The Fundamentals

» December 6, 2009 3:51 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

John Hollinger of  “It was perhaps the ultimate irony: On a night where the Blazers wore their retro uniforms from the 1970s, their star center fell to a season-ending injury. As it was with Bill Walton and Sam Bowie, so it goes with Greg Oden. The Blazers’ big man suffered his second season-ending knee injury in three pro seasons, fracturing his left patella in the first quarter of the Blazers’ 90-89 win over Houston tonight. Yet it was another retro — back to the halcyon days of 2008-09 — that may be the ultimate takeaway from tonight’s game, and it leads me to a significant silver lining in this cloud. More on that in a minute, but first let’s get to the main story. Yes, we can officially say Greg Oden is injury-prone. By the end of this year, Oden will have played 82 of a possible 246 games since Portland took him with the first overall pick in 2007. While broken bones are rarely career-altering, this injury is franchise-altering in the sense that it seems a pipe dream for the Blazers to count on Oden going forward. They can take his contributions as gravy if he’s healthy, but they can’t build a team around him.”

Charley Rosen of  “It says here that an important factor in his physical breakdowns is the excessive time and effort he habitually expended in the weight room. The 25-plus pounds of muscle he added after he was drafted cost him too much quickness, altered his body balance, and put undue stress on his knees and feet. It’s ironic that, after missing so many games since he was drafted, he has actually played in the equivalent of one entire NBA season: During his sporadic career, Oden has thus far played in exactly 82 contests. For sure, during the 21 games in which he appeared this season, Oden did show marked improvement — an impressive 11.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in only 23.9 minutes per game. While still lacking any degree of finesse, Oden’s power, mass, and determination made him at least a part-time force to be reckoned with in the lane. However, as evidenced by some additional numbers, he still has a very long way to go. For example, the discrepancy of his 0.6 assists per game as compared with his 1.5 turnovers can be blamed on his clumsy ball-handling, awkward footwork, and the ensuing confusion whenever he was double-teamed on the move.”

Chris Tomasson of FanHouse:  “It’s the second time in three seasons Oden has been shelved with a serious knee injury. He missed all of what would have been his rookie season following microfracture surgery on his right knee. But in yet another dark hour Oden, 21, showed what a class act he is. Roy hardly could believe what was coming out of the big man’s mouth as he lay on the Rose Garden floor for seven minutes before a stretcher arrived to take him away. ‘He kept apologizing to us when he was getting dragged off the court,’ said Roy, one of many players on both teams who gathered around Oden to wish him the best. ‘He felt he let us down.’ The fans had roared their support for Oden when he was down, chanting ‘Oden, Oden.’ Then when he was being wheeled off the court, a fan extended his hand to offer encouragement. Oden shook the hand. Here in Portland they’re getting used to what a gentle giant this man is. But he even continues to surprise Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard. ‘He’s a great kid,’ Pritchard said. ‘I can’t tell you how much of a great kid. He’ll pull through this. I know him. He’s a tough kid and he cares. I’m telling you that he was more interested in the score of the game than how he was. I’ve never seen anything like that.’”

Anthony Cotton of The Denver Post:  “When you’re the boss, sitting at the head of the table of a wildly successful team, this is the time of year that can drive you nuts. Take, for example, Carmelo Anthony, currently presiding atop the basketball world, thanks in part to an eclectic Team Melo group that includes an Academy Award-winning actor, a trainer to the stars, the greatest basketball player of all time and a hoops shaman who is really a lawyer by trade. Given that, how can you possibly personalize your holiday largesse? Perhaps Anthony should be content to simply give back on the court, with a gift that keeps on giving, as the leading scorer in the NBA and an evolving leader for a Nuggets team with title aspirations. Perhaps he can lead Denver one step further next spring, all the way to the NBA Finals, following up on his breakout postseason showing. A performance, Nuggets coach George Karl said, that helped define Melo last spring as ‘being the man, the reason why you win playoff series, and there are only a few people who can do that year in and year out.’ Do that this season and all those chants of ‘MVP, MVP’ raining down from the Pepsi Center rafters these days won’t seem like some cheesy knockoff from the Staples Center but rather like that Olympic gold medal sitting at home, a tangible reflection of all the hard work put in by Anthony.”

