The Fundamentals

» September 14, 2009 9:57 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:  “Bryon Russell has a message for Michael Jordan: Whenever you’re ready, I’ll be waiting in California – in my basketball shorts. ‘I’ll play his ass right now,’ Russell told Yahoo! Sports. ‘This is a call-out for him to come play me. He can come out here in his private jet and come play. He’s got millions of dollars. He can pay for the jet. He can meet me at the Recreation Center in Calabasas. ‘We can have Mark Jackson do the commentating. We can have Mitch Richmond do the officiating. We can put it on TV and see if Michael’s still got it.’ Jordan spent much of his enshrinement speech at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame singling out players and coaches who had slighted, criticized or motivated him. Russell merited a special mention. After Jordan’s first retirement from the NBA, he was playing minor-league baseball and stopped by the Chicago Bulls’ practice facility, where the Utah Jazz were working out. Jordan said Russell, then a rookie with the Jazz, introduced himself and challenged him.”

Brian T. Smith of The Columbian:  “Andre Miller holds a reputation for being guarded. Protective. Ask Miller where he’s living, and he responds ‘I’m around,’ in a deadpanned tone that is part-joke, part-security check. Ask Miller which Blazers he’s kept in touch with since signing a three-year deal worth $21 million, and he only mentions forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Then he adds: ‘Summer is time for guys to be with their families, relax their bodies. … You’ll be able to bond with the team once practice starts. I mean, it’s a long season, so I don’t really communicate with the players — I’ve never done that in my career.’ They’re wise words from a 10-year NBA veteran. Someone who has represented five teams since being drafted in 1999 by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the eighth overall pick, following a standout college career at Utah. Someone who has played in a league-leading 530 consecutive games and only missed three in his entire career. Someone who knows when to lace them up and when to take them off.”

Jonathan Evans of SLAM:  “Ray Allen’s made more threes than anyone in the history of the NBA not named Reggie Miller, gone to nine all-star games and set the record for threes made in the Finals with 22. By now, everyone knows the game. What everyone may not know is the makeup of the man behind the sweetest stroke in the league. More than the jumper, it is that makeup that will make him a force to be reckoned with going into the ‘09-10 season. Back when Three the Hard Way tore through the league on the way to the 2008 title, it was Ray that sacrificed the most. He went from the top dog for a decade to essentially a spot up shooting third option. In the name of ubuntu, Ray fit perfectly in this reduced role by spacing the floor, draining jumpers and opening things up for the slashing Pierce and Rondo. But don’t mistake stepping aside with falling off. When KG went down, Allen helped carry the flag to keep the Celtics among the east’s elite. Sugar Ray dropped 18 a game shooting 48% from the field and 40% from three. How about this, based on +/- statistics, Ray Allen was the most productive player last season. Look at the net on court/off court differential, no other Celtic touches him.”

Mike Prada of Bullets Forever:  “Eddie Jordan had several positive qualities, but the biggest black mark on his coaching tenure with the Wizards was his handling of Brendan Haywood.  Jordan never appreciated any of Haywood’s tremendously positive qualities, particularly his post defense, size, rebounding (and I’m not talking about rebounds per game, I’m talking about how the team always rebounded better with Haywood on the court) and team defense.  As a result, Haywood received unbelievably inconsistent minutes, and the Wizards defense sucked.  The only time Haywood was treated fairly was in 2008, when Jordan literally ran out of alternatives. So no matter how Flip Saunders deals with Brendan Haywood this year, it’ll be better than how Eddie Jordan dealt with Haywood. That said, Flip doesn’t have the best history himself in appreciating and maximizing defensive-oriented big men who may not possess superior offensive skill.  He coached Ben Wallace for a year in Detroit, and let’s just say it was not a match made in heaven.”

Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune:  “With the season only days away, both Deron Williams and Kyle Korver expressed surprise that the Jazz appear set to bring back 12 players from last season’s team that stumbled to an eighth-place conference finish and was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round. ‘It’s a surprise, but it’s out of my control,’ Williams said. After stressing to reporters in July that the Jazz had a long offseason to make moves, Williams said Saturday: ‘There’s still stuff that can be done, but right now, we’ve got the team we’ve got. That’s what we’re riding with right now. That’s what you’ve got to go with.’ That team for now includes Carlos Boozer, who is set to return to Utah after campaigning for a trade this summer and even naming Chicago and Miami as preferred destinations in a series of interviews. Asked if he was concerned about the potential distraction Boozer presents, Williams said: ‘I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of questions that have to be answered, but a lot of that’s from Carlos. I’ve said I want to be here. I don’t have any questions to answer.’”

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:  “While much of the rest of the West spent this summer splurging on free agents and agreeing to blockbuster trades, Oklahoma City sat back and banked on its returning players coming back better. It’s a contrast that could determine where the Thunder falls in the pecking order this season. We’ll soon find out which method proves most beneficial. The revolving-door approach won out in Boston in 2008 and Miami in 2006, as both franchises capitalized on rare trade opportunities for future Hall of Famers before going on to win a championship. But Portland used the hold-what-you’ve-got philosophy last season and punched its ticket to the postseason, and perennial playoff teams like San Antonio and Utah routinely make only minor changes while banking more on player development. But on paper, it’s always the trades and free-agent signings that look best. And with just two weeks remaining before the start of training camp, league-wide movement has meant there’s not a single game on the Thunder’s schedule that you can honestly deem a gimme.”

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:  “This offseason has reminded us that NBA players have everyday, everyman problems like the rest of society. The allure of the night life, the millions of dollars, and the pressure to perform may only add to the strain. Mental health is becoming a major issue in the NBA, and Marbury’s on-video breakdown and Beasley’s quirkiness descending into a cry for help should serve as reminders to fans who believe millionaire athletes live utopian lives. Professor Amy Baltzell, who coordinates the Sports Psychology program at Boston University and was on the 1992 US Olympic rowing team, specializes in athletes dealing with the pressures of performance and fame. ‘We have the American dream that if you are good looking and famous, that will make you happy,’’ she said. ‘And the truth is, it doesn’t. What I have seen over the last decade of work is that athletes are under extreme pressure and expectations, and as you move up the ranks of professional sports, you are under the most scrutiny. And that puts a lot of pressure on those young people who haven’t maybe developed the skills to cope with that stress.’”

Kevin Allen of the Chicago Sun-Times:  “Rick Reilly, making his Sportscenter anchor debut on ESPN this morning, gave a brief editorial toward the end of the show, saying the Hall of Fame isn’t enough to honor Michael Jordan’s legacy. He suggested that Jordan’s No. 23 should be retired throughout the NBA — as hockey did with Wayne Gretzky’s 99 and baseball did with Jackie Robinson’s 42. Miami Heat president Pat Riley retired Jordan’s number throughout his organization — and Jordan never even played there. ‘In honor of your greatness and for all you’ve done for the game of basketball — and not just the NBA, but for all the fans around the world — we want to honor you tonight and hang your jersey, No. 23, from the rafters,’ Riley told Jordan during a 2003 ceremony. The arguments for retiring his number throughout the NBA are many. Jordan transformed the game of basketball, inspired generations and is largely responsible for making the NBA the enterprise it is today. ‘23 needs to hang in the air,’ Reilly argued, ‘kind of like Jordan did in all those epic flights to the rim.’”

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