The Fundamentals

» December 9, 2009 10:57 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Howard Beck of The New York Times:  “The Knicks have won three straight games, all with Robinson on the bench. They are 0-9 when he plays at least 19 minutes and 7-6 when he plays 12 or fewer. The team’s success without him, and Coach Mike D’Antoni’s comments, suggest that Robinson’s status will not change anytime soon. It will surely come as a disappointment to some fans, especially younger ones, who have enjoyed watching Robinson dunk, shimmy and block shots of players a foot taller. There was a reason for the raucous, if ill-timed, “We want Nate” chants during the Knicks’ victory over the Nets on Sunday. But winning trumps everything. There were no audible chants Monday night, when the Knicks soundly defeated the Portland Trail Blazers — the third winning team they have knocked off in the last week. For the first time since early last season, the Knicks are showing signs of respectability and, not coincidentally, stability.”

Chris Forsberg of  “Tuesday featured the long-awaited debut of ‘Hack-a-Rondo,’ a defensive technique that’s sure to be utilized again. Rondo entered the game shooting 40.6 percent (13 of 32) at the charity stripe, but made 6 of 9 attempts. The most impressive might have come with 4:41 remaining. Rondo had just missed one of two and Ersan Ilyasova’s layup at the other end tied the game at 86. Charlie Bell then appeared to intentionally foul Rondo, who made both free throws and Boston led the remainder of the game. ‘Tonight was the first time I saw ‘Hack-a-Rondo,’‘ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. ‘With five minutes left, that was an intentional foul. And he made them. Thank God, you know? He’s driving. Early on [this season], I thought he was driving and avoiding contact. He’s driving now. He’s getting to the basket. I told him at halftime, just keep attacking, and that’s what he’s doing. The one thing about Rondo — and this is why you know the shots will go in eventually — he does believe they’re going to go in. He has no problem getting fouled with two minutes or a minute or 30 seconds left and going to the line. And he’s going to get fouled more, that’s going to happen. So it’s really important, obviously, for your point guard to make the free throws. And he’s going to do that. He’s starting to now.’”

Jason Friedman of  “Ariza currently ranks among the league’s top-5 in steals, averaging 2.2 per game. He is built perfectly for the task – 6-8, quick feet, long limbs and fast hands – and blessed with the sort of finely-honed instincts which make him such a ball-hawking menace on the defensive end. ‘Whoever has the ball, you try to read their eyes,’ he says, explaining his technique. ‘You just try to think how they think and try to get in their head a little bit and anticipate. You have to know who you’re playing against. When a guy like Jason Kidd has the ball, you have to see his eyes before he ever gets into the passing motion; see where everybody is on the floor and see who will be open, and try to see where he’s going to go before even he does. You have to know where your guy is but you also have to know where the double-team is coming from and everything else. You take all that into consideration before you make the decision to go for it.’ When the stars align themselves and everything comes together perfectly, Ariza’s thefts typically translate into uncontested fastbreak dunks. He refers to these as ‘pick-6s,’ no surprise given his fondness for football and his background as a defensive back in high school.”

Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer:  “Raymond Felton has relaxed. The Bobcats point guard is playing some of the best basketball of his life, which he continued Tuesday in Charlotte’s 107-95 win against a Denver Nuggets squad that will go deep in the playoffs. By adopting the ‘less is more’ approach and adapting to new teammate Stephen Jackson, Felton has gone from a sometimes exasperating player to an efficient one. Check out his line from Tuesday night. He only took seven shots. Made six. Had a season-high six steals. Three assists. One turnover. Everybody loves Raymond again – coaches, teammates and fans. Felton won a one-point home game Saturday night against Philadelphia with a driving layup. Then on Tuesday he won the battle of former North Carolina point guards who led their teams to national championships, outdueling Ty Lawson in front of their college coach Roy Williams. Said Felton’s current coach, Larry Brown: ‘He gives an honest effort every game, every practice, every possession. You can’t put a value on that. He plays hurt. He competes. When you have a lot of those guys, you give yourself a chance to win.’”

