The Fundamentals

» November 17, 2009 10:26 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:  “Before Monday’s game, someone mentioned to Mike Woodson that his team, wonder of wonders, had just ascended to the top of Marc Stein’s NBA power ratings on ESPN.com. In case you missed that, let me repeat it: The Atlanta Hawks are, at least for this week, regarded as the finest basketball team in the best league in the world. The … Atlanta … Hawks. ‘That’s pretty nice,’ said Woodson, smiling as he spoke. And Woodson, as you know, is frugal with his smiles. But think about where this franchise and this coach have been, and where they are now: From 13-69 in 2004-2005 to No. 1 after Week 3 in November 2009. (And not just according to ESPN. The power ratings by John Schuhmann of NBA.com likewise have the Hawks at the top. Can the BCS be far behind?) ‘I didn’t know that,’ said Josh Smith after being informed of his team’s new lofty perch. ‘It’s just Week 2, though,’ counseled Randolph Morris, who was seated alongside. (Actually, it’s Week 3. But close enough.) ‘We want to be there at Week 50.’ Which would be shortly after Halloween 2010, which I don’t believe is what Morris meant. Still, you get the drift. It’s a long season, et cetera. But you know what? These Hawks might be No. 1 for a while yet.”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:  “To many, the idea of the Suns surviving on the boards this season was impossible, considering that NBA teams out-rebounded them by 10 rebounds per game in the preseason. The Suns just had not found the solution. All of the focus was on starting big men Amar’e Stoudemire and Channing Frye, and how they had to almost magically become better rebounders. But the answer was right beside them: the swingmen. Grant Hill and Jason Richardson have picked up the slack, grabbing more rebounds (135 combined) than any NBA wing tandem. Their combined average of 13.3 per game (Hill, 7.7, Richardson, 5.6) is second only to Washington’s Caron Butler (7.8) and Mike Miller (7.3), who have played only six games together. Richardson and Hill are top-five rebounders at their positions. Hill led the Suns in rebounding in four of the team’s first seven games and has equaled the number of his double-digit rebound games last season. Richardson has led the Suns in rebounding in three of the past six games, notching two double-digit rebound games after doing it once last season. ‘I’m going back to my Michigan State days,’ Richardson said. ‘We’re doing a great job of team rebounding. Amar’e and Channing are doing the best job they can keeping the guys off the boards, and the guards are going in there trying to clean up.’”

Alan Hahn of Newsday:  “His famous offense has been so bad this season that it could be retitled ‘Several Seconds of Mess.’ Mike D’Antoni is the leader of these 1-9 Knicks and, as he said after practice Monday, ‘So far I haven’t led them anywhere.’ But the poor start, which comes after a 32-50 season, won’t lead Donnie Walsh to reconsider his coach. Walsh, whose first major move as Knicks president was to hire D’Antoni in May 2008, said it is ‘unfair’ that some Garden fans already have targeted D’Antoni. Asked at what point a coach becomes responsible, Walsh replied, ‘When I think that there’s something to judge him on. [And it's] not even close.’ D’Antoni chose the Knicks over a more immediately promising situation in Chicago, knowing there was a two-year plan in place to get the Knicks under the salary cap and rebuild through free agency. Consider this the hump year. (The Knicks are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday.) ‘I didn’t take the job thinking this was going to be ready-made,’ D’Antoni said. ‘I knew it was going to be hard . . . But it’s no excuse for being 1-9.’ It’s to a point that D’Antoni admitted after practice that he must dial down the system that made the Suns an offensive juggernaut during four seasons in which they averaged 58 wins.”

Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com:  “Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings is the clear Rookie of the Year frontrunner early in the season, but Dallas’ Rodrigue Beaubois got the better of the matchup Monday night. That’s not clear from the box score of the depleted Dallas Mavericks’ dramatic overtime win at the Bradley Center. Jennings (25 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) had better numbers than Mavs guard Rodrigue Beaubois (12 points, two rebounds, one assist). But Beaubois, a rookie who has seized an opportunity opened by Josh Howard’s return to full-time ankle rehab work, came up big when challenged to defend Jennings with the game on the line. Jennings, fresh off a 55-point performance, put the Bucks on his back in the fourth quarter. With Beaubois watching from the bench, Jennings abused J.J. Barea for 13 points in the quarter. Jennings’ groove ended suddenly when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle inserted Beaubois into the lineup for the overtime period. Jennings’ only points in the extra frame came on a pair of free throws with 4:26 remaining. Beaubois prevented Jennings from getting a good look with the score tied and three seconds remaining, forcing a missed 3-pointer and allowing Dirk Nowitzki to put up an 18-foot turnaround at the buzzer to beat the Bucks.”

Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee:  “Tyreke Evans, whose education continues tonight against last year’s top rookie and his Memphis predecessor, Derrick Rose, continues to reward Geoff Petrie with his draft-day decision (No. 4 overall). Jennings’ recent exploits notwithstanding, there is no crushing the inner office Arco Arena infatuation with Evans. Starting with those stats – some of which are overrated – Evans is second among rookies in scoring, assists and steals. But it’s his combination of physicality, versatility, and defensive instincts that separate him from most of his young peers. If anything, his recent backcourt pairing with Beno Udrih, a point guard who can score, reinforces the suspicion that the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Evans is more effective when he shares playmaking responsibilities. (In eras past, Udrih-Evans would qualify as a two-guard or guard-guard front.) ‘Tyreke is not stubborn,’ offered Udrih. ‘He’s willing to listen, to learn, and take things into consideration. He never says, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ I think we work together really well.’ Evans, in fact, seems completely unfazed by any changes in his role, much less the leap to the pro level. Thoughtful, and unfailingly soft-spoken, he freely recites the elements of his game that need improvement, the mechanics on his jumper foremost among them.”

Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer:  “Parker has hit 13 of his last 18 3-pointers and is leading the team and ranks second in the league with a 59.3 percentage from 3-point range (22 of 37.) Not bad for a 34-year-old guy who was brought in as a free agent last summer to bolster the bench. Instead, as Delonte West struggled with his bipolar disorder and personal problems, Parker became the starting shooting guard. After an early adjustment period, he and the Cavs are looking much better offensively. ‘You can credit that a little bit to us just shooting the ball better,’ Parker said. ‘We’re getting into our offense. We’re not having a lot of those possessions where we just weren’t productive. We’d wait, dribble the clock [away], nothing would happen and we’d have to throw up a shot at the end of the shot clock. We don’t have too many of those possessions any more. We’re getting into things quickly. Everybody is more on the same page than they were in the beginning. You go through stretches during the season where you just feel good and the ball seems to go in the hole. But also you can attribute some of that to ball movement, guys getting in a rhythm early, knowing when the ball’s going to come to you. As a shooter, when you know the ball’s probably going to come around to you and you’re ready, then that helps out a lot.’”

Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail:  “On the first play of the Toronto Raptors’ regular season, the ball went up at midcourt and Chris Bosh served notice he intends this one to be a season apart. Bosh’s first move at the opening tap against the Cleveland Cavaliers wasn’t up, but in – specifically into the chest of Cavs centre Shaquille O’Neal with his shoulder. The 350-pound O’Neal was pushed off line just enough and Bosh ended up winning the tap. Ten games into his seventh NBA season, Bosh has continued a more physical approach earned in a no-frills weight room in a former department store on the outskirts of Dallas during the off-season – and the result has been the best basketball of his career. ‘It’s really helped me out, I just need to keep it going,’ Bosh said of his added strength. ‘I like the way things are going. I’d like to win more games, but I think that’s going to come in time, so I’m going to try and keep my play to the highest level I possibly can and just continue to be aggressive.’ Tonight, in Denver against the Nuggets, Bosh will be trying to keep up what is shaping up to be a career-best season: He’s averaging 27.7 points and 11.6 rebounds a game, both of which would be career-highs if he finishes the season at that level.”

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:  “Rajon Rondo is going through perhaps the worst stretch of his career from the line, where the guard is shooting 25 percent (3-for-12) after 11 games. No worries, as far as Rivers and Allen – the latter one of the greatest free throw shooters in history – are concerned. ‘Rondo has not yet understood or developed a pattern for himself,’ Allen said. ‘He asked me the other day what I think about when I shoot and I told him: my routine, my preparation. I think about my preparation. When I’m shooting free throws in practice, I’m thinking the same thing every time. The first free throw of the year and the 100th of the year, you put the same importance on it.’ Said Rivers: ‘I went through this one year where I broke my wrist and I had a horrible year. I think I was 57, 61 percent. And then I went to a shooting guy. The beginning of the season I struggled. It’s like your golf swing. You struggle a little bit and you start going back to your old swing and you do your new swing at the same time, and I think that’s what he’s doing.”

Michael Lee of the Washington Post:  “Shirtless, slouching and sulking, Gilbert Arenas was fidgeting with his cellphone Tuesday night when personal trainer Tim Grover, in Miami to check on him, leaned over his locker room stall. Grover spoke to Arenas for a few minutes, with Arenas repeatedly nodding his head. Arenas’s rehabilitation from a left knee injury that cost him most of the last two seasons had not ended when he left Grover’s training facility in Chicago last summer, and Arenas was already learning an early-season lesson. A strained left calf nearly sidelined him before he decided about 15 minutes before the game to play against the Miami Heat. Then, after his backup Randy Foye sprained his right ankle in the first half, Arenas was forced to play a season-high 42 minutes. And for the second game in a row, Arenas succumbed to fatigue — both mental and physical — as he committed 10 of his career-high 12 turnovers in the second half of the Wizards’ 90-76 defeat. The Wizards (2-6) have lost five games in a row, with five players already sidelined through the first eight games of the season.”

