The Fundamentals

» October 27, 2009 9:54 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:  “Most NBA teams set modest goals. They plan to perhaps get out of the lottery or improve on last year’s win total, maybe target the playoffs. They might take aim on a divisional title. And then there’s the handful that expect to win it all. The Celtics are back to believing that anything short of another ring will be a letdown. But they also have a secondary goal that is a little wild, a little out of the box. ‘We want to be the best defensive team in history,’ Kendrick Perkins said. … The actual goal is a nice carrot. ‘I don’t mind them thinking like that,’ Rivers said. ‘I didn’t really make a big thing of it. I just said, ‘Guys, you have to have your goals set high.’ (Being from Chicago), I used the ’85 Bears as my example. I asked them, when you hear about the ’85 Bears, what do you think of, and they said, ‘The best defense in history.’ ‘It’s good if they take this seriously. I wanted them to take me seriously.’ Rivers isn’t the only one talking on a high level. Wallace, shortly after joining the team, raised the bar with his prediction that the Celtics could match or break the NBA’s single season win mark of 72. Nor did Wallace stop there. ‘Rasheed said he thinks this team can break the record they had in Detroit of going seven straight games holding a team under (70) points,’ said Paul Pierce. ‘I was like, ‘That’s kind of tough to do,’ and he said ‘We’ve got that kind of team.’ You definitely believe.’”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “Can the Lakers beat the almost mythical regular-season record for victories in a season, set by the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan in 1995-96 on the way to an NBA championship? Kobe Bryant is already chasing Jordan’s six NBA championships — he has four — and he has mentioned the Bulls’ 72-10 record privately to some of the Lakers. Bryant didn’t go into much detail when asked about it by The Times, other than to say, ‘That’s the goal, try to get better every year. Last year we had games where we lost maybe three right at the buzzer, and we could have won 68 games.’ … As for Jackson, now 64, he has no desire to repeat that record-setting 72-win season, caring little about how many victories the Lakers collect as long as the season ends in another championship next June. Beating the Bulls’ mark is ‘not important,’ says the coach with the best winning percentage in NBA history. ‘It just takes so much out of you to push that all the time and just keep pushing it.’ There are other doubters, among them a former Lakers player. Ron Harper won two championship rings with the Lakers this decade and was also a guard on that historic Bulls team. He’s not exactly buying into a record-setting season for this Lakers squad. ‘If they go 73-9, that means the Bulls team I played on would probably go 75-7, because if we would be playing all the weak teams they are playing now, we wouldn’t lose,’ Harper said. ‘The league was much stronger when we played than what they are playing now. If they were to beat the 72-10 record, which I don’t think they will, I’ll take my hat off to that team. But if they ever want to compare basketball teams, they’re not even in the top 10 teams.’”

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:  “The Cavaliers harbor no hard feelings, just respect for their newest Eastern Conference rival, the Celtics. Not even the brutal seven-game playoff series two years ago and the near brawl last week during an exhibition game could spark any ill feelings toward the Celtics. Tonight, the teams match up in a nationally televised introduction to what should be an enthralling NBA season and fierce war for conference supremacy. But the two Cavaliers who will be the focal point of their run toward the title realize two things – that the Celtics are a formidable opponent and that the season-opener carries more significance for TV ratings than actually establishing an edge. ‘I don’t dislike Boston and I don’t think they dislike us either, but when you’re competitors, there’s a little bit more fire than usual with the other teams,’’ All-Star forward LeBron James said yesterday. ‘I don’t think it’s no hard feelings. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt or anything, but it’s definitely going to be a really good, physical ballgame.’ … Neither James nor O’Neal provided any bulletin board material. O’Neal had nothing but compliments for the Celtics, especially forward Kevin Garnett. ‘Good team. Former champions, really didn’t have a chance to defend their crown because Mr. Garnett was out most of the playoffs,’ he said. ‘He’s had a long summer like myself to get rest and rejuvenated. So I am sure the city of Boston and the Boston Celtics feel like they have something to prove.’”

