The Fundamentals

» June 12, 2009 12:43 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “They used to come to the brink of blows in empty gymnasiums as young Lakers, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant refusing to back down. When older teammates skipped road trip practices to rest tired legs, these two dragged themselves to the gym and played 94-foot basketball blood wars. Bryant has lots of associates, but few friends. Well, Kobe Bryant owes Fisher now. He owes him something fierce. Back from the old days, back with a vengeance. Fisher was the sweetest of salvation for Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. He saved Bryant with a 3-pointer to send Game 4 into overtime, and saved Bryant with another 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in OT that undid a tie and ultimately delivered a 99-91 victory Thursday night. This was Fisher’s forever Laker moment, two arching shots that found a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end. He pushed L.A. to the brink of the NBA championship, pushed his Laker legacy to legend.”

Dave McMenamin of  “Fisher is a committed person. Committed to his wife, Candace, whose name he has tattooed on his ring finger. Committed to the triangle offense, even when Bryant is demanding the ball (Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw said that Fisher is the team’s only player who truly runs the system correctly). Committed to his backups, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, with whom he would have post-practice pow-wows to talk strategy with — even after their minutes were starting to eclipse his. And he’s committed to staying as sharp as possible, even as his body ages. ‘I’ve heard different versions of it,’ Fisher said. ‘Now it’s age, before it was other things in terms of not being able to shoot or not tall enough or whatever the case was. I’ve always used those things as motivation to work even harder and try to be better than I was before.’ People point to Feb. 1, 2008, the day L.A. traded for Gasol, as the day this Lakers group went from playoff team to championship contender. In actuality, that quest began on July 20, 2007, when L.A. re-signed Fisher after he spent two seasons with Golden State and one in Utah.”

Matt Calkins of The Press-Enterprise:  “His performance won’t be remembered, but there likely wouldn’t be memories without him. His game Thursday night was similar to a great set-up pitcher throwing two shutout innings to clear the way for the closer. If Lakers forward Trevor Ariza doesn’t score 11 points in the Lakers’ 14-1 start to the second half — a surge prompted by him stealing the ball and going coast-to-coast — Derek Fisher might not join the annals of all-time great postseason shooters. And if Ariza doesn’t knock down a 29-foot three-pointer with 2:36 left in regulation to tie the score at 82, it could very well be the series that is tied. ‘We needed everything he could give us,’ Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ‘He really carried a lot of energy for us in the second half.’”

John Hollinger of  “The Magic had a lot of reasons to be upset after their Game 4 overtime defeat — turnovers, missed free throws and an inexplicably open game-tying 3-pointer by Derek Fisher were all major factors in the defeat. But perhaps the biggest was the Magic’s offensive implosion after halftime. Orlando scored only 14 points in the third quarter to squander a 12-point halftime lead, and had only 44 points in the game’s final 30 minutes. The part that stands out in particular came after Hedo Turkoglu picked up his fourth foul. He had scored 15 points on only six shots in the first half and was carving up the Lakers on pick-and-rolls; even in the rough start of the third quarter he hit a bailout corner jumper at the end of the shot clock to keep the Magic afloat. But after picking up his fourth personal, the Orlando attack stagnated. The Magic scored nine points in the final 7:11 of the quarter, while a five-point lead turned into a four-point deficit.”

John Schuhmann of  “Rashard Lewis had been the Orlando Magic’s best player over the first three games of The Finals. After struggling in Game 1, he averaged 27.5 points on 57 percent shooting in Games 2 and 3. But on Thursday, with the Magic’s season on the line, Hulk Hogan was more of a presence at Amway Arena than Lewis was. Missed free throws (the Magic shot 22-for-37 from the line) and turnovers (19) were the critical issues for Orlando in their 99-91 overtime loss in Game 4. But it can’t be denied that Lewis, Orlando’s $118-million man, had his worst game of the postseason when it mattered most. Lewis, who was averaging 19.6 points in the postseason on 46 percent shooting, had six points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field in Game 4. That’s his second-lowest scoring total in 49 career postseason games. Lewis’ struggles started with the Lakers’ defense. L.A. made a point to stay at home on Lewis when the Magic ran their high screen-and-roll, preferring to let someone else try to beat them from the perimeter. And with a defender always on him, Lewis was forced to pass the ball.”

Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports:  “Howard had nine blocks, an NBA Finals record, and he defended superbly without rejecting anything. Still, when you toss in the free throw mark and those seven turnovers, you can’t really regard his outing as an All-Star performance. Time after time he was afforded solid attempts in the paint, but ruined his chances by bringing the ball down below his waist, ready to bring it back up for a monster slam a la Shaquille O’Neal. Dwight? You may have shown more interest in team defense during this two-game homestand than Shaq has shown in his entire career. You’re not immature like Shaq. You’re not insecure like Shaq. You’re not out of shape, like Shaq. But you’re not Shaq. Just because he had that bad habit of bringing the ball down that low, it doesn’t mean you should emulate it. O’Neal’s frame was much, much wider than yours, which made it tougher for teams to wrap him up from behind. You, actually in shape, have that problem to think about. Keep the ball high, please. You would have had a 30-point game had you just kept the ball above your waist, or higher, even with the free throw woes.”

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports:  “Left unimpeded, Lakers guard Derek Fisher(notes) caught a pass in the back court, dribbled up the right side and hit a shot he never should’ve been allowed to take. His 3 with 4.6 seconds remaining sent the game to overtime. L.A. pulled away in the extra session, winning 99-91 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Lakers can wrap up the championship here Sunday night. Van Gundy had his reasons for not fouling. He felt a foul too early would turn the game into a free-throw shooting contest and his team was hitting just 59 percent (22-for-37) of theirs. He philosophically doesn’t believe in doing it until ‘six or seven’ seconds remain in the game. Afterward though he was dealing with waves of second-guesses and coaching guilt. ‘It was my decision with 11 seconds not to foul,’ he said. ‘Yes I regret it now, but only in retrospect. I mean, normally to me 11 is too early. You foul, they make two free throws, [they] cut it to one [and] you’re still at six or seven seconds.’”

Bud Shaw of The Cleveland Plain Dealer:  “Multiple sources within the Cavaliers organization are denying stories saying that sources in the Cavaliers organization are upset enough with head coach Mike Brown to consider ousting him. While this is not quite as confusing as Charles Barkley claiming he was misquoted in his own book, it does present a challenge. What to believe? Keep it simple. Believe that whatever LeBron James wants will happen. And that there’s been no indication that James is suddenly plotting his coach’s departure based on one disappointing playoff series. Three years ago, you could watch how James reacted to some strategies and in-game decisions and know that this was a superstar who still had not bought in to Brown as a championship-ready coach. It was an accurate appraisal. You didn’t see that this season.”

Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe:  “Thibodeau will be back with the Celtics next season, having taken his name out of the running for Sacramento’s head coach opening Tuesday. The Kings reached an agreement in principle with ex-Celtic Paul Westphal to be their head coach. Thibodeau was also in the running for the Sixers job before they hired Eddie Jordan. Thibodeau worked under Jeff Van Gundy in Houston and New York before coming to Boston, and while Van Gundy believes Thibodeau will be a fine head coach someday, he also views his job in Boston as one of the top coaching positions in the league. ‘He’s got a great job in Boston with a great organization with an ownership, general manager, and head coach that believe in him,’ said Van Gundy, who is working as an analyst for ABC during the NBA Finals. ‘Those jobs are difficult to get. To me, he has one of the top 10 coaching jobs in all of basketball, head coach or assistant coach. ‘They have a great team, they have a chance to win championships, and he’s highly valued. When you’ve got that, you’ve got a great, great job.’”

Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic:  “Nothing amuses me more than the popular trend by basketball teams of misstating a player’s true height. During the USA Basketball team trials leading up the 1992 Olympics, we learned that Charles Barkley was really 6 feet 4 1/2 and not 6-6 and that Magic Johnson checked in at 6-7 and not 6-9. Earl Boykins, meanwhile, called himself 5-8 coming out of high school because he feared his true height of 5-5 would scare away colleges. This fudging at the NBA predraft camps wasn’t too bad this year, although some truth-stretching did occur. DeJuan Blair, who Pittsburgh always listed as 6-7, check in at 6-5 1/4 – 6-6 1/2 with shoes. Arizona State’s James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph were true to their measurements, and that’s very much a Herb Sendek thing. When the coach arrived in Tempe, he insisted measurements come straight from the strength-and-conditioning coach.  When one player came in at 6-2 1/4 and groaned about not being listed at 6-3, a team liaison came to Sendek, unsure how to handle it. ‘What do I tell him?’ he said. ‘Grow,’ Sendek deadpanned.”

