The Fundamentals

» April 11, 2009 2:49 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “It looks more and more as if the Lakers won’t have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. It also looks as if they can expect a battle if they see the Trail Blazers (51-28) in, say, the second round. Bryant passed Charles Barkley for 17th on the all-time NBA scoring list, but that was the most memorable part of his night. With the Lakers down three, his long three-point attempt from the left side glanced off the right side of the backboard with 48.9 seconds left. On the Lakers’ next possession, his pass intended for Lamar Odom was intercepted by Steve Blake. Bryant also airballed a three-point attempt, missing badly to the left, with 11.9 seconds to play and the Lakers down seven. ‘[Portland Coach] Nate McMillan knows how to defend Kobe after dealing with him in the summer,’ said Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, who coached the team in Phil Jackson’s absence. ‘He was going to converge on him and make it very difficult for Kobe to get into those high-quality environments. Kobe had hit those long shots in the past, but there were times I just felt that we should have gotten better shots.’”

Mike Barrett of  “If things stay like they are in this western race, the Blazers and Lakers could potentially meet in the second round. I know, that’s getting way ahead, and we shouldn’t do that. I was talking to Kevin Pritchard after shootaround on Friday morning about this topic. He put it very simply, and for a guy who has tremendous vision and foresight, it’s probably not as easy as it sounds. ‘Live in the moment.’ Kevin loves buzzwords, and uses them often. This is currently his favorite. And, it makes sense. This Trail Blazer team has far exceeded expectations this season. I don’t care what else happens, we’re playing with house money now. We all want more, obviously, but this has been one hell of a ride. And, there won’t be another season like this one. Expectations will be through the roof next year, and the innocence will be gone. Enjoy this now, and enjoy yet another win over the Lakers. We flew to Los Angeles after the win over the Lakers, and not to sound like a broken record, but there was no celebrating, and no one seemed too high over this victory. As I’ve told you so many times, this team expects to be doing this. This is not a surprise to them. Perhaps it’s because they’re so young, and truly are as innocent as they seem.”

John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune:  “Byron Scott has been promising all season to get Chris Paul and David West some rest and has been looking for ways he can shave minutes off the workload of his two All-Stars. Now, even at the expense of winning a couple of these last regular-season games, he simply has to do it. The Hornets’ coach hinted as much Wednesday, but hints don’t mean much for two players who have been running on reserves for quite some time. They can see the bottom of that tank, too. Holding them out of practice isn’t enough; it hasn’t been enough to help the Hornets win enough regular-season games to move up the Western Conference standings, and it won’t be enough to ensure they will be fresh enough to help the Hornets win a playoff series in which they’re going to have to win at least one road game. Though New Orleans still could move up from the No. 6 seed, it just doesn’t seem to be worth it if the tradeoff is that the Hornets enter the playoffs exhausted.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “Told that the Rockets do not hang championship banners for division championships, Yao revealed that he already knew the answer. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘So it doesn’t matter. Home-court (advantage). Better seeding. Get out of the first round. Get out of the first round. Get out of the first round.’ While Yao made his goals clear, Rockets players did not argue with the franchise’s apparent priorities. Asked if the Rockets should hang banners in Toyota Center to celebrate division championships, guard Aaron Brooks said, ‘Not the Rockets. I think we have higher standards than that. It’s good to win the division. That’s one of the things you want to do going into the year. But we’re on our playoff run. That’s more important.’ There is a sense, however, that a division championship would be a symbolic sign of the Rockets’ ability to have a successful regular season despite the many difficulties of the season.”

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:  “Pierce came into last night’s game shooting a reasonable but not awe-inspiring 37.7 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Then he proceeded to hit 4-of-5, including all three of his attempts in the second half. ‘I don’t care what Paul’s 3-point percentage is,’ Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. ‘You get down to the last two or three minutes in the game, (and) he is one of the very best clutch 3-point shooters in this league.’ Perhaps more importantly, Pierce is one of the NBA’s best gamers. ‘You don’t know if he’s tired, if he’s hurt,’ Rivers said. ‘You don’t know if he’s feeling great. He has the same expression every night. He is such a warrior, and people just don’t get that with him. He is a tough, tough, tough guy. He really is. I think his love for the game is what drives him. He just loves playing basketball. I mean, if we had a two-hour practice (today) – which we will not – he would practice and he would do it because he likes playing.’”

