The Fundamentals

» October 9, 2009 9:41 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune:  “Warriors’ second-year rising star Anthony Randolph is weeks away from his debut as a starting power forward in the Western Conference. On one hand, it’s quite an accomplishment for a player two years removed from high school. On the other hand, it’s the NBA’s version of torture. … Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, Luis Scola — Randolph will have to match up with All-Star caliber forwards constantly. ‘That’s just like showing up for your birthday party,’ swingman Stephen Jackson said, ‘and having Halle Berry pop out of your cake. He’s going to be surprised. That’s one of the toughest positions in the West. … Every night he’s got somebody that he’s got to go up against. It’s going to be a task. He’s going to see what it feels like to not have a night off.’ Randolph said he never thought he would be in this position this fast. He expects it to be tough on his body, since he’s never played the kind of minutes he’s expecting to play and he’ll have to bang against bigger players. But, he said he has a plan. Rebound. Block shots. Knock down open jumpers. ‘That’s what I’ve got to do right now,’ Randolph said. ‘That’s my strength against these bigger guys.’”

Chris Tomasson of FanHouse:  “After going down in a heap last February and being lost for the season with a torn ACL, Al Jefferson is no longer black and blue. Now, he’s thinking red, white and blue. There likely will be an opening for a post player on Team USA for next year’s World Championships in Turkey and quite possibly for the 2012 Olympics in London. The Minnesota center has volunteered his services ‘I would love to play for USA Basketball,” Jefferson said Thursday in an interview with FanHouse. ‘I would love to play. Two summers ago (2007), I was in (Las) Vegas helping the team practice and they go off and wind up winning the (Olympic) gold medal the following year (in Beijing). So I already have been part of it. Then I got hurt last year, and I couldn’t do much. But I would love to play with my country if they invite me.’ … For last year’s Olympics, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo opted to go with just three post players. He might go with a fourth for Turkey. Orlando’s Dwight Howard and Toronto’s Chris Bosh are looking good for two of the spots. But Colangelo recently told FanHouse that Utah’s Carlos Boozer, the third post player on the Olympic team, will join Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd as Olympic holdovers who ‘will have competition’ to retain their spots.”

Mike Jones of the Washington Times:  “Brendan Haywood again will be the focal point of the Wizards’ defense. Coach Flip Saunders’ strategy asks him to set the tone defensively by being vocal for his teammates, taking hard fouls and closing up the interior with blocks and rebounding. Haywood dedicated himself this offseason to returning in the best possible shape and having another career year. He had no shortage of motivation. In addition to making up for lost time, he wanted to see his Wizards back in the playoffs, where they had become a fixture the previous four seasons. And this time he wanted to go further. Additionally, Haywood is entering the final season of a five-year, $25 million contract. But Haywood – who is the longest-tenured Wizards player and said he wants to finish his career with Washington – said a big payday is the last thing on his mind as the Wizards prepare for their redemption tour. ‘My biggest thing is winning. If we come out here and win, first of all everybody looks good. Second of all, I feel like I’m going to have a big part in it,’ he said. ‘If we come out here and win and make some noise in the playoffs, that helps your contract situation more than anything. When you’re coming out playing for yourself and being an individual, nobody wants a guy who’s got stats but not on a winning team.’”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “Chuck Hayes gets it. The idea that he is — at a stocky 6-6 with few offensive skills — a starting center in the NBA, inspires the same reaction from him that he imagines others have at the sight of him in such an exalted position. ‘I laugh,’ he said. ‘It’s funny. We have the shortest point guard (Aaron Brooks) and the shortest center. But we find ways to make it happen.’ The Rockets used to have the tallest center, adding to the sight gag. With Yao Ming out, they have gone from a 7-6 wealth of offensive skills and celebrity, a former first pick of the draft and seven-time All-Star, to Hayes, a relative unknown who is a foot shorter, was undrafted and worked his way back to the Rockets through the D-League. It is little wonder Hayes is amused by such a turn of events, with another reminder likely tonight in a matchup with Orlando’s gifted young giant, Dwight Howard. The Rockets, however, have found that at a time things could fall apart, they need him to he hold them together. ‘He’s really important to have on the floor for us,’ Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. ‘I’m pretty sure he’s going to be on the floor a lot because he’s our best defender. There is nobody on our team close to him as far as defending inside.’”