Alex Raskin of HOOPSWORLD:  “Some nights Blazers starting point guard Steve Blake can play as much as 40 minutes. Other nights he struggles to log 20. Free agent signee Andre Miller was expected to be a major contributor for Portland this season, but he too has seen his playing time fluctuate. Even second-year guard Jerryd Bayless – someone who averaged less than 13 minutes per game last year – is starting to carve out a space for himself in Portland’s point guard rotation. So, is there any rhyme or reason to this three-ring circus at the position? ‘We don’t know,’ Miller told HOOPSWORLD. ‘Just, whenever you get into the game, for however much time it is, you want to take advantage of it.’ But nobody has been able to do that consistently either. Blake and Miller have each seen their PER’s drop significantly from last season as both of their turnover rates have spiked as well. Bayless, on the other hand, has seen his PER rise to 16.24 (15 is the league average) as his turnover rate has fallen from 15.2 as a rookie to 8.6 this season.”

Tom Moore of  “Once Allen Iverson gets into playing shape and grows more comfortable with his new/old teammates, the Sixers’ offense should be more productive. But unless the Sixers start defending better at the 3-point line, it’s not going to make a difference. After 21 games, which is just over one-quarter of the season, the Sixers are on track to set NBA records for most 3-pointers allowed in a season and highest opponent 3-point percentage. The Sixers have allowed opponents to make a league-leading 42 percent of their 3-pointers. The Grizzlies are next-to-last at 38.6 percent, which is a startling difference of 8.1 percent. The Kings (40.6) set the league record last year. The Sixers’ record is 37.0 by the 1995-96 squad (John Lucas’ second year). Eddie Jordan’s Sixers have given up 177 3-pointers so far, which projects to 691 over 82 games. The NBA record is 683 by Jordan’s 2007-08 Wizards. The team record is 585, set last season.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “Eighteen games into his first season in San Antonio, Richard Jefferson — a scoring star whose offseason arrival heralded the Spurs’ seriousness about challenging the Lakers in the West — is still struggling to find his niche in a new town. He is averaging 12.8 points per game, little more than Michael Finley provided the Spurs at small forward last season. In his past five games, Jefferson has reached 10 points just once. ‘It’s not about what my numbers should be,’ said Jefferson, who owns a career scoring average of 17.6 points. ‘I’ve been on teams where I’ve averaged 20 points and not made the playoffs. For me to take a step back and find my groove on a team that’s getting wins, I’d much rather have that.’ Right now, Jefferson is getting the worst of both worlds. The Spurs have lost three in a row, spiraling to 9-9 in advance of tonight’s game against Sacramento. And Jefferson is still in search of his elusive groove.”

Mike Jones of The Washington Post:  “Center Brendan Haywood is averaging a career-high 10.8 rebounds to lead Washington’s rebounding effort, which ranks third in the NBA. But the team’s fast-break scoring opportunities have not gone up, and a good deal of that rests on the shoulders of Gilbert Arenas. Arenas is averaging a career-high 6.5 assists, but his scoring (20.4 points) is down significantly from his three-time All-Star days. With the guard not experiencing any limitations in the left knee that kept him sidelined for all but 15 games the previous two seasons, Saunders has stressed to Arenas the need to attack – whether it be scoring or handing out assists. ‘We want him to be aggressive with the ball, whether it’s scoring or distributing, but we cannot walk the ball up the court,’ Saunders said. ‘That’s something we’ve really been trying to work on from the beginning of training camp: If there is a miss, we shouldn’t be in any sort of set play. We haven’t done as good a job as we need to.’ Saunders has preached aggression in other aspects of the game as well, including attacking the basket rather than settling for shots along the perimeter. The Wizards rank 21st in the league (32.4 percent) on 3-pointers.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “Chuck Hayes belted out a laugh at the news. He was told that research conducted by Elias Sports Bureau uncovered that Hayes is the shortest starting center in NBA history. He did not mind the label, but it was not much of a revelation. He already knew that as NBA centers go he is short. He did not, however, need the reminder today. With the Cleveland Cavaliers in town, the Rockets’ miniature frontcourt — with apologies to slender 6-11 backup David Andersen — will go against the Cavs’ wealth of size and strength, starting with Shaquille O’Neal’s almost unprecedented combination of both. While the Cavs back the 7-1, 325-pound O’Neal with 7-3 Zydruynas Ilgauskas and 6-11 Anderson Varejao, the Rockets will counter with all 6-6 of Hayes and 6-9 forwards Luis Scola and Carl Landry. They did not seem to mind. ‘It’s all about heart,’ Landry said. ‘If you want to get a rebound, you’re going to get a rebound. If you want to make a jump shot, you can make a jump shot. I don’t think it’s all about the size.’ Assuming they were not going to surrender, there would be little else they could say. That, however, might not be just talk. The Rockets are fourth in the NBA in second-chance points and points in the paint this season, measures often associated with teams blessed with far greater size.”

Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  “When Mike Woodson watches the Oklahoma City Thunder, he sees the Atlanta Hawks. Young, athletic and stockpiled with first-round picks, the Thunder may not yet be ready to compete in the stacked Western Conference. Woodson hopes they get the chance. ‘You see teams a lot of times that panic and give up too soon and they trade all their young players away to try to win now,’ Woodson said. ‘I’ve seen that happen, but that hasn’t happened here.’ Since Woodson’s hire in 2004, the Hawks have given fans plenty of opportunities to panic, if not lose all hope. They lost a team-record 69 games in Woodson’s first season, misfired in the draft and saw their postseason drought extend to eight seasons before breaking through in 2008. Woodson acknowledges he ‘could have easily been sent somewhere else.’ However, the Hawks have stuck with their plan to keep and develop an athletic core of young players, starting with guard Joe Johnson, forward Josh Smith and center Al Horford. At 14-6, they have the team’s best record after 20 games in 12 seasons and have racked up wins over strongholds such as Boston, Portland and Denver.”

Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee:  “Two weeks after folding the Monarchs, the Kings’ owners have agreed to sell a New Mexico beer distributorship that’s been the foundation of the family’s business empire since 1937. Joe and George Maloof said Monday the family is selling the Joe G. Maloof Co. beer distributing business for an undisclosed sum. The purchaser is a wholesaler in Wyoming. The sale follows the recent shutdown of the Monarchs WNBA franchise and, earlier this year, payroll reductions throughout the Maloof organization. … The Kings imposed layoffs in May and were among a dozen NBA franchises that borrowed money via a line of credit arranged by the league. Ticket sales at Arco Arena have been soft this season despite the team’s promising start. Nonetheless, Joe Maloof said the Kings are operating ‘probably around break-even right now’ through their cost-cutting. The family also faces a tough economy in Las Vegas, where the value of its Palms Casino Resort has fallen from $386 million to about $20 million in the past two years, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings by minority partner Station Casinos Inc. The Maloofs have said Station’s figures woefully underestimate the true value of the Palms, which they say has held its own despite the rough economy.”

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:  “The Denver Nuggets own the Western Conference’s second-best record and have emerged as just one of a handful of teams who look like legitimate championship contenders. They also have a coach who might not have a contract in six months. NBA sources say Karl turned down a one-year, $3 million extension over the summer in hopes of getting a longer deal and a raise. Karl is currently being paid a $3 million base salary in the final year of his contract and sources said incentives boosted his total pay to $3.8 million last season. A Nuggets source said the team has had internal discussions about a possible three-year, $12 million extension for Geroge Karl, but no offer has been presented. Some officials with Kroenke Sports Enterprises, the team’s parent company, have so far been hesitant to endorse a multiyear offer. Karl said he wants to stay in Denver, but he’s also prepared to become a free agent, even if he isn’t excited about the possibility. New Jersey and New Orleans are among the teams who could be looking for new coaches over the summer. ‘I can’t sit back and say that someone hasn’t whispered in my ear,’ Karl told Yahoo! Sports. ‘Maybe the best thing for me to do is become a free agent. But I’ll also say I really believe this, I do not want to be a businessman in the NBA. It can get ugly, it can get dirty, they look into your past. All that can come into play.’”

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:  “Years from now when we look back at ex-NBA official Tim Donaghy’s book ‘Personal Foul,’ what will we say it accomplished? Donaghy’s bank account will no doubt benefit. The book, released last week, has everything a bestseller is made of – intrigue, deceit, cover-up, even a David vs. Goliath overtone as he combats the big, bad NBA. It’s fascinating. It feeds into the If-I-go-down-you’re-going-down-with-me culture the public salivates for. Moreover, it feeds into the favoritism stereotype NBA referees have had to fight off seemingly forever. Critics of the league’s officiating will love it. But don’t mistake this for Jose Canseco’s book, which helped spark change in how baseball players are tested for performance-enhancing drugs, thereby cleaning up the game. This is not that. If you find a better test for steroids, you can catch the cheaters. If you scold NBA officials, change some rules and implement more watchdogs, will it mean what would have been the next offensive foul suddenly becomes a defensive foul? Not necessarily. And last I checked, not necessarily doesn’t spur progress-making, game-improving change.”

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