The Fundamentals

» November 27, 2009 10:46 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star:  “The Raptors are 7-9 and a defensive wreck, but nobody is saying a team with Toronto’s potent offense can’t be a respectable squad, although certainly there are some worrisome signs. Turkoglu hasn’t been as effective as advertised, for one, and neither has Jose Calderon, who was seen applying a wrap to his right hamstring after a six-turnover debacle in Wednesday’s drubbing. Calderon repeatedly has claimed good health this season, but it’s important to remember that the Raptors, and NBA teams in general, are often not transparent in their public disclosure of ailments. It was only in October’s training camp that Calderon acknowledged the full extent of last year’s injury – a six-centimetre tear in his right hamstring. Before that, he’d claimed he was physically ‘fine,’ this even when the numbers suggested he clearly was hurting. This year, the Spaniard is either hurt or not very good. Calderon’s player efficiency rating (PER) is only slightly better than that of the average NBA player’s thus far. The league average of the all-encompassing stat devised by’s John Hollinger – which, though it’s not perfect, is the best measure yet devised of a player’s per-minute effectiveness – is 15. Calderon was riding at about 17.3 as of Monday. The problem is, when Calderon is on the floor, the opposing point guard is putting up a PER of 23.7, according to For an example of an NBA point guard achieving a PER in the neighbourhood of 23.7, think Steve Nash, who the Raptors will see on Sunday when the resurgent Phoenix Suns come to town.”

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:  “Doc Rivers unwittingly provided the reason Celtics fans are so nervous about their club. ‘The opponent every night,’ he said, ‘is us.’ By that measure, the 11-4 record is a lie. Based on how well they need to be playing – and should be playing, according to their capabilities – this is a sub-.500 team. The Shamrocks have not come close to their own expectations in well more than half their games. The calendar is the Celtics’ main ally, but as the days roll by without the kind of performance that engenders faith, the uneasiness is moving in and setting up house. Opposing scouts are smirking, and discouraging words are bouncing through the media. The Celts are playing utterly uninspired basketball. If they don’t like hearing that, they should do something about it. Rivers keeps saying it’s a make-miss league and that his guys simply have been missing too many open shots. But a good poker player doesn’t always need the best hand to win.”

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:  “The concern is not yet over the top. Then again, that’s exactly what it is. At the start of the season, no team defended the 3-point line better than the Miami Heat, with opponents 16 of 74 from beyond the arc, a paltry 21.6 percent, through its first three games. For the Heat, such focus was a priority, after ranking 28th in 3-point defense last season, allowing opponents to shoot 38.9 percent. But lately, the long view has become a disturbing vision for the Heat, with opponents shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc, 29 of 63, over the past three games. ‘Our sense of urgency and desperation to get to the 3-point line has to be greater than what it’s been,’ coach ErikSpoelstra said after Tuesday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. ‘I thought we were doing it a little harder, a little bit quicker, the beginning of the season. But, also, you do have to give some credit to the types of teams we’ve been playing.’”

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:  “Though the Spurs have had their share of rocky early road records in the first 12 seasons of the Tim Duncan era, they never have gone through November with fewer than two wins away from their home court. Unless they defeat the Houston Rockets in tonight’s game at Toyota Center, however, they will slide into December without a single road victory in five tries. A team that traditionally has used hostile territory as a crucible in which to fire the ingredients of championship contention thus far has found the road icy and treacherous. Players who have been part of the championship history understand the need to begin amassing some road success. ‘We’ve been playing well the last couple games,’ said All-NBA point guard Tony Parker, who had a season-high 32 points in Wednesday’s win over Golden State, ‘but I want to see what we’re going to do against the big teams, so Houston’s going to be a good test for us.’”

