The Fundamentals

» October 15, 2009 9:06 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Antonio Gonzalez of The Associated Press:  “Orlando assistant coach Patrick Ewing stood underneath the hoop, took the ball after it swished through the net and passed it back to Dwight Howard(notes) standing at the free throw line. ‘Twenty,’ Ewing said, passing the ball back. The next shot finally clanked. Then came a grimace and a grunt. ‘Restart the count,’ Howard called out. This scene plays out daily for the Magic big man. The All-Star center has surprisingly hit as many as 28 straight free throws in practice during Orlando’s training camp. The work is all part of his goal to rid his free-throw woes after missing a costly pair in the waning seconds in Game 4 of the NBA finals, a blown opportunity that still haunts Howard. ‘It’s not gone yet. Every day I wake up and I think about what happened,’ Howard said. ‘Every day I get a reminder when I turn on the TV … first thing I see is Kobe (Bryant) putting up the championship sign. You think about it, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since we lost. I put some of the moments away, but losing something when you’re so close, it hurts. So you don’t want to go through that experience again.’”

Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:  “The questions rolled off the tongue much easier than the answer. I asked Marvin Williams the other day, ‘Who are you as a player, what’s your profile around the league?’ After rubbing his head for a second and smiling, Williams looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I don’t worry about stuff like that. You’d have to ask someone else about that.’ Good idea Marv. A quick phone call to a friend (a NBA All-Star turned pundit these days) offered up an interesting answer. ‘Marvin Williams is their x-factor,’ he said. ‘He’s the key to their season if  you ask me. I think Marvin has to be the guy because he’s a 6-9, 240-pound guy that plays what I think is the most crucial position in the league these days. Whatever position the best player in the league plays, every guy on every other team that plays that spot becomes even more important. When MJ (Michael Jordan for you Y2K babies) ruled the league every shooting guard in the league instantly became more important. The same goes for all the small forwards now that LeBron is the man. So if Marvin can get to another level this year, the Hawks really have a chance to make some noise.’”

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:  “When Blake Griffin checked into a midtown Manhattan hotel the day before the NBA draft, he sent a text message to his good friend, Pittsburgh forward DeJuan Blair. ‘At hotel in NY; Where U at?’ the text message read. Blair’s response: ‘Not there.’ Puzzled, Griffin sent a second message, inquiring about Blair’s arrival time. This time the response left Griffin totally perplexed. ‘He let me know he wasn’t coming to New York at all,’ said Griffin, the Clippers rookie and 2008-09 College Player of the Year who was the No. 1 overall selection of the draft. ‘That confused me and surprised me.’ In fact, Blair wasn’t in the ‘green room’ at Madison Square Garden, awaiting an expected curtain call to pose with commissioner David Stern after being announced as a first-round pick. That was because the league had determined it wasn’t likely that Blair would be taken in the first round, which turned out to be the case. Instead, the Spurs made him the 37th overall pick. Blair has vowed to make the 29 teams that passed on him regret the decision. Griffin believes he will make good on his promise.”

Jonathen Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “Dorsey does seem to recognize the need to improve. He said he has been watching Hayes in practice and on tape to get a better idea how to defend in the paint. ‘I’ve been watching a lot of tape of a great one-on-one defender, how he doesn’t let his man get inside the paint,’ Dorsey said. ‘He makes contact with his man before he gets on the post, makes them go one way, not spin back.’ There is more to be corrected than that. The Rockets need him to be more engaged in team defense, a shortcoming that was clear in the fourth quarter in Orlando when the Magic repeatedly used center Marcin Gortat in pick-and-rolls and tore through the Rockets’ defense. ‘Joey has unbelievable instincts, he really does,’ Shane Battier said. ‘On the defensive end, if you just go out and play he’s going to impress you with his instincts and his athletic ability. It’s up to his coaches and us as teammates to shape his instincts and athletic talents into a team concept. Once he figures that out he can be a really good player in this league.’”

Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press:  “The Hawks’ Josh Smith  is a 6-foot-9 jumping jack who loves attacking the rim for highlight-reel dunks. The Wizards’ Antawn Jamison  is a 6-9 crafty scorer with a good jumper and an all-around offensive game. Both are tough matchups — especially for a rookie. But Pistons rookie forward Jonas Jerebko  handled both assignments just fine the past two games, and that sort of defensive versatility could land him in the playing rotation once the regular season begins. ‘His energy has been outstanding,’ Pistons coach John Kuester said Wednesday of Jerebko’s performance in Tuesday night’s 101-98 exhibition loss to the Wizards in Grand Rapids. ‘If you watch the tape and you watch him play, he made Jamison play hard. ‘I was watching how he was defending people and running the court. I was very impressed with what he was doing for us.’ At 6-10, Jerebko was able to stay in front of Smith and keep him from the rim in Sunday’s victory over the Hawks. And besides making Jamison work, Jerebko was active in helping teammates with the pick-and-roll and still getting back to his man.”

