The Fundamentals

» November 12, 2009 9:50 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “After LeBron James clumsily stumbled into saying his most beloved subject was now a forbidden topic, he punctuated his vow of no more free-agency talk with a most disingenuous disclaimer. For the good of the team, James suggested. For the good of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship chase. ‘I think I owe it to my teammates,’ James said. ‘ … I don’t want to have any more distractions to my organization. It’s getting old and I think tonight will probably be the last time I answer any more free-agent questions until the offseason.’ Rest assured, King James had undergone no crises of conscience. If this was an epiphany, it was of pure self-interest. For most of the past two years, James hasn’t just indulged the discussion of his free agency, he’s courted and craved it. He flirts with Madison Square Garden. He calls Brooklyn his favorite borough. He wants the public to parse his words, to find meaning intended and unintended. He’s a little too late shutting down the issue, a little too far down the road to July 1, 2010, to pretend like he’s a victim of a voracious 24-hour news cycle.”

Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:  “Even if you believe the Triangle is a worthwhile offense for a young, struggling, team, it’s already obvious that the Triangle is not a good fit for the Wolves’ two best offensive talents Flynn and Al Jefferson. Flynn is a pick-and-roll point guard. Rambis doesn’t want him to run the pick-and-roll; he wants him to run the read-and-react-and-cut Triangle. Jefferson is a multiple-moves post scorer. When he touches the ball, the offense stops. He is better at getting his points than at making the players around him better. He is ill-suited for the Triangle, which emphasizes deft passing and moving without the ball. There are two problems here. 1) Rambis wants to fit his players into his system, instead of fitting his system to his players. How often does that work in professional sports? 2) The Wolves have had enough trouble putting together a competitive team; putting together a competitive team with a system that will diminish the talents of its two best offensive players will make the climb to respectability even steeper.”

Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register:  “You won’t be seeing Pau Gasol’s season debut real soon. ‘Christmas?’ Phil Jackson suggested in apparent jest Wednesday. Jackson’s way is always to deflect touchy subjects with humor – except when it comes to Gasol, the coach loves to brandish his needle anyway. Jackson is secure in his knowledge that Gasol isn’t injured anymore. The MRI doesn’t show any more damage to his right hamstring, after all. And Gasol’s gentle gestures and shooting touch have perpetuated a career-long speculation that he’s soft. Well, he has indeed played soft at times, including in the failed 2008 NBA Finals, but bear in mind that he was out there against Boston back then on a bad left ankle, which was hurt in March and still sore in June. That showed Gasol has, let’s say, selective grit to him. He is also about 100 times more intelligent than your average NBA player. So here in November, with the Lakers winning anyway with a heavy home schedule, after the insane amount of championship-level basketball he has played in recent years, and with a hammy still barking after the latest high-intensity workout … Gasol is too smart to be stupid.”

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:  “Add another chapter to the Stephen Jackson chronicles. The disgruntled swingman played only 18 minutes in the Warriors’ 108-94 loss to Indiana at Conseco Fieldhouse on Wednesday night because of a mysterious injury. Coach Don Nelson yanked Jackson after he missed four of his first five shots and didn’t play him for the final 18 minutes of the opening half. Jackson then sat the entire fourth quarter as his teammates cut a 21-point deficit to 98-91 with 2:55 remaining but got no closer. ‘He’s got a sore back or hip or something,’ Nelson said. ‘I didn’t think he was moving very well. I didn’t think he moved very well at the shootaround. I didn’t expect that he’d give me very much, but he gave me what he had.’ Jackson had five points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in the third quarter. Seemingly knowing he wouldn’t return to the game, Jackson looked at media row and mouthed, ‘Do I look hurt?’ as he sat down at the start of the fourth.”

