The Fundamentals

» October 5, 2009 8:07 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Matt Steinmetz of FanHouse:  “First thing you notice about Baron Davis these days is that beard. It’s long, it’s thick and it’s got some scruff. It’s back — and all of it, too. Now whether the Los Angeles Clippers are back remains to be seen. But the return of Davis’ beard is certainly a good omen. So was the arrival of Blake Griffin. ‘I want to put the work in and I want to show people again,’ Davis said Sunday night before the Clippers-Warriors exhibition opener. ‘I don’t want to talk about it, really. There’s nothing for me to say. I grew my beard back. That’s all you need to know.’ So, what does the beard mean? ‘You know what it means,’ Davis responded. What it likely means is that the Clippers might be worth keeping an eye on this year. It absolutely looks like Davis, after a disappointing 2008-09 for the Clippers, is poised for a big year. He’s in shape and perhaps just as important he’s comfortable and seems to be in a good frame of mind.”

Fred Kerber of the New York Post:  “Devin Harris hasn’t shut up all week. And that’s a good thing. ‘He’s definitely been a more vocal leader,’ Nets center Brook Lopez said. ‘Pre-practice in the huddle, post practice telling us things we need to do. He’s been on top of everything.’ But it’s not just Harris talking the talk. He also is busting his butt. ‘We’re trying to get through double practices so I’m just trying to help the guys push through the fatigue,’ said Harris, a first time All-Star last season. We haven’t done much scrimmaging so it’s more by example.’ To some, it doesn’t seem all that important. But the Nets lost more than 20-plus points when Vince Carter was traded to Orlando. Carter led. Nets listened. Now he’s gone. So Harris assumed that role — along with all the other goodies on his to-do list, like score, pass, defend. The Nets, who play the Knicks in their first preseason game at 2 p.m. today in Albany, need him to do it all. ‘He’s our best player so he has to be more vocal so he has to lead by example. So far he has done just that,’ said veteran Keyon Dooling, another team leader. ‘He’s getting more comfortable with being able to step in and say something. He has the respect from us.’”

Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News:  “Rip Hamilton looks around the practice court and he doesn’t see too many familiar faces. It’s not like it used to be, with the same nucleus around year after year. Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess aren’t here anymore. Ben Wallace wasn’t here for a few years, but has returned. Now, it’s only Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Hamilton who are the links to the past, providing leadership to a rather inexperienced team. Hamilton is looking forward to the responsibility. ‘It’s fun, it’s exciting,’ Hamilton said of the leadership he, Prince and Wallace will need to provide. ‘When Chauncey was here, we looked at each other as two leaders and we bounced stuff off each other. I heard his side, and he heard my side. With him gone, it’s different. But with Ben and Tayshaun here, it’s good.’ Hamilton intends to show leadership through actions rather than words. ‘I have to lead by example,’ Hamilton said. ‘Just don’t talk it. I have to go out there and work hard every day in practice, don’t get technicals, and just try to help them (the young players) out every minute.’ Coach John Kuester said he hasn’t decided if he’ll name any captains. Kuester simply doesn’t feel as if he needs to.”

Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times:  “Al Harrington, 29, is preparing for his first full season with an organization with no All-Star résumés. In his 11th season, he is being viewed as a leader — almost by default — by Coach Mike D’Antoni. ‘My audition for him is over with,’ Harrington said, referring to D’Antoni. ‘He knows what I can do. So now he wants to see what I can do from a leadership standpoint, to try to help these guys play at a higher level. That’s what I’m going to focus in on — trying to make all these guys around me better.’ The next off-season will carry high stakes as the organization looks to change its complexion again through free agency. The stakes are also high for Harrington. He is in the final year of his contract and its expiration is viewed as a necessity if the Knicks are to pare enough payroll to attempt to sign a star like James. Still, although it may be unrealistic, Harrington, a New Jersey native, is intent on being woven into the fabric of the Knicks of the future. ‘These guys want to change what’s going on with this team,’ Harrington said. ‘And I would love to be here to say that I was one of the guys that helped start it. It’s just a challenge for me. Obviously, I am living my dream every day. I always wanted to be a Knick.’”