Howard Beck of The New York Times:  “Alston’s greatest weakness is his shooting — he has converted just 29.7 percent of his 3-point attempts with Orlando — but that is offset by his ability to push the pace and create easy baskets for Turkoglu, Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis. The results are obvious. Howard’s scoring has increased with Alston running the offense, and the rookie Courtney Lee has begun to blossom at shooting guard. ‘When he got here, it seems like our fast-break tempo has definitely picked up, and our scoring in the fast-break situations has picked up too,’ Lee said.  Alston had no trouble adjusting to new surroundings. He had already played for Stan Van Gundy in Miami, and he had experience playing with a dominant big man, having spent three years with Yao Ming in Houston. ‘They needed an energy guy, they needed a guy that was going to pass first,’ Alston said. In the playoffs, however, the Magic may find it needs clutch shooting, which is when the team might miss Nelson.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “If Brook Lopez ever turns into the gigantic holy terror that some people expect him to be, the Nets are going to send a token of gratitude to Kwame Brown. The Nets’ big kid was snorting with rage throughout much of the second half comeback Friday night – they came from 20 down before dropping a 100-93 decision to the Pistons – and it was mostly related to Kwame treating him like he was. . . .well, a rookie. ‘I think he kind of amazingly scored a layup, and then decided he wanted to talk to me and then he tried to guard me,’ Lopez said, still steaming about 20 minutes after the buzzer. ‘Apparently he can’t do that, so what are you going to do? If there was a little more time left, I would have hoped we would have kept going inside, because I would have loved to take it to him more.’ Reminder: This may be a competitive kid, with a fierce desire to improve every time he tapes his ankles, but modesty is still his steadiest escort. When he gets angry, it’s always directed at himself, or at the world at large. This time, however, he was snapping back at Brown, the Pistons’ sculpted backup center – and gritting his teeth as he went through every move over the last 15 minutes.”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:  “The Suns are one of 12 to 15 teams who are taking advantage of a $200 million NBA line of credit, an opportunity that is not the bailout it was portrayed to be in a recession. The Suns did not add debt. They replaced debt at a cheaper rate that the NBA had the borrowing power to negotiate when credit was hard to acquire. ‘It’s like refinancing your house,’ Suns President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts said. ‘It was really good news. It was the worst reported story of the year. What was really, in our view, a sign of strength and a vote of confidence in the business of the NBA by the financial community in the worst possible economic times somehow got characterized as a bailout.’”

John Rohde of The Oklahoman:  “Without question, the most impressive aspect in Year One of the Thunder was you, the fan. The Thunder will finish 11th in average home attendance this season at 18,704 per game and a 97.7-percent capacity. The Thunder closed out its home season Friday night with an 84-81 victory against Charlotte. The outcome gave the Thunder a 15-26 record inside the Ford Center. Nowhere in the NBA did so many show up for so few victories.”

Matt Steinmetz of FanHouse:  “Landry’s attitude and work ethic have never been an issue. After all, he was a second-round pick last year who found a way to break through into Houston’s rotation as a rookie. He was building on his surprising season of 2008-09 before the mid-March shooting. ‘In the morning, I see the sunlight shining through the windows,’ Landry said. ‘That’s something that I’ve never really seen. Things that people and myself used to take for granted, I thank God for every day. You always hear people say the little things count the most. Now I see exactly what they mean.’ Landry is back to playing 20 minutes or so a game for the Rockets, and at this point looks like his old self. He’s scoring a little bit, rebounding, of course, blocking some shots and setting a defensive tone on the interior. Then again, he’s not the same player. Never will be.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “One of the most basic, genuine pastimes in a father-son relationship is going out to the back yard and playing a sport. The dad teaches what he knows, shares his experiences and often warns of pitfalls to avoid. When it comes to a father sharing the story of a mistake from his past, Vincent Del Negro Sr. has a doozy. The father of the Bulls head coach played college basketball at Kentucky. Midway through the 1960-61 season, he got upset at a practice, let his emotions get the better of him and told coach Adolph Rupp – the legendary Baron of the Bluegrass who ruled Kentucky basketball for 42 years and won four national titles – to – well, uh – let’s just say he used one of those common words that can’t be repeated here. The incident makes for remarkable history, but it isn’t really noteworthy in itself. Not surprisingly, Del Negro’s basketball career never recovered. He went back home to Springfield, Mass., started a business and taught his own son how to do things the right way.”

Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian:  “I’ve been going under the assumption in the last month — as most Trail Blazers fans probably have as well — that Nate McMillan would be in the serious conversations for NBA Coach of the Year. In fact, I’ve pretty much taken that idea for granted. Why should I think otherwise? A fifty-win season. So far a 10-win improvement over last year. A playoff berth with the league’s second-youngest team. And now the possibility of getting home-court advantage in the playoffs and possibly even making a run at the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. I don’t know if that’s enough to win the award, but I would certainly expect that it would get you among the top three. And when I asked Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard for his opinion Friday night, he was in complete agreement. ‘He’s got to be in the discussion,’ Pritchard said. ‘Second-youngest team. Youngest rotation. Winning as mulch as we’ve done. He’s done a masterful job.’ Except the early feedback I’ve received in a survey of other NBA beat writers suggests McMillan may not even get into the realm of serious consideration.”

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