Sean Deveney of the Sporting News:  “When Pistons center Ben Wallace looks at point guard Rodney Stuckey, he sees ‘a guy who has the talent to be an All-Star.’ When backup Will Bynum looks at Stuckey, he sees ‘someone who will be the leader of this team for a long time.’ When Pistons coach John Kuester looks at Stuckey, he sees a player who ‘has the potential to be one of the best defensive guards I have been around, because he is so strong, he is athletic and he is willing to accept the challenges of the other great guards in the league.’ There is potential for Stuckey to be all of those things, and the Pistons have wagered that he will. But for now, let’s point out what Stuckey is—a big, athletic guard who hasn’t shown enough team-running instincts to be considered a point guard and hasn’t shown enough shooting range to be considered a shooting guard. This is Rodney Stuckey’s third season, and already, it’s a make-or-break year for both him and the franchise.”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:  “The Suns’ offensive ways and Steve Nash’s play began this season like fine wine, getting better with the years. Three-point accuracy is essential. A month ago, it was unclear whether the Suns would have the 3-point shooting desired or even needed to run a well-spaced system. But entering Wednesday’s game, the Suns were pouring in 3-pointers at a record pace. Their 47.1 3-point shooting percentage was better than two-thirds of NBA teams’ field-goal shooting and way ahead of the 13-year-old NBA record of 42.8 percent, set by the Charlotte Hornets. Phoenix’s 11.1 3-pointers made per game was ahead of its NBA record set in 2005-06, when it averaged 10.2. ‘If we keep getting the shots we’re getting, I think we’ll shoot mid-40s,’ coach Alvin Gentry said of the Suns’ 3-point clip. The Suns have Jason Richardson on fire, Jared Dudley with an improved wing shot, Leandro Barbosa getting healthier, Nash taking and making more shots than he did early last season and Channing Frye spreading the floor more as a long-shooting center. Even with all the Suns’ deep threats, teams tend to want to take away the pick-and-roll game first.”

Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post:  “With Ty Lawson coming off the bench, and all-star Chauncey Billups running the point for major minutes, the Nuggets are dynamic at the point. It’s as if the Nuggets are a football team with two styles of running backs. ‘It’s like the Cowboys,’ said Martin, a proud Dallas native. ‘Chauncey is Marion Barber — he’s a finisher. We know in the fourth quarter, that’s who he’s going to be. He’s going to get the tough stuff done for us. Hard- nosed. Ty is Felix Jones — speedy guy, opens up the court, make plays in space. You have to game plan for it. You have to know that when Ty comes into the game, that he’s pushing the ball up and down the court right at you. Your transition defense has to get better.’ As this season progresses, this Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside-type tandem could give opposing coaches fits — even the days prior to the game. George Karl, who got his first NBA head coaching job in 1984, knows darn well it’s overwhelmingly difficult to game plan for two styles of point guards.”

Chris Tomasson of FanHouse:  “It’s hard to tell what’s going on in the head these days of Delonte West. But FanHouse wanted to give Cleveland’s mercurial guard an opportunity to explain some of his recent doings. West, who is bipolar and is facing six weapons charges from a Sept. 17 incident in Maryland in which police say he was carrying on a three-wheeled motorcycle three loaded guns and an 8 ½-inch bowie knife, was asked after Wednesday’s shootaround how he is progressing after having two leaves of absence during training camp to attend to personal matters. West ended up not playing in the first three games of the season. ‘One plus one is two and C always comes out to A and B,’ West said to FanHouse. West, who hadn’t spoken to reporters since media day Sept. 28, was asked what that meant. ‘One plus one always be two,’ he said. West again was asked to clarify. ‘One plus one always be two, brother,’ he said. West declined further comment.”

Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe:  “What sticks out most in the comparison between Jazz point guard Deron Williams and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is their body type. Rondo is a slim, 6-foot-1-inch, 178-pounder, while Williams is 6-3, 203. And in a sense, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, Williams is a throwback to Rivers’s playing days. ‘Everybody was big back then,’’ Rivers said. ‘And slow, for that matter. But now it’s a quickness thing. When you can get a big point guard with quickness and speed, that makes it tougher. That’s why Chauncey [ Billups] is so tough to guard and Deron. [Derrick] Rose is not as tall, but he’s powerful. It makes them all tough to guard. Magic Johnson was obviously his own breed, but Derek Harper, Rod Strickland, Kenny Smith, Nate McMillan, Alvin Robertson, and a young Gary Payton, all had size. The hand check was so important back then, and they’ve taken that away, and that’s basically what’s brought back the small guard and it’s probably a good thing. I kid with Rondo, there’s no way he could have played in our era. We would have beat the hell out of him.’”