Art Garcia of  “Jeff Teague remembered it as a summons. The Hawks rookie was back in the locker room, sans sneakers after this particular training camp practice. He had done his extra shooting work and had called it a day. Mike Bibby had other ideas. ‘He shoots a lot, that’s his thing — he shoots a lot of jump shots,’ Teague said of the veteran who shares his position. ‘I had taken off my shoes, I was ready to go home and take a shower. One of our guys came back in there and said, ‘Mike wants you to come out there and shoot with him. It’s not time for you to leave. You don’t leave until Mike leaves.’‘ Teague hasn’t had to be told again. With his 11 years of point guard experience, Bibby has taken the 19th pick out of Wake Forest under his wing. … Teague has adopted Bibby’s post-practice shooting routine. Working with assistant Jim Todd, Teague has to nail 100 mid-range jumpers — 10 spots and 10 shots. He also has to make three straight 3-pointers from five different points around the arc. The latter has proven the most challenging, but Teague sees the results. ‘This is my craft and I want to be the best at it,’ said Teague, a third-team All-American last season in his second and final year with the Demon Deacons.”

Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post:  “On Thursday morning, Michael Beasley, 20, slouched in a Pepsi Center courtside seat, surrounded by Miami Heat teammates such as former all-stars Dwyane Wade, Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Magloire, who was 10 when Beasley was born. Beasley cracked profanity-laced jokes that weren’t funny. He talked about his favorite television network, Nickelodeon, perhaps symbolic of someone clinging to any elements of childhood or innocence (or, maybe, he just really likes SpongeBob). Beasley was one of those teens preordained for stardom and smothered by AAU coaches and agents and college recruiters before he could drive. After one mandatory year in college, he went pro — No. 2 overall in 2008 — and soon succumbed to the overwhelming pressures of the high-stakes high life by getting high. … ‘People drink off peer pressure,’ Beasley said. ‘You’ve got the rap videos and people talking about this different liquor or that different bottle. I just don’t get into that. I’m my own person.’ Beasley now seeks solace in God and room service, he said. He stays in his hotel room on the road and believes ‘we all have one friend in common, and that’s that man upstairs. Keep your relationship tight with him, stay faithful and good things will happen.’”

Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:  “Even while some fans ripped on him, booed him and demanded that the Jazz trade him, Carlos Boozer has had a strong ally on his side. Despite Boozer’s tumultuous offseason — and all the talk of Miami and Chicago — Jazz coach Jerry Sloan hasn’t hesitated to voice his support for the power forward since the team reconvened this fall. Boozer is making it quite easy for Sloan to defend him now. Opponents are another story. They’re having a heck of a time trying to defend and slow down Boozer, who scored a season-high 35 points and continued to scorch the nets. ‘Boozer had a terrific game,’ Sloan said. ‘I think he’s playing his best basketball that I’ve seen him play.’ That’s not just hyperbole from a proud coach, either. Boozer has been in a red-hot shooting zone — so much so that hitting two-thirds of his attempts in Friday’s 96-87 victory over Indiana was comparatively cool to his shooting percentage over the previous five games.”

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun:  “If there was any doubt before, there is almost none now: This will be Chris Bosh’s last season with the Toronto Raptors. And if you were him, why would you stay with the Raptors? What would motivate you to remain with a team that, again, isn’t anywhere close to being a contender? The Raptors had to build around Bosh. That was the promise. They had to find a way not to squander Bosh’s talents. They had to turn loser into winner, or at least begin developing something with promise, something to believe in. General manager Bryan Colangelo has not done that. Coach Jay Triano has not done that. The other Raptors players have not done that. Bosh is not LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant. He doesn’t win games on his own. He needs help around him, especially in the fourth quarter. He is a very good NBA player, not a LeBron-Kobe player for the ages. Very good for the rest of this, his seventh season in Toronto. Not good enough to stay for another season going nowhere.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post:  “In another indignity Friday, even with Danilo Gallinari out with a sore forearm, D’Antoni used end-of-the-bench reserve Marcus Landry for five first-half minutes instead of Robinson. To soften the blow, D’Antoni has highlighted Douglas’ successes rather than Robinson’s faults — his scrappy defense, intensity on every possession. D’Antoni told Robinson in their sit-down Friday that Douglas gives them the best chance to win right now. ‘It’s like I told him sometimes you’re in a position where there are other guys playing well,’ D’Antoni said. ‘If you don’t do this, you come down a notch. Sometimes it’s not what you do but what the team needs. Nate is in that situation.’ Robinson claims publicly to be fine with the demotion, but sources say he feels he has been made the scapegoat to the 5-15 start. Asked about the meeting, Robinson said, ‘The meeting went fine, perfect.’ Sources said D’Antoni expects Robinson to make it back into the rotation and is doing this as a wake-up call. Everything else — all D’Antoni’s preachings — have failed.”