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:  “Joey Graham is holding out hope of making the Nuggets roster. He shouldn’t have to worry. It’s all but certain. Graham, 27, has impressed Nuggets coach George Karl so much that Karl has already talked about fitting the 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward in the rotation during J.R. Smith’s seven-game suspension when the season starts. Those decisions are still to be determined, but what is clear is how much Karl likes the hard- working, rough-and-tumble Graham. ‘There’s a ‘how we played’ last year that I don’t think any of us want to change,’ Karl said. ‘Joey has that Dahntay Jones personality. They are different players, going to do it in different ways. But from the standpoint of courage and toughness and the desire to defend, Joey has those personalities.’ The Nuggets once tried to trade Linas Kleiza for Graham when he was with Toronto. That didn’t work out, and they almost missed out on Graham again this summer. Cleveland, Minnesota, Charlotte and Houston all courted Graham, who played his first four NBA seasons with the Raptors, averaging 6.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and shooting 48 percent from the field.

Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:  “Hakim Warrick’s signing could be a steal for the Bucks, if he can continue the steady play he has produced over the first five exhibition games. He leads the team in scoring (17.8 points per game) and rebounding (6.8) and is shooting 59% from the field and 77% at the foul line, while taking a team-high 44 free-throw attempts. ‘He’s got the ability to get fouled,’ Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. ‘We knew that when we signed him, and so far that’s held true. He can also face up and make shots, and he’s got a nice little driving game. He can really run the floor. He’s a guy still figuring out where we need him to be on the defensive end all the time, but it’s certainly not due to a lack of effort or anything like that. He’s been locked in, a very solid pickup for us, for sure.’”

Michael Lee of the Washington Post:  “JaVale McGee said he arrived at training camp about five pounds short of his goal to weigh 250 pounds in his second season, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. McGee said he was making progress with his weight gain until he spent two weeks in August with mysterious workout guru Frank Matrisciano in San Francisco. Matrisciano has worked with Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas and No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin, among others, and McGee sought him out at the urging of Milt Newton, the Wizards’ vice president of player personnel. Matrisciano is known as ‘Hell’s Trainer’ because of his unorthodox methods, including climbing staircases with medicine balls, wearing weighted vests and running up sand hills in harnesses. ‘It was some tough stuff, but I made it through,’ McGee said, albeit a tad lighter. During those runs up the 30-foot sand hills, McGee said he told himself, ‘This will help out in the long run.’ McGee’s stint with Matrisciano was shorter than those of most clients, which might explain why Coach Flip Saunders still criticized McGee’s conditioning and focus during training camp in Richmond; at one point he called McGee ‘overwhelmed.’”

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:  “According to Rivers, one can go down the list of Rondo’s shortcomings – stay-at-home defense, willingness to score when left open, leadership – and pencil in ‘improved’ next to each item. ‘It’s just growth,’ said Rivers of Rondo, who had six points in last night’s 106-90 win over Toronto. ‘He’s tried leading stars, and you learn that you do it by example, not with your mouth. He’s been great. He’s wanted the ball, where last year he wouldn’t have wanted the ball. You couldn’t have asked for better (against the Nets) at the end of the game than having him at the line.’ The biggest difference, according to Rondo, has come at the defensive end. He still has a brimming cockiness – a quality essential to his game – that, translated in defensive terms, tells Rondo that, ‘I feel I can steal the ball every time down the floor. ‘That’s very tough to ignore,’ he said. ‘Sometimes I have to remember that I’m on the best defensive team in history.’ Rondo is referring to the big men behind him.”

Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe:  “Eddie House is not a great player. He is a great shooter. He has never averaged 10 points a game, in part because he has never averaged 20 minutes a game. He’s a 6-foot-1-inch shooting guard masquerading, on occasion, as a point guard. His job is to enter the game and change it with long-range jumpers, almost every one of which is fired up from about 2 feet in front of the 3-point arc to 2 feet behind it. He just happens to be very good at it. Last year, for example, he shot .444 from the 3-point line, or .001 lower than his overall average. The Celtics would gladly take that again. ‘He’s a scary shooter,’ Ainge says (no, he and Doc did not compare notes). ‘Eddie can shoot as well as anybody in the game. He’s right there with a Ray Allen, that kind of guy. But he’s not as big, so he doesn’t get his shot off as easily. But no one has a quicker trigger.’ Eddie’s technique is something young players should study. ‘He’s very sound technically,’ says Ainge, who knows a thing or two about shooting. ‘He has a very consistent rotation. The ball comes off his hand very consistently.’”

Howard Kussoy of The New York Post:  “With an offense based on outside shooting, the Knicks have assembled a lineup with only one player who has shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in a full season (Harrington’s 2006-07 season), though Danilo Gallinari shot 44.4 percent in 28 games last season. The Knicks led the league in 3-point attempts last season, but ranked 20th in 3-point shooting percentage. Without a stellar perimeter game in this system, the Knicks are like Proust without a pen or Picasso without a paintbrush. ‘We took 41 3’s [Tuesday] and you look at the game film and we turned down like 15. [D'Antoni] just wants us to take open shots. We’re a jump shooting team,’ Harrington said. ‘Some of the shots may be bad to our fans, but it’s a shot that we work on and that’s the way we play. It’s not gonna be the last [bad shooting] night, but we hope it is. The law of averages . . . so you just gotta roll with the punches and let it go.’”