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times:  “With a half a smile, point guard Brandon Jennings said he’s heard the Warriors are interested in drafting him with the No. 7 overall pick. But it was evident in his grin, his evasive answer, that he knows Golden State is considering him as their selection. If the mock drafts and media speculation weren’t enough to convince him, if the Warriors’ need for a true point guard doesn’t do the trick, if he wasn’t sold by general manager Larry Riley’s weeklong visit to Italy, then Jennings got another hint Thursday. After his workout with the Warriors, the lefty from Los Angeles had a brief chat with Riley and coach Don Nelson. ‘They were just thanking me for coming by and said ‘See you soon, hopefully,’ said Jennings, who after his senior year at Oak Hill Academy (Va.) was named the 2008 Naismith and Parade Magazine Player of the Year. ‘I think (they like me), a little bit.’”

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:  “Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown has never believed in drafting exclusively for need. That doesn’t mean he would object to trading the 12th pick for a veteran who would fill one of those needs. Asked Thursday about swapping a lottery pick for a veteran this draft, Brown replied, ‘Whatever makes our team better.’ Then Brown listed all the needs that should be filled, internally or externally, to make this into a playoff team. Brown mentioned the ‘hole’ at power forward behind Boris Diaw, plus the need to find a backup shooting guard and maybe a third point guard. Brown has a reputation for preferring veterans. That might be overstated – he worked well with a young team this season – but with the Bobcats holding playoff expectations next season, it sounds like Brown would welcome the reliability veterans represent.”

Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel:  “Point guard or power forward? ‘That is one of the great decisions we have to make,’ Milwaukee Bucks scouting director Billy McKinney said Thursday. The Bucks have plenty of questions to sort through in the days leading up to the National Basketball Association draft on June 25 and the most prominent might be whether to bolster their roster at the point-guard position or at power forward. And unless the answers become clear in the next couple of weeks, that could turn out to be a difficult decision. ‘Your first rule of thumb is (you take the) best player on the board,’ said Dave Babcock, the Bucks’ director of player personnel. ‘The next step is, if you view two or three players equally, you go with the position of need.’ And what position would that be? ‘It could be either one,’ Babcock said. ‘We want to get tougher. We want to get more athletic. All the guys we’re looking at in this draft give us one or both of those.’”

Tim Povtak of FanHouse:  “It was Stern who pushed the Players Association into accepting the rule that prohibited anyone coming into the NBA directly from high school, forcing them into at least one year in college or one year playing overseas or in the NBA Development League. ‘I don’t like the one-and-done. I really don’t understand how we get away with that as a league, that we tell a guy out of high school he can’t come and play in our league,” Van Gundy said. ‘And what I really don’t like is the way our system is set up. Kids should be going to college if at least part of what they want to do is get an education.’ Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, the two most prominent players in the NBA Finals, came into the league directly out of high school, but both before the rule was changed. Six of the 10 starters in the game never attended a United States college. ‘To me, it’s a sham,” Van Gundy continued. ‘But I don’t want to get going on the NCAA because I think that’s about the worst organization going.’”

Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News:  “The scandals surrounding the matriculation of superstar guards O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose have led to a vast chorus of columnists, bloggers and even a United States representative suggesting the best available solution is for the NBA to repeal its draft age minimum. Some of you might find it a bit disconcerting that a congressman, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, would squander the weight of his office on such a frivolous matter. I’m more bothered that someone could be so misguided on the issue and yet talk so loudly about it. The current ills of college basketball are connected to the 19-year-age minimum in the way the swine flu outbreak is related to the handshake. This practice may spread the disease, but that does not mean we should abandon such a worthwhile custom.”

Mike Wise of the Washington Post:  “Once genteel this time of year, friendly even, as he flashed his telegenic grin chatting amiably with whoever crossed his path. Now the mad Mamba looks like he wants to take your lunch money. Meet you behind the cafeteria. Dunk maliciously on your children. Charles Oakley said so eloquently once, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.’ So what was wrong with the player who could close the door on a team with his shot and lull everyone to sleep with his smile? Smacking his gum and looking away on the bench in Game 4, after Fisher’s second three-point bomb put him on the cusp again in overtime, Kobe Bryant will soon feel the Larry O’Brien Trophy in his hands. But I still long for the day when he leaped into Shaq’s big arms like the kid who balanced watching ‘Skip to My Lou’ videos with all those Michael Jordan tapes, not the seen-it-all veteran who no longer leaves practice with the Spice Girls blaring out his car speakers. I really miss that guy. Is it too late to ask for that Kobe Bryant back?”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. The Fundamentals – consolidationloanservicesstudent Says:

    [...] earl boykins , meanwhile, called himself 5-8 coming out of high school because he feared his true height of 5-5 would scare away colleges. this fudging at the nba predraft camps wasn’t too bad this year, although some truth-stretching …Next Page [...]

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