The Fundamentals

» November 20, 2009 10:21 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “After months of growing discord and mistrust between the Houston Rockets and their once-franchise player, Tracy McGrady and coach Rick Adelman engaged in an emotional and sometimes loud closed-door confrontation about the star’s uncertain status on Wednesday night, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The argument was precipitated when McGrady arrived at the Target Center in Minneapolis so determined to have a substantive discussion with his coach that he dressed in his game uniform and undertook his pregame routine as though he hadn’t been activated after missing 41 straight games with microfracture surgery on his left knee. As McGrady walked back to the locker room after shooting with his teammates on the court, he passed Adelman in a corridor and his appearance in uniform appeared to surprise his coach. The fact McGrady had asked the equipment manager to bring out his uniform – especially on the Nov. 18 date that he had recently told Yahoo! Sports was his target for a return – clearly had his coach’s attention. McGrady understood he wouldn’t be activated on Wednesday night, but sources say T-Mac was willing to go to great lengths to push his coach closer to blessing McGrady’s return to the team.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “McGrady spent the offseason working with Tim Grover in Chicago, workouts that seem to have meshed with new Rockets director of strength and conditioning Darryl Eto’s functional training routines. Though McGrady has been pain-free for months, Eto has worked to strengthen muscles McGrady did not use when struggling with the knee last season, with progress evident. ‘We tried to integrate what he’s been doing with Tim Grover in Chicago with the addition of some basketball-specific movements as well as working on some conditioning,’ Eto said. ‘He’s doing better, getting better and better every day, making progress.’ But McGrady was not ready to celebrate. He endorsed the program but was out, and could not cheer progress until it returned him to the court. ‘I don’t make too much out of it because I’m not playing, yet,’ McGrady said of Jones’ evaluation that McGrady has improved. ‘Eto has helped me come a long way. It’s really all about getting different muscles to fire.’ He placed little significance on Monday’s practice or MRI, considering both milestones more than tests. He repeatedly has disagreed with Morey’s description of his participating in practices as ‘off and on.’”

Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  “The perception out there is that the Milwaukee Bucks have something good going on and Michael Redd would somehow ruin it when he returns. The reality will be different. Yes, the Bucks are one of the NBA’s best stories right now. And however spectacular Brandon Jennings has been, the overriding theme has been their team play. They are, the popular thought goes, running smoothly without a guy who needs a lot of shots and impedes the flow by monopolizing the basketball. Truth is, at 6-3, the Bucks have won the games they were supposed to win. They are just now hitting a real NBA schedule. As much as the national media is playing a mulligan for its preseason designation of the Bucks as the second coming of the 1972-’73 Philadelphia 76ers, they aren’t exactly the Los Angeles Lakers. Questions abound. One is scoring. While Bucks have created more options with Jennings and his ability to get scorers the ball where they need it, they are in the NBA’s lower half in points per game. Even with Jennings averaging almost 25, Andrew Bogut giving the impression that his long-awaited breakout season has arrived and the bench being, for now, better than anyone had the right to expect, the Bucks remain offensively challenged.”

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:  “There are many things you’d like a point guard to be: A creative passer. An ambidextrous dribbler. A long-range shooter. An inspiring leader. There’s one thing a point guard must be: An organizer. And that’s how Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin have failed of late. The Charlotte Bobcats are in a six-game losing streak entering tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. To say the point guards deserve all the blame wouldn’t only be unfair, it would be dangerously simplistic. But if you could make just one fix, point guard would undoubtedly be your focus. Case in point: The score was tied when the Bobcats exited a timeout with the ball and about 30 seconds left Wednesday in Philadelphia. If ever a play should run  Problem: Stephen Jackson is new to the team and moved to the wrong side of the basket to begin the play. He didn’t know better and Felton didn’t notice as play commenced. From there, everything collapsed: No timing, no floor balance, a desperate shot (Boris Diaw’s 3-pointer from the corner). That miss led to a long rebound, a 76ers fast break, point guard Lou Williams’ layup, and another perplexing near-miss. Ideally, Felton would have moved Jackson to the correct spot. At minimum, Felton should have called timeout. That’s a point guard’s mission – organize.”

