The Fundamentals

» November 23, 2009 10:31 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:  “The stunning and rather absurd injury to Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis a month ago was shrugged off as merely a speed bump for the Celtics on their road to reclaiming the NBA title. The organization believed it possessed enough depth to counter Davis’s broken thumb and it would allow an opportunity for others to flourish in his absence. One Eastern Conference scout remarked yesterday while watching the Celtics struggle to defeat the Knicks, 107-105, in overtime that they desperately miss Davis, and without him their big men appear old and slow. Davis has enough youth to bounce back from games on back-to-back days, or in this case two in 41 hours. And he has enough beef to bump with New York center Eddy Curry, who in his brief stretch caused the Celtics major problems with his size and ability to occupy about half the key. The Celtics lack a backup center behind Kendrick Perkins. Kevin Garnett is just starting to round into playing condition, and his defense against Al Harrington in the second half was admirable. But he is still weeks from playing consistently solid post defense. Rasheed Wallace has not played nearly up to expectations through 14 games and we are beginning to see why the Pistons made little effort to retain him.”

Howard Beck of The New York Times:  “Nate Robinson made seven shots on Sunday, all of them in the correct basket. For that, the Knicks were grateful. Yet his performance was marred again by impulsiveness and immaturity – the same issues that have dogged Robinson throughout his career. Twice in Sunday’s loss to Boston, Robinson celebrated while the game clock was still running. The second incident surely cost the Knicks. Early in the fourth quarter, Robinson blocked Rajon Rondo’s driving layup, then turned to the end zone, flexed and bellowed at the crowd. While he was preening, the Celtics got the ball back, and Robinson turned to find Marquis Daniels driving down the baseline for an uncontested layup. It was a critical play, coming just after the Knicks had taken their biggest lead, 86-79. Daniels’ basket started a 10-3 Celtics run that tied the score. Robinson also celebrated a big basket by chest bumping Chris Duhon as the Celtics took the ball back upcourt. Teammates and coaches appreciate Robinson’s passion and talent, but these are the sort of thoughtless acts that drive them crazy.”

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times:  “No player embodies the Warriors’ improvement like guard Monta Ellis, who has taken his defensive game to another level. All season, Ellis’ effort on that end of the court has improved noticeably, punctuated by Friday’s performance against the Portland Trail Blazers. Ellis led the way to holding Portland’s All-Star Brandon Roy — a 6-foot-6, 211-pound big guard who’s a career 46 percent shooter — to 20 points on 6-for-17 shooting. Despite giving up 3 inches and 30 pounds, Ellis told the coaches he didn’t want help defending Roy and proceeded to use his quickness and instinct to harass Portland’s leading scorer. ‘He’s giving a greater effort,’ said Smart, who is in charge of the defense. ‘He’s taking it personal. When he makes a mistake, he acknowledges that it was his fault. He’s not blaming or pointing fingers. And he’s gotten a little stronger plus, the biggest part of it, he’s gotten a little older in the NBA. He’s starting to figure things out in the NBA. We do strength and weakness of each player when we’re going to play a game. He’s paying attention to that now. So he’s growing as a pro. He’s not only watching himself on tape or when he’s watching a game on TV, he’s paying attention to what that player does and what his strengths and weaknesses are.’”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “For a few days, the Nets have kept several pairs of organizational eyes on Chris Douglas-Roberts, fearful that the emotional and voluble wing might have to be talked in off the ledge, as he hasn’t shown a very good relationship with losing. And for the record: Yes, he’s aware of the attention. ‘They should be worried,’ Douglas-Roberts said prior to scoring 24 points in the 0-13 Nets’ 98-91 defeat against the Knicks. ‘I’m not dealing well with this losing, not at all. But I’m a professional, man. I’m not going to do anything erratic or say anything I regret. I’m focused on winning, that’s it.’ At that point, locker neighbor Keyon Dooling pushed a Knicks scouting report along the floor until it rested at CDR’s feet. Someone wants you to shut up, the second-year player was told. ‘Keyon’s a funny guy,’ CDR said. CDR’s mindset is an issue that has appeared on coach Lawrence Frank’s radar, however. When the subject of his wing’s displeasure came up, the coach said, ‘When you lose the amount of games we’ve lost, it’s natural to be frustrated. If you weren’t, you really don’t care.’”

Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:  “Perhaps all Elton Brand needed was a little time. Time to fully recover from the injuries he has suffered the past two seasons and time on the basketball court to rediscover his game – the one that produced 20 points and 10 rebounds for nine seasons and enticed the 76ers to sign him before last season for 5 years and $80 million. All the talk heading into last Wednesday’s game against Charlotte was whether coach Eddie Jordan was going to yank Brand from the starting lineup in favor of Rodney Carney. Jordan himself struggled with the issue, and it seemingly came down to a last-minute decision to stick with Brand. It appears the coach made the right one. Though the Sixers have lost two of three since last Wednesday, Brand’s play has not been a problem. In the three games, the 6-9 forward from Duke has averaged just under 20 points, slightly over 10 rebounds, shot 52 percent from the floor, made 13 of 15 foul shots and recorded 11 blocks. Perhaps the most surprising stat is the 38.3, which is the minutes per game averaged in the past three.”

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:  “For the 6-foot-10 inch Durant, who already can easily rise and shoot over just about any defender, an ability to penetrate consistently will round out his game and make him that much more dangerous as a scorer. It’s a skill he didn’t possess as a rookie who settled for 3-pointers and still lacked as a second-year player who still was too much of a featherweight to go to the rim frequently. And because the Thunder likes to drive and dish, Durant’s set-up skills will also improve as a result. But Durant’s enhanced driving ability represents the latest wrinkle he’s added to his repertoire after working on his mid-range game and penchant for manufacturing points with a swing through move that gets him an easy trip to the foul line. ‘This year it’s all coming together,’ said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. ‘He still has to get better at it, but he’s definitely looking to attack the basket. He’s not a one-dimensional scorer who just shoots shots from the perimeter. He mixes it up. He drives, he gets layups, he gets to the free-throw line by attacking the basket. You can see the work that he’s put in the last two years is starting to come around and pay off.’ A byproduct is additional trips to the free-throw line. Durant averaged 5.6 attempts as a rookie, 7.1 last season and before Sunday night’s game was at 9.7 foul shots per game.”

Tom Knott of The Washington Times:  “Arenas is missing a half-step. Even when he is able to get to the basket, he does not finish in the manner he once did. That makes him more reliant on his perimeter shot, where it is more difficult to establish a shooting rhythm. Nothing establishes a good shooting rhythm like a couple of easy baskets. The Wizards, in effect, are still waiting on Arenas. You do not overcome three knee surgeries and two lost seasons in 12 games. It may take Arenas most of the season to resurrect his old self, if he ever does. The trickle-down effect of a substandard Arenas sets in motion the corrosion of the offense. He is going to get his shots, just not the kind that compromise the integrity of a defense. Sometimes there is no logic to when Arenas takes a shot. All this is understandable. Arenas is returning from an interminable rehabilitation process. He is not who he was. And getting back to who he was will not be easy on him or his teammates, not when he has the ball in his hands so much of the time.”

