The Fundamentals

» November 6, 2009 10:21 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “While LeBron James addressed reporters before Thursday’s game against the Bulls, Shaquille O’Neal walked past and whispered, ‘Five million if you do it right now.’ LeBron laughed and said, ‘No way.’ Shaq shot back with, ‘Ten million, final offer.’ Whatever they were talking about, James did not accept the challenge. On Friday, the Cavaliers will make their one and only visit to Madison Square Garden this season to play the Knicks. Naturally, much of the pregame discussion was about the chances of James jumping to New York as a free agent next summer. I figured it was a good chance to ask, ‘What about the Bulls?’ ‘I’ve thought about playing everywhere,’ James answered. ‘Every team in the NBA, I’ve thought about playing at one time in my life.’ ‘Even the Clippers?’ someone asked. ‘Everywhere. At one point in my life, I’ve thought about playing for every NBA team,’ James continued. ‘All of them.’ As the chat continued, James emphasized that he’s planning to keep his options open and is not about to commit to the Knicks, Cavs or anyone until the time comes. ‘I’ll say the same thing every time,’ James said. ‘When July 1 gets here, I’m going to approach it like a businessman and approach it the best way that fits LeBron and his family.’”

Howard Beck of The New York Times:  “In Cleveland, James has been blessed with solid teammates, deep playoff runs and a finals appearance. The Knicks, lacking any of that, will try to mesmerize him with Broadway lights and Madison Avenue riches. It is the conventional wisdom that infuses every discussion of James’s pending free agency: If he leaves Cleveland, it will be to chase fame and fortune in the greatest market of all. But it might be a misguided pursuit, based on a faulty premise. ‘Really, I’m not sure it would impact him that much from a marketing and merchandise standpoint,’ said Darin David, an account director for Millsport, a Dallas-based sports marketing and consulting firm. Steve Rosner, partner and co-founder of 16W Marketing in Rutherford, N.J., said, ‘I always thought that was a misnomer, when athletes would play in New York that they would make more endorsement money.’ David Falk, the onetime superagent who represented Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, said, ‘I don’t think that where you are physically situated is nearly as important as it was 20 years ago.’”

Jeff Eisenberg of The Riverside Press-Enterprise:  “Each time he backed down Houston’s Shane Battier in the post and then deftly spun around him for a layup Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant jogged up court staring into the same pocket of fans seated courtside across from the scorer’s table. The man who met his gaze knew exactly the message Bryant was trying to convey. ‘He looked at me to confirm, ‘I’m using what you taught me,’ ‘ Hakeem Olajuwon said. ‘That was the greatest gift for me. It was wonderful.’ … Although Bryant built his reputation as one of the league’s most explosive scorers primarily from the perimeter, the 31-year-old knows he won’t always have the quickness to get to the rim with such ease. As a result, he has shown more inclination to try to score easier baskets from the post in recent years, the same way Michael Jordan did in the latter half of his career. It would have been difficult for Bryant to find a better tutor than Olajuwon, the player who renowned big man coach Pete Newell once said had the best footwork of any center he’d ever seen.”

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle:  “Once upon a time, Chuck Hayes was one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets. Only the Rockets seemed to know how good he was. Jeff Van Gundy fell in love with him midway through about one practice, and then Adelman arrived and did the same thing. Hayes’ teammates love him, too. He’s likable, decent and funny. The Rockets love Hayes because of who he is and what he is. He’s an NBA center. He’s also 6-6, 238 pounds. ‘And that’s being generous,’ Battier said. Almost every night, he’s assigned to guard a guy at least 6 inches taller and 30 to 40 pounds heavier. He does it because of his heart, drive and smarts. He’s maybe the NBA’s strongest player, with strong hands and a strong base, and when he positions himself in the low block, no one moves him. Opposing centers can shoot over Hayes or pull him away from the basket and get a shot off. But if they’re hoping to make a living against him in the low post, they’re going to have the fight of their lives.”

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:  “Kevin Durant walked out of the Ford Center on Tuesday night, hopped into the back of a car with his father and two brothers by his side and didn’t say a word as the foursome traveled north, from downtown Oklahoma City to his Edmond home. The Thunder’s agonizing 101-98 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers stung too much to speak, and Durant’s two airballs in the final seconds of regulation, and overtime became the inescapable conclusion to his miserable final 24 minutes. ‘I just kept to myself,’ Durant said. ‘People were text messaging me and I just left it alone and went right to sleep.’ It wasn’t until Thursday morning that Durant recuperated from the repulsive feeling of what he later realized was the toughest loss of his young career. ‘I had the game in my hands twice — and I didn’t come through,’ said a more talkative Durant on Thursday, after also being tightlipped to reporters following the game. ‘But people told me that great players have a short memory. So that’s what I have to learn how to do.’”

Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  “When was the last time the Milwaukee Bucks had a player with this much natural ability and personality in one package? Probably Ray Allen, and you saw what he did for the organization. If there was ever a right player at the right time for a franchise starving for success and attention, Jennings just might be it. Still, let’s not get too carried away here, just three games into it and all, because you want to see Jennings take a lap or two around the league, go up against Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Deron Williams and the like. He’s already faced the standard for young point guards, the reigning rookie of the year in Derrick Rose, and more than held his own until right there near the end when Rose made an experienced play, blocking the kid’s shot. Upon review, Jennings didn’t make a bad decision. And that’s the thing. He’s only going to make better ones from here because at 20, Jennings has such an instinctive feel for the game. Scott Skiles, one of the smarter point guards in his day, recognized it from the start in Jennings.”

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:  “Ty Lawson was projected to have to scratch and claw for playing time, but he has averaged 21.2 minutes per game and has backed it up by averaging 11.8 points to go along with 2.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. ‘He reminds me a little bit of, when I came (into the league), a fast little guard was Brevin Knight,’ Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups said. ‘The only reason I say that is because Brevin was really, really fast but he was never out of control. He was really fast and didn’t look like he was moving that fast. Ty is really, really fast, and most guys have to get low instead of standing straight up. He’s got a special gift. ‘He’s small in stature, but he’s stronger than people think. You can’t just knock him around. He’s low to the ground, like a pit bull. But a lot faster than a pit bull.’ But it is Lawson’s defense that has most impressed Karl. ‘He can cover,’ Karl said. ‘He’s a little guy. I haven’t seen anybody — well, maybe the (Rudy) Fernandez kid in Portland kind of used his size against (Lawson). But he is pretty good defensively. The surprise has been, for a rookie, his defensive instincts, and his ability to make defensive plays is ahead of the curve.’”

Jason Quick of The Oregonian:  “In the past couple of days, Greg Oden has heard all about the dreadful state of the Trail Blazers. The poor defense. The sputtering offense. The coach not knowing what he’s doing. How the season is spiraling down the drain. While the Blazers center agreed that the team’s 2-3 start is unacceptable, he had an irritated message sprinkled with expletives for all the talking heads and Nervous Nellies: Relax. ‘It’s been five games, man,’ Oden said, his brow furrowed. ‘You hear the talk of everybody flipping out, people saying ‘It’s not the same’ … It’s five games. We will get over this within a (bleeping) week. Yeah, we should have won some of those games, but that’s in the past. Move on. We will get it back.’ While Oden had a point — the Blazers were also 2-3 at this time last season — nobody could dispute that these are uneasy times for the team. A variety of issues are swirling, ranging from coach Nate McMillan’s internal struggle over whether he should move Andre Miller into the starting point guard position, to star Brandon Roy wondering whether he needs to approach McMillan and ask to have the ball in his hands more.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “From the moment the Grizzlies finalized their roster, there were a couple of inherent weaknesses. Memphis assembled the NBA’s youngest and least-experienced team, with an average age of 25.35 years and 3.13 years of experience. That doesn’t bode well for minimizing mistakes and winning close games. However, watching to see if several top-flight scorers would share the basketball and adequately defend figured to maintain the most interest. The retooled Grizzlies don’t seem to have a problem sharing the ball. Concentrating without the basketball enough to avoid making the Grizzlies an embarrassment on defense? That’s another story … That’s the story behind the Grizzlies’ 1-4 start to the regular season. Memphis ranks no better than 28th out 30 NBA teams in five key defensive categories. The Griz are dead last in two areas: points allowed (115.2) and opponents’ field goal percentage (.505).”

Chris Colston of USA TODAY:  “More than one NBA team has tried the triangle and scrapped it. But rookie T’wolves point guard Jonny Flynn says the team is committed to making it work. Flynn gives Rambis the quick ballhandler he needs to spearhead his fastbreak. ‘We saw the titles the (Chicago) Bulls and Lakers won using it,’ Flynn says. ‘So we know we just have to keep plugging.’ Rambis says he hears from Jackson at least three times a week. In one conversation, Jackson told Rambis he wanted to use an excerpt from Minnesota’s game video, because the T’wolves executed the triangle better than his Lakers. Rambis says people are making too much of the triangle anyway. ‘It’s not even our primary offense,’ he says. ‘The way I’m using it, it’s just something we flow into. First and foremost, I want to push the ball upcourt. If we don’t have something good out of the break, it’s a format to play out of that they all understand.’”

Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News:  “They’re learning the read-and-react, pass-and-cut Princeton offense as fast as they can; a cynic might suggest temporarily terming it the Trenton offense, because they haven’t quite reached Princeton. ‘It’s not a hard offense to learn,’ Green said. ‘The difficult part is when teams take [options] away from us.’ That, Green said, is when players start thinking, ‘Where’s the next pass supposed to go? Who’s supposed to flash? Where’s the backdoor pass?’ ‘Those are the things that have to come more naturally to this team,’ Green said. But if those are priorities, coach Eddie Jordan has his own set of more important ones. And the Sixers’ inability to defend the three-point shot isn’t particularly one of them, even though opponents have hit 51 treys to the Sixers’ 17. That’s a scoring disparity of 153-51, including Boston’s 42-3 advantage Tuesday night. ‘I want to get better defense everywhere – pressure defense, zone defense,’ Jordan said. ‘I’m not going to really concentrate on three-point shooting defense when there’s other – in my mind – priorities.’ Jordan’s list: Protect the rim, protect the paint, get through screens, guard the ball, rebounding.”

Frank Isola of the Daily News:  “According to one player, there is a sense among many Knicks that this season doesn’t mean anything to the organization since management has made it clear that it will look to add an impact player next summer. In order to do that, most of the players with expiring contracts will not be re-signed. Harrington, David Lee, Nate Robinson, Darko Milicic and Hughes are in the last year of their respective deals. The players also don’t like hearing about the organization’s interest in potential free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson. (Team officials are prohibited from talking about players on other teams and most of the speculation has come via the media.) A few players have said that they have been so soured by their experience in New York that if James were to solicit their advice about playing for the Knicks, they would not give him a favorable scouting report.”

Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer:  “From the Charlotte Bobcats’ perspective, season tickets are a terrible thing to waste. To maximize the value of their season ticket packages – and bring more people into Time Warner Cable Arena for home games – the Bobcats have made significant changes that will allow season ticket holders to trade in their unused tickets for additional seats at other games. ‘Forty-one games is a lot for anybody to commit to,’ Bobcats president Fred Whitfield said. ‘Clearly our season ticket base is the core of our business. We had to look for ways to be as flexible as possible and cater to our season ticket holders. ‘Say you can’t go to the Atlanta game (tonight). You get two additional tickets to another game. Rather than burn your tickets, you trade them in for two additional tickets.’ That means four tickets to a future game -the original two season tickets plus two for a previously unused game. The trade-in program is available for 30 home games this year, Whitfield said, provided there are seats available in the same price range.”

Jeff Rabjohns of the Indianapolis Star:  “Ten years after Conseco Fieldhouse opened its doors, this shrine to Indiana basketball — part museum, part arena — remains one of the most revered basketball venues in the nation and has altered the idea of what an NBA arena should be. The retro-styled home of the Indiana Pacers — a modern venue soaked in history — has influenced other teams to rethink nondescript multipurpose buildings and embrace designs tied to basketball’s past. Charlotte, Dallas, Memphis and San Antonio are among franchises that modeled specific elements of their new arenas after what they saw at Conseco. New Jersey, which has a new arena in the works, also is aiming in that direction. ‘We looked at probably 20 buildings, and Conseco stood out by far, mainly due to the whole fieldhouse theme,’ said Rick Pych, president of business operations for Spurs Sports and Entertainment. ‘After looking at so many other buildings, it became a blur. They all had a generic, somewhat sterile feel. Conseco was different. They took the Indiana fieldhouse concept and adapted it very well in that building.’ That was the dream of owners Herb and Mel Simon: Build an intimate arena that would wrap itself in the state’s basketball history, from the exterior look to the interior feel.”

Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic:  “Jerry Colangelo had it rough. A boy in a blue-collar world, he often left home with a salt shaker in his pocket. That way, when his stomach growled, he could swipe a tomato from a neighborhood garden and fix himself lunch. He grew up hard, in a home his grandfather constructed with wood from railroad cars. At age 17, he came home and found his mother battered. He waited patiently for his father to return from a night of drinking. ‘I heard my dad pull up, and then he came stumbling up the stairs,’ Colangelo said. ‘And when he hit the top step, I hit him right in the mouth. I warned him to never touch her again. At that moment, he walked out and slept in his car.’ Two years later, his father disappeared from the family. Colangelo didn’t know it at the time, but his upbringing would mirror the classic inner-city struggles of many NBA players. It would bring him credibility in a profession where owners write the checks, but aren’t to be trusted.”

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