Brian Windhorst of The Cleveland Plain Dealer:  “Opening day in the NBA has arrived, the start of the most hyped season in Cavaliers history against one of their biggest rivals on national television in the kickoff game of the entire league. But to listen to the team’s players and coaches, you get the impression they aren’t exactly thrilled the season is already here. They may be tired of playing preseason games, but after a month of nagging injuries, battling the flu and uncertainty surrounding Delonte West, the Cavs frankly aren’t as ready as they’d like to be. Especially with the Celtics in town. ‘I’m not excited about where we are on both sides of the ball,’ Cavs coach Mike Brown said after an extended practice Monday. ‘We have a way to go, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That’s a good thing about this being 82 games. You have time to get where you need to be in that playoff run.’ For the past two weeks the Cavs have adopted a mantra that it’s going to take awhile for them to jell with three new rotation players in Shaquille O’Neal, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker. They’ve emerged from practices and some preseason games, including last week’s convincing defeat against the Celtics in Columbus, saying they aren’t focused on clicking now but much later in the season.”

Jason Quick of The Oregonian:  “It was just like any other practice earlier this month when Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan whistled for his team to gather at midcourt, signaling the end of practice. Quickly, though, the coaching staff and players discovered this would be no ordinary practice. As McMillan started to address the team, he was interrupted. Not more than four words had come out of the coach’s mouth when team star Brandon Roy cut him off, his voice sharp, his mood irritated. Roy began a rant to his teammates about their poor attitudes and lackadaisical effort during the practice. He had been stewing throughout the two-hour workout, which came after a day off and after a thorough drubbing in Los Angeles to the Clippers. As the team went through the practice, Roy said he heard grumbling. ‘Why are we going so hard?’ one player complained. ‘Aren’t we done yet?’ another huffed. Roy remembers asking assistant coach Kaleb Canales ‘This is October, why is everyone in a rush to get out of here?’ Soon, Roy made up his mind. He would not tolerate this again. Not on this team. Not on his team. So when McMillan started his post-practice address to the team with ‘That was a pretty good practice … ,’ Roy snapped. Stunned, McMillan said he dropped his head, looked at the floor, and listened. ‘That was not a championship practice!’ Roy remembers telling the team. ‘We can’t sit here and say we want to win a championship and practice, you know, pretty good. We have to practice at a higher level. We can’t keep making excuses!’ As he stared at the floor, McMillan had to compose himself. Inside, he was swelling with pride. The best player on the team was holding his teammates accountable.”

Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun:  “Chris Bosh is not suffering from delusions of dino grandeur. On the eve of the Raptors season-opening game tomorrow night against LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and the explosive Cleveland Cavaliers, the all-star forward acknowledged yesterday that his revamped, re-tooled and refocused team will have to out-work the elite clubs in the Eastern Conference this year to have any chance of winning. And if they don’t, well, it could be a long year. And though he didn’t say as much, if they don’t, this season may end up being Bosh’s farewell tour in Toronto, as one U.S. wag put it. Even with some key new faces, including potential all-star Hedo Turkoglu, Bosh suggested yesterday following a practice at the Air Canada Centre, that the Raptors, who are 2-6 in the pre-season, are certainly not one of the upper echelon teams in the powerful East. ‘We’re not one of those good teams where we can show up for a game and play basketball. Some teams are like that, but we’re not good enough to do that,’ Bosh said. ‘We’re going to have to practice hard. This is our first month together (so) we’re going to have to do things at full speed.’ Bosh, who put on about 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season in an effort to bump up his own game, particularly when he’s facing three of the best bigs in the East (Shaq, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard), said that building chemistry is going to be huge for the Raptors, with nine new faces in the lineup.”

Scott Cacciola of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “Though inexperienced as an NBA head coach, Lionel Hollins might be among the most well-equipped candidates in the league to handle Iverson. Consider his background: As an NBA player, Hollins not only had a reputation for being gritty and determined, but also for being headstrong. He was not afraid to challenge authority, and that included his coaches. He was a good teammate, but he also was his own man. Reflecting on his time under coach Jack Ramsay with the Portland Trail Blazers in the late 1970s, Hollins said: ‘We were young men growing up in a time when we’d just gone through the civil rights movement, we had a voice and we wanted to speak. Sometimes as you get older, you learn that you’re better off keeping your mouth shut. But being young guys and idealists, ‘Hey, I’m speaking my mind!’‘ And if there is a generational gap, Hollins can at least relate to someone who, as a younger person, was marginalized by race and poverty. Beyond that, Hollins has a philosophical view of basketball that would seem to favor Iverson. ‘I don’t want grown men to be robots,’ Hollins said. ‘I want individuals and independent thinkers, because those are the guys that are going to grow and be creative and make decisions when plays break down. That’s how you win.’”

