The Fundamentals

» November 4, 2009 9:58 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Eddie Sefko of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “On a drab, lifeless Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, everybody found out how quickly a dud can turn into a stud. It happened with Dirk Nowitzki. And it happened with a dull game that turned absolutely mesmerizing, thrilling and historic in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks looked dead for three quarters, and Nowitzki was searching for a pulse, too. Then, as if the paddles had jolted him back to life, Nowitzki dominated the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks pulled off a 27-point turnaround for a determined 96-85 victory over the Utah Jazz. Nowitzki had 29 points in the fourth quarter, smashing the Mavericks record for points in a quarter set by Mark Aguirre in the first period against Denver on March 24, 1984. ‘We really couldn’t get anything going for three quarters, and it was just ugly – there was a lid on the basket,’ Nowitzki said. ‘Defensively we were actually decent, but offensively we just couldn’t get going, and then in the fourth quarter we just left it all out there and see what happens and it worked out for us.’”

Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune:  “Jazz coach Jerry Sloan opted to have Mehmet Okur guard Nowitzki primarily in the quarter, even though as Williams noted afterward, Okur has been playing with a bad leg since suffering a mildly sprained knee and ankle in Denver. Okur was badly overmatched, with no play symbolizing it more than when he stood up Nowitzki (who was looking to lean in for a foul call) at the three-point arc only to get caught flat-footed as Nowitzki cut quickly for a layup off a give-and-go with Jason Kidd. For all the available options to slowing a player on an (admittedly) unstoppable roll, the Jazz seemingly explored few alternatives, not even mustering a token hard foul. They stuck with Okur and Carlos Boozer on Nowitzki, even with Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap offering other options. Kyrylo Fesenko even matched up against Nowitzki in the first half and seemed to frustrate him with his size and physicality. The Jazz also opted not to double-team Nowitzki upon catching the ball or all-out denying him the ball in the first place.”

Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee:  “While Martin is known as an efficient and creative scorer, he is a high scorer on a lowly team. It’s a distinction that rarely comes with acclaim. ‘I think that he’s definitely a guy who has established himself as a guy who can score the basketball in the league on a consistent basis,’ ESPN analyst and former player Jalen Rose said recently. ‘I don’t think that he’s a franchise-caliber player … or – based on the guys he’s going to go against on a nightly basis on the perimeter – an All-Star-caliber player. But he is a guy who’s going to be able to give some guys headaches because he can score the ball.’ Yet with the Kings out of the national spotlight in recent years, the notion of having an All-Star for the first time since 2004 (Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic) would be a boon for the organization. As for Martin, it’s no longer a focus. ‘Making an All-Star Game is not going to validate my career,’ he said. ‘I get more from getting respect for how I go out there and play, to have the organization be proud of me as a player. … I’m just worrying about wins and losses, and all that will take care of itself. I want respect from my teammates and the organization. I don’t need respect from Jalen Rose.’”

Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star:  “This is what a leader does — what Danny Granger didn’t bother to do — after Tuesday night’s miserable effort against the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers’ third straight poor performance of this young season. A leader, the guy with the big contract, the face of the franchise, he sticks around after a lousy game and does his best to explain what just happened. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t have any answers for a 111-93 loss. We asked T.J. Ford, who stuck around like (almost) everybody else, to explain what happened and he said this:  ‘I don’t know,’ he said, shrugging, shaking his head. ‘I don’t know.’ Pause. ‘I don’t know.’ Pause. ‘I don’t know.’ Pause. ‘Pfffffft . . . I don’t know.’ At least Ford was there. At least Granger’s teammates were there, answering questions, trying to make sense of how an offensively gifted team has become bad and boring these first three games. And where was Granger? By the time the media arrived, he was gone, his locker clean and empty.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “One would think the first order of business is Hollins and Iverson getting on the same page. Iverson openly made clear his dissatisfaction with coming off the bench and playing just 18 minutes against the Kings. Hollins said he isn’t offended by Iverson’s comments and has no plans to change anything against the Warriors. ‘My thought process is we’re starting the same way,’ Hollins said. ‘Every player has his own opinion and prerogative to speak his mind. To me, it’s not anything derogatory. In this case, it’s Allen’s opinion of himself and how he perceives his role on the team. He has that right. It’s my right as head coach to do what’s best for the team. If that means starting Allen, he’ll start. If that means Allen comes off the bench, then Allen comes off the bench. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m trying to do what’s best for the team. Individuals will succeed if the team succeeds. It’s not about personal success trumping team success. If that’s the case we’re not going to have any success, period.’”