Matt Gagne of the Daily News:  “If the Knicks find themselves struggling to woo LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who can become free agents next summer, they’ll likely turn their attention to the players such as Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson, who are expected to headline the next tier of potential free agents at season’s end. Regardless of how much money the Knicks will have to spend, there’s no guarantee of landing a superstar given the state of the franchise, and because James grew up in Ohio and Wade appears to be staying put in Miami – on Tuesday Heat owner Micky Arison said he had ‘every indication’ that Wade wants to finish his career where it started. And while Bosh isn’t the same caliber of player, he has already and quite infamously laughed at the idea of playing in New York. But luring Johnson may not be that hard of a sell. The Hawks guard, who was at the Garden taking on the Knicks last night, played for Mike D’Antoni early in his career and credits the coach for putting him on the path to success. ‘More than anything he gave me a chance, he gave me a chance to play and just play free – and kind of blossom from there. He’s a great coach,’ Johnson said before last night’s game. ‘Every time I had bad games, he’d do things and say things to keep me upbeat. More than anything it was confidence that he gave me. It was just getting that chance and believing in yourself, it was great. I’ve still got a great relationship with him. I love him.’”

Ricahard Sandomir of The New York Times:  “Nets guard Devin Harris sat at a table between the bread section and the produce aisle at a Pathmark here signing autographs and quietly representing a team that plays in New Jersey but wants to escape to Brooklyn. Harris, the team’s starting point guard and only star, is trying to do it one local appearance at a time. ‘I’ve always been a fan of being personal with fans, to see me up close, rather than just giving money to charity,’ he said, as he signed his name to the small yellow picture frames given to about 50 shoppers and fans by Western Union, a Nets sponsor that invited Harris to the supermarket, where it has a money transfer outlet. ‘I just like connecting with people,’ he said, a rack of Bundt cakes behind his chair. Since his arrival at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands in February 2008, Harris has told the team to keep giving him community assignments. ‘I try to fit everything in,’ he said. … His off-the-court schedule shows that he had breakfast with a hero police officer at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Hackensack, N.J., helped clean Branch Brook Park in Newark before its Cherry Blossom Festival and took a cooking class at Fabulous Foods in Moonachie, N.J., with youngsters from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Morris, Bergen and Passaic counties. Harris drove an eighth grader in Hawthorne, N.J., to school in his Ferrari, appeared with Nets center Brook Lopez at M&M’s World in Manhattan (M&M’s is the team’s official candy), conducted clinics, hiked, climbed rocks and bowled with youngsters.”

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press:  “Dwyane Wade pleaded for years to join the Jordan Brand family, wanting to wear the shoe his idol made famous. His persistence is being rewarded. When Jordan Brand makes its long-awaited release of the Air Jordan 2010 in February to commemorate the popular line’s 25th anniversary, Wade will debut the shoe. Hand-picked for the role by Michael Jordan himself, the Miami Heat guard called it ‘a huge honor.’ ‘I was in awe, because I know what it means to not only be a part of Jordan Brand but really represent Michael on the court in the shoe he would wear,’ Wade told The Associated Press. ‘Very excited, to say the least.’ The shoe will be launched nationwide Feb. 13 and will carry a retail price of $170. That coincides with All-Star weekend near Dallas and is four days before Jordan’s 47th birthday. It’s unknown if Wade will wear the shoe beforehand, say in Miami’s marquee Christmas Day game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. ‘Sometimes you have to pass the torch. … He epitomizes what the brand represents,’ Jordan said Wednesday night, when the arrangement was formally announced.”

George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel:  “As a leader, Howard needs to understand how the game is officiated for big men. Pouting, tweeting, complaining, cursing or blogging isn’t going to change the fact that the NBA lets a lot of things go on inside the paint that would warrant felony assault charges if they took place outside an NBA arena. And even if he thinks this isn’t a fair fight, he’s not going to win. Even Superman can’t take on an army led by David Stern, who is the King Kryptonite of the NBA. He can take you down at the flick of a finger. ‘If you go back over time when Wilt Chamberlain played, when Artis Gilmore played, Shaq when he first came in, now Howard, you’re dealing with an exceptional athletic talent, not only the size but the strength factor,’ ESPN analyst Hubie Brown said. ‘Through the period of time, every guy who coached those people heard the same thing [about the officiating]. So it isn’t something new.’ Bingo. Howard didn’t have any anger management issues Wednesday, but he didn’t play smart.”

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