The Fundamentals

» December 10, 2009 10:45 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Britt Robson of “Perkins’ mettle in the low block was validated by his yeoman effort in rooting Dwight Howard out of his favorite spots in last year’s Celtics-Magic series in the second round of the playoffs. Unlike most players, Perkins doesn’t use a forearm when guarding opponents who operate with their backs to the basket. ‘If you use the forearm, you don’t have enough balance when they spin or fade away,’ he said. Instead, he uses hands for sensory information; the outside hand placed on an opponents’ tailbone to determine where he’s going (and, if possible, to guide him), while the inside hand stabs for steals. Along with producing studier balance, this approach enables Perkins to provide resistance with an unyielding chest and trunk as the hands give way. It’s a classic, albeit increasingly rare, style of bump-and-grind, low-post defense. But Boston coach Doc Rivers cherishes Perkins’ defense as much for his brains as his brawn. ‘[Assistant head coach] Tom [Thibodeau] does a terrific job getting our guys to communicate, but at the end of the day, Kevin and Perk are seeing things before they happen; they have such high basketball IQs and adjust to all the wrinkles,’ Rivers said. ‘The other thing that has happened to Perk to make him better is his focus. He accepts who he is and knows that his biggest value to the team is being our best defender.’ Yes, even better than Rondo and Garnett.”

John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune:  “Even those who are supposed to know better undersold how much it might mean to the Hornets to pick up Songaila. ‘That’s what Darius does, ‘ Chris Paul said after Songaila produced half of New Orleans’ 22 bench points against the Kings. ‘He’s a guy that defends every play, rebounds and makes shots.’ Seven times this season, Songaila hasn’t missed a shot attempt in a game and only twice did he shoot two times or less while doing so. The Hornets were outscored 15-2 off the bench in the first half against the Kings; in the second half, Songaila singularly tied the Kings’ reserves in scoring, 9-9. Of course, it’s possible even the Hornets might not have been counting on seeing as much of Songaila as they have. Diogu plays the same position and was looking to get on track a career that has promise but has stalled. In the last two games last season, Diogu had 32 points and 11 rebounds against Denver and 28 points and 13 rebounds against Minnesota. But Diogu hasn’t played a minute this season because of an injured knee, and Hornets backup big men Sean Marks and Hilton Armstrong also alternately have been injured. Songaila, 6 feet 9, capably has filled in where needed on the front line.”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:  “Guard Steve Nash tried to pull out another game Tuesday at Dallas by taking the shots given him with a big man often switching to him but his 27 points were not quite enough. His eight assists and six turnovers were more telling. His run of first-quarter turnovers in recent games reflects his attempts to engage his teammates, despite less tempo and motion in the offense. When Nash has 11 assists or more, the Suns are 9-0, and Jason Richardson has scored at least 16 points in the eight of those games he played. If Nash has 10 assists or fewer, the Suns are 6-7. ‘I could go out there and score 20 or 30 points against a switching defense but that’s not necessarily as good for us as if I scored in the teens and had assists in the teens, where everyone is involved and our rhythm is good and we’re putting the defense in a bind constantly,’ Nash said. ‘I’d much rather the game be played that way.’ Gentry was pleased with the shots the Suns took Tuesday, although they made only 44 percent. He wants more tempo, but last-place rebounding compromises that effort. The Suns would at least like to get back to scoring in secondary breaks, when players get to their spots early to catch defenses out of position.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “He is 21 years old, his entire NBA resume consists of 62 games, and already he has his own doctrine — the ‘CDR Credo,’ if you will. It consists of 11 words, and defines what Chris Douglas-Roberts is all about: ‘Strength is overrated in the NBA, period,’ he said Wednesday night. ‘Heart is what matters.’ Simple enough. And there aren’t small forwards in the NBA who can live up to that, but at 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, this guy has no other choice.   Lately, the Nets’ second-leading scorer has been faced with his usual assortment of matchup nightmares, but he’s come through with extraordinary efficiency. In the last week alone, Douglas-Roberts has had Gerald Wallace, a 6-7 guy who really plays like he’s 6-10; Wilson Chandler of the Knicks, who has 20 pounds on him; and Luol Deng of Chicago, who stands 6-9, 230. And it wasn’t going to get much easier Wednesday night, when Golden State was at Izod Center, because Corey Maggette is 240 pounds and built like a concrete bridge. But CDR has stood up to every last one of them, just when you’d expect the opponent to take one look at his skinny frame and laugh himself silly.”

Mike Jones of The Washington Times:  “With his play this season, Washington Wizards center Brendan Haywood is making a strong case for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. With his opinions, Haywood is making a strong case for a post-basketball career in the media. Haywood has said he wants to go into broadcast journalism once his playing career ends. In the offseason, he has done color commentary for Washington Mystics games and briefly hosted a radio show on FM-106.7. But since May, Haywood has used his keyboard to make his voice heard. Haywood, while doing a regular blog for, has shown himself to be man of wide interests and strong – often controversial – opinions. In six months of blogging, Haywood has addressed, among other things, his offseason training program, the Wizards’ progress, Michael Vick’s return to the NFL and Barack Obama’s performance as president. … ‘I like reading people’s different points of view,’ he said. ‘I write my own blogs, I read all the comments, I respond back to many of them. You can only practice basketball so much. You’ve got to do a little something else.’”