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:  “Chris Bosh has had fast starts to NBA seasons before – he was blistering at this time last season, evoking thoughts of any number of individual awards – but he’s more concerned these days with big finishes. So, yes, his 31 points per game over the first three games are nice and his 14.7 rebounds per game are pretty special, but it won’t matter a lick if he’s only average when the NBA season really gets going. ‘That was one of the major concerns coming into this summer,’ he said Tuesday, ‘not only the second half of the season but the second half of games and just being able to stay strong. It’s easier said than done … but I’m just trying to stay consistent, that’s my main thing this year. I know last year I got off to a really good start and I really, really regressed as the season went on. I’m trying to keep it steady this year.’”

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times:  “With rookie Stephen Curry seemingly entrenched as the starting point guard, the burden falls on Ellis to prove he can be a viable shooting guard at both ends of the court. ‘He has that mentality,’ Warriors assistant coach Scott Roth said. ‘He definitely has the capability to be a very good defender. I think he’s just average at this point and working on being very good. But that’s our whole team across the board.’ Ellis got his start as a pesky man-to-man defender under coach Mike Montgomery. Under Don Nelson, his offensive game thrived, but his defense became a problem, especially because of his lack of size at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. This season, Ellis is getting better at offsetting his size disadvantage with his speed, understanding and desire. He seems determined to again become a factor on defense. His increased effort on that end is apparent in practices and games, especially getting around screens.”

Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press:  “It’s early, but Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis is starting to depend on Ramon Sessions to run the offense rather than first-round draft pick Jonny Flynn. It was Sessions who played the bulk of the time as Minnesota rallied from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit Monday at Staples Center before falling to the Los Angeles Clippers 93-90. Flynn played just 4 minutes, 9 seconds in the second half because Sessions was doing a better job of running the team’s half-court sets. ‘There’s effort there,’ Rambis said of Flynn. ‘But the coach is making it very difficult on him. He’s used to having more freedom, and I’m asking him to step out of that zone.’ The Timberwolves’ offense needs structure to work, the coach said, and it’s imperative that the point guard sets the triangle into motion for it to work. Flynn has shown he has the skill to penetrate in this league, but he’s not getting the team ‘organized,’ in Rambis’ words, up front.”

The Columbian:  “Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he wants point guard Andre Miller to be more aggressive. While McMillan acknowledged that Miller is still finding his rhythm as the leader of Portland’s second unit, the Blazers coach stated that he needs Miller to attack the paint more often and find open shooters. Miller, who was acquired by Portland as an offseason free agent, struggled through the Blazers first four games of the season. He was shooting 31.2 percent (10 of 32) from the field and 14.2 percent (1 of 7) from behind the 3-point line prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks at the Rose Garden. Miller’s shot should begin to fall as the season unfolds — he is known for being a very reliable player who works himself into shape. But in the mean time, McMillan said that he wants the 10-year NBA veteran to create offense by pushing the tempo, engaging in pick-and-roll sets and posting defenders up. ‘I want him very involved,’ McMillan said. ‘To the point where I want him pushing and handling the ball probably 90 percent of the time he’s in.’”

Justice B. Hill of  “Driving a motorcycle, Delonte West was arrested on gun charges and for reckless driving. He was carrying three loaded guns, one being a shotgun in a guitar case, and a knife — the kind of shock-and-awe firepower that would worry any cop who pulled over a driver for a traffic violation. The charges carry serious jail time, as much as three years in prison for each of the gun charges. Unlike in the Burress case, the charges don’t guarantee jail time. West could end up with probation and fines, outcomes that were mentioned after his arrest. But what is of more concern than jail time is how West, 24, will hold up under the emotional stress that comes with fighting the law. His trial is set for Nov. 20. It’s hard to forecast how a judge might view West’s situation. The legal system can dispense justice unevenly at times, especially when it sets its sights on a celebrity. In West’s case, all the issues aren’t known. To date, nobody has reported what his plans were for those loaded guns.”

Marc Stein of  “To greet the new type of rims rolled in by the league last month, league-wide scoring has risen by nearly five points through the first seven days of the regular season compared to last season. Teams are averaging a hearty 99.96 points per game, up from 95.17 during the same span in 2008-09. So what gives? Conclusions are difficult to draw just a week into a regular season that spans some six months, but teams are undeniably taking more 3-pointers with each passing year. A few new teams every season tend to decide they want to play at a faster pace and the general trend throughout the league finds coaches working 3s into their offenses and practice routines more than ever. Atlanta, Houston, Memphis and Milwaukee are prime examples of teams that have upped the tempo of their offenses this season to contribute to the scoring increase, while Phoenix and Philadelphia — teams that eventually ran freely in 2008-09 — started last season at a much more measured pace. Less clear, though, is what sort of impact on leaguewide scoring, if any, can be traced to the new — and some say more forgiving — rims ushered in at the start of exhibition play in early October. The league switched rim manufactures for the 2009-10 season, introducing a new Spalding basket system that includes the ‘Arena Pro 180 Goal’ rim, which breaks away at both the front and sides. Previous collapsible rims used in the NBA broke away only from the front.”

(Photo by Glenn James NBAE/Getty Images)

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