are downright terrible: They are 3-16 this season in games played on a second consecutive night. And they have two more of these games left. The only reason they made the playoffs is because they’ve won 76% of games where they are rested. According to Sports Reference LLC, that’s the biggest discrepancy in the NBA in at least five seasons. Does all this mean that Utah is better than its record indicates? Recent history suggests it’s possible.”

Michael Cunningham of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:  “Walk into the Heat’s gym after any practice and there is a good chance forward Michael Beasley will be goofing off. This time it was Beasley throwing a medicine ball at teammate Jermaine O’Neal, then hiding behind a door in fear of retaliation. Beasley was so preoccupied with clowning around that he could hardly sit still for an interview. It was a small window into what the Heat sees each day with its 20-year-old, fun-loving rookie. ‘At times we don’t like it,’ said Heat guard Dwyane Wade. ‘At times we love it.’ Coach Erik Spoelstra said Beasley has yet to find the proper balance between working and play time. That might be a reason Spoelstra wouldn’t commit to starting Beasley tonight at Boston even after Beasley’s breakout performance during the Heat’s 93-87 loss to New Orleans on Tuesday night.”

Brian Lewis of the New York Post: “After scouting the Pac-10 tournament, Knicks president Donnie Walsh is back from the Eurocup in Turin, Italy. And with just three games left in this horrid season, he and head coach Mike D’Antoni are still scouting the players in their own locker room, trying to measure immeasurables like heart, grit and guts. The Knicks’ brass is keeping an eye on not just who plays hard but who quits, not just who competes but who capitulates. Walsh had no problem picking out the one thing he’s searching for this week. ‘Yeah, keep playing,’ Walsh said. ‘If you don’t keep playing, I have a problem with that. Guys should try to win every game. That’s what I think, and I have a problem with guys who don’t do that. I’ve appreciated almost the whole year — with some exceptions — the effort. The coaching’s been great. But we’re missing elements that help you become a good team.’ Exactly what elements?  ‘We need everything,’ D’Antoni said. ‘The ball movement needs to be better, we need to play better defense, we need shot-blockers, more athletic guys.’”

Michael Lee of the Washington Post:  “Caron Butler had a lot to say about his summer plans and the future of the Washington Wizards today, but the quote that stood out was his comment about the window of opportunity for this team. ‘If you look at our window for opportunity, we have a four-year window right now,’ Butler said. ‘Guys are not getting no younger. Antawn is 32, I’m 29, Gilbert is 27. DeShawn is 28. Brendan is approaching 30. The core guys are in the prime of their careers. Right now, we don’t have time to have another developing year … The time is now.’ I’m not sure if the window is open that long, because Haywood will be a free agent next summer, Butler can become one in 2011 and Arenas can opt of his contract in 2012, which is also the final season of Jamison’s deal.”

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune:  “O’Neal’s desire to move on complicates what already promises to be a difficult offseason for the Suns. Even if he was so inclined, how can general manager Steve Kerr keep O’Neal knowing that he might show up for training camp next October unhappy and unmotivated? The problem is, the trade market is limited given that most contenders are over the salary cap; thus Phoenix would have to take back at least 85 percent of O’Neal’s $20 million salary in a trade. And that’s not something Sarver will or should want to do. There’s probably no way to change Shaq’s mind and sell him on the idea of staying. Perhaps it’s time, then, to coin a new nickname for O’Neal, one that captures his current state-of-mind: The Big Defector.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “Duncan seemed rejuvenated to start the season, as if he’d spent the summer bathing in the Fountain of Youth. At the All-Star break, he was averaging 20.8 points and shooting 52.2 percent from the field, and had found himself on the fringes of early MVP discussion. Duncan’s play was a key reason the Spurs were able to endure injuries to both Ginobili and Parker early in the season and remain near the top of the Western Conference. Then, Duncan’s knees began to betray him. He missed three games at the end of February after being diagnosed with tendonosis in his right quadriceps, and hasn’t been the same since. He has taken to wearing braces on both knees, bulky blue monstrosities that unflatteringly recall a latter-day Patrick Ewing. Those who know him say Duncan has brought up his knees in conversation, a telling sign of his discomfort level. Duncan almost never talks about his aches and pains.”