Jeff Eisenberg of The Riverside Press-Enterprise:  “Although each of the Lakers’ past four victories have been by double digits, the reserves have been outscored in the fourth quarter in all of them. The high-scoring Knicks sliced a 25-point deficit in half in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, forcing Lakers coach Phil Jackson to reinsert his starters to preserve a 100-90 victory. ‘Right now they’re just filling minutes in for guys that are getting rest on the bench,’ Jackson said of his reserves. ‘We’ve got to have better than that.’ It was only two seasons ago that the ‘Bench Mob’ was considered the Lakers’ greatest strength and Vujacic had emerged as an integral part of it. His pesky defense and reliable perimeter shooting gave Jackson the confidence to slide Kobe Bryant to small forward and insertVujacic at shooting guard during the final five minutes of closely contested playoff games. As Vujacic’s playing time dwindled last season as a result of the emergence of Trevor Ariza , he often drew the ire of teammates and coaches for forcing shots in a misguided attempt to make the same impact in fewer minutes. He has done a better job of playing within the offense so far this season but is shooting 29.4 percent from the floor in 8.1 minutes per game.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “For all the growing pains of the first 15 games of the Rockets’ season, there has been one constant: Change. After every loss, there has been a win. Home or road, with time off or in back-to-backs, the Rockets have not been beaten in consecutive games this season, alternating wins and losses for a franchise-record 12-consecutive games. Never this season have they needed a turnaround win more than tonight against the Spurs. Coming off a 130-99 home loss to the Mavericks, the Rockets were embarrassed and humbled, with one game to avoid falling back to .500 for the first time since the season’s second game before heading out on a four-game road trip. ‘Friday’s game is huge,’ forward Luis Scola said. ‘You can’t lose a game the way we lost (on Wednesday) and expect no reaction. If we want to be any good, if we want to do anything in this league, you have to have a reaction. This can’t happen and just happen, and people let it go. You have to react. We have to react. We have no choice. Reaction doesn’t only mean winning. You can play a great game and for whatever reason, you may not win. But you have to react.’ The Rockets need to play well, especially defensively, where they had been slipping in recent weeks.”

Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post:  “All the ingredients for a lost season are in place. New coach, new systems of offense and defense, four new players, two players returning after long layoffs, hideous early-season losses, dissension before Thanksgiving and most unsettling, a deceased owner who has been the face of the franchise for more than 40 years. The Washington Wizards, from the top of the pyramid to the 12th man, had every reason to spend Thanksgiving worrying. The players say they will dedicate this season to Abe Pollin, but the issues confronting the team appear greater than a jolt of inspiration alone can solve. The squabbles from last week, most notably between Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, are the outward expressions of the frustration of having the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference and the fourth-worst record in the NBA after one month of play. The Wizards were supposed to be so much better than 4-9, what with three former all-stars, so many proven starters and established role players. What they are is lost. They don’t have an identity as a team yet, don’t know how they fit individually in Coach Flip Saunders’s way of playing.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “He emerged from the showers breathing hard after logging 22-plus NBA minutes, which might as well had been two hours of running on a treadmill for JamaalTinsley .The veteran point guard was definitely feeling the wow factor of trying to find a gear that can only be found in professional basketball. ‘I’m not at L.A. Fitness anymore,’Tinsley said with a sheepish grin, referring to the place he spent most of the 11/2 years he’d been out the league. Tinsley , though, is rounding into shape for the Grizzlies. The 31-year-old floor general, signed as a free agent nearly two weeks ago, is averaging 9.5 points on 47-percent shooting to go with 2.5 assists over the past two games. The Griz consistently logged about 22 minutes off the bench during that span. Tinsley’s role will continue to expand with significant playing time as Griz coach Lionel Hollins is enamored with the former Indiana Pacers’ savvy and calming influence.”

