The Fundamentals

» December 17, 2009 10:38 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Michael Wallace of the Miami Herald:  “While trying to offer an accurate assessment of his team’s uneven performance through the first quarter of the season, Heat president Pat Riley started by sizing up Miami biggest star. Both Dwyane Wade and the team are slightly off pace. Riley said Wednesday the team plans to address some concerns about Dwyane Wade’s conditioning that might be a factor in the guard’s drop-off in production from last season. ‘He’s not there right now,” Riley said. ‘So I get out of my president’s chair and into my coaching chair — I know he’ll probably say I’m nitpicking. His efficiency is down. We’ll address what it is we can do to help you maintain that lean, mean scoring machine you were a year ago.’ While Wade still ranks among the league’s top scorers, his shooting has hovered at a career-low 42.7 percent from the field through a frustratingly inconsistent start. … Coach Erik Spoelstra said the team places a tremendous burden on Wade to have to live up to the standards that he set last season. But Spoelstra said the team’s statistical analysis has shown that Wade’s number of free-throw attempts, layups and his overall defensive is close to those from last season. The only difference, Spoelstra said, was that Wade has been inconsistent with his mid-range jumper this season.”

Paul Forrester of  “A dismal start, internal strife and a coaching change is no way to build a contender. But the careful plans of summer rarely play out as scripted come fall. Few teams are more aware of this fact than the Hornets, who stumbled to a 3-6 start before dispatching Byron Scott less than two seasons after he was named the NBA Coach of the year, a move that did not sit well with star point guard Chris Paul. Welcome to world of a head coach in the NBA, Jeff Bower. A 14-year veteran of the Hornets’ front office, Bower, the club’s GM since 2005 and architect of the current roster, was called upon to salvage a ‘broken’ team, as president Hugh Weber described, a unit lacking in energy and effort. ‘We’re trying to play to our players’ strengths and not have them fit to a certain style of play or system, to provide a framework for them to be able to function efficiently,’ said Bower. ‘We’ve talked about principles and practices that I’ve always felt were traits of successful teams, and that’s to move the ball and get players in position to play with an inside-out approach.’”

Howard Kussoy of the New York Post:  “As a true center, Brook Lopez’s ability to play on the block and draw double teams is a rare advantage the Nets have over many opponents. Unfortunately, the Nets’ abysmal shooting has been a primary reason for their ineptitude as a team. It continued last night with a 2-for-13 performance from 3-point range. ‘They can double and triple team Brook, and that’s when we need to be able to hit those shots and put points on the board,’ Harris said. Courtney Lee said, ‘We were able to establish Brook down low in the paint early. They started to send the double and he was making the right plays kicking it out. The guards have to be ready to knock down shots.’ Despite another loss, in a season likely to have many more, Lopez has the attitude of a teammate on a contending team. ‘Teams do a very good job cutting off me. I just try and look for [teammates] when teams are more focused on me defensively,’ Lopez said. ‘Sometimes they don’t finish, but I know they’re capable, so I’m gonna keep doing the same thing. We’ve done a good job of sharing the ball and most of them are good looks, so we gotta keep with it.’”

Tim Povtak of FanHouse:  “Chris Bosh is not happy with the Toronto Raptors. And that’s not good for the Raptors. Bosh, their franchise player who can leave as an unrestricted free agent this summer, was second-guessing the Raptors’ strategy after getting drilled in back-to-back games by the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. ‘We make adjustments with teams before we play the game. That sends the wrong message to ourselves,’ Bosh said after losing to the Magic, 118-99, Wednesday night. ‘We practice all the time so we should trust our system. We need to go out there and play hard. If they beat us for one quarter doing the things we normally do, then okay. Now we can change it up.’ Bosh had 20 points, six rebounds and three assists, but his Raptors never seriously challenged in the second half against the Magic. The night before in Miami, they were beaten even worse, 115-95. ‘We’re taking two steps forward and three steps back,” Bosh said. ‘We’re there some nights, but not there others. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror, and do what we’re supposed to do. It’s always talk, talk, talk — but it’s about action.’”

Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times:  “Since D’Antoni reinstalled Jeffries in the starting lineup, the Knicks are 4-1. Jeffries may have been the catalyst in the Knicks’ four-game winning streak that ended when he fouled out in the final minutes of Tuesday’s loss to Charlotte. The Bobcats outscored the Knicks by 10 points in the final 2 minutes 33 seconds after Jeffries picked up his sixth foul. Instead of the Knicks losing with Jeffries, they probably lost without him. Jeffries’s plus-minus rating is a positive 59 over that five-game span, meaning the Knicks have scored 59 more points than their opponents when Jeffries was on the court. He finished plus 15 against the Bobcats on Tuesday. Danilo Gallinari posted a plus 2 as the only other Knick positive. … ‘I just came out with an effort to maintain a high energy,’ Jeffries said. ‘Everything came together. I was able to get some steals, get some blocks, things like that and a couple of charges.’ Few players compare to Jeffries. The Houston Rockets’ Shane Battier also focuses heavily on his defensive assignments, but pairs it with a more refined offensive game. The same goes for Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko, whom Jeffries said he attempted to pattern his defense after.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair has a standing appointment with the team’s resident shot doctor. For the past week, Blair has been meeting with shooting coach Chip Engelland to refine his awkward shooting stroke. Heading into Wednesday’s game against Golden State, Blair was hitting a team-leading 60.6 percent from the field, a figure that ranks first among NBA rookies. Most of Blair’s buckets have come on offensive putbacks, however, and he is shooting a meager 50 percent from the foul line. Hence, the daily work with Engelland, who over the offseason helped guard George Hill refine his outside shot. The two convene mostly in the morning to help Blair buff up his mid-range and foul shooting. ‘We waited until he got comfortable, so we could watch him for a while and see what would be the best approach,’ Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ‘Now Chip feels comfortable enough that he knows where he wants to start with him.’ The undertaking is a massive one. At times, Blair’s shot can come off like a knuckleball. ‘We’re basically fixing the whole shot,’ Blair said.”