Mike Jones of The Washington Post:  “Flip Saunders left Verizon Center perplexed and heated after his Washington Wizards’ 109-107 overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. The coach could have taken issue with his team blowing a six-point, fourth-quarter lead or with his franchise point guard missing a game-tying layup with two seconds left in overtime. But all that was irrelevant in the coach’s eyes. For the ninth time in as many home games, the Wizards got off to a slow start and had to play catch-up. Before leaving the arena, Saunders did some research and found that the Wizards have trailed opponents by an average of 8.4 points at some point during the first quarter of each of their home games. Four times they bounced back and won, although one of those times was against the woeful New Jersey Nets. The numbers are much worse in the Wizards’ five home losses. In those games, Washington has trailed by an average of 12.6 points at some point during the first half. The most frustrating aspect is that those five losses have come by an average of 7.6 points. If the Wizards could simply execute from the start, they could easily be 12-6 instead of 7-11.”

Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe:  “After defeating the Thunder, 105-87, Friday night, the Celtics (16-4) have a 9-1 road record. They lost three home games from Nov. 6-20, appearing to lose their way by abandoning their defense-first and inside-out offensive emphasis. But coach Doc Rivers noted the team was getting its act together before this road sweep, though some doubts remained after home losses to Atlanta, Orlando, and Phoenix. ‘We’re playing better, I said that before we left on the trip,’ Rivers said. ‘You can see it coming — we’re playing better. Would we want the playoffs to start today? No. We have to be better. But we’re happy where we’re at, for sure. I think our mind-set is back, for sure. Last year’s team – I said it all year, no one wanted to hear it – as good as our record was, I never thought we were that good. I never thought we had the right mind-set the entire year last year. We had too many things going on. Two years ago we had a one-agenda team and that was to win a title. I think this team has the same thought process. There’s no other stuff going on. This team is focused on winning. That doesn’t mean we’re playing well yet. But we are focused on one thing and that gives you a chance to be a good team.’”

Julian Garcia of the Daily News:  “In the 97-91 win over the Bobcats, the Nets – who play the Knicks at the Garden this afternoon – looked looser and tougher, making sure there were consequences for any opposing player who dared drive toward the hoop. Charlotte scored 34 points in the paint. In a game against the Nuggets last week, the Nets allowed 60 points in the paint. Different opponents, yes. But the Nets’ attitude and approach were different as well. And that was most apparent halfway through the fourth quarter, when Josh Boone laid out Raymond Felton as Felton attempted a layup with the Nets leading by three points. ‘It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a while, that we need to protect the rim more,’ said Boone, who had three blocks in the win. ‘Obviously it’s not about hurting guys; that’s not what the intention is. But we need to make sure that we make a point to other teams that there are not going to be easy layups. Anytime they’re going to drive in the paint there’s either going to be a block or a charge or some kind of foul.’ Douglas-Roberts’ criticisms of the Nets on Wednesday bordered on inappropriate, but several teammates and interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe acknowledged that some of his points were valid.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “The first thing you need to know about Kiki Vandeweghe’s coaching style is this: He cannot perform any miracles because miracles don’t exist in the NBA. Wait, take it down a rung. In his new and adopted profession, there are no visionaries anymore; they’ve been replaced by technocrats and manipulators, sabermetricians and workaholics. The formula for success doesn’t really change from team to team. You work more than anyone else, you prepare your players for tasks you know they can handle, you relate to them as best you can, then you hope the shots go in. And when they don’t, you just hope your GM gets you better players. But one also draws on experiences to prepare your team and make the 120 or 140 decisions he must make every game, and that’s where Vandeweghe has a unique advantage for a first-time head coach. So as he takes over the Nets for the next 63 games, you wonder: What does he know and how did he come to know it? ‘I’ve picked up something from the coaches I played for and worked for,’ Vandeweghe said. ‘And believe me, I know how lucky I am — these five were as different and successful as you’ll ever find in basketball history. I think it will help me.’”

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:  “Latavious Williams became the first player to be drafted out of high school by the D-League when the Tulsa 66ers made him the final selection of the first round last month. A star forward from the Humble (Texas) Christian Life Center Academy, Williams was rated as the 17th best player in the 2009 recruiting class by He selected Memphis over Georgetown, Kansas State and Florida International, but had trouble qualifying academically and began to consider his professional options. Like Jennings, Williams wanted to improve his stock for the NBA draft. He chose to stay closer to home to do it. ‘There are no regrets at all,’ said Williams, who has played sparingly since the 66ers’ season started last week. ‘…I just came here to get better.’ Orlando Magic forward Brandon Bass(notes) knew Williams from the AAU team Bass sponsored and recommended him to his agent, Tony Dutt, when it became apparent Williams wasn’t going to attend college. Dutt had Bass work out for former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson before deciding to represent him. Dutt’s initial plan was to send Williams overseas, where he had already received a guarantee for a $100,000 contract in China. Following Jennings’ blueprint seemed like a good plan. Dutt, however, also looked into the D-League and ultimately recommended it would be better for Williams to stay in the United State where NBA teams could easily monitor him – even though he would be paid only $19,000.”

Leave Your Comment