Frank Isola of the Daily News:  “‘The Knicks’ record is what the record is and the record for the decade is what it is,’ said Van Gundy, the third-winningest coach in franchise history. ‘You can’t spin that for anything positive. But the positives they do have going for them is an owner that wants to win and will spend money to win. They have an executive in Donnie Walsh who has proven to be an astute judge of talent and character and has put together near championship teams. And they have a successful coach. What they need are starting-caliber players. They have nice guys if you’re talking about four or fifth starters or rotation backups. They’ve got to find a best player that they can build around.’ Van Gundy’s style is very direct. He’ll mix in humor with pointed commentary but he’s also loyal to the coaching fraternity because ‘I know how difficult the job is. My only comments about coaches have been positive.’ He’s also not ruling out a return to the sidelines one day. ‘I (do) miss certain aspects of coaching,’ he says. ‘I call it the three C’s: competition, camaraderie and charter planes.’”

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:  “The wobbly economy has changed the NBA marketplace for nearly everyone except the superstars. At 30, Turkoglu faces a dilemma. He can try to find the best deal this offseason or stay with Orlando and explore free agency in the summer of 2010. The trouble is that teams — including the Knicks — have been circling the summer of 2010 for a free-agent-palooza that could feature LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Turk signed a six-year deal for $39 million with Orlando in 2004. His camp believes he is worth what Golden State paid small forward Corey Maggette (five years, $50 million). Not surprisingly, there are indications that the Magic and Turk are far apart if that’s his sticker price.”

Dave McMenamin of NBA.com:  “Bynum’s return also had an impact on the Lakers oft-maligned bench. Lamar Odom, who suggested Jackson was ‘out of his mind’ during the preseason when he was demoted to a reserve role, embraced his substitution status this time around. As a playmaker, Odom finished with seven points, nine rebounds, four assists and a block and a steal. During the first four games of L.A.’s current five-game winning streak, the bench outscored its opponents by an average of 10.8 points per game. Even though Denver edged L.A.’s bench 37-32 on Thursday, the reserves were active and Bynum’s addition allowed Jackson to parse down the minutes of Derek Fisher to save his 34-year-old legs for the postseason. The bench is back, the starting lineup is in tact, the team completed a season sweep of the No. 2 seeded team in the West. Kobe Bryant finished with 33 points, shooting better than 50 percent from the field for the fourth time in the last five games after ending March shooting 63-of-167 (37.7 percent) over his last eight games.”


4 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Basketballogy Says:

    If Shaq leaves Phoenix, you can bet he’ll leave behind plenty of scorched earth, just has he did in Orlando, Los Angeles and Miami.

    Don’t call Shaquille O’Neal the “Big Aristotle.” With the earth Shaq scorches everywhere he has been, only the “Big Arsonist” really suits him. :-(

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tom:

    Sad but true…

  3. Basketballogy Says:

    “Kobe Bryant finished with 33 points, shooting better than 50 percent from the field for the fourth time in the last five games after ending March shooting 63-of-167 (37.7 percent) over his last eight games.”

    If you are a Lakers fan, that has to be one of the most encouraging statistics of the year.

    In the game against Denver, Odom and Ariza looked a bit lost on the floor. Luke Walton ended up with 23 minutes compared to (starter) Ariza’s 19 minutes.

    Jackson even played Shannon Brown at the point, Jordan Farmar at the 2, Sasha Vujacic at the 3, Odom at the 4 and Josh Powell at center briefly.

    For awhile, Walton let being a starter go to his head and left his role as facilitator and tried to be a scorer. That thinking put him at the end of the bench. Now it appears that Ariza, and his ill advised shots are putting him in the dog house.

    The reason Ariza starts is his role as a defender. The starters have plenty of shooters (Bryant, Gasol, Bynum and Fisher).

    The Lakers didn’t break that game open until Ariza was confined to the pine, and I don’t think that was a coincidence.

  4. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Ariza and Walton give Phil different options at the 3-spot. Ariza gives the Lakers a defensive presence and Walton is a very good facilitator.

    I thought Phil went to Ariza recently because the second unit needed Walton’s passing. They had become increasingly stagnant since Odom moved into the starting lineup.

    Bynum’s return could necessitate another facilitator in the starting lineup.

    I thought Farmar, Ariza and Odom played very well together at the beginning of the season. They pushed the tempo and scored a lot of points in transition.

    It will be interesting to see if Phil goes back to that combination during the playoffs.

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