Ken Berger of  “Tracy McGrady’s $23 million salary comes with two built-in perks: It comes off the books on July 1, 2010, making it a vehicle for clearing cap space for the highly anticipated free-agent signing period, and it’s 80 percent insurance-protected. The insurance provision already has kicked in, since McGrady missed 41 consecutive games during his recovery from microfracture knee surgery. The Rockets, or McGrady’s new team, would receive 80 percent of his per-game salary for any games he misses the rest of this season. Any number of teams desperate for short-term scoring punch while they prepare for a 2010 spending spree would be obvious fits; the Bulls and Knicks are at the top of my list. The Heat reportedly also are intrigued by McGrady, and team president Pat Riley is said to be closely monitoring T-Mac’s progress. On Wednesday, I brought all of this information to someone who is personally invested in McGrady’s success — Tim Grover, the renowned trainer at Attack Athletics on the West Side of Chicago. Grover famously trained Michael Jordan and has recently worked with such stars as Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, and McGrady. Grover wouldn’t speculate on the Rockets’ motives with regard to T-Mac, but said McGrady’s debut Tuesday night was ‘long overdue.’”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:  “No foe has proven more difficult for the Suns than TNT, which blows up on them every time as if they are Wile E. Coyote. Phoenix has lost 16 consecutive games broadcast by TNT, dating back to the 2008 playoff series against San Antonio and even including two preseason outdoor games in Indian Wells, Calif. The Suns will try to solve the NBA’s most confounding losing streak tonight at Portland, the last place they won a TNT game in March 2008 when Raja Bell held Brandon Roy to six points. ‘That’s the funniest, most interesting fact I’ve heard,’ Smith said. ‘We get a lot of flack, especially Charles, about badgering the Suns. Now, I understand why people would think that because we’re always seeing them lose. I hope the curse doesn’t continue. I will take everything off the mantle.’ The Suns would seem to be TNT-friendly. Barkley is a Valley resident who is in the Suns’ Ring of Honor. TNT game analyst Doug Collins is a Valley resident and friend of the franchise with close relationships to the coach, Alvin Gentry, and general manager, Steve Kerr. Kerr worked as a TNT analyst before becoming the Suns’ GM. TNT means tough matchups but it does for every other participant too. Over the streak’s timeline, the Suns are 73-38 (.658) in all other games. ‘It’s bizarre,’ Kerr said. ‘What are the chances of losing 16 in a row? I know the competition’s tougher but it’s not like we don’t beat good teams on ESPN. There’s no explanation. ‘Let’s pin it on Charles. He brings that negative vibe all the time.’”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “From his courtside seat, Tiger Woods’ eyes seldom left him. All night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, you could see them darting everywhere with Kobe Bryant. Woods understood that he was witnessing his kindred spirit, the talent with whom he shared a generational sporting genius. Together, they were groomed for greatness and discussed that over dinner in a suburban Orlando restaurant in June. With his wife, Elin, beside him at Amway Arena it likely never occurred to Woods that his blessed life could soon derail with a self-destructive bent of his own. He doesn’t have the criminal charges and the threat of prison hanging over him like Bryant did with his sexual assault case in 2003, but a family and reputation crashing around him nonetheless. If Bryant has reached out to Woods, he’s discovered, like running buddies Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, the phones are turned off, the party’s over. Whatever Woods wants out of private redemption, the path of public forgiveness won’t come with apologies and crocodile tears. All Woods needed was an NBA League Pass package on Wednesday and he could’ve witnessed the truth for himself. There was Bryant with his arms raised in Milwaukee, a winning shot to end overtime and a 39-point performance. Bryant has a broken finger, but a repaired image and oddly unburdened life six years later. America won’t want contrition, as much as it’ll want a Sunday communion with Woods. This is a sporting nation that finds its virtue in victory. Bryant never took a leave of absence the way that Woods says he will now. He bought his wife a big diamond, and dropped 42 on the Spurs in the playoffs after spending an afternoon in a Colorado courtroom. Six years later, Bryant has done what American sporting culture demands: He came back, better than ever.”

(Photo by Rocky Widner NBAE/Getty Images)

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