Matt Steinmetz of FanHouse:  “There used to be more than a few people who would refer to Stephen Jackson as the Warriors’ best player. We know differently now. Jackson wasn’t the Warriors’ best player the past couple of seasons. It wasMonta Ellis. And even if it wasn’t (and it was), it for sure is now. For the past week or so, Ellis has been staging his own little renaissance, and everyone’s trying to figure out why. Not coincidentally, the Warriors are playing their best basketball of the season, semi-righting themselves from a disastrous start. Ellis’ impressive stretch — which includes scoring 34, 37 and 42 points in each of the past three games — comes in the wake of two noteworthy Golden State departures: Jackson and coach Don Nelson. Jackson, who had been the focal point of the Warriors’ offense, was traded to Charlotte on Nov. 16, and Nelson hasn’t been with the team since Monday, when it left for a two-game stretch in Texas.”

Steve Aschburner of  “Travel light, travel quick is the surest way to slog through an NBA season, so the Denver Nuggets tote their own deck of laminated nameplates to stick above each stall in the visitors’ dressing rooms for a few hours on game nights. Thin, slick and shiny, they’re all set up the same: Player’s name, player’s number. Player’s name, player’s number. Until you get to the one that says ‘Rookie, #3.’ That would be Ty Lawson, who might not play much like a rookie these days but will remain one at least for 67 more games within the Nuggets’ pecking order and George Karl’s coaching culture. ‘Aw yeah, it’s all year. I know. I’m used to it now,’ Lawson said Wednesday night, after Denver’s 124-111 victory at Minnesota. ‘It hasn’t been bad. I probably have the least rookie jobs of anybody [in the league] who’s a rookie. They treat me well. They don’t like donuts. I don’t carry bags. I don’t have to do too much, man.’ Other than, you know, cope with Karl, who is about as old-school as they come in terms of embracing rookies.”

Frank Isola of the Daily News:  “Concern over Danilo Gallinari’s health and well-being extends well beyond Madison Square Garden. As recently as Tuesday, Kobe Bryant asked Gallinari in Italian about his surgically repaired back. Two weeks earlier, LeBron James approached Gallinari after Cleveland’s victory in New York and, in English, offered sound advice. ‘He asked me about my back and he told me to make sure I stretch before every game,’Gallinari said. ‘It was nice of him.’  James’ interest in Gallinari makes perfect sense. According to one of LeBron’s confidants, James is monitoring Gallinari’s progress since the two could become teammates next season. At least that is what the Knicks are planning on. Gallinari represents the future for the Knicks but that doesn’t make the present any less frustrating for the second-year forward. Gallinari, limited to 28 games as a rookie due to a back injury, has had his share of ups and downs in his first full season with the club. He is already one of the league’s top 3-point shooters and his professionalism is exemplary.”

Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  “The Hawks looked at their Thanksgiving night game against Orlando as a measuring stick. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Magic grabbed that stick and beat them silly with it. For one night, at least, the Hawks remained aspirants to joining the Eastern Conference’s elite and the Magic asserted themselves as the two-time defending Southeast Division champions that they are in a 93-76 decision at Philips Arena. ‘It doesn’t feel good,’ guard Joe Johnson said. ‘We’re trying to be one of the best teams in the East, and we had no answer for what they did against us in the second half. It’s like, ‘Are you a contender or a pretender?’.’ The Hawks had sought to test themselves and their 11-3 record against Orlando. It was the night to do it, playing before only their second sellout of the season and a national TV audience on TNT. The Hawks had a full complement of players, thanks to guard Mike Bibby playing on a sprained ankle, and had four days’ rest, while Orlando was playing for the second time in as many nights.”

John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Inquirer:  “Iverson’s strong will also fueled his disdain for authority. In a lot of ways his ‘I’m going to succeed doing it my way’ attitude made Iverson a cultural icon, but it hindered his ability to become the best player and teammate he could have been. Iverson’s way was the only way, and you could go to hell if you thought even the slightest adjustment would make him a better player. I remember telling former Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks when he got hired that the problem with changing direction was that the team could only go in the direction Iverson turned. His infamous ‘We’re talkin’ ’bout practice,’ rant sums up his career. Iverson never understood there was a difference between being great and being a champion. Iverson never got that practice wasn’t about making him better as it was about making the Sixers a better team.”

(Photo by Barry Gossage NBAE/Getty Images)

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