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:  “It was as though the basketball world was taunting Chris Bosh, holding up others as shining examples of what he wanted to be. Finally, he snapped. And as he sat on a training table in Utah’s Energy Solutions Arena on Wednesday night, both knees encased in ice, weary from the road and the losses and the nightly pounding he takes, he explained exactly what drove him to stop that perceived taunting and begin a season better than he ever has. Seems Bosh has an ego after all. And it’s driving him. ‘Every day I turn on the TV and they’re talking about guys, especially my draft class, ‘03 draft class, and this and that,’ he said. ‘They keep bringing up all these and I never hear my name, unless I’m like second honourable mention or something like that. I got tired of that. ‘I don’t even think people know I’ve made all-star teams or know what I’ve done in this league.’ This is the new – vastly improved – Bosh talking, a guy with more consistent determination, greater bulk and numbers that place him among the very best in the NBA right now.”

Eddie Sefko of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “Dirk Nowitzki has been unconventional since he arrived in Dallas a dozen years ago. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that when the game was on the line Wednesday against San Antonio, Nowitzki was doing what he does best — but doing it in a most unusual way. After blistering the Spurs with step-back jumpers, Nowitzki pump-faked and ripped through the defense toward the basket. And he finishined with layups and three-point plays. It wasn’t completely shocking. He’s done it before. But when crunch time comes, great players tend to stay in their wheelhouse, not stray toward plan B. But that’s the way Nowitzki rolls. ‘Some guys approach the game by getting to the basket first,’ he said. ‘I usually try to open my drive up by making a couple of jump shots, so I got it all messed up.’ Or, maybe, he has all figured out, and it’s the rest of us who have it all wrong, because it’s hard to argue his logic given the results.”

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:  “Even now, it seems, folks just don’t appreciate the value of a guy for whom those same letters could be chanted. As the 108-93 victory over the Bulls reinforced, Gasol could be cited as the team’s Most Vital Player, or at least its Most Victorious Player. … Since the start of the 2007-2008 season — during which Gasol arrived in February — the Lakers are a vastly different team when he’s part of it. During that time, when Gasol has been on the court for more than three minutes, the Lakers are 116-35. When he has not, they are 44-24. ‘I missed it, I missed it a lot,’ Gasol said. ‘It is so much fun to play.’ It is no coincidence that the Lakers have yet to lose three games in a row since Gasol arrived in February of 2008. It is also no coincidence, perhaps, that since then his popularity here has barely moved a tick. It’s like, he’s just Pau. The messy hair, the unkempt beard, the nerdy sprints, the gentle whines. He is too polite to cause a stir, too restrained to inspire a cheer, and too consistent to elicit an emotion.”

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times:  “Down to seven or eight players thanks to injuries, the Warriors stayed competitive against two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference — Cleveland and Boston — by sharing the ball. They totaled 46 assists the past two games. It symbolized the togetherness and tighter chemistry they seem to be developing. The absence of Jackson is a big reason for better ball movement. ‘Jack is a scorer,’ rookie guard Stephen Curry said, ‘and he feels like he can take his man 1-on-1 at any time in the game. That’s just the style of play that he’s good at. Once he gets the ball and sizes up his man, things slow down just naturally through that. Everybody else on this team I think kind of plays differently, so the ball moves a little quicker.’ Also, guard Monta Ellis has gotten markedly better at penetrating and finding open teammates. Once criticized for passing mostly to Jackson, Ellis has spread the ball to the whole team. After declaring for two days he didn’t want to ‘do more’ now that Jackson is gone, Ellis is showing signs he’s ready to step into the role as team leader.”

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:  “Andre Miller tumbled onto the Rose Garden floor, grimacing as he rolled over on his back and cupped his hands around his ankle. Moments later, the Trail Blazers’ starting point guard limped off the court and plopped down in the middle of the team’s bench, prompting athletic trainer Jay Jensen to meander over and inquire about his health. ‘But he didn’t want to hear it,’ Jensen says, recalling their conversation during a game against the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month. ‘I wanted to get him to walk down the hall and get him back (to my office) and see what was going on. But he wouldn’t have it. He said, ‘I’m fine. Don’t mess with me.’‘ Welcome inside the mind of the NBA’s Iron Man. Miller enters tonight’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors having played in 543 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NBA. Thanks to a bulldog-like tenacity, conservative diet and countless naps — yes, naps — the 11-year veteran has managed to miss just three games during his NBA career.”

