The Fundamentals

» December 4, 2009 1:53 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

John Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Inquirer:  “Iverson’s return really isn’t about basketball – not yet, anyway. Not until he plays a few games, and the reunion is more than a few hours old. Right now, it’s about something so few athletes experience anywhere, let alone here in Philly. It’s about a real and lasting connection. It’s about a guy who embodies the things this city has always loved about itself – grit and guts and a heart so big you couldn’t get your arms around it if you tried. It’s impossible to forget that Iverson made countless mistakes while he was here the last time, that he was young and foolish and impulsive. And it’s also true that when he left in 2006, he was ready for a change – and maybe the rest of us were, too. Breaking up is necessary sometimes, but it’s never easy. Just because you move away doesn’t mean you move on. Iverson copped to that yesterday, admitted that he pined for Philly and the wound never healed. He said he loved the NBA and watched the other teams in the league – save one. While he was gone, he couldn’t bring himself to check on the 76ers. Too painful.”

John Schuhmann of  “He admitted to making mistakes in his past. He said he could understand why most teams in the league, despite all his talent, had no interest in signing him, given two opportunities to do so in the last few months. ‘That bad rap followed me, and it ended up hurting me,’ he said. When Iverson met with Ed Stefanski on Monday, the Sixers president had a notebook with a list of issues the player needed to address. ‘That’s the biggest notebook you have, as far as issues with me?’ Iverson asked. ‘You need something the size of a phone book or something, with all the things that people have said about me.’ He’s ready to address all the issues. He’s saying all the right things. But he has said all the right things before. At every stop he’s made, we’ve heard Iverson tell us how he’s learned from his mistakes. And at every stop, he has continued to make mistakes.”

Mike Jones of The Washington Times:  “When the Washington Wizards emerged from a timeout in need of a game-winning play with the score knotted at 102-102 and 10.5 seconds left, Gilbert Arenas walked onto the floor, rubbing his hands together. A three-time All-Star, Arenas noticed the Milwaukee Bucks players looking at him and talking to each other to ensure they had accounted for him. Arenas just laughed to himself. ‘I was sitting there thinking, ‘Y’all worried about me, but y’all ’bout to be in for a rude awakening. This is Earl’s show,’ ‘ Arenas chuckled later. Sure enough, Earl Boykins – the 5-foot-5 backup who had put his team on his diminutive shoulders down the stretch – was in charge. Boykins drove, pulled up for a jumper and drew a foul with a second left. He proceeded to make both foul shots for a 104-102 victory Wednesday night. It wasn’t the first time Boykins saved the day. Since he suited up for the Wizards for the first time nine games ago, Washington has won five times. Four of those victories came after Boykins took charge in the fourth quarter, either with his scoring or his ball-management skills.”

Paul Forrester of  “For Jamaal Tinsley, the best thing about the NBA was the next game, 48 minutes to define yourself anew no matter the past. But after seven years of crafting an image as a hard-nosed, relentless distributor and tenacious defender in Indiana, the next game never came. The Pacers sat their starting point guard out for all of last season in a largely successful attempt to turn the final page on an era that began with title hopes and ended on the police blotter. ‘It was difficult not being able to wake up and go to work,’ Tinsley said. ‘My son would ask, ‘I don’t see you on TV anymore; what happened?’ I would tell him, ‘Things happen, son. Eventually I’ll get back.’‘ About to gain an open roster spot with Allen Iverson’s quick exit, the Grizzlies proved Tinsley correct, signing him to a one-year contract in mid-November. While re-acclimating to the NBA hasn’t come quickly for him, it has come. After playing a token 11 minutes over his first four games, Tinsley has seen his court time, and impact, steadily increase. He’s averaging 24.6 minutes, 9.6 points and 4.8 assists over his last five games.”

John Denton of  “In a self-effacing way, Pietrus discounted his own role in Orlando’s offense. ‘San Van Gundy has a playbook of about 400 pages and (the plays) for me are probably on page 398, but it’s all about winning,’’ he joked. ‘But your turn (to score) might come tomorrow or it might not and you just have to be ready. But I just enjoy winning because I know that winning in this league is one of the hardest things to do.’ Pietrus learned that the hard way in Golden State, where they had one stirring playoff run in 2007, but little else success to speak of. Pietrus was so won over by the Magic’s winning last season, he said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win. Therefore, Pietrus adopted the goal this season of wanting to become a significantly better defender. Of late, he had solid defensive outings against Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (four of 12), Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson (four of 14), Paul Pierce (seven of 19), Hedo Turkoglu (three of 11) and Dwyane Wade (six of 22). ‘I want to be first-team All-Defense this season. That’s my number one goal,’ Pietrus said. ‘I want to be on the all-defense team with Superman.’”

Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun:  “Few expected the Raptors to be cruising along at this early point of the season. Fewer still expected them to be this dismal. With an almost completely revamped roster and a difficult, road-heavy early schedule, the Raptors were supposed to be scuffling a bit 20 games in, but the wretched defence displayed by the 7-13 team is downright shocking. Just how terrible has the defence been? Well, for starters, the club is on pace to be the worst defensive team since 1977-78. A little-known but telling statistic called defensive rating has been kept since that season. The rating measures how many points-per-100 possessions a team gives up and the lowest in history, shared by three teams, is 114.7. The Raptors, losers of five in a row and 11 of 15 following Wednesday night’s 146-115 slaughter at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, have a defensive rating of 118.3. Granted, the team has brought that mark of shame down from the 120-plus it sat at early last month and it likely will fall further into the simply horrific column, rather than historically horrific, but something fundamentally is wrong with this team. The past two opponents shot 59% and 57% against the Raptors respectively. The Raptors either don’t know how to play defence, or don’t want to.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “More than two weeks have passed since Derrick Rose vowed not to cut his hair until he started attacking the rim the way he did as a rookie. His head is a long way from being described as shaggy, but Rose seems to be accomplishing his goal of aggressive offense. In the last six games, he’s averaged 19.8 points and 4.8 assists, while shooting 51.5 percent from the field. His assists could be higher and turnovers lower, plus the Bulls have gone 1-5 against a tough schedule in those six games. But Rose appears to be back on the right track after missing most of preseason with an ankle injury. ‘We’re still under .500, so I don’t think I’m cutting it for a while,’ Rose said, referring to his hair. ‘I still need to come out in the first half and assert myself quicker. I’m getting there, I’m being way more aggressive getting to the hole, getting to the line, and it’s helping the team.’ Rose has been scoring most of his points in the second half, which isn’t necessarily bad if a point guard is getting his teammates involved early in a game. He’s been able to push the ball more often in the last two contests, trying to keep defenders off-balance by changing directions on his way down the court, which has become sort of a trademark move for him.”

Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  “It’s not by accident that the Milwaukee Bucks are shooting three-pointers at a higher percentage this season. Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he and general manager John Hammond were intent on acquiring players who could knock down the three and stretch opposing defenses. The season is not quite to the one-quarter mark, but the early results are encouraging for the Bucks, who rank fourth in the league in three-point percentage (39.1%), fourth in three-pointers made per game (8.76) and fifth in three-pointers attempted per game (22.41). And they have done it without sharpshooter Michael Redd, who has been sidelined for all but five games with a left knee injury. ‘We wanted to improve our three-point shooting and so far, so good,’ Skiles said. ‘Cleveland and Phoenix are two top three-point shooting teams and they have great records. But you want to be smart about it, and I feel my guys have been. They’re just not out there crazily jacking up threes. We’re getting them off dribble penetration, and we’re getting some good ones out of early offense.’”

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times:  “The Clippers are faring poorly from three-point range, making five of 35 in the last three games. It’s something Dunleavy brought up during Thursday’s practice, when he told his players to look for more open mid-range jumpers. ‘There’s no need to gravitate toward the three-point line,’ he said. ‘We’re not that team. We don’t have guys that are big-time strokers.’ Gordon played in Sunday’s come-from-behind victory against Memphis and went one of four from beyond the three-point line, but he’s not the main contributor to the team’s outside shooting woes. The blame squares on guard Baron Davis and forward Rasual Butler.  Davis has gone three of 14 from behind the arc in the last three games and Butler has missed all nine from three-point range in the last five. ‘We’ve got to shoot better shots,’ said Davis, averaging 16.2 points a game. ‘We shouldn’t be shooting contested shots. Instead, we should be moving the ball around.’ The Clippers rank toward the middle of the league in field-goal percentage (46.4%), but are 26th in three-point field-goal percentage (29.4%).”