Benjamin Hochman  of The Denver Post:  “Statement-making makes ‘SportsCenter.’ A teeth-clenching, clutch 3-pointer. A chest-to-face dunk. A shot swat to the second row. But sometimes, a statement is made amid the basketball whirlwind — a statement so strong, yet so brief, even fervent and focused fans miss it. Such was the case Friday night at the Pepsi Center, when Nuggets guard J.R. Smith entered the game against the Lakers and went right at Kobe Bryant — as a defender. ‘His very first play he fronted Kobe, instead of waiting for Kobe to kick his butt,’ Nuggets coach George Karl said of Smith, who slithered in front of Bryant and prevented the all-star from receiving the ball in the low post. ‘(Smith) knew that he would have to do some work early.’ Smith’s statement that night to the Lakers — and to his coaches and teammates — was that he’s willing to fight on defense. For years, Smith was a defensive matador, waving the red flag, allowing players to pass. Now he’s a defensive matador who utilizes his sword, so to speak.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “Despite the many inconsistencies over the Lakers’ last two games, there was one consistent source of scoring: Andrew Bynum. The 22-year-old center had 19 points on eight-for-13 shooting Friday against Denver and 21 points on eight-for-12 shooting Sunday against Houston. It’s obvious he should be getting the ball more often.Bynum is averaging 20.8 points and shooting 59.6%. He is also averaging 11.8 rebounds a game, making him and Toronto’s Chris Bosh the only players in the league averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Someone should recognize that fact, though Bynum declined to say so Sunday. ‘I have no idea,’ he said when asked if he should get the ball more often. ‘We just need some good practices and that’s really what it’s going to take.’ Bynum was less deferential when asked about the Lakers’ apparent lack of hustle Sunday, particularly on the boards. The Lakers were out-rebounded by the undersized Rockets, 60-38. Bynum had 11 rebounds. ‘I was out there hustling, but I think as a unit they didn’t,’ he said.”

Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com:  “In the aftermath of Marreese Speights’ knee injury, which is expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks, Elton Brand is likely to get more than the 27.1 minutes he’s averaged in the Sixers’ first 10 games. Brand, the starting power forward, worked as a center with the second unit during Monday’s practice, which could lead to additional time in second quarters with Speights out. Brand said he believes he’s ready to return to the 38 minutes that allowed him to average 20 points and 10.1 rebounds coming into his 11th season. ‘Absolutely,’ Brand said. ‘I haven’t been – with 20 minutes, 18 minutes (of late). The minutes are there. People look at stats and stuff. It’s about minutes.’ Sixers coach Eddie Jordan, noting Brand missed 74 games in 2007-08 with a ruptured Achilles tendon and 53 more games last year due to a strained hamstring and season-ending dislocated shoulder, respectfully disagreed.”

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:  “Al Jefferson returned to the Timberwolves on Monday morning, four days after he left the team bound for Florida to see his grandmother one last time. ‘I got the chance to see her before she died,’ Jefferson said after Monday’s practice. ‘She died 30 minutes after I got there. That was good for her and me. She told my auntie four days before she died that she was just waiting on me.’ Annie Bell Randolph died Thursday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale. She was 83. ‘Luckily, I got there just in time,’ he said. ‘Thanks to my team, my coach, my GM for understanding and making me feel really comfortable, because at first I didn’t want to leave. I was going to wait until Sunday, when we had the day off. Coach let me know it’s real important that family come first. It made me feel good about leaving. I’m glad I did.’ His arrival earlier Thursday gave him the chance to say goodbye to the woman who raised him.”

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:  “Allen Iverson fully intends to resume his NBA career, preferably this season, his personal manager told Yahoo! Sports on Monday night. Iverson reached an agreement on Monday to part ways with the Memphis Grizzlies after previously taking a leave of absence from the team. He is expected to clear waivers in a couple of days and become a free agent. ‘There is absolutely no doubt that he still wants to play,’ said Gary Moore, Iverson’s personal manager. ‘There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind. He will be working out every day until he hears from someone.’ … Moore said although no team has yet to reach out to Iverson, the 34-year-old guard is focused on returning to the NBA and not playing overseas. Moore said Iverson would even agree to come off the bench if he signs with a championship-caliber team. ‘It doesn’t have to be a starting role if it’s the right situation, right circumstances,’ Moore said.”

(Photo by Scott Cunningham NBAE/Getty Images)


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