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:  “I have to say I was flabbergasted by the amount the NBA fined coach Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday. The league is charging Brown and the franchise $60,000 each for Brown’s behavior in Atlanta on Monday and for what the league perceives as Brown criticizing the referees after the game. I was there in Atlanta on Monday night and again Tuesday after practice when Brown first talked publicly about his ejection. I was within feet of Brown on both occasions and certainly within earshot of what the principals said. It’s true that Brown “verbally abused” (the league’s term) the refs, getting himself ejected in the third quarter of the preseason loss to the Hawks. It’s also true that Brown refused to leave the court in a timely manner. That accounted for the first $35,000 of Brown’s fine. But to say Brown criticized the officials after the fact is at best an overreaction to what happened. And at worst, an injustice.”

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:  “Kurt Rambis was in charge of the defense last season, a new position created under Jackson last season. This season, the defensive onus falls on Cleamons, Hamblen and Shaw. All of them have teams that they scout — Cleamons and Shaw have 10 teams and Hamblen nine — and it will be up to that assistant to put the defensive game plan in place for that night’s opponent. For example, when the Lakers play the Sacramento Kings tonight in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center, Hamblen will be in charge of the defensive assignment. ‘We haven’t talked about it, but my imagination is that we’ll do it by committee,’ Cleamons said about that game’s defensive plan. ‘I think everything is in place. I think we know most of the sets that teams will use.’”

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “The flu bug has invaded the Cavaliers’ locker room. Three players, including LeBron James, sat out Wednesday’s preseason game with the Washington Wizards at The Q with flu-like symptoms. The players first started getting ill on Tuesday when James was sent home from practice. James, Darnell Jackson and Coby Karl were all kept away from the team. As a matter of precaution and procedure, all three will be tested for the H1N1 flu virus. Cavs coach Mike Brown said the team wasn’t worried and said that one of his sons also has the flu, which has been going around in area schools and colleges. The Cavs have employed some anti-flu measures, including encouraging washing hands and limited contact.”

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:  “A team-wide session on Ustream led to an awkward moment for forward Michael Beasley, as the Miami Heat prepared for Wednesday night’s 96-91 exhibition loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the BOK Center. Following up on a session initially put together by Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Beasley found himself responding Tuesday night to a posted comment relating to his substance-abuse issues this summer. As he read the comment on the live video feed, teammates Daequan Cook and Mario Chalmers, who were in his room participating in the live Internet stream at the time, grew quiet. In response to a snarky comment of knowing how to hide his stash, Beasley playfully responded about how true that was. Comments from those viewing the stream followed ripping the initial commenter about trying to lure Beasley into such a response. Before Wednesday’s game, when asked if he would have been better off simply avoiding a reply, the second-year forward acknowledged with a smile, ‘you’re right.’”

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times:  “The Warriors’ practice was noticeably calmer Wednesday, Day 2 of swingman Stephen Jackson’s return from suspension. Members of the organization were doing all they could to turn the page. Coach Don Nelson described the situation as ‘over.’ Second-year forward Anthony Randolph went as far as saying ‘it’s not a situation.’ Jackson, however, wasn’t as successful at putting up a front. Questioned about the happenings during Friday’s game against the Lakers in Los Angeles, Jackson expressed disappointment in his teammates. ‘Nobody reacted but me, so the team didn’t have a reaction,’ Jackson told reporters after practice. ‘It was only me standing up for myself. I don’t think anybody else stood up for me. But if the shoe were on the other foot, I would have stood up for somebody on my team. And they didn’t do the same for me.’”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “The Warriors are stuck with a problem of their own creation. This is what happens when ownership overrides a GM and creates an organizational structure where a coach and a player can bypass the chain of command and get contract demands met. In so many ways, Jackson and Nelson have manipulated that dynamic that led to so much dysfunction in Golden State. Back in the fall of ’07, these two were a most improbable partnership. After beating the top-seeded Mavericks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, coach and star returned with a mandate to do something that neither man’s DNA wired him to do. Yes, they tried. Jackson says now he never cared about the title of captain, but that isn’t true. He loved the legitimacy that it lent to a wayward career. Back then, Jax and I were sitting in a New York City gymnasium where he talked about the moment that Nelson had called him with word of his promotion. ‘Coach, you’re going to make me cry,’ Jackson told him. Mostly, Jackson remembered that on the afternoon of Nellie’s phone call, ‘My whole day stopped. It was like I just won a championship.’”

(Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant NBAE/Getty Images)

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. john amaechi Says:

    Heck even I can make more than 28 in a row. I bet you $1,000.00 Brandon. I’ll put it on video. Wearing starbury’s, high socks with extra long shorts and a robert pack jersey.

    Come on, what do you say? for old time’s sake.

    Dwight just needs to relax and focus. He should try willing the basketball with his mind like Luke Skywalker and KOBE!! do.

    I’m not feeling so hot today, i think it’s flu like symptoms.

    talk to you later hater.

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