Eddie Sefko of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “Mark Cuban made the proclamation on the first day of training camp that fans will see a different Dirk Nowitzki this season, and not just because he hasn’t had a haircut since the Beijing Olympic rings were shaved into his scalp. ‘I promise you Dirk’s numbers will drop this year,’ the Mavs’ owner said. ‘Dirk’s numbers go down when he has confidence in the rest of his team and he doesn’t have to score.’ Of all the things Nowitzki has done in his massive and still growing career, proving that less is more is still on the to-do list. History tells us it might be the best thing that could happen to him and the Mavericks. The last two NBA champions have featured superstars whose numbers dropped significantly from previous seasons. They were surrounded by better talent and therefore deferred more often, scored less and won big. It happened with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and with Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. Could it happen here? Could Nowitzki, the face of the franchise and the man who has done everything in his career except win a title, see his scoring average dip from the 25.3 he’s averaged the last five seasons? ‘I’d love that — if we win,’ Nowitzki said. ‘That’s the most important thing.’”

Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post:  “There are 54 ways the Nuggets could wither under the weight of unreasonable expectations and maybe one good reason to believe they could blossom into a legitimate NBA championship contender.Is this the year Nene grows up and becomes an all-star center? ‘I know it is easier to stand out as a center in this league,’ Nene told me during training camp.Nene can be the No. 1 center in the Western Conference. It is the only way Denver can be the No. 1 team in the West. Coming off a season in which he produced personal bests in points (14.6), rebounds (7.8) and minutes (32.6) per game, is this the year when the 27-year-old Nene finally elevates what has been a star-crossed career into undeniable star power? If the Nuggets are going to hold off Portland to win the division title, much less beat the 54 regular-season victories of their dream 2008-09 season, they must see Nene improve. Here’s the belief of Denver front- office executive Rex Chapman: ‘Nene is quicker than all the centers. He’s more athletic than all the centers. We’ve had centers in the West who have gotten hurt or defected to the East. It’s a great situation for Nene.’”

John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times:  “Although the roster has undergone many changes, the one constant in the Bulls’ locker room the last few years is Kirk Hinrich being named a team captain after the annual players’ vote. Hinrich, Luol Deng and Lindsey Hunter were the top vote-getters in this year’s election and will serve as captains for the upcoming season. ‘It’s something I try to take seriously,’ Hinrich said. ‘It’s something to have your teammates vote for you to be a leader of the team and I just try to do as much as I can to try to fulfill that role.’ The most obvious role of a captain is to meet with the officials at midcourt before a game, but there are other duties that change from team to team and year to year. ‘It’s always different,’ Hinrich said. ‘You just try to have a feel for things. You’ve got to know when to say things and you always try to lead by example. We’ve got a lot of young guys. We’re trying to bring them along as quickly as possible and I just try to set an example every day. For me, I try to set an example by playing hard, bringing energy and trying to play the right way.’”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Newark Star-Ledger:  “Jason Kidd’s brand of leadership was borne of a natural charisma and an intuitive understanding of his place in history. He managed to take one of the most misbegotten franchises in sports and turned it into an NBA finalist virtually overnight by the sheer eloquence of his example. Vince Carter’s leadership was more of a brotherly micromanagement. He had an extraordinary grasp of how to see a play from all 10 positions on the court, and given his prominence, you had little choice but to hear him impart how he would do your job. Nobody really knows what kind of captain and leader Devin Harris will be over the next six months, starting Wednesday night, when the Nets open their 2009-10 season. But it’s worth noting that even though coach Lawrence Frank always sets the tone — that was true even in Kidd’s heyday — Harris embraced the duty long before anyone officially gave it to him, and he didn’t wait around for someone to stitch a ‘C’ on his warmups.”

Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee:  “Comfort wasn’t easy to come by for Omri Casspi. He hadn’t experienced it in July summer league in Las Vegas, where the Kings’ rookie small forward from Israel looked like a man in a foreign land even on the basketball court. The real culture shock came later, when Casspi began switching sides on the globe and preparing for his Sacramento stay. But after a morning practice in late September, the most unexpected of Kings ambassadors helped Casspi feel comfortable: fifth-year small forward Francisco García. ‘He told me to come in late at night at 9 o’clock to be in the gym,’ Casspi said. ‘I came in late at night, and it was only me and him in the gym. My father came with me. ‘Cisco told me, ‘Hey Omri, you’re my rookie this year. I’m going to take care of everything you need. If you’ve got any questions, if you have any problems … It meant a lot to me. I’m coming from a different country, coming to a new culture, and to see a guy like him. … He said, ‘People might think we’re competing for the same (position), but … I’m going to really keep supporting you. He did that day. He still is.’ With the official start of Casspi’s NBA career just one day away, he’s never looked so comfortable.”

Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia News:  “Thaddeus Young likes the thinking aspect of the game. He enjoys the challenges of learning Jordan’s Princeton offense. He brags about how well he has scored on the many quizzes Jordan administered to the team during the preseason, flashing his schoolboy smile to his listeners. Simply, Young is enjoying his rise to stardom in the NBA. ‘Playing this style of offense can put guys over the hill [in terms of stardom],’ Young said. ‘You’re doing a lot of things without the ball and doing a lot of things with the ball. Hopefully I can be the beneficiary from this offense. ‘Dre [Iguodala] could be one, E.B. [Elton Brand] could be one. Anybody.’ Well, that’s a stretch. Not just anyone can be a star in the best league in the world. But Young is quickly moving toward that plateau. ‘I’m not in the prediction business,’ Jordan said when asked if Young could someday be a superstar, ‘but Thad has to go through some tribulations now and get some more experience and then see where he is.’ Still, he is far ahead of where most thought he’d be at this point in his career. ‘He’s exceeded in the fact that he’s played more than projected,’ King said. ‘After seeing him in the summer league after we drafted him, I thought he’d play for us right away. I think there’s a chance his shooting will get better. I see him as a Rashard Lewis type, who can play the ‘3′ or the ‘4.’”

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:  “Rajon Rondo will not sign a contract extension with the Boston Celtics, allowing him to join next summer’s heralded free-agent class, the player’s agent told Yahoo! Sports late Monday. Rondo and the Celtics have until Saturday to negotiate an extension, but his agent, Bill Duffy, said the point guard has already made a decision to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Duffy said he has had recent talks with the Celtics about Rondo, but the negotiations never progressed enough to lead him to believe the sides were close to a deal. Celtics president Danny Ainge couldn’t be reached for comment. ‘We’re not going to do an extension right now,’ Duffy said. ‘The conversation has been cordial. We’ve been talking the last couple of weeks. There is a difference between the perception of him in their eyes and our eyes. With that being said, the focus is on Rajon to have a fantastic season and concentrate on winning a championship.’ Duffy, who also counts Steve Nash among his clients, said he is seeking a contract that would pay Rondo like one of the NBA’s top five point guards. The Celtics, Duffy said, ‘feel differently.’”

Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:  “Jekyll and Hyde — not to be confused with Gerry and Lyde — were not players on the Utah Jazz roster last season. The team just seemed to play with split personalities in 2008-09, depending on whether the Jazz were hostile hosts in the comfy confines of EnergySolutions Arena or if they were acting as gracious guests in opponents’ arenas. The difference between their success at home and on the road was stark and startling. The Jazz played like an elite team in Utah, where they went 33-8. But they played like, well, a lottery team by going just 15-26 as visitors. Improving their away play is now a top priority. ‘When you win 15 games on the road,’ Deron Williams said, ‘it’s gotta be a topic of discussion.’ The Jazz point to a variety of things that attributed to their worst road record since 2004-05, when the were 8-33 away from home and 26-56 overall. That laundry list includes: youth, injuries, selfishness, and a lack of defense, effort and toughness. Their list of solutions for a road U-turn is more concise. It begins and ends with defense. ‘There’s no excuse, you know,’ Williams said. ‘It’s a matter of wanting to go out and wanting to get stops. It’s a matter of showing some character, showing some fight on the road. I love playing on the road personally.’”