J.A. Adande of  “In a less sensational but still eye-raising part of his interview with The Sporting News, Artest went as far as to say, ‘On defense, now I have my supporting cast … I’m one of the best defenders to ever play basketball, so I’m still the first option on defense.’ Bryant, seven-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive team, relegated to the supporting cast on his own squad? He said he’s fine with it. ‘That’s something that we’ve talked about, actually, is divvying up that responsibility, taking some things off of my plate,’ Bryant said. ‘I’ve had to be offensive captain, defensive captain, all that stuff … compass. One of the things I told him is that I want somebody that can take over a little bit of those responsibilities defensively and communicate with guys on the floor, so I’m not having to do all of that stuff.’ This season, Bryant won’t be asked to spend much — if any — time guarding LeBron James and Paul Pierce, as he has in the past. His agenda seems to be all about saving his legs, whether it’s by launching fewer 3-pointers or taking off on fewer drives to the hoop. If Artest can keep Bryant from chasing or banging with other stars, he’ll take a deferring role.”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:  “And they thought the road was tough. The effect of traveling like a circus for the NBA season’s first five weeks finally showed up on the Suns with feeble efforts leading to blowouts at New York and Cleveland, Phoenix’s first consecutive losses in a 14-5 season. They offered little fight in New York and Cleveland, and the latter was a glimpse of the tougher competition ahead. Starting with surging Sacramento (9-8) at home Saturday, the Suns will play 10 more games against winning teams this month, including top teams such as the Lakers (twice), Dallas, Orlando, Denver and Boston. clear pixel clear pixel. They did not appear ready for the elite race Wednesday, when Cleveland took a 39-14 lead, and the Suns’ 29-point first half was the franchise’s worst scoring first half since 2000. ‘We’re a team that wasn’t picked to make the playoffs and we’re not contenders yet,’ said Suns guard Steve Nash, although most prognosticators did have the Suns as a low playoff seed. ‘This was bound to happen to us because we’re a relatively new unit. We’ve got to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat, steal a few wins and learn to beat the good teams. It’s not a situation where we have to run the table and get first place.’”

Shaun Powell of  “It’s hard to say which is the bigger surprise: that the Thunder, after winning only 23 games all last season, are winning on the road. Or that defense, always a challenge for young teams, isn’t an issue. The players have bought into coach Scott Brooks’ philosophy about team defense, and considering the Thunder lack a proven shot-blocker or designated stopper, their improvement is clearly due to a collective effort. Oklahoma City is allowing nine points fewer than last season and taking a large measure of pride in that. It’s a defense that would make Barry Switzer proud. ‘That’s why we’ve improved as a team,’ Brooks said. ‘Everybody is on the same page. The effort has to be there. We’ve improved because we’re thinking like a defensive team.’ And they have quality wins, especially on the road, with victories in San Antonio, Miami and Utah. This doesn’t necessarily mean OKC is ready to do something big, but a team that won only 43 games the last two years could match that total this season.”

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:  “When asked Thursday whether he would compete in the event, the 23-year-old superstar didn’t sound enthused. ‘I’m getting old, man,’ Howard said. ‘They’ve got to stop grabbing me in the games so I can jump. I’ve got to keep my legs. It’s kind of tough. I don’t know. I’ve thought about it. But I think it’s time for us to see more guys get out there and show their stuff. Half the time, you can’t really show everything you’ve got in the dunk contest anyways. I would love to see a lot of people in it.’ But, then, he took a look at a nearby video camera and kept his options open. ‘If they want me in it, they ought to vote me in,’ he said. ‘Vote me. Vote for me.’ Last season, the NBA held a fan vote to determine the final entrant in the contest field. It’s not clear whether it will do so again. An NBA spokesman said the league is considering different options. Howard’s hesitation to compete should come as no surprise. In mid-November, his agent, Aaron Goodwin, told the Orlando Sentinel’s Brian Schmitz that Howard probably would not enter the contest. But this year’s all-star game will be played at Cowboys Stadium, and the possibility of putting on a Superman cape and dunking in front of a crowd of 80,000-plus fans might be too enticing for Howard to pass up.”

One Response to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Chris Humpherys Says:

    Here’s my take on AI, Brandon.

    Let me know what you think.

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