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle:  “At some point, we may have to stop thinking of these Rockets as lovable overachievers. Out with warm and fuzzy. In with expectations. The Rockets are good. There, I said it. For 10 weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to admit what I was seeing was the real deal. I wanted to make it all about teamwork and energy, toughness and smarts. I wanted a Disney movie. Instead, the Rockets have given us something much, much better. They’re not just a team; they’re a good team. They emphasized that point again Wednesday night by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 95-85 at Toyota Center. They didn’t win pretty. This was a game of fouls and elbows, of missed shots and whistles. The Rockets got 18 fast-break points and held the Cavs to two, but it wasn’t the tempo they prefer. They sprinted to an 18-point lead in the first half, then slogged it out down the stretch. Do the Rockets have a star? I’m glad you asked. That’s the part they’re figuring out, the part that makes coach Rick Adelman’s combinations so fascinating.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “Griz coach Lionel Hollins has watched his troops improve on defense over the last 12 games, and even more so in the past week. Memphis, winners of three straight games, has held those opponents (Cleveland, Dallas, Minnesota) to an average of 37.3 points in the third and fourth quarters combined. The Griz allowed more than 20 points in the third or fourth quarters just twice during that span. ‘Our whole team has made defensive improvements,’ Hollins said. ‘We’ve got to keep growing and working. The more we work in practice, the better we’ll be in games. In the past, they’ve done the drills half-heartedly and then got in the game and played it how they wanted to. We’re getting into working at practice hard and come and follow up in the game.’ After a 1-8 start, the Grizzlies have won eight of their last 12 games with defense developing into their calling card. Opponents have gone from averaging 111.1 points on 50-percent shooting over the first nine games to posting 100.8 points on 47-percent shooting in the past 12. In the last three contests, the Griz have allowed 95.3 points on 42-percent shooting.”

Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star:  “The biggest disappointment, the biggest shock, has been the decline and fall of this offense. A year ago, the Pacers were at least aesthetically pleasing, fun to watch as they moved the ball and scored at will. This year, they’re bad and boring, ranking just 21st in the league in scoring. Too often, it looks like they are trying to get O’Brien fired. Tell me, what has happened to T.J. Ford? Once Jarrett Jack left, this was supposed to be his job, his team. You would think he’d average more than three assists per game just by accident. O’Brien on Wednesday defended Ford, saying the team’s poor perimeter shooting has hamstrung the point guard’s ability to penetrate sagging defenses. There’s surely some truth to that, but if you watched the Blazers game, the Pacers played better with rookie backup A.J. Price, even though he shot just 2-of-10.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “Wednesday’s trip to Atlanta seemed like a certain loss, with the shorthanded Bulls playing the second leg of a back-to-back against a rested team on the road. But their effort in a 118-83 loss was weak even considering the circumstances. Whether or not Vinny Del Negro is to blame for this sudden deep lull, an absence of effort reflects poorly on the coach. So his future probably depends on the Bulls showing up ready to play Friday against Golden State. They complete a stretch of four games in five nights against Boston on Saturday, which has a chance to be ugly. If the Bulls lose by 30 again this weekend, change is probably inevitable. I’d say keep an eye on the middle of next week, because general managers like to pick a soft part of the schedule to switch coaches. That way, the new guy snares a couple wins and it looks like everyone’s a genius. Next Tuesday, the Lakers come to town for another blowout alert game. After that, the Bulls get New York, Atlanta and Sacramento at home, Knicks on the road, three-day holiday break, then New Orleans and Indiana at home.”

John Hollinger of  “It was so bad that Atlanta’s Maurice Evans needed just four seconds in the third quarter to tie his career high in blocks, rejecting successive shots by Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng. It was so bad that Noah missed a wide-open dunk, so bad that Rose was called for traveling while going down the lane on a simple 2-on-1 break. The biggest problem wasn’t any of those mistakes, however, but the simple fact that these Bulls don’t appear to trust one another or the system. ‘What system?’ Bulls observers might ask, as Chicago’s strategy once again seemed incoherent. In particular, Rose and his teammates seem to be reading from different pages of the manual on offense. More than once tonight, it appeared as though a teammate weighed the option of giving the ball to Rose, decided there was no chance he’d get it back and let fly with a quick shot.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “The Lakers’ victories keep coming from last season. In addition to winning the NBA championship, the Lakers were the league’s most valuable franchise, overtaking the New York Knicks after years of finishing second to them, according to Forbes magazine. The Lakers took over the NBA’s top spot with a franchise value of $607 million, up 4% from the previous season, according to the magazine’s financial analysis of the 2008-09 season. The Knicks are valued at $586 million, a 4% drop. The Chicago Bulls ($511 million), Detroit Pistons ($479 million) and Cleveland Cavaliers ($476 million) were the next three teams. The Lakers were also the most profitable team in 2008-09, making $51.1 million on $209 million in revenues. ‘We’re very happy with the way business is going,’ said Tim Harris, senior vice president of business operations for the Lakers. ‘We renewed season-ticket holders at 98%, sponsorship revenue is up, and the team’s obviously playing well right now.’”

Brian Windhorst of The Cleveland Plain Dealer:  “While it is hard to quantify James’ value, the Cavs’ ranking comes from their strong position in revenue. Despite being a middle-market team, the franchise raked in the sixth most revenue in the league last year, $159 million according to Forbes. This does not take into account monies the Cavaliers Operating Company, Gilbert’s firm that runs the Cavs and Quicken Loans Arena, makes on other arena events. Last year was not that profitable for the Cavs, whose payroll exceeded $100 million including luxury taxes, the highest in team history. Forbes said the team had an operating profit of $5 million, down from $13.1 million in 2008. In 2007, before they started paying James a maximum-level contract and they made the Finals, Forbes said the team’s operating earnings were $31.9 million. Team sources said the Cavs operated in the red last year, but not by much. A $6 million league rebate on player salaries in July helped the bottom line and may have put the team in the black, depending upon which fiscal year it was assigned. So far this season, the Cavs have sold out every game and are on pace to set an attendance record.”

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