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:  “While the Celtics’ focus in training camp has been Kevin Garnett’s rehabilitation from knee surgery, Allen’s decline in the postseason was a cause for concern. He shot 48 percent during the regular season, his best clip since 2000-01, but with no Garnett in the playoffs, opposing defenses focused on Allen, whose shooting dipped to 40 percent, 35 percent from the 3-point line. Fatigue may have been a factor, especially with Allen approaching his 34th birthday, and the guard also said he was nursing a sore hamstring during the postseason that was diagnosed as a sore lower back. So that’s why he was running sprints after practice as if he were still in high school. Shirtless, Allen ran with fluidity and precision, determined to tire himself out. ‘I think about field goal percentage, I think about 3-point field goal percentage and all those things are directly related to what kind of condition I am in,’ said Allen, who scored 8 points in the 96-90 exhibition loss to the Rockets in Hidalgo, Texas, Wednesday night. ‘I did do a lot more this summer. I never really eat too bad but a lot things, you know you go to barbecues and eat more hot dogs and cheeseburgers on the grill, I cut that back a little earlier. It was just one of those things that felt necessary.’”

Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer:  “The concept of Samuel Dalembert’s being the decision- maker in a give-and-go, backdoor offense might leave those inside the Wachovia Center holding their breath. But, through about 10 days of this 76ers preseason, Dalembert, the team’s starting center, has often been the hub of new coach Eddie Jordan’s Princeton offense. And it has looked remarkably smooth. Tonight at 7, the Sixers will continue their six-game preseason schedule, playing the New Jersey Nets at the Wachovia Center. Yesterday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Sixers practiced for about two hours: On multiple occasions, Dalembert dished to cutters for quick hoops. Such a display was a 180-degree turn from last season’s struggles, when Dalembert requested a trade and spent much of the season frustrated with his role and playing time. ‘I love Sam,’ Jordan said. ‘I love what Sam is doing for us. I love his approach, I love his attitude, I love his enthusiasm. . . . Sometimes I have to tell him, ‘Look for your shot, look for your shot.’ And he’s a willing passer out of the post.’”

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:  “Bothered by sore knees and a body worn down by a busy summer, the 30-year-old Turkoglu hasn’t done anything of substance so far in training camp. But he did take part in five-on-none shell drills with the team Thursday, his most active practice so far. ‘Those guys (Bosh and Turkoglu) have been paying attention on the sideline, it’s not like they’ve been in the training room,’ said coach Jay Triano. ‘They’ve been up here and watching and both of them have extremely high basketball IQs, so it was no problem for them to fit in. Both the defensive and offensive shell stuff we did today, they were on top of.’ … It’s not like Turkoglu’s some raw rookie unfamiliar with the NBA game. He’s been around long enough, and played with enough teams, to know the game really doesn’t change much one year to the next, and if he’s got a couple of pre-season games and a few practices to get ready, he will be. ‘All I need to do is get up and down with my teammates before I go on the court and play a real game,’ he said. ‘When I step on the court, I think I’m old enough to figure out things and adjust.’”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “Rafer Alston can play behind Devin Harris and Keyon Dooling, and if the team loses, he can live with that — as long as they make progress and play the right way, and accept losing the way professionals do it, by taking the steps to correct themselves. No, if he loses it — really loses it, like he was still in Toronto or Cardozo High in Bayside, which come to think of it makes him capable of ranting his way out of two countries — it will be because he senses that he’s wasting his time. ‘It would not just be a matter of winning and losing, but how we respond to that,’ Alston said. ‘That’s always the most frustrating thing for me. That would lead to problems for me — if we ever think it’s okay to lose, or because we get too complacent after winning. And if we don’t stick together, because it’s too easy to separate in this league. But any frustration I feel won’t be about minutes.’ You can’t discount the elephant in the locker room, though. Alston may say that he is comfortably ensconced in East Rutherford — a short drive from his family and friends in Queens — but the pending free agent is not likely to finish the year where he starts it. Everyone knows this, because Alston has an agent who does not sit still if a client’s earning potential is not maximized.”

Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel:  “The Milwaukee Bucks are only in the second week of their National Basketball Association exhibition season but they are deep into the process of determining roles for the players. One thing is clear already. The Bucks believe they have improved the team’s depth over last season, which was one of management’s primary goals going into last summer. ‘I feel totally comfortable in saying that no matter who starts, our bench is much, much better,’ said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. ‘It’ll just be a matter of finding out who can start the game for us and get us off to a good start because we’ve got some good versatility and can play different ways. It will just be a matter of trying to find the right combinations.’ The bench was definitely not one of the team’s strong points last season, especially after guard Michael Redd and center Andrew Bogut went down with injuries. But through the draft, free agency and a couple trades, general manager John Hammond constructed a roster that is basically three deep at every position.”

Tim Buckley of the Deseret News:  “Jerry Sloan has an arguably tough call to make regarding whether he’ll start usual backup Millsap at power forward during the regular season or incumbent Carlos Boozer, a two-time NBA All-Star and two-time United States Olympian who had 14 points (3-of-5 shooting from the field and 8-for-11 from the free-throw line), three boards, three steals and two assists against Real. It’s a topic hot enough other Jazz players don’t want to touch it publicly. ‘Not my decision,’ Okur said. ‘That’s coach’s controversy,’ Williams added. ‘It’s not mine. I just go out there and play.’ Sloan on Thursday said he still isn’t sure, but he did tip which way he seems to be leaning. ‘When we take our guys off the floor, the way he’s playing, his (Millsap’s) value probably would be awfully strong for our team to have somebody come in the ballgame,’ Sloan said. ‘It gives you instant energy, and (he) scores the basket.’”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “Back when he was in the Eastern Conference, Richard Jefferson used to look forward to a game against the Spurs the way a child looks forward to a visit to the dentist. The only upside was that he had to do it only twice a year. ‘They were a team that, if they weren’t scoring, neither were you,’ Jefferson said. ‘They were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the league.’ If coach Gregg Popovich gets his wish, the Spurs will soon get back to playing the kind of defense Jefferson used to know and loathe. After a decade of standard-setting when it came to the art of suffocating other teams, the Spurs slipped from ‘elite’ to ‘just pretty good’ last season. They finished ninth in field-goal percentage defense at 45.3 percent, the team’s lowest rank and highest number in a dozen full seasons under Popovich. For a while, the Spurs were floundering along in the low 20s, a ranking that rendered Popovich practically apoplectic.”

Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News:  “One of the early story lines in the Pistons’ exhibition season is the positive influence of coach John Kuester. After the turbulence last season, that’s been a refreshing change. Now, deleting Rasheed Wallace  and Allen Iverson from the roster largely has changed the attitude, age and chemistry of the roster. The personality of the roster is totally different. But don’t underestimate how the inexperience of former coach Michael Curry contributed to the problems last season. And, conversely, the positive influence of Kuester, also a first-time head coach (as Curry was), but one who has served as an assistant coach for 14 NBA seasons. Kuester’s calm demeanor and know-how have imprinted a noticeable impact on a predominately young roster eager to soak up NBA knowledge. ‘He’s made a great impact,’ Richard Hamilton said. ‘Especially for young guys. All the stuff we had to go through last season, and actually doing it the right way, teaching the game the right way, knowing where guys need to be and coaching us what the NBA is supposed to be. He’s not just allowing us to do what we want, but he’s coaching us.’”

John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times:  “Before last season, Vinny Del Negro had never coached on any level and it showed at times. He made several rookie mistakes — particularly late in games — and I pointed out many of them. But Del Negro also did a lot of things right last season. I was especially impressed with the way he worked with the team’s young players and got them to improve as the season went along. He did a very good job getting Derrick Rose ready to play from the start of the season and also had a positive effect on Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. Fans don’t get a chance to see a coach work with players in practice, so I can understand why most Bulls fans had a negative opinion of Del Negro. All they saw were the games and there were too many mistakes to have any other opinion. I know it’s just the preseason, but I’ve noticed a change in Del Negro so far. The year of experience seems to have made a big difference. He’s more confident and isn’t as defensive. He’s been very organized and the team got a lot accomplished in the first two weeks of camp. Barring any major injuries over the next three weeks, the Bulls should be prepared for a fast start in the regular season.”

Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman:  “Richard Jefferson considered him the NBA’s best big-man shooter not named Dirk Nowitzki. After facing him in a playoff series, Pat Riley said, ‘If he gets much better, he’s going to be one of the better players in this league.’ And Jason Kidd called him the best big man he had ever played with. In 2006, that was the trajectory of Nenad Krstic’s career. But a serious knee injury three days before Christmas altered his future, a major reason the 7-foot center from Serbia is now on the Thunder’s roster. ‘People in Oklahoma City probably don’t know how highly thought of he was around the league,’ said one Eastern Conference scout. ‘He was starting to really take off. If he can be that player again, he would be a steal for them.’ The looming question, the scout said, is whether Krstic can return to the form that impressed Riley, Kidd and Jefferson. Before the injury, Krstic featured an array of inside moves to complement a deadly 17-foot jumper. After the injury — with the New Jersey Nets and last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder — he often settled for mid-range jumpers that make him invaluable in a pick-and-pop role.”

The Associated Press:After a summer of boxing, football, beach volleyball and swimming, Shaq has a new hobby—yoga. He attended his first class at a suburban Cleveland studio on Wednesday night. ‘I’m the worst yoga student in the history of yoga,’ O’Neal said Thursday. His massive 7-foot-1, 325-pound frame needed two mats, according to Tami Schneider, owner of Cleveland Yoga in Beachwood. She was O’Neal’s instructor for the class and is special ordering a 100-inch mat for her new student, who promised he’ll be back. ‘He’s got some tight hamstrings,’ Schneider said. ‘He’s obviously a big, strong man. He told me he doesn’t stretch very often and that was pretty apparent. I’m looking forward to working with him to get him into some deeper stretches.’ O’Neal was interested in Schneider’s ‘hot yoga’ class, which is practiced in a room heated to between 85 and 90 degrees. It’s designed to purify the body and make the body sweat, release toxins and enhance stretching. That’s important to O’Neal, who needed some modifications for a few of the exercises, like crossing one thigh over the other. ‘His thighs are gigantic and so strong, they’re as big as my whole body,’ Schneider said. ‘So he was able to cross his ankles and that was just fine.’”

Ken Berger of  “LeBron James is throwing alley-oop passes to Shaquille O’Neal, who is saying this might be his best team yet. Teammates are calling it destiny. Mike Brown is enjoying the show, and Danny Ferry is doing what every true Cleveland fan is doing. Praying. Let’s get one thing out of the way in our analysis of ShaBron — or LeShaq — or whatever this tandem for the ages is going to be called. Just because this is Cleveland, home of heartbreak, doesn’t mean the union of Shaq & LeBron has to end in catastrophe. Karma doesn’t win and lose basketball games. The Drive and The Fumble, last I checked, were decades ago and in a different sport. The Cavs’ backup big men are J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson, not Jose Mesa. Nonetheless, this is what we call the honeymoon period. Preseason games don’t count, and the final judgment on the Shaq-LeBron marriage won’t be delivered until June. Does Shaq make the Cavs better than Orlando, which added Vince Carter, or Boston, which got Kevin Garnett back and added Rasheed Wallace? Do those rooting for the best story — including TV network executives — get the ultimate NBA Finals matchup pitting LeBron and Shaq against Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest? If so, better put those postgame news conferences on 60-second delay. The entertainment value would be off the charts. The question is: Does Shaq have enough left to make it happen?”

4 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Tsunami Says:

    loved this ending from Ken:

    “And pity the Cavs fan. This is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating sports seasons ever in Northeast Ohio. It should be enjoyed and savored, like a Michigan recruiting scandal. But there’s so much pressure, so much dread about LeBron leaving in 2010, that I just don’t see how anyone can enjoy it.”

    this is how EVERY season has been. With the media piranhas telling everyone and anyone that LeBron is too good for Cleveland.

    Oh well, I AM going to enjoy this season. This team is immensely fun to watch, with incredible team chemistry, high character players, and an unbelievably entertaining presentation at the Q.

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