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:  “Kevin Durant begins his routine by mumbling three motivational words to himself, a quick reminder of his purpose as all eyes descend upon him. ‘Knock it down,’ the Thunder forward says as he marches to the foul line. Durant takes a deep breath, relaxes his shoulders. He spins the ball, takes one dribble and bends his knees. While crouched, Durant gives the ball one last spin as he scrunches his shoulders twice over. The last bit, the shoulder shimmy, is the quirk that’s become a staple in Durant’s free-throw shooting routine and the latest in a long line of peculiar free-throw rituals by NBA players. ‘I don’t even think about it. I just do it,’ Durant said of his unique free-throw approach. ‘Sometimes I don’t even remember I do it.’ Durant has performed his ritual since the end of his rookie season in Seattle, starting the routine missing a batch of freebies and thinking to himself, ‘Man, I just got to get loose.’ He swished the next few and the custom stuck. But, believe it or not, Durant traces the origin of his routine back to Antoine Walker. When Durant was growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, he remembers being glued to his television set as Walker, then with Boston, posted a career-high 49 points on the Wizards. At the time, Walker, a former three-time All-Star, drew attention to himself by shimmying after heating up and sinking baskets.”

Brian Windhorst of The Cleveland Plain Dealer:  “Over the last six years the Cavs have consistently been one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. But this season, and especially over the last week as they’ve dealt with injuries to big men, it has reversed course. In 12 games, the Cavs have been outrebounded eight times.  They currently rank 16th in the league in rebounding differential, getting out-rebounded by about one per game. Last season they out-rebounded opponents by three per game. Two years ago, it was more than four per game. Recently it seems to affect them mostly on defensive rebounds. With Shaquille O’Neal out the last three games, the Cavs have allowed 12 offensive rebounds a game. In the last two games without Anderson Varejao, the team’s best rebounder, it has been 14 offensive rebounds per game. But even before the injuries the Cavs were having some overall rebounding issues. J.J. Hickson’s elevation into the starting lineup has been a big plus, but has cut down Varejao’s minutes a bit and, therefore, the team’s rebounding. Hickson is averaging just 2.8 rebounds a game. LeBron James is currently averaging 6.6, his fewest since his rookie season.”

Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post:  “The Nuggets ain’t bad. Here’s a play that sums up why. In Tuesday night’s game against Toronto, Carmelo Anthony received a pass on the right wing and cruised by his defender, thanks to a Stonehenge pick set by Renaldo Balkman. A hard, crossover dribble was Melo’s key to unlock the key. Once in the lane, he Adrian Peterson-ed a pair of post players, soared toward the rim and then, in one midair motion, yanked the ball down waist-high and flung up a backwards, no-look layup. It’s good! And the foul! On this singular play, Melo did  ‘They know that I want rim,’ Nuggets coach George Karl. ‘If they don’t get 30 layups, they know they’ll hear about it. And it takes a lot of penetrations to get 30 ‘rim’ shots.’ These rim shots are no joke. Karl suggested his team has achieved 30 layups in 80 percent of the games. Moreover, Denver (8-3) is sixth in the conference with 41.4 points in the paint per game.”

Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune:  “It took more than 2 million votes apiece for Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul to be selected as the Western Conference’s starting guards for the 2009 All-Star Game, but Deron Williams ‘ representatives have a plan to reach that number. With this year’s game set to be played in Williams’ hometown of Dallas, his representatives at McClaren Sports have launched a campaign at entitled ‘I am a fan … This is my pledge’ to encourage fans to vote daily. ‘The whole goal is to create awareness of voting every day via online and text [messaging],’ said Steve Wright , director of marketing at the Houston-based agency. ‘Every vote counts and we’re trying to get Deron to All-Star.’ Williams acknowledged the difficulty in garnering votes while playing for a small-market team. He is considering filming a series of Internet videos similar to those that promoted his charity dodgeball tournament this summer and turned into viral sensations. At the same time, Williams acknowledged that he must walk a fine line between letting his play do the talking — he came into Thursday averaging 20.3 points and 9.8 assists — and campaigning for recognition.”

Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic:  “Alvin Gentry is a great guy with a great motto. He is proud of the bridges he’s never burned. ‘It’s harder work being a jerk than it is just to be a nice person,’ he said. Gentry is humble, friendly, well-raised, and bringing good karma back to the sideline. Entering Thursday’s game against the Hornets, the journeyman coach has won 28 of 43 games since taking over the Suns last season, crafting this year’s team into one of the surprise stories of the NBA. Maybe it doesn’t last. The Suns aren’t running like they once did, or playing defense like they must in the future. But they’re tough, gritty, and lovable all over again, and it seems as though everyone in the league is absolutely tickled for Gentry, even the head coach who once laid the rails for Suns’ current system. ‘I talk to him all the time, and nobody could be happier for me than Mike D’Antoni,’ Gentry said. There are traces of sadness in this story. All the Suns wanted from D’Antoni was a deeper bench and a more forceful approach to practice. Gentry has delivered where the former coach could not, and now D’Antoni is struggling with the Knicks, having won twice this season and just once in the past 18 days.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:  “There is the natural inclination to label Dwight Howard as the spoiled superstar who is bucking authority and wrestling control of the team away from Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. It is what we are programmed to believe whenever we hear an NBA player complain about being criticized by his coach. And, admittedly, it was my initial reaction when I first read Brian Schmitz’s Sentinel story about Dwight having a private meeting with Van Gundy and telling his coach, in effect, to stop being such a miserable human being. But the more I thought about it, the more I reached this conclusion. Dwight Howard is right. And Van Gundy knows it. Howard said Thursday Van Gundy spends too much time ‘focusing so much on our mistakes. Instead of bringing each other down, we have to pull each other up.’ Van Gundy agreed and admitted that his constant negativity has been ‘draining the enthusiasm from his team.’”

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:  “Doc Rivers didn’t want to get into a debate with hypothetical history. After finishing his chat with the media at large, he was asked directly if the Celtics [team stats] would have won last year’s second-round playoff series against Orlando with Kevin Garnett in the lineup. ‘I don’t even go down that road,’ the coach said. ‘I don’t.’ Paul Pierce, on the other hand, had no qualms with making the trip. ‘I believe it,’ he said. ‘I believe if we just had Leon (Powe) we would have. That’s just my belief.’ Garnett’s knee injury spoke volumes, but the Celtics’ transgressions may have been louder. You may recall they blew a Game 6 lead. Or you could note the embarrassment of Game 7, when they entered the final period down just five and on a roll – and pr ‘(Ticked),’ he said. ‘Probably like everybody else. Very (ticked).’ There are significant active roster differences for both clubs as they meet tonight on that same parquet, but some emotions will remain.”

4 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Basketballogy Says:

    This is without a DOUBT the best basketball site in the world for reading narrative and analysis.

    “It took more than 2 million votes apiece for Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul to be selected as the Western Conference’s starting guards for the 2009 All-Star Game, but Deron Williams ‘ representatives have a plan to reach that number.”

    Williams has definitely been playing for himself this year and not for the Jazz, but he was outed when he missed two games and a rookie stepped up to show the Jazz what they’ve been missing with Williams at the helm.

    A lot of all stars are from small markets. If the Jazz win and Williams plays well, he’ll get there if he deserves it on the coaches’ vote.

  2. Basketballogy Says:

    “… when Gasol has been on the court for more than three minutes, the Lakers are 116-35. When he has not, they are 44-24.”

    What a FANTASTIC discovery.

    Last year I was writing that Kobe didn’t deserve MVP consideration only because it wasn’t entirely clear if he was the MVP of his own team, much less the league.

    And this year I’ve been writing that Gasol is the best power forward in basketball right now.

    And is is the perfect NBA spokesperson and role model, if their marketing guys will wake up to that. He is in a huge market, has acting aspirations, is intelligent and articulate, isn’t bathed in tattoo ink, has huge international appeal, and is a SOLID player who plays BOTH ends of the floor.

    His is the only Lakers jersey I’d be tempted to buy!

  3. Basketballogy Says:

    “Nuggets coach George Karl. ‘If they don’t get 30 layups, they know they’ll hear about it. And it takes a lot of penetrations to get 30 ‘rim’ shots.’ These rim shots are no joke. Karl suggested his team has achieved 30 layups in 80 percent of the games.”

    This is really great coaching. Not only is it a perfect offensive goal, but obviously the players are very clear about it, share the vision and know there is accountability for it.

  4. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Pau Gasol is a tremendous player, but I think he’s a tad bit overrated by most analysts. He’s a perfect fit for the triangle offense (I’d like to see what a guy like Chris Bosh or Dirk Nowitzki could do in the triangle), and he benefits from the defensive attention payed to Kobe Bryant.

    The Lakers went 8-3 without Gasol, with Bryant eclipsing the 40-point plateau in three of those contests. I don’t think Gasol is capable of putting a team on his back like that.

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