Mike Jones of the Washington Times:  “When Caron Butler reported to training camp at Virginia Commonwealth University this week, however, learning the offense wasn’t in his thoughts. That would come as he spent time with the playbook. Instead, Butler aimed to dedicate most of his efforts to ‘becoming the best defensive player I can be.’ Butler first thought of setting that goal just after the team’s dismal 2008-09 season had ended. Then in came coach Flip Saunders, who laid down the gauntlet for the 6-foot-7 small forward to become his top defensive stopper. Butler accepted, but he knew he would have to make some mental adjustments. For three straight seasons he had led the Wizards in steals, and during the 2007-08 campaign he ranked fourth in the league with 2.2 a game. But he leaned on athleticism and natural instinct to stop opponents rather than focusing on the elements needed to be a standout defender. ‘He’s relied a lot defensively to get steals on gambling a little bit,’ Saunders said. ‘And I said to him, let’s be more a meat-and-potatoes type of defensive player, and so he’s taken that challenge and he’s put a lot of effort at the defensive end.’ That effort consists of spending more time studying the team’s defensive schemes, watching opposing players and learning techniques to best guard them.”

Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune:  “David West learned the ropes from P.J. Brown,  a quiet professional whose off-the-court kindness was legendary while his on-court attitude was aggressively businesslike and usually well-controlled. Yet West doesn’t believe his demeanor mirrors Brown’s in part because his intensity bubbles at a constant simmer. ‘Not yet. Not yet, ‘ West said emphatically. ‘P.J. was a little more,  I don’t know exactly what the word I’m looking for is,  but I think he was a little more reserved than I am. Less direct. P.J. is a lot more reserved. You had to get deep to get that (anger) out of him. You don’t have to go that deep with me.’ Fellow All-Star Chris Paul,  who has played with West the longest since joining the Hornets in 2005,  has experienced West’s darker side and agrees with his teammate. ‘D-West is always angry, ‘ Paul said, half in jest, half seriously. ‘He is. P.J. was reserved,  pretty cool and a nice guy. D-West is angry. All the time. Especially if he doesn’t know you. He’s just angry all the time. And if he don’t know you,  he ain’t fooling with you.’”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “Aside from a reverse dunk in a shell drill earlier this week, we haven’t seen Ginobili do much of anything with our own eyes. All we know is what we’ve heard from people who do have the proper security clearance to get into practice. They say Manu is looking a lot like Manu. ‘Just watching in practice makes us remember how much we missed him last year, and even the year before when he was half speed in the playoffs,’ coach Gregg Popovich said after Friday’s session. ‘We don’t realize how much we missed him until we saw him play. He adds so much.’ Ginobili adds scoring, obviously. But he also adds that intangible quality that makes other players around him better. It’s not a coincidence that players like Roger Mason and Michael Finley found their shots harder to come by last season after Manu was no more. ‘He creates situations for us where we can score,’ Popovich said. ‘The way we were built, Michael and Bruce (Bowen), they needed Manu out there to help them get the shots they were used to. Him coming back makes everybody better.’”

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:  “The old Kenyon Martin lives in highlights on YouTube, complete with a hip-hop sound-track. That Kenyon Martin dons a New Jersey Nets jersey, and his dunks flat-out bring the noise. Dribble drives to one-handed slams. Two-handed fast-break specials. Tip dunks over unsuspecting opponents who thought the rebound was theirs. And one ridiculous two-handed dunk squarely in the chops of an Indiana Pacer whose identity will forever be hidden, thanks to the grainy nature of the footage. Inside of today’s Kenyon Martin, the YouTube Kenyon Martin has yearned to be set free. That, says Martin, will happen this season. He insists his legs feel the best they have since his first season with the Nuggets in 2004, and vows it will most notably be reflected in earth-shattering dunks. ‘I’m going to let Melo have his dunk back,’ Martin joked. ‘I’m going to get back to my dunk, where I’m swinging off that rim.’ But this isn’t just about what Martin does above the rim. He comes back to the Nuggets this season in his best shape in years, and that has given him confidence he can return to being the player he remembers being in college and in his early years in the NBA.”

Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer:  “Mo Williams struggled in his first extended appearance in the postseason, shooting just 40 percent, compared to 47 percent in the regular season when he was the team’s second-leading scorer. With the Cavs desperately seeking someone besides LeBron James to step up and score, it was a noticeable failing. ‘Looking at that tape [of the playoffs], watching those games, the way I felt in those games . . . I felt like I was playing at a different speed than I was during the season,’ he said. ‘Just simple things. If I’m coming off a pin-down, I’m going so fast and not being able to get my feet set, I’m missing those shots I usually make because during the season, I’m taking my time. I’m in rhythm, and all of a sudden I’m just speeding through stuff. I started playing at a different speed and trying to force things, trying to do things. The game was so big, I wanted to do well. Having that experience, knowing that, if I’m in that situation again, I’m going to be the same person, controlling the game, playing at my tempo.’ Williams said he was much more comfortable and confident coming into this training camp.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “The court was dropped down in the middle of the McAllen Convention Center, a makeshift training camp venue far removed in so many ways from the arenas and tests of the NBA to come. But it was a start. Perhaps the setting was fitting, a reminder of how far Tracy McGrady must go. But for the first time since microfracture surgery last spring, McGrady, 30, practiced with the Rockets on Sunday. He went through a few stints of the scrimmage, moving well and without pain in a small, but significant step in his comeback. His first participation in training camp did not alter his schedule. General manager Daryl Morey said it was ‘part of the process.’ The Rockets expect McGrady to be out at least until an MRI scheduled for Nov. 23. Still, he played and all reports were that he played well. ‘He looked good, real good,’ forward Trevor Ariza said. ‘He was real poised, real confident. He may be a ways away, but I think he looked good.’ McGrady was less enthusiastic. He had been going through occasional five-on-five workouts in Chicago, though the Rockets were more encouraged by his energy and intensity Sunday than in those workouts. But McGrady seemed to have the steps to be taken, rather than made, in mind.”

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:  “That didn’t take long. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra not only rolled out Michael Beasley as the starting small forward in Sunday’s final scrimmage of training camp, he all but acknowledged that the second-year player would also start at that position in Monday night’s exhibition opener in Detroit. ‘I’m not officially going to disclose,’ Spoelstra said after the team broke camp at AmericanAirlines Arena, ‘but that’s probably the direction.’ Beasley started Sunday’s scrimmage alongside Udonis Haslem at power forward, Jermaine O’Neal at center, Dwyane Wade at shooting guard and Mario Chalmers at point guard. ‘Michael has been pretty consistent all week,’ Spoelstra said. Beasley opened the scrimmage defensively against James Jones. While he appeared at ease on offense, even as he spent the majority of the scrimmage away from the basket, he was less successful off the glass and defensively. He also was called for a five-second inbounding violation when the second unit went into a fullcourt press. By shifting Beasley from last season’s role as a reserve power forward, it would eliminate anything in the way of a lineup controversy.”

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:  “Brandon Bass should add a dimension to the Magic that the team didn’t have last season. The Magic needed another physical inside presence to complement Dwight Howard. The team finished 27th in the NBA last season in offensive rebounds per game. That low number can be traced, in part, to the team’s style of spreading the floor. But Bass will play closer to the basket, and he might prompt Coach Stan Van Gundy to shift Rashard Lewis to his natural position of small forward. Van Gundy called Bass the Magic’s second-most ‘powerful’ player, trailing only Howard. ‘He just plays at a very, very high energy and intensity level, with great physical presence,’ Van Gundy said of Bass. ‘I think he’s going to help us on the boards. He’s going to help us run on the court. He’s going to raise all of our levels.’ Bass closed practice Saturday by lifting weights. He was the last guy to leave the weight room.”

Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune:  “In ways large and small, the Jazz will place a greater emphasis on defense. While the ‘1-2-3 defense’ chant is symbolic, the Jazz already are making more extensive use of video scouting than they have in previous seasons.  Deron Williams, for one, wholeheartedly endorsed using video. ‘Sometimes you can say it, but it’s hard to comprehend it,’ he said. ‘Or maybe you want to look past it until you see yourself on film and then you’ve got to be held accountable.’ The Jazz haven’t changed their principles — they will continue to funnel players toward the middle on defense — but they have stressed the need to better anticipate and be in help position early, rather than be reacting frantically.That means being in the lane ahead of a player driving from the opposite side. Big men will be expected to show early on pick-and-rolls, with another rotating over. Talking is imperative, so players don’t have to turn their heads to know who’s where. ‘We got away from that last year,’ Williams said. ‘We didn’t trust each other last year, so we’ve got to get back and start helping out, start trusting each other and rotating better.’”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “The Lakers figure to be stronger down low with a healthy Andrew Bynum, who was improving defensively and averaging 1.9 blocked shots a game before hurting his knee in January. The key will be the Lakers’ defense against penetrating point guards, a problem spot last season. Derek Fisher, now 35, is the unquestioned starter, though his playing time will be reduced after averaging 29.8 minutes a game last season. The rest will be taken mainly by Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar, depending on which guard gains the confidence of Jackson. Bryant, for one, is happy to see Artest on his side after so many seasons of being guarded by him. Bryant likes the possibilities on defense. ‘It frees me up to kind of roam a little bit, which is something that I enjoy doing with my long arms and quickness,’ Bryant said. ‘I can get out in passing lanes a little bit more, be a little more disruptive. He can take more the responsibility of kind of being a lockdown forward, but we’ll alternate.’ With Rambis gone to Minnesota, the defensive responsibilities will be divvied up on a game-by-game basis. The Lakers’ three assistant coaches — Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw — have each been given nine or 10 teams by Jackson. When the Lakers play a particular team, that particular assistant coach will be in charge of a game plan on defense.”

