The Fundamentals

» May 26, 2009 10:56 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Ken Berger of  “There was a moment in the winning locker room Monday night that spoke volumes about Dahntay Jones’ arrival to the Western Conference finals. It also exposed all these stories about the Nuggets’ ‘growth’ and ‘maturity’ as, well, a little premature. Jones was being interviewed about his blatant trip of Kobe Bryant in the third quarter of Game 4, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson calling it ‘unacceptable’ and ‘unsportsmanlike basketball.’ It didn’t take long for Jackson’s comments to reach Jones’ teammate, Kenyon Martin, who shouted from a few lockers away, ‘You made it, dog! You’re a dirty player!’ Those are the Nuggets. Call them rugged, resilient, emotional, or whatever you want to call them after they evened the series at 2-2 with a 120-101 victory against the exhausted, dilapidated Lakers on Monday night. Just don’t call them classy, because that’s an argument you can’t win right now. And that’s a shame, because with a couple of dirty plays, Jones is on the verge of spoiling an inspiring story of personal redemption and persistence. On an amazing team of rejects, retreads, and reprobates who’ve somehow coalesced into a dangerous and freakish basketball force, Jones’ story is among the most inspirational.”

Anthony Cotton of The Denver Post:  “There were 31 fouls called against Los Angeles in the game, to 24 for the Nuggets. Denver shot 49 free throws to 35 for the Lakers. For his part, Walton, who fouled out in just over 12 minutes of action, alternated between sarcasm and frustration. ‘Obviously, there was nothing I could do about it,’ he said. ‘I’m out there trying to play defense against talented, strong people; they were pushing and shoving, but when I did the same thing, I was getting called for it. All I could do was sit down on the bench and hope that my teammates would pick up the slack for me.’ While Jackson complained about the way the Nuggets have been playing — or been allowed to play — defense during the series, it was clear that some of the Lakers admired their opponents’ tact. ‘They kind of outscrapped us,’ Lakers center Andrew Bynum said. ‘They’re keeping their bodies attached to us. I move to the rim and (Nuggets guard) Dahntay Jones is hitting my legs. I don’t remember the last time someone on our team had a free path through the lane.’”

Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register:  “With a victory, the Lakers would have set an NBA record for one visiting team’s playoff success over another team with an eighth consecutive playoff victory in Denver. The Lakers’ only lead was at 1-0 after a Kobe Bryant free throw, which made it slightly better than their Game 4 letdown last round against Houston, when the Rockets handed the Lakers their first wire-to-wire defeat of the season. ‘They whupped us on the glass,’ Bryant said. ‘They whupped us for loose balls.’ The Nuggets hadn’t outrebounded the Lakers in any of their previous seven games this season, but they had 58 rebounds to the Lakers’ 40. Denver coach George Karl presented his team with video of past teams successfully using ball penetration against the Lakers, and the Nuggets wound up with 20 offensive rebounds by drawing the Lakers’ big men to help against penetration and freeing up Denver’s big men to go uncontested after put-backs. ‘That was their game plan, and they executed it,’ Lakers forward Pau Gasol said.”

Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News:  “Lakers coach Phil Jackson offered little by way of explanation. Asked if there was any reason Gasol didn’t get the ball more, Jackson said: ‘No. You can ask him when he comes in about it. ‘Some of it is ball movement. Some of it is their defense. Some of it is their help defense that’s coming down. Some of it, I’m sure is the amount of touches he’s actually getting in the post.’ In nearly every series they play, the Lakers have a dominant size advantage over their opponent. Gasol stands 7-feet tall, Andrew Bynum is a shade north of that and Lamar Odom is 6-foot-10. But against these Nuggets, whose tallest starter is the 6-foot-11 Nene, you’d hardly even notice. Monday night, Gasol and Bynum combined to make 14 of their 18 shots. Denver’s far less talented and polished front court players, Kenyon Martin (5 of 11, 13 points) and Nene (5 of 8, 14 points) took exactly as many shots as the Lakers All-Star power forward and future All-Star center. What’s most troubling is that exploiting their front court advantage with Gasol and Bynum doesn’t even seem to be a focal point of the game plan.”

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “It is a downright miracle the Cavs are still in the series considering the events of the past six days. Actually, they are still very much alive. A victory in Game 4 would even things up and return home-court advantage to the Cavs. Earlier this postseason, the Magic was down, 2-1, in a series, playing Game 4 on the road, and Orlando came back to beat the Philadelphia 76ers. How is it a miracle? Consider the following: LeBron James and Anderson Varejao, though he was virtually nonexistent in Game 3, have combined to shoot 54 percent in the series. What are the rest of the Cavs shooting? Try 30.6 percent. Truly, it is somewhat of a mystery just how the Cavs have averaged 97 points per game in this series. Mostly, it is because James is just willing them, averaging 41.7 on his own. It’s amazing they’ve even been in all three games in the final five minutes with those numbers, much less have a victory.”