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times:  “The estimated 4,000 in attendance for Monday’s open-to-the-public practice at Oracle Arena got a preview of a rotation Warriors fans might see often this season. Big man Ronny Turiaf played power forward for long stints with Blue Team, which is usually the starting lineup. Coach Don Nelson still may start forward Corey Maggette, whom Nelson said he would lean on because of the team’s inexperience at the position. But Nelson said to expect to see Turiaf on the floor with starting center Andris Biedrins. ‘We like that lineup actually,’ Nelson said. ‘And you’ll see that, the big lineup.’ Nelson started Turiaf next to Biedrins against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 20 in Ontario. But shortly thereafter, Nelson announced that Maggette would be starting at power forward over Turiaf and second-year forward Anthony Randolph, leading many to believe he was going to a small lineup primarily. Nelson also expressed uncertainty about how many minutes Turiaf can play and how much offense the team would be sacrificing.  Monday’s practice showed Nelson is leaning toward going big. Some players certainly like the idea. Swingman Stephen Jackson called it his dream lineup.”

Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times:  “There were a lot of things Shaquille O’Neal thought he might be doing 10 years ago, but this wasn’t one of them. Forget where he is, he didn’t expect to be playing at 37, much less hoping to show enough to get a new contract. ‘When did I get my first title, at 28?’ O’Neal said. ‘After I won the first one [2000 with the Lakers], no. After the second one [2001 with the Lakers], no. After the third one [2002 with the Lakers], no. After the fourth one [2006 with Miami], yes.’ A fifth title would put O’Neal ahead of Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, in whatever order you please, but playing into his late 30s meant exposing himself to indignities he also hadn’t imagined. At 32, the Lakers traded him. At 35, with Dwyane Wade lost, the bottom falling out and Shaq looking like an Orca in sneakers, the Heat sent him to Phoenix. Even while he fit awkwardly with the Suns, their cutting-edge medical staff got him over nagging injuries and in better shape than he had been in his 30s. … In any event, Cavaliers fans had better hang on, because this could be a rough takeoff. The No. 1 problem, like O’Neal’s No. 1 problem in Phoenix, was being brought in as the piece that was supposed to get the Cavaliers over the top. Anything less than a Finals appearance will be deemed a failure, making it unlikely Shaq will be back and, perhaps, prompting LeBron to look around. The No. 2 problem is also like Phoenix: competition.”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “Thirteen years ago, the world had walls. Shaquille O’Neal wanted to be a movie star, a rapper, the most famous basketball player in the world. Never so much that he wanted to leave for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he had to leave. Major markets delivered endorsements and televised games and national press. Wilt and Kareem were liberated to Los Angeles and, ultimately, so was Shaq. ‘It was a lot different for me then, than it is for LeBron now,’ Shaq says. Everything has changed. The digital age has changed everything. They can watch you every night on a satellite TV, a laptop, a cell phone. LeBron James doesn’t need Madison Avenue to be a national icon because his stage in Cleveland has been big enough to make him a global star. Most of all, the Lakers offered O’Neal the biggest contract, but the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement has since tilted to give the home team the ability to pay the most money in a max contract, to protect the Orlandos and Clevelands when the L.A.s and New Yorks come calling in free agency. ‘I had a business decision to make,’ said O’Neal, who is the spokesman for the U.S. Marines’ ‘Toys for Tots’ Christmas program for impoverished children; people can donate gifts or money online ( or at Toys ‘R’ Us stores across the country. ‘I could make more by leaving [for the Lakers], but that’s not the case for LeBron now. He can make more by staying in Cleveland. And yeah, the world is different now. They can see you wherever you play. You don’t have to be in a big market anymore. He doesn’t have to leave Cleveland.’”

2 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. mookie Says:

    So the Lakers AND the Celtics are going to break the single season wins record this season? Wow — this is going to be an interesting time!

    The comments Shaq made about LeBron not needing to leave CLE for a bigger market were very insightful. So true.

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