Mike Jones of the Washington Times:  “The Washington Wizards were in their fourth day of training camp Friday, and Flip Saunders took the floor at Virginia Commonwealth, bracing for a rough practice. His players had competed at such a high level the first three rigorous days, so it was only natural, the coach figured, that the level would drop off. But his players surprised him and turned out another productive day – perhaps a sign the coach still was pushing the right buttons. On Saturday morning many of the players reported again but were dragging as they prepped for practice. But the fatigue never translated to the court, because Saunders broke out a football, divided his players into pairs and had them run pass routes and take turns playing quarterback and receiver. With the grogginess quickly forgotten thanks to the entertaining activity, the Wizards again had a productive practice and effectively absorbed more of their coach’s offensive and defensive schemes. It was yet another effective stunt pulled out of Saunders’ extensive and creative bag of tricks, which he has used to put his fingerprints on his new team. Saunders has ensured camp is anything but predictable. More importantly, his methods already have yielded results.”

Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:  “With the new coach bringing in an offense named after one of the best learning institutions in the world, it figures that 76ers training camp wouldn’t be all about sweat, bumps and bruises. Though Eddie Jordan worked his team extensively in the practice facility at Saint Joseph’s last week, often keeping his players on the court for more than 3 hours, there has been a lot of concentration on the mental aspect of the game, particularly when it comes to the newly implemented Princeton offense. Jordan started each morning with quizzes for his players. Some were discussion-based, others were written. The subjects ranged from offensive plays to the coach’s six basic rules for transition defense. It has been a camp that has stressed attention to detail on and off the court. Mental lapses anywhere simply are not accepted. ‘I’m one of those guys who likes the puzzles and likes the challenges and the test part that he gives us each morning,’ said forward Thaddeus Young. ‘[Saturday] morning wasn’t a test. The question was, ‘What part of the offense do you not know?’ I was pretty good with it. I was just off on one play, and that was at the back part of the play. I knew the whole part of the play except for that one spot, so I was pretty good.’”

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:  “The Celtics met several enemies last season and, according to Doc Rivers, sometimes they didn’t have to look beyond their own dressing room to find them. The coach believes ancillary agendas got in the club’s way. Although those factors likely weren’t as large in their demise as Kevin Garnett’s absence, they played an unsettling role. Rivers simply doesn’t think the Celts were as cohesive and focused as the season before. ‘I thought two years ago it was just so simple, and everybody grabbed onto it and ran with it,’ he said. ‘You know, every single coach spends the whole year on that. Throughout the year it breaks at times, and you try to push it back together. But I thought last year there were so many other things going on – you know, contracts, fanfare, all that. I tell you, I think especially with the young guys, admiration is a difficult beast to deal with. How you handle that on a day-to-day basis is very challenging. I think that was a distraction that as a group we didn’t handle nearly as well as I’d like and as well as we could have.’”

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. The Fundamentals | Betting BKCC: Orlando Magic Says:

    [...] The Fundamentals Matt Steinmetz of FanHouse :  “First thing you notice about Baron Davis these days is that beard. It’s long, it’s thick and it’s got some scruff. It’s back — and all of it, too. Now whether the Los Angeles Clippers are back remains to be seen. But the return of Davis’ beard is certainly a good omen. So was the arrival of Blake Griffin. ‘I want to put the work in and I want to show people again,’ Davis said Sunday night before the Clippers-Warriors exhibition opener. ‘I don’t want to talk about i [...]

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