George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel:  “While Orlando’s play against the Cavs might have shocked ESPN nation and other places, this isn’t any news flash in the Cleveland locker room. They know what’s up. The shine on that 66-win season is starting to fade. ‘We got to get back to what we’re doing,’ Williams said. ‘I think we are giving them too much respect personally … they are a good basketball team, but so are we.’ I asked Mo what he meant by ‘too much respect.’ ‘Coming down the court we’re already at a disadvantage because they create so many matchup problems for us, and it’s evident. No secret. We know it. Everybody knows it. We’re playing hard. We’re rotating. But when you’re in a position to double guys, it puts you at a disadvantage. You got to give up something. You got to give us credit, man. We’re trying things that we haven’t tried all year. We’re putting in the effort.’ That does not sound like a man who is confident.”

Scott Powers of the Chicago Sun-Times:  “Derrick Rose may have been the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft. He may have been named rookie of the year. He may have resuscitated Bulls fandom and captivated a nation of fans by putting on a show throughout the seven-game series with the Boston Celtics. But Rose still can’t get out of doing dishes at family gatherings. ‘We still make him take out the garbage and pick up the plates,’ said Reggie Rose, one of Derrick’s three older brothers. ‘Just because he plays for the Bulls doesn’t stop making him ‘Little Pooh’ to us.’ In just three years, Derrick has gone from living at home and winning a state championship for Simeon to playing in a national-championship game for Memphis and starring in the NBA for his hometown team. But Derrick remains a kid in many ways. It will be another six months before he can legally purchase a beer. With Reggie leading the way, the Rose family has been guiding ‘Little Pooh’ in his off-the-court affairs.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “Before the season, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said the season would be a success with ‘a deep playoff run.’ He did not define that, but it sounded like Conference Finals or better. Under the circumstances, getting to Game 7 of the Conference semifinals with Yao, Tracy McGrady and Dikembe Mutombo all injured and on the inactive list might qualify as ‘a deep playoff run’ and a successful season. The dominance of the home court and the way the city was caught up in the playoffs might be enough to claim success. If the Rockets can claim to have reached that goal, the next goal is to qualify as contenders – championship contenders. They can get there from here, but that is by no means certain, and not just because the Lakers and Nuggets aren’t going anywhere and the Trail Blazers are going to keep getting better. Increasingly, I’m getting the sense that the Rockets expect much of their improvement to come from within with the expected growth of their young players.”

John Reid of The Times-Picayune:  “Despite a first-round exit from the playoffs that included a 58-point loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets, the Hornets have had 80 percent of their season-ticket holders renew for next season, team officials said. The team’s encouraging numbers are despite a recession that has caused some NBA teams to experience a decline in renewals and trim staff. The team said it has no plans to lay off workers, as the Miami Heat did recently. ‘Our fan support has been outstanding,’ said Bill Bailey, the Hornets’ vice president of ticket sales and services. ‘They see that especially ownership, Mr. (George) Shinn, is putting a successful product on the court.’ The Hornets rank among the top five teams in the league in renewals, Bailey said, and it comes after prices were raised for three seating sections in the lower bowl of the New Orleans Arena.”

Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press:  “The forward from the French island Guadeloupe who has incredible athleticism when healthy earned him the nickname ‘Air France,’ but most just call him ‘M.P.’ Now he’s got new titles. The sometimes soft-spoken, sometimes-eccentric Pietrus has been swatting LeBron James’ shots and swishing enough 3-pointers to give Cleveland fits. The Cavaliers can’t figure out how to stop him. ‘Their wild-card is Pietrus,’ Cavs guard Mo Williams said. ‘He’s the X-Factor. It has been like that all three games.’ It’s a surprise few expected. Pietrus had 16 points in Game 3, outscoring the entire Cavs reserves (eight points). He also grabbed six rebounds, had two steals and a block in his ninth double-digit scoring game of the playoffs. After missing 28 games this season, Pietrus is averaging 13 points in the series, including a few highlight rejections on James that are rare for anyone.”

William C. Rhoden of The New York Times:  “Robertson played for Cincinnati from 1960 to 1970. The team was carried to whatever heights it attained by Robertson. The Royals never reached the finals during Robertson’s tenure, but he was an actor in a great individual rivalry. Oscar Robertson and Jerry West were the Kobe and LeBron of their era. There certainly were other great guards of the era, but Robertson and West defined the position: black-white rivals in the racially charged civil rights era of the 1960s. They were the same age, shared similar backgrounds — ‘Jerry had a tough time growing up, and I grew up in a ghetto in Indianapolis,’ Robertson said. West was the cold-blooded, stop-on-a-dime clutch shooter, so deadly that he made his way into a Richard Pryor monologue. Robertson was the exquisite technician who ran the team, scored, rebounded and made each teammate better. West, like Kobe Bryant, had the better supporting cast. Robertson, like LeBron, was his team’s everything man.”

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Shawn Butler Says:

    Speaking of Jerry “mr fundamental” West, I heard him on the radio talking about an event he has been playing in called The Sports Legends Challenge. Has anyone heard of it??

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