Brian T. Smith of The Columbian:  “After a nine-game run in which the Blazers went 7-2 while employing two point guards, Miller and Steve Blake, in the same starting unit, McMillan changed things up before the start of Saturday’s 106-78 home victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Webster was in; Miller was out. Portland’s offense again prized perimeter passing over guard penetration. And Webster was the main beneficiary, recording season- and game-highs with 21 points and 13 rebounds. McMillan hinted before tipoff Saturday that he wanted to get Webster going. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound guard had looked out of synch and played outside his game while running the court with the Blazers’ second unit. And even when plays had been called for Webster, he had been unable to convert. Moreover, McMillan had consistently watched opposing defenses cave in and double team Roy, forward LaMarcus Aldridge and center Greg Oden while the Blazers utilized the Miller-Blake lineup. Thus, Portland’s coach decided he was more in need of a shooter who could spread the floor and make teams pay when left open, rather than an extra point guard in Miller, who is not a scoring threat beyond 15 feet away from the basket.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “The Rockets believe they have made up for shortcomings with effort, ranking among the league leaders in steals, fast-break points, points in the paint and second-chance points, areas they believe come from playing harder than opponents. ‘I’m pretty positive about the team,’ general manager Daryl Morey said. ‘We’d rather have won more games, but we played very well against the hardest schedule in the league to this point. Because of how well we’re playing, we’re in close games against great teams. It’s obviously something we’re working on, how we close those games out, but I see progress every time we do it. It’s a fair concern.’ McGrady, scheduled to practice today in the next step in his comeback from knee microfracture surgery, could be a part of that process. But Adelman said McGrady’s return is more complicated than trying to determine his readiness. ‘People say throw him out there,’ Adelman said. ‘It’s not that simple. I’m not going to worry about it. Just move on, worry about the team and worry about what’s next. With Tracy coming back, there’s a whole lot of things we have to deal with before we consider that. For now, I’m trying to deal with the guys on our team. Tracy’s situation, will take care of itself.’”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “The Grizzlies were in need of sports psychologist and arguably a marriage counselor the last time they met up with the Sacramento Kings — tonight’s opponent in FedExForum. Back on Nov. 2, the Griz dipped their collective foot in the deep end of Allen Iverson’s pool of controversy. They were overtime losers to the Kings. Memphis just began greasing a seven-game skid. But now the Griz insist that their hoops heads are well-adjusted. Winners in three of the past four games, coach Lionel Hollins’ troops are out to prove that Saturday’s loss to Milwaukee was just a speed bump and they are more mentally tough than it seemed three weeks ago. ‘We’re more mature now,’ forward Rudy Gay said. ‘We’re tougher. We’re better defensively. We help each other out. We’ve learned a lot since then.’ The most important lesson learned for the NBA’s youngest team was to leave selfish play in the arena parking lot. Although the Griz took a detour in the second half of the Saturday defeat, they averaged about 22 assists during their three-game win streak.”

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:  “It is as if training camp, the preseason and the 6-1 start never happened. That’s what has Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra so disappointed. For a month, his team had established a defensive disposition. For the first two weeks of the season, it would go into lockdown mode defensively when games were in the balance. And then came the past 10 days, when 111 points were surrendered to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 100 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 105 to the Atlanta Hawks and then a season-worst 120 Friday to the Toronto Raptors. While injuries to forwards Udonis Haslem and Quentin Richardson have been a factor, Spoelstra said it is more an issue of a team having lost its way. ‘It’s about proving,’ Spoelstra said, ‘proving that, to your teammates you’re willing to compete, to lay it all out there, to sacrifice your body, to get into the fray, to prove it that you’re reliable, dependable to our system, dependable to each other out there, and proving that our identity actually means something deep to us, to defend and do what we’re capable of.’”

Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune:  “Deron Williams said after Saturday’s victory that he talked with a group of teammates after their 105-86 loss Nov. 11 in Boston and concluded simply, ‘It didn’t look good.’ The turnaround started with an inspired victory two nights later in Philadelphia after Williams returned home with one of his daughters undergoing medical testing. The Jazz came up just short of a win in Cleveland before ending a decade-long losing streak in San Antonio. They’ve been left with just nine players in uniform for their last five games, yet have won four of those. The Jazz’s foundation has started with improved defense, as they’ve given up 93.6 points on 44.5 percent shooting during this stretch. They’ve also committed themselves to better ball movement, averaging 25.8 assists a game while recording assists on nearly 68 percent of their baskets. In addition, the Jazz have won the fourth quarter of their last four games.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “The Lakers don’t have the NBA’s best record this season, but they lead the league in something else — highest payroll. For better or worse, because sometimes it’s a curse, the Lakers have a player payroll of $91.3 million and will spend an additional $21.4 million in luxury taxes if their roster remains the same on the final day of the regular season. Their total salary bill would be $112.7 million if they make no trades or minor free-agent acquisitions. Comparatively, they spent about $86 million last season, including luxury taxes. None of this includes Phil Jackson’s $12-million salary to coach this season. Basically, owner Jerry Buss keeps reaching for his checkbook.”

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